Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Chimichanga by Eric Powell

Tom Waits meets Little Lulu in this surprising all ages tale from writer/illustrator Eric Powell.  Although he is best known as the creator/writer/artist of Dark Horse Comics horror fest 'The Goon' this graphic novel out today (August 31) keeps all of the macabre trappings and slapstick but leaves out the blood and adult themes making it great for all readers (I have a feeling that the middle school set will really dig this one).

Check it out.  In a run down circus of mediocrity (literal mediocrity - one of the star attractions is a strong man slightly stronger than the average man) a bearded little girl trades some of her chin whiskers to a witch for a shiny rock and a wagon.  The rock is an egg of mysterious and disgusting origins which hatches into a....thing.  Kind of a googly eyed, giant wrongness of a creature that the girl adopts as a pet and star circus attraction.  Calvin and Hobbes if Calvin had more of an attitude and Hobbes was the Elephant Man.

A little lesson about corporate greed and flatulence and a tale that reinforces loyalty to friends round out this tale.

The art was amazing.  I want to live in Powell's world, stinky fish canneries and all.  It has a depth and muted color scheme that feels like an old photo come to life and distorted.  I did have a Little Lulu vibe (main character was named Lula which I'm sure isn't coincidence) from reading the story and it had a nice, quick adventure tale that you breeze in and out of which I found refreshing.

Highly recommended.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.  It looks gorgeous.  It has monsters, bearded girls, talking fish and fart jokes.  And really, that's what we're all needing more of in our lives.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear Future Emma

My five-year-old daughter, Emma, is doing an interesting project at the end of her first year of kindergarten.  She is creating a time capsule with artifacts of this first year of school and her life so far.  Included will be letters from her parents and grandparents.  I finished mine today and thought I'd share it here.  The words really just flowed for this one......

Dear Future Emma,

Although by the time you read this you'll be Present Emma and I'll be Past Daddy, but time is like that: subjective, difficult with tenses and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.  In short, time, like life is weird and flexible and full of possibilities.  Things can move like the blink of an eye, changing so fast that past and present become one.  They can crawl at a snail's pace like an interminable day at school or a long dark night.

The important thing is, and this is the biggie and the first bit of wisdom my past self imports to you, make the most of your time.  Make it count.  For yourself.  Take time to wonder and to love.  To cry, to mourn.  Experience time.  Cherish the big and the small moments.  Living in the now is like the wind rushing through your hair as you ride the best roller coaster in the world.  Life should be thrilling and scary and a bit messy.  Don't shy away from it.

That's a trait you have now.  You are of the moment.  So curious, so excited.  My wish is that you still have that same wide-eyed excitement.  That sense of the now.  If you have lost it, if you are filled with angst for the future..... don’t be.  Kindergarten was a giant adventure for you.  And now as you get ready for life, embrace it with the same zest and crazy excitement.  Hold on to your moments for in the end, they're all we've got.  They are what make us.

Forgive me if I ramble a bit but my imagination goes wild at the prospect of these words being seen by you in the future.  Will you be reading them in your hover car as you head to the spaceport for a date at a restaurant on the moon?  Am I a disembodied head in a jar with a robot body?  Have I finally got my time machine working?  If I have, and something has gone wrong with the time machine, I will send you a telegram with my time/space coordinates shortly after you read this letter.  Did it arrive?  Good. Now build you own time machine and come get me.  I'll wait.....

In the meantime let me remind you of how proud I am of you.  When you were born I was woefully unprepared for fatherhood.  Didn't understand the gravitas of the task ahead of me.  How shaping you and your mind and your heart and putting you on the path to becoming who you are would become the most important thing in my life.

As of this writing I have 2 days that I consider the most important and moving days of my life.  The least of the pair is the day I graduated from college.  That was the first time I had the sense of a chapter ending and a vision of the blank page ahead of me waiting to be filled with whatever I wanted to fill it with.  I'm sure I didn't use all of the space and that everything I've put into my life's pages wasn't right or profound.  But knowing......

Sorry - interruption - you are in the room making future space sounds and explaining that if a ghost bites you, you will turn into a ghost.  Not sure if that's true or not but the science seems sound....

Anyway.....where was I?  Oh yes, my life's pages.  Knowing you, Emma, has been the most amazing experience of my life.  My best day, the one above all others, was the day you were born.  There were a lot of complications that day and some scary moments, but when they put you in my arms in that operating room the future opened up to me.  And I know that as you read this you are fulfilling what I know will be a life that will make me proud.  You are the culmination of my dreams.  It all leads to you.

More advice.... Feel free to read this in stages.  Take a break, come back, I'll be here.

Books you should have read by now (if you haven't then read them soon).

1.  The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this one over and over.  The shadows of the past hang heavily over the future.  Just as they can in your own life if you let them.  Speaking of Gatsby, my favorite literary quote comes from that book.  Have I shared it with you?  If I haven't then I should have.

'And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder, when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.  He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.  He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning -
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Amazing stuff, huh?  You are my green light and I hope you have found me a worthy father.

2.  To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Remember the tolerance, justice, loyalty and love in this book.  I may not be Atticus, but you are my Scout.

3.  Sherlock Holmes - A. Conan Doyle
You are no doubt as brilliant as Sherlock but temper your brilliance with kindness and understanding of others.  Even if they are complete morons.

4.  The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Don't panic!  Sound advice there.  In fact, not panicking will get you through most of life's situations.

5.  The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Because it is awesome.  Because no movie will do it justice (they are filming one as I write this).  And because it says a lot about friendship.  Have good friends.  Ones you can trust implicitly who are challenging to you and whom you challenge in turn.

