Monday, December 24, 2007

Part of my haul, mostly from Half Price Books.

Besides being Christmas Eve, today was the day I didn't make it to Copacetic Comics. Feel free to regal me with tales of your Pittsburgh comic shop visits. Let me know what I was missing!

Edited to add: I am posting from a stale-smelling hotel room in a town outside Pittsburgh. I will be forced to go out into the air soon. Until then, how about we revel in this great essay from Amanda about hotel rituals.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Checking in from Western Pennsylvania.

Windy and snowing, the cold, ugly air has not stopped me from purchasing a number of books, one from a bookstore that I haven't stepped into since I visited my brother during his first (and last) year in college. At least, that's how I remember it. I'm talking about eljay's books in South Side in Pittsburgh. There is nothing like returning to a memory and finding the meat of it unchanged.

Right now I am watching Holiday Affair with sexy, old Robert Mitchum and thinking of you.

Send me comments for sanity.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mind Riot edited by Karen Hirsch

Oh, coming of age. How annoying you are!

Editor Karen D. Hirsch says in her introduction to Mind Riot: “Since the beginning of the comix movement in the 1960s, many artists have taken coming-of-age as their subject. Those were the comix I loved best, with their gritty, honest and often hilarious portraits of a time of life too often put in a soft-focus haze by the mainstream media.”

I am not sure if this has been a change in the past ten years or so, what with the internets and the instant co-opting of anything underground, fresh and marketable, but I think that the teenage years have been used and abused by the media in a way that has just become very boring to me. I am not longer a teenager and for that I am very, very glad. I think, if anything, there has been a 180 in regards to the “soft-focus haze” that Hirsch complains of. Now TV teens get raped, have bad relationships, do drugs and get lost all in the name of audience titillation. These are no longer secrets, they are fodder. I am not endorsing that pain or ugliness be kept secret, but I think today’s teens are faced with something even worse, a predatory curiosity from the world that doesn’t care about them, and will do nothing to help them heal or prevent the same from happening again. And on the other had, the excitement and fear that is present during adolescence is universal, a fact of American life and, “gritty” or not when portrayed in art, bores me to tears.

Ok, ok, so why did I buy this work? Because it is packed comics by the ladies and men of the 90s that I hadn’t seen before. The three that I loved the best were by “Painted Friends” by Carl Swain, “The Girl From Another World” by Phoebe Glockner and “A Tale of Three Sisters” by Ann Decker. Again, these artists show up in Twisted Sister II and because this book is geared towards teenagers, we get a softer, but not stupider, version of their work. For this book, they do the hard work of making stories that are compelling as art without being exploitative or insulting. They also show, mainly through the introduction each artist gives before his or her piece, that being an adult can be fun: art and emotion doesn’t stop at 25. And it shouldn’t!

So what are you making right now?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winners of the short contest are:
for avoiding the poop trap and making me laugh a bit on a rough day. If I don't have your address, send it to me and you will recieve a small box of items handpicked from all the tiny wonders in my apartment.

The right response to the question was of course:
"What brown stuff?"

Recipe for Disaster and Other Stories by Penny Van Horn

I grabbed this nice Fantagraphics paperback at Powell’s books on my short short trip to Portland in the summer. Between all the pretty hardcovers of the mid-2000s, there were four or so copies of this book shoved in the comics shelves. The author’s name sounded familiar and after a cursory flip-through I put it in my very small “to buy” pile.

The title story details Van Horne’s post-college descent into mental illness. She puts it this way: “… With the help of a few books and records, a typewriter, and some marijuana, I managed to go totally insane.” For Van Horne too much time on her hands, a few books on psychology and a little faulty wiring conspired to land her in a hospital with a busted face and a broken mind. In the epilogue she says, “At any rate, despite the fact it can be colored by sickness, I believe in the reality of inspiration.”

Later in the book comes “The Psycho Drifter,” my first exposure to Van Horne. I originally read it in Twisted Sisters II, an excellent anthology edited by Diane Noomin. I know I reread that collection recently, but I am not sure why it didn’t turn up on the sidebar. Digressions aside, “Psycho Drifter” is one of those stories one ends up telling at the spent end of a long, possibly drunken, night, the kind of story that’s only good because the teller survived it to marvel at their own stupidity. Most every fun person has one of these stories, and from the comics in this collection, it seems like Van Horne has more than most people.

The subject matter of “Binge & Purge: a thrift store odyssey” is close to my heart, what with the great depictions of the hazards of thrifting under stress, and has a Carol Tyler vibe. In it, Van Horne’s children are animalistic tornadoes, she is a droopy head case, retail clerks are gnashing, moronic, monsters and her husband is kinda useless. Instead of careening into a boring self-pity party, she manages to capture the excitement of thrifting and friends along with the crappiness of being poor.

All of the stories are either autobio or “a true story,” a subtitle I imagine covers stories told to the author. Black and white, scratchy and woodcut-looking, the art veers between cartoony (like in the workplace drama “Texas Characters”) and moody realism (like in the childhood story “Molested”).

Recipe for Disaster and Other Stories has stood up to a few reads and gives up new secrets each time. Fans of autobio, the ladies of the nineties and poor people comics need to pick this up!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


You and your lover and relaxing in the semi-nude. S/he is running his/her hands through your hair and you decide to remove your pants. Because you are sexy folk the lights are on. After being deliciously dazed by your silkily-haired legs, his/her eyes drop to your upper thighs and through damp, plump lips he/she breathes, "What's that brown stuff?"

Your answer is?

The best reply in the comments will win a box of crap!

Deadline next week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today I woke up with the feeling that, by the end of the day, I would be wishing for a permanent vacation. Before I woke up I was having many nightmares about many things: my brother, towels, the email group I am a part of, Vietnamese food in Roxborough an dmany murkier, darker things I thankfully can't remember. I was also apparently farting the smell of hotdogs all morning.

Now it is midday and I wish I was reading Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers. Last night I began rereading it. I like its dimensions. I like its heft. It is one of the few books I have ever paid full price for. I bought it from City Lights during a grey trip to San Francisco and read it on the plane ride back.

I remember it being uneven, but I enjoyed the two essays I read last night. More later.


Freebird bookstore went and reopened right under my nose!

Time for a trip.

And, yes, they still carry Moxie soda.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Linky Love

My new fave comics are by Kate Beaton.
My new fave writing about writing is by Tod Goldberg.
My new fave Italian restaurant is Il Melograno. Considering the number of well-dressed folks smoking outside and talking inside, actual Italians like it too. (Thanks nycnosh.)
My new fave blog about crazy animals is Zooillogix.

What are your new favorites?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Guess what?

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA is having an exhibition on graphic novels until May 2008. Who's up for a roadtrip? Not that I can drive, but I can be quite amusing on the road.

A little trip might be just the thing for curing the winter time blahs.

