Monday, March 30, 2009

Craig Kreutz 1923-2009

Melissa's grandfather, Craig, passed away Saturday morning. Here is the obituary written by Melissa's dad and aunt:

Craig Wheaton Kreutz died peacefully on March 28, 2009 in La Grande Oregon at the home of his oldest son, after a short battle with cancer. He was born on June 16, 1923 in White Salmon Wa. and after 4 months his family moved to Oregon where he resided for the rest of his life. Craig was a WWII veteran, serving in the 6th Army Division in the Phillipines and New Guinea. He married his childhood sweetheart, Pauline Weitzel at age 19 and they had 3 children, C.B., Barbara, and Rod. After Pauline died in 1981 he found companionship and love with a long-time friend, Alice Martin. In addition to his 3 children Craig is survived by 6 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.

Craig retired from his woodworking business in 1980 and spent many happy times in Baja Mexico and on the Oregon and Washington coast with family and friends.

We don't know what our lives will be like without this gentle man, but when something breaks, we will hear him say, "everything wears out" and when we become impatient with another human being, we will hear him say, "he's doing the best he can with the tools he's got." And we will thank God for the time we had with him.

A celebration of his life will be held in the Portland area with the date and location to be announced at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to a charity of your choice.

I'm just going to reiterate what a sweet guy Craig was. He was quick to laugh, he loved to talk, and he wouldn't turn down a beer if offered one. And he'd probably put a shake or two of salt in, too, if any was available. There are a lot of reason I wish I'd met Melissa sooner; one of them was so I could have had a chance to get to know her grandpa better.

Good-bye, Craig, we'll miss you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The elephant in the room (in a manner of speaking)

I think I caught a glimpse of my future today.

I was walking alone downtown, caught behind a family of four who refused to make room for anyone (meaning me) to pass. No big deal. There was mom, dad, a boy about twelve or so and another about three, I'd guess. The two boys, as is the wont of boys, seemed lost in their own little world and couldn't be bothered to notice anything but each other. It was actually entertaining to watch them.

I noticed that walking up the street toward us was a one-legged man on crutches. I was worried that the kids wouldn't see him. But then the mom and dad peeled off left and the kids didn't notice until their parents yelled out for them to keep up. At this point, they snapped out of their reverie and looked around them and they saw the one-legged man go striding past and the three-year-old turned and, mouth agape, yelled out, "that man... his leg is broken!"

I winced a little, but kept on walking. I didn't want to listen to whatever explanation the parents would have for the boy. And as I walked, I started to wonder what I would do in a similar situation, and I know there will probably be plenty of similar situations.

How do you explain to a little one that it's not polite to say such things? I mean, if everyone already knows that the man is missing a leg, then what possible harm could there be in saying it out loud? How does one learn to distinguish between an attribute one might be proud of and one that a body would rather go unmentioned? I have to admit that I still have problems with that at times. I generally err on the side of never mentioning at all that one might possibly deviate from the generally perceived norm.

It's been my experience that having discussions of this type wit children leads to an endlessly recursive loop of Whys. As in:

It's not polite to say such things.


Because that man may be sensitive about his missing leg.


Because it's not nice to be pointed at and be made to feel different.


Ad infinitum.

I'm not going to posit any answers here, I really am wondering what I'll do when we come to that uncomfortable bridge. My one hope is that Oscar will give me a couple of years before doing what comes natural to kids everywhere: stating the obvious simply because it is just that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Banning update, now with audio

I have written several times about the banning of Steve Martin's play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile by the La Grande school district. This play is being directed by my friend, Kevin Cahill, who teaches English and French at the high school there.

I'm writing to let you know that Kevin appeared today on a call-in show on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Think Out Loud (that link takes you to an mp3 of the show), to speak about the troubles. You should all go and listen.

Also appearing on the program were two people who opposed the production, Mrs Melissa Jackman, the woman who initially complained about the play and eventually got it banned from the high school; and a pastor from a local church.

I originally thought about expressing the following views in the comments section of Kevin's blog, but decided against it. I didn't want anyone to misconstrue that my opinions were the same as Kevin's. I believe that Kevin has made his own views well enough known.

The individuals who spoke against the play, especially Mrs Jackman, seem, to me, almost completely divorced from reality. She spoke several times about how the play's content--content which includes people talking about sex and pretending to drink alcohol--meant that her daughter could not participate in the production. She goes on to say that her daughter can't take part because she has higher standards. That's telling. Not "different standards", but higher. Because anyone with standards that differ from hers must, by definition, have lower standards.

