Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daedalus Aloft!

www.airshipdaedalus.com went live with the first strip/episode ("stripisode"??) at 12:01AM.  Of course there's only one strip up so far, but we will release a new one every Wednesday and Sunday.  I'm really looking forward to it.

It's also my dad's birthday.  He would have been 67 this year.  He'd just turned 61 when he died.  Time marches on.  I still miss him.

Brian Beardsley came over to meet about the site launch and ECC yesterday.  He brought the table banner, which looks awesome, all six feet of it.

After Brian left and Tyler went with his uncle to their Arrowflight game, I took my girls out to pick up a few household and party prep items.  Raechelle decided to host an Oscar party tonight, and dang it, if she ain't just cute enough to get her way.  She was a manic twister of cleaning frenzy last night, which I actually love about her.

Anyway, didn't sleep much.  Might crash out this morning for a while.  Don't want to be dozing through the Oscars.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Counting Down...

It's T-minus five days to Daedalus, and counting.  The site is coming together (although not finished yet), and we've got the Twitter account up and running.  Brian and I have the first month and a half in stockpiled strips, a table at ECC and a 5-page preview in Mash Tun #1.

Tick tick tick...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

1990 Onward...

1990 is really the threshold of a huge transition for me personally, and for us as a couple, and from here on out, I return to a bullet-less narrative.  Such things are useful to make notes and point out important events in a sequence of formative years, but at this stage in the story, I am (for all intents and purposes, in body if not at heart) an adult.  I know it's a lot to cram twenty years of highlights into one post, but look at it this way - it's one post, and then I'll be done with this brain dump.

I spend the rest of 1990 writing, making music and leading a pirate themed household of over thirty people in the SCA.  When 1991 arrives, it is a new decade, and things are continuing to change.  I become the desktop publishing coordinator at the brand new Kinko's in Mountain View, and Samantha contracts at Hewlett-Packard doing database management.  Mark gets me into The Cult, Mother Lovebone, Public Enemy and Soundgarden.  In the midst of this harder stuff, I become smitten with the jangly West Coast songwriting of a young band from Santa Barbara.

We begin to look at buying a home.  Even with help from the family, it is readily apparent that we could afford little more than a double-wide in the South Bay.  We begin to do some serious soul searching.  And Tears Fell has been getting some traction, more college airplay and national fans, thanks to Prodigy.  A music 'zine in Austin, Texas starts supporting the band with glowing reviews.  We could stick it out, slave away at the indie music business in the SF Bay Area, or we could move somewhere else, somewhere more affordable, where we could actually raise a family.  My mom and stepdad have moved to Ferndale, Washington.  We have friends in Bellevue, Washington.  We remember falling in love with the Evergreen State on our way to Vancouver in 1986.  We do our research, we make lots of calls, I check with Kinko's corporate to see if I can transfer to a store in the Seattle area, and they find me a spot as the DTP coordinator at the Bellevue store.

Perfect.

We notice the club music and alternative shoegaze music of  the 1980s takes on a distinctly angry vibe, in the form of two Seattle bands who both release landmark albums in September 1991.  This doesn't stop us from Seeing Transvision Vamp and the Candy Skins live (with a shirtless Cy Curnin performing an acoustic set).  On a boat.  We go to the first Lollapalooza festival.  We also get to see Concrete Blonde on their Bloodletting tour with Andy Prieboy supporting.  My inner goth is very happy.  Happy goth.  It is the last stop before the Seattle music scene seeps into everything.  We realize we will be walking into the lion's den of a powerful cultural movement, and we're okay with that.

In October, we host the Fourth Annual Black Pelican Dead Man's Party & Hallowe'en Ball.  The theme is pre-20th century authors and poets, and it's a good old fashioned murder mystery, complete with bad poetry and ghost story competitions.  It will be the last Black Pelican to be held in California.

In mid-November, Samantha and I pack our world and our cats, Ace and Gryphon, into our 1980 Isuzu P'up and a U-Haul trailer and leave the state we've called home for 20+ years.  It's a two-day drive, especially when the poor little truck keeps overheating on the hills and we have to keep stopping to let it cool.

Our friends Garth and Shura let us stay at their home in Bellevue for a couple weeks while we look for a place to live.  We find a two-bedroom apartment in Renton, and I drop by the Bellevue Kinko's to let the manager know I've arrived safely.  I'm informed that, despite having just relocated from a thousand miles away and having a start date from corporate, the manager has given my job to someone else.  I head back to the corporate office in Seattle to complain, and am told that I can take a lower-rung job at the downtown Seattle store.  I bite the bullet, working swing shifts for a week until I just can't conceal my anger at being dicked over by a company I served for 5 years through college and beyond.  Fuck Kinko's.

I do temp work, and Sam lands a job with the state at the Seattle Vocational Institute.  Good salary and benefits.  She tells me to write for a year.  I do exactly that.

At the end of that time, I have three novels, a screenplay and three short stories (two of which I sell immediately to horror magazine Midnight Zoo) and one I will sell later (to Northwest Gamers Network).  We see Sarah McLachlan and The Sundays in concert.  We're impressed enough with Peace Love & Guitars opening for Sarah that we go see them headline at the Crocodile Cafe, and meet a couple West Seattleites our age over a spilled beer.  While embracing the grunge culture of my adopted city, I still nurture my old tastes by way of Bel Canto and Tori Amos.  I delve into Native American spiritualism, and attend my first sweat lodge.  There, I meet a woman on a similar spiritual trajectory, and she becomes a friend to Samantha and me.  At the end of 1992, the three of us move into a big 1915 craftsman home above a retail spot on California Avenue in West Seattle.  Our rent is $650 a month, with our housemate carrying a third of that.  I have long hair and a beard.  The hair will come and go (mostly go), but the face fuzz will pretty much move in permanently.

After months of rejection form letters, I get a nibble.  Time Warner's sci-fi imprint is casting the net for new authors, and my cyberpunk "street opera" is kind of exactly what they're looking for.  I send in the manuscript.  The woman at Warner disappears.  I'm informed that she is no longer working for the imprint, that she has gone somewhere else, taking several manuscripts with her.  I have no way of tracking her down.  My inner conspiracy theorist will spend the next few years browsing the sci-fi bookshelves for anything resembling my novel.

We're watching the Batman animated series and the television spin-off of the Highlander film.

In 1993, I meet Ron Dugdale through a bulletin board posting at the local comic shop, advertising an RPG group.  He, his wife Glenda and I become partners in The Gamut, a game/hobby/collectible store at the West Seattle Junction*.  I walk two blocks to work every day.  We frequent the local dial-up bulletin board systems, creating new friends and networks.  It's quite the bohemian existence.  Eddie Vedder frequents our store, dropping $500 at a time on Star Wars models and other geek stuff to kill time with while on tour.  We host the first Magic: The Gathering tournament in the Seattle area.  I get into Warhammer 40K.  We have a core group of gamers who test out our various house games and systems.  One of these entails adapting the Cyberpunk system to a fantasy setting.  I use the setting of my earlier fantasy fiction.  Ron adapts the name of the system from Cyberpunk's "Friday Night Firefight" to "Friday Night Arrowflight".  The system would change over the next 8 or so years, but the name Arrowflight would stick.  I get super into Red Dwarf, and wonder what an RPG set in that universe would look like.  Bah, I think.  Someone's probably already made one.

