The webcomics blog about webcomics

Plus, Most Of Us Don’t Have Even One Z In Our Names, Much Less Two

When we lost Tom Spurgeon, he left many, many holes. Holes in our hearts. Holes on the internet¹ And a great big hole in a comics show in Columbus, where he was the founding executive director. It was announced a while back that CXC would continue in 2020, no promises beyond that, but it wasn’t known who would step into Spurge’s shoes.

Until yesterday:

Cartoonist and educator Jerzy Drozd has been hired as interim executive director of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), the international showcase for cartoon art that will hold its 6th annual festival Oct. 1-4.

Drozd is a cartoonist who leads workshops for children and teens in libraries and schools, and for teachers who want to bring comics to the classroom. He is a founding member of Kids Read Comics, a nonprofit that organizes the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival (A2CAF), and has served as its programming coordinator since 2009. He lives in central Ohio with his wife, Anne Drozd, who is the museum coordinator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

I’m not sure that there could have been a better choice than Drozd; keep in mind that interim appointments of this nature are meant to be stopgaps, warm bodies that keep things vaguely running until a real leader can be found. Drozd is far, far better than that, based on the reports I’ve had from A2CAF (I’ve not made it there myself) and his existing relationship with both CXC and the Billy Ireland.

Drozd is an accomplished cartoonist solo and in collaboration with his wife, Anne. The only not-entirely-positive thing I’ve ever found about Drozd is that he is partially unGoogleable because there is another Jerzy Drozd out there, a luthier of highly-regarded basses, which pushes comics!Drozd down the results. I can sympathize².

I suspect that this is one of those interim appointments that will turn into permanence some time after Drozd has a chance to show us what he can do with CXC ’20. If you’re going to Columbus in October, do him a favor and thank him for jumping into a giant’s role under terrible circumstances; I’m sure he’d appreciate it.


Spam of the day:

Are you ready to do something about your achy legs?

This one’s about special socks meant to help foot and leg pain. As a guy who’s on his feet pretty continuously in the classroom (not to mention EMT duty), I’ve found the simple (and far cheaper) solution is to wear two pair of socks. Works great.

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¹ For some time, his site was down; it mostly back now, thank Glob.

² Actually, I rejoice. I’ve met Other Gary for lunch — nice guy — and I’ve told him that his somewhat higher profile re: that unfortunate trombone-related incident has done a great deal to keep me off of the Big G’s radar. I’ve done careful pruning here and there to make sure I end up further down the search listings than him (and the unfortunate murder victim), and I hope to someday be further down than the kite maker in the British midlands.

Long Time Coming x 2

I want one of those pins. Also, all of their books, please.

This is it. Today is the start of a new world, a better world, one where everything is a bit brighter and more hopeful. What? No, not the impeachment, that’s a shitshow.

No, today is the long-awaited launch of Random House Graphic, and we should give the floor to RHG supremo Gina Gagliano:

We’re doing this thing — starting today! It’s amazing to get to work every day with our fantastic staff and our phenomenal creators on putting more comics for kids into the world. Yay ?@RHKidsGraphic?!

We’ve spoken about the RHG launch titles previously, but to remind you:

And if that weren’t enough, we are just two weeks away from the long-overdue relaunch of Andy Runton’s Owly:

Are you ready to have a hoot? Pre-order your copy of Owly: The Way Home by @owly today! http://bit.ly/3a7cMWM

As a reminder, the five Owly books are being colored, and also made bilinguial — in addition to speaking in icons, some characters will also be able to speak English. Owly will continue to use symbols only, with others translating for him as necessary. Remastered books will release at six month intervals, with new Owly waiting for us at the end of the reissues. My only complaint? Somebody should have registered ow.ly before Hootsuite got a hold of it. Missed opportunities, people!


Spam of the day:

AutoTrack real-time GPS tracker is an easy-to-use tracking device that, thanks to its compact size and magnetic case, can be easily attached to your vehicle. The live tracking feature through Google Maps works perfectly and is highly accurate.

