Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Eeny Meenie, Jelly Beanie, The Spirits Are About to Speak!"

And here's another coincidence: it turns out that my PERSONALITY CARD,
my SOUL CARD and my YEAR CARD are all # 8: "La Force, Strength." Shortly before
I learned that interesting fact, on the day that I began DEEP class in order to get my license
back, my old-fashioned Carny iPad Fortune-Teller Machine selected #11 as my Grand Etteilla
card for the day. In that deck, # 11 is, you guessed it, La Force.

Every so often (well, quite frequently actually) the tarot likes to do funky things to your head, and today, from two separate decks, I drew as my daily card The Queen of Wands -- one upright and one reversed. Someone is sending me a message!

I have, since the beginning of this experiment, been drawing primarily wands and cups, which makes sense to me as a creative person who relies far more on emotion than intellect. But this little incident today is bemusing to say the least.

It seems to be telling me that I’m a cussedly independent, creative sort of person, dramatic and passionate about my enthusiasms and beliefs, that I have a “commanding presence” (hmmm) and that I like to get things done with no beating around the bush. Oh yeah, it seems also to be saying that I’m well in touch with my feminine side.

On the other hand -- the reversed card tells me that I lack spontaneity to say the least (the fact is, I loathe spontaneity in all its forms and even when it comes to something like going to a movie I want to plan about a week ahead of time, thank you very much), that I can be “breathtakingly ruthless” and mercurial to a fault: one minute generous and open-hearted and the next, blaming, shaming and manipulating. Here’s something that I feel I have to quote verbatim, because if you’ve been following this blog long enough I believe that you have seen it happen right here in these very “pages:” “if [he] feels [he] is losing [his] grip on the direction events are moving, somebody is going to be punished, and it will happen right in public so the whole realm understands the consequences.”


Periods of Energy and Productivity are punctuated by stretches of listlessness, lethargy and loss of faith. Ehm, yeh, that would be me.

And -- if you don’t carry your weight I am very likely to throw you out of the lifeboat.

Well, I don’t know. This person sounds like a complete stranger to me. 

-- Freder.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our Kind of McCarthyism

In Tinsel* Town, our December release, cartoon character Eddie Fox has occasional encounters with real-life figures of Hollywood's golden age. Bergen and McCarthy make a brief but important appearance in chapter one, and we wanted to include a tribute to them among the special features when the eBook comes out. To that end we've been generating art to go with the piece using various bits and bytes of software; above are two pieces that we decided not to use... still and all, we liked them and hated to see them consigned to the dustbin. So here they are: The two greatest personalities ever known to the world of ventriloquism, and a comedic team that perfected the art of delivering insults in the nicest possible way. Their like will not be seen again, and we are poorer for it.

-- Freder.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turn of the Card

TOP: Rosetta by MM Meleen. BOTTOM: Golden Light by Payne-Towler and Dowers. 

My youthful fascination with the Tarot gave way over time to other obsessions, in large degree because I didn’t receive any encouragement from without or within. I owned two decks, the French Grand Etteilla and the Swiss IJJ deck (so named, I learn all these years later, because it quite nicely substituted the figures of the Pope and Popess, later referred to as the High Priest and High Priestess, with Jupiter and Juno respectively).

Both are beautiful historical decks in their own way, and I did like them. The Major Arcana of the IJJ deck are particularly expressive and attractive... the IJJ’s Death and Hanged Man cards are pretty tough to beat. Little did I understand, however, in my Beginners Way, that both decks are Really Kind of Lousy as places for Beginners to, well, Begin. The IJJ deck’s Minor Arcana are non-illustrative pip cards depicting only cups, coins, wands and swords in their various denominations; with no symbolism attached it’s literally impossible to determine any meaning from them, and even when you look up a meaning it’s hard to see how the diviners arrived at their conclusions.  The Grand Eteilla comes from a completely different Tarot tradition altogether, with a somewhat different set of symbology, and is no more forgiving to novices. My sense of aesthetics was good, but it had led me down a rough road.