Emma, you are my light and my hope.  You are the future, all silvery-finned rockets and loyal robots.  Lasers and madness.  Laughter and danger. Wonder.  I love you today and in the future.  I'll love you for all time.  My Emmapie...

As high school draws to a close, I'll give one final piece of advice that I'd give now to your kindergarten self but you may not understand.  Hopefully, I demonstrate it to you through our lives together:

Until you commit yourself to an act or a cause or life, it cannot truly begin.  There is always a chance to draw back or hesitate or even retreat without committing to that first step.  Taking that leap into what you want to do or who you want to be.

A whole universe of events, good and bad, opens up if you commit yourself to a task, to a dream, and follow it to the end.  Always think, "It all begins here" and then take that leap and begin.  After that the possibilities begin to lie before you like playing cards on a table.  You can dream where the future is, but it will always exceed those dreams if you are an active part of it and a believer in your role within the life of tomorrow.

Whatever you can do or dream or imagine, you can begin it.  If you can begin it, you can finish it, if you are a committed believer in yourself.

Begin it.  Every day.  Boldness has magic, genius, power and love.  And you will never be short of any of those things.

I love you and am incredibly proud to know you now and tomorrow.  Thank you for listening to the ramblings of the past.  Please pop back anytime in your time machine!

All my heart and love,


I'm eight years old.  Even then, I knew the world was full of injustices both large and small.  Horrors gross and minute.  But an image and a metaphor for life's little injustices hit me full in the face on sunny afternoon at the Sunrise Cinemas in Zanesville Ohio.

It was my first viewing of Star Wars.  What would somehow become a touchstone cultural artifact of my generation.  My eyes were boggled, my mind was open.  I was overly chilled by aggressive movie theatre air conditioning.  I had to pee.  Really bad.

But on the screen something unfolded that perplexes me to this day.

The Death Star was destroyed in what I would only be forced to learn later was an underwhelming explosion (thanks George Lucas!).  The droids were shined up.  Big fanfare.  All the Rebels at attention and in their dress uniform.  Big grins from Han, Luke and Leia.  Knowing looks filled with weird sexual tension exchanged.  And then medals strung on the necks of the heroes of the battle of the Death Star.  Han and Luke, all cockeyed grin and optimism got theirs.  Artoo beeps and they all laugh and then boom.  End credits.

But wait. What about the third member of the crew that survived that battle.  What about Chewbacca.  Warrior of Kashyyk.  Co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon.  Shouldn't he have got a medal.  He's not a dog.  He even wears clothes.  Drives the Falcon.  Talks, albeit in another language.  But no medal.

And what did Artoo say that they all laughed at.  Was he mocking Chewie at the end? What did the others all think was funny?

I imagined the Wookie's awkwardness, standing there with no medal while everyone else got theirs and I was bothered.  I later read the novelization of the movie where this oversight was even mentioned with a casual "He had to put it on himself because few space princesses are that tall."  What a cosmic cop out in a galaxy far, far away.......

Royal Wedding

The day seemed to go well.  All smiles from the prince and new princess.  Appropriate pauses and litanies from the participants.  Children singing, relatives plotting, snoozing or gazing off with the disinterested glare genetically gifted to the British aristocracy.

Food was prepared.  Music was in the air.  Caterers catered and archbishops bishopped.

Above and below, however, things weren't running as smoothly.

4 fairies from the court of Lord Auberon of Faerie, allowed onto holy ground for the first time since the nearly disastrous coronation of Victoria allowed themselves to be photographed by the news cameras sweeping the cathedral as they hid in the crystal chandeliers above the rows of guests.  Calls were immediately issued to networks and agents in media control rooms across the western world began to scour the footage for any other slip ups as their peers used digital scrubs to blur the chandeliers as if the light were obscuring the cameras view.

Once the fairies were returned to their party by several Tower of London ravens working the trees and rafters of the cathedral, they were immediately banned from attending any further wedding festivities and sent back to their rooms constructed for them in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.   Auberon himself went on to attend the stag hunt held at the Windsor's country estate.  2 stags were brought down and 3 human criminals caught and stuffed by the fairy king's Lord of the Hunt.  One of which was rumored to be a werewolf but, despite spells and conditions simulating a full moon above the moors upon which the hunt took place, disappointingly failed to change.

The Royals cousins from the eastern bloc presented themselves at the evening reception and stayed for most of the party.  A few wandered off seeking the thrills of a celebratory London late night and were seen with an American pop star and her director husband imbibing at several exclusive clubs.  Curiously, there were seven young men and women reported missing around the east end clubs that evening who have still not turned up over the weekend.

The Alliance of Colors sent Chartreuse and Puce to represent them.  They hovered as a thin chartreuse and puce fog in the shadows of the cathedral and those that walked through or near them became slightly dizzy and either, in the case of Chartreuse, felt angst about wrongs done a lost love or, in the case of Puce, became slightly resentful of their neighbors and wished them misfortune.

27 different paranormal investigation agencies were represented at the wedding.  Each nervously scanning the crowd for magic malfeasances with the icy stares of a police officer off duty at a Grateful Dead concert.  Treaties and Oaths had been sworn that prohibited tampering with the festivities but in the complicated world of the supernatural and royal politics, no one could rely on the word of others.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is There Anybody Out There?

As Pink Floyd echoes in my head and I begin the often put off blogging of which I am so envious and disdainful when I read other blogs, I think about my audience.  Those of you out there who might read this.  Should I do long winded diatribes, quick pithy bits of thought.  A little of both?

Anyway, it's a Pink Floyd day in Ohio.  All gray and windy with faces distorted by frowns and eyes averted from the sky.

So maybe this picture is a lifeline.  Something to grab onto on this late Winter day.  Cheer up, me.  You too world.  

More later....