Monday, December 29, 2008

Frontier justice

I see on the news sites that Ellie Nesler died the other day.

If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it may help jog your memory if I point out that Ellie Nesler was the woman who in 1993 walked into a courtroom in the Gold Rush town of Sonora, California, and shot to death the man being tried for molesting her six-year-old son.

Ellie's initial conviction for voluntary manslaughter was overturned due to some jury shenanigans, but the pistol-packing mama later copped a plea and served three years in prison. Her sentence was actually longer than that, but she received a reduction because she was being treated for breast cancer. The whole episode was chronicled in a made-for-cable movie (USA Network, not Lifetime, but that shows you're thinking) in 1999.

The part of Ellie's story that didn't warrant a teleflick came in 2002, when she was convicted of selling methamphetamine and sent back to the slammer for another four years.

In 2004, while Ellie was cooling her heels at the women's prison in Chowchilla, her son William stomped a guy to death less than an hour after getting out of jail from a previous assault conviction. William is currently serving 25 years to life in the big house.

At the time of the incident that brought her national fame, Ellie Nesler was hailed by some as a heroine and vilified by others as a vigilante.

Now, we can just call her the late Ms. Nesler.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Better living through chemistry

Unlike many bloggers, I don't usually belabor a ton of personal business in this space. For one thing, I'm a rather internal person, even around people I know well, much less relative strangers like the lot of you. (Not that I don't love you, each and every one. Just saying, is all.) For another, who really cares?

But indulge me today.

Longtime SSTOL readers know that my wife KJ is a breast cancer survivor. She was first diagnosed in 2000, and went through the usual battery of treatments. Nearly two years ago, she was diagnosed with significant skeletal metastasis. Since then, she has undergone a course of radiation therapy, and an ongoing regimen of antihormonal treatments designed to combat her cancer, while reducing the level of estrogens that enable said cancer to thrive.

Today, KJ begins chemotherapy.

From a realistic perspective, we knew that the time would eventually arrive when her treatment would have to ratchet up to the next level. That foreknowledge doesn't make this suck any less.

Medical science in general, and the treatment of breast cancer specifically, had advanced considerably in the past eight years. Previously, KJ's chemotherapy consisted of being hooked up for three hours to an IV pump at the cancer center every third Friday. This time around, she'll just take a handful of bright pink pills every morning and evening.

The other positive is that, unlike eight years ago, KJ's oncologist has a whole raft of other medications to try if this first salvo doesn't produce the desired results. Back in the day, only a couple of chemical cocktails (both of which KJ endured) were in the medicine cabinet. Now, we have a lot more arrows in the quiver — kind of like the Silver Age Hawkeye.

We'll take prayers if you've got 'em. Warm thoughts are welcome too, if you're not the praying kind.

And, if you have a few extra greenbacks in your pocket after Christmas shopping and gasoline, you could do worse than making a donation to the breast cancer research and education nonprofit of your choice. We believe the folks at Susan G. Komen for the Cure do fine work, if you need a suggestion.

Back to frivolity tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gateway to Fresno

They say there's no such thing as a coincidence, and perhaps they're right. (I'm still not certain who "they" are, but that's a conversation for another time.)

If it's not coincidental, it's definitely ironic that, after winning its first bronze medal in International competition in Nashville this past July, my chorus should win its first District championship in the city dubbed "Nashville West." That's Bakersfield, California, the former home of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, for those of you not up to speed on your country music trivia.

For indeed, it was in Bakersfield — so named because one Colonel Thomas Baker planted an alfalfa field on the site many moons ago — that Voices in Harmony (Northern California's premier men's a cappella chorus; but then, you knew that) found ourselves this past weekend, for the annual convention of the Far Western District of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Of the Society's 16 districts, the Far Western District spans the largest population base, encompassing California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. It's also a talent powerhouse: Both the reigning International Champion chorus (the Masters of Harmony, from Los Angeles County) and International Champion quartet (OC Times, from Orange County) hail from the FWD. (As noted above, Voices in Harmony is currently the third-place International chorus. Just thought I'd throw that in again.) Thus, winning in this ultra-competitive region marks a significant accomplishment.

This is my third time as a member of the FWD chorus champion. My former chorus won back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000, the second of which was contested on the very same Bakersfield stage. That last was a challenging time: KJ was first diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks prior to the contest, and she had just undergone the surgical phase of her treatment. I was inclined to stay home, but she insisted — vehemently, as I recall — that I make the trip anyway. When I arrived in downtown Bakersfield, the streetlights were festooned with banners reminding me that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As I said... a challenging time.

Now, eight years later, KJ accompanied me to the tailbone of the San Joaquin Valley. Despite her often excruciating physical limitations, we had a fine time. We witnessed an outstanding quartet contest, won by a stellar foursome called Masterpiece (my fellow Voice, Alan Gordon, is the baritone in this future International champion). KJ renewed several old acquaintances within the Voices in Harmony family. And of course, there was that District chorus championship business.

Most of our contingent lodged at the Doubletree Hotel, which happened also to be hosting a group of hot rod automobile enthusiasts who, like ourselves, were convening in Bakersfield over the weekend. It appeared to KJ and me that the local "professional women's community" (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) made a sizable profit entertaining the gents from the hot rod (no pun intended) convention. At the very least, the legitimate female companions of the hot rodders shop for their clothing and accouterments at the same purveyors that cater to the local "professional women's community." Suffice it to say that copious quantities of alcohol were consumed, and that a well-lubricated (no pun intended) time was enjoyed by these sons of the open road and their lady friends.

When we weren't in rehearsals, attending the contests, or stepping over inebriated courtesans in the hotel lobby, KJ and I managed to find several surprisingly decent places to eat in Bakersfield. If you happen to be passing through, we recommend that you stop in at any of these fine establishments:
  • Coconut Joe's Island Grill, a kitschy joint in a downtown shopping center that specializes in faux-Hawaiian "beach food." If you like Jimmy Buffett records and the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, you'll love this. Try the fish tacos — they're served with a delightfully tangy sauce that would probably render chunks of drywall edible.

