Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Why We Blog 

Looking through my referrers, I see that writer Mike Jozic has started blogging in the past few days. I've liked him ever since he did an interview with me over at Silver Bullet Comics and left what I said intact- the mark of a good interviewer. I'll probably add him to the column at left after making sure he doesn't poop out with the entries. I'm going to do some housecleaning soon and sweep out those bloggers what don't update at least semi-regularly, and add some new ones that I've been reading.

Looking at Mike's first post he mentions that he wants to use the blog to make sure he writes regularly, and I was thinking that I had the same reasoning when I started this one at the beginning of the year. Then I went back and looked at my big Welcome to Mystifying Oracle post to see just what I expected of myself. A big reason was that I always wanted to keep some kind of journal to look at later on so I could remember what was going on with me at that point in my life, as I have failed miserably with handwritten journals. So, assuming Google keeps Blogger going for many years, I still agree with that goal. In there though, I also say I want to use the blog to "warm up" for my fiction writing, and that's just not so. Not that I haven't been doing more writing, I've been on a roll and hopefully you'll see some results from that in 2006. But I tend to blog at the end of the day before going to bed, so rather than a warm-up it's become a purge, for me to get rid of whatever I've been thinking about during the day. I'm finding though, that purge is helpful with my other writing. Having expressed myself on some crank theory or observation in the blog keeps me from trying to shoehorn it into a story where it doesn't really fit. Lots of writers fall prey to that impulse, bending and contorting their work to house out of place ideas that want to be let loose somewhere. Sometimes you can rid yourself of those imps by rattling them out at lunch with your pals, but I think something that makes you write them down, ie; a weblog, is the surest route.

Sure there's other benefits to these things-- regular new content on one's website of course. Many people treat these things like they were hired by a magazine to hold forth on music, comics, movies and prose. Some are really good at it like Johnny Bacardi, who should be paid for his blog, and many are... well, hopefully it provides an outlet so they never try to compete for an actual position with a magazine. The ones that work best seem to have found a niche to focus on. Like, we really don't need another blog trying to give us scoops on the Comics industry. Between Thought Balloons, The Beat, and the Comics Reporter, I can usually find all the news I need, and if any of them review something, I'll pay close attention. Otherwise, I really appreciate comics sites like Fanboy Rampage which have a laser-like focus: point out what chuckleheads are saying in and around our profession so we know what we're up against. And I love the direction Mike Wieringo's blog has gone, showing unpublished sketches and illustrated memories.

I'd like to think that next year I'll refine my focus somewhat, you know, not lapse into always mentioning what art I have up on auction at the moment. maybe I'll create a third column just for peddling so you choose to look at that stuff or not. At any rate, I'll be sure to remember the golden rule that I just ignored here: people like blogs with pictures.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh? (Art Auction) 

Thanks to Emil Petrinic I see that my auspicious art reps at MothComix have put up a page from my Vampi "Hate Mail" story on the e-Bay. It's an oversized page, big ol' piece of art. And if you click on View Seller's Other Auctions, you can see the rest of the talented clients they sell for (and how much more reasonably priced my work is!). MothComix must be following up on the nice mention they got in Wizard recently, which I appreciated because I was referred to as "Indie Hotshot" Jeff Parker. Which makes me think of the old Calgon commercials--"My husband, some hotshot. Here's his Ancient Chinese Secret..."

Now go make people buy my stuff, I got a new tyke due any day now.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas, You 

This year's Christmas is brought to you by the Mystifying Toddler. Allison sports a seasonal dress made especially for her by Laura Jones, better known as Audrey's Mom. Have a great holiday weekend.


Friday, December 24, 2004

The Town That Hung Santa Claus 

Actually the title of the national news article was "Burlington: The Town That Hung Santa Claus," and it referred to Burlington, North Carolina, where I grew up. Even better, the incident in question took place on the very street I lived on.Yes, like me you would probably have preferred "Hanged," but the AP was not interested in that kind of accuracy. All of Burlington had not conspired to hang Santa either; previously we were known for our fabrics and clothes outlets.

It was the 70's, whatever year I was in 5th grade, when one day in December everyone in the neighborhood was walking down the street to see what the buzz was about. The Episcopal Church at the end of Collins Drive had strung up a dummy dressed as Santa to their marquis, classic noose-style (and before someone writes in to put me straight on Episcopalians and what they really stand for, don't- I don't care. That's what these people called themselves on the sign from which Kris Kringle swung.) Children were bawling and parents were ranting. The sign itself said something like "abandon Satan Claus" and soon people from all over town were cruising our block as if we were one of those streets where every house goes all-out with the Christmas lights. In fact, all the decoration-cruising in the area was done in front of just one guy's house in Graham. Lights cost real money back then, they didn't just give them away at Walmart like now.

