Friday, November 11, 2016

It Was All Just Meat

The year the National Poetry Slam invaded Seattle, Re-bar hosted a spotlight show for several visiting slam poets.  In quick succession, the crowd received a cheery faced lovable fat guy loser performing a piece about how he wasn't the midnight lover, but the lover the apparently insatiable woman lets in after the midnight lover takes off, that, immediately followed up by two young male poets performing a rap-influenced piece about pleasuring the fat chicks. 

There was plenty of rhythmic punch in the delivery style, but the content hit nerves. One woman in the audience cried out until it became an actual piercing scream, effectively kicking the plug out of the outlet. 

I remember two things post-halted slam piece. The two poets out on the sidewalk, smoking cigarettes, blank faced and confused, and inside, audience members tending to the distraught woman. For her, obviously, the piece had failed to take flight like all good poetry does. Instead, it came off as violent, male, the kind of paternal porn rape fantasy men unreel in their minds with the thoughtless mechanics of peeling an orange. 

More succinctly, she put it like this: "It was all just meat." 

Years later, at a slam qualifying event determining the membership of the Seattle slam team, this idiot, facing elimination, decided to preface his deciding round piece with a dedication. The poem was one of his go-to pieces, this one about Hitler, specifically, the choice, that is, the impossible opportunity to travel back in time and choose whether or not to kill the young Hitler before he becomes Hitler-Hitler, thus saving millions upon millions of lives.  

His preface amounted to: "I'd like to dedicate this poem to my grandmother who died at Auschwitz."

About that. 

His grandmother didn't die at Auschwitz.  I think at the time he was sweating bullets over whether or not he was going to make the slam team, both grandmas might've been alive and kicking, and if one, or both, sadly, were actually pushing up daisies, it had nothing to do with the horrors of the Third Reich.

Out of convenience, for the sake of allaying his fear he called upon perhaps the 20th century hallmark blot signifying man's inhumanity to man, and gave it personal gloss to goose his potential score. The philosophy student took his moral barometer and deep sixed it in the nearest possible logistic cow flop.  

One of the more gruesome aspects of the Holocaust documentary Shoah is the banality of exposed bureaucratic machinery.  The miracle of the near 10 hour film is the absence of archival footage. Filmmaker Claude Lanzmann ignored black-and-white film of sunken cheeks, exposed ribcages, and landfills full to popping with bloated corpses as a lever to move his rock.  Meat is eschewed. Such was his knack. Spartan footage of historical documents provides applicable punch, things like the simple nuts-and-bolts of figuring out the most efficient internment camp train schedules and how to achieve an oven capable of disposing of as many bodies as possible in a day. 

As far as I know only one co-worker voted Republican in the national election. He is white. He is straight. He is old as fuck.

Yesterday, getting ready for work, I listened to a teenager on NPR, utterly freaked out because her mother is undocumented and she has friends accepted into college programs who are undocumented and now they face a giant void given the next four years of a Supermeat Republican Executive-Legislative-Judicial sandwich. The girl was so upset most of what the reporter chose to share with listeners came out in hitched sobs.

Later, my gleeful co-worker was telling me about some unsubstantiated story of Clinton calling a compatriot in tears, utterly devastated over the election results.  He also stated that protesters should just accept the fact that they lost.  This seems to be the general take of not only Trump supporters, but even those in the anti-Trump pool. 

They counter for productivity, rolling up sleeves and working intelligently and methodically to reclaim the country next time. This seems the perspective of the aged Liberal or Progressive; saddled with cooled blood, settled into a groove, more conservative and therefore more useless than they care to admit. No one, hypothetically, is grabbing grandma's pussy and she doesn't have too much to worry about when/if the Roberts Court begins poking into the ultimate fate of unborn fetuses.  

While the ship pitches and sways, while neighbors argue or agree to get along despite divides deep or shallow, while white males exult in triumph and all too many others face a new likelihood that they or their loved ones might run into a gaggle of frat boy-type group menace, this continues.  To my brain and my sense of priority, this > that.  This would be happening even if Clinton had triumphed in the electoral college.  Or if it had been Bernie v. Trump. Or Bernie v. Kasich.  

Not long ago I finally realized animals will continue to be treated deplorably until human beings finally figured out how to get along with one another. November 7th? The animals were fucked. November 8th? Fucked. November 9th? Still fucked. 

Hypothetically, we'll survive into a 22nd century. By then, all this American moral ground constantly dug up, seeded, partially grown, and then dug up and seeded again will lock down. All the blood-boiling issues of the day might cease existence as toys abused at the hands of an ever rotating cast of politicians and the puppet masters who love them.

I keep thinking back to those slam poets, the ones that really knew how to show a big girl a good time. Their confusion that the slam piece could be construed any way other than cool or bad boy bragging of the highest order. I don't know that you could call it similar to the apologies of the avowed non-racist/non-homophobic/utterly-hate-free Republican voter. They are the ones who just won back their country. All those racist acts you hear about are being committed by outliers to the cause.  And yet anyone paying just a little attention to the campaigns just ended would have to say, if they were honest, that meat, the color of meat, the sexual persuasions of meat, the religious beliefs of meat, were used as a lever to deliver the result.    




