Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Hellish Future Orwell Predicted 

An hour ago a police cruiser showed up at the house behind us, as it does every month or so, because the house is infested with college kids and someone has complained about the noise. I was already stewing because I'd just asked them the other night to turn down the music, and I'll get back to that in a minute because it's the real point of this rant. Anyway, the cops sounded like they were being harder than usual, as if something involving penance was actually going to happen. I paced around the kitchen a few times, and then went out to help piss in the kids' cornflakes. I opened by making it clear that I'm not the one who calls the law on them, though I'm sure they assume I am since we're the closest house. I don't believe in siccing the police on a noise problem when there's heroin dealers, thieves, pimps, and telemarketers they should be chasing down. After getting that measured intro out of the way, my mouth suddenly released a string of obscenities that I've must have had bottled up for months, asking what's up with all the goddamn shouting and I've got a baby trying to sleep right there and oh I bet you're sorry. The cops asked me to go back inside and they'd come over and talk to me when they were done there.

A few minutes later the 'Force comes over to my place, and I apologize for yelling and reiterate that I'm not the one calling them over and wasting their time (it's Owen, one house over, I'm pretty sure). They take down my info, say they're building a little case against the lads that might get them each fined $500, and they're going to lean on the landlord. That's who I'd like to see fined, the guy who thinks it's okay to inflict this on the rest of the neighborhood with his careful tenant selection process.

Don't think I'm being a Mr. Wilson about this. I was cutting them plenty of slack for awhile, thinking back to parties I had in college. Then I remembered that we only did that on weekends, very infrequently, and would even warn the neighbors when one was happening (and of course, invite them). The more I think of it the more angelic my antics of then seem, to the point that I was practically providing a community service. And our parties were just better somehow. Really though, they must have some clue that the rest of the world works and thus needs sleep. They see us bring Allison in and out, and should know that waking a sleeping baby justifies capital punishment. If they'd just stay in the house they all chip in ten bucks a month in rent for, the neighborhood probably wouldn't complain.

Going back to the music I asked to turn down... it was again a weeknight, and some of the stooges were out in their garage playing ping-pong louder than you would think ping-pong could be played, and blaring out of the cd player was... Van Halen's 1984 album?? Yep, I heard right. There's "Hot For Teacher", and here comes "Panama", and "Top Jimmy" must be about to start-- vas ist? In fact, most of the music they share with the block comes from the early 80's. Does not compute. I remember when we moved in and I saw Slackers slacking out in the driveway over there thinking that at least I'd get a better idea of what the kids are into these days. They seemed to be fairly hip, wearing current styles, constantly skateboarding all over the damn street; etc. But from the music I hear, I'm expecting mullets and sleeveless shirts, maybe some acid-wash jeans, or even JAMS. Forming a hypothesis, I changed my tuner from the NPR station -- which rarely happens, hence I didn't know this-- to a "classic rock" station. And behold... classic rock is now all the crap I didn't like in high school. Back then it was just an endless barrage of Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, Boston, Santana and the like (didn't like much of that either). Every few years I'd check in to one of those stations and find out they were still playing the same thing, so I assumed all the bands were locked in. But it seems ClearChannel or someone has updated what's classic rock, and now Van Halen and Journey fall into the category. Maybe it's like cars, where after 20 years a model is eligible to be a "classic".

It's an especially cruel twist. In October, I realized I was in for noise from time to time, but I thought maybe I'd be hearing The Strokes, Outkast, White Stripes... groups from this century. But no, it's the same crap everyone around me played way too much when I got my license the first time. The hell if that's fair. That's grounds for Eviction. Or at least give me somebody's $500.


Thursday, January 29, 2004

Worst Casting Ever, Number One. 

George Wendt as a heroin junkie in Fletch.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Spirited Lettering 

I've been asked to say something, anything about comic books in this blog since I haven't yet. Very well. I'll begin with a brief anecdote about showing your work, if that will make you happy.

