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Friday, February 26, 2010

HEE HAW: The Art of PATRICK PORTER


"My brain feels like a saxophone; it's all downhill from here..." 
-- Patrick Porter

Some of you who know me well, or who have been following my online chattering for awhile, will have heard me go on and on about my friend Partick Porter.  Patrick is an artist-- writing novels and poetry, painting, and making music.  In this post, I wanted to share some of Patrick's art with you, cuz it's some of my favorite stuff ever.

I met Patrick sometime in 1993 or so, when he was 15 years old.  I was at Wax Trax one day (legendary Denver underground nexus), and picked up a copy of his zine, Our Comics Suck.  In it he expressed his wishes to buy an old Fender guitar, and I had a Duo-Sonic that I never used anymore, so I wrote him a letter telling him about it.

A few days later Patrick came over to my apartment to look at the guitar.  It was a piece of junk, to tell the truth.  It'd been stripped and "refinished" with a sticky, gloppy dark brown stain, and the neck was jerryrigged onto the body with ugly bolts.  Didn't sound too good either.  But it was cheap.  Patrick agreed to buy the guitar for $125 (a rip-off, looking back), but he only had $75 on him.  I took the money and said pay me the rest when you can.

(You can read another version of this event in the story "Lost and Found," in King-Cat Classix.)

Turns out Patrick loved that guitar, and used it in his band Neglected Lawn, up in Bailey, in the mountains, where he lived.  But he never got back to me with the remaining payment.  I kind of figured he never would, but then one day that fall he called me up and said he was in town, and he had the money.

I drove down to DU and he came out of the apartment, with, no shit, a plastic bag with $50 in change in it.  Pennies and everything.  That's when I knew I was dealing with a special person.

Years passed.  Patrick learned jazz guitar, and began making his own music.  I moved back to Chicago, Patrick shifted all over the country.  We had some kind of weird bond, and many 2 AM phone calls ensued.  We became really good friends.  I never had one in real life, but in many ways Patrick is the closest thing I've ever had to a brother.

The stuff Patrick makes is messy and brilliant, and deeply beautiful and sad, to me.  His music is some of my favorite music in the world.  One day Patrick decided to start painting, and lo and behold he was good at that too.  He likes to paint because he doesn't know how. 

Over the years his music has grown from funny punk noise to hushed shoegazery pop, to his current style, which is a splattery mix of crazy/delicate singing, smart lyrics, trashcan/luminous guitar, drums, piano, reverb, and haunting beauty.  Real beauty, like looking out at the real world.  Even before Patrick started making canvases, I felt like his songs were paintings.  They have that feel to me.  People looking for the latest "indie rock" car commercial are going to be confused and knocked back by this kind of thing.  It's real art by a real artist.

Without going into details, Patrick has lived an oftentimes rough life.  Of all my many poor friends, Patrick is the only one who, to my knowledge, has ever spent nights on park benches.  To me this is a crime.  But that's America™ for you, right?

I'm including here some videos, images, and poems, plus links where you can find more of his work.  I hope you enjoy it.

--John P.

Patrick Porter Wikipedia entry




* * *
MUSIC

Patrick has released over ten full length albums, on various small labels.  His 2007 recording, A Swan at Smiley's, is, I think, a masterpiece.  His latest album, the achingly warm, crazy, and funny Bachelor Pad Blue; Bent Pants and Stray Cats, has not yet been "officially" released, but is available for download from bandcamp.com.

For studio versions of his songs, please visit:
Patrick's Bandcamp site
Myspace site with art and music
More unruly songs

Recommended tracks for first time listeners:
"Bond Funeral Home"
"Wait For Another"
"Hee Haw"
"Feed From a Holy Lite"
"Fogelburg"
"Hollywood is a Word on a Wall"


Video for "Wait for Another," from A Swan at Smiley's:


"When The Summer's On" live in NYC


Patrick Porter Plays "Hee Haw" Live Behind The TV Set:


* * *
ART



Coconut Soop (2007)


Ten Million Mules (2008)


Freeway (2008)


