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I discovered Wordless Wednesday from my friend Sandee of Comedy Plus, and I immediately loved it. It's fun and interesting because you post a photo that conveys a message without using words.
The image speaks for itself whether its a photo capturing a moment in our lives or a cartoon imitating us being ourselves. After posting your image or photo, copy and paste your link beneath Sandee's post on Comedy Plus' list of links then post Mister Linky's code beneath your photo and we'll share the same links. Here's Sandee's link to the code.
I’m working on a longer account of TCAF for PW, but here’s some photos to capture the high while it’s fresh. While the weekend was tinged with sadness over the passing of Canadian native son Darwyn Cooke, the general mood was a celebration of the kind of creative spirit that Darwyn embodied. TCAF s always a chance to catch […]
Actually, I guess the first couple of photos here are from March. (1) We hadn’t been to Old Town San Diego in a while and made a quick pilgrimage there one day during Wonderboy’s spring break. (2) Rilla’s bunny chain—entirely her own design—is the best Easter decoration I’ve seen in a long time. Those ears!
April for real:
(3) How Huck likes to rock his Math-U-See.
(4) Library day. I want that Eric Carle rug!
(5) Another library-day shot. What I love most about this photo is that the bed they’re on belongs to neither of them. It’s Beanie’s—the bottom bunk, which has long been the favorite place for my girls to sprawl. Beanie, meanwhile, does most of her own sprawling on Rilla’s bed. Go figure.
(6) Monarch caterpillar on our milkweed: always a sight that brings me joy.
(7) Wonderboy raised these sunflowers from a handful of old seeds spilled in the bottom of a bag of mostly-empty seed packets. The color surprised us!
(8) Also a surprise this year: the giant blooms on a neglected rosebush by our patio. Loads of them! It’s like Valancy went at the bush with her clippers.
(9) Playing with a Hobonichi Techo-style layout in my bullet journal. Mary Ann Scheuer and I had a fun Skype session last week to chat about my bujo system. What’s working these days: Separate books for my messy notes and my bullet lists. It’s sort of a left brain/right brain thing: I need a space for scribbly notes of all kinds, an unkempt, all-purpose thinking-on-paper space; but I also need nice, neat(ish) to-do lists with boxes I can fill in as I accomplish tasks. It took me a LOT of years—and the revelation of the multiple-insert traveler’s notebook—to figure this out: that I need the two separate spaces.
1. Grape soda lupines—my favorite San Diego wildflower
2. Washi makes to-do lists more fun
3, 4. The milkweed is doing its glorious thing
5. Rilla’s shamrock garland
6. The wonderful Jane LaFazio doing a watercolor demo during her class
7, 8. Then it was my turn to try
9. I’m so in love with color
My beloved husband, Greg Taylor, passed away on December 25, 2015, Christmas afternoon, around 2:30 pm. I would like to share our love story. We met on Craigslist (yes, Craigslist--they have a dating site). On a Sunday afternoon, September 23, 2007, I answered his personal ad and we exchanged our first emails. His personals posting had the heading as simply "hi" and the post was a list of funny and random things about him, including "I'm taller than you, even if you're tall." I responded with "hi back" and a corresponding list, including "I'm shorter than you, even if you're short. But most people say I don't 'look' short." We met for the first time on a Friday night, September 28, after work in front of the (now gone) Virgin Megastore in Union Square. I arrived first, and was listening to my iPod. As he approached, I removed my headphones, got flustered because he was so handsome, and my earbuds got tangled. I handed them to him to hold for a second, a gesture he for some reason found endearing and would mention for years later. We decided to walk and find a place to eat, and ended up at Yaffa Cafe on St. Mark's Street (also now gone). For many years later, on September 28 we would go back and meet in front of the Virgin Megastore, which eventually was turned into a Duane Reade drugstore (of course). We sat in the back courtyard and talked and talked and talked. He was a fifth-grade teacher, I was a children's book editor, he was studying history in grad school, I was always thirsty to learn more about everything. I liked sushi, he didn't eat raw meat. I had gone skydiving, he preferred his feet on the ground. But we couldn't stop looking into each other's eyes. His eyes were the most beautiful blue-gray. He told me they changed colors in the light, and I later discovered that they were sometimes flecked with green. I had a birthday party to attend later that night in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, and asked him if he wanted to come with me. When he agreed, I knew he liked me. (He had told me earlier that he hated Williamsburg.) He told me later that when I asked him to come with me, he knew I liked him, too. Now here's the "falling in love" montage. Kissing like there was no tomorrow. Going for walks--he showed me his neighborhood in Brooklyn and we walked to the Brooklyn museum and watched a dog frolic in the jumping fountain. It was there that we took our first picture together:
This is also the hat he wore when we first met.
Meeting each other's friends. House and dog sitting out in New Jersey (he LOVED dogs). Teaching me to play golf (he LOVED golf). Drinking a lot of wine (he LOVED wine). Introducing me to opera. Going to parties and weddings together, going to lots and lots of diners. (Later, when we briefly were looking to buy an apartment, it was important to us that the neighborhood have a diner.) Emails, texts, phone calls. Making each other laugh. Holidays. Supporting each other's careers.
Dog sitting Maggie, Roxie, and Caesar
He would share the books I edited with his students, especially Grace Lin's Year of the Dog, and he would proudly tell his students that he was friends with the real-life Melody who was a character in the book. When I attended his school's holiday concert, he introduced me as Melody and I was a celebrity. I later spoke to his school about being a children's book editor. We took a trip out to Iowa together, where he spent his summers as a kid. Showing off, he took us down a backroad where we promptly got stuck in the mud and he had to call his uncle for help--they laughed and said he was a city boy now.
Not a smart thing to do in a rental PT Cruiser
He started flying out to my parents' home in Southern California with me and ended up falling in love with California, and especially my parents' backyard. (He wanted to live there. In my parents' basement.) We played a lot of tennis and golf.
His mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he flew out to stay with her for six months to care for her. I went to visit him while he was there and spent Thanksgiving with his family and stayed in his childhood home. We moved in together into his tiny 5th-floor walk-up apartment in Park Slope. The two of us and his two cats, Venus and Serena, made a nice family. And then in October 2011 he proposed, on the same rock in Central Park where my parents got engaged. We were married less than a year later on July 21, 2012, in my parents backyard.
It was a glorious day, and we were excited to start a life together as husband and wife. And then he was diagnosed with cancer, synovial sarcoma, about six months after our wedding. You can read about that initial journey here. Major surgery, long recover, chemo, and then another long recovery. Just as Greg was starting to regain his strength, we found out that his cancer had recurred in January 2014. We knew that with Greg's type of cancer, once it came back, there was no cure. At first, Greg didn't want any treatment--he didn't want to go through chemo again. We decided to travel--to Rome, and then Paris. Greg left the US for the first time (aside from Mexico) in February 2014 and we went to Rome and had a glorious week. Before he died, Greg wanted to walk where Augustus walked.
On the night before we were to leave for Paris, he was struck by excruciating tumor pain. We stayed in Rome for another week while we stabilized the pain, and then flew back to NY where he agreed to try a pill form of chemo. We were told that if the chemo worked, it would probably only work for 3-4 months. That pill ended up working for 18 months, and although he wasn't feeling great all the time, we were able to still have a relatively stable life. The chemo turned his facial pigmentation and hair snow white. He hated how his face looked and so he covered it with facial hair. Kids especially would stare at him--either thinking he was a pirate, or Santa, or, as we joked, a pirate Santa. Twice, once in our apartment lobby, and once at the Brooklyn Museum, he had a kid point to him and say, "Look! It's a pirate!"
Right before pirate Santa decided to shave his beard off.
We went to the US Open, a few hockey games and baseball games, and took a trip down to Atlantic City to see Bob Dylan perform.
Through it all, Greg handled his illness with courage and grace. It wasn't easy by any means, but I was eternally grateful to him for how he accepted and dealt with his situation. He knew this cancer would probably kill him, and although he was terrified of dying, his goal was to get as many good days out of life as possible. He had always been loving and attentive and romantic, but these past three years, he became even more so. For my 40th birthday last year, because he knew he didn't have the energy to take me out or throw me a party, he threw me a cyber party instead. He got over 100 T-shirts made in our wedding colors (fuchsia and purple) with the Chinese character for "love" on the back, and my last name in Chinese "Ling" on the front, to match the tattoo on my shoulder. He sent them to friends and families all around the US, and asked them to take pictures of themselves in the shirts and email, Tweet, and Facebook the pictures to me on my birthday. Here are just a few:
He told me he needed to make sure to tell me how much he loved me as much as he could in the time he had left. He told me that I should feel comforted in knowing how much I made his life better. He told me how in awe he was that he had met me, that I had responded to that one Craigslist ad so many years ago. He left me love notes around the apartment, on my computer, in my wallet. We had so many silly inside jokes, and I'm mourning the passing of what was known only between us. And of the children we never had (he was SO GREAT with kids, and would have made an amazing father), of our future that has been cut short. But, I'm also so so so grateful for the time we had together. I loved him unconditionally. I loved his all-enveloping hugs, his sweet kisses in the middle of the night. I think we probably laughed even more together in these past three years--it became almost a competition to make the other laugh. We made up funny dances and funny voices. He got more and more into music, especially Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and John Lennon (he admired the great love between John and Yoko), and also discovered a love for Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Motown. But, Bob Dylan above all. Gradually, the chemo stopped working, and Greg started having more and more pain. We tried one last chemo, which worked for two months, and we knew that we were running out of options. A few months ago, we found out that Greg had a spot in an immunotherapy trial at Sloan Kettering, and we jumped at the chance. It was a Phase 1 trial, never tested on humans, but we knew if there was someday going to be a cure, it was probably going to be through immunotherapy. But on the dayhe was due to start, they discovered that his liver levels were high, which disqualified him from the trial, and the doctor sent him over to the hospital to see if they could solve the problem so that he could start the trial.
He had a procedure done to help drain the bile from the liver (which they thought was causing the high levels). Unfortunately, his liver levels didn't improve, and other liver levels were starting to get high as well. We knew that he had at least one tumor in the liver, and that once the liver starts to go, it can end quickly. Every night after I left the hospital to go home, he sent me a text. "I love you sweetheart. More than anything. You are such a superhero." His last text to me was, "You are the best thing to ever happen to me." He was the best thing to ever happen to me, too.
Eventually, they started Greg on chemo while in the hospital, and he was released on December 23rd--we were thrilled to have him home for the holidays! This is the last picture we took together, in his hospital room while waiting for our ride home:
As my mother told Greg the last time she saw him, "You're still very handsome!"
After one night at home (Venus was ecstatic to have us both home again!), we ended up calling 911 and going to the ER in an ambulance on Christmas Eve. Greg had been struggling with nausea and ended up vomiting blood and fainting a few times. He was admitted into the ICU for observation, as they suspected internal bleeding. But, he appeared stable after getting fluids, with no symptoms aside from some weakness and dizziness.
But on Friday morning he suddenly started having seizures, and then started bleeding profusely internally. The doctors were able to stabilize him with a breathing tube and blood transfusions, but we knew there wasn't hope for a full recovery, and I knew Greg didn't want any drastic measures taken just to keep him alive. They removed the breathing tube and Greg rested peacefully for a few hours before passing on while I held his hand.
Over the two-week hospital stay, we knew that the end was coming--Greg said he didn't know if he had days, or weeks, or months, so he was going to focus on enjoying each minute with me. I'm going to focus on each minute at a time. And breathing. This last year especially, Greg was struggling, and his bad days were outnumbering his good days. Recently, he said that the pain and complications he was having were making it easier to let go. I know he is at peace now.
Greg did not want to have a funeral, but he will be buried in Iowa where he spent his summers. He wanted his body to rest under open skies.
