Thursday, May 31, 2007

Two Bands Steeped Adequately in Weird

Before witnessing the unavoidably seductive throbbing, sparkling crash that is Brilliant Pebbles (starring none other than the just-posted-about-Mr. James Kennedy on bass guitar) at The Fireside Bowl this past Sunday, I was lucky enough to happen upon the equally strange and well executed Juan Prophet Organization. If the opportunity ever presents itself to see these bands, and especially to see these two together: cancel your other plans. A good drug this cheap you'll be hard pressed to find.

"This Aquatic Baboon, This Mermaid's Abortion..."

At some point I did a reading for something called The Dollar Store at the Hideout in Chicago. I erroneously assumed The Dollar Store to be the brain child of one Mr. Jonathan Messinger and one Mr. Jeremy Sosenko. I trusted Mr. Messinger, as a decent man and storyteller extraordinaire, when he invited me to participate in this melting pot of the minds. But I was duped! And James Kennedy, author of the brilliant upcoming novel "The Order of The Odd Fish", sets the record straight here. I feel so... so used.

(But you should still look around their site and go to anything those two are involved in. It's worth the risk, Kennedy's cautionary tales be damned!)

Now in One Convenient Location

Earlier today I received an e-mail from esteemed Fantagraphics publisher Kim Thompson letting me know that there is now a dedicated page to your truly on the Fantagraphics site. The stock market seemed unmoved. The war continued. But if you're bored out of your mind, feel free to visit it. There's a terribly long interview (available for download there) that teaches how to pronounce my terribly unpronounceable name. Joy!

And Back, And Back, And Back...

My sisters and I loved this little fruitcake when we were younger: The Cat Came Back. It's such perfect, kinetic anxiousness. A tip of the hat to Bahareh for reacquainting me with the ever irritable Mr. Johnson. What sets him off in the beginning? The cat broke a rattle? I'd forgotten what an overreacting spaz he was. Good riddance. Good cartoon!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chicago Readings With Unabashed Nerds

Directly after returning from the east coast business of staring at people with my jaw slack, I will be joining two fellow comic obsessed types, Nick Bertozzi and Austin Grossman, for the Bookslut Summer Reading Series on June 27th.

Nick is one of my favorite guys in comics, so it'll be interesting to see what he brings, reads, or generally holds above our heads (quite literally: he's eleven feet tall, or thereabouts). And while I've not yet gotten my hand on Mr. Grossman's book, it's been wildly recommended by the ever trustworthy staff of Quimby's here in Chicago. So, if you're in the area, stop by, push your glasses up, and bask in the geekish support group.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Three Paradoxes Tour on The FLOG

Updated far more frequently than this blog – and with plenty of things I'll simply be hijacking as time progresses – is the Fantagraphics blog, FLOG. Click on the graphic for updated information on the east coast tour for The Three Paradoxes and oodles of other oddities and entities.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Apparition 2: December 3, 2004

Dustin Hoffman/Mat says, "Wow, you're not lost in your perception, are you? You really ARE your perception."

(He said this outside the back of the storage house in which we were all staying. It was a weekend long experiment on sleep deprivation. I think it started as a comic book I was reading in the dream, but the expanded, became the reality of the dream.)

"I want to talk about that, what you just said," I told him, "but this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen." I nodded to the source of my amazement.

The water was a muddy green/teal, and the flowers to the right were the most vibrant reds and hot pinks. Beyond this, in the water, was what appeared at first to be a unicorn, but was actually a horse – white, with very sparse, very light gray spots – with its mane spiked straight, impossibly vertical, as I've seen in the appearance of certain show horses. At first he was alone.

Then, as if in slow motion, we realized he was running in out direction, with a pack of horses, of similar size and presence, trailing behind. We recognized these to be the wild horses of this area, an ancient, massive breed we would later refer to as "The Tyrannosaurus of Horses." Natives – oddly pale olive colored – walked and ran with these horses.