Band (2009)


Quiet Girl (2009)


Schdy 1 (2009)

Video: Patrick Porter Paints Live From His Horse Pillow:


Video: Patrick Porter-- District Attorney Painting, In Progress:



Patrick's etsy shop

* * *
POETRY

Just a few short samples:

OCEAN

my house
is in
the
middle
of the
ocean

i open
doors
and the
waves
push me
through

i have
to walk
with
conviction

from
crag to
crag

the
water
is warm
milk
white



MINER

I spend
My time

Mining
Diamonds

From
Atop

A floral
Mattress

I eat
Raw glass

And widen
My eyes

I mine
Diamonds

In my
Own
Likeness



HOME

I have
To
Talk
Backwards

Just
To make
Sense

I have
To
Walk
Backwards

Just
To get
Home


Patrick's blog


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

EVEL KNIEVEL STORY


A super rare comic that originally appeared in Steve Mandich's classic Evel Knievel zine, Heinous, Oct. '95.

(Sorry it's a little fuzzy.  I don't know what I'm doing!!!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FEBRUARY THAW


Filmed behind our apartment building, Denver, Colorado; Feb. 22, 2010.

Monday, February 22, 2010

JUST SOME OWL PHOTOS FROM AL

Great Horned Owl, Northern Illinois University Campus - DeKalb


Ditto


Barred Owl, Franklin Creek Natural Area - Franklin Grove, Illinois

Friday, February 19, 2010

(THINKING ABOUT) THINKING ABOUT ART


We all have our personal tastes, but the fact is, taste doesn't determine quality.  To me, when an artist makes art, they make a world.  That world may not appeal to me, but that in itself shouldn't affect how I appreciate that world critically.  In order to really appreciate art you need to be willing to confront it, work with it, and explore it, using your own mind.  Your mind is the connection between you and the art.

When I look at art, I try to look at it on its own terms.  Comparing only gets you so far, and oftentimes not very far at all.  I try to understand the artist's intentions--  what they were trying to do-- and whether that attempt was successful or not (which is a subjective thing, as I'd say it's impossible to objectively define success).  Even if it was "unsuccessful" in this way, a work can still be interesting, since art isn't necessarily about winning.

So when I look at art, I look at this world the artist has created.  What I'm looking for is a kind of integrity--  do these pieces fit?  Has the artist conveyed a sense of totality, where the art, whatever its form, feels complete, as it is, on its own terms?  Is it whole?  (Even art about fractured bits can be whole in this way.)

To me, that's what ultimately determines what I call quality.  It's hard, because we're all humans, wired with our own personal tastes and inclinations, but if we too often stumble over our own taste, we can miss out on a lot that the world has to offer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DETECTIVE COMIX

I drew this for Sue, and the Denver Comic Fest Sketchbook.

Then Noah colored it!


Batman and Robin © DC Comics

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SMITHS


Back when I was in High School, my friend Fred and I had this bizarre rule that we only listened to "American" music.  That is, the music of the American Underground scene at the time-- bands like REM, Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Black Flag, and so on.  The only allowable exception, somehow, was the Sex Pistols.  Hey--  we were young--  and bands like REM had a distinctly "American" flavor to them that we couldn't quite put our finger on, but wanted to support.  (The truth is, I have no real excuses!)

When I went off to college, in the fall of 1986, REM was on tour in support of their Lifes Rich Pageant album.  A few days before we left for college, Fred and I saw them at the UIC Pavilion (Fred had tried to pawn his HS class ring to get money for tickets, but no go).

Then, it was announced that REM would play a show in DeKalb of all places, where we went to school, with Camper Van Beethoven opening.  This was unbelievable!  In my naïveté, I thought "This must be what college is like!"

John Lyons and I slept out for tickets, along with a decent sized crowd, out on the sidewalk in front of the Chick Evans Field House.  This guy we had recently met, known only to us as "Terry the Skater," was there too, and had brought a boombox along.

