Thursday, March 28, 2013

Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick

For one reason or another it’s been a few weeks since I took the time to curl up with a movie. This past week I’ve been enough of a slug that it seemed time. 

I chose the third Ip Man movie, The Legend is Born, which is really the first Ip Man movie if you approach it chronologically; and in the viewing the coin finally dropped as to why I so like this new breed of martial arts film (and so dislike the old Bruce Lee style of chop-socky): with their high production values, period settings and densely choreographed action scenes, these are just exactly like old-fashioned Hollywood musicals, except that instead of stopping every few minutes to express their feelings in song, they stop every few minutes to express their feelings by beating each other up in the most graceful, balletic manner that you can imagine. 

Ip Man III: The Legend is Born is basically West Side Story in an Asian setting. Which only goes to show how stories go 'round -- I don't need to remind you where West Side Story got its plot, do I? You watch the two pictures for the same reasons, and they deliver on all the same emotions, provide the same satisfactions. The thing that you notice about the action scenes is not their violence, but their vitality. It’s that old dance of the Jets vs. the Sharks in Asian drag.

I was a little concerned about this one as it was made by a completely different team and featured a different actor in the title role. But if anything, I enjoyed this one even more, with its element of Romance that’s completely lacking in the first two films. This picture has more Heart and less Wartime drum-beating; also, the action is better motivated and ingrained to the story. Although Yu-Hang To (here billed as Dennis To) lacks the assurance of Donnie Yen in the title role, that’s actually appropriate to this coming-of-age storyline... and To looks uncannily like a younger version of Yen. 

Ip Chun, the real-life Ip Man’s real-life son, makes a significant and heartily enjoyable appearance as an elderly shopkeeper who turns out to have Hidden Depths -- and who can still show the Young Whippersnappers a thing or two, thank you. 

A key element here, and another thing that sets it apart from the old Bruce Lee / Shaw Brothers style of martial arts epic, is that it’s not about Being a Badass. Indeed, Ip Man himself is more Jimmy Stewart than John Wayne, and part of his appeal is that he’s a nice guy, completely lacking in arrogance or hubris, who can take the Badasses down with humble confidence when they come at him. Ip Man is a hero for people who have been victimized by bullying, but don’t want to become bullies themselves. There’s a strong moral streak to these pictures that modern American culture has sadly abandoned in favor of attitude extremes that sometimes go beyond the pale. 

It looks as lush as anything from the golden age of Hollywood, and more so than a lot of foreign pictures it sometimes becomes a challenge to keep up with the subtitles when you’d really rather be watching the film. Ultimately, I found myself ignoring the subtitles as much as reading them. Like any good musical, you don’t have to understand all of the lyrics to know what the cast is singing about.

-- Freder

Monday, March 25, 2013

Picture a World

Looking at Tom Rush’s Wrong End of the Rainbow I am reminded of how lazy designers can sometimes be. Now, Anthony Phillips -- he, or someone attached to his record, was canny enough to hire children’s book illustrator Peter Cross to do the design for his record, Wise After The Event. I bought that record just for its cover. Does anyone do that anymore? I find it hard to believe that a CD, no matter how well designed, would have that power. The real estate just isn’t there.

But Columbia -- a major label back in those days -- could they be bothered with the design of Tom Rush’s record? It seems not. 

Wrong End of the Rainbow features a design that is Just Plain Lazy. And it was the Standard Design for many a record album in those days: just snap a picture of the artist, schlep it onto the cover, set the title and artist name in Cooper Black or Helvetica and bang, you’re done! If you’ve got some song lyrics and another picture you’re home free. Just throw the lyrics into three columns on the back in nine point Helvetica, center the picture, make sure the credits fit somewhere a presto -- instant album cover, and I very much doubt that the person who did Wrong End of the Rainbow spent more than twenty minutes on it. 

It’s a great album. Maybe Rush’s best. But there’s absolutely nothing in the design to entice a casual buyer into picking up the record and give it a listen. I’m absolutely convinced that Rush could have sold a lot more records -- and gained a lot more fans -- if his album had been given a sympathetic design.

Now, Three Dog Night’s Seven Separate Fools (Dunhill DSD 50118) -- there’s an album package for you. It certainly gets my vote as one of the top ten record cover designs ever, and because I also have the CD version I can tell you that it doesn’t translate and they didn’t even try. 

