Tuesday, May 30, 2006

time tables and Toth

Not much to say today. Taking half a day to make corrections on a story of my own so I can get it in the mail this afternoon to make a Friday deadline. I generally don't talk about when I send out stories or to where because the odds are so overwhelmingly against all of us when we send out our writings that it's less discouraging if my rejection letters are my dirty little secret.

But those of use with this particular dementia send out stories anyway. And every once in a while, we get an acceptance letter--just to keep the dementia fed.

And after I get back from the post office, I have to buckle down and do a LOT of work on Able to... so I can get that book to the post office . . . Monday-ish. I had plans for Saturday. We'll see.


Alex Toth died last weekend. He was one of those legendary cartoonists that no one outside of comics knows. He was a masterful draftsman, brilliantly subtle in his craft. Some of his more famous comic book work was for Zorro, decades ago (and a good portion of that work is available in a book collection), but he worked for all the major comics companies and quite a few of the minor ones, too. He also worked for Hanna-Barbera in the '60s, being the designer behind such classic cartoons as Space Ghost (a personal favorite) and Johnny Quest. People of my age who remember the original SuperFriends have him to thank for the design of the first animated Wonder Woman and of course Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog. Over the years I've seen published sketches and doodles from the man and he was just way too talented for most of the projects he worked on.

He died at his drawing table.

Check out the gallery at http://tothfans.com/

Friday, May 26, 2006

Today, you have become . . . middle-aged! (also, Michael Kroll and procrastination)

First thing this morning, I went to the nearest TSO (Texas State Optical) to get the new lenses put in my frames. I've worn glasses since second grade and so this is no big deal on many levels except I have now advanced to . . . bifocals. Except they don't call them that anymore. They're now "progressives." Whatever. I'm just glad I can read again. I'd let it go far too long between eye exams.

Some people have a harder time with this rite of passage however. One woman at work told me she cried when her optometrist told her she needed bifocals. I generally don't dread these changes in life like some people do, and getting "progressives" (sounds like a regime change I'd like to see) has mostly just been a nuisance since I'm still adjusting to them. The world is a little more . . . bendable with bifocals. If I move my head too quickly, I don't yet know where and how to look so that my surroundings don't elongate and tilt. I mean, it's kind of cool and all, but it also makes me wobble.

Which leads me to believe that this might be considered an alternative to controlled substances. Don't do drugs--get bifocals!

I can see all the kids digging through the dumpsters at TSO's all over Texas, trying to get their bifocal fix . . .


Tonight, I was listening to a CD from the late 90s--Ether County by Michael Kroll. Kroll was this singer/songwriter I discovered on a sampler CD circa 1995 (?) and I liked his track enough to eventually pick up all three of his albums. He disappeared from the scene about the turn of the century. Googling him does me no good. There seems to be many Michael Krolls out there. I think both labels he recorded for have gone under. I'm left to assume he's left the industry. I'd love to learn otherwise.

I'm in the home stretch with putting together Able to...

And the home stretch is tedious. Boring. Hard to work on. I've always been the big picture person--details make me a little nuts. And distracted. Okay, I'm procrastinating. If the authors in the book see this, this probably makes them nervous. Well, not to worry, really. I'm still on track, timewise. I even have reason to hope that I'll have the whole kit 'n' kaboodle done by the end of next week.

In the next day or two, I'll start telling you more about individual stories. I'm really falling in love with the stories all over again. I so can't wait to show the world this collection . . .

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Katherine Dunham, Deogratias, Godschtuff

Katherine Dunham died this past Sunday. She was on the cover of a dance magazine last year and I was surprised she was still alive. She was 96.

By all accounts she was a remarkable woman. She comes to my attention because of my interest in the history of Modern Dance. She's one of the pioneers, often overlooked because she was an African American pioneer.

Her genius was in her interest not only in dance, but also in anthropology. She held a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago and her work did much to record and preserve dance and ritual of the Caribbean. Of course, her anthropological studies influenced her choreography.

I won't go on here. Here's a decent article going over her career:


What a woman.


I finished Deogratias, the graphic novel from First Second Books. I highly recommend it. It's difficult reading, to be sure. It's reading that requires more of your attention than most work produced in comics form. There are sharp, unexpected turns in time periods--but always clearly marked by how the eponymous character is dressed. He wears the same t-shirt throughout, but there is a marked difference between the later period and the earlier.

And while I hate to say it--the death knell of fine literature--the book has a wealth of educational value. I certainly have a better idea of what the Rwandan genocide was about and how it happened and how ordinary people might have been maneuvering within it.

