Posted on January 7th, 2020
I really need a vacation.
Not a work trip. Not a staycation. Not a trip for a party or wedding or any other occasion. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation where I can go somewhere new, do interesting stuff, and just relax. Since the days have been cold, dreary, wet, and largely dark (given the early sunsets), I'd prefer going somewhere that's the opposite of all that.
Also adding to my desire to get the fuck out of dodge? These amazing, amazing travel journals by José Naranja. He sells reproductions that are impeccably crafted which I would love to own, but the two volumes cost $320 and $360 each...
He also sells posters of some of his most popular interior page spreads, but they ain't cheap either. A single print costs $45...
Gorgeous. Every page is a work of art.
It makes me want to drag out my hand-drawn travel maps. When I first started traveling, I drew them for each of the places I went. My favorite was a map of Japan with all the sights I saw plus all the Hard Rock Cafes I visited marked on it. It's pretty good size... probably 12 x 20... on Bristol board rendered in colored pencil, inks, and watercolor. Took me a month of most nights and some weekends to complete. No idea where it is, but it's likely rolled up with old posters somewhere.
Assuming that I could come up with the money or time to go on a vacation, I'm note sure where I would go. I still want to get to India and Peru one of these days, so maybe one of those.
But since I don't have the money or time, I guess I'll just go to work tomorrow.
Posted on November 24th, 2019
I see you've tuned in to the same Bat-Channel at the same Bat-Time, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Printing Errors. I've designed nearly a dozen books and I've made my share of mistakes along the way. But one thing I've never done is run text into the gutter. And yet Marvel's "The Art of the Movie" books excel at it. Including Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, The Art of the Movie which was released last week...
It shocks me every damn time. How are you supposed to read this shit? Even if you tip up the opposite side at a 90° angle, it's tough...
I guess you're supposed to break the binding and pound it flat? This is infuriating. These are not cheap books.
• Thanksgiving Art. Artist Hannah Rothstein created Thanksgiving dinner plates as imagined by various artists in 2014 (and a second helping in 2015). The results are pretty great...
To see all of her photos, be sure to check out her website.
• Nippon Bunka. When I saw that the latest season of Queer Eye was in Japan, I was curious to see how it was going to work... but didn't tune in right away. And when I finally decided to take a look, I was surprised at how some of the language came rushing back to me. Then mortified because there were a lot of cringeworthy moments. They obviously didn’t take the time to learn anything about Japanese culture, and I finally had to stop watching half-way through the third episode. I just couldn’t take it any more. The show was highly disrespectful of how Japanese culture works, and how people there have a mindset to fit into society for the benefit of the greater harmony. It is essentially Americans invading these people’s homes, trouncing over everything they believe, and telling them how much better there lives would be if they were more American. Then likely not realizing that politeness would preclude the Fab-Five being told if the Japanese person in question was uncomfortable or didn't want to go along with what was being dumped on them. It was just too awful. Then I read this article and see it went even deeper than I realized. Quite a step backwards from the shows that came before.
• Not Cats. There is absolutely NO condition under which I want to see this movie. If I am in a coma... and you visit me... and this is playing on the television... CHANGE THE CHANNEL! Good Lord what a heinous CGI abomination. I mean, yeah, I wasn't interested in the Broadway musical either... but at least THAT I understood. This CGI weirdness is absurd, and I would have rather they had this amazing cast just dress up like they did at the theater performances. THAT I would have probably watched. When it came to HBO or Netflix or whatever. But this?!?
• Whoa. Well these natural works of art by Andy Goldsworthy are amazing...
I found out about them over here.
• Awww. Melts.
The entire channel is gold, and you can visit it here.
Until next time, Bat-Fans.
Posted on September 3rd, 2019
The penultimate issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine has just been released. You can check it out on our website absolutely FREE! Our next issue... No. 27, coming in December... will be our last.
I'll be talking about all that later though. Right now I want to talk about the current issue, which is pretty darn cool if we do say so ourselves!