The album is designed to resemble a giant pack of playing cards, and inside of it the lucky buyer would find seven huge cards, one for each member of the band. Each photograph on the card faces is like a work of art in itself, putting forward something of that band member’s personality. Chuck Negron is depicted as a southern gentleman, Danny Hutton is the Joker of the deck, percussionist Floyd Sneed is a gambler in a red bowler hat raking in his winnings. Bassist Joe Schermie is shown in a more sinister light, stepping out of an Iron Maiden. The card backs are actual scans of vintage decks ranging in style from erotic to fanciful. The sleeve of the record identifies each of the band members by showing the backs of the cards fanned out, and attaching a name to each one. The back cover is taken up with another great photo of the cards all spread  out on an oriental rug, with a rather forlorn pooch sitting at the top of the arrangement looking out at us. 

The art director, photographer and designer each get a special credit on the sleeve, and they deserve it. 

All of this would just be nice if the album itself wasn’t amazing. The album opens with their classic “Black and White” and never looks back. This is Three Dog Night at their best -- it’s a great Holistic package because you know just by looking at it that the album is going to be something special -- and the band does not disappoint.
Dunhill may have employed some of the most venturesome designers out there. It was Dunhill that issued The Papas and The Mamas -- a record that looks much better than it plays, on which playful listeners could mix and match The Mamas and The Papas faces by flipping the slatted cover. 

Unfortunately, the group was in the process of falling apart when they recorded this one, and barring only Mama Cass’s solo on “Dream a Little Dream of Me” it isn’t nearly as much fun to listen to as it is to play with. 

Another one of my top ten favorite record designs is the one Alan Aldridge and David Larkham did for Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Two profusely illustrated booklets depict Elton’s rise to fame and his partnership with Bernie Taupin, told in a style of art approaching that of Hieronyus Bosch. Work like that helps to make a record album more than a collection of songs, but a thematic experience. It’s one of Elton’s most complex albums requiring several listenings to be fully appreciated, and the design helps to make it into a journey.

With CD packaging (and to an even greater extent digital downloads), I think the musicians are largely on their own. Maybe that’s the way it should be; maybe they prefer it that way. But for me the purpose of good design is to aid the artists in telling their story; so that when you slide it out of the bin you get the sense that there’s a real person in there, speaking to you. 

Those days are over. I miss the golden age of record album design -- and it’s one of those things that we can never get back. 

-- Freder

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee...

My finished copies of the new book arrived today -- opening that box was a real Magic Moment. When I worked as a typesetter for Thorndike Press years ago, I used to eagerly look forward to that day of the month when the finished books came in, not just because it meant Free Books, but because I wanted to see how my designs had come out, wanted to hold in my hands something that I had created out of thin air. I took a lot of pride in the books that I designed and set; I never looked at a book as just a collection of words, but as an art object with a personality that’s only partly made up of its words.

I still feel that a sympathetic design shows some feeling for the book’s contents, that it welcomes a reader into the work and sets the stage for the author to do his work. You want to create an atmosphere for the person reading the book. A lousy design and typesetting job can ruin a perfectly good novel, and by the same token a mediocre novel can still be worth owning if it looks and reads well. To this day, I’m convinced that “my” edition of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is the best one ever. 

So when I had the chance to typeset and design my own books, I knew that I wanted to create something unique, something that looked as well as it read, something that had a personality of its own and didn’t look like everything else on the stands. 

As many times as I’ve done this, putting a book together in Photoshop and InDesign is like playing. I can never think of it as being real until I see a physical copy of it -- and then I can look at the thing almost as if I’d never seen it before, as if it was the work of someone else.

Seeing my own books come out of the box comes with a double-barrel of emotions, good and not so good. It’s unbelievably validating to hold in my hands something that I made from top to bottom, something that I can put on my bookshelves that looks and reads as well as anything else that it might be shelved next to. For the very first time in my life, I begin to feel like I’m not a completely worthless person.

But it takes all the joy out of the thing to think that Mom’s not here to see it. She died knowing me only as a drunk and a failure. I can publish books from now until kingdom come, but I’ll never be able to change that.

-- Freder

Friday, March 15, 2013

Down in the Old Aisles

Things change, you make gains large and small, you suffer losses equally large and small. There’s nothing new or profound in that statement. It’s just one of those things that you’re forced to take notice of now and then. As you get older, you notice it more and more. If you’re lucky, the losses are less significant than the gains.

What brought this on? Do I need an excuse?

