Photoshoot by the L.A. River, September 2014

19 February 2015 by
Our family at the Los Angeles River, September 2014, photo by Matt Grashaw

Our family at the Los Angeles River, September 2014, photo by Matt Grashaw

I never got around to posting these excellent photos we took last year – September 30, 2014. Carrie used them for our holiday cars last December. The photographer is Matt Grashaw, who we met on a Glendale bakery walk hosted by Walk Bike Glendale. He is great, and highly recommended. (We just did another shoot with him, and I’ll post some more photos soon.)

MG2014A

September 2014

MG2014B

September 2014

More pictures after the jump.  Read the rest of this entry »

More Crossed Plus 100 References and Some Questions

15 February 2015 by

In my spare time, I’ve been enjoying annotating some of Alan Moore’s comics. Alan Moore writes great stuff, with lots of references to pop culture, literature, other comics, etc.

People actually publish books (and, more often these days, create websites), that are basically companion volumes, pointing out all of the references he has crammed into his most highly referential series including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Top Ten, and Watchmen.

Below are two examples of the latest references I’ve been tracking down for Crossed Plus One Hundred (CPOH), a new comics series written by Alan Moore and drawn by Gabriel Andrade. Crossed are basically depraved zombies. Not my favorite genre, but in Moore and Andrade’s hands, it works. CPOH is a look at what a post-apocalyptic future might look like after a hundred years from now. See this earlier post for three more CPOH references.

There are a series of CPOH variant cover images called “future tense.” Each image is a homage to a science fiction book. Below is Gabriel Andrade’s future tense cover for CPOH4, and the book cover it references A Canticle For Leibowitz.

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Crossed Plus One Hundred No.4 future tense cover, art by Gabriel Andrade (left) and its source 1950s sci-fi novel A Canticle For Leibowitz

And here’s the future tense cover from CPOH5 and the 1950s book cover it references, Tiger! Tiger! (aka The Stars My Destination.)

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.5 future tense cover, art by Gabriel Andrade (left) and its source 1950s sci-fi novel Tiger! Tiger!

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.5 future tense cover, art by Gabriel Andrade (left) and its source 1950s sci-fi novel Tiger! Tiger!

Even after scouring the internet, reading, and re-reading each issue, there are still quite a few references I can’t figure out. At the time of this writing, there are only two (of six) issues released (plus future covers at Avatar Press.) These references may be made clearer as other issues come out… and there will probably be a whole raft of new references I am looking to track down as new issues hit the shelves.

Readers – take a look a the list below and see if you can help me figure these out. Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Thompson’s Lovely 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

13 February 2015 by
Richard Thompson Rumor and Sigh album cover via Wikipedia

Richard Thompson Rumor and Sigh album cover via Wikipedia

I don’t usual post popular musical stuff at this blog, but my wife and I were driving (yes, driving) last week, and a Richard Thompson song (I Feel So Good) came on the radio, I think KCRW. We both started talking about Richard Thompson, who she’s seen live, and how much we liked his 1991 album “Rumor and Sigh.”

Especially the song 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. (Video below)

So, this being the 21st century, I found a recording of it on youtube. It brought tears to my eyes to listen.

I am a bicyclist… with little to no affinity for motorcycles… but this song still really appeals – love, tragedy, a sweet humanly-strained vocal, arranged very simply, and plenty of clever rhymes including this, slightly awkward, slightly wonderful one:

that’s a fine motorbike
a girl could feel special on any such like

I like that the policeman ultimately looks out for the dying outlaw, too – in that the police sergeant contacts his wife when he’s dying.  Read the rest of this entry »

Comics Vocabulary: Page-Turn Reveal

6 February 2015 by
The set-up for a page-turn reveal. Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 Page 3, panel 5 detail. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade

The set-up for a page-turn reveal: Cautious Optimism Kriswyczki sees “something” that readers don’t see until we turn the page. The full reveal is shown below. Click on any image to enlarge. Crossed Plus One Hundred No.2 Page 3, panel 5 detail. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade

(Spoiler Note: very minor Crossed Plus One Hundred spoiler after the jump)

I enjoy exploring the story-telling vocabularies that are unique to comics. Many of these are explored in Scott McCloud‘s comic Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and his follow-up books, also Will Eisner‘s book Comics and Sequential Art. Those books are excellent, and look at broader sweeping subjects like time; I can get into seemingly trivial panel-by-panel detail, though.

