Sunday, April 30, 2006

Save it for... today.

A nice, rainy, do-nothing day. The sort of day to catch up on my reading and blogging and get some other projects done. Watched Jarhead, Casanova, The Constant Gardener and A History of Violence. Jarhead was the best of the bunch. A History of Violence was OK. Doing all this Red Ivy Afternoon work has cost me, among other things, keeping up with the latest movies. I haven't seen much of anything lately for films. The last movie I saw at the theater was Munich which comes out on video next week.

I recieved a postcard in the mail yesterday from Joan Thomas, widow of Ammon Hennacy, a famous socialist/anarchist whom I quoted in the epigraph of Red Ivy Afternoon. She was gracious enough not only to allow me to use the quote, but also sent me a hand-written letter in return. Given that her late husband would be 113 years old if he were alive today, I am thankful there was anyone left to write to at all.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen on Saturday

Thirteen random facts about me.

1) Like many people, I learned to type from the early internet form of message boards known as "chat rooms" that were real-time. At first, I was a peck-each-key sort of fellow, but now not only can I type the correct way with the correct fingers and not look at the keyboard at all, but I can type nearly as fast as I can talk.

2) I have broken the following bones: Right navicular (wrist), left radius (wrist), left ulna (wrist), right 5th metacarpal (hand), right 4th proximal phalanx (hand), right 3rd proximal phalanx (hand), right first middle phalanx (hand). I have sustained second and third degree burns to the backs of both hands in a molten chemical accident, though my hand-hair grows in a slightly erratic pattern now and I have stripes on my hands when I get a suntan, there are no other outward scars from this. Also, I once cut my forehead above my left eye so deeply that I was able to see the bare white bone of my skull. This was from falling off of a bike wearing glasses with thick lenses.

3) I have played the guitar for approximately 12 years, and in that time, I have played for audiences of over 1,000 people.

4) I was a choral singer for approximately 7 years and I know the lyrics and vocal parts to hundreds of old songs, including several entire musicals.

5) I have two peculiar physical abnormalities of my hands. The first is a condition called "raquet thumb". You can see the difference in this image, where one thumb is normally proportioned and the other is rather short and stubby. Most people I have met with this deformity have only one raquet thumb, sort of like the fellow in the picture. I, on the other hand, have the more rare "bilateral" raquet thumbs. Not only does this pose me no physical difficulty, but it's actually a bonus in terms of massage therapy (less risk of arthritis in the shorter joint) and it makes me one bell of a thumb-wrestler. The second deformity is that the two major palm lines of my hand instead of being distinct and normal are woven into a single large line that runs precisely horizontally across the palm of my hand. This, apparently is a simian trait that is often a signifier of Down's Syndrome, something that my mother's obstetrician probably scared the shit out of her about. As it is, this is a meaningless physical aspect of my hands, except for the fact that I have met no one else my whole life with this quirk. I don't even know if it has a name.

6) I have removed post-surgical sutures (stitches) from thousands of people. I have taken out plastic surgery sutures, facial reconstruction sutures, groin sutures, amputation sutures, and sutures made of monofilament plastic thread an eigth of an inch thick. If you had orthopedic surgery on the north shore of Chicago between 2001 and 2004, there's a pretty good chance I took your sutures out.

7) I was, for a time, a prosthetic technician. Prosthetics are manufactured by hand (using only medical versions of ordinary shop tools, no special die or equipment), and are made to extremely exacting specifications. I learned, during those 6 years, to be able to eyeball the width of more or less any small object to within a 16th of an inch. This is not an exaggeration. If you know me, you know I can do this.

8: I am terrified of spiders.

9: I once laid on a bed of nails, and had another bed of nails put on top of me, then had my good friend Sara Lepine stand on top of it. See the picture in the Mark montage.

10: I once lived on a couch in someone's living room for a month and a half.

11: I knew I wanted to marry my wife after knowing her for only one weekend.

12: I am absolutely immovable on the subject of wearing seatbelts. I have been in four car accidents, none of which occurred while I was driving. I have never had a traffic ticket or been in an auto accident. I did once accidentally half-pull into someone's driveway in a snowstorm and undershot it, ending up in the ditch, but I was going very slowly and the car was unharmed. My dad heroically pulled me out with his pickup.

