Spring is in the air and we’re getting more sunshine. While 2020 gives us plenty for pause, there is a need for optimism and comfort. For me, once I’m wearing a nice pair of sunglasses, it puts me in a good mood. It’s a bit of a ritual as I look for the last pair I wore or go ahead and buy glasses online. I do a similar thing when I buy flip flops online. Someone stylish wearing a cool pair of sunglasses symbolizes good times. Its a state of mind that I enjoy being in and you probably do too. I must say, if I’m healthy and have no business wearing a mask, I’ll find all the contentment and comfort that I need in a really snazzy pair of sunglasses. That beautiful pair of sunglasses will block away the ugliness and my worries, at least for a short while, long enough to take a stroll and know that all will feel a little more right in my world someday soon. Yes, we’ll be on vacation or some adventure before too long. A really snazzy pair of sunglasses can not only symbolize leisure; it can help give us a healthy dose of hope.
Category Archives: Essays
Editor’s Note: For those equally attracted to prose and to comics, Jerome Charyn has quite a significant connection with the comics medium. He has collaborated with some of the best artists in Europe. For instance, you’ll want to check out titles written by Jerome Charyn and illustrated by Francois Boucq. A new title is in the works too. For additional posts, including those featuring comics, go right here.
Saul was the first king in the Bible but, as writer Jerome Charyn points out, he took a backseat to the celebrated David. It was David who gained all the glory and Saul who was left in the shadow. That’s not to say Saul wasn’t worthy. He simply wasn’t favored by God. It’s a tough place to be and a lot of people can relate to that. In his distinctive and vivid way, Charyn collects in his new book some of his best work on the theme of the underdog, the one deserving yet less embraced. In the new book, Charyn also provides a look back at a writer’s influences. In the Shadow of King Saul is a 272-page paperback, available as of August 28th, published by Bellevue Literary Press.
It matters little if you’re famous or unknown when it comes to being an underdog. New York mayor Ed Koch, for instance, shares a similar spot with Saul too. In one piece, Ellis: An Autobiography, the reader follows Charyn down the mean streets of the Bronx in the ’40s to an unfolding immigrant’s tale. The featured guest in this narrative is the famously accessible yet often maligned Ed Koch. In the process, it seems that everything is revealed all at once in a kaleidoscope of rich detailed observations. New York City, a city of ups and downs, had reached the brink in 1975 and was nearly bankrupt. Enter Ed Koch. He turned the Big Apple into a boomtown again. But the featured guest ultimately takes a backseat to his city since it’s New York City that’s the real star.
No one person, after all, is so much a star as part of something bigger. As Charyn makes clear in his enchanting writing, the glory is in the details. In another piece, Faces on the Wall, Charyn reflects on the power of film–and Hollywood in particular. MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer ran a tight ship but, in the end, the flickering screen held its own sway:
“The simplest screen was much bigger (and darker) than any of the movie moguls. The studios could tyrannize the content of a film, declare a land of happy endings, but they weren’t sitting with you in the dark. They could control Joan Crawford, but not the hysteria hidden behind those big eyes, or the ruby mouth that could almost suck you into the screen.”
Charyn takes pleasure in sharing the lesser known achievements. His admiration for such literary greats as Saul Bellow and Isaac Babel is infectious. But, with the same gusto, he champions less known writers like Samuel Ornitz and Anzia Yezierska. It is in doing so that he honors his offbeat choice for a hero, the much maligned and misunderstood King Saul.
In the Shadow of King Saul is a 272-page paperback, available as of August 28th, published by Bellevue Literary Press.
Editor’s Note: Comics Grinder strives to cover all aspects of our culture, including the rising trend in vaping. Well, we’ve come a long way in a few years. Here is a guest column by Collin DeSoto on some things to be mindful of regarding good care and maintenance of your vaping device.
Guest column by Collin DeSoto
Every vaper knows the hassle of their device breaking or not performing well, especially if they don’t have a spare at hand. But there are steps you can take to make your vaping device last longer, ensuring that it’s not only working correctly when you need it but saving you money too.
While vaping is cheaper than smoking traditional cigarettes, no one wants to be left out of pocket when their latest investment stops working before they’ve barely had a chance to enjoy it. With the cost of a single vaping device potentially being in the hundreds of dollars, it pays to take care of it, ensuring it continues to work for months or even years.
Try out these seven tips for making your vaping device last longer:
Avoid a burnt or dry hit
You’ll know if you’ve had a burnt or dry hit – it’ll cause a terrible taste. A burnt hit can lead to the coils heating the wicking material, which not only produces a taste you want to avoid but can damage your device too, severely reducing its lifespan.
