"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Critical Homage to The Princess Diarist

The Princess DiaristThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When revisiting my earliest brushes with depression, two episodes come to mind. The first involved being persuaded by a loved one that Santa Claus wasn’t real. The second, and much more significant at the time, was discovering that actress Carrie Fisher—portrayer of Star Wars’ Princess Leia—had married. I won’t say I loved Ms. Fisher. I was 8. Infatuated? Yes. Love? Maybe the puppy kind. But discovering she had already wedded wreaked havoc with my fantasy.

As I grew up, my early obsession with Carrie faded. Then, last week I saw her new book, The Princess Diarist, on display at the bookstore. I read one of her irresistible press interviews and knew I had to read the book. Per the press, this book reveals Carrie’s affair with Harrison Ford during filming of the first Star Wars film. If I’m not mistaken, her affair with Mr. Ford was already known, or at least authoritatively rumored. I swear I remember their liaison being asserted in the book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor.

To any fans professing shock, and any reporters depicting this discovery as startling, I say, “Duh.” As for me? Not shocked. Not surprised. Not thinking less of Harrison or Carrie. Little jealous maybe … of both. And so are many of you. In any case, I found the book hilarious and poignant in its catharsis, which is to say quintessential Carrie Fisher.

The chief selling point of The Princess Diarist is the inclusion of excerpts from 19-year-old Carrie’s journal written during the affair. These excerpts comprise the middle third of the book. They include both prose and poetry, and you can see the snappy pointed writer emerging. But the more I read Carrie’s journal, the less the book seemed to be about hooking up with Harrison Ford. The deeper Carrie talks about Harrison/Han—both in the journal and in hindsight—the deeper she explores her being Carrie/Leia.

To this day, Carrie thrives on clever writing. Her humor leans into you. She has a lot of fun with prose, delivering gotcha wordplay. She revels in naked ironies and unflattering implications. Yet looking back, Carrie describes herself as clever but not intellectual, well-read but less than scholarly. More than anything I’ve ever read or seen about Carrie, The Princess Diarist reveals head-on how much pain she has coped with as a woman and as an artist.

When I reached the excerpts of Carrie’s journal, I silently accepted that I would be reading this book in a single evening. She reveals a 19-year-old being extremely hard on herself. It foreshadows the emotional and chemical challenges she would come to endure. It’s honest. It’s self-indulgent. It’s full-on late-teens angst.

As I read these passages, a supreme realization hit me deep in the gut, in an emotional place where I sometimes regress to being an 8-year-old boy. Wow, I thought, Carrie Fisher is letting me read her journal.

I didn’t steal her journal. She offered it to me. I read on, equal parts 8-year-old gawker and 41-year-old courtier. As a writer, but more importantly as a ruthless self-critic with his own melodramatic teenage journals stashed away, I felt Carrie had given me a gift. Reading further and further, I felt as close to her as I have ever been or ever may be. Not in a worshipful way. And not in a fanatical or prurient way, I don’t think.

With the journal excerpts complete, Carrie mostly dispenses with discussions of Harrison. She moves directly into the love affair fans have with her, whether she wants them to or not. Here too, the details feel both awkward and inevitable. Carrie says, “My affair with Harrison was a very long one-night stand.” Compare this to her description of signing autographs for paying comic-con fans as a “celebrity lap dance.”

Occasionally the narration feels pulled along taffy-like with overwrought sentences. Yes, it’s a stylistic choice to which far less accomplished writers like me might aspire. Still, where the prose grows effusive it seems to lack the poise of a masterwork (this criticism is not made of the late-teen journal excerpts, which are priceless). Nevertheless, I highly recommend The Princess Diarist. It contains the thoughtful reflections of a talented and troubled writer. We’re all troubled. Carrie stares down the trouble and turns it into fearless prose and candid reflection.

Whatever the merits or downsides of The Princess Diarist’s exposé content, for me it comes down to this. A long time ago, a smitten 8-year-old boy dreamed of getting close to Carrie Fisher. This week his dream came true.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Poem for the President-Elect

Dear Donald Trump

You are my apprentice now.
I am we.
We are the people.
You belong to the people now.
You are paid by us.
You hold power by our consent.
You are not prepared for us—
No president-elect ever is.
Prepare for 4 to 8 years of
Being at the beck and call
Of the vox populi.
We command you from the angry
Right and left;
We cry to you from the fearful
Middle. We are the hungry
Monster of the status quo—
With glaring eyes
And sliding fingers
And opening mouths.
We, each and every
I, say
You are my apprentice now.

