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THE NEW PALS CLUB WEB-LOG

THE NEW PALS CLUB WEB-LOG
a total electric blog

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

toon river anthology strikes again

RIP HAYWIRE

Sweet Mother Macready! I hate to disappoint you,
But if you’re here for a tearful admission 
Of my gnawing fears and secret doubts, or
An ironically revealing origin story, or perhaps
The news that I was put here by the betrayal
Of a colleague or a loved one —
My dog, maybe — then you’re out of luck.
Dead? No way! I don’t know what this is about, but
It sure as hello kitty isn’t my grave or my stone.
Death is for saps and sidekicks. No sirree Bob,
I’m not under this dumb rock. I’m somewhere else,
Sticking my neck out, enjoying an honest rhubarb.
This? This is a dream, or some imaginary story,
Maybe even a sinister plot by my enemies
Meant to fool someone or other. Happens every day.
Heroes don’t die. Anyone with the common sense of a flapjack
Would know that. Scrambooch, buster,
And save your flowers for somebody who needs 'em.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

still more toon river anthology

.
DAGWOOD BUMSTEAD

Dithers came at me with the ash tray. I ran, of course.
One minute, I was tossing paper airplanes with Crane in Payroll,
And the next, the boss was screaming about the Stevens account
(Which, for reasons beyond my understanding, flew remarkably well)
And the old man went completely ape. Well, I’d seen him like that,
So I ran for the elevator, which closed in my face as usual.
With practiced grace, I pirouetted past him toward the break room,
Trying to put the table between us, but he flung it aside and kept coming.
Long years of running had taught me to head for his office:
Sometimes Cora was there, and he always stopped when he saw her.
This time she wasn’t, so my only recourse was the window.
Hoping to get out on the ledge. The old boy hated heights,
So usually he’d just throw things at me and curse till he calmed down,
But before I could get my footing, he was striking at me,
Red-faced, panting and shaking. I slipped, whirled, and grabbed the sill.
In half a second, he was banging away at my fingers with the ash tray.
When he lost his hold on that, I thought we were done, but he resumed
With his putter. Up to now, there was nothing new about any of this,
But this time, he kept hitting. He screamed. I screamed. I was losing my hold
On the sill, and still he kept hitting. My fingers were bleeding
And my attempts to keep a purchase on the wood only resulted
In trying to cling to a surface slick with blood. That couldn’t last.
When I fell, I was dimly aware that my hands were hurting a bit less
And that Mr. Dithers was still yelling, brandishing the club like a Zulu,
His face getting smaller and smaller as the buildings seemed
To crowd together,as if to witness my descent.
The last thing I remember was my own feeling of surprise
About life, the boss, and the Stevens account. Well.
How was I to know the old man was really mad?
.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

solution

.
Behind our brow the pressure's far too high
The dam of silence burdens us too hard
The hand we hold leaves us no other card,
So come; the weight's too much. It's time to cry.

We'll prime the pump with brine, our eyelids pursed
We're all alone. No one will mock our sobs
The others are off, busy at their jobs
And won't be here to see us at our worst.

Some gland purrs like a cat behind out eyes
We pray that brain's endorphins buy some peace
Too much to hope our cares might really cease
But, for a time, the hard lump liquefies.

The silent burden won't be eased by sleep
So come; the load's too great. It's time to weep.
.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

the meaning

.
It was merciful.

There I was, looking down at the contorted shape that had been my car, thinking that the idea I'd been trying to scribble on the back of one of my business cards probably hadn't been worth it, after all. As the flames that started in the puddle under the engine quickly engulfed it, I concluded that this wasn't going to be one of those near-death experiences, and it only took a short look at my body to confirm that, to paraphrase some Madison Avenue type, death was the new life.

I watched myself for a few more seconds, thinking I hadn't done so badly. I wasn't too far out of shape. My face and form weren't all that ungainly. I actually regretted what the fire was about to do to me in there. Closed casket, definitely. I couldn't watch. I pulled away and took stock of my situation.

Forty-five years old, and already, I belonged to the ages. The small design firm I had managed to keep solvent was someone else's concern now. By rights, it should pass to Dave and Irma, who I'd come to rely on more and more, but I wasn't sure they could do it, legally. I hoped they would at least start a new company together -- I think they'd be good at it, even if they didn't seem to have the confidence.

At the moment, I had nothing. Fair's fair, I didn't really need anything. I could float around. Was I dressed? Wearing, perhaps, a ghostly pair of Dockers with a pressed shirt and a vest? It didn't feel like it, and it didn't feel unlike it. Whatever. It was sufficient. So now what? Do I do something? Do I go somewhere? Heaven? Purgatory? Relive my life now past, like the movie about that small-town cemetery?

What is the meaning of life?

The thought came to my mind like any other, but there was something different about it. A different voice, or a different typeface. It wasn't my own thought. I realized I now had a task. Homework, or maybe a final exam. I had to figure out the meaning of life. 

My life? Life in general? No answer. Any explanation apparently has to come from me. The clock is ticking. Use only a Number Two pencil. As the emergency vehicles started showing up, I willed myself along the way I was going when I had so rudely interrupted myself. Home. I was heading home.