Your vehicle? Let’s not lie — this is to attach to another person’s vehicle, and you’re catering to the estranged husband/boyfriend with a TRO demographic. You are going to get women killed, you assholes.

The Thing About Holidays And IT

So there’s this long tradition in information technology that on a weekday with no mail, you get maintenance tasks done. That’s your window when users won’t be clogging the system or demanding your help. Coincidentally, my class starts on Tuesday this week instead of Monday, so I’ve been doing some put-off-until-a-free-day maintenance on my work hardware (some of which is being retired at the end of the month).

And, being a corporate system, it’s got a zillion little things that don’t work quite like the directions, and which are more specific and narrowly defined than my personal systems. In all truthfulness, I had an easier time upgrading my wife’s laptop to Windows 10 over the weekend¹.

So no post today. You’d think I’d have all the time in the world for webcomics on a non-teaching day, but tomorrow will actually be a less harried, less limited timeframe with hard deadlines. Weird, huh? Oh, and in case you had conflicts seeing Weathering With You last week, they’ve added some new screenings, so I’m heading out in about an hour for that. If you get the chance, it looks really good; if not, see you back here tomorrow.


Spam of the day:

Registration Confirmation

This one was completely blank, but Gmail thought it was in French. Asking for a translation revealed images with embedded English text, as well as an unsubscribe address that purports to be from the next town over and which appears to actually belong to the company mentioned in the text. I may take a mosey over there in my next free time, ask them in person why they suck so bad².

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¹ If you’re still on Windows 7, I hope you installed the patches from last Patch Tuesday, ’cause they’re the last ones you’ll ever get. If you’ve got a licensed version of 7, go here, download and run the media creator (you need at least 8GB of free space) and run the upgrade. It’ll migrate you over and give you a new license. Oh, and be sure to run it from an account with admin privilege. Then go see what Tay has to say about securing your new Windows 10 machine. This have been a public service ernouncemint.

² I will absolutely not bestir myself to this effort.

One Small Step

Let’s be clear about something; this is not a review of Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang; a review will require me to read the book several more times, to get at the narrative structure — and the metanarrative structure — that Yang is building as he tells a story about basketball, a half-dozen high school athletes, himself, and Superman.

But this is me telling you about one particular thing that Yang does in Dragon Hoops that I think people should pay attention to, and potentially include in their own work. Yang’s got a recurring visual element, and it’s such a small thing, but also it’s tremendously effective. Each time — I actually have to go back and verify that, but if not each and every time it’s pretty damn close — a character¹ is at a decision point and determines the path they’re going to take, he draws them taking a deliberate step forward across a line.

Sometimes it’s a metaphorical line. Sometimes it’s an actual visible line or boundary. From left to right, the direction the reader’s eye is traveling, carrying the character in the direction of the story. The first time, it’s just a panel with a cute sound effect — STEP. — and doesn’t carry any weight. But as the story goes on, as it becomes something of a motif, it gains power. The STEP.s aren’t big splashy, stompy, heroic comic book hero strides, but they convey a resolution that calls to mind everything from Neil Armstrong to the proverb from the Tao Te Ching about the journey of a thousand miles.

It works because it doesn’t call attention to itself and creeps into the reader’s consciousness gradually, to the point that a casual read (or one focused on other elements of the story) might miss it altogether². And if you can find a visual element, a symbol, that brings that kind of subtle (almost subliminal) meaning to the reader? You’re doing comics right.

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Reminder before we head out on the weekend: you have one week to get your emails in if you want a chance at a free copy of Junior Scientist Power Hour vol 1 by Abby Howard. Entries must be received by me by 11:59pm EST (or GMT-5, if you prefer) at the address gary, who writes at fleen, which is a dot com. Remember to include a reference to your favorite ancient critter from Howard’s Earth Before Us trilogy!


Spam of the day:

Welcome to Tiffany

The famous jeweler apparently thinks that I am aching to spend on overpriced gewgaws and tchotchkes just because they come in a robin’s egg blue box.

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¹ Person, really, since these are all real people and the things they did.

