Wednesday, January 31, 2007

trying to cut back, part II

from the diary: “Tuesday 3/18/86

“Bot a couple comics at 7-11. Avengers and X-Men. Avengers was fun junk. X-Men was a long downbeat fight scene. Dreary. The X-Men is a comic full of great characters, too bad [writer Chris] Claremont doesn’t know what to do with them. I’m getting tired of X-Men. I’m close again to dumping it. Also close (closer) to dumping New Mutants. Especially since NM’s latest issue provides a great stepping-out place. Also very close to dropping Nexus and Masked Man. The comics I enjoy reading are dwindling to a depressing few. … I still reguarly buy 23 comic books and magazines (the mags being Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and Twilight Zone). … Avengers is still a ‘BUY’ because I’m loyal to it; it’s the first comic I ever collected. I enjoy watching the silly boobs put through their paces, it’s an adventure without too much pseudo-intelletualizing.”

In the diary I make reference to a “categorizing” list. I can sort of picture this. It was, let’s see, yes, it was a list with different categories, like “BUY FOR FUCKIN’ EVER”, “BUY ONLY BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T YOU WON’T KNOW HOW THE STORY TURNS OUT”, “BUY BECAUSE YOU’RE LIKE THIS ROCK ROLLING DOWNHILL AND THIS COMIC BOOK IS GRAVITY GRAVITY GRAVITY”, and “TALK ME OUT OF THIS, PLEASE!” I then sorted all the comics I was buying into these categories. I guess it did help me choose which ones to hold back on, the default position seeming to be BUY, provided I’d already been buying.

When I cleaned out my mother’s house I threw away all the stacked up Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and Twilight Zone. I hadn’t read many of their stories. Mostly I read feature articles and Asimov’s monthly editorial. When I had to contemplate jeeping them back to Berkeley and piling them all in a corner, there to hulk like some guilt monster waiting for me to get around to reading them, I knew the best solution was just to let them go.

I brought home all the comics though. And I do plan to reread them. But then what? I don’t want to hang onto them all forever. There’s no market for back issues anymore.

These days I only buy the occasional comic. King Cat Comics, American Splendor … I check out graphic novels from the library. Recently I read the first volume of Young Avengers. That was quite good.

(By the way, I don't think the X-Men issue pictured is the one I "bot" at 7-11, but it's within an issue or two.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Panda’s Thumb

from the diary: “Saturday 3/15/86

“Finished Stephen Jay Gould’s Panda’s Thumb.”

I loved Panda’s Thumb. Over the years I’ve read each of Gould’s collections of essays not long after they came out.

The thumb of the panda is not an articulated digit. It’s a wristbone that juts out. It’s rigid. But it makes the panda’s paw that much handier. The panda’s ancestors were meat eaters. At some point the panda switched to its famous bamboo diet. And the pandas who could most easily manipulate a bamboo pole in order to strip it of its tasty leaves were fatter and handsomer than those who were all clumsy-pawed. Fatter and handsomer means more kids (which, in panda terms, must mean two in a decade rather than one). Over time all the kids had handy paws. But why not a real thumb? Why a jury-rig thumb? The articulatable digits had all been spoken for. A jutting wristbone was an easier fix than reversing the fusing of the digits in that hefty bear paw. Nature/natural selection prefers the easier fix.

(OK, these guys say the thumb is not rigid; plus which they have pictures. And here is an interesting sequel of sorts, that includes a link to a pdf of Gould’s original panda’s thumb essay.)

