Archive for September, 2009

A Dill Meets Pickles.

September 21, 2009

Pickles

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brian Crane last Saturday, Brian is the cartoonist who does ‘Pickles’ which is syndicated in over 500 newspapers. And well it should be. It’s the most surprisingly funny and pure classic comic strip I’ve read in a very long time. I admit that I was only aware of ‘Pickles’ before last week, I had never studied or read it much. But after doing so, I’ll tell ya’ honestly- read ‘Pickles’. It’s a real treasure.
So I had set up a meeting with Brian on Saturday, after his talk at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. I was set to interview him for my podcast and was going to formulate my questions while I listened to his lecture and presentation.
I spent that morning with my son doing ‘Coastal Cleanup’, a state wide day of organized groups walking along the various shorelines of California cleaning up trash. Our area was the north shore of the Carquinez Strait in Benicia. After that, I got cleaned up and drove up to The Schulz Museum.
So I get there and Brian is signing books in the lobby. Wha-?
I saw Jessica, the woman who organizes these events, and asked, “Did he already do his presentation?”
“Yes”, she said almost desperately, “Where were you?”
“I thought the talk was at 3.”
“No, that was when I scheduled the interview, he spoke at 1:00.” She said. I heard the sound of crackers crumbling in my head. What a dope. I had read the email wrong and thought that it started at 3:00.
So I missed it.
But the interview was still on, and with 5 people left in the line it looked like Brian was almost finished signing. I had to hurry. I started scribbling questions as if I was on an IV drip of Red Bull and NOx, just writing as fast as I could, when Jeannie Schulz (Sparky’s widow) walked up and started suggesting that I walk over to the studio with Brian and his wife and she would meet us there. So we wandered over there when Brian was done.

Brian is a wonderfully cheerful and pleasant guy, carrying a balanced air of lightness and dignity with him that is infectious. Putting me right at ease, we chatted as we crossed the baseball field to the Schulz studio where I work. Jeannie arrived and showed them around the studio and I peeled off with Brian to finally do this great interview. We sat in the conference room, Sparky’s old art studio, and I pressed on the digital tape recorder’s play button. ‘FULL’ the display read. I went to a different channel, same thing. I erased everything on it but it still would not record. Again with the crumbling cracker sounds in my head, and this warm soup of failure was getting pretty thick at this point.
No interview today.
Brian was very good about it and promised that he would do a call-in interview very soon. So look for that. He is a very interesting guy and his strip is brilliant. It’s about an elderly couple, Earl and Opal Pickles and I realize that that situation may turn some people off. Particularly many of the people who follow my strip, the subject matter probably couldn’t be farther apart. But if you are fans of comics and like to over-analyze and dissect comics like many of my fans do, you really should read ‘Pickles’. It’s on GoComics, just like Mythtickle, so it’s easy to go back in the archive. What amazes me most about it is how after all of these years, each strip I read still contains a great surprise in the joke, punch-line, payoff, whatever you want to call it. The surprise is the little element in a comic strip that gives you the impulse to laugh. So with this subject matter you might assume that the strip would be tired or predictable. But it never is. It’s clear and so cleverly constructed that it’s always successful, he’s just one of those guys who makes it look so darn easy.
So forgive my typical ineptitude, and go check out a bunch of ‘Pickles’ and I’ll let you know when Brian’s interview is up.

Thanks.

Cornball Country.

September 14, 2009

See?! Seeeeee?!!!! Corn is the devil!

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Isn’t Tom Meyer great. He’s the editorial cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and I just had to post this because it’s an issue so close to me. People who know me well, know that I have a big issue with corn. I didn’t used to, I grew up shucking the ears that my parents bought at the store and loved doing it. What a fresh aroma that was. My parents, being good midwesterners, had corn on the table all the time. Corn used to be such a wonderful food. Now corn is so polluted with chemical and genetic manipulation, that it actually causes me physical problems and I can’t go near it. Again, my friends have to hear this from me all the time and I’m sure they’ve probably all stopped reading by now. But for those of you who are still curious, allow me to preach and give you my testimony.

