Mad #480: Meet The G(ig) That Killed Me

As a reader pointed out recently, the latest issue of Mad contains a three-page article that Sarah and I provided the artwork for. This includes the two-page spread of doom which I’ve mentioned here several times before, and which put my hand in a wrist brace for a period of time after I finished working on it. The biggest problem with the job was not so much my decision to really amp things up (I was asked to take out some business and figures, this was actually a little denser in the pencils/roughs), but with  my choice to draw it on a fairly small scale, certain circumstances led me to draw the spread on a piece of 12" by 19" board. Not as large as I would have liked considering the detail work. So there was a lot of time put in with the Hunt 102 nibs and the .30 rapidograph.

Below is what most of the left-hand side of the spread looks like, without Sarah’s colors or effects on the various monitor screens.

Not the keenest draftsmanship around, but I’m happy with the way things came out. It printed a little dark, color-wise, but Sarah and I got what we were going for; a two-page spread that fries the eyeballs, but keeps them on the page so the reader can find all the Will Elder-style chicken fat background gags. More bang for the buck, as it were.

Anyway, the latest issue is #480 (!), and it shipped to comic shops last week, and, I believe, should now be available on newsstands. Please feel free to check out the issue. The Usual Gang of Idiots this time around includes Tom Richmond, Peter Kuper, Paul Coker, Bob Staake, Herman Mejia, Al Jaffee and the inimitable Sergio Aragones. And us. Crazy! Er, I mean, Sick! Cracked? Forget it. Lame joke.
Mad #480: Meet The G(ig) That Killed Me

What You Don't Want

I’ve often said that one of the best ways to find out what you really want is to start with what you don’t want. I’d like to explore this theme a little further in this posting.

There is something about asking for what we want that attracts a lot of negativity in our present-day culture. Many of us remember childhood sayings like “Those that ask don’t get”, or we remember that we were made to feel selfish when we expressed our wants. So it is not too surprising perhaps that for many people it is incredibly difficult to come to a satisfactory answer to the question “What do you really want?” When we do succeed in answering the question clearly and without reservation it has the effect of bringing a much greater focus to our energy.

However the effect of this childhood and cultural conditioning is that most of us find it much easier to identify what we don’t want than what we do want. The secret is to take what we don’t want and then turn it into the positive opposite.

So, to take an example, at work you might find yourself saying: “I am always getting interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.” And sometimes we can go on saying that for years without doing anything about it!

The first step is to identify what you don’t want. This is pretty obvious: “I don’t want to be constantly interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.” However note that this is a much more powerful statement than “I am always getting interrupted.” Once you have identified it as something you don’t want, as opposed to something you are merely complaining about, there is a much greater likelihood of your doing something about it.

Step two is to identify the positive opposite. What is the positive opposite for you of being constantly interrupted? Note that I said “for you” — we are not looking for the exact grammatical opposite but what it would mean for you. So you might say “to have a uninterrupted couple of hours every day during which I can really concentrate on my work.”

Compare the effect that each of the following statements is likely to have:

“I’m always getting interrupted when I’m trying to concentrate on my work”

“I don’t want to be constantly interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.”

“I want an uninterrupted couple of hours every day during which I can really concentrate on my work”.

Which statement is most likely to result in your being able to concentrate on your work without interruptions?

What You Don’t Want

The Last Novel

By David Markson, fun, fun, fun.  Excerpt:

Curiously impressed by the fact that Auden paid everyone of his bills – electric, phone, whatever – on the same day that it arrived.


We evaluate artists by how much they are able to rid themselves of convention.
Said Richard Serra.

Is this a novel or a book of aphorisms?  Could it be a set of blog posts spread out over 190 pp.?  Who cares, I finished it.  Or:

A woman’s body is not a mass of flesh in a state of decomposition, on which the green and purplish spots denote a complete of cadaveric putrefaction.
An early critics presumed to inform Renoir.

The Last Novel

Reading Comics

Designer name to come

Fans of comics and graphic novels will have to tell the rest of us if vertical text is commonly used in those media – I just don’t know.

The use of primary colors plus black and white works very nicely here, and the eye on the left is a great addition – it underscores the graphic nature of the subject and it breaks the symmetry of the overall design. Nice.

Buy this book at
Reading Comics

The critic as the handmaiden of Google

What are critics good for anyway?

I look for one main piece of information from a review: is the name of the product or artist worth Googling?  Yes or no.  That is a binary decision.

