update

I received an apologetic and explanatory e-mail from the fellow who requested my article. He seems the victim of others’ machinations and betrayals. I withdraw all snarky remarks I made.
(Didn’t say anything about my payment though.)

This Writing Life (con.)

Constant readers with unimpaired memories will recall my invitation a year and a half or so ago to contribute an essay to a book/catalog which would accompany a (at least) two-museum tour of original EC Comic art. My topic was to be EC’s horror comics, with concentration on the genre’s master, Graham “Ghastly” Ingles. The topic appealed; the promised check (by my standards) good; and I jumped on the offer.

I got into it. I reviewed all of EC’s horror books. I checked numerous secondary sources for information, quotes, and color. I found people to interview, who no one in the comic world and ever interviewed. And — kick of all kicks — I discovered what had happened to Ingles, who, comic world legend had it, had seemingly disappeared, reclusive, bitter, after the imposition of the Code in 1954 had wiped horror from the four-color universe.

The first bad news I received from the curator of the exhibit was that he couldn’t pay me right away, after all. The second bad news was, not only had the tour not expanded, one of the museums on board had cancelled. The third was… Well, there was no more news.

Last week I sent him an e-mail. He excitedly reported that the exhibition would open in two weeks. If I cared to come to Oregon — on my own dime — he would comp me to the event. (I declined.) And, oh yeah, there would be no book/catalogue. “Maybe… in a year or two” he would release an anthology. No mention was made of my money (and I was too polite to press him).

I said I did not care to wait. The Comics Journal will be posting my piece on line any day now.

Stay tuned.

The Death of Prince

Place: The Health Club
Time: A few days ago

“Prince died.”
“Prince died.”
“Prince died.”
“Prince died.”
“Prince died.”
“Prince died.”
“So did Pearl Washington,” I said.
“Who’s she?”
I did not mention Chyna.

Robert Reich Walks Into A Cafe

“Orange juice to go. And a bagel with cream cheese and tomato to go.”
“What kind of bagel?” Jose says
“I always get confused. What are these?” Robert Reich points.
“Raisin.”
“Raisin.”
“$4.55.”
“$4.55?”
“Is more in Washington?” Jose says.
“You in Washington on business?” Angel says.
“Business.”
“Pleasure?”
Robert Reich shakes head, smiles. “Never pleasure.”
“Do you know Mr. Obama, yourself?”
“He’s very good. Not on everything. But he’s a good man.”

Two Poems

I. Political Science

Fuck national polls.
I want to know about states.
And fuck most states.
Only half-a-dozen matter.
The rest don’t care if you run Bob’s uncle.

II. Locker Room

The poet said he’d lunched with
Our mutual friend
Who’d had a stroke.
They’d discussed
Their mutual friend
Who had ALS.
Which reminded the poet
to tell me of his friend alone
In hospice.

There’s a lot of this
Going around.

Notes on Media Baronhood: Report to Stockholders

So here is where things stand.

Having overcome the debacles at that photocopy place and with those idiots at Lulu and the loss of my PDFs when Windows 10 destroyed my computer (Thank you Michael, my pal and formatter, for keeping your copies), I signed up with a commercial printer for “Cheesesteak.” True, the proofs it sent me did overlook my six pre-pages (title page, copyright, dedication, TOC, Author’s Intro), but that’s all cool now, and all should be ready inside a month. “Schiz,” my black comedy novel is awaiting a cover and an illustration from a late-added cartoonist, and then its presses will be ready to roll. Adele and I have finished a second draft of “Heart,” and I’m setting a date to sit down with Dr. M for her input. My collection of comic-related pieces is, I think, still awaiting a decision from an indie publisher. I say “think,” because he didn’t reply to my last inquiry, but, fuck him, I have enough to do. Like publish “Lollipop,” my VISTA book (and “Cheesesteak” sequel) and “Industrial Injury” my workers’ comp book (and sequel to the other two) and…

But wait a minute. Could this be my newly-increased Lexapro talking? What is the point of self-publishing three or four or five books in three or four or six months unless you are carrying out some semi-crazed art project?

Just the other day, in the “Times,” John Prine discussed an alternate business model. After he became sick of record companies, he decided to issue his own sides. But he waited until the first one covered its costs before he did a second.

That makes sense to me.

I just finished…

…Ari Shavrit’s “My Promised Land.”

The last couple years, I’ve been reading books abut Israel. Half I trade back in at Moe’s or Pegasus, but this one’s a keeper. It’s informative and beautifully written. My brother-in-law, Gordie, who teaches on the subject, calls it “Brilliant.” It’s a history, presented via jumps over decades and throwing focus on individuals who represent different aspects of — and possess differing views about — Israel.

