Friday, February 2, 2024

Waydown #23.02.02

Like clockwork (if it's a really shitty clock).

My exclamation from last time about doing fewer blog-zines because I was running out of reviews was a false start. The system might have slowed while I was stuck in what would be only one review for the Swamp Thing books (getting a prominent place next time), but I've already read a stack of other books that will fill at least another issue of this (though I need to actually write them). I just need more to read (and to read more), then to get to the writing, and it's not likely I'll run out of any of that in my lifetime. And I don't see why I can't keep going with that process, putting out a few issues each year (fewer than when we did this bi-monthly). Once I have the writing and editing, the rest is easy. So I might as well keep it going.

I've thought about why I listen to music, and how it's changed over the years, especially lately. There was a time when listening to radio was one of the best ways to discover a new band. You'd hear a song and, for most of our lives, we'd have to wait for the DJ to call out the song's name afterward. You'd have to be patient but it was organic, and for the time spent, you earned learning who the band was and it would probably stick more. From there you might track down the album or wait for them to play it again. A lot of those old ways to find new music have fallen away, like the music magazines in print, but there are new ways, mostly online, and usually so many that the infinite array of choices can be paralyzing. For most of my day I stick with playlists of the stuff I've always listened to, but I'd like to be more adventurous when I turn on a streaming radio channel, usually when I'm roaming around the house without headphones. It used to be Pandora with all my familiar bands, but even that was wearying after a while, especially if I've already been listening to all that stuff. I have to take my lumps for being old, but I can't connect with a lot of music these days, at least not like I used to. And not just because I'm listening to radio differently (though it's all still music (or whatever they're calling "music" these days, grumble mumble)). I've realized that anymore when I turn on a music channel -- Flood FM, KEXP, KCRW, dozens on -- I'm not concerned if I find out about a new band. It's just to have music on, and these stations are usually solid enough to play some consistently great stuff. (For all that's on and for its variety, I'm not sure if I've happened upon even one truly awful song. They're selective when it comes to mainstream '90s). The short version is that it's a lot more background noise, instead of an investigative tool. Sure, of course I can look up a track, wait for the DJ, or Shazam it, but even now there hasn't been much where I've discovered a band and pursued them elsewhere. Most of the new albums I grab to listen to (on Spotify) are bands I already know or got highly rated in year-end-best-of lists -- the latter at least has a chance to turn me on to a new favorite group (though it's been a while). It's a subtle difference between the two, and nothing visible from what I'm doing, but it's maybe made me realize that my music tastes, or how I listen to music, has matured, listening to music for music's sake instead of assuming the next new find is going to change the world (or just mine), while coming to grips that I'm not keeping up with the newest stuff, and I really don't care, though to what end for all this awareness I'm not sure. Maybe if nothing else it means that my choice in music these days is one thing I'm not over-thinking (though this meditation might betray that).

Thursdays have often my days for sorting through boxes of comics for eBay, taking the afternoon to organize and consolidate runs of books and put together sets to sell, which includes taking books out of the bags I've had them in and putting them together in single bags, sometimes up to 25 issues depending on the run and the bag. So I'm taking out the old bags & backings, but not tossing them immediately since I might have need for them later on (bags for single issues that don't go in a set, backings for packing reinforcements, etc.). But it's quickly become a lot of bags & backings to keep. I stored my comics with a lot of bags & backings. This even after consolidating most of my collection's issues into up to four issues a bag, without a backing, according to story arcs or common themes in individual issues, over 25 years ago. I was keeping my comics all together and they were stored in boxes, so I didn't think they needed a lot of reinforcement, and multiple books in a bag was fine as long as they were sealed. Still it was a lot. Out of two boxes I sorted once, I came up with almost half a long-box in bags & backings. So I would surmise that maybe 1/6th of any box of my comics is storing material. I don't even want to think how much that's cost me over the years, even if each set was 15 cents; added up, literally nickel & diming me, could have gone to buying more comics (more fitting material to fill comics boxes with). When the secret math is done, are we going to find out that comics stores make their profits not on the comics themselves but the bags & backings that anal-retentive collectors buy to pack them away?

I probably should have saved the DCs to post later. And I don't even remember why I went ahead with them first. The plan was for DCs then Vertigo then indies/Dark Horse/Image then Marvel, and I'm most of the way to the Marvels. Those I'm saving for last since those will sell the quickest (presumably. Unless keeping all that perpetually in print kills any demand). The indies could have to sit a while before selling so it would have made more sense to put those up first, then the quicker stuff at the end, so it all could all end at the same time (instead of waiting for the slower stuff past the quicker stuff). DCs might go quicker once they announce more movies (I prioritized Outsiders issues featuring Metamorpho once they said he's going to be in Superman Legacy; I'm holding out out for the Nightwing announcement to sell my entire run). You can't even count out the possibility that DC could eventually be on the rise to eclipse Marvel before I'm done with this whole thing. For anything, I should have saved the Batman books for the very end, since those went very quickly (but also for being shortly after the Pattinson flick came out, actually by coincidence), and they're probably perennials. I pride myself on my ability to plan, but this one was uncharted (at least for doing this much). It could have been better, here and there, and that could have been the difference of a few bucks, but I'm still getting rid of a lot of stuff and there's money coming, so that must mean I'm doing something right.


Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz (Penguin Random House). The Beastie Boys do an autobiography the way they’ve done anything: giving the finger to the rules and doing something that entertains them, which somehow, mostly, translates to entertaining their fans which seem to arrive on the same wavelength. It’s a biography like no mold has been made for rock-star biographies, at times purposely seeming to go against what has been established but most of the time just doing what feels right, probably guided by an instinct that will make the culture adjust to it later. It’s a wonder that more biographies haven’t been done like this, nearly like a scrapbook of pictures with text, something like a coffee-table book in the form of a book book. It certainly has the size of a tome of information, but when something is guaranteed to sell, like this would, they can take liberties with whatever they want to do with it. It’s written by Mike D and Ad-Rock, sadly without MCA/Yauch, but while there was probably a team of production artists to put it all together since it’s just a lot of written stories and memories they might even have avoided a ghost-writer (or -writers). It’s mainly a string of anecdotes held together with the narrative of their lives together, sparely going into real personal details of their lives and only when it influences the work, especially early on, since that’s been repaved -- often literally -- in the time since. The Beasties were always guarded about their personal lives, and this book doesn't offer much for that insight especially as it goes further through time, but they know that the fans want the crazy stories, the real appreciators will crave the details, and the critics will approve the context. It creates a solid enough narrative, though as most of these do it leaves out the best stories they must have lived at the heights of their fame, which don’t always match their creative peak or best personal memories, but it’s only a loss when it holds it too close to how the rest of these are constantly done. They don’t even need a redemption arc, except for apologies for the misogynist rants (or fun?) of their early years, and they can’t say they succeeded with their skin intact because they lost a member, even though it was his loss that led them to produce this as a last nail in their legacy. The apologies seem a bit ham-handed, necessary to reconcile their image from decades and various makeovers ago, but one that probably still lingers with plenty of people who only remember them from that peak, and still makes it awkward, especially when they try to sell that it was characters they were playing, even when it was convincing enough to win over the bro-fans who actually could spot a lack of authenticity among their kind. It could even be said that the Beasties helped birth that subculture, but we can hope that those bros grew out of it like the Beasties did. It’s also a tribute to Yauch, probably the most present theme as well as the reference they return to the most, almost constantly, though they have enough wacky stories, also with Yauch, to make it all flow without slavering to the memory.  
It’s a lot of material to cover -- over 30 years worth -- but they do their best to cram as much in as possible, to leave it as the final word on their legacy, as well as that of Yauch’s. It’s an offering to the fans who grew up with them in all their versions, always with a mischievous nature, which translates into the book as well as it could in print. It’s a little too sober to be hilarious all the time or for its only point, but it’s also got as many inside jokes as their songs had and they still did fine with them.
Autobiographies work best when they’re just stories recalled and told, without having to trap a life story within a heavy context, though they do go into what the New York scene was in the early ‘80s that helped create them, enough to give everything after it a solid a foundation and prove they never really left their roots (especially when they have to explain the L.A. years). Still, breezing over personal details (as three people who want to prove how inseparable they were for all the time they were together, who were they when they had to be apart?), they come up with enough for what could have been just an entertaining read but they have to take it a step farther, which helps make it special, just like everything they did (but especially Paul’s Boutique, which in particular gets some detail (as if to keep selling it when it never did)). There’s enough of it that when you get done you could go back and do it all again and realize there was so much that you missed a bunch of it. Mostly it makes you wish that more autobiographies were like this, with so much material, but also how great it would be if more artists took the kinds of creative chances the Beastie Boys did -- the fact that they did when few others would was what made them special, with a legend and spirit that deserves to keep going long after we’re gone, in any medium.
It was enough of a opus that I had to seek the aid of the audiobook to get through it (helped by its huge availability on Overdrive (the library audiobook app, my first stop in looking for books to listen to for free)), but I had the print version to follow along after my walk with it. I might not have bought the book with the audiobook available (it was included in the ticket for the show Ad-Rock and Mike D did for promotion, which was them talking out a few of the stories from it, not really a performance but a representation of the work on stage, and involving Spike Jonze), but I’m glad I got it since they don’t share all the material (or can't, especially with the visual inclusions), though each version works well on its own as its own work. The book of course has all the photos, maybe half the page count total, along with captions and some footnotes that didn’t translate to a reading, as well as a story in comic-strip form (not exactly the “graphic novel” it’s listed as) that works better like that, and maybe a few inside joke details that are thrown in (though the recipes in the cookbook are included in both). The audiobook is just a read-through, of course, but the voice talent is notable: Tim Meadows is a stable and frequent voice; Jon Stewart sounds much more gruff than he is on TV; Amy Poehler represents the humor getting too cute and going too far and falling flat; Chuck D doesn’t yell enough; Kim Gordon does better for this than she did for her own book; Bette Midler stands out as having absolutely no reason to be there, but that lack of fit actually works for how many other elements never fit for the Beasties, and it’s actually kind of really funny that she’s there; Jarvis Cocker also would be a bad fit, except that he’s the voice of their London adventures and there’s maybe no better representation that they could have gotten (since we know Liam Gallagher isn’t much fun); the rest are just a weird mix, but work for being so, and make sense after a bit of looking into (or making up your own reason) why they might be there (unless they’re just fans and grew up with them, which includes a great many people). Even when it’s a breezy read, it’s still a chunk of material, going over three decades of recollections and explanations, so it takes a while to get through, though not dense enough that it always takes too much focus (another factor that made their music work). 

