Butterstick Break

Let us soothe our sorrow at the wicked world with contemplation of Butterstick, baby panda extraordinaire, his pleasure in munching his stick and the wonder of his roundness!


... But thou must not think all's ill about my heart. Writer Dan Slott and the Argentine artist Juan Bobillo are having a cracking good time in the pages of "She Hulk", a mainstream comic that reads like an independent. Alan Moore, traying to describe the work of Jaime and Beto Hernandez, called this the "snap, crackle, pop! of comics", a quality of playfulness (even when serious) that Moore has retained along with Frank Cho, Colleen Coover, Crumb, Bobillo, Slott and precious few others.
"She-Hulk" is the happiest variation on Jekyll and Hyde that I can think of at four in the morning. Attorney Jennifer Walters has come to terms with her "other" self and is practicing "Superhuman Law" for a prestigious New York Firm. (Old comic books have become legal precedent-- the "Approved by the Comics Code Authority" stamp, put there by the censors. gives them the force of a government document.) This is a busman's holiday. Slott rescues characters from obscurity (deserved, in some cases) and gives them personalities and grievances. Jennifer's psychotherapist wears his long green hair in a ponytail like an aging hipster. The Mad Thinker's mute but awesome android wears a chalk board around his neck and works as the office gopher, like Benny in "L.A. Law" if Benny were fifteen feet tall and had a featureless gray block for a head. Spider-Man reveals why J. Jonah Jameson hates him: "It's because I'm black. Nah, just kidding." Bobillo's art is charming. He resists the obvious pin-up qualities of the She-Hulk and makes her comically buxom with a sweet, not a sultry face. (Bobillo has drawn frankly erotic work in the past, and his artistic restraint with Jennifer and the She-Hulk shows conscious skill in a field not known for repressing its id.) Imagine Nicole deBoer with the ability to transform into Lucy Lawless and you'll get the idea; Slott has said in an interview that he was thinking of Rene Zellwegger as a comedienne. Slott and Bobillo understand the essential goofiness of the concept and embraced it. The easiest way to access their work would be to order the first paperback collection, "Single Green Female". Women seem to enjoy this comic as much as men, a rare trick to pull off with a pin-up girl. This not Peter Parker Agonistes. This is a fairly cheerful introvert with a steady job whose extroverted half can travel to far galaxies and throw annoying assholes through the side of a building. In her current format, Jennifer/She-Hulk acts out the interior dialogue of women as well as the fantasy life of men. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, the pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when she could just as well hit the son-of-a-bitch up the side of the head with a steel girder?

"As an amusement, it is too fleeting; as an occupation, it is too wearing; as a public exhibition, there is no money in it." (Mark Twain)

Proof Positive that this blog is not mental masturbation: "Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica" attracts 8-12 visitors a day. According to an article in The Black Table, "JackinWorld" (sic) attracts 36,000 unique visitors and 100,000 page views per day.

American Indifference to Torture

For me the most disturbing thing-- yes, more than wasted American deaths and thousands more deaths of Iraqi civilians, because as monstrous as this is, they are, at least, safe in Heaven dead-- is the current American indifference to torture and death. This will all be paid for with innocent American blood somewhere in the future. The payback for the United States' monstrous behavior won't be visited on the guilty parties, but on me and my own, going about their business like the innocents murdered by a distant weapon on September 11.
"Fear not your enemies: they can only kill you. Fear not your friends: the worst they can do is betray you. Fear only the indifferent, for they allow the murderers and the traitors to run free about the earth." That's a clumsy translation (mine) of a European victim of torture quoted by Harlan Ellison somewhere (it's the holiday, and I don't have recourse to my library to look it up , but will properly credit the fellow later.)
An excellent essay from In These Times about America's collective shrug regarding torture and Dick Cheney's defense of torture. Please see COMMENTS on this entry for more on the games Americans play between Superbowls and church on Sunday. In the words of Robert Stone, "Mickey Mouse will see you dead."

"What daring! What outrageousness! What arrogance! I salute you."