² For example, the oranges in The Godfather, which may have started as coincidence but grew into an actual thing. Yang’s too deliberate a storyteller³ for it to be a coincidence, however.

³ Especially here, where copious notes at the back of the book describe his process and decisions in making the book, as well as a half-dozen times that it comes up in the story itself. Hey, I told you there was a metanarrative here.

Oh Wow, Really?

I got the email yesterday from Alert Reader Rob:

Hey, have you noticed that Kukuburi is back? This is why I will never give up RSS.
http://www.kukuburi.com/v2/2020/01/14/one-eighty/

I keep an antiquated browser around solely because it’s got an integrated RSS feature, but as I confessed to Rob, I sometimes prune my feeds when I feel that things will not update again. The last time we at Fleen mentioned a story element from the ever-delightful Kukuburi (by the ever-delightful Ramón Pérez) was probably this piece from May of 2009.

It got sporadic, finally going on hiatus in 2012. Repeatedly since then I hoped for its return (while never criticizing Pérez for concentrating on work that pays), and as recently as two and a half years ago declared my belief it would return some day. And now I can proudly state that the link over there in the blogroll has been updated to say no longer on hiatus, hooray! Let’s love it for as long as it lasts; I’ll be binging the entire archive in the immediate future.

  • Speaking of immediate future, Evan Dahm would like to remind you that the most wonderful week of the year starts on Sunday:

    Goblin Week 2020 starts SUNDAY #goblinweek #goblinweek2020 https://goblinweek.tumblr.com/post/190290598 …

    Yes, Goblin Week! Wait, you’ve never heard of Goblin Week? I’ll let Dahm explain:

    IT IS A PERIOD OF 7 DAYS WHEREIN YOU MAKE GOBLINS EVERY DAY OR AS MUCH AS YOU WANT WAHTEVER A GOBLIN IS. DONT WORRY ABOUT IT GOD IS DEAD

    You can trust Dahm, he draws the best goblins ever, although I’ll give Ben Hatke the edge in doing goblin voices at story time. If you need to get in the mood, here’s last year’s goblins for your enjoyment.

  • Speaking of enjoyment (and here I am talking to comics creators), would you like to enjoy your chosen career while also having the ability to purchase food, clothing, and shelter? Of course you would! But as has been made abundantly clear, page rates for comics have stagnated badly, and taking inflation into account, are significantly lower than they were at pretty much any point since the ’60s.

    Partly this happens because publishers discourage any kind of open discussion of rates and what’s reasonable, leading to the perception that, say, a 200 page graphic novel is worth a US$20,000 advance. That’s a hundo per page, which may take ten or more hours to complete, leaving a skilled professional with a pay rate of US$8-10 an hour.

    Enter Gale Galligan (perhaps best known for taking over the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel adaptations from Raina, whose assistant she used to be) and Ngozi Ukazu (who, given the ubiquity of her gay college hockey bros saga, should need no introduction). Prompted by the current Portfolio Day posts, Ukazu wanted to know:

    When is fair page rates day again? Some comic folks are organizing a hashtag re: avoiding unfair pay and how to know when you’re dealing with ethical compensation.

    Prompting Galligan to suggest:

    Hmmm how about a nice memorable date with plenty of lead-in time to get the word out? How’s your calendar looking on June first?

    Which looked good to Ukazu:

    Is that it? OKAY: June 1st is #FairPageRates day.

    Sorted, and if she’s good with it you should be, too. What will be discussed on Fair Page Rates Day? Galligan has some suggestions:

    SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN. See you June 1st, on #FairPageRates day, where we will be talking about fair compensation for people working in comics and everything that entails

    “Are royalties real, and should I be negotiating them? What’s a reasonable rate for x comic job?” These are all things we can talk about any time of year, but ESPECIALLY June 1, which is now officially #FairPageRates Day.

    Spread the word — 1 June, we talk money, and what just compensation looks like, because some creators that have made it (for varying definitions of making it) are decent people who don’t want to pull up the ladder behind them, they want up-and-coming creators to have an easier, more rewarding path to a career than they had.


