Friday, July 31, 2009

More Jane! for the Jane Austen Purist


Jane Austen (1775-1817) only wrote six novels. We desperately wish she’d written six more. What’s an Austen reader to do after reading Pride and Prejudice for the tenth time? The trend is sequels to the novels and chick lit about the modern woman finding her own Mr. Darcy, but many Austen fans don’t want to go there. We like our pride, our prejudice, our sense, and our sensibility unembellished and untainted. So here’s a list of books that will appeal to the Jane Austen purist. After all, we must heed Darcy’s advice: “And to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading” (Pride and Prejudice, Vol. I, Chap. viii).

First and foremost—there is more Jane!

Lady Susan/ The Watsons/ Sanditon by Jane Austen , 2003, Penguin Classics, originally published 1871 (Fiction Classics/ Juvenile Works/ Romance)



















The three minor works collected here are the closest we’ll ever get to another complete novel by Jane Austen. Lady Susan is a novella composed in the early 1790s at the same time as early versions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. It’s a sassy little tale about Lady Susan, a dazzling young widow who wants her daughter to marry well and herself to marry even better. Her schemes and seductions unfold through letters that the characters write to each other. The Watsons is an unfinished fragment about Emma Watson, daughter of a poor curate who’s farther down on the social ladder than any other Austen heroine—maybe so far down that Austen couldn’t see a realistic way to raise her up, and possibly why the story was abandoned in 1804. Still, The Watsons showcases Austen’s originality. Austen was writing Sanditon at the time of her death in 1817. It begins with an overturned carriage, follows with several cheerful gossipy chapters about the histories of the characters, and ends just when the heroine finds herself involved in a romantic mystery. Several authors (Joan Aiken, Juliette Shapiro, Julia Barrett, and an anonymous "Other Lady") have tried completing The Watsons or Sanditon, but not one lives up to the promise contained in these small but tantalizing hints that Austen left behind.

Take a look at some of the books by contemporary authors that Austen read—and then made fun:

The Mysteries of Udulpho by Ann Radcliffe, 2001, Penguin Classics, originally published 1794 (Fiction Classics/ Mystery)


In Austen's Northanger Abbey, Catherine Moreland scares herself silly reading The Mysteries of Udulpho. It is the premiere Gothic novel by the premiere Gothic writer, Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823). Emily St. Aubert is a beautiful orphan, separated from her true love and held captive by her cruel uncle in a ruined castle. The writing is dramatic, the villain is despicable, and the charmingly naïve Emily spends most of the book in a dead faint. It’s no wonder Catherine got spooked, and it’s no wonder Jane couldn’t help poking a bit of fun at the extremes that Gothic goes to. Henry Tilney likes the book, and that should be good enough for us.

Evelina, or The History of A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World by Fanny Burney, 1998, Oxford World's Classics, originally published 1778 (Fiction Classics/ Romance)


Evelina is beautiful, charming, and has a mysterious, romantic past. She’s exactly the kind of heroine that Catherine Moreland of Northanger Abbey is not. But just like Catherine, Evelina is an inexperienced girl who has to navigate the treacherous waters of Polite Society—including undesirable suitors, boorish relations, and misunderstandings galore—before she can achieve love and marriage. Northanger Abbey is as much a satire of this kind domestic tale as it is of the Gothic style, and Fanny Burney (1752-1840) has as much fun satirizing the society of her day as Austen does twenty-some years later.

Jane Austen was one of a growing number of female authors in the 18th and 19th centuries who were observing, writing about, and commenting on their own societies:

Belinda by Maria Edgeworth, 2009, Oxford World’s Classic, originally published 1801 (Fiction Classics/ Romance)

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was only eight years older than Jane Austen, though she outlived Jane by thirty-two years. Their works both feature intelligent young women who have to overcome the obstacles of the marriage market—most notably uncouth friends and relations—before they can meet their matches and find their happy endings. Belinda is a charming and innocent young girl whose road to independence is hampered by an aristocratic lady with a secret, a dashing gentleman with a Creole background, and an eccentric suitor seeking the ideal wife. Edgeworth wrote a lively comedy that comments on the conventions of her society—and she does it every bit as well as Austen did.

Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant, 1998, Penguin Classics, originally published 1866 (Fiction Classics/ Romance)


Born in 1827 and living well into the Victorian era (she died in 1897), Margaret Oliphant was of the generation after Austen’s. Miss Marjoribanks is a domestic novel about a young gentlewoman who is the queen of her little corner of the world. Much like Emma Woodhouse lords over Highbury in Emma, Lucilla Marjoribanks lords over Carlingford, determined to single-handedly raise the tone of society. But when Lucilla realizes she has fewer marriage prospects than she would like, she runs the risk of marrying the wrong man to save herself from spinsterhood. Lucilla’s story is a comic look at the rules that dictate society, and Lucilla (like Emma) is a wonderfully flawed and charming character.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, 2009, Oxford World Classics, originally published 1866 (Fiction Classics/ Romance)


Our heroine in Elizabeth Gaskell's (1810-1865) final novel is young Molly Gibson, devoted daughter of a widowed country doctor. Our story begins when Molly’s ordinary life suddenly gets more interesting. First Molly meets the proud family of Squire Hamley. Then Molly’s father remarries, turning her world on end. Intelligent and interested even when somewhat overwhelmed, Molly becomes the confidant of her flighty new stepsister and the two Hamley sons. Molly’s sympathetic ear gets bent a little too far, and the pressure of keeping secrets starts to weigh on all our young lovers and gossipy neighbors. Jane Austen fans will see shades of the Fanny/ Edmund relationship from Mansfield Park, the Elinor/ Marianne relationship from Sense and Sensibility, and the Anne Elliot/ everyone else relationship from Persuasion. And like an Austen novel, the real charm of Wives and Daughters derives from the strength its young heroine. As memorable as any Elizabeth, Elinor, Anne or Emma, Molly Gibson is a lively, lovely, original character with a romance well worth reading.

Jane Austen’s novels only gained in popularity after her death, but the next biggest literary craze was the
Sensation novel of the Victorian era:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 2008, Vintage Classics, originally published 1860 (Fiction Classics/ Mystery)


Sensation novels are domestic tales of romance, like Austen’s books, but they revel in the scandals that Austen was only able to hint at—madness, intrigue, coincidence, mistaken identity, even murder. The Woman in White is the tale of a poor drawing-master who meets a strange woman, clad in white, on the moonlit streets outside of London. He is soon plunged into the mystery surrounding this woman, especially when that same mystery touches the family of the woman he loves. Jane Austen would surely have been a strong defender and an avid fan of the sensational Sensation novel, which has much in common with the Gothic novels that she loved and read in her day. Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Ellen Wood make up the triumvirate of the best Victorian Sensation authors.

Post-Jane, authors have tended to express their adoration by writing sequels or modern versions of the novels. The following writers earn their comparison to Austen with their own stories, style, and wit:

Frederica by Georgette Heyer, 2009, Sourcebooks, originally published 1965 (Historical Fiction/ Romance)


Georgette Heyer was surely the ultimate Austen fan. By the time of her death in 1974 she had written over fifty books, most set in Regency England and featuring smart, genteel young women falling in love. Heyer was less interested in social commentary than Austen, but she sure loved the society. Her historical detail is impeccable, but if what you love most about Austen is the charming characters and sparkling romance, then Heyer is the author for you. Frederica is a good introduction to her work. The title character is a capable young woman who—at the age of 24—is too busy running her household of precocious younger siblings to be concerned with her own romantic fate. That just might change when Frederica entrusts her charming family to the care of the snobbish Lord Alverstroke.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, 2006, Penguin Classics, originally published 1952 (Fiction)


In 1977, the Times Literary Supplement asked well-known authors to list “the most underrated novelist of the century.” Barbara Pym (1913-1980) was the only author named twice. Within two weeks, Pym’s career was reborn and she was acknowledged as a major writer. Excellent Women is one of her best-known works and has an opening line comparable to that of Pride and Prejudice: “ ‘Ah, you ladies! Always on the spot when there’s something happening!’ ” Mildred Lathbury is a witty, self-deprecating single woman inching past her prime in an unfashionable London neighborhood. Her quiet life of teas with the vicar and jumble sales at the church gets considerably more interesting with the arrival of exotic new neighbors. Pym’s comparison to Austen comes from her quirky characters and stylish storytelling.
If you just can’t help wondering about the dozens of Jane Austen sequels (and let’s face it, we are curious), this author has a sense of humor about taking on one of the masterpieces of English literature:

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues by Linda Berdoll, 2004, Sourcebooks (Historical Fiction/ Chick Lit/ Romance)


