Monday, August 29, 2016

Will Eisner: First Comics

Comic book legend Will Eisner [in wikipedia] on the history of comics:
"Let me start by telling you how it was in the beginning. In the beginning, God made comics, and we drew on the walls of caves trying to tell everybody how we captured a mastodon that afternoon."
--Keynote Address, Will Eisner Symposium, 2004
image ^ National Geographic 6/2011 

WAR joins mastodon, slavery, torture, etc in editorial cartoon by Winsor McCay, "Oblivion's Cave—Step Right In, Please", March 19, 1922:
 Oh, if only....

Starsky & Hutch Knitwear

--photomanipulation by me. Thanks to Mortmere for posting the original screencap of their sweaters.

I don't have Photoshop so my edits are always choppy; in this case it looks rather of-the-times... Man Talk was a 1970s knitting patterns magazine:

First Day of School

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes,
Kenyon College Commencement, May 20, 1990 

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive.
Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake.
A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

-Bill Watterson

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clear My Desktop Day: Ferns

I seem to be on a roll this morning, posting from my "to post" folder.
I did a "Photograph Nature for 7 Days" thing that was going round on FB earlier this summer. These are ferns held up to the sun. (The pink is my fingers.)

My grandfather, Kentucky 1912

far right: Lytton Somer Davis (b. 1900), my mother's father
with--left to right-- his parents, Martha and James, and sisters Pearl and Bertha [missing Maude], on their Kentucky farm, 1912

Corita Kent Rules

Printmaker Corita Kent (Sister Mary Corita until 1968) ran the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College. These---bottom---are her art rules: 

2015 exhibition and info about Kent: Someday Is Now.

We're the Storyteller Planet

Another Tumblr post where someone enthusiastically shares their discovery of a Very Cool Thing:

Clear My Desktop Day: Avocado Green

I'd written in my mini-review of The Nice Guys that Starsky & Hutch didn't use 70s design and sets to advertise that it was set in the 1970s. 
A friend just sent me this image that proves me wrong (at least sometimes): 
Hutch is reading a Gideon Bible in a motel room, and the drapes match the bedspread, and the shirt, chair, and plate on bed are all shades of avocado green.

Starsky/Hutch: Come a Little Bit Closer

Starsky and Hutch often (like, all the time) gaze at each other as if they're about to kiss. I photo-edited out the air between them in some scenes--this is one of my most successful S/Hmushes.


Just a little bit closer:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shakespeare wrote fanfic

 Tweet: Q. Can you see the influence of other writers, besides Marlowe, in Shakespeare's work; perhaps formative early reading?

Well, we knew this, eh? but it was neat to see the British Library's answer

The link in the tweet is to
The True Chronicle History of King Leir was performed during the 1590s by the Queen’s and Sussex’s Men at the Rose Theatre. It is one of the most direct sources for Shakespeare’s play…"
The True Chronicle History of King Leir was performed during the 1590s by the Queen’s and Sussex’s Men at the Rose Theatre. It is one of the most direct sources for Shakespeare’s play, although it has some variations - See more at:
The True Chronicle History of King Leir was performed during the 1590s by the Queen’s and Sussex’s Men at the Rose Theatre. It is one of the most direct sources for Shakespeare’s play, although it has some variations, - See more at:
The True Chronicle History of King Leir was performed during the 1590s by the Queen’s and Sussex’s Men at the Rose Theatre. It is one of the most direct sources for Shakespeare’s play, although it has some variations, - See more at:

More Mattresses

1976: Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), Taxi Driver

I can't find a photo of Rocky's crummy bed, but he does have a mattress leaning against his wall (for why?).
1976: Talia Shire & Sylvester Stallone, Rocky

It was easy to think of scenes of men in crummy beds in the '70s--does every era have these? 
I don't think so.
By 1998, men in bed looked like this:
From You've Got Mail ^
I assume Tom Hanks' Clinton-era character has a house cleaner
He's emailing Meg Ryan's character to advise her to "go to the mattresses"--a quote from The Godfather.
And she replies *:

These two are so good together, I watched the movie again years later, hoping it wasn't as bad as I remembered. 
But nope: what he does--running her indie bookstore out of business and then lying and lying and lying--(and its political message: learn to forgive & love Walmart... or, hm... Bill Clinton?) is just too awful.  