Filth & Grammar by Shelly Bond; Black Crown Quarterly (Black Crown/IDW); Philip J. Bond Greatest Hits (self-published). An extra star just for being the rare book about editing, and for editing comic books. (I’d say the only one but people have a way of checking and calling out on these things. But if there are more, I hope someone will let me know.) Is editing comics just not the sexy job? The point of entry into comics is usually relatively easy, or at least knowing how to do it -- plenty of writers have been made from those who love comics (though that’s not often the only necessary qualification) -- and everyone wants to be a writer, to create and guide and realize the story. Not nearly as may fans want to be the person-behind-the-person even though -- big secret -- they often do as much creating and guiding and realizing for the story. Editors are generally much more quiet than writers (comparatively), or they’re so overworked they don’t have the time to promote themselves so heavily, but there’s still plenty of responsibility for making comics in the job. Finally there’s a book to pull back the curtain and get into the grit of editing and putting together and producing a comic book. The book also strives to be a fun read, with plenty of graphic design to break up what could have been barges of dry text, appropriate to a graphic medium, and a few examples of producing the kind of material it’s teaching about. Bond has been the uncommon celebrity in comics not credited with writing or drawing the books and a personality that came out of the bullpen of DC’s Vertigo books (at least she was a notable figure to me since I bought so many of the books she edited) and she’s as capable as anyone of turning that personality into a voice for the book which is probably the most appropriate thing she could produce. It gets into the details of the path of creating a printed comic story mostly from the genesis of it, with a few tricks, then throws in enough comics stories that it could be mistaken for its own graphic novel. Unfortunately, the book is preoccupied with doing double duty -- informative and entertaining -- when either would have been most effective for concentrating on it. Since it’s supposed to be about editing, that’s the side we’ll take. In the space of some of the pages of stories about Bond herself could have been more technical details (like actually getting a book to press and what happens after it leaves the editor’s hands) or more testimonials from comics creators, though what's there only shows that more would have been great.
It’s also preoccupied with Peter Milligan, as if he’s a writer god that deigns the book with his presence. Bond helped make Milligan, for all the Vertigo work he got, and she stuck with him (later with him along for Black Crown), so his being around is no surprise, but he gets such reverence -- including an illustrated strip of a trip he took, which doesn’t connect to editing comics -- that it wants it to be easy to forget that after the Vertigo stuff and a few minor mutant books for Marvel, and owing his greatest ascension to the period when comics in general were popular but not necessarily from an interest in dark, creepy stuff if it wasn’t Sandman, Milligan actually wasn’t the name that this book assumes everyone thinks he is. Better to have kept name-dropping knowing Neil Gaiman (which actually does work).
It would be a disappointment for Phillip Bond fans, which is a shock seeing as the Bonds are a couple. You’d think she would have gotten a deal on him, for more than just a cover. The nepotism would have been readily forgiven to get more work for it out of him. Hopefully his absence is because he’s too busy working on new, great projects we’ll get or she wanted the challenge of working with an artist who could use the exposure.
It also could have used a copy edit, which would be acceptable for a small-press book, except that it’s about editing, including being a copy-editor, and/or being a person who could hire a copy editor. Notably it also missed one of Grant Morrison’s pronoun references, which could have been fatal (for the keen-eyes that most comics readers have, and because Morrison knows magic).
The biggest failure of the book is keeping up with the current editing methods, which surely don’t include as much paper and red ink as they used to (and as much as she refers to). To be fair, Bond seems in a transition between the worlds of analog and digital, some years very late,  stuck in her traditional ways when there are certainly newer methods available and likely more widely used. You have to go with what works but there’s also the progress of technology, and starts from behind if anyone uses the knowledge in this book to try to get a gig. There’s certainly plenty in the book that is universal, particularly dealing with talent and grammar issues, but the instruction may not be fit for modern practices as much as a legend like Bond would like to be able to teach. Her methods are classic and certainly they’ve worked, but they may not be so effective for today (except as base knowledge to eventually learn more). (Though maybe this leaves a door open for a digital version of the book (or a book about making a digital version).)
Bond also wraps it up in her own personality with fashion and ‘90s Britpop, which I can identify with but it must be limiting for anyone born after that era (though the current nostalgia trend might help sell it) or with interests not so narrow and expressive. Surely there’s more to gain about editing comics, but it takes a little more digging than it should, though that same thing makes it an enjoyable read done sequentially. It tries desperately to not be a textbook, though it could have been more effective as one, seeing as there’s a dearth of anything else with comparative information.
Maybe Bone will do an updated version later that will be more of the hard nails of info, after getting the graphic, user-friendly version out of the way. She has now established herself as the high scholar of comics editors (and why would anyone bother to argue? It never seems like there were enough who didn’t stay in it that cared enough to be concerned with that world after they left the day-to-day function, and those still in might have the wisdom to look up to her). This surely isn’t the first and last word on comics editing, since the technology progresses and the norms and standards and trends of the medium and its contents have surely changed even since this was published. Hopefully Bond won’t stop being a presence in comics and in instruction in general. I'm curious what she'll do in the future, especially for passing on the wisdom of (comics) editing (if someone tells me. It's too easy to miss Kickstarter projects and I found out about this one only by chance).

Black Crown Quarterly was just another purchase from the comics shop just to buy something, with a commitment of at most every three months (as per the title) and, being a magazine, ideally without the obligation to the rest of the line. Picking up the contents from casually paging through it, there were clearly some articles that didn’t need to rely on the other comics coming out, and some fresh P. Bond art at the least. I never intended to pick up any of the rest of the series in the line unless there were any that really broke out, but it all never took off then ended before I got around to it, for the most part. This magazine is more of a zine, with a lot of random stuff, plenty of inside jokes and ephemera, the kind of stuff we used to photo-copy late at night at work and staple together, but here with production and printing values enough to demand $7.99 for one of the issues (all dissimilarly priced, which probably drove the shops crazy, beyond asking $8 for any of them). It's in the service of the other comics in the imprint, with veins running through it strong enough to feel like you might be missing out by only getting (even when that should be enough). Probably a fine addendum for those getting the other series, but such a range of stuff that making it all go together would be a contrivance. And within the year of these four issues, there were only a handful of titles available, so it was a limited expanse. The line was headed by S. Bond, noted Vertigo editor and someone who got some of the best work out of Grant Morrison, but the best she can pull here is Peter Milligan and the Hernandez bro who isn’t Jaime. Glancing over the material in these pages, the creators she got could have been good enough, if they also sold (and Milligan didn't have characters that could have sold without him). It’s just baffling to figure out who all of it was for. Their interest is Brit pop-culture circa 1989, not a high point in global lifestyle, and over 30 years ago. That comes to a fine point with boasting being chummy with a band from the time that even I didn’t know; it couldn’t have been difficult to give those former local stars (it would be rude to say “has-beens”) a gig doing a few pages in a comic and fawning over them like they were Oasis. Maybe I would have bought this all if the world was caught up in another quality British invasion but as it is this is just misplaced nostalgia that would be hard to relate to -- if it doesn’t work for me of all people I can’t imagine anyone I have ever known that would be drawn in. But maybe they’re some good books and if they made it into collections and into the library maybe I’d come across them eventually. At least they weren’t making grand plans to keep putting out titles (either some hard-earned caution or knowing the ax was not long in coming from when the first numbers came in). For the magazine itself, there’s an ongoing story (by no one I know) that threads through the issue and could almost make them worth the price. It encapsulates the book itself, being a spine for the other stories, which somehow all meet in this same street in a shared world, but the story itself has richly-drawn and -visualized characters, enough that it’s a shame the line didn’t keep going just for that. Unfortunately, the other stories don’t fare nearly as well, with or without the support of being of a full series elsewhere, the previews are useless if you’re already getting the other books (which is probably most of who would pick up this one, since there’s not much reason unless you’re committed to the whole line), the interviews are piffle, the clever filler isn’t clever enough to be more than filler, and there’s not much more than what it’s all so self-involved to be. But one of the stories has P. Bond art. The only great declaration the whole line had is that it was under IDW’s umbrella, maybe as an effort to show their range as a publisher of more than just comics for cartoons from the ‘80s and Steve Niles, but it then ends up being an imprint they picked up then let go like it was anything else.

