Archive for January 2015
I have written before about the painted walls of Phoenix. Artists, especially Chicano artists, but I suspect all artists have this trait, just love to find large open spaces they can fill with their pictures. Phoenix has a lot of murals and larger than life paintings done on sides of buildings, fences, and stone walls. I knew there was some art on Roosevelt–the half mile street between McDowell and Van Buren, but I never knew how much there was until I went down there yesterday, parked, and looked around. I found more stuff than I can show you in a single blog.
My curiosity was aroused by this piece of art as I drove past it last week in an attempt to get across town during rush hour. The freeway and the mile roads were bumper to bumper, so I tried to make better time on the half mile road. And as I neared 3rd Street going west, I saw this:
I saw all the tentacles, and my first thought was Cthulhu.
Yeah, there’s a fence in the way, so I couldn’t get a really good picture of it, but you have to admit that this is a pretty bizarre thing to find on a wall in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. When I first saw it, I knew I had to come back and look more carefully.
One of the great myths of pre-Columbian Mexico is the story of Aztlan, the primordial homeland of the Aztec people (and several related tribes as well). Themes drawn from pre-Conquest Mexico often show up in Chicano art–it is part of the heritage of Mexico and the Mexican people. I found a lot of that in the Roosevelt district.
These six panels covered a fence just east of 3rd Street. The top two are the most clearly Aztec in inspiration. The first one is a very good representation of the Quetzalcoatl figures carved into Mexican stonework, especially in Teotihuacan (technically Toltec, but it is a precursor to the Aztecs who arrived on the scene some 500 years after the City of the Gods was abandoned). The second one down shows a woman in the native costume of the natives of Central Mexico. The artist is Gennaro Garcia, an immigrant from Mexico. The man is prolific and has several pages on the internet, including Facebook. I may track him down and ask him to explain this series. I’m sure there are stories behind each picture.
Another distinctive Mexican theme is to represent people as skeletons. This is related to the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday (actually a 3 day holiday from October 31 to November 2). That ties it into Halloween and All Souls Day from the Catholic religion. Mexico is a very Catholic country, but the older native mythology has persisted and underlies some of the Catholic celebrations.
The watery theme may be a reference to Venice, or to Tenochtitlan, now known as Mexico City, a city built on a the big lake that was the center of the Valley of Mexico before the Spaniards arrived.
As you can see, the art is very colorful, fantastic and amazing. There is a great deal more in that part of town to see, but I’m not going to try and cram it all into one blog. I close this with one final picture. I don’t know whether this represents the Phoenix bird (this is Phoenix, Arizona), the Mexican Eagle, the American Eagle, or even the Thunderbird of the Southwestern tribes. Perhaps it can stand for all of them. That’s the glory of symbolism.
If you have seen this art, or great wall art in your own city, why not leave a comment?
I like and enjoy a lot of things in life, but when I try to figure out what is my favorite, I think it has to be books and reading (including comics). I knew there was a graphic novel waiting for me at the library, and comics waiting for me at Samurai Comics. I had books by the door I’ve been wanting to unload for weeks now. With those incentives I set off on a Saturday afternoon book expedition.
What I started with . . . everything on the car seat needs to go away.
First stop: Yucca Branch Library. This is my local branch and where i pick up and drop off most of the things i get from the Phoenix Library system.
This was my prize. Nightwing graphic novel #5–a retelling of Nightwing’s (Dick Grayson) origin story in the new 52 continuity.
Where the Good Stuff is–the graphic novels/manga section in the Teen area of Yucca Branch Library.
What was in the car after coming out of the library.
Second stop: Samurai Comics at 11th Street and Cameback in uptown Phoenix.
Front door of the shop. This store is just jammed with Too Much Good Stuff.
What was waiting for me inside . . . my ship came in and I had $17 worth of comics waiting. Conan/Red Sonja crossover, new Groo series starting, 2 issues of John Carter of Mars that I had missed, and there were freebies including a huge book advertising all the New 52 graphic novels currently available from D.C. comics. It was quite a haul.
Where the Good Stuff is: the back wall of the shop has the rack of all the new comics for the week.
Where the bargains are: rack after rack of comics for $1 each–mostly old Silver Age stuff.
Where the Weird Stuff is: independents and toys and comic related items like clothing and mugs are on free-standing racks in the middle of the store.