In August, Samantha and I decide to go off active birth control.  We don't actively try to get pregnant, just don't try not to.  It works.  By September, we're expecting.  Shortly thereafter, Samantha is fired from SVI.  We consider a wrongful termination suit due to the timing of the pregnancy, but chicken out of the confrontation.  Sam finds a job with a friend who manages the used bookstore (and who also works the Ticketmaster booth at Easy Street Records and drops a lot of her disposable income on Magic cards at my shop).  I get involved with TCI Cablevision's access program, working on a few episodes of Political Playhouse and enticing the producer to take on my sci-fi/comedy pilot, Flotsam.  In November 1993, our friend at Ticketmaster grabs us front row seats to Dead Can Dance for our wedding anniversary.  I'm awestruck, and will never become un-struck.

Our housemate begins dating the weapon master for the Highlander TV show (he lives and works up in Vancouver).  In early 1994, she moves out, and our bookstore friend moves in.  We're devoted X-Files and Brisco County Jr. fans.  We see Sarah McLachlan play in Bellingham at the WWU student center on the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tour.  In May, our son Tyler is born.  I'm also informed by Ron that The Gamut can't afford to pay my salary as the manager, but that my investment in the company is still good.  I start job hunting while Sam continues to work at the bookstore, often taking young Tyler with her.  I temp.  A lot.  During the summer, we shoot Flotsam. I also see  Cocteau Twins live.

In September, I get a gig in the art department of a custom T-shirt printer.  In October, Garth takes me to lunch and tells me about a videogame startup that is opening soon and that might need artists.  I call for an interview and end up being the first non-management hire.  In November, I start as the concept artist for Boss Game Studios

At Boss, I meet another artist, Hans Piwenitzky.  He's a fellow gamer and sci-fi geek, only six months younger than me, and we become good friends.  Programmer Peter Giokaris comes aboard soon after.  Peter is a Toronto native and electronic music composer in his own right.  He gets me into Recoil, H and Die Warsau.

It is the beginning of the 3D boom in videogames.  The Sega Saturn, 3DO, and the Sony Playstation  are new platforms.  Boss being the sister company of Boss Film Studios, we are treated to visits from founder Richard Edlund, who regales us with stories of the "photochemical days" of film. He welcomes the digital era of effects, personified by Boss Films' latest project, Species.  We are taken to premieres.  We are flown to LA for the first Electronic Entertainment Expo.  We are given a VIP tour of Boss Film Studios, which contain artifacts from Ghostbusters and Alien3 and 2010.  We are greeted by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's head (the real honest-to-gawd thing from Ghostbusters) on the lobby floor, and are invited to "go ahead - kick it around!" by the pipe-smoking man who shot THE FUCKING TITLE CRAWL in Star Wars.

In March 1995, we buy a little 1922 craftsman home in West Seattle, just a block from Westwood Village, a somewhat dilapidated shopping center.  I'm at Boss throughout 1995, working on several projects that never finish and one that will be published three years after we began and long after I leave.  I go from Boss to their competitor, Zipper Interactive, in 1996.  We start a remodel project on the house that will last into 1999, but it doubles the square footage of our home.  In 1997, I become the lead designer on the first phase of Allegiance, a space shooter MMO, which, while all but abandoned by Microsoft, would find a hard-core following that lasts to the present day.  While working on Allegiance, Ray Harryhausen comes through my area on a tour.  It somehow falls to me to explain to the man who inspired me to get into film and animation in the first place how 3D animation works.  He's very self-effacing, downplaying his massive contributions to popular fucking culture, while every member of my team is bowing in homage.  Some Navy brass are also given a tour of the IMP facility, and in return, I'm invited to go out on the USS Ohio, a Trident missile sub, in Hood Canal.  Halfway through our little jaunt, we receive word that a Russian envoy wants to do a spot-check on the sub, as per treaty.  The civilians are offloaded to a boat and taken back to Bangor sub base.

At home, we're watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena and the short run of Roar with a young Heath Ledger in the starring role.

About this same time, some friends and I found the Mythos LARP society, a fantasy tweak on the strictly historically-based SCA.  That morphs into a strictly historically-based LARP group called ReNaction ("ReN" for "Renaissance", "Naction" for "enaction").  A couple years are killed between both groups, and we have fun making boffers and hitting one another with them.  Our Wiffle bat/garbage can lit sport comes full circle.
In September 1997, our daughter Kayleigh is born.  In October, when my contract is over at Microsoft, I take a job as the Entertainment Group Lead at Visual Dynamics, trying to turn industrial design concepts and tugboat simulation software into a marketable game property.  I feel it's a setup for failure, but I follow through for a year.  When my job at VDyn dries up, I freelance for some time, doing contract art and design for various game and software developers.  It's a crazy time in the videogame industry, and there's a lot of upheaval in the Puget Sound area.

Blade sets the stage for the Marvel revival to come.

In 1999, my brother Gavin and I record a Star Wars geek parody of Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" on my Tascam 4-track, "Livin' La Vida Yoda".  Gavin writes the lyrics, I settle on the band name Bitter Tastting Omelette (after a line from a National Geographic documentary on giant spiders of the Amazon).  We post it on a GeoCities website and it becomes one of those Things Which Grow Bigger Than Its Creator.  It's immediately attributed to Weird Al Yankovic, which he denies on his website.

I get a gig with the West Coast Bethesda Softworks studio in Olympia, which is purchased by ZeniMax Media.  I commute 100 miles a day (round trip) for six months, job hunting the whole time.  Although I really like the art director at Bethesda, the environment and corporate politics there are among the worst I've experienced.  I keep my head down and build tracks for the never-to-be-published Skip Barber Racing.  It's a low point for me in the industry, and a low point in my marriage.  I feel like a meal ticket.  Between the day job and the publishing company, I have little to no time off, and what I do get I try to spend with my family.  Samantha is doing theater.  A lot of theater.  So once I get home from my evening commute, she passes the kids to me and heads to rehearsal.  We are little more than roommates for much of the year.

Things look up when I contact HyperBole Studios in Seattle, who is about to be purchased by Tremor Entertainment in LA.  They are ramping up three teams, and in February 2000, I am hired as the art director for the company.  My corner office looks out over Belltown and the Space Needle.  I manage really talented people and we have an incredible amount of creative input.  I hire Steve Hartley, who will become a close friend and collaborator.  It's a great work environment and I am happy for almost a year.  But Tremor pulls out of the purchase agreement, and suddenly we're not only cutting two of the three planned teams, we're trying to keep the one team we do have together.  We start producing animated webtoons for entertainment content right at the end of the dot-com bubble, selling a couple series to Atom Film in an attempt to stop the cash hemorrhage.  The bubble bursts, and my team is the last one out as HyperBole shuts its Seattle doors, its two principals retreating to LA to lick their wounds.