Home. My progress was a little unsteady. I was distracted by things I saw along the way. There was so much going on along the familiar route. I saw a family of mice in a culvert. How could they live there? What would they do when it rained? They reminded me suddenly of my own family, and my -figurative- heart fell. My family! They didn't know yet, did they? I hurried along a little faster, then paused again to look at one of those roadside crosses people put up when someone they know is killed on or near the road. It barely registered on me when I was alive, but it had been there for two years. The flowers on it hadn't been there for two years; they looked a week old at the oldest. Would Elaine put up one of those for me? Elaine! I stopped looking at the cross and made for our apartment.

Once there, I determined that I could pass through a wall. No real surprise there. Elaine was in the living room watching a kid show with our two boys. The stuff six- and eight-year-olds watch. They were on the floor about a foot from the screen. I went to Elaine and tried to get her attention. I think I was relieved that nothing I said or did got through to her. I tried with Rodney, and then with Jacob. I even checked to see if I could mess with the TV. Nothing. Then the phone rang.

I didn't want to watch. I wanted to fly away and not think about it. I was strangely unemotional about my own death, but the idea of watching my family cope with it was painful. Still, I stayed and watched as she told Rod to turn the sound down, picked up the phone, confirmed who she was with a nod the caller couldn't see. Then she got the news. Disbelief and shock caused her to stagger. She yelled at Rod to turn the set down again, then turned away and shielded the mouthpiece and her mouth with a hand, as if she could keep the bad news from leaking out. She asked a few questions. Are you sure? When did it...? Was anybody else...? The voice at the other end answered, offered official condolence, gave her a number to write down. She absently drifted as far as the cord would let her from the living room and called her sister Doris. Asked her to take care of letting the rest of the family know. Pause. No, she said, they don't know yet. Pause. I will. Longer pause. Yes, she said, yes, please.

She hung up again. She looked back at the doorway to the living room where our boys didn't know yet. Stood looking at the silent phone. I'm off now, she said, and the TV got louder. Then she sat at the kitchen table and buried her face in her arms. I wanted to put my hands on her shoulders and stop them from shaking, but I couldn't. I could only watch as she got control of herself and wiped her face. Then she called to the boys to turn the TV off and come into the kitchen. They tried to argue a little, and she said no, come in now. And because she didn't raise her voice, they were curious and came in, and they looked at her face and said, what's wrong, Mom?

And she told them. 

And she said, we're packing some clothes and we're going to visit your aunt and uncle for a couple of days. And I watched them hug each other and cry and try to comfort each other, and I thought, I really had a good family. They picked out some clothes and toys and put them in the big suitcase we used last summer to go to Oregon, and every now and then one of them broke down and the others were there, and they got in the car and set out on the sixty-mile drive to her capable sister's house.

I followed along. It was a pretty quiet procession. Rodney had to go to the bathroom, and they stopped for that. A couple of times, they just pulled off the road so she could cry some more, but for the most part, she kept it together in front of the boys. I watched them and cringed when another car got too close, and asked myself the question. What is the meaning of life?

What had my life meant? What did my life mean to them? What did their lives mean?

I thought back over my life, now conveniently completed. It seemed like my memories were actually clearer than they had been when I was alive. Was I distracted by life when I was experiencing it? Was this a fringe benefit of being dead? Whatever, it was easy to review my twoscore years and five. There was my great-grandpa who died when I was four. I was four, and they were explaining to me. Nineteen, and I'm getting the news about Grandpa Ben. Twenty, and it's Grandma Alice. 

I wondered if Doris had called my folks in Florida yet. 

I felt close to the meaning. It wasn't things. It wasn't stuff. Ideas? Ideals? 

Those things were important, but they weren't the meaning. They were things we had, things we did, to get close to other people. Or maybe keep them away. Were people the meaning? I watched our minivan pull into another rest stop. Elaine went to the vending machines, bought a bottle of cold water, and they set off again, sharing the water. Was sharing the meaning? I noted that Elaine was driving very carefully. Good girl. Might as well learn from my mistake! She had to take care of the family now, this new family that was shaping itself to get along with three. Rod was already starting to move into his niche, taking some of the load off of Elaine. I wanted to hug him.

I sighed. Metaphorically, if not corporeally. I thought I was kind of detached about this death thing, but I realized that I was really regretting it. I had wanted to live a lot longer. That was when it came to me. The meaning of life.

The meaning of life, I said, phrasing it in my mind (as if writing with a number 2 pencil), is to live as long as you can. We surround ourselves with others to form entanglements so that we'll be sure and try to live as long as possible. Life wants life. If we're alone, we might succumb to a momentary impulse or get careless and lose the thread. 

We intellectualize it, but it's a flame that wants to burn as long as it possibly can. It's as simple as that. The meaning of life is to live as long as possible. That was my final answer. I stopped following the car and looked up at the clouds and the stars and the moon. That's my answer, I thought. How did I do?

The foreign thought spoke in my brain again. Without words, I now had the impression that this answer had been satisfactory. I had passed the first part of the test.

First part? That was the first part? I looked at the cars below and realized they were starting to look indistinct, as if they were farther away. Not smaller, just harder to see. Words formed in my mind.

What is the meaning of death?

