Wine-Book Wednesdays: David Hahn

My first exposure to David Hahn’s comics was Private Beach, a bizarre sort of merger between X-Files and Love and Rockets. Strange things mixed with relationship drama and a sharp wit is my best description of the book. When I met him at San Diego in 2002, he was one of those people that was so amazingly friendly and likable that you were almost relieved that he was such a good artist, because you wanted him to succeed at everything.

Since then, he’s drawn two Bite Club mini-series for Vertigo (think Miami mafia meets vampires), and is also drawing the all-ages Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane comic. The fact that he can switch from adults-only violence to fun and cute kids comics? Well, it’s nice to see that the industry knows how good he is.

His drawing below is also a take on one of his Private Beach covers. I must admit that whenever I see it, I always wonder what would happen if this sketch would suddenly collide with J.G. Jones’s wine sketch

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Kelley Seda

Ah, Kelley Seda, how I miss you doing things in comics. Seda’s debut work was a strange little mini-series called Rare Creature that… it’s kind of hard to describe, to be honest. But it’s about a girl named Amelia who is pregnant, and in love with the boy with huge hands next door. It’s an odd, almost fragile-feeling story that was like nothing else on the market.

She did some work designing books for other comic publishers for a while, but she seems to have left comics entirely for other art forms. It’s a shame, although I don’t think the comics industry ever really caught on to her brilliance. Very, very much our loss.

Photo-Excitement

All sorts of exciting things are going on as of late in the world of Greg Photography!

Digital Rebel XTiThe first and foremost thing is that my brand-new camera arrived today. It’s a Canon Digital Rebel XTi (known in other countries as the EOS 400D), and it’s my very first SLR camera. I am, needless to say, super-thrilled! I am also vowing to stop by the library today or tomorrow to get a book on SLRs because I’ve never actually used one. It’s a whole new world of lenses and f-stops and all sorts of other exciting terms that a decade ago made my eyes glaze over.

Almost all of my photos for Artomatic are now printed as well; I’m going to re-print one or two of them that need a slight tweak but generally speaking I’m really happy with them. When I picked them up, I opened up the package to make sure they were all there and the woman working the counter actually gasped out loud. Which was a nice ego boost, needless to say. She and another employee asked what camera I was using and were flabbergasted that it was a point-and-shoot. Frames are ordered and en route, as are my business cards. So now I just need to figure out exactly how I’m going to decorate my space. I worked a volunteer shift at Artomatic on Saturday night (it was gorgeous out, so the place was dead as a doornail—good thing I brought a book!) and it gave me some ideas to mull over. Artomatic doesn’t open until May 9th so I still have a little breathing room to get ready.

I’ve also put together a special sub-website spotlighting some of my favorite photography, and put about half of the photos into it. That’s the URL that I put on my business cards, and as soon as it’s done I’ll post a link here. But I’m happy with it, too; as great as Flickr is, I like the idea of having a very specific subset of photos to send people to instead of a photostream that also has, for instance, lots of pictures of my friends shoving french-fries into their nostrils. (Well, not quite that. But you get the idea.)

Between the new camera and seeing everyone else’s stuff at Artomatic, I’m thinking/hoping this will get me firmly back on the photography road again. It was nice having some time off after the 365pictures project, but at the same time I’m eager to start adding new photos to the collection.

Side-Effects May Include…

One of the best things I’ve discovered about taking a Benadryl before bed every night, now, is a side-effect I didn’t expect. Namely, I’m having dreams that I remember on a much more regular basis.

Most nights, once I fall asleep it’s (by my reckoning) an instant transition from falling asleep to waking back up. Dreams more often than not are only in-between the two if I’m extremely tired or have had alcohol first. So maybe it’s the medication, maybe it’s just having a deeper and more restful sleep, but more often than not these days I’m finding myself with dreams that were strong enough that I can actually remember them.

It’s funny because I’m not entirely sure when I stopped having regularly occuring dreams. Maybe in college? It’s that sort of thing that you don’t notice until they’ve been gone for quite some time. Someone asks you what you dreamt about and you realize that you have no idea. It’s fun, though, to have them back. I can more often than not pinpoint where some of the images are coming from as of late, too.

For instance, last night my mother was talking a lot about Dexter and Michael C. Hall and The Tudors, and I’d mentioned Artomatic to her. The end result? I dreamt that I was Michael C. Hall, but was also somehow an amalgamation of myself and his characters from Dexter and Six Feet Under. I was in a large mansion (and Peter Krause was there at one point) and the rooms kept shifting back and forth between the past and present-day, but a large room full of picture frames was in both of them. I ended up meeting a very attractive noble and was flirting with him (I’d gotten as far as an arm around him and there was no objection at his end) when I woke up.