About 9 or 10 years ago, I noticed that I was getting these red splotches on my skin just under my eyes, on either side of my nose. I never knew why, I thought it was probably some kind of metal in my wire frames. Nickel perhaps. But  they weren’t there all of the time. They only showed up occasionally and I couldn’t figure out why. After it started getting bigger with each ‘breakout’, I decided to get new glasses. It was starting to get kind of painful. Only cortizone 10 would clear it up and it started to even burn when I put it on. Well, new glasses didn’t do the trick, I was still getting these terrible rashes and they were starting to spread with each outbreak. My wife suggested that maybe it was something I was eating so I started eliminating foods. This went on for many months, I tried, dairy, sugar, wheat, everything I could think of. The splotches just seemed to be getting worse. Over the years, and during this process my son was born with severe food allergies to dairy, soy, and in a very lethal way- peanuts. My daughter was born three years later with her own food allergies, that were different than William’s. It’s a nightmare.

So it was while I was in the process of eliminating wheat and gluten from my diet for a few weeks when I took in a SF Giants game with my brother in law. This was about three years ago. We were at the baseball game, and let me tell you; being at a ball park and not being able to have a hot dog and a beer was close to torture. I couldn’t tell who the Giants were playing that day but I do remember having a Coke, some Cracker Jacks, a taco, and a Baby Ruth. When I got home, my wife said, “Oh my God, what happened to your face?” I looked in the mirror and my face was bright red from my forehead to my cheeks and only on either side of my nose. Of course she asked me if I had anything with wheat in it and frustrated, I said that I had not even had any beer! She asked what I did have and we realized, probably because of the taco, that I had taken in a whole lot of corn. The other things had corn syrup among their main ingredients. So we thought we had finally narrowed it down. I began eliminating anything and everything with corn syrup, corn starch, just anything with corn in the ingredients. After two weeks I did not have a single blemish or outbreak. We had  nailed it. I tested it a couple of times after that and sure enough. If I had anything with corn, the next day I would have that redness on my face. So I stopped right there and I’ve been OK. I still get the rashes every once in a while because corn product is so freaking pervasive in our food now that it can’t always be helped. If it is in my power, if I can see it on a label, I won’t eat it. But if I go to a restaurant, I can’t always know. So that’s when it sneaks in an gets me. So because our poultry and beef are fed this mutated corn every day, along with bizarre growth hormones, I don’t eat meat anymore either. Maybe that alone is why I rarely get sick anymore. Who knows? All I know is I’m doing much better now than I ever have.

Mutated corn you ask? Oh yes. The two major chemical companies, Monsanto and Dupont are now distributing all of the corn seeds in America and have genetically alterd these seeds to have more yield and to have a built-in pesticide. Isn’t that nice? We’re all eating super grownth-seeds and organic pesticides now. Was this stuff tested before it was put into our food supply. Nah. Of course not. The survival of the American farm is much more important, and we’ll just see what happens to people. It probably won’t do anything. This was the same thinking when bovine growth hormone was injecting into dairy cows and beef. Gee, I wonder why Americans are so overweight. Hmm. I couldn’t be the growth hormone in the food, could it?

So, back to my experiments and discoveries: Here are the benefits of doing this corn abstinence aside from the clear skin. I don’t snore anymore. I used to snore so badly that I would wake myself up. My wife couldn’t sleep and sometimes had to sleep on the couch. Now I only snore if corn sneaks into my food. Looking at the red mask pattern I generate when I eat corn, I assume that it attacks my sinuses in some way. Another benefit is that I very rarely get sick anymore. I used to get sick with a flu or a cold at least once every other month. Now, maybe once a year. It is amazing.