As I flip through my old collection of vinyl LPs, converting them to crispy new electronic formats, change is “writ large” on nearly every album cover, and every album or single tells a story that goes well beyond the songs or the comedy patter vibrating between the grooves.

I guess the biggest thing that’s been lost in the digital and marketing revolution is the sense that every record is a little brick of history. I remember where I bought each and every one of these records, and the circumstances surrounding the purchase. The records become a photo album in my mind. 

I got my copy of David Bowie’s Station to Station in a little New York City record store, one of those dark hole-in-the-wall places. I’d just read about it in the Times, and I was out wandering around, and in those days I went into every new record store that I found. The girl behind the counter looked like a young Bohemian, and she gave me a smile and a look that said she agreed with my taste in records. A normal guy would have chatted her up, I suppose, but as I now understand, Asperger’s made that impossible for me. I just bought the record and have remembered her smile ever since.

My Dad had taken a job in New York at that time, and I was visiting him. For a while in the late ‘70s, I got to New York a lot, both alone and with the rest of my family. I have many little memories and stories like the one connected to Station to Station, and sometimes one memory is a hook to drag another along, which hooks another, which hooks another...

I got a used copy of The Moody Blues album The Other Side of Life at a record store in Boston. My friend BC was there, and even though The Moody Blues is not his cup of fur and then some, he urged me to get it because we both knew I wouldn’t find it at home for that price. This was at a time when, maybe once a year, maybe twice, I would join a small pack of my friends and make regular pilgrimages to Boston, just to get out of Maine and get a taste of Civilization. The internet was not yet even a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, and the big-box bookstores (one of which is now defunct) had yet to move into the state, bringing civilization with them, for a time. We had regular rounds that we made in town that included the great and nifty (and also now defunct) Avenue Victor Hugo Bookstore, and Tower Records (where I picked up Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, the only album by that group that anyone could need), and Wordsworth out in Cambridge, who stocked imports, among several other great book and record stores, especially including one of the latter called “In Your Ear!” that stocked a great selection of vintage vinyl and bootleg albums, at reasonable prices. Now, whenever I see their sticker on one of my record albums, I think back on those fun trips to Boston with the guys. As I write this, I note that The Brattle Theater -- where I saw Warner Brothers cartoons on the big screen for the first time -- is running Ninotchka tonight. Oh, Ninotchka, Ninotchka... once you get started down Memory Lane you never know where the little offshoot avenues will take you.

And so now today it seems like the stories attached to each album are at least as important as the music they contain -- sometimes more so! They all occupy specific locations along my personal timeline, and have the power to draw me back along the corridor to places and people that no longer exist. For that reason, even after I have them all duplicated I’ll never part with them.

Buying music today is nowhere near as memorable. Nearly every “album” that I’ve bought in the last six years, I’ve done so while sitting right here in this chair at this keyboard. The music shoots down the internet pipeline and into my computer.

The good part is, I don’t have to drive all the way to Boston to look for obscure used books and music that can’t be found in local stores (record stores are pretty much a vanished breed now, anyhow), and then take my chances on what I’ll dig up. It’s all right here in front of me: if I think of something, my fingers do the walking and no matter what it is, I can pretty much find it somewhere and have it delivered to my doorstep. In a purely cultural sense, life in the age of the internet is almost unbelievably richer than it ever was in my “formative years.” I have more access than I know what to do with, and more culture of various kinds than I have the time to digest. And I have made some wonderful discoveries, especially recently. More on them in another post. 

That’s nothing to snuffle at. But an MP3 download doesn’t have the same kind of intimacy or impact as one of those big-ass vinyl record albums with their covers that gave designers and the writers of liner notes what is today an almost inconceivable amount of real estate. The music is just as good, but it’s solitary, and no larger than itself: it’s just music, lacking the subtext of memory. I’ll never look back on an MP3 download and remember where I was when I made the discovery, when it first revealed itself to me out of the stacks of other records, and I lifted it out, held it in my hands, turned to the person or people that I was with and said, “Hey! Look what I found!”

-- Freder

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bogey and the Bandit

Bogart and Lupino in a scene that's Totally Not In The Movie.

They Drive By Night (1940) is a circus sideshow freak of a movie, really two movies grafted together at the hip, with one of them significantly better and more interesting than the other. Both are directed by Raul Walsh, so there’s no nonsense and a good deal of noir style to hold the whole Frankenstein-monster-creation together. But the guts are all in he first half.