From the museum's site:
"This comprehensive exhibition explores the history and diverse artistry of the graphic novel, featuring personal commentary and artworks by celebrated historic and contemporary practitioners. Original book pages and studies, sketchbooks, and video interviews provide insights into an evolving and exciting art form. Artworks by Jessica Abel, Sue Coe, R. Crumb, Howard Cruse, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Brian Fies, Gerhard, Milt Gross, Marc Hempel, Niko Henrichon, Mark Kalesniko, Peter Kuper, Harvey Kurtzman, Matt Madden, Frans Masereel, Frank Miller, Terry Moore, Dave Sim, Art Spiegelman, Lynd Ward, Lauren Weinstein, Mark Wheatley, Barron Storey and others will be on view."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heredity by Jenny Davidson

Yeah, well, it turns out that I read this at some point in the hazy past. Somewhere in the third chapter (7 pages in) I felt the little tug in my brain that means, “oh crap, I know what is going to happen. How exactly do we get there?”

Anyway, this is the story of Elizabeth Mann, a twenty-something gal with the usual death wish—she treats sex and drinking like an abusive spouse and doesn’t seem to want to change. The first paragraph of the book sets all this up:
“I hang up the phone one afternoon in early June and consider my options. I can kill myself. I can kill my father. Or I can simply disappear and move someplace nobody will even think of looking. If I flee the East Coast, I can by in Austin or Albuquerque in some low-profile line of work (bike messenger, grill cook, egg donor). Eggs could mean big money, but who would want them minus the Ivy League credentials?”

This line also mentions the other theme of the book- fertility. Elizabeth’s lover is a test-tube baby maker, so is her dad. While doing basic research for a guidebook on the UK (the escape she eventually chooses) she ends up in the Hunterian Museum and sees the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, the famous thief taker and criminal. She becomes enamored with him. This was an idea that I loved. I have had a few historical crushes myself and I think that they can inspire great creativity and new, exciting obsessions. In Heredity, her crush makes Elizabeth feel like making babies.

All in all, a great premise. The execution was marred by the occasionally terrible dialogue, especially when the not-very-likeable Elizabeth fights with her boyfriend and the jarring coincidences that spur the plot along, including an auction where a bawdy manuscript is won that just so happens to tie into the story. The bawdiness was kind of fun if you like your sex scenes 1700s-style.

The final plot twist that fails to be all that surprising and the overall feeling of the book was dashed off, weird since at the same time, a good amount of research obviously went into it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

10 things about food poisoning/stomach flu:

1) You will learn new and exciting things about your body’s capacity to store partially digested food.

2) You may see a half-finished New York Times Sunday crossword in the trashcan, that, as you vomit on it, magically yields new answers so much more easily than when you worked on it three weeks ago.

3) Everyone you tell about your predicament will tell you to stay hydrated and you will want to punch them in the face.

4) All the time off of work will be useless, you will barely be able to focus, much less finish that book.

5) You will cry at least once, possibly in the shower, while vomiting.

6) When questioned about your profanities, you may have to tell the person you have sex with, “I didn’t make it.”

7) In between eruptions, you will barely be able to move and your restless sleep will be plagued with nightmares.

8) The second day seems much better, but only until hunger sets in.

9) You will want to die, but, sadly, you won’t.

10) You will never see Thanksgiving leftovers the same way again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

This is the last non-comics book I have finished since SPX. Since then I have been swimming in comics, Internet comics, podcasts and internet hoo ha. Friday night of SPX, ensconced in the guest room of Holy Prepuce!, I devoured The Driver’s Seat in about an hour.

I got this tiny New Directions edition of the 1970 novella at the Brooklyn Book Fest. It seemed to be an afterthought on a table of leftovers; no surprise, as I think this is an older printing of the book.

We are introduced to Lise, the main character, with this:
“‘And the material doesn’t stain,’ the salesgirl says.
‘Doesn’t stain?’
‘It’s the new fabric,” the salesgirl says. ‘Specially treated. Won’t mark. If you spill like a bit of ice cream or a drop of coffee, like, down the front of this dress it won’t hold the stain.’
The customer, a young woman, is suddenly tearing at the fastener at the neck, pulling at the zip of the dress. She is saying, ‘ Get this thing off me. Off me at once.’”

The young woman goes on the rest of her peculiar shopping trip, then to work, then on a holiday to Italy, acting very special the whole way. She meets another Brit, an old woman, on her journey and talks of meeting “the one,” a man who will fulfill her fantasies like no one else can. During the hunt, she says things like this:
“‘One should always be kind,’ Lise says, ‘in case it might be the last chance. One might be killed crossing the street, or even on the pavement, any time, you never know. So we should always be kind.’”

So true!

Oh, she’s a special gal. In fact, Lise was my least favorite thing about the story. She seemed floppy and bland, even at her most possessed. She only aroused curiosity with her strange, bitchy behavior and the fact that we know, in a certain way, how her story ends. Perhaps I just reacted poorly to her neuroticism. Even so, it was satisfying to know she gets her man in the end, restraints and all.

Italy stands out as its own character, which I quite enjoyed and the minor characters really delighted, including Lise’s seat partner on the airplane, a macrobiotic wannabe guru who spilled brown rice all over his attempts to get with Lise, which captures the late sixties perfectly. When it comes down to it though, Lise bugged me and it kept me from totally enjoying the book.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Supported and Well-read

A few days ago I decided to bike for the first time in too too long and go on a bra hunt. After a bit of disappointment I found one out of the many choices for smaller boobed gals and dropped a sack of plastic money. Feeling uplifted, I zipped my purchase into my sweatshirt, moved on to a fancy store across the street and then to Forbidden Planet. When I ignored Austin English’s sweet offer of help and picked my books I felt very much at peace. I was about to have nice Korean dinner, a bunch of new stuff to read and the company of my butt buddy. While whipping out my much abused credit card at the counter I realized my bra was gone. GONE! My face fell so far that I think I scared the guy bagging my stuff.

Retracing your steps on the streets of NYUork is a drag any day, but when you are braless and starving it is killer. A series of locked doors and weird looks later, I had retrieved my tissue paper wrapped parcel and settled in to read my comics. Happy endings are real!

Raisin Pie #4 by Rick Algerott and Ariel Bordeaux—Well kids, I already had this. Still, a nice refresher. Who burned down the library? WHO?

Living Statues by Emily Blair—Holy crap! This 2006 Xeric award winner is beautiful. The cover grabbed me. It portrays deep, self-defeating disappointment that solidified into a musty bitterness in the main character John. At the same time it captures the magic of Florence; if you can put aside the touristy bullshit and just enjoy the people and the history there are few places more seductive and John’s foil Mary follows that path. I really enjoyed the stuttering, doomed back-and-forth between John and Alice. Blair really captured the complexity of adults set adrift.

Stupid and Unkind: Complete Version by Robin Enrico— The heavy silkscreened cover is what drew me to this comic. Enrico’s little (but thick) book gives a picture into a world of college that I never experienced—dating, partying and talking obsessions. The dialogue is a little stiff at times, especially when the two leads are ruminating about their love lives but Enrico is at his best when he drops the words and shows the meaning of silences. My favorite panel is when the erstwhile male lead character is cruising for some booty and meets a drunky gal. The two start talking and there is a point where they might go off together to hit it or just pass like horny ships in the night. The pause is the turning point and it feels very real. Enrico is one to watch.

Boobage by Monica Gallagher— I heard about this comic from ISR #96. Gallagher spent some time with the hosts talking comics, boobs and superpowers. Boobage is a pretty little three-color mini that tackles the artist’s feelings about her small breasts. No surprise, her feelings are negative, which to someone with secret big boobs and a hard time finding shirts that look right is a big damn shame, and the stories she tells are not super-surprising (modeling, envy, dumb boyfriends). Even so, it is worth a read for the art.