Monday, January 29, 2007


Kent and I walked downtown Sunday and had lunch at a taqueria and stopped in at a used ink cartridge store – or tried to; it was closed. For no reason I can think of (other than the nefarious) the brand new black ink cartridge that came with our Epson printer, the Epson announced (after printing no more than 20 pages), was empty empty empty and that was that. The stationery store downtown was closed, too. So we gave up on the errand and stepped into Games of Berkeley where we squeezed rubber duckies, gazed dully at the in-progress Star Wars board game, and wound up a somersaulting monkey. I bought an origami book because it was cheap and it was Dover and I don’t think I have one. Origami is one of those things that looks more fun that it is. I remember folding a snail, which ended up looking pretty impressive, but on the way I got so frustrated I hurled the instruction book across the room. Nevertheless I would like to be able to have some simple forms memorized – particularly how to fold a drinking cup and the ever-popular crane. At Half Price Kent did not find the newest Pynchon and at Comic Relief Kent said he preferred I didn’t buy him the book of illustrations inspired by Gravity’s Rainbow.

Dover, by the way, is a publisher that specializes in returning to print in inexpensive paperback books that have gone out of copyright. There are two Dover books that were significant to my childhood. One was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Dover edition put up with a lot of abuse (I carried it around a lot) and is still intact (though some of the sewn signatures – sewn! unusual for a paperback – are a tad loose). The Dover edition was the only one available with the original Denslow illustrations. I loved that the Cowardly Lion was a giant cat, not a dude in a costume. The other book was It’s Fun to Make Things from Scrap Materials. It was a book sent to me (probably to me & my brother) by my dad. The book fascinated me and I would take it down from the shelf and study its old-fashioned looking drawings and read over the instructions and not quite want actually to get to work on making the crafts. I loved imagining the making though.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

David Bromige & Kate Braverman

from the diary: “Tuesday 3/17/86

“Marianne [Ware] hosted [the reading at the Russian River Writers Guild]. … The readers tonight were David Bromidge, a [Sonoma State University] professor, and Kate Braverman, who’s a Southern California poet studying at SSU. Bromige read a couple immense ‘meditation poems.’ Basically free association in complete sentences. I kept expecting the poems to resolve themselves into some kind of point, but they never did. I liked Kate’s work much better although all the pain and hate was too overwhelming for a longer reading. Mom came, too. We walked home together. Had another fruitless discussion – this time about poetry, sort of.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

new mags

Yesterday on the walk to work I stopped at the Sather Gate Mall, which is under a parking garage, and browsed the literary magazines at the magazine shop. I’ve started buying lit mags again, partly because I have a place to put them when I’m done with them (I add them to the paperbacks collection at the Claremont library), partly because I’m actually reading them (I guess The New Yorker got me in the lit mag habit), and a little bit because I’m again thinking about sending work out via snail mail (don’t rush me).

So I stuffed the new issue of The Atlanta Review (that's a remarkably ugly website; the magazine, on the other hand, looks good), which is all poetry, and Saint Ann’s Review into my back pack. They join the pile by the bed. I’m trying to keep the pile realistic ...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Best Poems of 2006

When I’m reading a book of poetry and I read a poem I want to revisit I slip in a placemark. If, after 4 or 5 rereadings I decide I don’t want to leave the poem behind, I copy it out. I have been doing this since 1989; I have four loose leaf binders filled with other people’s poems. At the beginning of the year I sit down and read aloud all the poems I collected in the previous year. This year I collected 38 poems. 26 of those were haiku. All the haiku were from one anthology. I don’t think I’ve saved that much from one source before. What I kept (in alphabetical order):

Anselm Berrigan ….. “Mercy Flight”

Todd Colby ….. “Labor Day Picnic Poem”

Jordan Davis ….. “Fire Barns”

Amy Fusselman ….. “Journal”

haiku by Jennifer Brutschy, Paul O. Williams (2), Jane Reichhold, Jerry Ball, Mary Fields, Mary Hill, Garry Gay (2), Brent Partridge, Margaret Molarsky (2), Tom Tico (2), Christopher D. Herold, Jim Normington, Steve Sanfield (4), James Luguri (2), Robert N. Johnson (2), John Thompson (2)

Nicolas Guillen ….. “Wake for Papa Montero”