Friday, November 4, 2016

Gargantuan Stick Pot Of Ooze

Starring a mentally ill lottery winner in a bucket helmet, 'Mazing Man was a sweet-natured DC title with sitcom-plots (i.e. 'Maze babysitting the neighbor's cat).  Needless to say, rostered in a product line swollen with standard long underwear fare it was simply too beautiful to live. 

The last issue cover attempted pilfering the stratospheric success of The Dark Knight Returns. At least one Dark Knight fan felt unduly roped in. Discovering no Frank Miller Bats inside, he tore up his $.75 investment and mailed the chunks to the DC editorial offices.  

When Warner Bros. announced Heath Ledger had won the role of the Joker, a fanboy doubled-down and penned a treatise on the corporate suits getting it wrong. Wizard's letter column provided a podium for the poison, including a pointing out that if DC/Warner Bros. didn't evict the Academy Award winner from the role, this male with disposable income was willing to not only stop buying DC titles, but he'd boycott all Warner Bros. subsidiary products. There was even a petition, such was this moral twerp's initiative. 

I shat massive chunks of passion from my soul when the California Angels tremulous hold of the ALCS crown evaporated Game 5, 1982. Rod Carew was my favorite player, so the Angels had to be my favorite team. Once things got dicey, I walked away from the television and went outside to throw a Nerf football around with friends. My mom came outside to tell me that the Angels had fully crumpled, their World Series bid toppled into the mud. 

Living rural earned me a callus of patient satiation, a crude badge of honor. Here, 'earned' could be substituted out for 'inflicted upon'.  
The last time I ever cried over not getting something I wanted was in the Pendleton Bi-Mart. Mom wouldn't get me a He-Man. Sadly, I think I was in double-digits by that point. Ten-years-old, shedding copious amounts of salt over molded plastic. 

Until college, going to movies presented a hurdle. Home was 60 miles from civilization. Trips to town were all day affairs with dozens of stops. A movie was the last thing either exhausted parent wanted to endure.  So the film either had to be something we all wanted to watch, or there had to be an endurable alternate choice for dissenters. I missed the theatrical runs of both Superman II and Star Trek IV because of this pesky family rule (ownership of the oversized Superman II Official Movie Magazine and possession of several Star Trek 20th anniversary periodicals as well as devouring the Vonda N. McIntyre-penned novelization kept me moderately sane). However, other end of the policy-stick, I got to watch Superman III while my sister opted for Octopussy. But I did have to sit through all of Yentl. For a little guy, an exercise in pain, one I have yet to tease and reapply, mostly because I already know I'd like it 30-years on given the fact up to about the time of her marriage to James Brolin, all the many manifestations of Miss Streisand inflict upon me significant pupil dilation.     

I already voted. Through the glories of these modern times, the county website allowed me to confirm the ballot was received, my signature was confirmed, and my ballot will be counted. 

I've lived in the conservative side of this state. Now I perch in the permanently pot-smoking, proudly queer capital of Cascadia. I've lived in bottom-of-the-barrel, economically depressed Idaho, Oregon, and Washington towns, populations ranging from 10 to 1100. I've listened to Rush Limbaugh semi-regularly. I've read Al Franken books. I like Obama. I liked Dubya. I think military spending is outrageous. I feel pride being a citizen of the country with all the big bad toys the other kids envy. I believe in single payer healthcare. I believe in public education. I believe in the damnable existence of bureaucratic incompetence. I believe FOX News and Democracy Now! are each echo chambers and feedback loops. I believe most, if not all, the gargantuan stick pot of festering ooze of this election cycle would have been avoided if Bernie had gotten the nod.  

I missed out on most of 2000's election insanity due to surfing my own personal tumult. Moving from CA to WA, I didn't cast a ballot. It wasn't a priority. I heard about 'dangling chads'. I just couldn't give a shit.

Coming up on Tuesday, I feel the needle ticking from unease to fear. Not because Trump might win or because Clinton might win, but because I think of passions overspilling. We've become agents of action-masked-as-thought rather than thought. Mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers tweet about "Skittles" and "Googles" and "Fishbuckets" and use those same hands and same brains to apply loving touch and thought towards their families and neighbors. Those rushing to judge Trump from the Access Hollywood tape conveniently redact the evidence Bill Clinton exhibits virtually the same brand of villainy.   

No one ever stormed the DC Comics offices and shot up Editorial over a too-late-to-spike-sales-gimmick. No one blew up a Warner Bros. reception area because the guy that played a gay cowboy was going to give the Joker breath. I never sat in a darkened movie theater and texted a friend about the musical Jew/trannie-fest I was having to endure. That was then.

At best, election day is going to be close and topsy turvy and there are going to be millions of stunned brains and faces come the final results. I don't want to even guess what might amount to 'at worst'. 