I met Will Eisner back around '88 or so at one of the legendary ACME shows in North Carolina. I was really nervous about showing him my pages (and rightfully so, they sucked! But they sucked in a totally different way than most newbie's pages did, I like to think), but finally I bolstered myself. How many times was I going to get to meet with the man who literally wrote the book on how to tell stories in this medium? --plenty, it turned out. I've seen him at Comicon San Diego for the past 12 years in a row-- As a kid I read most of the Warren-era Spirits in my dad's grocery store, and loved them. I'd often poke my cheek with my tongue because Eisner always drew The Spirit doing that, I didn't get the tongue-in-cheek reference until years later. Anyway, I idolized Will, as many cartoonists do. Yet, I knew he knew Comics from every possible angle, and none of my tricks or excessive noodling was going to hide my weaknesses from him. I finally handed him some pages and mumbled something. At least I was showing adventure samples, not superheroes. Maybe that would buy me some extra points.

I was braced and ready for him to lay down the law about storytelling and life drawing, etc., and all he talked about was my lettering. He stressed that I should keep the distances the same and so on. I walked away confused, still having no idea what Will thought of my drawing. I think the lesson there was that everything about the art can look like a choice of style, but the lettering is the first cue as to whether this is a professional job or not. I like the fact that he expected me to fix it rather than get someone else to do it, though it was another six or seven years before I finally sat down and really practiced at the craft. You often hear artists exclaim "Oh no, I can't letter! It'd look horrible," but the truth is, if you can learn to draw you can learn to letter. Often even if you can't draw, it's all practice. I'm of the opinion that lettering your own work gives it the proper voice, but I'd rather see a typical font than bad lettering.

Now I'm more nervous than ever to show Will Eisner my work.


Monday, January 26, 2004

Farewell, NCDL 

Now I'm truly an Oregonian, because if you knock me out, reach in my pocket and steal my wallet, you'll notice my State of Oregon driver's license just before you discover I only had a dollar and several grocery receipts in there. (And then while you're momentarily confused by this, I recover, jump up from the ground and go all Wu-Shu on you!) This was a big deal for me. I liked my old NC license, it had the Wright Brother's plane on it, clear evidence of wear and use, and I was making a super-thug scowl in the picture. Much of my identity was wrapped up in that ID card it seems, enough that I managed to weasle through living four years in California without getting one of their licenses. But it's time to make a commitment, and I wanted to be registered to vote here as well.

This was a good time to harangue my pal Lieber to go down to the DMV with me, since he needed to get his learner's permit. Steve thought it would be a lark to put off the rite of passage of becoming a driver for 20 years, and has also decided to finally get off the fence. Saturday morning found us standing in line before 8 AM holding our little motorists' rulebooks, quizzing each other about how fast to drive in an alley and how many feet to stop behind a firetruck. Soon we're sitting at computer terminals clicking multiple choice answers (you get a whole practice question before it begins), looking at little pictures of traffic that don't go along with the questions. Unlike the NC driver's test that I took five years ago, this one alerts you to when you get an answer wrong, and lets you see how close to failing the test you are. Maybe that's supposed to emulate the pressure of driving in traffic, I don't know. But it wasn't helpful. Everyone could hear me exclaim when I'd miss one. Blood-alcohol level that loses your license? .08, not whatever I put. And roads are more slippery when ice is near the freezing point, not lower. Luckily I only missed two more, and passed with an 88. My favorite wrong answer to "what to do if confronted by an aggressive driver"-- C:Honk your horn repeatedly to let everyone know of the dangerous driver.

I was so happy I passed that I made a dopey smile when my picture was taken and now am stuck with a ridiculously goofy ID picture for several years or until you brain me and take my wallet. And Lieber has embarked upon a great adventure that won't require him to visit every bus stop along the way. I asked if I could keep my old license, but apparently federal law prohibits that. I think they should just punch a hole in your card and let you keep it that way. Goodbye Old Card, thanks for all the bars you got me into, and for withstanding the scrutiny of highway troopers all across the country.

My passport still looks cool.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Captain, My Captain 

A few hours ago I heard on NPR that Bob Keeshan had died. Instantly I was in my childhood, sitting too close to the TV screen as Captain Kangaroo read me a story. Usually Mike Mulligan, sometimes it would be Curious George, which really made me perk up. He was the Walter Cronkite for my age group, and there was no one I trusted more.
I watched way too much television as a kid, but I wouldn't take back any viewings of the Captain's show. Kids today are hammered over the head with screaming characters on shows that are barely distinguishable from commercials. The Captain spoke to me in quiet, reasoned tones as if I were an equal. I would even empathize with him when Mr. Moose went into one of his knock-knock jokes, thinking "Aw c'mon, Moose, give him a break with those ping-pong balls", though I was always fascinated by the sheer number of balls that would fall on his head.