Earlier I’ve written about comics multi-panel pans (also called a polyptich or super-panel – which I compiled a hundred year index of examples), fixed-camera sequences, how covers work, and even how Art Spiegelman plays tricks with comics vocabulary.

Lately I’ve been geeking out annotating Alan Moore comics: recently Splash Brannigan and underway now Crossed Plus One Hundred. In the first two issues of CPOH, Moore has been using a clever trick that plays with the action of turning the page.

I am going to call this comics vocabulary a “Page-Turn Reveal.”

How a page-turn reveal works: At the bottom right of the first page, there’s some hint of what’s coming. Generally some character sees something that the reader doesn’t see yet. Then the reader turns the page and sees what the character has already seen. For a full-on page turn reveal, the first page is an odd page, so the bottom right panel precedes a page-turn. Often the second (even) page is a larger panel, or even a full page panel or a 2-page spread.

Note that these reveals are a three-dimensional experience a little bit difficult to convey clearly via the two-dimensional computer screen blog. I guess I could film turning the actual page to really tell this story better… but I’ll do the best I can here.

These page-turn reveals seem unique to comics. In other page-turning media, say novels (non-graphic – just text), the pagination is such that the author doesn’t really know where the page turn will occur. The exception to this is chapter-to-chapter transitions, which are sometimes page-turn reveals.

In some ways, maybe page-turn reveals are slightly analogous to a cliffhanger to-be-continued ending in any episodic media: comic books, comic strips, serialized literature, TV, radio, probably others. But it’s a somewhat low-stakes version of a cliffhanger-episode-ending, because the reveal comes just a page later; the comics reader doesn’t have to wait for the next episode. They’re slightly reminiscent of the way a TV show might do something suspenseful just before an advertising break, in order to keep the audience tuned in, then reveals something after the break.

Though these page-turn reveals have probably been around a while, I suspect that they’ve been fairly sparse. One big reason for this is commercial. The comics of my 1970s youth had plenty of advertisement pages. In many cases, comics artists and writers probably couldn’t count on a given page-turn to not be rearranged by re-pagination in a case where a publisher decided to make some change to the way the ads were inserted.

I suspect that the interspersed ads also inhibited 2-page layouts that span the central page fold. Though those are also somewhat limited by printing technology that couldn’t assure that the left and right images would line up precisely. The exception to this would be the fold in the very middle of the issue.

The exceptions to these historic pagination uncertainties are the first three pages. Page one of an issue is traditionally a full-page single-panel splash page. Pages 2 and 3 typically did not include ads. So, occasionally, earlier comics creators used page 1-3 for a page-turn reveal.

The artist who comes to mind who exploits the page-turn from page one to two is Jack KirbyRead the rest of this entry »

Spotting Some Crossed Plus One Hundred References

28 December 2014 by
Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1, future tense variant cover (left) which is an homage to Ralph 124c 41+ cover (right.)

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1, future tense variant cover (left) which is an homage to Ralph 124c 41+ cover (right.)

As I wrote about in this earlier post, I’ve been going through Alan Moore‘s new comic Crossed Plus One Hundred and annotating it. For folks interested in the details of CPOH, see my annotations and glossary pages. I thought I’d post three of the more visual gems I found. Click on any of the images to see larger versions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Decoding Alan Moore’s Crossed Plus One Hundred 2108-Speak

17 December 2014 by
Alan Moore portrait in Promethea No. 30 - art by J.H. Williams III

Alan Moore portrait in Promethea No. 30 – art by J.H. Williams III

I am a huge Alan Moore fan. In case readers are unfamiliar with him, Moore is a comic book author who has been basically re-inventing what comics can be.

I wrote about my Moore fandom here in 2011. Basically I think he has one foot in the superhero comics I grew up reading and one foot in a much more sophisticated comic book literature that interests me today. Moore more-or-less got fed up with the comic book industry and pretty much retired from comics around 2006. This left hardcore fans like me to re-read his old stuff… which is rewarding, because, like a lot of great artwork, it holds up well to repeated readings. I often notice subtler details and references that I missed in earlier readings.

This month, Alan Moore’s work returned to the new comic book shelves with the first issue of Crossed Plus One Hundred. Judging just the first of six planned issues, I will say that it looks like CPOH is not Moore’s greatest work. It’s basically a zombie story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max future.

