Beverly and Charlie



I owe my career as a librarian to the woman who was my boss when I worked in an interlibrary loan department as an undergraduate. For privacy’s sake, let’s call her Beverly.

My first library job was at the same college library, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, working in the serials & government documents department. I wasn’t working for Beverly yet, I was working under… let’s call her Lois. I was working under Lois for 40 hours per week. My role was to put out the new issues of magazines and academic journals. I would check them in on a computer system, and then I would put Tattle-Tape™ between the pages of the magazines. I was constantly trying to shake the green plastic from the Tattle-Tape™ off my hands. If scientists ever decide they want to switch from nuclear energy to static cling, tell them to look no further than Tattle-Tape™ for boundless stores of it.

When all that was finished, I would take a USPS… what the hell do you even call those things?… a USPS white corrugated plastic mail tote out to the periodicals section on a book cart. Sometimes I would round a corner too fast and the uneven weight of the white corrugated plastic mail tote would cause it to tip over. I would make a small mark along the top of the pages of the previous issues of magazines with a red marker and place them underneath the… what the hell do you even call those things?… under the hinged periodical shelving. If the newest issue was the start of a new volume, or the start of a new year, or if there simply wasn’t room under there, I’d make an additional mark along the top of each issue and bring the whole bunch back to the stacks. For government documents, I’d wrangle with the, uh, regular old library shelves which were choked with hundreds of thin newsprint magazines and pamphlets and fliers, each shelf’s contents permanently slumped to one side, nearly immovable when it came to finding a sliver of space.

Once that summer we sent off rubber-banded stacks of journal issues to a bindery, which would slice off the spines of the magazines and journals and then glue them all together and place a shiny, ugly cover around them, in your choice of colors: caked mustard, abject blue, achromatic purple, or cherry lament.  That year, the college had an author-in-residence teaching literature classes, and her husband (of Native American heritage) worked in the same department I did.  When the journals came back from the bindery, he and I used… what the hell do you even call those things?… bayonets to insert more Tattle-Tape™ between the spines and the paper blocks.  The whole space smelled like glue for a couple of days.  They must have set a fan up because I can remember his long hair being blown lazily to one side while we processed the bound journals.

This is infinitely boring to read about, isn’t it? But this was my first job. Those activities are indistinguishable from “that job” in my memory.

I was young and I was Christian and I was the kind of young Christian that actually read the damn book and tried to put stuff into practice. Stuff like Colossians 3:23-24: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men“.  I didn’t know enough yet to dislike my serials boss, Lois. I didn’t know how annoying it was that I would show up early. All I knew is that she would lock the door and not let me in until 8. I didn’t know how frustrating it can be to explain to a youngster that we are required by law to give you two fifteen-minute breaks everyday, and you have to take them even if you don’t want them. I was young and I was Christian and I had a Christian girlfriend and we were fucking serious about this stuff.

I could tell you a lot of things to try to prove how utterly Christian I was trying to be. I tithed. (I Was a Teen-Aged Tither!!!) I would get upset if a movie had a swear word in it. I shamed myself for masturbating. I went to a “Weird Al” Yankovic show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta and walked right the fuck out during the opening comedian’s set, which was almost nothing but “jokes” putting down Christian beliefs. I refused to bow my head in common prayer (and refused to let my girlfriend do same) at a campus talk about Mormonism led by Mormons. And believe it or not, me and my Christian girlfriend–for four years–we were chaste.

In retrospect, a lot of my approach to Christianity sprung from a deep-seated need to be more right than others, to be able to point out what they were doing wrong.  And as I’m writing this, I’m remembering how restrictive Ephesians 5:4 felt, because I was constantly retconning jokes I made to my girlfriend to not be the dirty joke I originally intended.  But also in retrospect, none of the above quite shows how committed I was to trying to be a Christian. I think this does:

While the husband-in-residence and I were sticking strips in books, somehow not getting high off the glue, Beverly came through the room on her way to something else, and I made a joke to her based on a portion of Ecclesiastes 12:12 (“of making many books there is no end”).

Weep for my lost youth, would you?

I was a staunch moralist then, and I think I still am in a lot of ways, at least in terms of having the mindset that there is a right way to do things. When Lois taught me to center the stamp (with the library’s name and address) on each paper side of a bound journal, by God I’d get it centered. She told me to never set books on a cart spine-side up, lest it stress the glue’s bond, and I haven’t done it in the 16 years since. She told me that pictures in magazines were information, and you better damn believe I never put a piece of Tattle-Tape™ over a picture that went all the way to the gutter of the page.

It was my first job, and I gave it my all, and I was working as to the Lord, but somehow by the end of that summer* I somehow had managed to dislike the situation. Whether I was aware then that this stemmed from a dislike of Lois (shared by many in the library, I’d learn over the years), I can’t say now. I didn’t want to work in serials any more. And I certainly didn’t want to work at the circulation desk, as I had the impression that they *shiver* simply sat and read while on the clock. (I know many of you have had the same impression, and the answer is: this both is and is not true.) The idea of collecting a paycheck without working seemed the height of dishonesty. The point is: I didn’t sign up to work in the library the fall of my sophomore year.

But I did continue to use the library.  And come the spring semester, Beverly asked me to return.  The library had just then lost its interlibrary loan librarian, and Beverly (a reference librarian) was filling in until a new one was hired.  She wanted a student to help her with the work and sought me out. Now that I’m writing this, the import of that is finally hitting me.  I was one of the “smart” kids in school, and I secretly hated the majority of the other kids in the gifted classes in middle school.  I hated that they were more, I don’t know, thoroughly smart kids? That they seemed to be dedicated to it? Let me try to put it a different way: none of them would have laughed at farts or boogers. Definitely our respective parents’ social classes had something to do with it.  Anyway, I was a smart kid in school, one of the kind that suddenly finds they aren’t so special once they get into college. Where I had previously gotten perfect grades effortlessly, I suddenly had to write second drafts, I had to study, I had to read books that talked in abstracts and make sense out of them. I was no longer so outstanding. I didn’t appreciate then what it meant that someone like Beverly asked me in particular to come work for her.

Beverly was very different, not only from the other librarians at that college, but from just about everyone I’ve ever met.  The campus had houses that faculty and staff could live in (and a waiting list for them a mile long, so I’d heard), and Beverly lived in one.  She rode her bike to the library.  Beverly worked as the evening reference librarian, and would come in at 11 and leave at 9.  She would usually get there, and then immediately leave to head to the dining hall, after which she’d return with a giant salad that would stay on her breath the rest of the day.

Beverly didn’t laugh; Beverly brayed.  Beverly was constantly trying to figure out the best filing system for interlibrary loan requests, calling up or visiting various libraries around Atlanta to ask what they did. She wore her eyeglasses on a cord and kept them on top of her head until she need them, at which point she’d get serious and put them on and tilt her head back.

