Fierystudios Vögelein Clockwork Game

La Vie Boheme

Since I spent Thanksgiving with Paul's family (and a mighty fine Thanksgiving it was!) I kidnapped my mom today and took her out for an afternoon of coffee klatch. We had delicious Sabor Latino food, spicy mochas, and on an impulse, we saw Rent. We both liked it very much, and I was actually quite surprised how much mom related to the characters, given most of them were LGBTQ or addicted to heroin. I've heard some rumblings that the movie can't stand up against the musical, and now I'm anxious to see a stage version. Still, with nothing to hold the movie against, I thought it was pretty good, though there were a few dangly subplots and some of the narration could have been clearer.

And I found out I cry way harder over Puerto Rican drag queens than I do heroin addicted dancers.


Wild weekend

So this last weekend I went to Chicago to meet the cartoonists there. My buddy Emily, whom I met through years of playing Irish Music, recently got her PhD and moved to Chicago to work for Argonne Labs where she zaps electrons with Xrays. Within a month of moving there, she met a really cool boy -- who also happens to be a webcomicker.

So I finally got to meet Dirk, who really is as cool as his reputation leads us to believe. I arrived late Friday night through harrowing traffic. I've never actually been scared while driving before -- and have driven solo to Chicago/Milwaukee many times before without incident -- but this came pretty close to fear. The 80/94 interchange is a bloody mess, and between driving in the dark and Chicago traffic, it was pretty intense. When I finally got there, we went out to the northside for sushi. There is no sushi in Kalamazoo -- okay , there is, but it's behind the sneeze guard at the Chinese Buffet, so it doesn't count -- so getting actual Chicago Sushi was a wonderful thing. Then we went home and drank boozy coffee and talked till 3am. Their time.

A late start on Saturday (duh) took us past a cool Mexican bakery where we noshed on handmade pastries and great coffee from a corner coffee shop. We then trekked out to the cartoonists' gathering at the Mitsuwa shopping center. What a cool place! There's a huge foreign-language bookstore with a metric butt-ton of Manga, a huge asian grocery, tchotchke shops aplenty, and a food court with outrageously good food of every Asian stripe, from bibimbop to curry egg pancake. We gorged ourselves stupid, bought manga, and headed out to Gerry's place for comics-making and videogames. I once again proved my superior suckage at Dance Dance Revolution, but I did get three pages inked.

I also got to meet Spike and her husband Matt, Bridgid and Nebojsa, Gerry and Addie and a couple other people I can't remember, but all of them were cool and made really great comics. When we got all hungry, around 11pm, we disbanded to Dennys, ate, and retired for the evening sometime around 2am.

Sunday, there was dim sum at the Happy Chef in Chinatown. This made me very happy. We also got to walk around, looking in the cool apothecary shops (if I ever need a dried flying lizard or sea cucumber, now I know where to go) and furniture stores, and I spent the better part of an hour dragging poor Dirk and Emily up and down Wentworth looking for this really good restaurant that I'd been to several times, the last of which was in 1997. I failed my navigation roll, and we never found it, but we did get to take a ton of great reference shots of Chinatown, which was most excellent.

After dim sum, we went back to Dirk's apartment, and I got to see his studio, and read the majority of a nw piece he's doing for a collaborative Graphic Novel. It's really fantastic -- the art is top-notch, and Spike really did a number on the redraft of the script. Go, Spike!

So, all in all, a fantastic weekend. I'd write more about it, but I finally got a day off from work and I have to haul ass on a couple major projects. Suffice it to say, a grand time was had by all, and I'm looking forward to another trip to Chicago to visit and hang out.

Yay!


Mouse Guard

Not much time to write, but I wanted to let readers know that fellow EMU grad David Peterson has his very own comic out! It's called Mouse Guard, and is published by Archaia Press, which is the publishing house of Mark Smylie, the ubertalented creator of Artesia. It's in full-color, too! The art was great when it was black and white, but it's even purtier in color, and it's easier to tell the heroes apart.

Mouse Guard even got highlighted as a Staff Pick in this month's PREVIEWS. Good taste, Filip!

Readers of the Vögelein graphic novel may remember David as the artist who had the wonderful pinup of a smiling Vögelein holding the arm of a grumpy Duskie, surrounded by a swirling field of stars.

David's heap-big talented, and everyone should order Mouse Guard. Now. I have a page of his art from the first issue framed and hanging in our entranceway.

Yay, Local Artists! Woo!