My readings, as I’ve said previously to notable lack of acclaim, have led me to conclude that geo-politics is essentially tribes squabbling over dirt, and that nations no longer seem such a good idea. Nothing in MPL causes me to modify these beliefs, nor the opinion that, if you are going to have nations, Israel has as much right to being one as anybody. The land its got is its until someone takes it away through force or barter. Which, within a century or two, if we are still here, I expect someone will.

Shavrit augments Israel’s right to remain Israel by emphasizing the special nature of its people and their achievement. (Not “chosen,” “special.”) But I did have one new thought while reading his book. The need for a homeland for Jews seemed to have arisen from two threats to their extinction. One, in Europe, was extermination. The other, in America, was assimilation.
The danger of extermination is clear, but I wonder about assimilation. Gene-wise, where’s the cost to mankind in that? If the quality of the planet’s Jews is diminished, isn’t the quality of its Gentiles raised to an equivalent degree?

Well, no one ever said genetics was my strong point. I never got, in fact, beyond pea plants,

Stress Test

“Good news,” Dr. M said.

Part of my heart was gone. (“Dead meat,” De. M called it.) That was no surprise. We knew I’d had a heart attack. But the rest had performed with excellence. There was no blockage. There was not even narrowing. “It couldn’t be better,” she said.

She brought a picture onto her computer screen. “”Myocardial Profusion Deficits.” A circle was centered within a larger circle. The ring between the two circles was segmented. Some segments were black. (“Persistent”) (This was the dead meat.) The larger portions were pure white (“Normal”). They could have been darkened by diagonal lines (“Reversible”) or a checkerboard (“Mixed”), delineating degrees of concern.

The medication had worked. My diet had worked. My exercise had worked. I could stop my blood thinner, cold turkey. It and my good habits had given my heart the chance for this result. The techs had amped the stress test up to such a level it had revealed this solid footing to set out upon.

Dr. M printed out a copy of the circles. When I got “nervy,” which I would, I was to look at them for reassurance.

“And if I get chest pain, got to the ER?”

“If you get chest pain, go exercise. If it gets worse go to the ER. It is unlikely anything will go , but if it does, we will fix it. Something may kill you, but it won’t be this.”

For further reassurance, she scheduled a stress test in four months, to insure that everything remained clean.

Boat People

My latest is up at http://www.broadstreetreview.com/books/daniel-james-browns-boys-in-the-boat

It begins:

The back cover of the paperback edition of Daniel James Brown’s bestselling “The Boys in the Boat” declares it “the improbable… account of how… working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.” This demonstration occurred when an eight-man crew from the University of Washington rowed against the “elite teams” of the world, most particularly the Germans competing “for Adolf Hitler.”

Any suspense over the race’s outcome does not outlast Brown’s second paragraph, which awards the gold medal to the Americans And one needn’t be cynical to think the result foretold earlier. After all, if the Nazis had won, as they did in 33 events that summer, what are the chances we would be hearing about this one? (American “grit” triumphed 24 times.) The questions are what accounted for this victory and what, if anything, it meant.

Identity

During a recent e-mail discussion in which I was a participant, while attempting to identify the source of a rumor about the plans of the new owners for the café at which the discussants hung, a finger was pointed at “that skinny guy who writes about comic books.” As keyboards turned in my direction, I pointed out that this description could not possibly refer to me since (a) I was not “that skinny guy” (confirmed by the new high-tech scale in our club’s locker room which places my BMI squarely in the lower third of “normal) but “that extremely handsome guy” (confirmed by my wife, the admiring Adele); and (b) I don’t write about comic books” but “about underground/alternative cartoonists.” (In my inner, more private, less public man-of-the-people self, I don’t write “about” them either. They are merely subjects through which I address matters of universal concern.

Still I mulled the description over.

Just suppose 74-years hard labor at crafting an identity had resulted in that. It was cooler, I supposed, than “that skinny guy who used to practice workers’ compensation law.” It was definitely preferable to “that skinny, bald, four-eyed…” (or, as my friend Cary said, to “that skinny, toothless crack-addict”). It also seemed an advance beyond the even more reductive “you skinny prick,” which I had been called by a passing drunk in 1959 (when, incidentally, I may have weighed ten-pounds more than I do now). (See: “How I Spent My Vacation.” www.thebroadstreetreview.com May 24, 2009.

It may even top “that pudgy ex-mime,” who authored the slur in the first place.

Smiley face goes here.