Beverly was an artist. Her office was a mess, filled with stacks of bound (art?) journals which had been removed from the collection, but which she couldn’t let go of. Paintings (some hers) sat propped against the brick walls of her office, which adjoined the interlibrary loan office. There was a second chair in there somewhere.  Sometimes Beverly referred to herself as the “intewim intewibwawy woan wibwawian”.

Beverly was a photographer. She went to a UU Church in Marietta and was what I would have described at the time as “new age”. She sometimes wore a t-shirt with a profile of a (college student?) hippo named “Bubbles D. Bimbo”. There was a cartoon of Bubbles on a bicycle and a bunch of text that I never asked Beverly to stand still long enough for me to read. The summers that I worked in interlibrary loan, I would often bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch.  Somehow it would inevitably get squished and flattened, and Beverly would poke fun at me for this. Once she even put my sandwich (in its plastic bag) on the scanner and made a picture of it.

Beverly had views far more progressive than I had been exposed to at the time, but Christianity wasn’t unknown to her, so it wasn’t like there was no common ground to discuss things. I remember us both having a discussion with a male Christian student about the rights of a woman to choose to have an abortion (the discussion also revealed that the student’s dad felt he shouldn’t be taxed more because he made a lot of money). Beverly was in her 50s and cut her hair quite short with horse clippers. She showed me a picture of her as a child in Americus, Georgia. She had black hair down to her chin and was wearing a dress and it wasn’t Beverly. It was someone else. It wasn’t Beverly.

I gave Beverly an electronic keyboard that had sat in my room through years of me not admitting to myself I was never going to learn to play it. Beverly would turn on one of the rhythm tracks and improvise. If you told Beverly a corny joke, she would say “Ar ar ar” just like Mork. One Halloween my Christian girlfriend and I went on campus and found Beverly’s house and pretended to trick or treat. From what I could see of Beverly’s house, it was full of books.

Beverly spent lots of money on camera equipment and talked about the store she bought it from, some place I’d never heard of in Atlanta somewhere called “Micro Center”. After I graduated from college, I came back to work at the reference desk in the evenings. Beverly would often bring students into the interlibrary loan office (just off the reference desk) and have them search on one computer while she searched on another). Beverly sometimes felt that the energy coming off the desktop computers was affecting her negatively. Beverly would quote Mr. Bill (“Oh nooo!!”).

Beverly taught me everything I know about answering reference questions, and she taught me far, far more about laughing at work. Beverly made some of the initial strong chinks in the armor of my Christian thinking. Beverly would show me some of the trinkets and art pieces in her office or toys she bought from the Dollar Tree sometimes and it felt like the bit towards the beginning of the 1981 HBO Pee-Wee Herman Show where Pee-Wee’s taking all the toys out of the bag. Beverly often wondered whether she should go back to Americus to take care of her father. Beverly comforted me after my first time dealing with a community patron who talked at me for an hour and a half straight about conspiracy theories. Beverly’s middle name was Earl, just like Jimmy Carter, whose birthplace was 10 miles from her own.

Beverly died of cancer four years ago.

She decided to treat it homeopathically.  I was angry for a shorter amount of time than it took you to read this sentence. She wouldn’t have been Beverly if she had done it any other way.  I don’t know if the Mr. Bill toy I sent got to her before she died.

The last time I spoke to Beverly, the January before she died, she wasn’t happy with her job at the library anymore.

Beverly alluded vaguely at times to having made decisions based on what her parents wanted. She may not have mentioned it explicitly, but I got the distinct impression that there were things she would have done differently if not for her parents’ views. There was a sense of lost opportunity. I can’t remember if Beverly’s father died while I was working there or not, but it wasn’t terribly long before she herself did.

I suspect that Beverly wanted to be a lesbian. (What are the ethics on theoretically outing a dead person? This is why I changed her name for this story.) The only time I ever saw her come close to the topic of sexuality was when she put one of those… what the hell do you even call those things?… when she put a Pinscreen over her breast for the amusement of the 5-year-old daughter of one of her friends who also worked at the college. I’m going to admit to a pretty stupid mental algorithm of mine: short hair on women=lesbianism/bisexualism. It’s first-order thinking that I’ll never fully shake. Beverly seemed, if anything, to be asexual (retcon that sentence about the Pinscreen to say “over her suggestion of a breast”). She was close to 50 when I first met her, and she was living the life she wanted to, as far as I could tell, so what was there to regret?

I feel that I still have a lot to learn from Beverly.  It was at least a few years into my professional career as a librarian before I realized that I had taken her on as a role model. I still want to be more like her (yes, I do sometimes look at horse clippers on Amazon), and I think I could do with contemplating her example more, especially at points in my life like right now**. I wish I had half her compassion and patience and happy spirit and resilience.

I’ll end with my attempt to reconstruct a joke Beverly told me once. I finally found a version of the joke on Reddit, and I’m going to steal heavily from it for this, but I remember Beverly’s wasn’t quite so fully developed, and it certainly didn’t end with the “moral”.  I’m going to get parts of it wrong, but at the very least, the girl’s dialogue in the joke is intact.

Charlie Smith was born as a head, nothing else. The doctors said he would never live, but somehow, he did. He had a rough childhood, but he learned to get around, rolling where he needed to, putting up with the teasing and looks. He just tried to fit in as best he could.
By the time he’s in high school, everyone knows him and calls him “Charlie the Head”. He still has a little trouble fitting in, but everyone likes him. He goes to the school Halloween party as a soccer ball, and everyone loves it.
Charlie the Head develops a huge crush on Jessica, one of his classmates.  He wants so desperately to be with her and finally gathers up enough courage to ask her on a date.  He rolls up to her house and knocks on her door (knock knock knock — imagine the head motions yourself).  Jessica opens the door, but looks puzzled until she hears from the ground:
“Hi Jessica, would you like to go on a date?”
“Oh, no, it’s Charlie the Head!”
Jessica, looking disgusted, slams the door.  Charlie the Head, dejected, rolls off home.  A few days later, Charlie decides to try again.  He gets a nice haircut and a bow tie. Charlie the Head rolls up to Jessica’s house, knocks on her door (knock knock knock), and again asks her for a date.
“Oh, no, it’s Charlie the Head!”
The third time this happens, before Jessica can close the door on him, Charlie the Head asks her if there’s any possibility she would ever go out with him. Jessica thinks for a moment.
“Okay, Charlie the Head, if you can turn yourself into a grape, I will go on a date with you.”
Charlie the Head rolls back home, feeling utterly hopeless. He prays that night:
“God, please, if you turn me into a grape, I promise to always be a good person.”
The next morning, Charlie the Head wakes up to find that he has indeed turned into a grape!  Ebullient, he rolls to Jessica’s house and knocks on her door (squish squish squish).  When Jessica comes to the door, Charlie calls up from the ground:
“Jessica, would you like to go on a date?”
Jessica says “Oh no, it’s Charlie the Grape!” and stomps on him. Squish


*which brought with it a $500 bonus for having made it through the whole summer; I believe I spent it on pogs and not my girlfriend. Weep, y’all.

