TV dreams

Starting work on the seventh Sleeper Ave. story today, hoping to launch the website next month. This one’s about getting our very first television set, now that there were TWO channels to watch.

It’s hard to believe today, with a thousand mostly useless channels available (maybe six of which any of us watches regularly), that so much great entertainment was to be had from such limited sources.Antenna8

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia for the shows I watched as a kid, but I still think tv was better and more inventive then.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll sign up to receive my stories when I post them.

Your Help Requested

Yesterday, after much trial and error–mostly error–I finished Sleeper Ave. story number 6, a chilling tale of musical terror entitled The Kindergarten Band.

I’m getting closer and closer to launching the webcomic, and here’s where you, dear reader, can be a big help. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive each new story in your inbox atBand2 Sleeperve.com

Here’s where I could use your help. I was spoiled by working at the Rocky, where I had a built-in audience of 250,000, not to mention syndication that reached 8 million. So, naturally, I still want lots of people to read what I’m doing next. Tell your friends and family, send out notices to your email list, that something new and original they will love is coming, and have them sign up, too. My goal is 1,000 subscribers by the time I launch. I’m only about 1/3 of the way there so far.

Thank you.

Fifth Business

Finally, after a most unwelcome surprise, the death of my beloved old MacbookPro, and after a most welcome interruption, a Thanksgiving visit from my kids, I managed to finish the fifth Sleeper Ave. story, about the advent of the television age.

Antenna cutWhat’s surprising and fun about these trips into ancient memories is how fresh they seem when I push myself recall them.  Sometimes my mind doesn’t conjure up just the facts of the event, but also the emotions I felt–the totality of the experience–the texture as well as the substance of the time.

What I realize in those moments is how impossible it is to portray all that in a short story made of up imperfect words and pictures that can’t begin to convey the richness of the experience.

I only hope that my efforts capture enough of the essence  that readers can catch at least a whiff of it.

You can sign up here to start receiving the stories in your inbox when I launch the feature, which I’m aiming to do just after the first of the year.

Black People Don’t Get It

After the deaths of young Black men at the hands of police in Ferguson and Staten Island, the most recent in a long string of killings of minorities by the authorities, men and women of color all over the country have risen up in protest.

Black people, calm down. You clearly just don’t get it.

All this talk about equal rights and social justice and a color-blind society–it’s a joke. We’re not serious. We’re joking, just having a little laugh at your expense. Jeez, you’d think that after all this time you’d have figured it out.

You don’t really think that White people actually want you to share what we have, do you? Good jobs, decent pay, regular hours, safe communities–those belong to us, and we’re keeping them for ourselves. Did you honestly think we were actually inviting you to have a seat at the table? Boy, are you gullible.

Okay, so the joke went a little farther than we intended when a Black man somehow got elected president. We had a heck of a time keeping him down–for the longest time he actually seemed to think he really was in charge– but we’ve managed to neuter him pretty well. And we fixed the problem with all the new voter suppression tactics like strict ID laws and limited polling place hours.  Not going to happen ever again. We learned our lesson.

So, take my advice. Cool the rioting and demonstrations; they won’t get you anywhere. Just relax and go with the flow and save yourself a lot of needless anxiety and stress. Nothing’s ever going to change. The sooner you accept that the happier you’ll be.

And remember, nobody likes someone who can’t take a joke.

 

A Temporary Setback

So, at the most inconvenient time, my old, trusty Macbook Pro, vintage 2007 (that’s 138 in computer years), decided, with absolutely no warning, that it was time to die.

I was right in the middle of scanning art for the fifth Sleeper Ave. story when it collapsed suddenly on the desktop, gasped once for breath, clutched its keyboard, and expired. It’s last words were “panic(cpu 0 caller 0xffffff00100c3451):, which I am told by persons who actually speak computer, means, “Argggh! My heart! I’m a goner! Save yourself!”

The new computer shockingly doesn’t have the same ports or use the same cables to connect with the monitors and graphics tools I use, and even though I had everything backed up (whew!), there were still plenty of glitches getting all the software and peripherals working properly.

So the last week has been spent getting the whole enterprise up and running again, which of course meant numerous trips to various computer stores buying the wrong things and returning them for other wrong things, until I finally seem to have it all functioning pretty much like my old setup, sort of. The most annoying part of all this is that I’ve just paid a small fortune in money and time to duplicate what I already had, and was perfectly happy with. Okay, the new computer is really fast and pretty and way sexier than the old one, but I really had no burning desire to trade in the old babe for the trophy computer.

I really am getting too old for this.

Advice

As I near the launch of Sleeper Ave., my new webcomic, I’m getting mixed advice from some of the people I trust the most. My buddy Scott doesn’t like the name; my daughter Natasha, never reluctant to express herself,  thinks it puts people to sleep; my son Gabe loves it. Scott thinks it should be focused more on hard-hitting editorial content, Gabe thinks it should be more balanced with general story-telling but definitely have a hard-edged focus. Both Scott and Natasha think it should look more like a graphic novel.

