Monday, August 25, 2008

One Hot Baseball Club

It’s high time I put up an entry like this one, for it’s been awhile since I began noticing something interesting: The Chicago Cubs are possibly the hottest team in baseball. And I’m not referring to the fact that (as of this writing) they have the best record in baseball.

However, I suppose it’s possible that I’m biased. They are my team, after all. So I thought I’d put the boys out here for you to judge. Give them a quick review, and if you think your team can match them in hotness, please comment and let me know! Especially if you have photos to back up your claim.

So, without further ado, let’s start with the position players for the Chicago Cubs:

At first base, the tall, lanky, classically handsome Derrek Lee.

At second, showing off his fab physique, ruggedly delicious Mark DeRosa (Manzi’s favorite).

Playing shortshop, and possibly the team’s dreamiest player (check out the eyes), Ryan Theriot.

At third base, Katie’s guy, the adorable Aramis Ramirez.

And catching, All Star rookie Geovany Soto…what killer eyelashes, hey? Sigh.

I have a strong opinion the Cubs infield beats all comers, hands down. But now let’s take a look at the outfielders.

We have in left field, home run hero (here looking like a model), Alfonso Soriano.

Playing at center, and competing admirably in the rugged category, Jim Edmonds.

Jim’s alternate in centerfield, and quirkily hot in his little beard, Reed Johnson.

And in right field, Manzi’s other fave, handsome rookie Kosuke Fukudome.

Let’s not forget our two most often-used utility guys. There’s Mike Fontenot, here showing off one of the forearms that make my daughters squeal.

And there’s Ronny Cedeno, just too cute for words.

Now, on to the pitchers. The Cubs have the rare claim of having a rotation of five good-looking starters. We have...

Former closer and this year’s new ace, the hilarious, charming, and swoonworthy Ryan Dempster.

Cubs co-ace, and the league’s best slugging pitcher, here’s the dashing Carlos Zambrano.

Our newest addition to the starters group, super cute and amazingly talented Rich Harden.

Not to be outdone, the fine-looking fellow who got us a win for our annual trip to Wrigley, Ted Lilly.

And showing off that irresistible smile, here’s #5 pitcher Jason Marquis.

I won’t put our entire bullpen on display here (although a girl could do worse), but representing the middle relievers, we have newest rookie and total heartthrob, Jeff Samardzija.

And last, but to my mind first, my own fave Cub—our awesome closer, Kerry Wood.

Okay I single-double-triple-homer-dog-dare you to top this lineup, peeps. They may or may not go far in the playoffs, they may or may not bring home the first World Series win in 100 years, but they will definitely look good doing it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Comics Dreams Come True!!!

So, you read in my last post of my lifelong dream of doing comics. No, Alex Ross did not call me, but what happened was the next best thing: I heard from artist and avid Diana Laurence fan C.C. Rogers, and she offered to collaborate with me on a little comic!

Well color me thrilled!

Who better to illustrate my writing than C.C., who has read every single word of fiction I've ever published, even the obscure ten-old-novel The Resurrection of Captain Eternity? Turns out--O wondrous twist of kismet--C.C. has always wished for an opportunity to try her hand at such a project.

I came up with five possible passages from my stories for her to create in a two-page comic book spread, and she chose one from my fantasy tale "As Commonplace as Rain," from Soulful Sex Volume I. The story concerns Pasha, a young priestess whose order eschews men, and Tristan, a knight with psychic powers (and, of course, sex appeal), who may be the cure for her debilitating angst. The scene in question shows Tristan helping Pasha cope with the anxiety and excitement of being with the first male of her acquaintance.

C.C. was quick to get busy, and in no time created a storyboard that was eerily close to what I had in mind for the spread. It was perfect. She then designed the two characters, coming up with a charming Pasha, innocent and lovely, and a Tristan who, frankly, proved all by himself that comics can be sexy. :-)

Over the weekend C.C. sent me drafts of costumes for the pair, a process I called "paper dolls on steroids." Pasha's gown is simple and modest but very pretty and subtly sensual. Tristan's outfit is, well, the sort of thing that draws me to Ren Faires: knightly, elegant, manly and very flattering. What fun it was reviewing C.C.'s drafts--in a way it was like she was a contestant on "Project Runway" and I was Tim Gunn. No, I did not at any point tell her "make it work." She managed that on her own! LOL

So, today C.C. started work on the actual panels of the comic. I'm really not sure if I can handle all the excitement of this. At one point I showed the drafts to my daughters and they read the narration and speech balloons that C.C. had set up. One of the girls praised the bit of narration in one panel and I, like a giddy schoolgirl, said, "I wrote that." "Yeah, Mom, we know." Well, the thing is, text that I wrote is in a comic! I feel almost like...almost like...

