Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 2

Following the gothic/industrial music label debacle, I decided that it was time to use my Business Economics degree and dip my toe into the wonderful world of accounting.  I ended up at a small, family-owned payroll, bookkeeping and tax business.  I mentioned last time that I had written a short story about working there, which I will eventually post, but needless to say I was b-o-r-e-d out of my ever loving g-o-u-r-d.  I became so efficient at my job that I was able to finish everything that needed to be done within the first two hours on the worst days, and found myself eagerly awaiting quarter end so that I at least had something vaguely challenging to do.  Without internet access, being micromanaged about shaving everyday, having paid tax preparation classes dangled in front of me only to have the prospect taken away due to "not being necessary at this time," and finally that damned radio station that I am positive is still playing the same songs in the same order ten years later left me bitter to the maximum.  Odd thing was that when I put in my two weeks notice, the lady boss cried and said that I was the best employee they had ever had.  This left me feeling like a total creep, but at the same time, if they had followed through on the proposed plan to make me a licensed tax preparer, I might still be there today.

The Game Corporation:  I immediately started here upon ending the payroll job and to be honest, this was one of my all time favorite jobs.  I showed up for the Saturday game corporation job interview in fairly relaxed clothes, since that is what I was told was acceptable.  I was blown away to find the man who would be my boss in shorts and a short-sleeved button-up shirt and the woman who was his boss, who I could tell immediately that I would not be able to deal with.  According to my boss, who ever since is a great friend of mine that I regretfully see all too little of nowadays, he had me picked for the merchandise distributor job immediately, and he laughed when I mentioned that I had been worried about the man in the full suit who was to be interviewed after me, saying that the man was a total douche.

I immediately made friends with all of the workers there and became a fairly close-knit group, having parties, testing new games, happy hours, and attending Tee-Off martini lunch specials (they regretfully have not done these for years).  I was given a territory of stores that I then would allocate the various board games, card games, chess sets, puzzles and such in a manner that would take into account current need based on past sales trends all while anticipating busier times (Christmas) and special events.  The capper on this was that I was specialized to be the distributer of video games to the handful of stairs that were allowed to carry them.  I was in heaven.  I regularly received free PSone games for myself and my boss and I was able to secure the PS2 system for myself, although I did have to camp out for it.  Times were fun there, my boss and our other buddies would have meetings in the printer room, where we would have tequila from someones flask and then break to go back to work.  Occasionally, we would play practical jokes such as filling the printer room with balloons (floor to ceiling) or parking so close to our friends new car that he could not get in.

Another shocker in a most positive way was that I received a $2000 bonus after being there for only two months.  I know.  Shocking.  Especially after what I had been used to dealing with.  If I had actually been there for a full year, my bonus would have been closer to my yearly salary, but I can put this down to eternal bad time and I was not going to complain about two grand.  The reason for the bonus could be summed up in one word: Pokemon.

Pokemon had appeared on the scene a few months before I was hired, and it was a smash.  Lines of children wrapped around the block hoping to leave the store with a rare-as-gold 1st edition pack of Pokemon cards that hopefully would have the fabled holofoil card of Charipenis or whatever the cute dragon creature's name was (Charmander?  Charizoid?).  Pokemon had turned Wizards of the Coast, who currently had the exclusive license to the Japanese card game sensation, into a overnight sensation and the card game greatly surpassed their other properties of Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering.  Unbeknownst to me, when I was hired by the local game company, Wizards of the Coast or WotC as we called it, had bought the company that hired me and they in turn had been bought by Hasbro.  The owners of the game company made bundles of cash in the deal as did plenty of people on the WotC side.

*Brief interlude side story.  At WotC, whose headquarters were in Washington state, there was rumored to have been an employee that lived at the offices.  Not just worked into the wee hours of the night, but this guy would get up early, work until everyone had left, grab a sleeping bag and sleep under his desk.  When the Hasbro deal went through, this man became a millionaire, just like that.  Apparently, after becoming a millionaire, he continued to sleep under his desk until higher-ups eventually had to tell him to lighten up and to go buy something.  Live a little.  Wish it had been me.

Anyhow, the owners of the local company that hired me to be the merchandise distributor, were four sisters that were brutally ruthless to each other with no regard to any of their employees.  Typical days at the office involved them yelling at one another across the expanse of the offices and the attached warehouse.  To stress this matter, it needs to be understood, that the company was on the tech-positive side, meaning that we did have phones with the ability to call directly to the other offices, these women chose to scream at each other as opposed to picking up the phone and quietly telling one another to "go fuck yourself, you stupid bitch."  This was shocking to one's nerves, especially when we happened to be in the crossfire of all four of them, which probably explained the tequila meetings in the printer room.  Funny.

*Come to think of it, that job had so much wackiness going on that I could write a short novel around it with the drama, the screaming and such, but I should finish.

Problems started when Pokemon was flooded into the market and WotC continued plugging away as if this phenomenon was set to be a constant and not the fad that we all knew it to be.  The warehouse was eventually moved to Texas to centralize distribution.  The Goleta Merchandise Distributors took over the ordering for most of the items at the WotC stores, which was in their favor since we really did know what we were doing.  The sister who was my boss's boss soon left to work at a startup toy company (thank goodness), another sister left as well, and the one that for the most part ran the locally owned chain of stores was chased out by WotC, or rather paid to go away.  This was good for her, despite having put her heart and soul into the business, and I had the utmost respect for her business savvy.  Unfortunately, she was a bit too vocal over various business decisions that were going down in the company and WotC felt the need to chase her away.  The fourth sister stayed on and was rather nice, and without her sisters to scream at was actually very pleasant.