Greg started his care at Mt. Sinai with Dr. Robert Maki and Nurse Practitioner Linda Ahn (who is now at Sloan Kettering). They made the whole process more comforting for both of us, and even though I wish we had never had to meet them, I'm thankful they were in our lives.
I'm grateful to his many doctors and nurses--at Mt. Sinai, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and at New York Methodist. They have such a tough, important job, and see suffering and death every day.
I'm also so blessed to have such loving friends and family and colleagues, including the authors and illustrators I work with, who have supported us over the years and are mourning the loss of Greg, too. This isn't a unique journey that we traveled on--what's devastating is that so many people are touched by tragedy. I know Greg didn't want a big deal made of his death. But, for my own healing, I wanted to acknowledge publicly what an extraordinary man he was. He was full of passions--whether it was golf, wine, watches, jewelry, opera, American history, Chinese history, Andy Kaufman, dogs, cats, lacrosse, soccer...or me!--when he loved something, he loved it with all of himself, and learned everything he could. He was supremely moral, had a kind heart, and was sometimes loyal to a fault. He was sardonic, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and silly. He could put kids at ease in seconds. He had a deep voice that got higher and lighter when he was in pain--I knew he was feeling strong when his voice was deep. He was ticklish, and especially hated when I touched his feet. He watched the same movies over and over again, memorized the best lines, and would constantly call me to watch funny scenes. He also loved pointing out continuity errors. When he was in pain, he told me it helped him when I held his hand. His favorite books were The Plague by Albert Camus, and Sophie's Choice by William Styron. His favorite song was "Love Minus Zero" by Bob Dylan. His favorite movie was "Deer Hunter." People loved to tease him--he had the kind of personality that made people feel like he could take it. But he was sometimes sensitive about it. Sometimes he just wanted people to be nice to him. He was ferocious (but nice!) when dealing with customer service, and usually got what he wanted. He hated being told what to do, but I knew he took everything in, even when he was arguing (and when he was arguing, he always sounded angrier than he really was), and was able to keep an open mind. He was always so proud of me and my career, and embarrassed me by boasting about me to everyone he knew. And he was an astonishingly good teacher--so many of his students stayed in touch with him, and I feel lucky to have met so many of them. He made a difference in their lives. He made a difference in the world. Although he was an introvert at heart, he was the mayor of his old block. He knew everyone and they knew him. He was buddies with all of the shop keepers--one of them helped him get up the stairs of his apartment when he came home after his surgery. They always asked me how he was doing after his surgery. He made Brooklyn into a small town. Although his time was cut short, he had a rich, fulfilling life, and so many people who loved him. The day after his death, I remembered that he had wanted to make me a music mix before he died, and I was feeling bereft that he hadn't been able to do it. But I checked my computer just in case, and there it was, a playlist called "For Alvina" and it was like he was giving me a hug and a message from the great beyond. The last two songs on the mix are "Shelter from the Storm" and "Across the Universe." For those of you who have read this far, thank you for bearing with me. My mother is with me now, and I've been surrounded by friends, both virtually and in person. Greg and my dear friends Donna and Daniel were with me at the hospital when he died, and took care of me that night and the next day.
And just to leave this on a note of levity, albeit one that I'm finding profound right now, this is a silly email Greg sent me while I was at work and then out to dinner about a month ago. Venus is our one remaining cat (Serena also passed away from cancer about a year ago). Warning, there is cursing ahead!:
I'm very lonely. Venus is also lonely. The two of us are acting like our worlds have been destroyed. While we cuddled - more like held on to one another as the universe battered us - she said, "Dad?" I said, "What is it, sweetie?" "I miss Alvina." I said, "I do to, Venus. I miss her too." She asked, "Is it always going to be like this? Is it always going to hurt this much?" I explained to her that it will always hurt but that we will get better at dealing with it. Eventually the wound will heal and a scar will grow in its place, making us stronger. She said, "What?" "Ugh," I said. "Right now we hurt because the wound is so new. As time passes the wound will close and a scar will form." She replied, "What are you talking about? I don't have any open wounds. I said I miss Alvina." "It's a metaphor," I said. "We are wounded EMOTIONALLY. We will develop EMOTIONAL scars." She said, "I have no idea what a metaphor is. A metaphor? What the fuck is a metaphor! I'm a fucking cat. Stop treating me like a human being, because I'm not a human being. Also, STOP TOUCHING ME!" Then she swatted at me and jumped off the bed and ran into the other room.
Venus and I both miss Greg. I wait for the wound to close and the scars to form.
I confess to changing my choice today to Perfect Poetry Book Friday, but with good reason. This book deserves wide promotion and it fits perfectly into the aims of our blogging group to recommend high quality books with pictures for … Continue reading →
I would take a haul photo of my CAB 2015 comics but there is not a floor space big enough at Stately Beat Manor to spread them all out. Yes I got that many comics. And yet the one I most desired to read, I paid for but forgot to pick up a copy in […]
There are a lot of photo editing apps available. But, sometimes I find that they are confusing to use because they offer a wide assortment of tools for accomplishing a variety of tasks. With Superimpose that's not the case. This app gives users the chance to do one thing - superimpose one image on to another. And, it makes it pretty easy to do that without adding lots of extra bells and whistles.
The basic way that it works is that a user selects a background image. Then selects a foreground image. And then marries the two by creating a mask for the foreground image and using filters to blend things together as much as desired.
The 10 minute screencast below shows you the basics of how Superimpose works. You can then read on to learn about even more features and possibilities.
As briefly shown in the video, along with the "smart brush" that erases unwanted parts of an image, there are other tools that can enhance the photo that you want to superimpose. This includes creating gradients and superimposing text over an image. Filters allow users to change hue and saturation as well as add special photo effects to the superimposed image.
The YALSA "Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action" report highlights the importance of supporting digital and media literacies as a part of 21st century library service. Using Superimpose with and for teens, and giving teens the chance to learn about this app, will help teens to achieve key skills in these areas.
The 99 cent price tag makes it within reach for many libraries. Give it a try.