Promises, Promises

For those of you who haven't yet heard, the Kalamazoo Promise is possibly the most amazing thing to happen to Kalamazoo in the last 50 years. Today I saw the first palpable proof that it's working. Our neighbors, Joy and Tony, who were going to take their four kids and move to the country because their neighborhood (3 blocks from hours, I might add) really sucks, have done an abrupt about-face, taken down the for-sale sign, and have started funneling money into a frenzy of house repairs.

"We're stayin'", said Joy. "How can we not? Four kids!"

I'm thrilled.

Today, there was even better news -- Western Michigan University, which has been suffering from terrifyingly low enrollment, has announced that all KPS students who attend Western under the Kalamazoo Promise program will now receive free room and board while attending WMU.

I'm speechless. These acts of kindness will probably save our entire community. Reports are already coming in that families from as far away as Indiana and Maine are sizing up a move to Kalamazoo. KPS Elementary schools, struggling to keep schools funded on an average of 18 kids per classroom, are bracing for an influx of new enrollments over the summer. There's a palpable buzz in the air.

How nice to have our community finally known for something other than meth labs.


First of the year...

Yesterday was about the yuckiest day I've seen this year. Very very cold, rainy, steel-grey dark skies all day long. Around 4pm, it started to snow fitfully. At 9pm, we had about 1/2". Miraculously, it stuck overnight, and we have 2-3 inches so far.

I also think last night, and the night before, were the first actual killing frosts we had. While it was nice to still be harvesting peppers from my garden two weeks before Thanksgiving, it's a lot more foreboding for years to come. Smells like global warming...


Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

The husband has begun to complain that my hair is trying to kill him in his sleep. This is actually a valid concern. It's fast approaching what I call "two-year-old" length -- not that it's two years' worth of growth, but that it behaves like an obnoxious toddler. It gets into things, throws fits, demands its own way, leaves a mess behind, and sneaks its way into everything, especially food. The one save is that it doesn't scream.

It's gonna get a good cutting in January. Just made the appointment.

And no, it's not all coming off. Part of the problem of being a hair factory for little bald kids is that I have to get it long enough so that removing the 10-inch minimum doesn't leave me looking like a dork. It should be around collar-bone length when I'm done; currently, it's navel-length.

Long as God can grow it...


Here I come, back from de dead

Hello, all.

Sorry I haven't blogged for a while, but the last couple weeks were insane, and then I spent close to a week rediscovering the snot capacity of my head.

Lessee, quick recap:

On 10/29 , we did SNAP! As mentioned, it rocked.

On 11/2, I drove up to Owosso and gave a library talk to the most well-behaved, articulate and smart-spoken 12 and unders I've ever had the pleasure of speaking with. It rockity rock rocked.

On 11/5, Paul and I had a table at the Kalamazoo Art Hop, thanks to the kind proprietors of New Mind Technologies. The Art Hop is a monthly event where all the businesses stay open late and have sidewalk sales, all the galleries open up late, and there's live music and sometimes food and vendors in the streets, depending on the weather. You come downtown and basically wander from store to store, shopping, meandering, and consuming your body weight in spinach dip, punch and boxed wine. Imagine a city turned into one gigantic gallery opening, and you've got the basic idea. Twice a year, they also open the Park Trades Center, which is this enormous warehouse building with great brick walls, hardwood floors and 14-foot ceilings that has been turned into art studios. Darn near every studio is open, showcasing the works of the artists -- everything from photography to woodcarving to handblown glass to arc-welded metal sculpture to oil painting to live tattoo demonstrations to sumptuous hand-sewn liturgical robes -- literally every kind of art you can imagine, all under one roof. It's like a four-story Mall of Art. So, we were in there, in a computer network/design office. New Mind doesn't have any art, per se, so they like to donate their space to underrepresented artists who don't have a studio in the Park Trades. Paul and I drew the lucky card this time. The setup is mutually beneficial; our art draws people in to New Mind's studio, and we get a place to sell our art. It was a ton of fun and Paul sold about a boxload of books. I had a cool little coterie of preteen girls orbiting my table all night long. They, too, were very articulate bookhounds, and reminded me eerily of myself at that age. We also found out that an old illustrator for Valiant comic books who used to work on XO Manowar has moved back to town, and old Griot artist/writer Kenjji is considering moving back to Kzoo with his wife Kito. Needless to say we are ecstatic about this, and Paul and I are looking at starting a Kalamazoo Comics Night at Rocket Star, similar to what the Hamtramck cartoonists have.