Spam of the day:
Massive Holiday Wine Sale get 15 bottels of Holiday Wines
Received on 3 January, so not sure what holiday they’re talking about. The email claims to come from a company in Eagle, Idaho, which naturally reminded me of this.

What The Mail Brought

That’s a big book haul. The photo was going to include a lounging greyhound for scale, some somedog decided she had better things to do than get her picture took, hmph! Starting from the top:

  • Don’t Go Without Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, in fulfillment of the recent Kickstart from ShortBox.
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang; I’ve spoken with him briefly about this one, where Yang’s chronicling of Chinese culture and the immigrant experience meets Raina-style memoir. Likely to be a monster hit this year.
  • Go With The Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann; want to be this Kids In The Hall character? You need this book which is designed to give young uterus-havers the lowdown on what’s happening with their bodies, and everybody else an appreciation for what they go through. I actually had fairly good public-school sex education starting in 5th grade, and I still expect to learn a ton. Also, a measure of how good :01 Books is — this isn’t an advanced review copy, it’s the regular release of a book that went on sale yesterday.
  • Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne; one of the great services that :01 has done for comics in the US is find great work in French and bring it over. There is such a huge pool of comics and creators that are just starting to become known over here.
  • Maker Comics: Grow A Garden! by Alexis Frederick-Frost; my beans have been okay for the past coupla’ years, and I hope this helps be improve them somewhat.
  • Science Comics: Crows by Kyla Vanderklugt; corvids are scary smart and you should always seek to make friends with them. Never annoy a crow, raven, jay, jackdaw, or rook.
  • The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown; girl haunted by the ghost of her conjoined twin? Sounds like the best ghost story since Anya had ghost trubs.
  • Astronauts by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks; the story of women that have been to space, by a team that’s done some of my favorite scienceoriented comics for years now. Also, Ottaviani is a fabulous person to talk to, and this remains one of my favorite interviews ever.
  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh; ever wonder what would happen if there were a witch in town, like a real witch, and you decided to make friends? Leyh has, and we get to follow along.

To be clear, it’s a coincidence that Don’t Go Without Me arrived on the same day as the trove of books from :01, but now I get to take it with me to the reading next week. I’ll be working my way through the pile as quickly as I can while still absorbing enough to give proper reviews; it’ll probably be Astronauts and Dragon Hoops first, so watch for reviews in the coming weeks

Oh, and I saw this on the tweetmachine today; it’s from October, but it’s very possibly new to you as it was for me. Eight tight pages, an unreliable narrator who is not having any more of this street harassment shit that we get to see past, and a satisfying gut punch of a finish. Words by Julio Anta, pictures by Katherine Lobo, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and if these folks aren’t planning a collection of similar stories, that would be very unfortunate.


Spam of the day:

How a Clorox Wipe Made my Herpes Disappear

Jesus tapdancingdo not rub Clorox wipes on your junk, godsdammit.

Look, there are these sanitary wipes that we used on the ambulance for decontamination. You know what’s on the top of the can? The international do not use on babies or other sensitive things symbol, that’s what. Know what’s not even in most of these babykiller wipes? Bleach. Use bleach wipes on hard, non-porous surfaces only and keep them the hell off of your joybits, genius.

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¹ No promises for the future; prostate cancer is basically the escape clause that says individuals like me will not live forever. If nothing else gets you, that walnut-sized gland will.

Things To Make You Smile


Hey, running late and sorry about that. Let’s jump into the good stuff.

  • Item! Alex de Campi is one of the very best comics writers out there, and she has unerring instincts with respect to who to pair up with on art duties. Don’t believe me? Check out her collaboration with Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee on No Mercy, which made me want to punch characters in the face through the page. So when de Campi tells me:

    I’m doing a creator-owned horror thing with @EricaFails this year and I just have to say that 1) she’s the best; 2) her colour roughs are better than most people’s finished pages; and 3) this book is going to knock your socks off. The MOOD and sense of place… immaculate

    I say Welp, have to add that to my pull list when it comes out. Erica Henderson has done some great work since stepping back from Squirrel Girl, with Assassin Nation particularly showing a skill for depicting charlie-foxtrot action leading to severely traumatized bodies. I also can’t wait to see her FCBD contribution to Judge Dredd.