**some of the parts of this story–my boundless enthusiasm for working, having a boss one can relate to and feel a connection with, my sense of ethics when it comes to collecting a paycheck when you sit all day and do nothing–have a far less happy sequel, which I want to tell you about someday, but not for awhile yet. Just remind me.




Let me tell you about the worst thing I’ve ever made.

I was born–in 1984–at the tail-end of a generation of children that experienced what I would call a heyday of “gross”.  1984 brought us both The Toxic Avenger and Ghostbusters; 1985 both Garbage Pail Kids stickers and Madballs toys (and the concomitant craze of knock-offs and also-rans); 1986 Cronenberg’s body-horror movie The Fly


One of my earliest memories is going to see Ghostbusters II in the theatre when I was four years old. Slime took center stage here, to the point that it’s heavily implied Egon rubbed some on his dick.  The slime featured in the movie, in the cartoon, post-personified as Slimer, and was available in toy form:


If I’m giving too breezy an overview here, it’s because I hope to cover my experience with these things in full at another time.  The point is, I grew up with gross toys, gross media, gross food–


–you could say I was imprinted by a particular aesthetic.  By no means has my entire generation remained fascinated with it as I have, but again, I think it’s fair to say I got to experience the first flourishing of “gross” before it became–as all things do–devoured by the pop culture industry. I benefitted by exposure to artistic masters who managed to make the gruesome appealing.


The point is I’m a lifelong fan of the disgusting. Chalk it up to a lack of bodily sympathy, an ability to think of things without also pseudo-sensing their smells or textures, or the fact that I ate my boogers as a kid, but what can I say?  I find it all amusing.  Much like Gulliver found out in the land of Brobdingnag, beauty up close is frightening.  There’s lot of weird stuff in the human body, and some of it comes out, occasionally even when we don’t want it to…

And that’s where #moviepuke comes in. Or, out, really.

There are others like me, and some of them make films.  When it’s not being used to decry the dangers of teenage drinking, or to depict how much the cancer patient’s body betrays them, vomit is quite often used as a gag (ha) in movies, so much so that some critics complain about its frequency.  And I’m sure you would have no problem naming a movie where someone vomits for comedic effect.


Did you think of Problem Child 2? The Sandlot? Team America: World Police?

(If you thought of The Exorcist or Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life first, I bet you’re over 40. That’s okay.)

I can’t find it now, but a few years back a friend on Twitter posted a link to a list of movie posters that featured characters peeking out from under or behind manhole covers.  By the way, if that list is still extant somewhere, here’s one that kind of fits:


I realized then that the Internet is a place where every possible grouping of things that can be made will be made. Further, if it’s not a question of if, it’s simply a question of when and who.  Being the occaisonally-arrogant librarian that I am, I figured if someone was going to put together a supercut of all the times that someone visibly vomited in a movie, it ought to be someone like me.  Someone who knows how to search Google in ways unknown to the average layperson.  Someone who is dedicated to just about every idea he’s ever had.

So I set to work.  I scoured Google.  I asked on Reddit.  (I got about 100 films from one Reddit thread, right alongside accusations that I masturbate to the scenes. To set the record straight, I don’t.)  I found websites catering to people who couldn’t stand to watch–or even, for some, hear–vomiting, with lists of films containing such scenes.  Hell, for one of the blogs, people would write in and give descriptions of what scenes to be wary of, and even timestamps in some cases. Early on, I made a distinction between vomit discretion and vomit indiscretion, thanks to TV Tropes.  One of the most important sites I’ve come across is Kids In Mind, which lets you know everything that anyone could find objectionable in the films it lists.  It even makes the distinction between whether the vomit is seen, heard, or only talked about.  I went through the full list of 2,000+ films on IMDB whose records included the user-applied keyword “vomiting”.  I looked up information on forums for foreign films.

I bought dozens of DVDs, many from overseas, some at a price of $20 apiece or more.  I slowed down my computer for a full three days one weekend by (illegally) downloading 100+ different films.  I downloaded films from YouTube. I sought out filmmakers for confirmation before purchasing DVDs. I was told by one rightsholder that I would not be allowed to use the scene from a movie (I still did).  I begged reviewers on to share files with me.

I watched dozens of films.  I used the slider tool in Windows Movie Maker to scan quickly through hundreds more. I watched funny movies. I watched great movies (I got to rewatch The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover). I watched what may well be the most graphically disturbing movies ever made. (I left the four movies in the Vomit Gore series out of the supercut entirely.)

I was disappointed when films featured only vomit discretion (that is, where the vomit is not seen at all).  I was upset when unknown people on unknown websites confused vomiting with sneezing, or spitting.  I had to make intense, sometimes philosophical, decisions for some films.  Can a severed head vomit? Did the guy in Jaws vomit, or did he even still have a stomach at that point? Does a CAT 3 Japanese video of a woman eating and then vomiting, and then having sex, count as a film?  What length must feature films be? Should the vomit scene last only as long as it takes for the vomit to exit a person’s mouth, or should it last until the vomit has come to rest? What about artfully edited scenes, like that in the Sandlot, that show vomit, but don’t show it coming out of someone’s mouth? (In the end, I removed most like that; but I have kept the Sandlot because people will tell me to put it in if I don’t.)

For a while, I posted the scenes individually to a YouTube account.  This is where things started getting frustrating.  To begin with, these scenes are all copyrighted by someone. So I had to deal with being told that I didn’t have the rights.  I had to appeal cases left and right that my use of the material was “fair” according to common understandings of the term; at the very least that my use was transformative.  But then I started getting knocked on community guidelines.  The YouTube terms of service, as well as the community guidelines, say nothing about vomiting.  There’s nothing at all in there that would indicate that vomiting would not be allowed.  I was able to appeal most of these successfully–once with the help of someone at YouTube–until finally I wasn’t.  Here’s what I consider an unfair loophole of the community guidelines: if you get too many complaints within a short time span, YouTube doesn’t even have to review the actual videos. They just take them down.  Two or three people hardly constitutes a “community”.  (And why the fuck did someone object to the 1-second clip from the movie Looper? You can barely see what’s going on unless you know what to look for.)  To add insult to injury, they won’t even tell you what exactly was offensive–YouTube will simply refer you back to the aforementioned silent-on-spewing community guidelines.  In one of the weirdest cases, a clip that I used from a 1970s Italian film featured music that was later sampled in a 1990s music album.  Because the album’s rightsholders had registered their works with YouTube, my video got flagged.  That one took some researching to figure out exactly what was going on.