Posted by Small Press Expo on Saturday, September 19, 2015 I’ll have a longer write up and thoughts on SPX a bit later, but for now I’ll just share SPX’s photo gallery, because I was too darned busy having a good time and talking about great comics to take blurry Hipstamatic photos. I love the above […]
We had family in town and spent a day hanging out with them at their fabulous beach hotel, and another afternoon touring the harbor on a boat cruise. Glorious weather. At one point, we were approaching Point Loma for a glimpse of the lighthouse when my nephew’s phone buzzed—it was Verizon Wireless texting him a “Welcome to Mexico” message. That was just about as far as we got before turning around to cruise past the downtown area. We saw dolphins and sea lions and pelicans—a perfectly satisfying day, according to Miss Rilla, who spent much of the boat ride standing in the wind with her arms spread wide and her grin even wider.
One of the nicest things about living in San Diego is that so many friends wind up vacationing here, and we get to join in.
Back home, I’ve been in blissful planning mode. I adore low tide; low tide is a deep delight; but my little listmaking heart glories in the voyage-charting of high tide just as thoroughly. I spent a morning gathering books from all over the house to fill a shelf for Huck—treasures I want to be sure my last six-year-old (sniff) doesn’t miss. I’ll try to get a picture and a post up soon, because I know some of you enjoy comparing notes that way.
Plans are afoot for Rilla and my two high-school-age girls too: more booklists, more shelves filling up. Every August I do this massive rearranging of the tomes, shifting high-tide resources to the living room where we do indeed do the bulk of our living. Twentieth-century history for the teens this year, and earth science, and Shakespeare of course, and a fat list of literary texts, and the languages they are studying separately. All juicy stuff. Beanie is forging ahead with German, which is extra fun for me, since I’m fair-to-middling in that language myself and always longing to improve my skills.
And loads and loads of art—along with poetry, perhaps our most constant occupation these days. At Comic-Con, I tried out my (brilliantly talented) friend Zander‘s pocket brush pen and was thoroughly intimidated by it. The next day, our (also staggeringly talented) friend Mark Chiarello showed us art from his forthcoming book (his first since his gorgeous book on the Negro Leagues), and he too was working with this pen, whose merits the extraordinary Roz Stendahl is always talking about. Between them, they convinced me to give it a try, and ohhhh, it turns out I’m in love. It is loosening up my line so much. I have a tendency toward a very careful and nervous line, and I’m feeling much freer about taking chances and using my whole arm, thanks to a few weeks with this pen. My book is filling up with a lot of messy, not-so-lovely pages, but in a good way. And every now and then I draw a line I really like. That’s progress.
Meanwhile, Rilla and I are about to dive into Sketchbook Skool’s “More Playing” klass, which started yesterday. We had a ball with “Playing” in July. Our favorite project was the drawing where we took turns for thirty seconds at a time, filling a page with nonsense. Much hilarity there. This, too, is something I’d like to post more about in the week ahead.
I’m overdue for a books post, too. Got on an Anne Shirley kick in July, following my Betsy-Tacy kick in June. Read the series through House of Dreams (skipped Windy Poplars, because I don’t have it on Kindle). I swear Dreams is better every time, even a dozen or more times later.
I also revisited Pudd’nhead Wilson for the first time since high school—shaking my head in bed at Twain’s audacity the whole way through. Oh, how I love him. I’m deep into Mansfield Park right now. No particular reason; it just decided I needed to reread it. I’m a Persuasion person first and foremost, and then P&P, but I do enjoy Mansfield. The urge to smack Mary Crawford upside the head is such a satisfying sensation.
Well, that’s the news from these parts. What’s your August looking like?
April is a busy month for author visits, but things were a little more exciting than usual this year with a long-awaited excursion to the Fagerhaug International School (FINT) in Stjørdal, Norway -- followed VERY closely by an excellent 3-day trip to nearby Ellensburg, WA.
My 11.92 year-old daughter came along to Norway (via Iceland as you will see!), and the entire experience was second-to-none. A little tiring... because of the nine-hour time change and man those Kristoffersen's can stay up late :) but we were so pleased to be guests, teachers, and students for the week that a little sleepiness hardly seemed to matter. I love what I do in my work as a writer/illustrator (sometimes teacher) and experiences with people both near and far make me love it even more. Best wishes to all and please enjoy the following snapshots of our trip. Its not TOTALLY comprehensive, but it'll do!
6:45am in Reykjavik International Airport. Very slick -- and about 20 degree with blowing snow on April 1.
After an excellent 2-hour walking tour, we did some touring on our own including the climb up Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral for this most excellent 360 degree view of the city.
April 2nd. We have arrived. Two thumbs up!
A few important names in the following shots. 1.) The Kristoffersen house. Our home base in Stjørdal and some most excellent hosts!
2.) The Stjørdal train station. Site of two departures into Trondheim -- the first on a VERY quiet Good Friday afternoon, and the second on a much more bustling Saturday at the end of our school visit week. Two thumbs up, again!!
3.) The Fagerhaug School. Our true destination and reason for the visit. Most of my time was spend with the upper and lower elementary school students at FINT, but the greater Fagerhaug Christian school houses many additional students k-10.
And finally, 4.) Litjfunnsjøvollen -- the original destination for our Easter weekend ski with the Kristoffersen family. As you will see below, even on April 4 the skiing was still excellent. Although reflected here at all, there were MANY people out n' about. Blankets spread on the snow. Little fire pits for warmth. Young. Old. Fast. Slow. All sort of folks. Really great!
About 3k up the trail at Litjfunnsjøvollen was a little warming hut/cabin with pancakes (svella?) and hotdogs for treats.
On Easter Sunday, we expanded out ski horizons just a bit more and spent half of the day on nordic skis and the other half on the downhill slope at Fagerlia. Much thanks to Maria for being our excellent guide and for all of the time she shared with Keeley on the entire trip. Tussen Takk!
