The Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls Booth

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Milky Way Galaxy Girls Booth, originally uploaded by shindohd.

This was a happy accident right before I left Comic-Con. This booth caught my eye, I had to take a picture of it, and I was soon having a conversation with Lauren Faust, the artist and writer behind the Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls. She happily explained to what they were all about. While they are superficially reminiscent of the Power Puff Girls (on which Faust was an animator), the Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls are older, hipper, more individualistic, and definitely more fun. Each girl personifies a celestial body with the style and flair to go with their names. For example, the Sun is definitely a heliocentric diva who believes the universe revolves around her, the silver-clad Mercury is the fastest athlete in the universe, and the lovely but solitary Moon expresses her being in poetry. Best of all, these girls traverse outer space in roller skates that go with their unique outfits.

Faust has created a visually fantastic book which tells the reader all about the Galaxy Girls and asks the question, “Which planet are you from?” The book and other merchandise are a lot of fun (and thoughtfully done), and I will definitely tune in when Galaxy Girls enter the world of animation.

Stay tuned… And check out the Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls.

Here are some pics to show what they’re all about:

The Gothgirl rocker Pluto, the center of the Universe herself the Sun, and the Starry Eyed Space Girl.

The lyrically poetic Moon, the artsy Mars, and the sweetly caring Jupiter.

Michael Tolliver Lives – A Tale of the City

I rarely get emotional over a book purchase, but I did on Friday when I bought a copy of Armistead Maupin‘s Michael Tolliver Lives. When I got caught up in fundamentalist BS in my mid twenties, Tales of the City helped me come out a second time (I first came out in my late teens). First, I discovered him by accident in the library and would steal time to read his books. When I was in the process of leaving fundamentalism in the late 1990’s, I caught a re-run of the miniseries on Bravo. I then had to read the books properly and devoured them. I hate to sound maudlin about it, but those books saved my life. I continue to see those books as old friends, even to this day.

Some twenty odd years later is where Michael Tolliver Lives picks up where Sure of You left off. By Significant Others, Michael Tolliver was HIV positive and only thought he had a few years of life left. However, like the title of the new novel suggests, Mouse is alive and well. Having experienced almost every kind of gay relationship imaginable (boyfriends, tricks, bath house encounters, fuck buddies, tricks turned lovers, and domestic partners), a fifty-ish Michael finds a new soulmate in a thirty something man. Mouse has gone from being a landscape shop owner to a gardener, having sold the shop to Brian, now in his mid-sixties. Brian’s daughter’s now a wild sex blogger, and his ex-wife Mary Ann has moved on to become a Stepford wife on the other side of the country, interestingly in the town where the movies were filmed. The octogenarian Mrs. Madrigal is the godmother to a new generation of trannies including Jake, Tolliver’s trusty right hand man in the gardening business.

In the Tales of the City milieu, there’s no time like the present. These older versions of the characters readers (and viewers of the miniseries) have come to love are dealing with the quirks of living in the 21st century, such as cell phones, Googling, and the aftermath of 9/11. This novel also brings closure, as Michael Tolliver must deal with the impending death of not one, but two mother figures. His mother in Florida is dying in a convalescent home and summons him home one last time. He learns a dirty family secret which strangely enough provides a key in healing his relationship with his brother. The timing’s never good, as Anna Madrigal is close to leaving this world as well, bringing the children of Barbary Lane together for one last time.

Missing from The Night Listener and Maybe the Moon was Maupin’s wicked sense of humor, which is present throughout Michael Tolliver Lives. Even when things are bad, I was laughing my ass off about something, especially the interaction between Michael and his young husband.

There is room for Michael and his new husband Ben to tell their stories after this recent installment; however, this Tale of the City brings closure to four decade long story arc. Buy it, read, laugh and cry.

The Best Way To Not Read A Book Is To Buy It

My friend Sharon said that the best way to not read a book is to buy it.

Oh God, I think she is right. Over the years, I have developed the classic problem that creative writing students, English majors, classicists, writers, and book lovers in general have—I have accumulated too many books. As an English major and an MFA creative writing student, I have kept many of the books purchased for coursework. I have gone to Barnes & Noble and Borders, perused their shelves, and given them my money. I have also scoured used and abused bookstores with an agenda or have left things to chance and found that perfect book way too many times. Library books sales have yielded interesting choices. Some friends would occasionally give me books as gifts, and others leaving town have bequeathed me theirs. This left me with a constant bookshelf and space problem.

If clutter is a sign of unfulfilled potential, then the overflow in the bookshelves represented it in my life as a writer and a reader. I was very catholic in my interests, and there were always recommendations and ideas of novels that would help me model my own writing or books that seemed fun to read. Work, studies, and a personal life all have their demands, and as the books piled up, so did the procrastination. With every book, the collection became a daunting to-do list.

It was too easy to look at the shelves and feel overwhelmed. I hadn’t read this book nor this one, and I felt like it never was going to happen. Plus, I was crowded out by the things I once loved. The bookshelves took up too much room, and there was not enough space for all my books.