On 11/6, we hopped in the car and went to Hudson, Ohio with supalibrarian Kevin King. The following day we spoke to twenty-five librarians about comic books for seven hours, thoroughly brainwashing them all. We then drove home and collapsed.

On 11/7, We voted, and found out that Matt Feazell's wife Karen is the new mayor of Hamtramck.

On 11/8, I came down with the creeping evil, and spent the rest of the week drugged up on pseudephedrine, which makes me loopy and shaky, and hacking horrible green stuff out of my lungs.

Yesterday and today I finally felt well enough to go to farmer's market and do some cooking. It was bliss to finally have a day off with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and to feel un-sick enough to enjoy it, so we settled in to really make the best of it. We settled in to watch the last DVD of Firefly and came armed with sweets and alcohol. This led to our new favorite expression of happiness: "WINE AND COOKIES! COOKIES AND WINE!" To get the full effect, you must have a big delicious farmer's market cookie in one hand and a glass full of cheap red in the other, and you must shout the words in your best Fred Sanford voice while cueing up a disc of finely aged scifi goodness. It is the height of decadence.


Not much of a cheese shop, is it?

The GOP Shop

The "Manwhore" character refers to John/Jeff Guckert/Gannon, a White House "reporter" found to actually be a male escort.


AfterSNAP

As I mentioned over here, SNAP was quite the excellent time. Paul and I made it home around 2pm, and we did a little housework; Paul painted the new doorjamb on the replacement back door, I cleaned all three bathrooms. Then we went for a wonderful hour-long walk and admired the beautiful autumn colors. So very nice. We both konked out for a short nap after that, and now I think there's Firefly to be watched. A. was kind enough to send us her loaner copy in the most recent batch of Good Eats/Mythbusters tapes, and Paul and I are eager to see what all the fuss is about.

Oh, one more thing. A fan approached me at SNAP and picked up the new 40-page preview mini. While he was at my table, he mentioned that he picked up Finder based entirely on my rant a few weeks ago. Hooray for the power of blogs! And hooray for Finder, which is also getting thoroughly talked up to a big crop of Librarians next week, when Paul and I head out to Columbus for another big conference.


Oh, SNAP!

Hey, Michigan Locals!

Bored this Saturday? There's going to be a really great small-press comics show this weekend over in Dearborn, called SNAP! and it's run by two of the coolest folks in comics, Dan and Katie Merritt, owners of Green Brain Comics.

The show's going to be small and low-key -- a chance to talk to your favorite Midwestern comics creators one on one. We're hoping that this will turn into an annual event, so if you can spare an hour or so and three bucks to get in, we'd love to see you there! Parking's free!

You can read more about it here:http://www.greenbrain.biz/SNAP!.htm and check out the great press from the Detroit News and The Metro Times!

http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=8403

http://www.detnews.com/2005/events/0510/24/E01-358490.htm

See you there!


Nice weekend.

We had such a nice Sunday. Our neighbors, Rob and Suzanne, had a houseparty and invited a whole bunch of cool people we hadn't met before. Suzanne, a local hair-designer and all-round extra-cool person, whipped up parmesan bread and white-bean chili to die for, and Rob, a local woodworker, skateboard punk and expert antique-restorer, served Ichabod punkin ale and kept the tunes spinning.

I talked to Katja, our neighbor-across-the-park who was born in St. Petersburg and teaches Russian at WMU. We slammed Jane Austin and John Calvin and praised Art Nouveau and Charles deLint. Yay! Karen who lives nearby is an aspiring puppeteer, put on her first public performance of herone-woman short, with her handmade puppet. It was wonderful! We met a pack of Religion teachers from WMU, both of which new Virus' bruddaman, and were well-familiar with his Hindu God Stand-up. We're trying to convince Gene, Rebecca and their beautiful boy Rowan to move to the block, too.

It was a really wonderful time, and I'm so happy to know we have this many creative, cool, intelligent people nearby.

Before the party, Paul and I also went to the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the KIA. There was a woman at the exhibit who called a friend on her cellphone, overwhelmed, saying "To call this just glass is to call a diamond just a rock". That pretty much sums up my feelings. The show was breathtaking. If you're anywhere near Kalamazoo, and are the slightest bit art-inclined, I must strongly recommend a trip to see this show. It's on till January 1. Make time for it if you can!


Housewarming, updated:

1) Programmable thermostat? Check.