Pretty typical of most breakfasts and lunches -- at least in our experience. Lots of open-faced breads with meats and cheeses plus a vegetable or two to snack on...
...and then there was the pretty obvious fascination with all things Salty Licorice. Hard candies, gummy candies, and as seen above, even a Salt Lakris sauce for ice cream. Pretty good actually!
Now for a little work :) Before leaving Winthrop, I had a few of our local elementary classes prepare "postcards from the Methow" so that we could bring along a little glimpse of our life at home to the kids at FINT. Everything from the wildlife that you see in these two examples, to a few recent experiences like last summer's wildfires and favorite seasonal activities (skiing, swimming etc.)
It was fun to share a few thoughts of home in this way...
...to assist in creating a set of Norwegian postcards to bring back home to Winthrop.
...and then to realize in our walking, and talking, and visiting, that certain things are similar and certain things are certainly different :)
On the workshop front, one of my favorite projects was the "alligator emotions" book that we constructed on the final day with the lower PYP (primary years program). After spending several other hours on drawing expressions and writing about a feeling, this final project combined things together AND drops a serious hint about my newest work in progress. Stay tuned for future posts about LATOR GATOR (Sterling Books, 2016)! Below: 1-3rd graders (and teachers) creating their very own "instant books" and alligator emotions.
For an earlier drawing workshop, we practiced some line variety and dressed up some pretty excellent owls!
Very near the school, a church in Skatval. And while we did have a few partly sunny afternoons, this about sums it up for most of our springtime weather near Trondheim. A little grey. Quite damp. Not BRRR! cold, but chilly enough if you didn't dress for it.
In another "lay of the land" image here -- also just outside of Skatval. A still-frozen lake, a farm house, and the rolling hills and winding roads...
...quite near, in fact, the Kristofferson farm where I was testing out this small tractor in the sheep barn at about 11:45pm. Again, excellent hosts, and not to worry, I didn't have a key.
April 12: A few final shots from our Saturday return to Trondheim. LOVE the color on these old warehouse buildings on the Nidelva riverfront.
One fine and awesome traveler posing near the Nidarosdomem Cathedral.
And the same said traveler playing detective in a local bookstore. You can't be a children's book author in a foreign country and not visit some local bookstores :)
And last, but not least, our final goodbyes to Niclas, Sarah, and Cherise (taking the photo) at the airport.
And now MANY fewer images from an terrific three days in ELLENSBURG, WA! With many thanks to Lincoln, Mt. Stuart, and Valley View Elementary schools for being so well-prepared for my visits and for perhaps tolerating a slightly baggy eye or two due to the change in time zones :)
Lunch with the super hero contest winners at Lincoln - photo courtesy of the Daily Record.
Positively PERFECT pajama designs from Mt. Stuart elementary!
And this is great! Also at Mt. Stuart. Each year they select several pieces of student artwork, frame them, and hang them in the halls. Its awesome! A lasting and colorful record of student creativity and art/design across many spectrums and over many years. Seriously, every school should have such a gallery!
The library aide at Valley View made these most excellent Practically Pefect Pajamas inspired sugar cookies too. A first in 15 years of publication :)
And finally, the sunset as I hit the road to return to Winthrop. The schools in Ellensburg really rocked, and I enjoyed meeting everyone who came with a books to sign and questions to ask at Jerrol's Bookstore on the final night as well. Thanks again to all and I look forward to coming back!
"When photography began, it was an elaborate, expensive, time-consuming, elite activity, using heavy, cumbersome equipment. Today, taking photographs can be instant, cheap, and accessible to anyone. Despite the enormous changes in photographic equipment and technology since the nineteenth century, the purposes of photography have remained essentially the same, whether immortalizing, exploring, documenting, revealing, or showing us what we can't see with the naked eye." -- from the introduction of Photos Framed
It's amazing, isn't it, that in less than 200 years, photography has become a universal art form? Children can take photographs before they have learned to hold a crayon. I think I can confidently say that every student in my class has taken a photograph. And because of that, I can't wait to share this book with them and dig into the history of photography and the art of photography.
Photos Framed is divided into four sections: Portrait photography, Nature photography, Photography as art, and Documentary photography. Each of the sections features examples from the 18th through the 21st Centuries. And each of the photographs is explored in the same ways: there is a section of text describing and discussing the photograph, a section that tells about the photographer, three questions ("Photo thoughts") for the reader/viewer to consider, a sidebar ("Blow Up") that features one tiny bit of the photo and a question to consider, and another sidebar ("Zoom In") that helps the viewer to consider the photo as a whole. Finally, there is a quote from the photographer that accompanies the photo.
I'm thrilled to see that there are multiple copies of this book available in our metro library system. I am imagining a whole-class study of this book in the first weeks of school which would lay the groundwork for students to build a photographic/visual portfolio alongside their digital portfolio/notebook (folder in their Google drive) and their pencil/paper writer's note/sketchbook.
Writing that last convoluted sentence made me realize that there just about isn't such a thing as a plain and simple Writer's Notebook anymore. All of these digital and non-digital spaces need to be developed to provide students with opportunities to capture and hold creations of all kinds at all stages of the process. Maybe it really is time to stop calling it Writers' Workshop and call it Composing Workshop.
Oh, May. You beautiful, terrible month. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of you. Massive workload, plumbing woes, multiple trips to the children’s hospital (which sounds more alarming than it ought to—here in San Diego they send your kids to Children’s for every little thing; for example: a chest x-ray when your child has pneumonia even though there is an x-ray lab RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the pediatrician’s office, AHEM, and a four-hour wait and a three-second x-ray later the radiologist will say, all right, I’ve just sent these to your doctor, zap)…but it’s June now, let’s put all that behind us.
I suppose, though, that May did have its moments. Scott surprised me with a trip to a big art supply story downtown, a wonderland full of pens singing at me. I came home with a metal brush pen, aka my new best friend, it feels amazing when you pull it across the page; and a tube of raw umber paint because I have been unsuccessful in mixing a shade the color of chocolate with my basic color palette. Rilla’s birthday breakfast is still waiting in my sketchbook to be painted. Since April, sheesh.
