There. I wrote a sestina. You happy?










The Escapist: Small Press Fest Anthology


A few months ago I was at The Escapist. If I remember right it was a Lady-Steed-is-not-with-me-and-the-boys-and-we're-passing-by-so-let's-buy-comics-yay venture. After limiting the damage to one comic per boy, I swung by the indie-zines table and was checking out the wares. One of the employees (Perry? Paul? I'm not there often enough....) and I got into conversation and he shared with me some info I'd missed, viz. that The Escapist had sponsored a small-press blitz back in September and, as part of it, said employee had got some local artists' work together and published it with Chance Press, a joint that prints quality crap in the same town in which I live. It hadn't been a simple undertaking, he said; I know what that's like, I said. And so he gave me a copy of the collection, retail price $5.00.

Chance Press claims on the collection's final page that this was a rush job not up to their usual standards, but it's still a thing of beauty. It's like a glossy-paged Moleskine wrapped in vellum. The printing is exquisite and ink-generous. It's hard to look at this softbacked beauty and believe they were rushed for time. It may be simple, but it's a terrific piece of work. I don't know a lot about Chance Press, but if I ever have a small-run art-heavy project, I'll have to approach them about it. See what they say. I cannot believe they're just binding these things up in a local duplex.

Anyway. How about the work inside?

I'm not going to talk about everyone, but if you're interested, this is every artist: Gabby Gamboa, Kane Lynch, Thein Pham, AA Rain'r, Radio Free Clear Nights, Fred Noland, Geoff Vasile, Rick Worley, Justin Hall.

I think my favorite was---no joke---a superhero comic---by Thien Pham. It's a more-or-less expected superheroey sort of tale, but given a soundtrack---Bill Withers's "Just the Two of Us"---which played with my expectations just enough to make me rethink everything I would have otherwise "known" about this story as it unfolded. It's a pretty brilliant piece of work and I've got some thinking to do about what it did and how it did it.

You can read it yourself.

This tiny collection also has some pretty typical underground stuff, some nice variations on autobiographical confessionals, a postmodern western---all kinds of stuff.

My copy is 4 of 50, but I don't know how significant that is. Ask The Escapist if they still have some, then swing by and pay your five bucks. Alternatively, Chance still has fancy ones still available. And they too are on Twitter.




I forgot all about Free Comic Book Day this year. I was in San Francisco for an academic conference and on my walk back to BART to go home, I passed by a comic-book store and, on a whim, went in.

The fellow behind the counter asked if I wanted some free comics from Free Comic Book Day. Oh, are these left over from last year, I asked? Um, no, he said. Today is Free Comic Book Day. It is? I asked. Holy crap! It's the first Saturday in May! It is Free Comic Book Day! Happily, they had ordered extras this year and had not ran out and I loaded up. I handed over the kid ones to the kids and haven't seen them yet. Sadly, most of the grownup ones were utter crap except for a couple that approached meh.

Which is why I want to single out Red 5 Comics's offering. Because it was topnotch, featuring two comics (Atomic Robo and Bodie Troll) I'm pretty tempted to pick up.

Atomic Robo started off both confusing and plodding, but swiftly righted itself---once the shock of in media res wore off, the cleverness of the dialogue began to ring out. The nature of FCBD books makes it hard to judge any comic, but it's certainly true that if the writing has an It Factor, that will shine through. And Atomic Robo, unlike almost everything else I read this year postFCBD, was sharp, well paced, and felt edited. Allelujah.

The other smart read appeared in the same volume. Unfortunately, the whole thing isn't online and I'm too laze to scan anything myself so all I can share is this unconvincing panel, but Bodie Troll is that rare thing, a cute kid-aimed comic that's well written with jokes that actually land because they're not trying to hard to be jokes but they're not assuming their target audience will just laugh at anything. Bodie looks like a guy worth hanging with.

So good job, Red 5. You appear to be about the only indie house in town taking the time to do things right. Thank you.


Alexander Pope's Little Teapot


I can't find anyone who suggests that George Harold Sanders and Clarence Z. Kelley were inspired by Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, but make the comparison yourself:

I'm a little teapot,
Short and stout,
Here is my handle,
Here is my spout
Here living Teapots stand, one Arm held out,
One bent; the Handle this, and that the Spout:
I'm not crazy, am I?


No one cares that I've learned how to read.