Like many children I thought of farms as magical places, and Mr. Greenjeans would show me all kinds of neat aspects of them. Especially animals. And he'd explain how things worked -- he was okay in my book too.
Everything else on the show, puppet or costume, was handled by Gus Alegretti, who must have been a creative workhorse. Besides Grandfather Clock, he was the character that made for the most surreal interludes, Dancing Bear. As I remember it, the Captain might be talking to Mr. Moose and Bunny when music would start up, and Dancing Bear would come out unannounced and do a little number, sometimes with instruments. The bear would finish and leave, and everything returned to normal.
Most things pushed were all creative in nature, like Etch-A-Sketch and Play-Dough (with Tom Terrific on the cardboard can). Schwinn Bicycles was a big sponsor, too. Ads that parents could actually feel good about. I liked that there weren't many kids on the show ever, so it felt like it was directed at me.
Bob Keeshan had a soothing voice that always gave good advice and never sounded pedantic. He truly respected children, and we could tell.
That sea of stability and calm Captain Kangaroo created started my day for years, the most formative ones of my life. Thanks for being an important part of my mornings, Captain.


Thursday, January 22, 2004


For this project you will need:

1 pair of used skis (Goodwill)
1 old lawnchair (also Goodwill)
10 woodscrews
The courage and heart of the men who served on The Endurance.

Soon after we moved to Portland, people started lecturing us about what to expect from winter. Jill would eagerly ask "Is there much snow?", having been deprived by a childhood in Pacific Palisades. "Barely any, and it'll melt right off" was the wisdom we were fed repeatedly. Then the new year began with a nice full snow that took two days to melt, followed quickly by a good five inches layered with ice that stayed on the ground for over a week. The roads didn't melt off either, since they don't ice them here (nor should they, the town is connected by several steel bridges that wouldn't like it).
People were cross-country skiing through town, and kids were flocking to the steepest hills to slide down on whatever would work. Here was my dilemma: the stores would have sold all of their discs and flexible flyers by now, and our garbage can lids aren't shaped right for sledding. So I go to my favorite Goodwill (which I need to talk about in-depth at a later date) and buy some short skis for $5. Then I see the $2 lawnchairs. It all becomes clear...

I bent the legs to give some surface to screw the skis to, and then realized I'd made them too short for the seat to clear the ground well. So I cut a couple of boards and put them between to raise my bottom. Tie a rope to it, and pull it over to that hill by the river. Everyone looked anxiously when they saw the chair sled. Sure it looked cool, but would it work?
Oh Yeah. It worked, and it's fast! It does rest on skis after all. The only drawback was that after a few times my mighty weight started breaking the aluminum chair. But the design proved successful. Later I looked online and found Scandinavian-style sleds that were essentially the same thing, but all wood so you can lean and steer better than with mine. I've now taken the skis off and trashed the chair, so I'll be looking for a new seat if the weather looks promising again. I'm toying with the idea of spending another five bucks on some extra long skis so I can put TWO seats on one.


Wednesday, January 21, 2004

See? It's easy. 

There's the Hubble, sitting comfortably on the International Space Station, which isn't as far along as I thought it was. But it sure looks more impressive with a giant telescope on top, does it not? And if I can do it in a few minutes with photoshop, then aeronautical engineers can make it happen. We've got time, I think the next servicing of it isn't until 2006. We could just hitch it with some really good space rope until someone fashions a mounting bracket for the ISS.
That one's on the house, NASA. I've got some ideas for the Moonbase already, too.



Being on the YALSA Best Books list is already making a difference. In the past couple of days more INTERMAN orders have come in, and I've been contacted by bookstores and distributors I've never heard of. That company name is OCTOPUS, by the way. At some point I may attach a defining word to the name, but for now it's just the animal that squirts ink.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

A Perfectly Good Telescope 

Kiss this view goodbye...