I groaned inwardly.
.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Toon River Anthology continues

DENNIS MITCHELL

How does it happen that Mr. Wilson outlived me?
I was young, with decades yet to go,
And I reminded him of it every day,
Sometimes loudly playing games to point up the age gap
Or by frequently speculating on just how ancient he was.
One giddy time, I yelled across the fence
That when I reached half his age, he’d be long gone.
I could see the red run up his neck 
Like Mrs. Dowd’s ol’ cat skinning up her elm tree to avoid a rock.
That changed him. He stopped yelling, stopped cursing,
Stopped trying to keep me out of his house.
He got friendly with me, gave me presents,
Like his old Boy Scout knife, lawn darts, a Zippo lighter.
He convinced Dad I was ready for a two-wheeler,
And later showed me how he could ride with one hand—
No hands! Who knew? All it took, he said, was practice.
When our other neighbor’s moving van backed over me practicing,
Good ol’ Mr. Wilson was first on the scene. Insisted on carrying me in.
The last thing I remember was him murmuring “sleep quietly,”
With a look of mild regret on his saggy, bulbous old features.

.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Family Talk

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"On one night of the year…"

Kurt drove for hours, back to his home town. Flying would have taken longer, so he endured the boring drive along interstates through plowed fields of crops, then state roads to the small town he'd grown up in. The town he always felt he'd escaped from. 

In spite of himself, he was looking eagerly for signs of the familiar. He nodded faintly at a red barn on the outskirts of town, pursed his lips at the closed drive-in theater next to it. The town sign, with medallions for Lions Club and Rotary, could have been the same one he'd left behind 17 years ago. The mall he passed was new to him, though it already seemed to be on the skids, with the anchor store's space at the end given over to a flea market, and two other stores in the middle combined in a church bordered by a tanning salon and a video store.

Downtown, familiar buildings stood, one or two still with the same merchants he'd known as a boy. Others had new occupants, which seemed almost like squatters. Kort's Dry Goods still had their name set proudly in black and white tiles in the front entryway, left unchanged by the Dollar Store that used the space now. Goldberg's still had its sign up, but the store was dusty, and nothing remained inside but some boxes and parts of mannequins. These reminded him of why he was there, and he sighed, turning onto a side street to pass one more familiar address before he got where he was going.

And there it was; the family house. Kurt parked across the street from the two-story brick building with the white wooden pillars on the porch. Lights inside discouraged him from walking up the steps to see if the stains were still there from the time he'd spray painted his five-speed bike. One of the lights was in his old bedroom, and he briefly thought of ringing the bell and asking to look at it. He sat for five more minutes, hand on his chin, sometimes nodding to himself, before he started the car again and drove to the motel he had selected for the night.

"Crosby family still own this place?" he asked the clerk who came out of a back room when he rang a bell on the desk. "James Crosby?" He had a mental image of a tall, red-faced bald man who took no nonsense from anyone.

"Old Mr. Crosby passed on in '02," said the young man behind the counter. "His son sold his interest to a cousin lives in Council Bluffs, and my dad manages the place for him. Cousin's related to the Crosbys, but his name's Bennet." He looked at Kurt's signature on the form with no sign of recognition. "If you haven't eaten supper yet, there's a Dairy Queen a block over, and Plantation Inn is four blocks beyond that. Their chicken is pretty good." 

"I used to eat at the Plantation Inn every couple of weeks," said Kurt. The clerk smiled politely, without much interest.

"Here's your room key. You're in 15A, around back. TV's got basic cable plus HBO. If you need anything, just dial 0." 

"Do you have wi-fi?"

"Sorry, no."

A half hour later, Kurt was walking back from the Plantation Inn with a steaming cardboard container of chicken with dumplings. He paused by the gate of a cemetery and seemed to feel a sudden chill. In the fading light, he peered as well as he could, but couldn't see far back enough to make out the stone he was looking for. 

He stepped closer, observing that the gate was designed to keep cars out, but wouldn't have any effect on a pedestrian, other than requiring a step around one end. The sign said CLOSED AFTER DARK. Kurt nodded again, to nobody in particular, and continued back to his room, warming himself on the box he held.

He ate slowly, relishing the food, which still tasted the way he'd remembered it, flipped through the channels on the TV, finding no local programming, At 8:30, he set an alarm on his watch and went to sleep on the bed with his clothes on.

His watch woke him at 11:15. He got up reluctantly. He put on a dark sweater, and then turned the TV on and flipped channels again for five minutes. He looked at the box that had contained chicken. It was still empty. He looked at his watch. He checked through a black bag with a flashlight and batteries in it. He looked out the room door, feeling the night's temperature. He put on a dark jacket as well. 11:45. Kurt sighed and walked out of the room, carrying the flashlight and the black bag and a camp chair carried in a shoulder tote.

He walked quietly down the sidewalk, avoiding any appearance of furtiveness. At the cemetery, he walked around the gate and then headed toward the back, turning the flashlight on when he was a few yards in. He took a couple of turns, pausing once where two similar lanes diverged, pulling on his lower lip and choosing the right-hand fork. A few yards later, the flashlight beam picked out the stone he was looking for. "Dad," said Kurt. He checked his watch. 11:55. His stomach growled, and he tapped it absently. He took out the camp chair and sat down to wait.