Early in the evening, he put in a tape.  "What is this stuff?" I asked.  He said, "The Smiths-- The Queen is Dead."  I probably rolled my eyes.  The Smiths were "mopes" that only the girls liked.  Plus:  English.  The truth is I'd never heard them before.

When the album was done, Terry started it all over again at the beginning.  I must have been subjected to that record at least a half a dozen times that night...  he just played it over and over and over...

My consternation gradually turned to acceptance, and then--  I actually started listening.  Suddenly it started sinking in.  I remember it was "Frankly Mr Shankly":  "You are a flatulent pain in the ass," and "I didn't know you wrote such bloody awful poetry!"  Melodic and wry, with a beautiful, loping acoustic-based rhythm behind it.


Afterwards, I told my friend Anne about this.  She was a hardcore Smiths fan, and quickly loaned me her cassette of Louder Than Bombs.  I listened to it nonstop for weeks--  I was hooked.  The next year Strangeways, Here We Come was released, and I saw the video for "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" on 120 Minutes.  I was officially a Smiths fan.  (It helped that my poor heart was broken at the time.)


Looking back, you really have to wonder if the Smiths were the greatest band of the 1980's.  Who else is there?  The only ones that come close (to me) are REM and the Buttholes.  And as great as they were, the Buttholes were in a different category altogether.  REM is a close second, but, in my opinion, they kind of petered out towards the decade's end.

The Smiths were one of those gestalt bands, where the unique combination of players, time, and vibe transcended the individual parts.  Johnny Marr is an amazing guitarist, Morrissey is an amazing lyricist and singer, but together they're really something else.  Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke tend to be forgotten, or given short shrift critically (and, apparently, financially), but they were the perfect dynamo that set the stage for everything else.

For a musician with no "flash," Marr must be the greatest guitarist in post-punk history.  His ability to weave complex but nuanced layers through a song is untouched.  And Morrissey--  I can't really think of a more interesting, literate lyricist in all of rock and roll, except maybe Becker and Fagan*, but Morrissey's passion and risk-taking beats out the Dan's ironic cool any day.

I'm not gonna convert anyone with these poorly thunk lines, I know...  Is there any other band of the Smiths' ilk that is so divisive?  All I'm saying is that this music is absolutely smart, vital, and timeless, with hardly a missed note or blown opportunity to be found.  Pretty impressive.


* * *

(As for the REM concert...  it was great.  During CVB's opening set, all the frat boys in the front row stood and gave them the finger the entire time.  Payback from the band came in the form of a 20 minute version of "Interstellar Overdrive."  And for REM's encore, Jonathan Segal came out in a witch's hat, and played violin on "Feeling Gravity's Pull."  Amazingly, a bunch of footage from this actual show is up on YouTube.  It really was a Golden Age.)


* * *

*(We shall leave Maestro Dylan up there on his throne where he belongs...)


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

THE BATS



Thanks to Sue Heller.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

KING-CAT DOC IN THE WORKS


OK, so I guess the cat's out of the bag! Dan Stafford of Kilgore Books here in Denver is making a documentary film on King-Cat. He's got a blog (below) where he'll be posting updates etc every once in awhile. If anyone out there has footage, photos or anything else King-Cat related that they'd like to share, please let Dan know. Thanks!

http://www.root-hog.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

COMIC BOOK CONFIDENTIAL: Part Two

(For Part One, click here.)

* * *

In the late summer of 1979, my family and I moved from the city of Chicago out to the northwest suburbs, to a little "village" (their term) called Hoffman Estates.  By this time I was drawing comics at home a lot, with #2 pencils on typing paper that I procured from my Dad's desk.  I was making bad monster movie approximations, weird "Love Is..." type single-panel cartoons (no, really), and, eventually, violent Bloom County pastiches.

I continued to read Mad religiously, collecting each new issue and book I could find.  In Junior High I started hanging out at my friend Don's house, where, much to my delight, I discovered Savage Sword of Conan and National Lampoon.  I was delighted, of course, because both prominently featured boobs.  I started getting into Conan and other Dungeons & Dragons-type amusements, and Don and I would make weekly trips down to a local hobby shop called The Hobbyist, which was just down the street (mall) from both Moondog's Comics and Kevin's Book Exchange.  At the Hobbyist I'd buy my little pewter figurines of dragons, and at Kevin's I'd buy Conan.