This is really the ultimate romance novel. Elizabeth is feisty, Mr. Darcy is dashing, and the book has a sense of humor about Austen’s language and writing style--and about sex scenes between two of the most beloved romantic leads in literature. Furthermore, Berdoll creates detailed characterizations of the new Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and adds new characters and plots to a new historical context. All this means that the book can really stand on its own, as its own story, even though it is a sequel to the events described in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are embarking on their greatest adventure--marriage. Elizabeth is balancing her independent spirit with her duties as mistress of Pemberley, Darcy gets involved with the war on France, and they just can’t keep their hands off each other. The story goes far beyond the original, making it a rollicking, hilarious, sexy romp through Jane Austen’s wild side. There’s an equally fun sequel to the sequel, Darcy and Elizabeth: Days and Nights at Pemberley (2006).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sci-Fi Meets the Classics



Strange and wonderful things happen when the antiquated etiquette, horse-drawn carriages, and time-tested conventions of classic literature meet the aliens, time machines, and alternate worlds of speculative fiction...

Jenna Starborn by
Sharon Shinn , 2002, Ace Trade Books (Science Fiction)





Jenna Starborn is Jane Eyre—in space. Author Sharon Shinn is an award-winning science fiction writer who transforms Charlotte Brönte's classic into a futuristic story with all the same mystery, romance, and suspense. The Gothic tale translates surprisingly well, and the space-age twists make it almost like reading Jane Eyre again for the first time. And yet, at the same time, readers are immersed in a completely new world. Jane becomes Jenna, Mr. Rochester becomes Mr. Ravensbrook, and Thornfield Manor becomes a mining post on a remote planet protected by an energy field. Shinn re-imagines Jane Eyre exceptionally well (fans of that story will love comparing the plot turns and characters) and still gives Jenna a unique voice and a story that is entirely her own.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by
Connie Willis , 1997, Bantam Books (Science Fiction/ Historical Fiction)




Cats, rowboats, World War II air raids, and the niceties of Victorian etiquette are just some of the challenges that Ned Henry and Verity Kindle face in this award-willing novel—not to mention malfunctioning time machines, a lost antique called the bishop’s bird stump, and the restoration of the space-time continuum. Ned and Verity are students of time travel and history at Oxford in 2057. Ned’s assignment: go back in time and find a strangely-named antiquity so that a destroyed cathedral can be rebuilt with exact historical precision. Verity’s assignment: return the thing from the past that she should never have even been able to bring back with her. When their projects collide, delightful chaos ensues. Part sci-fi mystery, part comedy of manners, this is one of the most charming time travel concoctions out there. The title (among other things) is taken from Jerome K. Jerome's 1889 comedy about boating down the Thames, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by
Jasper Fforde , 2001, Hodder & Stoughton Books (Fiction/ Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Mystery)



















Great Britain, 1985. The Crimean War has dragged on for 130 years. England is practically a police state. Cloned dodo birds are the pet of choice. And not only is time travel possible, but a few lucky folks can go inside the world of fiction. One of these is lovesick war veteran and literary detective Thursday Next, generally stuck behind a desk sorting out Shakespeare forgeries or moonlighting with the department’s vampire-hunting division. But when a criminal mastermind starts kidnapping characters from their books, it’s up to our gal Thursday to save the day. Fforde begs, borrows, and steals from the classical works of literature to create a ridiculous comic and satirical world. This is a smart, witty, genre-busting series with heroine Thursday at the helm. There’s something for everyone is the Thursday Next series, and every book adds to the action, adventure, humor, mystery, and romance of the story that came before. Lost in a Good Book is the second title (featuring Miss Havisham, previously of Great Expectations), followed by The Well of Lost Plots , Something Rotten (where Hamlet is a character, along with wooly mammoths and Neanderthals), First Among Sequels, and One of Our Thursdays is Missing (due 2010).

Shadows Over Baker Street
, edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan, 2003, Del Ray Books (Fiction/ Short Stories/ Mystery/ Horror)
 




“ ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’ ” “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulu waits dreaming.” A collection of short stories written by some of the top names in speculative fiction, Shadows Over Baker Street takes detective Sherlock Holmes and sets him in the macabre world of early twentieth century writer H.P. Lovecraft. We know Sherlock Holmes best as Arthur Conan Doyle's brainy Victorian detective who is so supreme at crime-solving that he’ll only accept the really impossible cases. And Lovecraft is a writer whose stories about the Cthulu mythos (a human-destroying monster from the deep) and the Necronomicon (an ancient book of forbidden rites and spells) seem expressly written to combine the words weird and horror. In Shadows Over Baker Street, these giants of literature meet and meld perfectly. Who better than Sherlock, Watson, and company to solve the mysteries of Lovecraft’s small-town mutants, ancient aliens, and dream monsters? The writers of this new batch of short stories--who include Poppy Z. Brite and Neil Gaiman---are clearly having an absolute ball bringing these two mythologies together. This clever blending of classics makes for a unique read that will thrill both horror and mystery fans alike.