At midnight, he reluctantly turned to the gravestone. "Dad?" he said, and waited. After a minute, "Dad?" again. "Dad, it's me. Kurt."

"Kurt?" said a voice so quiet it might have been his imagination.

"Yes, Dad, it's me."

"Is it that day?" said the voice, almost as quietly.

"Yes, Dad, it's that day. Dad, I wanted to say something to you..."

"You left me alone."

"I'm sorry, Dad. That's what I came to..."

"You left me to die in that place," said the voice, still quietly, with barely any inflection or emotion.

"Dad, I didn't have a choice. I had my family to..."

"You left me there. I used to call to you, and you only came once a month to see me. All the years I took care of you."

"Dad, I had... I have... two children. They had to come first. My duty was..."

"You didn't care that I was rotting there. Just like I'm rotting now. I was dying inside, losing my mind bit by bit. You could have taken me home."

"Dad, I did the best I could. It was too expensive to have you with us, and you were too..."

"Your grandfather lived with us until he died. He never went into a home. We took care of him. He was part of the family. I was part of your family."

"Dad, I couldn't do it. I was working, Margaret was working. The girls couldn't have..."

"You left me to die there. How could you do it?"

"Dad, listen to me. I was raising a..."

"A son's duty is to his father."

"Dad, I'm sorry. Just let me..."

"You couldn't wait to leave me. You ran off. You didn't want to work at the garage with me. I couldn't do it by myself."

"I was going crazy here. It was killing me to..."

"Some day you'll know what it's like. Some day your children will do the same to you. You've taught them to be like you."

"Dad, that's not..."

"I have nothing more to say to you."

"Dad, just let me talk." Kurt waited. There was no response. "Dad, the way you were acting then... I couldn't have you in the same house with my daughters. I couldn't have you unsupervised. You kept trying to do things. You'd turn the stove on and forget it. You could have burned the house down. Dad?"

There was no response. Kurt looked at his watch again, sighed. He folded up the chair and worked his way back to the gate. He heard a voice, urgent, entreating, and stopped to listen, switching the light off. The voice came from somewhere in the darkness, from another part of the cemetery. It was a woman.

"But where? Where did you leave it? You wanted to provide for us, but we don't know where it is!" There was a pause. Kurt couldn't hear anything. "Please, just give me a clue.... no, I know you did... do... but now we need your help! Please!"

Kurt sighed and turned the flashlight on. He shook his head. "They talk to you," he murmured, "But you can't make them listen."


Another turn and he was out of the cemetery. Two blocks, and he was back in his room. He undressed and turned on the TV again, falling asleep in front of it. In the morning, he drove back the way he came, stopping only for another box of chicken. Carry out.
.

©2013 by Kip Williams

Monday, September 09, 2013

TOP TEN Amazing Facts about Sir Isaac Newton!

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10:
Tried to promote military uses of gravity, but farmers of the day couldn't deliver enough weaponized Granny Smiths.

9:
Was accompanied for years by lookalike nephews, J-saac, M-saac, and N-saac.

8:
Instead of "Theory of Gravitation," he had originally intended to pen a sweeping multi-generation outer space sage, but was advised to "write what you know."

7:
Never actually won the Nobel Prize for Gravity!

6:
Would try to impress his name on acquaintances by urging them to visualize a NEWT ON his head.

5:
"Sir" in his name was actually self-awarded, and was always accompanied by "air quotes."

4:
He once dropped an apple on a man in Reno, just to watch him make that "Ow! My head!" face.

3:
He personally founded a small town in Massachusetts.

2:
Hated goddamn figs!

And the #1 Amazing Fact about Sir Isaac Newton:

1:
Recanted Law of Gravity on his deathbed, and everybody floated off into space!
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Gee


.



I.
1983

After a bus ride from hell, I arrived in Colorado from Texas and took refuge at a former schoolmate's house and phoned one of my oldest friends, a former Army brat who I'll call Gee. How about I come over to your place, I asked. Okay, said Gee, in a voice which (I didn't notice at first) seemed more quiet and hesitant than the self-confident tones I'd heard from him in the almost twenty years he'd been in and out of my life.

But there's something I need to tell you. My name's not Gee [male name] any more, it's Ess [female name]. And the story came out.
From earliest childhood (Ess said), I felt like a girl instead of a boy. When my sister was born, they were calling her a girl, and I said What do you mean? I'm a girl! And I resolved at that time to keep it to myself and tough it out, and live my life as a man, like everybody expected. And I managed.

Then, when I was in my teens, I started having this hallucination. In the periphery of my vision. It was the tip of the barrel of a pistol. Over the days and weeks, it was always there. Over a period of months and years, all through high school, it filled in and became complete.

Then the hammer started cocking back.
And through all this, my friend was a success -- surprising everyone by joining the army, then afterwards marrying, having a son, easily finding jobs, living a good life. There was a certain humor in how accident-prone Gee was: driving off the road, for instance. We joked about it, the way you do with friends who have that kind of luck.
And then one day I found myself on the porch of my parents' house, with a shotgun in my mouth. Only instead of pulling the trigger, I said, **** this ****, I'd rather live. And to do that, I have to live as the person I really am, not as the person I'm supposed to be.
What did you tell your Dad, the Colonel?
He said, he always felt that way too, like he was really a girl, and decided he had to hide it.
I was somewhat dazed at this point, from the trip and other things, and I decided to postpone going over there, but I got contact information and put her in touch with my sisters, who are a pretty good de facto support group, and worked to wrap my mind around the fact that the person who used to beat on me a little, and who once shot me point blank with an air rifle just before we both got caught in a blizzard, was undergoing such a profoundly alienating and distressing experience, and had been for years, without being able to tell anyone.