The cover image is something I originally created for the story Ode to Oceans in the interior. I really liked the story, and the minute I read about a cat being "a gingery thing" and belonging to the ruler of the universe who lives by the sea I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Take one of my photos of water, flip it so the sea was the sky and the sky was the sea, then have Jenny sitting on the sky as if it were ground. Because the ruler of the universe can do that. Problem was... it didn't end up fitting the story well. So I took the cat out, put the image right-side up, then used that instead. It was better for the story and had really good impact.
But I couldn't let go of the original image. It was just so cool. Cool enough for the cover...
The cat is my sweet Jenny. So that means both my cats have now appeared in the magazine (Jake appeared in Issue No. 22). And here's the image for the story Ode to Oceans by Elena Botts...
That's a real photo I took. I just cut out the middle section which had a shore and some trees... then glued the sky and sea together to create a kind of weird mirror.
The next piece I created was for the story Way Cross, Georgia, 1937 by James Lloyd Davis...
The story is one which has an emotional gut-punch and I wanted to have artwork to reflect that. But what I came up with originally didn't work for two reasons...
First of all... I had second thoughts on using a noose. It's a symbol of fear and hate and just seeing it can be hurtful to many people. I justified it because it's reflective of the story, yet I was still uneasy. But the reason I ultimately took the noose out was because it was a spoiler. The story has two distinct parts, and I was very careful to have a page break occur before the first section was over so the second part would be more impactful to the reader. But what good does that do if I give away the second part in the image?
And speaking of the image (a composite of four stock photos run through a paint filter)... the characters in the story are selling fake holy oil. I wanted to make it appear authentically holy by having a golden glow emanate from behind. It sure turned out pretty.
The last story I worked on was called Her Climb by George Hook...
The story is the lament of a man pining after a Dutch girl who was climbing ahead of him. But, alas, the Dutch girl ended up with a French boy, and the man was left alone. He envisions the girl and boy from the climb in the room next to his being together (a climb of a different kind), which is even more painful to him.
I knew immediately what I wanted for the image. Since they were in the same building but different rooms, I imagined a hotel. And I imagined a pair of women's climbing boots handing off the door handle like a "Do Not Disturb" sign. My mom had a very nice pair of boots I bought her for our trip to Africa, but I couldn't find them to photograph them. I probably gave them to Goodwill or the Veteran's Exchange. So I ended up having to cut apart a bunch of stock images to create what I wanted... then drew around them with a heavy black outline. The resulting image was then run through a watercolor filter. I did several versions before I found one that would "read" for a small 2-1/4" square image.
The final two images I created for the magazine were a flower from the side of my house on the inside-front cover... and a shot of a toy riding horse I photographed in Malaga, Spain...
And that was the end of that issue! One more to go...
Posted on August 11th, 2019
You are not ready... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." I was sad to learn that Toni Morrison has passed away. I read her first novel, The Bluest Eye, after graduating high school. I was looking for new voices to expand my thinking and Morrison absolutely fit that bill. She was a master of the written word, able to construct beautiful prose which can inspire you one minute then destroy you the next. Beloved, her gut-wrenching fictional account of an escaped slave who is haunted by her past, won a slew of awards (including a Pulitzer), and is essential reading. When it comes to voices defining this country, Toni Morrison will definitely be missed.
• Alien! If you love the movie "Alien," you should know that J.W. Rinzler's massive The Making of Alien book is on sale at Amazon for $33... regular $60. It is incredible. Easily on-par with Rinzler's other "Making of" books (like Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back). Absolutely everything that went into making the film is thoroughly covered. So many amazing pre-production design drawings by H.R. Giger and many others... tons of behind-the-scenes photos... all kinds of insights into the production from people who were there... it's all so well done...
Seriously, this book is easily worth $60. It's a downright steal at $33. Love love love it.
• Epidemic Scary as hell... and getting scarier. Big Pharma is destroying us, and politicians sucking Big Pharma lobbyist cock are looking the other way...
Lobbyist payola should be banned. Any politician accepting lobbyist payola should be shot for treason.
