Sunday, February 26, 2006


...and Darren McGavin too. Damn.

Octavia Butler

Two of my favorite works of speculative fiction, Kindred and Wild Seed, were written by Octavia Butler, who died yesterday at the age of 59. Butler was one of those writers whose stories contained huge ideas but never lost track of the human lives and emotions at their core. Her writing was clear and crisp and frequently luminous. In person (I only met her for a nanosecond years ago and stumbled over trying to tell her how much I admired her work) she was rather shy. I read anything of hers I could, just to see what she was thinking and writing; I read her latest book,Fledgling, a few months ago. I hoped would be the start of a new cycle of books, and was looking forward to so much more of her writing.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, George

Who was your favorite Beatle? (Assuming you're of an age to have had a favorite Beatle when they first hit the world.) When I was nine years old and my best friend Clara Thompson started talking about this really, really, really cute band from England, Paul was the one most girls crushed on, because he was cute. Or John, because he was funny. Or Ringo, because he was adorably funny looking. I, weird kid that I was, fell for George. Paul was just too pretty (and besides, Clara had already claimed him as hers) and John was a little too smart (even at nine years old I had a sense that John would be a very uncomfortable friend). Ringo was cute too...but I liked George. Forty years later, he's still my favorite--music didn't seem to come as easily to him (watch film of him playing guitar in the early days--he's always making sure he doesn't screw up) as to Paul and John, but he worked at it. And he always seemed to be thinking about something funny, a private joke that made it easier for him to stand up there in front of a million screaming people. Someone asked him once, years after the Beatles had split into four different paths, "So, is Love all you need?" And he smiled, with that private joke look, and said, "yeah." Happy Birthday, George.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Real Life Intrudes

I spent four years editing comic books, after 30-odd years of reading them. I have opinions (like, what, I don't have opinions about other things? Oh, shut up). But I do have a life-long interest in comic book storytelling--and I'm talking superhero comics, not talking animals or slice-of-life stories of depressives. People in spandex. Probably my first experiences in textual analysis came from writing to the letter columns to explain why a story worked or didn't work. And I think Frank Miller has a bad idea.
Look; Miller's an interesting guy. Some of his work, particularly on Batman and Daredevil, is brilliant. I'm not one of those people who adored Sin City, which seemed deeply obvious and derivative to me, but I can still read The Dark Knight Returns and remember the frisson of pleasure and recognition I got the first time I saw it. But now he wants to send Batman after Al Qaeda, and I think that's a bad idea. At least, a bad idea for someone whose comic work is regarded as something approaching literature.
On my coffee table I have The Great Comic Book Heroes, edited by Jules Feiffer, a compilation of super hero comics from the 30s and 40s which include superheroes taking on Hitler and Toho; we have video tapes of old Warner Bros. cartoons from the 40s ("Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips!"). There are all those late 60s-early 70s comics in mylar bags in my basement with "relevant" stories about drug use and Vietnam which seemed quaint even when they were published. They are curiosities, not stories. And even with Miller's ability behind them, I'm afraid that Batman taking on Al Qaeda is going to wind up being a curiosity, not a story. The comics which have made a political statement have always (it seems to me) done it sideways: Dark Knight Returns is a great super hero story, but manages to satirize the culture we were in, mid 80s, by showing us a near-future where everything was kicked up a notch. The Watchmen pretty much deconstructed the second half of the 20th century, politically and socially, as well as the idea of the super hero itself.
So, no, Frank, I'm sorry. If you want Batman to take on Bin Laden, I'd suggest that you go about metaphorically. Otherwise it trivializes the character and, worse, trivializes terrorism.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy VD

We celebrated this morning with cards and candy for the girls, a card for the spouse, and a handmade card from spouse to me. And many hugs. Likin' the hugs part.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Our old apartment in NY was on the eighth floor at the rear of the building. It was not a "view" apartment, but (due to the fact that the Bigass Apartment Building Down the Block had bought up the airspace rights for the two lots immediately behind it in order to build up, and was therefore enjoined from building anything on the lots behind our building) we had a fifty block view. There was something really magical about looking down from our South-facing windows to see the roofs of the brownstones and the trees on 94th Street dusted and laced with snow, the cars buried in snow, the 50-block view hazed and softened with snow. It was always fun to slog along the two blocks between our house and Central Park, find a hill and slide down it (with or without the kids) and watch my urban neighbors get boggled by the fact that Nature has happend to them (you know what turkeys do in the rain? New Yorkers are similar in snowstorms: mouths open, looking upward, astonished). If I didn't feel like dealing with the cold, stay in, drink hot chocolate, and look out that window.

There are 22.8 inches of snow in Central Park today. I miss my view.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Things to Like about San Francisco #9

Ocean. I am not (you may have noticed this) a Nature girl. I mean, I like nature and stuff, but I don't go into raptures. But it is kind of cool to come up a rise, reach the top, and see the Pacific in the distance, spread out and glittering dully.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Things to Like about San Francisco #8

I think it's eight, anyway.

In New York, an alley is a narrow street without streetlights, often, but not always, a dead end. Usually odorous and possibly inhabited by homeless people, or full of loading docks and bits of garbage. A NYC alley is unnamed.

Here in San Francisco alleys are named (like the one that ran behind our old apartment, Quane Alley, which was a mews from the days when the houses on Dolores had carriage houses and the like). And some of them (Spouse and I passed three or four today) are little more than dirt roads, at this time of year with lush green grass between the tire ruts. They generally don't go much of anywhere, but they're very inviting to stroll along. And some have perfectly splendid names, like "Penny Lane" and "Lois Lane." Someone has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

There Go Howmany Civil Liberties?

Cindy Sheehan was arrested at the State of the Union address last night because she was wearing an anti-war T-shirt. Holy crap.