One day at the Hobbyist I picked up a copy of Dragon magazine with a comic strip in the back called Finieous Fingers.  I must have also seen a copy of Dave Sim's Cerebus around this time, because shortly thereafter I started drawing Tales of Hogarth the Barbarian Pig, a crudely drawn, humorous approximation of the two.  This was the first of my comics that I made copies of.  My dad would take my pages in to his downtown office and make photocopies, which I'd then collate into little booklets to give to my friends at school.  This would have been about 1983.

Now, Conan was one thing, but National Lampoon was something else altogether.  Not only were there boobs, and a more "intelligent" (?) kind of humor to be found in its pages, but...  there were comics.  GOOD comics, like Trots and Bonnie (Shary Flenniken), and Mark Marek's hilarious, sadly under-recognized Hercules Amongst the North Americans.  Subconsciously, my concept of what comics could be was quietly expanding.


For a few years after that, though, I was focused more on music and fine art than comics.  I still read the newspaper funnies (albeit with a more ironic sensibility), but my Conan thing was short lived, as was Tales of Hogarth.  I dropped my subscription to NatLamp, and tried to learn guitar.

Jim Nutt: "Second- A Serious Perusal," 1983

Pretty soon I was into punk rock and art, and my tastes were getting more and more underground and weird.  I was committed to becoming an artist, and took every art class that I could get my hands on at school.  Early on, I was exposed to both the Pop Art of Lichtenstein and Warhol, and the influence comics had on them, as well as the Chicago Imagists, a loose group of figurative artists that came to "prominence" in the late 60's.  Their art was very "graphic," in an artistic sense, with brightly colored, funky, comic book-like imagery.  I began to think about comic books in a new way, and began seeking them out for inspiration.

Roger Brown: "The Young and Self Conscious," 1991

Roger Brown: "Rolling Meadows," 1979

My dad would bring home copies of the Chicago Reader for me each Thursday, and I pored over every inch of that strange, cool paper: the music listings, the classifieds, the ads, and the comics--  the great Life in Hell by Matt Groening, and Ernie Pook's Comeek by Lynda Barry.  Like punk rock, in which I found my musical voice, it was these two cartoonists that really got me interested in making my own comics again.


At the same time, my friend Fred, the bass player in our noise-punk-jazz band Bryce Hammer, was into comic books, superhero comic books, and eventually I accompanied him on one of his weekly trips to Moondog's.  I picked up a few titles, mostly cuz I thought carrying comics around in your back pocket was "funny," like something the Ramones might do.  The next thing I knew I was hooked.  I was reading Fantastic Four, Longshot, Secret Wars, Daredevil, Moon Knight, Moonshadow, and the brand new Web of Spiderman.  (Marvel only, if you'll notice, probably at Fred's behest.)

This phase lasted about a year.  Luckily, Moondog's was one of those classic old-school comics shops of the 80's where there were no rules.  Alongside the usual Marvel and DC stock was a huge selection of comics from the "Black and White" indie boom, James Bond UK import comics, the early Fantagraphics releases, and oddball titles like Mister X (Motter/Hernandez/Seth) and Neil the Horse (Arn Saba).  Pretty soon, in addition to the Marvel books, I was picking up anything that looked different.  The soap-opera nature of the superhero comics was wearing thin on me, and by the summer of '86 I was reading weird titles like Lloyd Llewellyn (Dan Clowes), Neat Stuff (Pete Bagge), and Flaming Carrot (Bob Burden) exclusively.


In 1985, my friends and I had began publishing an "underground newspaper" at our High School, called Zo-Zo, and I contributed a few absurdist strips, like Oh, That Monk! (inspired by old newspaper comics, ala Thimble Theater, that I had run across in the library), and Mingo the MartianMingo really showed what was going on in my head at the time, morphing from a Mister X type Sci-fi "thriller" to slapdash, scribbled punk rock violence and humor over the course of three or four installments.