I needed to get rid of them. Taking them to used book sellers would be a full-time job because they can be picky. As someone who has worked in a used bookstore, I can say they won’t take any book. They have to know they can sell it. I could have gone the Amazon.Com route, but I didn’t want to deal running books to the post office. So, I simply donated them.

Eliminating them was easy. Deciding what to keep was hard. One rule was that they have to be able to fit on one shelf. Books on writing (such as John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction), grammar, and the Norton Anthologies on British literature remained, though I bid farewell to both Janet Burroway’s staidly conventional book* and Lance Olsen’s crazy one on creative writing. Ursula K. le Guin, Jonathan Lethem, and Neil Gaiman and a few other novelists are still here, but I said goodbye to much of my C.S. Lewis and Toni Morrison. There were tons of books I can’t even remember; however, I am pleased that I kept Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, American Splendor, and Tom Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I did happily get rid of Hardy’s Jude. I’ll probably mention other items in the remaining inventory sometime later.

Instead of building up a library, I’ll simply use the library. I can check out books, read them, and return them. It’s simple logic any child can understand. I read some books for free and I won’t have them to weigh me down. If I buy a book, I should put it back in circulation after I’m done reading it. I could either donate it (library, thrift shop, etc) or take it to a used bookstore to see if I could get some change for some coffee and a scone. The main idea is to get what I need from the book.

Here’s to reading and not having an attachment to books!

*This is one of those books that constantly appears in a new edition almost every year, though the first edition is absolutely fine. Unlike my response to John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, I was not in a hurry to seek out the wonderful literary accomplishments of Ms. Burroway. I get the idea she’s now a one note writer who does creative writing books, especially revisions to the one that sells so well.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

A damn brilliant title. It’s the kind of title every writer wishes they had for their book. It’s simple, elegant, epic, and sums up the story without completely giving away what it’s about.

So who are the American Gods? In a post-modern context, they are the ones who represent technology, the information age, and consumer culture. Americans believe in them on some level, whether that belief is acknowledged or not. In America, there is also the professed belief in God, but is it real? The American gods are also those people brought with them when they came to America, such as the gods of the Norse pantheon, Hindu deities, and spirits and other beings such as jinn, leprechauns, and faeries. Belief in these figures on some level brought them to America, making them co-immigrants with indentured servants, slaves, traders, and people who came to settle. Both the old gods and the new ones are manifest in human form and live among the mortals. Despite their quirks, the gods are presented as banal, working and making transactions with human beings. However, an epic battle is ahead, representing a struggle that is not so much between good and evil as it is between old and new.

Caught up in this war is Shadow, a paroled prisoner who has recently lost both his wife and his best friend in a tragic accident right before his sentence is finished. Given that, Shadow is no ordinary man. He has strange dreams and he is able to go into people’s minds. Recurring dreams are about a buffalo with a man’s body and of thunder birds. The deaths of those close him are enough to complicate the story, but Shadow meets a one-eyed con man named Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be the King of America but obtains his means through petty theft, trickery, and hypnotic suggestion. Mr. Wednesday, of course, is one of the American gods. Shadow is persistently recruited by Mr. Wednesday in the beginning, culminating in an agreement sealed by three rounds of mead. Then there is the cross-country trek to meet more of the American gods for Mr. Wednesday’s agenda. Keep in mind that Mr. Wednesday is a con man.

Also vying for Shadow are the new American gods. Shortly after Mr. Wednesday’s recruitment of Shadow, there is a Matrix-like scene where Shadow is abducted by an occupant of a black limousine who, instead of being stylish, is a fat, geeky kid in a black raincoat who spout rhetoric about the information superhighway. Other gods include the television set and a seductive woman who, like a character in Pilgrim’s progress, calls herself what she represents – Media. Somehow, they’ve been goaded by someone who calls himself Mr. World to go out and kill the old gods. And thus begins the battle.

While the main narrative is focused on Shadow’s involvement in the fight between the old and the new, Mr. Ibis, a longtime observer of American history provides some narrative interludes of how the gods came to America. While these short stories provide an occasional rest from Shadow’s long story, they provide insight on how the non-Christian gods found their way to America, a land good for no gods at all. Ibis reveals the ancient Egyptians came up the Mississippi for trade 3000 years ago, the Vikings brought their gods along with them during two colonization attempts, and the African slaves indeed brought their gods along with them, invoked in early voodoo. Mr. Ibis, like most American gods, has taken up some kind of mundane job, one that is close to his supernatural one. He takes care of the dead and records history.

American Gods is a definite page turner, but a stylish one. While this book can be found in the science fiction shelf, it is not purely sci-fi. It has elements of fantasy, but is not a pure fantasy novel. American Gods has the lyrical quality of a literary novel, and the story and its conceits have an affinity for magical realism. The Americana is present throughout the story and Neil Gaiman makes the reader believe it. One can believe the old gods as old, washed out people who try to fight for their existence in a world that is quick to forget them. While the newer gods are quick to point out the older generation’s irrelevance in the 21st century, Shadow points out that they too are subject to the fickleness of modern culture. Read it and see if you can figure out who the gods are.

This entry refers to the UK edition. An American edition is also readily available.