To wrap this up, WotC decided to expand their stores almost exponentially.  Stores were opening everywhere and with little regard to location or the demographics of the populace around.  I heard of stores opening between Kaybee Toys and GameStops and with the Pokemon gravy train slowing down, stores open for but three months began to close.  Following this, the promised bonuses were drastically reduced and employees were being laid off left and right.  The Goleta office was to be shut down and we were training our replacements, although an offer was made to me to transfer to Washington, but I turned it down on the suspicion that I would move there only to be let go shortly thereafter, which would have been the case.  My boss was heavily pursued to move up, but he refused as well.  The last few weeks were fun-filled with frisbee golf expeditions, croquet with beer on the front lawn, Tee-Off martini lunches and trying to burn through our sick pay, which we could not do.  When all was said and done, I was let go with six weeks severance, my bonus, four weeks of vacation pay, a week of sick pay, and unemployment.  I then spent two months of the best times ever, living large and having fun with our teacher friends, before even attempting to look for a new job, which I unfortunately found.
Next time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 1

I suppose that Up in the Air is considered a comedy, although a dark one, and I found myself laughing through various parts, but not because they were funny. More so that I could relate to the subject matter completely from the various bad luck that I have had with jobs from ages past. Probably the best way to describe what I mean is to list them off (not counting the fast food job, which first opened my eyes to the seedy underside of humanity)

Music Store: I worked, regrettably, for the music chain store for just over six years. It was considered a "family store", despite having an extensive porno collection for both rental and sale, really bad - musically speaking - rap and heavy metal music (Yanni and John Tesh, too. God help us all) and scores of underpaid "associates." Do not get me wrong, I dearly loved many of the people who I worked with and being close to music was wonderful, but retail is a minor step up from food service, considering that you still have to deal with the public. Anyways, the downtown store where I was assistant manager was eventually shut down due to a combination of the property management company refusing to negotiate on the astronomical lease and the poor performance of the company itself. When the time came to close down the store, I was already almost out the door having been working as a barback at my favorite bar and interning at a gothic/industrial music label and distributor, and falling in love with my now wife, so I really could have cared less. On the last day, the district manager came in and pulled each of the remaining employees aside to discuss "options".
My option went a little like this, "So, Donist. I know that we have had our differences in the past..." Differences being that on two occasions, he had made a surprise visit to the store and my button-up shirt had not been tucked in. For a family-friendly store, my untucked shirt must have been what put the final nail in the coffin for my location. "...but we do have some options. As you know, there are no open Assistant Manager positions at the uptown store, but we can bring you on as a Product Specialist. You will also need to be flexible with your time and there will be a decrease in pay. How does that sound?"
"Nah." I said, "I'll just take my final check." That was that.

Gothic/Industrial record label and the Bar: The bar was fun for awhile, but Donist was a big boy and tended to get in the way of the bartenders. For very few hours a night, I was, by my standards, making a ton of money for cleaning glasses, restocking ice and restocking booze. I would get free shots throughout the night and the beautiful bartenders would paw all over me, which I did not mind in the slightest. Unfortunately, I did indeed get in the way, and due to my size was moved to the back entrance as a bouncer. For a while, this worked out fine, but the bar began to see an upsurge in patrons, which was good and bad. On one hand, girls would try to tempt me to let them in through the back when the front entrance was not letting them in, and they too would paw all over me.  On one especially busy evening, I told one woman, "Why would I ever let you in the bar, when I am having so much fun with you right here?" She stuck her tongue out at me and went back to the front and eventually got in and came back to tell me that she was not mad at me.  On the other hand, however, the hours were late and now that I was a bouncer, I was expected to be a bouncer, which I whole heartedly am not. As popularity grew, so did the vast number of douchebags that were showing up and fights began to breakout regularly. It would take a long walk home and at least an hour to decompress enough to actually get to sleep due to my elevated stress levels. The final straw was when I found myself pinning two gangsters on the ground outside of the bar after an immense fight had begun and carried into the street. As I told them, "The cops are on the way, you better get out of here," I began to question why I was having to pin two grown adults to the concrete from among the twenty random people fighting on the street and I decided to turn in my two weeks notice. The place was no longer good for my health.
The record label, where I worked during the day, was everything that I thought that I had wanted. I still had music in my life, it was somewhat glamorous, I was not about to be written up for being a dollar short on my drawer or reprimanded for not tucking in my shirt, and I was able to help out with various local shows that happened. At this job, I was Product Manager, a cool title and the working days were busy, fun even. We would go through some of the catalog titles and play them aloud, wincing at just how horrible some of the groups were, but the real problems quickly became apparent; money being the key problem. The owner of the company was bad with money to the extreme, and would shift it around to mostly promote his own band, which was incredibly good, and not pay many of the other artist that he had through the label and distribution. There was at one point a large influx of money from a younger woman who had received a sizeable inheritance, but she was ultimately taken for a ride on that, as was myself and the other employees. Long story short, I was having to wait longer and longer periods of time to receive my paycheck, and creditors and angry musicians were calling for payment non-stop. I eventually went "on strike," refusing to work until my past due paychecks were given to me. I would still go to the office in hopes of being paid, but I would spend that time working on and faxing my resumes to new places of possible employment. By the time I did leave, shortly before the companies collapse, I still had to fight it out with my employer due to being classified as an outside contractor in his effort to evade taxes that I was now on the hook for. After not receiving any call backs from my old boss, I eventually sent a letter (freshly armed with the knowledge of state law that I had gained from the payroll place that I was working at) that prompted my ex-boss to pay all of the taxes that were due.  I also received a note that said that he was sorry, but he had been incredibly busy.  I should mention that I am still very good friends with one of the employees from the record label to this day, although I do not see him enough.
Next time....the payroll place. I had written a short story about life there, so I might just post that. It's a bit longer than my normal overly long rants, but I think it is funny.


Up In The Air and the Art of Bad Luck

Last night, my wife and I watched Up in the Air on Blu-Ray and I can see why it was nominated for best picture of the year. The film centers on corporate layoff specialist Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who considers his home to be the first class section of his preferred Airline and whatever hotel he happens to be enjoying with the highest degree of amenities and that provides him with the largest amount of miles on his card. In his spare time, which is relatively small, he schedules in his motivational speaking seminars for his philosophy of having little worldly and human connections. He prides himself on having a not-so-full backpack and nothing to tie him down as he travels from city to city delivering the oftentimes devastating news to the employees of companies that do not have the backbone to deliver themselves (one of the best scenes of this is the one involving J.K. Simmons, one of my favorite actors.) Bingham's life seems to be flowing perfectly: a job he loves, a certain detachment from humanity, no possessions, and miles...oh so many miles. That is until he meets the lovely Alex ( played by Vera Farmiga), who seems to be the female version of himself, and the young fresh-out-of-college Natalie (played by Anna Kendrick), who brings to Bingham's boss (portrayed by Jason Bateman, another favorite of mine) some new ideas that threaten to ground all of the corporate layoff contractors in favor of an electronic remote firing system. A great and thought provoking film by Jason Reitman, who brought Juno and Thank You For Smoking.