2) Back Door and Attic? Being measured for materials as I type.

3) Fireplace insert? Money's down, waiting for work to be scheduled.

Yay.

This weekend I'll probably go round and rope-caulk the windows. After a month, we'll know if the plastic wrap will still be necessary. I'm hoping not.

Then, sometime this winter, we gotta start looking at getting the first- and second-story walls fished and rewired. Argh. Initial off-the-cuff estimate was $5K, and I'm so not looking forward to finding out how much it'll actually cost.


MOPED ARMY member hit by SUV: Seriously injured

Hey, everybody. Paul and I just heard word tonight that a cornerstone member of Kalamazoo's Moped Army was struck by an SUV last weekend and seriously injured. He was struck from behind; the driver was going an estimated 60mph and never touched his brakes. The rider, Dave Brzezicki, was thrown sixty feet.

Dave broke his pelvis in three places, but miraculously sustained no head or organ injuries. He had surgery on Monday, and is expected to make a slow recovery.

As is the case with many of us, Dave had no health insurance, and will probably be out of work for many months. The members of the Moped Army are taking contributions to help him out; if you have the inclination, please donate to a very hardworking member of a very cool grassroots organization: http://www.mopedarmy.com/

Please pass this link around to anyone you know who might be able to help out.

Thanks in advance.


Tee hee hee.

Schadenfreude.


My name is Legion.

I really love the Waiterrant blog. Really, really love it. But this one particular post really knocked the pins out from under me. The guy's a phenominal writer, and I was so moved by this piece that I actually talked about it at Quaker meeting this Sunday. Good stuff.


Holy crap. Literally.

For a second there, I thought I was dying. Colon cancer runs heavily through my immediate family.

And then I remembered that I ate a pound of beets last night.

Whew.


Finding Carla

I have finally put my finger on why I love Carla Speed McNeil's Finder so much. My husband and mom (and frankly, anyone within earshot) are forced to listen to me opine at length about the effect Carla and her writing have had on me. My mom finally asked me, after I'd laid out the abusive-parent storyline in Talisman for her: "So, if the book has all these horrible, intense things going on in it, why do you enjoy it so much?"

It got me thinking. I know the book has sent tremors through my brain -- and my own storytelling -- since the first time I met Carla and Catboy at a convention some five years ago; I'd have to say that she's my biggest single influence these days. But why? Why her, and why Finder, specifically?

The answer, as it finally unreeled itself in my brain today, is that I can't see Carla's scaffolding.

Let me back up a little here.

One of the drawbacks to becoming a serious writer (I speak as one still in the process of becoming, as I consider myself to be still splashing around in the kiddie-pool-end of comics) is that as you start looking at the structure of writing, as you start reverse-engineering your favorite works of literature to see what makes them tick, you start to see the "scaffolding" -- the things that hold up, and sometimes prop up the story.

We are surrounded by formulaic story. TV, movies, newspapers, pop music, magazines, theatre -- it's all preplanned. You can see it coming; every event seems telegraphed. Characters from central casting, "news" reporters parroting the same hackneyed phrases each night, classic movies rehashed to drivel, stock plots boiled down to pabulum for easy digestion by the masses. Smart, different stories don't sell. Somewhere on the internet, there's this great MP3 of two Nickelback hit singles, one played through the left speaker, one through the right. They each have the same three chords, the verses last exactly the same amount of time, and the bridge kicks in at the exact same moment. Without editing. Use these chords, make the song last this long, verse chorus verse, bridge goes here; instant hit single. Formula. Scaffolding.

Carla's books are utterly, luminously, original. They bristle with ideas -- sometimes the plot gets drowned in the sheer amount of individual high concepts she's trying to articulate. A sixty-foot sculpture of Ganesh. Houses made of trees in the center of a bustling, thirty-story domed future metropolis. A society reduced to reading by way of cranial jacks. Lion-headed women that choose their king by way of "Royal Jelly"; a bizarre inverse on the world of bees. Each concept is enough to fuel an entire book; Carla layers ideas this big six or eight deep in each issue. She locks them in a room and lets them fight it out.

Many people have told me Finder constitutes information overload. Fine by me. I can practially finish the sentences of every person I hear speak -- and often do, to the vast irritation of my family. Everything I watch or see or read or hear seems to be lock-stepped into some bizarre Corporate Lowest Common Entertainment Denomonator, and I can see the Goddamned scaffolding, and most of the time I'm so fucking bored I could scream. I need new, deep, thorough ideas that make me stop and really, really think. I need books that are going to challenge -- and never insult -- my memory, my intellect, my imagination. As the saying goes, good science fiction should ask you to suspend your disbelief, but never your intelligence.