When we went away to college, my friends and I began attending this little comic convention that was held a few times a year at the Congress Hotel in Chicago.  There was one dealer, from Makanda, Illinois, who brought with him every unusual kind of book and zine.  I'd pay my admission and run directly to his table, where I could pick up things like Flaming Carrot, Raw, Gary Panter stuff, and other bizarre small press books. It was like manna from heaven for me, the stranger the better.

About this time too I began buying these cheap monster comics that I'd find in the Quarter Bins (Five for a Dollar) at the comic shops.  Titles like Monsters on the Prowl, Where Monsters Dwell, and Creatures on the Loose.  I became obsessed with these comics too.  I loved the bright, lurid covers and the demented stories; and for 20 cents how could you go wrong?  It wasn't till later that I realized these were reprints of classic stories by the great comic book masters Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Don Heck, and so forth.  No wonder they stood out to me.  To this day, these are still my favorite comics of all time.

(It was on one of my Wild Monster Chases that I came across, at a store called "Comic Cave and Karate" (yes, it was a combination comic shop/dojo!), in a bland suburban stripmall, a copy of the amazing Bad News #2, featuring the likes of Mark Newgarden, Paul Karasik, and Kaz.  I still remember the absolute thrill and impossibility of finding that book-- I was practically trembling-- in a cardboard box by the front door.  Those were different times, folks!)

Meanwhile, I continued making my zines, including a new art and poetry title called Cehsoikoe, which I began publishing in 1987.  I had been introduced to Factsheet Five and the zine world by my friend Lainie, and had become immersed in that culture.  I'd get the new Factsheet Five in the mail, and read through it, circling cool sounding zines in pencil.  One day I sent away for a bunch of comics by a girl in Montreal--  Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet-- and what I got in the mail blew me away.  It seems really obvious to me now, but I loved how everything in it came directly from Julie's hand:  the covers, the letters pages, the comics, the writing.  I had been making my own little comics and zines now for a few years, but usually in the capacity of an editor--  I'd gather work from all over (including my own), and put it together in a book-- but Dirty Plotte inspired me to make a new zine, one that would be all my own comics, that would be my own personal reaction to and statement to the world--  and that was King-Cat.  I published the first issue in May of 1989, and never looked back.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

COMIC BOOK CONFIDENTIAL

I was thinking about comic books, comics shops, and how these things have changed over my lifetime.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how comics have been a thread throughout my life.  As a cartoonist, I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, right?  Except I don't normally think about comics in this way.

When I was a kid, I owned only a handful of comic books.  There was Chamber of Chills #15, from March of 1975; a copy of Creepy Things #2 (Sept. '75?); Ghosts #46 (April 1976); and an incoherent assortment of superhero comics, like the one where Superman (???  Comix Nerds--  help me out here!) gets punched so hard he goes back in time to 1776!  I'd say I had a total of five or six titles in all.



The first comic book I ever owned was Chamber of Chills #15.  I got it off a newsstand spinner rack at the CTA station on a trip downtown one day.  It soon lost its cover, but the effect it had on me was profound.  The main story, "The Eyes!", was about a man who discovers that the people around him have eyes in the back of their heads.  I endured a lot of childhood anxiety over that one.



Mostly though, I read the newspaper funnies.  My family got the Chicago Sun-Times, so I was regaled in the comics pages by the likes of Ziggy (Tom Wilson), Momma and Miss Peach (Mell Lazarus), Big George (Virg Partch), Apartment 3-G (Dallis & Kotzky), and Funky Winkerbean (Tom Batuik).  On Sundays we'd visit my Grandma John, who got the Tribune--  where I read Peanuts (Charles Schulz), Dick Tracy (Chester Gould), Shoe (Jeff MacNelly), Hagar the Horrible (Dik Browne), Gasoline Alley (Dick Moores), and Little Orphan Annie (Harold Gray/Leonard Starr).