  • J's Place, a funky little hole-in-the-wall that dishes up the tastiest Southern-style cooking I've had since the late, lamented Terry's closed up shop here in Santa Rosa. I ordered a bountiful plate of fried catfish that was as delicious as any I've eaten. KJ liked their enchilada special. I'm advised that the fried chicken and waffles are excellent, too.

  • Hodel's Country Dining, where we enjoyed a very respectable Sunday brunch. KJ's custom omelette was nicely prepared, and I enjoyed the quiche-like egg-and-cheese concoction enough to go back for seconds. Hodel's biscuits deserve their sterling regional reputation. Bonus points: Our waitress shared her first name with our daughter.
So that's the view of Bakersfield from my rear-view mirror.

If you happen to live (or are spending Thanksgiving weekend) in the Bay Area, and you'd like to kick off your Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Tet / insert-your-favorite-celebration-here season with the newly crowned Far Western District champions, buy your tickets now for our annual concert extravaganza, Unwrap the Holidays with Voices in Harmony. It's Saturday, November 29, at downtown San Jose's historic California Theatre. We've got music, we've got laughter, we've got glorious red tuxedos. Join us!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

In the pink

It's that time of year again:

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Regular SSTOL readers know that the cause of breast cancer awareness is — no pun intended — close to my heart. My wife KJ was first diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2000, and spent the succeeding nine months enduring the process of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment that has enabled her survival to this moment.

Last spring, KJ discovered that she has a metastatic form of the disease. With the help of an excellent oncologist, and a tsunami of love, faith, and prayers, she is continuing the daily fight for her life.

Here's the plain truth, Ruth: One woman in seven will be afflicted with breast cancer in her lifetime.

That's your mother.

Your sister.

Your daughter.

Your friend.

Your life partner.

Maybe you.

We need a cure. Not a century from now. Not a decade from now. Not a year from now.


If you're a woman of any age, learn and practice BSE (Breast Self-Exam).

If you're a woman over 20, start a conversation with your physician about your personal level of breast cancer risk, and get a clinical breast exam at least every three years. (KJ was first diagnosed at age 34.)

If you're a woman over 40, schedule a mammogram annually.

If you're not a woman, copy the preceding three paragraphs to every woman you care about.

Whatever your gender, think about making a donation today to the breast cancer awareness organization of your choice. We like the work Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been doing for the past 25 years. But there are other excellent organizations out there. Find one you can get behind, and get behind them with some folding money.

Consider yourself aware.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And... we're back!

I've returned. Cue the dancing girls!

Amazing stories to tell, and indeed, I will tell them. Give me a couple of days, and I will reveal all. With temperatures here cracking into triple digits, composing at the keyboard for lengthy stretches just isn't in the cards.

Trust me... the tale will merit the wait.

Meanwhile, you can celebrate some other good news. The doctors finally determined that the health problems KJ has been struggling with for the past seven months are not symptomatic of the spread of her cancer. W00T!

It's a small thing, perhaps, in the face of what we already know. But we'll take every shining glimmer we can get.

Back with more shortly.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Babbling about Brooke

This caught my attention on a slow news May Day...

In an interview scheduled to air next Tuesday, television legend Barbara Walters reveals to Oprah Winfrey that, back in the 1970s, she engaged in a long-running affair with Edward Brooke, who at the time was (a) a Republican U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, (b) married, and (c) African-American.

Brooke hasn't been (a) since 1978. I believe he's now (b) to a different woman than the one to whom he was (b) at the time that he was getting jiggy with the ABC newswoman. So far as I know, he is still (c).

When I first heard about this, my first reaction was probably the same as yours: Barbara Walters?

Senator Brooke: You were one of the 200 or so most powerful men in the United States government. You could probably have shacked up with any woman you chose — notwithstanding the far less enlightened racial climate of 30-odd years ago. And you picked Barbara Walters?

Dude, what were you thinking?

Then again, as a quick survey of the couples strolling your local shopping mall will confirm, there's no accounting for taste.

And here all this time, I just thought Ed Brooke was goofy because he was a Republican.

Setting his questionable preferences in women aside for the moment, Ed Brooke's an interesting guy, from a historical perspective. The first African-American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate — and the only black Senator elected for more than a quarter-century after he took office in 1967 — Brooke was a black Republican in an era when pretty much the only black Republicans anyone could name were Pearl Bailey and Ed Brooke.

As one might expect from a Massachusetts Republican, Brooke occupied the liberal wing of the GOP, to the degree that such exists. (In fact, the citizens of Massachusetts haven't elected another Republican to the Senate since Brooke was defeated for a third term by future Democratic Presidential candidate Paul Tsongas.) Brooke often butted heads with fellow elephant Richard Nixon, leading the rejection of a trio of Nixon nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, including that of racial segregationist (and closeted homosexual, not that either Nixon or Brooke knew at the time) G. Harrold Carswell in 1970. To his credit, Brooke was one of the first Senators to publicly call for Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Earlier in this decade, Brooke was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy. He has since campaigned actively in support of breast cancer awareness, among men in particular. Bush 43 awarded Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

At the time of his defeat in 1978, many political observers blamed Brooke's loss on the nasty and highly publicized divorce he and his then-wife underwent during his second Senatorial term. Now that Barbara Walters has 'fessed up to Oprah, maybe we know what all the fuss at the Brooke house was about.

Although we may never know how Baba Wawa hooked up with a man whose surname she couldn't pronounce.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Special victim

I don't know Evanthia Pappas.

But I intimately know someone like her.

Evanthia, a prosecutor who works for the Sonoma County District Attorney's office in the so-called "special victims unit" (dealing with sexual abuse and domestic violence crimes), was diagnosed a year ago with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. IBC is a relatively uncommon disease — it accounts for only about two percent of breast cancer cases — and is much tougher to diagnose and treat than solid-tumor breast cancer like KJ's.