Aime Cesaire ….. “Ex-voto for a Shipwreck”

Allen Cohen ….. “Traveler”

George Green ….. “The Searchers”

Celtic prayer …. from the Carmina Gadelica

Paul Celan ….. from “BREATHCRYSTAL”

Eyak song/poem ….. “Lament for Eyak”

H. C. Artmann ….. “An Optician Has a Glass Heart”

Ko Un ….. “Drunkard”

Judy Grahn ….. “What do I have …”

sources (in parentheses # of poems collected from the source): Heights of the Marvelous c.2000, edited by Todd Colby, St Martins Press, NY (4); What We Carry c.1994, by Dorianne Laux, BOA Editions, Rochester NY (-); Smoke c.2000 by Dorianne Laux, BOA Editions, Rochester NY (-); Poems for the Millennium, vol 1: From Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude, the University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry c.1995, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris, University of California Press, Berkeley CA (2); The Season on Our Sleeve: selected short poems c.2004 by Bill Knott, published by the author, Boston MA; Book of Hats c.2003 by Allen Cohen, drawings by Ann Cohen, Regent Press, Oakland CA (1); Parthenon West, a San Francisco literary magazine (1); The San Francisco Haiku Anthology c.1992, edited by Jerry Ball, Garry Gay, Tom Tico, pub by Smythe-Waithe Press, Windsor CA (26); Song of Rita Joe: autobiography of a Mi’Kmaq poet c.1996, by Rita Joe, with the assitance of Lynn Henry, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NE (-); The Best American Poetry 2005 c.2005, edited by Paul Muldoon, series editor David Lehman, Scribner NY (1); Poems from the Coffee Lands c.2004, “prepared for Starbucks Coffee Company by Tidbitbooks” (-); Well-Versed: poems for the road ahead c.2005?, editor uncredited, chapbook produced for AIG, an insurance and financial services group, shipped with an issue of The New Yorker (-); Beeswax Magazine, number one, Winter 2006, Oakland CA (-); The Best Spiritual Writing 1998 c.1998, edited by Philip Zaleski, HarperCollins NY (1); Ice Cream c.2005 by Lelyn Masters, self-published chapbook, Oakland CA (-); City of Buds and Flowers: a poet’s eye view of Berkeley c.1977 edited by John Oliver Simon, Aldebaran Review, Berkeley CA (-); The Work of a Common Woman c.1978 by Judy Grahn, The Crossing Press, Freedom CA (1); West Branch, sp/su 2006, #58, Bucknell University, Lewisburg PA (-); Afterbeats c.1991 by D. Jayne McPherson, Norton Coker Press, SF (-): The New Yorker, from a year’s subscription between 2004 and 2005 (1); Poems for the Millennium, vol.2 c.1998 edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris, University of California Press, Berkeley CA (2)

And if you’re curious:

Best Poems of 2005

Best Poems of 2004

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ann Landers

from the diary: “Friday 3/14/86

“I wrote to Ann Landers, not asking for advice, giving it. A familiar comment of hers upon acknowledging a mistake is to say, ‘fourteen lashes with a wet noodle.’ Well, today in response to a criticism of some hospital-visiting etiquette advice that she flubbed she said, ‘twelve lashes with a knotted bedsheet.’ I was so horrified by this image – Ann Landers being whipped with a knotted bedsheet! – that I had to write to her.”

The Ann Landers column and the Dear Abby column were written by identical twin sisters. Ann was the more conservative of the two. Abby was the sassier – she never had to be educated about the truth about gay lives. Ann, however, counseled counseling toward cure. She eventually saw the error of her advice – after much thwapping with a rolled up rainbow flag, no doubt.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

letters page

from the diary: “Thursday 3/13/86

“I just … read the letters page of Ms. Tree and … [ellipsis in original] Anyway there was a letter that really made me angry – this asshole moralist who claimed that homosexuality was immoral and that homosexuals are created by older men. He was also down on pornography. He then proceeded to express his indignation at a perceived case of prejudice in the characterizations of the anti-abortionists in a recent story.”