(For years, I never recognized Peanuts as a daily strip, but more from the TV Specials, the Sunday strip (which seemed like some kind of auxiliary feature to the specials), and the Fawcett-Crest paperbacks I found lying around my cousin Eric's house.)

I read all these comics with no discrimination;  if it was comics, I'd read it.  (Of course, Rex Morgan MD and Judge Parker were beyond my realm, but I still liked the pictures.)

Then, when I was in the 5th Grade, a landmark event happened in my life.  I was walking out of class at St. Constance, when my teacher, Sister Rita Mary, pulled me aside.  She handed me a paperback book.  "I found this, left behind by one of the CCD students.  I know you like art, so I thought I'd give it to you.  But if there's anything off-color in there, please just throw it away."

The book was Burning Mad, a Mad Magazine paperback collection from 1968.

No kidding--  my introduction to the world of subversive comics was occasioned by a nun.  God bless her, and I mean it!

Thereafter, I was obsessed with Mad.  I began searching through the magazine racks at the Supermarket when I'd go shopping wth my mom.  As soon as we got into the store, I'd run to the magazine aisle and scan for a new issue, or a new paperback collection.  The first issue of Mad I owned was #192, the one with the (modern) King Kong parody...

Then, one fateful day, I found a Mad Super Special, with something called "The Nostalgic Mad" bound into the front cover.  It was mesmerizing.  I felt transported into a weird, thrilling, and slightly scary place:  the History of Comics. 

Like those old Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons that would appear magically in-between the color ones on afternoon TV, I knew intuitively that there was something very very special at hand-- something I couldn't put my finger on at the time, but was transported and mystified by nonetheless.

I began drawing comics.




End of Part One
(For Part Two, click here.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"IF THE PEOPLE STARE, THEN THE PEOPLE STARE"


Devil Dinosaur cover homage:  a rough scan that still needs to be tweaked, cleaned-up, and colored.  Apologies and respect to the great King Kirby.  (And Morrissey!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

MORE SMALL MAMMAL ACTION

Continuing our theme from yesterday:

Last week Noah and I were walking at Crown Hill Park in Wheat Ridge, around the big lake.  On the north side, we saw a little varmint rummaging in the grass alongside of the path.  It was a muskrat, foraging.

I've of course seen many muskrats in the water, and even some around the banks of streams and ponds, but I'd never seen one sitting out there in the open like that (in the wild, that is; see "Muskrat/Love," in King-Cat Classix.).



We walked up slowly, and looked at it.  It didn't show the slightest interest in us as we approached, and simply continued rooting around in the dry grass.  Finally we ended up a few feet from it.  I squatted down to get a closer look.  It was very furry, with fine, brown hair, that as the wind blew, was revealed to be a dark grey underneath.  It had long claws, big back feet, and yellow teeth; a snake-like tail.



We stood and watched it for a long time.  I'd say I got as close as eighteen inches from it.  Once or twice it kind of glanced at us, but never for more than an instant, and it never showed any fear of us.  Even when people walked past with their dogs it showed no concern.

As we stood there, not wanting to leave, people would come up to us:  "What is that?"  "It's a muskrat..." I'd say.  "But I've never seen one out in the open like this, and one that was so unafraid of people..."  The onlookers would say "Ah...", and move on, to be replaced by a new batch a few minutes later--  "What is that?"  After awhile we felt like docents at the zoo.

One young urban professional  lady came up and asked about it.  When I said, "I've never seen one so unafraid of people." She said "Maybe it's sick..." and took an unconscious step backwards.  "Doesn't look sick..." I said.

When I was a kid growing up in suburban Chicago, my friends and I were terrified of muskrats.  Why, I'm not sure.  They seemed like potential trouble, I guess.  Anyhow, it was nice to see one so close up.

PS:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MESMERIC INFLUENCES/GROUNDHOG DAY

Those of you who've read King-Cat for awhile know how I love them groundhogs.  So I love Groundhog Day, in principle at least. I like that there is a day devoted to this lovable creature, but I dislike that it involves some dude in a 19th Century suit, with a top hat and cigar, man-handling some poor, overfed, scared-to-death whistle pig.




