Tuesday, September 30, 2008


1) I went to public school in Philadelphia.
2) Even at my "good" public schools, supplies were scarce.
3) I can't imagine what it was like elsewhere.
4) People like Miss Alison (hello, lady) shouldn't have to spend a significant portion of their already shitty salary making a classroom hospitable for kids.
5) Science has been the delight of my recent years and taught me to be inquisitive about, surprised by and respectful of this mysterious world, even during awful and painful times.
6) Kids should get the chance to feel that too, if even they aren't lucky enough to go to a "good" school.
7) I want to give something to my hometown, because, hey, I turned out ok.

are the projects I am sponsoring through DonorsChoose. You tryharderlanders have been so generous with your time, praise, thoughts and links. If you could extend that to your wallets, I would be ever so grateful.

Edited to Add: Please leave a comment here if you donate!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A dinner for 28

1) sangria with oranges, grapes and apples
2) Moxie
3) Bacon-wrapped prunes
4) Robbiola, goat gouda and tallegio
5) Bread, bread, bread
6) Bratwurst
7) Grilled cauliflower
8) Red beets, yellow beets
9) Potatoes n’ garlic
10) Grilled fennel
11) Grilled onion
12) Grilled mushrooms
13) Cherry pie
14) Fruit
15) Delicious sleep

Maybe we'll see you next year?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Moody Fruit

From the CSA:

Gift fruit:

Interview: Alex Kim

Alex Kim is a Xeric award-winning cartoonist and an all around good guy. He submitted to my email questions with grace and fleet typing fingers.

C: How old are you?
A: 29

C: Where are you from?
A: I grew up around New York and New Jersey. Right now I'm living in Brooklyn, NY.

C: What's your first memory of comics? How did the form strike you?
A: The first time I can really remember being totally comics was when I was in the 7th or 8th grade (I think). My friend and I discovered Jim Lee's new X-Men at the local bodega (which had a comics rack). I thought it was the most awesome thing I had ever seen. Alternate covers! Cyclops! Wolverine! Omega Red! Rogue! Though my investment in that run was relatively short lived. I think my mom couldn't give me a ride to my friends house for a couple of weeks and I missed an issue. I guess I gave up after that.

C: Did you draw comics when you were a kid?
A: I didn't. I drew a lot, but not comics. I may or may not have drawn some super heroes but there was never any story involved.

C: You tackle a superhero story of sorts in The Bird and the Bear. What about the genre did you think worked well for a story of a worn-out relationship?
A: I thought it would be interesting to contrast the closeness, communication, dependence, intensity (and all that other good stuff) needed in a superhero duo with how much of that can be lost in a worn-out, dying relationship. I find it interesting how people can be on completely differently ends of the emotional scale with each other depending on what they're doing, especially when they're in a relationship. It was all about the immensity of emotion people can feel when together and I thought somehow that being in a life/death situation would be a good match. That and the whole 'team' idea in fighting crime seemed similar to being a 'team' in living life together. I also wanted to draw some fight scenes.

C: Wall City also features a freezer-burnt hull of a romance. What about that state of affairs attracts you?
A: I'm not sure so much that I'm attracted to it (though I guess I am... in fact, you're right, I am). I think it might be more that I feel like it's a very painful experience to go through and that there's a lot of emotional... I don't know... emotional 'ore' that can be 'mined'. There's just a lot there and a lot of stories to tell about it. It also interests me to see what characters will do when they're pushed to their emotional / psychological limits - some people freak out, some cave in, some shut off and I bet almost everyone has done all of those things.

C: The first thing I ever read by you was a split mini with Chuck McBuck called Hey, Guy. It was a great way to be introduced to each of your writing skills and art, since, as I remember, you swapped duties. I imagine that kind of experiment and interest in your peers' work is encouraged at the school you just graduated from. Am I right? What was the best and worst thing about going to CCS?
A: Totally encouraged. One of our assignments the first year in James Sturm's class was to do that almost that exact thing. The only thing difference being the person who received your script wasn't the person who gave you their's. It was a classwide swap and a lot of fun. Some really fantastic comics came out of it. Really fantastic stuff. Also, an interest in classmates' work was encouraged and came very easily. It was a rare opportunity to be in an environment where comics could be talked about seriously and critiqued/deconstucted. I mean, seriously, it's not something you can find just anywhere. There's such an extraordinary sense of community at the school. I think that might be the best thing about CCS - the people, the community - from the students to the faculty to the staff. It really was an amazing place and an amazing two years and I can't say enough about it. I made some life long friends with some of the most inspiring people whose work I admire a lot and who I admire great deal as people in general. The worst thing about it would be the lack of sunlight. It's great to be able to draw all day (really - so great), but it's hard to step outside into the bitter, bitter cold at 4PM and see the sun going down.