Monday, October 31, 2016

Dead Milkmen

Sorting through boxes of papers has provided me a doodle. I already put the paper back in a box so my guess from the college ruled aspect is this margin sketch was produced during some class. 

The Teen horror novel I've been tinkering with sprung from an old notebook.  A page and a half of notes scribbled down sometime before I even met my wife.  

From the drawing above I've scoped out three character names and three character designs, a bare bones scenario, and hatched a notion for a series of short books with illustrations.  

Some sort of creepy, supernatural-themed detective agency is what I'm currently thinking.  Our slouching, pimp hat bedecked dude from up top is named Rothchild. Of course, having the idea is always exciting. Surviving the execution is the trick.

Currently, Lucid is in two-day Kindle FREE promotion mode, and the book is listed on Awesomegang's front page.

In celebration, I've even foolishly unearthed the Publishers Weekly review.    

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Cost Of Your Meal

Hard to watch, but so much more important than embedding another Wattpad link.

Seal Of Approval

That summer the big-internal-to-do (other than Ixtlan prepping to suspend operations) was the 'Intern Lunch'. Oliver would bite the bullet and for an hour play hostage to a rogues gallery of wet behind the ears sycophants.

Monaghan entrusted Travis and I with roping in supplies for the feast. Other than reminding us of the number of bellies likely to be present, no strict instructions were given.  Napkins, utensils, paper cups, paper plates, it was just rudimentary arming up for the merry mastication in the offing.

Memory slips. The overflowing abundance of the party supply store shelves sources from hardware stores I visited with my dad. Also the orange-tinted lighting and the cracked cement floors. And I swear it was curbside parking even though the store was located in Santa Monica, not some downtown Los Angeles retailer bereft a parking lot.  I remember the lunch was held in the conference room, but how many combined Illusion and Ixtlan interns? How long did the lunch last? Did it smell like unwashed armpits? Were any interns high on cocaine? Did Oliver actually make eye contact? With any one of us? And why should he have?

An appearance of interest in an intern, no matter how modest or simply polite, could blow-up. An Imagine-employed roommate of the company receptionist had provided specifics of a recent Ron Howard-experience. Ron slipped into the Men's Room. An Imagine intern followed Ron to the urinals. Now, did the intern actually produce a stream or did he fake it? - probably irrelevant. The salient fact remained that this mover-and-shaker pitched a project to Opie while Opie was attempting to drain his bladder. If interns shared this sort of thing with their pack, producers and writers and directors likely did the same. Oliver had every right to be wary.  

Stunningly, I was verification of his unease. When it came to paper plates, what I secured from the party supply store Monaghan made me turn around and take right back. 

They were teddy bear plates. They came with teddy bear napkins. 

Monaghan couldn't voice specific reluctances. Pedobear was just a kernel buried in the consciousness of some future meme-creator. Back in the Nineties, a cartoon forest creature was a cartoon forest creature, not some cyber-agent mocking the dark persuasions of sewer-ridden souls.

Ixtlan/Illusion wasn't even wired for the Internet. It was a hard copy environment: the office closet shelves were jam-packed with screenplays and the filing cabinets bulged from internal memos and business files. When interns turned in coverage on screenplays, it was a printed out document. Paid professional script readers had to come to the office to pick up screenplays, and then would return their synopsis by courier or make the trip themself all over again.     

My thought process at paper plate purchasing moment simply was this: Oliver would be stressed out thrown into a pack of 20-something jackals. He wouldn't prepare his own food. Someone else would do it for him. And when he got to the bottom of his plate, all the satiation from the grub would gain further heft from the image of some plump, stuffed, fuzzy little bear, mayhaps an instant new favorite playfriend more than ready to co-habitate a chamber in Oliver's memory palace. His unfettered joy might go so far as requesting knowledge of the plate purchaser, and who knows, I might've shot to the top of the intern horde (which I sometimes still imagine as a single-creature, a meat-Voltron, like the dueling communal creatures in Clive Barker's "In The Hills, The Cities"). 

Chastened, I returned to the party supplier and swapped out the teddy bear plates for the plain, white kind. The intern lunch went off free of any kind of obvious hitch. I retained my spot in the intern-horde, and far as I know, no one followed Oliver into the bathroom for a pitch-pee. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Like Fried Baloney On A Wheat Cracker

When the receptionist ate lunch, an intern filled in as point of contact. Only once in awhile would active wildlife ride the elevators to Santa Monica Square's top floor and roam the Ixtlan/Illusion offices.  

One day this took the form of a guy selling memberships in an exclusive athletic club. 

I don't think I was rude. Agreeably deflecting. Trying to appear agreeable a task given my default mug draws heavily upon German ancestry. Sullen, to be polite. It is the face requiring examination of your papers, and a verifiable explanation of how long you plan on visiting East Berlin. And vhy. 