The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has offered Evanthia the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial of an experimental treatment involving stem cell transplantation into her bone marrow. It's an expensive ticket — Evanthia's portion of the bill totals approximately $250,000 — and no insurance company, pharmaceutical entity, or government program covers it.

With the help of family, friends, and coworkers, as well as our local Greek-American community, Evanthia is raising this hefty sum on her own.

Having spent a dozen years in the health care industry, and seven years and counting as the husband of a woman battling breast cancer, I've read reams of information about breast cancer and its treatment. I know that the course of therapy Evanthia Pappas is attempting probably isn't the light at the end of the dark and terrifying breast cancer tunnel. Most researchers discontinued investigation of bone marrow transplant treatment of breast cancer more than a decade ago, because, quite frankly, there was no clinical evidence that it worked. Sad — infuriating, even — though it is, I understand fully why Evanthia's insurance company won't cover an experiment that the current medical literature doesn't support.

But, as KJ just said to me, "Someone had to be the first to try the treatments I'm getting now."

And she's right. Evanthia Pappas may or may not benefit from this experiment. It may help her body stave off her cancer, and it may not. Her participation in the trial, however, may help medical scientists learn something new that will eventually save other women's lives. For that, if for no other reason, it's worth a shot.

A quarter-million bucks is a ton of cash. But it's a small price to pay for hope.

If you're so inclined, you can make a contribution to Evanthia Pappas's quest for life by writing a check payable to The Evanthia Pappas Transplant Fund (S-5 Account), and mailing it to:
San Francisco Police Credit Union
2550 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122
Evanthia will thank you. And someday, your wife or daughter, mother or sister, lover or friend may thank you, also.

After all, it's only money, right?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

In celebration of Cleavage

Just to prove that the need for breast cancer awareness doesn't stop at the end of October (which was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in case you were asleep at the keyboard for the past 31 days), let's give an SSTOL Hero of the Day shout-out to the fine folks at Cleavage Creek Cellars, based right here in eternally beautiful northern California Wine Country.

Cleavage Creek was recently purchased by local entrepreneur Budge Brown, whose wife of 48 years, Arlene Brown, passed away two years ago after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. Budge has pledged to contribute ten percent of Cleavage Creek's gross revenues -- and yes, that's gross receipts, not net profits -- to breast cancer research.

As a clever marketing move, the label of every bottle of Cleavage Creek wine features an eye-catching snapshot of one of seven attractive models. Nothing new there, right? Wrong. Here's the twist: Each of the "Ladies of Cleavage Creek" is a breast cancer survivor.

You can read each model's personal story in detail at the Cleavage Creek Cellars Web site.

Cleavage Creek's eight 2008 releases range in price from $22 to $60 per bottle, and can be advance-purchased from Cleavage Creek. Since I don't drink wine, I can't comment on the quality of the product. (If you partake, please don't drive.)

From what I've heard and read about Budge Brown, I'm confident that every bottle is being made with love.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wonder Woman Day, redux!

Two days from today — Sunday, October 28 — is the second annual Wonder Woman Day.

In case you missed jotting this auspicious occasion on your calendar, the last Sunday in October each year has been officially declared Wonder Woman Day by the cities of Portland, Oregon and Flemington, New Jersey. This event uses the celebration of everyone's favorite Amazon to focus awareness on, and to raise money for, domestic violence shelters in the two sponsor cities.

Artists from throughout the comics industry donate original Wonder Woman art, which is auctioned off to support these worthwhile community organizations. You can view this year's incredible array of offerings at the official Wonder Woman Day site.

One of the items up for bid is a terrific pinup featuring Wonder Woman alongside Superman, drawn by the phenomenal Al Rio. I was fortunate enough some time back to be able to purchase Al's preliminary drawing of the Princess of Themyscira for my own collection. Al's sketch is so tightly rendered that it's almost indistinguishable from his final version (sans the superfluous Man of Steel, and who cares about him anyway?).

This piece is currently awaiting embellishment by one of the comic industry's great inking talents, Bob Almond. When Bob's done doing that voodoo that he do so well, I'll display the finished version on a future Comic Art Friday.

Another one of my favorite artists, Michael Dooney, created this spectacular Wonder Woman pinup you see below. I was being completely sincere when I told Mike this might be one of the best Wonder Woman drawings, not just in my not-inconsiderable collection, but in all of existence. (Mike thinks it's not quite up to the level of Adam Hughes, who more or less set the standard for Wonder Woman art during his three-year run creating the covers of her comic book, but I still dig it anyway. I dig Adam's stuff, too.)

Dooney's style incorporates influences from several of the classic pinup artists, including Alberto Vargas, Gil Elvgren, and George Petty. Mike was very receptive to my costume suggestions on this particular commission assignment, all of which he executed beautifully. I've always been partial to Diana's original costume with its golden eagle bustier, and I love the star-spangled skirt and Grecian sandals Dooney added here, at my request.

So, remember: October is both National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Sunday, October 28 is Wonder Woman Day. If you're so inclined, pop over to the official site and check out all of the Wonder-ful art that's up for auction. You might even see something you'll want to bid on yourself. It's in service of a cause that Wonder Woman herself would most certainly approve.

After all, shouldn't every day be Wonder Woman Day?

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 19, 2007

The pact is: To avenge!

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to comic art legend Marie Severin, one of the few women to make a lasting mark in the industry during comics' Silver Age. An acclaimed colorist for EC Comics in the 1950s, and later an illustrator, art director, and character designer for Marvel Comics, Marie was inducted into the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame in 2001.

Unfortunately, Marie suffered a stroke recently, and is now recovering in a rehabilitative facility. I wish her a swift and successful return to health. She's one of the great ones.

I'm sure that, given the nature of obsessive fandom, there must be people (read: adult males in an arrested state of emotional adolescence) who are even bigger fans of the film Heavy Metal than I am. (I'll identify one for you at the conclusion of this post.)

However, so far as I'm aware, I'm the only comic art collector with an entire gallery of commissioned art featuring the movie's most memorable character — the mysterious, silent swordswoman known as Taarna the Tarakian.