I spent countless evenings and a handful of solid weekends–thankfully not consecutive–finding vomit scenes.  I wanted the list to be as complete as possible.  Certainly this was doable. But I had to keep it from becoming my entire life.  When it came to the IMDB list, I had to make gut choices on which films to watch or scan through; there are hundreds more there that I’ve yet to touch, and may never.

After almost a full year of dedicated work, I gave up at 877 films.  But a few months later I was at it again. I found new lists. More movies had been released in the interim.

In that last stretch of looking, I unlocked hidden achievements, hit squares on the bingo card I didn’t even knew existed.  I found a character named Casey puking. I found Jesus vomiting in a John Waters film. And finally, finally, after 950+ films, I found Tom Hanks throwing up.

I reached 1,000 films last November.

Total length: 2 hours, 19 minutes, 6 seconds

You can see the full list of films here.

I’d like to show it to you. You know what’s in it, you’ve been warned.

Fun fact: the earliest film I can find with a vomit discretion scene (so it’s not in the supercut) is the 1953 film Wages of Fear.

Fun fact: the earliest film in the supercut is a Korean film called The Housemaid, from 1960.  The remake from 2010 is also in the supercut.

Fun fact: The Exorcist is the 24th film in the list chronologically.

Fun fact: Jonah Hill is the most-featured celebrity in the supercut. He’s in there at least four times.

Fun fact: look for all the great Exorcist knockoffs in there!

Fun fact: four of the eight American Pie movies are included.

Fun fact: there was only one scene in the whole thing that made me briefly want to throw up.  See if you can guess which one!

I keep watching movies, and I keep finding vomit scenes. It’s actually a good gauge of a movie’s popularity if I discover it has a vomit scene at random: it simply means that the group of people who have seen it and the group of people who type in keywords on IMDB do not overlap.  The list now stands at 1,055 movies.  Once a year–probably on Christmas break–I plan to update the list, gather each year’s clips. My work will likely never be done.

But I did it.  Over the course of a single year, I collected 1,000 vomit indiscretion scenes.

It’s the worst thing I’ve ever made.

I’m so proud.

The H.E.Buddy



I live in Texas these days, and there’s a supermarket chain called H-E-B out here. HEB stands for founder Howard Edward Butt, which is a funny name because butts are funny.

Its mascot is the H-E-Buddy, sometimes styled Hebuddy.

Like all mascots, H-E-Buddy is alive. However, this instantly creates problems, questions that must be answered.

Is the H-E-Buddy just the bag and it’s carrying the food around? Or is the food part of H-E-Buddy?  The carrots form its hair, so I fall in the latter camp.


What happens when the carrots rot? When the meat spoils? When the bread goes stale?

What happens if I eat the bread? Does H-E-Buddy lose motor function? Does it replenish itself

How thick is the bag? Are there eye stalks on the inside, brushing up against a box of Peanut Butter Crunch?

What does it eat? If I eat its contents… does it eat mine?



I feel like I have a couple of things to add to this ongoing conversation between materialists and dualists about where consciousness comes from, and with identifying/observing consciousness.

I was reading this article about Daniel Dennett and his attempts to cut through the bullshit of the discussion. Seriously, you’re going to have to read that article, I’m not going to explain whole discussion because I’m not familiar enough with all the parts, nor am I studied in psychology. I can give you what I learned from the article. I simply think what I think–and what I think comes from connections I’ve made.

Remember that. That is important.

This will probably sound pretentious, but a lot of Dennett’s appeal to me, because I’ve sort-of thought about them myself. And I’m going to admit I’ve only read about his thoughts through interviews and articles like the one above. But hey, a copy of the Complete Crumb volume 5 just came in for me through Interlibrary Loan, so.

The first idea is that consciousness can’t be observed. Sure, the octopus, the robot, the zombie may all respond to stimuli (from seeing, touching, etc.) but how do we know they have consciousness? I’d argue that consciousness can be observed–we created a word for the concept, after all–by looking at our own.  Each of us agrees that we–that is, that I believe/you believe that I am/you are conscious. For all we know, we could be brains in vats. I mean, the Matrix movies were proof of concept. Point is, we have a definition of consciousness*, so we can observe what it does.

I’ll skip every part of the argument about whether anything’s real and, for the sake of argument, you and I share a reality made up of cars and trees and air and tables and camgirls and “premium” products. You know that you are conscious; you know that you are a human being; you know that I am a human being; blah blah blah. Let’s also skip the discussion of whether anyone can “know” something. For the sake of argument, you can. So conscioussness, as far as I’m concerned, can be observed.

But this is where you get into the materialist/dualist arguments, as well as the physicalist/design stances. Just by observing what conscious things do, we get the thin descriptive concept of consciousness. On the other hand, you’ve got the thin evaluative concept (which kinda has to do with moral stuff? I’m learning) by dint of ideas like choice and right/wrong. That, if I understand correctly, would make consciousness a thick concept (two thins make a thick, evidently. I’m learning).

Okay, so, materialists say that consciousness derives from the physics going on inside your brain (yes, it’s chemicals too, but they and the electricity in your brain move). Dualists think that consciousness must come from something else.** Thus the zombie problem.  But I think this is where the dualists must be conflating consciousness with life, and specifically human life. They seem to want to believe that humans can never be explained, to not believe that we can be reduced to billions of equations. (An aside: zombies don’t fit the current definition of life–no growth; octopi do; a robot could, if we’re talking somewhere around the middle of the movie Bicentennial Man, be composed of cells and maintain homeostasis, but at the moment, I don’t think we’re quite to the point of robots being able to reproduce.) And this where you have to address religion. There’s this clinging to some vague idea of someone smarter, something inexplicable, somewhere else whither comes consciousness.

The physicalist and design/intentional stances refer to the material actions of life forms. I’ll just steal the examples from the article: a protein folds (physicalist), but an eye sees (purpose/design/intent).  I’ve come to hate that latter kind of language. It’s too loaded with intelligent design kind of stuff.  The purpose of spinach is to give you iron; animals evolve into other animals.  I think we need a new kind of passive tense to talk about evolution.  So-and-so evolved the ability to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen? Feh. So-and-so had a happy mutation that created the ability to do so; the ones that didn’t all died out.

Dennett falls on the physicalist side of things, but to read this article it sounds like others just don’t get him. He laughs at the idea of the zombie problem.  And I can get that maybe some problems arise because people use words the wrong way.  Obviously, these philosophers struggle with these concepts, and they struggle with words.  I know you are a human, and that you are conscious, but I don’t know that you think about equality the way I do. Or spark plugs. Or butt plugs.  If you have a different concept of a word, it’s a different path you go down, with different questions. Maybe those questions are the key ones that need to be asked. Or maybe a different/incomplete/misunderstood concept of a word can create a problem that never needed to be asked.

