A foggy day, with coffee, cookies,
and little Dutch wooden shoes!

circa January, 1992

GALLERY SCENE I: Illinois fans should check out the McLean County Arts Center (601 N. East Street, Bloomington; Tuesday-Saturday) where an exhibit running January 17-February 28 showcases the work of artists Tim Bradstreet, Tim Conrad, and Jeff Laubenstein. Included is original art for comics pages and fantasy game covers.

An aside to Bradstreet's fans, who have been asking what Tim has been up to since the publication of Dragon Chiang, on which he collaborated with Tim Truman: Big Tim B. is hard at work on the amazing illustrations to Clive Barker's most sexually horrific horror story, Age of Desire, from an adaptation by P. Craig Russell.

Age of Desire is the story of a guy who is given an experimental brain-stimulating aphrodisiac. If you've ever read the accounts in the scientific press about what happens to rats who have the so-called "pleasure centers" of their brains stimulated, you'll know that the real-life result of tampering with erotic drives is not as pleasant as it sounds.

Our culture is imbued with the showily sexual-silicone-enhanced female models pose beside alcoholic beverages as if purchase of these products conveyed personal intimacy, while steroid-enhanced male athletes appear in skin-tight, shoulder-padded costumes, their plastic-protected genital bulges promising far more than a quick run into the end-zone.

What if we were not only able to perceive the subliminal sexuality flung at us daily by our own culture, but also became open to the elusive sexuality of other species -- say, strawberries, for instance, their ripening seeds splashed across shamelessly sweet, invitingly heart-shaped fruit? And what if science then freed us from all restraints on the capacity to act upon our limitless erotic stimulation?

These questions, posed (but hardly answered) in Age of Desire, are what make it so much more than a mere horror story. Look for it sometime later this year (Tim is pencilling it now). You are going to be amazed; i guarantee.

GALLERY SCENE II: California residents should go to the Sonoma County Museum (425 7th Street, Santa Rosa) January 24-March 8 to view a great exhibit of Mad magazine art, including work by Frank Kelly Freas, Wally Wood, Norman Mingo, Bob Clarke, and many others. This material is from the collection of Mark Cohen, who has loaned it for display to several museums around the country already; it is still available for future exhibitions, says Mark. Mort Drucker will appear at the museum in person January 25, and Al Jaffee and Sergio Aragones will both be there February 22.

SPECIAL THANKS DEPARTMENT: I want to thank the people who have sent me information on non-headache migraine auras. To reassure those who asked about my health: i've only had this happen twice so far, with no headaches. The medical clippings received give quite a list of possible causes for the phenomenon. Two things my own experiences had in common were that on both occasions i had taken aspirin (for a muscle ache) and had inadvertently tasted (and rapidly spit out) junk food sweetened with aspartame.

Which brings up the next question (Ted Sturgeon warned us about this): Are there other folks out there to whom aspartame is not so much a "sweetener" as it is the taste equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard? The moment my tongue touches anything tainted with this bizarre chemical, i salivate like a mad dog and have the sensation that my mouth is made of copper through which a low voltage electrical charge is being carried. Surely i am not alone in this (although Fritz Leiber once warned us that we all were). RSVP if you know what i'm talking about.

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