Wednesday, June 11, 2008 

A Test Post

This here's a test post. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

Southern lit review: Jon Clinch's Finn

Just finished up an exceptional book, Jon Clinch's Finn, which tells the story of Huckleberry Finn's father from before Huck's birth to just before his final appearance in Twain's novel. Finn, as he's called here, is a brutal, cruel man, lustful and petty and violent and indifferent all at once. Clinch has done something fascinating here, taking perhaps the best-known work of American literature -- Hemingway called it the wellspring from which all American fiction sprang -- and offering us a chance to view it in a completely new, yet utterly appropriate, light.

The entire book stems from these few paragraphs in Chapter 9 of Huckleberry Finn, when Huck and Jim come across the corpse of Finn himself in a ruined cabin:

"It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He's ben shot in de back. I reck'n he's ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look at his face -- it's too gashly."

I didn't look at him at all. Jim throwed some old rags over him, but he needn't done it; I didn't want to see him. There was heaps of old greasy cards scattered around over the floor, and old whisky bottles, and a couple of masks made out of black cloth; and all over the walls was the ignorantest kind of words and pictures made with charcoal. There was two old dirty calico dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some women's underclothes hanging against the wall, and some men's clothing, too. We put the lot into the canoe -- it might come good. There was a boy's old speckled straw hat on the floor; I took that, too. And there was a bottle that had had milk in it, and it had a rag stopper for a baby to suck ... Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden leg. The straps was broke off of it, but, barring that, it was a good enough leg, though it was too long for me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find the other one, though we hunted all around.

Every single item named in that list there plays a significant role in Finn, and it's only after reading both together that you see how seamlessly Clinch wove his story around Twain's. The narrative loops around and around; the payoff for certain events hinted at in the book's final pages actually came in the opening ten. It can be confusing as hell, at first, particularly with the apocalyptic William Gay/Cormac McCarthy Southern gothic tone and vocabulary, but once I finished it I literally flipped right back to the start and reread the first hundred pages to get the full sense of what had happened.

And while Huckleberry Finn is taught in middle schools -- at least, those not held prisoner by illiterate ideologues -- Finn is most definitely an adults-only book. Cannibalism, perversion, coldblooded murder -- this is not a book for the squeamish. But Clinch has created a classic American figure out of the sketches Twain left behind, even adding a fascinating new twist to Huck himself that helps explain so much of why he did what he did. But Finn's tragedy is how he never even thought to light out for the territories the way his son would.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008 

Fly the friendly skies of Tegucigalpa

When I was dating the lovely woman who would become my wife, we used to grab a couple sandwiches, go to a little field just north of the National (now Reagan) Airport runways in Washington, D.C., and sit and watch the planes fly right over our heads. I can't imagine that's still possible now -- any of my DC-area readers verify this? -- because it damn sure looked like you could bounce a tennis ball off the underside of the plane.

And that's nothing compared to this, a landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where a plane skidded off the runway last weekend. (After seeing the video, all I have to say is, "only one plane?")

You see stuff like that, and you start to think that maybe donkeys aren't such a bad transportation option after all.


Monday, June 02, 2008 

Marvel 1985 #1: Letting loose the inner geek

Ah, 1985. A watershed year in comics, a year in which the last of the old innocent Silver Age comics died out and the first of the grim-n-gritty comics slouched onto the main stage. A time when The New Teen Titans and the Uncanny X-Men ruled the world, when Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars revamped all of comicdom. John Byrne's depowered Superman and Frank Miller's dehumanized Batman were still a year in the future.

In short, it was a damn good time to be a young comics geek.

Now, Marvel has produced "Marvel 1985," a six-issue series set in that year, but in this world. It's like a mainline jolt of nostalgia, so fierce and sharp I feel like I ought to be listening to Rush and pretending like I don't hear Mom calling me to dinner. The plot is pretty simple: villains from the Marvel Universe cross over into ours, and hell breaks loose.

Or not; this issue was all setup and very little action. Written by Mark Millar, who's always had an air of calculated cool to his work that veers between kick-ass and contrived, 1985 looks like it's going to be a hell of a good series that knows it's going to be a hell of a good series. Make sense? No? Well, hell with it, then. Here's my favorite two-panel sequence from the book, when the young protagonist goes to visit the strange visitors who have moved into the previously abandoned house in his neighborhood:

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That's the Red Skull there leering out of an upstairs window, and that right there is badass creepy. Dunno if 1985 can sustain the skin-crawling strangeness it's set up -- I'd much prefer that to an all-out battle -- but yeah, I'm on board.

Friday, May 30, 2008 

Lost Season 4 Finale: Give a little, get a little

So after a five-hour-long swim meet -- at which my kids swam for a total of about four minutes -- I came home last night, collapsed on the couch and cued up the Lost season finale. I'm no Lost maniac -- I only occasionally scan one of the many Lost websites, and I've never played any of the games or whatever on the site -- but I'm fairly knowledgeable about the show. I'm also a big fan of several of the writers/exec producers, comics guys like Brian K. Vaughan and Jeph Loeb.

I don't think I'm exactly breaking new ground here by saying that this season was the finest since One. This one answered more questions than it asked, and the mysteries it posed were all in the context of previously established storylines. (No more four-toed statue feet.) Having the end zone in sight has definitely allowed the writers to flourish and drop clues that will certainly pay off.