The first movie stars George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as a pair of brother truck drivers trying to get ahead in a system that is skewed badly against them. The subject matter gives the thing a unique flavor and allows for some arresting scenes -- for once, Raft and Bogart aren’t playing gangsters, but tough honest Joes who just want a good life and have chosen a bad game to get it. 

Raft spends his half of this first movie with black make-up smeared under his eyes to show how tired he is. Bogart, as one of the supporting players points out, spends a lot of time asleep... and when he isn’t asleep he’s complaining about not being asleep. He is allowed to wake up just about long enough to lend sone strong-arm tactics when an unscrupulous employer refuses to pay them. When you get to scenes like that, you see the wisdom in keeping him asleep... because when Bogart’s awake, you’re hardly aware that Raft is even on the screen.

It’s hard to believe that in 1940 Bogart was still a second fiddle, getting fourth billing here and essentially evaporating in the movie’s second half. He has one terrific scene, in which he gives Ann Sheridan a burning X-Ray look, and follows it up with a Raft two-step as both men examine her chassis. How is it that, even after this picture, the studio brass still didn’t see Bogart’s commanding star power. It wasn’t until a year later that Bogart got his breakthrough role with Ida Lupino in High Sierra.

Things are going pretty tough for our boys... so when the circumstances suddenly seem to take a turn for the better and things start to look up for them at the midway point of the picture, you know it isn’t going to last. And you don’t have to wait long. Not sixty seconds after finally paying off their truck, Bogart falls asleep at the wheel and sends it and him crashing through the guardrail and into one of those omnipresant California gullies.

Just when you think the picture is on the verge of displaying its Social Consciousness, that’s when it takes an abrupt U-Turn and becomes Movie Number Two. The second movie stars Ida Lupino in one of her first big roles, and it’s strictly a Noir Potboiler, baby, about a young spoiled wife in a bad marriage who soon bumps off her husband (the uncannily Skipper-like Alan Hale Sr) and then frames Raft for the crime when he spurns her advances. Never fear; the murderous wife has an irrational fear of mechanical doors, and thanks to a completely nonsensical set of circumstances she wigs out on the stand, in time to make a full confession, save Raft from the chair, and allow Sheridan to close out the whole movie with a joking wink at the camera!

Lupino looks alarmingly young here; but she takes control of the movie and never lets go, even during a witness-stand breakdown that any actress could be justifiably nervous about pulling off. 

There’s a lot to admire about They Drive By Night, and if its dark first half had been allowed too play out realistically we might even be remembering it as a classic today. As it is, it’s a full-blooded curiosity, half involving and humane, half entertaining and featherlight. You come away wondering what really would have happened to those two cursed brothers in the first half -- and then when you think about it, you realize why the studio took it off on a different tangent: because the truth might have been too hard to bear.

-- Freder

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Other folks get sexy women in low-cut gowns to model and show off their wares... I get "puthyquaths" to do the job. I hadn't intended that Pandy Bear should look quite so... threatening when I asked him to pose for the picture (he seems to be saying, "Buy these books or I'll step on you!!"), but with quats you take what you can get. I originally tried to get one of my other feline roommates, Whitey, to do the modeling job... but man o man -- try to get that guy to hold still long enough to snap a photo, any photo! "Never work with children or quats..." I can confirm the latter. I did finally get a couple of excellent pictures of Whitey, which I didn't have before, him being the most elusive of felines, but getting him and the books in the same frame proved to be an impossible task. That was when I called in the much more mellow Pandy Bear, who'd been watching the whole process anyway. He thought the books were a pillow and had to loll all over them. Which might have been a good endorsement if I'd been able to get a decent shot. But no. In the end, even Pandy lost patience with me and blew the scene... and I had to make do with what I could get. Hardly one of those models you see on The Price is Right. But, y'know, maybe better suited to the product...

All of this is by way of announcing that It's Here, It's Here! Méliès' Notebook and Other Stories, the companion volume to Persephone's Torch, is out in paperback and available now through this site, soon through all the other online retailers and before very long at your very own local indie bookstore (which you should always think of supporting first).

 Opening the box containing the printed proof was a real Magic Moment. The more so because it's not just something that I've written, but a book that I set, designed and illustrated from top to bottom, and to see something that you made from scratch like that, something that you assembled out of thin air taking shape in the real world... it's more satisfying than just about anything you can name. Yes, even that.

Pandy Bear likes it.