The Looking Glass Wars by
Frank Beddor , 2006, Speak Books (Teen Fiction/ Fantasy)





Lewis Carroll got it all wrong, and Alice—or Alyss, as her name is really spelled—is not pleased. She was not a precocious girl who fell down a rabbit hole and had a silly dream. Wonderland is a real place and Alyss Heart is its rightful Queen. It is young Alyss’s destiny to confront her traitorous aunt Redd and reclaim her throne, but she’s stuck in Victorian England watching Lewis Carroll write a ridiculous little children’s story. Meanwhile, a loyal band of rebels fights in her name back in Wonderland. Many of the characters come straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but with some deliciously wicked twists of their own. The Mad Hatter of the chaotic tea party becomes Hatter Madigan, a stoic bodyguard for the Queen. The White Rabbit turns into an anagram for Bibwit Harte, Alyss’s long-suffering tutor. The Cheshire Cat is no longer a harmless grinning tabby but a ferocious assassin with razor-sharp claws. The Looking Glass Wars, in other words, is serious business. This first book of a planned trilogy is more than just a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland—it’s a richly detailed fantasy set in a fractured parallel world that’s run by the power of imagination. The second book, Seeing Redd, was published in 2007; the final installment is due in 2009.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by 
Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, 2009, Quirk Books (Fiction Classics/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance)

















As our story opens, a mysterious plague is causing England’s dead to rise from the grave and hunt the flesh of the living. Miss Elizabeth Bennet, well-versed in both the feminine and the deadly arts, is content to slay legions of the undead and defend her family—until she meets the equally skilled but oh-so-arrogant Mr. Darcy. The classic text of Pride and Prejudice is intermingled with episodes of zombie mayhem. Mr. Darcy admires Elizabeth’s fine eyes at the Meryton Ball; zombies attack. Elizabeth tours the grounds at Pemberley; zombies attack. The more familiar you are with Pride and Prejudice, the bigger the kick (or chop, or bite, or beheading) you’ll get from this from this hilarious and ridiculous brawl, but the premise is outrageous enough to peak the curiosity of even the most anti-classics reader.  But be warned--Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has opened up a whole new can of worms, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (no joke) is set to be published in September 2009.


(P.S. You will enjoy these books even if you haven’t read the classics they’re based on!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How I Became a Twitter Junkie


In October of 2008, Aaron, a client, told me I NEEDED to get with it and get on Twitter. Aaron (@SeattleBlank) is, like, 30 years old, and is a VP for a public relations firm, and someone I respect.

As a graphic designer, it's important for me to keep up with what's current. It's tantamount to social currency. So sheepishly, I opened an account.

It felt weird, though, all alone in what I'd describe as my "Twitter Room," and since I didn't really know what I was doing, I proceeded to post rather banal tweets about who I was meeting for dinner and where, or the projects I was working on, etc., as if anyone could care. There was no interaction or response by anyone. Was it any wonder that I was unimpressed with the whole thing? It seemed pointless and stupid. I did very little with Twitter for the first 4 months.

Whenever someone started following me, I couldn't understand why. They didn't know me. I thought, "why in the world would this perfect stranger want to follow me? Is he/she a stalker?"

I was paranoid and protected my tweets - and had only a couple dozen followers for several months. But it was intriguing to have people request to follow me and I began obsessing over how many followers I gained or lost. When I'd lose someone I sort of took it personally. It was like, why did they leave me?! Eventually I removed "protect my updates." What, exactly, was I protecting?

For many months I didn't realise it is almost a courtesy to follow back people who follow you (unless they are spammers or clearly have nothing that interests you). I wasn't doing that. Also, I didn't realise a person couldn't send me a direct message (DM) unless I followed them back. In fact, I was doing so many things the wrong way, but I didn't know it!

In January, 2009, I had 42 followers. I decided to reexamine Twitter to determine whether there was any real value, and to give it a serious try. This meant reading everything I could and learning about what people were interested in, and discovering the tools to manage it all. My tweets, until this point, had been boring and offered no value to my followers. How could I make myself more interesting? And what kinds of things did I want to share? After all, everything I tweeted would be a reflection of some facet of myself.