Why Taarna? I can't answer that question definitively, any more than I can explain why I prefer vanilla to chocolate. Part of the reason is my admiration for Heavy Metal itself, which I believe is one of the great neglected classics of animated cinema, made all the more remarkable by the fact that the film was made on a modest budget under an unrealistically tight schedule. The list of talents whose work is represented in the movie reads like an international Who's Who of fantasy art legends: Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Richard Corben, Berni Wrightson, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Juan Gimenez, Angus McKie, Chris Achilleos, and Mike Ploog, just to name a few.

Another reason is Taarna herself. I'm a sucker for strong female characters (as regular Comic Art Friday readers will affirm), and Taarna is as strong — and as female — as they come. Plus, she's a terrific visual. Designed by Howard Chaykin, a comic book creator renowned for his striking depictions of women, Taarna has influenced the look of dozens of female characters in the quarter-century since she first appeared.

The Taarna artworks we're featuring today were both created by artists associated with other noteworthy female characters. Earlier this year, I was offered the opportunity to commission Mel Rubi, a veteran comic artist most familiar for his work on Dynamite Entertainment's Red Sonja series. Given Mel's intimate familiarity with sword-wielding woman warriors, I knew he'd deliver a fantastic Taarna... and he did.

Aside from the beauty and clarity of his linework here, I was especially delighted that Mel chose a unique pose for his drawing. It's eye-catching, it's dramatic, and most importantly, it's completely in character. According to Mel's art representative, Ruben Azcona at Comic Book Art Gallery, this was one of the first commission projects that Mel accepted. I hope he enjoyed it, because I have a feeling that he'll be asked to do many more.

Our second Taarna artwork roars forth from the pen of Matt Martin, who has drawn numerous covers for the Lady Death series published by Avatar Press. Like Mel Rubi, Matt has built his considerable reputation on his facility with dramatic female figures. He puts that skill to excellent use in this cover-quality illustration.

My favorite feature of Matt's Taarna is the powerful emotion with which he interprets the character. In her segment of Heavy Metal, Taarna remains stoic, never speaking and rarely revealing any inner feelings. Here, Matt strips away her implacable veneer and shows us Taarna's wrath-filled heart of vengeance. That curled lip, those flashing eyes... priceless.

If you're interested in a more detailed presentation of this quintessential heroine, check out superfan Adam W. Smith's incredible tribute site, Celebrating Taarna. Adam provides extensive background details about Taarna and her development, as well as his personal musings about what the character means to him.

Remember: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To find a cure: This is the pact.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shoeless Jills

We're in the midst of the second torrential downpour of our surprisingly early rainy season on this Comic Art Friday. (The first, wouldn't you know, arrived on Tuesday night — just in time for the 95-mile drive home from chorus rehearsal. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature... or Al Gore.)

It's not the sort of day on which you'd want to go running around outdoors in your bare feet. If you did, however, it would probably mean that you were one of the two superheroines featured in this Common Elements pinup by comic book artist Robb Phipps, best known for his work on the series Mantra and Maze Agency.

On the left, that's Mantis, a staple of Marvel Comics' Avengers during the 1970s. On the right, that's Gypsy (real name: Cindy Reynolds), who began her crimefighting career with the Justice League of America, and more recently served with the all-female superteam Birds of Prey. As your discerning eye has no doubt already perceived, the Common Element between these two heroines is their utter disdain of footwear.

From my armchair perspective, it would appear that dashing into the heat of superheroic battle with unshod tootsies would be the height of folly. All an enemy would need to disable a barefoot opponent would be a few shards of broken glass (think Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard movie), a fistful of thumbtacks (available for a less than a buck at any convenient discount retailer), or just a well-aimed boot heel. But for Mantis and Gypsy, the feeling of hot asphalt beneath their soles must be worth the tactical disadvantage.

Mantis was one of the features that made reading Avengers so much fun back in that halcyon Disco Age. For one thing, she possessed one of comicdom's most unique speech patterns, always referring to herself in the third person as "This One." She also had a complex and intriguing backstory — the half-German, half-Vietnamese daughter of a supervillain named Libra, Mantis (who never, so far as I can recall, had a real name) was raised by aliens from outer space, rigorously trained to excel in every form of martial arts, spent most of her pre-superheroine adulthood selling sexual favors on the streets of Hanoi (silly rabbit — comic books are for kids!), and had been designated as the Celestial Madonna, destined to give birth to the savior of the universe.

Besides all that, Mantis was cute, provocatively dressed, and kicked evildoer butt in her bare feet. How could you not love her?

Mantis's creator, writer Steve Englehart, was so enamored of her that he reinvented new versions of her at practically every comics company for whom he later worked. At DC Comics, Englehart's Mantis avatar went by the name Willow; at Eclipse and Image, she was known as Lorelei. This is probably just an urban legend, but I've heard tell that Englehart keeps a RealDoll dressed like Mantis in his bedroom closet. (Okay, I just made that up. But it wouldn't surprise me if it were true. The man's obsessed, I tell you.)

For her part, Gypsy — whom I liked mainly because she was a frequent comrade-in-arms to one of my favorite heroines, Vixen — later sold out on the barefoot ideal, exchanging her ragtag fortune-teller costume for an armored outfit complete with boots. (Say it ain't so, Cindy!) I believe she's since gone back to the sans-shoesy style. You can take the girl out of the barefoot, but you can't take the barefoot out of the girl.

Being proactive and thoughtful superheroines, both Mantis and Gypsy asked me to remind you once again that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Early detection is your best friend.

I'm going to go dabble my pedal digits in a rain puddle. And that's your Comic Art Friday.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 05, 2007


This first Comic Art Friday of October is dedicated to everyone, everywhere, whose life has been touched by the scourge we call cancer. Although October is specifically National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let's take a moment to reflect upon the fact that "cancer" in fact describes a plethora of diseases, all of which deserve the intensive focus of medical science until we beat them into submission for good.

