Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category


monsieur_jeanDuring a tragedy, I try to stay away from Facebook. Some of my friends (who are wonderful, kind, and intelligent people) just start posting stuff that puts me on edge. Then I try to figure out why I’m on edge, and then I start playing the game Who-I-Most-Agree-With-and-Why, and it really distracts me from the actually tragedy.

Finally, it ends with a blog post. Like this one.

On Friday, Paris was attacked by terrorists. Before that, terrorists also attacked Beirut. Horrible. Terrible. Heartbreaking.

Then, I see people on Facebook complaining that more people are upset about Paris and didn’t even know (or care) about Beirut. The implicit judgment: You hypocrite. And some astute people are able to point out tragedies that have taken place all over the world — Peshawar, Qasoor, Karachi, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Serbia, Croatia, Boko Haram, Darfur, Palestine, and Israel. Let’s also not forget the atrocities happening in Central and South America. The implicit judgment: Do your homework, you hypocrite.

It’s true. The tragedy in Paris hit me the hardest. Is it because I think French lives are more important than the lives of people elsewhere? Not at all. I want to care about all tragedies in equal measure, but I don’t, and I don’t think you do either. I think it comes down to how close we are to the tragedy.

I haven’t done a lot of international traveling in my life. I’ve been to Russia, and I’ve been to Mexico, and that’s about it. But I’ve watched movies by Francois Truffaut. And I adore them. I’ve seen Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie and A Very Long Engagement several times, not to mention other great French films. I’ve read Monsieur Jean by Dupuy and Berberian — and countless other French graphic novels. Art and literature put me in closer proximity to that place. Paris, a place I’ve never visited, feels alive through decades worth of exposure to great French artists. Read more


MOBY-DICKThis weekend, I finished Moby Dick (Or, the Whale). D.H. Lawrence called it “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.” And I’d have to agree. It is truly strange, even by today’s standards. At first, I liked the book, then I hated it, and then finally I loved it. The book has an odd charm that isn’t fully realized until you get to those last chapters.

The premise is absurd: A captain seeks revenge against one particular whale. The intermingled drama and comedy is positively Shakespearean. Certain scenes are terrifying and surreal, such as Captain Ahab’s speech after his harpoon glows from the lightning strike. The tension between Starbuck and Ahab is fascinating. Like a classic tragedy, the ending is both inevitable, predictable, and still shocking. And yet, the novel is wrapped in the tedious journalistic details of the whaling industry in the 1800s.

Moby Dick would be an easy novel to abridge. Simply take out all those chapters that go into explaining everything you never wanted to know about the genus and species of whales, the anatomy of whales, how different countries hunt whales, maritime whaling law, the mythic and symbolic role of the color “white,” and how whale oil is stored and shipped. However, there’s something about these chapters that contribute vitally to the whole.

One of the greatest treasures within Moby Dick is the hidden wisdom–thoughts on life and death, faith and disillusion, love and loss. My favorite passage, which captures all of it in one heartbreaking bundle, might be: Read more


Some thoughts on the release (finally) of the Fantastic Four teaser trailer:

  • I’m digging the Philip Glass score.
  • Not digging the obligatory light shooting in sky to open a portal.
  • The official website describes it as a “contemporary reimagining.” I’m conflicted. I don’t want this movie to tread the same ground as the other movies (3, including Roger Corman’s). But would I prefer to see what Marvel Studios would do with the FF in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Yeah.

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Antigone confronts CreonA few months ago, a student from the University of Rochester in New York contacted me. She was taking an English class on adaptations. Part of her research paper included the adaptation of Antigone that I created along with Tom Kurzanski. (The comic is available online in its entirety. Go to my published work page and scroll down. It’s there, all 32 pages.)

From her email:

I love your adaptation; I especially love seeing Antigone‘s power shown so blatantly. In looking at your other works, it seems that female characters take a large role. In your Antigone, female power seems to be a very central part of how you tell the story. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about this. Was portraying feminism in Antigone your intention? Was this theme of power used in order to strengthen the plot in any way, or was it more of a message in itself?

My response:

Obviously, debating the definition of what makes something “feminist” is almost as old as the movement itself. I consider myself a feminist, and I try to incorporate ideas about gender and power into my work. I see Antigone as a powerful character — in part — as a function of Greek dualism. The obvious counter example would be her sister Ismene. However, I see Creon as the true weak one. His desperation to hold onto his political power has weakened him. He pretends to not care about the will of the people, but it’s clear that he does care. He’s a bully who hides behind his authority, whereas Antigone‘s power comes from her own conviction of right and wrong and the will of the gods. I see Antigone as a character who, through no fault of her own, is constantly challenging people on their own convictions. That’s why I had Antigone kiss her sister in the opening scene. It was her way of forcing the issue of their incest origins. It was a power play, and a rather cruel one.

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oddfellowsYesterday, I had dinner by myself at Oddfellows. I wanted to get a quick bite before going to a book signing. (Rough life, huh?) Oddfellows is perhaps my favorite place in Dallas to eat. The place isn’t too crowded–except for brunch. It’s a cool restaurant in a great neighborhood, relaxed environment, lots of natural light, and good food. Now you have my two-sentence Yelp review.