A dry hit is usually caused by vaping when there’s either no juice or too little juice to heat. Make sure you keep an eye on the amount of e-juice that’s in your device before you switch it on and as you use it. A burnt hit can also happen if you hold down the power button for too long, causing the coil to overheat.
Regularly clean your coil
A coil that’s covered in gunk not only affects the flavor of the vape but how your device functions too. To really increase the lifespan of your device, take the time to keep it clean every few days, with a particular focus on the coil – you’ll get a consistently better taste too.
Most devices will come with cleaning instructions and you can even purchase a cleaning kit, ensuring your device remains fresh –as long as you remember to use it frequently.
User lower levels of VG
When you choose an e-liquid, the base will be a combination of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG). You can get varied combinations to suit exactly what you’re looking for. Liquids that have a higher content of VG will result in a vape that feels smoother and thicker and produces more vapor.
While some vapers prefer high levels of VG, it can damage your device, reducing its lifespan and clogging up coils quicker. If you really want your device to last longer, try e-liquids that have higher levels of PG. Or if you want to stick to your current combination increase how frequently you clean your coils and choose a device that has larger coils to prevent gunk gathering.
Vape in short bursts
Having your device constantly turned on will damage it and lead to it overheating. If your aim is to increase the length of time before you need to pay up for another device, short bursts are the way to go.
Inhaling deeply or several times close together means the coil gets too hot and doesn’t have enough time to cool between vapes. Try to give the device a chance to cool between hits and take your finger off the power button.
Store it correctly
If you’ve gone through a few devices and you don’t usually give a thought about how they’re stored, it could be time to change your habits. Ideally, your vaporizer should be stored within a dry case that’s kept out of direct sunlight. Through proper storage, you can increase how long your device will last for.
Recharge your battery
How often do you recharge the battery on your vaporizer? You shouldn’t let it drain completely but you also shouldn’t let it overcharge either, so you need to keep an eye on your battery power as you vape to boost how long the battery will last.
Try to get into the habit of charging your battery every time you store your device.
Disconnect your cartomizer and battery
If you’re not going to be using your e-cig for an extended period of time, such as when you’re asleep, disconnect your cartomizer, the section that contains the coil and e-liquid, from the battery. Even when not in use, it can continue to drain the battery a little and through disconnecting you can increase the time between necessary charge, helping to make your vaping device last longer.
It has been some years since I’ve gone to the races. Here in Seattle, the racecourse to head to is Emerald Downs. I will be making a return to it on opening night, for the first live race of the season, which is set for April 8th. The race will kick off the 22nd season and it starts at 5 pm. There will be a fireworks show presented by Washington Cedar & Supply to follow. I will place my bet. And I sure hope to be counting my winnings followed by a good cocktail. Such is the plan. For now, I can share with you a story about horse racing.
Now, any sports bet is a highly sophisticated endeavor. Even if your betting is based upon a feeling in your gut. Most likely, you’ve done some sort of research and/or are following some reasoned logic. Maybe it’s just the fact that you always bet on your favorite team. Maybe your dog touched your sleeve and it was Wednesday, your lucky day. Whatever works for you.
How about horse racing? Now, that seems pretty exotic for some folks. You could rely upon the name of the horse for good luck. That’s a start. Following the odds is good. Researching is good. Add whatever extra sprinkle of good luck, and hope for the best.
Ah, then there’s the classic nail-biter of a race with a couple of horses neck and neck. It happens more often than you might think. The horses are out their giving it all they’ve got. They’re competitive in their own way. They’re in it to win it! There are no ties, only one winner. And the photo finish results can prove it down to the slight tilt of a nose.
But getting back to what happened to me. I was a young carefree guy with a bit of a swagger and attitude. This was back in my college days in Houston. We were at Sam Houston Race Park. And I decided that day to place a good healthy fat bet on a horse that caught my fancy for some reason. Hey, I’m no horse guy. I’ve never ridden on a horse. I don’t know that much about them one way or another. But I was there with a few guys and I was dating a girl who I wanted to impress. This was many years ago, mind you. And then the race began. They were off! Sweat was already rolling down by back as I took in the scene and my girlfriend gave my hand a squeeze.
Just like you’d expect, the race got tighter and the real contenders closed in towards the last leg of the track. It was a fierce competition. The horses, the four that had emerged as the finalists, were tearing down the course. It was literally a blur. The announcer rattled off the names of each so fast as to mimmick what we were all seeing. In those seconds I lost myself in the sensation of primal competition. What goes on in the mind of a horse?!