*A side note that I had heard on NPR a while back is that many of the various scenes involving people reacting to being laid off were from people that had actually lost their jobs, which hit a little too close for home for me.
Up in the Air [Blu-ray]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Scary Times at the Music Store

The various oddballs from the music store days keep popping into my head for some reason, so I might as well revisit that era of my life and will probably be doing so often.  There is a plethora of weirdness tied up and sunk to the bottom of that quagmire.
At the store, I had recently been promoted to the next step up from the bottom, I cannot even remember the title of the position, so let's call it Product Specialist. I was at the front of the store counting out my drawer and wondering if I was to be written up for being thirty five cents short, when one of my coworkers, Jenn, came up and asked me to speak to a customer at the back rental area who was not happy. I already had to listen to complaints all day long, so one more was nothing to worry about. "What do you mean Amateur Asian Anal A-Cuppers is here, but you cannot find it?" Or, "This video was not rewound?" "Why do I have to show you my ID before I can buy this Easy-E album?  My dad said I could buy it." "That music that you are playing...that Enigma... that's devil's music." I thought that I had heard it all.
The store was as large as a warehouse, and on the long walk back to the video rental area, even with my very poor eyesight the monstrous being waiting for me sent a shiver down my spine. My heart rate increased slightly and with every step an immense sinking feeling becan to develop and I became more worried. Now, I am a fairly big tall guy, but this man looked to be a close relative of wrestling's The Undertaker, only with shorter curlier hair. As I approached, I could more clearly see the T-shirt bearing an eagle, an F-15 fighter jet and an American Flag, and it would not have shocked me in the slightest if Lee Greenwood's "Proud To Be an American" were to pop up on the speakers for my impending funeral march.
Man, I did not want to talk to this guy. Was the extra fifty cents per hour really all that important for the title of Product Specialist? I would rather go around putting stacks of CDs away, jabberjawing the time away with my friends, or alphabetizing the porno section. "I'm a nice, fair guy," I thought, "this should be a snap."
"Weeeelllllll, looks like we got a problem here," said the giant.  I glanced at the counter and sitting in front of the man was the Steve Martin and Rick Moranis movie My Blue Heaven and the animated All Dogs Go To Heaven.
"Um...what can I help you with," I said stepping up into the booth to have access to the computer and now slightly taller than the man mountain.
"That lady there says I need a check in order to rent a movie and I don't have a check," he grumbled, puffing out his chest.
Through a cracked voice, I asked him for his card, but holy shit, this man was bigger than anyone I had ever met and he was visibly pretty ticked off. I did not want to die. To Clarify, at the music store rental area, customers had to leave either a credit card number on file, or they were required to write a check for one hundred and fifty dollars as a method of deposit before they were allowed to rent a movie. I scanned the card and the account pulled up and since we had no credit card number on file, the default of entering the check information popped up.
"No problem, sir. Let's see you have a credit card number that you want to leave on file?"
"Hell no, and if I did, I sure as shit would not give it to you."
"Ummm...okay. Do you have a check that you can leave for the deposit?"
"Nope, but that should not matter, I've rented here before without having to leave a check."
This did not sound right, "I don't think anyone would have rented out movies without some form of..."
The man visibly bristled at this, "What?! Are you calling me a LIAR, boy? Are you calling me a LIAR?! You better take two steps back!"
Oh god. Here it comes. I had no prayer of fighting this guy. I've been on the receiving end of a punch before, but that was grade school and this guy was the Macho Man Randy Savage's and Hillbilly Jim's illegitimate love child. "My fingers," I thought, "they are going very cold." I looked past the man for a fraction of a second that floated on as if I were in a dream, and I could see Anthony and Bo circling the man, and look there, it's Mark. My coworkers were there, circling the behemoth. I felt a warm comfort inside, "Wow. I have such good friends," I thought. "The moment this asshole drops me, my friends will jump in and...well...they too will get beaten to a pulp, but it's the thought that counts."
Having made peace with myself, I calmly looked to the man and said in a polite, steady voice, "You see here?" I said pointing to the screen. "I have to enter the check information into the system, otherwise it will not let me finish the transaction. The computer will not let me do it."
The man raised an eyebrow at this, looked at the screen, relaxed, and looked at the screen again before turning back to me.  With a massive shrug of the shoulders and a sigh, he gave me an approving nod and nice-as-could-be said, "Oh. Okay. That makes sense. Thank you very much. Good night." He turned and walked away. I never saw him again.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where To Find the Time...

Two goals of mine are to blog at least once a day in order to improve my writing, and to have a schedule for accommodating more time for the things that I enjoy. In addition to writing on the blog I need to have the time to revise my novel, start the follow up novel and tinker with a few other ideas that I have rattling around in the old noggin. The problem of course is not just finding the time, but the energy to work towards the tasks that actually make me happy and fulfilled, while not neglecting the the things that pay the bills and keep me alive. What to do.

A few days ago, an article that I had read on gave me the idea to try waking up earlier than my normal time to work on my writing and projects before heading off to the cubicle jungle. On - an incredibly resourceful website that everyone should check out - there was an article titled "What Time Do You Wake Up?" and it really affected my view of my own personal time management skills or lack thereof.
Currently, the alarm goes off at 6:00 AM and my wife hits snooze and we go through that old back and forth dance until about 6:20 AM when she gets up to take Tulip outside to get down to business. During that time, she has since turned on NPR and I toss and turn until what we call "The Puppy Bullet" crashes up the stairs, and leaps into bed to thrust her rubber chicken in my face. From there, I pull the top blanket over her and she goes back to sleep and I dose in-between the radioland horrors going on in the world and my wife's blow dryer. At 7:00 AM, I finally get up and shower, get dressed, fix breakfast and download the podcasts that I will attempt to listen to at the cubicle farm.
From the moment the alarm goes off, and many times before that even happens, I am cursing the day and what it holds in store for me. I dislike talking, being talked to, loud noises, barking or any sort of tasks that need to be done. I then carry my crummy mood with me to work, where it is fed and nurtured into a raging frothing-mouthed beast that I have been able to somewhat subdue by taking a ten minute break to read a book outside of the office and then return to the grind. I wolf down the lunch that I have brought with me and around 1:45 PM I take my lunch hour to run home and take Tulip for a walk and to play frisbee, which nearly defeats the beast whose jaws clench around my heart and mind. I then put the puppy away and return to work for the last couple of hours, which is a short amount of time and the high from playing with the dog thankfully carries me through to the end.
After work, I go to the gym, or go for a three and a half mile run, go home, take the dog for a final walk, shower, make dinner with my wife and eat it while watching a groovy tv show. By the time we have finished that course of events, it is after 8:00 PM and we have to do the dishes, brush teeth, etc. My wife then goes to bed and Tulip follows her up.
Needless to say, I am wrecked, tired and the only things that I have done for myself can be quantified into one or two hours. Now I am faced with the decision, I can somehow kickstart my brain into writing something, play Resident Evil 5, watch a show, or read a book. Inevitably, I begin to falter and pass out. So, I spent my time doing things to make other people rich and done very little to enrich myself or my loved ones.
After reading the article, I have decided to try to get up at 6:00 AM on-the-dot to get ready, have a full glass of water, and do my writing and/or editing and then, hopefully, head off to work with a sense of accomplishment. Night time can then be spent doing mercifully mind numbing zombie killing or watching episodes of Spartacus. If this works out, I may even attempt to rise at 5:30 AM, but that is a matter that I will have to negotiate with myself once I get rolling on the dreaded 6:00 AM rise. We shall see.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Open Letter To Cesar Millan From Tulip the Boston Terrier