• Rookie. Well this fucking sucks. Afton Williamson is a huge reason I love The Rookie so much. This past week she quit the show, alleging that she endured sexual assault and racism while working on it...
WTF is wrong with people? And WTF is wrong with ABC for not creating a safe environment for their employees? This is such a great show and, to be honest, I can't really picture how it can continue without Talia Bishop. It probably can't. At least not for me.
• The Truth is Out There. While I would have preferred to get a sequel to Paul, I will absolutely take Truth Seekers, a new ghost-hunting show from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Amazon Prime seems to be serious about investing real money into some top=shelf talent for their streaming programs, and this should definitely (hopefully) be a feather in their cap.
• Bro! I have been far from a fan of Bernie Sanders. While some of his ideas make sense, he's always been past the "tipping point" on the Democrat scale for me. Then I saw this interview by Joe Rogan where he was given time to actually explain his positions and... I have to say... I'm warming up to him as a candidate. No, he likely won't get to do all the things he wants to do because he has Congressional approval to deal with, but I do think he would move this country in a more healthy direction. He certainly couldn't be worse than what we have now...
In other news? Please let Joe Rogan interview all the candidates. These idiotic "debates" that keep happening are less than useless.
Bye bye bye, Bullet Sunday.
Posted on July 14th, 2019
I'd rather be anywhere else today, but escape is not in the cards... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• MADness! It was announced this past week that MAD magazine will end its original-content run with the August 2019 issue. After that, it's all reprints with new covers that will only be available by subscription or in comic shops. Despite not having picked up an issue in years, this is more than a little sad to me, because MAD was a huge part of my past. I bought occasional issues in the latter-half of the 1970's, but became a MAD addict after the December 1978 issue (the Star Wars musical parody issue)...
I purchased every single issue from No. 203 through No. 250, at which time I went back to only buying issues that had material I was interested in. I also purchased every reprint book I could get my hands on, scouring the local News Agency to obtain as many as I could find by my favorite MAD contributors... like Al Jaffe, Sergio Aragonés, Don Martin, and Dave Berg... and, of course, Antonio Prohías, who was the guy behind Spy vs. Spy. It's not just my favorites that are burned into my brain... contributors like Mort Drucker, Dick DeBartolo, and Jack Davis did a huge amount of work for the magazine and were a big influence on how I saw the world.
• Mushu? A gorgeous trailer dropped for the live-action version of Mulan...
It looks like Disney put some serious money into this remake! But where's Mushu? Is Eddie Murphy coming back to voice Mulan's dragon? Is Mushu even going to BE in the film? I will be sorely disappointed if he is not. Characters like that are what make it a Disney movie.
• Blown Away! I've never blown glass myself, but I love the art of it and I've been to many, many glassblowing shops. Including my idol Dale Chihuly's shop in Tacoma (and many of his installations) plus I've traveled to the "glassblowing island" of Murano in Venice so I could see the famous shops there as well. I love glass and have circled the globe to see the best of it. So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that Netflix was developing a show called Blown Away...
Fortunately it's a show like Forged in Fire where the focus of the series is on the artistry rather than the shitty manufactured personal drama (ala Ink Master), which makes it fun to watch. The contestants are pretty great... the massive 10-furnace facility they built to host the show is amazing... some of the pieces are truly remarkable.... and the tension and drama from breakage is high. I do have some problems, however... A) Why aren't there enough tools for everybody that they have to wait for somebody to finish at a critical juncture? Also find it strange that they have to share hot-boxes. B) I don't get how the host got this gig. What experience does he have in order to be qualified to weigh in on the judging? According to his site, he's a professional rollerblader and organic chemist? WTF? C) Why can't we hear the judges deliberate? This would go a long way towards understanding their decisions. D) Why the time limit for a GLASS art competition? I'd much rather give them enough time that they can take risks and not be finished if they break late in the game.
Despite all that, Blown Away is still a great show if you love glass... or art... or demonstrations of skill.
