Monday

I feel bad for Ayelet Waldman

I feel sorry for Ayelet Waldman.

She reacted on social media to her most recent novel not being included in the New York Times Book Review's list of Top 100 Books of the year. She wasn't happy. Many writers felt that this was a sentiment that most writers have had about something - they just don't say it out loud and in a public forum the way that Waldman did.

Others felt that given that Waldman has published more than a dozen novels form big publishers, been a bestseller, been adapted to film, had Hollywood deals...that complaining about this was a little like a wall street broker complaining that he couldn't buy a yacht to go with his beach house because his bonus was cut because the global economy collapsed.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very sympathetic to the latter perspective.

We're always taught that external factors should not overly influence us. That other's approval and opinions should not define our well-being and our sense of self-worth. This is especially important for writers who will say that you should not be defined by sales or awards.

I look at Waldman. She's happily married, she has children, they have a house (in one of the most expensive places in the United States), she is doing incredibly well as an author by every metric. She's acclaimed, she's a bestseller.

Then I consider my own life. I am alone. I have no children. I do not own property. I am neither a critical nor financial success. I would love to be married - to a successful and highly intelligent person, no less. I would love to have children. I would love to be able to own a home.

I feel bad for her because she has what seems like a picture perfect life. I don't begrudge her any of this success, but I do envy it. She has a life that I envy - and it does not make her happy. It does not make her satisfied. It does not fulfill her. She has a loving spouse, children, material success, and a successful career - and none of it matters to her.

I know that getting married or becoming successful will not make me happy. But if I get everything I want, will I remain just a sad, depressed individual who is insecure and anxious and now and again is crushed by the world and wishes for my life to end? Maybe I will always be like this. There is nothing that I will ever do, nothing that I can ever do, that will help me to change, to transform myself, to make myself satisfied as a human being. No matter what, I will always be sad and depressed and unhappy.

I do loathe taking other people's problems and turning it into something about oneself. It's the epitome of narcissism: To negate other people's thoughts and opinions and feelings, because what's really important is me. I fear I may be doing that here. I wouldn't have expressed what Waldman expressed - I'm far too insecure to ever voice it, though I might think it - and I certainly wouldn't have talked about it at length online, but I know where that feeling came from.

I could laugh at Waldman, but I know the bell tolls for me.

Articles Published the Week of December 1st

Jim Woodring returns to "Jim"

I've long been a fan of Jim Woodring, whose comics work really is unique and strange. I've spoken with him in the past and our conversations are always fascinating. We spoke about the collection of "Jim," his earliest work in comics, which is strange and interesting. What's also fascinating is that the early issues were done while Woodring was working in animation (on some of the worst cartoons ever made, as he himself admits).

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57429


Lewis Trondheim and "The End of Dungeon"

Lewis Trondheim is one of the great cartoonists in the world today. Honestly I think the hardest part of this interview was just trying to summarize in brief his career and why he is one of the most important artists in the world today in a brief introduction. One reason I love him - Dungeon. Of course he and Joann Sfar have wrapped the series up and we spoke about it recently - with the help of a French translator because my French is atrocious (and that's on a good day).

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57525

Articles Published the Week of November 24th

William Gibson: The Peripheral

I'm a huge fan of William Gibson's work. This is the second time I've interviewed over the years (the first interview is included in "Conversations with Williams Gibson" which came out this year from the University Press of Mississippi) and I was thrilled we could chat about his first novel in five years and his visions of the near and far future presented in its pages.

https://suicidegirls.com/members/alex_dueben/blog/2791044/william-gibson-the-peripheral/


Shawn Martinbrough: Thief of Thieves

I love Shawn Martinbrough's work. A fabulous artist with a great sense of style and his art is really the highlight of Thief of Thieves for me and we talked about the first 25 issues of the comic. Of course I also want a black and white uncolored book from him (hopefully one of these years) and I can't wait for"The Ren," the graphic he co-wrote, when it comes out next year.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57338


Bobby London: Popeye

I admit that I'd never heard of London or his short-lived run on Popeye until earlier this year when the first of two books collecting his run on the daily strip was published. The second volume is out now and we spoke about his time on the strip and his career in comics. I'd rank his best Popeye stories among the best Popeye stories of all-time just behind Segar himself.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57359


Hillary Chute and Patrick Jagoda: Critical Inquiry

I talked with Hillary Chute and Patrick Jagoda about the recent issue of Critical Inquiry they edited which is all about comics and even features a cover by Robert Crumb with new comics inside of it in addition to essays and interviews and panel transcripts. It's a crazy thing and while it's easy to nitpick or complain about many aspects of the issue (I have plenty of criticisms) what they did with the scholarly journal is interesting and innovative and puzzling in the very best ways.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57404


The Most Evil Corporations in Comics

Just in time for Small Business Saturday, I made a partial list of evil corporations in comics. There are a lot of them and this is just a small sampling. What's funny is that all the comments about the article that I've read either say "but you forgot X" or they say, "these companies are still less evil than Walmart/Comcast/fill in the blank".