Some time back, I decided to create a Common Elements concept that acknowledged the universality of cancer. So far as I know, none of the major comics publishers has yet done a story about a superheroine afflicted with breast cancer. (Note to self: There's a pitch to be written.) There have been, however, at least a couple of male heroes who've battled the Big C. Veteran comics artist Christopher Ivy — best known as an inker on such titles as The Flash, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight — brings together two of these stalwarts: Captain Marvel (who figured prominently in last week's Comic Art Friday presentation also) and Amazing Man.

Will Everett, better known as Amazing Man, is a relatively obscure yet fascinating superhero who first appeared in the delightfully nostalgic series All-Star Squadron, published by DC Comics in the early 1980s. Writer Roy Thomas borrowed the code name of an otherwise unrelated Golden Age hero for this character, who was based in part on 1930s Olympic track star Jesse Owens. Introduced as a villain, the new Amazing Man quickly saw the error of his ways and became a force for truth and justice as a member of the All-Star Squadron, fighting alongside such classic heroes as the original Hawkman and Atom during the World War II era.

In the 1990s, the now-aged Will Everett died of cancer. His grandson Will III picked up the Amazing Man mantle — along with his grandfather's power to transform his molecular structure into any kind of matter — and joined the Justice League. Although the latest Amazing Man hasn't been seen in some time, rumor has it that he may resurface soon in the current Justice Society of America series.

Even superheroes are not immune to the ravages of cancer. Those who battle this deadly disease every day, however — whether in their own bodies or on the battlefield of medical science — are real-life heroes in my book. May all their efforts succeed.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 01, 2007

This one's not just for the ladies

October, this year as every year, is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I'm not much of a cause or campaign guy. I make one exception, and this is it. Regular SSTOL visitors know that my wife KJ is a breast cancer survivor (first diagnosed in September 2000) who's currently fighting a metastatic form of the disease. With one American woman in eight afflicted by this scourge, chances are that someone you know and love either has had breast cancer... or will.

Plead with the women in your life to learn self-examination techniques, and apply them rigorously. It's not just a matter for older women — KJ was first diagnosed at 34, by which time her tumor had probably been growing for several years.

If you're a woman, check yourself. Early and often. We love you, and want you to stick around awhile.

If you have a few extra bucks in your pocket this month, you could do worse than donating them to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, or the breast cancer research entity of your choice. Your sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, wives, and lovers will thank you.

Let's find a cure. Soon.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bell-ringing day

Congratulations to KJ, who completed her course of radiation treatment today.

She received a handsome "graduation" certificate (suitable for framing, and with a lovely patina finish) and a hearty round of applause from the staff at the Cancer Center. In celebration, she got to ring the brass bell in the office lobby, signaling that she had finished her therapy.

This is, of course, merely the second step — the April surgery to implant a titanium rod in her left femur was the first — in what is likely to be a lifelong battle against the metastasis of her breast cancer. From here, she'll continue on oral antihormonal drugs, and undergo frequent monitoring scans to keep a watchful eye out for further developments.

But, for today, having the daily radiation phase behind her represents a major accomplishment, and a chance to breathe a sigh of momentary relief.

We're all proud of her here.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pardon the interruption...

Dang, I've been away for a while. Sorry about that.

To make a long story as brief as possible, we had a ton of stuff go down this past week plus. Sad to admit, SSTOL fell low on the priority list.

KJ was readmitted to the hospital last Thursday due to a serious postsurgical infection. Her surgeon had to take her back into the operating room to (a) reopen the original site where the rod was installed in her femur, (b) clean out the infective material, and (c) reseal the incision. KJ then spent the next several days getting pumped full of IV antibiotics, under the watchful oversight of a local infectious disease specialist.

She's at home now, and will continue to get the antibiotic infusion twice daily for the next six weeks. I hook her up to a little infusion module every morning and evening. (You know it's serious when someone trusts me to administer drugs.) It takes about two hours for each infusion to work its way into her bloodstream. She still feels lousy, but is somewhat better than the nadir she fell into before the most recent hospitalization.

Ah, cancer. It's a long haul.

Believe me, you don't even want to know the other junk we've been wading through. As someone once observed, poop rolls downhill, and we're living in the valley.

Anyway, I'm back on task, and I owe you a Comic Art Friday. I'm busily working on it now. Drop back by in a few hours for all the superheroic goodness.

Oh, and thanks for all the kind e-mails and prayers. We'll take 'em.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 13, 2007

This female fights back!

First, a much-overdue note of appreciation to all of you who have e-mailed with kind thoughts for my wife KJ. Her surgery went well, but her rebound is proving considerably more difficult than she anticipated. At this writing, she is still in the hospital, though the surgeon is hopeful that she'll be strong enough to come home tomorrow. Our house is a-bustle with activity right now, with a hospital bed being installed and a ramp being built and furniture being rearranged in preparation for KJ's homecoming.

Second, I'm sorry I haven't been posting much this week. But I know you understand why.

For today's Comic Art Friday, we'll salute KJ's valiant struggle toward physical normalcy with a couple of images of another of my favorite fighting women, Ms. Marvel.

As I've written on other occasions, Ms. Marvel's 1977 debut marked the first appearance in Marvel Comics of a female superhero with a physical power level to rival the company's male heavy hitters. By this point in history, DC had already had 37 years of Wonder Woman, and a couple of decades of Supergirl. By contrast, most of Marvel's front-line heroines — Invisible Girl, Wasp, Scarlet Witch — were distance attackers and defensive specialists, not pugilists. Ms. Marvel entered the scene with power to burn, and a decidedly feminist spin (at least, as feminist a spin as could be expected from middle-aged 1970s men). The cover of her premiere issue came emblazoned with the tagline, "This Female Fights Back!" And indeed, she did.

In the sketch below, artist Matt Haley — whose most prominent recent work has been the Superman Returns movie tie-in comic — sends the Woman Warrior aloft in her original classic costume.