I count myself lucky that my shop (House of Secrets in Burbank) bothered to stock any of the issues (though maybe not hard to consider, seeing that they have a thing for Brit-related tangents and that the Bonds have been there). But they also made the Phillip Bond sketchbook available and I have what might be a very rare copy. It's just an assembly of pictures like any other sketchbook, with a very loose theme that generally matches whatever interest an artist can sustain, here British mod culture and kitschy space-age facades, with a few Batgirls tossed in. No personal sketches or what would be inside jokes with anyone else, and nothing done quicker than the usual consideration Bond would submit for publication, and that stuff would have been fun, but there's also no junk to fill up extra pages (when they're already pricey enough). It's all lovely stuff, especially in black & white then some with pops of color, but it's limited, and doesn't reach to the more dazzling stuff he did in printed comics with storytelling, especially what Morrison pushed him (or left him) to do. I'm not usually a fan of overly cartoon-y comics art, but something about Bond's work has always struck me, maybe that it's the rare cartoon-y art that can stand among the more traditional calls for bold superhero images or moody, atmospheric stuff (in the case of his time frequently at Vertigo (actually being worthy of an easy exploit of a relationship there)) or that his bolder, simpler lines set off a range of emotions and moods his art can express. 
I've bought plenty of sketchbooks, though I'd generally tend to stay away from them, since they're usually expensive and not with the kind of stuff I usually look for in a comic. If there's no story, there's no reason to not breeze through any of them, glance at pretty pictures and move on, and that might not make up the price. But I'll make an exception to get any work by friends, no matter the cost, and while I can't say I'm as close to P. Bond, he did a favor for me that I will feel obligated to repay forever more, so I'll pick up what I can by him, even if -- especially if -- it's a tiny project he published himself (maybe literally, by hand) just to put more of his singular and accessible work into the world.

Stray Bullets Uber Alles Edition (Image). I’m not entirely convinced these omnibus editions are meant to actually be read. Yeah, they’re great as a collection of material, looking great on a shelf (also pursuing some legitimacy over thinner books that could be disregarded as traditional, juvenile comic books), and could be used as a weapon to bludgeon someone savagely, but they’re unwieldy when treated like a conventional book, and they’re often hard (and plenty heavy) to prop up on your belly when laying on the couch. Also, you’re responsible for that entire run in your hands, which could make it far too easy to damage in all the time it takes to read, and these are often not small investments for such a volume, especially with the premium placed on these big collections (as opposed to trades that often go at discounts (most of the ones in my collection have been half-offs that I’ve come across randomly)). But when this came out I had to have the omnibus treatment, to finally validate my love for the series as well as have them all in one place, in a book that will probably last on my bookcase longer than most, even over the  original issues I had (by my last count some years ago; one of the few series that I truly kept up with (for a series consistent enough to allow anyone to do that)). The book came out at ground zero of my burgeoning love for crime fiction in the mid-’90s, and when I started getting old enough to truly appreciate it, and a good time for all the crime-fiction material that was coming out, even if a lot of it was rip-offs of Pulp Fiction that were either too quirky or not quirky enough, and in comics mostly anyone scavenging Sin City (which wasn’t even yet on its ascent to the movie that would open up a whole new audience, and might even have spawned some cool rip-offs if any could be made without being far too obvious). Cashing in on a black & white craze must have seemed enticing at the time, as it would also be cheaper and easier to produce without having to rely on color, though pretty much all of the rest of that crime-fiction fad was trash and that’s why it didn’t last. But Stray Bullets came out of the gate as something special, and it got to keep going because it was quality (also due to Lapham’s tenacity during some inevitably dark times, being a purely indie book when comics sales from that time imploded then got worse). It even got a shout from Wizard Magazine, but the hope would be that it didn’t need shallow, fair-weather promotion to find its audience and wild success wouldn’t ruin it. From the beginning it was a thrill ride, gritty because it was too easy to relate to the grimy stuff in the real world (at least more than superheroes), fresh by being crime-fiction but never having to do with private detectives or police officers (at least not as good guys), raw by being from a writer/artist with a single vision, and fun sometimes in spite of itself. Lapham's ascent came from superheroes and Jim Shooter, but seeing his mastery of the comics form in this book makes it seem like that was a rough try-out from 100 years ago. He establishes a rule -- page count, consistent panel grid, consistent amount of ink on a page -- along with unconventional elements -- non-linear timelines, the same sign-off “THE END...” whether it’s conclusive or not -- then he sticks to them, in storytelling so measured that it’s almost disconcerting (or just showing how lazy other creators can be when they change their own formats for a cheap, forgettable thrill). The consistent storytelling is the juxtaposition to what’s within the panels, which is usually a wild adventure that always feels like it could go anywhere since Lapham is making it up as he goes along, which is impossible since it’s all so evenly paced and always fits the format to a tee. Any perceived false move is surely an aspect to the story, usually with pacing, and even in negative space there’s something to see. 
On accident I saw someone mention on Goodreads that the whole thing is really Ginny’s story, which doesn’t seem right when so many issues especially near the beginning are about so many other characters, which it often goes to lengths to round out, and her introduction is a long-running background character, but only as the series goes along becomes clear, and maybe even Lapham realized that as he was going along too. She’s not the most interesting character (until a while) but only because Lapham runs so many other compelling personalities through the narrative (though usually to meet a tragic end). He doesn’t skimp on the violence either, being that he had no limits with his small press save for the ones he instituted himself (and again, very few), and while it’s never porn and minimal (but always surprising) nudity, there’s some sex (notable for comparing to how little there is in any other comics (that aren’t expressly porn)), which is often its own horror for being a reflection on some of scuzzier flashes of real life, and seeing such situations in the safe space of a comic strip. Lapham pushes the envelopes and challenges what’s been in comics and even what should be in comics, but he’s always a skilled touch and it’s always a compelling story that moves at a steady clip. There are plenty of clever bits and some laugh-out-loud parts, balanced by some moving moments.
One of the funnest elements of the early days of the series was a non-linear narrative, and with single issues how they could be rearranged to also accommodate a chronological telling, being that they were published in an order that was anything but. (In an early issue of my zine for the Legends APA I included the chrono order for what was out at that time as part of my review or whatever I was saying about the series (a rave, of course)). Being in a collected volume forces the order to what Lapham chooses, which removes that element of choice, but he can’t be blamed for putting out a collection -- a revenue opportunity for material he’s already produced, and could only help to keep new issues coming -- and picking some kind of order to put them in as a necessity. That’s even more an issue if it ever was in the omnibus, which puts the entire series in order, from beginning to end, completely traditional. And maybe there’s little to gain from a chronological order anyway, with a disruption of a multi-act structure and driving to a story arc climax, but it’s just as likely that Lapham was doing it issue-to-issue, a narrative most immediately concerned with its current issue, and putting them together relative to the other ones was up to anyone else. And he dropped that conceit anyway before long and defaulted to a straight chronological order without getting tricky with it (surely less of a headache for him). (And I’m not sure if I even put those issues in chrono order to see how and if they were different anyway. Maybe it was just the fact that it could be done, and to appreciate that anyone would go to the trouble to do such a thing (even if it might have been yet another lift from Pulp Fiction, and luckily went away when all the other shallow interests in pop-crime-fiction also disappeared (for the most part)). 
This volume is Lapham’s magnum opus, over whatever he did for Marvel and DC and new series for Vertigo, which never drew me in since I only wanted to see more Stray Bullets, and its great heights would make anything else a disappointment (especially when seeing how much better he could do his favored genre better than superheroes). To see your entire life’s greatest work in one volume could be disconcerting, that it’s only that many issues (even though it makes for a life-threatening block of matter). He’s done more, including a sequel series (for which I was getting as they came out for a while, maybe out of habit but probably more for a misguided fantasy that I would read them and keep up with the new issues like I did back i the day), and there’s the hope that it’s anywhere near this series (though challenged that it could reach those heights, even if faith in Lapham shouldn’t have to waver, after what he’s done). Maybe it will even make for an omnibus that deserves to sit beside the original on the shelf. Or could go in the other hand for twice as effective a physical assault (if it’s not entirely unwieldy to lift two at a time). Though thinking about it now, it might have been Lapham’s intention in making a story about violence in everyday life to take the physical form of a weapon. The whole thing operates on a lot of levels, like the best art (not weapons)).

