Friday, November 20, 2009

The Happy Couple

Packing up the scary goods from Halloween, I decided that the full-size coffin I built was a perfect place to store everything. The first two things I put in were JerkyBoy and his girlfriend, the Bone Collector. I thought they made a cute couple all snuggled up in the casket, and had to share the love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"It's Your One-Way Ticket to Midnight..."

I loved Heavy Metal Magazine when I was little. Really, really loved it.

It was the early 80s. The radio was filled with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, and Pat Benetar. I was in an awkward post-Star Wars, post-Dr. Who stage at about age 10 or 11, and I started picking up the copies of magazines that my stepfather--an avid reader whose match in sheer volume of yearly book consumptions I am yet to see--left laying around. National Lampoon, Discover, and Heavy Metal were my favorites. Between those three magazines, my mind was expanded, my horizons set farther, my childhood stuffed into a pipe and smoked like so much hash.

If, in your mind, you just calculated the equation of "10 year old" + "National Lampoon Drug Jokes" + "Heavy Metal Cartoon Boobies" = "Parenting Fail", you need to chill. This was the early 80s. Life was different, people seemed to have a firmer grasp on reality vs fantasy. My parents were progressive and pragmatic enough to realize that me reading jokes about smoking pot and seeing cartoons of alien women with 48FF knockers wasn't going to turn me into a pervert or a junkie. I'm only 36, but I seem to be OK so far.

When I first discovered HM, I was hooked. I think it was Rock Opera that first pulled me in, but over time, they introduced some really great stories and fantastic artwork. Boris Vallejo, whose airbrushed fantasy works are recognized worldwide, appeared in just about every issue, and he illustrated some really fun stories in addition to his artwork layouts (although for the life of me I can't remember any names). HR Giger did some work for them, too, off and on, as did R Crumb.

One of my favorites (at least that I remember, there were so many stories that only lasted a month or two) was RanXerox, the story of a buff, taxi-driving, ghetto-bound cyborg-punk and his 14 year old girlfriend. The artwork was incredible, and the storylines were hard-edged, gritty, and brutal. Like Sin City meets Blade Runner, but throw in a lot more blood, drugs, and sex. A lot more.

Another was Texarcana. From what I remember, it was the unfurling story of a witch, a cattle rustler, and two beings from another dimension--one who looks like a chicken-lizard man, and one that is a cross between Grimace from McDonalds and a mushroom. I was really hooked on Texarcana, and waiting for my stepfather to finish reading the latest copy of HM so I could get my mits on it would drive me crazy.

Once I got hooked into the storylines, I started doing jobs around the house to earn enough money to buy the backissues. At one point I think I had every single issue from 1977 to 1988; I tore off all of the covers and cut out the best artwork, and covered every single wall (and ceiling) in my bedroom. That was about the time my hormones shifted, and my attentions turned from comics to...well, the things that teenagers occupy themselves with. The HM art came down, and I haven't read it since.

HM was on my mind today because I saw some random R Crumb picture, and a quick Google chase led me to find that the entire run of Texarcana is online. Check it's a cool and weird story, and I look forward to reading it again, now, what, twenty-three years later?

I guess part of it is just being a kid with little else to worry about, but I do miss the anticipation of waiting for the next issue, the excitement of opening each magazine for the first time, the countless hours spent reading and re-reading each story, studying the fine lines of the artwork. It's honestly one of the few things about childhood that I miss.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This is my lawn. You know what to do.

Is it a sure sign that I'm getting old when I blog more about crotchety-old-man topics than anything else? I need to get out more. Maybe I need to join a band (again) and, you know, leave the house, interact with adults. Stuff like that. Or I can put on my headphones and write more.
First off in Old Man JD's craw today: changes in the TSA's rules of security theater.

A few months back, a guy who works for the Campaign for Liberty (formerly the Ron Paul presidential campaign) was trying to get through airport security when he was stopped, sequestered, harassed, threatened and, eventually, let go. The reason? He was carrying a lot of cash (which just happened to be campaign contributions, but that was none of the TSA's business). This type of thing, I'm sure, happens a lot since 9/11--the TSA was made into a pseudo Federal police force with no oversight. The reason it made news this time was that:
  1. Being part of the Campaign for Liberty, this guy takes his constitutional rights seriously, and asserted them repeatedly, much to the TSA agents' confusion; and
  2. He turned on his iPhone audio recording app once he was taken aside, and posted the entire 30 minute ordeal on the internet. Priceless.
Anyway, the ACLU filed suit on his behalf, and the TSA admitted that they did not have the right to engage in search and seizure outside of their duties to keep dangerous materials off of planes. A small win for liberty, but these days you have to take what you can get.
The longer I live in Las Vegas, the more it seem like a big wasteland. I think I have a full article to write on that topic, but here is my Vegas Rant of the Day™:

I'm walking my dog, and notice that the street near my house--a typical Las Vegas road with 8 foot high block walls on either side--had a lot of new graffiti. Across the street was a man of about 50 going to town with a spray can, painting squiggles, squares, and random marks. It was white paint--same color as the graffiti, and definitely not the original color of the wall. I crossed the street to confront him.

I came up behind him and asked "What the fuck are you doing?" It's important to note here that I've spent my entire life being a socially awkward numb nut, and I see no signs of that trend abating. For some reason, he didn't take to that very kindly to my greeting. I can't imagine why.

In a thick accent that seemed to be Eastern European, he replied: "What the hell does it look like?" He puffed up, walked over, and looked, for a moment, like he wanted to square off with me. Not that I look intimidating, but he apparently decided that fisticuffs in the middle of the street with a 215 lb jackass and a 70 lb Malamute didn't sound productive, and he went back to work. "I'm covering up graffiti," he continued. "Are you trying to be a smartass?"

