December 30, 2004


Not entirely unexpectedly, my grandfather died this morning.

More later, when I and the rest of the family have had time to adjust and get our heads together. Meanwhile, my grateful thanks to those of you who have already called with your good wishes, and my love to you all.

Have pity on the dead
Pray for the dead
Sleep has his house
Sleep has his house

Overwhelm me
Overwhelm me
Sleep has his house
Sleep has his house

December 23, 2004

Hollyday Road

Quickly, before I drop off the map for a couple of days:

New job good. Still very much in terra incognita and trying to learn the language, but it's good. More on this when I've had some time to absorb.

Haven't had much chance to keep up with everyone this week, so if you've tried to get my attention somehow, it's likely been elsewhere. I'll try and get my act together after the weekend.

Meantime, a most joyous, merry and happy holiday to all. May you be touched by light, whether of the Son of Man, the Sun Unconquered, or just cheer and good company. May the Fat Man bring you a pile of goodies. And may you eat too much, drink too much, and stay up too late doing it; it is, after all, the season of Misrule.

Pax vobiscum and much love to you all.

December 16, 2004

White Ships Sail

I post this from amid the weird chaos of my last day at GWU. Monday I start my new gig as a temp at Johns Hopkins.

This place had its ups and downs, but it was a good job, and I'll certainly miss a lot of things about it. In any case, this is four years of my life I'm closing the door on - hopefully for better things, and most certainly for things closer to home.

Everything ends.

Zai jian, GW. It's been fun. May the next guy love that scanner as much as I did.

December 07, 2004

I Ate'nt Dead

...though between one thing and another the Great Gray Beast November certainly did a job of roughing me up.

So I got my 50k in well under the wire, and I'd be more pleased with myself scoring three for three if I wasn't so dreadfully dissatisfied with the shape of this one. It's got good moments, and moments of wreckage, and some seriously deficient through-lines, and at least one turn of phrase that caused my wife, glancing it on a random page, to taunt me with a noted lack of mercy for the purpleness of the prose. All of which adds up to convincing me that the thing is not fit for human eyes. So no beta-reads until it's done and gone over at least once.

Maija, on the other hand, gets a big old laurel wreath and a hearty Huzzah! for finishing this year - her first, if I'm not mistaken. Applause and congratulations and the jingling of bells.

Meanwhile, I'm looking at a little over a week at the old job before I'm off to the temp mines for a while. This is very weird. Not that I haven't done it before, but it's giving me a kind of lost-at-sea feeling which is not exactly what I'd have chosen for my holiday mood. Meh.

Otherwise, not much to report. My conviction that I have anything interesting to say about, well, anything is in wane at the moment, so go amuse yourself with the sidebar links and try to keep out of trouble.

November 15, 2004

...Sits In Western Parts

John Balance, one of the founding members of Coil and a sometime contributor to Current 93, died over the weekend.

Thanks to Andy for sending me the story. As he said, "The world certainly doesn't need any fewer interesting musicians."

"Hell is paved, despite the Balance, with tedium and loss":

(Yet the stars and the moon and the sun and the comets and the little birds and the little lights and the little animals that sing to God God bless the little animals and the little animals that scream to God please O Lord bless the little animals that weep and weep and weep they are approaching the Greatbluegate of Death itself oh Lord hear me when I shout and shout and shout my heart is almost empty)

...I fall to my knees and weep. And goodbye to You all.

Update: David Tibet pays heartbreaking tribute on the Durtro site.

There will undoubtedly be more.

November 10, 2004

Omnia mutantur, Neil interit

It's Neil Gaiman's birthday today. Happy 44th, dream-weaver; Murphy watch over you, and many happy returns.

I can think of no better way to mark this than to renew my overlong-expired membership to the CBLDF - which you should join, too, if you haven't already. Now more than ever, defenders of free speech are going to need all the help they can get, so get a membership, donate, buy some of their swag. They're seasoned champions in the war against fuckwittage, and we need them, and they need the support of Readers Like You. (And, dude, they have Barry Ween stuff. How goddamn cool is that?) As they used to say in the funnybooks: 'nuff said.

My own writing isn't quite going like gangbusters so far this week; I'm at an even-keeled 15,652 words, which isn't where I'd like to be but is respectable enough. NaNoFounder Chris Baty recommends a hearty breakfast, so maybe that'll make the difference tonight. In any case, a day that starts with a bacon, egg and cheese bagel (no doubt my first of many violations of Leviticus before bedtime) can only be so bad.

November 07, 2004

There's a Wall of Words Around My Heart

I am, I'm pleased to report, right on schedule for Week One with a wordcount of 12,297. This is good, and gives me hope.

I'm not following my original plan of working from an outline, mostly because I kicked it off at the top a week ago and it just sort of kept going. This may yet change, of course. For now, pace and progress are both good, though I've been positively Benedictine about not rereading, so for all I know it's twenty-five single-spaced pages of complete crap. So it goes; ask me again come winter, when I'm gnashing my teeth over the rewrite.

I apologize if I haven't been up to jumping into last post's excellent political discussion, though all y'all are doing such a fine job of it that I can't bring myself to feel much guilty about it. My energies, at least for now, are largely elsewhere, and I figure if the Chimp's keeping me away from my novel then the goddamn bad guys have already won. But do carry on, and I'll try and contribute when I feel I've something constructive to add.

It's been a gorgeous autumn weekend up here in Edgewood, and it's weird as anything to think that we've had nearly a whole year in our house. Strange turns of fortune. I'm lucky as hell, and don't think for a minute I don't know it.

Now I'm going to treat myself to a shower and some pleasure reading. I'm pretty confident I've earned it. Good night, and be kind to each other. Now more than ever, it's what the world needs.

November 03, 2004

"Where is the horse and the rider?"

Take the day, if you must, to grieve.

Get it out of your system, because tomorrow we're getting back up.

Be angry. Be frustrated. Be furiously, fiercely,righteously pissed off, because we're going to need it. There's work to be done.

What we don't need is defeatism and hopelessness. And we don't need any fucking despair. It's a luxury we're done with, now. Remember that half of the nation stood with you last night. I'm not ready to do them the dishonor of curling up and going quietly. Are you?

And shame, shame on you if you start talking about Canada now. This is the country that needs you, more than ever. It's still ours. We're not giving it up without a hard, bitter fight. (What, you thought this was going to be easy?)

This is not a tragedy; this is a setback. The battles that were there on Monday are still there this morning. I plan to keep fighting them while I can still draw breath. If I lose - if we lose - it won't be because I lost heart when the tide of it turned against me. The one sure way our enemies can prevail is if we give up and let them.

Are you with me?

For Wrath, for Ruin--

November 02, 2004

October 31, 2004

Samhain 2004

Now is the hour. Now is the night.
Close thou the circle, speak thou the rite.
The doorway is open; The veil is thin.
Now is the time. Begin, begin.

October 28, 2004

Cat Vaccuum Go!

So it's nearly that time again.

Which would make this my third (!!) year participating - which was a horrible shock, let me tell you, when I went to the Maryland initial meet-up last Friday and realized I was the scarred and grizzled veteran. (Nobody should be getting advice on how to be resolute and responsible from me.) And now that I've finished two for two on wordcount without actually managing to reach the end of a damn storyline, I've made a couple of decisions this year to, as it were, increase the weight a bit.

First, just to get this out of the way: I won't be writing a Jenny Haniver story this year. I'll miss her, but I think comics is her natural medium, and I don't want to tell all her stories before we have a chance to get Adeptus off the ground. (Rest assured there will be future prose Jenny tales - though I think they may be shorter forms for a while. The big plot arcs I've outlined are graphic-novel ones.) And, too, I want to be sure that her first-person voice isn't any kind of crutch for me; I know I can write pages and pages of that, and I'm ready to try a different path this time around. And, besides, if all goes well, this year's tale will be so relentlessly cool that it won't be an issue.

Second, I likely won't be sending it out in installments as it happens. It's likely to be a much rougher draft this season, and I'll probably want to give it at least one revision before it's fit for human eyes. I may change my mind about this, depending on the demands of my Fawning Acolytes, but even then it'll probably be choice excerpts rather than the whole thing.