I was sitting there, reading a book (because that’s how I roll). And this server walked up to me. He was probably in his early twenties. He had red hair and a camp counselor smile. He looked like the kind of attractive guy who no one could imagine having sex with, because it’d feel like you were befouling a muppet. The guy cheerfully approached.

“Hey there, big fella, can I get you something to drink?”

Cue the record scratch. Big fella? Big. Fella. What grown-ass adult calls another grown-ass adult “big fella,” who? Big fella is what you call a tubby kid when he’s at Disneyland. (“Hi, big fella, are you excited to meet Mickey Mouse?”) Do not ever call me “big fella.”

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hopkins_chessI really enjoy (and highly recommend) the Tactics Time newsletter by Tim Brennan. A few times each week, he sends an email with a tactical conundrum from a real game, something that you might actually see over the board–not just tactical compositions. He also includes a little bit of interesting commentary on the game itself.

Each newsletter features an inspirational quote. I wanted to share a few of my favorites.

“In chess, attention is more important than concentration.” – Frank J. Marshall

“When you strike at a king, you must kill him” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All great achievements require time.” ― Maya Angelou

“Tactics are it. People under 2000 shouldn’t study anything else. You need to work on the ability to count and calculate.” – Mig Greengard

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

“The weaker the player the more terrible the Knight is to him, but as a player increases in strength the value of the Bishop becomes more evident to him, and of course there is, or should be, a corresponding decrease in his estimation of the value of the Knight as compared to the bishop.” – Jose Capablanca

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Doolittle by PixiesBack in the old days, you’d invite a friend over and they could peruse your CD shelf, quietly nodding to your choices. I guess people still have CD (and record) collections, but almost everything I have is now stored within the near-infinite, intangible bytes of my iPod. If I could pull my favorites and put them on the shelf, here they are.

I made one of these lists for Facebook a few years ago. And I think another such list is hiding in the vast archives of this blog.

My mood changes, so do my preferences, but some albums stay at number 1. Hello again, Doolittle, my old friend.

Feel free to post your own list or debate my impeccable musical tastes in the comments section.

All links go to Spotify–unless I couldn’t find the album.

20. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case
Favorite song: “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood”

For me, this is Neko Case at her best — wistful, haunting, melodic.

19. From A Basement On The Hill by Elliott Smith
Favorite song: “King’s Crossing”

This album hit me hard. Like all great works, it holds together by a string, but it still holds.

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Wonder Woman taller than SupermanTomorrow, I’m speaking at SMU’s 49th Annual Women’s Symposium. My 30-minute talk will be about the historical and social impact of women superheroes, from Wonder Woman to Emily Edison. In particular, my jumping off point is this letter to Lego from 7-year-old Charlotte Benjamin. What I will try to say in 30-minutes, she says much more concisely (and eloquently) in just a few words:

“Let them go on adventures and have fun. OK!?! Thank you.”

Comic book writers, take note. It’s all right there. Let them go on adventures and have fun.

In honor of Wonder Woman and my presentation, I want to share something I wrote that never got published. Smart Pop Books, a few years ago, was considering a Wonder Woman anthology to accompany a possible Joss Whedon helmed Wonder Woman movie. Of course, we all know what happened there. I wrote the first part of my essay, working title: “Wonder Woman and Superman in Conversation: The Gender Gap in DC’s New Frontier,” and then stopped when the DC movie fell through. So, the excerpt below is unpolished and unfinished, but some good ideas exist in there somewhere. Feel free to read and look for them. Read more


Last year, I wrote and performed a story as part of the Oral Fixation series. Now it’s available on Huffington Post.

For those of you who want “all the dirt” on my divorce, it’s here. Kinda. Original title was “One Request Before You Leave: How a road trip, the Beatles, and a motel in Missouri made me a better ex-husband.” But long titles are pretentious and don’t work for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes, so it’s been shortened to a more respectable “How a Road Trip Set to a Beatles Soundtrack Made Me a Better Ex-Husband.” Either way.

I’ve received a lot of positive responses from people, both friends and strangers. I’m glad that my story (mine and Melissa’s, actually) has been able to connect with others and their own experiences. What more could a writer want? I believe in good divorces–amicable partings, where parents can remain not just “friendly” but friends, and they can work together in the best interest of their child. Thank you Melissa for your blessing on this story and, the one thing that wasn’t really mentioned, how you played such a huge role in supporting me with your patience and kindness during that difficult time.

And thank you to Oral Fixation creator/director/editor Nicole Stewart for the opportunity. Between this and Lyndsay Knecht’s behind the scenes story for KERA’s Art&Seek, we’ve gotten about as much mileage (pun intended) as one could ever hope for from a single performance. Now that it’s on YouTube, I wish I wouldn’t have shaved my beard at that time. Yes, I look strange to myself without a beard. That’s my only complaint. I should have grabbed a fake beard from the prop room.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” — Ernest Hemingway

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