I took a step back to re-assess his work. It just looked like a bunch of squiggles. But, I decided, it was possible--probable even--that there was more graffiti underneath and that he was doing exactly what he said he was. It looked like shit, and was obviously intended to spite the taggers more than to mask the graffiti itself, but, I figured, at least he's trying (I've done the same on my street, but I, at least, tried to match the goddamn color of the painted surface). I bit my tongue as hard as I could and continued my walk. I even wrote his license number down, but decided later that reporting him to the graffiti hotline would be nothing more than Old Man JD being vindictive and petty, just because we had a misunderstanding.

I guess what I did there was I delineated graffiti-as-vandalism from graffiti-as-reclamation. And, apparently, I've decided that the latter is OK. I'm still not totally sure about all of that, but I guess that can be filed under "picking your battles".

In my mind, it all just adds to the large-scale ghetto vibe of Las Vegas. The kids tag the neighborhood, the "good guys" (there aren't quotation marks big enough to contain my sarcasm) almost come to blows over it, and I'm unsure if I'm part of the problem, the solution, or just standing around watching it all go to hell.

Like I said, I have a whole bag of rant about Las Vegas...more on that another day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wise Man Says: A Finger In the Nose is Not the Nose

I'm just shy of 40k on my WIP, working title of "Amity". I'm procrastinating starting writing for the night, because I have to get up from my chair in about 10 minutes and make dinner. Just enough time to blog.

This story is different than anything I've written, and different than anything I've read. It looks at a subversive community--a real community, mind you--and, as such, uses a lot of the extremely non-PC, offensive language of this group. My fear--other than it will never see the light of day because it sucks--is that it doesn't suck entirely but nobody will publish it because of said offensive language. I've also considered that it will get published, and that the people that this group mocks make a big deal out of it. It's not the worst thing published, by any means--think of, maybe, American History X or Brokeback Mountain, and the language that an antagonist would need to use to develop the persona of a, well, a hateful prick. It's that kind of colloquial banter. I'm wondering about potentially alienating an audience right out of the starting gate. But, that's definitely cart-before-horse. I need to finish the damn thing first.

Does it seem obvious that the writing is not the writer, or do you just draw that connection automatically that, for example, based only on the works and not interviews, etc, that Annie Proulx is sympathetic to gays, or Chuck Palahniuk is an anarchist, or Ayn Rand is hyper-conservative, or Dan Brown is an iconoclast, or Hunter Thompston was, well, whatever the fuck Hunter Thompson was?
My copy of Barry Napier's Debris just arrived. I have been very neglectful of my reading and still need to knock out my current book, but I'll probably put that one next on the pile.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"...cast vicariously as both victim and villain... "

    Remember, remember the fifth of November,
    The gunpowder treason and plot,
    I know of no reason
    Why the gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.

Today, of course, is the Night of Bonfires in Britain.

Maybe those in the UK understand it more, but I think that most Americans have culled their knowledge of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot from the comic and later movie "V for Vendetta". It strikes me that for most people, at least outside of the UK and Ireland, the ongoing battle between Protestants and Catholics doesn't get much spin time in the front part of the mind.

The reason Guy Fawkes day is so romanticized, I suspect, is the same as for Bastille Day in France and the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party (and, of course, Independence Day) in the states: the religious connotation is secondary--if even that--to the idea of throwing off ones oppressors, aggregating as a people and sticking it to the overlords. It's the reason people show up to Presidential town hall meetings with Colt .45s strapped to their legs, why hordes of anonymous protesters can coordinate via the internet with no clear leadership structure and show up en masse to call attention to some perceived (or real) injustice, and, in a more groupthink but subtle manner, the reason why every other (or third) election cycle brings in the opposition party--we're sick of "their" shit and want to give the underdogs a chance (we tend to forget that once someone is elected, they automatically and without exception become "them").

So, even though it has nothing to do with my country, per se, and that I couldn't possibly be any more against justifying violence in the name of religion, tonight I will raise a glass of some kind of viscous alcoholic beverage in salute to our friends across the Atlantic, and to those across the globe and within our borders who continually remind us that an unchecked government is a corrupt government.

Here's to the Night of Bonfires.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009 Pic Dump

Not much to say on this that readers of this blog don't already know...yesterday was a crazy Halloween adventure. It took me 2 full days to set up the garage haunt, and I'm sure it will take me most of today to clean it up (if I can stop procrastinating and get out there). We didn't count but I'm sure we had at least 300 visitors, maybe 350. It was fun...everything worked, no props failed. The only real disappointments were the Pepper's Ghost (it is sooo hard to get that illusion right...maybe next year), I ran out of red dye for the fountain (which also leaked, but not until we were ready to close shop) and my costume. As usual, I threw it together at the last minute after working in the garage all day, and it kind of sucked. Also, not to self: when you have a complex, somewhat fragile haunt to manage in the dark, don't wear a prosthetic that covers one of your eyes. That was just dumb. I kept knocking stuff over lurking around behind the scenes to adjust the fogger, manage cords, etc.

So, without further ado, a photo and video dump:

"Lobby" of the garage (daytime)

Hanging Pepper's Ghost (notice the ghost image and my reflection in the glass)

Notice the Bone Collector over my shoulder in mid-lightning flash

This one reminds of of Silence of the Lambs

Kind of a cool minimilast shot of the skull from Pepper's Ghost floating through the air

And two vids: the first one is standard def with normal lighting, so it's kind of hard to see everything

Second is a full walkthrough with my HD camerca, once in daytime, once in infrared (I think you can click on the video to see it in HD).

Garage Haunt Walkthrough from Jeremy D Brooks on Vimeo.