Poised on the industry outer rim I wasn't making a dime.  Like most schmucks volunteered into the ignoble orbit I worked part-time. There was a separation between those experiences. The glamour and the grime. The seal proved permeable. The only Hollywood entity that I spotted both places was Kevin Smith - the former, slouch deluxe on a waiting room couch pre-meeting; the latter, pushing baby Harley around Brentano's display tables.

Intrusion, collision, chocolate bar going into the peanut butter, I was riding a Brentano's register when to my utter horror Athletic Club Membership Guy made a purchase. 

We're talking probably three days separation from our last run-in. Simple pride prevented a reasonable acknowledgment that I worked at the bookstore and simply interned for Ixtlan. I wanted one-up on the guy. I denied our previous meeting even as I could feel a blush making me glow hot as charcoal briquets afternoon on Independence Day. The look the guy gave me was one of those over-the-top squint-eyed assessments people perform because they've seen that sort of thing on a screen and reactively apply it to their own life. Same thing happening today, the salesman might have whipped out his phone and snapped a picture of #thisdouche or just tweeted to followers about some pimpled pinhead with an unjustifiable ego.  

Other memorable production company receptionist incidents include speaking to Tom Cruise (for all of three seconds!), and feeling completely trapped by Brett Butler cold-calling the offices seeking consideration for the role of Martha Washington in a rumored George Washington-biopic. If she was high as fuck, her Southern charms softened any bumps as she roped me into her ride with the white rabbit.   

Throughout my life, when bored, even when not bored but listening to lecture or any kind of definable verbal ramble, I sketch. I'm listening. I'm paying attention. The sketching serves as pressure relief.  

One fill-in hour, Annie - Oliver's chief assistant - caught me working on a masterpiece. She didn't yell at me. Ixtlan staffers were calm and rational. The Illusion staff were the screamers. Annie suggested that I put the drawing aside and read a script or something, try and look more professional. I didn't point out that if they wanted professional perhaps they ought to be reimbursing me for my time on the front line. Once she was out of sight, I continued sketching until the ink dribble felt finished.

To this day, I have no idea what this motorcycle tough has against the goddamn freak hairs. Perhaps it owes something to dietary and olfactory issues.



A random aching of the heart necessitated a LiveJournal log-in. Miracle of miracles, it provided a link to my long deserted webcomic Zumwalt.

The strips look so basic yet were so time intensive.  Six hours work each and everyone, easy. 

This sketch represents one of hundreds that never got the proper Wacom treatment.  Truth be told, the sketching was fun.  The Wacoming beat the juice out of me. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chapter 14

Cloaked In Coward-Cloth

When the receipt contains a misspelling of your name, the likelihood that the entire operation is doomed veers up above 100%.

The flowers were delivered.  She was out of town.  Her ex- had flamed on to abusive and she rightly rocketed out of L.A. Returned, she found dead flowers. Probably worse than if her sister had just thrown the stinking rotten flesh out.

I can't remember if I drummed up the flower delivery specifically for her birthday or if flowers were a follow-up to the date we'd missed courtesy of Mr. Violent Ex-Boyfriend. It wasn't even a date. We were friends. Platonic. There were ways that might have changed, but I am proudly cloaked in coward-cloth.  

The only instance evaporate I remember was standing in line at a McDonald's with her. The two guys in front of us couldn't help but stare at her chest. It irritated her. I didn't have anything in the quip queue other than: "Relax, guys.  They're fake." Wisely, I left that one to gather dust in the silo. 

Flowers have never been added back to my romantic arsenal. The worth in their fabled charms perennially distorted in the aftermath of a quiet, colossal calamity.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chapter 13

Peepers, Prowlers, Pederasts, and Panty-Sniffers

The night I got locked out of Santa Monica Square, I slept inside an adjacent low-walled flower bed, close enough to the beach I could smell its pungent whang, equal parts-seagull, parts-piss, parts-pollution.  Each time I'd punched in the security code trying to gain after hours entry, I was off by one measly digit.  I couldn't get my car.  I couldn't drive home.  I wasn't even drunk.  After bar hopping with a personal assistant I was just tuckered out.  I slept in the flower bed, waking to fog thick as fire season smoke.  Hours later, I went to a job interview on Wilshire, wearing the slept-in clothes.  I didn't get the job, but I think I actually tried to participate in that one instead of skipping eye-contact and uttering single-syllable responses, my interview technique for a prior industry employment opportunity: a production runner gig on the blink-or-you'll-miss-it Almost Heroes.

If I'd had a succession of nights like that then I might qualify for living life like one of James Ellroy's L.A. characters.  But that kind of sordid experience was the outlier. I kept my head down. I used my Ralph's card obediently. I looked like a freak walking places, but I didn't stick out plunged deep into the ever-replenishing thicket of perennial post-college, post-small town wanna-bes.   

Ellroy was at the height of fame while I worked at Brentano's. Courtesy of the film adaptation of L.A. Confidential, the same grim though hip aesthetic of Tarantino's work leap-frogged. Ellroy yet another storyteller gifted in holding a mirror up to a sordid, corrupt society hopping with sex and violence and anti-heroes.