Middle School by Monica Gallagher—I loved this. Gallagher really captures the giant UGH of middle school here. She manages to portray the way days stretch, relationships pitch and heave and boys seem interesting but somehow really far behind when you are 11 years old. She has a real grasp of the accessories of the day (schrunchies, caboodles, pegged jeans) but she doesn’t rely on the whole “remember MC Hammer?!?” thing to make you feel for the characters.

Sorry for the lack of links. Bad blogger! Bad!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

I don't usually go in for Eat a Carrot month or whatever, but now is as good of a time as any to remind everyone that you are not invincible. Don't take it personally, it is just a fact. As awesome as I am, I wasn't able to deflect the pain and change inflicted upon me when my brother died, crushed under the weight of the car at whose wheel he fell asleep. I wasn't able to stop crying when I "needed" to, at work, during times that should have been romantic. Even with my shriveled black heart to protect me, I wasn't able to stop the implosion of my life at the reality of my brother's 19-year-old vulnerablility, his soft flesh and simply human bones. His ability to just vanish from my life.

So here's the deal:
I don't care if your fucking parents will kill you if you get home late, if your wife will be mad you missed the rodeo, if your cousin will smoke all the weed if you don't show up before Dancing with the Stars.


It doesn't get simpler than that.
A simple meme from Doppelganger:
Total number of books I own
Wow. I juast tried to think about his and my brain stopped. I'd say two hundred or so if you count the books I have stashed in my friend's attic (hi N!) and my parents' house. There will always be books to buy and books to get rid of. In fact I feel the need to do a purge soon.

Last book I read
Um, The Driver's Seat? That's what the sidebar says anyway. I have a draft of a review for that tasty novella bubbling on my desktop and I expect to have it for you in a few days.

Last book I bought
Do comics count? If so then it is a tie between The Fart Party anthology by Julia Wertz and French Milk by Lucy Knisley. I haven't been buying books recently because of the many unread ones I have and the all-of-a-sudden crushing amount of work-type reading I have had to do.

Five meaningful books
Meaningful in what way? geez, I am stumped. I guess I am going to go the way not blogged by The Big D in her list and do a list of books meaningful to me. So there, all you jaded something somethings!
1) Well, you know what this one is going to be. Come on, try a little harder... Alright, Neuromancer by William Gibson. It made me feel crazy, in a good way and kind of blew my thirteen year-old mind. The fashion, the cities, the decay, all of this has informed my taste in books, movies, clothes-- whatever. It also turned me onto SF, which before I read Neuromancer, I thought was for old fogies and creeps, which is not entirely untrue of course. SF is for everyone!
2) 100 Demons by Lynda Barry saved my life with humor, color and an example of why surviving can be worth it.
3)Scoop by Evelyn Waugh because it was sharp, British and eerily correct about the writing life. Also it reminds me of being 17 and going steady with my reading time. In fact, the guy I was going steady with was a big, big reader and turned me on to lots of books which was one of the few things to recommend him.
4) Who knew I loved the giant, sprawling novel of mult-generations? Without Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie I wouldn't have.
5)Stiff by Mary Roach. Guess what? I love science!

Of course there are many more meaningful books that I wasn't able to mention for fear of actually writing an interesting post.

Yes, I am down about my blog and my writing in general. Perhaps the winter, with its countless hours of stuffy indoor time will inspire me. It doesn't sound very likely does it?

Friday, November 02, 2007


Big D is really big now, because she is pregnant!

Pinky hates when the man messes with her future!

Bug girl explains the lazy flies of today!

Moonlight Ambulette has cured her reading woes!

And I still have no updates for you! But I did go through a pile of comics last night while huddled under a blanket, avoiding the DRAFT! in our apartment. Hide as stealthily as I might, the DRAFT! still finds me. I can't stop listening to Indie Spinner Rack either. So, basically, I am turning into a comics nerd of the burrowing variety.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

So, because of the World Series I brought both issues of Carl's Large Story to dinner a few nights ago. B faced the TV, I faced the kitchen and the waiter was suspicious.

"Once upon a time, in a castle in Atlantic City, a child was born."

A rockin dinosaur, some musics, some conspiracy and politics. I read both issues. Awesome, or should I say, the awesome.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SPX 2007

[Edited to add: if we met at SPX, drop a comment!]

Despite my inability to catch the first day in beautiful Bethesda, MD and my creeping illness on Sunday, SPX was a blast. I also forgot to bring a camera but luckily my host mr. hp! lent me a little digital wonder which I proceeded to underuse for all of Saturday.

With our SPX buddy. She was certainly a hit with the better boys of indie comics.

The comics-selling floor of SPX. The hotel also provided a few rooms for the panels. I did not go to any panels because I am a jerk.

The first step was to find the PARTYKA folks so I could show off my fake offspring:
They are very smiley.

Also, their merch kicks ass. Even though they didn't win any Ignatz awards for their nominated comics, you can see why you need to buy everything they make:

Some other folks that watched me dorkily fumble with my camera and try not to seem like a goober:
Leslie Anne Mackenzie Stein who makes great comics (like Yeah, It Is) and needs a publisher for her new one. She does not seem to have a website though...

Marcos Perez has a nice smile and is hard at work on Tear-Stained Makeup #7, though he may have just told me that to make me go away...

Drew Weing. Nice guy and great cartoonist. Also looked only slightly startled when I asked to take his picture and then, a little too pantingly, when Eleanor was coming back.

Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing.

Eleanor Davis and Sara Edward-Corbett. My buddy Sara is the greatest. Please peer pressure her to do a comic with me.

Chuck Forsman & Alex Kim & shy anon. I met Chuck on the giant patio and he brought me back to see his comics and very generously gave me a few. Drunks Sea Colony is beautiful. Find it.

John Hankiewicz and buddy. We bought two prints from John for our house. I also got his comic bald knob which looks like it might break my heart.

Clihodhna of the beautiful accent and amazing prints.

In the middle of it all B and I decided to take a tea break on the marriot's patio:

I steadfastly clung to consciousness while B was not as successful:

The The Ignatz awards were also announced on Saturday but I was too tired to stay and dinner was trying to leave me by any means necessary. Now that I have seen the results I am kind of glad I didn't stay, many of the choices were uninspired.

Finally, most of my haul:
Amy Ambulette has now gone Wong-crazy over at her blog. She seems to have gotten a great crop of stories from her contest and it would behoove you to go check them out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

back from SPX

I knew yesterday morning that something wasn't right. A few hours later, I knew something was definitely wrong. Despite my piles of comics and new prints, the company of my main man and a delightful baby, littlehp!, I felt grumpy, nauseated and like a monkey made of razors had taken up residence in my neck.

I am SICK. From my bed of crappitude I will attempt to do an SPX roundup sometime today.

The best part of returning was when B called me from the bathroom in a tentative voice to show me this:

So this morning I heard what I think was the plumber, though I expected more klongs and less bangs.

PS- until I get it together, go over to Topic and read the two newish stories. They are great.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

bugs not drugs

This is an excellent all-around blog as well as a great source of shiver-inducing bug stories.