Representatives of the church talked to the press about the usual: the pagan origins of Santa, how this Claus figure was subverting the message of Christmas, etc. In fact, Christianity subverted the pagan holiday because ancient clerics knew darn well everyone wasn't going to give up some sweet deal where everyone got presents and food. If they could have figured how to co-opt Halloween, they would have gotten that one too. Of course, no one was arguing these points, people were just yelling at the church and honking loudly as they drove by because they wanted Claus cut down. I tagged along one day with my friend Frankie and his dad who wanted to find out more about this sect. A smiling church official told us more about their practices, and the one that stuck in my noggin was that their men and women swam in separate pools fully clothed in the Summer. Frankie's father had no luck in convincing them to unstring Santa, but I began my private battle. In the mornings while eating my Cheerios, I'd break out my crayons and draw different pictures of Santa pleading, saying things such as "Ho ho ho, my neck hurts", and "Ho, ho, ho, you're being naughty." I did this for about a week, running down and placing my works in their mailbox and running back up the street in time to catch the bus. (Number 136, I just remembered.) This amused me and my friends at the busstop to no end, until of course a few days later when they finally took down the effigy. Even though I'd sounded outraged when talking about the whole thing with my schoolmates, I was pretty disappointed when I didn't see the red suit hanging there anymore. We went back to being the town that made socks and pantyhose, and my street returned to being the road you turned on when you accidentally passed Elderway, which you wanted to cut through on to get to Tucker Street. Years later Burlington got momentary notoriety again when a study declared its population leading the nation in fast food consumption per capita, but that wasn't nearly as fun.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ho Ho AAAAHH!!! 

Things we know about Santa: He works one day a year (though very hard then), he will eat any baked treats that you might accidentally leave out on your own table in your own home, he commands a crafty army of small people, and TODDLERS ARE TERRIFIED OF HIM! This was proven yet again by my kid the other night in The Old Spaghetti Factory. After we'd eaten our Old Spaghetti, a sweet older couple dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus came around to delight the children. As Kris Kringle moved closer to Allie her eyes widened in horror and once he said "Hello, little gir-" she burst forth with a scream that put the whole restaurant in full defense mode. The people at the table behind us enjoyed it as much as we did, especially since Santa had no choice but to flee quickly.

Then Sara Ryan, who I get half my content from these days, sent this link with a whole gallery of Santas terrifying children. I see she's been curious about what Allie sings because she's checked out the entry on Ring Around The Rosie at Snopes.com. They debunk the notion that the song is about the Black Plague, but in the background I hear Jill saying "It's about Scarlet Fever," so take that, Snopes. I love that site though. I throw it at everyone who passes on the letter saying NPR is going to be shut down or the spammunition-gatherer letter that's supposed to be a kid's school project to "see how big the internet is!" Anyway, here's my vote for creepiest Santa...


Monday, December 20, 2004

Hey Patient Retailers! 

It's a mad race against time, trying to get projects and deadlines finished before young sportsman Li'l Nathan Jr. shows up to teach us why two kids is more than one. So blogging is spotty at best. At least I finally sent out some personalized copies of Interman that comics shop owners have been tapping their collective feet for. It was an Incentive wherein I throw in an extra copy with a color sketch for every store that reordered at least five. And then as you may remember, my computer reached the end of its life cycle recently, and the order I had to do the incentive offer was on it, of course. Thanks to those friendly folks at Diamond for the gentle reminder! Here's a couple of the title page pieces. Next year I may start offering these for order at parkerspace.com.


Monday, December 13, 2004

The Year Nothing Was Proclaimed 

If that's the lesson 2004 has taught us, then it's a hard one, but maybe its best that the industry stops worrying so much about being big, and concentrates instead on being small but brilliant.

That's from a thoughtful piece in the second half of Andrew Wheeler's column at Ninth Art. Thanks to Thought Balloons for pointing it out.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Big Trainz, Yo: Tri Met Raps 

When I get on the lightrail to head downtown to Mercury Studio tomorrow, this will be going through my head.

Mighty Mouse and the crew, you know we be riding

Chillaxin' on the MAX, you know we be gliding

Just remember all the rules are important

This is for all my players that roll through Portland.