When I started reading comics I didn’t read their letters pages. Tell the truth, there were times I barely read the writing in the word balloons and just liked flipping the pages. By 1986, however, I was reading everything printed in the darn things. They weren’t 25c a pop anymore. And some had lively and entertaining letters pages. I recall Ms. Tree (a hardboiled female detective) and Jon Sable (a freelance secret agent) hosted arguments about gay rights in their letters pages because both dared to introduce gay characters. There were the usual haters and, naturally, I got exercised about their cruel and nonsensical screeds; but there were also compatriots – thank yous and personal testimony. No gay kisses allowed in the actual art, not for awhile. I’d say comics were still aggressively het. No superhero, certainly, was allowed to be out. John Byrne introduced a closeted gay superhero in his Alpha Flight (a Canadian version of the X-Men). But that character was so closeted not even the readers knew. (Though I remember a friend vehemently laying out the clues for me.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gopnik on wine

In the September 6, 2004 New Yorker Adam Gopnik reviewed a couple books on recent wine history.

“Remarkably, nowhere in wine writing … would a Martian learn that the first reason people drink wine is to get drunk. To read wine writing, one would think that wine is simply another luxury food, like smoked salmon or caviar or chocolate; the one idea that is banished is that it is a powerful drug, which can wash away, in a few minutes, the ability to discriminate at all. … For it is not wine that makes us happy for no reason; it is alcohol that makes us happy for no reason. Wine is what gives us a reason to let alcohol makes us happy without one. … The language of wine appreciation is there not because wine is such a special subtle challenge to our discernment but because without the elaborate language – without the idea of wine, held up and regularly polished – it would all be about the same, or taste that way. … A good fruity bottle of a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, with a pretty label and a decent story, makes us happy, and happier than that we don’t really deserve to be.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

more rumination on diaries

from the diary: “Tuesday 3/11/86

“I [see] in the stores, in libraries, published journals and I read them and they sound so interesting. They describe the landscape poetically, they detail the physical features of friends, relatives, dash off brisk lines about how ‘Mama tamped her pipe with her little finger and fixed me with one clear eye as she said –‘

“Am I too self-centered to see all that? It never sounds right on paper to say that about real people. I can have fictional characters run through my motions, but I feel uncomfortable doing it with real people.”

And with that I filled the last page of the spiral bound journal in which I had been writing.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Don Emblen books

Yesterday Kent & I went up to Sonoma County to visit a couple friends. We stopped in at the home of Don Emblen, a professor of mine at SRJC. Since I left town he’s served a stint as Poet Laureate of Sonoma County and he continues to produce small print runs of books and broadsides on his clamshell letter press. I got from him three of his books. Dozy, poems about the cat that was rubbing its black length against his ankle, By the Dozen, a collection of short poems, Notes from Travels, which I think I read twenty years ago when it was new but probably a library copy, and Want List, which was published by Running Wolf Press when Don was enlaureled.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

from the diary: “Sunday 3/10/86

Mr. Popper’s Penguins “irritated me because the characters wondered, ‘Gee, why aren’t there any penguins in the Arctic? Wouldn’t it be a great idea to make up where silly old nature was deficient and plop some penguins down there?’ Sadly, the [flightless] great auk, the first to hold the name ‘penguin,’ was just as delightful and fearless as the southern penguin. Nature was very generous in her supply of great auks. Mr. Popper’s ancestor’s (and mine, more’s the pity) took their liberties with the auks, wiping them completely from the face of the earth. I find it hard to ‘wow’ over Mr. Popper’s good-heartedness and awesome ignornace.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals

I checked out the book in January but didn’t get started reading it till March.