• Blank! Netflix keeps blowing up their original entertainment, and Blown Away is not the only thing that's new this week... we also got a movie called Point Blank, a remake of a French film starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo...
The concept is good. Mackie and Grillo are good. And money was spent on getting the action scenes right. Which is why I'm kinda puzzled as to why I feel so "meh" about the film. Perhaps because the most memorable thing about it was some truly bizarre 80's music choices. I guess I'm glad I watched it, but it didn't really grab me as I would have expected.
• Aziz! And Netflix isn't done there! They also released a new stand-up special by one of my favorite comedians, Aziz Ansari...
I'm not going to lie, it was an awkward show to watch. Aziz addressed the sexual misconduct allegations which were brought against him at the very beginning. But not really. He more "acknowledged" it than really "addressed" it. But he does seem sincere about having regrets and having learned something, so I guess that's better than nothing. From there Aziz goes on to deliver a varied set covering a range of topics, and most of it is pretty funny. What's not so funny is his delivery, which is subdued and kinda sad as he sits on a stool and sometimes speaks so quietly you can barely hear him. This is a wild departure from his previous stand-up specials which were crackling with energy... but he has moments of poignancy which wouldn't have worked otherwise, so I guess it was necessary. If you're a fan, Aziz Ansari: Right Now is worth a look. But don't expect what you've been conditioned to expect from him.
• Tacumentary! Last up on my parade of new Netflix shows? Las Crónicas del Taco. A documentary film on one of my favorite dishes... tacos! This trailer is in Spanish, but the documentary series has subtitles in English and French available...
Even though I'm a vegetarian, I still found this meat-based-documentary series to be fascinating. And depressing at times when brief glimpses of the animals are shown, because the conditions they are kept is not ideal. And with six different episodes exploring the history and preparation of six different style of tacos... Pastor (shepherd-style pork), Carnitas (slow-cooked pork), Canasta (basket-stacked tacos), Asada (grilled beef), Barbacoa (barbecue pit-style), and Guisado (stew)... there's more than enough taco here for your viewing pleasure. Worth a look if you're a foodie... or even if you're not, really.
• IN THE NEWS: TRUMP TAX PLAN LEADS TO $54 BILLION DECLINE IN CHARITABLE GIVING. "Many Americans want to give generously to charities, but they may not be able to afford to do so now with the changes implemented in the 2018 tax law." — The charity I work with knew that there would be a hit. Nobody had any idea it would be this bad. What's so horrible is that many charities fill in the gaps for people who are just trying to survive. As more and more people lose government assistance thanks to Trump Administration cuts, the number of people who will rely on charities increases... all while donations to these charities decreases. It's a recipe for disaster. But, hey... billionaires got tax cuts so they could gold-plate the toilets on their private jets, and that's what's important, right?
• Boys from the Dwarf! If the truth be told, Red Dwarf went on longer than it should have. Things started to go downhill with Series VI, and everything that came after that was really hit or miss. But, man, those early seasons are some of my most favorite television ever, so I'm always glad to see "The Boys from the Dwarf" again... even if it's just in a commercial...
And now I want to go back and watch the show all over again.
Bon Voyage, my Sunday bullets.
Posted on June 20th, 2019
My morning walks to work are starting to become the best part of my day. When I'm not nearly getting run down in the sidewalks, I'm discovering all kinds of things that make life interesting.
Far and away my most favorite thing each morning is looking to see if the family of cats that live on my route is out. The kittens spark joy in my cold, dead heart, so it's always a good day when I can start it out with kittens. Today they were indeed lounging in the front yard, watching me warily as I approached like they always do...
Much to my dismay, the little puffball cat was not there again. That's the third time in a row, and I'm heartbroken at the thought that he was attacked or got run over or something...
The only thing keeping me from going crazy and adopting every kitten I see is space and money. I had better never win the lottery or else I will end up buying a big house and filling it with homeless cats. I think we all know that this never ends well.
UPDATE: Well would you look at that! The kitten is back! All three accounted for...