Dear Mr. Cesar Millan,

My name is Tulip and I am a ten-month old Boston Terrier and I am writing to inform you of the impending situation that I am afraid is a result of your teachings. I have been aware of you and your program, The Dog Whisperer, for quite some time and although I do not always agree with your methods, with the exception of some extreme cases involving some of my more troubled canine brethren, I have remained silent to let you pursue your life in a manner of your own choosing. However, my human roommates after discussing watching your show yet never mustering the energy to actually watch it, arbitrarily decided to change their routine and would you care to hazard a guess as to what delivered from Netflix yesterday? No? Well, allow me to spell it out for you: The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - Season 1 - Disk 1.

Please understand, Mr. Millan, that I am a good doggy and I enjoy having the run of the house and a certain degree of...power..., but for the most part I strategically let my roommates believe that they are the ones "calling the shots," and they seemed to be content with the knowledge, but this looks to no longer be the case. Allow me to extrapolate. Over the course of the evening and through to the early morning , the pair watched the first six episodes of your show and after consuming monstrous burritos, many bottles of beer and then pumpkin waffles with coffee, I noticed a slight stirring in their poor befuddled little minds. Ideas were forming. Ideas, Mr. Millan. Ideas that I did not approve of.

Look at this situation from my point of view if you will and answer truthfully. How would you feel upon hearing the tall male roommate, Donist, as he turned to his wife to say, "I think we need to Cesar Millan her ass. Maybe we should buy a choker." Now, do you see where I am coming from? I repeat, "Cesar Millan her ass." Is that type of phrasing and - more dangerously - that type of thinking acceptable to you? Do you really wish to encourage such thoughts, despite how everything had been progressing up until now? To be honest, I am pretty sure of how you would answer, and that in and of itself is equally disappointing and sad, but then I am hardly surprised after the success of your books, product lines and six seasons worth of television shows.

Oh swell. The roommates are rallying and saying that it is time to go on a new type of walk and I have the pleasure of watching Donist attempt to make the leash into a choker. It is a shame, really, now that the poor things things think they are in control and my life is about to take a turn for the worst. All that I can hope is that my letter has in some way shown you the darker side of your teachings and the grounds that we canines have now permanently lost, but again I have my doubts. Shame on you Cesar Millan for taking away my cushy lifestyle. Shame on you.

Tulip from Santa Barbara


Friday, March 26, 2010

Warren Ellis' Authority

My all time favorite superhero book is Warren Ellis' The Authority, which included the beautifully drawn art of Bryan Hitch. The Authority centers around a group of the world's most powerful super beings who have decided to act outside of the boundaries of international lines and protect the earth on a global scale. The team is headed by Jenny Sparks, a nearly one hundred year old British woman, who stopped aging around the age of eighteen and one who commands the force of electricity. She is also the Spirit of the Twentieth Century.

Other members include:
Jack Hawksmoor - "the King of the Cities" who's powers rely upon the size of the city he inhabits, giving him enhanced strength, enhanced agility, the ability to phase and various other powers that his teammates classify as "weird." Throughout Jack's childhood, he was repeatedly abducted by aliens who systematically removed his human internal organs replacing them with organs of an alien nature so that he would one day be able to defend earth from a future threat.
Swift - A Tibetan woman with the wings of a bird sprouting from her back, razor sharp talons, and she is the pilot of The Carrier, The Authorities monstrous shiftship and base of operations.
The Engineer - A woman who replaced nine pints of her blood for nanotechnological liquid machinery. She is given the title of "The Maker" due to the ability to create anything from the microscopic machines, that contain every recorded book, and let her cover her body in a silver armor that she can bend to her will.
The Doctor - A Dutch ex-heroin addict with the counsel and powers of the hundred shamans before him, can do anything he wishes. To The Doctor, magic is change and one of belief in his own abilities.
Apollo - "The Sun God." From the Superman archetype is solar powered with the abilities of extraordinary strength, laser vision, flight and more. One of the most powerful beings on the planet and his only weakness is his reliance upon the sun to charge his body, else he depletes his stored energy. He joined the Authority with his gay lover...
Midnighter - "Night's Bringer of War." Whereas Apollo is a spin on Superman, Midnighter is a spin on Batman. He has the ability to play out a situation instantaneously in his mind from a million different angles, essentially winning a fight before he has thrown the first punch. If Apollo is the most powerful of the group, Midnighter is the most feared.
Ellis' run on the series, ran for three story arcs that pitted the Authority against a maniacal terrorist with an army of superpowered clones, an alternate earth called Sliding Albion that had been taken over by blue-skinned aliens, and the original owner of the earth an alien lifeform so large that it could only be described as God.
The Authority's greatest strength was in the relationships that it setup between the characters and the varying dynamics involved as they began to know, like and trust one another. Equally impressive was the individual voice that Ellis brought to each character and how he would leave the reader caring deeply for their well being and cheering them along at every turn. I especially loved how in impossibly stressful situations, each hero was given their moment to shine, leaving their equally powerful comrades speechless and impressed.
When Ellis' run ended, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely took the helm, and it too was very good, but nothing could equal what Warren Ellis had started. After jotting these notes down, I very much want to start the series again for tenth or eleventh time. Sometime soon I will talk about Planetary, another book written by Warren Ellis and started roughly around the same time as The Authority.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Run-Ins With the Crazies From Times Past

One of the possible benefits of having previously worked retail, although it may not seem like it at the time, is that you tend to meet some very odd characters. Actually, not just some, but many. At the time, I had been working for a now defunct music/video store in Santa Barbara and Goleta for about four years. I had transferred to the downtown store a year prior and lived close enough to walk the one and a half miles from my home to the downtown store. This was perfect, since at that time I did not own a car and was only able to borrow my mother's car when she did not need it.