X-Men continues Marvel's streak of pretty decent film adaptations of their comic properties.

I begin composing electronic music under the name Starbug, taken from the name of the small scout ship in Red Dwarf.  I set up shop on MP3.com, making friends with other artists, like Sipping Soma,Trespassers William, Red Delicious, Solaris (the electronica artist, not the Hungarian prog rock band), Deep Mosey, Pamela Zero and Dogfish.  The latter is a fellow West Seattlite.

By this time, Deep7 has been in operation for over a year.  Originally founded by Samantha, Ron Dugdale and myself in April of 1999, the intent is to create tabletop RPG material for download in electronic format.  At this point, there is no fulfillment model, and we have to chart our own course.  Some of the market is highly resistant to paying money for downloaded content, but there is enough enthusiasm for our products that we start to gain a foothold.  We work hard, releasing title after title in our 1PG game line (simple beer & pretzels RPGs) as well as prepping our premium fantasy game, Arrowflight, for release.  We start to think about a license we could get that would allow us to really grow.  I suggest Red Dwarf, and finally there is agreement.  No British game company has released a licensed RPG of the property, so we decide to make inquiries with Grant Naylor Productions, and lo and behold - nobody has ever contacted them about making a Red Dwarf RPG.  We get the license and produce the game we as fans always wanted to play.  It remains a proud milestone in my publishing career.  Ron leaves Deep7 in January of 2002 over creative issues.  He remains a close friend.

Samantha and I seek marriage counseling.  It works.  We achieve equilibrium in our marriage.  Life is good.
While Deep7 is establishing itself, I keep working a day job, doing art and design for TrainingTek, an aerospace education startup that implodes within six months, owing employees thousands of dollars.  I join the Hoyle group at Sierra, working on Casino Empire before Vivendi Universal cut a swath of job carnage in early 2002.  Although I dodge a bullet in the first round of layoffs, I am cut in the second round, along with folks who had been with Sierra for ten years.  I swear to myself that I will never work for someone else (at least not in a direct at-will employee capacity) again.  I continue to freelance, but most of my focus is on Deep7 products.  Arrowflight arrives just in time to compete with a shit-ton of fantasy titles, many of them OGL.  Nevertheless it gets positive reviews, and becomes an alternative to the d20 mania sweeping the industry.

Spider-Man continues Marvel's winning streak.  They appear to have perfected their formula. On the DC side, we're watching Justice League and loving it.

Throughout 2002, Samantha has a continuation of her kidney issues after having done the Atkins diet for over two years.  Repeated infections, chronic pain, surgery.  She gets a kidney scan, which shows something unusual.  The doctor who delivered our children and who has been our family physician for almost a decade sends her in for a full torso CT scan in August.  She gets the phone call days later and I watch her face sink as THAT WORD etches itself into her brain.

Cancer.

Not some easily treated variety, but a rare form only seen in older males.  Adenocarcinoma, unknown primary, has set up shot on her liver with a main tumor the size of a baseball.  Twenty-two smaller tumors spread across the liver and both lungs.  Not knowing what lay ahead, we charge forward bravely, refusing to surrender to some premature biological death sentence.

Joss Whedon's Firefly graces our television set in September of 2002.  It's a great distraction from what's happening with Samantha.  In October, my father is diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma.

We release the Red Dwarf RPG in January of 2003, to pre-sales of over half the print run.  In February we release the Red Dwarf A.I. Screen.  Our company is paying our mortgage, and the game is getting great reviews.  That summer, we take the family to GenCon in Indianapolis.  Sam is between chemo treatments, but the cumulative effects are visible.

The theatrical release of Daredevil is disappointing, although some of the visuals are Millerific.  Discovering the Director's Cut on DVD in 2005 will redeem the film for me.

We struggle through the next year, releasing more game titles and working on a third Red Dwarf supplement, the Series Sourcebook, which will have every episode from the existing eight seasons broken down into playable bits for the game.

2004 and 2005 are a blur.  Although the Red Dwarf RPG has been successful, we're being crushed under medical debt, and we're not able to put as much time into the company and its products as before.  In May 2004, my dad sends the family to Greece and Italy as a "make a wish" kind of thing for Samantha.  She's sick the whole trip, but we get to see some amazing sights in mainland Greece and then recuperate for three days in Venice.  It's the last family vacation we'll take with Sam.

Samantha's health takes a nose dive in February, and she dies at home on April 12th.  I go into a deep state of shock for the next two years.  We hold her memorial party on May 1st.  My father tells me he's going in for surgery to remove the two cancer tumors that have popped up on his brain.  He makes it through the first surgery and actually comes to dinner for Tyler's birthday on May 17th.  He goes in for the second, but develops an infection which requires a third emergency surgery.  I spend two weeks visiting him in the UW hospital ICU.  He seems to be rebounding, but has a pulmonary embolism and dies on May 30th.

It's the second barrel from the Shotgun of Fate.  Life will never be the same.

In July, I start the Rhymes With Drowning blog, and pretty much everything since then has been discussed.  Sewer flood, hose burns down, blah blah blah.  In retrospect, the book chapter would be called Overcoming Horrible Odds Despite Repeated Blows to the [Metaphorical] Groin.

It's a long, strange road.  But it makes sense why I like my geekery gritty.  I can't relate to unicorns farting rainbows.  If doesn't have to do with the pain, sweat and bloody mess that is human existence, I'll pass.  But if it's got a tribal beat and carries a banner of epic mythology, human ambition and Overcoming Horrible Odds Despite Repeated Blows to the [Metaphorical] Groin, I'm totally there.