Interesting how the puffball sibling is always alone or hanging out with mom. It's never playing with the other two (who are forever wrestling around).
In other news... inside the "Little Library Box" this morning was a new book. A children's book made famous because it was written by Madonna. This one from her The English Roses series is called A Rose by Any Other Name...
I remember when Madonna released her first English Roses book and went on MTV(?) to read it to a group of kids. She was trying to read with an English accent but it wasn't working out so well.
I thought I might grab the book because I was intrigued about the offer for a free MyEnglishRoses.net access card... but the domain is dead now, so I guess it's not quite the bonus I was lead to believe.
Guess I'll spend the rest of my day wondering where that kitten ended up. I think I might choose to believe that he was adopted and is now living happily in a new forever home.
Sometimes the best ending we can hope for is the one we make up for ourselves.
Posted on June 11th, 2019
As I've probably mentioned numerous times, I was a massively huge comic book fan for many years. Now-a-days I purchase everything digitally and don't buy many titles, but I've got an entire storage room filled with the physical comics from my past.
Back when I first started collecting, I hated subscribing to comics from the comic book companies because they would arrive in a brown wrapper with no protection and often came damaged. Instead I'd go to the two local drug stores and hope that the comics I wanted were stocked. Popular titles like Batman could always be found. Less popular titles may not be. I'd show up on the day they arrived whenever I could so I could get a mint copy instead of one that had been mangled on the rack.
When the comics I wanted weren't available at the drug store, I'd have to beg my mom to take me to The Big City so I could visit the News Agency there. The Agency was a wholesale distributor of magazines and newspapers to businesses. But they also had a retail store. The general public had to pay full price, but they usually had a copy of everything available.
What I remember most about the News Agency was the smell when you walked in.
All that paper. Like a book store, but fresher and less musty. I loved it there.
Jack, the guy who owned the place, sold it in 1995. By that time I was actually living in The Big City and buying my comics at the local comic book shop that had opened a decade earlier. I think the News Agency maybe lasted another five years before shutting down. I have no idea where local businesses get their magazines now.
The News Agency isn't all fond memories though. Three or four years ago I read an article about an apparent unsolved murder of one of the News Agency employees back in the 70's. His car was found abandoned in a hotel parking lot and he was never seen again. The article was about his family wanting the cold case re-opened to see if anything new could be discovered.
I was thinking about all this on my walk to work this morning.
How even the things that build our happiest memories can be tainted by tragedy.
And I'm pretty sure it relates back to how David Ortiz, one of my favorite baseball players to ever play the game, was shot in the back on Sunday. I can't get it out of my head. The Boston Red Socks, something which has given me so many happy memories, has been tainted by tragedy.
The news is reporting that Big Papi is resting and in good condition after a second surgery, so here's hoping the tragedy ends with him being shot.
Leave it to The Universe to ruin comic books and baseball for me.
What's next? Ice cream?
Posted on May 3rd, 2019
Have you heard?
The latest issue of Thrice Fiction has been released! And you can read it online (or download it as a PDF) absolutely FREE! To see a bunch cool stories and terrific art for the bargain price of free-fitty-free, just click here and enjoy!
This issue's cover features our raccoon mascot and was lovingly painted by the ever-talented Kyra Wilson!
As always, I'm going to take a minute to talk about the art that I created for the issue. This may involve spoilers, so it's probably best that you read it before proceeding!
The first piece I created is for the story Convenience by Gregory Wolos. In the story a couple loses their dog "Bark" and all they have left is his collar. Since this happens almost immediately in the story, I didn't think it would be spoiling anything to use that in the image...
This is a stock photo of a collar that I combined with a stock photo of a name tag (which I had to erase then "engrave" myself) that I then Photoshopped on a formica countertop stock photo so I could add shadows. My goal was to have something look fairly realistic so that it reflected the very real stuff going on in the story.