13: One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to try and keep in better contact with my friends from college. I miss them, and college, bitterly. Though I have now been out of it longer than I was actually in it.
Reading: Corporate Porn by David Grant
Watching: National Geographic Channel special about Bounty Hunters
Listening: Fiona Apple - "Oh Well"
Working: Red Ivy Afternoon cover.
Fetus is Craving: Bread and sliced meat

The cover for Red Ivy Afternoon is now nearly finished. It has evolved considerably since the original concept images. I can't wait to see how it prints. I had planned on finishing it last night, but it looks like that will be relegated to either tonight or tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Bane of My Existence

What you see above is a caffeine molecule. It is this little bastard that is torturing me at the moment, as I am trying to break my reliance on it. 24 drowsy, difficult-to-concentrate hours and a number of 1000mg ibuprofen doses later, I'm right in the thick of it. My wife says that drinking Mt. Dew makes my face look "puffy". This was enough to convince me that I should stop drinking it. I haven't yet grown completely comfortable with my newfound vanity, but enough so that something that has a clear cause/effect still elicits a significant response from me. That, and I think that the caffeine just makes me grumpy. Ugh. Time to go get some more water.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

From the 1968 version of Oliver!

Artful Dodger: "These sausages are moldy!"
Fagin: "Shut up and drink your Gin!"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Apparently the cover for Red Ivy Afternoon is going to be credited to me, too. I've been planted in front of my computer for the last 36 hours, grinding away at it. Finally it looks presentable. I had forgotten how much work it was to format a book for printing. At least this time the text will stay well within the trim lines.

Reading: Russel Lutz: "Spring"
Listening: Bob Dylan - "Desolation Row"
Watching: HBO's Elizabeth I. Mary Queen of Scots beheading scene... shiver...
Working: Red Ivy Afternoon cover.
Fetus is craving: Foot-rubs, cashews.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Reading: Red Ivy Afternoon, Excerpt from Iota Cycle
Listening: Alter Bridge - "In Loving Memory"
Watching: Nothing.
Working: Red Ivy Afternoon final edit
Fetus is craving: Ginger ale, breakfast sandwiches

I had a breakfast sandwich this morning, too. Sweet bacon-y goodness.

Happily, I also have two massage clients tomorrow. One of these days, I'm going to cultivate that source of income the right way. I lacked motivation for so long, it always seemed like the sort of thing I was going to have do drag along into functionality, and as it turns out, it's fairly successful. I've broken even for the year, at least, and I've made a small amount of money from it. They say that's all you should expect from the first year of business, but it would be nice if I could make an extra grand or two this year in profit.

Mark Brand Age 5 to Age 27

The montage (and shameless ripoff of Paul Hughes' piece "Faces") is up!

Click here.

Really. Click on it. It took me probably 4 hours to make.

Speaking of work, I finally hashed out four new cover concepts for Red Ivy Afternoon. Some of them, including one that appears as though it was drawn, are particularly interesting. More to come on this later.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reading: Paul Hughes: Goddard College MFA Interdisciplinary Arts
Watching: American Idol. So long, Ace, you no-talent assclown.
Listening: Pearl Jam - "Crazy Mary", The Barenaked Ladies - "Be My Yoko Ono"
Working: Red Ivy Afternoon cover. Also doing final read-through of text block.
Fetus is Craving: Water, looser shirts.

I hate the way drinking diet Mountain Dew makes me feel. Of course, I also hate the way NOT drinking diet Mountain Dew makes me feel. Caffiene sucks.

Why I need an AK-47


So I'm working on the Red Ivy Afternoon cover. I sit down and think it through for a few weeks, trying to get the feel that I want from the cover of the book. I work with the fonts and I make a few conceptual photoshops to get an idea of what it might look like. Everything is great...

Except the cover design calls for a fairly high-resolution image of an AK-47.

You would think, given the utterly ubiquitous nature of this weapon, that this would be easy enough to come up with. Unfortunately, I have hit a number of snags regarding this. First of all, there are probably millions of images of AK-47's on the internet, almost all of which are privately copyrighted material from war photographs, instruction manuals, art, and so forth. So that's out. People don't tend to take it well when you appropriate their work and make money off of it. So then the mission becomes either buy an image or find one in public domain that can be exploited freely for commercial purposes.

Bear in mind, that this image does need to be fairly sharp and detailed, as it must print to approximately 2" at 300 dpi. This further narrows down my options. I have found one image that is attributed to the US Government, and is therefore in the public domain, but I am unsure if I can use it or not.

So I hit upon the idea of buying a replica like those used in films or onstage. They, unfortunately, run anywhere from $200-$800. Sadly, I do not have that sort of money to spend at the moment. There are BB guns styled to look like AK-47's that might work, but they are illegal to ship or own in the Chicago metro area.


So right about now I'm thinking: I read once that on the streets of Baghdad, you could buy an actual AK-47 with ammunition for less than $5. And here I am in supposedly the freest country in the world and I cannot even afford to buy a fake one to use as part of an art-project. This is utterly ironic, considering the revolutionary content of the novel.

