Tom Hart’s ROSALIE LIGHTNING

RosalieLightningI just read Tom Hart‘s new book ROSALIE LIGHTNING (St. Martin’s Press), and I was blown away. What is it about? It’s about My Neighbor Totoro, and Ponyo, and EC Comics, and Metaphrog, and James Bond, and Kurosawa movies, and Thich Nhat Hanh, and “O Superman,” and Jeff Mason. And it’s about real estate, and bike rides, and corn mazes, and getting your car stuck in the snow, and being adrift on a raft, and big moons in the sky, and dreams, and trees, and acorns, and about the “capacious hole in your heart” when your child dies.

I’ve known Tom and his fellow cartoonist wife, Leela Corman, (who’s basically the co-star of this book) for a really long time, as fellow travelers on the road of alternative comics—Sari & I were guests at their wedding—but I hadn’t seen much of them in the last 10 years, particularly after they left Brooklyn and moved to Gainesville, Florida. I only met their daughter Rosalie once, probably around 2010, shortly before they left town. I was in Chicago when I heard the horrible, terrible, tragic news of Rosalie’s death—I even wrote a short post about it back then. And the next time I saw Tom & Leela was the fall of 2014 (when I visited them at their school The Sequential Artists Workshop), when they had the gift of Rosalie’s little sister Molly Rose. This book fills in all that missing time.

Tom is a master storyteller and cartoonist, and if he never did anything else the world would always have his creation Hutch Owen. (Where would Bernie Sanders be without Hutch Owen?!) But for Rosalie Lightning he has created a new art style—malleable, scratchy and impressionistic (when needed), and deliriously vibrant, even though it’s “limited” to half-tones. It’s an incredible, gripping book, which I stayed up late into the night reading all the way through. It’s destined to become a classic.

When was the last time a book made you cry? For me, it had been a long time. As a father myself, unable to even imagine the pain Tom & Leela have been through, it was often tortuous to read, and I dried my eyes a number of times. But I’m so grateful for the experience. (I even forgive the book’s “hate letter” to New York, because I feel like that sometimes too.) Thank you, Tom, for this brave, and ultimately triumphant work. Your daughter couldn’t have a better memorial.

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Rosalie Lightning, 2009–2011

How horrible to write that “headline”…

Our friends Tom Hart and Leela Corman lost their two-year-old daughter, Rosalie, on Friday night. Sari and I can’t even begin to imagine the grief they must be going through. Ironically, tonight we just came back from a weekend trip to Chicago, where we left Phoebe behind with her grandparents. On Friday, right before the flight, Sari and I talked a bit about what we hoped would happen to Phoebe — and how she would be cared for — should we both die in a plane crash. Little did we know what was transpiring that very same time, but in reverse, with Tom and Leela.

Their dear friends and fellow cartoonists, Lauren Weinstein and Jon Lewis, have more to say about the situation. I found this line of Jon’s particularly touching: “My friends are in a horror world I don’t even know if I can understand, past some mountains and behind a veil; I want to touch them and protect them but there’s no way to do that.”

Now would be a good time to read Tom’s ongoing strip, “Daddy Lightning,” inspired by his journey as a father. He says he plans on continuing the strip.

Please consider donating to the Rosalie Lightning Memorial fund (administered through PayPal), to help the family with funeral and related expenses.

Now I must go hug my daughter… for a very long time.

“How Many Billboards?”

My mother, Martha Rosler, was invited by L.A.’s MAK Center to create a billboard as part of their “How Many Billboards” project. My mom suggested that we do a collaboration, and our billboard is up! It’s on Sunset Blvd, just west of Cahuenga, on the north side of the street, facing east. Here’s a shot. I’m off to L.A. tomorrow (weather willing) to take part in the opening festivities, etc…

"How Many Projects?"

Hallowe’en 1973 vs. Hallowe’en 2009

Like father like daughter…
Super Neufelds
The Super Neufelds wish you a happy Hallowe’en!

Just Like a Phoebe

Phoebe(To the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”)

It’s all very plain
Today as we stroll down the lane
Ev’rybody knows
That baby’s got new clothes
And lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have perched on her curls.

Ah, you eat tofu with both hands, yes, you do
You yawn like your grandpa, yes, you do
Then you smile just like Ellen Barkin
But you cry just like a little girl.

Phoebe Leaps & Bounds

The last five weeks have been an incredible growth period for Phoebe. I can date her progress because we’ve been “homeless” since February 11, living over at Sari’s parents’ house in Brooklyn Heights while our apartment is being repainted and baby-proofed. (The job was supposed to take two weeks. Don’t ask.) During that period, our little infant has shot right through babyhood practically into toddlerhood.

For example, when we left our place, she could barely roll herself onto her back. If we propped her up, she could sit upright, but not for long before the weight of her head toppled her over. She did little “push-ups” on the rug, but nothing close to crawling. She could barely grasp objects in her hands, and her limbs often flapped around, seemingly without rhyme or reason. She had just started eating solid foods, but more as a way to get used to eating from a spoon than for actual nutrition. The best sound she could make was a Bronx cheer. And her constant drooling required her to wear a bib most of the day.

Five short weeks later, she can not only crawl wherever she wants, but she can lift herself up to a standing position! She even sometimes forgets she can’t walk yet, and lets go of her support. Thank goodness someone’s always there to catch her before she tumbles all the way down. She eats three meals a day, and whereas we once were introducing new foods only every three days, to make sure she didn’t develop rashes or allergies, now we pretty much give her a taste of whatever we’re having. She has two nice little bottom teeth, which we even brush at night (when we remember). And just two days ago, she started making actual word-like sounds: “bah bah bah,” or maybe “blah blah blah” — she doesn’t think much of adult conversation. She’s generally much more alert, more in control of her arms and legs, and is fully in control of her opposable thumbs. Most of all, she’s glorying in her newfound independence. She’s impatient with being a baby already, and wants to be a little girl. Her cuteness quotient is also at an all-time high. (I’m purely objective, of course.)

Clichéd as it is to say, i’m dumbfounded to realize that she’s only seven-and-a-half months old, that this time a year ago, me and a pregnant Sari were relaxing on a beach in Puerto Rico. A year ago, our lives were basically the same: I was working on A.D., Sari was at HRW, etc., etc. But in that time, we became parents, and our little 8-1/2-pound newborn is now a person, a personality, a permanent member of our little family.

Amazing.


A recent shot of the girl after she lost a bet. She swore that if she lost, she’d either eat her shoe or her hat. (As you can see, she chose her shoe.)

We have a small, jolly fat man in our apartment

Baby Phoebe

Elfing Oneself

Thanks to OfficeMax, I “elfed” my little family. My mom chastised me for doing it without Phoebe’s “permission”. My ex-step-mom Elynn was disturbed by so much shimmying. And my friend Tori identified just what it is that makes it so creepy: “Frozen expressions on dancing bodies.” (All blame should go to wjcohen, who turned me on to the site in the first place.) Anyway, you be the judge: http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1391444500.

P.S. You can also Scrooge Yourself.

That’s my bro!

Congrats to my half-bro, moviethinker, for his admission into MCNY’s Masters Program in Public Administration in Emergency and Disaster Management! The 16-month program, which starts in January, includes a ten-day visit to Isreal to study with the IMI Academy for Advanced Security. Ultimately, it could lead to a position with the Red Cross, FEMA, or the NYC Office of Emergency Management. Kudos to Jake for his pursuit of such a pro-active, altruistic career path.

Please welcome…

… my brother Jacob, a.k.a. moviethinker, who’ll be posting “reviews and comments on movies both new and old.”