Sunday, June 18, 2023

Back in Blue and Gold

Inside the Rec Hall/Pavilion/University Credit Union Center. Hasn't changed a bit.

Wallowing in some nostalgia this weekend, as Karen and I returned to our alma mater, the University of California, Davis, to watch our future niece-in-law, Charlene, celebrate her MBA graduation. Forty years ago, when Karen and I graduated in this arena, it was called the "Rec Hall." By the time our girls graduated in the same arena, they'd built a new recreation hall so they called it the "Pavilion." In the years since then, UCD sold the naming rights so today it's the "University Credit Union Center." It's still the exact same brutalist concrete blockhouse as ever. 

The campus has built up a lot since I went there, but the dorm where Karen and I met still stands about 100 yards away. I saw my old observatory atop another building about 100 yards the other way. A lot of good things happened within a 100-yard circle of where I was standing on Saturday. Including Charlene's graduation!

My nephew, Brian, and his brilliant betrothed, Charlene.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

My Reuben Award

If you ever get a chance to do a favor for Karen Green, don't hesitate! 

Karen, the curator of comics and cartoons at Columbia University, is teaching a class on comics and asked me to Zoom in last week to talk about color in storytelling--not just coloring the sky blue and grass green, but using color as a narrative tool to deliver information and evoke emotion. Since all of my graphic novels have had a different approach to color, I leaped at the chance to drone about it! I also touched on the historical methods and limitations of printing color comics, and showed examples of old comics that I thought used color in especially interesting ways. I think my 90-minute talk went well and the students were smart and terrific.

Well, today I got a box from Karen ice-packed with all the bread, meat, cheese, pickles and condiments I need to make perfect Reuben sandwiches straight from Katz's famous deli in New York! Holy Cannoli! As I told Karen when I thanked her, she had no way of knowing that Reubens are my favorite sandwich, going back to when my Mom and I used to make them when I was a kid. It was kind of our quiet thing, and I still judge new restaurants by sampling their Reuben. 

It was an unexpected, unnecessary, but very kind and thoughtful gift. Thanks very much, Karen! I owe you a thousand.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Great Power, Not So Great Responsibility

Reading the many tributes to the late comic book artist John Romita Sr., whose influential work I admired very much, a lighter realization with universe-shattering implications dawned on me. 

Romita once drew my friends, Wendy and Richard Pini, into a Ghost Rider comic book written by Tony Isabella. Ghost Rider knows the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers. This puts me two degrees of separation from everyone in the Marvel Universe.

Likewise, writer Louise Simonson and artist John Bogdanove wrote my friend and editor, Charles Kochman, into their Superman comic books. In fact, Charlie edits Clark Kent's novels, which means Superman and I share the same editor (which genuinely delights me!). This puts me two degrees of separation from everyone in the DC Universe.

You see where I'm going with this. There's a possibility that I am some sort of multiverse nexus, a portal bridging different realities, which could make me the most powerful and dangerous being in existence. If aliens or time travelers suddenly appear to blast me into atoms, you'll know why.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


I saw this on a friend's feed this morning and it made me laugh: the fine folks who make Styrofoam once sent MAD Magazine a scary lawyer letter and MAD turned it into a joke. That took some guts.

Way back when I was a newspaper reporter, I got a nearly identical scary lawyer letter from the WHAM-O corporation because I'd written an article about the sport of "Frisbee Golf." That's what the official rules called it, that's what the participants called it, that's what the signs on the course called it, so that's what I called it. WHAM-O, which manufactures Frisbees, insisted that in all future articles the sport must be referred to as "Plastic Flying Disc Golf," and asked for an editorial retraction/correction. We ignored the latter, and since the sport was unlikely to be covered by our paper again, we ignored the former as well. It still made my pulse quicken to know that WHAM-O lawyers were watching my every move.

I understand that companies have to protect their trademarks, lest they become the common names for things they aren't, like . . . well, like all the examples given in MAD's cheeky reply. I also did not know that plastic foam containers, cups, plates, etc. are not actually made of official Styrofoam brand foam products, or at least they weren't in 1990. So I think we've all learned a valuable lesson today.