I called my sister who still lived in the area, and after laughing once -- perhaps at me -- she made herself available to Ess and stayed in contact. I saw her after that at my sister's house, and tried to keep in touch as well, though it was my sisters who got actual visits, due to geographical location.

My middle sister asked Ess once about her little son. Do you see him? "Yes." How did you explain to him? "I told him as best I could that this was what I had to do."

What does he call you?

"He calls me Daddy."


II.
2006

Ess's son, an Iraq War veteran, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in November. It might have been some kind of accident.


III.
2007

I heard from Ess a short while back, after the "Fufumal" post was picked up by Slashdot. She was pleased at the coincidence of "running into" me that way, and we exchanged a couple of messages. Even as she relished the joke, it was clear even to me that she was under a cloud of sorrow over the loss of her son. It was a short exchange. I don't remember who wrote last. I went and looked at photos of a cheerful, confident young man in uniform on Ess's flickr page. She was so proud of him.

Tonight, after putting Sarah to bed, I received an email from my youngest sister -- who used to hang out and laugh with Gee, and who kept in touch with Ess -- that Ess had shot herself on Tuesday.

Coincidence. I was thinking of some "Gee stories" earlier in the week. I don't think it was on Tuesday. Might have been yesterday. It might be a good time for me to write down as many as I can: the ones I witnessed, and the ones he used to tell. I remember those laughs too. I could sure use one now.
.

originally printed in my LiveJournal in 2007

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

fans is fans

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My friend Harry has been searching out the etymology of Fanboy, and this was my contribution to the effort. It's from a biography of Rube Goldberg by Peter C. Marzio and is one of Goldberg's earliest publications (can't put hand on book just now house in chaos please help). It's clear enough from context that 'fan' is short for 'fanatic.'

Goldberg 'Fan Kid' 1904

Cigarettes, as we can see, were cool then, too. They're always cool. When tastemakers succeed in associating cigarettes with toothless Skid Row derelicts, then it'll be cool to look like a wino. In 1904, it was cool for a young dude (duded up) to have a cig in at all times.

When I was in sixth grade, I bought somebody's old assignment book at a thrift shop for a nickel. Well, it was priced a nickel, but I think the guy gave it to me so I'd go away. It had been the property of a schoolgirl, and along with the writing, there was a loose sketch of a female, slightly older than a schoolgirl perhaps, holding that little white coffin nail that meant she was free and independent. (Footnote: I realized that the name in the book was the neighbor of a friend, so I took it over and gave it back to her — feeling slightly guilty at having written my name in it — and as soon as I'd left, she probably put it in the trash for the second time.)
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the Hammer of Humor

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Some years back, I found a trade paperback called JUMBO COMIC BOOK that reprinted a large pile of diddly little pre-Code funny animal comic stories. It's printed in color. That is, it's reproductions of line art printed all in one color per page, in colors from a slightly gassy black to a hard-to-see yellow. At any rate, a number of cartoonists are represented within, like a popular Terrytoons director (can't put my hand on the book just now to say which one — Rasinski?), the justly famed Al Fago,  and, quite possibly, a pre-EC Harvey Kurtzman.

Then there's Milt Hammer. I apologize in advance if members of his family are reading this, but I find his art to be hasty and crude, and his writing — if he's doing it, and it's hard to be sure — is kind of random. He seemed, however, to possess ambition, drive, and determination, not only in finding venues in which to get paid for his work, but in the unholy vigor of the work itself, pushing gag after gag on the reader, regardless of how funny I myself find each one. If I'd had half of his work ethic, I have no doubt I'd end up in some collection somewhere too.

Anyway, in 1946, Hammer got himself into the pages of PM, a favorite lefty tabloid from NYC that burned brightly for a while — introducing Crockett Johnson's "Barnaby," featuring political cartoons by Dr. Seuss, Carl Rose, and Al Hirschfeld, among others, and before vanishing completely under another name, featuring the earliest comic strip versions of Pogo and Albert. Between their interest in innovation and Hammer's self-promotion, it's no surprise he'd wind up there.

This time it was hi-tech and art intersecting. The fac-simile machine (aka the fax) was a marvel of the day that allowed wire photos to reach newspapers across the land, and in 1946 there was a fax service that sent the news of the day into some 200 homes — and Milt found a way to get himself into those homes as well. Fax cartoons.

pm19420622a

See how hard he worked? The pants have dollar signs on them! It's a detail! There's a sub-pun in a middle panel. The guy in the last panel flips backwards at the 'punch line,' complete with a big question mark and a star for emphasis. Is it funny? I DON'T KNOW BUT IT COMES RIGHT INTO YOUR HOUSE ON THE FAX MACHINE FOR GOD'S SAKE. Imagine the joy of fastening a piece of paper to the drum, watching it spin away for a couple of minutes, and then getting this.