Can God make a rock so big that even He couldn’t lift?  This question assumes that God has physical strength (or maybe I’m misinterpreting how He’d lift it). Theoretically (according to Christianity), there’s a physical (presumably swole) Jesus still hanging around somewhere in the universe, but that’s beside the point.  I’m also concerned about the idea that God would go about making rocks in any way other than the way they’re always made.  If you’re into the idea that God has some sort of Sim City type of software and could put a deer out into space as a goof, and then watch to see how quick it dies, fine. Not my idea of God. My idea of god isn’t that it doesn’t exist, so the question makes even less sense to me.

At any rate, as the article hints at–even those wrong directions can spur better, newer ones. Dennett is quoted as saying that he was able to take the foundations of an article he thoroughly disagreed to make a rebuttal out of it. I’m going to take a page from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity here, where he critiques those who say Christianity is a step back by saying that if you’ve taken the wrong turn on a trail, you must go back to get where you want to go.  Pinpointing where exactly your ideas stray from others was one of the key concepts of my rhetoric and writing classes in college.  I’m often saddened by how other people don’t realize/utilize this, or realize that I ask a lot of questions in an attempt to get to whatever highest level of belief we share. 😦

Anyway. Questions. Problems. How to answer them. Daniel Dennett gets into the idea of different complexities of consciousness. The article only touches on this briefly, I feel, but I really do like Dennett’s idea that lower forms of life have a “sort of” consciousness.  I like this because it has instant connections (remember that word, now) with other thoughts I’ve interacted with.  One is that I’ve encountered that idea before, from a Jewish professor of mine, who said the same thing. I assumed it came from his knowledge and experience of Judaism.  I imagine that the scene in Numbers 22:28-30 where God “opens the mouth” of Balaam’s donkey, letting it ask Balaam why it whips him so much, is somewhere within that view.

Also–and finally we reach connections–I read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress about eight years ago.  A repairman for a giant supercomputer on the Moon finds one day that the computer can now talk; it proceeds to read all of literature and history and calls himself Mycroft.*** The best the repairman could ever guess as to why the computer became conscious is that it must have had far more connections than the human mind.

And, well, think about it.  Our brains are bigger than a dog’s, or than a mouse’s.  In my rudimentary understanding of dendrites and whatnot, human brains should have more connections.  I was going to say that human brains evolved to solve different problems than those that dogs needed to solve, but that’s just bad language.  But they both solved those problems by interacting with their environments.  The predecessor beings that had better abilities at making connections were the ones who solved them; their crotchfruit survived.  Plus, there are more things for the human brain to connect to.  I mean, we have knuckles. Fish don’t have knuckles. Please don’t argue with me on this one; I’d lose for lack of knowledge of philosophical theories.

Anyway, connections, problem solving. Dogs and apes never had to “figure out” the problem of what to do with all the phonemes their tongues could make. Some people, at some point, likely took some mushrooms and came up with a new way to use those sounds and start naming things.  Not even kidding, I truly believe some cavepeople were sitting around chompin’ shrooms and one pointed to a woman and said some ur-word for boobs and probably made a hand motion or pointed at a woman and somebody else laughed at the word and said it too. In this case, the connections were forged by chemicals let loose in the brain in the right amount/right time.

An aside–I’d argue that human evolution has probably all but stopped since we do have so many communications in our brains. As in, diseases that hit you in old age are never going to be selected against. We can mess up our own–if you want to call it this–evolutionary trajectory. I mean, old people got to live longer once somebody(ies) invented/developed the spoon. With that, old people could more easily eat soups or whatever even after they’d lost their teeth.  We take better care of little people, or disabled people, because the connections in our brain gave us the concepts of compassion and that everybody’s human and equal. As Zappa said: “we are the other people / you’re the other people too”.

Some connections are based on interactions we have with the world. You read a certain selection of books, you’ll have different connections than the person who read some other set of books. A jack-of-all trades may be master of none, but may also have an edge in creative problem-solving across domains. If you want to read a hilarious imagining of what would happen if someone instantly had all of Western literature shoved into their brain, I highly recommend The New and Improved Romie Futch, by Julia Elliott (the book’s last chapter is also one of those the-end-explains-the-whole-book things like the end of JR or A Clockwork Orange.

What I’m getting at is that the more things there are, the more possible connections there are. The more connections there are, the more possibilities arise, within the brain and within groups of people.  As Dennett is quoted in the article, “A whole can be freer than its parts”.

So why is the argument that beauty and love and compassion and art must come from something other than physics just completely unappealing to me?  Because I believe in emergent qualities. Spirals happen in nature, the Perfect Strangers Reviewed post from last week gave me (maybe) insight into Bronson Pinchot because of the emergent theme of shoes.  These are connections I made because of everything I’ve interacted with in terms of that show, explained through psychological concepts I’ve integrated into my thinking. I believe that these qualities can arise through enough of–and the right–connections. It’s also why I can believe that the materialist view is enough to explain the “soul” (which, there you go again with religious “residue”, as the article calls it, but let’s just equate soul with beauty and love and all that), and enough to explain subjective experience. People have made different connections with their environments, and within their own brains. Some people may have made fewer connections than others.

(One could argue here that the implication is that, just as animals are “sort of conscious”, then some humans must be more conscious than others.  Before you go off to the store to buy a do-it-yourself genocide kit, let me remind you that people are people.  There’s a substantive difference between a person’s consciousness and a dog’s. That said, there must be a range of how physical brain connections there might be in the totality of human brains. And… so what? They’re people too, they’re going to mostly behave and think the same way I do.  You could also try to say here that, okay, neither “dumb” people or “smart” people (whether you want to look at it physically or experientially) are using their brains to their full potentials. Yeah, and who ever could? And why would it matter if we do? It’s like those video games where you’re basically assigning points to various aspects of character–charisma, strength, intelligence, etc.–based on what you feel you need to survive and thrive in the environment you’re in.  And in my definition of consciousness, you’d have to just turn every connection on and experience everything to do so. And we’ve thrown a wrench (that’s a tool-making joke, y’all) into our own potential evolution… and now we’re back to how people get off on different tracks because of understanding of words, and how philosophy seems so hard but that’s probably because all the major human brain evolution happened when we were just trying to survive and didn’t have to come up with such specific words and definitions for consciousness.)