"... (We) cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone. But we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them."
Orwell on his deathbed? Tom Paine as he was tossed into jail by French revolutionaries who'd betrayed the Rights of Man?
None of these, but the vice-president of the United States answering critics of the war in Iraq. Instead of answering criticism with his own set of facts that might exonerate the administration and its decisions-- a strategy almost certainly doomed to failure-- Richard Cheney-- the man-- the legend-- has instead adopted the therapeutic technique known as "mirroring". He reflects and deflects unpleasant truths by stealing the words out of the mouths of his critics before they can use those words against him! In therapy, a patient might say, "I'm angry," and the therapist, rather than break up the rhythm with his own prejudices, answers like a mirror: "you're angry." The patient, hearing his own words, begins to clarify and dig deeper: "Well, not just angry, but..." Thus, the attack dog Vice-President as our national Rogerian therapist:
* "politicians who lose their memory" (Americans? Lose their... [pause to watch a brightly colored television commerical] what were you saying?)
* "...or their backbone" (Mr. Cheney's military service being on a par with that of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Swartzenegger...)
* "We're not going to let them rewrite history." (The very phrase I was searching for!)
* "We're going to continue to throw their own words back at them." (The true master reveals his hand, and still he triumphs.)
I used to be disgusted, then I was amused, today I am moved beyond outrage into a kind of awestruck admiration at the audacity of the man and his handlers, at the sheer rhetorical brillance of this week's attack.
Is there no truth they cannot twist? Well, and why not? This rhetorical trick-- blaming the victim, accusing the potential accuser-- worked once, it worked twice, why not try that same ol' black magic again?
Politicians have tried to avoid the past before, or spin public perception with the tools of advertising, but those early attempts were clumsy, intuitive affairs. This administration has professionalized the alteration of reality. An unnamed senior adviser to G.W Bush had this to say to Ron Suskind in 2002:
“(You) believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

What I Saw at the World Fantasy Convention 2005

(I'll start in the middle and work outwards): This was my first convention, so I hadn't prepared for Autograph Night, when almost all the authors, Great and Small, wait at tables like smiling teachers on parent conference night without the hypocrisy. If I'd understood what "Autograph Night" meant, I would have brought along my Peter Straub books (especially "Shadowland"-- Fanny the Wonder Rabbit, alas, made toast out of Straub's "Ghost Story". I could honestly tell him that she really enjoyed it, prefering it to everyting else on the shelf except Steinbeck and Robert Stone, and those she only sampled.)
I settled for shaking hands with Charles Vess to tell him I admired his work. It might have sounded more sincere if I'd bought his print of a faery procession in the dealers' room, or I'd brought his Sandman work or "The Book of Ballads"from home, but he seemed very pleasant and I'm sure he would understand the vagaries of a schoolteacher's budget. Later learned that the Comic Book Defense Fund has been helping them with catastrophic medical bills-- what a culture is this, that a Charles Vess doesn't have health insurance but God forbid we should tax windfall profits on oil. Saw them at parties but was too shy to approach. I later read that his wife (and this year's winner of the "cute spouse" award) Karen Schaffer is involved with the Mythic imagination Institute. If I'd known, I certainly would have introduced myself to ask about that and talk about Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, Gioia Timpanelli, Coleman Barks et.al.
Aside from technical prowess, I admire how Vess avoids the "too pretty" trap of most faery art because he remembers both sides of the archetype. His cheerful Puck has vicious teeth, his painting of Death is surrrounded by mummies as well as embryos waiting to be born, and there are drowned men's bones at the mermaid's feet.
John M. Ford's "The Last Hot Time" was the only book I'd packed for an autograph. Mr. Ford is my nominee for the funniest person at the convention, though Graham Joyce might have tied. John M. Ford's reading included something called "The Fellowship of the Woosters". I have the impression that he saves this for readings and I don't think it's never been published, but Teresa Neilsen Hayden's blog mentions it fondly.
Ford's was my favorite of the readings I attended. Imagine that P.G. Wodehouse had written the first volume of Tolkein's trilogy, and an exasperated Bertie Wooster was dispatched instead of Aragorn to rescue "the world's only manic-depresssive hobbit". It seems pitch-perfect to me; I laughed out loud at some of it and constantly smiled through the rest of it. Our flesh has memory, and this reminded me of the first time I saw "Zelig", when I went home with my face muscles hurting. Let's face it, Gandalf IS rather like one of those scary aunts of Bertie's, and Arwen throws the wounded Frodo over her horse exactly as Honoria Glosssop might have done. Mr. Ford's friends should urge him to send this to Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. I don't expect they'd put on funny beards and produce it, but they might send a nice letter.
Gene Wolfe had the longest autograph line and everyone at the convention, young and old, seemed to regard him with great affection. I've never read his books but he has a great walrus mustache and funny, self-effacing humor on panels. If there were ego battles going on at this convention, everyone kept it away from the kids; I supect this is because this class of artists and writers are indeed ferociously competitive, but the war is with ourselves and with the ideal we've set for ourselves.