C: Hey, Guy is also where I first saw the rumply-sweatshirt style that you use in Wall City. How did you develop that? Was it a conscious effort to visually separate yourself from your classmates?
A: Well, one of the critiques I received (and took to heart) for The Bird and The Bear was that the human characters weren't interesting enough to look at (this was after it was done and I agree - I have grand plans to redraw and maybe expand the whole damn thing). The thing I worked on right after was album art for a friend's band, which I think I still like but was never printed, where I tried to make the people look more interesting by making their clothes textured... and they were underwater so I thought it made sense. From there it just sort of took off and I found myself drawing characters like that in Medusa, a poetry comic with poet (and CCS office whiz and all around lovely person) Jess Abston and with Mr. Mcbuck (classmate and studio mate (who, along with our other classmate Sean Ford, had to listen to me talk more than any person should ever have to our last year - they have the patience of a saints, I swear... or maybe they just got really good at tuning me out)) in Hey Guy.

Once I started drawing Wall City, I sort of couldn't help myself. I also thought it made sense as a sign of all the characters', like, inner struggle. I'm not sure it'll continue, and even though I have my own personal issues with it, I still like it in Wall City. So, errr, no, it wasn't really a conscious effort to visually separate myself from others, but a mostly misguided effort to make my characters more interesting to look at that I ended up liking maybe more than I should have - but hey, what the heck, you only live once. I got into it and went with it and didn't look back until after it was finished.

Am I rambling? Are these answers too long? I sometimes tend to ramble.

C: Ha, ha. Don't worry! The thing about a book blog is that my readers have surprisingly long attention spans.
A: Thank GOD for book blogs. Seriously.

C: All the folks in your work look white. Are they?
A: Ha! Um, well, no. They're not. I really try and draw people as simply as possible (their clothes being another story) and try to stay away from drawing a particular ethnicity. I'd like to think people are more easily able to engage the characters if they can decide things like that for themselves.

It's funny, for a while I thought I would color all of Wall City. I only got half way before I decided not too - but while coloring I would make all the characters a different shade of blue. Their face, hands, clothes, all the same color. I like to do this, I like to color characters with a non-skin tone. And if I were really pushed I would say that, since I like to (and since it's unavoidable) put a little of myself in all my characters, that, if anything, they're all a little of me... and I'm not white. But, again, I want people to decide that for themselves.

C: In an earlier email, you told me that you are having a hard time finding time to draw. What's your day job? How are you trying to work drawing in?
A: I work at an architecture firm... I'm not registered or anything, so I can't legally call myself an architect. I think I'm called an architectural designer. But the short answer is I'm an architect. That's what I studied in undergrad and what I worked in for several years before heading off to CCS. I love architecture and think it's a very meaningful and important profession and endeavor... but working and trying to draw on my free time is something I have a very difficult time with... I haven't found a balance yet. I try and draw after work and on the weekends, but that hasn't been going all to well. I believe, though, that, with the end of summer, I'll be able to draw much more. Also, there was that period after school where I was just trying to deal with moving back to New York and working full time again. It was a tremendous shock to go from CCS, where I was able to draw everyday, to being a working stiff. It's getting better and I've been much more motivated to get back to comics. I'm surprisingly optimistic about this. Or maybe I'm in denial. But I'm okay with that.

C: Do you think your work in architecture affects your comics at all?
A: I think it does. I guess the most visible way is how I'm comfortable perceiving (and so drawing) space. A lot of the angled overhead shots I like to draw are from architecture. Also, less visibly, the way I think of a comics page comes from it. It's sort of hard to explain, but the space / depth / composition of how I like to draw (and maybe I should say how I would like to draw) has to do with architecture. It's a hard thing to get away from, not that I would really want to... I think I'll always, in one way or another, think of myself as an architect over anything else. Going to school for it and working in it has just ingrained certain things in my mind that will always be there. I know that's pretty vague - you should know that it's not entirely clear for me either. It's something that I'm still trying to figure out and understand.