And this is because - Third - I'm really hoping to finish this one. As in, actually finish the story this month and not leave it hanging for frigging ever. Now that I know for certain I can write fifty thousand words in thirty days (with only minimal bouts of logorrhea and adjectivitis), this is obviously the new bar to set myself. So I'm very seriously considering writing from an outline, starting with a skeleton of plot and adding more flesh until it becomes, well, a novel. I've never done that before, and I don't know if it will happen as planned, but there's only one way to find out. This part frightens me more than anything else, but if it works, it may work better than anything else I've tried to produce a Real Novel with a beginning, middle and goddamn end.

So that's pretty much my November. I will, as usual, be giving updates here, and I apologize in advance if they make little sense. I'll be spending a great deal of next month's time with Moira Connor as she uncovers the mysteries of the city Night, and with Greyden Peregrine, the Brown Mug, Tass the Bravo, and the magician Caltaign, and probably forgetting in the thick of it that no one else has been there or met them yet.

October 22, 2004

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

If you caught yesterday's illuminating glimpse into Bizarro-World, and could bear with it any length, you might have spotted that a comment by "Your father" included the line: "Just like the administration that you pompously rail against, you don't accept contradictory evidence."

You caught that, right? It's really an admirably packaged sentiment: It's bad to be like the Occupying President, and it's bad to speak out against him. Or maybe just bad to be pompous about it; it's sort of hard to tell.

Leaving aside for the moment that I'm being given a lecture on the tone of my discourse by a man who told his wife she was too fat to deserve an indoor toilet, or the well-nigh poetic pot-and-kettle nature of that "pompously" (obviously a new favorite word), this is a sterling example of the man in miniature, and of the kind of head-scratching comeback you get all too often in an argument with someone who has no higher agenda than being righter than you.

Scroll through the comments of any lefty blog that's prominent enough to get freeper trolls, and you'll recognize the same sort of thing immediately. It's a particular kind of tactic that's beloved of the intractably stubborn and contrarian, a combination of ad hominem and psych-out that, for a fleeting moment, warps reality just enough to create the illusion of plausibility. It grabs whatever material's at hand in the service of "Oh, yeah? Well, so are you!" and hurls it, willy-nilly, like a stool pitched in a barfight. It's not even really an argument, just a seized opportunity to break as many things as possible while the battle's on. Sometimes it's a rant, sometimes it's condescension and head-shaking, but don't be fooled; it's always bullying, no matter what veneer it puts on.

Now, let me be clear: I have been wrong about lots of things in my short lifetime, and mule-headed as I often am, it's even possible, every so often, to convince me to admit to them. But I don't care if your argument has all the good sense of the Dao De Jing, I will not hesitate to name you as the ridiculous creep you are if you present it like a second-grader with a schoolyard taunt. (Shorter yesterday: "Hey, if you think about it, this guy's a lot like Dubyah." "Nuh-uh! You are! And you're a sissy mama's-boy, and your mother wears army boots! And you're pompous! Pompous, pompous, pompous!")

I promise, this will be the last I spend words on this subject, and normal pontificating will presume shortly. But it's obviously time to make clear, this being a public blog where (as you can see) any asshole can wander by and put in their two cents, that there's a minimum level of civility that's expected here in my playground. This was Dennis blowing his second chance to at least pretend to pass muster. And so I think there's some benefit in leaving up a couple of heads on pikes hereabouts, with the sign beneath, "Here may ye see the rude."

October 20, 2004

"And to Him, We No Longer Speak"

For the morbidly curious, the "private feedback" to the previous post is as follows:

Your amoral, manipulative, misogynist father has a point of view, too. A point of view you don't have the decency or guts to recognize. Who took you to your first musical? Who bought you your first book of Shakespeare (over your mother's objection)?

I never tried to be the perfect father--just a whole lot better than mine. You and Tony, who have had the benefit of many good role models, exposure to art and literature, and the freedom to develop as individuals, never seem to have acquired the basic human virtues of compassion and forgiveness. Not the decency to attend you grandfather's funeral or to return your grandmother's love. Neither of you has had the decency to respond to my efforts to reconcile our differences. You fancy yourselves good people who will save the world by virtue of your own high standards, but you're incapable of returning the love of those who loved you most. Real men!

I've never seen such self-righteous hypocrisy.

Good night, sweet prince.

I'd leave this as an "I rest my case" for the Real Man debate, but there are a couple of things worth pointing out here. Note that nice touch of gratuitous poor-put-upon-male in there ("over your mother's objection"). Note the mention of compassion and forgiveness from a guy who sued his twenty-years friends and neighbors over the rights to a strip of driveway, "not ground enough and continent to hide the slain," causing rifts that will never heal. Note the mention of "decency" from a man who tried to use his wife's private sexual fantasies as evidence in his divorce case, and denied a grieving daughter access to her late mother's personal effects. "Self-righteous hypocrisy" is especially funny after all that.

While we're at it, it's worth noting how he cut off helping to support me in college when state law no longer required him to do so, which should give you some perspective on just how deep his Real Man fatherly devotion runs. And that's not even touching on his constant, palpable disapproval - of the time I devoted to the theatre, of my queerness, of my hobbies, of anything that wasn't in the service of Getting Ahead. Don't be fooled - if we had "freedom to develop as individuals," it was very much in spite of his best efforts, and because my brother and I had the good sense, eventually, to learn to ignore him and listen to the role models who'd earned our respect.

These last may seem like small failings, and probably alone they would be; certainly many parents worthy of love share them. But it adds up - the solipsism, the creepy head-games, the willful disinterest in his family's lives unless something benefitted him, the constant martyrdom. And I might well have even forgiven all that, if not for his cruelty, his vengefulness, his willingness to make people suffer because they won't play the game his way. I won't trouble you with more of the gory details; all you really need to know is that, unless you've proven your loyalty to him, all conversations, all relationships with him have the feel of his rant above. He talks a good game about love, but no kindness from him ever came without a price. You see it here: I was so good to you, see how you repay me, you owe me. It's Pete Seeger's shorter "Greensleeves": I gave thee this, I gave thee that, and yet thou wouldst not love me.

Those of you with a lot invested in what a nice guy I am, assuming you're out there, may want to cover your eyes now.

Dennis, once and for all, go the fuck away. You and your nasty guilt-trips aren't welcome in my life, by this backdoor or any other, and if you come back and pull this poisonous nonsense again you'll get ignored like the troll you are. If you ever had a chance at redemption and reconciliation, you sure blew it now. (What, this was supposed to convince me to come back? Or just be some penance-and-grief-inducing revelation? It worked as neither.) You've shown me that you'll never comprehend how deeply you hurt me and my loved ones, or why you're not wanted - that you just don't get all that you have to atone for. If I hadn't done so clearly enough before, I denounce you: Liar, adulterer, sower of discord, pathetic, misogynistic, self-centered sociopathic petty tyrant. You're not my father any more, and honestly, you never truly were. I'm here to disabuse you of the notion that a well-timed orgasm makes you a parent, because Heaven knows that's about all the effort and sacrifice you ever truly put into it. For all your claims of everything you did for me, my life is fuller and richer and happier with you out of it. You didn't even leave enough of a mark on who I am for me to hate you; you're not worth the effort. Mostly I just don't give a shit about you, and maybe that's the most fitting repayment of all.

(So why, then, do I drag this out in the open here? Well, for one, this whining manipulator deserves to be exposed to the world for what he is, especially when he comes onto my blog (not having taken the hint at any time previously) and makes a fuss about how wronged he is - and any of you who might have wondered why I want nothing to do with him now have some concrete, right-from-the-bastard's mouth evidence. And too, to draw a contrast between his twisted model of what a family is - what he needs it to be - and the one I'm surrounded by here. You folks are "the ones who loved me the most," and you're the family I truly cherish, the ones I'd lay it on the line for. You earned it, and that is clearly a thing he will never, ever understand.)