You may also know that one of my biggest heroes is Henry David Thoreau.  I was delighted to find that he also loved himself a good woodchuck (and no, the myth that he caught and ate one, raw, is just that-- a myth).  Here's a (long) selection from his remarkable Journal, dated April 16, 1852.  It's worth the read.
"As I turned round the corner of Hubbard's Grove, saw a woodchuck, the first of the season, in the middle of the field, six or seven rods from the fence which bounds the wood, and twenty rods distant.  I ran along the fence and cut him off, or rather overtook him, though he started at the same time.  When I was only a rod and a half off, he stopped, and I did the same;  then he ran again, and I ran up within three feet of him, when he stopped again, the fence being between us.  I squatted down and surveyed him at my leisure.  His eyes were dull black and rather inobvious, with a faint chestnut (?) iris, but with little expression and that more of resignation than anger.  The general aspect was a coarse grayish brown, a sort of grisel (?).  A lighter brown next the skin, then black or very dark brown, and darker still or black on the tip of the nose.  The whiskers black, two inches long.  The ears very small and roundish, set far back and nearly buried in the fur.  Black feet, with long and slender claws for digging.  It appeared to tremble, or perchance shivered with cold.  When I moved, it gritted its teeth quite loud, sometimes striking the under jaw against the other chatteringly, sometimes grinding one jaw on the other, yet as if more from instinct than anger.  Whichever way I turned, that way it headed.  I took a twig a foot long and touched its snout, at which it started forward and bit the stick, lessening the distance between us to two feet, and still it held all the ground it gained.  I played with it tenderly awhile with the stick, trying to open its gritting jaws.  Ever its long incisors, two above and two below, were presented.  But I thought it would go to sleep if I stayed long enough.  It did not sit upright as sometimes, but standing on its fore feet with its head down, i.e. half sitting, half standing.  We sat looking at one another about half an hour, till we began to feel mesmeric influences.  When I was tired, I moved away, wishing to see him run, but I could not start him.  He would not stir as long as I was looking at him or could see him.  I walked round him;  he turned as fast and fronted me still.  I sat down by his side within a foot.  I talked to him quasi forest lingo, baby-talk, at any rate in a conciliatory tone, and thought that I had some influence on him.  He gritted his teeth less.  I chewed checkerberry leaves and presented them to his nose at last without a grit;  though I saw that by so much gritting of the teeth he had worn them rapidly and they were covered with a fine white powder, which, if you measured it thus, would have made his anger terrible.  He did not mind any noise I might make.  With a little stick I lifted one of his paws to examine it, and held it up with pleasure.  I turned him over to see what color he was beneath (darker or more purely brown), though he turned himself back again sooner than I could have wished.  His tail was also all brown, though not very dark, rat-tail like, with loose hairs standing out on all sides like a caterpillar brush.  He had a rather mild look.  I spoke kindly to him.  I reached checkerberry leaves to his mouth.  I stretched my hands over him, though he turned up his head and still gritted a little.  I laid my hand on him, but immediately took it off again, instinct not being wholly overcome.  If I had had a few fresh bean leaves, thus in advance of the season, I am sure I should have tamed him completely.  It was a frizzly tail.  His is a humble, terrestrial color like the partridge's, well concealed where dead wiry grass rises above darker brown or chestnut dead leaves, -- a modest color.  If I had had some food, I should have ended with stroking him at my leisure.  Could easily have wrapped him up in my hankerchief.  He was not fat nor particularly lean.  I finally had to leave him without seeing him move from the place.  A large, clumsy, burrowing squirrel.  Arctomys, bear-mouse.  I respect him as one of the natives.  He lies there, by his color and habits so naturalized amid the dry leaves, the withered grass, and the bushes.  A sound nap, too, he has enjoyed in his native fields, the past winter.  I think I might learn some wisdom of him.  His ancestors have lived here longer than mine."
Almost all of Thoreau's writings are available for free online, as PDFs, from the Walden Institute.  Just knowing that this man once walked our Earth makes me feel better.

Happy Groundhog Day!