Later in her taped interview, Mrs Jackman asks rhetorically if the best thing to have children do is to talk on stage about sex because, she says, there are already seventeen pregnant teens at the high school. By all means, Mrs Jackman, let's not have your students talk about sex. I mean, whatever you're doing now is apparently working like gang-busters.

And finally, I wonder if Mrs Jackman knows who Steve Martin is. When asked for her reaction to Mr Martin's offer to help fund the play, she seems at a loss. She implies that Mr Martin is doing this to gain publicity for his play. Because I'm sure that Mr Martin has been looking at the weekly receipts for his play (a play first staged in 1993 and not in production at any major American theaters as far as I can find on and thinking that one thing he really needs to boost ticket sales is for some backward-thinking school district to ban his play so he can swoop in and save the day. You know, for publicity. It's almost laughable. Almost.

Something I haven't written about here is that as a result of this controversy, the La Grande school district is going to evaluate and, more than likely, revise its guidelines for choosing the plays that are mounted at the high school. The subtext here is that they will regulate away the possibility that anything with any depth or complexity will ever be produced. I hope the kids interested in drama in La Grande will be happy with endless productions of Seussical the Musical and Little Women, because that's all they're going to get after this is all over.

Again, for a more eloquent review of this whole situation, I encourage you to visit Kevin's blog and read his excellent commentary.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beat to the punch

Oscar got his first haircut over the weekend. I was going to write about it here, but the better half of the Kreutz Gallardo team, better known as The Wife, got to it first. You should visit her blog for lots of photos and play-by-play.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Banning update (Steve Martin walks into a bar...)

I have written a few times about my friend, Kevin, and his problems staging a production of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the high school in La Grande, Oregon, where he teaches. For my previous posts, you can go here, and here. But really, what you should do is visit Kevin's blog where he writes about the troubles with eloquence and a level head.

I'm writing about the play again because there's been, to me anyway, a very interesting development. One way or another, Steve Martin has become aware of the banning and he's weighed in. Mr Martin wrote a letter of support that was published in the La Grande newspaper. In addition to this, Mr Martin has offered to finance the play's production in it's off-campus site. This is a an amazing act of generosity, in my opinion, and my esteem for Mr Martin, which was already considerable, has gone up even more.

Since the playwright has weighed in with his support, the story has blown up. It has been mentioned on Entertainment Weekly Online, and the BBC.

If this kerfuffle had to happen at all, this seems like the best possible resolution.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warm up

I received notes from my buddy, and manager, Julian, for some comics project pitches and I'm meant to be working on those right now but all I seem able to do is look at random people's tumblr blogs (I quite like this young lady's Musings), play Lux Deluxe, make furious scribblings about the web comics thing (which I've taken top calling Flagpole Comics in my wee brain) and, of course write useless blog posts.

I'm feeling parenthetical tonight it seems.

Working on pitches kills me. Getting the idea down in a condensed form that might convince them to actually pay me money and publish the thing. When I write pitches, I wish I could just rip open my skull and let the theoretical money-person peer inside to see what I intend to do with an idea. When it's locked away in my head, it seems so cool and then as I start to put it down on the page, it just seems to whither. The key is to get it all down before it just shrivels up and dies. (Thankfully, after the pitches are written and I move on to the next steps--outline and script--the ideas generally rejuvenate; like fruit that plumps up on the vine after a Spring rain.)

One of the pitches has actually reached the point where I've abandoned it and decided it would be best to just start from scratch with something new. I won't throw it away, and will, more than likely, come back o it after it's been allowed to lay fallow for a while, but for the moment it's dead.

One of the nice things about my creative engine, is that I can generate big, general ideas fairly easily. So after I decided to kill pitch A, I came up with material for pitch B fairly easily. I just needed to start combing through some old notebooks and I found something pretty quickly that I think would be cool. And that I think could survive the process of writing and revising the pitch.

And I have to apologize about the general abstract way I speak about these pitches and the ideas they contain. I have always been superstitious about talking about story ideas and plots with too much specificity. If any of these ideas I'm working on make it through the selection process, I'll share all the steps I go through. How about that?

It'll be like an early Christmas, right?

Okay, now that my fingers and brain are limbered up, I'm going to go back and try and catch these ideas, wrestle them to the ground, and have my way with them.

Wish me luck.