053) Farm 54 by Galit Seliktar and Gilad Seliktar, finished May 20

I enjoyed this comix's cinematic phrasing a great deal. Just three widescreen-shaped panels per page and a deliberate pacing and I felt like I was watching a great little movie. One of the better Israeli comix I've read, to be sure.



052) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, volume seven by Hayao Miyazaki, finished May 18

Although, sure, the books have moments when they pseudoreligious philosophy can be almost too much, in the end, Miyazaki has crafted one of the greatest epics I've ever read. I found it powerful and moving---although I'm not convinced he kiled enough characters and some of the characters are a tad too godlike. But the bulk of the characters are richly drawn and human, the cultures are layered and real. Even the most evil of villains can surprise and even the holiest of heroes remains vulnerable. Unquestionably worthy of reading and study.
three days


051) Dark Day in the Deep Sea by Mary Pope Osborne, finished May 15

I just read on Wikipedia that this is the longest book in the series. Ironic, then, that it's the first I've read in a single night. But Large S offered to do dishes while I kept reading, so I did. Then I finished it while he brushed his teeth. Voila!
an evening


050) The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude by Carol Lay, finished May 14

I was so blown away by the last Lay book I read that I asked my library for this one even though it wasn't a topic I was terribly interested in. I found it a bit dry since I'm not in the market to shed pounds, but I still find her style compelling and fun. And the recipes looked pretty great, frankly.
say three weeks


049) Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne, finished May 12

Another Magic Tree House book. And the hits just keep coming.
three days


048) This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, finished May 6

I'm not sure what I think of this book. On the one hand, even expecting a lot of sex and language, this book has So Much Sex my head sometimes spun. Now, sure, this is a book about failed romantic relationships and sex plays a big role but still. So much sex.

Second, while I'm not opposed to dialect and although Díaz handles it well, the book has enough Spanish words that at times long blocks of text were blocked from my understanding.

Third, back to the sex, so much sex. Since Yunior is famously quasi-autobiographical, I have to wonder if this book is either supposed to be public confession or public wish fulfillment. I mean: does anyone f*** like these characters? Seriously. It's out of control. For instance, the high-school teacher who shacks up with a student while his exwife---a teacher at the same school---merely disapproves. It's so hard to imagine this happening even in the most oversexed innercity New York neighborhood.

Fourth, given all those caveats, I still mostly enjoyed the book. Even though reading was like trailbazing through a machismo jungle with only a dull machete, moments of real beauty and pathos shined through.

Speaking organizationally, since the bulk of the book is Yunior stories, I don't understand the insertion of stories without his presence. While thematically similar, they don't seem to fit. Why not save them for another collection?

I suspect I would like Oscar Wao better than Yunior, but although I don't regret reading this collection, I certainly didn't care for it enough to run out and pick up another Díaz book. I think one was enough.

But my proudly Mexican TA has been sneaking this book from me every chance she gets. She loves it. So maybe I'm just being really white about all this.
two or three weeks


047) Blizzard of the Blue Moon by Mary Pope Osborne, finished approximately May 4

The boys keep bringing these home and Lady Steed and I split the reading. This is the first I've read the entire text of in a while, but I've grown quite an appreciation for these Magic Tree House books.
within a week


Previously in 2013 . . . . :

Books 41 - 46
046) The Red Diary / The Re[a]d Diary by Teddy Kristiansen / Steven T. Seagle, finished April 28
045) The Five Books of Jesus by James Goldberg, finished April 22
044) The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, finished April 20
043) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Volume 6 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished April 18
042) Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game by John Sexton with Thomas Oliphant and Peter J. Schwartz, finished April 15
041) The Hand of Glory by Stephen Carter, finished April 13

Books 35 - 40
040) Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne, finished April 8
039) You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon, finished April 7
038) Illiterature: Story Minutes, Vol. I by Carol Lay, finished April 2
037) "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket, finished March 29
036) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 5 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished March 29
035) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 4 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished March 28

Books 26 - 34
034) The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons, finished March 24
033) What Shat That? by Matt Pagett, finished March 24
032) Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stones, finished March 22
031) Jews and Words by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger, finished March 22
030) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, vol 3 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished March 13
029) The Princess Bride: Shooting Draft by William Goldman, finished March 11
028) The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother by Lucy Mack Smith, finished March 5
027) Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall, finished March 5
026) Screenplay by Syd Field, finished March 3

