Thursday, July 29, 2010

My 15 minutes is up

It appears the former home online of my "366 Days" project has closed shop. The late great, abandoned in 2009 by its creators in favor of, is no longer live to the interwebs. Since none of those stories is likely to see the light of day otherwise, I've decided to repost them here, once per week, as a sort of "best of" collection. Since my 15 minutes of fame passed away at PCityLive, we'll start with this tale of a future that's closer than you might think:

Andy, Where’s My 15 Minutes?

She answered the door in her rollers and housecoat. Who’d she have to impress these days? And the lights came up and she heard the familiar theme music, and even before she could cry, “Oh My Gawd!” the cameras pressed in on her, mics hovered, and androgynous people shook her hands, touched her curlers, pushed past her into the apartment.

Andy Warhol wore blue surgical gloves to shake the tips of her fingers. He threw the hand back over his shoulder and an assistant snapped those gloves off and a second pair onto his hand with practiced efficiency.

“Time?” he said.

“Fourteen fifty one.”

Andy swooped into the living room, pointing at the shelves of salt shakers arranged behind glass. He pointed at the 3V, where a smaller version of himself pointed at a 3V image of himself pointing at a 3V image of himself, into submicroscopic infinity.

“Look, I’m on the television,” he said. “I’m not just half-here, I’m here and a half!”

The cameras panned as he framed the woman of the house in his hands like a director framing a shot and said, “Agnes Ida Marzipan …”

“Mariposia,” she said.

“This is your fifteen minutes!”

Applause erupted all around from the speakers carried by some of the sexless persons now circling the living room. Agnes whirled and fluttered her hands in front of her face.

“Oh, I just love this show!”

“Of course you do.”

Everyone on earth watched the Andy Show. Every quarter hour an Andy-droid and its crew entered another random residence somewhere on the planet. Wherever humans were awake, and sometimes in places where they slept, there was always a chance of being the next person to claim his fifteen ticks of the clock. The machinery was always going, even when they slept.

“Tell me everything, darling,” Andy said, settling onto Agnes’ couch with a flourish and an assistant’s hastily-placed sanitary towel. “Quickly, though. I’m superficial.”

Agnes perched close beside him and giggled. She clutched the hems of her housecoat and straightened the cloth. She opened her mouth.

“I love what you’ve done with the place,” Andy said, and some of the assistants suppressed giggles of their own. “It’s so natural and historic, like a museum of things that people don’t need to have.”

“Oh, ah,” said Agnes. “Thank you?”

“You’re welcome!”

The speakers roared with applause, which echoed on the 3V. Andy stood and circled the room. He paused at the hallway and rested his chin on the back of one hand. He rested an elbow on an arm he wrapped around his chest.

“Time?” he said.

“Thirteen twenty.”

“Ida Marginalia,” Andy said, motioning her to come to him.

“Mariposia,” she said.

“What an interesting name you have dear. Show me everything.”

He indicated the hallway. She paused as she passed him, looking for the cameras, but they were everywhere. There was one floating in the hallway already. It tracked her as she led him and the entourage, pointing out the bathroom — “What lovely towels! So absorbent and functional!” — and then to her bedroom, where an assistant threw a white drop cloth over the bed and Andy flung himself down. He patted the edge of the bed, and Agnes blushed. She checked her housecoat, touched her rollers nervously. She perched on the very edge of the bed and folded her hands in her lap.


“Ten eighteen.”

“So, Mrs. Marijuana …”

“Marzipan - I mean -”

“Agnes. Don’t be so nervous. We’re all people here, aren’t we? And some more than others.”

“I guess so, Mr. Warhol.”

“Please, call me Andy. Everyone does.”

“I’m nervous, Andy.”

“I said don’t be. It’s not like we’re going to do anything. And not doing it is so much more exciting, don’t you think?”

She shook her head, not because she disagreed with him, but because she didn’t know what else to do. She looked around the room at all the beautiful people, the floating cameras, the lights, the hovering microphones. It was all too real. Her eyes landed on a photograph.

“Andy, that’s my husband there. He passed in ‘32.”

Andy rose from the bed like a specter and bent to look at the old 2D picture. A camera zoomed in to get the shot.

“The late Mr. Maharaja,” said Andy. “Are you sure he isn’t just out at a department store?”

“His name was Melvin,” she said.