October 15, 2004

The Desert of the Real

I've been following, over the last couple of weeks, the discussion on Alas, A Blog about Real Manhood (for which start here, and continue here and here, with many links therefrom) - or, if you must, Ideal Manhood or Authentic Manhood or whatever the sensitive-yet-masculine term of choice for the moment is.

If you don't feel like wading through all that, the thrust is this: many men, guided by the Men's Movement that came into the popular consciousness anround the early '90s, feel that it's become necessary to redefine what "manhood" is, because the culture's default setting is destructive and toxic - and I have to pretty much agree. I've certainly been witness to the effects of testosterone poisoning enough times to see that the current system is broken, and I'll be the first in line to agree that macho posturing, unchecked aggression and stalwart emotionlessness are fucked-up yardsticks by which to measure personhood.

The Men's Movement and I part company, however, when they begin to assert that what's needed is a new way to frame what a "real man" is, rather than dispose of that kind of terminology altogether. I'm just not convinced that it's constructive to say "a real man can cry" or "a real man is good to women" - or at least I'm not swayed that it's better than saying that a good person does these things, without loading everything down with gender-role baggage in a better-tailored coat.

But these guys feel very strongly that only a man can teach a boy to be a man, and they've got all kinds of arguments from Jungian mythopoeticism to Evolutionary Psychology to back them up, often with great force. They believe that men and women are so fundamentally different (as opposed to being affected in different ways by a gender-divided culture) that the only way to solve the problem is to work, as it were, within the system rather than subverting it altogether. And I don't buy it at all.

Now, I'm as mythopoetic as the next long-haired guy with Sandman on his bookshelves; I read Iron John in college, and nodded in recognition at much of it, right about until I read Women Who Run With the Wolves and found lots of the wildish-woman stuff as resonant as the hairy-man stuff, and realized that about 95 percent of what I was encountering needed no gender qualifier at all. (And it's been a while, but I seem to recall Pinkola-Estes saying as much at one point in the text.) Here was a whole bunch of self-affirming metaphor I'd be missing out on if I were hung up on Maleness, however progressive, however sensitive. I think I turned my back on all of needing to be a Real Man by whatever measure about the same time I stopped feeling the need to reconcile with my amoral, manipulative, misogynist father; I wonder what Robert Bly would make of that.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we probably should quit dividing up what we teach our children - what we want them to become, as Good People - along gender-role lines unless the lesson in question actually involves a particular set of genitals. (Okay, it's probably better to learn to shave from another male - though if Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is any measure, most Real Men don't know how the hell to do that, either. But I digress.) I don't believe that only a Man can teach a boy how to treat women (or vice versa); indeed, do we really want those kinds of decisions being made by males off on their own? A boy learns how to treat women by talking (and listening!) to his mother, his sisters, his girlfriends, his women friends. He doesn't learn it by some Real Man role model taking him aside, any more than he'd get a lesson on how to make love to his girlfriend from the guys in his locker room.

(This is not to discount the good influence male role models can have, and I think it's immensely valuable for young kids of all genders to see the good example set by adult males who aren't assholes. I'm always happy at Swampstock when my mom takes a moment at the firelighting to thank the good men in attendance for being positive examples of nurturing, gentle, kind people. But I bet none of the guys she's talking about are wrapping it up in some bullshit New Ideal Real Authentic Man image, and lots of us figured it out when we stopped playing the Boys and Girls game altogether.)

The trouble, as Amp points out, is that setting a new standard - Real Man or Ideal Man or whatever - sets up a heirarchy, however good the intentions. And it's too easy for the opposite of Real Man to be Woman, and there we are back in the same quagmire again, where the worst thing you can do is call someone some female name: girly-man, lady, sissy, pussy, cunt. Real Manhood advocates protest that the opposite of "real man" is properly "boy" and not "woman," and I think their hearts are in the right place, but it's still reinforcing that Female-As-Other problem and I don't think it's tearing down the right walls. Because when you build the standard up to what Men Should Be, rather than how People Should Be, you're leaving a whole lot of folks in the cold.

Like me.

See, I've already failed the Ideal Man test. I didn't have some conscientious male role model to teach me Authentic Masculinity (and though I did grow up being exposed to some kind and gentle and good men, their influence was much less direct). I learned most of what I know about being a good person fom the women in my family - how to compromise, how to listen, how to share, how to fight and still love each other, how to be a gracious winner and a good loser, how to value the worth in other human beings. How to be understanding. How to be strong, how to be angry without being hateful, how to be responsible. How to drive and cook and do math and do laundry and make art and put the seat down.

So - what am I missing? What's wrong with me? And if my ambiguous, genderfucked, androgynous sense of identity is short some vital, authentically masculine component - why am I so content?

October 05, 2004

Flesh, Feit and Fugue

Will you show these pages to the world, so that every wanderer may find their way home?

Happy birthday today to Clive Barker, who's now had 52 years in a life dedicated to the fantastique, the subversive, the outrageous, and the delightfully queer (in every sense of the word).

If you only know his work by way of his more terrifying creations - Books of Blood and the Hellraiser films being the best-known examples - you may be surprised at what you're missing. He's spent most of the last two decades trying to shake his reputation as a Master of Horror with an impressive catalogue of genre-bending books, from the psychedelic urban fantasy of Weaveworld to the dimension-spanning spiritual quest of Imajica to the supernatural Romeo-and-Juliet romance of Galilee. And he's now halfway through his illustrated YA series The Abarat Quartet (which he described at its inception as a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and Cirque du Soleil), full of beautiful, surreal paintings to which he's dedicated years of his life.

The first Abarat volume is also notable for being the first book for kids I've encountered that openly mentions the author's same-sex partner on the bio page. Among the other things I admire about Clive is the way he's been entirely, unapologetically open about his sexuality for the last decade. His accomplishments as author, artist, filmmaker and storyteller are inspiring, but it's the way he's made himself a good example in the public eye that really stirs me to do the same.

(My favorite Clive Barker moment may be the time he was on Politically Incorrect about five years ago talking about gay themes in cinema, and Bill Maher quipped that, you know, Clive, there are some straight people in the world, and Clive without blinking replied, "Yes, but are they talented?")

Many happy returns, Maestro. Long may your Art endure.

October 01, 2004

Woven in Lead, With Little Specks of Silver Showing

Resurfacing here just to let all and sundry know I'm alive and okay. Sorry for the long silence; it's been harder to get in the writing spirit of late. But all your good thoughts and encouragement have been a great help. Thank you.

My grandfather's doing alright, for a fairly generous value of the word. He's being treated for depression, which is the biggest risk to his life if he undergoes surgery at this point. He'll probably never be really okay, but that's no great surprise after two strokes and a heart attack. I remain hopeful, in a guarded sort of way.

The lesson here: Don't wait until you're 80 to get drugs and therapy, kids.

Otherwise, things aren't too bad, though the stresses of job hunting and election-year political overload are wearing on me. Also found myself up on the roof the other night with a caulking gun full of tar, clinging like a gecko to the tiles and searching desperately for the source of our brand-new waterstains, all no doubt looking much funnier than it felt at the time. (Thanks a lot, Jeanne.) Fun. Still better than renting, though.

And I'm wicked excited about the Small Press Expo tomorrow, even if it means an extra commute to the City over the weekend and hauling around a huge sack of Stuff I Need Signed. This is the sacrifice we make at the altar of geekdom.

And I also got a kick out of this week's Durtro News mailing, wherein David Tibet opens by briefly transforming into Warren Ellis:
This is 28 IX 2004; I am sick with a cold and drinking Italian chardonnay wine and am delirious. My cats are my HALO. I was reminiscing about how often I went to see Adam and the Ants in their early years and talked with myself a lot about it all. They were amazing. Adam Ant was the best man at the marriage of Nick Saloman (Bevis Frond) as they went to school together; I believe Adam also suggested the name Bevis Frond to Nick. At one point in the late 80s Rose McDowall, Douglas P. and myself were planning a group consisting of us three called STRAWBERRY DEATH CURRENT, which must be one of my favourite names ever… I don't believe any recordings were ever made however. I miss punk rainbow beauty.

I know just how he feels.

September 14, 2004

The Thousand Natural Shocks

I'm more than a little at loose ends this week. Tony's got the scoop on why.