*A Garlic Jim's pizzeria lives there now.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

1986-1990

  • I delve into film craft.  Stand By Me becomes a high bar in film narrative among my crowd.
  • In college film studies class, I'm steeped in classic cinema.  My eyes are opened even wider to the iconic imagery of the great silent films and European visual storytelling.  Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bette becomes an all-time favorite of mine.  I see Marillion for a second time in concert, the Clutching at Straws tour.  The Name of the Rose impresses the hell out of me.  The Princess Bride does the same, for enitely different reasons.  And then there's RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven's ultraviolent dystopian "future of law enforcement" that foreshadows the crumbling of Detroit.  Verhoeven is not subtle with his social commentary, but I find it a refreshing mockery of Reagan-era indulgence.
  • Samantha and I are clubbing.  A lot.  I get into Killing Joke and The Damned.
  • From this point on, I will rarely be involved in an RPG group that doesn't have one or more females in it.  Usually that female is Samantha, but later we'd have a group with a 50/50 gender balance.  The experience of roleplaying games with well-adjusted, emotionally mature people with social skills and other interests would spoil me, as it does not fit the stereotype.  Females entering the RPG hobby en masse will eventually happen with the release of Vampire: The Masquerade in 1991.
  • David Beach and I continue recording under the Pig SynoNym name.  We also begin preproduction on the Kings film, the script of which I've now completed. We cast my brother Gavin as the young lead and, in early 1987, shoot some scenes in the foothills of Los Altos with costumes and actors from the SCA.  David directs.  We shoot for a month.  The project is killed.
  • I begin doing shows at Los Altos Conservatory Theatre in the summer of '87.  A kid in the cast of South Pacific gives me chicken pox at age 19.  After the show, Samantha and I move in together in a Mountain View apartment.  Star Trek: The Next Generation debuts, and I dig it (and hey, that Wil Wheaton guy from Stand By Me is in it, but they really don't write his character very well).  
  • David and I see Love and Rockets headline at the San Jose State student center, with this mostly unknown band called Jane's Addiction opening. I hold a variety of college jobs, from print bindery to working in the cassette department of Tower Records in Mountain View.
  • After only 4 months in the apartment, Sam gets into the film program at San Francisco State.  She goes to room at her grandmother's home in South San Francisco, while I move into a bachelor pad in San Jose with fellow LACT actors.  We see each other on the weekends.  Sam approaches me about rewriting the Kings script to run as an hour-long film, which she will direct for her film final.  David shows me the Star Wars roleplaying game.  It ends up living with me, and will become one of my two standards in game design (the other being Cyberpunk 2020).  My housemate Len plays Sid Meier's Pirates! on his Apple IIe.
  • 1988: Randy returns from Mexico.  I begin an intensive animation program at Mission College in Santa Clara, while maintaining a half-schedule at Foothill.  A financial backer sponsors a graphic novel based on one of my superhero properties.  I nearly go blind finishing the project on schedule and wither away to 160 pounds, and the backer bails.  I learn a valuable lesson about contracts, most notably the need for them.  I continue to do shows at LACT, performing, assistant directing and doing prop & scenery design (for which I am paid).  We begin to cast the new, improved Kings film.  
  • I make a friend in my animation class, Chris Crowell, who re-introduces me to the SCA and a whole extended group of friends that becomes my family.  Four of the group live in a communal house in Milpitas.  They are young professionals, and perhaps most importantly, geeks.  Through them I get a new RPG group, running a bunch of games from Palladium Books, including a two-year Beyond the Supernatural campaign.  I discover Blackadder.
  • David and I record the Pig SynoNym album Fish Whispers.
  • My animation final, The Big Surprise, is the only project to include sync'd audio.  It receives an A+, and a woman in the festival audience calls me sexist because I show a brief flash of a nude centerfold and equate it with "heaven".
  • In June, I move back into my dad's house to work (back at Kinko's), save money and continue college.  We shoot Samantha's film over the summer on a shoestring with volunteer talent and no permits.
  • When school starts in September, I join forces with former high school buddy Gordon to create the Mozart Air Raid experimental music project.  We release a cassette album, Spork of the Gods. One of the cast members of Kings, Paul Howard, is also a musician, and he sits in on some of the Spork sessions.  He also plays on the Pig SynoNym EP Salacious.  We end up writing together and spin off a project called Doktor Caligari, named after my favorite German expressionist film.  Meanwhile Samantha and I record ambient dream pop music under the name And Tears Fell (taken from Robert Graves' poem The Foreboding), and submit a demo to local record label, Epithet.  
  • Enya's Watermark album proves to be exactly that.  I "paraphrase" the signature track, "Orinoco Flow" when composing "Forest of Dreams" for And Tears Fell.
  • Randy, Samantha and I host the first Black Pelican Dead Man's Party & Hallowe'en Ball.  The theme is 1930s murder mystery and I write a very detailed scenario based on everyone's chosen persona.
  • 1988 music: I see a variety of indie Bay Area bands, as well as Moev, who have completely changed their sound from the female-vocal-driven first two albums.  I will see Moev again when they open for (Clan of) Xymox in 1989.  Thanks to buddy Marc Hochman, I get into That Petrol Emotion and New Model Army.  Samantha and I see Voice of the Beehive (with That Petrol Emotion opening).  I get Randy into Transvision Vamp.  He outlasts me on that journey.
  • 1989: Randy and I drive down to Mexico to visit his friends at the orphanage.  On the way back, just north of San Diego, we are rear-ended on the freeway by a guy doing over 90mph.  A former stock car driver, Randy recovers without rolling his Honda Accord, and we chase down the perpetrator, cornering him in a Denny's parking lot.  Turns out, he's driving a borrowed car, has no insurance, and is on parole.  Randy makes the citizen's arrest while I call the cops.  
  • David and I record an entire concept album of synth pop under the name Bandersnatch.  The album is entitled Gosh, and features a lot of Lewis Carroll influence. We also record a couple new songs under PigSynoNym that will be rerecorded with the full band Doktor Caligari.  Doktor Caligari records an EP, Two Days in Hell.  It gets college airplay and we are interviewed on KZSU.  Despite our effort promoting the band, it is And Tears Fell which receives the attention of Epithet, and we join the label alongside Autumn Cathedral, Crimson Ivy, Moonpools & Caterpillars, Merv Spiegel & the Penguins, Mute Angst Envy and The Electra
  • The Summer of '89, Randy, Samantha, David, my whole family and Chris' crowd charter two sailboats out of St. Thomas, and bareboat in the US and British Virgin Islands for two weeks.  Sixteen Bay Area pirates descend on the Caribbean.  It is an unforgettable experience.  One night, we even run a GURPS Swashbuckling session on board the smaller boat, fueled by inexpensive rum and Coca-Cola.
  • Toward the end of the summer, my junior high school friend Ginger (with whom I've kept up a correspondence) comes up from San Diego to visit.  She meets Paul at a club show and they are engaged soon after.  Ginger moves up from San Diego and the two couples (Sam & Todd, Paul & Ginger) move into a house in Fremont together.  The household lasts for six tumultuous months.  I learn a valuable lesson about living with bandmates.
  • Although the B52s have been on my radar since "Rock Lobster", I am really impressed by their reformation after Ricky's death and the resulting Cosmic Thing
  • Randy, Samantha and I host the second Black Pelican Dead Man's Party & Hallowe'en Ball.  The theme this year is 1960s espionage.  Again I write an intricate mystery surrounding stolen secret plans.  Chris and his roommate Pete come as the men from U.N.C.L.E., making a grand entrance that I will never see matched.
  • And Tears Fell releases an EP entitled sidhe in November '89.  One track, "Forest of Dreams" has lyrics from a poem by Ginger.  We rerecord an upbeat version of it while filling out a complete sidhe album.  It is selected by Epithet to be featured on a label compilation being marketed overseas.  We are written up with favorable reviews in French and Polish music magazines.
  • 1989-1990 music: We see the David Bowie Sound + Vision tour, The Cure Prayer tour (supporting Disintegration), and David takes me to see The Residents Cube E show at The Presidio in San Francisco.  I become acquainted with Dead Can Dance.  A young Canadian siren, Sarah McLachlan, releases her first album, Touch.  The Sundays release Reading, Writing & Arithmetic.  It inspires me to come out from behind the keyboard and play some guitar, which has never been a strong suit.  Samantha gives me a beautiful Ovation Balladeer 6-string for my 22nd birthday.  David gives me a cassette containing Ministry's The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.  It's not my first taste of "industrial", as I'm already well acquainted with found-sound pioneers like Fad Gadget, Einst├╝rzende Neubauten and Art of Noise, but this Ministry is very different than its earlier incarnation.  It leads me to listen to Pigface and Alien Sex Farm and 1000 Homo DJs.  Also, Nine Inch Nails breaks out with Pretty Little Hate Machine.  I embrace my inner Trent.
  • 1990: David & I enroll in the Film/TV program at DeAnza College in Cupertino.  Aptos art buddy and fellow comic book geek Mark Holmes is also there, and we reconnect.  We break up the communal Fremont household.  Samantha and I move into a 500 square foot apartment on the Mountain View/Sunnyvale border.  We gain a new And Tears Fell collaborator, Christopher Palmer, who gets me hooked on The Chameleons.  We record our sophomore album, Circe.  
  • I see my first episodes of Red Dwarf on PBS during a pledge drive.
  • Mark introduces me to such diverse cinematic influences as Jackie Chan and Sam Raimi.  I'd seen the original Evil Dead back in the '80s, but the rediscovery takes hold this time. I'm transfixed by Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa.  That becomes a gateway to Akira, Dominion Tank Police, Appleseedand Black Magic M-66.  I become a fan of Masamune Shirow.  As a group, we discover John Woo, Stanley Tong and the wonders of Hong Kong action cinema
  • Samantha and I are married on September 29th, 1990.
  • We return from three weeks in the UK and Ireland just in time to host the Third Annual Black Pelican Dead Man's Party & Hallowe'en Ball.  This time the theme is 1950s & '60s B-movies.  Randy portrays the scientist whose brain has been stolen.  Mark Holmes is Octo-Boy.  Again, Chris and company outdo themselves, with sisters Jess and Barbara as alien clones.
  • Mark and I continue to collaborate on the graphic novel we've been working on, and we make a video for And Tears Fell - Ghosts.  My sister Sara shoots the footage.  Mark, Rob and I collaborate on several short films while at DeAnza. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