And here it gets even funnier and more interesting. I have friends and acquaintances from verious parts of the country who own AR-15's (the M16 non-automatic variant) and other sorts of assault-style paramilitary firearms, but they are all highly Americanized and American-looking weapons. The M16 rifle is probably just as ubiquitous on the battlefield as the AK-47, but the M16 is associated with patriotism and the US, whereas the AK-47 is associated more with revolutions and revolutionaries. So putting an M16 on the cover of the book would carry a completely different connotation than the anthemic, symbolic AK-47.

In a digital world where everything is supposedly at your fingertips, I find it supremely ironic, and somehow appropriate, that the one thing I can't get my hands on (for perfectly non-violent purposes) is a symbol of revolution that is common even in countries with no running water.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


From today.

For Yemeni journalist Mohammed Asaadi, the debate is a life and death issue. The 31-year-old editor of the Yemen Observer, an English-language weekly, returns to a courtroom today to face charges of blasphemy for reprinting versions of three of the Danish cartoons. If found guilty, he could be sent to a firing squad.

Any rational person would think that this was outrageous, and immediately lose sympathy for the human beings that our government is killing and attempting to oppress every day. The rational side of me is meant to care less and less about whether we commit atrocities against fundamentalist Muslim regimes, based on sensationalist bullshit like this.

Thanks, Washington Post, for making my daily world news utterly unreadable government propaganda.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Reading: Red Ivy Afternoon. For the... oh, let's say fiftieth time.
Listening: Liz Phair.
Watching: Nothing.
Working: Transferring website to Dreamhost, Editing Red Ivy Afternoon.
Fetus is craving: Conflict, spinach.

Success! is now hosted on Dreamhost! So long, monthly hosting fees! Hopefully we can avoid any content brownouts in the future.

I sent a hand-written letter to the widow of Ammon Hennacy, a Ms. Joan Thomas, asking for permission to use a quote of his as the epigraph to Red Ivy Afternoon. Given that Ammon Hennacy was born in 1883 and would today be 113 if he were alive, I'm grateful that there's even anyone alive to write to. A kindly older fellow named Frank Donovan at the Catholic Worker helped me out with this one.
Please disregard the weird loss of images in the Profile and background of the page. I'm transferring to Dreamhost at the moment. They'll be back later this evening when I upload to the new host server.

Sudoku is Evil

One of my co-workers has gotten me into playing this silly little numbers game. Man, these things are addictive.

Do we really need laws for stuff like this?

Apparently we do. You'd think the soldiers with loaded firearms at these funerals would discourage people with signs saying things like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

Illinois State Legislature: 1, Asshats: 0.

Chicago Tribune.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I spent the better part of 3 hours last night scanning, cataloguing, renaming, and arranging seventy-some photos of myself to create a montage similar to the one that Paul Hughes created for his website.

See the original here.

I really had some appreciation for him after that little exercise. I have always been firmly in the "I hate having my picture taken" camp, and it forces you to look objectively at pictures of yourself when you were ugly, haunted, lonely, awkward, or happy about something that you either didn't fully understand or appreciate at the time.

If you look at Paul's montage linked above, you can see the progression not only of biological age, but of the effects that life have painted across his face. In each photo, there is a story about what he was thinking, who or what was on his mind, and even more subtly a shade of naivete grounded in the fact that so much of life was still ahead.

I wonder sometimes if that look doesn't follow us all, for the entirety of our lives.

In any case, it will just take me some time to code the page and I'll put it up later. I was brutally tired this morning for some reason.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

New Photos

The quality of the new Kodak really shows. In one day of shooting, it gave Beth and I arguably the best photos we have of each other. See for yourself.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

2001-2006 (continued)

2001-2006 (continued)

2001-2006 (continued)


Beth and I went out to shoot some photos with the new camera, and we hit on the idea of revisiting the same places where we shot so many of our old photos with the Mustang at Lighthouse Beach. I thought some of the shots were striking in their contrast. Here's a few: is back in business and everything works again.

NEW PHOTO PAGE is up, with slideshows.

Union Stockyards

Links to a slideshow of the photos from my trip to the Union Stockyards on 3-12-06, site of Upton Sinclair's classic novel The Jungle. The novel, and the place itself, are both haunting and stunning. Definately a place you'd appreciate visiting on a chilly March day. The photos are taken with my 1.3 megapixel Motorola camera phone. Click "View Photos without signing in"

Volvo S60 Turbo

Finally, I had a chance to have the same three things happen simultaneously:

1: My car needed washing.
2: I had an operable camera.
3: The weather was nice.
4: I didn't have to work.

So you can imagine what happened. Click below to see the slideshow.