Books 22 - 25
025) Mortal Syntax by June Casagrande, finished March 2
024) The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo, finished March 1
023) Moby Dick by Herman Melville, finished February 28
022) Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou & Alecos Papadatos & Annie Di Donna, finished February 22

Books 20 - 21
021) The Complete Peanuts 1985-1986 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 22
020) The Princess Bride by William Goldman, finished February 20

Books 14 - 19
019) Magic Tree House #10: Ghost Town at Sundown by Mary Pope Osborne, finished February 17
018) The Report Card by Andrew Clements, finished February 17
017) Justice (volume one) by AUTHOR, finished February 16
016) The Green Mile by Stephen King, finished February 15
015) Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, finished February 12
014) The Silver Cord: Book One ~ Nephilim by Kevin Kelly et al., finished February 7

Books 8 - 13
013) Teen Titans: The Prime of Life by JT Krul and Nicola Scott, finished February 2
012) Batman: Vampire by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones and John Beatty and Malcolm Jone III, finished February second
011) Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor by Isaac Asimov, finished January 26
010) Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, Perfect Collection 1 by Hayao Miyazaki, finished January 22
009) The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 21
008) My Letter to the World by Emily Dickinson, finished January 21

Books 1 - 7
007) Spacecave One by Jake Parker, finished January 19
006) The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker, finished January 19
005) The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished January 14
004) The Crab with the Golden Claws by Hergé, finished January 14
003) The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham's Treasure by Hergé, finished January 11
002) Using the Common Core State Standards... edited by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D., finished January 10
001) Jellaby by Kean Soo, finished January 8


A West Coast publication has finally done it:
The Believer is the new The New Yorker


The New Yorker's been America's voice of urbanity since 1925. It's given us EB White and James Thurber and Dorothy Parker. It published THE look at Hiroshima and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". The New Yorker, I would argue, has been America's greatest magazine for most of its run. Other magazines make great runs, then fade away. When you average them out, The New Yorker has been the best, year in, year out.

Which is a bit frustrating to those of us on the Left Coast. Why does everything always have to be about New York?

And so we've seen magazines with clever names like San Francisco or Los Angeles that managed to fit in the What's Happening Here element of The New Yorker and the We're So Cool aspect of The New Yorker, but managed to utterly fail at being interesting outside their own metro era.

As for me, I've given up on a western New Yorker ever happening. The era of the magazine might be over anyway. Time to move on.

And, as is so often the case, just when I stopped looking, I found what I was looking for.

The Believer is part of Dave Eggers's McSweeney's conglomerate and as such is pretentious without pretentions. A delightfully San Francisco combination.

One of the things these The Believer has in common with The New Yorker is that I have too many hand-me-down issues of both to ever bother actually subscribing. And: they're both excellent reads whether breaking news or years old.

The issue of The Believer I just finished was from September 2009. And it's the one that smacked me with the realization that: The Believer is the West's version of The New Yorker!

The Believer does not announce its urban affiliation on its cover and so I had never really thought about it as a New Yorker competitor. But in this issue, that affiliation stuck its head out of the closet. First, with its interview with Philip Zimbardo of the Stanford prison experiment. Zimbardo now lives in SF and, of course, the experiments took place down in the South Bay. Follow that with an interview with Nick Cave in which the interviewer starts off by saying:
I was at both Grinderman shows in San Francisco.
As I think about it, The Believer could hardly be more Bay. Even though this same issue talked about Midwestern car salesmen and a Chicago "murder" and V.C. Andrews (who, best I can tell, was never within 500 miles of my house), homebase is always San Francisco.

Which takes it into New Yorker territory. The New Yorker too may talk about tugboats or George R.R. Martin, but that's only because any decent urbanite cares about the rest of the world---even myopic New Yorkers.

The Believer shares that DNA.

Though that doesn't mean The Believer looks much like The New Yorker. Because it doesn't, not much. It's not even traditional magazine shape or paper. It's perfect bound. It takes the idea of iconic covers much more literally. It runs interviews that look like interviews instead of like articles. It publishes poetry but not fiction. Most of its humor pieces don't look at all like Talk of the Town (though some do, sure).

The main thing that's missing is killer investigative pieces. Which is why---

Holy crap.