But another reason why it’s so easy for me to be a materialist is because there are too many examples in the real world–and mine specifically–to not believe in emergent qualities. You have a color wheel with six colors? Oh, a rainbow with seven?  Well, lookee here, I’ve decided to assign 260 gradations each to three different “basic” colors. Now we’ve got over 17 million distinct colors!  Or look at what they keep doing with ice creams and candies these days.  Ever had a Take 5 candy bar? That bar literally could not exist until all five of those types of snack food had been invented, someone thought about putting them together, and a candy company needed something new to test out.

I write and draw simulacrums of people I created. I have at least 30 characters now. I had particular stories in mind that I wanted to tell when I started making Jimmy Jone. But then my co-writer came up with other characters, and suddenly they had to interact with the ones we already had. Those interactions meant that the characters had to, well, shape themselves to each other, like the ongoing arms race between the common cold and the human immune system. The world I write has grown through these interactions–THESE CONNECTIONS–and I’ve gotten stories out of it that never could have been told without those characters, with those interactions, within those settings, drawn by me, written by me and a couple other guys. There are characters who haven’t interacted yet–but they will, and it will create stories my original ideas never could have. There are characters who have no reason to interact.  Take Darryl (the one who, though some animal magnetism or perfectness of character, has constant sex with a variety of women) and Sappho (the cartoonishly-extreme feminist character).  Darryl has no need to be upset with Sappho; his ego isn’t wrapped up in sex; it’s just his way of relating. Women come to him for sex, he has sex with them and makes a personal connection. Think how much he knows about sex for a 21-year-old!  Think how little I know about it for a 32-year-old!  Sappho, on the other hand, thinks that the women who would have sex with Darryl aren’t the kind of women she wants in her campus feminist group.  In a way, Darryl helps her weed out members with no potential in her eyes.  What would they say to each other if they ever met? Probably at least “hello”, at most each others’ names, and probably just wander away from each other with no awkwardness at all.

And just as the brain can be studied through those who have sustained damage to theirs, you can look at the lack of connections in a created world to see how things should work, or could work better.

Take Perfect Strangers. The show is so insistent on focussing on the relationship of Balki and Cousin Larry, there’s barely potential for any other relationships to have any sort of impact on the show. Balki almost got married just so he could not get married. Balki and Larry have girlfriends just so they can get into fights about how to relate to them or treat them or understand them. There’s only one connection between two cousins.  Other connections are there–to their girlfriends, to their co-workers, to their neighbors–but these are all one way at best. No one has an impact on the cousins that lasts week to week.  And that’s the maddening thing about sitcoms.  Even though there were, what, 7 main characters on Full House, by the end, Danny’s still single, Joey’s still single and not successful in his comedy career, Jesse’s still not successful with his music career, and Michelle is still cute (I guess).

Fuckin’ Joey.

It’s maddening that these characters can’t change because of the sitcom format of the soft reset every week.  After 8 years, these people hadn’t changed any of their behaviors to suit the needs of others. They connect, butt heads, change each other, learn a lesson, and do the same thing a couple of months later.

I think I kind of summed up most of what I’m trying to say seven paragraphs before, so let me try to do it a little better now that I’ve put all my parts in and made connections.**** I’ve been writing both comics and blog posts for years now, which has given me insights into connections, and the emergence they produce (running jokes, new situations, etc.), plus I’ve encountered many of the ideas that Dennett gets into in other places (novels, professors), so the pre-existing connections in my head (that is, my subjective experience) allowed Daniel Dennett’s idea to clarify, modify, and polish some of my own nascent beliefs about human consciousness.

I will see if I can actually get through my to-read list enough this year to read Dennett’s newest book about consciousness.


*those silly philosophers probably got like fifty by now

**I just learned that the phrase “ghost in the machine”–just like Schroedinger’s Cat–was created to ridicule the idea.  I feel bad for these thinkers who, in their attempts to deny competing ideas, had their phrases hijacked to support their opposition.

***Now you know whey they’re calling that new “AI” Mycroft!

****Everybody scream real loud!



10 years



Shit, I don’t know what to say.

I hate when people say that, by the way. I hate it when webcomics make their first strip about how they can’t come up with a joke. If you can’t come up with a joke, don’t bother telling me.  I mean, obviously I have something to say, and it’s going to follow this introductory paragraph. There’s a message implicit in “I don’t know what to” that there’s a specific thing that ought to be said, a right thing that ought to be said. Hell, anything I say about my webcomic is right. Even if it contradicts what my co-writers think of it, even if it contradicts what you think of it. I decided it wouldn’t be mine alone when I wrote it with them, and when I gave it to you. We’re all right. I just have more to say about it.

And there it is, I can revise my first statement: I don’t know what all to say.  What do I want to say about it? What do you want to read about it? Will I be completely honest?

Who fucking cares, let’s just ramble for a little while.

Jimmy Jone started as a nine-tenths boy: some visual pun on the national nuclear family averages that have been parroted to my generation for years. That whole 2.3 kids thing, the origin of which I’m too lazy to track down right now.

It came together from a bunch of disparate pieces. I had tried doing a comic strip for my college’s newspaper. I was turned down initially, but something like a month later, I got a call–I think late on a Wednesday night; the paper came out on Thursdays–if I could provide them a strip. It wasn’t funny. If you want to see it, ask me, there’s no reason for you to waste your time tracking it down.  Anyway, there was a proto-version of Stuart in there.  I’d been drawing a Wendell (almost exactly as he is now) for a while as well.  Matt (the main co-writer) suggested I throw those in there, too.  One of the gags you see in issue 42–the mad scientist messing up his hair–preceded the writing of the first issue completely.


The first four issues are fairly directionless–I take that back, they were completely directionless. I didn’t even start thinking long-term that much until issue 11/12 or so, when I started planning out some Future Stuart arcs. I think our initial burst of creativity for those first few issues may have come from the excitement of having made fake instructions to a fake game called “Steinpoker”–the excitement of having seen something through, making a joke real.  The writing has (so far) always been by me, Matt, and Dan beginning with issues 12/13.  Matt at one point suggested bringing someone in that we worked with at the language-immersion summer camp, but I nixed it.  I didn’t know the guy very well, I didn’t trust his sense of humor yet. But I trust Matt’s, so maybe I should have let things go that way.

And I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past few months: how I saw the whole story back then at the beginning.  How it was going to end, what different characters would do; particular jokes and storylines I could see clearly in my head. Fun fact: Matt commented once during our early writing sessions that he wished some long-running show like Frasier would have the balls to kill off its main character in the season finale; as a result, for a long time I wanted to kill Jimmy off at the end. Reality catches up with everyone, right?