The walk down was usually fairly quiet and uneventful, and to be honest I actually enjoyed the casual stroll, using the opportunity to fully awaken from the previous night's drinking and dancing. By the time I arrived at the store front, I had also had time to think about what the hell I was doing with my life, the various girls that I was enamored with and was able to pick up a coffee along the way. I rarely remembered any of the walk and was often surprised that I had not been hit by a bus or a car, or that I absentmindedly kept walking until I hit the ocean.
The nearly daily routine was quite pleasant, initially, but the feeling seemed to diminish as various colorful characters began to recognize and take notice of me as I traversed my path. I soon began to find that my usual course led me to chance meetings with individuals that would use that opportunity to walk at least half of my journey with me, complaining about how the cassette single that they had put on hold was sold despite being on hold for two months, or how Waterworld was the best movie ever made, or they asked me what time the store opened repeatedly on the same walk. *note-drugs=bad*
Here I had this peaceful time to myself that I used to run the various scenarios through my head of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be my girlfriend - always to no avail - but at least the walk was mine to do with as I wished. This was no longer turning out to be the case. Now, I found that I had to strategically lay out my journey so that I would have lower chances of crossing paths with the cassette single guy, or the stuttering guy who usually showed up two minutes to close and wanted to slowly browse the aisles, or the kid that I knew was stealing yet could never catch, or the girl who I had to ask to leave due to singing highly-explicit rap songs that she was experiencing at the listening station. Before I knew what was happening, I was adding blocks and blocks of extra distance just to avoid running into anyone. There were many times when I would look two blocks ahead and believing that I saw a potential local and would have to take a sharp turn up or down a block, all the while hoping to have given the person the slip. I prayed that none of them ever found out where I lived.
I was the prey and they were the predators wishing nothing more than to consume my time and what little remained of my spirit. This is not saying that they were not nice, or possibly somewhat nice, or that they did not have problems of their own that they wished to drag me into, but I needed my little opportunity of a moment's peace, a time when I was not being paid to deal with the various abuses that the work day would inevitably bring.
On this particular day, I was working the later shift and decided to head down early and have a mellow lunch at the all-you-can-eat Mexican food buffet. To work towards this goal, I had to lay out my mental map of war and strategically decide where I was most likely to have a run in with someone who would try to sway me from my course and made especially sure to avoid those hot spots. Walking faster than usual seemed like a good idea at the time so that I could maximize my dining experience at what my good friend and coworker called "the loser buffet." Very funny. "Loser Buffet" indeed. She obviously did not appreciate the grandiose appeal of the self-serve fajitas, the tiny bean and cheese chimichangas, the taquitos, the fish dish or the multitudes of other delicious items that awaited me. Don't even get me started on the salsas. "Loser buffet." Dammit, what does she know.
With hopes high, a sound logistical game plan of crazy avoidance, and the taste of tortilla chips most highly anticipated, I managed to make it to the restaurant with not one incident. There were no, "Hey man. Is Journey going to ever release a new album?" There were no, "Can you put the new Boyz II Men single on hold?" No siree Bob, I had made. I had run the gauntlet and I had won. I had arrived free and clear, but there was one problem. The restaurant was packed to the gills with people. Every seat was taken, or so I thought, as a couple of patrons parted to reveal a sunbeam shining down from heaven onto a lone two person table situated right next to the peaceful fountain. I'm not picky when it comes to seating, but this seat was perfect. I could eat my tacos to the sound of Mariachi and running water.
I began to step forward to tell the rather lovely hostess that I would love to have the seat by the fountain, but just as I was about to move, an odd man with a head void of hair except for the horseshoe shaped tufts that wrapped around the side of his head, coke-bottle thick glasses and a huge busy mustache intercepted me. He wrung his hands together for brief moment and tilted his head to the side to say in an overly excited voice, "Are you a HAPPY man?"
I thought about this for half of a second and eloquently responded, "What?!"
He coughed to the side to clear his throat, and gave a quick glance to the left and then to the right and back again. Wringing his hands together even more tightly than before and all smiles exclaimed, "Are you a HAPPY man?"
I must have blinked a few times confused. Not so much as to what was happening, but WHY it was happening and WHY it was happening to me. I looked at the two person table, then to the odd man smiling even bigger and still wringing his hands and looking quite pervy, and then finally to the hostess, who was starting to become nervous as evidenced by her single cocked eyebrow. My shoulders slumped and I just knew that the man would suggest that he sit at my table, so I said in a completely defeated tone, "Yeah, I'm just overjoyed," and turned to leave the building to buy a scone or a piece of brea, something to last me until my lunch break.

Yup. True story, again.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Invincimmortal Iron Matt Fraction

It was at the San Diego Comic Con of 2008 that I first met Matt Fraction. He was doing one of those hour long special appearance signings at the Marvel booth and the area was a total zoo. Luckily I had the foresight - after being denied a signing the day before for someone I do not even remember - to get in line about an hour early. I had never heard of Mr. Fraction prior to getting my mits on the comic The Immortal Iron Fist, which he coauthored with Ed Brubaker and David Aja on art, but that comic was one of the best super hero books centered on a character that I had loved since I was a child that I had ever read. I believe that I had read an interview somewhere that described The Immortal Iron Fist as a Kung-Fu Noir, and there is really no better way to put it except to maybe to add the word Legend or Lineage somewhere in the description. In the first issue alone, there is the grand threat of enemy terrorists, giant deadly steel insects, corporate intrigue, mysterious new comers with all-too-familiar powers, and the return of old foes previously thought dead. In the comic, Danny Rand is the Iron Fist, a martial arts master raised and trained in the mystical city of K'un L'un and he has the ability to channel the power of the dragon Shou Lau the Undying into his fist making it "Like a thing unto iron." Of course this sounds a bit cheesy, but what Fraction, Brubaker and Aja did with the character and the revamped history of the Iron Fist throughout their tenure on the book completely pulled me in.