O. Brave new world!

[ed. to add: the tractor-feed dots on the paper suggest maybe it's not a drum system. Never mind, I'm out of here.]
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Saturday, April 27, 2013

stepping off and signing in

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Mixed feelings about the end of another semester. It's like how the end of every play I'm in turns into the last episode of M*A*S*H and it suddenly becomes tragic that everybody's going their separate ways. Anyway, looks like the printmaking class has gone quite well, and I'll keep taking more of that for a while. I had two pieces in the student show, so that felt good too.

It's been a while since I tuned in at Live Journal. For that matter, I'm more or less stepping off the fast lane all over the place. I've stopped looking in on the Comics Curmudgeon each day, and that was the one basic part of my routine that never changed. I still check Google Reader and email and Twitter and newsgroups, which still takes longer to do than typing this sentence. Two of my best LJ correspondents died this past year. I haven't posted since I found out.

Have I been using the time for school? Hard to say. I have, at least, been getting up and going in and working, so that's a good thing. I haven't had a lot of freelance work, so it's just as well. Sarah and I drove up to Michigan to see Kathryn and Dad and everybody. We next had plans to go to MI in June, followed by a trip out to Colorado. All of this, however, has been complicated by my sister's stroke (the sister in Colorado, who is on LJ sometimes), which I'm told is complicating her life even more. I guess it's all about her now. (A little humor there.) No idea what the schedule will be now.

I took Sarah's bikes to the bike drop-off at Mendon HS an hour ago. Her first bike is in there, the one her friend Colin gave her in MA (he got a new one for his birthday). Her second bike, "Windstorm," which I bought for $5 at a PTSA sale, is in there, slightly larger and pinker than Colin's blue "Blast-Off." The largest of the three is a single-gear bike she paid for about half of when she decided she wanted it. She has no bicycle now. Cathy will be shopping for her belated birthday bike soon, but just now, I am marveling at the sheer fact that my daughter has no bike at all.

Normal stuff continues. Dad's health is good at the moment, and his hearing is not too horrible. My sister is recovering well from her stroke. Another sister is about to graduate from college, as is my nephew. I will be seeing many of these people in the summer, one way or another.

There's more to it than that, but I can stop now if I leave it there, and I have other stuff to do. Sorry I'm such a hermit. It's not by choice, really.
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Saturday, March 09, 2013

print-makin' fool

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The clever stratagem of taking an art class has worked, in that I am producing some art. I might even sell some of it — lovely thought.

duck-1

The duck is based on something I did back in the 80s. It went over well with my class, who have suggested that I might do a series of toy pix, which is an appealing idea. I will be reworking it somewhat, as I did some inadvertent violence to the tones in a couple of places. This was accepted into the student art show that's coming up (as I write this, in March of 2013). I hope I'll sell something.

sarah-1

Here's sleeping Sarah, to which I will add aquatints (like the shading in the duck pic) to make it look more like the picture I based it on, which I drew on the glide pad of my little Vaio laptop when she was asleep on my lap right after we'd moved to Massachusetts in 2005:

sleepy girl

I printed ten of it in this state so I'd have an edition for grading at the end of the semester, but I think it will appeal more when the grays are in there (mostly like the computer pic, but with a small change or two — hey, I flipped it! oh well).

drain-1

Last but not least, a cardboard print — the plate, instead of being zinc, is thick cardboard, cut into to different layers with a sharp knife. This was also accepted into the upcoming show, and I think it's the best of the three items I submitted (I didn't submit the one of Sarah for the third, but the pre-shades version of the duck). This is a scene on Main Street here in town that I drive past on my way to and from school, next to a bus stop/turnaround. The pavement would be off to the left of the part you see. Wait, here's the photo I took and used as a guide:

bus stop

I did what artists do, and left stuff out. Okay, that's all for now. When I get my next print done, I'll post it too. Unless it's really bad, of course.
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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Here Lies Somebody

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Not long after moving here, I was looking at a cemetery about a mile from our house, and found the grave of a likely relative. Likely, because (according to The Babbitt Family History), almost all Babbitts in the US were related, and traced back to Edward Bobet — with the exception of a few who had come into this country as immigrants with names the officials couldn't or wouldn't write, and who found themselves and their descendants dubbed with the surname.

Anna Babbitt 2009

It was possible to read the name on the stone: "Nathaniel Babbitt." The soft sandstone held other faint lines, but between their weak grip on the stone and the encroaching lichens, I couldn't make out any dates. I guessed that it was one of the oldest stones in the Pioneer Burying Ground, which began use just before 1800. I pored over a copy of the family history. Not the copy my grandmother had, but a scan of a library copy that I found online. Archive.org was probably the source of it. First, I tried to read the text conversion of the book, which as full of errors due to unchecked mechanical character recognition and problems with columns and footnotes. It turns out, though, that the scanned PDF version is fully searchable and looks great.

I soon found out that the family history is chock full of Nathaniels, and not knowing exactly when to look was also a handicap. I searched on Pittsford, and found references to other Babbitts, as well as to Pittsford, Vermont, which I've found is the town that the one here in New York was named after. Since this town was called Northfield at the time the cemetery was begun, I searched that as well. Guess which other state has a Northfield where Babbitts lived. Yes. Vermont. Curse you, Vermont!