  • Item! Readers of this page will no doubt recognize the fact that I absolutely adore the work of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and take no small satisfaction in seeing the entire rest of comics recognize how very good she is since Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me released. Hooray for Rosemary!

    So I’m more than happy to tell you that Valero-O’Connell will be doing a reading of her work next Wednesday night, 22 January, as part of the launch of a new monthly comics series by queer and trans creators to be held at Bluestockings Bookstore in lower Manhattan. Come say hi to all the readers, Valero-O’Connell will have copies of her latest collection for sale², and enjoy some awesome comics.

    Details at the Facebook event page, and I’ll be certain to keep an eye on future events — it’s tough for me to get out to Brooklyn (where things of this nature usually occur) and back on a work night, and the LES is a lot closer.

  • Item! As you may have noticed, I now have in my possession two copies of the first print collection of Junior Scientist Power Hour by Abby Howard¹, which is one more than I reasonably need. Time for a giveaway contest. So by 11:59pm EST on Friday, 24 January, email me (that would be gary) at this here website (that would be fleen, which is a dot com) with a reference to your favorite dinosaur or other extinct critter from any of Howard’s three Earth Before Us titles. I want to know which critter and why you love it so much. Random draw will determine the winner, I’ll be in touch about getting it shipped to you.

Spam of the day:

gary.tyrrell Pay off your mortgage faster and save money!…

I am on track to pay off my mortgage ten years early but sure, I’ll click on your link and give you all my financial information for the possibility of paying it off sooner. [sarcastic thumbs-up emoji]

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¹ Also the original pages to The Most Precious Substance In The Cosmos. When I leave all my original comic art to my alma mater, some of it is going to cause more giggles than others.

² With luck, I’ll have my copy in hand from the Kickstart by then.

You Really Don’t Want Koala Fur In Proximity To Genitals

I believe that I’m on record that Kendra Wells’s contributions at The Nib are rad. I was reminded of this when Wells’s latest hit the web, along with a parallel thought:

Did you know that one of the reasons koalas are threatened in the wild is that they nearly all have chlamydia? And that the current bushfires hit an island that was the home of the only wild population of koalas that weren’t infected?

Yeah, so that HotCelebrityInfluencer up there in the koala bikini definitely has an STI now. And somebody that’s actually using influencer juice to help out with the devastation in Oz has been bounced from her social media accounts after raising more money that Bezos is donating in exchange for nudes. I’m not sure what lesson to draw from all of this but it’s weird where your brain goes after seeing a cartoon sometimes.

In other news, those of you in the San Francisco Bay area will want to think about heading over to the Cartoon Art Museum this weekend, and returning until mid-May; that’s because George Takei’s graphic novel memoir, They Called Us Enemy — about his personal experience being imprisoned in a concentration camp by the government of his country for xenophobic reasons in defiance of Constitutional rights — is getting the featured exhibition treatment.

Once Saturday rolls around and the exhibition opens, you’ll find details on the Current Exhibitions page, and once 18 May arrives and the exhibition closes you’ll find it on the Past Exhibitions page. For the moment, however, you’ll need to read about it here, so:

The Cartoon Art Museum, Top Shelf Productions and IDW Publishing proudly present They Called Us Enemy featuring artist Harmony Becker’s artwork from the acclaimed graphic memoir written by actor, author, and activist George Takei in which Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of 120,000 Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. The exhibition includes an inside look at Becker’s creative process, including excerpts from her reference library and never before seen preparatory illustrations.

This exhibition also features a selection of original artwork from the Cartoon Art Museum’s permanent collection, including comic strips and animation from the 1940s, providing patrons with a snapshot of popular entertainment on the home front during the second World War.