Carla's work does just that, on a scope that I consider unrivaled in fiction -- fiction of any kind -- these days. If anyone can show me a series, a film, a television program that can even come close to the depth and breadth of her world, sign me up, 'cause that's some entertainment I'd love to see. I want Carla to come to my house, hook her personal firehose up to my ear, and unleash her hydrant of ideas. I want her to trepan my skull, insert a funnel, and start cramming in storylines with a Goddamn plunger. I want her to hypnotize me back into wide-eyed childlike wonder as she weaves the most obscure ancient anthropological societal quirks with high-tech futuristic gadgetry. Her mental magpie's nest, full of myriad objects bright and shiney, feels like perfect -- if disorienting -- home to me.

Through all this, through all the high concepts and deep ideas, her characters are gloriously, horrifyingly human. They murder and crusade, grow and stagnate, love and fuck -- sometimes on the same page. No one ever wears a white hat; no one society (or societal subsect) is ever perfect. Individuals carom off each other in conversation and in action, acting as foil for their counterparts, showing the tragic heights and sublime depths of their character. Nothing is ever spelled out. Everything is left open to interperetation. There are no pat answers.

Figure it out.

Don't get it? Read it again. And again. And if you're me, again. Each time you return, you'll find something you missed, or forgot, or didn't quite connect. My God, what a pleasure that is in a world of rehashed, overdone, underthought stories.

And the art? Sweet jeebus, who can forget that art, that sensual, flowing line, the insane levels of crosshatch, all painstakingly rendered with the same dedication and attention to detail she provides to her equally intricate plots. If I ever get even a fraction of that line quality, I'll die a happy woman.

Finder's a blessing. I crave it. Carla, gimme everything you got.

Especially if it got some seh-say Jaeger in it.


Ah the joys of Farmer's Market.

Today, I traded two potroast pasties for a bottle of homemade mead. John, who runs TANSTAAFL Farms in Paw Paw, raises his own bees and makes the honey into mead. His farm is bottomland, wherein the tractors sink into the mud -- so he works the fields with a team of draft horses. "I can't fix tractors," he said, "but I can fix horses." We talked about homebrewing, organic farming, pasties, rutabegas and stud fees for mares, all with another Ann Arbor Quaker who's moved to Kzoo. She's gonna trade me for some homebrew cider.

John sold me a bunch of baby beets for 75 cents. I hate beets, but am trying to teach myself to like foods I hate. Taking Neighbor Nora's "Greens, Glorious Greens" cookbook in hand, I roasted the beets and wilted the greens, then combined them in a pan and drizzled in some balsamic vinegar.

I now love beets.

How awesome is that?


Pssst. Hey man, want some herb?

I just brought my herb garden inside for the winter. I had to give all the kids a haircut, and thus, I have many bundles of fresh herbs now drying in my laundry room, far more than I can use. The pots are all lined up in the dining room windowsill, each on their own little saucer. Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Peppermint, Parsley, Common Sage and Tricolor Sage. The Lemon Balm didn't make the cut because I couldn't figure out an edible use for it, and the Parsley didnt' make it because it was a gigantic overgrown triffid and got made into Tabbouleh.

I also pulled down the tomato plants -- I wish I had the space and patience to hang the green cherry tomatoes and let them ripen, but I'm too lazy and/or busy -- two big heaping armloads of them. I got some nice dry beans, a few green tomatoes that are now ripening on the sill, and another full quart of ripe cherry tomatoes. I left four or five valiant pepper plants to see if I can get some color out of the remaining banana, jalapeno, serrano and poblano fruits before the frost hits. They're doing remarkably well for weather that's been below 50F recently.

Then I fertilized the bed with the last of the boxes of dried blood and bone meal, then emptied the bottle of fish emulsion that Tish gave me. I'm going to turn the bed over after the first frost, but I'm hoping to get this nice big blast of fertilizer starting to work on the soil before the freeze sets in. When everything's done, I'll cover the beds with leaves and wait till spring.

Yay for my garden. It makes me so happy.


Delphi's bankrupt.

No suprise here, but definitely not good news for Michigan's already scarily weak economy:

Free Press

Free Press

Detroit News

Detroit News

Detroit News