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Friday, December 25, 2009

Go Read It!

The Comics Journal website has posted an interesting conversation between cartoonists Stan Sakai and Chris Schweizer that's well worth your attention. And I can't resist expanding on the following, which was said by Stan...

When I was doing freelance work I met Sergio Aragonés, and he invited me to a C.A.P.S. meeting, The Comic Arts Professional Society. It was an organization of print cartoonists started by Sergio, Mark Evanier, and Don Rico. There are so many comic-book artists in the Los Angeles area, but we never socialized. I joined the second year. I was told that the first meeting was in a church in Hollywood, and it was booked right after the Gay Christians Organization or something like that.

The first two C.A.P.S. meetings were held in June of 1977 at the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church up on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, near where Don Rico and his wife Michele were then living. They went there occasionally and knew the minister, who was a flamboyant man named Dr. Ross Greek. On their suggestion, I went up to see him and check out the meeting room he had there.

Dr. Greek, I later learned, was a true mover/shaker of the area. He'd spent much of his life running this and other churches, usually staying only slightly ahead of financial ruin. He had an admirable track record for taking in kids (runaways, especially) who were homeless and/or on drugs and helping them clean up, straighten out and just plain survive. He was also a founder of something called the Lazarus Project, which has been described as "a ministry of reconciliation between the church and the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community." He passed away in 1995 and is still revered in that community.

He was an energetic, happy man who was somehow doing about eleven things at once that day. One of them was showing me the hall they had there...a facility, he said, that was open to any sort of group that looked like it might do anybody any good, no donation required. I decided it would be a decent place for this group we were trying to start and gave him $50 — which from his reaction was a lot more than anyone else had donated lately. When, I asked him, might the room be available?

He led me over to a wall calendar, studied it and said, "Well, we could squeeze you in on Thursday nights between the Lesbian Softball Team and the Alcoholic Gays." I said that would be fine and he took a pen and wrote us in...so the calendar then said...

Lesbian Softball Team
Comic Book Artists
Alcoholic Gays

...and I wondered if anyone was going to look at that calendar and say, "You're letting comic book artists meet here?"

• Posted at 11:33 PM · LINK

Another Nice Memory

Our pal James H. Burns writes a nice little piece for the Village Voice about a treasured holiday recollection: Watching Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers. And a great little movie it is, too. In fact, I remember that when it was colorized, film buffs who ordinarily decry that process as vandalism either didn't notice or didn't object too strenuously. It's such a colorful film in its original black-and-white that a lot of folks thought it was always in color.

• Posted at 11:48 AM · LINK

Merry Today!

Christmas was never that big deal in our house, at least not after I hit age 10 or so. This was not because we were mostly Jewish. We observed every holiday we could find. If we'd known what it was, we would have celebrated Kwanzaa...but like all our holidays, with great restraint. We just never made that much fuss about any day.

My Uncle Aaron had been in the business of manufacturing store window displays and he gave us crates of leftover Christmas ornaments. So each year when I was a kid, we bought and decorated a tree, in part because we had twenty cases of decorations in the garage and it seemed like a shame to not put some of them to use. Eventually though, it began to feel more like an annual obligation than a pleasure...so we gave all the balls and snowflakes and garlands to a local charity and I'm sure the holiday baubles thereafter yielded more joy for more people than they'd ever given us. By the time I hit my teen years, we'd managed to whittle Christmas down to a family dinner and a brief exchange of presents.

I had friends who somehow managed to devote most of every December to Christmas...and often, it required a running start commencing shortly after Halloween. For them, the yuletide seemed to come with great excitement but also with all manner of stress factors relating to buying gifts, decorating homes, throwing parties and consorting with relatives who fell into the category of "People You'd Avoid At All Costs If They Weren't Family." So all the merriment was accompanied by a lot of angst and expense. A classmate once told me his father had found it necessary to arrange a bank loan that year just so he could afford a proper Christmas. That didn't sound like a holly jolly time to me.

We had none of that. No one felt pressure. No one went into debt. Everyone would somehow convey a few suggestions as to what they might like as a gift, and always an affordable one. That meant no one had to agonize too much to decide what to buy...and no one wasted their money on something the recipient didn't want or would never use or wear.

It all worked well but for a long time, I saw the huge productions that others made of Christmas and felt like I was missing out on something. Christmas was a special day but it wasn't as special to us as it seemed to be to others. I was well into my twenties when I figured out what was going on there. I was then going with a lady who dragged me into her family Christmas arrangements that year. Hours...days...whole weeks were spent planning the parties, the dinners, the gatherings. She spent cash she didn't have to buy gifts and purchase a new party-going outfit for herself...and the decorating took twice as long as Michelangelo spent painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

It seemed to me more like a chore than a celebration, and one night I asked her why she went to so much trouble. She said, "Christmas is important. When I was a kid, It was the one time of the year when we all got along...or came close to getting along."

There it was. She'd come from a large and dysfunctional family. Siblings were forever fighting. Parents drank and split up and got back together and screamed a lot and separated again. There was much yelling and occasional violence...

...but not as much at Christmas. Christmas was when they managed to put most of that aside. Christmas was when they generally managed to act the way they should have acted all year. That was why, when it came around, they made so much of it.

We never had to declare a holiday cease-fire in my family. We always got along. There was very little arguing between my parents or between them and me, and what little occurred never lasted long. I never had fights with brothers or sisters because I never had brothers or sisters. And my folks and I were known to give each other gifts for no special occasion and to occasionally get the whole (small) local family together for a big meal. So Christmas wasn't that much different from the way we lived all year.

A year or two ago, I told a friend all of the above and his reaction was on the order of, "Gee, too bad for you." Because in his household, Christmas was wondrous and festive and the source of most of his happy childhood memories. I never saw it that way. I have loads of happy childhood memories. They were just no more likely to occur around Christmas than at any other time...and I liked it that way. I mean, you can have Christmas once a year or you can have it 365 times a year. Peace on Earth, good will towards men doesn't have to stop later tonight.

• Posted at 10:42 AM · LINK

Today's Video Link

Here's a charming bit from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon...and I think it points up what's wrong with the show. Observe how little Mr. Fallon brings to the number. Granted, anyone appearing on TV surrounded by Muppets is by definition going to be the least-interesting person on the screen. But he doesn't react. He doesn't interact. All he does is stand there and look like a nice guy...which from all reports, he is. Every time I've tried watching his program, that's what I see...Jimmy Fallon being pleasant without giving his guests anything to play off of. I really want to like him but he sure doesn't make it easy.

• Posted at 12:16 AM · LINK

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