Very strange, and funny, and a wonderful jumble of things I’d just been talking and thinking about earlier. It’s really nice to have them back. Another thing once the springtime pollen dips a little bit to monitor closely when I try and see if shifting to Allegra and/or valerian root at night will make a difference. Now that dreaming is back, I’m not quite ready to give it up again.

Good Morning

Ever had one of those mornings where everything seemed to just click?

This one unfolded perfectly. Got up and went to the gym early, snagging the last rowing machine. The woman next to me, Kathy, was chatty but in a good way. She said she didn’t recognize me and I’d mentioned that I was coming earlier these days, and a little more often while I took a week or so off of running. So we chatted about marathons (she agreed that Marine Corps is too crowded these days) and how she used to run them until her doctor made her stop, but how her husband runs ultra-marathons. She also laughed that I was “rowing too fast” her her to keep up and that she was competitive.

Now, I was thinking she was in her mid-to-late 50s. Turns out I was off by about, oh, 15 years. I want to be as in-shape and generally cool as Kathy in my 70s. And rowing next to her did wonders for my performance; a 30-minute set for me normally racks up the calorie counter in the 360-375 range, and around 6500 meters. Today’s set ended with it being at 404 calories and somewhere around 6750m. Clearly I will need to schedule my exercise around her schedule.

Bento Lunch -- 2008-04-11After a set on the elliptical and a nice chat over there with Roger (who had come in to hit the Friday morning spinning class, much to my surprise; turns out he had the morning off) it was back home, where after a shower (using a free sample from LUSH of their Buffy soap, which is great stuff) I took the brown rice out of the steamer, cooked some sausage and added it in, then seasoned the whole thing with coriander, chipotle pepper powder, cayenne pepper, and a few other spices and turned it into part of a bento lunch.

From there, it was off to work and the GW Parkway was just beautiful. I rolled the windows down, put the B-52s song “Hot Corner” on auto-repeat (and for those wondering how long the commute is, it was almost done with its fifth play when I got to work) and sang along while the warm breeze blew into the car and flowering trees gently dropped their petals. It’s just the right temperature out; no jacket needed, just a short-sleeve shirt and jeans and off we go.

There’s no big event in all of this. No “and then I found a million dollars” moment, no sudden turning point. Just a really good morning where you feel awake, and alert, and aware of everything around you, and alive. It was just about perfect, really. I wish all mornings were like this, but I’ll take them when they appear.

I hope everyone else is having their own version of a good morning.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Scott Morse

I’m not even sure I can really begin to sum up the amazing talent that is Scott Morse, here. When he first appeared on the comic book scene with his book Soulwind (back when he was still C.S. Morse), it was a beautiful, contemplative work about swords and aliens and small boys and zen. Since then he’s done things in every genre imaginable and then some. He also creates animation for Pixar these days, with former stints at Disney and Cartoon Network.

If that’s not enough, he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Thoughtful, kind, always ready to lend an ear. I have really fond memories of the post-Ignatz Awards party from SPX 2004 of having drunkenly rambled to him about some relationship problems and him just nodding sagely and offering advice and being supportive. The number of people (of all genders) who have a crush on him is understandable.

One of his more recent projects at the time was a comic called Magic Pickle, about… well… a pickle created through experiments that has all sorts of super powers and fights other evil vegetables with the help of the little girl who lives in the house atop his secret lair. (The original comic just was republished by Scholastic, plus two more prose books with spot-illustrations from Morse hit stores as well.)

So to say that a sketch about wine was perfect for Scott was, well, an understatement. This one still makes me laugh, in a good way.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Dean Haspiel

Dean Haspiel is someone that I’ve known in comics for at least a decade, certainly much longer than that. A mainstay of the Small Press Expo for many years, I remember reading his Billy Dogma comics and loving their over-the-top masculinity and hidden vulnerability all mixed into one. These days he’s illustrating books like Harvey Pekar’s The Quitter and posting his comics on the ACT-I-VATE online collective.

More entertainingly, he’s always been a good friend and a fun guy to be around; I miss chatting with him at SPX, and the inevitable jokes from everyone about how he only owned one shirt (seriously, there are five or six years worth of convention photos where he’s in the same shirt every time) and how sooner or later it would always come of. “Dean puts the X in SPX!” was a hysterical rallying cry at one of the picnics.

This drawing was actually begun by Dean at the first MoCCA up in NYC, but he asked if he could finish it off later in the summer at San Diego. The first day at Comic-Con that year, I sought him out and sure enough, he finished it then—putting himself front-and-center and with his characters Jane Legit and Billy Dogma in the background. It was worth the wait.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

As the pollen explosion began to hit the DC area about two weeks ago, my allergies—like every year—went berserk. Normally I take 60mg of Allegra in the morning and am all right, but during this time of year by early evening it starts wearing off. There’s only so much one little pill can do.