I'm going up at the end of the week, which I was going to do anyway, though as usual I'm feeling like there's not much good I can do except sit and watch the tragicomedy play itself out. Meanwhile, I'm just about all out of both energy and wit, so I imagine I'll be off the radar for a little while, for which I beg all your pardons. I promise I'll be more sociable soon.

Be nice to each other, everyone. Everything else is hard enough.

September 11, 2004

Gather Up the Flowers

Wynd away the hours
Laid up to the sun
Hide behind Two Towers
When all the world's work is done

So it's that date again.

I've been making a point every year since to link to John M. Ford's poem "110 Stories," and so I do again. If there's a more fitting and appropo tribute to the events of that day three years ago, I haven't read it and don't expect to.

But this is the third anniversary, and I can't help but feel that there's a corrective needed to the awful way the events of September 11 are being used even now to cow and frighten and bully our country. Be cause in some terrible way, it seems they won: we're afraid now. For all the rumors of impending terrorist plots, no jihadist has really had to lift a finger since then to keep it that way, not when all it takes is a fresh Orange Alert or a new round of stump speeches from our fearless leader to remind us of how nervous we ought to be. And so the real tragedies of that bright morning three years ago have been appropriated by those who love the sword for its sharpness more than the thing it defends.

For all that I lived outside DC, I didn't feel like 9/11 had hit close to home until I learned that a friend of a friend had lost someone. Andy's longtime friend and mentor Donn Erik Marshall's wife Shelley was in the Pentagon - one more person who left on a busy morning and didn't come home. Though at the time I'd met Donn once, briefly, on a weekend eleven years prior - long before he met and married Shelley - it still felt like his loss made the tragedy real for me. For the first time, the shockwave of the impact touched me, the degree of separation so small, so small.

I had the opportunity to talk to Donn again two weekends ago, at Andy's wedding. (He looked like Morrissey fourteen years ago, and I was pleased to see he still does.) He carries his unimaginable loss and sadness with as much quiet strength and grace as I think a person can - more, I don't doubt, than I could in his place. He has two beautiful children who he adores. If the aftermath of 9/11 has produced heroes, he is one of them.

Donn's life is now dedicated to the Shelley Marshall Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds children's story hours, intergenerational tea parties, and creative writing contests and summer art programs for high school and college students. He's responded to an act of hate with equally fierce love, and devoted his time to cultivating a passion for words and stories and art in the young people who so desperately need it. In an age of war, Donn has made himself a warrior - for kindness, for compassion, for decency and beauty and humanity.

I sent the Foundation some money tonight. It wasn't much, and I wish I could have given more. But one of the lessons I think Donn wants to teach is that a lot of little acts of good can go a long way.

Here's the link to do a little good.

Set a life upon the way to bide
All that bodies become
Left alone along the lay to bind
All the mind has shunned

Gather up the flowers
Born up from the womb
Hasten lest they sour
A deed brought to the tomb

*The lines that open and close this post are from In Gowan Ring's "Two Towers" - which I should hasten to note was written long before the events of September 11, 2001. As B'eirth says in the liner notes of Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home, "We, therefore, must maintain that the song is in no regard a conscious reflection of those events and any apparent analogy is either coincidental or mysterious." Indeed.

September 10, 2004

On Second Thought, the Thumbscrews, Please

Never mind. I feel much, much better now. For I have read this.

(Part of it, anyway. I got to the bit about the telepathic alien shapeshifting elven vampire's pet - a "larrge black Belgium sheep dog" who changes color - and felt a retinal graphite injection coming on. Remember "Eye of Argon"? Of that caliber. See how far you get!)


Like Patience on a Monument

Yeah, I know, it's been a while, and I suck. I've been in a funk, and feeling disconnected, and the world's all fucked up, and nobody cares (nor should they) about my stupid problems so I should just shut up and cope. I've probably been looking for my affirmations in all the wrong places anyway.

Cue soundtrack scored for very tiny violins. Okay, I'm stopping now. Normal broadcast will resume once the self-loathing subsides.

Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be writers.

September 01, 2004

Uniters, Meet Dividers

Fafblog, as part of their ongoing coverage of RepubliCon '04, have posted a handy guide for you Gothamites on how to survive a week of your city being full of the minions of the Beast.

Conjunction and Sublimation

Andy and Janine had the very best sort of wedding last Saturday: short, sweet, sincere, and followed immediately by a very grand party.

(And yes, it's true, I did wear a tux, and I did indeed look like all robust Italian guys look in formalwear: like I was about to order my capos to fit all a' youse for some concrete galoshes. Photo evidence to come shortly, no doubt.)

Anyway, it was a really lovely time. The passionate joy Andy and Janine take in each other, even after the better part of a decade together, is a thing of wonder and beauty and gives me hope for the world. If all marriages were rooted as firmly in mutual admiration as theirs so clearly is, we'd all be better off.

So congratulations, happy couple, and bright blessings on your new beginning. Om Ganesha ya nama. May the Mystery smile on you both, and keep you long and in good fortune.

August 25, 2004

Invisible Increase

It's Mrs L-K's birthday today! She deserves lots of presents.

I've been lucky enough, for the last seven-and-counting years, to have someone so smart and fun and cool who's willing to be my best friend. May she never feel the need to grow up.

You're the kind of girl
Who fits in with my world
I'll give you anything, everything
If you want things

(Love you, babe. Many happy returns.)

August 19, 2004

"I see you are using Bonetti's Defense against me!"

I'm thrilled - thrilled - about the news of Mariel Zagunis taking the first U.S. Olympic gold for fencing in a century, and how it's been making the rounds of late. As long as I can remember, I've been peeved that fencing seems to be one of the most overlooked Olympic events; maybe this stylish victory will generate some much-needed new interest in the Art of the Defence.

I'm most assuredly not thrilled, however, at the dumbass piece NPR ran yesterday on Zagunis, wherein Tom Goldman seemed to think that the most important point to make straight off is that a 19-year-old athlete in the flush of victory may not be the very exemplar of articulacy.

(One hesitates to assume, but one can't help but wonder if Goldman thinks the gold medal might be worth more if it wasn't tainted by Girl Cooties.)

Y'know, if I were Goldman, I think I'd be a little less, well, cavalier in dispensing snark about a woman who's so obviously at ease with having a yard of cold steel in her hand.

August 18, 2004

Pink is the New Black

Belle Waring has done what few dare: ventured into the dark lands in the Right of the blogosphere and dredged up horrors.

(Read the comments, too. Priceless, priceless.)

Sigh. You know, I really wish I understood how "blurring the role of the sexes" is going to sound the death-knell of Western Civilization and bring fiery ruin down on all we hold dear. Mostly I think folks like this Ryan Thompson fellow (and this genius) just hate the thought of having to share the train with metrosexuals and swishy girly-men, and they really hate the thought of all that sober masculine boys' club stuff they want to take for granted getting Girl Cooties all over it. This is the nasty condescension underlying the idea that women (oh, sorry, "females") are "special in a moral sense": that special is a license to set aside, exclude, and ultimately to punish if the "female" in question doesn't live up to the angelic standards of chastity and propriety. He can talk all he wants about "different but equal," but I don't buy it. Once you make a big enough deal out of "different," you've made damn sure "equal" hardly gets a word in.

It deserves repeating here: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. It's placing "equal" in a more important place than "different," if that's even a useful word (and it rarely is). Being on a pedestal may seem like a grand thing, until you realize that once you're up there you can't go anywhere else, and half the people who seem to be gazing admiringly on you are only trying to look up your dress.

(And gentlemanliness? Rest assured I'm all for it; people in general should be kinder, politer, more gallant, more gentle than they usually are. Fabulous idea, right up to the point where "being a gentleman" translates to "taking every opportunity to treat an adult woman like a spoiled child.")

August 13, 2004

Triskaidekaphilia 2

Just like we did the last time the calendar aligned like this, here's a witch's dozen of the highlights of the week:

1. I get a new experience tomorrow - going out to get measured for my first tux, something I'd probably be able to avoid forever if not for a very good cause. I'm nervous, because when you're a portly Mediterranean sort of fellow the whole formalwear thing can really go either way; fingers crossed that this one makes me look like a pulp supervillain and not, well, a big fat dork.