That's from Chillaxin' on The Max by Dynamix, some kids from around the way here, sharing safety tips about riding the train- you can listen to it at the link! Tri-Met is really big on getting the message out about staying off the tracks because the train is quiet and heavy, there's posters all over with serious faced young people telling Portlanders how we need to Get Real and face the realities of MAX. Though I've not heard of this (people getting mowed down by the Max) being a big problem. But maybe that's because they do such a good job takin' it to the street. I see a lot of interesting stuff on the Max, I'll try to talk more about that in the future. Now I hope I see these kids so I can get them to autograph my pass!


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

From Da Street 

Yeah, like a lot of blogs lately Mystifying is losing ground to that Jim Lee gangblog. Sue me-- I've been trying to catch up on a couple of stories, the deadlines of which are like, nowsville. And I don't currently have any news or crank theories. I thought I might write about a cd, but the only music I've been able to hear lately is Songs from Sesame Street. Okay then, I'll talk about that.

The cd was already inescapable in the house once my toddler learned how to turn the player on, but now she knows we can play it in the car too, where for some reason she's less tolerant of the songs she doesn't like. So I hear "mo" (more, of course) from the backseat letting me know to advance to the next song. Happily, she usually wants to hear the same ones I want to, but if it's not jaunty enough, a good one might also get a "mo". My Sesame Picks:

The Sesame Street theme-- a classic, makes me remember childhood. Credited to "The Kids"

Sing--also credited to "The Kids", and I like their version much better than The Carpenters'. As a rule the world hates songs voiced by children, but this one works well that way.

Henson King of Eight--quick, fun, it's over fast.

Hi De Ho Man--Unlike a lot of cases where artists repurpose their old songs to fit a kids show, Cab Calloway just does his "hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi" thing like he always did, and it works fine for tots and adults.

Jellyman Kelly--though he's singing about some guy who loves jelly on toast, this could have been on any of James Taylor (Sweet Baby, The Man Who Was Born Old)'s albums. Has a tuba, too.

Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard--actually Jill likes this one more than me. Paul Simon teams up with a kid on this version, presumably a Julio. Doesn't change it otherwise, and it works fine.

Sweet-A-Little Baby--Pete Seeger, another old pro who knows how to entertain kids. All off-key and cool.

Pinball Number Count-- I don't like the more funky songs on the set, such as Stevie Wonder's completely out of place verison of 1-2-3 where he does the voice synthesizer. You expect Frampton to come on the show and do a wah-wah voice number next. But this one is by the Pointer Sisters, and is better than that. I don't know if kids like it though.

Nasty Dan-- You knew damn well at some point Johnny Cash would have to stop by and sing one of his novelty songs to Oscar the Grouch, and here it is. As with Pete seeger, it works great.

Sing After Me-- Madeline Kahn showing off her pipes with Grover repeating. One of my favorites.

C is for Cookie--This song has a message my daughter can get behind, a real kid pleaser. By Cookie Monster, of course.

Kiko and the Lavender Moon--Substituting "Elmo" for Kiko, Los Lobos do the most atmospheric number on the cd.

The Batty Bat-- This is a surprisingly good song by The Count, with gypsy style music that could have been done by Camper Van Beethoven.

Mah Na Mah Na-- a classic, all ages song that still works. Not originally by Muppets though everyone thinks that.

I Don't Want to Live On the Moon-- I always want to listen to this one but get "mo"-ed because it isn't peppy enough for Allie. Probably not enough to do for Aaron Neville, but he and Ernie make a fine team. I say lose one of the other Nevilles when they do the family albums and put Ernie in there.

Much of this third cd is stuff from the last ten years with the repurposed songs I was complaining of, like freaking Spin Doctors trying to foist Two Princes on us again. I have a lot of fatherly pride though once Hootie and the Blowfish try to come on and I hear a loud "MO!" give me clearance to advance the disc. Monster in the Mirror by Grover is good though, and we all like the Bert and Ernie But I Like You which lets Jill and me take parts. And Bert professes his love for lentil soup. Also has the overly catchy Put Down the Duckie by Ernie and Hoots the Owl--even more enjoyable if you see the video version with predictable guest spots by entertainers from the mid-80's like John Candy, PeeWee Herman, Danny DeVito, Jeremy Irons, etc. Also, Allie would probably like to put in a vote for Elmo's Song, la la la-la.

Yeah, you armchair parents, I hear you out there. "My kid is going to listen to stuff I like". Well then you better start liking Frank Oz' voice, bigshot. It's a compromise. Though I do get away with singing "Panic" by The Smiths to her at bedtime.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Spidey, Too 

For those who have asked, it's the Widescreen Special Edition DVD of Spider-Man 2 that has the piece I did, along with a lot of comics' notables. So when you're requesting a copy for Christmas or Hannukah, ask for that one. And then bring it to a show and get me to sign it so's I look like I had something to do with the movie.


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