As well, I discovered quickly that I disliked doing readings for others. With my largely meaningless IJJ deck I was forced to read definitions out of a book, and where’s the fun in that? You just come off looking like a nob. Even insofar as the Major Arcana were concerned, I found -- and this is probably to do with my lifelong difficulty at verbal communication -- that although I could comprehend the cards on a visceral level, translating them into the spoken word was too difficult for me.

But the readings themselves could be terribly problematic. Without knowing the querant’s question, I could always sense when the reading was not going in the direction that they wanted it to be going, and I desperately hated disappointing people. I did not have the interpersonal tools to cope with being a reader.

And so the Tarot and I parted ways. I kept my decks, and took them out now and again to enjoy the images, but that was as far as it went. 

Thanks now to the damn App Store I’ve got the bug again. They’ve got an App for that? They have many, and some are pretty good. I won’t name names, but a door was opened again for me, and I stepped through. I started researching the topic. Very soon I realized that I’d been working with the wrong decks when I was young, that I should have been working with the deck that I had actually wanted from the start, the classic Rider/Waite/Smith deck that has been aped and imitated and reworked by countless other artists, but never improved upon. 

A.E. Waite, who conceived the deck and devised its symbology, is an unreadable, obfuscating old dullard whose texts actually attempt to conceal more than they reveal. But the marvelous drawings by Pamela Coleman Smith (who died penniless, never seeing any benefit from designs that have made other people rich) are so expressive that at last I feel that the Tarot and I are in accord. When in doubt, there are plenty of places to track down meanings these days, and you know what? I’m usually pretty close to the mark. Chalk it up to a combination of that little bit of long-ago experience, a lot of intuition, and finally being paired with the right Dance Partner.

Of course I’m never content just to eat the icing off the cake, so to speak, so for the last few weeks I’ve been crawling right into the pan. Tarot is fascinating, of many and varied uses, and has a lot to offer anyone whether you believe in divination or not. I personally do not hold much with using cards to “foretell the future,” but when it comes to clarifying my thoughts, feelings, and the forces at work around me in my life, I am finding my recent tarot readings to be uncannily effective and close to the mark.

And I’m drawn to the Tarot on a different level as well, as a designer and artist. There are about a bazillion decks out there, and to my mind it amounts to an entire sub-genre of art and design. Some of the decks are gorgeous and amazing. Some are merely clever ideas. Still others are just wrong, wrong, wrong. The vast majority are nothing more or less than insipid, inferior clones of Rider/Waite/Smith.

Of the small number of decks that really stood out for me on a recent troll through www.aeclectic.net, home to all things tarot, a handful clicked with me strongly enough that I had to plunk down my credit card and bring them Home to Poppa. Of these, two really deserve your attention, even if you’re only vaguely interested in the subject.

Tarot of the Holy Light, by Christine Payne-Towler and Michael Dowers, combines Tarot with Astrological, Alchemical and Esoteric imagery and lore to smashing effect, while M.M. Meleen’s Rosetta Tarot seeks to decode and make accessible (among its other goals) the Thoth system of Tarot -- a very different animal from Rider/Waite/Smith. Is it a coincidence that after a hundred years of carbon-copy decks that offered no new insights, suddenly there should appear two completely fresh and inventive works such as these, coming as it were from opposite directions? Both are amazing as works of scholarship (and you’re going to want the apps that complement the decks, for these come with expanded texts that illuminate the decks in mind-opening ways), but of the two, the Meleen deck is the more successful as a personal work, a work of art, and, yes, an act of magic.

Both decks are a little pricey; they are well worth it. You will spend many hours absorbing their imagery (samples are pictured up there above). Neither are mass produced, and the Rosetta Tarot is limited to an edition of 777 copies. How often in this mass-produced age can you say that you’ve come into possession of a tool created for you by a genuine mystic?

OK, I also bought The Halloween Tarot and The Steampunk Tarot. But those were just for fun, just because they tickled me. The Holy Light and Rosetta decks are an education all by themselves, and you’ll be lost in beauty the whole time you are learning the secrets of the Universe itself.

-- Freder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another Brick in The Wall... and Thanks to All of You

It's out! As usual, the folks at Amazon are a good deal faster at getting the material online faster than anyone else, and so the Kindle version of Méliès' Notebook and Other Stories, the companion volume to Persephone's Torch, is first out of the gate. But the ePub version should be up at iTunes very soon, and we'll be sure to let you know right here in this space when that happens.

