I got distracted halfway through posting last weeks Fights comic, so here’s two. Blathering after.
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck
I had a weird week. Hard, let’s say, rather than bad, because I feel alright at the end of it. I have been sending out JepComix 8 to reviewers, and encouraging stores to carry it. You can find a copy, more than likely, at The Beguiling or Page and Panel, both in Toronto. Out of towns get mailed tomorrow. I also tried to place it in the East End’s best little comic shop, The Sidekick Cafe, and just … ruined it.
I was a little anxious heading there, because I had written them and gotten no response. But I went in, trying to feel positive, and everyone was dressed in Halloween costumes. Immediately I was thrown off (we’re all on the spectrum somewhere, right? I hate costumes.). I went to the cash, where a Human inside a Panda Bear said Hi, and I said, “Hi! Do you take comics on consignment?”
What I MEANT to say was “Hi, I’m a local cartoonist.” and hold up the book, and ask if they ever stocked stuff by local artists. Perhaps even compliment their shop - it’s really well curated. But no. I just asked a yes or no question - and when she replied “No, we only buy them outright.” I said “Okay,” and walked away.
I was ten feet away before I realized that wasn’t even a soft No. It could have meant “Show me your shit”, but I was too high strung to even hear her. And when I clued in, I felt so stupid, I couldn’t bring myself to turn around.
I yelled angrily in the car on the way home, just noises, no words. AHHHH! I drive myself crazy. I know how to do these things: rehearse a bit, visualize it going well, consider possible responses. But I get nervous and I forget all helpful tips, and just barrel and bash my way through shit, and WRECK it.
I’ll go back when the next comic comes out (later this year), or if I get accepted to TCAF. I can’t go now. And here I am again at this theme that’s all over the place: I gotta make more lists. The one I should have consulted before going in will be called “How to Ask for Things of Strangers”. Smile. Go in calm. Have a plan. Get Better at things. Etc.
Toronto’s The Beguiling is now stocking the new JepComix book! Head there and buy yourself The True Adventures of JepComix #8 for a smooth six dollars. They’ve got four copies, and a refreshed, generous consignment policy that lets me keep the comics there there for 3 months, and it would be really really nice if I had to replenish them. If you do go, THANK YOU. If you can’t find it, show them this pic.
JepComix8 has landed - I went and picked them up yesterday and am pretty happy with them.
This is the first issue that I’ve had professionally printed, and the first one with a colour cover, and the first one that contains a single complete story (the one about the landlord Elizabeth, originally published here and on facebook). It’s also the first one I took very seriously as a production; with Marjan’s keen editor-eye and a higher standard for what I considered passable, I did a lot of edits on #8. That’s a dreadful process but a good one.
It’s also a half-inch bigger than the others, which are all just folded regular sheets. This one is 6x9 - basically the same size, but not so easily lost on a shelf. I feel good about where I’m at with this comics-writing thing, after 15 years of giving it a real effort, and hope to be a little more confident in my suggesting someone might read it. I loathe self-promotion - but what are you gonna do? I’ve applied to TCAF, and will hopefully hear good news in December. I hope also to perhaps attend other conferences, which seem to be the best way to meet other artists and comics people (despite being overfull with humans). I’ll send it to the usual shops (Chicago’s Quimby’s, The Beguiling, Atomic Comics in Baltimore).
Oddly, right at this moment I am listening to On Being, Krista Tippett’s podcast, and she’s talking to Seth Godin about marketing. He’s saying marketing doesn’t have to be gross. I guess I can sort of believe that - but I still think it’s excruciating. A part of the convo that stuck for me was his saying that when a person says ‘I made this’, they'’re vulnerable to someone responding ‘I don’t like it, and I don’t like you.’ I feel that in a hyper loud way. But. What are you going to dooooo?
All this to say: I’ll be trying to say “I made this” more this year, and if you wish to, you can help by going to a shop and buying a comic. Or you can just watch and see how it goes. I’m curious myself. I’ll share where they are stocked when I know.
My first concert, and my first concert shirt. Kim Mitchell was super-important to me. He was a Rock Star from Sarnia - a mind blowing concept to me, at 12, as I was discovering the power of rock music. And he was the first person I ever heard of who who had LEFT Sarnia. Kim Mitchell accidentally taught me that I did not have to stay.
The first time I heard him was on Max Webster’s late-era record Universal Juveniles, which my brother had. I still love this record. Check out the cover:
On it, Max did a duet with RUSH called Battlescar - a full-bands duet - two kits, two basses, etc. It’s pretty crazy. If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it here. Max Webster’s closeness with Rush (they were always named in Rush liner notes, too) was important social currency… a kid I knew had an older brother who had hosted an early Max Webster rehearsal in his basement: instantly, a Cool Guy, to me.
Shortly afterwards, (1984) Mitchell released his first full-length solo album, and started wearing that hat. It was called akimbo alogo, and had a fantastic blue cover (for its original release), and the sounds on it still kill me, if not the songs.