To this day, I don’t recall the exact details, mostly the blur and excitement. At that very moment, I let out the highest pitch shriek I have ever yelled. It sounded like a little girl screaming at the top of her tiny little lungs! It was horrible. The race, ultimately, was not quite as close as we thought it would be. Close but not photo finish close.
My girlfriend gave me a wink. “I’ll have to make sure you man up tonight!” Wow, such a crude remark, in retrospect. But, we were crazy kids. My horse, whatever it was called, had lost. But I had come out the winner after all.
Dalton Trumbo was a very prolific writer. Even during the time he was black-listed during the Red Scare, he steadily kept on creating screenplays. His one weakness was writer’s block. He solved that my relaxing in a warm bath–with a typewriter. Yep, he wrote his best work while siting in his bathtub. We all do what we need to do.
Some of us out there would never dare ask for any kind of help when working on a writing project. And, sure, most of the time, most folks can handle something like an essay–but not always. There are a number of things that can help and I’ve tried them all at different times. Let’s see, the first thing is to have a clear mind that allows you to focus. But if various factors start to close in on you, and you have a looming deadline, then keep in mind that, all is not lost. You can always find essay writing help.
Now, in college, I thought of myself as a perfectionist but, at such a young age, I was still battling a really bad case of procrastination. Lucky, for me, way back then, I had Barbara, a friend I could rely upon to help me out of a tight spot. In fact, she was my best friend in all the world. We’d go out. We’d kiss. She’d tease. But, basically, we were just friends. In the same spirit as our relationship, she wouldn’t come right out and write my whole paper for me, even though I sometimes begged her to. But, rubbing my back, and reassuring me with hugs, she would provide the necessary hints to get me going. And that always did the trick. She got me going really well with jokes, puns, even acting out passages I should dictate. She never charged a fee, of course. But I would easily have paid for her services. One of the best helping sessions, perhaps the most inspired, was Barbara’s doing a sort of charades to “Beowulf.” Yes, all those years ago, before the internet, and before that venerable classic had yet to be turned into a movie. It was such thick reading, I never dreamed it was possible to turn it into a movie!
Inspiration can never be rushed. It’s like they say, a watched pot never boils. But, once you relax, that’s when the creative juices start flowing. It’s as simple as three B’s: in Bed, on the Bus, or in the Bath. Those are three places that you find yourself off guard and ideas bubble up to the surface. I recall another story from my early years. I had a little studio apartment. I had undressed and was just about to jump into the shower when inspiration hit me. I had been feverishly trying to figure out the ending to a short story and, right then and there, I had it. I had the whole ending just dangling in front of me. I knew I could either think about it in the shower or I could rush to my typewriter. I chose to just sit down naked and start typing. It was actually pretty liberating. And, in no time at all, I had my story set down on paper! And there was a bonus to all this. The doorbell rang and I remember, just like an impulsive youth, I ran up and answered it without covering up a stitch. I had a very good guess as to who was at my door. It was my old pal, Barbara. She had never quite seen me in all my glory. I guess she was impressed. I know that we dated seriously for a while after that.
Editor’s Note: Above photo is by Julia E. Light. Find her work here.
I moved to Seattle many years ago and, while I still like to travel, I find it to make a good home base. It used to be thought that Seattle was, despite the media scrutiny, the best kept secret. I moved in 1993. Grunge was in full tilt, Microsoft was on the rise, and Starbucks and Amazon were well on their way. The gray skies were oddly reassuring. The mellow weather was a welcome relief from the humid burden of Houston. And, just like Elvis, I swaggered my way onto the scene. I painted. I drew. I photographed. I wrote. Little by little, it happened in Seattle.
Today, I continue to paint, draw, photograph, and write. And I blog.
Many years ago, I set out to create meaningful work. In the end, I wanted things to add up to something that could be called art. I never stopped believing. And I never will.
Over time, I developed a specific working method. I write in notebooks that eventually make their way onto a laptop and so on. I sketch in a sketchbook. I draw and photograph something every day. Over the years, along with prose and drawings, I have created a number of comics. One of my earliest creations was a full length comic book entitled, MAN (sic). The title alone cracked me up but the content wasn’t particularly humorous. It was a collection of stories, some based on dreams and some just poetic observations. I believe that was around 1996. It was fun and underground. It came and went.