Opening reception — during which there are frequently creators present, along with snacks — details to be announced, but we’ll let you know when we find out. Enjoy the launch, I’d be there except I’m on the wrong side of the country and also I’ve got Richard Thompson tickets for Saturday; it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve seen him live, and near as I can tell his finger have lost nothing. If you’re wondering why I’m talking about a 70 year old guitar virtuoso, it’s because he shares a name with multiple sadly departed cartoon/comics virtuosi. Some names are just blessed.


Spam of the day:

Your Wine is Cold – 15 Premium Wines for 70% off PLUS Bottle Ugly Sweater!

Not only does that topic line make zero sense, the body of the email is touting their Black Friday sale — traditionally, the day after US Thanksgiving (this year, 29 November) — but wasn’t sent until 28 December. Are they trying to get me hooked for Black Friday 2020?

It Is Neither Necessary To Destroy His Brain Nor Pierce His Heart With A Stake

Sometimes, folks disappear. Pretty regularly, even; there’s artifacts of creativity and commentary that are lost to us forever. Occasionally, they come back, and that’s a useful thing for which we should be grateful.

If you do a search (over there in the box, underneath the archives drop-down) for “Xaviar” or “Xerexes”, or “[X]X-man”, you’ll find a stack of references — mostly more than a decade back — to the words and activities of the pseudonymous Xaviar Xerexes, who held for at Comixtalk for a considerable period of time in the heydey of webcomics. Being a lawyer has taken more of his time for the past while, but he was always a welcome contributor back in the day. He even did webcomics himself, c 2002–4, before he concentrated more on the writing about webcomics.

I think you see where this is going:

I am posting LIFE IN FOUR PANELS all this year at http://XaviarXerexes.com. Technically some of it is a repost of the same comic I created from 2002-2004 but I‘ve revised it quite a bit to be more like the story I originally envisioned.

I have plotted out a year of daily LIFE IN FOUR PANEL strips and am updating Monday through Friday at http://Xaviarxerexes.com

I’ve got all of January already done on LIFE IN FOUR PANELS and loaded to the buffer at http://Xaviarxerexes.com so I’d be grateful if everyone could check it out at their convenience. Thanks!

Now before you go rushing over there, keep in mind that this is less here’s a continuation of my webcomic from way back when and more I figured out how to do what I wanted to do way back when but didn’t know how:

At first, I was just going to re-post the strips here, but in re-reading them I realized that I hadn’t really hit the story that I had wanted to tell when I started it. So I’ve taken a lot of the original run and sorted it around so that something closer to the story that I envisioned plays out over the course of 2020.

Fifteen years is a heck of a hiatus, but XX-Man’s got the entire thing plotted out for M-F release through the whole of 2020, and if there’s one thing that being 50-ish has over being 30-ish: you’ve got a better appreciation for big pictures. As for LI4P itself, the first few (I’ll confess, if I read it in the early years of the century, I’ve forgotten) have a feel that feels like my memory of the early runs of strips like Three Panel Soul or perhaps Three Word Phrase — and given that LI4P is from before The Threes launched, it’s a bit embryonic in comparison. Or as Xerexes puts it:

I had been reading Jim’s Journal and other “anti-humor” comics at time. The idea that a comic could be kind of “eh” was pretty freeing for me at that time in terms of trying to write.

So it anticipated some other webcomics, maybe? It’s a look back at some old-school sensibilities? It’ll let you see what an intentional design from somebody who’s thought about these things for a long time looks like? Or maybe it’s just a place to see where XX-Man’s head is these days. In any event, I thought I should mention.

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Quick note: I’ve got EMT stuff to do tomorrow, it will likely keep me away from computers all day, so probably no post. If I don’t see you before Monday, have a good weekend.


Spam of the day:

Ultra Wifi Pro Boos

Spammers never stop, not even when they’re ghosts.

It’s All Political

Because a recurring theme of the manchildren that want comics that solely cater to their own preconceptions and prejudices is that anything not wholly reflecting their own identity is unnecessary politics that comics were never sullied with previously, goodness, never, a few items reminding you that politics and art — even comics — are inextricably linked.