In May my boys’ writing class wrapped up—this was a group of nine homeschooled boys ages 10-14 whose mothers approached me about putting together an eight-week writing course. We had us some fun, let me tell you. A highlight of my spring was watching our freewrites transform from “TEN WHOLE MINUTES??!!?” to “Oh wait can I please have a bit more time?”
He’s also enjoying the Magic Tree House books, like so many of his siblings before him. Scott read him the first one to get him started. The corresponding nonfiction volumes are particular favorites, and I am once again being treated to daily factoids about sharks and pirates. Never gets old.
If Special Edition: NYC was a comic book, probably Warren Ellis would have written it and Brandon Graham or Geof Darrow would have drawn it. It was a perfectly fine show, with a great guest list and good time, but the venue, Pier 92, was…picturesque. I was last there five or six years ago for a Wizard show and in the intervening years it became even more decrepit, with plastic bags collecting yellowing rainwater, as giant air ducts throbbed like the Alien Queen’s thorax, and damn river air curled pages and hair. I had a perfectly good time (I was only there on Saturday) and here are the pictures!
As I mentioned to everyone, Pier 92 was straight out of a dystopian SF comics from Image or Dark Horse. This is actually the Image panel.
The main reason people lined up for SENYC was to buy tickets for NYCC, which was kind of dumb since SENYC had most of the same people in a far less crowded and more relaxed setting. BUT WHATEVS. Here’s a video of the line at about noon. I heard people had camped out since the night before and stood in line for four hours to get NYCC tickets. The line ws capped for a bit and then opened up again, but I don’t know how happy people were. It seem they came got tickets, walked around a bit and left by 4 or so.
More air ducts!
This is an accidental picture of the floor, but it was concrete and my feet hurt.
If only there had been more Mad Max cosplayers!
I vowed to walk around and take photos! Here’s artist Andrew MacLean of Apocalyptigirl and Head Lopper. He’s blowing up as they say.
Writer Frank Tieri of all the comics you read.
Artist Rodney Ramos and Elite Beat Operative Edie Nugent.
Michael Golden doing what he does.
And Jeff Parker (Batman ’66 etc.) I miss the old con reports Parker and steve LIeber used to do. They were hilarious but they wouldn’t fly nowadays I guess.
My calendar this week makes me laugh. A perfect representation of the many disparate segments of my life. Today: Full slate of appointments at the children’s hospital. Tomorrow: Frantic cranking-away at my novel revision. Wed-Sunday: SDCC madness. And somewhere in there I need to find time for a Damn Interesting article edit and a grantwriting assignment. And will MAKE time to start the new Sketchbook Skool “Playing” course with the kids. Because priorities.
I haven’t yet done my usual scouring of the SDCC schedule to see which panels I’d like to hit. Er, attempt to hit—the con has a way of swallowing up intentions with spontaneous developments, which of course is part of the fun. As always, the part I’m most looking forward to is the reconnecting with faraway friends: the lunches, the dinners, the late nights chatting over drinks.
As many have noted, this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was a success in that, unlike years past, no one got run over by a car, fell off a gate, got stabbed in the eye or died trying to get into a Twilight panel. The last few years of the Con, everyone has gotten used to the whole “It’s too big and crazy!” mindset so they’ve figured out how to deal with whatever logistical nightmares need to be overcome to experience Peak Con Moment. I wasn’t even hungry once this show, for reasons I’ll explain in down below. (Spoiler alert: trail mix.) However I joked around with the original “eating scraps” crew, filmmakers Jordan Renneart and Patrick Meaney about the bad old days many times. I think everyone joked about the bad old days when we didn’t know how to survive Comic-Con. We’re Navy Seals now, trained and elite.
The con was a little bit smaller than last year, and last year was a little bit smaller than the year before. I don’t mean in terms of people—there seemed to be more look-e-loos than ever milling around the Gaslamp. No, smaller in terms of movies, sure, but also pop-ups, parties and massive marketing pushes from studios. Now granted the “activations,” as “they” call the events and booths and Giveaways and experiences, were huge and complicated, from a Scream Queens vertical drop ride, to the hellish Adult Swim theme park our behind the convention center. People slept outside for 24 ours to get into the Star Wars panel and they were rewarded with a once in a lifetime concert march and complimentary lightsaber. That was a very big activation, and I’m sure people will be talking about it for years to come. All the X-men on one Stage taking a selfie with Stan Lee. Warner Bros.’ $600,000 surround screen and Batman v Superman trailer. These were big things. But it’s a thrifty time in Hollywood, and studios now realize that just because a movie is boffo at Comic-Con doesn’t mean it will be boffo in real life. The big promotions were all for films coming out far in the future, not next week, as with notorious underperformers Scott Pilgrim, Cowboys and Aliens and even Snakes on a melon-farming Plane.
When I say Comic-Con was a little smaller, I mean just that: a little smaller. In years past every pedi cab was decked out with Dexter or Comixology. Not any more. The party scene was much less extravagant this year. Float was as busy as ever, but no giant parking lot bashes. (One popular empty lot is being turned into another hotel.) Fewer storefront conversions as well—the rising costs of renting out these venues caused even Hollywood to say, hm, maybe not. Additionally, the Comic-Con model is being exported to D23, Star Wars Celebration and CinemaCon, with maybe a little SXSW thrown in, although I hear that has peaked as well.
And here’s one fun fact that really stunned me: The Wired Cafe only ran for ONE DAY this year, Thursday. Formerly the place to be seen milling around like a nerdlebrity in training, it got too crowded last year, and I guess Wired decided that one day was enough Game of Thrones beer guzzling for the Entourage set. Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.
Not that there still wasn’t plenty to do! Off site video game lounges, Funko fests, parkour courses, zombie runs, and the TV Guide yacht are all still there. And what wonders will the new Marriott Hall hold when it opens next year? Comic-Con is going to stay wild and exhausting and too much to see and do for the foreseeable future but it’s going to evolve, like everything else.