Once I have the answer to that question I usually stop reading the review.

I look for one main piece of information from Google: is the product worth buying, on Amazon or elsewhere?

Once I have the answer to that question I usually stop pawing through Google.  That’s another binary decision.

Imagine that.  The critic as the handmaiden of Google, and Google as the handmaiden of Amazon.

To me, the most valuable critics are those who can be disposed of most quickly.  Is it any wonder that so many critics do not like the Internet and bloggers?

Sometimes I think it is enough to simply list how many of the book’s pages I bothered to read.

The critic as the handmaiden of Google

nowMap: Half-A4 Template (With areas for Notes and Wins)

Latest Update: I’ve attached the original OpenOffice Draw file to the bottom of the page now, too, so people can modify it for different paper sizes and such like.

This is a template for nowMaps - quick visual overviews of what’s on your mind. To find out what a nowMap is, and how to use the main section of this form, see the nowMap Introduction, which also lists other nowMap templates available.

This Form

nowMap Half-A4 Template, Picture

(This is just a pic to let you see what the form looks like - keep scrolling for the PDF file if you want to print one out to use it. If you’re really stuck, and can’t use the PDF, click the picture, then click on “view original”, then right click the picture and save it - it’ll look pretty poor printed, but it should work ok.)

This is actually the first nowMap form I made, and although I find it handy, it might be a bit small if you’re reasonably busy. The reason I’ve called it “Half-A4”, not A5, is that it’s actually a full sheet of A4 (should work just fine printed on US Letter paper, just let Adobe Reader scale it to fit), but only the bottom half is a nowMap.

Here’s a colour-coded version, so I can refer to the areas by colour further down - don’t worry, the PDF version isn’t like this…

nowMap Half-A4 Template, Picture, Colour Coded

Bottom Half

A nowMap, as described in the introduction, with squared main area (pink), lined left hand side (yellow), and spaces marked on the right for start and end dates (blue).

Top Half

The top half consists of two columns for notes, and one for wins…

  • Notes: (red) - just areas for keeping general notes - not actions or references that belong to the side of the nowMap, but maybe a space to jot down things when you’re on the phone, to scribble new ideas, or pretty much anything else. Very rough notes can, of course, go on the back of the sheet.
  • Wins: (green) - an area to note down your achievements. Doesn’t have to be anything big, but anything you feel good about having done. The idea is that this gives you a bit of a record of what you’re actually getting done, and might make you feel a bit better when you glance up at it. Pure feel-good stuff. You don’t have to fill it in, but why not feel good at least occasionally?

The PDF Download

Should be below, along with the OpenOffice Draw file that generated it, to allow for modifications…

AttachmentSize A4 Folded.odg10.62 KB A4 Folded.pdf52.41 KB
nowMap: Half-A4 Template (With areas for Notes and Wins)

Xenía in D.C.

Last month’s news but still worth thinking about:

It started about midnight on June 16 when a group of friends was finishing a dinner of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp on the back patio of a District of Columbia home. That’s when a hooded man slid through an open gate and pointed a handgun at the head of a 14-year-old girl.

“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he said, according to D.C. police and witnesses.

Everyone froze, including the girl’s parents. Then one guest spoke.

“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, told the man. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”

The intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”
The story gets even stranger, with Camembert and hugs.

I’m hoping that any of my Homer-reading students who come across this news item pause to think on the ancient Greek practice of ξενία (xenía), hospitality. The Iliad ends with an extraordinary moment of xenía, when Achilles as host treats Hector’s father Priam with respect and compassion. The two share a meal before Priam departs with Hector’s returned corpse. The Odyssey is a running display of xenía and its opposite: virtually every scenario in the poem hinges upon the practice or abuse of hospitality. And hospitality isn’t limited to better homes and palaces: the swineherd Eumaeus acquits himself as a perfect host by offering Odysseus that best that he has: food, shelter, and a cloak to stay warm (almost literally the shirt off his back).

What’s remarkable in this D.C. story is that one person’s quick thinking changed — in a moment, for everyone involved — a dismally familiar scenario into something far more humanly complicated. How odd this robber must’ve felt to be seen not as a terrifying monster but as a guest. And how odd his potential victims must’ve felt to be recognizing his need for affection (however chemically induced that need may have been).
Attempted robbery ends in group hug (Yahoo News, via Boing Boing)
Xenía in D.C.