Right around his ascendancy from crime writer to personality, Ellroy came into Brentano's, an agent attached to his hip, performing a none-too-irregular author walk-in. Back in the late '90s the intersection of La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard provided estimable access to a broad swathe of book retailers. Brentano's inside Beverly Center. BookStar at Beverly Connection. A Borders a block down between W 3rd and W 4th St. The Mysterious Bookshop on Beverly, just west of the Tail O' the Pup hot dog stand (I'm not sure if it actually was a Tail; the only hot dog stand I ever ate at was the Pink's on Melrose).

Interactions with celebrities were part of the daily Beverly Center grind. Author interactions were the times where my heart went a-flutter and I forgot wordsmiths went to the bathroom just like normal stiffs, and some, like James Crumley, given that penchant for booze, probably with leagues more difficulty.   

Wisely, I didn't so much as peep at Ellroy. Even though I owned several of his novels, I still hadn't read one lick of him. Conveying false familiarity and love threatens introduction to the tar pit. I'm still struck dumb remembering the Hubert Selby, Jr. interview where the 20ish interviewer admits he's seen Selby film adaptations only; he's never actually read the novels.

It's been years since I've seen a copy of L.A. Confidential other than the official movie tie-in trade paperback or the trade missing the movie promo, but sporting the same dark tidings crime scene photo.  I snagged my yellowed paperback from a Pomeroy thrift store sometime within spitting distance of high school graduation. At the time I had zero knowledge that the cover girl was Veronica Lake homage. Courtesy a roommate with a Rocket Video membership, I watched Lake in This Gun For Hire and The Blue Dahlia. I don't remember if her estimable panache informed or warped my experience when I finally read L.A. Confidential.  

Soured on Los Angeles, frequently embodying the drunk dick persona much to my housemates' dismay, I embraced the Missing Persons refrain "only a nobody walks in L.A".  The Larchmont neighborhood was easy walking distance from the duplex.  Funny thing about L.A., not only did almost no one walk, but all those beautifully manicured lawns were almost always unoccupied outside the landscaping outfits.  One night far too deep into my angry young man constitutional to make it to a public toilet I made use of the bushes in one of those pretty, eerily still million dollar neighborhoods.  Five minutes later, private security was pointing a flashlight beam in my face, wanting to know the p's and q's of my existence. By then I was up on Ellroy's biography and knew he'd spent years breaking and entering in such posh neighborhoods, exercising a penchant for rifling dresser drawers and performing ghastly acts upon undergarments. The real cops didn't show. The rent-a-cop drove off. Shuffling down the sidewalk, I probably entertained brimstone and apocalyptic finalities and more than likely shed tears over my lowly twenty-something existence.   

Last I saw, Ellroy was living in Denver, this after abandoning L.A. for Wisconsin then moving back before breaking off for Colorado, attempting to get back in the good graces of an ex-wife. Los Angeles is deep cored in his bones. It's not enough to write about the place. He'll be back before he's in his grave. I don't know how he can stand not to be there. Less than five years residence under my belt and the place worked fingers into me no one and nowhere else has or will.   


Sunday, October 23, 2016

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

Two years ago I e-mailed Janna Malamud Smith, thanking her for writing My Father Is A Book: A Memoir About Bernard Malamud. She replied the very same day.  Spin-your-head-turnaround in the 21st, the expected cyber-experience.  

In 1988, roughly three years after I mailed comic book artist Sal Buscema a gushing fan letter backloaded with the whining request for a sketch of his signature character The Incredible Hulk, I received a note and autograph. Sal's reply was mailed to a Forest Service Ranger Station address invalidated not only by the steady slow crawl of three years time, but two family relocations, including a none-too-stimulating hop from rural eastern Oregon to rural eastern Washington.
Sal Buscema pencilled virtually every issue of The Incredible Hulk  from #194 - 309. Enhanced by a love for the Lou Ferrigno TV show and brief ownership of a stretchy Hulk doll, The Hulk was my gateway drug into collecting comic books. Right around the time I started receiving a monthly box of the equivalent of crack cocaine from Westfield Comics, the much maligned pop art form, courtesy of such dark materials as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, "grew up".  

In 1985, my teenage brain wasn't properly suited to go all a-tingle from The Original Writer's dark spin on superhero teams (I continue to blame the soft bigotry of low expectations, my teachers' seeming rallying cry; my wife lists books force-fed her high school English classes; almost all titles as foreign and unfathomable to my God-fearing wheat field community as orbiting spy satellite).  It wasn't until I was an adult, flipping through the coffee-table version of Watchmen that I was finally capable of comprehending the multitude of wonders the genre-altering 12-issue series contained.  