Persepolis (Pantheon). My kid checked this out from the library then promptly lost it and it was gone literally for years. Long enough that the library let me keep looking for it (already a hefty fine) then went into the pandemic when they might have wiped the slate clean. Then she suddenly found it (in an old backpack or something) and I just happened to be there to remember that it wasn’t ours, and I could finally return it (and face the consequences/fine). But I figured if I was going to pay it anyway, maybe I already reached a maximum and I might as well read it. For as much acclaim as it got, it’s a good book. It’s a series of short stories in graphic form, close to cartoons except for some very serious subject matter. It’s an auto-bio about an Iranian girl living through her country’s revolution, an extraordinary situation except that she had nothing to compare it to. It’s more vignettes of high points from her adolescence, rather than a deliberate accounting of the conflicts going on around her, though there’s enough context to show what she and that part of the world were going through. It’s a simple memoir but not simplistic, as her life was filled with the terror of living inside a war, and her yearning to fight against their oppressors as an activist, in a place where even a suggestion of such an action would be subsumed brutally, and perhaps not even sparing a child. It’s touching and accessible, not distant just because it’s a different culture from decades ago. There are plenty of elements that are common to kids and what they want in life, especially ambitious ones like this girl, but of course the fact that she was living in the middle of a war makes it an affecting story. The style of cartooning is so basic as to be welcoming, though there are a few disconcerting, graphic scenes that make it surprising that this can be a kids’ section at the library, much less allowed in school. We’re living in a time when banning books is a hot topic and there could be a case made against this one, but hopefully its merits outweigh its seeming offenses.

Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days (DC/Vertigo). DC doesn’t always do a lot of odds n’ sods, but when they have a creator who did work for them then became a really big name (especially in other fields), they’d be fools not to. And it would be Gaiman who could have a collection that has such a variety of stories. Not that the shorts in this one go outside the usual supernatural realm since they’re all Vertigo work (so not being complete, since Gaiman surely did at least one Batman story back then), but there are a couple back-up stories, an annual, and a full-length crossover collaboration where he didn’t even do the full thing, and whatever he did for the finished products, they mostly all shine. For length and recognition, the centerpiece would be the Swamp Thing Annual, which is also the weakest of the works, being before he got a firm grip on how he could fit the weirder DC properties into the main universe, and reads as a fill-in story with obscure characters (who only followed to get resurrected a few more times after this). Along with a few other shorts it’s Swamp Thing material following Alan Moore’s run on the book, when anyone was smart enough to try to not emulate Moore but could pick up some pieces, which are the richest elements used, and a few years later, just to show the influence. They’re inconsequential, probably just Gaiman getting his feet wet, but one has art by Mignola, with the artist still at DC (which feels like it should be rare but he actually did quite a bit) and in the uncommon foray into obtuse stuff (drawing a lot of trees and foliage, but beautifully), showing a collaboration between the two icons that would not only be too singular but mind-boggling that they would ever get to match up, but such was the slot-machine pairing to put them together (though credit the editor with the foresight to get something from both of them, and together). The Sandman crossover -- with the real Sandman, and filling in a sliver of continuity as well -- is a treat, at the end of the book, seemingly being the main event after the preamble of the other stories. I read that book back when I was into Sandman Mystery Theater (since it was another Vertigo book (my comics obsession, if it wasn’t Swamp Thing)) and I got more out of it this time. Even though it’s over-textured like most of Gaiman’s work, it’s also easy to pick out his touch on it, while Wagner matches it (not on the same level but in doing the plot for Gaiman’s scripts), then some evocative Kristiansen art. (I had a T-shirt from that story that helped lead to meeting a good friend I still have to this day.) Thrown in almost as an after-thought is a Hellblazer story that was purposely and admittedly done as a fill-in, which slips in the magic of being one of the best Hellblazer stories ever done. It’s not a surprise that it would be Gaiman who did it, and got the character exactly right without even living with Constantine for long, but it’s also a story that works for being just the right length -- exactly one issue -- and concisely evoking the creepiness of that character’s world, and London in any world. It doesn’t even need the rare interior, lined art by McKean, but it’s a treat and a surprise that this even existed (and will likely stay in print somewhere, if not here), another of their collaborations that brings out the best in both creators.
It’s all a side-show to the main event Vertigo books (mostly before Vertigo was even so named), but mainly a warm-up to Gaiman changing everything forever more with The Sandman just around the corner from most of these, which pulls the book to the context of being some minor stories before the big one hit. Even for a completist it’s a collection of good stories that unfortunately need some explanation for how they fit in with other series (the one connection to The Sandman being a very subtle one, and not essential for that series, but classy in its respectful distance from the larger lore (and Gaiman’s greediness to keep anyone else from being active with the character, and DC complying). The bonus is Gaiman writing some short introductions to each story, not for context but just his personal background for writing them, which is welcome trivia (if only to know, in the author’s words, how committed he was to all this stuff at one time. (Not that he has gone far from comics, but it’s fondly reminiscent of a time when each month boasted a fresh Gaiman work, with pictures.))