Why have I never noticed this before? I guess because I subscribe?


Why I oppose gay marriage


In our discussion as to whether or not women should receive the vote, we have generally agreed that, really, a vote is not to the man but to the marriage. And doubling the number of votes per marriage creates one primary effect only: accounting difficulties and opportunities for abuse at the ballot box. Besides, save in the rare case where a husband and wife might cancel each other's vote, the only true change to results will be the doubling of votes needed to be counted. A reasonable counterargument to these simple facts has yet to be made.

Intrasex marriage would throw this one-vote-per-marriage system, which has served our nation so well these many generations, upon its end (if you'll excuse the expression). In the case of men marrying, those marriages will receive a disproportional allotment of representation in our system of governance, while sapphic marriages will be utterly unrepresented. The former issue is unjust to Americans generally and the latter is unjust to the ladies themselves. In either case, it is clear that marriage of those intrasexually inclined will result in violations of the most basic liberties we as Americans hold dear.

Protect duly elected representation!

Oppose legally sanctioned intrasexual marital relationships!


David Bowie moves in on Madonna


Now we have to decide: Which is better/awesomer/offensiver/shockinger/eyerollinger (your choice):


Unlike most of my books which only benefit sinners and ne'er-do-wells,


sales of this one benefit kids with autism.

The Movies of 2013*: One-paragraph reviews
*first third only
*feature-length only


In theaters:
Psycho: So good to finally see this on the big screen! Watching Psycho at age fourteen completely changed my relationship with film and this was practically a pilgrimage for me. To it large and up close---to catch details I had never noticed or had forgotten. So good. And it wasn't so much the traditional jump scenes that got me. It was Anthony Perkins. And Hitchcock's incredible capacity for the slow build. But hearing neophytes yell out in shock as Arbogast reaches the top of the stairs was pretty awesome all the same.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I wish we had seen this movie earlier when the faster framerate was available---and that we'd then seen that version. I had forgotten that when Peter Jackson's camera swoops, everything gets blurred and details disappear. I'm very sad about that. Otherwise, I liked it. I wouldn't have minded if the story had been fit into a single movie---this seemed a bit plump---but for now I choose to trust that the three-movie version will tie into LoTR so well that it will have all been worth it. And, if not, that they'll release a single-movie version without the extraneous story for my viewing pleasure.

At home:
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes: As good as everyone said. The apes weren't quite as "real" as I'ld been led to believe, but boy can they act. Such a strange movie, to have my loyalties as against the humans as for. Also enjoyed the Icarus throwaway. Unnecessary and awkward if you don't know what it means, but still pretty great.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: Ignoring the fact that the original British title, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! is a much better title, this is still good stuff. I'm not quite sure why Hugh Grant deserved an Oscar nomination (not that he didn't do a great job, mind), but the film gives everything one might want from Aardman. And more. The cg and the stopmotion were seamless, the film is packed with minuscule visual gags, the monkey functions properly, etc. By no means my favorite Aardman film, but I worthy addition to the canon.

The White Shadow: A lost and recently recovered (in New Zealand of course) film with a lot of Hitchcock fingerprints all over it. An epic melodrama of shakespearean scope. And perhaps power, but we'll never know because the last three reels remain lost. But man alive was I getting into it. And where it ends! HOW CAN IT END THERE!!!! The gods of film are capricious gods, to return this movie to us only to yank it away as it gets really good. You should totally go watch the existing 45m now.

Chinatown: I can see why it's a classic. It's a terrific movie. The sort of movie I don't know just how much I like because it demands multiple viewings. I think Lady Steed, however, is all ready to call it a masterpiece.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Big O has become a religious reader of the Tintin books. Me, I could never get into them as a kid. Which I suppose must be why I didn't grow up to become Peter Jackson. While not inherently opposed to motion capture, often the character's actions and faces were a bit lifeless. Cartooning it up a bit helped, but, alas, Weta or no Weta, Gollum is still the greatest motion-capture character to date. And even the animated character---Snowy---suffered from the same listlessness. Honestly, I would rather the film have been made in the fashion of Disney's recent Paperman (which I hope has a strong influence on future animated films). That said, thrilling moments, laugh-out-loud moments. And the Big O was as involved as I think he's ever been in any movie. At any rate, I've never heard him exclaim "AWESOME!" before in the middle of a film.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Pretty good. Very good at capturing certain elements of the teenage experience. But---and maybe this is because I just read the book---it's filled with holes. Some parts of the story are so underdeveloped (as long as it's all about me, let me point at his English teacher as one egregious example) as to strain credulity. Which is a shame because the acting's great and much of the movie has the potential to be excellent. Bummer.