As far as I could tell, none of the rich and the powerful (read: published authors and artists blessed with at least a nominal existence) behaved like snobs to the underlings, with the exception of a couple of editors and a small press dealer or two. (To be fair, they were probably on their guard because everyone there wanted something from them. They could smell the hunger coming off the unpublished writers and beginning collectors like the ambidextrous pheromones at a Tori Amos concert.)
Judi Rohrig, the publisher of Hellnotes-- who also bought my story "Witch"-- was very kind and answered my endless questions about convention etiquette. I'm sure she saved me from any major faux pas (too bad about the Teresa Neilsen Hayden incident; maybe she's forgotten my name by now...) This is sort of a holiday for many of the people there, so I kept my own work to myself unless someone asked.
I chatted with an amiable, rumpled curly fellow named Mike Dringenberg about Salt Lake City, Neil Gaiman's coming movie and fan stuff. I recognized his name, and knew I had some of his work at home, but it wasn't until the next day that I made the connection-- he was the co-creator of "Sandman" characters like Death and Desire, and started talking to me as easy as Stevie Yzerman down at the muffler and brake shop. (In an alternate dimension, my sister Colleen is married to Steve Yzerman, he runs the most honest garage in the state, and they have ten wonderful children.)
My favorite paintings in the art exhibit were illustrations for the ballad "The Faithless Sister" by Hicaru Tanaka.This is almost my favorite of the old ballads: a jealous girl drowns her sister because the sister won't give up her own true love. A bard-- not the leapy, "Brave Sir Robin" kind, but one of the scary shamanic Yeats black magician kind of bard-- finds her body and makes a harp from her breast bone, with her drowned hair for the strings and tuning pins made from her finger bones. When he sets the harp on the hearth stone of the proud house, the sister's voice sings the name of her murderer. There's a wonderful cover of the song by Loreena McKennitt on "The Mask and Mirror. She calls it "The Bonny Swans".That last scene with the murdered woman's voice reciting the members of her family and finally naming her killer: "And there does sit my father the King
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And yonder sits my mother the Queen
the swans swim so bonny o
And there does sit my brother Hugh
And by him William, sweet and true
And there does sit my false sister, Anne
Who drowned me for the sake of a man..." is for me one of the most chilling moments in literature. What came next? Madness, murder, suicide? Was anyone else complicit? (As Stephen King says somewhere, we try to achieve a Shirley Jackson frisson of terror, and if that doesn't work, go for the gross-out.)
The next night, someone introduced me to Mr. Tanaka. We shook hands and he offered his card in the Japanese manner, but alas, I've no business cards since the Emotional Collapse of Ought-Eight, when my pretension was lost in a fire. Everyone scolded me at the convention for not having a business card, so maybe it's time to revive them.
Although I'd written down the name "Hicaru Tanaka" after seeing his paintings, I made no connection with the gentleman there before me. We were both temporarily mute and we drifted apart, mildly embarassed. The next morning I realized he had made the paintings I so admired. I'm sure this happens a lot at conventions, where even the extroverts have to pace themselves.
More to come....

Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day

"It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war."
In his own perverse way, the Dry Drunk President, a man who has lived his life by rewriting history, is correct.
It goes without saying that the Bush administration manipulated the facts. And the Democrats voted for the invasion of Iraq because they were afraid of being called cowards. Two thousand American soldiers and who knows how many Iraqui civilians are dead in horrible ways because Hillary Clinton and Joe Leiberman didn't want to be called wimps by Dick Cheney, and we all know how scary he can be. It's this generation's take on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Democratic senators are every bit as culpable as the Bush administration in the Iraqui mistake. Al Qaeda operatives must kiss George Bush's picture every day as their greatest recruiter.
But let's not have Democrats claim they were drunk or horny or naive when Shrub "tricked" them with "intelligence". They knew they were giving the car keys to a lame-brain and they couldn't resist his dare. Soldiers implicitly volunteered to surround Tora Bora and were sent to Mesopotamia instead.
"Misled the American people"? The American people can't find Iraq and Afghanistan on a map. That's why we have a Senate, to be a deliberative body that says "slow down, let's get the facts and think about this." The Republican Party will be roasting on their own special spits in Hell, but the Democratic Party held its nose, closed its eyes and hoped for the best in what they knew was a Very Bad Idea. God forbid a Fox anchor should call them names.
Anyone with a scintilla of critical intelligence could see that Powell's presentation was half-assed and not enough to go to war. Anyone with the least bit of experience, observation and intuition could see right through Chalabi and the rest.
Any con man will tell you that you can't con a pigeon without a greedy and eager pigeon.

Bring On the Dancing Guinea Pigs

Blogging was neglected last week due to this thing called "life", something else called "more than full-time employment", and the World Fantasy Convention for Fantasy and Horror writers in Madison, Wisconsin. The National Novel Writing Month couldn't have come at a more crowded time.
Most of that time is spent making ridiculous noises at animals.
Wonkette just can't get enough of that Butterstick. but around here we (not the editorial 'We', Man, I mean everyone who's seen the link) can't stop clicking a link Jef sent us called THE GUINEA PIG WAY by someone called Bonnie (Bamboleo). There are more videos here, especially the reggae tune "Hey Fat Boy"and this elaborate Eminem parody.
Hear and Tremblingly Obey!

Democrats Finally Looking for Their Lost Balls

Meanwhile, Bill "Cat Killer" Frist (R-Tenn.), feels he's been "slapped in the face" by Harry Reid's call for a closed session of the Senate. "From now on, for the next year and a half, I can't trust Sen. Reid." Frist being Frist, it's all about him, and not a word about getting to the truth about the invasion of Iraq.

"I demand on behalf of the American people that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted," the sneaky bastard said. And the news services, as easy to distract as a kitten, led their stories with Frist's sputtering instead of Reid's reasoned argument for forcing the investigation. More later...

Animals are the Children of Fortune: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

The Incredible Hulk, rampaging defender of the small and helpless, and author of
  • Hulk's Diary That Is On The Internet
  • and artists like the pin-up master
  • Adam Hughes
  • have been raising money to help an injured cat. She's been nicknamed "Savannah Fogg" after the weather conditions and the road where she was struck by a hit and run driver.

    The kind people who found her have a site
  • here for updates on her progress .
  • She is described as "a very sweet cat, who still tries to purr and knead her blankets when you pet her even though she must be in incredible pain." The veterinarian at the address below has been treating her free of charge but she needed a specialist to pin her jaw together.

    Please send as little or as much as you can to North Laurel Animal Hospital and indicate on the memo line "Savannah Fogg".
    Donations may be sent to:
    North Laurel Animal Hospital
    9105 Suite P All Saints Rd.
    Laurel, MD 20723
    (phone: 301-953-7387)

    NEWS AS OF NOVEMBER 12, 2005
    Evidently she's been able to come home for a weekend but still can't eat on her own. Still very sweet-natured. I'd rather model myself after her than a parade of prattling bipeds.