So much for all the effort to get the Hubble telescope tip-top, we're just going to throw the thing away. Not even putting it in a yard sale like you do when your kid gets bored with his scope that he was so joyous about on his birthday.
Seriously though, the reasoning is that we're phasing out the space shuttle, and we won't be able to service the telescope. Wait, don't we have a big effing space station floating up there too? That we and other countries are sending astronauts up to to work on and in?
My solution:push that Hubble around the planet and bolt it to the International Space Station. Then whoever's doing duty on the station at the time can service the thing anytime we need it. And it'll make the Space Station look bigger. Don't tell me we can't do it, the Russians kept a VW bus up there for almost 16 years! And MIR didn't cost nearly as much the Hubble! I just can't stand to throw away perfectly good equipment. Can't we at least give it to China, now that they're going into space? It would give the Taikonauts something to fiddle with, and they'd probably appreciate it. More than we do.


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Welcome to Mystifying Oracle 

Over the past few years the phemomenon of web-logging has grown to immense proportion. Much of it is pure time-killing junk, people telling us what they ate and how they have nothing to say today, but posted anyway. Then you get something useful like blogs from Iraq that gave the world insight into unreported happenings when the war started. Mere mortals who don't even pay for their blog-hosting are able to spread stories that capture the world's attention, leaving huge news conglomerates in the dust. And I hear that on Fridays we can all post pictures of our cats. That's the kind of potential that made me say, I gotta get in on that sweet blogging action!
The main reason is, I've always wanted to keep some sort of journal. I figure that when I'm old, it would be nice to have some writings of mine so I could remind myself what was going on years ago. I know I'll need this, because I already need it now. Just the other day I was telling my mate Jill about the time I went with my pals Bubba and Grady onto Let's Make A Deal, wearing a gorilla suit. Jill then pointed out to me that wasn't a memory from my interesting past, but in fact an old episode of Sanford and Son that I had co-opted as personal history. As she went on to talk about the British tv show Steptoe and Son that Redd Foxx's show was based upon, I began thinking about the age old quandries of memory and perception, and how I could take steps to keep myself consistent. I had started a journal when I was 30, and it failed miserably. Entries became yearly, and then not even that frequent. I write painfully slow, so I was never eager to try to update it. But if I'm typing my hands become blurs. They'd be even faster if we'd abandon the QWERTY order to keyboards, that's a holdover from keeping typewriter keys from locking up. I should be able to manage a couple of entries a week, especially if I think readers will check in.
I'll try to keep it interesting, and leave out things that are overly blogged like politics. I'll restrain myself from referring you to the latest Onion triumph, no matter how funny I think it is. And I'll never talk about something I ate unless it was exceptional, and I can explain how you can make it. In fact, I make a lot of things of all kinds, and I'll try to share those processes here. I'll also talk dirt about people in the comic book industry, for what that's worth.

Hey Parker, what gives with the name and the Ouija Board up there? Does this site make use of the Supernatural?

No, hypothetical questioner, this site uses cascading style sheets like most blogs. The William Fuld Talking Board you see up top is actually the lap board I use for drawing on when I'm not at my desk. It's not an affectation to seem interesting; I had the board out as a Halloween prop a couple of years ago and grabbed it when I needed a surface to draw against. It's the perfect size for comics pages, so I kept using it. This style of board, produced by Parker Bros. (yeah, never heard that one growing up) has the term "Mystifying Oracle" on it, and I love that name. I found a well-documented history of Ouija boards at the Museum of Talking Boards, go check it out. You can find out how Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper got their band names from Ouija-ing, and do a little Ouija online, which is almost as spooky as the real thing. Not that I can remember, I haven't actually played this board since I was a kid (and we've already established how reliable my memory is) and the planchette has been lost for years. I do hold out hope that at times when I fall asleep on the couch with the board in my lap that spirits might move my hand and pencil and finish my pages while I rest, but so far it hasn't happened. They're too busy at someone else's house moving glassware ten inches.

So welcome to my blog. I'll try to make future ramblings more concise than this one. I'm not sure if I'll add Comments later or not, but you can write me if you have any. Thanks for coming by. I mean, come back later, the spirits are busy...


Friday, January 16, 2004

INTERMAN Makes Best Books List 

I'm going to post a "welcome to this blog" ramble, but first I think I'll lead with actual news. My graphic novel The Interman has been in the running to be on the 2004 Best Books for Young Adults list for months, and now has officially made it. I happily thank the American Library Association for this honor. And all the young teen readers in Toronto last year who vouched for the book. If you haven't heard of it, there's a link over in the sidebar that will take you to the promotional site where you can read a couple of sequences.

Huzzah! Support your local library!


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com
Site Meter