“Is that what it says on his tombstone? I want mine to say ‘Figment.’”

She started to rise, one hand to her mouth. She was beginning to realize that this wasn’t what she had expected, though she had watched the Andy Show all her life. She felt a flash of anger.


“Seven twelve.”

Andy glided to the door and into the hall and the beautiful people swarmed after him. Agnes watched him retreating and knew her time was running out. What else would he ask? Where else would he pry?

“Kitchen!” he announced.

Agnes felt her embarrassment escalate. She’d not cleaned the kitchen since her supper, and he would find a mess in there to transmit to the world.

She reached in her bedside table and grabbed what she kept in there.

“Andy, wait! I have something else to show you!”

She pushed through the mass of pale, tall people in the hall and found Andy sitting it the little table in her breakfast nook. An assistant was dropping a white apron over his head. It had a Campbell’s soup can logo on the front.

“Yes dear?”

Agnes leveled the old revolver at Andy and pulled the trigger. Gasps and screams came out of the speakers floating behind her. A couple of the assistants fainted. She fired again and again, putting three holes in Andy’s chest. Fluids and sparks popped out, smoke rose from his mouth.

“Not again,” he said.

Agnes screeched. “You’re plastic!”

He patted the dripping fluids, and coughed a smoke ring into the air. “I always wanted to be plastic.”

One of the assistants took the gun from Agnes. “Fifteen!” he called, and everyone turned to the door.

Helped by others of the entourage, Andy stumbled past Agnes, trailing smoke and dripping something milky onto the floor.

“This must be what life is like,” he said.

The door shut behind them and Agnes stood alone in her apartment. On the 3V, another Andy-droid was walking into someone’s tent in the refugee camps outside St. Louis.

Agnes sat on the couch and reached for the remote. She turned the sound up.

It was her favorite show.

(c) 2010 by Tony Simmons

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some links and a tale of runaway dogs

Here's my column from Sunday's paper regarding the 50th anniversary of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Here's my blog on about my observations while waiting for the courthouse to open Monday morning.

Here's a rewritten version of my "Batwoman: Elegy" review.

And here's a story I probably should have kept to myself:

St. Anthony and the Runaway Dogs

It’s possible to earn someone’s praise when you don’t deserve it. It’s especially guilt-inducing, however, when you know someone else kept the faith while you were ready to give up.

I had such a moment recently after two stray dogs showed up in our front yard. We had been working in the back yard and heard the dogs barking when they cornered our cat near the privacy fence. They were friendly pups, however. One had no collar, and the other had a collar but no tag. I tried to run them off, but my wife saw they were panting rapidly, overheated on this dry 90-degree day, and she got them a big bowl full of water.

“We need to find their home,” she said, and I looked at the afternoon sun. If we lost much time seeking the owners, then we’d never finish our project, I said.

But there’s no arguing when she gets that certain look in her eye, so I got the leashes for our dogs and put them on the strays, and we started walking door to door in our cul-de-sac. We were pretty sure the pooches had no ties to one of our immediate neighbors, and that turned out to be true. I suggested calling Animal Control.

“One more block,” my wife said.

We crossed a State Avenue to try to the opposite cul-de-sac, with exactly the same luck. The sun was dropping lower. I suggested these dogs could have come from literally anywhere. We could spend the rest of the evening at this, and we were planning to leave town the next day — the dogs would have to go to a shelter soon.

“One more street,” she said.

We loaded the dogs into the back of my truck, and my wife sat with them as we drove to the next block over. Some kids playing in a yard said they had seen the dogs earlier, and they thought the duo may have come from a house on the next block to the north.

We drove there, where a woman watering her lawn told us she had seen the dogs running through traffic north-to-south. She wished us luck.

We could do this for hours, I said to my wife. I was convinced we were wasting our time. We should just call Animal Control, I said.

“Just one more house,” she said.

We drove to the next block to the north and stopped at the first house. A woman who answered the door told me she didn’t recognize the dogs, but she thought the neighbor across the street had one that was similar. Just one more house, I thought. I knocked on this door, and the man who responded said he was pretty sure the next house over had dogs like those two.

“Just one more house,” I said.

The young woman who answered the door this time barely had time to say hello before she spotted the taller of the two dogs sitting by my wife in the bed of the truck. She called to her mother that someone had brought their dogs home. We learned later that some workers had left their back gate open and the dogs had gone exploring.