Now, back to the main point of my story. There I was waiting in line with my two Immortal Iron Fist hardcover books, and glaring at the man in front of me with his thirty plus comics consisting of multiples of the same issue that he was fully intending to sell, and all the while getting bumped by the thousands of people shambling by the line and looking at the two nearly naked girls posing on a zombie motorcycle or some such thing at the booth across the way. Basically, I was becoming thoroughly irritated yet at the same time strangely happy to stay in that very spot; I still do not know what the zombie motorcycle thing was about.
An hour eventually went by and the line began to move, and I borderline lost it when another leech tried to convince the man with the thirty plus books to add his own stack of about fifteen issues of the same comic so that he could also sell them to the monstrous pile. Did I mention I had two books? Luckily, they announced a cap on the number of books that Mr. Fraction would be signing and I gave a sigh of relief that I would at least have time for my two books to be signed.
When it was finally my turn, I stepped up to the podium to hand Mr. Fraction my books and his head cocked to the side and he had an odd look on his face. I thought that maybe I had made a mistake and that he actually did not have anything to do with the books that I had just handed him, or that I had broken some sort of unspoken rule and was about to get my ass removed from the premises. Instead, he pointed at me and said, "You. You look like someone I would know. Like someone I would hang with." I looked around a bit nervously, half expecting to be filmed for some sort of joke that I was not in on, but he continued, "You just seem like someone that would call me up one day and say, 'Matt, can you help me move this weekend?' and I would say sure, buddy."
I laughed at this and while he was signing my books I said, "Funny you should mention that, man, I'm moving next week and I could sure use a hand. Just kidding." He too laughed and I told him that his book was one of my all time favorites and that my wife was a teacher and that she loved the latest issue with Danny Rand opening an after school program for children and when he stated that hunger, or being "food insecure," can essentially destroy any chance a child has of being healthy, adjusting socially or achieving academically it blew us away. I did not actually say all of that, I believe that I said something to the effect of, "My wife is a teacher and I had her read the latest issue and she loved what you had to say about hungry kids."
Mr. Fraction replied, "Thank you. That means a lot to me. Everything that I write is from here, he said pointing to his heart. At this point, other people were getting a bit irritated and I took my books, shook his hand and was off.
The next day, there was another signing, only this time with Ed Brubaker and as I was standing in line waiting for him to sign the same books that Matt Fraction had signed the previous day, when I saw that Mr. Fraction was there as well. I had told my wife of what had happened the previous day, and she did not wholly believe me, thinking that I had stretched the truth a bit, but as I stepped up to Mr. Burbaker's podium to have him sign my books, Mr. Fraction saw me and made a "V" sign, brought the tips of his two outstretched fingers to his eyes and then pointed them at me, smiled and gave me thumbs up sign. He then seemed a tad bit embarrassed for a brief moment. My wife looked at me in shock and I introduced her to him and explained that I had told him that she was a teacher and that she had appreciated what he had said in the comic. He said that what she did was great and thanked her whole heartedly. Unfortunately, I did not have anything new for him to sign, so we said our goodbyes and made our way over to Ed Brubaker, who signed my books and posed for a picture, but that was about it as he was chatting with someone else the whole time, which was totally fine. After we walked away, my wife had a complete freakout over what had happened and she excitedly kept saying how crazy the whole occurrence was. SDCC continued on and overall we had a blast.
Now for Matt Fraction run in number two. A few months later, Metro Comics, the local comic shop, announced that Matt Fraction was going to be appearing at the store for a signing and Amy and I decided to go. Armed with the trade paperbacks of The Order - a great series cut short far too soon - and Cassanova, which is a crazy book that I will have to reread a few times to completely figure it out.
*note-Cassanova is illustrated by Brazilian artist Gabriel Ba, who is currently working with his twin brother Fabio Moon on the comic Daytripper, which I will be writing about at some point soon. There are currently four issues that have been published that I must reread. One of my favorite new creator owned works. A simply wonderful series thus far.
My wife and I stood in line waiting and she was actually getting jittery and excitedly whispered, "Do you think he will remember you?" I said that he probably wouldn't and that she needed to relax, because she was beginning to stress me out. When I reached about third in line, Mr. Fraction saw me and said, "Yeah. I remember you," causing more than a few people to look at me in an odd manner. I walked up to the table and said hello, setting the books down in front of him, and he said, "You must think that I am a crazy stalker or something. I hope I didn't freak you out in San Diego."
I laughed and told him, "No way, you made my whole trip." Then I said something totally idiotic that I don't even really remember about if he was staying in town, or I suggested somewhere for him to eat or something equally stupid. We shook hands and my wife and I left for Coffee Cat, where she grades her student's papers and I work on my novel. Once we settled in with coffees and scones, my wife urged me to open the books and see what he had said. Both copies of The Order had his signature, but Cassanova had his Signature and "To Don. Sorry I am a creep."
Such a nice, funny, and good person who is completely deserving of the fame that he is currently receiving. The funny thing is that he actually does remind me of my friends and he would probably fit right in: playing Rock Band, having BBQ's and watching Super Inframan or Master of the Flying Guillotine with the gang. If this damn housing crisis ever straightens itself out once and for all, at least I have someone I can ring up to lend a hand carrying all those graphic novels to and from the moving truck.
Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story (v. 1)Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 2: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven (v. 2)Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 3: The Book of Iron Fist (v. 3)The Immortal Iron Fist Omnibus

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Espresso Roma Incident, or The Phantom Tea-Bagger

I jotted this one down a while ago as well, and this is just a cut and paste.

Okay, this one happened maybe five years ago, so let's see how well I remember it....

My wife, our very good friend and I were all at Espresso Roma having a coffee and possibly stalling for time until some sort of movie or another was to begin at the Paseo Nuevo Cinema. We were sitting there, chit-chatting, laughing and basically having a grand old time when I see my wife making odd facial expressions and motioning with her eyes and eyebrows at me. I, being ever observant and aware of my surroundings, stared at her dumbfounded until I finally said, "What?!" I looked to my left, nothing. I turned to my right, which is the side of my blind eye and again noticed absolutely nothing, but some Goth kids looking forlorned. "What is wrong with you?" I said to her, but she said nothing and continued with the odd looks.

I then looked at our friend who had gone pale, which is somewhat of an alarming occurrence due to the fairness of her skin and again I asked, "What the hell is wrong with you two?" My wife's eyes widened. Our friend's eyes widened, and then she made a sort of high pitched 'squeak' noise and I turned to the right for a second time. Once again nothing. I then turned to the left and the immediacy of the situation came crashing down upon me.