The Master

Sunday, November 13, 2016

All creatures great and ... hungry

This video addresses the brutal trait of animals who actually eat their young, and how they benefit. Savage topic, but really well-treated in this video, and pretty tame as opposed to graphic:

If you'd like to see where I am putting most of my blogging effort these days, I have a new piece about astronaut Sally Ride and the number 7 up over at Lit for Space.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sweetest Day Photo Project

In recognition of Sweetest Day, I post this picture of a solitary tree clinging to the side of a dune.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

For Fosgitt Fans, Dead Duck Rises Again

Let’s talk booby jokes.

No, you know what? Let’s talk historical context for artist Jay P. Fosgitt’s recently released comic book, “Dead Duck and Zombie Chick: Rising from the Grave!!” This Dead Duck offering is the “Mad Max: Fury Road” of Fosgitt comics. No, it’s the “Creed” of the “Rocky Balboa” of the Rocky sequels of Fosgitt comics. No, even better. “Dead Duck and Zombie Chick” is the Verdi’s “Otello” of Fosgitt comics. (I swear this last one works.) What I’m trying to say is this stand-alone issue constitutes new work by a seasoned artist—older and wiser—revisiting his early genius, conjuring the old magic, etc., proving he can still land a good booby joke, etc. Got it?

What is “Dead Duck and Zombie Chick”? From the author in an interview included in the new release, “’Dead Duck’ is a minion of Death. He delivers the dead with his sidekick, Zombie Chick.” This is the premise to every Dead Duck story, and it works. Rolled out episodically, this comic delivers hilarity, pop culture lampooning, and unexpected twists in the form of ghastly creatures proving downright lovable. Who woulda thunk a story dripping with macabre imagery could be so charming?

For many fans, Dead Duck appeared in 2009 as a graphic novel. For me at the time, Fosgitt was a friend of a friend. So I dutifully tried his comic book out and wound up having a great time. Seven years and a couple of commissions later, I am also a fan of his Little Green Men adventures and the thoroughly loveable Bodie Troll. Those offerings are geared for all ages. Dead Duck, however, delivers a more risqué set of tales, which is partly why I began my love-fest review with a sobering disclaimer about booby jokes.

Seriously though, count me as a reader who gleefully devoured this new one-off comic. Fosgitt’s rapid-fire wit, ornate illustrations, and remarkable knack for making dark things charming, make “Dead Duck and Zombie Chick” high quality entertainment. These days, grownups are apparently cuckoo for coloring books. No reason why they shouldn’t also be crazy for comic books. Yes, I’m a biased fan. Nevertheless, my critical assessment of Fosgitt's latest comic is dead on. (See what I did there? Jay does it better.)


It seems standard for new comics to entice with extras. So here come the treats. “Dead Duck and Zombie Chick” sports fun new pin ups by Jim Anderson, Robb Mommaerts, Jules Faulkner, and the aforementioned artist interview by author Kasey Pierce. You’ll also receive an irresistibly urban pin up by Fosgitt with artist Danny K. Dunbar posing as Zombie Chick. All of the above extras are available in a single issue from Source Point Press. Check it out!

Wondering where I've gone?

Childe Jake spends most of his blogging time at Lit for Space these days. Stop on by and sample the world of cosmic letters:

Lit for Space: Interpreting the Literature of Space Exploration

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chicago Selfies and Almost Love

That Moment When You Almost Fall in Love

When I finally saw the above painting in person, I assumed I would love George Seurat's masterpiece: A Sunday On La Grande Jatte. After all, I love the Sondheim musical it inspired: Sunday in the Park with George. I adore the way it figures into the teen film classic Ferris Beuller's Day Off. As the titular character and his girlfriend make out in front of Chagall's America Windows, third-wheel Cameron goes off alone. Ferris's awkward buddy gets in touch with his inner daddy's girl by staring deep into Seurat's pointillistic classic. I did not reenact Cameron's bittersweet moment. Still, I suspect I matched his mood.

From 20 feet away, I almost loved the painting. Then I stepped closer. From 10 feet away, the piece's intentionally noisy texture grated on my irises. Dot dot dot dot! Alas, my HD conditioned eyes do not relish pointillism. I'd planned a goofy selfie where I pretend to have trouble finding the large painting. A dozen or so takes later I gave up, opting instead for the above honest selfie. It's hard to admit you are not in love, especially when you dearly want to be.

Lincoln on my Mind

I did buddy up with a painting during my stay in Chicago. When it came to lodgings, I splurged on a room at the boutique Hotel Lincoln in Old Town Chicago. I even scored a special rate as a patron of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. So before heading to the show, I needlessly readjusted my tie in front of Honest Abe.