Our second Ms. Marvel image marks Daniel B. Veesenmeyer's return to the comic art scene after a lengthy hiatus. Dan, who's actually worked more in the fields of film storyboarding and animation than in print comics, told me that this was the first superhero pinup he'd drawn in about three years. As I'm sure you'll agree, his potent rendering skills remain undimmed.

Mr. Veesenmeyer is currently working on a new addition to my Common Elements theme gallery — which, of course, you'll see on a future Comic Art Friday.

Gotta dash — it's that kind of week. Thanks for stopping by, and please keep the positive energy and prayers coming KJ's direction. Like Ms. Marvel, she's one female who fights back... even against the invisible enemy called cancer.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 09, 2007

Doing our part to keep doctors in BMWs

We'll return you to our usual pop cultural frivolity in a moment, but first, this medical update.

Thanks to all of you who've e-mailed to wish KJ well in her latest battle with The Big C. I'd assemble you all for a group hug if it were technically feasible. She and I both appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers more than we can say.

Today at 3:30 p.m. PDT, KJ will be undergoing a surgical procedure intended to stabilize her fractured thighbone where the tumor has weakened it. A very fine orthopedic surgeon will bolt a steel rod to the femur as a brace, with screws through the fracture to hold the bone together. This will help prevent further breaking, eliminate the intense pain she's been experiencing, and provide a sound platform for healing as the tumor itself is treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

As always, KJ's attitude going into the surgery is positive and strong. We have great confidence in her medical team, and know that she'll come through this first step in her treatment with flying colors.

To complete the picture, KJ's recent full-body scans didn't turn up any additional cancer sites aside from the main tumor on her upper femur, and a couple of smaller loci on her pelvis of which we'd already been made aware. So that's the good news.

I'll keep you posted.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

The way of the wind

Life can be described as a roller coaster ride between joy and heartache. We’ve experienced that ride acutely at our house in the past few days.

First, the joy.

Our only child became a legal adult yesterday. Happy 18th, KM.

Although my memory for events is spotty at best and practically nonexistent at worst, I can recall vividly the moments surrounding my daughter's birth on the Saturday before Easter 1989:
  • My wife's doctor, summoned urgently to the hospital from a supermarket errand — she literally left a cart filled with Easter dinner fixings stranded in the aisle at Safeway — thrusting her head into the delivery room to ask whether she had time to change clothes, only to be told by the attending nurse, "Just barely."

  • The seemingly eternal seconds as the doctor labored to free the umbilical cord that had looped around the baby's neck as she made her way toward daylight.

  • All of the sights, sounds, and smells of the delivery room, from KM's first cry, to the eerie flesh-cutting noise the scissors made in my hand as they dug into and through her umbilical cord.
I can scarcely believe that 18 years have flown past. And even though I realize that this squirming infant whose tiny hand clutched the edge of the scale as she weighed in for the first time has now blossomed into a lovely, intelligent, funny, and curious young woman, it baffles me how it could have happened so quickly.

KJ and I have shared many laughs with — and many tears — for our daughter. We have watched with fascination and trepidation as she has grown and matured. And we could hardly be more proud of the person she has become.

And then, the heartbreak.

On Thursday afternoon, a call from the oncologist confirmed our fears — that the leg pain KJ has suffered for the past few weeks is the result of a metastasis, located in her left hipbone, of the breast cancer for which she was treated six and a half years ago.

As clearly as I recall our daughter’s birth, I remember with equal vividness that day in the fall of 2000 when we first learned that my wife had cancer.

I remember the horror on her face as the surgeon broke the news to her over the telephone.

I remember the blood pounding behind my eardrums as the doctor repeated the diagnosis to me.

And I remember:
  • The two surgeries: first the biopsy, then the radical mastectomy.

  • The numerous physician visits during which I scribbled furiously in my little brown notebook words that I hoped would make sense later.

  • The interminably long hours at the infusion center while KJ received her chemotherapy treatments.

  • Leafing through countless magazines in endless waiting rooms.

  • The terror of a dire present and an inscrutable future.
A very long time ago, a wise king summarized human existence with these words:
In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Truly the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; but if a man lives many years and rejoices in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. (Ecclesiastes 11:6-8)
The abridged version: Life is uncertain, kid. You've gotta accept the bad with the good.

As a father, I have expansive hopes for my newly adult daughter. I hope that the Lord grants her a long, healthy, and happy life. I hope that she someday finds a great love with a worthy man. I hope that she finds joy and inspiration in all of her pursuits. I hope that she chooses to serve the God who made her faithfully all the days of her life.

Likewise, as a husband, I have expansive hopes for my wife. I hope that she triumphs over this dreaded disease again, even as she did — by God's grace — six years ago. I hope that she, too, will enjoy yet many joyful years of life. I hope that she will live to see all of our hopes for our beloved daughter realized.

Whether any of my hopes for my wife and daughter will be realized, I do not know:
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
All I can do is pray.

Thanks for listening, friend reader. I promise you something less serious tomorrow.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Think pink

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As the husband of a six-year breast cancer survivor, this cause hits close to home. So indulge me for just a moment.

If you're a woman over 40, don't skip your mammograms, or your annual checkups.

If you're a woman of any age — KJ was diagnosed at 34 — learn to self-examine, and be diligent about it. Learn what your risk factors are. Educate yourself.

If you're not a woman, but you love one, read her the preceding two paragraphs, and make certain that she listens. Encourage your wives, female significant others, daughters, sisters, and mothers to educate themselves.

Whoever you are, pray for a cure.

Thanks for listening. We now return you to our regularly scheduled folderol.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

We'll miss Wendie Jo

KJ and I were sorry to hear that comedienne and actress Wendie Jo Sperber lost her eight-year battle with breast cancer. Sources disagree as to her age, but she was in her mid-40s.

Sperber was ubiquitous on TV and in films during the 1980s, in a lot of what might be stereotypically referred to as "funny fat girl" roles. She was probably best known as one of the female housemates in Bosom Buddies, the sitcom that launched Tom Hanks's career, and as Michael J. Fox's sister in the Back to the Future trilogy. My favorite of her roles was as Hanks's straitlaced physician sister who finally cuts loose in Bachelor Party.