There, about four-inches from my nose was a man's package. Granted, the package was wrapped in indigo cotton Speedo style briefs. I jumped back violently with a pronounced, "Whoooooooaaaaa!!!" I took in the full glory of the freak-ass before me. Standing there in huge clunky motorcycle boots, indigo colored cotton Speedo y-fronts, no pants (obviously), no shirt, a leather motorcycle jacket, a discolored yet greying Santa Claus type beard, shades and a hat that quite possibly could have been a black leather cowboy hat, stood a fairly thin man in his fifties.

Homes had nearly tea-bagged me and was fairly oblivious to that fact, yet was laughing and having a grand old time in much the same fashion that we had been prior to his arrival. Goth kids became more awkward than usual, stoners became very confused and stopped eating their croissants and everything melted away into a silence that was interrupted only by the laughter of the man that I have since fondly referred to as "The Phantom Tea-Bagger" as he had appeared out of nowhere.

Thankfully, someone from the coffee shop came out and told the man that he had fifteen seconds to clear the premises, else the authorities would be notified and he would go to jail. The man walked out, but began yelling obscenities and proclaiming his rights and that Espresso Roma was run by fascists, which I doubted, but thought it best to keep quiet unless he was privy to information that I was unaware of.

Once The Phantom Tea-Bagger parked himself on a bench a few yards away and proceeded to make himself very comfortable, my wife and our friend began a barrage of, " did you not notice that! Oh my god, couldn't you tell something was wrong by the way we were acting."

"Yes, of course I could tell something was wrong, but the guy was in my blind spot the whole least he was until he almost had his package on my left shoulder! Next time just tell me that there is a nearly naked man standing disturbingly close to me." Moment ruined, we went off to the movie early and lost our minds in laughter, once the weirdness of the situation set in. I may not remember the movie that we saw, but I will remember The Phantom Tea-Bagger forever.

Yup, this is a true story.


Beginning Again, Again

Five mile run done, dog walked and adequately frisbeed, lunch eaten, comics bought, ten pages of novel revised, a BBQ party down and a day later.

The second point of Straczynski's talk that I took to heart was to "write what you love and write what you know." He went on to clarify, that you should not set out to write for others, or what you feel others wished to read. If I wrote what I wanted to write and wrote what I loved, and in the end others enjoyed it, great. If not, then who the hell cares. Again, it was a great talk and I wish that I had recorded it, which I am pretty sure would have been frowned upon, but I did take with me the general message, which brings me to how I continued from there.
I believe that it was about a month later when my wife went up north for a week to see her family and thus being left to my own devices and seeing the beautifully sunny Santa Barbara day before me, I thought about Straczynski and what he had said at the comic con. I also wanted to go for a bike ride and I also wanted beer. I had to weigh the following: a) Start working on my novel, b) go for a bike ride, c) I'm hungry, d) I want lots of good beer. What to do, what to do. I know, add the fifth option of e) all of the above. When faced with many appealing choices, it is best to combine as many of them as possible and thus miss out on little. I gathered up a notepad, some pens, hopped on my bike and rode to the Hollister Brewing Company for a couple of beers and a Alegria Steak Sandwich.

*Kids. Biking under the influence is a crime. Don't do it...unless you have access to a good off-road bike path. Better yet, don't be stupid, just don't do it. Also, be safe and wear a frickin' helmet too.

Once I finally made it to the restaurant, I ordered my beer and food and began to think about what I know and what I like. Roughly, it came down to having of a love of comic books and science fiction and I began to think about the sort of story that I would like to read and what I liked in a lead character. I liked the idea of hidden potential, veiled threats, tragedy that set one off on a new path, camaraderie, and love where least expected. I wanted strong characters that made mistakes, strangers that were not what they seemed, and parallels to current real events that really pissed me off. By the time I had nearly finished my first IPA, I had the general idea for the protagonist his name and abilities, I had the antagonist as a general idea, a sense of the world that he would live in, the friends that he would have, the enemies that made his life difficult and some possible conflicts. Two nights later, I began to write the story.
Many things changed from my initial ideas and many of the characters developed in ways that I really did not expect, but at that point they were the ones calling the shots, not me. Now, do I believe that what I had written is the best thing ever? Hells no, but I know that I enjoyed the process, despite a handful of nights where getting two pages out of myself was like washing the dishes and damn, how I hate to wash dishes. The point of all of this is that I did it and I could do it again and again, and hopefully better with each go. It was also fun and made me happy, which is all that really matters.
So, I will continue revising the novel and coming up with ideas for the hopefully soon-to-be-started sequel, writing, writing, more writing on the blog for practice, and enjoying the process, despite the possibility of embarrassment, but then again I survived Junior High and a few bone chilling instances that I will someday divulge, and honestly nothing can really beat those. This will be cake.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

This Whole Need to Write Thing

One thing that I try not to dwell on is that it has taken me until this point of my life to discover the joy that I find with writing. I also try to push to the back of my mind that I would have preferred to go more into the arts as opposed to the somewhat painful path of Business Economics that I had settled on for my college career. Has the business degree helped me in some respect? Of course it has, at least in the sense that I was able to squeeze out a bit more income from future jobs, but that would be the extent of it. Did Business Economics help me with my own personal finance? Hell no. I had to "blow it" on many different occasions and "learn the hard way." I did, however, eventually learn from the many difficult lessons and independently set out to become aware of how to get out of the holes that I dug myself into and how to stay out of them; it is still a task that I devote myself to today. I even went so far as to take a serious of classes to become a personal financial planner, which was tremendously helpful and borderline interesting, but that was not necessarily the road I wished to travel down either. I will talk about the financial planning thing another time.