But it's also an education of what's possible within the comics medium. Film is the only other medium that I can think of that can offer so much information so quickly. Visuals are used to not only show action, but to give you subtle clues about the passage (or backtracking) of time. Even in film, it might be difficult to follow, but because comics is a printed, static medium, you control the speed of the story and you can take in the information as you're able, at your pace. Film controls what you see, how you see it, the speed at which you see it. Comics can jar you--intentionally, I'm supposing--but you can take the time to figure it out. Seriously, I think Stassen (the writer/artist) uses the jarring juxtapositions to brilliant effect.

A beautiful, hard, book.


The book I'm reading currently is called The Phoenix Affirmations. It is, as best as I can describe it, a manifesto for an emerging progressive Christian community. I'm only two chapters into it. Already, I'd like to find a group to read it with.

That's all for today. I'm hard at work on Able to..., of course. Just taking a break from it . . .


Sunday, May 21, 2006


"These stories work on every level, as pieces of literature and as fables about power, and they run the gamut from magic realism to Twain-ian tall tales. A strong collection, worthy of reading and re-reading."
-Greg Garrett, author of Holy Superheroes, Free Bird, and Crossing Myself (among other things)

This is a little blurb that I'll get to use on the back of Able to... when it is published this summer. Pretty jazzed about that. Thanks to Greg for taking the time to read the manuscript version of the book.

I'm also pretty jazzed about the release party I'm planning for the book. July 14th, at Square Moon Gallery in the Heights. Houston people, come out out! There'll be readings from not only Able to... authors but other Houston writers. Sort of a mini-lit-fest as well as a party for the release of the book. I'll be writing more about that as we go, too.

In unrelated news, I'm currently reading a graphic novel called Deogratias by a writer/artist named Stassen. It's one of the first releases by a new graphic novel publisher called First Second. It is definitely not a "comic" book, taking place as it does in Rwanda during the genocide. I only got about halfway through it before I had to put it down, but it's compelling. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it. Very nice artwork and the production values of First Second are tops. I'll have to check out some of their other books. This looks like one of those really cool graphic novel publishers who are doing really good, important work in the graphic novel format--and so is probably going to have a hard time finding its audience. Check out their website: www.firstsecondbooks.net and see if their isn't something there that interests you. I'd like to see another publisher of more literary (for lack of a better term) graphic novels succeed.

That's all for now. I need to get back to work on Able to...


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

First Post, Worst Post (or we can only hope)

Welcome to the neoNuma Arts blog!

Sometimes known as the Neil Ellis Orts blog!

Actually, this blog is really more geared to the neoNuma part of me, that is the corporate part of me, the wannabe capitalist me. Over the next few weeks, I'll be hyping my first publishing venture (or my first REAL publishing venture--this will be explained as we go), an anthology of short stories called Able to... This anthology is a collection of short stories wherein one character exhibits some extraordinary ability. I'm still playing with the tagline. "Super-powers, no super-heroes" has been one, except I get worried about DC Comics and Marvel squelching that one since they hold the tradmark on the term "super-hero." (I'm not making this up. They did this years ago. Every comic book company that has tried to do super-heroes since they trademarked the term has had to use terms like "action heroes" or something equally less descriptive.) So I'm thinking of something like "Ordinary people, extraordinary abilities."

Well, I'm not here to brainstorm in front of all of you--although that appears to be what I'm doing. But I do want you to know that this is a collection of stories about people who can do something extraordinary but are not exactly action or adventure stories. There's no costumes, no crimefighting, sometimes very little acknowledgment from the characters that they have these abilities.

And these are not your average X-Men abilities. No one pops into flame (although I invited just such a story in my initial call for stories that I posted all over Craigslist), and no one flies. There is a little boy who slips into the quantum field and alters reality. And there is the woman who catches ripples in time and replays them so things have a chance at going better. There's the girl who, when she offers compliments, speaks flowers. There's the man who dies and comes back to life again and again--not reincarnated, but resuscitated--and how this affects his relationship to his mother. And his bartender, but mostly his mother. There's even the frog who is an accountant for a florist--not your normal super-power, but for a frog, it's pretty extraordinary.

And there's more, of course. Thirteen stories in all. Nine authors. I'm very excited about it all.

But that's probably enough for now. By way of introduction, I'll just add that I'm a native Texan, a writer and performer, soon to be publisher . . . and that in this blog you'll find out that I like a wide (but particular) range of artistic endeavors. When I'm not hyping my own schtuff, I'll likely be telling you what I'm reading, seeing, listening to--or even daring to tell you what you should reading, seeing, listening to.

But not in that pushy, obnoxious way. Usually. Okay sometimes. But I hope you'll tell me what I should be reading, seeing, and listening to, as well. That's what the reply button is for.

Rambling . . . That's me.

Look me up on bn.com or amazon.com. There's a couple things there, too, that maybe will help introduce me. Maybe not.

Come back in a day or two. That's probably the best way to get to know me.