Wendie Jo became a relentless crusader against breast cancer after her diagnosis in 1997. She helped found the weSPARK Cancer Support Center, which provides an array of free services to women with breast cancer and their families. Her personal struggle with the disease —which she survived far longer than her original prognosis indicated — was inspirational to countless women fighting the same battle.

Our hearts go out to Wendie Jo's family and friends.

Let's find a cure for this doggoned thing. Soon.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Towers of Power

Today, Comic Art Friday reminds you that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As the husband of a five-year breast cancer survivor, I can't stress enough how desperately the world needs a cure for this pernicious disease. If you have a few extra dollars burning a hole in your pocket this week, consider making a donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation — good people doing good work in support of women.

Of every eight American women, one will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. That one could be your wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, friend, lover… or yourself. Learn to self-examine. Discuss your personal risk factors with your doctor. And urge all the women in your life to do likewise.

Speaking of breasts...

When the conversation turns to the subject of breasts in comics, sooner or later the focus points (no pun intended) to Power Girl.

In today's post-Comics Code industry, female characters with imposing grillwork appear at almost every turn. But in the kinder, gentler days of comics' Bronze Age — the 1970s — most superheroines sported a sleeker, nothing-above-a-C-cup look. Power Girl was a noteworthy exception. From her debut in the pages of DC Comics' mid-'70s revival of the original superteam, the Justice Society of America, unto this very day, Power Girl has always been drawn with a set of mammary appendages that would make a porn starlet jealous.

Credit for PG's most prominent design feature goes to Wally Wood, one of comics' greatest artists and co-creator of Power Girl (along with writer Gerry Conway — now one of the producers of Law & Order: Criminal Intent — and pencil artist Ric Estrada). Wood, a man possessed of both a talent for depicting the feminine figure and a wicked sense of humor, decided that he would give his creation increasingly abundant bosoms every time she appeared, until someone on the DC editorial staff took notice and ordered him to stop. According to legend, several issues passed before Wood's editor finally said, "Woody, what the heck are you doing to Power Girl?"

But Power Girl's Brobdingnagian breasts remained.

The twin towers of Karen Starr (Power Girl's secret identity) are fully in evidence in this pinup by longtime Legion of Super-Heroes artist Jeffrey Moy. She's teamed here with the man who gave Nicolas Cage his name: Luke Cage, Power Man.

Give a group of knowledgeable fanboys the task of naming the artists who draw the cutest girls in comics, and Jeff Moy will likely appear on many of the resulting lists. Although he mostly works in the video game industry today, Moy's long run on the Legion saga remains a fond memory for aficionados of that venerable supergroup.

Here's Karen again, this time rendered by the charming pencils of up-and-coming talent Brian Shearer, creator of the delightfully clever GravyBoy series.

I like the way Brian manages to lend Power Girl a certain buxom quality without robbing her of her athleticism or making her look disproportionately top-heavy, as many artists are wont to do. Brian's subtly whimsical style works nicely with a character whose appearance started as an artist's inside joke.

We round out our Power-fest with this gorgeous portrait by Robb Phipps, here borrowing a page from the sketchbook of the reigning king of "good girl" artists, Adam Hughes.

It's worth mentioning that Power Girl was originally intended to be an alternate-universe version of Supergirl. Over the years, PG's backstory has suffered from the mucking about of a host of writers, such that it's now completely unclear who she really is or what her origins are. Fortunately for Power Girl fans, writer Geoff Johns and artists Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are making an entertaining attempt to resolve poor Karen's continuity problems in the current storyline of JSA Classified, a comic I recommend with enthusiasm to fans of Power Girl, and of classically styled superhero stories in general.

That's your Comic Art Friday. Remember: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Spread the news to the women you love.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The girl with kaleidoscope eyes

In a sad bit of news, Lucy Richardson, who nearly four decades ago inspired the Beatles hit Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, has died of breast cancer at the age of 47.

John Lennon wrote the now-famous lyrics in playful response to a drawing made by his son Julian, who had a youthful crush on the girl whose family owned an antique shop in Weybridge, Surrey, England.

Lucy Richardson grew up to be a successful motion picture art director, with such films as Elizabeth, The Saint, and Chocolat among her flashier credits.

Now, I suppose, she really is in the sky with diamonds.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Alicia's Story

The next time you're sitting around feeling sorry for yourself because of some infinitesimal irritant that's been nagging at you, go read Alicia's Story.

Alicia Rose Parlette is a copy editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. She was recently diagnosed with a metastatic alveolar soft part sarcoma, which has spread from a mass in her right hip to her lungs and one breast. The cancer is so rare that fewer than 200 cases are diagnosed each year.

Alicia Parlette is 23 years old.

This week, the Chronicle published a seven-part series of narratives written by Alicia, recording her thoughts beginning with the discovery of the lump that in turn led to her diagnosis.

If you don't need a box of Kleenex before you're halfway through the series, the undertaker is on his way to your house right now.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Girls' day out

Today is International Women's Day. Show your appreciation. Hug a woman. (With her permission, of course.)

I will confess that, until I saw the logo on Google today while looking up something or other, I did not know that today was International Women's Day. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I did not know there was an International Women's Day. I have known women pretty much all my life — and in several nations, I hasten to add — and not one of them had mentioned this observance to me before.

Was it supposed to be a secret? Is this what women are covertly planning when they all get up and go to the washroom together? Is there something I'm supposed to be doing today to demonstrate that I, although certifiably not a woman, am down with the sisters? Is there an appropriate International Women's Day gift? (Perhaps a donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation — an organization that I, as the husband of a breast cancer survivor, heartily endorse — would be in order.)

If you, as I, wonder what the whole business is about (though I presume that our female readers probably know this already, having been in on the planning), there's a detailed explanation at Wikipedia.

Whatever the case, today, we at SSTOL salute women everywhere. Many — indeed, most — of our favorite people are women. And we love you all.