I recently saw--but, darn, can't find again--a revised ending for You've Got Mail in which Meg Ryan's character tells Tom Hanks to fuck off. 
(And he says, "Fair enough.) 
* going to the mattresses from Urban Dictionary:
Prepare for a battle or adopt a warlike stance.

In times of war or siege, Italian families would vacate their homes and rent apartments in safer areas. In order to protect themselves they would hire soldiers to sleep on the floor in shifts.

Ordinarily we would want to verify such stories before publishing them here as part of a phrase derivation. In this case though it isn't really important. The phrase wasn't well known outside of the USA and Italy prior to the Godfather movies. It was used there, and later in The Sopranos television series, to mean 'preparing for battle'. Whether or not the stories that originated it are true doesn't alter the fact that the screenwriters of those films used them in that context.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Men in Bed in the 1970s (not what it sounds like)

Gee, it was a crummy era.

1. 1972: Stacy Keach, opening scene of Fat City (dir. John Huston)

2. 1975: Hutch (David Soul), "The Fix" episode of Starsky & Hutch

3. Martin Sheen, [filming of] opening scene of Apocalypse Now(1979)

Three Documentaries

Three documentary films I watched last week

1. The Thin Blue Line (1988, Directed by Errol Morris, USA)

For people (like me) who can't stomach watching the many episodes of Netflix's documentary about the miscarriage of justice, Making a Murderer, this famous 102-minute doc covers the same ground:
a powerless shmuck is the fall guy for a murder he didn't commit, set up by a police force and justice system out for blood, not to mention bad luck in companions.

I usually dislike reenactments in documentaries [fakey presentations---ugh], so I was sorry to see Morris uses them. 
But after a while you realize he isn't creating "factual" reenactments, these are more like Rashomon: he shows the murder scene [not gory at all] over and over from different views, but never clearly.
However, Morris is not making a point about memory and perception---he's saying, people are lying.

The Criterion DVD includes a follow-up interview with Morris--it's nice that the innocent man got released because of his film, but you can't put Humpty Dumpty together again.

2. The War Room (1993, dir. D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, USA)

Filmed in the "fly on the wall" documentary style, with no explanations or titles--that's my favorite, but it gets harder to decipher the older the doc gets. For people don't remember the times (or who weren't even born yet), I'd recommend watching the 2008 follow-up doc on the Criterion DVD first.  
In 1993 we didn't need to be told who these guys were:
George Stephanopolous and James Carville, ^ leaders of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign staff

An unintentional story as interesting as the political one emerges: the changes in technology. The campaign staff is still jotting stuff down with pens on paper and tethered to phones with cords.

3. Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (2016,  dir. Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, USA)

I grew up watching Norman Lear-produced TV shows All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude etc. Since watching Starsky & Hutch this year, I've become interested in reviewing the 1970s and also interested in television history. I was excited to see this documentary.

It was a disappointment. 
It's a tribute--almost fawning--more than an investigation. The sort of thing they show at Lifetime Awards shows. 
Lear's life (criminal dad, feminist wife) is overemphasized---it doesn't open up his work much, and the man's all about his work.

The directors use a boy to create winsome reenactments. Lear says he never lost touch with the boy inside him, so this boy appears throughout wearing Lear's trademark hat. Schmaltzy, and what a waste of film time--I'd have preferred more about the political/social climate or how TV was made.

What did interest me:
The man's incredible energy. More and more I see what a crucial player that is. Lear was running five TV shows at once. (Not surprisingly, his marriage fell apart.)

His openness. Three members of the Black Panthers showed up in his office to protest that Good Times was garbage.  (Speaking of Stepin Fetchit, remember JJ's "DY-NO-MITE?" cringe)
And Lear said, "Let's talk." 