The other big question of the con was what place comics hold in it. Yes yes, comics are the HEART of Comic-Con, but as I reported for PW, it’s become a total brainer for some people. Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan announced they aren’t doing big shows any more; Eric Shanower gave up his long time booth for an artist’s alley table because of the costs. I’ve seen a lot of quiet grumbling on FB and in person about sales not being enough to offset the costs and headaches. Of course a lot of people had great shows, but it really is all about the exclusives and show specials now and those are mostly toys and art prints.
The biggest change at Comic-Con isn’t the cosplayers or the celebrities, but the Collectors. Since getting a badge is a lottery, the people who are most motivated seem to be people who want those exclusives and the overall “activation” not people who want to buy comics, what with about four comic cons every weekend to choose from, and great shows like TCAF and Emerald City for more hard core comics people. I think the fretting I heard from people was about this demographic change and not the show being “too big.” I’m not sure how to change this. You can’t set aside a bunch of tickets just for people who want to see Sergio Aragones and David Aja, although that would be nice. CCI itself does as much as ever to make sure comics are included, and the programming is the most comprehensive in the world, but comics folks may need more motivation to brave the craziness…and I have no idea what that would be.
And littler or not, it is still crazy. I’m sitting here two weeks to the day after I left for Comic-Con, but that doesn’t count the month of intense planning before hand, the mad rush to get everything done just for those five peak days, or the literal months of planning that go into exhibiting at the show for publishers and studios alike. The last six weeks were an insane sleepless grind, but as I sit here I can’t believe it ever happened. I always say Comic-Con marks the end of the fiscal year for comics. For whatever reason those of us caught up in the experience spend the whole year building to it, imagining what might go wrong, or right, how to accomplish everything in the time allotted short of a Time-turner, then blam it happens. Decisions must be made: do that thing you like that you’ve been doing every year for 20 years that you only get to do once a year…or try something else? It’s the ultimate FOMO of YOLO.
Since everyone else has written their con report and no one cares anymore, rather than shape this into a majestic essay, I’m going to go to the bullet points for further observations, then to the Travelog of pictures and then WE’RE DONE. I have exactly 365 days to plan for Comic-Con 2016. Better get started.
• The Eisner wins for modern comics stars Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Ed Piskor, Noelle Stevenson and so on was rightly seen as a watershed but I haven’t seen as many people including Comics Alliance’s win for Best Journalistic Presentation included in that group. CA has been at the forefront of promoting this “modern” view of comics, and when they won early in the evening that should have been a clue as to what was going to happen. It’s about time they won and congrats to the whole crew, especially Beat prodigal Steve Morris.
• I kept hoping to run into people like Michael DeForge and Chip Zdarsky just to hear how they liked Comic-Con. I saw DeForge and Patrick Kyle checking out the Marriott pool early on and he seemed to be having a good time, and then I moderated a panel he was on, but perhaps his twitter feed was the best indication. I glimpsed Chip once but the crowds kept us apart.
• So many people leave badges at the front desk of the Marriott Marina that they have an entire log book just for badge pickup. That kind of blew my mind. I stayed at the Marriott for the first time since…oh the 90s, and it was awesome. My room happened to be the one closest to the elevator so I could get from a much needed lie-down to a panel in room 23AB in 13 minutes! (I timed it.) Marriott 4 life.
Congressman John Lewis.
(Recreating his trench coat and backpack from Selma 50 years ago) pic.twitter.com/T4EHdbKZhs
• Congressman John Lewis cosplaying as himself was probably the most awesome thing at this year’s show.
• While the show was generally smooth, the Funko booth has turned into the New Hall H! It was a hotbed of dissent and chaos. Normally I drop by there late on Sunday just as the show closes to get a thank you present for our cat sitter, but they wouldn’t let me in! Turns out, there were problems all week, as the Unofficial Comic-Con blog reports
According to Funko’s Marketing Coodinator Cameron Deuel, once the convention kicked off, Funko was “noticing a disturbing amount of people lingering around [their] booth before the floor was even open,” which likely meant that exhibitors were swapping badges with regular attendees and hanging around the booth, an unfortunately common occurrence at Comic-Con. This led to frustrating situations for fans who had been lined up for hours, as that combined with the already mad-dash to the booth made it one of the most frustrating lines of the convention.
“My friend and I got into line for Preview Night at 9:15AM on Wednesday,” Stephanie Kariott said. “We were one of the first 10-15 people near the escalators at the G Hall entrance. When we were let in, I booked it to the Funko booth, and as I’m sure you know, by then it was already a madhouse. I jumped in line and spent about 45 minutes not moving at all and not even knowing if I was really in line or if they were going to cap it off in front of me.”
To avoid the camping out in front of the booth Funko started giving away tickets for each day, but didn’t announce it. You can read about how it all worked out in the above post. Some people didn’t get their toys—including The Beat! Here’s just ONE account:
My friends and I tried getting Funkos three different days. The first day (Friday), the security guards told my BFF and I that the line started at 1pm, and we couldn’t hang out around the booth. They said, “If you hang around here, we’ll remember your face and will kick you out of line.” That put the fear of God in us, so we went and hung out at a nearby booth (luckily we knew someone working at the booth). We kept seeing the same people hanging out at other booths and circling around like sharks. Another friend tried to sneak up a little closer. As he describes it, Funko announced that the line was open. In the time it took for him to reach for his phone in his pocket to let us know, they immediately announced the line was capped. Pretty disheartening, but I tried again Saturday. That’s when I found out about the ticketing. Decided it would be worth a shot to ask if anybody in line could buy for me. I lucked out, and the first person in line was only getting one or two things, so they bought most of what I wanted. When I talked to my larger group of friends that night (we had a full group of five), we discovered that there were two different stories for ticketing, according to the security guards: 1. They would be passing out tickets in front of G. 2. They would be passing out tickets at the booth. We decided to shoot for G first on Sunday. Nobody was there, so we went immediately to the booth. Our group attempted to fan out amidst the ever growing mob, and of the five of us, two managed to get Group 2 tickets. So our experience wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it was definitely a lot of work.