My instinct is to tell interesting stories and let the editorial focus evolve by itself, and I’m intrigued by the flexibility of the web, allowing me to mix text and drawing in ways I couldn’t in the limited space of a newspaper, and I’ve never loved the graphic novel structure.  Why limit myself when the web allows so many other choices? As for the name, I honestly believe that if the feature is good enough, the name will seem perfect. If not, I could name it Star Wars and it would flop.

Oz-Courage1All this is a tough call. I’m not so self-assured as to believe that my sensibilities are always correct, and the advice I’m getting does give me pause. At the same time, I have to trust my own nose. So, I’ll stick with the name and the graphic structure (which will inevitably evolve over time, anyway), but I’ve been persuaded to adopt an edgier editorial attitude.

Sign up and stay tuned.

End of an Era

Furious Republicans in the House and Senate yesterday reacted swiftly to President Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration, angrily denouncing his moves to temporarily prevent the deportation of some five million immigrants.

“That does it!” a visibly enraged John Boehner exclaimed, his usual orange complexion flushed with red. “The president has made it clear that he prefers confrontation over compromise. The golden age of bipartisan cooperation is over.”

“This destroys the harmonious relationship we’ve so carefully built up over the last six years,” soon-to-be Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell thundered.

“We warned the president that taking this action would poison the well,” McConnell continued. “How can he expect us to maintain our close working relationship after this? Does he really think we’ll continue to green-light his nominees, that we’ll keep funding his priorities like Medicaid expansion, extending unemployment insurance and rebuilding infrastructure, that we’ll keep supporting alternative energy solutions, that we’ll press on with all the bipartisan efforts on behalf of the American people that we’ve worked so closely together on in the past, after this slap in the face?”

“Well, he can forget the Era of Good Feeling that we in the House worked so hard the last few years to maintain,” added Boehner. “I’m so angry, the first thing I’m going to do is schedule a vote to repeal Obamacare.

“Take that, Mr. President!”

Learning Curve

One of the daunting/exciting things about creating Sleeper Ave., my new, soon-to-be-released (promise) webcomic, is learning how to make it work on the web. I’m using a program called WordPress, which a gazillion other folks use successfully, and which is supposedly easy and intuitive. For a Luddite like myself, it’s neither. I am getting the hang of it, thanks to the excellent tutelage of my very computer-savvy son, Gabe.

Polio2-5thWhat’s taking me so long to launch this beast is that I’m so painfully slow on the uptake. I learn something new today, and immediately forget what I learned yesterday. Ten steps forward, nine back.  I’m still making daily emergency calls to Gabe, who has learned to suppress his sighs, although I swear I can actually hear his eyes rolling when I ask him to explain the same thing for the twelfth time. Give the man credit, though, he sticks with me, despite his obvious frustration.

But I will still launch this thing soon, and I hope you’ll click on the link below and sign up to receive it when it goes live.

Second Thoughts

Sleeper Ave., my soon-to-be launched webcomic, is mostly a memoir of growing during a time in America just before we experienced seismic cultural changes. When you’re a kid, you assume the place you live is the way the world is supposed to be. Only later, as you gain some perspective, do you recognize that what you took for granted might not have been the best of all possible worlds, after all.

In that sense, I have mixed feelings about this project. I’m both nostalgic for the world of my youth, and all too aware of its shortcomings. I struggle with getting the right balance in the stories I tell, relating the many wonderful memories I have without ignoring the darker moments.

EddieWill the friends of my youth think I’m misrepresenting the times we lived through? I’ve spent the last 40 years as a newspaper journalist. My instinct is to turn over the rocks to see what’s crawling beneath. Is this causing me to dwell too much on the negative? I don’t want to fall into that trap, but I don’t want to ignore the reality, either. Are my stories nuanced enough? Are they sweet enough, or too sour? Am I getting the tone right? Do the small stories I’m telling add up to an accurate larger truth?

I guess I’ll find out.

Draw and Redraw

I’ve now finished three Sleeper Ave. stories. The problem is that as I’ve become more comfortable with my visual approach I’m no longer happy with all of the drawings from the first two. So, instead of starting the next installment, I’m spending the day redrawing some of the weaker earlier efforts. You can see where Oz8this could lead: spending my life redoing everything in the impossible quest for perfection instead of just getting on with it. Sadly, it’s tempting. Talk about raining on your own parade.

The cure for that particular disease is the daily deadline, which I no longer have now that I’m not working for a newspaper or a syndicate.

If I can persuade myself to settle for the imperfect art I’m creating, I hope to launch the feature as soon as I have a sufficient backlog. And I hope you’ll sign up for it.

The online home of editorial cartoonist, writer and analyst Ed Stein.