Studio Space (Image). The hope for this thick, oversized book would be a look at the comics artists’ studio spaces (as it says in the title) and a talk about their technical processes and work habits for producing what they’ve done. They’re all comics legends, and even the ones more unfamiliar to American readers display the kind of amazing work that got them acclaim elsewhere. A look inside their work space would be a great idea for a book, if a bit niche (it’s interesting to me, so I’d like to presume that could extend to others), but it’s not really that thing. It’s mostly a collection of interviews with these artists, without getting too deep into anything technical. But they’re all icons in the field, and mostly old, so they have experiences to share and that’s as valuable here as it would be anywhere. Artists get a share of attention, rarely as much as writers, but many of these (men, they’re all men) have been big enough to also get to be writers, and even some of them have written exclusively and not ruined their names, so they have a few things to say. There’s even some wisdom (in particular and maybe surprisingly, Adam Hughes espoused a lot of what he’s learned, and succinctly). But mostly it’s just them talking, giving some of their personal histories and high points of what they’ve done artistically, and of course a selection of their visual work, but as these things usually are, never nearly enough (though to say it’s also not any of their best stuff, as these guys have been around for years, it would be hard to even fit the room they’re given with the best of what they’ve done). There might be slightly more attention to technical aspects than in other, casual interviews, but it’s missing the concentration on it that could have made this volume special (or at least set it off from any other collection of interviews). The only particular prize in that respect is a photo of their work space at the beginning of each artist’s section, but it’s a brief, albeit visual, glimpse of their process, holding a plethora of answered questions about their tools and how they work there. (And, yes, Jim Lee, we knew you would have a studio with a view.) It’s still a decent volume for being just interviews, but maybe its best asset is being an assembly of comics art legends of the time, in 2008, enshrined in print for the respect they earned. This might not have been particularly special at any other time, but since this was published we've lost a few of those artists and haven't had much in the way of new talent to hope to replace them. For anyone with an interest in comics art up to the last 15 years, it can be an enriching book with a sampling of a lot of great art and experiences; for those more interested in the time since then it could be hard to scare up the same caliber of talent, and probably not in print, and those intro photos would probably be the same shots of Macs and Wacom tablets -- not that that’s a bad thing or a regret for the progress of technology, simply a lament for a time and names gone by and the difficulty in capturing the power of a legend in a manner befitting who they are and what they’ve done.

Star Wars Special: C-3PO (The Phantom Limb) (Marvel). This could have been any character and I still would have bought it for the Robinson/Harris reunion. Probably. I don’t follow either of their work like I used to but neither of them have done Starman together in a long time too. This book doesn’t replicate the same synergy they once shared, or even the energy, but even as good as Starman was it was more like two creators that had the stuff to be great, early enough to know what they could really do and had the electricity to make up for it; they were on their ways to being masters but their imperfections were usually exciting attempts. Now it’s years later and this is another work-for-hire piece that just coincidentally put both of them on at the same time, lined up by luck like a slot machine. Anyone tried to make a big deal whenever Claremont and Byrne worked on the same project together but you know it wasn’t a true collaboration like they once had (and brought out a greater sum than their parts). This is a done-in-one story, self-contained but nothing special besides getting these two talents together to do another story. Either of their work was at worst mildly bland when it was purely for a check, frustrating only from the heights they scaled when they were personally invested something. Harris’s work was rarely so fluid but now it’s just heavy and thick; Robinson's superheroes weren’t always so exciting and this story hedges closer to that than a more personal, indie work. But it’s also C3PO being a lame character -- at most the doofy comic relief of a group, and just irritating without the balance of better characters around him (it?). It would be difficult to do any separate story with him, even by great talents, and it only gets to happen because he’s so recognizable among the Star Wars characters. I was interested in the Marvel SW comics for a little while (but never read the ones I got for nieces). I’d assume many of the stories are mostly self-contained since Marvel wouldn’t want to scare off casual readers by walling up their own continuity in addition to what was from the movies, but they did plenty of one-offs and limited series of all the major SW characters that we’d like to assume aren’t connected to anything but what we know from the movies. There’s surely more than that, and the books are successful enough that they can keep making plenty more, and those will have to develop their own continuities (also, because Marvel). But maybe a few are on their own and good enough for a read (maybe even better than some of the movies, or at least ready (and able) to take more chances). By this point you can just choose your favorite character and get a grip of stories that Marvel has done in the Disney-owned resurgence. I have the Lando mini-series (which could also be a try-out to see if I want to track down Soule’s other stories -- particularly his Daredevil run). There might be some great stuff by creators who actually, finally have a shot at these beloved characters, and maybe even Marvel will get to acquire whatever decent stuff that Dark Horse did if Dark Horse get deeper in financial straits. Also easy enough to disregard headlining characters outside of the movies -- let them have their own complicated continuities if it doesn’t connect to the characters we know and want to read about. And also C3PO.