There is a huge rack of back issues still on sale at cover price along the west wall of the store. The trick is to wait for a sale and then go cherry pick that wall of stuff you just didn’t quite buy the first time you saw it.
Third stop on the trip: Half Price Books at 22nd Street and Camelback.
This is all the stuff I traded in, about 10 items. The store was busy and I had to wait more than half an hour for my appraisal. They gave me $2.50 for the whole lot. Any single item in the batch cost more than that retail, but it beats throwing the books away or donating to the library, who would then throw them away.
The science fiction/fantasy section of Half Price Books. Back in the Day I would have gone through every rack, looked at every title, and bought every sword and sorcery/heroic fantasy title i found. Now, I just walk by, glance at the ones turned cover out, and feel nostalgic. Buying all the fantasy would cost hundreds of dollars even at half price. Reading it would take more time than I ever expect to have again.
J.R.R. Tolkien still inspires ciriticism and explanation. I think I will see if the library bought this book.
Where the Good Stuff Is: this locked bookcase has the used and half price tarot and other cool card sets. I collect tarot decks, and I can read the cards when I want to.
Where the Wizards go. The store has 2 tall bookcases full of books on magic and the occult arts. Since I am a wizard I always check this are to see what’s new.
The store has a small section for Gaming also. There’s a deal here with a Monstrous Compendium for players of That Other Game. I was kind of tempted by the Risk set for $15.00.
The games are right next to the grajphic novel section.
I made one purchase at Half Price Books. The Zombie Tarot deck was a bizarre addition to my already bizarre collection of strange tarot decks. This is what was in the car when I left Half Price. As you can see, the seat never really got any emptier.
Fourth and final stop of the afternoon: Changing Hands Bookstore at 3rd Ave. and Camelback. Now I am on the homeward leg of the journey.
Changing Hands is an upscale independent bookstore. It is a beautiful place and very friendly to bibliophiles.
Where the Good Stuff Is: the bar. In addition to books and knick-knackery, Changing Hands has a bar where one can get drinks and snacks.
The most interesting book I saw in Changing Hands–a massive annotated collection of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I would like to have it, but it’s $39.99 and I don’t want to spend that kind of money on it.
A closeup of the science fiction/fantasy section in the store.
And here I am enjoying a really good cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin at the bar. I didn’t buy any books here today–the place is really too upscale for a poor man like me, but what a great place to hang out. My thanks to the beautiful bartender who took my picture.
So, if you’ve ever visited any of these locations, or devoted a good part of a day to just going where the books are, then why not leave a comment?
For such a sedentary fellow (librarian for 40 years), it’s hard to explain why I like action fiction so much, but the truth is my heroes have always been Tarzan and Conan and Lancelot–fighting men who left a trail of dead foes behind them and never gave them a second thought. Perhaps it is the old rule that opposites attract. I don’t have the muscle or the blind courage to be Tarzan or Conan, but in my dreams . . .
In spite of the fact that Robert E. Howard is one of my favorite writers, I have not managed to read everything that the man wrote during his all too brief lifetime. (1906-1936). Yes, I have read all of Conan and Kull, and I think I’ve read all of Solomon Kane as well, but Howard had other heroes. A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to acquire a book that was new to me. The title is BLOOD OF THE GODS. Paul Herman edited the book and Girasol Collectables published it in a limited trade papaerback edition of 1000 copies. Neil and Leigh Mechem own that business and seem to be devoted to keeping the Pulp Era alive with reprints of stories and magazines from that golden age of American fiction–a time when stories were king, and there were lots of them.
For the most part the pulp authors were not a particularly successful or talented bunch. The names of all but a few of them have faded into obscurity. Even those who succeeded, men and women like R. E. Howard, and H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett barely earned enough from their writing to stay alive. The only pulp writer ever known to have gotten wealthy from such writing was L. Ron Hubbard, and he did it by starting a science fiction religion. He wrote some great stories, but they are mostly forgotten today.
Some of the best writers started in the pulps and managed to escape from them. Ray Bradbury comes to mind. Raymond Chandler is another. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis A. Kline wrote pulp, but managed to transcend the medium. They all did it by getting their fiction published in books–books that would outlast the flimsy, gaudy magazines where the stories originally appeared.
Howard never made it to books during his lifetime. It remained for people like Martin Greenberg, who started Gnome Press, and August Derleth who started Arkham House to start collecting pulp fiction and immortalizing it in book form. Since Greenberg published the first collection of Conan stories in 1950 in book form, publishers have been making a killing by collecting and re-issuing Howard’s stories ever since.