Towards the end of Buscema's tenure on the green goliath, Bruce Banner took over control of the Hulk. Marvel heroes rejoiced, only to reel in horror as the supervillain Nightmare's dreamtime machinations undid the fix and unleashed a rampaging brute upon the Marvel Universe, leading to the Hulk's forced exile to a dimensional crossroads.  Following DC's leap into more "adult" territory, came a revelation that Bruce Banner's mental issues sourced from an abusive childhood.  This darkness after Buscema's exit, a tale more akin to a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola's artwork than Buscema's tried-and-true workman-like efforts.  

By the time Buscema's reply ended up in the mailbox, I was losing interest in collecting comic books.  Movies were much more interesting.  Late-1988 was a crossroads between the two art forms, and if you could believe Starlog and associated genre periodicals, all sorts of potential franchises were in play with Tim Burton's in-production Batman movie the mighty Everest amongst the array of tantalizing nerd-peaks.  

So fallow my love for the form, I'd even stopped collecting The Incredible Hulk.  By that time, the title was in Peter David's steady hands, but the abyss John Byrne and then Al Milgrom had deep-dropped the character down provided poor real estate for the repetitive though satisfying 'Hulk smash' tales that had initially drawn me in. 

Roughly a year later I cancelled the comic book subscription service altogether.  That would've been the end result even if Sal had thrown me a bone and included a Hulk sketch.  Part of me remains tickled that some anonymous Forest Service employee put forth the effort to forward Sal's reply, and part of me still feels snubbed.  

"I want that drawing of the Hulk" - not quite as catchy a phrase of violence-tinged melancholy as Better Off Dead's timeless "I want my two dollars" riff, but when it comes to the satisfactions and assurances pop culture provides, it remains a nerve-endings exposed hollow, needlessly, given the fact a Google search provides a plethora of Buscema-drawn Hulks ready for plucking.

It's the world wide web's gulpability factor that fans fan's flames. For free or for a Paypal purchase, I can get all the Buscema Hulk I can stand or afford.  At the same time, if Sal had a Twitter or blog or Facebook, I'd expect if not outright demand personal connection. One wee drawing be-damned, I might reach a feverish pitch, expecting my affections repayment in a 'Like', a 'Reply', a 'retweet'. 

Sadly, the kind of affection I still feel for Sal is on ready display given the gut-punch thousands feel at the all-too-soon passing of Preacher co-creator Steve Dillon.  2016, bad news wings its way to you the moment it happens.  1988, I would've only learned of a comic book artist passing far after the fact, and only if I looked in the few periodicals catering to my social subset: Amazing Heroes, Comics Buyers' Guide, The Westfield Newsletteretc.  

To hear of someone of Dillon's estimable achievements dying even a week after the grim announcement is unfathomable to this wired world. I speculate few could process receiving three years after the fact any sort of word from on high, better late than never acknowledgment of pimpled, braces-sporting worship.            




Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Dull, Greasy, Grey Pencil

This isn't the copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love I acquired from the WSU bookstore.  That copy might've undergone so much underlining they didn't want it at sellback time. Which means, likely, my virgin copy of the minimalist prose masterpiece got shit-canned in Pullman way back in May 1995.

I took English 351 and 451 (Creative Writing) at WSU, both taught by Alex Kuo, highly accoladed on his own, but maybe more famous for helping corral the talents of a young Sherman Alexie. 

Professor Kuo encouraged students to attend readings, fairly irregular events out in the wheat fields.  Alexie showed up a couple of times, full of the angry young artist's required levels of piss and vinegar, but the event I remember with more authority was an appearance by noted hyphenate Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Fully half his reading/talk was given in Russian. At the end of the night, Yevtushenko received a standing ovation, and the 40-year-old beside me kept yelling, "Encore!  Encore!", which is fine, but A) Yevgeny's #1 Fan was balding while sporting what the politically incorrect would define as a 'fag tag', and B) was outfit in the fashion tragedy known as the fanny pack.  And those "Encore! Encore!" shouts were ludicrously rabid, a sign, pondered upon all the evidence naked to the judgmental eye, of someone hoping to be noticed for their passion while likely not understanding one lick of Yevtushenko's native tongue beyond 'perestroika'.  

Carver resonates with most readers as depressing, worse, his anthropological investigations into the tribe of the functionally alcoholic can strike like wet matches. The brilliant Karyna McGlynn has a poem (not that I remember the title) that proposes Carver's output comes to us courtesy (as I recall) of a dull, greasy, grey-leaded pencil.

Most of the class were goggle-eyed youth, the old farts mixed in almost all WSU staff taking advantage of their employee course-discount.  One older female writer fell apart during the weekly round robin discussion of the story packets Kuo Xeroxed and distributed.  Memory fails to provide particulars, but the gist of the tale was 'asshole abuser takes advantage of single mom and her child dies in some gruesome manner'.  The writer's emotional disintegration centered on the fact what she'd lived through was being judged harshly although no one in the class suspected this was roman à clef. The story was just kind of there, crappy, stillborn, the same species of unremarkable output we were capable of both the first and last day of class.  