The Seattle-based artist describes SquidCon as an “experiment,” a chance to manage his presence at the massive pop culture convention the way he sees fit. “I’m doing it my way this year,” he says. Templesmith, who is from Australia, but has lived in the U.S. for seven years, started attending SDCC in 2001. Two years ago, though, he called it quits on a convention that had ballooned into a major destination for people with a greater interest in blockbuster films and television epics than comic books. “It got too expensive,” he says.
That’s a complaint that plenty of people have had about SDCC. Attending the convention can be a complicated, and pricy, ordeal. Whether you’re going for fun or work, the process of getting a badge requires a rush to the online registration site months in advance of the July gathering. Status as a media professional is not a guarantee for a badge, let alone a spot in one of the hotels that take reservations by lottery. Lodging comes with a hefty price tag too. Even if you are part of a large group crammed into one room, you can expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars to stay the duration of the con. Then there are the fees for parking and other transportation-related needs, plus food. If you’re an artist, you can add the cost of getting your work to San Diego and running a booth from Wednesday through Sunday to your budget. Even for someone like Templesmith, who has enough of a following to have run several successful crowd-funding campaigns, that’s big pressure to produce sales.
While one man in a bar isn’t the SlamCon that Tr!ckster once seemed to be about to become, is this an idea that may someday catch on? Marriott Hall?
• One venue that was set aside to be comics centric was the San Diego Public Library where panels were held for three days. Unfortunately, from what I heard it was under attended. This is a great venue that should be part of the show — and it isn’t THAT far away as you can see its dome just beyond Petco from the skywalk over Harbor Drive. Hopefully this will be implemented again next year but maybe promoted more.
• You’ll read more about this below, but one of the signature moments of con for me was during a preview night tour of the AMC booth where the women who runs activations told me about how they plan the zombie stuff around iconic scenes from the previous year’s show. “WE don’t have much room to work with,” she said. “Our booth is only 20×40.” That’s 800 sq. ft. Pretty big for a NYC apartment but small for a major booth by one of the hottest properties in pop culture. “Have you ever tried to get a bigger booth?” I asked. With a wistful expression she said “Oh we’ve been trying for that for years. Maybe some day.”
That really brought home to me the real estate crunch on the show floor. Now granted, AMC also had the whole Hilton outside area for a Fear the Walking Dead activation, and parties every night, and a lot of space, but the show floor is super super crowded not just for comics but for EVERYONE. A lot of people have been suggesting that the under the sails area be turned into something more practical than autograph signing, but that would mean my shortcut from the mArriott to room 24AB would be gone, so I’m not sure I like that idea. Anyway, everyone has the same space issues at Con.
• SPekaing of WALking Dead, even though he had THREE TV SHOWS—Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Outcast—and a movie—Air—being promoted, Robert Kirkman was the biggest no show. I’m told he’d had throat surgery and in some cases you just can’t talk after that or you have permanent irreversible damage. I hope he’s feeling better and back up to chatting with Chris Hardwick real soon.
• The CBLDF Party was OFF THE HOOK THIS YEAR. So many people! I barely got to talk to all of them, but it was so wild and great and fun. This has really become THE comics party of the year, and it doesn’t even need free drinks.
• During my one trip to one of the major media hotels I was invited into the nerve center for one of the BIG BIG BIG websites and holy shit, it was like NASA mission control with a couple dozen guys at computers. Made me sitting in the press room with a laptop feel naked and alone.
• A Cat Cafe opened on Island just off Third St!!! I never got to go, alas, but one comics pro who I told about it cancelled her plans and raced off immediately.
• The Lion cold brew coffee at the Lion Cafe on 1st St. is great every year.
• All during Con I kept thinking “When this is over I need a massage” and when we got to ur friend’s house in LA where we were saying she announced she was getting a massage the next day. OMG. Little House Spa. It was a real James Bond massage with the ladies walking on my back and I was sore for two days but it was amazing. A new con tradition.
• Probably something I’m forgetting. Anyway. PICTURES.I’m going to split this into a couple of pages to prevent browser crash.
Conan O’Brien’s four night stand hosting his show was the most promoted thing when I arrived, as the luggage belt advertising shows, and I thought it would be the biggest thing at the con. Henry went to one of the shows, and I heard Conan himself was seen out and about on the street enjyoing the scrum, but this soon got lost in my own scrum.
The first night in town we stayed at the Horton Grand for old times sake and had an amazing room right on the corner of Island and 4th. The only problem with the room was that it was very far from the wireless router and the internet was appalling. I had to sit in the bathroom to get a signal. Oh well.
Here’s where I was standing in the above picture from the street.
On Tuesday before the show I went to visit IDW and got a tour from Alison Baker. As I think I told her and Ted Adams, IDW may just have won the office space race among comics publishers. Granted I have a lot to go to, but it will be hard to beat the clean-lined high ceilinged vibe of this former army barracks.
Perhaps the best part of the office tour was this authentic Kevin Eastman Habitat!® Not an office, a habitat.,
Eastman was also the subject of the first display in the art gallery attached to the offices. This is a great space, and the area itself is something of an up and coming arts space for San Diego. A lot of potential!
This is apparently the Dirk Wood habitat? There is a little band rehearsal space to let off steam. If any other publisher has such a space please let me know.
So many instagrammable moments. After the IDW visit, I went to the nearby Trader Joes and stocked up on trail mix, Kind bars and a bottle of wine for emergencies. That was really all I needed. I never set foot in Ralphs and I never got hungry!
Speaking of Ralphs, everyone is in the spirit of the con now.
After dinner and a party at a haunted loft, we walked back to the hotel and discovered a gang of feral cats living in this little park on the opposite corner. Every time I passed by for the next five days we’d see some of these cats! Hope they are being taken care of. They looked pretty happy.
The first line, on Tuesday, apparently just to get in and get those exclusives.