A love song about Meridian, ID

James Joyce couldn't get away from Dublin fast enough and then he spent his whole life writing about it. Something similar attracts me to my old home town. I left a couple of months after graduating high school and it took nearly twenty years to return. In the intervening years, Meridian and Idaho in general sort of haunted me. I felt like a child who wanted to reject his parents but who realizes that everything he is today is because of them. Finally returning didn't help assuage this aching sense of nostalgia I felt because the town had changed so much. Where there had once been a sleepy farm town, I now found a cookie-cutter version of the mall-filled cities you find everywhere in this country. Driving through the city was like looking at a series of double exposures where I couldn't help but see what used to be superimposed on what is. Now that I know it's gone forever, I feel even more attracted to the Meridian I grew up in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More thoughts on the flagpole

First, a big "hello" to everyone who's coming here from I hope you stay a while.

I received some questions and comments about my post regarding my web comics idea. These comments have led to more thinking on my part regarding the project and I thought that rather than stick my responses into the comments section I'd turn it into a new entry. Am I over-explaining?

Michael, age five, brought up one's inability to control all aspects of production, i.e., those unreliable artists. He says, "But I think the bottleneck comes when you have to talk to an artist to commit to a year or more before they see proceeds, let alone color, letters, logo, etc." Good comment, Michael! I should have addressed this in yesterday's post. Ideally I would work with artists who could color and letter their pages (we are talking about eight pages a month which doesn't seem unreasonable to me), and who would agree up front to stay on board through the life of a title. Even if they could only color, I could conceivably letter the pages as I've been doing with 100 Girls. And I hope that the artist would remain motivated to stay on schedule because they would be co-owners of whatever title they helped produce. Any theoretical profits would be split 50/50 if/when the title started to generate same. This would go for any profits--printed matter, merchandise, and, I know this is a long-shot, media rights. Given the enfranchisement I hope artists would understand that it would be in their best interests to stay on schedule. Does that seem workable? We could also build a backlog of material, maybe a couple of week's worth, before we went live with a story.

Finding agreement, in principle at least, Thomas says, "Cartoons and images are created to sell merchandise (shirts, etc.) that relate to the post via passive sales avenues, i.e., and all the sites you mentioned." Thanks for the vote of confidence, Thomas. I'm considering bringing you on board as CFO.

Finally, Friend of the Blog, Lani brings up a whole crop of good questions. To whit:

"Do you have enough time to commit? What will happen if/when other gigs come up?"

I think I do have the time. For the web comic, I figure I'd have to write eight-pages of material a week (once I get four projects to the point that all I have to do is write them, of course--there would be a fair amount of work getting to that point). Eight pages is something I can do in a couple of days. That would leave at least three days a week to work on other comics projects, and whatever other writing projects might come up.

"There will be a lot of work done before you get any financial return and the financial return may be minimal. Will that feel okay in the long run?"

It would sadden you to know how little money I have made writing comics so far. I am used to putting in a lot of work and having very little return to show for it. I am not in this to get rich quick, I promise. I think it might be difficult selling that truth to any artists I might try and convince to work with me. One of the reasons I want to do this is to get more and varied comics projects in front of people. I hope it would eventually make some money, and, to be truthful, I might need to abandon the project if it became clear that it would never turn a profit, but I am willing to take the long view on this.

"You already have a bit of a fan base to spread word of this around, right?"

Calling what I have a fan base is being generous, I think, but yes, there are folks who read my comics and let me know they enjoy them. And I can reach out to them, I'm sure. I also maintain a presence on several online communities and message boards and would get the word out that way as well. Eventually, if I feel like this is something worth pursuing, I will need to come up with a workable business plan and promotion will need to be a part of that plan.

Okay, there's my new thinking on this. Now, what do you think?

Photo parade

Many new photos up on our flickr page. These bring us up through last weekend. None of this batch have captions or titles. I am sure that some day, perhaps after Oscar goes off to college, we'll get around to that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let's run this up the flag pole...

I've been thinking a lot about new comics projects lately, and ways to circumnavigate the sometimes torturous approval process of the comics publishing companies. I don't fault this process--having been a submissions editor at Dark Horse Comics for about a year, I understood that my role was to act as gate-keeper. And even though I now have (a precious few) contacts, editors to whom I can go directly with new material, the approval process is still cumbersome. I believe I've mentioned that once I turned in the pitch for Gear School, it was more than a year before I was told it was approved and I could go ahead and start writing it.