from the diary: “Sunday 3/10/86

“[I]n The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals there isn’t a lot of ‘oh my god’ eyewitness stuff the way there is in Jewish histories because there just aren’t the eyewitnesses – they’ve been killed or just driven underground by the vilification of gays that never stopped – gays were hated just as much after the war as during or before. They are still afraid in Germany – especially East Germany – to speak out. It’s a devastating irony that Jews can condemn recognition of the homosexual agony, as ‘a travesty’ as one prominent Jewish historian is quoted in the book, as though there was some hierarchy of suffering, with legitimate and illegitimate claims to pain, a more-pitiful-than-thou attitude that stinks of hatred and prejudice in a way that calls to mind the Nazis themselves. Of course I needn’t mention Kahane and his Arab-hating in modern Israel to further highlight the irony of oppressed people becoming oppressors. Gay nazis (before they were purged) hated Jews. Jews hated/still hate (as do gentiles, moslems) homosexuals. It’s a disease of the human species, I suppose, this emotional violence toward a group of its fellows mainly on the grounds of difference.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Heidegger v. Miller

Jason Epstein, a longtime New York editor, in his Book Business: Past, Present, and Future, is speaking about the spread of literacy: “Greater literacy will not reduce the human capacity for mischief any more than Martin Heidegger’s philosophical learning kept him from supporting the Nazis, a dilemma that philosophers might explore further.”

The book is dedicated to Epstein’s wife, Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter that did so much to sell the Iraq war (as mouthpiece for Dick Cheney’s version of the world) via the pages of the Gray Lady. How many deaths should she be held responsible for? Heidegger?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Plan Colombia

In the Fall 2006 issue of The Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, a journal published by the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, there’s an update on Plan Colombia written by Daniel Coronell.

“In 2000, the United States and Colombia undertook a huge campaign to strengthen Colombian institutions and fight drug trafficking. … [O]ne specific goal … was to reduce cocaine trafficking to the United States by 50 percent over five years … by 2006 the total area of coca cultivation … would be reduced by half and the price of cocaine on U.S. streets would double.

“In an effort to achieve this goal, $10.6 billion -- $3 billion more than initially planned – has been spent. … The areas of cultivation in Colombia are … larger today than before Plan Colombia was instituted. In 1999, an estimated 122,500 hectares were planted with coca. In 2005, this number reached 144,000. … [T]he Colombian government has conducted massive spraying in the areas indicated by the United States [but] coca has reappeared in new areas or in areas that were not previously evaluated."

And the price of cocaine? “[T]he ‘retail’ price of one gram of cocaine was $135.51 in 1999 and $106.54 in 2003. … [C]ocaine is cheaper than ever.” I presume Coronell has reason to figure the price hasn’t appreciably increased since 2003.

When Plan Colombia was set in motion coca growing regions were predominantly controlled by leftist guerrillas. Sadly the peace process meant to rein them in fell apart and Alvaro Uribe, the president elected in 2002, switched his attentions to “right-wing paramilitary death squads. … When the possibility of a peace process with the Colombian government opened up, some drug lords not previously tied to paramilitary activity began to associate themselves with these right-wing militias. According to a Colombian police report, some drug lords bought militias for sums ranging from $10 million to $50 million in order to gain political status, avoid extradition to the United States [up till then a very real concern; remember Pablo Escobar?], dialogue with the government, and disguise their drug-trafficking activities.

“Despite the spraying, the size of the area under illicit cultivation had not changed since Plan Colombia was implemented. Instead, coca cultivation had moved from areas under guerrilla influence in the southern region of the country to areas under paramilitary control. Today, coca is grown closer to Caribbean and Pacific ports and to various urban centers.”

The U.S. government (that’s us, right?) paid ten billion dollars to lower the street price of cocaine, to increase the area of coca cultivation in Colombia, and to move that crop closer to ports and cities -- not to mention soak vast acreage (and the people and animals living there) with herbicides. Fun, huh? I wonder how much of that money came “back” to the U.S. via the arms and chemicals industries.