1984-1986

  • Randy, David and I drive down to Los Angeles for a long weekend, staying at Randy's pro photographer friend John's place in Hollywood.  John knows Andy Summers from The Police.  We take a "demo comic" of one of my properties to the hotel where WorldCon is being held.  Our intent is to slip the demo to Wendi & Richard Pini.  We find their hotel room, but they've already left to return home.
  • I take an after-school job at the AMC Old Mill 6 movie theater in Mountain View.  Free movies and a paycheck too.  Sweet deal.  I take Samantha, the cute brunette, to Amadeus for our first date.  Over the course of the next year, I'll witness all sorts of cinematic wonder, from David Lynch's Dune to James Cameron's The Terminator.  From Back to the Future to 2010 to Buckaroo Banzai.  And while Weird Science is more of a John Hughes teen comedy, it nonetheless falls into my sci-fi milieu.  And staring at Kelly LeBrock for 94 minutes is hardly a chore.
  • Alan Parker's Birdy is a cinematic revelation to me, between the incredible cinematography and Peter Gabriel's score.
  • I continue to write.  Whenever honors English assignments warrant (or rather, when they don't specifically forbid), I use sci-fi and fantasy as a theme.  I continue to tweak my postmodern rock novella, and start on another - this one a psychological thriller, probably inspired by Dreamscape.  I also publish a comic strip, Zingo, in the Palo Alto Campanile newspaper for two years.
  • In the spring of '85, Samantha, my buddy Konrad and I spend the weekend at Randy's apartment.  We all take shrooms and proceed to share an incredible 8-hour trip.  Sex on a waterbed on shrooms is an experience I will never forget.
  • Although A-ha becomes a mighty MTV one-hit pop icon in the US, I'm impressed with the entirety of Hunting High and Low, and follow the band for a few more albums.
  • During the summer of 1985, several Palo Alto friends and I shoot Project, the supernatural thriller I began writing in Santa Cruz.  We get it in the can and school starts before I can edit.  I finish post production right after graduation in 1986, and submit it to a young directors' series for PBS.  It is broadcast.
  • Ridley Scott's Legend is released.  I am blown away by the production design and cinematography, and it becomes one of my go-to films for visual inspiration.  Between that and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (which is a fictionalized account of my own senior year), I develop a crush on Mia Sara.  I find Ladyhawke to be solid medieval fantasy with an unfortunate disco muzak score.
  • 1984-1986 music: I see Howard Jones, Love and Rockets, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Marillion, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Lou Reed, U2 and The Stranglers in concert.  It's a good time for alternative music.  David Beach and I start a mostly electronic music project called Pig SynoNym.  I get into Joy Division, New Order, Bauhaus and Tones on Tail.  I'm big into Shriekback and Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds and Tears For Fears are everywhere.  Fellow high school writer Scott Burgess turns me onto Japan, Bill Nelson, David Sylvian and that crowd.  I embrace the Cocteau Twins and their ilk on 4AD records.  Fellow music addict Gordon Kelley turns me onto Moev and Dalis Car.  My musical palette grows by leaps and bounds.  David get's me into The Church.
  • Randy moves to El Rancho Milagro, an orphanage in Ensinada, Mexico.  He will spend the next two years constructing dorms and doing maintenance.
  • 1986: I take my brother Gavin to Transformers.  I sort of missed out on the whole transforming vehicle craze, and he's far more into the toys and the mythos than I, but it is nonetheless Orson Welles' last film (one other project was released posthumously).  
  • Samantha and I take a road trip north to Vancouver BC for Expo '86.  It's a great adventure to be out and about on our own.  On the way, We fall in love with Washington State.  This will be important later.
  • Flushed with the success of Project, I tackle the next logical film - a medieval fantasy.  A totally rational and level-headed decision.  By this time I'm working swing shift at Kinko's, and I copy my scripts for free.
  • After a short hiatus from RPGs, I join Samantha's group at Foothill College.  The game is a homebrew system and setting, run by a woman who is probably the best improvisational storyteller I've met thus far.  New friendships are made, as are preparations to shoot Kings, our medieval fantasy film.
  • Highlander comes out.  I eat it up, warts and all.  Aliens proves to be exemplary, successfully merging the sci-fi, horror, action and war genres into one tight, well-made movie.  "They'll never top this," I think.  And I'm right.