Star of All in the Family Caroll O'Connor's reply to talk-show host Dick Cavett calling O'Connor's character Archie Bunker a "lovable bigot."
OConnor says he doesn't know about "lovable"--you may laugh at and enjoy watching him, but he's an unhappy man whose life has been so restricted, he's warped. 

As a teenager, I had totally missed that. (This reminds me of what it's like to be a teenager: unforgiving of flaws. Or, I was, anyway.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What I'm Reading

On the floor ^ next to my bed:

Why I Write, George Orwell
I barely relate to Orwell at all, but I've always relished this bit:
Writers, he says, are driven by ego... "And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane."

I'm not sure I'd say "efface your personality", but... "don't use yourself as the measure of all things, yes.

Four Seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr 
US writer Doerr's memoir of living in Rome with his wife and their twin babies.

Caped Crusader: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture 
---already mentioned this--reading it slowly.

The Poe Shadow 
Picked up from a Little Free Library box, but why do I bother with mysteries? I never like them.  (There must be exceptions, but I can't think of them at the moment.)

Hillsider: Snapshots of a Curious Political Journey (2015)
Fun autobiography in blog-like style (photos & short essays) by Don Ness, who became mayor of Duluth, MN, when he was 40. I bought this from Amazon because of my interest in Duluth.

City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Star Trek Teleplay by Harlan Ellison, in comic book form,  pub. IDW, 2015.
To save the future he knows, Kirk travels back in time to Depression era USA, where he falls in love with a woman who is a pivotal figure in the stream of time.

Ellison's original script envisions the problems of love & time travel slightly differently than the TV version, which became one of Star Trek's top-ranked episodes. Both are good and go well together.

The Best of Trek: From The Magazine for Star Trek Fans
Letters and essays by fans---I love this stuff!

This letter pre-dates Star Trek---it's from sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories (I don't konw the date)--but it represents a kind of fan---the "mathy" kind of fan, as opposed to the "myth-y" kind:
This is a fandom turning point: By publishing the letter-writers' addresses, publisher Hugo Gernsback in 1926 sparked the first mass-media communications between fans (as opposed to fan clubs that met in person). 

Stitched Postcards

I machine-stitched fabric collage--squirrel & cat from old circus curtains--- onto pre-stamped blank postcards--the kind you can buy from the PO. 
With proper postage, the PO will deliver almost any harmless thing--at least they used to... Years ago, a friend stuck stamps on a hard-shell squash, and it arrived just fine.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sewing Saturday

 On Camino in 2011, Marz picked a T-shirt out of a pile of left-behind clothes at an albergue, and for the rest of the trip, she'd recite its weird text: 
"18.5 New Orleans the seventies design revival: be aware of it... for anyone... outdated styles and time… timeless design by Mr. Wings" 

She was wearing the T-shirt in the Madrid airport when she opened a can of tuna fish that exploded, staining her T-shirt with olive oil.  I saved it though, and five years later, today--a rainy Saturday--I finally recycled it: 
I cut out the text and sewed it onto a shoulder bag, with the "Angelo Litrico" neck tag too.
I looked it up:
Angelo Litrico was a Sicilian fashion designer who hit it big when his suit he wore to an opera in Rome was noticed by actor Rossano Brazzi (David Lean's Summertime).

Litrico [below, 1957] went on to make suits for Krushchev and Kennedy.

"The year 1957 marked the first Italian fashion show to visit the Soviet Union and the 28-year-old Litrico took along a camel's hair overcoat he had made as a present for Khrushchev, working from photographs of the Soviet leader.

"Khrushchev liked the coat and sent his measurements and his first order through the Soviet Embassy in Rome…" 

 And get this:
"The shoe that Khrushchev banged on the table at the U.N. General Assembly in 1960 also came from Litrico."

Litrico died in 1986--his nephews carry on the brand name. They make T-shirts that say things like "mash up of attitude".

I added some trim along the bottom edge too.

Starsky & Hutch Snapchat

Friday, August 19, 2016

working writing timing

Yay! That idea of "just write for half-an-hour" got me to open my ms folder yesterday, and I wrote well all afternoon. 
I knew I probably wouldn't stop at half-an-hour, but it helps me get started if I give myself permission to stop if I want.
Starting is the hurdle.