So far, what’s most fun about CPOH is Alan Moore’s playful take on what language will sound like in 2108. Moore has played with future speak before. Here’s some dialogue from Moore’s sci-fi The Ballad of Halo Jones which began publication in 1984:

You’ll both wind up crumped in a side-artery! (Page 3, panel 3 from the first Halo Jones episode)

And, from a Spawn/WildC.A.T.S. team-up published in 1996, here’s dialogue from a future version of a character named Zealot who has traveled back to the present day:

Wow! I can’t boot this. We’re really in the Halo Building and it’s all in one piece. It’s wholly ineffable! (Page 21 panel 1 from the collection Wild Worlds)

Back to Crossed Plus One Hundred, Moore posits that human language in 2108 will be about as different from contemporary English as contemporary English is from Shakespeare’s English. Yes, you can still make out what people are saying, but it’s sometimes confusing and disorienting. Some reviewers, including my wife Carrie, found some of the future-speak difficult to understand. Some reviewers praised it. Some of it is kind of impenetrable on first read. Here’s one opaque example:  (Sorry even more confusing out of context)

And you’re rashed at me, so I don’t opsy Jackson. Crunk caspers you, maybe.

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1 Page x panel x. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade.

Crossed Plus One Hundred No.1 Page 14 panel 4. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Gabriel Andrade.

I am just going to leave that one for a bit (maybe use my glossary if you want to decipher.)

Here’s another CPOH example — an exchange between two characters named Cautious and Future: (Yes – the younger characters have non-traditional names, reminiscent of the way early American protestants would name their kids Silence and Prudence.)

Cautious: No. The logic’s oh-eight. We lossed all our information. What kind of mother does that?

Future: Cautious, you’re petrol.

What does it all mean? Translation after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

A Magical ‘Into the Woods’ at the Wallis Annenberg Center

13 December 2014 by
Into the Woods production photo - from Annenberg Center website

Into the Woods production photo – from Annenberg Center website

Last Thursday night, my wife Carrie and I and our friend (and my mom’s close friend) Michael went to see Into the Woods on stage at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. It was wonderful.

Spoiler Note: if you’re about to go see this production, don’t read after the jump below. There’s a great trick that you’ll want to be surprised by.

I’ve seen Into the Woods over a half-dozen times on stage, including seeing an early version of the musical in San Diego before it went to Broadway. I’ve watched the basic video of the Broadway cast performance maybe a dozen times. I’ve listened to the cast recording more than a hundred times.

My mom was a huge Stephen Sondheim fan. So we would go see Sondheim musicals being performed all around greater Los Angeles. I’ve written a little about Sondheim earlier at this blog: here, here, and here.

I subjected my wife to the original Broadway cast video, and even (thanks, Michael!) to the recent 20-year original cast reunion performance in Orange County, but this was her first time seeing Into the Woods live on stage. I read about the Annenberg performance and was interested to see it on stage, in part, because there’s a big Into the Woods movie that’s about to come out, and I wanted my wife to see it on stage before she sees it on the big screen. Though I am sometimes disappointed with books I like being made into movies, I am looking forward to the Into the Woods movie. I expect that it will introduce this great work to a much broader audience. But… it’s going to be a new interpretation, with some edits and some liberties taken… and it’s likely to carve a deep groove. I expect that my wife and my daughter and I will see the film version over and over.

All that to say that I was really looking forward to seeing the stage version.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maeve’s First 10 Words, Recent Photos

11 November 2014 by
Maeve riding on my back on our hike in the Santa Monica Mountains about a month ago. Photo by Carrie

Maeve riding on my back on our hike in the Santa Monica Mountains about a month ago. Photo by Carrie

Our daughter Maeve is 15 months old now. Going to post a fairly quick sort-of scrapbook post here to get down what she’s up to at this age.

She’s talking… I think she speaks about 10 words which she started using in roughly this order:

  • mama/mom,
  • dada/daddy,
  • dog [which is kind of “dah”],
  • bye,
  • no,
  • yah,
  • ball [which is kind of “bah”],
  • baby [which is kind of “bay”],
  • yum [which she says num-num-num which means generally postitive comment on eating/food]
  • chick [my wife Carrie heard this, I didn’t – and it’s in the baby chicken sense – from the book Barnyard Dance, one of her favorites]

So maybe it’s a few less than ten? She also uses gestures – pointing  a lot, more-or-less clapping her hands (at least making that motion.) She raises both arms toward us to ask “pick me up.” She understands a lot more: shoes, nose, chin, kiss, diaper, bath, potty, etc.

She was pushing around this toy, really, then stopped to pose for the photo.

She was pushing around this toy, really, then stopped to pose for the photo.

