Archive for November, 2008
I miss my late father most of all around this time of year.
He died right before Thanksgiving 1985, when I was 17. It’s odd in a way that I miss my father. I think a mixture of the idealized recollection of my father along with the loss of any chance to have an adult relationship with him. My dad was not easy guy to know. He worked and then he came home to watch TV. I knew my father in the last 17 years of his life.
As my siblings sometimes say to me, the father they had was not the father I had. My father made sacrifices that made life harder on him. He did not have to send all of his children to Catholic school. As he aged, the politics and the ebb and flow of corporate America in the 1970s/1980s gave him a harder path to navigate in order to make sales. The burden placed on him, as the sole wage earner, so that my mother could be home with the children, was a tough one I imagine. I look back at all he and my mother did for us and I marvel. Add to all that stress and responsibility, the fact that 10 days before I was born, my brother Arthur Kevin O’Shea Jr (yep, named after my father) died of a brain tumor at the age of 14 and if you’re me, you start to understand why my father was emotionally detached and distant. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Jones made my day when I recently discovered his book, Working at the Ballpark: The Fascinating Lives of Baseball People from Peanut Vendors and Broadcasters to Players and Managers. My late father instilled in me a love of baseball. So right about now, less than a month after the World Series has ended … I’m already missing baseball. I was even more pleased when Jones agreed to this email interview. Here’s the official background on the book and its author, prior to delving into the interview:
“Working at the Ballpark is an inside look at what people in major league baseball do for a living and how they feel about their jobs by taking readers into dugouts, clubhouses, bullpens, press boxes and executive offices where fans dream of going. In the rich oral history tradition of Studs Terkel, this is an entertaining collection of 50 candid, engaging interviews with players, managers, coaches, peanut vendors, ushers, groundskeepers, clubhouse guys, executives, broadcasters, mascots, and others who work at a major league ballpark: From John Guilfoy, who sells sausages behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park, to Chris Hanson, who plays ‘Bernie Brewer’ in Milwaukee, Johnny ‘from Connecticut,’ who is a street ticket hustler, to Glove Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, who anchors the infield at AT&T Park.
Working at the Ballpark provides fascinating and gritty details about the working lives of men and women who are passionate about baseball. These are their personal, poignant stories. In their own words.
Tom retired in 2005 after 30 years with the State of California where he worked as a legislative director in the administrations of the last five California governors. He lives in Sacramento.”
With the recent passing of Studs Terkel, it really struck a chord with me to see Jones reference Turkel. It’s nice to know there’s at least one writer out there trying to carry on Terkel’s passion for oral history.
Tim O’Shea: How long had you been thinking about writing the book?
Tom Jones: I began thinking about writing an oral history book in 2004, the year before I retired from State government. Initially, I intended to compile an updated version of Studs Terkel’s Working, to be called Working: Revisited. I corresponded for a while with a guy who taught oral history and also was a close friend of Terkel. But one evening I was browsing books at a Borders and came upon Gig—a book exactly written as I wanted to do. That ended my first book project.
Two years later while running along the American River bike trail in Sacramento while training for the 2006 Boston marathon, I thought about putting something I enjoy—baseball—into the same kind of oral history format as Terkel’s work (the marathon was four weeks away). After returning home from running, I quickly showered, and then checked the schedule for the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros (my flight made a stop in Houston). Both teams were playing at home during my travels.
I made a list of every baseball occupation I could think off, and sent letters describing the book proposal to the owners of the Red Sox and the Astros, and to the Boston Globe (looking for a sports columnist). The Red Sox didn’t respond to my first request (months later they did; Red Sox employees—including Johnny Pesky–are included in the book). Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe invited me to his house for an interview, and the evening of the marathon I received an e-mail invitation from the Astros to interview their people enroute back to Sacramento.