At the very least, it caught up with me.  Jimmy Jone will never be a realization of my initial dreams. In many ways I’m happy about this: you’d never have met the Reasoner, or Tatsuo, or the hobo gang, or the Psi Pi students.  In other ways I mourn what never was.  There are plenty of jokes and stories that may now never make it into the comic.  In some cases they’d feel shoehorned in; in other cases they’d be that much more I’d have to draw. This thing’s going to go at least another 80 issues, more likely another 100. You’ll probably never see Jimmy and Chloe traverse the underground tunnels between the women’s dorm and the math computer lab in the middle of the night (the only place on campus with a particular software program that Jimmy needs to finish an assignment), and along the way they run into the second generation of a lost group of students who have built up their own mythology about the upworld (think, like, the kids in Mad Max 3).

An aside about lost stories and petard-hoisting: having time-travel as a plot element itself bars you from doing particular time-travel stories.  Matt and I had planned out most of a story where one of the eternally-ill-fated school dances is transported back in time to a day in the 1950s when absolutely nothing of import happened, as a measure to prevent monsters/aliens/wormholes from ruining the fun.  There was even a really good and stupid prank war joke where the Twins change the course of history by calling people “neds” instead of “nerds”, resulting in Ned’s ridicule in the present day, as well as the movie series Revenge of the Neds.


Where was I? Oh yeah, 80 comics, 100 more. Comics takes time, and while I was working through all the stories Matt and/or I had come up with, new ideas came along and felt right. Characters bounced off each other and created new possibilities. Professor creates crayon child; other professor steals crayon child; crayon child ends up in the possession of a mad science student who happens to have created a simulation of Chester A. Arthur. So I proceeded to write babysitting stories. Meanwhile, I felt I needed to explain why the first professor even created the kid, which was a result of one of those tail-wagging-the-dog things that I had planned for the very end of the comic. And meanwhile, I’m publishing the story serially, meaning that with every advance in any of the stories, there are fewer options for what you can do later on, lest they disturb the timeline.


A, B, C, but then M demands D be changed, E and F start begetting P, Q, R, and S, and then Y and Z say, um, no, fuck M, Q, D, and you’re going to need some new letters soon.Like humans in middle age, expanding in their middles.  A two-way erosion, like characters on a long-running TV drama losing their defined edges, or a Rubik’s cube, multiple paths blocking each other until you find the ones that finally agree. Or maybe knitting. I’ve never knitted, but I bet knitting can be hard too.

And on top of all that, hell, it’s been 10 years. It’s been the last one-third of my life. I’ve grown, I’ve diminished, I’ve changed, I’ve stymied. There’s a potentially tone-deaf rape joke in issue 8.  The TV-show issue “Garage Barrage” is me and Matt borrowing language patterns from our pop-culture understanding of Latinos. I have no idea how offensive that issue is, because despite living in Texas for 5 years now, I have damnably few Latin@ friends. In an issue I posted in just the past week, I have a older white male character (who is eternally half-clueless to boot) tell a younger black girl–one of two black characters in my comic–how she’s going about her intimate relationships wrong.  Shit, we named the feminist character Sappho. And I’m having to deal with that as I go. Another metaphor I think of when I deal with these things is that I’m fixing a car as I drive it. As I said above, whatever is in the comic now is there–is canon–forever.

So I try to fix those problematic things, those brainchilds from a younger, less enlightened me. And let’s keep talking about Sappho. For all you know right now, based on what’s explicit in the comic, Sappho’s the only gay character.  That’s not the case, but I’m also not sure when you’re going to find out who the other ones are. But Sappho’s a villain. She’s a nasty character drawn, again, from understanding of others through pop culture. And once I realized that my inner thinking about her (she’s a lesbian who happens to have some fucked-up thoughts about herself and what her relationship to the world should be) wasn’t obvious, I tried to change that. Issue 43 was a start, and there will be more to address Sappho, and what she is, right up through the end of the comic. She’s not going away. Everything she is, everything she’s done, is there–is canon–forever.

But here’s another thing that’s happened in the past 10 years: I’ve come to love my characters, every single one of them.  I put them through hell, I watch them struggle, I watch them lose, I watch them hurt. I want them to be as real as the limitations (mine, the format, the fact that I want to finish this thing before I die) allow.

A few years ago, I read all of the first forty years of Doonesbury.  Garry Trudeau has never been divorced, but he sure did seem to unequivocally hate the character of Mike Doonesbury’s ex-wife, J.J. Caucus. She was always wrong, always self-centered, nary a redeemable quality in sight. And maybe Sappho’s not redeemable either. But I love her, and she deserves better than what I’ve made her into.


Sure, I want good things for my characters, but I want them to fight for them. Or not fight for them. Or die. Or kill. I want to throw in as much as I possibly can. I want to learn more, I want to better myself and my writing and my art, I want some damn diversity in my comic.  I mean, seriously, who wears just jeans and t-shirts all the time? For those of you who watched Parks & Recreation, here’s my main beef with the show starting with maybe season 5: everybody got everything they wanted all of the time. Sure, there was struggle, but no storyline really had what you could call an unhappy ending.  The show was lousy with it by its final season. So I don’t want (all) my characters to be horrible and miserable and cursing their own existence (forever); but I also don’t want them (all) to get everything they want (or need). I want some reality in here…

…here, in my webcomic about superheroes, mad scientists, and a guy missing the top of his skull. I set up table at the Small Press Expo once, and one attendee criticised my comic for feeling like it was just a mish-mash of tropes and stock “funny” stuff. She admitted hers was that way too, and, yeah, what isn’t when it comes to webcomics?  Yes, The Simpsons Did It (and what they haven’t, South Park Has). At least I’m not doing two guys on a couch. At least I’m not aping the CalArts Style/Steven Universe/Pendleton Ward/whatever the fuck you call that constellation of styles in the Superjail! or Matt Furie or Alex Schubert vein. Or doing that damn thing where everyone’s nose is red. Yes, that’s how they look in real life. But red noses have too long been cartoon shorthand for a cold or alcoholism that it’s just unsettling to me. Also, like the teeth on the new McDonald’s mascot, it breaks the cartoony style too much for me. Whatever. Different discussion for a different day.  What I meant to say is that Matt and Dan and I have gone far deeper down our rabbit holes. We blew through the four or five basic time travel jokes in no time flat. Where else will you find a joke about someone using their past self as a mirror to fix their hair? (And what’s more, the number of people who read that issue and got the cover’s reference is 1: me.)


So, yeah, if you just want to look at the component parts of my webcomic, it doesn’t sound like anything special. But like the alphabet stuff from before, these things all bounce off of each other. Events, reactions, characteristics, thoughts, motivations, goals, and my long-term plans make new things out of the mish-mash.