Moonrise Kingdom: I watched it with the Big O with the hope of getting into a conversation about "decisions"---not sure how well that happened. But except for the shooting-the-dog part and the kissing-and-stuff part, he really enjoyed it. Maybe the conversation will happen later. Me, I still loved it. It didn't leave me as deliriously happy as the first time I saw it, but still: great movie.

A Goofy Movie: Little Lord Steed's been asking to watch this movie, but Lady Steed always tells him he can't unless he watches it with me. So tonight the three boys and I got in my bed and watched it. It's still a great movie. I was in high school when Goof Troop came out and I hated it. But Siskel and Ebert talked up A Goofy Movie so much that my friend Myke and I drove to Lancaster and caught a matinee. And I loved it. In my book, it's one of the best father/son and one of the best teenager movies ever made. Plus, it's proof that musicals can work. And it's so different from other Disney movies! The only other thing I want to add is that this time I realized that Goofy reminds me a lot of my own father. So YMMV.

The Descendants: Some nice layering of symbols and plots, but my favorite element of this movie is its honesty in pathos and catharsis. Not to get too Greek on you. Also---that Judy Greer---she sure gets around, huh?

Field of Dreams: I know how old I was when I last saw this movie because of the house we lived in, but I remember very little else. James Earl Jones was in it. Dead ball players. The line of cars stretching off to the distance. Don't remember if I liked it or not. Don't know what my dad thought. But we never watched it again which makes me think maybe he either didn't like it or it hit too close for him. This time I had the experience people talk about when they talk about this movie. And my kids all loved it too. We need to buy a copy. I would much rather they watched this over and over than Angels in the Outfield.

Kung Fu Hustle: Sorry, everyone, but you're wrong---Shaolin Soccer is way better.

Argo: Terrific movie. The sort of thing that might not work if it were not true. Interesting credits too. Read them towards the end. I see why people are annoyed at Affleck casting himself as Mendez, but I also see why people say it's no big deal. We'll see what history decides.

The Princess Bride (x2): Probably haven't seen it in a decade. Still holds up. I could watch again right now. Maybe I'll do this again with my kids.

Romeo and Juliet (x2): I've seen Zeffirelli's version maybe 20 times. But except for Olivia Hussey's wailing and the zoominout as she apologizes to her parents, the film still feels fresh to me. And the fight between Romeo and Tybalt---especially as it contrasts with the preceding Tybalt v Mercutio---remains one of the baldest bits of violence I've ever seen. Come: hum the love theme with me.

The Hudsucker Proxy: After a story meeting with some movie folks about redacted in which we discussed stylistic points via films like Scott Pilgrim and Annie Hall and The Big Lebowski and Moonrise Kingdom and Bottle Rocket and Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and Brick and Stranger than Fiction and It Happened One Night and It's a Wonderful Life and Fight Club and The Graduate and at least a dozen others, we watched this classic together. Every time I see this movie I discover things new either visually or auditorially, both words and not. Never fails. It's a movie I can't imagine growing tired of.

Inherit the Wind: Not a big fan, but people are right: Spencer Tracy and Frederic March eat this movie up. Also though---I need to see Gene Kelly in more nonmusical roles.

The Merchant of Venice: A truly troubling story. A tragedy wrapped in the comedy of characters who think the tragedy is just a piece of their own happy ending. Granted, Shylock made unwise decisions, but his fall is tragic. And say what else you will about Pacino's performance in this version, his work in the court scene is powerful. The movie is flawed in that Shylock's fall poisons the comedy and the filmmakers didn't find a way to solve this problem---if, indeed, it is a solvable problem. As for me, I don't think I am capable of simply "enjoying" The Merchant of Venice. But the movie does well at working the balance, though it runs a bit long to serve well the alleged comedy. But do we really want to laugh? Antonio certainly does not. 'Tis no comedy to him. And Jeremy Irons was terrific and understated in the role. He carries the Shylockless portions of the film.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (x2): Great as always. I've become quite an admirer of Leo's.

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