C: What are you working on now? What would you like to be working on?
A: Well, I was awarded the Xeric grant (THANK YOU XERIC FOUNDATION!) for Wall City this past summer so have been working on getting that together for printing. Or I just finished getting it together this week and sent it off to the printer. The next big thing I want to work on is a story about addiction... not so much being addicted to substances... but about being addicted to people and having to realize what we want from certain people isn't what we're going to get... and about giving that up. I know that's not very clear and I know it sounds like it can be really bad, but I'm excited about it. It's also not very clear cause I'm still writing it and it's changing as I go. I don't know how long it'll be - I had wanted to work on something smaller, like 8 pages, after Wall City, but this story keeps growing. I have to stop adding things and just really get to the important stuff. And I think the main characters are going to be wearing ponchos. I like ponchos.

I also have the opportunity to work on a poster for a craft fair in Brooklyn this winter. I love silk screening posters but haven't had a chance to do one in a while so am totally excited about this. If it goes well, I'd like to try and see if I can find more poster work. Who knows what will happen, though. Not with the poster, but with after that.

C: What would be your perfect project?
A: Oh man, that's a tough one. I don't know. I'm excited about that next story I want to work on... and being excited counts for a lot, but I don't know if that's the perfect project. I don't know if I could choose just one, Carrie! How do I choose?

Okay, well I don't know if this would be perfect, but there is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. I'd love to work on an entire comic and work with big (and I don't mean to say unsubtle... subtle is big) visual aspects of poster design and with the narrative time aspects of comics and silkscreen the entire damn thing. I mean, I would LOVE that. Not being able to print anything is really getting to me. I need to find a way to work on it. Anyhow, I keep toying with this idea, but I don't know if I've come up with the right story yet. Hopefully it'll happen someday. One day.

C: And, finally, is there anyone you want to give a shout out to?
A: I owe a lot to a lot of people. I tend to run my mouth sometimes about nothing and, to my surprise, there are friends out there who are totally willing to listen. I appreciate that a lot. So: THANKS Y'ALL. You know who you are. Also, I need to give a huge thank you to mama (MAMA!) for not getting me the oven mitts. I would have been disappointed come Christmas time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brooklyn Book Fest '08

At the fest I met some people I know only from the internets. Now they know that my skin glistens pink like a piglet on a spit, my hand shake is wet and desultory and that I may be a little slow. Thanks 90% humidity! Even SEC, my stalwart companion on this excursion, who looked unaffected by the heat, had to go home and lie down after a few hours.

As you can see from above, I didn't get much. The three copies of Mothers & Other Monsters are parts of an evil plan, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories was given a thumbs up from Joel, a man who knows his sci-fi stuff, the Monstrosities booklet caught my eye, Ugly Duckling Presse gets me all hot with their design but I am afraid of poetry and the Melville House novellas were irresistible. Look at those paint chip colors! Not pictured are an issue of One Story by Katherine Karlin, a trial subscription to the same and a tote bag from Word books. It was the sturdiest tote for the price, my friends. Also, after sweatily bugging Goodloe Byron for a good hour, I picked up a copy of the new edition of his free book The Abstract.

The best of the evening was after the fest--an Austrian meet and great complete with comics talk, delicious food and cool folk courtesy of looka and eva. Thanks guys!
If you are in need of a little non-fiction magic, please check out grrlscientist's series on visiting Charles Darwin's house. The photographs are beautiful. I wish I had a greenhouse appended to the back of my apartment.

above:A bumblebee, Bombus spp., on a flower in the gardens behind Darwin's Down House, near Bromley, England. Image: GrrlScientist 31 August 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008


Yesterday, on my short but emotionally stultifying walk home from work I saw two teenage girls walking and reading real novels. I smiled at them and they were properly dismissive.

I just finished a great book. I hope to be writing about it for somewhere else. I'll give you a clue: It is a novel by a Canadian author about Cambodia by one of my favorite publishers.


