2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Thanks to everyone who stopped by or commented. I apologize for the sporadic posting—I promise to do better in 2013. Best wishes for a happy new year!

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 59,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Alphabet Trail & Tales called off

Too much rain today! Maybe we can try again next year.


I saw Brave on Friday. As usual with Pixar, the animation was fantastic. I had a problem with the story.

Here’s the big rule of storytelling: your audience must care about the characters. I didn’t have any particular reason to like Merida. She’s pretty but self-involved. The story has a subtext of ‘girl-power’: Merida is a free spirit, she’s being forced to marry according to the rules of a male-oriented system.

The big archery contest we’ve been seeing in the trailers is a reprise of the episode in Robin Hood, but drained of all suspense. We know Merida is a good archer, so it’s no surprise when she beats the spectacularly incompetent boys. Consider that when Robin Hood was tempted to enter Prince John’s archery contest it was a death-trap. Robin was obliged to disguise himself—even knowing his skill would ultimately give away his true identity. Of course he enters in spite of that certain outcome, because his character is rash, impudent, risk-taking, proud and—well—brave. Merida faces no such risk of capture and hanging as Robin Hood did, only her parents’ displeasure (her mom’s, at least).  We’re supposed to believe her actions caused a small war among the rival clans, but c’mon, they were all there for a dust-up anyway.

Another flat character is the witch—eccentric, neither likeable nor unlikeable enough to make her interesting. She’s there merely to push the plot along. The male characters are silly, blustering and ineffectual when they’re not actually causing harm.

For me, the only character with depth was Merida’s mom, who was once surely just like Merida but bowed to convention for the benefit of her people. The friction between Merida and her mom is well-done because the mom has dimension. Merida never thinks of anyone but herself (okay, she swipes some pastries for her little brothers) until she’s forced to. But even then, it’s a case of having gotten hersef into a horrible situation she has to get herself out again. I wasn’t convinced that it was a character-changing event for her. After she makes everything right with her mother, she goes back to riding her horse and shooting arrows at things. Instead her parents change, so that Merida doesn’t have to do something she didn’t want to in the first place.

I would have liked Merida better if her Fate, which was so important to her, required a vision beyond herself and her desire not to be bent by convention. Merida’s mom was interesting because long ago she’d grown up. By the end of the movie there was no reason to believe Merida would ever grow up. What’s so brave about that?

The coolest totebag ever

My pal Paul Schifino, who hired me to create an image for the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s As You Like It, sent me this terrific tote bag made out of the recycled banners and billboards.

UPDATE! Laura is the lady who created this wonderful tote bag. You can see more of her work here.

Maurice Sendak

Some sad news: Maurice Sendak passed on. He understood the picture book format like no one else.

On the move

Hey, Gang—this evening at 6:00 I’ll be at Queen City Café & Gallery (The “Q”) in Titusville Pennsylvania for Regional Writer’s Night. I’ll be reading my book, The Really Awful Musicians! If you live in northwestern Pa, please drop by. 

Next week on Tuesday March 27 at 6:00 I’ll be at Cranberry Elementary School (also northwestern Pa). Please drop by there, too, if you’re in the neighborhood!

Then on Thursday the 29th there’s the SoMIRAC (State of Maryland International Reading Association Council) 40th annual conference. I’ll be a featured author at 8:15 am. I’ll be signing books during an evening with the authors from 7-9:00 pm. Here’s the link for more info & to register.

March 2012 PSInside

You can read it here!

Lieutenant Blueberry

Here are a couple of panels I really like from L’Homme Qui Valait 500000$ (The Man Worth $500,000) drawn by Jean Giraud. This is one of the stories in the Blueberry collection.

Jean Giraud,1938-2012

I encountered the work of French cartoonist Moebius in Heavy Metal magazine when I was in art school. I didn’t realize until later that Moebius was Jean Giraud, who drew the Lieutenant Blueberry comics I loved from high school. A fantastic talent. RIP.

A lovely visit

Thank you, Mrs Goldberg and the Deer Run Elementary School PTO for inviting me out to Dublin, Ohio for a visit on Wednesday! I hope everybody had as much fun as I did.