Monday, January 15, 2007

new stuff

I looked at the new comics adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and found it strange and not Ozzy. But as I looked at it I realized that the drawings which seemed to be made of smears of glass had a flowing yet jagged quality and the illusion of movement began to impress me; also the text was often lifted right from L. Frank Baum’s original. I didn’t buy it. I probably would have but at the time I was already late for an appointment.

I thought about it a bit more and decided to give it another look but when I inquired at Comic Relief found they’d sold out. I was assured a reorder would be placed. I stopped in yesterday and it was again on the shelf. The art is by Enrique Fernandez; it was originally published in France. At ten dollars it seemed not a terrible extravagance so I picked it up and on my way to the checkout counter my eyes lit on Mike Ploog’s comics adaptation of Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, discounted to ten dollars. I haven’t yet read The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, although I bought a copy long ago. I ought to get through a first reading of Baum’s works, if it really matters to me. Anyway, now I have two new comics versions of Baum.

Today I went for a walk in the late afternoon light. It’s been quite chilly the past few days, so I bundled up. On the loop home I stopped in at Black Oak Books. While browsing I remembered the news that Black Oak is for sale. As I’ve been carrying around a credit slip for the last year I thought I better use it up before it becomes useless. I confess I didn’t think of it till I was holding Elizabeth Macklin’s translation of Kirmen Uribe, a new book, Meanwhile Take My Hand. At $4 it was an easy sell. Then I remembered the credit slip. It was an $8.50 credit slip. The challenge: could I find a book for $4.50? I did not. In fact, the more I looked around, the less I wanted anything. Being as these days I’m working in the library, buying books merely to read them (rather than because there is some personal connection) seems excessive. Or did so at that moment.

Eventually I came across a copy of Allan Gurganus’s The Practical Heart. Kent has enjoyed Gurganus books so I thought I could bring it home to him. At $7 it was not $4.50. On the other hand the two books together came to less than $4, which, as I noted in the last paragraph, did not strike me as beyond budget.

Kirmen Uribe is a Basque poet. I included one of his poems in the issue of Hogtown Creek Review for which I guest-edited the poetry section and was tickled to see the magazine listed on the acknowledgments page. Ah, the reason there is an acknowledgments page – for the magazine editors! I recall I solicited poems from Elizabeth Macklin and besides her own she sent along some Uribe translations. I chose one of hers and one of his. Not long after that Uribe and his band came to town. We hung out with them at La Pena, talking mostly with the one who knew English.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


So I've been reading a paperback. I'm about halfway through and I notice something on the back cover. An arc curved around the top of the spine. It's tooth impressions. Somebody bit this book. No corresponding bite marks on the front. Where was the lower jaw?

On page 199 I discovered the other half of the bite. "Maybe they needed their hands, for finding their keys?, so they held the book between their teeth to use their hands," Kent suggested.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

P&P poets

Last night at Poetry & Pizza we had Murray Silverstein and David Shaddock. Both had books. Silverstein's is brand new. Shaddock's Dreams are another set of muscles is rather older -- there's an intro by Denise Levertov. Both poets were both good.

I'm impressed by the cover of Silverstein's Any Old Wolf. Sixteen Rivers is a collective of poets who are essentially publishing themselves. David Bullen, the man who did the cover design, is a pro. I wonder how much he cost?

Friday, January 12, 2007

a round up of some reading

from the diary: “Saturday 3/8/86

“Reading One Cosmic Instant, interesting but the style is textbookish. Also read tonight Who Stole ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which was fine. The Wizard was just one of five books that were stolen [from an elementary school library]. The solution to the mystery involved Alice and Thru the Looking Glass more intimately than Wizard. Finished Mickelsson’s Ghosts in bed last night. Liked the book, and the ending was good. The killer Danite was bizarre and Mickelsson’s ruminations on the meaning of music were tedious, but other than that I enjoyed the bulk.”