Taking cues from people like Peter Cashmore (@mashable), Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Seth Simonds (@sethsimonds), and others, I tweaked my tweets, learned about retweeting (RT) and (@) replies. I learned an embarrassing lesson about DMs from Seth Simonds. I'd sent him a direct message and he couldn't reply because I hadn't followed him back. So he posted an @ reply that explained why he couldn't respond to me, and added something like, "I am an aardvark," to point out how silly it was to send a DM without following back. Seeing that on the Twitter feed, I felt like an idiot! (Note: I later sent him a DM, telling him I hadn't understood the mechanics, and he couldn't have been nicer.)

Eventually I figured out my own game plan: be myself but don't focus on myself; post tidbits of information that I find interesting; tweet YouTube videos that make me laugh; share silly things or stuff about the iPhone (something I LOVE), or tweet breaking technology news and other items of interest.

I started paying attention to what was going on around me, being more thoughtful about the news I'd read, and when reviewing email links people would send, I'd wonder if they were "tweetworthy?" I started really working hard at finding things that delivered value, entertainment or information to my followers. Also, I learned it is considered an act of generosity to retweet (RT) - or re-post an item you've read elsewhere, making sure the original person is credited with an @ attribution. And one more important thing: thanking people with an @ reply when they RT something I've posted, or sending them a DM, is just plain good manners.

You can tell you're doing something right when your tweets are RTed. It's a great feeling and addictive because RTs are like little affirmations that say "you did well!" The next great feeling is to have someone #ff or #FollowFriday you. (BTW, the # is called a hashtag, and is a shortcut marker for people to search for a topic or trend.) On Fridays, Twitterers (AKA Tweeps, Tweeple, Twits, etc.) recommend people worth following. When you see your name with a #ff or #FollowFriday, it's quite a compliment because it means your tweets are interesting enough for your followers to recommend you to others.

When I changed my game plan, the number of my followers increased. Each day I would gain a follower or two, then 5 or 6, then 10 or 11, etc. So my measly count that hovered around 40 or 50, gradually grew to more than 700 over the course of several months. I know, that is a tiny volume when Barack Obama, Oprah and others have millions, but considering I'm just a graphic designer in Seattle, Washington, I'm honored to think people find me worth following. And because I thrive on positive feedback, I'll continue to work hard to make it worth their while.

Postscript:
Since this blog post was originally written, I've discovered it pays to do due diligence and vet followers before following back. A good friend, @Tech_Blend (Ahad Bokhari) wrote a blog post about follower/following ratios, which also influenced my actions.
His blog post: http://blogspot.fluidnewmedia.com/2009/11/the-new-currency-on-twitter-%E2%80%94-value/

Friday, July 24, 2009

Booklists for Bookworms

My favorite assignments in library school, the assignments that I started working on weeks before they were due and kept right on tweaking long after I turned them in, were book talks and book lists. Books talks and book lists are discussions, either spoken or written, about a group of books. There are typically at least five titles in a book talk or a book list, accompanied by notes that give a brief plot outline and, more importantly, highlight the real appeal factors of the book. Books can be linked by subject, topic, theme, genre, character, audience—anything goes, absolutely anything. And that’s what makes them so much fun.

Since those assignments, I can’t stop making lists of books. It’s gotten to be something of an obsession, and I’ve found that if there’s one thing that compares to the joy of reading books, it’s the fun of writing about them. My lists consist of five to ten books that I’ve read (or, at the very least, books that I have on my shelves with every intention to read as soon as I’ve finished whatever book I’m reading right now). There’s a bias to my lists because they’re my lists—these are the books that I’ve read and liked and that reflect my reading tastes and interests. Making these lists has forced me to expand my reading boundaries, which is another reason I make them. Had I not had an idea to make a list about the blending of science fiction and classical literature, for example, I might never have discovered the hilarious
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

These are by no means professional book lists. I try not to repeat titles, but I can’t help adding my favorites to as many lists as possible. I figure that everyone reads for different reasons—if you’re not drawn to, say,
The Eyre Affair through the science fiction-classics list, you might like it the context of my mystery series list. I do have one rule: If you don’t like what you’re reading, put it down! There’s no rule that says you have to finish every book begin. You’ve got your whole life to read books—why waste time forcing yourself through hundreds of pages you dislike when you could be curled up with the book that becomes your new favorite? Please comment and critique my lists and add your own suggestions and recommendations.