We pressed ourselves against the barn/house to be out of their way, but I couldn’t resist reaching out my hand and grazing one of their flanks as they passed. I was afraid somehow I would infect or destroy them, as they seemed magical in their anachronism, and somehow fragile to the poison of modern things.

One of the horses stopped, as did one of the natives, and I felt instantly guilty. The horse was ill. But its illness was independent of my intrusion; I was not to blame.

We immediately slid open the barn (the “basement” of this house was a sprawling dirt floor barn that was featured in another dream I had about my sisters and me rebuilding the basement of our parents’ house) and the native and the horse came inside. The horse laid down to rest and I spoke with the native, who said the horse was young – despite being already far larger than a normal horse – and would grow much larger, each of its legs being seven feet long.

He said they would rest here a while and catch up with the others. I didn’t stay long enough to see them leave.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sighting 1: May 25, 2007

The sparrow pulled at the remnants of cake in the muffin wrapper. The chocolate stain on the circular paper framed the sparrow, accented its whiter points: flirting with ostentation, but pulled back by its size.

The little girl in the stroller, looking all of eighteen months, scrutinized the bird, discovered it, watched its pecking and swung her fat legs just slightly, in unrhythmic time to its eating.

The father sat, legs crossed, engrossed in a tightly lined paperback, oblivious to his daughter's progression and to her petite instructor.

Apparition 1: (date unrecorded)

We were sitting in a field populated by marshmallow peeps with Rottweiler heads.

Later, still in this universe, I was recalling it to (a person).

(A person) : "Was it scary? Or cute?"
Me: "Sort of tense, but beautiful."

The description satisfied us both, then we left that world.

David, You're Killing Me (Or: I Don't Care How Old It Is, I Don't Need a Reason to Post This)

Being that good was nuts, being that good live was/is/will be ridiculous. Every clip I see is difficult to process, and a complete joy. Watch everything you can find. You owe it to yourself.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sightings and Apparitions

A few days ago I woke up to a phone call. It was my younger sister. Her opening line was, "Are you okay?" I replied that yes, sure, I was fine. Why?

"We thought you'd finally lost your mind."

She was referring to a message I had left, in a purposely rasping, meandering croak, where I read aloud the entire front label of a Nature's Crystal water bottle. The gravel of my affected voice was sufficient, that, when combined with the distortion of an answering machine, they had absolutely no idea what I was going on about. "Crystals? Something about milliliters? What?"

Of course, the plan had been to leave a coherent tail to the message, but I was cut off in the play portion, and, laughing hysterically at what I thought would be a great (but understandable) message, I left it truncated.

All of this misunderstanding, and the fact that I'd received a call half presuming my final collapse into full insanity reminded me that , hey, sometimes my skull can be just as much nonsensical fun with the eye parts of the head open as it can with the eye parts closed.

And this reminded me that I'd been intending to start a couple themes in this blog: sightings and apparitions. Or more physiologically: eyes opened and eyes closed. Or more exactly: probably really saw it and saw it but not so much in the "really" way.

Some of these will be cuddly stories I've come across on the way to wherever I'm heading. Some of these will be percolating bog dwellers from sleep. But either way, why not give them a home? Here's to more phone calls.

Monday, May 21, 2007

He's On a Mystical Journey Up In This Bitch

Admittedly, this is one of the reasons I started this blog: doing all that I can to spread the soulful genius of one Pusy Gums Johnson. I'll be sure to post more when Mr. Johnson (for whom I designed this logo)graces the world with more songs. But for now: no more words! Just phatness. Listen. Learn. Listearn.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Digging Up The Mole in The Library

Between the weightless last day and the anxious first, there was a strange place called summer. My sisters and I fell into it for three months each year, supine in its fields until the calendar sped up and the air cooled.