“Sunday 3/9/86

“One of the reasons I keep this journal is I wish a record to exist of my development from scared little rabbit to imposing (if only in reputation) literary figure. I wish my life to be like a novel, so one day my journals can be published and all my sins and niggardly little thoughts, my joys and such, can be pawed over by eager students in search of the genesis of my genius.

“But – oh, ho, ho – what a thing! Not so sure I have any genius or that this journal is the least bit interesting – I read it over myself and am amused by its triviality. Often, it seems, I leave out the most important incidents and crab about whatever’s on my mind at the moment of writing.

“Today, anyway, was a miserable, perhaps mournful, drone of steady rain. Kept me inside bed to bed. So I vacuumed the dining and living rooms, also the stairs. Having finished One Cosmic Instant (life have a purpose? how silly), I am now reading a short book with the formidable title, The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. Haven’t gotten to the ‘oh my god’ parts yet. So far just the ol’ Hitler youth and so on.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

trying to cut back

from the diary: “Tuesday 3/4/86

“There was a new issue of Jon Sable [at the comics store] but I passed it up. I don’t like Mike Grell’s new sketchy/sloppy style. I don’t care about Jon’s love affairs. I’d rather not buy another ‘killing animals for the fun of it’ safari issue. Grey (Gray?) is left totally undeveloped – he’s gay, wow, but so what? And the buck seventy-five is too much of a pinch. As soon as the current storyline of Nexus resolves itself I’m dumping that. John Byrne is leaving The Fantastic Four soon, so I’ll take that as a convenient cue to bow out. Timespirits was canceled and the latest Elric limited series just had its last issue. Only four more issues of Mage; it runs out on issue 15. I’m whittling down my regular collectibles both voluntarily and involuntarily. Timespirits being the latter. Y’know, soon I won’t be buying any First comics. From everything they published to nada.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

a friend in the night

I think my protestations about science fiction (see this post) were more a fit of pique at my mother than a real dislike of sf. Fact is, there are a lot of things I like about sf. And during this time I was even trying to write sf stories, including one set in a post-apocalyptic city, in which an orphaned boy is befriended by a woman called “The Filcher” whose skin has been turned to crusty scales or plates by exposure to noxious chemicals or radiation. I’m sure I’ll run onto it again sometime. The story never really managed to gather a plot, though it’s probably still one of my longer pieces of prose fiction.

Here’s a description from 3/1/86 of meeting a cat on a cold evening walk: “When it first saw me [the white Persian] arched its back. I called, ‘kitty kitty kitty kitty,’ as I approached but it hissed. I tried plaintive mewing. That worked instantly. The cat stopped arching, looking hostile, and settled on its haunches. Not going too near I crouched, held out one hand with fingers extended, so the cat could sniff the tips, and alternated my mewing with ‘kitty kitty kitty.’ The cat stepped closer, three forward, one back. It sniffed my fingers and jumped away. Came again and sniffed my fingers. Went around behind me and rubbed against my back, still shying from my hands. Then I got a stroke in. It moved closer. And I had a friend. The cat had no collar, it looked like a real Persian with pure white hair and smashed-in face, but its fur was badly matted. No one had brushed it in a long time. Cat smelled faintly of dog. But someone had loved it once because the poor babe warmed right up. Purred, purred. Climbed into my lap, didn’t mind being picked up (but didn’t like being held long). Adored the attention. Nice for me, too, encountering a friend in the night. I wanted to find out if the cat was lost, but what could I do? Couldn’t carry it home. Way too far. So I left. Cat followed me a little ways, stood watching me in the middle of the sidewalk until I walked from sight.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

pile of reading 2/86

Mickelsson’s Ghosts by John Gardner

The Panda’s Thumb: more reflections in natural history by Stephen Jay Gould

The Seven Mysteries of Life by Guy Murchie

Other Women by Lisa Alther

One Cosmic Instant: man’s fleeting supremacy by John A. Livingston

The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals by Frank Rector

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz by Avi

Dancing the Gay Lib Blues by Arthur Bell

The Year of the Whale by Victor B. Scheffer

Waiting: the whites of South Africa by Vincent Crapanzano

Mr Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater

The Best American Short Stories 1978 by Ted Solotaroff, editor

The Ape’s Reflexion by Adrian J. Desmond

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Fit or Fat? by Covert Bailey

