You’re already so far away from me.

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

I have a date for the wedding! Just when I was ready to accept my fate as the lonesome bridesmaid, toeing shyly at the edge of the dance floor, my good friend and former band mate has agreed to keep me company. Well all right, she’ll be my guest, not my date, but that’s even better. The Art Table!

Speaking of, Holly and I spoke tonight about a possible reunion show. Holly, who has moved on to bigger and better musical endeavors, suggested this last fall but I shrugged it off at the time. Recently I have really been missing the good old days of The Main Stage and The Eagle’s Club, the days of Mable and Diana, and shipwrecks and dog bites and zombies (of course). Holly recently bought a new drum kit and offered to give the old Art Table kit back to me (“back” because once upon a time, long before we even dreamed of playing music together, they had been my drums and I sold them to her). It would be fun, having a drum set again, and maybe this time I would actually learn the proper way to play them, but I just don’t know where they could live. Drums and multi-family apartment buildings don’t mix, generally.

Years overdue, I finally got around to watching American Splendor this evening. Combined with a quick library read of an Adrian Tomine novel (yes, the same one I sniffed at with snobbish disdain last week) I come away from this evening a bit inspired to return to the graphic form of storytelling. Although it seems, at times, like I can barely keep my monthly comic strip afloat, I can’t shake the idea that there is some tiny little story inside me that can most effectively be told with pictures. I know it will never be anything epic, and it may not even stand on it’s own. But I think I have to get it out of me. If only I knew what it was. In the meantime I think I’d like to buckle down on my comic strip, get to know the cast of characters better. Did you know my comic strip is about a blogger named Paul? I didn’t even know his name was Paul until just recently. It’s time we got acquainted!


You know I’m not usually a fan of music videos, but watch this one and try not to smile:


Missing the Foxes.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I realize that a truly disciplined blogger will write every day, regardless of personal circumstances, they will find a way.  But sometimes I am sick, or sad, or busy (this weekend it has been a mix of the three, in fairly equal parts) and I just don’t care to make the effort.  Sorry for those times, if it affects you in any way.

Today, still sick, we set the show up at Mother Fool’s, we being my wonderful brother and me. I ended up limiting myself to nine pieces, which was good because it allowed me to edit a bit.  The biggest challenge in setting up today was working around the coffee sipping patrons (who were accommodating and also forgiving) but what do you know, it’s up.  It feels pretty good to have that art somewhere out of my personal living quarters.  People will actually see it!  Imagine that.  I will return tomorrow to add the title cards and my artist statement, and then it’s on to planning the reception which will be two weeks from today.  Hopefully by then I will have gotten rid of this cough and recommenced a normal pattern of sleep.  Nyquil, do not fail me!

Also, I feel like a bit of an idiot and a lousy comic strip aficionado, but I only recently learned that Bill Amend has retired from doing dailies of Fox Trot!  Apparently this shift in the universe occurred all the way back in January of 2007.  I just assumed the Wisconsin State Journal didn’t print the Fox Trot daily (and it should be said, I held this against them mightily).  To me, this is as great a blow to the comics world as Bill Watterson’s retirement, and even a greater blow than Gary Larson’s retirement (though many would take issue with that).  Fox Trot has always been my favorite comic strip.  I know we still have the Sunday issues but it is a mere sliver of the comic glory we once took for granted.  I know this is a bit overdue, but well done, Bill, and thank you for not leaving us completely.

If I weren’t so sleepy I’d title this.

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Yesterday I learned that I will be having an art show, my first in Madison. I think it goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I am pretty excited about this. And right on the tails of my recent announcement that I was retiring from the arts (a declaration I retracted before I heard about this art show, for the record)! So there is the good news, and now for the slightly panic-inducing news, this art show is to take place in the fine month of April, that is to say two weeks from now, that is to say very very soon. That is to say, I have my work cut out for me and let this serve as the regulation disclaimer that I may not be able to write as much here over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, in between painting breaks today I stopped by the library, as I recently had to return my previous selections (of which I finished only one, Lauren Winner’s, and a couple stories by Capote and Sedaris. As for the Jim Wallis book, I never even cracked it open!). Today I gravitated back toward the graphic novel section and a funny thing happened. I had picked up two books, one by Daniel Clowes and another by Adrian Tomine, and I guess if you’re not familiar with graphic novels they are two of the big shots, and anyway, I couldn’t do it. Normally I love reading those things, but I couldn’t check them out, or any graphic novels for that matter, because they are all so dang depressing. It seems to me like a lot of comic artists feel that to really establish themselves as legitimate adult artists they need to lay on the drugs and profanity and nudity real heavy. Which is no different than your average movie, I guess, but for some reason today it just struck me as really unappealing. So instead? I checked out two books by a couple of pals of mine (at least in my imagination they are my pals), C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, both stories about their respective conversions to the Christian faith. I haven’t read anything by L’Engle since A Wrinkle In Time so I am pretty curious about this one.

Well, in other news of the creative variety, I made a song today. Maybe you would like to hear it? It’s called “Door Mat” and it can be found here. Here are the words, if you are interested in that kind of thing:

Door Mat

If it’s a doormat you’re looking for
I think I’ve got one more for you
Right here in storage
And there’s no need to keep it clean
Go on and wipe your feet
And make your joy complete.

For you will get mud on your shoes
And anyone would blame you
When you get their carpet dirty.
And everyone swore you’d been here before
I guess I missed you that day
But I saw your footprints anyway.

Chorus/psychedelic musical interlude

You have dirty soles and the doormat wants to make you whole
He wants to clean them, can you believe him?
You have a dirty sole and the doormat wants to make you whole
He wants to clean it, can you believe it?

Chorus again.

