I’m off to the Black Rock Desert. If you’re there next week, come see me–I’ll be at BMIR, just off Center Camp. If you’re not, normal service will resume sometime the second week of September. (I won’t be able to get email until Sep. 8 or so, most likely, so if I don’t respond quickly, that’s why.)
I’m back from New York, and from a bit of an absence. Let’s start with the “things I’ve written that have been published lately, or are about to be”:
*A review of David Mazzucchelli’s excellent Asterios Polyp in the New York Times Book Review
*A couple of short appreciations of artists over at Hilobrow, like this one about Kool Moe Dee
*The odd Pitchfork review, including this one about the Woodstock 40th-anniversary box
*A piece for Wired and Ars Technica’s Dual Perspectives series about a possible future incarnation of the newspaper
*A piece on superheroes for Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’ A New Literary History of America, which is out next month
*And a short piece about using poetry as a non-poet for the September issue of Poetry magazine!
And now it’s time for me to slump into the heat of the Portland night, keep reading Luba, and listen to Guinean jazz from around 1970.
I’m on one panel and moderating two others! Here’s my schedule:
THURSDAY, JULY 23
10:30-11:30 AM, Room 8: Science Fiction That Will Change Your Life. I’ll be appearing alongside the staff of the excellent science fiction blog io9 and some other special guests, talking “about science fiction from the last year that does more than blow things up. It might also blow your mind. What science fiction should you be reading and watching if you want your brain to grow so big it pops out of the top of your skull and starts throbbing and shooting lasers? The panelists have some tips.”
FRIDAY, JULY 24
1:30-2:30 PM, Room 10: After the First 1,000 Pages. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Art teachers say that you have to make 100,000 bad drawings before you can make a good one. I’ll be moderating a conversation with Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula), Becky Cloonan (Demo), Zander Cannon (Top 10), Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show Comic Book) and Matt Kindt (Super Spy), discussing how they’ve developed as artists since their early work and the creative breakthroughs that took them a while to reach.
SATURDAY, JULY 25
1:30-2:30 PM, Room 4: The One-Panel Panel. A single image can hold an entire world in miniature. I’ll moderate this panel with Charles Vess (Stardust), Hope Larson (Chiggers), Michael Allred (Madman) and Larry Marder (Beanworld), each showing and discussing one particularly meaningful panel from their own comics–how it came together, and where it led them.
Hope to see you there!
Like it says. I adapted this from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” having no walnuts on hand but plenty of pecans, and it came out kind of amazing. I’ve made it twice this week, the second time with some flat beans from the farmer’s market. A plus plus, as they say.
Trim and cut into whatever size you like:
1 pound green beans (or flat beans!)
Dunk them in boiling water for just a couple of minutes, until they’re not raw any more but are still crisp. Then drain and shock them by running cold water over them until they’re room temperature-ish. Drain and set aside.
Combine in a food processor or blender:
1 tablespoon or so chopped or grated ginger
3 tablespoons miso (I think it was a bit better with red miso, but your mileage may vary)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
a couple of tablespoons of water
1/2 cup pecans
Blend (or process) until they’re a relatively consistent sauce–pourable more than scrapeable, if you see what I mean. (There will probably be some scraping-down-the-side involved.) Add a bit more water if you need to. Then pour the sauce over the beans and stir to coat them, and you’re done. SO GOOD.
Amazing how multiple projects seem to get done at the same time–today’s batch included the big damn thing I’ve been tweaking for about a month now, and now there is a tall, relaxing pile of comic books awaiting me.
The biggest change in my life over the last month or so has been the introduction of regular doses of caffeine into it. I’d resisted the call of caffeine ever since college: at first it was probably a way of differentiating myself from my family, then I wanted to prove I could do whatever it was I was doing without “artificial stimulants” (and probably wasn’t mentally present for a lot of college because I was like totally straightedge and stuff), then I wanted to be the guy who drank juice in the morning instead of coffee (I can’t tell you how many Tropicana pints I sucked down en route to the subway in the mid-’90s), and then… I just never got into the habit. Every time I thought about it, I remembered the caffeine spider webs, and thought better of it. I wasn’t militant or anything–I’d drink the occasional Coke or Thai iced tea, and even tried coffee once or twice–but I found that it made me jittery and twitchy and even more judgmental than usual, which is saying something.
But a couple of years ago, when I was finishing Book #2, a trusted advisor suggested that a little green tea might not be so bad for me. I’ve flirted with it a few times–the occasional chai and so on–but for the last few weeks I’ve been careful to drink it almost every day. (I’ve also been careful to take at least one day off a week.) Surprise: I feel slightly but perceptibly more awake and alert. And only a little bit more jittery/twitchy/judgmental than normal.
YES I AM A CAFFEINE JUNKIE NOW; PITY ME.
When I first saw the Inner Space’s soundtrack to Agilok & Blubbo in a record store a few months ago, I had a wave of excitement: an album I’d never heard by the band that turned into Can! And then I thought: no, this has to be a reissue, and if it were any good I’d already have heard it, right?; completism is the same thing that made me buy Out of Reach; life’s too short.
I left it on the shelf, and then found myself wishing I’d bought it–it was from 1968, just slightly before they recorded Delay and Monster Movie, and I’d never even heard of it before. I looked it up online, and discovered that it wasn’t a reissue, but a soundtrack that hadn’t been released at the time. So the next time I saw it, I bought it.
It’s interesting, because it’s audibly the work of the band that would make great records a few months later. (Jaki Liebezeit always sounds like himself.) It’s also terrible: half-in-the-bag psychedelic doodling with a recurring instrumental motif of the melody best known as “nanny nanny boo boo.” Also, somebody is playing flute, although it’s not clear from the liner notes whether it’s Irmin Schmidt or David Johnson, who seems to have left the band shortly after the recording. I’m sorry, but flute is impermissible in this context. I should’ve trusted my second impulse.
Took me way too long, but I’ve finally updated the “things I’ve written lately” section over in the left column–now with links to my reviews of two of my favorite books of this year–Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know: A Good and Decent Man and Emmanuel Guibert’s The Photographer–as well as a whole lot of albums I’ve written about at Pitchfork, and a few other surprises.
I’ve been off in New York for the past couple of weeks–attending conferences and seeing friends and eating a lot of excellent Indian food, although the meal I had across the street from MoCCA was probably even better than the one I went out to Floral Park for. And now I’m back, and have a lot of things to tell you all about. But not tonight.
The wildly gifted Jesse Reklaw is the man behind the long-running dream comic Slow Wave; he’s also been publishing a fascinating diary comic called Ten Thousand Things to Do. There’s a really interesting discussion of the economic crush of being an artist over at a recent diary comic at his Flickr site.
And then, sometimes, he does really goofy stuff:
My. That certainly was a month, wasn’t it? Someday the whole story will be told, and everyone will go home with makeup streaked down their cheeks and drink bitter lemon with quinine straight out of the bottle.
I’ve been publishing a lot of stuff here and there, and I’ll get to that soon enough, but first of all I think a picture is appropriate.
Meredith Gran of “Octopus Pie” fame drew this one in the sketchbook at Emerald City Comic-Con last month–a very nice use of the grid, and an accurate portrait of my state of mind. Volume 3 of Octopus Pie, “An Interstate Oasis,” is out now, and handsome indeed.