Some thoughts here, and SPOILERS may be present. What I dig about the series is the way it can constantly recontextualize itself -- after last night, the show's present is now "our" present, 2008, and it's done this pretty much seamlessly. There are still gaps to be filled in -- what happened to the rest of the Castaways on the island? What went on during the three years between the rescue of the Oceanic Six and the death of Jeremy Bentham? -- but what's clear is that now we're looking at moving forward in time WITH the cast, which for some indefinable reason is infinitely cooler than the perpetual flashback that the series had become. Plus, the reimagining of familiar faces -- led by Sayid as a James Bondian hitman -- is satisfying on both a storytelling and an entertainment level.

ET has its usual great wrapup of the series finale right here. Well worth a read. While Lost hasn't yet approached the greatness that is the Wire, it's still probably among the top five TV shows ever, in my humble opinion. Lost still has a couple storylines that just don't interest me as much -- the Others in the woods have never done it for me, and neither did Claire and her "bay-bay" until she got all dead and creepy -- whereas every scene in The Wire was riveting. But hey, 99 percent is good enough for me. Just sucks that we have to wait until January for the next round.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 

The Greatest Collection Of Bass Players In The Known Universe

So this is one of those wandering posts, where it starts out being about something and ends up being about something else. I was going to riff on the news that Stonehenge has been a burial site for centuries, and then bounce from there into a video of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" (where the demons dwell!) So then I went YouTube trolling, and found this -- the greatest collection of bass players in human history:

Sweet. I love bass that sounds like it's pulling your guts out through your big ... toe.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 

RIPPED cover art, with the promise of more goodness inside

This right here is some sweetness -- the cover to RIPPED, the original graphic novel (or OGN, as the kids say) by myself and Jason Flowers. (Premise: time travel/conspiracy.) Not bad, eh? The promotional push is starting soon, but for now, art:

Nazis! Trojans! Soldiers! A punk kid! This one's got it all, folks, including the secret role that an iPod played in the JFK assassination! Coming very soon from Arcana Studio.

Friday, April 25, 2008 

Comics art: Once again, I have chosen the right friends

Here's some extraordinarily cool artwork from a couple of upcoming projects I'm writing. First, from Kade: Rising Sun #1, a samurai epic from Arcana Studio:

Man, that's badass, and it's just dudes drinking tea! At the opposite end of the spectrum, we've got a piece from the upcoming anthology "Dear Santa, I Can Explain...", a collection of tales of Christmases gone horribly wrong. Mine's a story about dressing up as Santa for my kids, but before that, I used to don the beard in college:

Those of you who were at those old Flat Hat parties back in the day will remember--that's exactly what it was like. No artistic license taken by the spectacular Mr. Wes Molebash whatsoever. (The final version will be in full, glorious color.)

The Kade series is scheduled for later this summer, with the Christmas anthology slated for -- imagine this -- Christmastime.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 

USA Today & The Eisners

Some fun news of late ... I made it into an issue of USA Today a few days back when this post I wrote for Yahoo! Sports got picked up by the national media. Seems Forbes decided Atlanta was the nation's most miserable sports city, and I tried my best to fight back. I think you can read it there, midway down the second column:

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Yep, I may be the first person in history to get the phrase "Thanks a pantload" into USA Today. My parents raised me right!

In other news, the amazing Postcards anthology, for which I wrote the story "Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland," has been nominated for an Eisner Award. For those outside the comics industry, the Eisners are comics' Oscars, the most prestigious awards in the industry, and I'm just glad I didn't torpedo the book myself. If it wins, I'll officially change my name to "Eisner winner Jay Busbee," even if I only deserve 1/32nd of the credit. Huge congrats to my man Jason Rodriguez for some well-deserved recognition for pulling the whole damn thing together.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 

Stupid Writers! Nobody Reads Magazines Anymore!

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When I was a wee lad of about sixteen or so, I had dreams of moving to New York and going to write for Rolling Stone, Esquire, and the other big-name glossy magazines. Well, soon afterward, I found out that you could write from wherever you were without having to survive on table scraps and ketchup packets in New York City. And then along came this thing called "the Internet" that reworked the whole conversation.

So moving to New York isn't in the immediate plans any longer. But I remain fascinated by magazines -- I'm a regular subscriber to RS, Esquire, The New Yorker, the Oxford American, and plenty of others. They pile up in my office, threatening to crush small children.

What's interesting is that I'm apparently part of a dwindling breed, at least according to The New York Observer. In an article entitled "Freelance Fizzle," writer Dorree Shafrir breaks down the many ways in which the once-dominant magazines have lost their hegemony, their influence, and their status as nirvana (lower-case n) for young writers:

“There’s not one path anymore,” David Hirshey, executive editor of HarperCollins and former longtime deputy editor of Esquire magazine, said the other day. “Thirty years ago, you worked at a newspaper, you moved to a magazine, and then you wrote books or screenplays. Today you can be a blogger who writes books or you can be a stripper who wins an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.”

Hey, he's talking about me! (The first part of that last sentence, not the second. I still haven't won an Academy Award.) Anyway, it's a fascinating look at the "decline and fall," as the subhead goes, not just of the freelance magazine writer, but of the magazine industry itself. Well worth a read. Oh, and the comments are good too, both the informative ones and the nakedly jealous ones too.


Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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