Welcome to the sidebar Bug Girl.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I have been thinking about this story all day.

It is not the giants iguanas or the invasive mermaids haunting me, but being a "conformist at heart."

"Light" by Kelly Link
(via Pinky's Paperhaus)

Friday, October 05, 2007

So, back in the day I kinda pooped on the comic anthology MOME. Then today I read this interview with Eric Reynolds, the co-editor of MOME and decided to give it another chance for a few reasons:

1) In the interview, Reynolds discussed the origin of MOME (who doesn't love a good origin story?) and how his original plan for how and who was going to be published had to be jettisoned because so many of the cartoonists that appeared in the first two issues became famous and busy in the time it took to get the issues out. That really explained alot for me. MOME promished freshness and all I got from it was a stale feeling. After almost 10 issues, it seems that they have their act together and are publishing fresh and exciting stuff.

2) Eleanor Davis. I love her stuff and she has a story in MOME 9.


The Ig Nobel awards were announced today. Gay bombs, vanilla poop and circus freaks, oh my!

The offical site for the awards is overwhelmed right now. Perhaps after the influx of mouth-breathing nerds and bloggers desperate for material dissipates (hi!) you will be able to check it out.

So right about the wrongness

Gwen has a great post on how zealots get all mad when you don't want to talk to them about their belief of choice, and how their failure to get through is usually because they are terrible conversationalists.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A new contest

Over where the night is always bright, Amy Ambulette, the winner of my contest, is having a contest herself, a contest called the Moonlight Ambulette Keep Trying Even Harder contest.

Write something!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A meme from Kimbooktu

Here is the original post.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Pocket paperback for easy toting and myopic night reading

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
Buy Some Damn Books! I believe that it is very important to use punctuation in place names.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
I have no idea. I am terrible at rememberign quotes. Plus, I kind of hate people who trot out quotes from books in conversation when they can't think of anything good to say. Quotes are for private time people!

4. The author (alive or diseased) I would love to have lunch with would be …
Well, who would I most like to talk to, who would make the best lunch companion and who could afford to pay for my giant, delicious lunch? Is there one person who is all three? I'd love to have lunch with Shelley Jackson, Maureen F. McHugh, Muriel Spark (her disease is failure to still be alive), MFK Fisher (ditto), Alan DeNiro, Julia Child (and again), Jason Lutes and Stephen King could pay the bill.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…
A huge one, maybe a Norton Anthology. Then I could quiz myself with the questions after each story until Jesus came to save me.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…
made books cheaper

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…
Thrift stores. Delightful!

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
One of the first cyberpunk characters? One that doesn't die at the end?

9. The most overestimated book of all time is…
I guess it depends on what time you are in.
eta: Those Chronicles of Narnia book are pretty bad and yet everyone seems to get all misty when they are mentioned.

10. I hate it when a book…
Has embarrassingly terrible female characters.

I am supposed to tag five fine booky folks so here goes:
Moonlight Ambulette, 50 Books, British Adventuress, More Coffee Please and My Tragic Right Hip.

Did you know that the word for web page in Dutch is "webpagina?" Well, now you do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This is Ham, the first chimp in space:

Image from the Great Images in NASA library.

I wonder if he ever got lonely up there, tough stare and tiny space pants aside? This reminds me of the MFM story "Laika Comes Back Safe" that uses that other famous space animal as a springboard to talk about mysterious attraction and loss. At least that's how I remember it. As we all know, Laika didn't come back. It was a good story.

In non-40-year-old space news, today is my birthday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

For those of us uncomfortably aware of the possibility of getting lost in the early nights of the coming seasons, a beautiful poem about SAD.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I hope to return to the land of the blogging soon. I have been feeling rather ugh and more likely to kick over the many stacks of books on my floor than pluck a book from one. This could be the mentally monopolizing effect of the otherwise interesting nonfiction book I am reading now (and the fact that nonfiction takes me twice as long to read). It could also be that when I get home I am often too tired to think and rarely am able to resist the lure of cotton blankets and vivid dreams.

My push to finish writing about books I have already read is that because of the Brooklyn Book Fest I now have six or so new books to enjoy, minus the copy of Mothers & Other Monsters I bought for a loaner. That Gavin Grant is a charming man and I enjoyed the chat we had at the Small Beer Press booth. His booth companion, whose name I can’t remember, was also a nice guy and they were both helpful while I chose books to try out. I appreciate people who understand thriftiness.

I breezed by the rest of the booths and missed all the speakers. I was there with B and my mother and the Fest was the last thing on our list before my mother had to get back to her bus. So, alas, no journotasticness from me that day. Truthfully, it was nice to just go and enjoy it without having to take notes and try to find people.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reading and Eating are Perfect Together

My books are so often smeared with chocolate, stained with tea or spotted from the drippings of oily crumbs that I know I should be embarrassed, especially when the book is borrowed from work or a fresh copy from the library.

I can't say that I am embarrassed though, the joys of a solitary (or similarly book-bedecked companionship) meal with a good book are just too good to deny.

Thinking about this because of this, via James Tata.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aiding and Abetting: A Novel by Muriel Spark

Another summer reading book by the unmatched master of the sentence, Muriel Spark. Another short review from me for a short book.

AA is a re-imagining of the Earl Lucan story that gripped the UK in the seventies and beyond. Basically a story about class and privilege, the Lucan case consists of a few major facts: Lucan was a gambler, his nanny was attacked and murdered in his home, his wife was brutally attacked soon after and then Lucan disappeared, likely aided in his escape by his rich friends. Occasional Lucan sightings in exotic spots like Australia and North Africa continued to feed the story for years later but the erstwhile earl was never found.

Spark takes this very real story and fictionalizes it. Her main creation is another mysterious person, a popular and expensive psychiatrist named Hildegard Wolf who practices in Paris and has an enviable love life. I like Hildegard because Spark has filled her out well; each time she appeared I the book I saw her in my mind vividly. As her story is revealed, she becomes more interesting and the way she becomes tangled in the Lucan affair is nicely invented. Of course Spark invented it all, besides the facts of the case, and it hangs together so plausibly, so perfectly that I thought about it alongside being thoroughly entertained.

Although I say above that Spark is a sentence master, there was no one line (or two) that I felt would capture the charm of AA. But the secret may be that in this sweet little mystery story, Spark breezily covers class issues in Britain, identity, crime, growing up and getting away with it. And just because it goes down easy doesn’t mean that her take on stuff won’t be working away in the back of your brain for some time. It is not her best but it is a perfect summer read or maybe a good book for a cold winter night.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Family That Couldn’t Sleep by D.T. Max

Last night, sluggishly chugging up to New York from Philadelphia I finished The Family That Couldn’t Sleep by D.T. Max. I got the book at work and will now return it to the shelf of review copies and lonely hardbacks near the window, but it will be returned by someone very satisfied, unlike, I imagine, most of the others on that shelf.