What We Talk About was one of the only required texts for English 351.  That Carver was dead didn't mean jackshit to me at the time. For another course, I was reading Kafka and Goethe. My presumption was colleges only force-fed the student body dead writers.  In college, presumption fends off the burdens of most of reality.     

Released to the wild, years crossed off the list faster-and-faster-yet, and a man barely 50 kicking off suddenly gathers mass, evidence to the insufferable random manner in which the Grim Reaper exercises her scythe.  Carver's output is substantial, but comparatively woeful given what might have been. Blame his dull, grey excesses, the perpetual drunk's muddleheaded denial of evidence otherwise forecasting that the party is due a screeching halt, and so much sooner than you think. 



Chapter 11

Friday, October 21, 2016

Keep Your Head And Arms Inside The Mangler At All Times

I bought this copy of Requiem For A Dream at a thrift shop in Lewiston, Idaho some 16 years ago.  

I'd bailed on Los Angeles (the fallout from that leap of depression still cropping up regularly by mention of any Wayans brother, Don Johnson, Oliver Stone, Waldenbooks, Larry Flynt, Richard Dreyfuss, Meredith Brooks, Hole, Matthew Sweet, Adam Duritz, Winona Ryder, Sean Penn, Lawrence Block, Gregory Mcdonald, Matchbox Twenty (and on-and-on-and-on...)).  

My parents put me up.  Every morning I'd drive to the local college library and work on a novel.  For recreation, I kept driving from eastern Washington to western Idaho to visit a friend, an attempt to get my head straight.  

You try moving from a population of 3.7 million back to wheat fields and single-lane roads and the disconnect and sense of alienness is on high heat.  In fact, in many ways, it never heals. What pain time dulls is dwarfed by a persistent ache, a realization of the infestation of the never-ending what-if?, a distorted limb refusing to extend or adapt to therapies in ways the young won't comprehend until their very own trip through the mangler.     

There was a female employee at the thrift shop (because isn't there always one in male-driven fiction or memoir-narrative?). She was so darned attractive it fluttered in my mind to move to Lewiston and I could get a job at the thrift shop.  And she'd get to know me. And like me.  And cue the happily ever after music and fade to black.  

I bought the book. I never went back to the thrift shop.  I never even read this copy of Requiem.  When I finally went through a Selby-reading frenzy, I read the movie-tie in edition with Jared Leto on the cover (yet another cue for skating the thin ice, sourcing from watching Fight Club at LA's famed Cinerama with Jenna Elfman and friends sitting in the row right in front of me).

I've got too many books.  More books than comic books.  At least staring at the comic books doesn't ignite sad-assed copulation with days that used to be.  More and more that's a wrinkled, dust-limned lady, her lungs drowning with detritus, walking slack every waking moment.   


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

This Video Should Make You Weep

Does Donald Trump treat women poorly?  Depends on who you ask.

What I find far more repellent and far more urgent a crisis is the suffering inflicted by egg-consuming, dairy-loving, meat-eating people.  

That thoughtlessly cruel behavior is non-partisan and inflicts a greater horror upon this planet than either Presidential candidate could ever summon.  

Exit The Skin Palace / Chapter 9

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Exit The Skin Palace / Chapter 8

He's dead, Jim

First, excitement at blowing dust off a relic, but before long, a cold, harsh reality settles in.  It's always a tragedy when a 2nd novel reads like it's a 1st novel.  

For all the good stuff in The Colonists, there is too much dreck. The story is full of incidents and sitcom-like happy coincidence. There's no plot.  The bikini barista obsessed with peak oil turns into a brochure for the issue.  Peak oil talking points sound like talking points rather than dialogue.

I might pick choice pieces off the corpse and put them somewhere else.  I might go crazy and rewrite most of it and try and put it in some kind of working order.  But probably not. In consideration of near-50 chapters and 100,000+ words only bare bits hold up under the cruel light of objectivity:  

Every chain died a death.  Sears was dying.  When he was a kid, he could remember getting Christmas catalogues.  Poring over the toy section.  Not only Sears, but JCPenney’s and Montgomery Ward.  He wasn’t sure if either one of those other chains still operated.  Trina said when the price of fuel hit a certain point the business model Walmart followed would fall apart.  If importing the cheap plastic shit cost more than what the retail side was pouring in, the plug would be pulled.  Someday it would happen.  
He tried to imagine the parking lot, desolate, cracked, weeds burst up through the black asphalt.  A dark dust coating the insides of the mammoth store space.  The shelves emptied, maybe no shelves at all, or the shelving units still in place, sticking out like vertebrae within the torso of a long extinct beast which finally couldn’t keep pace with change.  The cash registers, the emptied tills, the weekly entertainment rags still on display, but soiled, tales of plastic surgeries and weird sex and the weight loss tips, common concerns belonging to another era, another species almost.  And all the mess inside, remnants of the ramble of humanity trying to stock up, store up quickly given the slow motion calamity finally broke into the consciousness, no longer a 'what if?' scenario brushed to the side by the three engines of deceit - the media, the government, and wanton consumer need. 
It was hard to pinpoint when the worst times would be.  The actual starving and murdering and dying or the recovery over the course of hundreds of years, the new normal unlike anything most could conceive.  Trina had said that as calamity came down, people had a switch they flipped that allowed them to deny the very basic facts looming ahead of them.
Stan had done that.  Losing the job.  Heather halting the marriage not even a year in. A sliver of self admitted something unpleasant was occurring.  A fattier portion of self denied reality, petitioned like a motherfucker for fabrication.  At the last moment, his job would continue.  Heather would hit the big green go-button and they’d keep on the path to wedded bliss.  And at some point, that ignorant, self-blinding sort of self vanished, popped like a balloon, and reality settled in with that distinct dry sandpaper touch. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Colonists