After the Goat Man by Betsy Byars

“That’s sixteen books. More heavy on science than usual. It breaks down to: three adult novels, three children’s novels; six science books; one book of short stories; three sociology/history books. I’m collecting about twenty comics on a regular basis – not even half of them are monthly. That’s down a lot from a peak of about forty. I expect to go down more, gradually. Probably will be some I’ll keep collecting a long time -- Cerebus, Love and Rockets, a few others.”

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Blue Planet: a celebration of the earth

from the diary: “Thursday 2/27/86

“I finished The Blue Planet: a celebration of the earth and returned it to the library. Not much of it stuck, but she had a nice style. Rather put me to sleep, tho’.”

Blue Planet, besides its soporific qualities, had a lot interesting of things to say about Earth as a dynamic system. I remember the author talking about beaches and how they are built through natural processes. Beaches are built via the action of winds, waves, tides, and living things. There are beaches built of different kinds of sands. In Hawaii there are white sand beaches (ground-up coral), black sand beaches (ground-up lava), and a green sand beach or two (ground-up olivine, which is a kind of volcanic rock). She even describes a beach built of flattened tin cans.

There's an excerpt from the book here. Coincidentally it's from the author's ruminations on the shore.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Waking the Poet

from the diary: “Tuesday 2/25/86

“I think Paul [Mariah] is trying to reach out to me. Lending me books, two tonight, Poetry Handbook and On Beyond Koch, a book of kids’ poems and teaching poetry. He tries to think of things, I think, that will help me, and passes them on. The last thing I should be is insulted, as I rather was when he lent me Waking the Poet. ‘Is this his way of telling me I’m not a poet?’ I thought.”

I don’t remember any of these books.

Paul Mariah led a poetry workshop that I had been attending. As I didn’t have a car Mom would come, too. She refused to let me have a driver’s license so long as I couldn’t pay the insurance, and I didn’t have a job so I couldn’t pay the insurance. There were not many job prospects in Sebastopol and anyway I was depressed and having anxiety attacks at the thought of asking anyone for a job. I told Mom “I’d called the Suicide Prevention hotline, got a recording, and decided to watch ‘Agronsky’.” (Agronsky and Company was a PBS political chat show. ) So she called up Don, the man to whom she'd been sending me for counseling. She paid the counseling bills, thinking she was getting better value than if she'd paid the car insurance bill. ... I doubt it. Anyway, Don insisted I come over to Santa Rosa and meet him. I rode the bus. He told me, "'God helps those who help themselves,'" and he "gave me a card with six 'important principles' that I 'must learn' [including] 'life is really yours'." I remember him telling me repeatedly that I had to take responsibility for my life.

He did offer to make an appointment with a psychiatrist who might put me on medication. Oh? I thought. That might be useful. Unlike everything you’ve done up to now.

Friday, January 05, 2007

what's new

I bought today at the comic shop: Critical Citadel, which has some sick funny stories in it. Some of it made me think of a gentler Mike Diana; don't click that link unless you're ready for a gross-out. (If you want a picture-free story about Diana you can check the wikipedia article.)

At Half Price Books I picked up an old copy of Piers Anthony's second Xanth novel, The Source of Magic. I recently read the 4th and 3rd Xanth novels (in that order) so I figured I might as well work my way on back to the first. Besides, it was only $1.22, which I paid for with pocket change.