Today, I have much to be grateful for and look forward to. I have created more than enough work in comics to easily fill more than one collection. For now, I have the book of collected work, A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories. At some point, it’s important to gather up one’s work, organize it, scrutinize it, and get it published one way or another. Only then, can you feel like you can move on to something else. And I am definitely working on that.
In the future, I want to show my art more, get more work published, and keep on writing. I consider posting to this blog a very important part of my writing. Some posts are only meant to be lighthearted and others run deeper. The activity of blogging is useful in so many ways. It’s one of those habits that I’m more than happy to continue to indulge indefinitely in one way or another.
Times will continue to change. Lives will continue to change. You do well to hold on to as much consistency as possible. Whether as a state of mind, or as an everyday ritual, it has happened, continues to happen, for me in Seattle.
Roy and I were just hanging out at the offices of Comics Grinder when we began to consider the current crisis in the Middle East. I had told Roy that Hillary Clinton was talking, actually warning, about the possibility of an Islamist state emerging from Syria and Iraq. This brought to Roy’s mind an essay by Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” The Hedgehog represents Plato and Big Ideas. The Fox represents Aristotle and Small Ideas. It is a classic that explains the virtues of knowing many small things as opposed to knowing, embracing, being blinded by, only one big thing.
As many of you can imagine, there is a lot of cheesecake that makes its way into comics. As a critic, this is a can of worms that you open when you’re ready for the shit storm that follows when daring to criticize a major comics title. This is what just happened to Janelle Asselin, a seasoned professional in the comics industry after she dared to criticize the above cover for “Teen Titans #1,” published by DC Comics, home to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Can you guess what Ms. Asselin may have taken issue with?
Easter turned out to be a very nice day. I’ve just walked around my Seattle neighborhood of Fremont to surmise the current situation, take the pulse of the zeitgeist, and just get some fresh air. There’s a flyer I’ve seen a number of times and I thought I’d share it with you. Apparently, there’s this neighborhood cat, Grey, who loves to take strolls and just wander about. But he keeps getting picked up by well-intentioned people who turn him in to the local shelter! I had friends who were constantly compelled to pick up neighborhood pets they were certain they were lost only to find out that these pets were simply doing their own thing, not lost at all. Anyhow, as the above flyer makes clear, Grey, and his owner, have been dealing with this for quite some time and so a flyer went up pleading with people to just leave well enough alone. Here his Grey’s message in its entirety:
“Justin M. Damiano” is a short work in comics by Daniel Clowes that appeared in an anthology edited by Zadie Smith, “The Book of Other People,” in 2008. As a satire on our current state of being, it should be required reading for anyone who regularly comments on the internet. Shia LaBeof is accused of, and apparently admits to, lifting this story and turning it into a short film, “Howard Cantour.com.” Maybe LaBeof appreciated the story or maybe he just thought it was cool. His arguments, if they at least came from him and weren’t more of his prank plagiarism, might be interesting. What is most interesting is how this little story of Justin M. Damiano has come to light to a wider audience.
Clowes has proven to have an uncanny feel for contemporary alienation and the skill to say something…er, original. Here is where Shia LaBeof would take great issue with the “discredited” concept of originality. He would cry out someone else’s words about Duchamp’s recontextualizing and that would be that. Okay, so Clowes has not literally created something “original” but, then again, he has. LaBeof can skywrite his apologies but he’ll still be dealing with Clowes’s attorneys. That’s not to say that, in theory, LaBeof couldn’t end up a pretty decent provocateur. But, no, if you view his movie lifted from the Clowes story, word for word, you see a pathetic amateur move to steal someone else’s work. In other words, it’s an asshole move. That means Shia LaBeof is an asshole, not a bad boy artist.
But, whatever. Clowes (just like Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and Adrian Tomine) has tapped into something sad and has plucked some gems of excellent satire in his day. In his story about a movie review blogger, Clowes gives us another character for him to hang his social commentary on. Justin M. Damiano makes it clear that we see the problem but we’re so much a part of it that we’re okay with letting out of big sigh, just before we plunge right back into the void: the world of gazing, self-importance, and blather. That is the world that Damiano is immersed in and so are the rest of us. We can pull ourselves away from it but it’s still there. It’s bigger than all of us. And, worse still, it’s not going away. That would take a whole new shift, a fundamental change in behavior, and we’re just not ready for that. He can’t help his compulsion to write movie reviews on his blog because that is who he is. He claims to be a champion of cinema but that’s just an excuse to hide from life. With a better balanced life, he might write better balanced reviews, perhaps less often, perhaps not at all.