Timothy Callahan was just one of the many folks I met at Baltimore Comic-Con back in September. Coming out of that meeting we decided to do an email interview regarding his two books and criticism in general. Callahan is a savvy critic who clearly knows pop culture and the comic book genre better than many (as shown frequently at his blog, GeniusboyFiremelon) and is firm in his convictions. Before launching into the interview, here’s the core info on the man himself: “Callahan is an educator, husband, father of two, writer of Grant Morrison: The Early Years, and editor of the recently-released Teenagers from the Future. He writes for Back Issue magazine and Comic Book Resources, and he’s much busier than he used to be.”
Tim O’Shea: Zack Smith recently did a series of interviews with Morrison in which he thanked you for your help. How did you assist him?
Timothy Callahan: Zack had e-mailed me over the summer about the “Superman 2000″ pitch that I’d blogged about — the one where Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, and Tom Peyer proposed to revamp the Superman franchise for the new millennium — and he actually did an interview with me for Newsarama shortly after that. So we’d been in contact, and when he was sending his big ‘ole batch of questions to Morrison for the All-Star interview, he asked me to take a look at his proposed questions and to add a few of my own, which I did. I would say I added about three questions total, but Zack was probably influenced by a lot of the stuff I’d been writing about on my blog over the past year, so he very courteously thanked me in each of the installments that ended up running. Zack’s interview is shockingly comprehensive, and I’m glad to have been even a tiny part of it.
When I first heard about David Tischman and Glenn Fabry’s Greatest Hits, a six-issue Vertigo miniseries that offers a mixture of pop culture and superheroes, I was intrigued by the concept: “Meet the Mates! They’re the greatest super team of all time, straight out of England and into our hearts: Crusader, The Solicitor, Vizier and Zipper. But who are the heroes behind the mania? How did they meet? And what’s next for The Mates?” After reading the first two issues, I was hooked and more than pleased when Vertigo’s Pamela Mullin arranged an email interview with Tischman about the project. I caught up with the writer of the series a few weeks ago. This week marks the release of the miniseries’ third issue in which: “Private lives and public expectations are tearing the Mates apart. Crusader reveals a hip, ’70s-style island HQ in hopes of keeping the heroes together. But it’s a call from space that rallies the team. Back in the present day, Nick and Ethel discover a 35-year-old secret hidden among the lunch boxes and action figures of the world’s biggest collection of Mates memorabilia.” My thanks to Mullin for her assistance and Tischman for his time.
Tim O’Shea: While the Beatles serve as an inspiration, did you fear using the most popular band ever as a springboard for the larger tale?
David Tischman: The Mates aren’t the Beatles. The Mates are the world’s greatest and best-loved super-team of all time. The Mates do occupy the same space in our pop-culture Hall of Fame that the Beatles have, but there was never any concern the two groups would be compared.
Alex Robinson is one of those creators that I should have interviewed years ago. I’ve enjoyed his work since Box Office Poison (2001). When I scored a copy of his latest book for Top Shelf, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, I contacted Robinson for an email interview. Anytime I find a fellow XTC fan, I’m even more pleased to be doing the interview. So imagine how much fun I had with this interview. Here’s some background on the book, straight from the publisher, Top Shelf:
“Andy Wicks is a forty-something father of two who’s tried everything to quit smoking — from going cold turkey, to the latest patches and nicotine chewing gums — so he figures he’ll give this hypnosis thing a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Unfortunately, Andy gets dealt a fate worse than death — high school! Transported back to 1985, Andy returns to his formative years as a gangly, awkward teenager. Is he doomed to relive the mistakes of his past, or has he been given a second chance to get things right? One thing’s for sure … this time he’s going to ask out that girl from math class… Presented as a gorgeously formatted hardcover graphic novel. — 128-page, hardcover graphic novel, 5 1/2″ x 7 1/2″
Tim O’Shea: Much has been made (in a positive sense) for the ambitious way you conveyed the hypnosis transition (words in the shape of Andy’s head) on page 12. How did you first come up with that element and how much revision or aborted attempts did it take before you were happy with it? It’s an amazing piece of art and writing at the same time, honestly, and no easy task (though you made it look smooth and easy).