Friday, February 4, 2011

1980-1984

  • My dad moves out in January of 1980.  It's a surprise to everyone.  I'm devastated.  Turns out he's been miserable for years and doesn't have the tools to express or cope with his frustration.  Later he'll delve into the Bay Area self-help movement and transform himself into a much better person, but at this point, all we know is that he's gone.  My mom does what she can to keep us afloat - quite literally.  That winter sees the worst rain in Santa Cruz in years, and the liquefied hill comes down on our house and in through my sister's bedroom window.  I bring hot tea to my mom, who is hip-deep in mud, trying to divert the water away from the house with a shovel, with only our realtor Mary for support.  It will be some time before I can forgive my father for, as I saw it, deserting us.
  • Saturday morning cartoons now include Thundarr the Barbarian, Space Ghost, the new Superfriends and Godzilla.  We're growing up.
  • I begin hanging out with the Beach brothers a lot, creating improv comedy "radio" broadcasts that we record on cassette and sell to our friends at school.  We spend a lot of time together, between school and our church community, and with Adam a year older and David a year younger (and their adopted sister Lyn the same age as my sister), I pretty much become the middle Beach brother.  Adam introduces me to the wonders of Dr. Demento, National Lampoon, jazz and KISS.  My mom is none too fond of my exposure to the latter, believing the urban legend that KISS stands for "Knights In Satan's Service".  She'd overcome that programming (and the sensationalized press regarding D&D) later.
  • During 4th, 5th and 6th grades, I begin my freelance art career, drawing rad pictures of dragons and superheroes for classmates... for a price.  I spend some of this filthy lucre plugging quarters into the arcade machines.  Defender, Asteroids, Pac Man, Space Invaders, Battlezone get most of my attention.  I also start designing my own take on Wacky Packs
  • Due to financial necessity, my mom moves us to a rental house in Aptos.  My dad resurfaces and tries to make up for months of lost time by doing fun things with us kids.  He and I get our NAUI skin diving certification, going on dives off of Monterey.  We go for weekend visits at the sailboat he's living on in Santa Cruz harbor.  He takes me to see The Empire Strikes Back.  We sit with his brother, Russell, who is stoned out of his mind and really enjoying the movie.  I've now been collecting Star Wars action figures for a couple years, and send in cereal box tops for the special edition Boba Fett and Bossk figures.  I get the Millennium Falcon for my 12th birthday.  My crush on Carrie Fisher becomes the standard by which all of my other crushes are measured.  She's probably the only (and I mean only) reason I see Under the Rainbow multiple times.
  • The aforementioned uncle Russell gives me a boxed Dungeons & Dragons basic set for Christmas 1980.  I crack it open but am not able to grasp the arcane rules.  It will sit on my bookself until a junior high buddy re-introduces me to D&D in 1981.
  • I start making 8mm films with my friend Mike Day.  They start with miniature effects like blowing up Hot Wheels cars with fire crackers, and eventually increase in scope to all out slasher and action fare.  I begin formulating a story based on my Blue Shark comic, set in space.
  • For Easter 1980, I am given ELO - A New World Record.  It changes my life.  I become an Electric Light Orchestra junkie.  It's my gateway band.  From here on out I will become extremely passionate about music.  A lot of that will have to do with a chance meeting while camping at Nisene Marks over Labor Day weekend with my dad and his girlfriend, Katherine.
  • So, yeah, Labor Day weekend, 1980.  We're camping in Nisene Marks, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, when we meet a fellow hiker.  He's 21, a local photographer, with long hippie hair.  Randy would become my big brother, my mentor, and best man both times I married.  Meanwhile my mom is dating a widower with two kids around my age, and we spend a lot of time together on camping trips and the like.  I continue developing my scifi movie concept.
  • In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark comes out.  David Beach and I are there.  We move from the rental house to a fourplex.  I go to visit my dad and Katherine one weekend and dad takes me to see both Outland and Excalibur.  My mom is furious.  Randy introduces me to Pink Floyd, Van Halen, David Bowie, The Police and Peter Gabriel.  I completely geek out in DragonslayerClash of the Titans allows me to relive the classic Ray Harryhausen fantasies of my earlier childhood.
  • A junior high friend asks me if I've ever played Dungeons & Dragons.  I show him the boxed set sitting on my shelf.  He shows me how to play and runs a short adventure for me.  I'm hooked.  David Beach and I set up elaborate Halloween theatrics at his house.  This year, we set up a fantasy tavern in their carport, dressed as medieval fantasy heroes, and offer to guide trick-or-treaters down the many steps and across the "drawbridge" to the front door, battling monsters (our friends in rubber masks) all the way.  I am bitten by the theater bug.  My buddy Brent talks his mom into getting us into Conan.  At 13, we're absolutely okay with the swordplay, gushing blood and plentiful boobs. 
  • 1982: Here comes Tron.  I'm floored, not necessarily by the execution, but by the promise of digital effects.  E.T. comes out.  I see it several times, identifying not only with Elliott's discovery but with Michael's responsibility as the older brother and protector in a single-mom household.  Poltergeist scares the crap out of me, and I go back to the theater several times as well.  Since he's over 17, Randy acts as my guardian and takes me to see The Road Warrior.  I'm smitten by the setting, the production design and the stunt work.  And it doesn't hurt that Virginia Hey is also featured in Playboy about the same time (warning: link may contain breastesses).  Having a big brother who has a subscription to Playboy and can supply the beer is a great setup.  I think at this point my mother has given up trying to protect me from the horrors of rated R movies, as evidenced by her taking me to Blade Runner.  I see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at least five times in the theater with my buddies.  We also take in The Beastmaster, and revel in the gore and the boobs.  I have a huge crush on Tanya RobertsThe Dark Crystal ignites a whole new part of my storytelling brain.  I also manage to see Heavy Metal and Escape From New York on cable.
  • I begin reading Ray Bradbury.  I devour his books, reading them repeatedly.  I begin to study special effects techniques in film.  Randy introduces me to Missing Persons and Berlin.  I begin to listen to Frank Zappa and the Surf Punks
  • Throughout 8th grade, I'm involved in a group playing RPGs at lunch.  D&D is soon replaced by Traveller, Boot Hill, Gamma World and Top Secret.  I also begin to write short fiction, inspired by the ever-increasing amount of science fiction and fantasy material available.  And I continue to act onstage.   I'm given the first Actor of the Year award at Aptos Jr. High School upon graduation.
  • During the summer of '82, David Beach and I enroll in an intensive theater workshop through San Jose State University.  We stay at my grandparents' home in San Jose, and there we discover MTV.  Of course at this time, it's pretty much Men At Work and Quarterflash in heavy rotation.  But it does introduce me to Kate Bush and U2.  Randy takes me to my first rock concert, Humans at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz.  Some friends and I start a combat sport where we make "armor" out of cardboard and athletic padding and garbage can lids, and try to hit each other with Whiffle bats.  An early form of LARPing?  A subconscious extension of SCA combat?  Both entities being unknown to us, we have fun with it for a summer.
  • In late 1982, Randy, David Beach and I publish Zingo Magazine, a comedy comic 'zine.  Randy pays out of pocket for the print run and we sell individual copies to our friends and classmates upon its release in early 1983.  I start developing my own fantasy roleplaying game, based on my short fiction.
  • My dad marries Katherine on New Year's Eve, '82.  My mom marries her boyfriend Robert in June of '83.
  • 1983: We move from the fourplex in Aptos to a rental house in Santa Cruz, on the golf course at Pasatiempo.  Randy takes me to a midnight double feature of The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger. In the latter film, I'm introduced to Bauhaus and lesbian sex (with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve, no less).  Later that year, I breach curfew staying out all night at a cast party for the school musical, get completely wasted and crash out at Randy's apartment.  I am grounded for the last 8 weeks of school.  I end up with pneumonia, which makes socializing a moot point anyway. But I am allowed a furlough for opening day of Return of the Jedi.  Although not the story quality of the first two Star Wars movies, I am satisfied with this ending.  I finally see Alien in my scifi lit class.  
  • I read a lot of Stephen King, but quit after finishing Cujo - pissed that he killed the kid.  I start listening to Euro techno bands like Kraftwerk and Yello, while drawing - and collecting - more comics.  Frank Miller's run on Daredevil and the Claremont/Smith era of the Uncanny X-Men are tops on my list.
  • By 1983, I am pretty good at the Star Wars arcade game, and have the number 2 high score on the Tempest machine at the Chuck E. Cheese's in Capitola.  Wire frame 3D for the win!
  • During the annual summer visit with my dad, I volunteer at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, helping with some set building and other duties.  I'm enlisted to help raise a big parachute as an awning over the outdoor theater, where they are staging Romeo & Juliet.  A cute brunette girl holds the ladder I'm on.  This will be important later...
  • 1984: Randy and David and I see Berlin in concert.  Talk Talk opens.  Later that summer, Missing Persons.  Seeing Terry Bozzio drum live in person inspires me and I write a novella set in a dark future with clones and corporate warfare and rock music.  It might be influenced a bit by Streets of Fire, and it would probably be called "cyberpunk" if the term existed yet in our lexicon.  But William Gibson's Neuromancer wouldn't be published until July, and wouldn't reach me until college.  I also begin writing a supernatural thriller with characters based on my theater friends at Aptos High School.  Ghostbusters is released.  I buy in.
  • I form my first garage band with David Beach, Ed Havens and Randy Rhodes (not my mentor Randy).  Flying Pigs, named after Pink Floyd imagery from Animals.  We crank out a few songs and plan a horror movie tie-in with the band.  That core lineup will fragment into many other garage lo-fi projects, many with a porcine motif.
  • Late that summer, there is a change of custody.  Gavin, Sara and I go to live with dad and Katherine in Palo Alto.  I look forward to the change of scenery and the opportunity to make new friends (read: new girls).  I enroll in Palo Alto High School as an incoming junior.  In theater class, I meet a cute brunette, who I later discover was the same cute brunette who had been holding my ladder at the Children's Theatre.  Things start off tentatively, but by November we're a couple.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