But everything leading up to this moment was the easy part. Now -- I hope that some of you out there will take a chance on me and give these books a try. Here's the thing. Stephen King doesn't need you anymore. Neither do J. K. Rowling or Louise Erdrich or Neil Gaiman or John Grisham or Anne Rice and I'm not comparing myself to any of those people, I wouldn't dare to put myself in their league. What I'm saying is, I need you.

None of those people got where they are today without people like you giving them a chance, allowing the books into their lives, and then, if they liked those books, spreading the word to other like-minded folks.

It takes readers. I know you're out there. I know that at least some of what I've typed here has connected with at least some of you, and when that happens it's a lot like opening that box to see the proof, it's magic, something I'm in awe of and grateful for. This blog has been a big part of saving my life. Now, I don't like it, but I have to ask for more. If you want to make a difference to someone who is really making an effort to turn his life around, now is your chance.

I may type a lot about "Duck Soup Productions this and that and blah blah blah--" but that's just me in my little playground trying to make myself feel like I've actually accomplished something. Likewise, the only reason I use a "nom de plume" is because none of you would be able to pronounce my last name; it's kind of hard to encourage word of mouth when you've got a name that sounds like a Swedish back road.

I've given this my best shot, and tried to make books that I hope will connect with some folks. If it doesn't work -- I'm screwed. Not to put too fine a point on it.

So -- if you can find it in your heart to give me and my books a chance, you won't find any writer more grateful. Just sayin'.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Good Old-Fashioned Sex, Violence -- and Tap Dancing

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! may be the best-looking dumb movie ever made. As I write this I still haven’t been able to sit through the whole frustrating, mind-numbing thing. It’s rare that a picture this visually rich, featuring imagery this magical and romantic, should get such a negative reaction out of me; but as drop-dead gorgeous as Moulin Rouge! is -- that’s how braindead it is. You may never see another picture that has this little going on in what passes for its mind. Even its Love Story, derived from Puccini, is insipid.

I don’t think that I’d mind the use of modern music if the songs were original... but Luhrmann populated his soundtrack with Standards. It’s Rogers and Hammerstein and Elton John and The Beatles and murgatroid knows who else. It’s beyond jarring -- it’s flat-out annoying. I must say that Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor acquit themselves as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Kidman, whom I used to dismiss as just being the latest bit of fluff, actually seems to be kind of a sport. With this and The Golden Compass she’s almost made me forget about her abysmal taste in men. Jim Broadbent seems to turn in an effectively creepy performance -- until you realize that it consists of several pounds of make-up and sticking his face all the way in to a fish-eye lens. 

Bereft of any kind of emotional weight or through-line musically, stylistically, thematically or any other kind of -ly you can think of, Moulin Rouge! (even the exclamation point in the title is a sign of its excess) is just a big, loud boring mess. Only in terms of its ambition, I think that it has a lot in common with Francis Ford Coppola’s very-nearly-as-insipid One From the Heart. The difference is that the latter picture, for all of its thematic shallowness, is a work of intelligence and talent that’s well worth watching. 

Meanwhile, Agent Double-Oh-Seven is faring rather better of late. After the best-forgotten (and ever so forgettable) Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale -- one of the best in the series -- finally gets the sequel it deserves with Skyfall.

This is very much an oddball and out-of-the-way Bond offering, and much as I liked it, I wouldn’t want more than one Bond picture to follow this path. Fortunately, I don’t think any future Bonds can pattern themselves along the lines of this one, as it closes down Dame Judi Dench’s era as “M” while thoroughly incinerating the setting of Bond’s origins that it’s only just created!

Let’s not mince words here: this outing is personal in scale and is about nothing more or less than Bond’s loss, through apocalyptic means, of the only Mother he’s ever known. In that respect I found it both cathartic and pretty hard to take. I did not see the ending coming, as I hadn’t seen the end coming in my own personal story of matriarchal loss. That it manages to accomplish something so intimate (really astonishingly intimate for a James Bond movie fer crine out loud) and still manages to deliver everything that we normally expect from the series (including a terrif opening credits sequence that sets us up for what’s to follow) makes this one a candidate for greatness. Daniel Craig, whom I respect in all other ways, has been mouthing off of late about how he hates being James Bond and wants out of his contract. If we’d been given another Quantum of Solace, that might have happened. Thankfully for fans, Skyfall has assured us that Craig won’t be singing “O Freedom!” anytime soon.