Back to writing. At a few points in the past twelve years, I clumsily danced around the idea of writing: bad poetry, journals, oddities that I noticed from the wonderful world of retail (definitely back to that throughout the course of this blog), and even so far as starting both a novel and a children's book. I will someday pick up both the novel and the kid's book and hopefully not the bad poetry. I will try my damnedest not to revisit the bad poetry.
The kick in the rear to seriously pursue writing for my own enjoyment and to toy around with ideas and plots and characters came down to the San Diego Comic Convention of 2008. Wow. That is such a nerdy sounding thing to say, but it is the truth and with writing I believe that honesty is the best policy, even if it ends up not showing myself in the best of lights. At the SDCC, I ended up going to a panel for J.M. Straczynski on writing. I first became aware of Straczynski's works through the comic Supreme Power, which was a reinvention of The Squadron Supreme, and from there I discovered Straczynski's other books such as Midnight Nation and Rising Stars. To say that I loved Supreme Power would be an understatement, but I more than anything wanted to hear what this new hero of mine had to say.
*Before I go further, read his current run on the Brave and the Bold if you enjoy super hero comics and want something that is much deeper than your average run-of-the-mill super hero beat-em-up comic book. The great part of this series is that each issue is a stand alone story, so you can start anywhere.
To boil down what he had to say came down to two main points. First of all, if you compose two pages every day, despite all distractions, you will have written about one and a half novels in one year's time. Oh. Hell. Wait a minute, let me do the math. Two multiplied by three hundred and sixty five days equals -- shit, a business economics degree means that I need a calculator to add two plus two -- seven hundred and thirty pages after one years time. Two pages a night is nothing. "I could do that," I thought, and then the other component of that thought crept in, "why the hell have I not been doing that all along?" Straczynski continued on and more than anything I wished that I had a way to record him so that I could play back his speech over and over again. So much information, and I was not just inspired by the man, I was also reminded of something that I had been flirting with for so long. Why was I not writing? I enjoy it. I might not be good at it, but does that really matter? There is the possibility that I could get better. Does writing make me happy? Does it make me feel like I have actually accomplished something after sitting in a cube for eight hours a day, five days a week? Most definitely yes.
My wife is circling around me to go for a run that I know I need to go on and I promised I would join her. I will have to pick up on the rest of this ridiculous rant later.


Tulip the Boston Terrier

I suppose I should put up a picture of Tulip too. Don't worry though, I am not going to dedicate this blog to how wonderful my dog is, although she is pretty darn cool.

Tulip's Toy, Ellie

Here is a picture of the spit soaked dog toy that Tulip loves to press against the skin of my legs whenever I attempt to write anything. On one hand it is cute that she loves the toy and desperately wants me to play with her at every possible moment, but on the other hand the thing is foul beyond reckoning.
Ellie came into our lives after Tulip had completed the Perfect Puppy Academy and was attending graduation. The instructor had dumped a large plastic container filled with puppy toys, and after receiving her diploma, Tulip was allowed to chose a toy, and with a gentle hesitancy she gravitated towards Ellie.
Notice the severely matted fur and especially the dirt encrusted stomach.
Again, cute that she adores the thing, but at some point Ellie has got to go.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Borders Incident 5/27/2007

The following events are true. I Found this note that I sent to myself roughly two years ago and thought I would share....

I was standing in the graphic novel section at Borders in Goleta when I saw out of the corner of my eye someone kind of loitering on my left side. I felt this creeping sensation as if I was being watched and then heard them walk around behind me and over to my right side, making it impossible for me to see them due to the slight problem of my blind right eye. Ignoring the person, I went back to my perusing of the graphic novels, but I still had that creeped out feeling as if I was being watched. Just then, I heard a young male voice say, "Fascinating…It's as if I were looking into a mirror of the future." I snapped around to the right to see a thin, not more than six feet tall, 16-17 year old boy wearing glasses, a long brown trenchcoat, and perfectly combed and gelled shorter hair. He stood there staring at me wide-eyed and silent, to which I elegantly replied, "What!?!" with marked annoyance. He repeated himself and followed with, "I find it so inspiring, to know that older people can read comicbooks and still be cool."
I was borderline ready to pummel the youth, but quickly saw that he was trying to be nice and make conversation, in what was one of the most awkward displays of being social that I have ever had to experience. He then went on to test me on my comicbook knowledge…
Kid: "Have you ever read the Preacher?"
Donist: "Yeah, it's one of my most favorite comics ever."
Kid: "Hmmm…you, of course, have read The Sandman?"
Donist: "Yeah, since it first came out…it's pretty amazing that a comic book can become so influential and important; it's actually required reading in some college courses"
Kid: "Indeed. Have you read this?" He pulls out 5 graphic novels of Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and hands all of them to me.
Donist: "Uhhh…no, but I love Warren Ellis, especially The Authority and Planetary. Someday I will get Transmetropolitan, but I have to wait until I have the money to buy all of them." I hand him back all of the Transmetropolitan books.
Kid: "I see. This one is a little more obscure, but I found it quite humorous." He hands me another book, this one depicting Santa Claus standing on the ruins of a building with a beautiful woman hiding behind him as he blows away throngs of zombies with a machinegun in each hand. He hands it to me and I flip through as he continues, "If you are a fan of the Authority, then you saw the issues with Lobo?"
Donist: "I haven't seen this one before, but it looks pretty funny. Yeah, the Lobo issues were funny. I also liked the Lobo Christmas special from back in the eighties."
Kid: "Oh yes, I have to admit I got quite a chuckle from those as well. The Easter Bunny as a paramilitaristic dictator was one of the most humorous things that I have ever read."
Donist: "Yeeeaaahhhh…Well, I gotta be going. Take it easy."
Kid: "Yup. See ya."
Truly weird.


I might as well start this

It's funny. I finally sit down to say something, after updating all my favorite movies, books and music onto my profile, and now that I am ready to go, I blank. Part of me wants to retreat to the kitchen and fix myself a Presbyterian (Bourbon and strong as hell ginger beer), but I really shouldn't. I can attempt to ignore the puppy who keeps putting her stuffed pink fuzzy elephant onto my bare legs, which would not be that bad if it was not covered with six months of dried spit that has effectively made it moisture-proof and glistening from a fresh batch of Boston Terrier saliva.

Anyhow, last night I finished the creator owned graphic novel The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman, published by Image Comics, and I am still reeling from the experience. A mixture of intense graphic design, factoids complemented with charts and graphs, and boldly inked characters, the artistic stylings alone drew me in, but it was the dark rich story that made it difficult for me to fall asleep. The Nightly News concerns itself with the media of today that has become beholden to political agendas and concentrated into the ownership of handful of corporations that dictate what can and will be said in an effort to preserve their own self interest.

The book loosely follows the protagonist John Guyton, who has taken on the role of The Hand. John and his "brothers and sisters" are followers of The Voice, the unseen leader, who commands through messages prerecorded onto cassette tapes, and The Voice commands war on the media who he calls the "destroyers of lives" and the need to "stop the lies that flow from their lips." John The Hand and the followers of The Voice then set about killing news people in an effort to resurrect factual reporting in the news and not just the pursuit of profits and ratings. A grim book for sure, and one that made wonder not so much if I should send Mr. Hickman some cookies, but when I will be reading The Nightly News again. I am curious as to how much more can be taken in from a second reading, but I am afraid I will need to limber up, maybe do some stretches to get loose and oh yes, pour the Presbyterian. An amazing graphic novel.
The Nightly News