Ultimate Power (Marvel). More research on the Squadron Supreme (since revealed as brain-washed bad guys in my Marvel Heroic RPG) since otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with this. There's no problem with Marvel’s concept of the Ultimate Universe, as an entry point for new readers to their heroes without all the continuity, which was flawed from the start (being that continuity builds from the first issue, soon to be overwhelming and back where the original Marvel Universe they were trying to escape was). It was only a matter of time that it would fall and be folded into the main Marvel Universe (though showing some surprising restraint when they only took one character, possibly the one good one created from that whole thing (meaning they didn’t change the original heroes they rebooted so much)). As it was this was bringing the Squadron Supreme into yet another universe to see if they would work there, and unsurprisingly they didn’t, and it led to an inconsequential mini-series that they probably tried to coax into an event (though surprisingly contained in this series and not spewing into as many crossovers as they could poop out). Knowing it would be too tangential for anyone to care, since the most unmoveable comics readers actually do care (too much) about the continuity and it’s hard to rope new readers that don’t have the attention span for big event series, they flipped tt into a book with all Greg Land interior art, a rarity since all that photo reference takes so long, a feat to get him for a full book, not for him as much as whatever editor had to schedule it. The fact that they had three writers may not have been for splitting those creators reconceiving these characters and shepherding the Ultimate Universe, but for dividing writing chores into smaller amounts so they had to commit less to. Getting Jeph Loeb was, for once, a clever move, being that he writes for the artist and leaves as much room for art as possible (even if there's none in his writing)  So the book is a quick read, deferring to the art as much as it can, though, matching Loeb’s pace, minimizing how Bendis would usually be wordy and Straczynski would usually be good. Of course there’s something about crossing over dimensions -- about the multiverse without saying so (since we only had to be sick of it in the comics back then) -- and doing anything to give the Squadron Supreme another chance to work, even paving over the Marvel Universe version with the Supreme Power batch. Even when they still don’t work, maybe there was hope that they would get shuffled into the Marvel Universe and happen again, but Robinson cut that off when he just sampled the failed versions (which is all of them) and mixed them into one, doing as much with anything that made the concept work, and it still didn’t. They tried again after that and they’ll  try again and again. I won’t be so cynical as to expect it to fail yet again -- though it’s a pattern by this point -- but it could take more than an alternate-universe story in a book destined for the half-off bin at the used bookstore. The Marvel Universe (any version) doesn’t need yet more played-straight superheroes from two generations ago. Maybe it’s time to risk the lawsuit from DC and go back to the original concept and make them the evil Justice League running rampant in the MU. Unless they already did that again and it failed again. Maybe the team will work in a table-top role-playing game played over message boards.

Back Issue #82. I almost wish I could get all the magazines. I love to read the behind-the-scenes articles and hidden histories and unreleased material and interviews with creators, and Back Issue magazine turns up enough of those goods to give a lasting value to print. Even better that they apply a theme to each issue, concentrating interests while giving some tangential material that might also have some use, while making it clear which issues could or couldn’t be of interest, but there are enough of them and with so many themes for the biggest comics fans that they won’t be hurting for an audience that picks n’ chooses. Even a casual fan could find a lot of these issues interesting, and could get even more new (to them) information from them. They’re also good reads, with research deeper than most (at least farther than Wizard ever went) and knowing who they’re writing for. But I read little enough that being a regular subscriber to these would almost completely push out whatever bandwidth I have for reading my biggest interest -- the comics themselves -- which is why I’m drawn toward the magazine in the first place. And apparently my tastes in comics and comics history is broad enough that I can find something in most every issue. I don’t think I’ve found too many issues that wouldn’t have a lot for me. It’s not even a passing good idea to disregard issues assuming they wouldn't have every article of particular interest to me, since I could wind up with something like an issue with features on Secret Wars (including the toys), Crisis on Infinite Earths/Legends, and the classic JLA/JSA team-ups, all of which go straight to my comics-fan heart. I might have even put my nose up at an issue dedicated to the Uber-Corporate Mega-Event Crossovers, but the inner contents betray me and I couldn’t leave it, for fear that I couldn’t find all that info again. The John Byrne cover featuring the JLA and the Avengers, even if it's been done before (though my amateurs) didn’t hurt. And the issue delivered, with all those features as well as a couple more that just came as added value, including a letters page that picked up a past conversation I wasn’t even in but could still pull material from on its own. Maybe just putting the biggest stuff from Marvel & DC from the mid-’80s -- arguably my most rabid fanboy days (at least my biggest interest in hindsight) -- would have been enough in any venue. It’s just a bonus that it's as solid in reporting and writing as it could get in this publication.
It’s harder for me to come across these issues anymore -- unless they’ve already covered every possible combination of themes possible to draw from comics (until they start remixing those into even more concentrated collections or books) -- so that leaves me more time for reading the covered material at its source (or, more likely, doing other things I have to do). And this might be the most fan-boyish issue possible to get, as it connects to so many events that me or a contemporary might be most rabid about, but what are the chances that I could be so interested in such a high percentage of the stories in another issue (actually, quite high, but if it’s not higher then it’s another indication that I need to go farther with the comics and not go backwards with supplementary material).

My Top Albums of 2023:
10. The Price of Progress- the Hold Steady.
9. Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd- Lana del Rey.
8. Cousin- Wilco.
7. i/o- Peter Gabriel.
6. Hackney Diamonds- the Rolling Stones.
5. First Two Pages of Frankenstein- the National.
4. The Record- Boygenuis.
3. Guts- Olivia Rodrigo.
2. The Ballad of Darren- Blur.
1. Midnights- Taylor Swift.

My Top R.E.M. Songs of All Time:
20. "Star 69"
19. "Finest Worksong"
18. "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"
17 "Begin The Begin"
16. "(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville"
15. "Driver 8"
14. "Electrolite"
13. "Drive"
12. "Leave"
11. "Orange Crush"
10. "How the West was Won (and Where It Got Us)"
9. "Near Wild Heaven"
8. "Fall on Me"
7. "Crazy"
6. "The Great Beyond (original mix)"
5. "Texarkana"
4. "So. Central Rain"
3. "Diminished"
2. "Radio Song"
1. "Lightnin' Hopkins"


Cereal (as comfort food). I stopped eating cereal about 12 years ago, when I joined the gym and cut back on super-processed food (in theory, at least, if not in practice). Of course there was the sugary cereal I knew wasn't good idea, but I ran the gamut up to the stuff I thought was healthy, because it was grains n' wheat n' whatever, but it's all more processed than anything. This after I probably had a bowl of cereal every day of my entire life up to then, if not as breakfast then as dinner, or a snack, or maybe my only meal of the day. But it had to go, along with milk (even if it was non-fat, which had its own issues). I might still have a bowl at my parents' house (there's always a jumbo container of Frosted Flakes among the other bad ideas in their massive pantry), but even that is maybe twice a year (and enough of a bad idea -- getting dizzy after consuming all that sugar -- that it sours me from the idea for quite a while after). And I got back into having a bowl of cereal as a snack many nights at the beginning of the pandemic as a treat, but even that was the same bad idea when my brain got clouded and the weight was packing on. Now, after a few years, I might have some if we have some milk to get rid (after getting some to use only a little in a recipe). I keep a box of Raisin Bran or Grape Nuts, and it was a comfort recently when I was ill for a few days. It's not my go-to-anymore, and certainly doesn't replace dinner (or have to), but it's nice to have as a back-up, and a treat to remind me of early days when I didn't have to think about how bad it actually is.

