APE 2007 Photos

There’s a good deal of audio and comics that I’m still processing from Saturday’s insane immersion into Alternative Press Expo. But for the moment, here are some photos to whet your appetite.


Bob the Angry Flower‘s Stephen Notley, located as per the APE custom next to Keith Knight, was solicited for tax advice and informed me of how one could write off a flower hat.


So Super Duper‘s Brian Andersen, as interviewed by one of the three Segundo correspondents employed for APE coverage (in one case, a correspondent smart enough to know the difference between Jeffrey Brown and Chester Brown was employed against his will).


There were many guitarists providing musical support for fellow artists in the booths.


Nome Sang? It’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times: a query that offers no immediate answer. This sounds like a job for The Diplomatics, the world’s (only?) political superhero web comic.


One of the aspects of APE often unremarked upon is the meticulous binding and sewing some exhibitors apply to their minicomics and illustrated chapbooks. Corrine Mucha was no exception.


One did not necessarily need to pay two quarters for relationship advice, since there were many clear human examples through the transparent booth!


The man in the mask is, as you might gather, from Luchadork Comics. He was asked about whether Jack Black’s Nacho Libre or Luchadork came first and was unfazed by the Gumby propaganda.


Girls and Corpses was easily the sleaziest magazine I picked up. I had thought that it was a one-off grand parody of Maxim, but there are apparently fifteen issues of this alarmingly slick publication. I talked with Robert Steven Rhine, the delightfully sleazy gentleman behind this periodical, and he insisted he lived on an estate comparable to the Playboy Mansion.


Pop cultural mimesis was very much on display, with an alarming number of items devoted to Christopher Walken. These items were from Brandon Bird‘s table.


Despite noble efforts to track down the fundamentalist cartoonist Jack Chick, he was nowhere to be found at APE.


A rare moment when I was sitting down. There are about fifty audio files from Saturday I have to go through.


This gentleman, from Crater on the Moon, was apparently influenced by the Marvin Martian sartorial school.


Baby Tattoo Books, the publishing house devoted to publishing Gus Grimly’s narratives.


Two Shy Guys — or at least one of the men behind this comic. The gentleman on the left is currently being sought by G-men for certain indiscretions uttered on audio.

[UPDATE: Pink Raygun has an incredible breakdown of all APE exhibitors.]

[UPDATE 2: More APE writeups from Great White Shark, which rightly points out that APE is the only convention with a fully-stocked cash bar, Scott Beale, Spectoria, APE Bingo from Shannon Garrity, Superheroes Don’t Wear Sneakers, Tom Geller, Sip Tea, Moose River and Artnoose.]

Mike Daisey Hijacked Mid-Show

I briefly interrupt my two and a half day hiatus with some important and shocking news:

If you care about the arts, and if you want to see how truly despicable some purported “Christians” are, check out Mike Daisey’s blog. Apparently, as Daisey was in the middle of performing, eighty-seven members of a Christian group walked out en masse and spilled water on Daisey’s ONLY copy of his outline.

Daisey also has a YouTube video of this.

As a person who has written, staged and performed theatre, my greatest empathy goes out to Mike Daisey, who should never have experienced such rampant cruelty. The faceless cowards who did this are no better than the ghouls who burned the Great Library of Alexandria. And I hope that he can comes to terms with this horrible event in the best manner possible. Fortunately, as seen on the YouTube video, he responded to this incident with good humor.

[UPDATE: The Boston Globe‘s Geoff Edgers has done additional reporting. Contrary to Daisey’s assertions, the group was not a Christian one.]

