Dec 17, 2014

This Christmas, Give the Gift of TALL PULP

With the holidays fast approaching, you're probably wondering what to give that hard-to-shop-for person in your life....especially at the last minute. In a totally self-serving effort, let me suggest the gift of Tall Pulp , Pro Se Productions' anthology of stories featuring colorful characters from American folklore in a variety of pulp fiction settings.

Your loved ones will thrill to Greg Daniels as he relates how Mike Fink - the famous riverboat captain - fights Nazis. They'll get a thrill as Nancy Hansen relates her tale of the Leatherman. They can dive deeply into D. Alan Lewis' tale of legendary female pirate Anne Bonny, or head straight into the future with David White's portrait of Paul Bunyan in the 23rd century. They'll even learn some hidden history as Phillip Drayer Duncan relates the untold legacy of the Bowie knife....

But the most relevant tale in Tall Pulp - and this is where the self-serving comes in - is Crossing McCausland, about a metal-skinned man fighting crime in 1950s St. Louis. It's got plenty of gratuitous references to Missouri politics....gangsters....and the Crown Candy Kitchen. It's my first professional sale,and your loved ones will enjoy this and other tales. (Plus, they - and you - can always leave your honest review on Amazon....but I think they'll get a kick out of Tall Pulp).

Available in both softcover and Kindle format, Tall Pulp is a really good read. (Trust me, I've read the stories other than my own....and they're really good). So yes, I am shamelessly promoting this, but think of it as giving the gift of reading....and you'll gain immediate cool points when your loved one receives their copy of Tall Pulp.

So please buy it - you'll insure a great, pulp-flavored holiday. And yes, I am biased in that regard.

Dec 16, 2014

Remembering Phil Hartman: YOU MIGHT REMEMBER ME

To be totally honest, I didn't really care for Phil Hartman's work.

In light of the circumstances around his passing, that's not the most endearing sentiment to have. Words like "genius" and "talent" get thrown around....but except for his work on NewsRadio, much of his work left me cold. It didn't help that SNL was approaching what it eventually became - a middlebrow "live" show that went off like clockwork without any sense of creative anarchy. So I approached reading Mike Thomas' You Might Remember Me with great curiosity, but not with great enthusiasm

The result: Mike Thomas presents a very intriguing portait of a man who may have been more comfortable portraying fictional characters than in his own skin.
In many ways, You Might Remember Me reflects HBO's Life and Death of Peter Sellers - both men seemed adept at playing a variety of characters, and whose personal lives had a great deal of turmoil. Thankfully, Thomas practices a great form of discretion with Hartman's life - it's a warts-and-all portrait that feels all the more human. Granted, Hartman led a more varied life than most people - starting as a graphic artist for record covers, early involvement with the Groundlings, moving onto television and (seemingly) progressing as a solid character actor.

When the tragic end comes, Thomas pulls no punches...but he also gracefull describes the aftermath and loss. (It's to his credit that Thomas doesn't dwell or speculate on what happened the night of Hartman's death, but provides as much detail as he reasonably can).

In the end, part of the frustration with You Might Remember Me is that Thomas' subject was also....well, tough to get to know. This isn't meant as a criticism of the book, and to Thomas' credit, he paints a pretty vivid portrait of Hartman's life. You Might Remember Me is a relatively brisk and easy read, but it also feels a bit unfinished....but since the book portrays an actor who was always on a quest for identity, that isn't a drawback - it's part and parcel of the narrative, and definitely worth exploring.
Highly recommended

Dec 10, 2014

Turning Off The Endless Night

(Yes, that is a Graham Parker reference for the guys at The Comics Treadmill)

For the past week and a half, I've been dealing with laryngitis - working the charity auction at Chicago TARDIS meant using my voice quite a bit, and that - plus a pretty intensive schedule over Thanksgiving weekend - meant that by Sunday, I had no voice.

(By the way, raised over $2700 - only $100 less than last year - and the laryngitis was totally worth it. Most of my time was spent drinking tea, eating chicken soup with a shot of garlic, and not talking).

While I was recuperating, I spent quite a bit of time not only playing catch up on various tasks, but also reflecting on the past year. At this point last year, I had made a very conscious decision - at that point, I was severely burnt out. Massive Doctor Who related activities, the death of a friend, and excessive drama in several of my extracurricular activities led me to a very delicate place emotionally. Not so much hopeless as exhausted, and the resulting lack of energy impacted my ability to move forward in many ways. For me, 2013 was a very dark year for a variety of reasons....and I didn't want to stay in that darkness.

So my decision was simple - take an inventory of my activities, attitudes, and desires. Whatever felt more like a burden than a blessing needed to be let go. Any activities that felt too much, where I needed to let go and turn over to the care of others, I chose to leave and help transition new people in. For some activities where I felt that it "wouldn't go on without me", I adopted the attitude that nobody will pick up the ball unless I am willing to drop it.

In recent weeks, I have found that this past year has seen not only a renewed optimism, but that I've been able to make some really great accomplishments. My attitude has also become increasingly positive, and that even in those "dark nights of the soul", I feel a renewed sense of hope.

It has meant some radical changes - leaving Net Tuesday was a difficult decision, but leaving meant spending more time on that all-important search for work. This year has seen some minimal freelance work, moving me from "barely unemployed" to "underemployed" (and yes, I'm still plugging away). With more "free" time, I chose to pursue a freelance writing career....and that's resulted not only in formal publication, but also....well, I now have a page on Amazon. Go figure.

The greatest gift has been the ability - and opportunity - to begin reconnecting with my colleagues and friends. From a New Year's Eve party to several phone calls and coffee appointments, it's been great to reestablish those basic human connections, especially given a year of relative isolation. (And no, social media doesn't count). With the events in Ferguson, I will make a special effort to reach out to friends in Missouri. (Especially since it seems highly unlikely for a return visit in the near future). But knowing that I'm less alone - even on a superficial, of-course-people-like-me level - has been an immediate boost.

My life is by no means perfect....but for every moment of doubt and despair, there have been greater opportunities to embrace hope, joy, and love. I think it's safe to say (to extend the Graham Parker lyric) that I've finally found a switch to turn off the endless night.