This next piece for the story Last Wednesday by Djanaina Salamon was not something I felt that I should take on myself. It specifically speaks to experiences of a Black woman, and I felt if needed that voice for the accompanying artwork. I tracked down an artist that was a good fit, but it fell through. I tried to get a replacement, but that fell through. And so... the night before we went to press... I pulled out my laptop to paint something myself...
I used Adobe Illustrator and the brush pallet to "finger-paint" the image, which I wanted to look a bit raw and abstract... but still capture a sense of beauty. The idea here is that she's burning with righteous fury over the microaggressions and other daily injustices that would probably drive a white person insane if we experienced even a fraction of it. I didn't want the fire to be actual fire... that just reads as "anger" to me. I wanted it to appear "holy," in a sense, so that it could be interpreted as "righteous." So I decided to make it silver. I also decided to make it be more of a "glow" than wild flames, so it didn't seem like the woman was out of control. There had to be an internal strength there. Originally, her hair was much shorter... but then I got the idea to make an afro which was a perfect circle, like a halo around her head. In the end, I'm happy with the illustration... but I still struggle as to whether it was appropriate for a white guy to try and interpret something he will never have to experience. I really wish I could have found an artist better suited. But I was my only option if we wanted to make deadline. Such is the life of an art director.
For the story Away, Away by past Thrice Fiction contributor MaryAnne Kolton, I wanted to come up with something which illustrated what I perceived to be the essence of the story. It's the story of a woman thought of as weak and inconsequential by her abusive husband... a "dead fish" as he refers to her... who has to find the strength to do the unthinkable...
MaryAnne was specific as to the firearm used in the story... a Phoenix Arms Semi-Automatic Pistol... and I wanted to be accurate in my illustration. A stock photo of a dead fish was easy to find. But I couldn't find the right pistol at the right angle which could be used. So I called my brother, who works at a gun shop in Montana to see if he could help me out. He didn't have one. But a friend of his happened to walk in that did have one, so I had him prop it up against something of fish-height and send me a photo. I then composited them in Photoshop, painted over everything (being sure that "Phoenix Arms" was visible), adjusted the colors to be almost monotone and bleak, then ran it through some filters until I had what I was looking for.
Ali Azar's story A Drifted Sorrowful Soul was dense with imagery I could pull from... but I couldn't get the idea of a young Iranian boy being inundated with images from the television out of my head. At first I was just going to illustrate it like out of a children's book. But I bristled at the idea of taking such a serious subject and reducing it to a kiddie illustration, so I took my drawing and cut out textures as shapes that I could paste over it...
Every piece of the illustration is a texture except the Iranian flag, which is the real deal (but not really, because you can't see the center identifying mark). As you can imagine, this took a long, long time to construct. But the result is what I was looking for so I guess it's worth it. Kinda childlike... but "real" in the sense that the textures are all real.
For Paul Beckmans awesome bit of flash, it was critical to not give the ending away, which is what makes it so great. So I grabbed an image from the front-end of the story of a running dog and used that. In order to throw readers off balance and make it so they couldn't possibly guess what the story was about, yet be compelled to read it so they could understand what was going on in the picture, I intentionally drew something goofy and simplistic...
I then added old-fashioned halftone dots to the image to make it look like something out of a comic book. For no other reason than I love the story and the illustration I came up with amuses me, this is my favorite work in this issue.
For the cross-spread story of Larry, Said a Voice from Inside by Frank Candeloro, I knew exactly what I wanted to draw. The thing that sets everything in motion... a dying cellphone battery...
To match the previous page, I rendered it in the exact same style. Nothing round. All angles. Despite the simplicity, I love how it turned out.
And there you have my artistic contributions to Issue No. 25 of Thrice Fiction Magazine. If you haven't already, please do check it out... it's FREE, after all.
Posted on February 25th, 2019
Last night the Oscar for Best Picture went (unsurprisingly) to Green Book, yet another "white savior" film where stories detailing the lives of Black people are told through the lens of the white people who "rescued them" from racism and made life better for the entire Black race because of it. It's a trope that's been done to death, but Hollywood just can't seem to help themselves.
