This began as a very hard column for me to write. Obviously, the whole world has other things on its mind, now, and a few homespun witticisms from me just seemed… well, somehow inappropriate. My wife's in Boston on business and can't get home. Then, I got word that my brother-in-law's best friend was killed in a traffic accident while vacationing in Mexico with his father on the same day as the terrorist hijackings, and because of the closed airports, they can't even get the poor bastard's body back to the States.
So, sitting and drinking beer in my kitchen with my brother-in-law, whose sister is on the other side of the country and whose best friend is dead, we started telling stories to each other to make ourselves feel better.
And it worked, so I'm going to keep on telling some stories.
Warren Ellis was in town last week, to speak on a panel at WEB2001, and to do a signing and a little Q&A at Rory Root's fine store, Comic Relief.
The WEB2001 panel was just alarmingly good. Arranged on couches upon a raised stage in the Moscone Center, pioneer software engineer Grady Booch, music entrepeneur Thomas Dolby Robertson, and comics brainiac Warren Ellis, as well as moderators Marc Rettig and Mimi Rosenheim, sat and regaled us with Big Thoughts and Funny Stories. Honestly, I found myself getting smarter just sitting in that room listening to them chat.
The standout concepts and stories were all instructive to the speakers' personalities. Hearing Booch describe, with an expansive wave of his arms, how software is beautiful, and saying without irony that he has his upcoming mid-life crisis planned and scheduled; watching Dolby play "Ooops, I Did it Again" as a ring-tone on his Nokia, as a more sophisticated MIDI-type version on his split-keyboard phone, and then isolating off the vocals from an .mp3 version played on his PDA, all while pantomiming a Japanese businessman dry-humping his Handspring Visor on the Tokyo subway; and listening to Ellis relate that he'd been told that all first-time writers should be issued a fountain pen and a condom, so they could put the pen in the condom and scribble away to their heart's content without harming anyone... all this and more, was well-worth getting up first thing in the morning on a Saturday after a grueling week of intensive meetings and seminars.
Afterwards, Warren and Mimi and I met artist Brandon McKinney and his girlfriend Chrise for lunch. Brandon is the artist on Warren's upcoming Switchblade Honey as well as the artist on my own Planet of the Capes. After a little oohing and ahhing over his tone work on his finished inks for the first few pages of the Capes, Brandon started to regale us with tales of the Skywalker Ranch. He's doing illustrations for the Chronicle Books adaptation of Star Wars: Episode II, and has some office space at the Ranch at which he does his work.
I couldn't even listen to the poor guy, because we were eating lunch at Mel's Diner, which is decorated with all sorts of American Graffiti memorabilia… chief of which is the humongous poster of George Lucas, underneath which earnest Brandon sat. Too funny. Unca George loomed over all.
So after lunch we headed over to Berkeley and got some coffee, talked about strategies for disseminating comics into the world, just hung out in Berkeley, waiting for the appropriate time. That was pretty fun, for a change. I don't really like Berkeley, as a city, very much, but that was cool.
And then, of course, was the signing itself, over at Rory's. If you've been to a comic book signing, forget about it. This wasn't like that one, at all. First, Comic Relief is more book store than comic store, so the physical surroundings were more reminiscent of a Notting Hill set, except with Planetary hardcovers and copies of Come in Alone instead of Moll Flanders and Shakespeare folios.
Second, every single one of the 160 or so people in line were well behaved. Even the cheeky ones were good-natured instead of abrasive, and everyone had a chance to speak with Warren. I think more than a few were surprised at his person, because Warren is not the slavering ogre most expect from his more strident online posts. Genteel and well-spoken, I never once saw him less than gracious for the full three hours of the signing.
After dinner for eight, the bill for which, I should note parenthetically, was picked up by our host, Mr. Root, we all went to hear Warren expound for another two and a half hours on all matter of subjects, ranging from comics projects to dinner parties with Patrick Stewart and Wendy Neuss.
Warren's almost superhuman, I tell you.
So, not to be too maudlin, I'm going to sign off, here, and remember what the world was like last week at this time.
Maybe I'll go get a New York Strip steak from the grocery store, and a six-pack of Red Stripe, and grill myself up a steak dinner and drink five of those beers. I'll leave the last one in the back of the fridge for a while, in honor of my brother-in-law's best pal, J.P., and how that tattooed, drunken, delinquent would come over to my house and cause trouble and tell lies in a too-loud voice while he ate all my food and drank all my beer…
…but he never would take the last one.
By the spring of 1841, a lot of people in Springfield thought Mary Todd had jilted Lincoln for firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's quote was from Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, by Tom Robbins, and is a fine read. Robbins' also-excellent Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was made into a largely uneven film starring Uma Thurman, and was the film mentioned in last week's hint.
While you can get your news and commentary about the funny books all over the damn Internet, I usually make it a point to let slip at least one bit of information at theLoose Cannon Message Board that I post nowhere else. Just so you know.