1976-1979

  • Because the house we were building on the side of a dark and muddy hill in Aptos is not yet finished by the time school starts, we live in a trailer at the KOA in Watsonville.  My brother Gavin comes along in October of '76, and I am a latch-key kid for the first time in my life.  I come home from the last stop on the bus route, let myself into the trailer, make a snack and watch Dark Shadows reruns before tackling any homework. I start to fall more deeply in love with comic books, as they are often my only source of escape.  May of 1977 comes and goes, and I am only peripherally aware that a major cultural event has occurred.  We move to another campground, this one in Felton, and between swimming lessons and Slurpees and more superhero action figures, an infatuation with the Teen Titans comic series blossoms (ironically during their most haphazard and rudderless period).
  • My third grade teacher, Mr. Miles, reads The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe aloud to his class.  I'm hooked instantly, and read the Narnia series of books over the next couple years.
  • It is during the summer of 1977 that I discover Star Wars, mostly through my cousins, who had begun to collect all things Star Wars, primarily the comics (as that summer there is little in the way of toys ready for sale).  Of course, like any nine year old boy, I fall in love with the mythology and the world, sight literally unseen, and began the campaign to get my parents to take me to the movie.  Because of the whole trying-to-build-a-house-while-living-in-a-trailer-and-working thing my parents were doing, it isn't until September or October of 1977 that my folks finally take me to see it.  Fortunately, this is a time when a blockbuster like Star Wars (and you notice I use the title that was used on the marquees, not the subtitle, A New Hope, which was retroactively tagged onto everything) could stay in theaters for an entire year on a first run.  Needless to say, it is a paradigm shift in my sci-fi consciousness, and sets a high bar for everything to come.  From then on, the Star Wars mythology would join Star Trek and the Marvel & DC superhero canon as the basic building blocks of my geekdom.
  • We move into our not-yet-complete house in Aptos just before Christmas, '77.  By this time, I'm already writing and drawing my own comic series about the crew of the futuristic submarine Blue Shark, with myself as captain and my friends rounding out the crew.  By 1978, I'm addicted to Mad and Cracked, and draw my own movie parody comics as well.  I hang out with my bestest pal Josh Geller, devouring Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk and Buck RogersErin Gray makes me feel funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.  I also start to notice one or more Charlie's Angels, and develop an animated crush on the female sidekick in Plastic Man.  Don't judge me.  Y'all think Daphne's hot too.  The first Micronauts begin to infiltrate my collection of toys.
  • Sometime in this period, I catch THX-1138 on TV at my cousin's house.  The computer control room set looks like every office my dad worked in.
  • Josh and I have sleepovers in a pup tent on my back deck, running a power cord for the little black and white TV.  We stay up late watching Saturday Night Live, amused by the antics of hosts like Steve Martin, Eric Idle and Carrie Fisher.
  • I continue my love affair with classic fantasy adventure movies, like the Sinbad films, Jason and the Argonauts, pretty much anything Ray Harryhausen did effects for.  Many of these classics are shown in the Rio Del Mar Elementary School cafeteria in an after school entertainment program for fifty cents (including popcorn).
  • 1978: I meet Adam and David Beach through school and church.  This will become important later.  Also, Josh gets an Atari 2600.  We play lots of Space Invaders and Missile Command, and spend an obscene amount of time listening to Steve Martin comedy records.  My parents take us to a drive-in movie and I manage to completely ignore what's on our screen in favor of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I watch without sound.  That summer, I believe a man can fly.
  • 1979: Alien is released.  It's rated R.  My parents won't let me see it.  My friend David Cordero has the alien action figure (what was Kenner thinking, marketing a toy based on a rated R movie?).  I am jealous of it.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture arrives - I am there.  I am not entirely thrilled.  Also, my parents take me out of public school and send me to St. Francis boys' school in Watsonville (currently a co-ed high school, back then a boys-only middle school).  I am Catholic for a month, an altar boy even.  Unable to handle the extreme dogma and punitive atmosphere, I get my parents to put me back at Rio Del Mar, where I'm suddenly "the new kid" again, even though I'd been going there since third grade. 
  • Quark, Man From Atlantis and Project UFO are on my regular viewing schedule.  The crew of my comic book retrofit the Blue Shark to make it space worthy.  You can see where this is going...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