Whether it's a story of outright theft, as in The Help where a young white woman "liberates" Black servants in the 1960's by publishing their stories in her best-selling book (the story of which was stolen in real-life too)... or real events being reframed, as in 42 where Jackie Robinson's story is snatched away from him to be viewed from the perspective of the white Major League Baseball executive who decided to integrate the sport (and his white teammates who overcame their prejudices to accept him as a player)... or the unforgivable revisionist history in Hidden Figures where white Kevin Costner rips down a "whites only" sign on the bathroom so Katherine Johnson didn't have to run across campus to pee (something that never fucking happened)... it's a tired trend of making white people the hero in the lives of Black heroes when the actual stories are compelling enough as they are.
In the case of the Oscar-winning film Green Book, we get the story of real-life Black pianist great Don Shirley hiring a racist white chauffeur to drive him for a concert tour. Something which would be a great story, right? Except it ends up being the story of how Don Shirley's driver overcame his racism to build a friendship with him instead, making the white guy the hero of the movie. Because of course he was. Getting a movie about Don Shirley told from the perspective of Don Shirley is apparently asking too much. That film wouldn't get an Oscar for Best Picture because white voters wouldn't have somebody to root for (Black Panther had white Agent Ross, but he was only a minor hero in the movie... if Marvel wanted Black Panther to be a real Oscar contender, they apparently should have told T'Challa's story from the perspective of the white guy and how he saved all of Wakanda).
But I digress...
I'm not holding my breath that we'll get a major motion picture about Don Shirley from Don Shirley's perspective, but tonight on The Smithsonian Channel we did get a documentary on The Negro Motorist Green-Book, which inspired the name of the big budget film that did see release...
Titled The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the documentary is a terrific exploration of the "travel and survival book" for African-Americans who dared to travel during a time when traveling while Black was a potentially life-ending experience. Stay out too late in the wrong city with the wrong color of skin, and it could mean your death. Something that we like to think happened hundreds of years ago in this country... but "Sundown Towns" were still in existence into the 1960's... less than 60 years ago. Meaning that there are people alive today who survived this horrific segregation brutality first-hand (and some of them are interviewed in this program).
If you have the opportunity to see it, The Green Book Guide to Freedom gets my highest possible recommendation.
NOTE: The documentary is excellent, must-see material that's well worth your valuable time. As of this writing, iTunes has it available for FREE and I think other streaming services may be giving it away as well.
NOTE: Another resource I enjoyed was this article from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture which has links to digitized copies of The Green-Book as well as a US map where locations have been mapped out... and even a Green-Book travel planner tool!
The first I had heard of The Green-Book was when I was visiting one of the best museums I've ever seen... The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. They explained that away-games for Black players was often a difficult ordeal given that there may not be restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other kind of services available between cities (or even in the city once you got there). Everything had to be meticulously planned, and even then you could still end up in danger if a bus broke down or some other pitfall ensued.
As I was reading about this abhorrent concept, I overheard a couple nearby talking about "The Green-Book." I had never heard of it before, so I investigated further on Wikipedia when I got back to my hotel...
I found out that it's essentially an AAA Guide with a specific audience in mind. Namely, Black motorists during the time of segregation. Inside you get a list of African-American friendly hotels, restaurants, and other businesses designed to make travel safer and more enjoyable...
As explained on The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the books often-times had editorials and articles that went beyond travel, delving into civil rights issues of the day. As also explained on the program, the book was created in the hopes that one day it wouldn't be needed. Ultimately creator Victor Hugo Green got his wish, and the final issue was published the year I was born, 1966. Sadly Green died in 1960, four years before the Civil Rights Act came into being and six years before his book ceased publication.
Not that the end of segregation was the end of segregation. South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster infamously refused to give up his all-white country club membership when he took office... just two years ago in 2017. Not to mention a president who has said white nationalists have some very fine people in their ranks. Apparently to some people, The Negro Motorist Green-Book was not a symbol of escaping oppression but a symbol of "the good ol' days." Which kinds of puts that whole "Make America Great Again" bullshit into proper perspective, doesn't it?