Profile of a Space Exploration Geek

The lion's share of Wednesday was spent at the Adler Planetarium, which I loved. Plenty of great exhibits for a NASA nerd. Also several shows available for a lone tourist who tires of dodging flocks of kids, families angling for group photos, and couples angling for each other.

Pay No Attention to the Suitcase Handle

My Chicago trip was all about doing touristy stuff. After ascending to Willis Tower's Sky Deck, I marched all the way to Millennium Park with luggage in tow. There I joined scores of visitors mulling over how best to take selfies in front of the polished steel sculpture Cloud Gate. I tried to hide my suitcase behind me and took the above ordinary photo. Maybe I should have put the suitcase in front. An appropriate prop to highlight the lone traveler.

Normally I take foot selfies. This I did at Willis Tower. In addition to two foot selfies, I also took an "Interstellar Selfie" at Cloud Gate. To see these and 17 other images from my Windy City wanderings, head to the Chicago photo album. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Stars Wars: Rogue One - A Pre-Sequel

First off, this trailer is downright cool. The cast looks cool. I am officially eager to see the finished product. The rest of this hurried blogpost will be the shameless work of a curmudgeon.

As I said on Facebook, "At long last, we will learn exactly how the Rebel Alliance discovered there was a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port."

As @megturney has pointed out on Twitter, the lead character has a Katniss/Hunger Games vibe (beginning with hairstyle).

To the defenders of manhood (aka trolls) who will likely cry out that this is now two Star Wars films in a row that are sexist against men--cuz um, they star women--I will peremptorily point out that a Han Solo prequel is in the works, so, let's all just chill and enjoy Star Wars Episode 3a...or is it Episode 3b? Besides, didn't I mention that this cast looks cool?

Lastly, I'm already getting an idea for a sequel called, Stars Wars: Rogue One, Episode 2--The Legacy of the Womp Rat. It will be a buddy story featuring grade school versions of Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter learning to bulls-eye, well...I think I've already said too much. But suffice it to say it will be a sort of Star Wars meets Stand By Me coming of age space opera.

The Disney era of Star Wars is truly upon us.

Why have I become a Star Wars curmudgeon you may ask? Read my poem!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Salient Pessimism 8

Hoping for the final triumph of reason and the demise of religion, the staunch Atheist pines, "Any day now. Any day..."

"...now. Any day now," pines the staunch Christian for the Second Coming.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Not Chummy with 'The Brothers Karamazov'

The Brothers KaramazovThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Brothers Karamazov joins Moby Dick in the category of books I have read so I can say I have read them. However, this book had been recommended to me by someone whose opinions I value. So I had high hopes that the Dostoevsky’s famed novel would pull me in and prove riveting. This did not end up being the case.

If I were to rate this book on storytelling prowess, on style, on richness of intellectuality, we would be talking four stars, maybe five. My rating is a personal reaction based on lack of affinity. This is the third time I have tried to get into Dostoevsky. I tried to make it through this book years ago and failed. Before that I dropped out about a third of the way into Crime and Punishment.

Dostoevsky’s writing is neither cryptic nor abstract. Making it through is not easy, but doable so long as you give the book your full attention (and keep track of the multiple names for each character). Furthermore, The Brothers Karamazov is at turns a riveting father-son angst tale, a whodunit, and a courtroom drama. All of these story types are highly accessible and Dostoevsky executes them with rich dialogue and engrossing philosophy.

Nevertheless, I failed to strongly connect with this familial epic. I muscled through the last 120 pages over one day and four separate coffee shops. It was a slog. The characters are generally unlikable, and what sympathy I can muster comes from several of them suffering from mental illness beyond their control. To his credit, Dostoevsky reveals through the lawyers in the novel’s trial sequence that he is aware of just how melodramatic these brothers Karamazov can be. Everything in the novel strikes me as deliberate and well-crafted. Dostoevsky was a master. Just don’t count on being charmed. His novels may best be suited for serious students of Russian literature, instead of occasional readers of it like myself.

A word on expectations. I mistakenly went in looking for a sprawling historical epic like War and Peace (a personal favorite). This novel fits into backrooms, balconies, and backyards. Dostoevsky opts for long passages of expansive dialogue between intimate associates rather than grand action or far-flung travel. The novel is in many respects a play. Once I adjusted to that format I warmed up a bit to the story. Ultimately, though I did not connect emotionally as I’d hoped, I am glad that I made it through. Novel reading ought to be work now and then. *pats himself on the back*

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