Or, they’re supposed to.  I guess I have to talk about Jimmy, huh? Jimmy’s been a fucking nobody for so much of the comic.  There’s shades of what many of us gifted kids go through when we get to college, or when we enter our adult life: we’re not special anymore. And that theme lasted all of, what, the first couple of years of the comic? Up until issues 73 & 74, Jimmy’s behavior was almost entirely in reaction to what was going on around him.  You can make a broader, bigger statement about that–and I’ve tried to. Even though he likely hasn’t been able to articulate it to himself, he knew that he wasn’t bringing much to the table in his relationship with Diana. (Go re-read issue 38 with this in mind.)  He was a follower, until, you know, 8 or 9 years into the comic, when he decided he wanted to take some control over his life and his emotional state.


By the way, yes, Jimmy is me.  I try to keep Ron based on Matt. Dan’s in there, but I’m going to let you guess who he is.  Also the Brueckner twins are me–the way my family in Northeastern Georgia talk (fun fact: “buddy-ro” comes from the same uncle whose LPs I’m digitizing for Dumpster Vinyl). Also Stuart is some pastiche of me and Matt and the fandoms we aren’t a part of.  Jimmy’s music taste is mine. Priscilla’s music taste is what I wish mine was. Chloe is made up of equal parts of things I hate about myself (addiction) and what I wish I was (more confident in myself sexually). (And since Jimmy is me, go re-read issue 38 again with this in mind.) Lastly, College State University mirrors many aspects of the college I attended as an undergrad, and many of the buildings in the backgrounds are from there or University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I got my library science degree. In many ways, I want this webcomic to be a repository of everything I’ve ever been, liked, or wanted to make sure isn’t forgotten.


Anyway, I was Jimmy. He’s a predominantly reactive follower, someone who avoids/avoided social interaction for the same reasons I did when I was in college. In a way, not writing much personality into Jimmy paid off over time. Once I saw my blind spot, it let me write him as me in a more complete way. I look forward to when I finally get to use him to tell my personal experience of getting sand and gum wrappers stuck in my cortical sulci.

At this point I’m not sure what else to say. Matt and Dan and I have written through issue 102 at the moment, with things kind of stalled because Matt’s got two kids now, and I’m doing the Perfect Strangers Reviewed blog. And because I’ve been doubting myself and getting more and more anxious about the comic over time. And because the issues are longer. And because I’m trying to write them better, and because I’m trying to draw them better, and because I’m making more forays into throwing in some tiny motif-building symbols here and there. And because I have a girlfriend now (this is the best reason for getting less done, by the way).

I have some complex stuff planned out for the second half of the comic (the first “half” will end with issue 88).  I wrote a fifteen-page Google Doc for the endgame of the whole thing–everything that has to happen in the second half of Jimmy’s senior year. I’m all wrapped up in this big mess, and it will take me another 10 years to finish it if I’m supremely lucky and diligent. But it’s in the forefront of my mind now that I really oughtn’t screw around and take too many unnecessary detours from now on, even though doing so gives you new characters, situations, and even dialogue lines you can repeat in different situations and pretend you’re as funny as the Arrested Development writers.

I think that’s all I have on my mind about the past 10 years. Thanks Matt and Dan for helping me bring this to life, and for hundreds of hours of laughs, for all the jokes that never made it in, and for helping me keep the website up. Thanks Tracy for explaining my female characters to me; thanks Lance and Becky for reading and buying the books and getting the in-jokes that I wrote specifically for the both of you; thanks Sarah and Chris for pointing out my shortsightedness in terms of jokes about rape and homosexuality; thanks Adam and a different Sarah and Lisa (and I bet even Vivian) for stopping by my livestreams; thanks Resi and Phil and Dan again for commissioning art because sometimes I need a break from this thing; thanks person whose name I won’t say that I used to have a crush on that was the partial inspiration for Diana; thanks to everyone who bought any of the books; thanks everybody I forgot that contributed to this in some way; and thanks to the ISSN International Centre for making me the only webcomic with an ISSN. I’m sure I forgot some people; thank you for forgiving me.

I could go on about my influences (Firesign Theatre, Arrested Development, the webcomic Goats, Rat Fink, JR by William Gaddis, etc., etc., etc.). But that’s for another milestone, maybe 15 years?


Until then, I’m going to keep on making this webcomic; in fact I’m working on issues 81 through 84 right now. And then I’ll work on issues 85-357.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jimmy Jone Commentary part 4



Here’s commentary for Jimmy Jone #s 9 through 12.  Start with #9 and just keep hitting the link at the bottom of the page to advance to the next one.  I’ll have more to say later about the 10th anniversary!

Jimmy Jone Commentary part 3



True tales of people in dorms! Bad physics! The beginning of the Prank War!

Commentary for issue 7 and issue 8, the two-parter “Revenge and Beer”.

Jimmy Jone Commentary part 2



Hey again!  Here’s more commentary, this time for these issues:

Issue 5: The Rising Sun

Issue 6: Zero Hour

I don’t have too much to say about the commentary. I like metatextuality as much as I like the next guy liking it, but commentary commentary is where I draw the line.

Jimmy Jone Commentary part 1



Other than working in libraries and wiping my butt, Jimmy Jone, the 9/10 Boy has been the only constant in my life for the past decade.

Making comics is a slow process, and my work on Jimmy Jone has slowed down at various points: when I lived with a girlfriend, when I got dialysis, when I’ve been depressed & anxious.  We (my co-writer Matt and I) have generally written about 20 issues of story ahead of what I publish. Every aspect of this takes lots of time.  I say this not to excuse the fact that I haven’t published in months, but to preface the commentary you’re about to listen to: it was recorded two years ago.  Matt/Golo had visited after my kidney transplant surgery, and we recorded audio commentary for issues 1 through 12, which constitute the first year of Jimmy Jone.

Here’s what I’m going to do for the upcoming 10th anniversary of this comic: alternating commentary and new issues up through the 17th. Plus I might do some sort of post on what the thing means to me (the short answer: a lot, but I’m not sure what).

Today you get commentary from me and Matt for issues 1 through 4, which are the worst issues in the whole run of the comic.  Tiny necks! No shoulders! Jokes that had been in my head since high school!

You’re supposed to listen to it while reading along, so here are the links for the issues:

#1: The Early Years

#2: College Bound

#3: Strange Headfellows

#4: Tube Boobs


I’m so, so sorry about the CSS. I did fix it, but it only wants to work on some issues.  If you can do CSS, get with me. I will pay you to unfuck my site.




hey what if I did, like, 20 weeks of posts about Seventeen magazine, wouldn’t that be great, and wouldn’t you be surprised, like, halfway through it, you realized it was not only great, incisive writing about how influential messages about body image can be to young girls (and, within that, how Photoshop exacerbates the problem), but had a triple meaning based on the current year, the name of the magazine, and the fact that an often-overlooked aspect of unattainable ideals comes from the long practice in film and television to have teenage roles played by actors in their twenties, wouldn’t it be great if I did that, huh?