Seek out The Smithsonian Channel's The Green Book Guide to Freedom. You'll be glad you did.
Posted on January 2nd, 2019
At the end of 2018 my mom's post office box expired and I closed it out. I had kept it open for six months so I could be sure to get all her remaining bills paid. Also to find out who hadn't heard she had died and was still sending her cards and letters and such. All she's getting now is mail from places like Degree of Honor and AARP Life Insurance. I have been marking up their crap "DECEASED - RETURN TO SENDER" for months, but they won't stop sending. I've even called them and sent them letters (strange they don't have email) but AARP Life Insurance is still mailing her every damn week. No exaggeration. EVERY WEEK! How the fuck can they afford that postage bill?
For some reason I thought that shutting down a PO Box would act as some kind of closure.
Of course it wasn't.
I've gotten rid of her clothes. I've gotten rid of her furniture. Heck, I've gotten rid of most of her possessions.* None of that worked. How stupid was I to think that letting go of a frickin' PO Box go was going to be any different? I dunno. Maybe I was just being optimistic. Or naive.
There will probably never be closure when your mom dies. Even if you weren't as fantastically close to her as I was.
Last night when I was burning through episodes of Schitt's Creek in an attempt to get caught up before the fifth season starts in a couple weeks, I noted that Marie Kodo has a new show on Netflix!
For those not in the know, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational consultant who developed the "KonMari Method" of tidying your home. I discovered her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before I bought my new place. I used her methods once with my possessions before moving in. Then let things settle for a year before using her method once more to sort through my mother's things, simplify my life, and declutter my new home. It's a magical process that's difficult to explain to people who have not studied it or seen it in action. It's essentially forming a relationship with your stuff and only surrounding yourself with things that "spark joy."
KonMari changed my life.
My garage, for example, used to be a heinous mess with crap stacked to the rafters. I couldn't even park in it, things were such a mess. After KonMari, I was able to get rid of 2/3 of my junk. A huge amount of that being travel souvenirs that were never organized and just tossed into boxes. But not anymore...
On the left is my wood supply, all organized and easy to get to. Next to that in the middle of the shelf is seven plastic bins for my souvenirs (I've since bough two more for a total of nine). Originally my souvenirs were in 22 massive boxes. Most of it was stuff I didn't even care about, so KonMari made it easy to pare down to a much more manageable level, all organized by country and stored vertically for easy access. The only other things I kept were my Hard Rock T-shirt collection, some of my mom's Christmas decorations, touch-up paint for the interior and exterior of my home (with paint supplies), winter tires, plus extra bathroom tiles and extra hardwood planks in case I need to replace anything. There's also some LEGO sets I'm keeping for my grand-nephew when he gets older. Everything else? Gone. Donated or trashed.
My biggest tidy improvement in my garage was going all KonMari on my tool collection. For the longest time they were just stacked in boxes. This did not spark joy. Eventually I found that having them all hanging on a wall so I could find them is the best way for me...
Kondo-san's Netflix show is a total of eight episodes.** They are entertaining and insightful, but I don't know how helpful they would be if you hadn't read her book. At best they just show you the process in action...
I didn't learn anything new from the show, but I did enjoy watching them (Marie Kondo is ten tons of adorable in a tiny package). If you're in need of tidying your home, check out the show and see if her book might be for you.
And now back to Schitt's Creek. I should be able to watch a couple more episodes before I have to go to work.
*I still have some of mom's collectibles I need to try and sell. I am sooooo not looking forward to that. But, what else is there? leave them boxed up in the garage until I die and somebody else has to deal with it? Better to get rid of it all now while I can. Another goal for 2019 to add to the list.
**Interesting to note that the seventh episode of Tidying Up has the song A Home to Come To over the closing credits which is from the No. 6 album on my Best Music of 2018 list. How is it that Silhouettes can have their music popping up all over and still be a mystery band you can barely find?