The Nook version? Who knows? Barnes and (Ig)noble (as my friend BC dubbed them) have been having Technical Difficulties (or that is what they tell me) and their machinery is still grinding away on the NOOK version of Torch a month and a half after that book's release -- and so I haven't even bothered to submit the new book to them just yet. I mean, why bother? The good news is, for all you Nook and other readers, the ePub version that's up at iTunes should work on your reader. If it doesn't, let us know and we'll make it right.

Now then -- if you look in the sidebar over there --> and on the CATAOG page, you'll see that there's more Good News (at least from my point of view!) in the pipeline. Take a look-see, and watch this space for more details about Tinsel*Town in the coming weeks!

... and I promise, I promise, the next few posts will be something more / other than just personal announcements like these! I actually have quite a lot to write about, if only I can sit still long enough to do it!

BTW -- we passed over 31,000 hits on the blog recently, with 2,000 of those coming just last month alone. Thank you to everyone who stops by to visit. I don't say it often enough. In a very real way, this blog has helped to save my life. This is not an overstatement. I was in a bad way a couple of years ago when I started this blog, and writing here is what kept me going. It hasn't always been pretty or nice. It's been what I needed. The folks who take time out of their lives to read what I've put down here have given me a gift that I can never repay.

That's my Thanksgiving message for this year.

Best wishes to all --

-- Freder.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Leaf from the Notebook

The companion book to Persephone's TorchMéliès' Notebook and Other Stories, is going to be online at Amazon and iTunes any day now. We couldn't resist showing you a page from the ePub version. The decision that each one of the 21 stories in the book should get its own illustration wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had, but on the whole I had fun making them. Although we're happy with how this one turned out, we're looking forward to next month and the new titles we've begun to work on for 2013. Watch this space for some fun (we hope) announcements! And no, the blog is not just going to become all puff-pieces from here on out. I'm working on some new posts and hope to have them ready soon. There are just way too few hours in the day...

-- Freder.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Small Preview...

We're putting the finishing touches on our next book, Méliès' Notebook and Other Stories, which will be out next week in Kindle and ePub formats for whatever tablet or software you own (and we might add that it's a great companion volume to Persephone's Torch).

Each of the twenty-one stories included in the volume is illustrated with a photo, cartoon drawing or collage by the author, and we thought we'd give you a look at one of those illustrations as a "teaser" for what's to come. The image above will be appearing in the book with "The NightWatch Man," a story that was originally published in the July 1999 issue of 96 Inc.

We're pretty excited about the new book and we hope that you will like it. As soon as it's out, we'll be announcing our December publication, so stay tuned!

-- Freder.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just a Thought

For the upcoming volume of collected stories, one of the pieces that had to be dumped was a well-intended but lousy experimental story that mixed the personal thoughts and experiences of the narrator with a "pitch" that he was making to a comic book publisher, the real and the fantastic uniting into a kind of howl for attention. The gist of the story is that the narrator-writer, who seemingly has fallen on Hard Times, spills out his guts to an editor that he's worked with before and gets a form rejection letter in reply. 

Oh, Tragedy!

I liked the idea behind the story, but in practice this was one piece of cheese that stank too much. In any case, bits of the "pitch" segments had been incorporated into other projects. A very few passages from the "personal" segments could be salvaged, and they were folded into another story that needed some more meat on its bones.

It's called "editing."

Cutting to the chase, there's a paragraph in the first story that I can't find a home for anywhere, but I quite like the sentiment and hate to just leave it in the dustbin. 

Isn't what blogs are for? Here it is:

What right did I have to feel angry and pathetic, to get drunk every night and say boo hoo hoo woe is me? In China, the government was busily butchering students in Tiennamen Square. Eastern Europe was about to explode, taking not just lives, but the things produced by those lives: great architecture, great works of art, great writing. Bridges, books, paintings: because it was not enough for these people to kill their enemies: they had to kill everything that their enemies had ever created, stood for, dreamed about. Which raised the question: in a world of religious intolerance, where works of human beauty, hope, passion, genius are being destroyed in the name of one god or another, is the practice of trivial art a mortal sin?

-- Freder.
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