Now when I sit down to start making notes on a project, I think about that theoretical year-long wait and I become discouraged. For the past few months I've been thinking of a way to produce comics and to get them in front of people in a more timely manner. The answer, maybe: web comics.

Being as I'm not artistic, in fact I have a medically diagnosed case of lack of drawing skills, I'd need to con convince some artists to join me in this endeavor.

I've been thinking that I'd work with four artists on four different stories to minimize the impact on any one artist's schedule. Eight page stories would update on Fridays, with a different story updating each week. Story A updates week 1, story B on week 2, etcetera. Some months are five weeks long and we could build in skip weeks where no stories are updated--this would give everyone, especially me, the occasional week off. Or a skip week could feature a self-contained story drawn by a guest artist. Following this schedule, we (the artists and I) would produce 32 pages, or a floppy comic's, worth of comics every month. And each story would produce a collection's worth of material every year.

One would hope that these stories would be popular enough to warrant collecting, whether it be on a POD site like or to shop them around to traditional publishers. One would further hope that we could merchandise these comics as well--you know, t-shirts and the like.

The inspiration for this came from a few different places. A few years ago, when I worked at Dark Horse Comics, I created and administered something called Strip Search which was a weekly web comic that featured up-and-coming artists. There's Warren Eliis's and Paul Duffield's FreakAngels which updates six pages of new comics free every week and which has had one book's worth of material collected and printed so far. Finally, a whole host of web comics have attracted a wide following and seem to make a profit selling merchandise--Diesel Sweeties, Overcompensating and Penny Arcade come to mind. My reasoning is, of course, "if they can do it, so can I." This may be flawed logic, but that's the kind I like best.

The final reason for this little venture would be to work on a variety of projects, some of which might not be as commercially viable as the mainstream publishers would like, but that might find a niche audience on the Internet.

And it would always keep me working, too, which is a good thing.

Obviously, these are initial thoughts and I'll need to do a lot more thinking before, and if, I move forward with this. But I would appreciate any thoughts anyone reading this might have.

Internet, I await your judgment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Banning update

Earlier in the week, I posted about some trouble my friend, Kevin, was having staging Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the high school where he teaches. You can read that account by scrolling down, or by going here.

It was an eventful few days for Kevin and Co. They have a secured space, and an organization on campus, the Eastern Oregon University Democratic Party, will be funding the production. This is excellent news all around, and I want to congratulate Kevin. It's nice to see the good guys persevering.

Once again, I'd encourage you to go to Kevin's blog and check out his latest updates about the play.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Picasso and Einstein walk into a bar...

Last week, The Wife and I spent some time in her home town, La Grande, Oregon. It's a really beautiful place, one we've talked about moving to from time to time. In fact, it reminds me a lot of where I grew up, Meridian, Idaho. It's a farm community in a valley. It's somewhat isolated, and it's somewhat intolerant, unfortunately.

A friend of ours, Kevin Cahill has taught at La Grande High School for a number of years, and he also directs student productions there. This year he was attempting to stage Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile. I say attempting because a few weeks into rehearsal, a parent got hold of a copy of the play, a play that had been approved by the school's principal, I hasten to add, and she found it objectionable. Long story short, she got a lot of her like-minded fellow citizens to sign a petition and presented it to the school superintendent, who then ordered the play shut down. Kevin appealed this decision to the La Grande school board but lost that appeal. He and the students have since been offered a space at the local university to perform the play (though the university president did at first bow to pressure from conservative community members), but the fact that they have to go off-campus at all is astounding.

I attended the school board meeting where the matter was discussed and I was, frankly, taken aback by some of the comments I heard. Many community members admitted to not having read the play, but they felt they knew enough about based on what they'd heard about it. Kevin's argument that the play had been staged by other high schools, including West Linn HS which is also in Oregon, and that the play had won some of those high school drama competitions, was met with disdain. "This may be an award-winning play in other communities," one speaker said, "but things are different here in La Grande." They certainly are.

The story is being picked up by sources outside of La Grande, something I'm sure the school board hoped would never happen. The AP has run a story about the banning (and they supply papers nation-wide with their coverage). Here's the AP story which ran in my local paper, The Statesman Journal. and The National Coalition Against Censorship has commented on it on their blog.

Kevin has done a wonderful job of documenting what the experience and I'd encourage you to go to his blog and read it. Parts one, two, three, and four.

I wish Kevin the best in this and I can't express how sorry I am that it's come up at all, but I'm confident that the play will go on. And when It does, I'll be there opening night.