1973-1976

  • 1973 is a big year: my sister Sara is born, and we move from suburban San Jose to another part of suburban San Jose.  It's a quiet cul-de-sac including other families with kids my age, a block away from my first school.  From '73 to '76, a real geek awakening occurs.  On my 5th birthday, my grandfather gives me a crisp $5 bill, with which I purchase my first G.I. Joe and extra outfit (and have a few cents change left) from the local Toys 'R' Us.  Super Friends, Underdog and Speed Racer make their presence known.  And both the original Star Trek series and the animated Star Trek series are in my standard rotation, while Syd & Marty Krofft productions like Wonderbug, Land of the Lost, Lidsville and H.R. Puffinstuff are standard viewing on Saturdays.
  • I continue my obsession with all things aquatic, influenced by hours of Sea Hunt and Flipper reruns and The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and the fact that I was swimming like a fish by age two (and would continue to take lessons throughout my childhood).  Invariably, the first outfit purchased for a G.I. Joe type toy would be the SCUBA set, and he'd start having adventures in the bath that very day.
  • I pick up a fascination with classic horror films due to the presence of Bob Wilkins on Bay Area television, and to my dad's Saturday afternoon viewing preference (when we're not out sailing on Lake Vasona).  I also develop a liking for Toho giant rubber monster movies, especially Gamera.
  • Interesting juxtaposition - Perhaps due to my dad's experience with military service, or to the bad taste in everyone's mouth from the Vietnam conflict, we are not allowed any toy guns.  No replicas made of plastic or wood, no cap guns, not even brightly colored squirt guns (we had other water weapons, but none of them were "gun" shaped).  Yet I had a collection of little green army men, and G.I. Joe sure came with his own arsenal of plastic weaponry.  In hindsight, I can understand not wanting your kid to simulate first-person gunplay, but I was definitely doing my share of third-person shooting with my action figures.  Perhaps there's a reason that to this day, I prefer third-person action/RPG videogames as opposed to first-person shooters.
  • I often visit my dad at work.  He's a computer programmer and data analyst in what will eventually become Silicon Valley.  I marvel at the big, spinning wheels of magnetic tape on refrigerator-sized computers.  I play an unofficial "Star Trek" game (with ASCII characters) on the terminal in his office.  He brings home stacks of used punch cards that I draw on or make into cutout characters.
  • The neighbor kids and I play superheroes by cutting out masks from construction paper and pinning bath towels and pillow cases around our necks.  Comic books aside from Disney characters and Archie begin to find their way into our home.  I am Superman for Halloween two years running, made possible by a costume lovingly crafted by my very craftarific mother.  The camp '60s Batman series is in syndication and is featured every afternoon on KTVU channel 2 as the main feature after a smorgasbord of Jay Ward cartoons hosted by Captain Satellite and puppets Charley and Humphrey.
  • Up to this point, Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden have symbolized female sexuality for me (usually in their evil twin brunette guises - go figure), but things are about to change as femininity shifts to become synonymous with strength.  Yvonne Craig as Batgirl stirs something within my very prepubescent loins, but it is Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman who really gets things rolling. Of course, I am already a rabid Six Million Dollar Man fan, with my Steve Austin action figure (complete with roll-up latex condom skin), so incorporating Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers into my pre-adolescent fantasy stable is as easy as creating adventures for my legion of Mego action figures (including Marvel and DC superheroes, Mad Monsters, Super Knights, Robin Hood, Star Trek and Planet of the Apes characters). My first figure is Aquaman.
  • Sometime around '75, I play my first game of Pong on a friend's home system from Sears.
  • Bicentennial fever starts in 1975 and reaches a fever pitch July 4th, 1976, which we spend very quietly at my mom's parents' place out at Half Moon Bay.  I add the Mego knock-off Heroes of the American Revolution action figures to my collection.  It's rather comical to see George Washington and John Paul Jones do battle with The Hulk, but by golly I am absolutely riveted.
  • The summer of '76 is spent (when we weren't swimming or playing outside) camped out in front of my  dad's parents' console television, watching reruns of 1960s programs like Lost in Space, Banana Splits (and every Hanna-Barbera animated series ever made), and The Monkees.  We would pick up stakes and build a home in Aptos, California in August 1976, upending my friendships and social life, such as it was.  To cope with the move, I take my imaginary worlds with me.  Space: 1999 also makes its appearance on my radar, but I don't really get into it for a couple years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Early Years

  • 1968-1970: Born in (West) Germany in 1968, my father a Staff Sergeant in the US Army.  '68 is arguably the height of the Vietnam conflict.  Anti-American sentiment abroad is common.  My parents pack me around Europe in a baby carrier and return home to the San Francisco Bay Area of California after my dad musters out in 1969.  We move from San Carlos into a house in San Jose (I'm told that may folks paid $22,500.00).  My little brother, Matt, is born in August 1970.  I wish I could remember Europe, but my conscious memory really begins here.

  • 1970-1972: Matt overdoses on iron supplements in April 1972 and dies at age 19 months, just shy of my 4th birthday.  My family is devastated.  Perhaps not so strangely, between the loss of Matt and molestation at the hands of my dad's mother, my memories of this time are hyper-aware.  My television diet consists of Sesame Street, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, The Electric Company, Villa Allegre, Captain Kangaroo - normal kids' stuff of the era.  Star Trek is in syndication and I often watch it with my dad, along with Monday Night Football and Saturday morning cartoons, the bulwark of which is Bugs Bunny (and all the classic Warner Brothers shorts).  I also recall seeing my first anime: Adventures of Pinocchio, and Prince Planet, as well as Kimba the White LionSuper Chicken and Spider-Man are also in my consciousness, and the cornerstone of my toy arsenal is Action Jackson.

    As a side note, 1972 is apparently a big year for me in the art world.  I am constantly drawing.  On any surface.  With anything that will spread ink, wax or graphite.  Some of it (like a mini graphic novel about Snoopy saving a deep sea diver, which my dad copied and distributed around his office at work) is pretty mainstream, while some is incredibly bloody battlefield imagery of wounded and dying soldiers.  I think we can safely say the news footage from Vietnam has an effect on the consciousness of this young artist.