BLOOD OF THE GODS contains four El Borak novelettes about an American adventurer named Francis Xavier Gordon in turn-of-the-century Afghanistan (and other parts of the mid-east). It also contains one Kirby O’Donnell story. Both men are very similar–black-haired Americans who can disguise themselves as Moslems of one form or another. I bought the book because I had read about El Borak, but had never seen the stories. El Borak was apparently a big deal for Howard. He had five stories about him published during his lifetime,and several others in manuscript. El Borak means the Swift, and he shares a lot with Conan. General appearance, titanic strength and vitality, and the ability to move like lightning. I wonder why Howard bothered with Kirby O’Donnell. The setting is the same as for the El Borak stories. The characters are very similar–so similar that it’s hard to believe two such men could have co-existed in the time and place that Howard gave them. In fact, that was Howard’s entire mythos–all of his heroes were fighters. Not stupid by any means, but more likely to fight their way out of trouble than to think their way out of it. I bought the book because I thought I might be getting all the El Borak stories in one place. I acted on impulse, and did not do my homework before purchasing it. I can’t help thinking that someone should collect all of the El Borak stories including the fragments and the stuff that appeared in fanzines and edit it together into an epic that makes sense. I wonder why it hasn’t been done already–there are many better Howard fans than me who could create such a work.
Objectively, the stories aren’t all that good. There is no character development. Howard’s Afghanistan is as imaginary as his Hyborean Age, but the barbarians have guns. He re-uses names and themes with little attempt to create a coherent tapestry of stories. Each story stands alone. Each story begins with the hero getting into some sort of jam, and each one ends with him fighting his way out of it. Along the way there is hardship, travel, friendship, furious action, and death to the bad guys. It’s all about as deep and real as the butter you spread on your toast. And yet, I love this stuff. No other American writer ever had a better sense of pace for headlong action that just picks the reader up and carries him along to the finish like being caught in the rapids of the Colorado river.
There is no magic in most of Howard’s non Hyborean fiction. Conan, Kull, Bran Mac Morn, and Solomon Kane deal with magic. El Borak, Breckinridge Elkins, Fighting Steve Costigan, and several others don’t go supernatural at all. But it is all fantasy–action fantasy, fighting fantasy. And Crom help me, I still love the stuff, long after I got old enough to know better.
If you’ve ever read an El Borak story, or if you are a fan of Robert E. Howard, why not leave a comment?
I don’t go to enough parties. One of the things I’d like to do is attend more of them, just to meet people, hang out, and have a good time. So when I was invited to a Mad Tea Party with a Wonderland theme, I decided to do it if I possibly could. The afternoon before the party, Facebook reminded me of it again, and I went “Ack! I don’t have a costume.” That did not seem like enough commitment to me, so I went to Bert Easley’s House of Fun and bought a hat. With that as a basis, I made the costume you see below from a couple of thrift store purchases earlier this morning Can you guess my alter-ego?
Leaving my house for the apartment. Trolls were an alternate party theme, so I posed with my mascot, but I left Bruiser at home.
Entrance to the House of Rainbows.
Dragons in the library.
Talking teacups–this was mine.
The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit examine thier places.
Jenn keepa a home for wayward pirates.
Jenn (in green) surveys the scene.
Partiers. Things haven’t really gotten going yet.
Plenty of good things to eat.
The skies clouded up and rained on us a little. The party room got dark.
I think this man’s name is Don. I don’t know him. He had a totally different conception of the Mad Hatter.
Giving my hostess a hug.
Gypsy Jenn with the Queen of Hearts
Gypsy Jenn enjoys her tea.
Time to leave. I slip away and depart after about 2 hours of partying.
It was a short party, more of a party lunch. By 2 p.m. people were starting to leave. I was feeling uncomfortably warm in my several layers of clothing/costume, and so took my leave. My thanks to Jenn Czep for inviting me. I think her party was a grand success and a good time for all.
If you’ve ever gone to a costume party, especially one with a particular theme, why not leave a comment?
Normally, my blogs start here and go to Twitter and Facebook, but this is something I wrote on Facebook this morning that I think might be worth preserving as a blog here. Putting it here also gives me a good excuse to expand and elaborate a little more.