2. Okay, so, the dome light on your car probably doesn't suck up that much juice, except that if you leave it on all weekend you will not be able to start your car on Monday, and you'll have to call AAA and their Edgewood driver will be mysteriously MIA, and you'll be stuck at home waiting for many hours with whatever you've already got in the fridge. On the plus side, you'll have an unscheduled day off work, which will be nice. But I'm just sayin'.

3. Great post from Maija the other day relating one poor bastard's conversion into the fold of Buffy fandom, a process I've seen in action a couple of times in the last year. Hey, there's a reason it's got such a fanatical following, and it's not all because Alyson Hannigan is goddamn nine kinds of fine. (Still two months until Season 7's released on DVD. Grr. Argh.)

4. Note that the egolinks to your right now include a working page of some tunage. I'd been delaying making that public until I had a proper page up with lyrics and stuff, but gods know when that's going to happen, so there you go.

5. Note as well new folk on the blogroll. Go say hello.

6. So I finally broke down and started a LiveJournal. I got an account a while ago, mostly to join a couple of LJ communities and comment on other people's pages I liked, but it seemed a shame to not do anything with it at all. I'm not really thrilled with LJ's functionality, which doesn't let you tinker with the settings like Blogger does (at least not if, like me, you're way too friggin' Scotch to get a paid account), but it may become something interesting anyway. It's going to be a different sort of thing than this blog, though. More thematic. Watch and pray.

7. Why I love John Scalzi.

8. The lovely spacewaitress has a post up about the relationship between education and employment, and how it's not what it's cracked up to be. (And it's true; not only is a college degree no guarantee of a good job these days, but the ones that supposedly do require a degree are increasingly stupid and banal. My position requires a bachelor's for reasons I've never really understood, since I'm convinced you could train a reasonably bright mandrill to do document imaging - folks, it's photocopying, just with better toys - with a pretty fair degree of success. And he'd probably screw around on the internet a lot less than I do, too.)

9. Early in the week saw the first three pages of Adeptus #2 claw their way out of my head, which wasn't something I quite intended, but the damn thing was keeping me up nights, so it's just as well.

10. Well, okay, this is more than a little to blame. I've been reading it a bit at a time over the last couple of weeks, and it's as good a crash course in the art of making comics as you're likely to get.

11. Speaking of which, I've gotten in the first couple of inked pages of the Adeptus preview, and they're good. Really good. They make me excited to be making comics, and very excited to see the whole thing as it comes together. (See, this is me going on public record as saying this. So we'll have no more of this Doubting the Work nonsense, eh? Yeah, that's what I thought.)

12. As a followup to yesterday's post, I note that Elizabeth Bear, in a thread on Electrolite, has suggested a googlebomb. I'm game. So: Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

13. Finally: had the absolute best curry for lunch today. I talk a good game about Art, but in the end, it's the small pleasures that count.

August 12, 2004

Admitters of Impediments

Oh, California. I hope you're happy now.

This would be a big old rant waiting to happen, but as luck would have it, Kip Manley's already gone and done it for me:
Defend marriage? You pathetic, deluded fools. Same-sex couples have been getting married all around you for decades, and they’ll keep on doing it, long after you’ve passed your little amendment. Men will kiss their husbands as you clap yourselves on the back, and wives will continue to feed each other cake, whether you will it or no. They’ve always had the love and the cherish and the honor, and the recognition of their friends and family, and nothing you can do will take that from them. Nothing. All you’ll manage to do is rewrite the tax code. Make it more of a grinding hassle to deal with insurance and wills. Keep loving families apart at times of illness and accident and death. Condemn children to needless, nightmarish legal quagmires. You will tarnish all our rings, and when we open our mouths to take our vows, we will taste ashes. —In order to save marriage, you will destroy it. Fools.

Yeah. What he said.

Motley's the Only Wear

This has been making the rounds for a while, but I'd be remiss if I didn't note it here.

About damn time, too.

August 07, 2004


Oh, man, I totally need a set of these.

This officially makes Jill Thompson's manga version the second cutest Death.

August 05, 2004

Means "Bloody Peculiar"

Today I revived and brushed the dust off an old blog of mine, one I'd intended to use for some freewriting and stream-of-consciousness weirdness, but which I'm breathing new life into as a general writing blog. I'm putting stuff up there for public scrutiny, in the hopes of... well, go read for yourself.

Most significantly so far, I've put up the text of "Heartwood, Heartblood," the story I wrote for the SSXI auction table. In the future, I plan on posting additional stories, diversions, and possibly bits of of works-in-progress like novels and scripts.

So, welcome to the Eldritch Cafe. Sip carefully...

"Grab your magic bone, Jonathan"

The Trio plots.

More SSXI goodness, courtesy the missus, can be found here.

August 03, 2004

What's He Building In There?

Frightening moment of the day: seeing paperwork cross my desk from these guys.

You know, I went to the site, and I still have no frickin' idea what they do. Or at least none that my mind cares to dwell on.

July 30, 2004

When Your Name's With the Best, Will My Name Be On Your Guest List?

I just discovered I'm on the blogroll over at the new incarnation of everythingsruined. How freakin' cool is that? (Thanks, John-Paul!)

Also, note new postage from Maija, who I'd begun to fear the Vikings had gotten at last.

Me, I've got some sort of bug that I suspect got passed around the Swampstock circle (though I didn't get it from making out with Caroline, I swear), so I'm utterly useless at work today and avoiding all constructive activity. So it goes.

I'll write something interesting and witty soon. Promise.

July 28, 2004

In the Heart of the Wood (and What I Found There)

SSXI was the best Swampstock ever.

Enough so that I think my melancholy at its being over is already fading in light of how very awesome it was. Magic happened. Connections were made. Many libations were downed. Tiny arachnids were filled with smoke and made to glow in the dark. That sort of thing.

OVO had a pretty grand first performance too, which was one of many things I was worried about having oversold to newcomers. We're already putting together next year's setlist. Though I'm not sure about another finale where I have to follow Bernice singing lead. (This may indeed also be why nothing was Called Up by our cover of "The Angel Highbury"; I know I'd be hesitant myself to manifest in front of someone who could turn my name into a killing word.)

Anyway, a rousing success of a weekend all around. I do believe some of all y'all who were there took photographs. Share, please?

UPDATE: As those of you who have read the comments know, lots of pictures are here and here. Revel in the virtual debauchery!

July 21, 2004

These Endless Days are Finally Ending in a Blaze

It's almost time for Swampstock XI, which means all week I've been useless at work, restless at home, and running on too little sleep both places. This is all part of the necessary buildup of energy, I think.

I did manage, at some point in this mad rush, to finish a new Jenny Haniver story, which will be making its debut this weekend in booklet form on the auction table. My assessment of it now is about the usual ("Could use a revision"), but it ain't bad for a week's work. Though I'm not expecting to be the cause of any bidding wars or suchlike.

Possibly just as exciting is the premier performance of OVO, the first Thing in a Jar musickal project. We'll be taking the stage sometime Saturday to assault the gathering with what may be its most plugged-in set ever, putting our spare yet loopy spin on a bunch of weirdass covers in the bastard fusion style that has been dubbed (after probably one too many glasses of Pete's Purple Fuck-Me Punch) "proggoth." Be afraid.

We set out tomorrow afternoon (and I've been entertaining for a while the rather cruel fantasy of going back in time to tell my twenty-year-old self how I'll be driving out to Birdsong Hill on Friday in a car full of hot women), which means tonight will be the mad dash to do all the final packing in preparation of forgetting the two or three essential items that will be left on the kitchen counter all weekend. (This always happens, and I've just resigned myself to quit fighting it.)

So I'll see you there if you're going - and if you're heading there, or planning to be there in spirit, you might take a moment or two between today and tomorrow to focus some energy on this sigil, all charged up for "No Rain on Swampstock Eleven":

(Incidentally and resonantly, this post is the 200th entry on Otter Ponderings. And also my first posted image, mostly because it took me this long to figure out how to do it. Round of applause.)

