Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another link to love

The key to a successful blog is specialization. Focus on one thing obsessively and the audience knows what to look for. There is a blog devoted to photographs of the contents of pickup truck glove compartments. (No, I don't have the link.) There is a blog devoted to the interpersonal relationships among the X-Wing pilots during the attack on the Death Star. (Again, sorry.) 

My blog is not successful because I am unable to specialize. My brain is either a pinball or silly putty, going in all directions. See, I can't even settle on a metaphor. I take no comfort in the Robert Heinlein quote, "Specialization is for insects." Because, let's face it, insects are pretty darn successful on this planet.

I do have a link to my favorite hyper-specialized blog in all of webdom. Now known as "The Comics Curmudgeon" but originally called "I Read the Comics so You Don't Have To," it is the dream destination for anyone who doesn't find the daily newspaper comics that funny or entertaining, but is compelled to read them anyway. Josh reads them and then ridicules the art, or the stories, or the perceived perverted personalities portrayed within. For example, Josh presents the above panel as evidence of Rex Morgan, M.D.'s repressed sexuality. As with everything in that comic strip, the truth is maddeningly more banal. 

Josh is wicked smart (he was just on "Jeopardy" for God's sake) and funny. His love for all these strips is apparent, even if it is the love one might have for a three-legged dog. Think of his blog as "Mystery Science Theater," but for Blondie and Mark Trail.

My own personal story of the comics: 

I was a paperboy for the Des Moines Register (Sunday mornings) and Tribune (daily afternoons, even Saturday) for my entire adolescence. I obsessively read every strip in the morning and afternoon papers, except for the "soap opera" strips. They just seemed so boring. But I did notice that in the strip Judge Parker, there was never a judge. So I started reading it and sure enough, the title character never made an appearance. As a thirteen-year-old I realized that reading Judge Parker was even less cool than the other things I did (watching all the Planet of the Apes sequels, playing Dungeons and Dragons) so I never spoke about it. But I made a secret deal with myself that I would stop reading Judge Parker when the judge showed up. By the time I went off to college, he had never appeared. (Perhaps the judge made quick appearances while I was in South Dakota visiting my grandparents, whose newspapers featured rare treats like Henry and Mary Worth.) I admit that I got excited when Sam Driver spoke to the judge on the telephone once in those five years. 

Twenty years later I rediscover Judge Parker thanks to Josh. (It appears that about six months have transpired in the characters' lives since I stopped reading.) And the judge himself has appeared, several times! Apparently he was holed up writing pulp fiction:

One of Josh's readers wrote in responding to the term "Crime-Fighting Judge," and suggested a few other outrageous character ideas, like a disease-fighting nurse or a fire-fighting fireman. And the ridicule goes on.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Away From Home: for your viewing pleasure

Lots going on since my last entry. The Illustration Conference happened and it was a good time. Our movie was greeted with all we hoped it would be greeted with: laughter at the right moments, applause, and nobody got bored or antsy. Now from the comfort of your own laptop you can share the magic. Thanks to James Yang, the movie's producer and on-camera guide, for getting this movie posted. It is twenty-three minutes long and features seven illustrators talking about life abroad/in transit.

If you go to James's blog, keep in mind that he insists on calling the movie by the wrong title. He named it "Away from Home" even though I preferred a different title, and now he is calling it "Home and Away." It's like if I wanted to name my child Hector, but my wife wanted to name him Gerald, so I agreed, and then she couldn't stop calling him Bert.

James and other familiar faces showed up at my book-signing in Park Slope, so thanks to all who were there. My co-author got sole billing, but these things happen when you have a PhD. Doors are held open, people are nicer. It's probably a lot like being really good-looking.

The other big event that has happened is the death of my hard drive. It is still in the hospital having data rescued. Then I need to get a new hard drive. So I am a bit cranky.

The image that opens this post is one I did years ago for the NYTimes Book Review. It was never published, but not because it was rejected. I emailed it, and then went on vacation without confirming it got there. So I returned from vacation to several "where the hell is it?" messages. Someone else was hired to do a piece of art since I was out of contact. I felt terrible of course, and sent the art anyway with an explanation/apology. In typical terse Steven Heller style, I got an email in return:

No problem. Nice piece.

Now with remote access to email and cell phones and everything, this kind of thing doesn't happen. Well, almost never.