Roundup and a Callout

  • Going Postal‘s Mark Ames offers words on Virginia Tech. (Thanks, Richard!)
  • Scott Esposito responds to Cynthia Ozick’s “Literary Entrails.”
  • My response to Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur is now at 2,500 words, and I still have considerably more to address. Rest assured, it will be unleashed before the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
  • I’m very excited to be covering Alternative Press Expo tomorrow, where I will likely be spending far too much money. If you have comics, particularly strange or unusual ones, to talk about, look for the balding guy wandering the Concourse with the microphone. The results will appear, as last year, in a series of forthcoming Segundo podcasts.
  • The Sharp Side thinks Lionel Shriver is a crap writer. (via Mark Thwaite)
  • If you thought that Will Self’s New York Times walk-a-thon was strange, New York Magazine has upped the fey ante by following Marisha Pessl as she loads up on coffee and cupcakes. It’s good to know that when it comes to literary writers, today’s media will devote considerable column inches not to the books in question, but what they do with their bodies. What next? A 2,000 word article on Zadie Smith and Z.Z. Packer bicycling cross-country?
  • Will Peter Carey win another Miles Franklin?
  • The 10 greatest novels for children. Any list along these lines that includes Melvin Burgess’s Junk is interesting.
  • John Freeman writes: “How, after all, could one review ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ without commenting upon the novel’s deeply humanistic vision? How will critics talk about former NBCC winner Jim Crace’s upcoming apocalyptic novel ‘The Pesthouse’ (which is set in America) without engaging with the very real political undercurrents caused by his flip-flopping of our greatest migration myths (having people trying to leave the country, rather than enter it)? How does one review a book like William T. Vollmann’s ‘Poor People’ without pausing for more than an aside to marvel how infrequently this population winds up in a book at all?” Well, it’s very simple. In Vollmann’s case, you observe the level of scholarship and the degree to which the book succeeds or fails at personal journalism. In the case of the two novels, you remark upon how thematically effective the narrative is. This has very little to do with politics, although I can see how a politically conscious reader might pick up certain connections. China Miéville and I recently had an interesting conversation about how an author’s imagination does, in fact, dwell outside of his political sensibilities. In Miéville’s case, the monsters that Miéville creates have nothing to do with his Marxist leanings.
  • Accordingly, since John Freeman seems to see politics in everything, I hereby challenge Mr. Freeman to a public debate in New York on this very issue, where I will duly demonstrate to Mr. Freeman that an open-minded reader can, in fact, read, write, and assess literature irrespective of politics.

Remember the Ladies

A year after Marisha Pessl became the Hot Young and Overeducated Literary Chick with Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Galleycat reports that there’s a new Hot Young and Overeducated Literary Chick in the making named Rivka Galchen, who has a book called Atmospheric Disturbances and Other Sad Meteorological Phenomena.

Call me crazy, but there’s a title trend here, which I suppose would make this blog post a “trend piece” or perhaps a “trend blog post.” Since I am a philanthropist and I greatly desire to see more women in literary fiction, I hope to help all future Hot Young and Overeducated Literary Chicks get their book deals. With this spirit in mind, I have assembled a helpful list of future titles that might be used to acquire additional book deals:

Naughty Novelties in Quantum Mechanics
Geophysical Undercurrents in Close Proximity
Seismic Shifts and Other Assorted Miracles on the San Andreas Fault
Astronomical Gastronomy and the Burden of Astral-Intestinal Alignments
Zoological Bliss in the Existential Biosphere
Newton’s Ventricles and Ancillary Universal Gravitations
Metaphysical Heartbeats and the Critique of Pure Reason

Small Circulation Magazines in Trouble Because of Postal Hikes

As if the Independent Press Association dissolution wasn’t bad enough for small magazines, it seems that the new postal rate increase is going to decimate small circulation magazines. A last minute 758-page plan submitted by Time Warner and approved by the US Postal Service Board of Governors has called for an increase in mailing costs between 18 and 30 percent. Meanwhile, the big boys — Time, Newsweek, the like — they get to see their postal rates go down.

Fortunately, the Board of Governors has opened up a small window of public comment over the course of eight days — set to expire on April 25.

This is a crushing blow to independent magazines, the dead tree equivalent to net neutrality.

Fortunately, a site exists in which you can sign against these inequitable developments. If you care about a democratic magazine landscape and keeping the playing field level, do your part.

Bat Segundo Aids Brides to Be!

I am truly stunned, honored, and otherwise blushing big time because of Callie’s kind words and extremely creative approach to Segundo listening:

Part of this wedding prep involves working out a bit more than your average obsessive reader/writer usually has time for (read: none). So I’ve been rising each morning, turning on my iRiver (take that iPod) and listening to one Bat Segundo Podcast each day. This has had the lovely effect of me actually wanting to get out of bed early, wanting to jump on the treadmill. It is excellent to pair such drudgery with the words of my favorite writers. Also: While I had listened to several of the Bat’s ‘casts over the last year, it is only when you consume one (sometimes two) a day over the course of a week, that you really begin to get the wow factor of all the Bat has time to do. I mean, the intros alone are sort of other-worldly. So – my hats off to the Bat and his mysterious creator. I’m only one week in and I have more than 109 days of working out to do, so please, please: more podcasts soon?

And of course, congratulations and many happy years to the future Mr. & Mrs. Counterbalance!


Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Lethem

Table of Malcontents: “I met up with Jonathan Lethem last week to talk about the joys of living outside copyright laws, and the award-winning nerd novelist revealed that he’d love to be in a slash fiction story. Whom would he want to be paired with? ‘I want to be surprised! I want to see ones I wouldn’t think of!” he enthused, eyes wide with anticipation — or possibly fear. Lethem believes he’s been ‘slashed’ only once, paired with fellow geek novelist Michael Chabon in a ‘sublimated homoerotic comic by Patricia Storms that was just an inch away from being Kirk and Spock.'”

By a curious coincidence, I recently received an email from Virginia Thorup, a diffident fan fiction writer from Des Moines who kindly offered to share a piece with the readers here at Return of the Reluctant:

Michael stepped into the room, his long locks dangling against his bare chest. Ayelet was far, far away and he had only one thing on his mind: the whiny neurotic in the guest room. Jonathan was at the computer, wondering what kind of novel he could possibly write.

“Dammit, they really loved Fortress!” exclaimed Jonathan. “And they hated You Don’t Love Me Yet!”

“There there, Jonathan,” said Michael, his sweat dripping between his toned pecs because he was SO nervous! Would Jonathan say YES? “I think I know a way to cure your angst, to settle you down.”

“Leave me alone, Yiddish boy.”

“I wish I could have been there when they circumcised you.”

Jonathan thought of the kind rabbis who sliced him so many years ago, instilling him with a reason for being, beginning his long ascent to delayed manhood. And now where was he? Spiritually cut off from God, spiritually cut off from pleasure, spiritually cut off from his natural talents. He grew hard thinking about the blade, wondered what Michael would have done had he been there decades ago and had Michael been a grown man and a qualified man of the blade. Michael would have used the knife gently. Michael would have cupped his balls and excited him, reassuring him, reigniting him.

Michael observed that Jonathan’s buttocks bounced as he sat in the chair. Jonathan couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t relax and write. He seemed to grow giddy thinking about comic books.

“I’m a MacArthur fellow now!” exclaimed Jonathan. “I’m too old for this shit. I have to be mainstream and acceptable.”

“You’re never too old for love,” said Michael.

Michael caressed Jonathan’s cheek, feeling Jonathan’s tears streak onto the top of his fingers. He had known tears himself because he had known Ayelet. And he knew that, with Jonathan, he could reclaim what little was left of their respective manhoods.

“Get out of the chair and bend over!” commanded Michael.


“Come on! You need this!”

Jonathan was afraid, but Michael told him it was okay. He could bring a knife if he wanted to. And when Michael’s hard six-inch cock penetrated Jonathan’s ass, he sighed and moaned. And he knew then and there that everything would be okay. Michael pumped softly because he knew Jonathan was sensitive. And Michael was sensitive too. But someone had to take charge. Jonathan was more sensitive because the critics had reviewed his books. And he knew that Jonathan’s ass, with its concave buttocks flattened from too many hours in the chair, was the only relief.

“Auggggggggggggghhhhh!” said Jonathan, the pleasure coruscating through his body. “Harder, Michael! Harder!”

Michael adjusted his thrust, roughing Jonathan up a bit and tousling his hair. Jonathan hadn’t gone bald like the others. He liked that. He liked a virile man over forty. He wanted to see Jonathan sweat. He wanted to see Jonathan go the distance. Michael cupped Jonathan’s balls, feeling his cock harden in his hands and jerked him off.

He thrust harder and harder. He began to see God. Then he came and pulled out, his load dripping down Jonathan’s crack. He felt Jonathan jism in his fingers. Jonathan’s tears had been replaced by pure pleasure. He wiped his fingers upon his face, the semen, sweat and tears forming a veritable Lethem milkshake. It was a pity he was lactose intolerant.

“Now write your next novel,” barked Michael.

“Can you come by after Chapter Five?” begged Jonathan, looking up at Michael while on all fours. “I may need your help, master!”

“Okay. But you’re my bitch. Never forget.”

Shriver on Virginia Tech

The ever-thoughtful author of We Need to Talk About Kevin weighs in:

I would far prefer that this new killer remained anonymous. Were all such culprits to remain utterly and eternally unknown, the chips on their shoulders interred with their bones, their grudges for ever private, surely the frequency of these grotesquely gratuitous sprees would plummet. One of the driving forces for most of these killers is not just to be noticed, but, however perversely, to be understood.

(via Sarah)

Send Ed Falco Some Love, Folks

It turns out that Ed Falco was one of Cho Seung-Hui’s teachers. Here’s the most fascinating section:

Nikki Giovanni, a well-known poet who was also one of Cho’s teachers, found his writing so “weird” and “intimidating” that she had him removed from her class in the fall of 2005. But Falco tried a different approach. Asked why he thought Cho became an English major, Falco offered what he called a guess.

