Friday, January 30, 2009


Next Wednesday one of my favorite writers, Russell Hoban, will turn 84 years old. He's the favorite of a lot of other people as well, and they're not content to just reread his magnificent works of fiction and beam him well wishes and positivity. No, they've started a celebration on Hoban's birthday that is known as SA4QE. And what you do on that day is print out a favorite quote from Hoban on yellow paper and place it in a prominent public place, then post about it (with pix if possible) on the SA4QE website. I'm telling you about it now, so you can go procure a Hoban book and pick out a thought that you want to share with the world -- and I guarantee you will find several in any of his books -- and join us.

This is the quote I have selected. It's from The Medusa Frequency:

"Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to the mountains or to death; once recognized they fill the heart. . . Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being."

Russell Hoban

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More books I've read in 2009

I was a big fan of Dan Slott's run as writer on She-Hulk. His encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel history and his refusal to take anything too seriously particularly endeared me to him. I was sorry to see him go, but I felt Shulkie would be in good hands with Peter David at the helm. He's a great writer-- his novel Imzadi is one of my all-time favorite books, rising above Star Trek novels to become literature, and during his run on She-Hulk's cousin's book "The Incredible Hulk" was the last time I cared about that book or that character. That said, I had a hard time adjusting to the change in tone in this book, and not just tone but just about everything changed. A new artist --- which should be a good thing as the last one would be ennobled by the word "incompetent", but this one is only marginally better. She-Hulk is no longer a lawyer, she's become a bounty hunter after being disbarred. She's traveling around the country with a Skrull companion who likes to shape-shift into Shulkie's alter ego Jennifer Walters for no reason other than to mess with the reader. We get no explanation for this, nor for her cynical attitude which is new too. The last story was the best, perhaps not coincidentally because it took place mostly in a courtroom and featured one prominent player from the Slott days. It was an enjoyable waste of a couple of hours, but I really would have appreciated it if Peter David had backed up for a minute and let this old She-Hulk fan get reoriented.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

I picked up "The Alcoholic" because I saw it was drawn by Dean Haspiel, who is one of my favorite artists -- he does the best "American Splendor" stories among others -- and one of my favorite writers too; his recurring character Billy Dogma -- "the last romantic antihero" -- is a role model of mine.
Sadly, Haspiel did not write this. Jonathan Ames did and while I applaud Ames for pulling no punches in this thinly-veiled autobiographical novel and his willingness to bring to light his sins and failings (not just bringing them to light but revelling in them), I have to say that before the book was over I was tired of him whining about losing a friend and having his heartbroken like these were things that happened only to him and not to everyone who lives to the age of 12.
On the plus side, Haspiel's art was gorgeous and kept me reading after I had lost sympathy with the protagonist.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


For a change I'm not going to complain about how I never have time to read. I'm going to complain about how I never have time to draw. I love to draw and the fact that I've never been particularly good at it does not diminish my enjoyment of it one whit. I recently came across a sketchbook of mine from a couple years ago and found a few drawings that were not too horrible:

(Warning naked humans and clothed reptiles ahead)

Yes, my favorite thing to draw is people, particularly female people. But that's not all, I also like to draw alligators

And speaking of lizards, I also drew this caricature of the man who up till about eight years ago held the distinction of being America's worst president.I think my best one is probably this bored flapper here. It's a total ripoff of John Held, Jr. But I love John Held Jr. It was too big to fit on the scanner, but here's most of it:

The first book I read in 2009

I'm really bad about reading books other people recommend for me. I appreciate them doing so, but I have such a backlog of books I want to read that have been sitting in my TBR (To Be Read) pile for years in some cases that I don't feel like I have time to get to these recommendations, and I feel guilty about it. My mom's been telling me about Georgette Heyer for a while now, suggesting I try one of her books, and it's been on my mental TBRAMTBRLR (To Be Read After My To Be Read List is Read), but when she gave me a copy of "The Grand Sophy" I started reading it and got hooked. It's a Regency Romance, a term I was not familiar with, but according to Wikipedia, Regencies "feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex." I made the mistake of letting the office busybody at work see it and she stuck up her nose and expressed surprise that I would read a "girl book." But I'll read anything that's well written, and this certainly was. My mother and most of the critics compare Georgette Heyer to Jane Austen and I think that comparison is an apt one, but the way Sophy broke up all the wrong relationships and got all the right people together reminded me of P.G. Wosehouse -- although I don't think Sir Plum ever had one of his heroines shoot somebody in the arm to make one of her schemes work out right.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By Request

I'm not sure where the tradition of my niece Emily and me mugging for the camera every time there's a family gathering -- sometimes we pose first and then demand that people get out their cameras -- but it's been going on for a while. My sister probably has enough pictures of us to wallpaper her living room. Because there are so many of them I left off the one of us that was taken at this years Polar Bear Plunge, and I've been catching some flak about it. So by request here it is: (and now I remember why we insist on taking these pictures -- it's cuz we're so gosh-darn photogenic.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Damn it!