TFTCS is about fatal familial insomnia that is exactly what it sounds like, an inherited disease that causes an insomnia that kills you. One day, usually in middle age, after all the baby-making is done, the victim’s pupils get really small, they start to sweat uncontrollably and they never really sleep again. It is a horrible way to die—as the body shuts down, the victim remains conscious, in fact they can never escape consciousness, expect maybe into a half-sleep that doesn’t refresh or into hallucinations that terrify more than they comfort. Members of the pseudonymous Italian family that harbors FFI know at this point that their loved one is going to suffer and die, and they also know that there is nothing to do to stop it. When FFI brains are autopsied they are full of holes and sometimes full of clumps of dead protein strands. Only forty families in the world are known to have FFI, but as Max’s book deftly shows, the story of prion diseases, of which FFI is one of a handful including mad cow disease, is complicated, important and fraught with intrigue and strange characters.

The introduction to this book left me cold. I am not sure why. However as soon as the chapters began I was immediately drawn into the story of the Italian family whose story frames the book and the larger story of the discovery and investigation of prion diseases, misunderstood because they are not alive like viruses or bacteria, they don’t have a clear transmission path and they don’t have an easy or uniform presentation. I learned so much from this book and was entertained thoroughly for the weeks I read it.

It is hard to come up with a passage to quote for you to show Max’s elegant style. This book was great for the way he presented the story, allowed for interesting digressions and made scientific concepts easy to understand and fit into a larger discussion of the way medicine and science work in the discovery of new diseases. As I read, questions that arose were answered, avenues I never thought of were peeked into and unexpected details popped from the story and into my imagination.

Short review: I loved it and loved the surprise of loving it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

kimbooktu is putting together a list of bookish links on her site. If you want to be included, go there, check it out and then email her.

Sine she was so nice as to include me, I guess I'd better hurry up and write her a description of this circus of cerebral delight.

Back List Boogie

Approximately one million years ago I received a couple of sci-fi-y books from Soft Skull Press to get me primed and ready for Jamestown. They were Under My Roof by Nick Mamatas and H2o: A Novel by Mark Swartz. Both are thin, quick reads and neither really got me in the good spot.

The better of the two was UMR. It is a YA novel, but could definitely be enjoyed by adults, and was by many. In a post-apocalyptic USA, a psychic teen watches his world crumble then reform into an action-packed dream when his father decides to play out his midlife crisis by seceding from the country. His bargaining chip is a homemade atom bomb hidden in a garden gnome. In the beginning, having a country is like having a popular but mediocre rock band; people appear from everywhere to get in on the action, but few see the rebellion for what it really is. Because the kid can read his father and everyone else’s thoughts, he knows, but doesn’t quite know what to do. I think this is an apt metaphor for adolescence and maybe a ten to twelve-year-old would be really into the crazy stuff that happens and the character’s ability to eavesdrop on people’s thoughts.

I am going to do Mark Swartz a great disservice and attempt to review his book even though I don’t really remember it. It does say something that I was unwilling to re-read this book for a fresh look. The plot goes something like this: in a world without potable water, where artificial water-like drinks are heavily advertised and rarely drank, a scientist discovers a natural fungus that seems to exude more fresh water than the seawater it takes in. He is only a pawn in the water wars and knows it, but his doesn’t stop him from trying to be an agent of his own fate. This does not go well for him. The scientist character lacks a total personality which made it hard to root for him and the secondary characters, a natural water activist, a PR lady, weren’t that intriguing either. I suppose the world Swartz built was meant to carry the novel but it didn’t.

These two books aside I am still excited and surprised by much of Soft Skull’s catalog. They are in more financial trouble than usual so go there and buy some books. While you are at it, buy Heredity by Jenny Davidson for me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Comics

Doing some internetting on Cliff Face Comics I found a link to Julia Wertz's The Fart Party a comic that is now dear to my heart.

TFP made me feel many things:
1) laughy
2) bloated
3) lazy
4) missing my brother with a more targeted than usual ache. this is the one that really did me in.
5) inspired

If you read it, you will want to stalk her too, now much easier since she moved to New York.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Have any of you seen the film Born to Win by director Ivan Passer? It played last night at the Film Forum as part of their NYC Noir series. Don't worry, it was just a kinda boring junkie romp through 70s-style Time Square.

I came away from a screening of that film with one question and one question only: What the fuck was that thing on George Segal's weiner? As B put it, an "unnaturally bound" genital region marred Segal's full frontal nude scene and I need to know if it was cloth, some sort of nut-bra or a hastily concocted hideaway made from an infant's athletic cup and a few rubber bands. It looked like a very wobbly person of small stature taped his dick to his nuts.

Even with exhaustive googling ("george segal penis,""born to lose nude segal,"etc) we could find nothing. No pictures and only a few mentions of the scene in question- nothing about the strange and obvious dong catcher. Now it's almost as if we didn't see it at all...

Any information, screenshots or analyses would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Two Things of Importance

Very Important: Lynn Peril of Mystery Date has a blog! Mystery Date was my favorite zine as a teen. It was a huge influence on my interest in gender studies, collecting crap and listening to the past to understand the present. One time my father, knowing very little about the self-published world, threw away a postcard from Lynn with an update about MD thinking it was some kind of perverted dating service come-on. Silly Dad. Her book, Pink Think, is the best birthday present I have never recieved.

Less Important: NYRB is having a summer sale with good discounts on their book collections and 25% off single books.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When a day filled with shameful consumerism becomes night, what else is there to do but buy comics?

At Forbidden Planet I perused the single-issue racks for something new and saw the cover for Tear-Stained Makeup #6. I liked way the cover girl’s life was in her room and obviously not going so well. I flipped through and liked what I saw and being the narrative completist that I am I was pleased to find that all the back issues were available.

TSM is a story of a band, a librarian, a possibly evil plot and lots of broken hearts. The art is noticeably, wonderfully handmade. You can feel the hours artist Marcos Perez put into each issue. In issue six, he gives us a page-by-page breakdown of what each section took, in both an artistic and emotional way. I love each of the covers; numbers 2, 5 and 6 are the ones who get left more in the will.

The one stumbling block to my total enjoyment of the series is the writing. On the whole it is the better side of serviceable, but Perez stumbles here and there with dialogue and weird, encyclopedic sound bites that float from the characters’ mouths like doo doo-filled balloons. Tildy, the librarian, has an awkward exchange with her former roommate in #4 about the Lower East Side’s history: “That’s what I love about New York. No matter how much is changes, coffee shops, boutiques, condos, it can’t lose what came before. All the hopes, dreams, blood… and semen are still there!” Whoa. We learn in this issue that Tildy has a science journal worthy memory, so that’s her excuse I guess, but in issue 6, another character has an ill considered rap session in a music store about the history of the electric guitar. Just get back to the story Marcos! Us smartypants can do our own research.

Even so, TSM is a fun read and I can’t wait to see what happens next. TSM has certainly convinced me that I need to check out the rest of Cliff Face Comics stuff.

I also got a blue and maroon inky issue of Paping that I can't wait to tear into.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Winner is...

Well, judging this contest was very difficult. All the entrants crafted, at the least, diverting stories, and those that put in a little more effort really blew my mind, sending stories that gave Mr. LaBovick life, either by making him real or taking his mystery and using it to illuminate another character.

Total disclosure: of the six people who sent me stories, three are my buds in some way and another is a book blog master. I made this decision with the help of B, who cares not for my blogular connections or real life friendilations.