When he came to town - what seemed to me a glorious homecoming - I went to the Record Store to line up and get his autograph. As he signed my records, we made him laugh, which made me very happy. Years later I made Mary Margaret O’Hara laugh. That was even better.
The Sarnia Arena was acoustically perfect for Hockey, I guess. I can still picture the whole experience, somehow, but not the actual show. The weirdness of finally being at A Holy Place - a rock show! - and noticing the empty back half, seeing people leaving during the encores (to avoid the heavy Sarnia traffic) and the ebb and flow around the merch table. That special post-show feeling afterwards in the parking lot.
I bought this shirt there. It made my little muscles look great. On the back, see the tour dates. I wore it proudly.
*Ezra Klein Show, Sept 4th, with Chris Bailey. www.vox.com/ezra-klein-show-podcast
The Project to Document Every Damn Thing: T-Shirts of My Life brings you a shirt from grade two.
I signed up to play softball because my little friends had. They knew how to play. I had absolutely no idea. My family didn’t watch sports. The coach - an old school bully - sussed out my inabilities fast, and gave me a token position - substitute right field. Mostly I sat on the bench.
I played one game. I still understood nothing about how the game was played. I sat and watched from the bench the whole ga - nope! At some sudden moment, the coach, angry at the seven year old third baseman for something, cursed and yelled at me to take his place! I did! A kid got a hit, and the ball was thrown to me! I caught it! I touched the base with my foot like a pro! - and watched, uncomprehending, as he ran by me and towards home plate. The whole team screamed at me: Throw the ball! Throw the fucking ball! And I did, but not successfully.
On the bench Bryan yelled at me to explain that you had to tag the guy AND touch the base.
Because I had been put on base, I learned, I had to be put up to bat. Nervous as heck, I took my place at bat. I swung at the first pitch, and CRACK! hit it hard. I dropped my bat and started running, but learned I had hit it directly to the first base person’s glove. I was out.
I was sad after. Naturally. My Dad, who had been there and had watched, didn’t say anything - not unusual. Partway home, he pulled into the parking lot of JC Penney's, and said “Wait here.” He returned, and handed me a brand new baseball. It’s a weird moment to retell, but I remember it fondly. I never played another organized sport. But I kept the shirt for 40 years.
Found in the filing cabinet. Circa 1999, done in a staff meeting. I have always found the Micronauts hilarious. I was then playing at drawing all people as Fisher Price people (below). I haven't gone much further, actually.
The first of many, I'm guessing.
The autogenerated response uses Doug's old "clever trick" of increasing font sizes so that a one-page report "can only have, like, twenty words, dude!" "Huh Huh, geeenius!"
A comment or two about the NYC Female, Feminist Pig, and some autobiographical stuff, and some stuff about music in 1991, and a starter list for aspiring not-assholes. Typical Mister Jep bullshit. ;)Read More
I have grand plans to create a podcast about music (and me, everything is now part of my plan to document Every Damn Thing in my life), and the first episode is meant to be about the Monkey Power Trio. They're a very special band to me, and they should be more widely known. In 1995, they released their first 45, The First Hour. It was a six song document of "whatever happened that day", and it contained a very dangerous hidden track (metaphorically speaking): a VOW.
The vow was to stay a band forever, but only one day a year. MPT will record and release a record of some kind each year - until they're all dead. They've been at it now for 23 years, and if they're a few years behind in releasing the actual documents, I'm not judging - I can't even start a podcast. I'm keeping lots of notes, and hope to eventually do it. But I bite off way more than I can chew, most of the time.
Not these guys. They bit off only a little too much - they can still chew. This year's release contains two sessions, from 2014 and 2015, on a ten-inch record called The Ballad of Christian Woodcock. And as usual with an MPT record, it contains some real nonsense, some moments of musical inspiration, and some genuinely hilarious shit. The band do not practice or write in between sessions (it's an achievable vow, unlike Sufjan's unfulfilled promise to make records about every State), and of course you can tell. They're not geniuses. They're just school friends who found a compelling artistic project that would keep them in touch, which I find amazing and wonderful. I couldn't find 5 people from school to hang with in an emergency, nor could I pull together any collaborators on any long-term projects. This project is a thing of beauty, and the fact that they're funny guys puts a bell on it.
I've been listening since 2000, and am used to the way things break down on a typical MPT record, but I don't know who does what. I shall have to imagine. Which member writes the ragers? Mark? Dave? Four? They're usually my favourite songs - someone in this band can really yell. He's previously yelled things about being a pussy ("I Run From Fights"), or drinking gin ("Gallon of Gin"), or Fatty Arbuckle's rim job skills (look it up). This time he's yelling "I'm underwater! And I want to stay! My lungs are full and I like it that way!" which I find inspired and inspiring. ("Bottom of the Lake"). This member is all Ego (the Freudian kind), and probably the engine, but who knows. I do not. He has a different hairstyle every year, I imagine.