The January 8th issue of Rolling Stone has an article about all the harmful last-minute regulations Bush and his minions are enacting during their final days. It's a long article unfortunately, because they're doing everything from allowing loaded weapons in our National Parks to gutting the Endangered Species Act. And now the SOB's pre-empting Bones to give a speech. Please, please, just shut up and go away. You've done enough, we've heard enough and had enough. Let us heal from the damage you've done.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jack London!

Jack London was born John Wellman on January 12th, 1876. His mother was a spiritualist who claimed to channel an ancient Indian chief and his father was an astrologer, who wanted Flora Wellman to abort the fetus. She refused to do so although she did then shoot herself. Both mother and child fotunately survived. Mom gave the baby to a former slave named Virginia Prentiss who raised him.
Jack London was a hobo, a sailor, a gold-rusher. And in his spare time he wrote classic masterpieces of fiction like "The Call of the Wild" "White Fang" and "The Sea Wolf." He died way too young -- at age 40, but that probably didn't bother him much. This was the Jack London credo:

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My 501st post

Warning: If you're not a comic book nerd, you're not going to have any idea what I'm talking about here. In fact, even if you're a regular CB nerd you might not know what I'm talking about. But if you appreciate Belgian comic books too, I have a question for you.
If you've ever been on Facebook you've seen this silhouette:
It's the default image for members who do not upload pictures of themselves. What I want to know is why they chose as their model for this picture the reporter known as Tintin?

My 500th post

What I've learned about Love.

There are four phases of love, and if you can actually make it through and maintain an awareness at all four levels you will be as enlightened as the Buddha. But most people just ping-pong back and forth between the first two phases.

Phase one is when you first fall in love. And the person that you fall in love with seems to be just perfect and the thought of living life without them seems pointless and cruel. You adore everything about this person, even their quirky faults that you would find offputting in someone else seem endearing in the loved one.

And then comes phase two, where reality sets. This is where you realize that far from being perfect, your partner is actually nothing more than a regular person briefly disguised as an angel. The scales fall from your eyes, those quirks become unbearably annoying and the words of Jorge Luis Borge ring in your ears: "To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god." From this phase most people either end the relationship and start another religion with another false god or they life a lie -- a life without love.

But if you don't give up, and you keep loving that person even when it's difficult, you eventually get to phase three, and in this phase you let go of judging and embrace understanding. In phase three you realize that you were right when you thought that person was perfect. They really are perfect -- just the way God made them -- once you understand why they are the way they are. If you ever have a choice between being loved or being understood, choose to be understood because if you are understood you will be loved as well. But if you're loved without being understood you're not really loved at all. That's just phase one infatuation and compared to phase three love it's the difference between a matchstick and a star.

Getting to phase three takes time and dedication and when you get there you realize you're just getting started -- because the truth is everyone is perfect and deserving of love. That's when you glimpse the enormity of phase four. Staying in phase four for more than a glimpse is something few people have ever done, but it's a goal to shoot for. It certainly seems like a better way to reach nirvana than meditating in a cave in Tibet.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Polar Bear Plunge '09

If you look back at the pictures from the Polar Bear Plunge one year ago you'll see I was 60 pounds heavier. 2008 has been a bad year for the economy and the world in general but a good year for me. I stuck with my new years fitness resolution all year and feel better than I have in decades. This was our third annual polar plunge, and it was a lot of fun. The day got off to a great start when I beat my brother at the great body fat percentage wager, which meant I didn't have to buy drinks at Snapper Jack's prior to the plunge -- which is good, because there were a lot of drinks drunk. The plunge itself didn't seem as crowded as years past, maybe because both Clemson and USC were playing (poorly, as it turned out) in bowl games, and not as well organized as years past either. There was no official sign-in or anything. I managed to snag the last two souvenir towels -- and that was two hours before the plunge, and I don't see how they benefited the Lowcountry Food Bank much, judging by the slim pickings in the bucket I threw my black beans and tuna offerings into.

But, as you'll see, none of that stopped us from enjoying ourselves by freezing our asses off:

My beloved and I before the madness got started

My brother John (with lovely daughter Caroline) looks for courage in a flask -- or is he drowning his sorrows over losing the body fat bet?
Not a six-pack yet, but better than the keg I had in January 08.
Even the towel holders have fun. My sister Susan and my wife Kim.
Hannah, the youngest and arguably cutest member of our group. Me, my son-in-law John and my daughter Leah.
I am in such a hurry to get to Andolini's and eat pizza I don't have time to put on a shirt.

Happy New Year, everybody!

To tell you the truth, I don't remember much about the ride home.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The last book I read in 2008

Happy new year, everybody!
And happy 90th birthday, Jerome David Salinger.
Let's close the book, so to speak, on my literary endeavors of 08. The last book I read in 2008 was "Hemingway's Chair", which was the best novel I've read by an ex-Monty Python member. It was just okay, actually. A Hemingway-worshipping postal employee gets a measure of revenge when the Postal Service promotes a crooked jerk instead of him. How could it have been better? Well, he could have got the girl. Or, he could have been slightly less psychotic.