A 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?
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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Yesterday, 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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I’ve always considered myself a feminist.
As someone who makes up stuff out of thin air, I’m concerned with how I portray women in my stories — to do so in a way that is honest and fair and responsible, to create stories that offer compelling characters, both male and female. I want good stories, and I believe this is EASIER to accomplish when you approach narratives as an intelligent, compassionate human being.
However, having been raised on a steady diet of male-oriented genre fiction, a writer can fall into one of the many tired, sexist tropes that besiege modern storytelling: damsel in distress, stay in the kitchen, double standards, slut shaming, and many more. These tropes exist because of lazy one-dimensional writing. Writers use the female characters to merely support the male characters.
Out of curiousity, I wanted to see how I fared against the Bechdel Test. What is the Bechdel Test, you say? To quote Ashe Cantrell at FilmSchoolRejects.com:
“The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter.”
After a quick read through my comics, here’s how I stand.
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I 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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April has a list she does every year near her birthday. While I commend her for wanting to do “33 Things” before she turns 32, I’m turning 38 next year — and “39 things” is a lot of things, even if it’s just piddling things. I’ll be old, one day, if I’m lucky. And I don’t want to think of 99 things when I turn 98. Sorry. I’m sticking with 10. It’s a good number.
1. Print and distribute my short story collection.
2. Memorize a poem that I like.
3. Memorize some more Mark Twain quotes. (Everybody likes Twain quotes, right?)
4. Less Facebook. More books.
5. Shine shoes like a pro. Pop that rag!
6. Get my USCF rating to above 1400.
7. Finish “Improve Your Chess Tactics” by
8. Every week, work on my novel.
9. Get our garden going.
10. Meditate more.
Back 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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Audacity Theatre Lab is pleased to announce the 2014 Dallas Solo Fest, May 15-25, 2014 at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park. Eight solo shows highlight this inaugural festival with several local performers as well as performers coming in from around the country.
The inaugural Dallas Solo Fest line-up includes Deanna Fleysher’s Butt Kapinski, Veronica Russell’s A Different Woman, John Michael’s Crossing Your I’s, Zeb L. West’s Innocent When You Dream, David Mogolov’s Eating My Garbage, Alexandra Tatasky’s Beast of Festive Skin, Elaine Liner’s Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love and Danny O’Connor’s Bouncing Ugly. Collectively, these performers represent a wide variety of solo performance styles from storytelling, puppetry and improvisational clown pieces to pieces that defy easy explanation.
The purpose of the Dallas Solo Fest is to celebrate extraordinary solo theatre as well as increase awareness and appreciation for the form in the north Texas area.
The Dallas Solo Fest will be produced by Audacity Theatre Lab and will play at the Margo Jones Theatre. Located at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park at 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, TX 75210, the Margo Jones Theatre features ample free, well-lit parking, access to the DART Rail, and a handy BYOB policy!
Single tickets and Festival Passes for all shows go on sale April 23. Festival Passes, now on sale, include one admission to each festival show and are $55. Individual ticket prices for each show are $12. Reservations can be made at the Dallas Solo Fest website or by calling (214) 888-6650. Details about the shows, artists bios, the full schedule and ticket information at: www.DallasSoloFest.com
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I had a former student email me a few days ago, asking about how I got into comics. He was seeking advice on what to do.
There’s no singular way to get into comics. There’s no path except the one that works, and then it usually only works once and under precarious, fleeting conditions. A few things have worked for others, and any combinations of these tactics (listed below) would be better than doing nothing.
- In the words of Steve Martin, “be so good they can’t ignore you.” People like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison were always going to be successful, because eventually someone, somewhere would see the genius. The shine was too bright.
- Find a job where you can hide away or slack off while you actually write.
- Be homeless. You can access computers at the public library. You can spend your time writing while sleeping in a shelter somewhere in the evenings. I don’t know if this works.
- Take out loans, live under crushing debt, start your own small press company, and attend every major comic book convention as a publisher. You may eventually go bankrupt. However, by that time, you may be well-known enough to get some gigs elsewhere.
- Start a shitty web comic and self-publish your own projects.
- Find one small press company and befriend them. Intern. Run errands.
- Write about comics. Start a podcast or a blog, or both. Be a resource to others. If you can grow as a pop culture authority, eventually, someone might trust you to write for them.
- Find work as an editor, be really good, and then shift into writing.
- Pay an artist to work with you on a larger project. I paid someone to illustrate my first 24 page comic. Nice guy. From there, I started getting more breaks.
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