Thanks to everyone who wrote something. Since you all took the time to send a piece, you all get of copy (by email) of everyone else's stories. A little prize for taking the time. If you don't hink I have your email, please send it to me!

Fa Fa Fa, the winner is Amy Shearn of moonlight ambulette. Amy send me your address!

Her story is here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Brian LaBovick: I think it was an accumulation of things." by Amy Shearn

With people like Brian you had to guess that it was complicated, that there were explanations just beyond the field of your vision, things that you would never quite fully understand. The one thing everyone knew about him was that his family was Mormon. We didn’t actually know what it meant, but we knew that it was something mysterious, like the Masons. Brian was in the smart kid classes but for some reason had a reputation for being slightly retarded, or possibly just crazy, but I suspected none of his strangeness had anything to do with the Mormon thing and I still think that that is the case. If anything it freed him. People expected him to be a little weird anyway so he just ran with it. He dressed entirely in white. First he had a big shaggy poof of hair on the top of his head that resembled yellow pubic hair, and everyone made fun of him for that. Then one day he came to school completely shaved from head to toe – even his eyebrows were gone – and that was almost too weird to even make fun of. He had created his own language in study hall – I watched him copy out the final version of the alphabet – and would sometimes mutter words that others thought were nonsense but that I knew were clever comebacks in the secret code. He confused everybody. That was why I started spreading the rumor that he was my boyfriend. I wanted to confuse everybody, too. I wanted to be sitting beside him in study hall when the rumor got back to him, so that he and I could laugh at how ridiculous the rumor was, and then maybe look soulfully into each other’s eyes. There was no boy in the whole school who seemed capable of gazing soulfully into anyone’s eyes except for Brian LaBovick.

I wanted to speak to him in his secret language. I wrote him a note in study hall. It said, Csjbo, J uijol zpu bsf dvtf. This meant, Brian, I think you are cute. I had stolen his code by watching over his shoulder without him realizing, and I had been practicing various words so that I could speak it too, if the need arose. There was no one in the whole school who would have done that except me, and I wanted him to know this, to feel it in his sternum, but then I lost my nerve and kept the note in the inner pocket of my backpack and never did give it to him. You would think a boy like that, eyebrowless as a gigantic flesh-colored salamander, would be thankful that any girl thought he was cute, but to be honest I wasn’t sure he would be amused. He seemed above that kind of thing. He was taking extra classes at the community college – astronomy and poetry-writing – and I’d heard he didn’t even have a TV. He was probably going to be a Mormon priest eventually. And maybe he’d think I was no real prize myself. Maybe he could see the ugliness at the core of people. In fact I was sure he could, and that’s why he didn’t care about being called names and getting pushed around. None of this high school business probably meant anything to him at all. But then thinking about that annoyed me a little, because of course I had ugliness inside but who didn’t, and I had enough un-ugliness to have learned Brian’s secret language and so he should have been able to know this somehow and therefore to love me.

But I guess I didn’t know him at all, because I would not have thought he was capable of doing the things that were then done. No one knew who was skinning the chipmunks in the ravine near the football fields but everyone knew who was beating up Otis, the retarded boy, and it was definitely Brian LaBovick. It was really hot out there on the pavement. We knew there were only a few minutes before teachers and school security showed up to break up the fight so we tried to watch hard. “What happened?” I asked a kid I knew. He shrugged. “Tommy and those guys kept asking Brian about how he and Otis spend their weekends, saying how they were best friends and everything like that. I guess Brian wanted to prove him wrong.” “That’s awful,” I said. It really was awful in about fourteen different ways. Brian had pinned the fat but helpless Otis to the ground and was looking at his fist, as if consulting it about what to do next. “Isn’t he your boyfriend or something?” said the kid. “You have a great ugliness inside you,” I told him, “and also, you shouldn’t listen to rumors.”

Even though no one thought of me as the kind of person who would have done this, I stepped forward and tried to grab at Brian’s sleeves, but he just swatted me away. Poor Otis wasn’t crying but his face was impressively purplish and his eyes screwed shut, and there was this heat coming off Brian, this hard, carbony smell. But I was the one with the key. I was the only one who could stop him. “Brian,” I cried, in his own language, and then I took a deep breath and tried to summon up all of my bravery and strength and then I shouted, “Tupq! Tupq! Tupq!” I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it, so I said it like, “Tup-que,” and maybe I was pronouncing it wrong, maybe that was my fault, but Brian just slammed his palms onto Otis’s chest and stood up suddenly, looking more like he’d run out of ideas than like he’d surrendered to mercy, and then he swatted away my arms again. “Tupq,” I said again, even though there wasn’t anything to stop anymore. Maybe I had thought we would share a jolt of recognition, like two aliens who had rediscovered each other in hostile territory. Or, maybe also I felt a little like what’s-her-face, like Helen Keller’s teacher, like the one special person in the world who was fearless and kind enough to break through. Whatever it was, Brian didn’t look at me and I didn’t look at him and the gathered crowd of our classmates started to roar with laughter, going, “Tup-que, tup-que,” and Brian sort of brushed by me and said only, sneeringly, “Jejput” – Idiots – and I agreed, silently, with all of my being, and that was the last any of us ever saw of him.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oh Jad, don't be worried about your irregular time spot. That's what podcasts are for.

PS> please upload the other seasons. I am sick of listening to season 4.
PPS> wanna do it?

(via ScienceBlogs)

Friday, August 03, 2007

the weekend

After long, hard consideration, I am leaving the computer behind this weekend while I sojourn to the land of anxiety.

When I return I will announce the winner of the contest, have some new reviews for you and hopefully some pictures.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dear Lisa,

I totally had a contest on my blog and got a whole seven responses! Very exciting! Anyway I am reading them all now and deciding who should win. The prize is a box of books and other assorted delights. Don't worry, I promise not to give away that annotated volume of Star Trek essays you gave me for middle school graduation. Who knew you were the progenitor of slash fic?

Anyway, I said I would publish the winning story, but do you think I should publish the winning story instead, or have part of the prize bethat the winner gets to read them all or what?

Rigth now I am wearing a shoelace tied around my neck and the people at work don't seem to like it. It's not entirely unlike those tie-dyed eyepatches we made for the prom...

Miss you,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

2 more things...

... about those Matthew Sharpe books, Stories from the Tube and Nothing is Terrible:

1) they both include scenes where oil is boiled for quick-frying. Quick frying and creepiness.

2) in both reviews I mention English class/assignments. This sounds bad, but it is actually great. His work really shows someone having fun with the limits as a growing talent. Somehow that equals English class for me.

Blood! Pus! Learning?

Just finished The Knife Man. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Part of my enjoyment as that this nonfiction book took place (and had some of the same characters and institutions) during and after the times of the Baroque Trilogy books by Neal Stephenson, which I loved, digressions be damned.

Both make me want to pick up a copy of Samuel Pepys' journals and dive in.

Look for a review here soon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Three days until the deadline for the new contest.
Get to that writing!

It's a bloggy world

On Wednesday, mr. prepuce arrived in all his holy glory for a business trip to the big apple. Our conversation was a bit constrained by another, unexpected person in our party, but it was nice to see him anyway. Next time he needs to stay longer and bring his baby.