July 14, 2004

Sing, O Choirs of Cacophony

Happy Bastille Day, citizens!

Normally, I like to commemorate this occasion with a baguette and brie and a bottle of red, but in light of the various crimes of our own ancien régime I think it may be more appropriate to take this opportunity to guillotine some aristos - figuratively speaking, of course.

In other news, note new homepage for Citoyenne Martha (Bien), as she sets out to show just how much of a nuissance one tiny, insignificant creature can be.

Viva la Resistance!

July 13, 2004

You Silly Old Man

Today is Andy's birthday, an occasion which should probably be celebrated with brandy and cigars and 30s swing records, or at least with the new Morrissey and a properly soul-wrenching session of Call of Cthulhu; but since I don't have hardly any of those things handy, here's hoping a raised lager and a "many happy returns" will do.

I've known Andy for an embarassingly long time now, and I'm happy to say he's one of the best people I know, and someone I've now spent more than half my life admiring. There are a lot of things to like about him, from being the kind of guy who could put Talking Heads, Harry Belafonte and Beethoven on the same side of a mix tape and make it work, to being kind enough to weather the crush I had on him at 17 with grace and gentleness. Mostly, though, he's just an extraordinarily decent human being, and I'm proud and lucky to have him in my life; we don't see each other nearly enough these days, but he's never made me feel like being on different coasts means drifting apart.

And in a little over a month, he's joining the ranks of the blissfully wed (officially, anyway, but I think he's been lucky enough to be more or less married for some time now). I look forward greatly to being there for that, and I even promise I won't wear what I encouraged him to wear at mine.

Anyway, go wish him well, and toast his health as he dives into that fourth decade in earnest. Cheers!

July 01, 2004

Neil When You Need Him

I was with Spyder at MoCCA in New York last weekend, but didn't go to the Harvey awards banquet because the cheap seats were $60 and then there was the barest thread of hope some NEARfest tickets might still materialize, and, well.

So I didn't get to see Neil Gaiman do his keynote speech, but he posted the text of it a couple of days ago, which I just got around to reading this morning. I felt like standing up and cheering. And, more importantly, like commencing to make comics, with a refreshed sense of cavalier roguery and aspirations of Ars Magna (in whatever sense you like).

And I'm suddenly looking forward to being a cranky old Jew myself.

June 24, 2004

Todd James, Pierced

Last month, Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote a brace of posts addressing the issue of a fellow named Todd James Pierce who had, to frame it kindly, publicly advocated some very dodgy advice for aspiring writers. The ensuing threads resulted in the usual erudite and entertaining discussion among the Making Enlightened.

Last night, Todd himself showed up. With, so to speak, a vengeance.

Get some popcorn, and watch Teresa, Patrick, John Scalzi, Jim Macdonald and others put the righteous smackdown on this oily, whining twit.

Word to the wise, Todd: Don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

June 23, 2004

He Resounds in Valleys

There's a common suspicion among religious folk of a certain inclination that those of us who are agnostics or Buddhists or perky nihilists or some other philosophical bent that doesn't have a Sky Bully to keep us in line have no basis for any kind of ethical code restraining us from running amok like bacchantes in Babylon.

If there's a better refutation to this nonsense than the one articulated (in a most gentlemanly fashion, it should be noted) by Umberto Eco, I don't know what it is.

(Incidentally, the term "Sky Bully" is one I nicked from the famously atheistic Joss Whedon - and anyone who doesn't think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a deeply moral show isn't paying attention.)

June 10, 2004

His Hand is Everywhere

Today's moment of Illumination brought to you courtesy this fine establishment, located a mere stone's throw from the nation's capital.

(It's like they're not even bothering to hide it any more, you know? I thought half the point of being a Secret Master was being, well, secret.)

The world just gets goddamn weirder every day.

UPDATE: More Saint Germainia cropped up the other day on Snarkout, who links to the same page on Count Welldone as your humble author (not that it's the first thing to come up on a Google search or anything). Weirdness abounds.

June 07, 2004

See, On a White Horse He Comes

For those of you who have been flashing on images of naked emperors in the wake of the recent ubiquitous Reagan memorializations, some useful correctives by lefty bloggers of note can be found here and here.

Interestingly, both use the word "hagiography" to describe the current round of fireside tales being spun about the deeds of the Teflon Cowboy. Apt, very apt.

"Not peace but a sword," and don't you forget it.

June 01, 2004


I spent much of the long weekend getting my geek on at Balticon 38, thus ending my overextended SF-convention virginity, and had a terribly grand time.

Too much to go into now, but some highlights: an enlightening chat with Darrell Schweitzer in the dealers' room on the yawning gulf of horror that is vanity publishing; attending a panel with Mark Wheatley, and having him validate my comics-writing impulses by saying "Don't wait for permission to create"; and learning regency dance without falling down and killing myself. Oh, and Jane Lindskold called me handsome, which was pretty well worth the price of admission, as it's not every day you get your starstruck Famous Author encounter and your ego-strokage all in the same moment.

Also had the pleasure of getting a cool con-buddy on Saturday night, in the form of the lovely Aiglet, who was nice enough to not only tool around with the dorky n00b but also drag me off to the stuff I needed drug to. We were very much on a wavelength, and I think we shall keep in touch. (But between me and the Mystery, this newfound talent I seem to have for getting attractive, geeky young women to want to hang out with me would have been very fucking helpful ten goddamn years ago thankyouverymuch.)

(No, of course I don't really mean that. Whatever losses I totalled in my misspent youth are more than balanced out by having a wife who asks me, "What'd you do at the con yesterday?" and being able to answer, without fear of my life, "Made friends with a cute girl.")

One frightening revelation came out of the whole event, though, and that is the discovery that I am, apparently, a filker. I suppose I could resist the label, but in light of my canon - "Lord Vlad," "Dragon," "Miskatonic U," "Cocteau, Goya, Blake," among others - it'd be like that Roy Cohn line from Angels in America: "I'm not a homosexual. I'm a man who has sex with other men." And anyway, I was up doing it until five in the morning, so I may as well suck it up and embrace it.

It's very odd to be back among the Naturals now. I may be addicted. When's Philcon, now?

May 28, 2004

The Brood

"Goetia means Howling. It's the chittering of a billion insects in the night. It's what it sounds like where we live."
- the demon Andras, in Promethea #2

And where we live, too, because Brood X has awakened.

And they are loud; I don't know what Alan Moore had in mind when he penned that line, but cicada song certainly fits the bill. And there's no avoiding them now, even with earplugs. Trees, houses, sidewalks are thick with red eyes and orange wings, and you can't pull out of the driveway without intercepting a cicada in (singularly graceless and eccentric) flight. It's like a little daily dose of cosmic horror delivered right to your doorstep.

Which I can't help but feel is kind of cool, when it comes down to it. Every seventeen years, these weird things crawl up out of the earth, like Lovecraft monsters designed by Steven Brust, to bring chaos and cacophony to the world for six weeks, and then they go away. And it's a phenomenon you only get to experience a handful of times in your life.

(I still can't bring myself to take advantage of the opportunity to eat 'em, though. But for the more bold, you'll get all the options you could want, and then some, here.)

And fortunately, despite bringing on massive attacks of the wiggins, the bugs themselves are completely harmless. (Or so they tell us!)

Iä! Iä! Cicada fhtagn!

May 17, 2004

Something Old, Something New

I'd planned to write up a big congratulatory post in honor of the same-sex couples getting their licenses today, and found that the inimitable John Scalzi had gone and done it for me.

If you can get to the end without tearing up, I've got nothing to say to you.

Me, I'm thrilled this comes not only on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed, but right on the heels of my own anniversary (which we celebrated yesterday mostly by having a lovely day of domestic slack in our beautiful house, and couldn't believe it had been six whole years).

Anyway, a big Huzzah for Massachussetts (which may yet get out of the red for that witch-trial thing after all), and for the good folks getting ready to tie the knot up there. In the company of such fabulousness, how can marriage do anything but improve?