Stupid Domain referring... Beh.

So I tried getting the domain to forward directly to this blog, and it did. The helpful little toolbar on the GoDaddy site let me do it with only a little fuss.

Of course then the regular site where all my old pages and images doesn't work anymore.


So, if you're just tuning in right at this moment, just be advised you caught my site with its pants down. They said it would be something like 24 hours until they fixed the forwarding. Until then, I've just moved the critical files on a backup server. I'm in the process of using some of Paul's Dreamhost server to host the files for this site permanently, but until then don't be alarmed if some of this site doesn't work.

Beth and I went on a photo-safari earlier today and we got some excellent photos that we conveniently cannot display.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Reading: The Assassination Business by Richard Belfield
Watching: Nothing, though I am glad Bucky got the boot.
Listening: Counting Crows: "Accidentally In Love"
Working: Catching up on my Silverthought reviews.
Fetus is Craving: Sleep.

There is definately that eerie feeling that someone or something else in our house is making decisions. Beth is experiencing the legendary expectant-mother democritization of her own body. Plans like what's for dinner are now committee decisions, and the little uterus-dweller doesn't always follow Robert's Rules of Order. Even when you expect it to happen, it's still sort of surreal.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warm, so hopefully I can wash my car and take a little roadtrip. Maybe we'll go downtown and go on a little photo-safari with the new camera. Everyone's out and about with the weather being as nice as it is (low 80's), so there's bound to be some good photos for the taking.

I remembered this site earlier today,, a woman who rides a motorcycle through the empty ghost towns surrounding the site of the Chernobyl disaster. This site is incredible.

Updated: Biography page, Writings page, Links, and added Blogwidget.
Forget raindrops and roses, these are a few of MY favorite things.

-My wife.
-My car.(I have a 2002 S60 Turbo)
-My town.
-My literary community.
-My Kodak Z650.
-My iPod.
-My books.
-My desk.
-Armani Exchange.
-Lou Malnati's Pizza.
-Esquire magazine.
-Ani DiFranco.
-Designer sunglasses.
-Surge soda.
-Post Secret.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bow to your sensei

I accidentally swallowed a small fragment of a chicken bone this evening while consuming a frozen Banquet Fried Chicken Meal. Should I be worried? I only noticed it was in my mouth when it scraped my throat on the way down. It reminds me of the time when Beth and I were playing Balderdash at a table full of pediatric physicians. I picked the word "Bezoar" and they all knew what it meant. (A ball of material swallowed by a human that is not food.)

I spoke with a very friendly gentleman at the Catholic Worker newspaper today named Frank Donovan, who told me that he knew how to get in touch with Joan Thomas, the widow of the famous 1930's and 40's era pacifist/anarchist Ammon Hennacy, who I intend to use a quote from as the epigraph of Red Ivy Afternoon. He seemed sure that "Joan" would be amenable to the idea. I've got my fingers crossed. It's surreal to bump up against historical people like that.

And just because I think it's funny, here's a picture of a cat with a machinegun.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reading: The Assassination Business
Watching: American Idol, Unan1mous
Listening: Shakira: "Hips Don't Lie", Thich Nhat Hanh "Mindful Living" (Beth)

Fetus is craving: Ginger ale and hummus.

There is only another fist.

Courtesy of Beth,

My favorite: "There is no chin under Chuck Norris' beard. There is only another fist."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Dozing Editor

Recent photo of my wife taken with my new Kodak Z650.

Speaking of editing, I'm working with Paul at the moment on getting Red Ivy Afternoon finalized. I suppose I ought to get around to some sort of teaser picture or sample chapter or something. Still waiting for Len to get back to me about the cover image.

-Updated profile to include favorites and new photo.

I don't often let others take photos of me because I hate the way I look in them, but my wife occasionally takes a decent one.

Quote of the day comes from Beth: "Come in here and tell me if this smells funny." Pregnant women can smell a mouse fart from five city blocks away. I get this a lot lately. It makes me smile.

As you can see from the photo, I got a haircut today. Finally the weather has brightened a little. It was 76 here today.

Watching: American Idol (nobody did "Keep Yourself Alive", bah)
Listening: Queen - "Keep Yourself Alive"
Reading: The Assissination Business by Richard Belfield

Monday, April 10, 2006


Beth and I went to our first appointment at the OB/GYN on Thursday.
Well, I've got the new blog system up. I should be able to update this site a lot more often than my old HTML site. It's mostly just for the folks at Silverthought and the other online communities that I go to, and my family, so there's no sense in making it more complex than it has to be. registered. I'm retiring the old site, because it's a pain in the neck to update and I like this format better anyway. Why pay $110 a year for a site that twelve people visit?