Alex Robinson: Why, thanks. I don’t remember how I came up with the idea or if I swiped it from someone else, but I just wanted some unique visual to convey the experience, something dreamlike. It was actually pretty simple to do once I figured out what I was going to do. It’s funny because many times people assume a page or sequence was especially challenging when it was actually easy and vice versa. I think the pages that usually take the most work are ones people don’t really notice or pay attention to.
Enrico Casarosa and his new book, Venice Chronicles (“A love story/travelogue/graphic novel”), was just one of the great books I found out about at the Baltimore Comic-Con in September. Casarosa was not at the con, but AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer was telling folks about the book in advance of its release (given that AdHouse is serving as the book’s distributor). I have trusted Pitzer’s instincts on books for years, so while I was still at the con, I emailed Casarosa to line up an email interview.
Before jumping into the interview, here’s the official bio on the storyteller:
“Enrico Casarosa has been in the animation industry for more than ten years, drawing storyboards that fit into large animated feature films. Currently a story artist at Pixar Animation Studios Enrico continues his quest to create more hours in the day by drawing alternate realities. Sooner or later his experiments will break through and we’ll all have to buy new watches. Meantime he just published an art book “3 trees make a forest” with partners in crime Ronnie del Carmen and Tadahiro Uesugi. Other times he pursues his muse by traveling with his watercolors and sketchbooks. Enrico is the founder of ‘SketchCrawl’, a worldwide drawing marathon event that gathers artists from all around the globe.”
Once you finish reading the interview, be sure to go here to buy the book directly from Casarosa.
Tim O’Shea: In addition to this new book, the Venice Chronicles, you work at Pixar. I was struck by something you recently wrote in your blog: “It’s become tradition for us selfpublishing friends here at Pixar to take photos of the opening of the first box of books.” How many selfpublishing friends are at Pixar and can you name some of them (and their projects)?
Enrico Casarosa: Oh yes there’s quite a few of us. I’ve had the luck of sharing tables at more than a couple of conventions (and co-publish a book) with uber talented friend Ronnie del Carmen. Another long time friend here at Pixar is Bill Presing, artist of “Rex Steele Nazismasher”. We met a long time ago back in NewYork and both did stories for the anthology Monkeysuit. And the list of talented pixarian friends/co-workers goes on: Scott Morse (Tiger!Tiger!Tiger!, Magic Pickle), Ted Mathot (Rose and Isabel, Cora), Derek Thompson , Dice Tsutsumi (Out of Picture) and many more. There’s also been a couple of anthologies called Afterworks that gather comics for some of the folks here and they even a new volume in the making.
I lost track of Leonard in recent years, around the time of my divorce and returning to the Catholic Church. I was first introduced to Leonard in the 1990s, when I stopped attending church and started watching CBS’ Sunday Morning. His TV criticism and passion was like no one else I had ever seen. His scant moments on the show were sheer enlightenment. In the late 1990s, I read his book, Smoke and Mirrors: Violence, Television, and Other American Cultures.
I did not read the New York Times Book Review when it was edited by Leonard in the 1970s (well I was in grade school). I would periodically read his book reviews in Harper’s, but I did not realize he continued to do TV reviews for New York magazine up almost to the point of his death. I regret not appreciating Leonard more in general–at the point I found out he had written for the Nation in recent years, the degree of how much great analysis I denied myself became apparent.
Leonard was a liberal who got his start at the National Review (another reason to respect the William F. Buckley era of that magazine) . He was able to vote for Obama–despite being gravely ill and literally a day away from death–on Tuesday.
Writers are lining up to sing his praise, but I leave you with A.O. Scott’s thoughts on Leonard:
“He demonstrated in every sentence what a critic could be — what a critic must be. Not a cop, a saint, a celebrity, a judge, a bureaucrat or a priest. A citizen. A teacher. A friend.”