Late-night talk shows. It started with the TV defaulting to the 10 o' clock news after we got done watching a show and before we went to bed, and maybe leaving it on Channel 11 (the Fox network) for it to be ready when Sweetie got up the next morning. Then we actually left the sound on, then eventually had it on for progressively longer minutes, maybe catching up on some local news stories. Then it became actually maybe watching some then much of the broadcast, not as destination viewing but because it was on and that was easier, especially if it was just running in the background. Then, after we moved and during the pandemic, Sweetie started working later so I'd have it on just to have something on, since I don't care to watch TV but it was nice to have active images for a distraction while I was doing stuff on the computer on the couch. Then as Sweetie started working even later it also became putting on the 11 o'clock news on Channel 7 (ABC), and that ran into Kimmel (not at all "LIve!") so I would leave that on, first just for the monologue, if something from a skit caught my eye, then later watching more if he had a good guest. Then that became watching more of his show if he had a good second guest but, more likely, a good musical guest, so it could be much of the show, if not all. Then, when Sweetie was done with work and could rest and watch with me, we might get more picky, flipping when Kimmel hit a commercial, to Fallon (our alternative if Kimmel was a rerun), then eventually to Colbert if both of those struck out. (And the first time switching to Colbert was with The Talking Heads as guests, so he was legit for me, for never having watched his show before.) Then sometimes lingering (especially if Sweetie was up even later) to Meyers, which is actually the best of the night, for at least the beginning and "A Closer Look". Kimmel is a little goofy but has class, and pulls some great guests and local flavor for being in Hollywood; Fallon is really goofy but that's his thing and sometimes he can actually make it fun when it's not stupid, even recalling some of his SNL work, which gets him a pass. He also has The Roots, which would be enough; Colbert is stiff and goes from goofy to stupid too easily, but he can engage with guests and usually gives more time with them, and is able to live off the fumes of Letterman (whose early CBS days were the last time I watched non-SNL late-night TV); Meyers has by far the best writing, and a casual nature that he can have more fun and do more while being on a lower rung, which works best for him and even sets him off from his SNL era. I have yet to get to the end of a Meyers show (though I'm certainly up at that time (and beyond) since that's when I do my writing and reading before bed). I'm resisting making it a habit, going as far as not even looking up who the guests will be for that night, and I'm often mildly enthusiastic for nights with uninteresting guests or reruns so I can get more writing in. I feel a kinship with anyone who's up as late as me (even if it means they're plagued with insomnia, the late shift, or a baby). (Note: Since I started writing this I updated it about three times as my night became more entwined with the shows being on while I worked on tasks. It became a habit.) Update: Then I started going to bed at 1, with my day's last hour for reading instead of watching TV, so we're now only getting those shows to about the first commercial. Which also means no "A Closer Look" at all. Update update: Then I found the new "A Closer Look"s on YouTube, so we're watching that again.

Again, getting it now because I have a bunch more planned for the next one. And getting tired of this one sitting on my computer. But whatever it is to get it done and out, here it is.

Bonus track:
I had to write a short story for a writing evaluation. It was testing for data annotation (guiding AI)  so I probably did more than was necessary, but it's writing and I like how it turned out.
Please write a short story of 5-7 or more sentences about a green dancing Octopus with PhD in English Lit. Set the story in Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX offices on November 8, 2022. 
This is what seven years to get a PhD gets me?, Jack thought as he reached across his side of the cubicle for his coffee mug half-empty with cold peppermint tea. Keep telling yourself they hired you for your extensive knowledge of the intricacies of BEOWULF and not for being colored such a brilliant shade of green, somewhere between the neon hue of He-Man slime and the real slime he found every morning at the bottom of the Bahama water (overrated) on the way to work. At best he was a drone, just a tiny step above AI but legally required to take breaks; at worst he was the best decoration the office had. At least if he was AI he’d be destroying civilization by the end of the year, and that would be something to do. One arm lowered the mug to take a sip; another scratched the top of his head, not because it itched but just out of habit; another scratched his butt, because it itched; one tapped the sole area of the desk that wasn't covered in TPS reports but Gretchen must have been out since she wasn't on the other side of the cube wall to complain; two pushed up his body to make yet another futile attempt to get comfortable in these Godforsaken chairs; another recoiled after getting too close to Jim because touching another co-worker without explicit, written permission was grounds for dismissal, according to human resources, and he needed the job for his student loans; another clicked away from the pics of bad prom bitches to reveal his solitaire game (since these computers were stuck in 1997).
"Hey, you see this?" Jim called backward over his shoulder. “After FTX’ -- that’s what they call us, right? -- ‘sees $6bn in customer withdrawals’ -- blah, blah, blah -- ‘Binance boss Changpeng Zhao’ -- shaow, shao, shaoh, I can never get that right -- ‘says the company has signed a nonbinding agreement to buy FTX’s non-US unit.’ So we're getting bought. By... 'Binance’? Never heard of it."
Jack didn't reply since his orifices weren't used for speaking.
"We're either gonna get rich," Jim said, not turning around. "Or we'll lose our jobs."
Jack put down the mug and rubbed his chin with hopefully the arm that scratched his head and not his ass. He thought about how the total on his student loan went up last month -- his payment was all for interest, never for principal. He thought about how many times he’s seen the inside of this cubicle, and the computer monitor, and the mug, and Jim. He thought about the city beyond the unending ocean outside the window.
He sighed. They weren't going to get rich. They were never going to get rich. Grendel could never escape his fate.
"Oh, BI-nance," Jim exclaimed, enunciating clearly and slowly. "Like FI-nance, but... bi? There are two? Two what?"
Jack's tentacles sank before he thought of it. Just as they touched the floor they tensed then pushed to lift him out of the damned chair and upright, to his full stature, well above the tops of the cubicles around him. A wave of muscle rolled through one, from the far tip of his appendage up through his body to the top of his head, moving as much as his stiff form would allow. Those waves followed through each arm, eventually picking up a rhythm and shaking him minimally then soon to a full sway then a movement. None of his arms moved in unison -- they never did (why he was left out of the consortium, which led to this job) -- but like scratching his ass, suddenly Jack didn’t care. He was moving and for the first time in a long time it felt good. No more free than he was when he clocked in but this proved that he could move, no longer stuck in that cubicle for eight hours and a lunch.  Before Jack consciously realized what was happening he was twirling and shimmying and boogieing and moving out of the cubicle and down the walkway down the middle of the office. He didn’t look to see where he was going. He just knew that he was going. Dr. Jack was moving, at last.

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