My son’s allergies are still severe, we have to travel everywhere with an Epipen, but his dairy allergy is mellowing. My daughter’s only allergy now is corn syrup. Her rashes appear all over her arms if she has corn syrup. My brother in law started to develop the same splotches on his skin last year and now it is so bad that if he has corn it goes all over his skin. Arms, chest, face, and neck. So it’s not something in my family, I’m not related to my brother in law.

Maybe someone reading this knows someone who has problems like this, I don’t know. If you do I’d like to hear from you. But if you’ve been told that you have a snoring problem, try cutting out corn for a week or so and see if anything changes. It could save your relationship.

Here are a couple of sources where you can find out what Monsanto and Dupont have done to American corn,

Full Documentary.

The Omnivore’s Dilema

When Corn Is King.

Good luck, and watch what you eat.

Cali’s fine but it ain’t home. New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more.

September 10, 2009

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Sorry I didn’t post a blog on Monday but I was in the late 16th century and couldn’t find a computer ANYWHERE.

Here’s why; to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary, my wife and I brought the kids with us to the revered grounds where we met. A small carved-out shire in Sterling Forest in Southern New York state, that still retains some of the magic it generated when it was a botanical garden in the ‘60s and ‘70s. A little spot where we got engaged and married, and that’s where we were on Sunday and Monday- the New York Renaissance Festival. For ten summers I sweat and bled there in those nearly unbreathably muggy hot summers between 1993 and 2002. That long story is for another day, but in the summer of 2003 my wife and then 13 month old son left that place and moved out to the San Francisco Bay area. Our lives are so different now, with two kids and only a few friends whom we see not nearly often enough. Which may be how people in this century actually do it, I don’t know. But back in the day, when we lived in Queens and later New Jersey, we would see our ‘Fair-Friends’ all the time. Even in the snow-slippery sidewalks of Hell’s Kitchen, you found a way to get to them in a warm pub. We needed each other, maybe it was the bonding of what we went through in the summers or the general harshness of New York City I don’t know, maybe both, but for better and worse we were a family. We watched out for one another. Of course when you’re in the middle of all of this you take it somewhat for granted, it just becomes your way of life. But when you don’t have it, when you migrate into new places and phases of your life, suddenly you’re in a very different routine and you look up and go, “Wait. Why don’t I have friends anymore?” I must reiterate here that we do have a few friends here in Cali, all of whom we met when we were in New York! They moved out to our area either before or after us. Michael is here now, he’s the guy who taught me how to joust and, by picking me to teach out of dozens of others, truly saved my life. Robin and Anna whom my wife went to acting school with in Manhattan are here now too. Sadly, they all live pretty far from us so getting together with them is sometimes months apart.

Value your friends while you are among them because sometimes you’re not as lucky to have gone through what Kim and I did this past weekend. Returning to the Faire to see the grounds that engendered what we now call ‘us’, Kim and I saw our friends turn up in droves. Labor Day weekend usually brings out a large collection of ‘vets’ so we came on the right days to see old friends. There was so much love thrown our way by so many people, hugs, tears, laughs, and more hugs, it was intoxicating. I don’t know why we can’t make new friends in California maybe  it’s just a different way of life. We’ve never clicked with people out here. But it was all fluttering hearts and raucous laughter that weekend and it was as if we had never left. We stepped into everything as if 6 years were just a hiccup of time, a swift dream dispelled and suddenly all was well. The jousters even put me in the tournament show on Labor Day and I was up on the back of my old horse Oso. We did the tournament obstacle course, ring-jousting, quintaine, spear-throwing, flag-tossing, the whole bit in front of a huge crowd. A crowd as large as the one in front of which I proposed to Kim in my armor, atop Oso, all those years ago.
The greatest regret that I’ve always held was that my kids could never have seen me joust. After the show, when my costume and the horses were stowed backstage I walked across the joustfield where Kim and I were married and there were my kids, running toward me with arms outstretched. I’ll remember that as one of the greatest moments of my life.
A circle now completed.

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