Yay! again: Today the publisher sent me the final contract to sign.
Earlier this week, after I'd thought we agreed on all points, there'd been a snag.

I thought about just accepting it, to avoid any further unpleasantness, but decided to act as if it could be easily resolved.

I wrote saying, "Hey, let's change X to Y."

They wrote back, "OK, no problem."

Wow. That was easy.

I've had more conflict than usual for me in the last couple years, and I think it's because I've spoken up about things I don't like rather than slinking away.
And because I've spent most of my life not speaking up, it's become clear I'm not very good at it.

It's like slapstick: timing and position is crucial. Get it wrong and either you don't connect or you hit too hard.
It takes practice, and training would've been nice. ("Just be nice" doesn't cut it.)

When I've spoken up, mostly I've waited too long, and then I've hit too hard. 
Like at the Thrift Store---by the time I took action, I was pretty irretrievably pissed off, and I actually yelled at the manager for being a jerk. 
I'm ashamed of that, acting like my father.
If someone's making you that angry (and I do think the manager was a jerk), walk away. 

But I was loaded for bear--I didn't want to walk away.

The store and I'd have parted company anyway, I expect, but if I'd spoken up earlier, I'd not have ripped out of there in a rage.

Ah well. 

I've gotten a little better at speaking up in good time. At any rate, this last contract negotiation went well. I'm putting that in my data bank for future reference.

Yay for me!

Toys in Relationships

This morning, Celeste has taken over the Gorn's blue "action base" (so named on the box). 
They look amiable, so I expect it was agreed upon. It certainly suits her:

There are happy relationships among the toys.

The Big Eyes: Fred Meyer (rhino), Mesopotamian Mouse, Julia (seal), and Relative of Red Bear (Christmas ornament)
Below: Spock (rhino) and Ganesh:
But some do not take to each other. 
Snorkmaiden Moomin and Pikachu need to be relocated.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Scientifiction" Badge

Hugo Gernsback, who started publishing Amazing Stories in 1926, proposed the name "scientifiction" for the writing that we call science fiction, or sci-fi. 
This Sept. 1928 issue didn't sell well (the magazine mostly had action scenes on the cover), but I wish I had a wearable badge of the ink pen and compass with its gears of Fact and Theory, and Mars and the moon in the background.

Detectorists and the Wire: "What profit hath a man from all his labor?"

I'm rewatching two of my favorite TV shows, Detectorists and the Wire:
a mild British comedy about two guys who detect for metal in golden Saxon fields, and a harsh US drama about the drug war in grimy, inner-city Baltimore.

I don't like most TV, so why do I love these two?
They seem very different, but I was thinking they have a lot in common.

Trying to pick out some similarities, this morning [no spoilers]:

1. Both shows are about listening, about paying close attention, to uncover hidden things. 
The detectorists listen for beeps that signal they've hit metal, the cops listen to the wire tap on drug dealers, and the dealers listen to the street.
We, the viewers, are rewarded for patient attention too.

2. Related--both shows are …chewy. Chewy is good.
They move slowly--hidden things don't come to light quickly. On second viewing, you see things differently. 

3.  And the characters are complicated. The people in the Wire are under a lot more pressure, naturally, and there are a lot more characters, but the two hobbyists, too, have many working parts.

4. They're about place--layers of lives, cycles of time in one place. 
5. Both shows believe goodness is possible, but life's not fair. 
(Big difference: in comedy, goodness sometimes pays off.)

6. Huh. I guess both shows remind me of Ecclesiastes [link to 21st cent. KJV], with all its contradictions, which can be comforting and disturbing, bitter and liberating

Basically, we don't know squat, life's not in our control, and it's soon over. [The food is terrible… and the portions are so small.]
But since we're here, we may as well play the game.

"… The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no one knows whether it will be love or hatred; all that is before them."

The New Toy

I woke up this morning to see the Gorn (the lizard captain I got at the Star Trek con) has moved closer to Celestine Babar. The toys seem to form relationships among themselves independent of me--certain ones gravitate toward others... Who knows?