Frank Santoro is a Pittsburgh-based artist who first became known in 1995 for Storeyville, a “perfect match of form and content” that was re-released in 2007 by Picturebox. More recently he has collaborated with Ben Jones on Cold Heat where the two storytellers are “applying Jones’s surreal, biting prose to Santoro’s elegant yet dynamic renderings”. Many folks will also recognize Santoro for his rather passionate opinions about comics and storytelling in general as shared at the group blog, Comics Comics. Through such efforts as Cage Match at the blog, as Santoro recently noted: “It was—and remains—our hope that people care enough about comics to take a stand, one way or the other. To get involved, to build a dialogue that will help create an emotional as well as intellectual foundation for the comics of the future.” This email interview took place soon after the initial David Heatley Cage Match, but before Heatley responded to critics (and the ensuing comments section from hell).
Tim O’Shea: If you had the chance to tell Heatley in person what you thought of this work, would you be this passionate? In asking this I’m not implying you would not have the guts per se to say these things in person, but rather the written word allows nuances and complexities lost in standard conversation. You were excited about his potential five years ago, but now feel far differently. Do you think Heatley squandered his talent and failed his potential–or that you were mistaken in seeing potential in his efforts in the first place?
Frank Santoro: I might not be so “passionate” but I plan on being honest. I’ve known him for years. He’s a nice guy. I don’t think he’s squandered his talent but I do wonder, openly and in a public forum, what the big deal is about his work. Why does it get so much attention? I think it has more to do with David’s “provocative” themes and his careerist approach to the new “graphic novel” landscape within the publishing industry than it does with how sound his comics are.
A few weeks back, I got my hands on an advanced copy of The Nightmare Factory: Volume 2 (Fox Atomic/HarperCollins). As described by the publisher: “The mind-bending universe of horror master Thomas Ligotti awaits in another graphic adaptation of his haunting work … Four more of Ligotti’s arresting tales are adapted into fine graphic literature by famed creators Stuart Moore, Joe Harris, Vasilis Lolos (The Last Call), Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), Toby Cypress (Killing Girl), and Nick Stakal (Criminal Macabre: My Demon Baby), featuring all-new introductions to each story by Thomas Ligotti.”
With the help of HarperCollins’ Greg Kubie, I was able to get in contact with both Moore and Harris for email interviews to discuss the book. First off, we’ll begin with Moore. Here’s his official bio (via his must-read blog, Pensive Mischief): “Moore has been a writer, a book editor, and an award-winning comics editor. His recent writing includes Iron Man (Marvel Comics), The 99 (Teshkeel), Firestorm (DC Comics), the original science-fiction series Earthlight (Tokyopop) and PARA (Penny-Farthing Press), and the prose novels American Meat and Reality Bites (Games Workshop). He was a founding editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint, and has also edited the Marvel Knights and Virgin Comics/SciFi Channel comics lines. Stuart lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, author Liz Sonneborn, and three of the most spoiled cats on the planet.”
Tim O’Shea: In adapting someone else’s prose for graphic novel, how hard is it to find your own voice while maintaining the spirit of Ligotti’s work?
Stuart Moore: I don’t do a lot of comics adaptations, but I always find them interesting. You exercise different writing muscles, and it makes you think differently about the way you construct your own comics.
With the Ligotti books, I don’t really worry so much about finding my own voice. These are really beautifully crafted stories, and I always try to keep as much of the original prose as I can. The trick is to figure out how to make each individual piece work in comics form. It’s a challenge, because in their original form, these stories rely much more on interior narrative and moody prose than on dialogue.
His son said it best, as noted in this LA Times obit.
“‘He lived a long, eventful, satisfying, though sometimes tempestuous life,’ Dan Terkell said. ‘I think that pretty well sums it up.’”
Indeed it does. But there’s also the Chicago Sun-Times obit. Read all his obits that you can find. The man was fascinating and a damn fine storyteller and left every person he met with a story. I’m impressed at how the comments section of the obits even generate stories about Terkel.
Never heard of Turkel? Fortunately he has many books and recordings for you to inform yourself. Here is a bevy of online videos courtesy of Google/You Tube. Here is the Chicago radio station, WFMT, where he spent more than 40 years. Finally here is Chicago History Museum‘s site devoted to Terkel.