May 11, 2004

Webbed Paws, Good Cause

Take note: ma loutre de camarade Rivka is doing the June 6th AIDS Walk, and taking pledges.

I don't do a whole lot of blogging about politics and causes, not because I'm afraid of offending people (which I figure is someone else's problem than mine if it happens), but because there are so many folks out there who do it ten times better than I could. Respectful of Otters is one of those, and Rivka gets my utter respect for not just speaking up but doing the real dirty work of making the world a better place. (Plus she has the whole otter thing going, which is just excellently cool.)

So donate, if you can. Stacy and I used to be members of a really fine UU church before we moved from WV, and I still think of the words our minister (who later married us, six years ago this Sunday) said during the spring donation drive: Don't give until it hurts. Give until it helps.

"As Clear as is the Summer Sun"

You know, it's a crying shame that, between "110 Stories" and this, John M. Ford isn't considered a national treasure.

If you've ever read or seen Henry V, go and read. But don't drink anything while you do.

(And while you're there, check out Uncle Jim Macdonald's contribution to the, er, annals of balladry, up in the original post.)

May 07, 2004

Laurels, and Hearty

Now that I've gotten my month's bout of ego-onanism out of the way, time to give peeps to my props. Pops to my perps. Preps to the poops. Wossname. You know.

Firstest, anyone who hasn't been calling Alex "Master" these past few years no longer has any excuse. She gets a big round of applause, and many hugs; she worked damn hard for this. "Clearly, we can expect great things from you... Terrible things. But great."

Second, Matt just learned that he gets to eat a little while longer yet. (I had little doubt, myself.) Congrats to him for that, and fingers crossed that the next one's going to be even better. Though I have to admit, from a purely practical standpoint, I'm almost as impressed that he came up to Edgewood over the Walpurgisnacht/Beltane weekend and fixed the plumbing in our downstairs bathroom, which I know he hates doing, and which he did anyway with grace and good cheer. Thanks, big guy.

Tertiarilously, Andy's now doing his part to dig culture out of L.A., which I imagine to be a difficult and painful extraction. The opportunity to work in one's field is no small matter, which makes me rather more understanding of the less-than-entirely-accomodating arrangements he's putting up with. Well done on the job, my friend, and I hope to gods you're not sleeping under newspapers, or forced to blow some down-on-his-luck talent agent for lodging.

And Spyder has just completed a year of higher education. Her starre is ascendant; look on her works, ye mighty, and despair.

Finally, as the Links box at hand would indicate, Thing in a Jar now has some actual (and interactive!) content, thanks to the web-wizardry of the Gypsygeek: the forums on In Formaldehyde. I charge you to contribute to the general slack, and come post; let's fill the aether with cultural rantings and general clove-smoking philosophical pretentiery.

Gold stars, exes and ohs to all. It's good to be sharing the world with you lot.

May 06, 2004

In the Gutter

Sorry for the sporadic posting these days - I've been Very Busy, as I've been writing like a fiend lately, and so disappearing into the laptop at night for hours on end. But since you've all been so patient, it's only fair to pull back the curtain on what I've been up to.

I'm now elbows-deep in writing the first chapter of a comic called Adeptus, the world of which will be familiar to all of you who've had the dubious pleasure of reading my scribblings these past few years. I feel pretty good about the story so far, which is assembling itself nicely after a couple of false starts. And Spyder's doing the art, which I feel even better about. There should be a preview (adapted from a story of mine that made the rounds a couple of years ago) becoming available in the not-too-distant future; details will be posted as I know 'em.

Similarly, about two and a half years ago, Maija and I cooked up an idea for a comic called The Residents that I quickly found I wasn't ready for; several incarnations of first scripts were embarked upon, none of which made me happy, and I reluctantly let go of it for a while. The story was fighting me (and I found myself getting in my own way), until I realized that it wanted to be nothing so much as a sort of dark and spooky occult superhero book (a bit like Doom Patrol spliced by mad science onto Gloomcookie) - and suddenly, pages I don't hate are shaping up for it. The whole project has been much less recalcitrant after convincing me of this, in fact, and so the first chapter of The Residents gets front-burnered again as soon as the first chapter of Adeptus is in the can. So there's that, too.

All of which may cause some brow-furrowing among those good folks who stuck with me of late through the first four acts of The Vasty Deep, and who may be reading all of this as a sign they should perhaps despair of ever knowing the end of it. I haven't left that one behind, I swear; the stuff that's already written is currently in several stages of revision, even while the back end gets pecked at by small increments. So you will indeed get to find out if all that smoke generated in November produced a flame of any heat - but the story so far may be a bit different by the time we get there. It's gradual, and some ways off yet, but your patience will be rewarded.

So that's my field report from word-processor-land. Hopefully, next time I'll be blogging about something other than my prodigious and virile ego...

April 26, 2004

No More Wire Hangers!

This is what democracy looks like.

And that's where I was most of yesterday, along with the missus and Caren and Niels and Matt, joining the evil feminist-homosexualist axis as we made a bright pink nuisance of ourselves on the streets of DC during the March for Women's Lives.

A conservative estimate puts the numbers at around 500,000. It may have been considerably more.

There was, of course, some opposition. But I was struck by how small (somewhere between a couple hundred and a thousand counter-protesters) it was - and, much like the asshats in the "Got AIDS Yet?" t-shirts who stood around on the corner for the Millennial March on Washington four years ago, how ultimately narrow and wrong-headed they seemed. The folk I was walking with - women, men, young, old, all races, all social strata - love life. They love families and children (many, many showed up with their own), and they understand the sacrifices - the hard choices - that have to be made to make the world better for everyone.

And, while I understand that the rhetoric on both sides of the abortion issue can get a bit intense, I have to say I have much more respect for the tactics of the pro-choice people. After all, I didn't see one poster yesterday with a photo of a mangled uterus from a botched DIY abortion. I'm tempted to say that might not be such a bad counterpoint, but I'd really rather let the opposition have a monopoly on the B-movie horror stuff. It's an ugly and unpleasant way to get one's point across. I'm more than willing to be disagreed with on any number of things I believe in, but if you can't do so without resorting to fetishized images of mutilation and gore - well, I'm also more than willing to let you.

UPDATE: Matt has posted a whole bunch of pictures. And in there are also reports from both Respectful of Otters and everythingsruined, for a couple of slightly more respectable bloggers' angles than mine.

April 24, 2004

All In a Day's Work

As Spyder relates, she's right now in the throes of 24-hour Comics Day. We all eagerly await her recounting of the insanity.

(I say this in the knowledge that this "insanity," in pure play-by-play terms, is probably as exciting as watching paint dry. This is true of all Art, despite its image in the popular imagination. The sad fact is that watching the creative process is boring as hell from anywhere but inside the head, and frequently from there too; we spend inordinate amounts of time on our asses with brow furrowed, putting one word [or picture] after another in the grim hope that it will all look like something eventually. I can imagine all too well tuning in to the thoughts of any 24-hour comics creator: "Next panel. Scribble scribble scribble. Next panel. Scribble scribble scribble. Next panel. Fuck. Oh, hell. Scribble scribble scribble. Next page. Panel 1...." And so on, and so on.)

Anyway, the concept of the 24-hour Comic - one of the madcap inventions of sequential-art deep thinker Scott McCloud - has been around a little while, but it's only recently taken on the status of an Event. I get the impression that some folks wonder at the reason such things as this and NaNoWriMo are scheduled Events, when they're the kind of projects a person could certainly just decide to do at any point. And this is true enough. But remember that we artistic types, by our nature, are a sedentary and antisocial lot, given to long stretches of time sitting around by ourselves and being brooding and complex. So it's good for us to take advantage of opportunities to both get a creative kick in the ass and to form communities around ideas like this, temporary as they may be. Plus it's just cool to know you're taking part in something larger than yourself, which is another thing it's easy to lose track of when you're all holed up in your studio by your lonesome.

So hurrah for 24-hour Comics Day. I'm a bit sad I couldn't take part this year (home improvement trumped improvement of the soul this weekend, I'm afraid - not that that isn't a worthy endeavor as well), but a big thumbs-up goes out to everyone who did. Finish or fail, it's a great thing to undertake; may neither your ink nor your imagination run dry.