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57401

Articles Published the Week of November 17th

Roz Chast Asks "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?"

I'm a huge fan of Roz Chast and her work. Hell, who isn't? Her recent book, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" is one of her best works. It's funny and heartbreaking and an incredibly moving experience. I was glad to be able to talk with her. We ran the article before the National Book Award ceremony and though she didn't win,

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57171


Lisa Hanawalt is Riding High with "BoJack Horseman"

I love Lisa Hanawalt's work and I'm a big fan of "BoJack Horseman," the animated show on Netflix she works on. She's the show's production designer (I ask about what exactly that means) and I spoke with her about the show, Coyote Doggirl, and her other work.

http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2014/11/20/lisa-hanawalt-riding-high-with-netflixs-animated-bojack-horseman/


Reading List: Harlan Ellison's Greatest (Comic Book) Hits

Harlan Ellison is a writer I've been reading for a long time and I can honestly say that the man's work has helped shaped my sensibility. When I lived in Los Angeles many years ago I had the chance to meet Mr. Ellison and while when he was talking he was every bit the funny, crazy, irritable and profane persona that he's put forward. Afterwards though I was lingering in the bookstore with a friend - we were looking over some other books after Ellison signed our books. Before he left with his wife and some friends Ellison came over and was very nice, we shook his hand, we all thanked each other, and it was the kind of nice, genuine moment that people might not expect, but this kindness is at the heart of all his work.

This week, "Batman '66: The Lost Episode" comes out from DC. The comic is based on an episode of the old Batman TV show that Ellison had outlined and pitched. The episode would have introduced Two-Face and now Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez have adapted the story to comics. To mark the occasion, we listed a lot of the comics work Ellison has written over the years.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57226

Articles Published the Week of November 10th

Frank Cho and Tom Sniegoski talk about "Drawing Beautiful Women" and "World of Payne"

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57004

Cho and Sniegoski make each other (and me) laugh, and then they talk about Cho's new art instruction book "Drawing Beautiful Women," their series "World of Payne" which debuts next year,  and Cho gives a rundown of his upcoming projects over the next few years including "Skybourne," "Guns and Dinos" and "Liberty Meadows."


Aisha Franz blasts off with "Earthling"

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57059

I loved Franz's debut graphic novel about two girls and their mother in the suburbs and the flights of fancy the three engage in, in ways that's fun and strange and a little heartbreaking.


Amanda Palmer talks "The Art of Asking"

https://suicidegirls.com/members/alex_dueben/blog/2788352/amanda-palmer-the-art-of-asking/

Amanda Palmer's book really moved me and I was glad to get the chance to talk with her and share that with her. I'm usually not this open about my own feelings in an interview, but Palmer talks about what it means to be an artist and isn't afraid to be brutally honest about her own relationship in the process.


Articles Published the Week of November 3rd

Jill Lepore reveals "The Secret History of Wonder Woman"

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=56810

I'm a huge fan of Lepore and have read most of her books. I'm a particular fan of her first book, "The Name of War," about King Philip's War. I had the chance to talk with her about her new book which looks at the creator of Wonder Woman, influences on the creation of the character, the history of 20th century feminism and many other related topics.


Michel Fiffe unleashes "Copra: Round One"

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=56848

Fiffe writes "All-New Ultimates" at Marvel Comics, but he's the writer/artist/colorist/publisher of "Copra," which is one of the best, most innovative superhero comics being published right now. I got to talk with him about the new collection of the first six issues of the comic. I got to meet him over the weekend at Comic Art Brooklyn and he's also an incredibly nice guy.


Scott McCloud and Bill Kartolopoulos choose "The Best American Comics 2014"

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=56930

Two incredibly smart people talking to me about some of the best comics being published this year. We talk about Allie Brosh, Hawkeye, Sam Sharpe, Erin Curry, Sam Alden, Richard Thompson and the state of comics in 2014.

Musing: The Diversity Unicorn

So my colleague (and boss) Albert Ching reviewed the movie Guardians of the Galaxy the other week. Apparently it's a movie. Anyway he really liked the movie but made a comment about how yet again we have a superhero movie where it's all centered around a white guy. Well, some people didn't like that. So he wrote a piece about that. And the trolls came out yet again.

I occasionally forget how many people believe it to be racist to say things like, why does the lead actor almost always have to be white?

Maybe the serious, thoughtful tone of the piece offended them. Or maybe "the diversity unicorn" in the article bothered them.

I would like to quote from Albert's followup piece, because i think it's worth re-reading:

"The idea that the only reason to have these discussion is to "appease" some nebulous entity reduces the importance of these matters to a false "us vs. them" mentality. There's nothing inherently political about wanting to see positive, diverse representation in popular entertainment, be it movies, television, video games or the comic books themselves that so much of them are based on. It's life. It's reality. It doesn't have a left or right wing bias. I don't want to see minorities in a superhero movie because I'm a minority; I want to see it because I live in society" 

As a cisgender white guy, I'd like to second that.