Last night I hung with Mary Millwhistle and Bryan in their hood. I left work too late to sneak over to Rocketship, but our game of bar scrabble made it worth it. When someone at the bar said, " I love RSS feeds," I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, especially since this was that patron's drunken banter. No sweet one night stand action for her! I likely bemoaned the state of my finances and mental health a bit too much in my banter, lessening again my conversationalist rating by ten hit points. Sorry Mary!

Also: since I know my readers are intelligent, sensitive folks with a great love of English and personal essaying, I know that submitting a sensible, awesome essay to ruined music will be easy and fun for you. So do it.


Despite my need to check them occasionally for work, ScienceBlogs over at seed magazine have been a constant distraction the past few weeks. Ahh, the road unconsidered, then considered too late.


While you are thinking of ruined music ideas, pitch me something for


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nothing is Terrible by Matthew Sharpe

Another rushed review by a bad library patron.

Nothing is Terrible is the story of Mary, an orphan sent to live with her uninterested uncle and aunt after her parents die in a car crash. From the opening sentence of the book in the prologue chapter called “I Die” we know things aren’t going to be easy sailing for Mary:

“’That girl isn’t normal, and neither is the boy,’ I overheard my uncle say to my aunt late on summer night…”

Her brother Paul is an invalid, sickly, yet overpowering and as Mary grows away from him and toward the outside world the tension of their interactions builds until a miraculous moment robs him of his power and ultimately his life. The ramifications for Mary make up the rest of the book. I really like the way Sharpe ties up the prologue and still somehow manages to capture the weirdness of when a child dies:

“This was his final puzzle, not a hard one. Then—at least this is the way I remember it—my brother became an idea.”

A little later sex intrudes as it does in its weird middle school way. The intrusion becomes life in a sadly humdrum tabloid way for Mary because of her remarkable and strange new teacher Skip Hartman. Sharpe tells it and doesn’t tell it in this way:

“The rest of the class, however, had joined Mittler [bully and emissary], and most of them had heard what he’d said, and what I’d said, and seen a few things they didn’t quite know how to see, and now they stood there, some of them staggering like people newly blind, as if they had used up all their eyesight looking at the strange pair of us. Skip Hartman took me by the elbow and led me to succor.”

So, an abandoned girl’s fantasy comes true, and a teacher in leather pants sees her as special, “loves” her and takes her away from her crappy life. Skip understands things about her no one else (even Mary herself) does (or tries to). They run off to New York and hide in a brownstone near Central Park.

“Sooner or later everyone finds a way to be mistreated. Some find it more easily than other: Skippy and I for example. But sometimes mistreatment is better than no treatment at all.”

And there it is, kids, the story of this book in that last sentence. Sharpe does a bunch of things to make this story flow, baldly exclaiming that no one knows the mind of a ten-year-old, really, dropped lines about people whose wishes come true, delicious details of new York life in the last decade and the body. He lets Mary grow up and rebel and get hurt and change and in fact, contrary to the exclamation of the first line of the book, she is normal, well, as normal as she can be. This is a feat in itself. The minor characters are great, something that comes through in his later books, which I plan on reviewing soon.

All in all I was swept away by the story and enjoyed seeing how Sharpe developed his premise and brought it to conclusion. Upon second reading the mechanics come through but I admired them, kinda like an English lesson where you are drunk and dancing the whole time.

What can I say? It’s time to receive my punishment from the tsking library staff.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New post at Topic here.

Anyone interested in writing or editing for can drop me a line here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stories from the Tube by Matthew Sharpe

Like an English class assignment gone terribly right, Stories from the Tube uses images and words from TV commercials of the past as a jumping off point for a successful collection of stories that show, under a somewhat jaded veneer, Sharpe’s ability to perfectly render what is so special about relationships between people.

Some of the instances are jokey. In “In the Snowy Kingdom,” based on an antiperspirant commercial, a man suffers an episode of unknown origin at a society function. His wife rushes to his side and commits a betrayal in his eyes by drawing attention to him. The end of the story has them clinging together in the Artic, playing out a perverse version of the life they once had, where the later version is not any less enjoyable.

Sharpe also has a great grasp on failing relationships and ones that have ended. On the end of the friendship of two middle-aged women:

“Breaking up, if that’s what you call it, with your best friend, is not like breaking up with your husband. For long stretches you convince yourself it’s fine. You’re gently devastated. It’s the kid of devastation that doesn’t seem to take a chunk out of your life. Rather, it’s immediately part of your life. Blends right in. Strange but familiar. You can’t believe that it’s happening, but it’s happening, and it’s happened before, but you’re not sure when. You’re looking at it a lot, you’re nodding, yes, this old thing. Even as you’re being devastated you’re also recovering. You’re setting out, tireless traveler. It’s way bigger than you, but you’re holding to it, on y our skinny, brittle legs you’re carrying it along and while carrying you’re sniffing, touching, tasting, testing, sampling all the moods your devastation has to offer. And it turns out you’ve sort of trained yourself for this sort of thing, because nobody but the most seasoned observer notices how badly you’re hobbled by this experience that is so awful, that is so much deeper than humiliation.

Hazel did continue to see Dina at night when she was asleep. In her vivid dreams, she and Dina took frequent walks in the country, arm in arm. They saw things the real Dina and Hazel rarely saw: blue sky, green trees, red and yellow flowers, birds, rainbows.

“What kind of bird is that, Hazel?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen such a bird.”
“ How about that one?”
“Don’t know.”

My other favorite story is “Dr. Mom,” about a mother that takes Robitussin’s (or whichever cough medicine) irritatingly condesending copy about “the mothers of America” and their “kind of medical training” to its conclusion when her son gets sick.

Mothers and sons, grandmothers and grand kid, father, daughter, friends and husbands, most of Sharpe’s stories are about two people relating. The stories about parents and children capture the mutual distrust and curiosity between them without ever belaboring the point. His later books also focus on twos, though his minor characters don’t disappoint. He writes about women well and his observations about them through male characters seem effortlesslytrue. The stories he spins from commercials and their mini-narratives are twisted and true and much more entertaining than any Super Bowl budget buster.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Test your mettle! Win prizes!

All you writers and cartoonists take heed, the first contest in tryharderland has come.

The challenge: make a story from this spam header: "Brian LaBovick: I think it was an accumulation of things."

The prize: a box of books and other assorted goodies from me to you and your story published here.

The deadline: July 30th, 2007

The rules: you must be over 18, one entry per entrant, original work only (no "It was a dark and stormy Brian LaBovick"), one winner (unless I change my mind), you retain the rights but I get first publishing, no spam, no viruses, no epics please. I have the right to consider only entries I want to consider. Basically, I am the judge and the jury here and in this kangaroo court, awesomeness can trump all rules.

The gauntlet has been thrown, my friends.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Experimental Awesomeness

From the Forum for Urban Design:

"Together with Storefront for Art and Architecture, we're producing a splashy exhibition of European bike-share programs, running a free-bike-rental experiment, and hosting a design charette. The big question is whether New York can install a bike-share system, and if so, what it would look like. We'll be having New Yorkers stopping by Storefront July 7-11—taking free bikes for a whirl, participating in the charette—and there will be public presentations at 6 pm on July 9, 10 and 11. We'll be video-blogging in real-time, and it'll be a very festive, photogenic experience.

What is a bike-share?