“The kid couldn’t speak. I did everything I knew to draw him out. I tried to joke with him. I touched his shoulder while asking him a direct question. I put myself in quiet, one-on-one space with him — and I still could not get articulate speech out of him.

“Yet, in writing he could communicate. You’ve seen the plays. They’re not good writing. But they are at least a form of communication. And in his responses to the other students’ plays, he could be quite articulate. If writing is the only way you can communicate with the wider world, then I guess being an English major makes sense.”

(Thanks, Jeff)

Intermissions Are for the Weak

Variety: “The first came when Dave Chappelle appeared onstage at 10:36 p.m. for an unannounced set. The second shocker: Chappelle kept telling jokes until 4:43 the next morning— making his entire set a whopping six hours and seven minutes. That’s the longest performance by any comedian in the the 28-year history of the Laugh Factory, according to founder Jamie Masada….Chappelle didn’t take any bathroom breaks. And Laugh Factory staff stopped serving alcohol around midnight, Masada said.”

Central Arbiter, My Ass

Robert Brustein: “I realize the changes at the Times are part of its effort to keep financially afloat when the print media are failing to attract enough readers. And yet, despite its abject bow to cultural illiteracy, The New York Times continues to regard itself as the maker of theatrical standards. The New York Post recently reported an angry encounter between the playwright David Hare (whose The Vertical Hour was recently backhanded by the Times) and the paper’s managing director, Jill Abramson. Hare accused the Times (correctly in my opinion) of having little interest in theatre, and even less in plays. Ms. Abramson allegedly replied, “Listen, it is not our obligation to like or care about the theater. It is our obligation to arbitrate it. We are the central arbiter of taste and culture in the city of New York.”

Much as Sam Tanenhaus corrupted the idea of the New York Times Book Review as a “central arbiter of taste and culture” and litblogs have, to some degree, picked up the slack (although the recent “Fiction in Translation” issue was a welcome aberration), perhaps theatre blogs might do the same for New York. I must confess that I’m not entirely familiar with the Broadway blog scene (this will change soon), but Terry Teachout’s theatrical riffs at About Last Night, Broadway Abridged, Broadway and Me and Off, Off Blogway are some blogs I’ve encountered that come to mind. And, of course, here in my town, nobody can touch Michael Rice’s Cool as Hell Theatre, recently picked up by KQED, for in-depth theatrical coverage (116 podcasts!) of the Bay Area theatre scene.

Some newspapers seem to be going well out of their way to make their positions as arbiter…well, less central.

Apocalyptic Lifeblood

Ellen Heltzel of The Book Babes raises an interesting point about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road:

Crace is among my favorite contemporary novelists (“Being Dead” is amazing and rightly won the National Book Critics Circle prize). “The Pesthouse,” while by no means surpassing “The Road,” is worthy in its own right. For one thing, it actually has a FEMALE character. For another, the ending seems to evolve more naturally from the story. In “The Road,” it feels as if McCarthy couldn’t sustain his hopeless vision and flinched.

While I don’t agree that McCarthy’s novel is about sustaining a “hopeless vision” (if anything, its purpose seems to me just the opposite), I am also troubled by the double standard in apocalyptic novels, where the protagonists are often men.

But it’s not just the “man’s man” quality of McCarthy that sets him apart from his peers, but the literary vs. genre divide. Much as Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America wasn’t the first novel to explore an alternate universe (although I do recall hoary-haired highbrows scratching their pates in wonder over Roth’s “innovations”), the apocalyptic novel was laid down before by writers as diverse as Robert A. Heinlein (Farnham’s Freehold), H.G. Wells (The Shape of Things to Come), Octavia Butler (the Parable books), David Brin (The Postman), Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle) — too many quite frankly to list.

For those critics and enthusiasts now in the practice of declaring genre lesser or worthless, one must ask why top contemporary writers like Roth and McCarthy are using genre to sustain their literary worth.

An Effigy and a Gentleman

BBC: “Actress Shilpa Shetty has defended Richard Gere after the Hollywood actor sparked protests by kissing her at an Aids awareness rally in New Delhi. Public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India, and protestors in Mumbai (Bombay) set fire to effigies of Gere following the incident.”

The Mumbai protesters have an interesting idea, but they’re doing this for the wrong reason. They should be setting fire to Gere effigies for American Gigolo, Autumn in New York, Pretty Woman, and the remakes of Shall We Dance, Breathless and The Jackal.