Earlier in the winter, I was disappointed by The Iron Monkey, a somewhat over-praised martial arts adventure from the great action choreographer (but not-so-great director) Yuen Wo Ping. The makings of a classic are here, all right -- but the action is just ridiculously under-cranked, to the point where it doesn’t look so much like martial arts as it does a Keystone Kops comedy. Yip! Hah! Hoo! Hee! Hah! This is the sort of thing that makes the genre a joke to people who’ve never seen it done better. 

UNGOWA!! I don’t think I’d ever seen the original 1932 Tarzan, The Ape Man with Johnny Weismuller -- and I’m glad that I didn’t when I was an impressionable, over-sensitive little kid! GOOD FLAMIN', FLIPPIN' LORD this pre-code picture would have given me screaming nightmares for life! Near the end of the picture, Jane and her Dad and the whole expedition are captured by pygmies (who are played by midgets in stark blackface, which is danged scary enough for starters)… and what happens to them in that pygmy village makes the Universal horror movies of the time look like a sweet romp in Candy Land. 

I guess there’s a reason why this screen Tarzan became the definitive one despite its playing fast and loose with Edgar Rice Burroughs... as directed by W.S. Van Dyke, I’d have to say that it’s pretty vigorous, sensual filmmaking, and it fiercely holds your attention even when it’s practically beating you over the head with its stupidity. On the other hand, it’s pretty canny about human nature. There’s an Exact Moment in the picture when Jane and Tarzan first hop into the proverbial sack of leaves and make wild jungle sexing -- and without a single line of dialogue, without shoving it in your face, the filmmakers never leave you in any doubt as to when that moment occurs. This is about ten million times more erotic than Bo Derek flailing about in the tall grass with her top (and bottom) off.

Watching 1939’s Babes in Arms you’d be forgiven to believe that Judy Garland really, truly had a heartthrob on for Mickey Rooney. Maybe she did. But did Rooney ever have a heartthrob for anyone but himself? Babes in Arms is the original “Let’s Put On a Show!” musical, and it showcases Rooney and Garland as two almost off-the-charts talented kids... but Garland’s vulnerable side is there like an open wound, whereas Rooney is just troupin’ baby, just hitting his marks and flashing that grin and being that all-American kid that he was playing. As a Busby Berkley musical it’s pretty low-key until the very end... and then the stops come out, and somehow a show put on by a gang of kids in a barn becomes a Hollywood Extravaganza worthy of... well, Busby Berkley. As far as this picture is concerned, it’s a case of What’s not to like? -- except maybe that healthy dose of Jingoism at the end.

-- Freder

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Woopy-Doopy, We Have Fun!"

If you're coming to this page from a different Cultural Reference Point (and the stats show that there are a lot of you), the title to this post is yet another pop-culture quote (one of my Aspergian markers as a thing I can never stop doing) (parenthetical asides would be another). In this case, you had to be watching Saturday morning cartoons at a certain time in history -- those words are the battle cry of the Go-Go- Gophers, a pair of Native American rodents who were constantly running circles around the U.S. Cavalry (who were represented as foxes). Week after week those gophers made monkeys out of those foxes, and had a ball doing it, and every week I always waited for that moment in every cartoon when they made their Devious Plans and the one who could talk giggled and said to the one who mimed and spoke in gibberish, "Woopy-Doopy, we have fun!" At one time or another I believe they shared a half-hour slot with both Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo, and they may also have briefly held down a half-hour show of their own, but don't hold me to that. It was a long time ago, and I'm unwilling just now to take the time to go look it up.

Becaaaaause -- the whole point of hollering the Go-Go Gophers battle cry at the top of this post is that I'm excited about the companion volume to Persephone's TorchMéliès' Notebook and Other Stories, coming out soon in paperback in a swell illustrated edition that looks smashing next to the novel! It's in the proofing stage right now, and should be available by mid-month. It's meant a delay in my other projects, but that can't be helped. A person has to follow where their nose leads them, especially when their nose is their most prominent body part.

The illustration above is one of the new ones that I did for this edition. In the book it will be in black & white, so I'm taking the opportunity now to show it to you in color. 'Ja like it?

A new page dedicated just to this book will go up on the site later today with all the details. But beyond the details, what we have here is yet another Small Miracle and another reason to get up in the morning. Ye Gods, when I think of where I was at emotionally, physically and every other which-a-way last year at this time, it's like someone waved a Magic Wand over my head and said "Trizzle, trazzle, trozzle, trome..." That's yet another Cartoon Quote, BTW. Let's hope that wand keeps wavin' in the months to come!

-- Freder
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