Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunny Day --

" -- chasing the clouds a-way..."

Ramblings on this and that from the past couple of weeks:

James Sturm, hisself, in his new studio digs (no, I ain't telling) Valley News Photo: Nicholas Richer

* James Sturm is getting some local press for the recent Drawn & Quarterly release of his collected volume, James Sturm's America (2007). He's looking out at us from yesterday's 'Close-Up' section of the Valley News (December 14, 2007, pg. C1) --
  • -- here's the link, read it while you can (they don't keep online stories up for more than a week or so).

  • And here's an online preview and interactive website for James's and Rich Tommaso's new graphic novel Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow -- enjoy, and hey, it makes an ideal Christmas gift, folks.

  • * I loooooooove driving in snowstorms. I dunno why, I always have. Maybe it was the trials-by-snowball-in-blizzard-hell experiences driving in my youth, maybe not. In any case, we're having a real winter this December, unlike the last few years in Vermont, and though I know many have lost all anyone can (their lives) in the storms that have hammered the US this past week, and others have no doubt cursed the weather and suffered much, I've enjoyed the real snowfalls thus far.

    The first storm I hit early this month was a night drive home to Windsor from Burlington on I-89. Per usual, the Bolton Flats stretch was windblown and slow going, but the hardest stretch of I-89 up north is usually (heading south) after the Waterbury exit -- my old hometown exit, natch -- where an unusual cold patch of geography means that haul of the interstate usually has more snow/slush/ice than any other. Sure enough, the driving got buttery there -- but the worst stretch by far was the drag from Middlesex to Montpelier, and especially the uphill slog after the Montpelier exit -- up, up, up and easily two inches or more white stuff on the highway than anywhere else the entire drive home.

    Making the drive more interesting, per usual, were the tractor trailer trucks en route. Fed X had those damned double-trailer hauls going south, which are jackknife hazards but I always let them zip by me to give them all the distance I could, and there was another trucking firm whose name I forget now but they were omnipresent on I-89 that night -- like, no less than five of 'em passed me between Waterbury and Windsor. I just took it easy, doing 45 most of the way and avoiding passing except when essential (say, a car going 30 with no snow tires on fishtailing in front of me) since the passing lane had the heaviest snow sticking, churned to slippery butter by the faster traffic. So it went all the way to White River Junction and the shift over to I-91 for the final 15 miles home.

    Suddenly, the sky cleared -- I mean, like a faucet turning off, going from 16th-a-mile visibility at best to crystal clarity, stars twinkling in the eastern New Hampshire sky across the Connecticut River. I-91 was clean sailing the rest of the way home until I got off our Windsor exit, where light snow picked up and Route 5 was kissed with slush from off the exit to our driveway.

    The drive home from CCS this past Thursday was true snowstorm driving -- though we had no wind, the 1-inch-an-hour steady fall was relentless and folks were driving crazily in their rush to get to where ever they were going. With only 15 miles to get home, I took it easy all the way, happy to join the line on the main lane and only occasionally passing (again, to get past those sans snowtires threatening to slide off the tarmac any second).

    Tomorrow we're supposed to get hammered, so we'll just be staying home. Marge is getting our Christmas tree right now, I'll be bringing it in and setting it up this afternoon, and we'll spend part of Sunday setting the house up for the holiday. Merry Christmas season, folks, and drive careful (carefully) -- where ever you are!

    * Two (post) Chanukah reflections, compliments of my Jamaica VT amigo HomeyM:

    "The image of Chanukah that will haunt me for the rest of my life is of Poland in December 1995 at a commemoration Louise and I helped organize to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Our first evening there was also the last night of Chanukah and, on an impulse, we decided to take our chanukiah to the gates of the camp-- the site of the infamous sign, 'Arbeit Macht Frei.' Right there, juxtaposed against barbed wife, we lit our candles. It was a mesmerizing image, the light against the darkness. We could barely breathe. And then, suddenly, ten seconds of the lightest possible rain-- as a blessing from those we had come to remember." -- Jim Levinson, Shaliach Trzbur, Congregation Shir Heharim

    "It is now a few months after the shock and awe of Kol Nidre. Darkness is replacing light in our daily lives. The promises and pleas we have made in the bright light of Yom Kippur are at risk of being overtaken by time, by the busyness of life and habits, and by the darkness of winter. So we have Chanukah, considered by most to be a minor holiday, a holiday for kids, but perhaps it is much more. Perhaps it is a timely reminder of the promises we made just a few months ago." -- Paul Berch, President, Congregation Shir Heharim

    * With initial help from CCS alumni and fellow cartoonist Colleen Frakes, and thereafter considerable aid from Dartmouth Theater Department and recent Dartmouth Hair revival director Carol Dunne, I've been trying to pull together a February 'photo shoot' with three members of the Hair cast playing three of my characters (for a 'swamp monster' story I'm working on for a semi-secret project keeping me occupied in 2008). Though, like all artists, I've worked from reference, including photo reference, all my cartooning career, I've never worked from photos 'cast' and snapped for my own story reference, as P. Craig Russell, Alex Ross and others often do. Wanting to approach each of the stories I'm doing for this project a bit differently than I've ever worked before, I'm going to give this a go.

    So, earlier this week, an at-times spastic back-and-forth flurry of emails trying to cobble together either an initial intro meeting or short photo session before the Dartmouth trimester ended finally culminated in a cup of coffee with the lead performer. My first meeting with this actor/student willing to work on this odd project went well, and it's looking promising for a February photo session. Wish us luck!

    Better yet, moments after the young performer departed to get into his holiday break and I cleaned off our table in the coffee shop we met at, a fellow stood up betwixt me and the front door and said, "Steve?" Lo and behold, it was cartoonist Mark Bilokur and his partner Ania; I hadn't seen Mark in years and years, and this meeting was pure happenstance and a real pleasure. I last saw Mark at either Necon (that would have been 1998) or during my last-ever trip to University of Connecticut to speak in Tom Roberts's class and hang with my dear friends Gene Kannenberg and Kate Laity (hey, Gene and Kate!) before their big move to hell in Texas (since rescued by their recent move back east) -- turns out Mark is hoping to come to CCS, so I drove Mark and Ania over to the CCS complex and gave her the tour (Robyn Chapman had already given Mark the official CCS tour earlier in the week).

    More strange coincidences punctuated the day, but this completely dumb-luck corssing of paths was a highlight, and one of those happenstances that makes a week worth wading through.

    * Among the home stretch writing I'm working through on The Neil Gaiman Companion is arriving at a level-headed, non-biased short piece on the entire Gaiman/Todd McFarlane nightmare. As anyone who's kept tabs on my online blather over the past years knows, I simply don't see where Todd ever had a leg, legal or otherwise, to ethically stand on -- but I can't let that color my summary of this phase of Neil's career (a 'phase,' I know, he wishes simply hadn't happened, particularly as it did). Thankfully, cartoonist/inker/creator rights scholar Al Nickerson responded to my call for input, and
  • Al turned up this fascinating legal document online, which anyone interested in this clusterfuck should check out (PDFs you can download on your computer for scrutiny)...
  • More on this, and other creator matters, on Al's Creator Rights discussion board and site (forever linked in the menu on your right, folks) in January, where I'll be kicking up some dust after a too-long period of silencio on that board.

    Have a Sweet Saturday, one and all, and see ya here tomorrow...

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