Somebody in the band writes songs like movies - previously, about cop-buddies Fuzzy and Jenkins, for example - and this time they hand in "Gordon Muir, Time Traveller." I picture this Monkey Power Member as bespectacled, besweatered, bemused (stop it). He may have written "The Land of MPT" (video below). This may be the same person who plays the recorder, which is always in the mix somewhere. He may keep it in a knitted tube.
There's also a sax player, intermittently. This member loves Half Japanese, I think, and could be the mind behind the dry-wit numbers (historically, "Butt Science", or "When I Save Time, I Save Money"). This time they bring "Hello Cleveland". This member is sentimental and answers fan mail, I bet.
I assume the guy named Deadhand Dan plays the guitar, just cuz of his name. He gets an autobiographical song in this batch, and guess what? When he's not in MPT, he spends 364 days a year in charge of the Mutually Assured Destruction nuclear situation. This is what a close reading of lyrics and liner notes can get you. Get digging! ("Deadhand Button")
I wonder about the feelings of whoever does the drumming on these songs; of all of the instruments, really, the drummer is the one who must practice, and I don't think they really do. But that's part of the thing - floundering beats happen often on MPT jams. Imagine my (and his?) surprise that THIS time, the band seems to have employed a drum machine (or app on a phone, or something). Was it contentious? Or was it his idea? In any case, it makes for a regular beat. With the madness of this band, that is helpful.
To be clear, I'm not blaming the drummer for all of the rhythmic inconsistencies. (I'm not "blaming" anyone, just describing.) On some tracks, it's obvious that the players can't all hear each other (Gordon Muir!); at other times, a song could clearly be nailed if they had, say, three days to make the record instead of one. This is a feature, inherent to the vow. I'm always, always impressed by how many good ideas these guys bring to each record, and the wincing doesn't ruin it. There's something exceptionally brave about this whole thing. Back to the record:
"Black Wig", another yeller, is a good take on Bone-Machine-era Tom Waits. "Under the River" is a very nice Neil Young song, all jammy and minor key, with a less ominous story: little kids play on the shore. The guy from "Bottom of the Lake" may be nearby. It's one of three songs that feature a rap-break-bridge, by the way, and those are both awkward and great.
I really like this record. MPT have on- and off-years, as you can imagine, and this is an On Record. It doesn't matter to my fandom, I am in for as long as they are, but I can imagine how fun it must have been to play and release The Ballad of Christian Woodcock, and I am envious.
Do yourself a favour and go check them out - their website has MP3s of all of their music, as well as evidence of their occasional flirtations with being appreciated: a play and discussion by John Peel (!), a clip in a Fox Sports commercial, and a FOUR HOUR show from 2008 on KFJC. (There's even a dead link to the one attempt I did make, back in 2008, at doing a podcast. One episode, and of course it was all about MPT.) I can't imagine anyone, after checking them out, not falling in love. I look forward to the 40th year of the band and hope to have my brand new podcast ready for it so I can finally interview them and find out which one likes jellybeans.
Just found a very thoughtful review of my work at High-Low by Rob Clough. The guy's got my number, and it is extremely gratifying to be read closely. My tank is refilled for another chunk of time. It's a small little tank. :)
The philosopher Ice-T once said: "If god had wanted us to vote, he would've given us candidates." I'm not saying he made it up, but that's where I heard it.
A couple of days ago, I read a T-Star piece called "How the Tories’ move to shrink Toronto council could be turned on its head". It cheered me up a lot - Dofo's profound shit-headedness was bumming me out, and I couldn't spend any time thinking about it. But this idea - of decentralizing, of local-local government - has been popping up this year, and I am very attracted to it. I could get behind that. I would even go to meetings.
Today, Lanrick Bennett knocked on my door. I only opened it to tell whoever it was to go away, but when he said he was running for City Council, I invited him in. I apologized for not having a shirt on - it's 31 degrees today and my whole brain is hot. I gave him a glass of water, and asked him what he stood for, and now I am excited.
He believes in term limits. He believes politics should be an action and not a career, and he believes in Ranked Ballots. He wants to be proactive (!). He's an environmentalist, and wants to communicate, and is into Libraries and digs the East side. I really liked him.
I told him I was tired of Paula Fletcher. I'm tired of all the careerists. I have been occasionally happy with her - she was responsive and helpful about an issue I was having at Cherry Beach (I'll tell that story sometime). But she took a chickenshit stance on ranked ballots, leaving the room for the vote, probably because she's an incumbent who benefits from inertia, and I can't back that. I'm grateful to politicians who serve, but I'm not interested in lifers. Sorry.
I'll be following this guy. I'll probably be voting for him. I may get involved. Nice to feel hopeful.
Found THIS too - I have to look around more. It must be from around my despairing Fights comics, last summer? You can tell, because it bored ME enough that I didn't post it. It's from just Before I wrote Elizabeth. Anyway - I read some bad things about Elon today and thought the coincidence was worth... zzzzzzzzz
OH- the monkey is Lynda Barry's. I love Lynda Barry.