I can’t honestly say that I recall things from that place very clearly. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I read, though I remember a few of the books quite fondly. I can’t remember what games I played in particular, though I can easily say that where it was called for, I supplied substandard rations of coordination. One of the few things I can remember with perfect clarity, though, was the little mole in the library.

The little mole was coal black with an infantile giggle and he, along with his friends – a mouse, a hedgehog, and a swallow among them – occupied a kaleidoscopic world in the basement level of our local library. I loved the little mole. I was depressed when other filmstrips were shown, or at best I tolerated them. On the regrettable occasion of a magician being provided in lieu of even a non-mole filmstrip, I only barely restrained myself from storming out. Without the little mole, I might as well feign an aptitude for sports! It was that dire, this little lump’s hold on me.

Those summer places are far away on the map now. I couldn’t have been more than eight year old when I saw the mole and his friends on the white screen; watching, seated “Indian style” on stiff carpet, neck craned and eyes wide, my mouth slightly parted among a clump of budding Ohioans. And I had forgotten, in any meaningful sense, all about that animated piece of coal I had loved so much. I was busy poking my head into growing up. I went to college, I moved to the big city. I met a girl.

The girl was from Germany. She moved back to Germany.

So I went to Germany.

The town in which she – Juliane – lived is by no means large: we walked its main drags dozens of times in my visits. We walked by the shops of those streets, necessarily, just as many times, so I don’t know if the surprise was waiting there the whole time. But on one of those walks, I turned at the right time, looked in a window, and saw an old friend, puny and plush.

“It’s the mole!” Everything came back to me in a rush.

“You know the little mole?” Juliane asked, “But I think he’s Czech… How do you know him?”

The oddity of this – that a Czech cartoon would have been obtained by a southern Ohio public library servicing a town of a few thousand people – glanced off me, and we went into the store. I bought him right away. I was in a frenzy of reclamation. I was ready to buy anything they had with the little mole, but that was all there was to be had.

After this reunion, I searched, as often as my scattered mind would allow me, for the little mole cartoons, but with no positive results. I procured a couple books, a bit of history – confirming Juliane’s suspicions that our giggling friend was indeed Czech, and informing that what I had taken, years ago, to be the nonsensical sounds between giggles was actually rudimentary Czech – but none of the actual cartoons.

Until Juliane wrote to me and sent me the link I’ve posted here:

My favorite that I’ve seen thus far is the three part “Little Mole in the City.” It’s heart-wrenchingly smart. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time.

The graphic at the top of this post is from “Little Mole Finds a Green Star.”

And “Little Mole and The Swallow” is too adorable to not watch.

Snoop around and watch the others. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

The cartoons are just as beautiful as I remember, and seeing them now I can appreciate the influence they’ve had on me and on the little people I push around the paper world on a daily basis. Thanks to the person who put those up for the world to see. And thanks to Juliane.

But no thanks to the magician!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One More Reason to Love David Lynch

Though it blows my mind entirely that this was ever produced: apparently network heads are infinitely impressionable and, after the success of Twin Peaks, they allowed David Lynch to make a sitcom. I can't do it justice, save to say that's it's like watching a dying swan sporting Groucho Marx glasses. That description makes no sense, and is therefore probably perfect.

You can click on the graphic to go the multi-part installments of the first episode, hosted (with brief intro) on Comedy Central's web site.

Thanks to my brother-in-law Dan for pointing me in the direction of this absurdity.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Two Pigeons of Cortez

There is a skywalk above Division, just south of where I live. Division runs east and west, to and from Lake Michigan, and the wind tears along the road’s retail-minded girth with greater audacity than on the residential roads to the north and south. The lake-informed air of Division – channeled beneath the skywalk – forms a sort of wind tunnel. And when walking west or east on more blustery days, like the day in question, this tunnel effect causes me to walk a few streets south, on Cortez.