I don’t think that enough songs get written about doormats, anyway. Also, I finally put up the gem of a cover that my friend Laura and I recorded one night when she was visiting. It’s Little Boxes, also on the Family Band page. You will never hear two girls strain so much to hit the high notes! Well, in case you are worried that I spent my whole day working on songs instead of painting, do not worry because I painted also. I love Saturdays 🙂

What are you doing tomorrow night?

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

You’re going to this art show, that’s what! (I’ve got comics in it.)

Please check it out, there will be bands and comics and probably beer and bratwurst too! I really wish I could make it, but I have a work function that evening. Be my proxy?

It’s strange. When National Novel Writing Month was going on there was talk of a door that exists inside your mind—the door to your imagination. It was suggested that the practice of daily writing would lead you to that door, open that door, and beckon you to cross through that door. Once inside the realm of your imagination, one proposed, there were really no limits. I feel like I may have opened that door when I was writing the second half of my book, but really just kind of dipped a toe into it. Maybe I took a cautious first step. Now that I’m finished with the month-long novel writing challenge, though, I feel like that foot is getting sucked further in. I introduced some characters, some situations, and my imagination is pulling at me, wanting me to explore further. Maybe this whole novel-writing challenge really was just an incredibly time-consuming warm up exercise. But I think I might be warmed up. I think I’m ready to go.


I’ve been having dreams about Northern California lately. About Humboldt County, to be specific. I may as well tell you that the second half of my book takes place in Humboldt County, which was an absolute blast to revisit (via the imagination door, not an actual trip.) I think that my next trip after Hawaii needs to be there—to Fortuna, Scotia, Ferndale, Arcata, Trinidad, and Eureka. A couple weekends ago we watched The Majestic, which was filmed in Ferndale, which is the town where we attended church on Sundays and where a couple of my friends lived. I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from shouting, “I remember that street!” or “I used to go to that beach!” every time something familiar came on screen. I have such a fondness for that part of the country.


The first half of my book takes place in Milwaukee, or somewhere unnamed just North of Milwaukee. I know that “write what you know” has long since been removed from the official tome of advice for writers, but I still enjoy some old-fashioned advice. Probably, though, I shouldn’t be sharing any details about any of this, being at such an early stage. By the time this story is readable it may have shifted to Brussels and Miami or Sheboygan or somewhere, and then you will all be saying, “But we were looking forward to Milwaukee!” And I would hate to disappoint.

Why Commisioner, it’s a comic!

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

I’ve been living in Madison for over three months now–Madison, one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the US–and only today did I go for my first bike ride. It was nice. Short, but nice. I didn’t wear a helmet, which was stupid and reckless of me, and in exchange I
wore a baseball cap, which is exactly the way my last major bike wreck came about (reaching to stop my cap from blowing away). I didn’t crash, today. Today I rode my bike to the library to feed my newest habit, which is reading. I checked out three books: a collection of stories by Capote, and two graphic novels. I sat at a bench on the edge of Lake Monona and started reading one of the graphic novels, but after a while I was cold, so I went home to finish it. It was a big disappointment, especially coming from one of my favorite authors. I won’t name the book or the author, but maybe you can guess. The second graphic novel was a waste of time. I won’t name the book or the author because I can’t be bothered to check. It was so bad. But who am I to criticize any published graphic novelist? They’ve accomplish something that I probably never will, and that’s not me being pessimistic, that’s just the likely truth. I can hardly finish my monthly comic strip by deadline. Here, this month’s:

Did you notice the lack of a punch line? When I was young I didn’t understand a lot of the jokes in comics, but I thought that was because I was young and the people who made the comics were older and smarter. I thought that the comics must have been funny or why would they get published–it was a bit of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” phenomenon. I wouldn’t let on my stupidity.

Am I banking on that naked emperor now? Would anyone read “Plager*ized” and actually laugh? Does anyone even remember Calvin and Hobbes? I think the above comic is funny, at least. I get it. That is my new thing. Writing comics that are little inside-jokes to myself, and hoping enough people laugh out of fear of looking ignorant. Our little secret, okay?

Those talents are not meant to be buried.

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

In Bluebeard, Vonnegut writes:

A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.

Yes, how many of us moderately gifted people would second this? How many times in this blog alone have I moaned about being good at something but not great? I’m not a champion writer, painter, cartoonist, musician, conversationalist, poet, critic, or philosopher, though I may have some amount of skill in any one of those things. And how often I find myself resentful of my mediocre status, wishing to excel in one thing–in any one thing. But do you know what? This is greed. I’m given a portion of talent and it’s not enough. I want more talent, I want better talents, and I focus so intently on my lack of “championship” (as defined by the world, no doubt) that I neglect to realize that a gift is a gift and how greatly I’ve been blessed to have been blessed at all. To have any amount of talent is a gift from God!

I wrote about this very thing just a few days ago. I mentioned how I’d like to play the drums, but since I’m not a gifted musician by the world’s standards, that I should stick to something in which I stand a chance of being acknowledged. I was wrong. Since modern communication has alerted the world to talent like Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan and Sufjan Stevens I will never be considered a world class musician, but dang it, I like writing a song every now and then. And ironically, that modern communication which Vonnegut referred to has, since then, increased to such a degree that I can put my songs up here and here and, amateurish though they may be, they are out there for the entire world to hear. I can put my paintings, however unrefined, here, and my stories and essays here in this blog or wherever. I can put my comics in those papers who graciously oblige me, I can take part in an art show when the opportunity comes up. And I can be grateful and humbled by the fact that I have even an ounce of talent at all. To be labeled a “community treasure” feeds the prideful part of our nature, after all. To be spared such an ugly beast as pride is just another gift. I will joyfully embrace the talents I’ve been given, in precisely the magnitude they’ve been given to me.

You, reader, should think about this as well. I know you have talents.