“I’ve been praying to St. Anthony to bring my dogs home,” the second woman said. (Among many other jobs, Anthony is the patron saint of lost articles, the seekers of lost articles, and animals.)

“Well,” I said, looking away, “my name’s Anthony, but I’m no saint.”


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Superman and Wonder Woman

...sittin' in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g...But not really. I just thought it was funny.


DC Comics sends me preview/review materials from time to time, and when I like something I write about it. Recently, DC sent me copies of Superman No. 700 and Wonder Woman No. 600. (Those numbers supposedly reflect the number of times their comics have published since their inception, because both of them have had relaunches over the years and their current series are far from the double-naughts shown.) Both issues are "event" issues, good jumping-on points for people who don't normally read their books. I'd be amazed if such a thing actually worked; that is, that regular monthly readership significantly increased beyond the special issues, even though both of them herald a "bold, new" direction for their titular stars.

That's because I find the "bold, new" directions kind of lame and old instead.

In Superman's book, the Man of Steel has been off-planet for a while saving the universe. He comes back to earth and during a press conference or something a woman slaps him in the face and blames him for not being on Earth when her husband was dying of a brain tumor. She seems to think a guy who has a journalism degree from Metropolis U could have used his X-ray vision and heat vision to perform surgery. Okay, so he's pretty smart, but let's face it: Superman is no brain surgeon. Anyway, her anger guilts him into thinking that maybe he doesn't spend enough time among the little people, so he decides to walk across America and get back in touch with folks on the ground.

OK, I'll buy that. Could make for interesting stories, I guess. I mean, it worked for several seasons of The Incredible Hulk. And it even worked for a 12-issue mini series called "Midnight Nation" written by J. Michael Straczinski (of Babylon 5) back in the 1990s. The same guy who's writing this 12-issue arc of Superman. So, the idea is neither bold nor new, not for the writer or the reader. Add to this, however, the fact that DC is promoting this "epic" by asking people to write a short essay to enter their hometowns in a contest: Superman could visit YOUR TOWN during his journey. Small print: Any town within 50 miles of a handful of specific major cities is eligible, and NONE of those cities is a Southern state. So, apparently, Superman loves the USA so long as its north of the Mason-Dixon or west of Texas.

I would think DC could find something for Supes to do along the Gulf Coast this year. He could at least get into an argument with Aquaman somewhere out among the oil soaked beaches. Or maybe he could walk through Oklahoma City; this is, after all, the 15th anniversary year of the bombing there. But no, he'll go to Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle, and so on.


Diana Prince, who was enough of a feminist icon to be featured on the cover of Ms. Magazine back in the day, is now considered more up-to-date by putting her in black pants, a red bustier, and a tiny Members Only jacket (see below). Loads of geek sites have had their say, and many poked fun listing all the ways this is NOT a costume for today (hit all those links for examples), as it went out of style in comics back in the 1990s. And I have to ask you: If they dressed Superman in black pants and a red shirt and a blue jacket, would you recognize him? I'm thinking this is a way to establish a costume that will translate to a "serious" movie, much as they took Wolverine out of his yellow Spandex and put him in black leather for the X-men films.

So yeah, sometimes it ain't easy to be a DC fanboy. But then, it's not like I was buying either of these comics anyway.  

Of the two issues they provided, I enjoyed the WW better. Both had three short storylines written and illustrated by creators with a tie to the characters, but whereas the Superman issue seemed more of a disjointed hodgepodge used to fill space ("Gosh, we have a special issue coming up; what do we have sitting around that we could shove into it?") the WW issue had super-special all over it, with several full-page mini-posters by some of the best artists in the business, stories that tied loose ends in the Amazon's ongoing continuity, and a strange lead-in to the "altered time line" that gives us the all-new, less powerful, "I don't know who I am" cliche of a super heroine. Yeah, the final third of the book leaves me cynical and cold, but that opening sequence by George Perez is pretty cool.

Here's a preview of Superman 700 in case you're interested (pdf format).

Here's a preview of Wonder Woman 600 (also a pdf) but it doesn't get to the new costume/alternative history.

And just for chuckles, here's a preview of Batman 700, which I have not read and can't comment on. 

Thus ends the rant. For now.
Got any thoughts? Preferences? Read any good comics lately?