This is a another project in which I have a minimal involvement, but can actually claim that it wouldn’t have happened if not for me. Ok, secret history time. Things actually start with Rick Loomis. In 1975, Rick was running a play-by-mail game called Starweb, and he published an irregular newsletter for it called SuperNova. I became his editor for SuperNova. At about that time Dragon Magazine was taking off and doing great things and I began telling Rick we should do something similar to promote Tunnels and Trolls. I was already running the occasional sf cartoon in Supernova, so when I convinced him to make the jump to a better format we started a new magazine called Sorcerer’s Apprentice, of which, I was the first editor. I wanted some cartoons for SA, and my two dependable artists at the time were Liz Danforth and Steve Crompton. So, I asked Liz for a cartoon, and she did the first Grimtooth cartoon featuring a troll. From all that sprang the Grimtooth’s trap books. Most of the traps were created by Flying Buffalo (i.e. Rick Loomis’s employees). I wasn’t on salary, but was part of the crew, and I had a few simple traps of my own in the first book, and maybe some of the others–it was a million years ago, and I don’t remember. Decades later, this project appears, and I have a couple new traps in it too, and I signed a special autograph page to be inserted.
Now, I didn’t invent Grimtooth, and I didn’t create the Traps books, and most of the creation/work was done by other people, but . . . none of it happens if I don’t do Tunnels and Trolls and get involved with Rick Loomis publishing my game, and making me editor of SA. Liz Danforth came to work for Flying Buffalo because she and I met at the Phoenix Friday night science-fiction fans gatherings, which I helped Terry Ballard start back around 1970. When T & T needed to go into a second edition for its first publication by Flying Buffalo, I got Liz to do the art for it, and from those first fantasy pictures, she soon became the main artist for Flying Buffalo. And on and on. Everything is connected. So watch this, and support the project if you like the idea. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1409961192/.
I’m thinking you can really blame this all on Rick Loomis, as he is even more seminal than I am, but still, tooting my own horn for the sake of history, none of this happens without me–a claim that several other people including Rick Loomis, Liz Danforth, Joseph Goodman, and most especially STEVE CROMPTON.
If you ever used one of Grimtooth’s Traps, or if you ever contributed one to the 505 traps collected in this new release, why not leave a comment?
Heh! Any excuse to get out of the house and eat at Denny’s. My (beautiful) niece, Kristina Eckert, posted this picture on Facebook this morning. It inspired me to do my own version of “the year in pancakes”. Cookery and photography and cool idea on this first one all by Kristina.
Kris actually cooked them in these shapes and got them all on one plate–something far beyond my artistic capability.
My first thought on seeing this pic on Facebook was that I’d have to eat the pancakes into shape if I did that. My second thought was: why shouldn’t I do my own version of the year in pancakes. It seemed like a good excuse to get out of the house this New Year’s Day morning (11 a.m. Arizona time). Since I pride myself on being a troll of action the following events were inevitable.
The sky–the sun is breaking through the clouds left over from last night’s storm, and it was very bright and cold (for Arizona).
The scene of the action.
My version of the year in pancakes–shaped with spoon and fork, not baked into shape.
the leftovers that had to be pruned away
with butter and syrup
and I ate them all up. This got me to thinking philosophically–a hazard of getting old. If the pancakes are the year (metaphorically), I did not make them. They came from a higher, larger source. Denny’s Restaurant made the pancakes. God made the year. I did not cook the pancakes. They came ready to eat. I do not create time. It’s part of the universe I live in. But I shaped those pancakes to my will (and I will do the same for the upcoming year). My shaping might not be particularly stylish or well-done, but it worked for me. And I ate up those pancakes and enjoyed them–just as I expect to do for the upcoming year.
I wasn’t quite satisfied with a year that was just pancakes, so I ordered some bacon also. Bacon is a different medium–a lot harder to turn into a numeric representation of this year. But I found a way. My attempt to resize and edit these pix into a straight line failed, so you’ll have to read it Japanese style–top to bottom.
Can you read it? MMXV. I ate that too. A year needs some meat in it.
The adventure ends the same way it began–with a shot of the sky as I came out of Denny’s. Since I’ve been thinking about the year to come all morning, I took this sky shot as an omen for the upcoming year. Read into it what you will.
Sunshine and darkness, blue skies and cloudy–I guess we will see it all again in 2015.
If you ever have fun playiing with your food, why not leave a comment?