Imagine walking to a sidewalk corner and finding a public bicycle. With a cellphone call or swipe of a card, you unlock it from its bike rack and ride it across town. Once at your destination, you steer to the closest bike rack and, with one more call or card swipe, return the bike to the public network. You pay less than $.50 for the trip, and the bike is once again available for the taking.

Why is this the time for New York to consider a bike-share network?
Last week the MTA admitted that subways are at or above capacity. The proposed solution: congestion pricing, which will raise funds for mass transit capital improvements. Of course, the most immediate effect of congestion pricing will be even more crowded subways. So what's needed is an alternative that is relatively cheap to finance and quick to build out. Bike-sharing is both of those things. It also happens to be the greenest transportation alternative around.

Can it happen here?

Four days after our project ends, Paris will open it's new system, which will include 10,000 bikes at 750 stations scattered around the city. That's more than twice as many bike stations as metro stops. Paris' program is the biggest yet, but it's just one of dozens currently running or in the works. Honestly, I'm not sure whether the idea can be scaled up to the size of New York City, but we've created this project in order to find out. Come join us!"

For more information go here.
Image from the Forum


Well I guess my departure from public health/green blogging didn't last long! Just so you know, the Executive Director of the Forum is also the founder and EIC of Topic. Obviously, his brain needs to be cloned.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Let me step away from my hippie blogging to let you know some wordy things:

Maureen F. McHugh (or MFM for all you long-timers and soon-to-be-disappointed googlers) has a blog. Austin Kleon links to her on his blog, because they are friends. MFM also knows Darby from the great site thumb drives and oven clocks. She was his teacher. I am so jealous. Also, the world is small.


Wonderful, scrabulous...


Yesterday at work I was being very distracting to my boss by rambling on about my favorite authors. We talked about Mary Roach and I said that Stiff made me more interested in nonfiction, so she gave me a copy of The Knife Man by Wendy Moore, a book about John Hunter, "father of modern surgery." I cracked it right after leaving work to get some ramen and at the bar, gazing out onto boiling pots of broth and noodles, I delved into the abscess-filled world of Georgian England. So far, so good.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My dad cares about you!

My dad sent me an email about poisonous veggie treats and wanted me to share it.

From the CDC:

"Do not eat any more of the Veggie Booty. Throw away the bag. If anyone in your family develops diarrheal illness with bloody diarrhea, fever, or symptoms lasting more than three days, he or she should consult a healthcare provider."

Samonella in your booty!

Be careful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

free time

For those of you who are broke, sick of souless interactions or just hate the man, The Really Really Free Market is this weekend. The first Freecycle FreeMeet was there on a cool, dewy October afternoon. I really enjoyed myself and even got a little owl lantern that I still have today.

I'd be out there with my scissors and comb but I will be out of town.

Here is more info:
It's gonna be a hot summer! Come cool off at the
Summer Really Really Free Market!

* Free Stuff! * Free Services! * Free Fun! *

Everyone's favorite open-air bazaar and community
celebration returns this summer with a vengeance! The
Summer Really Really Free Market is ready to roll, BUT
needs YOU to help make it the best one yet!



Swap goods (You know, the stuff that is too good to
throw away but you shouldn't keep), share skills, give
presents, eat food, hang out, dance, and have fun—all
for free!

Nothing will be for sale!

If you have a skill to share, stuff to give away, a
crazy art thing to do, music to play, an idea for
entertainment or a topic to discuss; email us soon and
let us know what you are planning! Otherwise, plan on
bringing your own table or blanket and coming and
going as you please, and if you want contact us, just

Show up to St. Mark's Church with something to share,
and let this be another step in our movement towards a
really, really free world. Bring friends and gifts,
leave your wallet at home.

Stuff to consider bringing, services you many consider

music (bands/musicians --acoustic), food
(vegan/vegetarian), clothes, books, movies (vhs/dvd),
recorded music (tapes, cds), computer software,
kitchen supplies, electronics, plants, instruments,
picture frames, office supplies, candles, knick
knacks, toys, jewelry, skillshares (hands-on stuff
like how-to change a bike tire, make sushi, make a
stencil, get social services, etc. etc.), and skills
(massage, haircuts, reiki, etc. etc.)

The more people who show up to have fun, the better it is. Don't let the dreadlocked and stinky bogart the scene!

be safe

Today is National HIV testing Day.
Here are the NY centers participating.

(via the amazing Women's Health News blog)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A million weekends in one

Last Saturday, in the midst of two family visits, I went to MoCCAfest.
I immediately looked for the PARTYKA table to see what was up with Sara and her crew, but since the map of the vendors required more attention than I could give, I just wandered around being tantalized until B showed up and said he had seen the trouble I was looking for.

Here's my haul:

I did well at the sparkplug comicbooks table and Dylan Williams was nice enough to chat for awhile, make recommendations and throw a book for reviewing my way. It looks like they are putting out a bunch of quality stuff, (including Austin English's new book Windy Corners).

I also got this cool little painting by Lucy Knisley called "SUPER TALL BIKE !":

Hope Larson was keeping a watchful eye on her, but Lucy did cut me and B a deal on the painting and was an all-around cool lady. Hope was there selling her own books and the amazing House of Sugar.

There were two floors of vendors and so much good stuff that I ended up spending all my money before I really got a chance to see everything. One thing I love about this fest is that it is not a comicon; there are no jerks in costume, no bikini-clad sexrobots and no attitude. There are however loads of hot folks all heady with overstimuli. The only thing missing is food.

I wanted to buy a painting or large prints, but nothing caught my eye fast enough. Next time... sigh.

B and his sister also got lost and broke with stuff from Squidfire and Top Shelf and Paping.

On the way to Atlas Cafe on Second Ave. for vegan soft serve (which they were out of), an unusually generous Houston St. junk seller gave me this cd for free:

The music looks bad, but I have a weakness for Nara's angry girls.

Because my mom and aunt came to town I could not attend the second day and spend even more money than I have. I am trying to look at that like it is a good thing even though I know I missed hungover cartoonist shenanigans and desperate giveaways. Years of my own desperation has given me a keen sense of smell for it...

I wish I had had more time to meet people, get some stuff signed and see other acquaintances that were lurking about. Write a letter, kids, MoCCAfest needs to be twice a year.

That night B's band had a show and we were all wrecked for my femrelations' visit the next day. Only I accompanied them to the Folk Art Museum, which I always love. It is so near to MOMA that I think people forget about it. The space is great and the exhibits are usually interesting. I highly recommend it for New Yorkers especially; I mean, how many times can you drag yourself through the Met after everyone has visited?

Monday, June 18, 2007


a most excellent blog is going the way of all poor parent company decisions and to that I say triple F minus.

RIP Table of Malcontents.

image from ToC

MOCCAfest is this weekend

This weekend is MoCCAfest. This year the panels are not super interesting (to me anyway), but all of our comics friends will be there, right?

Anyway the info is rather unhelpfully displayed here.

Maybe I will see you there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In between the gigantor after-work naps I have been taking and not writing, I have been bopping around the internets trying to get smarter. I found many a new site, but this one made me grope for the publish button:

Austin Kleon['s awesome blog about comics, writing and love]

Yet another smart person is moving to Austin. Why haven't I done that yet?