Neil Gaiman.

Okay, cue Twilight Zone theme music. Could this be what my whole weird escapade with Neil was leading up to? Well, there have been many benefits to it along the way concerning my actual writing, but never during this Gaiman phase did I think I would ever find myself being a comics writer like Neil. I mean, how could that possibly happen?

Then I found in C.C.'s latest draft she had added this:

It's true, I could see my actual name in the credits box of a comic. I can die a happy woman now.

Or, at least once we finish this two page spread. Obviously, once it's done I will share it with you. Heck, I will be forcing it in the face of everyone I meet. I'm just glad C.C. is having as much fun with this as I am.

Will keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comics are Sexy

All you need to know to prove comics can be sexy is ask me how the majority of my new visitors find this blog. Believe it or not, they are searching for "Erin Esurance," the animated chick with the pink hair in the TV commercials. You would not believe how much fan art there is out there featuring Erin naked and/or in compromising positions.

A recent radio spot for Toyota features their spokescartoon Mr. Opportunity dealing with a love-struck human woman. Obviously Toyota has picked up on the fuss. I personally think Mr. O is kinda hot...but the consensus online tells me an awful lot of people find him really irritating.

Yep, people are actually debating about the sex appeal of cartoons. Cool, isn't it?

My personal favorite comic book series is Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise. While PG-13 rated, it features a lot about sex, and I love that Terry chose to tell his stories of sex and romance with graphic novels. I'm attracted to all three of the main characters, frankly--Katchoo, Francine, and David. Check out Katchoo embracing David from one of Terry's fabulous covers and tell me that isn't a beautiful thing.

As I posted recently, I may be moving a new graphic novel series into my top spot soon: Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. I've just met the fellow, but how can you not be attracted to a gaunt guy with great cheekbones and David Bowie hair, who dresses all in black and is the lord of dreams? Countless artists have portrayed the Sandman, aka Morpheus, including Michael L. Peters, who did this marvelous version. Who knows, I may try my own eventually.

I am also reading Hy Bender's The Sandman Companion, and I found in this book some interesting observations which suggest a possible explanation for the erotic effect comics can achieve. This particular medium mixes verbal narration, which is processed by the left brain, with imagery that is processed by the right. Thus the entire brain is engaged, nearly simultaneously, with the story. When there is erotic content of any kind, it will be just that much more potent.

If I envy anyone in the world, it's comic artists, people like Michael L. Peters, Terry Moore, and the astonishingly wonderful Alex Ross. I guess that's why I felt compelled to do portraits of all my characters, and published my deck of cards, Diana's Deck.

And now you understand why one of the coolest things that ever happened to me as an author was seeing my first piece of fan art, this gorgeous scene from "Abigail's Archer" from my Soulful Sex Volume I collection, done by C.C. Rogers.

Just imagine if not just this one scene, but an entire Diana Laurence erotic tale could be illustrated! That's a world I can only dream of...and knowing how comics can work, I'm sure it would be quite the erotic triumph. Hey, Alex Ross--I need you desperately, sir!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Neil Gaiman Birthday and Other Musings

I don't like to talk about just plain old personal news much on this blog, for fear of boring you all to tears. But I guess since tomorrow is my birthday, I can indulge just this once.

Last night I celebrated with the family at a fabulous new restaurant, Sheridan's in Cudahy. It certainly was a thrill giving the girls their first ride in Racer Y...he seems like a birthday present too as he is still so new, and ditto his XM radio. We had a fantastic time and capped off the evening watching the Cubs on WGN--a blast in spite of their winning streak coming to an end.

Anyway...I don't know how it is for you, but due to the nature of my ebbing and flowing obsessions, I have found over the years that birthdays and Christmases often end up with a theme. There was an X Files Christmas once, and a Lord of the Rings Christmas. I had a bead jewelry birthday I think too. And heaven knows, there have been years for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars, the Montreal Canadiens, etc.