So, as a stop-gap measure, my original plan was to up my dosage to the recommended twice-a-day level. (My feeling has always been that if I can get away with half a dose that I should do so. My physician thankfully not only agrees with me but still gives me the twice-a-day prescription for whenever things do get bad so that I don’t run out mid-month with no refill in sight.) But then I decided to try a little experiment. So in the evening, about an hour before bed, I’m now taking a Benadryl.

Early Morning Self-PortraitThe result has been nothing short of astounding. On the whole I fall asleep a little faster (except for last Friday night), and I do still wake up at least once or twice (drink some water and pass back out) but when I wake up in the morning—I actually wake up. For those who haven’t seen me in the morning, trust me when I say that it is not a pretty sight, to put it mildly. I am tired, I am groggy, I am slightly incoherent. I had to buy an alarm clock with an adjustable snooze alarm because 9 minutes would be too long and I would fall completely back asleep. (It’s currently set at 6 minutes.)

Now? When the alarm goes off I’m out of bed within 15 minutes instead of in the 45-to-75 minute range. This has been especially good for starting to go to the gym in the mornings again. I can get such an earlier start that it means I have time for a longer, more fulfilling workout; hitting half an hour on the rowing machine now means I still have time for a second half hour of something else. Or this morning, knowing I couldn’t hit my evening spinning class, I actually hit my first 6:30am class ever. Hopefully this will let me shed those five pounds of “winter weight” a little faster than normal. Maybe even finally help shrink and tighten my tummy a bit, that would be nice.

Once allergy insanity is over I do plan on some experiments to figure out what the key element is in the Benadryl solution. Do I need the allergy relief in the evenings more than I thought I did, and should go onto two-a-day for Allegra from now on? Or is it that I’m just needing that extra little nudge into sleepland and should perhaps look into something like valerian root or melatonin for my evenings? (I’m really curious to see what the end result will be.)

Either way, the end result has been just, well, great and exciting. I’ve really missed being able to wake up quickly in the mornings.

A First and (hopefully) Last

Friday night, I didn’t get much sleep—I’m not sure why, to be honest. I got to bed at a decent hour (and I’d gotten up early to hit the gym Friday morning) but it was well after 1am when I finally fell asleep. I know it wasn’t any earlier than that because I stopped looking at the clock after that point, but I’m sure it was much later. Then, I woke up around 6am and much to my surprise was wide awake. No more falling back asleep no matter how much I tried.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little run down when Charlie and I went to Crystal City so I could pick up my Cherry Blossom 10-miler number and timing chip, but I was hoping all I needed was some brunch to pick me back up. After some food, though, things didn’t seem to get any better, and it was about an hour later in the National Building Museum that at the end of the first exhibit, I said I really just wanted to go home. (The NBM continues to elude me, alas.) I was feeling exhausted and a little shaky, and all I could think about was a nap.

I laid down for about three hours (sleeping for one of them) and that seemed to help a bit. But I was still a little iffy at this point on if I should run the Cherry Blossom or not. I figured I’d play it by ear in the morning. I did go to bed and fall asleep at a reasonable time, so all seemed ok.

Except it wasn’t. I felt like I was struggling from the moment I started running, much worse than I had during the National Half Marathon last weekend. (Which you may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet about. That’s why.) By the time I hit the 5K point, I was thinking to myself that it was a shame the new course was so good because I wasn’t enjoying it at all. And when I hit the 5-mile point, I did something for the first time in eight years of racing. I dropped out.

I quietly walked off the course, turned off my watch, unpinned my number from my shirt and stuck it in my pocket, and pulled the timing chip off my shoe. I was only about a quarter mile from the finish and it felt like another five miles. Half of my head was screaming at me, calling me a quitter and pathetic, the other half protesting that it was the right decision to make. I was feeling exhausted and my pace had been starting to crash, my shoulder was hurting, it was just bad all around. But I trudged back to the start—it was too late to go back now—and turned in my chip and went home.

When I got in the shower, I couldn’t help but note that I should’ve still been running at that exact moment. And I felt like crap about it. There was a guy holding a sign at the race last week saying, “NOBODY LIKES A QUITTER” (presumably some phrase he shared with a friend of his who was racing) and that’s all I could think about.

Part of me says it was the right decision. Most of me thinks there had been smarter, better options: kept running but slowed down and didn’t worry about a finishing time; stayed home in the first place; e-mailed the race officials this time a week ago when Laura had switched over to the 5K and done the same thing as well.

I saw Rick and Emma both run by in the half of the race I was in, and they looked great and strong. I’m envious. On the side of the road I saw Joe and Sonia from Pacers cheering people on, and it made me want to go back to their group and start running with them and try and get back into running shape. All things to keep in mind.

Right now, I’m going to take a week or two off of running and just do some other forms of cross-training and such at the gym. Start fresh when training kicks back up on the 19th.

But at the moment, I’m removing any other small races off of my agenda. (Battle of the Boulevard 10K or Capital Hill Classic 10K.) I don’t think I could take the disappointment yet again. I’m done with racing for at least a little bit.