Out of sheer insanity, I'm going back through The Colonists, the first "adult" novel I finished.  Posting the Sarah Palin pegging bit the other day put the manuscript back on my radar. Also, I'm sick of peddling pedestrian sketches.  My poor ghost story characters are underserved by my not-so-pulse-pounding pencils (he sobbed and moaned). So far, The Colonists isn't all that bad.  It's no great shakes, but I'm not wincing looking at scribble from 2012. Here's a wee bit from Chapter 9, our hero - Stan Kenmore - interacting with Mercy, one of the Cowgirls Coffee baristas:

Near the end of the day, Mercy walked past Stan, headed towards Plumbing Penguin.  Wearing the knee-high boots with what looked like bulbous dragon eyes and a heel design like the tops of dragon teeth.  It seemed each of her steps might leave a glowing, molten imprint in its wake.  The underside of her behind squooshed out from the silvered, skin flush shorts.  She pursued the incline toward the plumbing store in careful steps like she was climbing up an ice covered hillside in snow boots, all sorts of fractures evident in the thin ice.  He wondered if she smiled for the Plumbing Penguin people.  Salli said she’d seen Mercy be really nice, but it was usually to people she didn’t know all that well.  Once she knew you, and knew what to expect in terms of disappointment, then the growling version of Mercy was unleashed. 
Stan didn’t see her clamber down the decline, but turned toward her when the steps on gravel were near.  
Walking back towards the booth, her hands were up messing with the knot keeping her hair up in back. 
“You look like you ought to be in a rock band,” said Stan. 
She shook her head, the hair coming loose.
"Fuck, motherfucker," she said.  "I am a rock band."

Exit The Skin Palace (Chapter 6)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Big Fat October Blah

I've got nothing to write since I don't even know if I'll ever finish/self-publish Exit The Skin Palace.  I was going to write a 2nd book using the characters, but since the first book in the potential series could be a stinking heap, there might not be much point.  

The 5-day long Kindle Select "free book" push for Lucid is due to kick off next week, but I'll be damned if I can find any sort of widget that differs that promotion from the normal widget.  

In the interim, I'm busy sketching characters.  Showing off my Fletcher Hanks-like drawing skills. That statement ill serves Fletcher.  Dude could write and draw and actually complete things. One up on me.  

Chapter 5 / Wattpad

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Little Trump

In the wake of the Access Hollywood "bomb", this election story - GOP Voters Want The Party To Stand By The Donald - confused me.  

Until I performed a little self-research.  

And repulsion followed.  

I love Charlie Chaplin movies.  For all kinds of reasons.  

It might be in large part due to the fact that in my younger/more hopeful days, I regularly passed the old Chaplin Studios location on La Brea in Los Angeles.

Beyond that, the dude was a genius performer and genius filmmaker.  As far as I can tell, Chaplin and Kubrick are at the tippy top of my own personal best-of-the-auteur heap.


Where it counts, when it comes to personal actions, moral decisions, what to do with your junk and who to include in those junk-decisions, Chaplin stunk up the joint.  He sucked. He was akin to that old Hustler stalwart Chester the Molester.

There is little point in recounting what The Donald said.  But what confounded me were his supporters standing by him, even after the release of the damning 2005 comments.

Until I realized even though I know Chaplin was a child rapist, I still hold his creative output in the highest esteem.  And I shouldn't. But I do.  But I shouldn't.  But I do.  

Chaplin is a product.  The Donald is a product.  Same way sausage is a product.  And for years and years, I ate sausage.  I didn't care what went into it.  It was delicious.  And then I began to actually value the lives of pigs.  And so it changed. And now the only sausage I'll eat is plant-based. The same change should apply knowing what I know about Chaplin.  

It could be that since Chaplin is dead, and the girls and young women he inflicted himself upon are dead, I don't feel a moral responsibility to cleave him from my realm of high achievers. His is a sausage fixed forever in space and time. 

Which is bullshit.  It only proves I am weak.  It only proves that I am as loathe as all potential voters out there to admit my product has issues, is woeful/prosecutable in the way it exploits women, but I already fell in love with it.  I willingly blind myself to the monster and slouch beneath the comforting weight of his mighty tentacles.