Anna Babbitt 2011

By 2011, the growth across the face of the stone had expanded. I wondered if taking a brush to it would do more harm than good. I wondered if there were any descendants still in town — or in other nearby towns. The history mentioned Babbitts in other towns in the state, ranging from a few miles away on the shore of Lake Ontario to the other side of Syracuse. I tried calling a Babbitt in the phone book, leaving a voice message that hasn't been returned yet. I stopped by the Town Hall and learned that the town historian comes in for a few hours a week on Thursday afternoons, and took down her information. Months later, I remembered in time to give her a call.

She had some interesting information for me. Going to her records, she told me that the stone is not marking the resting place of Nathaniel Babbitt, but that of his wife, Anna, born 1782, died 1806 (June 1806, though the stone apparently once claimed 1804 in error). She was aware of the condition of the grave, and didn't think there was anything that could be done about it by this time.

Anna Babbitt 2013

Looking at my earliest photos, I could now trace some of the letter shapes in 'ANNA' in the gray-green overgrowth. I could even discern in the gentle curves beneath Nathaniel's name the likely location of "1782" and perhaps "June." She mentioned a Babbitt family that she used to know in town, on Clover Street. The father's name was Arlo or Arliss, the daughters were Donna and "Betty" (short for Elizabeth). Donna moved to Iowa, Betty passed on.

Time has been hard on the graves, particularly those carved in soft sandstone. The oldest is unreadable now, and is part of a row of undecipherable white slabs. I thanked her for the information, which was more than I expected, even though I had been fairly sure she'd have access to records. With or without records, she knew the graveyard, and its stones, very well. I felt like I'd been taking up a lot of her time, so I didn't ask about the small stones piled up at the back of the yard. They are probably footstones that became separated from their original graves.

I still don't know how I may be related to these people. Mom died in 2008, and wouldn't have been able to tell me anything anyway for at least a decade before then. Her last surviving sister, the oldest of her generation, died last year, and her widower wouldn't be much interested in that side of the family (he apparently has Grandma's copy of the family history, which may have notes written in it that I'd like to see). My sisters and I are interested in seeing what we can figure out, but it may be too late to do a lot of that by now. Too bad. The internet makes parts of it very easy to do.
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Friday, February 01, 2013

Ten Years of Uselessness

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It makes sense that I should post this somewhere I can point to it, since I still do that. Up to now, I've simply given a link to some site or other that has reposted it, but what if they all wise up and drop me? Then what? Hah? Anyway, back in July of 2003, I was laid up with the flu. This was the tangible result. It began, "I've been sick lately, and, well, I wrote a sketch..."

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USELESS INVASION SKETCH (by Kip Williams, age 46)

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE (played by John Cleese) walks down the street carrying THE IRAQUI INVASION (played by an empty parrot cage). He walks into THE WHITE HOUSE (played by a cheesy storefront) and addresses COLIN POWELL (played by Michael Palin).

AP:
Excuse me... boy!

CP:
(turns around and stands up) What d'you mean, 'boy?'

AP:
I'm sorry; I have contact lenses. At any rate, I wish to register a complaint!

CP:
Sorry, squire, I can't talk to you now. It's Code Orange! (he hastily starts to put up a sign)

AP:
Never mind that now, my fine fellow. I wish to register a complain about this military action, which you sold me just a couple of months ago.

CP:
Oh yes, the Iraqui invasion. Lovely little war, that was. What... uh, what seems to be wrong with it?

AP:
I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's empty, that's what's wrong with it.

CP:
Oh, no, no, no. It's not empty at all. It's served its purpose, it has. Freed the oppressed people of Iraq, fed the homeless, brought everlasting fame and glory to our bulging leader.

AP:
But when I purchased this dreary little police action from you, you assured me that the whole and entire purpose was to disarm Saddam Hussein and take away, quote, his vast stockpiles of ready-to-use weapons of mass destruction, end quote.

CP:
Oh, there's some mistake. We went in to liberate the poor oppressed people of...

AP:
Listen, mate. I took the liberty of recording your voice when you sold me that thing, and here's what it says. (produces tape recorder)

Tape: (CP's voice)
"We know just where they are. We know just what they've got. They're buried in these bunkers right here, which our surveillance satellites have photographed not more than twenty minutes ago. They could not possibly be used for any purpose other than the storage of hideous, slime-dripping nuclear anthrax chemical weapons of mass destruction. Say, are you recording me?"

AP:
Right. And when we "liberated" those poor bastards, the bunker was found to contain little more than a twenty-year collection of Penthouse and Hustler magazines, plus a dozen lava lamps and a mini-bar.

CP:
Well...

AP:
Well?

CP:
Well, of course they'd cleaned it out before they left. Sold it all to their chums in the Taliban, they did.

AP:
I happen to know that their 'chums,' as you so colorfully put it, hate their guts and have referred to them repeatedly as "scabrous lackeys of the internationalist secular state," end quotation.

CP:
Well, they have to say that, don't they? I mean, it's all part of the grand scheme. Lovely little war, wa'nit? Liberated all them poor...

AP:
Stoppit! All you've done is make their lives worse than before. That's why they keep killing our soldiers.