Isn't it frustrating when you can't read book titles in a picture?
I've already mentioned all these--they're just serving to hold the rat lamp up--PL Travers short stories, Lolita, an Oliver Sacks, and a novel about Lewis and Clark.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Half an Hour of Agency

The Half-an-Hour Plan

"Procrastination, my old friend,
You've come to talk to me again..."

[comic from invisible bread]

Yesterday I asked a friend how she wrote her dissertation.

I was expecting something hard core, like she went and stayed in a monastery without Internet for 2 months. (I know someone who did this.)
But I got the most wonderful useful answer. She said,
"I wrote for half an hour at a time."

If I'd written half an hour/day since June, I'd have 39 hours of writing done, which is a lot more than I have...

I've been doing lots and lots of reading, note-taking, talking, and thinking, which I need to do, of course, and love doing,
but very little actual writing.
That's the part I do not love.

I love e-mailing, blogging (hi, there!), and other kinds of informal, personal writing, but writing for work, it's like there's a vulture on my shoulder breathing dead mice into my soul....

My fandom ms is due in 151 days (1-15-17).

Half an hour a day = 75.5 hours.
That'd take me a long way toward finishing [I mean 75 hours of actual writing, not counting in editing, etc.,], since I already have my notes in order. 
I think I'll try that.

The Pleasure of Agency

I don't need any more information, but I've got a few more fan interviews I want to do---they are so fun, and provide the best quotes. 

This morning I interviewed N., one of the baristas here at the coffee shop where I spend a lot of time. 
N's a video gamer--a kind and thoughtful guy who plays a lot of FPS games [first-person shooters, where you, the player, hold the gun]. 

I asked him about violence in games--I'm not sure what to make of it, but I have to say something about it, and I want to hear it from a gamer, not an outsider.

He said he wasn't so naive as to dismiss it, but he said,
 "I used to swim competitively, and I experienced the same emotions in a race that I feel playing video games--anger or frustration or elation. You feel it for a few minutes, and then you move on."

That nonviolent sports analogy is super useful. 

Have you seen the meme of Angry Michael Phelps Face? He's said he was "in my own zone", not intentionally giving a competitor a dirty look.
Violence is fun--for  instance, it's fun to pop bubble wrap!

I think it's because we enjoy the feeling of agency---being the cause in "cause and effect", and violence is one of the fastest effects.

Obviously this can be a big problem for the humans. 
What then should we do?


Anyway, I'm especially looking to talk to people who are makers in their fandoms--that is, they create stuff in or about the thing they love. 
I'm finding a lot of people made more stuff when they were teenagers and had the time and friends up close.
N., for instance, doesn't do this anymore but he used to make games on RPG Maker.

RPG = role playing game. Definitions vary. These are its roots:

I want to sign up for a RPG Maker free trial (otherwise it's $80)--you don't have to know how to code, it walks you through game building...

I did start a JavaScript tutorial at Code Academy (free!), but I quickly realized it's like learning any other foreign language:
you have to practice & memorize, and I'm not motivated enough to bother.  

Still, it's cool to be acquainted with some basics---just like it's fun to learn the verb for "to be" in another language.

(JavaScript, per Wikipedia is, "alongside HTML and CSS, one of the three core technologies of World Wide Web content production.")

Yes, so I spent all morning on this-and-that, and now I am going to work for half an hour on my ms!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Play is the mother of invention.

Yesterday at the Star Trek con, I asked some fans how they made their costumes.
"Shana" (below, from the episode "Gamesters of Triskelion") made the discs on her collar by cutting up flip-flops:


"Mara" (below, with Kang, from "Day of the Dove") made the fabric of the TOS Klingon's arms & legs by crocheting black and gold yarns and lining them with shimmery fabrics.

"I'm never using this see-through gold fabric again," she said. "I had no idea how hard it would be to work with."

"Well, you two look perfect," I said. "Thanks for dressing up--it's a gift to us all."

One day I want to make a costume to wear too.

This time I just wore the gold felt Star Trek pin Art Sparker made me in 2009 to wear to the Las Vegas con.