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Sunday
Dec102006

Sunday Zen

Friday
Dec082006

Draw me a City in a Garden

Chris Ware and the Old Building Appreciation Society have struck again.

Last night, the humble artist spoke at the Jewish Museum in New York with City of Chicago Cultural Historian Timothy Samuelson ("We both love old buildings, old music, and old comics") on the role of Chicago in the history of the comic strip. Easily this counts as one of the most enjoyable talks I've been to in New York. It could only have been made better if it had taken place in Chicago. And oh how it made me want to be in Chicago.

Great moments came from examinations of entries to a Chicago Tribune contest held to find the building that would be their headquarters, and ultimately, the greatest building in the world. "I call this one the marital aid entry." Ware's dry humor found laughter as well as he lent his commentary to the section of a silent film called "Trees to Tribune" featuring the art staff of the Chicago Tribune. Of Carey Orr: "This guy is such a douchebag. Don't forget your signature, Carey..." (He later reminded us that though he makes fun, he feels a real affinity for these guys.)

Samuelson spun stories of the history of Chicago architecture - of how it was an amalgam of new ideas that never could have worked in a place like New York, of the way it was mocked decades ago in a New Yorker illustration as a prop film set, with tall buildings up front, and support beams in back - a fantastic storyteller. He and Ware bounced off each other like two men sitting on a porch, telling stories they've been telling for years to the new stranger from out of town. Ware shared his love for artists such as Feininger ("he just looks like a nice, old man"), McCay, Darger, New Yorker cover artist Mary Petty (a new fling), and Frank King, creator of "Gasoline Alley."

There was a particular beauty in both Samuelson's and Ware's appreciation for King. There were old black-and-white pictures from King's life, including a sweet moment capturing King, the bottom button of his cardigan undone, carrying his son on his shoulders in front of the camera. Ware told us he seemed like a happy, down-to-earth father. That they had a cozy life. The slight melancholy in the autumn strips of "Gasoline Alley" was explained by the departure of King's son to boarding school. A reflection of melancholy, Ware said: "so anyway..." and the projection screen momentarily faded to black. And there was something very beautiful and intangible in that moment.

More things that endear me to Ware: He wants his drawings to look like they are dead on the page. He loves books more than gallery shows. He understands the majesty of people in photographs obscured to the size of specks of dust by a building of plaster and wood.

"That's what you get for your $15." Well worth it.

More on the Ware/Samuelson connection in multi-media format, featuring Ira Glass, here. If you are in New York, you can see the Masters of American Comics exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York and the Newark Museum through January 28th.

And bonus: Here's Ware talking about cartooning and Tintin.

Thursday
Dec072006

Three lovely things: Peanuts, Walking, and Winning

One.
I have loved "Peanuts" from a very young age. I much preferred Schulz's relatively quiet strip to the spastic noise of Looney Toons and Disney, and my parents often found me in time for dinner hiding under the piano with my nose in a Peanuts book. I cried the day Charles Schulz died, because he was the creator of some of my best childhood friends. In case you hadn't yet come across it in the stores, The Complete Peanuts is Fantagraphics' complete collection of 50 years of the Schulz strip in 25 books. To get all 25 (they're up to the sixth collection, 1961-1962 at the moment) would cost a hefty chunk of change, but I'm very tempted, if only to revisit old childhood friends.

There's a review of the collection over at The High Hat.

Two.
Will Self walks really, really far. (via Critical Mass) Part of me thinks he might be incredibly pretentious for doing this. But that doesn't stop me from wishing I could do the same. Just walk the whole way.

I have a hometown friend who came to visit New York a few years ago to do some research work. All of my childhood friends (excluding the Peanuts kids) have developed interesting adulthood quirks, and as I hadn't seen him since high school, I was curious to see what his was. I was highly amused when I found out: He refused to take public transportation. Was it a hygiene thing? No. "I have two good legs, what's wrong with using them?" He started this while living in London, and stuck to it in every city he has lived in or visited. So on the day I met up with him, we walked everywhere. From 55th & 8th to 26th & 6th, then onward to 10th & 5th. In the pouring rain. Uphill both ways. No, it was really raining. My white wool stockings were never the same.

Until I took that walk with him, I don't think I ever realized how close everything is in this city. Really. I have come to rely far too much on public transportation. When the weather is nice, I should remember that I, too, have two good legs. I don't think I will try to make it to JFK on foot for my next flight, but 40 blocks shouldn't be out of the question if the sun is shining and I have the time to kill. As long as it doesn't make me pretentious.

Three.
I won again. This must be my week.

Tuesday
Dec052006

Haircut 100

Years ago, when appearance obviously didn't concern me as much as it does now, I would cut my own hair. A pair of scissors, a clump in the hand, and snip. Now, like a good grown-up, I go to an actual hair salon at least once a year to get a proper cut. I love my hair salon; the woman who cuts my hair and I bond over our love of Shirley Jackson and fifties pulp paperbacks. They play music in the salon that makes me feel like I'm hanging out with my girlfriends and taking turns playing records. The Pretenders. Pixies. New Order. So, you can imagine my nostalgic mix of joy and revulsion when this song came on the soundsystem as Amy began to chop away at my hair last week.

Oh yes. Icehouse.

Monday
Dec042006

John McGrew and the Sit Backs

Sometimes I can't believe the genius I happen to be related to. Ladies and gentlefolk, the beautiful and talented John McGrew. 'Bound To Do Right' makes my heart sigh, and 'Annie Mae' is the song I would've put on every mix I made for a boy I had a crush on in high school.

I can't wait to hear more...