CP:
Oh no, squire. They're grateful. That's why they pulled down that statue.

AP:
I've seen the footage of the event, and the only Iraquis in the picture appear to have had their feet nailed there.

CP:
Well, of course they were nailed there. If we hadn't nailed them, they'd've been crushed by the falling statue, wouldn't they? It was for their own safety. That's why we liberated the...

AP:
Shut up. Did you or did you not allege on several different occasions that we had found the weapons of mass destruction and that therefore the entire ill-advised escapade was a rousing success?

CP:
What, them trailers? Well, of course they was weapons of mass destruction. They could've used them for germs, or chemicals, or...

AP:
In fact, they were used for hydrogen, and precious little of that. They didn't even have walls, for pity's sake.

CP:
Well, hydrogen's pretty dangerous, isn't it, Squire? It could power tanks or jets or... and what about that Hindenberry thing? Let's see you stand in a room full of liquid hydrogen with nothing but a ripe boysenberry to defend yourself with, and you'll soon see mass destructive. Wouldn't want to be in your shoes then! And anyway, we liberated the...

AP:
Liberation don't enter into it, mate. It was a bleeding sham.

CP:
No, it was liberation!

AP:
Sham, sham, sham! And you didn't find any weapons of mass destruction!

CP:
Well, of course we didn't, Squire. They was... they was looted.

AP:
Looted? LOOTED?

CP:
Yeah. When our boys was busy not looking at the museum, they looted all them weapons out from under their noses. And anyway, we liberated...

AP:
You're saying that starving peasants with no resources of their own simply looted vast stores of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons? With What??

CP:
They carried them off on their bicycles.

AP:
But a missile weighs several tons, and a bicycle can only carry, at most, a couple of hundred pounds.

CP:
They used two bicycles, with a bungee cord between 'em. They're a nasty lot, Squire. Not like the ones that sang songs to us when we liberated...

AP:
Will you shut up? Since when is it liberation to leave a people destitute, without food, water, electricity, or law enforcement?

CP:
Those things was all shackles on them. We freed 'em, I tell you! They're grateful to us. They're singin' songs...

AP:
Those aren't songs, you parsimonious prevaricator, they're protesting in the streets, and shooting at our soldiers.

CP:
They're just exuberant. Like to fire off their guns a lot, now they're free and all. They don't mean nuffin' by it. They're just so happy to be liberated, with Hussein gone. You mark my words; he was the real weapon of mass destruction his own self, why, he...

AP:
That's another thing. You didn't even get him, did you?

CP:
Well...

AP:
You don't even know where he is, do you?

CP:
We got a tip...

AP:
You've been blowing up caravans and bombing cities and striking about blindly, because your yahoo cowboy boss refused to listen to any intelligence that contradicted his beliefs. Which, when you come down to it, precluded the use of any intelligence whatsoever.

CP:
I see. Quite. (pause) Well, then, we'd better replace it, hadn't we?

AP:
With what?

CP:
Well, them Iranis are gettin' pretty swaggery, ain't they?

AP:
I thought you were encouraging them to rise up against their religious leaders, now that they aren't accepting any more cakes from your lot.

CP:
Fair enough. How about something in a nice little Afghanistan?

AP:
You've already done that one. Worse than Iraq, if I recall.

CP:
How about... coming up to my place and re-electing my boss?

AP:
Why in the world would I want to do that? Why wouldn't I just vote for the Democrats and chase you idiots out of office, once for all?

AP:
Oh, no, Squire! No, no, no, no! You wouldn't want to do that, trust me on this one.

AP:
And why not, if I may be so brash as to query?

CP:
Well, they're a bunch of psychopathic liars, they are, always Whitewaterin', 'aving sex in the Oval Office, taking' expensive haircuts on Air Force One, trashing the White House, murderin' poor ol' Vince Foster, and claiming they invented the Internet.

AP:
Point taken! Well, then, I'll have a North Korea to go, please.

CP:
You won't regret it, Squire! I'll just wrap it up. (tears an American flag off of a roll and clumsily wraps up the same cage the AP carried in.) Come again!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

social media (song)

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filtered through a radioactive Michael Jackson impersonator — title and tune at end

You still together? Did your cable come back?
How 'bout this weather? Whad ja have for a snack?
We're hangin' here on every single message now, Jack,
So tweet it! Just tweet it!

Is your car working? Is it cold in your flat?
Got coffee perking or a .gif of a cat?
You need to tell the motherlovin' world about that!
So tweet it! Put your words on that screen.

Just tweet it, tweet it, tweet it, tweet it,
Pray that it'll be repeated
They don't all need  

To end with a snort
Don't need it deep, long as it's short
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it
Just tweet it, tweet it

Seven score letters, try to leave some slack
You want your name to fit there if they tweet it back
Use 'em all up and you'll look like a hack
But tweet it, just tweet it

Your life is boring, it's a stinkin' crime
Nowhere to go today, no mountains to climb
So let your life run out, a gross of letters at a time, and
Tweet it! Did they favorite this one?

Just tweet it! Tweet it!
(repeat until bored)









[title: Tweet It. ttto: Beat It — (I hoped it was obvious)]
lyrics above ©2013 by Kip Williams
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