April 23, 2004

"Alas, Poor Ghost"

Today was (as likely as not) the 440th birthday of Will Shakespeare, who as most of you know by now has had some small impact on my life.

Yesterday's post noted the comparison I draw between Shakespeare and sacred texts, which is only a very slightly tongue-in-cheek way of putting the effect his work has had on me over the last fifteen years. But I also think the parallel holds between the person of Shakespeare and the prophets and teachers of various religions. What we know about the Bard of Avon, when it comes down to it, is infuriatingly sketchy, incomplete, controversial, and open to wild speculation - which is about the same place we are with Jesus, Mohammed, Siddhartha, Krishna, and just about everyone else who ever managed to leave behind the kind of spiritual ideas that elevate fringe cults to respectability.

And, like those other worthy gurus, what we mostly have of Shakespeare is his words - or, at least, the words that are generally attributed to him. I tend to steer clear of the Authorship Debate, largely because most anti-Stratfordian arguments are based on a weird kind of classist snobbery, but also because it distracts from what seems to me to be the real point - that the thirty-six (or thirty-seven or whatever) plays in the canon attributed to Shakespeare are a pinnacle of poetry and drama, and collectively say things about the human experience in a way that has not been equalled before or since.

Shakespeare the man is a cypher - each generation, each artistic movement has made of him what they want him to be, finding in the historical record a convenient blank slate rather than the chronicle of a person. He suits all agendas because he answers no questions. But Shakespeare the author is another thing entirely. William Burroughs said, as he came more and more to terms with his own mortality, "The Work is the mainsail to reach the Western Lands." What we have of Master Will is all Work, and if that has managed to suit all agendas as well since it was first performed, it's for the opposite reason: the text here seems to answer all questions, or at least address all matters of living and love and passion and death, and does so every time in an eloquent, concise, utterly convincing manner. And for everything it says, you can probably also find something in the plays that says, just as convincingly, the exact opposite thing. (Sounding familiar yet?)

The upshot of all of which is that it doesn't matter whether Shakespeare was Shakespeare or just, as they say, someone else of the same name. We may always have to resign ourselves to a kind of agnosticism on the matter of authorship, and I think that's okay. Shakespeare the author is an eidolon, a mirror we can look into and see whatever we need to see (which is why the major plays can stand a new interpretation every five years or so). Who he "really" was is beside the point, and of only passing relevance to what he has come to mean to our literature, our language, our culture. (The idea of a Bard is a Bard.)

So happy birthday to the Bard of Avon, the master playwright of Lord Strange's company and the Globe, the author of Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus, of King John and King Lear, of Hamlet and Measure for Measure and Much Ado about Nothing - whoever you were. "Youth's a stuff will not endure," you once said, and you said it over again in a hundred ways as you explored your obsession with time and mortality - that most basic and pervasive of human concerns - and I've only become more your disciple each year the truth of it comes home more and more to me. Here's hoping you rest well in Elysium now, and perhaps look in from time to time on what some of us have made of what you left us, and think on it kindly.

April 22, 2004

Credo and Meme

So I posted the following in the comments of Teresa Nielsen Hayden's "Things I Believe" post the other day, just about in time for the thread to be in its death throes. I reprint it here; comment, pass along, or roll your own. (Or just have fun playing spot-the-reference, if you're the same sort of pretentious pseudo-intellectual nerd that I am.)


I believe that there are more things in Heaven and earth than anyone's philosophy has yet accounted for.

I believe that stories are more valuable than dogmas. I believe that calling religion "mythology" elevates rather than denigrates it.

I believe that something unseen and numinous moves through people in the process of Art, and calling it "divinity" is as good a word as any. I believe that the work of William Shakespeare is probably all the evidence you need of a divinely-inspired text, and he had lots of stuff to say about women and Jews and Africans that was just plain nonsense, so treat holy writ with caution.

I believe that all beings are Buddha-beings and worthy of compassion. I believe that to live is to suffer, and that there is nothing to be done about this, and everything to be done. I believe that desire is the root of suffering, and this doesn't stop me from fiercely embracing all my own wants and lusts and passions anyway.

I believe that the idea of a god is a god. I believe that our own ability to draw connections between things imbues them with significance, and that our capacity for irrationality, contradiction and magickal thinking is not a design flaw. I believe that whether or not angels and demons exist is less important than understanding that the universe occasionally behaves as if they did.

I believe that the Force flows through everything, and that luminous things are we, not this crude matter.

And I also believe that to reject the world is to miss the point.

(I believe that contradicting one's self is an acceptable position, and that I am infinite and contain multitudes. And I believe that ambiguity is itself a kind of holy state.)

I believe that the deep human need to play dress-up and speak in poetry is a good a reason as any to participate in religion.

I believe that much of our nature becomes clear with the realization that a human being is a sort of big naked lemur that can drive a car, but that our biology is neither an imperative nor an excuse for behaving awfully to each other.

I believe that our culture isn't doing itself any favors with its preoccupation with messianic figures, but I'm as guilty of that fascination as anyone else, so there you go.

On the other hand, I believe there are a lot worse role models than Christ, and that the issue of his literal divinity is hugely unimportant in light of this; see "the idea of a god," above. And I believe that there are lots worse things to build your faith around than "God is love."

I believe, maybe more than anything, that it's often necessary to just let the Mystery be.

I believe that conversations are a hell of a lot more useful than creeds in bringing people together. And I believe thanks are in order to TNH for starting this one.

UPDATE: Never folk to blanch at a challenge of self-discovery, or perhaps exhibitionism, both Matt and Martha have now composed Things I Believe posts on their respective blogs. But of course, all y'all knew that already, because you've gone over there by now, right? Right?

April 19, 2004

Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly

I am such a lousy leetal brother - spent Saturday gallivanting around the Big City, and it totally slipped my mind that it was Tony's birthday. I suck. No cookie for me.

Everyone should be so fortunate to be as young as long as he's managed to be. And everyone should be as lucky as me to have had a mentor, role model, partner-in-crime, fellow-traveler and friend exposing them to cool stuff for thirty years and counting, and generally making their life a better and more interesting time. Thanks, Big T, and many happy returns.

(Anyway, he's, uh, forty-and-a-bit, so go wish him well.)

Also, while I'm making the rounds of the people I've failed to properly acknowledge, you should check out Maija's new site, fresh-minted Easter weekend. And if lots of mangaesque androgyny isn't enough to entice you there, note that if you tool around for long enough you can find a picture of her lovely self. Huzzah!

In that spirit, I go to write comics now, and possibly punish my sinful and unfilial flesh.

We Don't Live Like Other People, Item #549, 4/17/04

"Dude, I totally just got fucked up with your mom."

April 17, 2004

Me and Ray and the Big Red Guy, part 2

I'm writing this from the very heart of NYC, where Spyder and I are planning on catching a wee-hours showing of Hellboy tonight. (I did manage to catch it a couple of weeks ago, despite crutches, but it's more than worth returning to. Go see it, if you haven't yet.)

It occured to me at some point during my drive last night that the New Jersey turnpike may not be the best place to subject yourself to a listen of "Hey Ho the Nodding God Comes," but it was too late by then.

Note some new blog-linkage in the sidebar now, bringing the roll up to date with where most of my daily slack time is spent. I was absolutely delighted to see that R. Sean Borgstrom (she of Nobilis fame) now has a blog, and it's as quirky and odd and cool as you'd expect such a thing to be.

That's all for now. Time for breakfast, or whatever. (Is two diners in twelve hours excessive? No, I didn't think so either.)

April 08, 2004

Formless Spawn Revisited

Update on the mutant frog story posted last week: Apparently, folks who know what they're talking about are saying this is not what it seems to be. The phenomenon in question isn't amphibian teratology, but a kinky frog threesome.

Personally, I find this only mildly less unsettling than the other option.

Fascinating stuff, though. I now get to add "amplexus" to my vocabularly of biological weirdness, and the phrase "anuran gang bangs that look like frog transporter accidents" got more than a few wicked giggles out of me.

(Link via Mock Turtle Soup.)