So, without further ado, from Jane Austen read-alikes to science fiction classics to books about boats, books about boys, and even books about books, here are the lists that I cannot stop making.


Note:  I will list books by title and author.  I'll include the date and publishing house of a recent publication, and if the book was published more than twenty years ago, I'll provide the original publication date.  Keep in mind that most books exist in more than one edition (paperback and hard cover, for example) so don't limit yourself to the publication information that I've listed.  I'll also list a few of the genres and sub-genres that the book relates to.  

And remember your local library and your independent booksellers!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nelson's Russian Reportage


Former illustration student (and 2009 graduate) Meredith Nelson is in Moscow on a travel grant she won on the way out the door at Washington University. Her senior seminar work was invested in reportage drawing of abandoned buildings around St. Louis. Her grant proposal argued for bringing the same methodology to World War Two relics in Eastern Europe. Scale and cost resulted in trimming her concept a bit. She's in Russia, drawing and writing. These are two hastily photographed drawings out of 20 such she sent me. They look a little washed out in translation, but still give a sense of her work. Seems like it's going pretty well, no?

She started a blog early in the trip, which gives a little of her circumstances.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For God's Sake, Retire Wahoo! (Season & Decade Over)


I haven't had much to say about the malingering mascot Chief Wahoo for some time. Longtime readers may recall my anguish: a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan, I also seek to avoid cognitive wreckage in my personal and professional life. Chief Wahoo is an affront of fantastic proportions, about whose history I have written before. I ascribe many (all?) failures of the Indians to the fiendish karmic vortex created by his presence on hats and jerseys.

The American League won the All-Star game again tonight, in St. Louis. I haven't been paying a lot of attention to baseball this year, though the Cards are leading the NL Central division at the break. I will probably tune in down the stretch.

At the halfway point of the season I can certainly say that I have lost all interest in my boyhood ballclub this year. Which, though stocked with decent talent and some stars (Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, others) has disappointed. At the halfway mark, the Tribe has the worst record in the American League at 35-54. Nineteen games under .500.

Memorandum to Mark Shapiro, Indians GM and VP: now is the time to do it. People are starting to think about the Browns already. The 2009 Indians are toast. Quietly engage a group to rework the Indians' identity. (I'm available.) Wahoo goes. Look through the historical record of Native American iconography from the northeastern United States in the 18th century–at the very end of which Cleveland was founded. Work something up that at the very least makes a pretense of honoring the culture. Then unveil the new look to great fanfare next winter. Understand: this is your sole option. Only at this point will you have a prayer of reclaiming the World Series title, last won by the Indians in 1948, the year after Jackie Robinson (and Larry Doby) integrated the sport. A crappy civil rights record was representative of baseball in the 1940s: Wahoo fit right in. But at this late date, we're overdue for a change.

Alas, I am too embarassed to wear an Indians' jersey, so I will never contemplate buying one. But when you give Wahoo the boot, I promise, I'll fork out the dough for a jersey the next day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Coping & Golfing


Each of the last five years I have put together a golf tournament for Project Cope, a St. Louis non-profit organization that helps folks getting out of prison get back on their feet and integrated into adult life. It's an impressive group. Consider that an understatement. Each ex-offender is paired with a congregration partnership team under the terms of a contract that runs a year. The congregation teams (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, the Ethical Society) provide guidance and support during that period. I could go on, but won't.



In collaboration with a few students, I produced a new logotype for Cope (above) in 2007-08. The students were Marissa Dessanti, Amy Guterman and Susan Land, since all graduated. The chosen concept was Marissa's, for which I produced the illustration. Traci Moore Clay did the letterhead work, and Scott Gericke designed the website at the link provided above. At some point I'll post some of my identity work, which I do now and again. I hasten to note that I am an illustrator, not a graphic designer, but I think about pictures and forms in a way that seems to permit me to do junior varsity identities.

At the top of this post, this year's poster, which I finished this week. I'll put up a few other images in the next few days which reflect an attempt to synthesize some of the sketchbook work I've done in the last year or so for print purposes. In this case, I made a key drawing (black) as well as a second color drawing (white) to produce hand-made color separations, like in old children's books. My son Danny was kind enough to pose for a few minutes, and I built the image out of his stances.

If you live in the St. Louis metropolitan area and want to play in the tournament–a scramble, a very forgiving format–give me a shout and I'll fix you up!