Around the same time I started the first volume of the Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) diaries. After the many, many introductory notes, most of which I actually read, Pepys journal begins with an account of his wife's period going missing for several weeks, Royal Navy news and the perplexing complaint of a nose swollen by the cold. He kept the diaries for 9 years.

B gave me the first three volumes of the newest translation (and supposedly best) for my birthday last year. I am glad I finally started it.

I became interested in the diaries after reading the first book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, Quicksilver. In the novel Pepys is a kindly and compelling character, already established as a man of knowledge by the time the main character, Daniel Waterhouse, encounters him. He also eventually cuts Waterhouse's nuts open. Because he was a prolific writer, and, by all accounts a man who liked to have a good time, I am hoping that the diaries include some gossip about other (still existing) Royal Society, its members (such as Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Issac Newton, Christopher Wren, etc.) and their wacky experiments. So far, it is mostly about the Navy.

Have you seen the Thunder Lodge Guestbook? It's a must-read for those stuck at home.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Something I didn't mention about my last trip to Rocketship:

They had one copy of Rebecca Kraatz's excellent collection of strips House of Sugar. I wrote about it here, but the actual review has gone the way of many start-up web magazines. You can read some of it here for free, but if you do buy the Rocketship copy, send me a picture!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Morning Glory

I feel blurry, but pretty good.

The garden isn't too glorious right now. A summer full of work and traveling can do that.

Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross

On a recent trip to Rocketship I looked over the self-published shelf and saw many of the same books I saw during Lauren Weinstein’s reading. I don’t know if the ‘ship isn’t taking consignments or if the screen n staple crowd is taking the summer off but the selection tried the got-to-see-something-new (and buy) stance I have when I enter that store. Boo.

Sooooooo, I decided to check out the graphic novels. On the table a bunch of new titles I was interested in got a page-through (like Eddie Campbell’s Monsieur Leotard and Alex Robinson’s Too Cool to be Forgotten). Bill checked out Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary while J & L enjoyed the Jason spinner rack. Being indecisive often causes me to end up making mediocre choices. Choosing books by their covers, as it were.

And yes, Escape from "Special" has a great cover. There is something sad and beautiful about the curled posture of the doodling girl and the muted colors add to the feeling that this is a picture of a memory. The back cover blurbs describe a story that I really wanted to be good: a smart, weird girl, comics, horror movies and overcoming. The description of the art is this: “Drawn in a muted full-color palette, Lasko-Gross’s art, with its detailed backgrounds and expressive, clean-line character drawing, exquisitely conveys the volatile mix of…” I was thinking of pages that looked like the cover and when I flipped through all I saw was sepia-tone. Instead of the feeling of being gently nudged through time, I felt like I was trapped in a muddy pit with the main character Melissa. That feeling was only reinforced by the fact that Melissa looks very, very much the same throughout the book even as she ages, and yet a bit different each time she appears.

Melissa’s story is told through short anecdotes, many of which involve Melissa being persecuted by clues and/or mean adults for being herself—that is, truthful, precocious and weird in a cool little-kid way. She switches schools a lot and when she does finally make some friends, her idea of fun, like a game involving licking another girl’s tongue to guess what they ate that day or making her own horror movie charmingly called “Mommy Killed Daddy”, tends to end them. Her parents’ are portrayed as well meaning but flaky to the point of idiocy. No single event really stood out, even though Lasko-Gross includes some heavy stuff (the memory of her mother’s serious illness, her outrage at being sent to a therapist by her parents when she knows her mother was raped by a therapist, her middle school suicidal thoughts). Even Melissa, who is in every story, doesn’t feel like a real person by the end because the episodes of humiliation and epiphany are too numerous to have impact. Having gone through many of the same things as a preteen, this book should have been getting me where the getting is good. Fantagraphics editors, where are you?

Towards the end of the book a comic called “Cartoonists. How Do They Do it?” offers glimpse into Lasko-Gross’s development as a cartoonist. Her middle school self is in awe of how the professionals make the characters look exactly the same each week and control their stories for maximum effect. While her big Fantagraphics release should have been her entrance as a professional, it seems Lasko-Gross should still be asking herself the questions posed by her semi-autobiographical younger self. I hope she works it out before her next release, A Mess of Everything, which, despite the disappointment I felt about Escape from “Special,” I am looking forward to.