Walking westward, coming home from an unremarkable lunch, I turned the corner onto Cortez and noticed, only peripherally, a pigeon flapping in the crosswalk orthogonal to me. I thought the bird was injured, looking at it more directly then, and I started to walk over to it, unsure even as I approached it what I could do to help an injured anything, let alone something as delicate as a bird.

When I was still several steps away, the pigeon lifted slightly from its spot and put itself back down inches away from its origin. Its situation became more and less clear instantly.

The bird, which, in the moment just preceding its nominal flight, I had thought to look increasingly oddly shaped, had been on top of another bird. Another pigeon. This second pigeon was dead.

From the glint of magenta buckling through the apex of its compacted frame, it was simple enough to read this second bird as very recently dead. I surveyed the second pigeon as the first watched me, still resolute on the white line of the crosswalk, opposite the white line where this second pigeon had met what appeared to be its car-dealt end. Although I was closer to the first pigeon than I had been thus far, it gave no indication of relocating. It just stared, noiseless.

Knowing there was nothing I could do for the dead bird and being too cripplingly paranoid about disease to pick it up and save it the indignity of further abuse, I walked away. As I walked away the first pigeon stared after me, turning its neck to follow my progress. I left the two birds unsure if the first had been lamenting over the body – flapping futilely out of some primal grief – or devouring its perch, or somehow both. The dichotomy of grief versus cannibalism provided me with no clear way to process what I’d seen. Are pigeons even capable of grief? What was this first pigeon to this deceased second: a mate, or a friend, or an opportunistic passerby with an empty stomach? The possibility that the first pigeon was some amalgamation of all these things only confused things further. I looked back once more, met the pigeon’s uninformative glare, then walked further down the sidewalk and turned the corner.

I had some laundry to pick up later that day and, perhaps out of my own macabre leanings or simply out of avoidance of the wind tunnel, I found myself shuffling eastward down Cortez. When I came upon the intersection where I’d been confused hours earlier by two pigeons, I was once again confused by two pigeons. There were now two dead pigeons, side by side.

To be empirically fair, I have no way of knowing if the second dead pigeon was the first fluttering pigeon I had left staring earlier in the day. I had not noted or even thought to note any special markings on the then living bird. But it was nearly impossible to think this was not the same pigeon, now with its head burst just beside the graying white of the crosswalk line.

I stared at the newest dead, and saw there was some sort of corn and seed scattered just beneath its body. Had someone scattered feed in the middle of the road? Was this the fate of the first demised bird? Had its friend (mate? nemesis?) wisely flown away after I’d left, only to have another bird meet the same end? I stupidly surveyed the intersection’s surrounding porches, half expecting to find some malicious schoolboy, feed in hand, looking with satisfaction on his afternoon’s slaughter.

The porches were empty.

Perhaps the corn feed had been eaten earlier, and this radial pattern had been forced from the stomach upon impact? While the head was the most graphically affected, the whole body had clearly felt the force. But my germ fears swelled up, both precluding me from lifting the bird for any forensics and telling me it was time to move on and to cleaner laundry.

On the way back, laundry in tow, I walked west on Division. I walked through the wind tunnel, the air and cars pulsing through, carrying birds and people wherever they would end up next.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Three Paradoxes East Coast Tour

In that unending effort to sleep poorly in as many alien beds as possible, I will be scuttling up the east coast, chucking ink into whatever people see fit to have ink chucked. The east coast leg of this (a west coast leg will be solidified shortly, happening in late July/early August) starts in North Carolina and ends in New York. My father, one of the principal "characters" of the book, may even show up at one of these events. There may be puppets. There may be sleep deprivation. Scratch that: there will absolutely be sleep deprivation.

Links to the events/sites:

June 15-17: HeroesCon
June 19: Velocity Comics
June 21: Atomic Pop (Atomic Books) with novelist/poet Tao Lin
June 22: Rocketship
June 23-24: Mocca Festival

So if you're in the area of one of these, stop by. We can stare at each other and try not to talk about the weather.