  • Word comes today that there will be a comics adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five releasing later this year, from artist Albert Monteys, colorist Ricard Zaplana, and oh that’s what he’s been working on this makes perfect sense Ryan North on words.

    A scathingly funny indictment of war, Slaughterhouse Five will anger some people just by existing, but then people like them have been angered by Slaughterhouse Five existing in all its forms for the past fifty years, and will anger other people for the next fifty and beyond. The cohort of people determined not to learn the lessons of war are as unstuck in time as Billy Pilgrim. The graphic adaptation is due in September from BOOM.

  • A central part of Slaughterhouse Five is protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s unlikely survival of the the Dresden firebombing, which Vonnegut experienced firsthand. There may be nothing more terrifying than fire so widespread and hot that it alters the normal patterns of weather, physics, and reality around it, becoming a wholly unpredictable and uncontrollable entity in its own right. There’s a reason that Dresden and March 1945¹ are shorthands for destruction beyond comprehension.

    Conflagration need not come from war, but human stupidity will certainly be involved:

    As I type this (on Monday 6 January), 25 people have been confirmed killed by the fires, 7 remain missing. Well over 1500 homes have been destroyed, as well as thousands of other buildings and structures. The total area burnt so far is over 80,000 square kilometres, which is larger than Ireland, almost as large as Austria. These numbers will continue increasing for weeks, as the fires continue to burn, unstoppable in the hottest part of summer, as we suffer the worst drought in recorded history.

    Even in places not directly affected by flames, the smoke from the fires is causing hazardous air quality across much of south-eastern Australia. For over a month now, air quality in Sydney (where I live) has been marginal some days, and officially “hazardous” on many other days. Visibility has been down to 100 metres or so because of thick smoke in the air, the sun shines down with an apocalyptic orange glow even during the middle of the day, and the smell of smoke is everywhere. Ash and burnt leaves fall from the sky, even in the middle of the city. Outdoor surfaces, wiped clean, are covered in a fine gritty ash the next day. Hospital admissions are up around 10-15% because of people experiencing increased asthma and other respiratory conditions. Canberra, which is a long way from any fires, has experienced several days in a row of horrible air conditions, with many institutions and government departments shutting down because it’s too hazardous even inside the buildings for people to work.

    That from David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™ etc) from his vantage point in Sydney, on the ongoing fire season in Australia — which started four months earlier than usual, exacerbated by climate change-driven drought and high temperatures. The news from Down Under is heartbreaking, with serious predictions that by the end of fire season in March or April, there may be essentially no non-urban space untouched by the bushfires. Places that I’ve visited and loved may not recover in my lifetime.

    And more infuriating is the now repeatedly demonstrated utter indifference on the part of Australia’s senior governmental officials, starting with their sociopathy-demonstrating Prime Minister. Read the whole thing, get mad, and do what you can to express to your own government, wherever you are, that climate disasters aren’t abstract, they aren’t off in the future after senior officials will be safely dead and thus insulated from their effects, that we are well past prevention of worldwide tragedy, and instead playing a game of mitigation.

  • And yet, even in the face of ongoing crisis, small acts of utter optimism and hope in the future take place every day. It’s a couple years late (then again, the documentation is a couple years behind the event), but let’s take a moment to welcome Elizabeth Anna Trogdor Breeden to the world, and to resolve to make her lifetime less stupidly hellish than the current trajectory seems determined to be. Vonnegut had a famous benediction for newborns that’s widely quoted, and I’d like to offer it up to young Trogdor with an addendum: God damn us, babies, we weren’t kind and now it’s all on you. I’m sorry.

Spam of the day:

Xone Phone has a smooth appeal that will turn heads due to its slick surface and pleasing texture. Hold The Vibrancy In Your Fingertips

This sounds like it should be covered by Erika ‘n’ Matt when they come back from their break.

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¹ Please, Ryan, I love your work, but do not also adapt the other great narrative work about World War II firebombings. It’s the greatest piece of art that I never want to experience again.