You go, girls. We hear you roar.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 04, 2004

You thought you had a rough day...

Yesterday morning, Elizabeth Edwards's husband John, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, conceded the race for the second-highest position in U.S. government.

Yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There are things more important than who votes for whom. KJ and I wish the Edwards family strength for the fight that really matters.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, but keep spreading the word.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

You owe it to the women you love — and if you're a woman, include yourself in that number — to learn all you can about this scourge that will affect one in every eight American women. The folks listed below would love to share with you what they've learned. The life you help save may be your wife's, your daughter's, your mother's, your grandmother's, or even your own.As with all forms of cancer, early detection and treatment is crucial. Women of all ages need to learn self-examination techniques, and to discuss with their physicians their possible risk factors. Women age 40 and over, and younger women who are otherwise at risk due to familial history or other indicators (your doctor can help you decide), should get mammograms annually.

Four years ago last month, my wife was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. At the time, she was 34 years old. Thanks to prompt surgical, chemotherapeutic, and radiation treatment — and hundreds of prayers — KJ today is in remission and in excellent health. Trust me on this — I've done a lot of difficult things in my lifetime, but none tougher than telling my 11-year-old daughter that her mother had cancer. I pray you never have to have that conversation with someone you love. But until the day when we can say breast cancer has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, education is the most effective weapon we have.

And if you've a few extra bucks lining your wallet this week, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Coalition will put them to excellent use.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Yo ho, yo ho, the writer's life for me

Someone (and you know who you are) asked me today why I don't blog about my work. Since inquiring minds want to know, let's chat about it for a bit.

The primary reason I don't blog about work should be obvious to any SSTOL reader: I blog as an alternative to my daily grind, not for the purpose of reliving it. I'm a hired pen — all right, hired keyboard, if you want to get nitpicky. Although I enjoy copywriting immensely, I'm writing what I'm paid to write, not necessarily what I might choose to write about. This blog is an outlet for the myriad random thoughts that come pinwheeling out of my skull in and around the mercenary gigs.

Second, I learned early in my freelancing career (and repeatedly since) to be rather circumspect about the specifics of my work. It's not like I'm writing classified documents or anything like that; it's just that some of the entities for whom I work prefer that I not broadcast the nature of the work I do for them. Fair enough — if they pay the invoices on time, they're entitled to a modicum of discretion. Most of my clients are advertising and marketing agencies, whose creative abilities are their stock in trade. It just so happens that, in certain instances, their creative prowess is, at least to some degree, mine. So my copywriting practice is like Fight Club: the first rule is, don't talk about it. Rule Two: See Rule One.

(Sidebar: Quite a few freelance copywriters market themselves mostly to businesses that will access their writing services directly. It just happens that my client base has evolved so that I get mostly agency work. I actually prefer it that way, because I don't have to do as much self-marketing, and I have a smaller and more personal client base to manage. I have a whole stack of marketing brochures that I printed a year ago for a mass mailing I intended to do, and I've yet to need to send them out. My agency clients take excellent care of me, and I'm grateful that they do most of the prospecting...mainly because I suck at it.)

There's a third reason beyond the above: As interesting as my work is to do, it's not all that interesting to discuss. Listening to someone talk about writing is a little like watching chess: Monumental brainwave activity may be going on, but there's not a great deal of visual excitement for the spectator. Plus, I can't explain my process. I sit down with the necessary background information, stare into my 19" Envision monitor — sometimes momentarily, occasionally for hours — and eventually my fingers start tapping. I can't tell you how I write any more than a hen can tell you how she lays eggs. She squats, and eggs appear. I type, and words appear.

But all that aside, since you asked, here's what I have on my plate right now:
  • A brochure for a hospital's new breast cancer facility (a topic near and dear to my heart, as the husband of a breast cancer survivor).
  • The holiday advertising mailer for a kitchenware company.
  • An array of feature articles and press releases.
  • Some marketing materials for a medical services company.
  • A set of ads for an accounting firm.
  • A newsletter for a public library system.
  • A Web site for a business services company.
  • A Web site for a law firm. This one is the only direct client in the bunch (an interesting story, that, but I'll wait until the project is over to tell it). All the other projects are assignments from my beloved agency clients.
All this, plus a stack of reviews to edit for DVD Verdict, and the weekly battery of materials I prepare for church.

There's yin and yang to everything. Being a self-employed writer can be a sporadic means of ensuring one's material living. The hardest part of freelancing for me in the beginning was learning to live without a biweekly paycheck that arrives like clockwork. You have to enjoy being by yourself — which I do, more than most people. You have to be self-motivating, which isn't much of an issue for me because I like to eat, and to sleep knowing the utility bills got paid this month, and to not live in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass. You have to enjoy the sometimes arduous, frustrating, and mindbending process of writing, which I love as much as life itself — which some of you tell me is reflected in this blog.

On the positive side:
  • I like my independence.
  • I like commuting to an office that's ten feet from my living room.
  • I like drinking my morning coffee in the security and quiet of my own surroundings.
  • I like driving my daughter to school in the morning, having my dog snoozing at my feet while I work, and occasionally having dinner ready when my wife gets home.
  • I like being able to do things more or less when I feel like doing them, deadlines permitting.
  • I like working in a T-shirt and sweats.
  • I like not having to make small talk.
  • I like being sought out and valued as a specialist in my field, rather than devalued and taken for granted as an employee.
  • I like being able to say "No thanks" to work I don't want to do. (I don't always, sometimes for fiscal reasons but more often because I like helping my regular clients, but the point is that I can say "no" if I so decide. Self-determination is an illusion, but the illusion is a wonderful thing.)
  • I like knowing that, most of the time, success and failure depends on my own abilities, and not on decisions made by people who couldn't pour water out of a glass if directions were printed on the bottom. I've worked for two companies that went bankrupt because the people who ran them did things I wouldn't have done were I in charge. If I fail as an independent contractor, it's no one's darn fault but mine.
Now, aren't you glad I don't write about work more?

Labels: , , , ,