This was my Neil Gaiman birthday. Figures, eh? I got Neil's spoken word CD (over my nice Pioneer speakers in the car, it may kill me--I'll let you know). I got the graphic novel edition of Coraline. And I'm finally initiating myself into fanship of Neil's most famous works: The Sandman comics. Along with The Sandman Companion, I received the first volume (of four) of the Absolute Sandman collection. These books are huge and spectacularly bound. Last night I read The Sandman #1, and even though many people say the comics improve greatly, I thought it was fabulous. And that's not just the crush talking.

After I read that, up in our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired studio with the fountain running and Selke the cat next to me on the futon, I did something really weird. I went over to the shelf where I keep my unpublished works, and pulled out the binder of my fourth novel, Looking on Darkness. So happens I wrote this book during the early years of Neil's writing The Sandman, circa 1990-91. I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to pick up this book, but I opened it and read the first two (long) chapters.

If you're not a writer, it may surprise you that it's possible for authors to actually forget what they write over time. I'm sure I haven't cracked this book in fifteen years. I do remember the gist of the story but of course the specific contents have faded in my mind. Please forgive how this sounds, but I was shocked at how well written the first chapters were. My recollection is that I worked very hard on the editing of this book but didn't complete that effort when I set it aside. I'm not sure how many of the later chapters need work or how much, but I think they should be close to final.

In 1991 one did not have the options for publishing that one does now. Just sending out query letters and sample chapters was very daunting, and during this time I was divorcing my first husband and supporting my two girls on my own. I just ran out of steam. Today is a different story. The most daunting thing about having Living Beyond Reality Press publish Looking on Darkness is having to scan 200 pages of manuscript before I can finish the editing. I think I'll finish reading it, and if the rest is as good as the beginning, I'd sort of like it to end up in print and find some readers.

I have to stretch a little but not too far to find a few parallels between what I was doing with this book in 1990 and what Neil Gaiman was writing in The Sandman. Looking on Darkness was written at the height of my (still continuing) Carl Jung phase, and I'm sure Neil would be happy to confirm his comics have a Jungian influence, if anything by way of Joseph Campbell. The first chapter of LOD introduces Jeremy Lamb, a British schoolboy who eventually becomes the story's antagonist, and I recall researching the Brit terminology carefully. That section reads a lot like some passages in Neil's stories that are in British settings. And some of the writing even smacked of Neil's brand of description--at one point I said Jeremy's eyes were "shiny black, like the backs of beetles," a macrabre sort of analogy I seldom do in my writing nowadays.

Looking on Darkness is about a kind of psychic vampirism, and there is a lot of "action" that occurs inside the psyches of the characters. Dreams and fantasies and the inner life play a big part, as I expect will be the case in The Sandman. If you really want to stretch it, there's one more interesting connection: Issue #1 features four minor characters (two male, two female), and tracks them all over a long expanse of years. LOD is built around the lives of a pair of males and a pair of females.

I don't know what made me get up, almost in a trance (well, it was two hours past my usual bedtime, LOL) and pick up this book from the shelf. But spookier things have happened to me since I started reading Gaiman. So after I finish writing my current collection I'll have to give serious thought to publishing Looking on Darkness. Well, perhaps if I start now scanning those pages a bit at a time, it won't be such a nightmarish chore!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Sexy New Car

To paraphrase that recent Sprint commercial, "I'm in love...with a car."

It's my "new" 2007 Chevy Cobalt LT, aka Racer Y. Racer Y as in yellow. As you can see, he is VERY yellow.

Several people in my acquaintance have accused me of having a mid-life crisis (they forget 52 is somewhat beyond mid-life), because I am so excited about having a sporty car. In point of fact, I have wanted a sporty car since grade school when I was obsessed with the Opel GT, a car that looked like a mini-Corvette.

I think Y looks a bit like a mini-Corvette, at least from behind, with his Corvette-style taillights. My family finds it hysterical that I can compare my Cobalt with his racy cousin, and I guess 4-cylinders don't qualify as as a muscle car even if the engine is 10% larger than my Neon's was. But seriously, people, Racer Y has some pep. He may not be ready for drag racing but he merges on the freeway like a dream.

You see, I am such a frugal person that not only could I never seriously spring for a true sports car, I waited over 40 years to spend the extra bucks to own a car with a spoiler. A spoiler, my dream, at last! Well, I figured I could splurge, seeing as (a) I got the incredible deal of $10,000 plus my 2001 Neon, and (b) I had saved up all the money plus leftovers. And now I have a spoiler! Ah the joys of ridiculously delayed gratification!