Thursday

March receives RFK Book Award

I'm a huge fan and admirer of the book March which was released last year. The fact that it's being recognized by the RFK Center is well-deserved and very appropriate.

According to the Robert F. Kennedy Center's website:

Each year the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights presents an award to the book which "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes - his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity."

Congressman Lewis previously received the book award with Michael D'Orso in 1999 for his memoir "Walking with the Wind." Previous recipients of the book award include Jonathan Kozol, Neil Sheehan, Al Gore, George Packer, Samantha Power, John Hope Franklin, Jane Mayer.

It's good to see comics getting greater recognition and it's good to see an important book like March getting attention.

Possibly the world's coolest bus shelters

Over at citylab.com, there's a fun article about Krumbach, a small Austrian town that has really interesting bus shelters. And they are interesting, though I don't think some of them are particularly practical. I mean one has little shelter from the elements, which seems to go against the whole reason for the structure to exist place. Maybe I'm wrong?

I'd love to see a city here in US have an open competition for bus, train or trolley shelters. Let's figure out a number of what the average shelter costs. Then issue an open invitation to everyone on the planet. If you have this budget, design a bus shelter.

This would force people to be practical - you only have so much money, it does have to fit on the sidewalk. People are going to use it constantly so it won't be a museum piece, but see if you can create something that's more than what we have now.

This is one of the most annoying things about development in the post-war era. All these early 20th century buildings are beautiful. The New Deal was responsible for even more projects many of which are still in use today. But then we stopped caring about design. Look at a post office built in the first half of the century - they tend to be beautiful stone buildings, often still in use today, if not as post offices than renovated to other uses. More recent post offices have less character than the average cardboard box and they're only slightly better built.

This is what's been so frustrating about CTFastrak here in Connecticut. The stations and the designs and the shelters are so boring it's not even funny. It's easy to cynically assume that they chose to work with the same firms they always work with and always get the state contracts (who also happen to contribute massive amounts to both political parties). The truth is far simpler, though, I think. They're so used to doing things one way - and know so little about public transit, this being CT - that they chose the dullest possible option. They just don't know how to think otherwise.


http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/05/a-tiny-austrian-town-has-coolest-bus-shelters-weve-ever-seen/371078/

Wednesday

I haven't been much of a blogger lately...

I haven't been much of a blogger lately...

That may be an understatement, but regardless the truth is that I've been avoiding posting anything over the past couple months. One reason is simply that I've been busy. Life has been a little crazy and there's been moving and job craziness. It leaves less time for things like this. And part of it is that if I'm going to be honest, blogging is not high on my list of priorities, so when overwhelmed, it gets left off my to-do list.

I've been writing a lot of articles, struggling financially, had longer projects that just are not coming together. The result has been a lot of frustration and a lot of exhaustion. I like what I do. I really do. But I'm not sure that I believe in what I do. I believe that it exists, I'm just not entirely certain that it matters. And yet when I try to do something else, whether get a different kind of job or apply to go back to school, I get rejected. It's disheartening.

I don't have an answer. I don't have a solution. No solution has presented itself. So right now I keep doing what I'm doing - though with some more blogging than I have been doing (though lately any blogging would be a major upgrade over the past couple months).

We'll see what happens next.

Conversations with William Gibson

I'm a huge fan of William Gibson. Neuromancer, The Difference Engine, Pattern Recognition and plenty of other of his books have blown me away over the years. I was thrilled years ago when I had the chance to interview Gibson. It was relatively early in my career. I remember interviewing him in the backroom at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. I was nervous and hopped up on adrenaline. He was tired after a long day and in need of caffeine. My parents were actually on vacation in Los Angeles for a few days and hung around the bookstore while I conducted the interview and we went out to dinner afterwards.

When Patrick Smith asked to include the interview in the book he was editing, part of the Conversations series that the University Press of Mississippi has been publishing, I was thrilled and honored and overwhelmed. Holding a copy in my hands, I can't quite believe it. Besides the thrill of being a part of such a project I'm thrilled to be in the book alongside Antony Johnston (fabulous writer and comics scribe and an old editor of mine) and many of the other interviewers.

Also it makes me really excited for Gibson's new novel coming out this fall!

Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman reflect on WW3

I'm a big fan of both Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman. I've interviewed Kuper a few times in the past, always for one of his books, but a project that's always in the background of his career that I ask a question or two about each time, is World War 3. The anthology was started by Kuper and Tobocman as an outlet for political artwork and it continues to go strong. PM Press has put out an incredible book celebrating the 35th anniversary of the anthology and I was thrilled and honored to talk with Peter and Seth about the book and this long journey they've been on.


http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=52674