“Farewell to a Poor Bastard”

This photograph is from the book Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels. It depicts five comics artists who founded a new era and style of autobiographical narrative: Adrian Tomine, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. After I purchased this wonderful book and first saw this photograph, I could have fainted. I have just about everything each of them has ever published. Each of these artists has altered how I regard literature, art, and life.

Joe Matt is the fellow on the right. He seemed to disappear a few years ago, to the point that his books were no longer available from Drawn & Quarterly. I asked one of the owners of Olympia, Washington’s Danger Room Comics (you must go there!) what was going on with Joe Matt, and he told me that Seth (second from right, above) stays in touch with him; this seemed to me a courteous and circumspect way to indicate that Matt was not doing well.

Jeet Heer’s goodbye to his friend Joe Matt in The Nation, “Farewell to a Poor Bastard,” is beautiful and right.

‘Holy Cow Look at Me Now’

Miles, Colby, Luke, and Alie Basil at NICU reunion.

Kristi Coulter

My friend Kristi Coulter and I go back a ways – to the old Usenet newsgroup days of the early 90s, particularly the newsgroup alt.music.alternative.female, where her insights enlightened me and her prose style thrilled me. In 1997 I asked her to write for a project I was starting called Ellavon: An ezine of basic culture. My editor’s input into her work consisted of never having a single thing to change in her submissions – nothing, literally nothing, not even a comma (something that had never happened before or since in my career as a professional editor) – and then asking her for another piece.

Kristi’s career as a published writer went quiet for awhile after Ellavon was put on hiatus, but she was very busy professionally otherwise, editing AllMusic.com and then working in a variety of roles at Amazon, which is the topic of her second book, Exit Interview: The Life and Death of My Ambitious Career.

The book received a very laudatory prepublication review in the New York Times:

And here’s a very fun interview in The Stranger, Seattle’s famous alternative weekly:


My sister-in-law kept calling until I finally answered. She said, “Turn on CNN.” I did, just as the second tower came crashing down. I thought there must have been sleep in my eyes, so I went and washed my face.

Fall term …

… starts today at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I have 85 new students, and life is very good.

Basil DocTalk

I am very proud of my son!

The Nashville Basils

For my birthday my grandson Colby sent me his first Polaroid photos. I am feeling very lucky and grateful today.

The artist himself:

Glosses and paraphrases

Rick Beato’s recent interview with Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA focused as much on AI technology as on the creation of ABBA’s songs and records. The co-writer of “Waterloo,” “SOS,” and “Dancing Queen” was mostly sanguine – indeed, enthusiastic – about artificial intelligence’s likely effect on human creativity generally and on musical composition specifically. (Ulvaeus – who is president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – has some intelligent prescriptions for handing copyright and royalty protections in this new era, too.) It’s an edifying interview.

And it inspired me. I have been figuring out ways to adapt to ChatGPT’s presence in my students’ academic lives – and in my own writerly life. There is certainly no way around it.

Regarding students, I have been reading Ethan Mollick’s Substack blog, “One Useful Thing,” closely. Mollick is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who is “trying to understand what our new AI-haunted era means for work and education.” A recent piece called “Now is the time for grimoires” explains how “large language models” like ChatGPT can be used by students as mentors, tutors, and coaches via “spells” or “grimoires” – remember Harry Potter! – that is, via precisely constructed “prompts” that spur truly useful interactions between AI and students. (I was turned out to Mollick, by the way, by a marvellously inventive third-year student of mine this summer.)

Regarding my own stuff, this week I have been experimenting with ChatGPT by prompting the platform to rewrite some formerly published work of mine in the style of other writers whose books line my shelves. The results were immensely illuminating and fun to read.

I chose my 2002 piece “Pigeon Park Sentences.” Here you can see the piece with glosses and paraphrases by AI versions of Henry James, Louis Zukofsky, and Andrea Dworkin.

Why I prefer women’s sports

Out and about today

God bless this mighty spirit

The first time I saw Sinéad O’Connor I was with my friend Joseph at his Buffalo apartment, watching the Grammy Awards on television. After she was done, we just kind of looked at each other, stunned. I wondered, “Is that even allowed?” – my way of acknowledging that I had just experienced something brand new to me, and something truly important.

Even the memory of her singing this song … still stops me in my tracks.

Glionna from Italy

My friend John Glionna has been spending the summer in his ancestors’ home town in Italy, working on a book about the people there. One of the joys of this writer is the way he lets us see rough drafts of the book’s chapters emerge on his terrific blog. His “Pomarica Journal” is dazzling, vivid with the voices of others and with Glionna’s profound friendliness (and a customary goof or two). His photographs are really terrific, too.

(I’ve asked John to create a dedicated photo-gallery on his website. We’ll see what happens!)

My favourite Trotskyists are back strong

The folk at The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) have been publishing two of my favourite radical periodicals, The Worker’s Vanguard and The Spartacist, for decades. I have probably learned more per sentence from these publications than from any other.

The organization’s output slowed to a drip during the pandemic, and I feared that the generations that had kept it going for so long were leaving or dying off; indeed, obituaries were filling the Vanguard. What in fact was happening was not a demise, though, but a debate. These Trotskyists were arguing among themselves about covid lockdowns and governmental restrictions on large gatherings, both of which they originally supported. A growing faction, however, began to see these lockdowns and restrictions as impediments to protest and communist organizing, impediments that undermined class consciousness and supported capitalist exploitation. The growing faction was victorious.

And the group started publishing its erudite propaganda again, at its former, prolific rate. Pick up their publications at your favourite radical bookstore! The Workers Vanguard is still just fifty cents.

Save the mural

Blank grey wall or … marvellous art – decisions!

Vancouver is one of my great loves, but it disappoints me again and again.

June 27:

Learning or remembering?

My “Usage Tip of the Day” from the great Bryan Garner:

I would like to say I already knew this one. It is pretty to think so, at any rate.

My partner gave me Bryan Garner’s Modern English Usage for Christmas (it’s terrific, and right beside me as I type).

Four-alarm fire

My Twitter widget seems to be down. Twitter ended WordPress “auto-sharing” a couple of months ago; this new loss is an even bigger drag. I want my homepage to be rich and welcoming.

Happy 4th of July

My son, Miles, sent me this link.

Happy Canada Day

Design by the late Kwakwaka’wakw artist Curtis Wilson.

Pat Robertson is going home

An encounter.

One’s things are tuned to the wound

Tom Tomorrow would like a word with some of you.