But more about the other sexy features of Racer Y. Where do I begin? This is a car that knows when to turn on his own headlights. He does neat stuff like calculate his mileage (see photo--those were mostly city miles with A/C so not bad) and tell you how much further your tank of gas will take you. He has a most excellent radio/CD player and four truly fine Pioneer speakers. Don't even get me started on the electric windows and mirrors and such (which many take for granted but I lacked in my last car)...perks, perks, perks.

And I just had to trick out Racer with one more feature, a top of the line XM radio. With this addition, he is now the ultimate party car.

The only downside of having a car this sexy is that you want to drive all the time, which is not politically correct these days and also interferes with my saving for Y's replacement. But I might as well face it, I'm addicted to my car.

And he's easy to spot in parking lots, too.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Colorblind and Unthreatened

It’s about time I posted about this year’s season of one of my favorite shows, “So You Think You Can Dance.” I was loving this season until the unfortunate and premature loss of Will, my personal favorite and the guy a lot of people picked to win it all. But that’s not what I’m interested in discussing today. On to that…

The other day Davie found a blog post about SYTYCD in which the blogger observed how it was looking like the final three male contestants might well end up to be all black guys. (Not so now that Will got the boot, but the guy who hung on in his place is actually Hawaiian and of mixed Asian race.) She speculated about what a surprise this was, taking into consideration a certain amount of racism you’d expect from the show’s voters (typically white teenaged girls). Some of the comments echoed this sentiment.

Well, in my admittedly limited experience, I have a different opinion and am not at all surprised by success of the African-American guys on the show. First of all, they happen to be the most talented dancers among the males this year. And secondly, I’m convinced the majority of girls in this country under the age of 30 can find men of color just as hot as white guys. I’m sure there are regional, religious, education and economical factors that come into play and don’t make this principle universal, but I honestly believe it’s typically true.

My own daughters, 28 and 23, sure make no distinction based on race. And from what I hear from their peers and friends, they don’t either. I asked my 23-year-old about this and she agreed with me. She pointed out that one of the most popular genres of music currently is hip hop, and the pre-eminent artists are usually black. That means your typical young lady nowadays gets plenty of exposure to sexy guys of color.

The hindrance to sex appeal between people of different races is simply a matter of familiarity. Once you are comfortable with the difference in appearances—and once you have sexual associations with those “alien” qualities (by alien meaning simply different from your own) such as those that happen in the entertainment world—you can recognize attractiveness easily enough.

Young people have been exposed all their lives to attractive and positive examples of people of every race. I’m not claiming discrimination is dead in America, but there’s virtually none of it in the media or in sports, so that means you see beautiful people of every race every day. In fact, if you live/work in an area that is not particularly integrated, like I do, the vast majority of “minority” people you see will be celebrities and therefore more attractive than the average white person you encounter in daily life.

So I think white teenage girls are not going to be influenced much by race when it comes to sexual attraction. Obviously a good thing for the planet!

Meanwhile, a second observation was made and discussed on this blog post that Davie found. That is, when it comes to picking females to vote for, our typical SYTYCD viewer will look for “unthreatening” girls. That is, they’ll prefer contestants who are not too pretty, not too sexy, and don’t seem like they’d steal your boyfriend from you.

Again, I disagree. If you’ve ever been a teenage girl, I think you’ve experienced what I’ll call “the Barbie Factor.” Young females don’t always regard each other as competition. Sometimes they see an attractive girl as someone to identify with, to pretend they are, as girls do when playing with Barbies (or, I’m sure, Bratz dolls, etc.). I’m sure it’s similar when young men, who are competitive with their buddies and classmates, identify with a sports figure.

So don’t expect the least pretty SYTYCD girl to win, unless coincidentally she happens to be the best dancer.

All that said, there’s no denying that sex is a factor for anyone past puberty as they pick their favorites on this show. Even if you can divorce yourself from simple looks—not easy when those pretty faces and toned abs are distracting you—even selecting on the basis of dancing alone is a sexually-motivated choice. Grace, style, coordination, strength…all these are traits that matter in mating as much as in art. As I’ve said before about SYTYCD, watching the show is a spiritual, innocent erotic experience…just as dancing is.

And happily, I think that evils like jealousy and racism don’t play as much a part as some people fear.