She’s definitely mobile Read the rest of this entry »

Annotating Splash Brannigan’s Shenanigans

13 October 2014 by
Splash Brannigan detail from cover of Tomorrow Stories No. 11, art by Hilary Barta

Splash Brannigan detail from cover of Tomorrow Stories No. 11, art by Hilary Barta

He’s the drip with quip! The ink who can think! The stain with a brain! Now, even his dalmatians have annotations!

I am, of course, talking about the comic book superhero Splash Brannigan. Created by writer Alan Moore and artist Hilary Barta.

I’ve recently had some time on my hands while my wife and daughter are out of town, so I re-read a bunch of Alan Moore comics. I wrote these earlier posts about Moore (or at least touching on some aspect of his oeuvre.) He’s certainly among my top dozen favorite comics creators, alongside Craig Thompson, Mike Mignola, Alison Bechdel, Dupuy/Berberian… yikes! I am not going to finish that list for fear of excluding great folks I enjoy.

Patient souls have already annotated Moore’s most highly Easter Egg laden series: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Top Ten. There are more annotations on-line for Swamp Thing, Promethea, 1963, etc. etc., and From Hell is printed with 66 pages of great explanatory appendices.

I love reading Alan Moore annotations and re-reading the comics seeing all kinds of clever twists I’ve missed. One of the great things about Moore’s work is that it is very honestly and very cleverly very derivative. He swims in culture, and self-consciously and richly mixes and mashes it up to form new stories which pay tribute to and shed light on older works. Like pretty much all great art, it’s easy enough to enjoy with a surface understanding, and then repeated experiences reveal additional layers and details missed earlier.

An earlier re-read of annotations of Moore’s 1963 got me thinking about multi-panel polyptichs in comics. That reveal led me to compiling my listing of notable and obscure comics multi-pans from 1906 to 2003.

I figured I would try my hand at annotating some Alan Moore work. Something that hadn’t been annotated yet.

There is still lots of great works to chose from… but I ended up picking Splash Brannigan. Mostly because each Splash appearance is a sort of tribute to some subject: art, comic fandom, music, early animation, detective fiction, etc. some of which I have decent knowledge of. I think Splash may be Moore’s most highly-referential comic that hasn’t yet been annotated… but I may just be missing references in Lost Girls or Cobweb or Miracleman. And I already owned a copy of every comic where Splash appeared. And I think most Splash stories are still fairly easily available in ‘compendium editions’, unlike hard-to-find Moore classics including American Flagg! back-up stories, or Brought to Light.

WWSBS? How about “Hey! Where’s the love?”  Read the rest of this entry »

Mesut Özil, His Critics, and Smart Sports Writing

30 August 2014 by
My favorite footballer Mesut Özil. Image from Wikipedia

My favorite footballer Mesut Özil. Image from Wikipedia

Long time readers of this blog may recall that I enjoy watching soccer, and, in particular, I am a big fan of a Turkish-German international soccer superstar named Mesut Özil. Özil had a standout tournament at the 2010 World Cup. He then played for Real Madrid, before transferring to Arsenal last season. This Summer he was a starter for the 2014 World Cup winner Germany soccer team.

Truth be told, he hasn’t had a great great year. He was on a new somewhat-less-all-star team in a different league, was injured and out a month or so just after the start of 2014. Arsenal paid a lot to sign him, so some Arsenal fans are disappointed he hasn’t scored dozens of goals yet.

I really enjoyed this article at the Guardian this week. The title is Will the real Mesut Özil please stand up? Very possibly at Arsenal this season. it was written by Barney Ronay. U.S. sports writing (not that I would really know) just doesn’t use big words like tessellate. Here’s a selection:

Certainly at times last season Özil resembled not so much a high-end creative midfielder as some beautifully frail alien prince being ferried around from pitch to pitch by 10 dedicated human helpers yoked into fawning submission by his regal Martian glaze. In many ways his signing still looks like an act of mild debauchery for this lopsided Arsenal team, with its amusingly insistent excess of attacking midfield talent.

There is an argument that Özil simply isn’t the right player to build a team around, that he is only ever going to be a high-end component part, a needy little genius whose moments of fine-point inspiration arrive as a kind of repartee with those already at his level. Runs must be made, spaces found, angles devised, into which Özil’s own brilliantly gymnastic range of movement and passing will elegantly tessellate. Some might even say Özil has simply been lucky, that he is a kind of placebo footballer whose presence provides a garnish on trophies that would have arrived in any case, like the world’s greatest triangle player waiting in the wings to apply the perfect final tinkle with a single flex of a princely hand.

Read the rest of this entry »


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