Showing posts with label Doonesbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doonesbury. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More Comic News Summaries

Following up from my previous post are more stuff ripped from the headlines that reminded me of comics, or if not outright comics, then certain photomanipulations.


Recently in Quebec, there was a woman on trial who inadvertently stopped her car in the middle of the highway, causing a traffic accident of a motorist and his daughter, resulting in the deaths of two people.
The reason she stopped the car in the middle of a highway at night was to stop for - get this - baby ducks.
According to the woman, she was concerned about these ducklings who were wandering at night with no mother, and wanted to take them home with her.  Too bad that she neglected to leave her rear lights on, and left her door open in her attempt at preserving wildlife.

A revamp to the criminal code in 2007 changed the verdict of people charged with criminal intent from doing community service to outright "Go straight to jail", even if they have no criminal past.  The difference was that Emma Czornobaj had no malicious intent.  In any other context, what would have been considered a traffic accident was inflated to a maximum sentence of fourteen years.  It's frankly the first time anything of this scope has ever happened here, and the judge's phrasing of the law to the jury means that a rewrite of the laws may be considered necessary.  Hopefully, she'll get a lenient sentence when her jail term's pronounced in August, barring an appeal.

Tank Man

It's been 25 years since the protest at Tiananmen Square, and since then, the people have had a rash of collective amnesia about the events that took place.  Apparently, everyone was embarrassed about the kinds of things they did, which was totally acceptable at the time, such as ratting out friends or family members who might've been influenced by "outside interests".  If it didn't originate in China, it was deemed a danger to the fabric of society, and had to be squashed down at all costs.  Now that China's gone from a Communist to a Capitalist country, where chances are you're using a product you're that's probably Made in China (yet ironically, they're also the largest exporter of bootlegs)

The definitive symbol of student rebellion is summed up by the image of a lone man standing up to a row of tanks which was actually a cropped version of a whole street of tanks, stretching down several blocks.  Not unlike the collection of zoomed out famous landmarks giving a more impressive sense of scale.

The unknown man who stood single-handedly against this throe of impressive military machinery clutching nothing more than a grocery bag was a hero for the ages, until he was dragged off by well-wishers who didn't want to see him made a greasy smear on the pavement.  But if we zoom in closer, we can make out some significant features that're remarkable in the absence of significance - mainly how plain and blank-looking he is:

Roger Rabbit

As much of a classic Roger Rabbit is, there's been talk of trying to do a sequel (or prequel) to the movie, which would be quite the feat, considering the heights it reached back when animation was considered little more than a dying art form.  Looking back at it, what makes the movie stand out more than the impressive animation techniques, is how strongly the story holds up.  All the plot points and clues and diversions are there, sprinkled about amidst the impressive array of visual jokes.  Even with today's technology, it's difficult to think of a story that would be able to do the film that could do it justice, and not just another cheapquel. While there are familiar noir elements throughout, it's the human element that helps it stand out, and makes it stronger, even as toons are bounding along the scenery.  Something that's sadly forgotten in lackluster ripoffs such as Cool World and Space Jam which relied mostly on their animation to attract audiences. Nowadays, that kind of visual eyecandy is mostly replaced by CGI which is easier to overlay, rather than painstakingly draw animated cels onto every film frame.

Of course, it'd probably be better if the movie was left untouched, since it would sully the reputation of an otherwise flawless experience.  Barring an exceptional script that'd improve upon the original, which was based on a loose homage to Chinatown (both dealing with a dour private detective, a noble femme fatale, and a corrupt judge), there's not much official demand for a licensed property that proved successful once.  Hollywood has a tendency to attempt recapturing lightning in a bottle, leaving either lightning or the bottle out of the equation.

It's been such a long time that Bob Hoskins died before a sequel could be made, and finding a suitable replacement would be an uphill task.  Especially since the reputed British actor was actually driven mad by the presence (or absence) of the cartoon rabbit to the point where he was hallucinating cartoon characters that weren't there.  No wonder he didn't want his facial features present for the Roger Rabbit comics, which replaced his role with the novice detective Rick Flint who, unlike his predecessor, had little to no knowledge of toons, and had to play catch-up in how they acted.  A more successful reiteration of crime prevention and toon logic was between Bonkers D. Bobcat and Lucky "Pickle" Piquel.  The Miranda episodes were lackluster, but it was the interaction between Bonkers and Piquel that were the highlight of the show.

If a Roger Rabbit sequel is attempted, the trick will be to present something that'll draw audiences back to the theaters, and make them stay there.  As attractive as the opening cartoon Something's Cooking was, it was never able to adequately replicate that maniac energy in later installments, which felt increasingly tired, and were attached to movies that audiences weren't primarily interested in.  That, and their repetitive formula of Baby in Trouble was wearing increasingly thin.  There's also the danger of creating a sequel that's as embarrassing as Gary K. Wolf's shameless attempt to cash in on the movie's popularity, completely contradicting the events in his first book.  The only "official" sequel done at the time of the movie's release was the comic The Resurrection of Doom, because of course, you can't have a sequel without a reoccurring villain, even if said villain died of in a fittingly karmic manner.  Disappointingly, rather than reveal the form of the red-eyed toon lurking underneath that rubber mask, Doom simply looked like a wild-eyed cartoonish version of Christopher Lloyd - not that much different from his human form.  As for how he came back, the weasels simply found an animation cel of him and revitalized him.  (The same weasels who died laughing, including the one who was kicked into the Dipmobile - who brought THEM back???)

The one saving grace was Roger's attempt to deal with the realm of limited animation.  If there ever were to be a theoretical sequel, this would be prime material ripe for the picking.  Especially in light of how animators are often told to tone down their animation in order to comply with the studio's recommendations.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Still Bummed from Abusing the Mouse

I haven't exactly been able to indulge in much writing lately, and that can be chalked up to several factors: complications around my various part-time jobs, playing online video games, and just being lazy in general.

But the main contributing factor was my mouse which tended to double-click at odd intervals all the time.

This may not sound like much, but for the past several months, this seemingly annoying feature kept playing against me.  Every time I would click it once, it would sometimes immediately double-click, causing unwanted files to be opened or going back two pages at once.  Furthermore, going to the options menu and changing the double-clicking speed did nothing to assauge this glitch.

Until you've had your reliable navigation device act against your orders, you can't understand the world of frustration I'm coming from.  Choosing an Internet browser on the taskbar causes two windows to open.  Renaming a file makes it open by accident.  Moreover, moving multiple files causes ALL of them to open at once.  Trying to move a sentence around becomes an editing nightmare where you have no idea whether your words are going to betray you or not.  Compounding to the madness was that the mouse would sometimes UNCLICK while I was dragging, leaving multiple instances where I would find myself moving a different object from my intended one.  Cropping images would result in either zooming in the picture or editing a smaller piece than I intended.  That lack of certainty made me constantly wary.

And every time these unintended actions took place, I would get invariably mad and actively bite the little tool, convinced that if I pressed down on it hard enough, it would work properly.  This school of thought comes from the same place as kicking machines in order to make them work properly.  Of all the bad influences comics are considered a menace for, this one squarely falls in their realm.

After some online research, I found out that there was probably some dust that was interfering with the controls, which would explain why it was so wonky all the time.  I attempted to clean the sides out with some scrap paper and an air blower I normally used to pump my hearing aids of moisture.  For awhile, it seemed to work, but then things would go back to double clicking again, and I'd be back to my old standby of doing a robotic feral cat impression.  Eventually, I got so frustrated that I actually popped up the underlying clicker cover.  I was sure that having uncorked the surface of the problem area and cleaning out the underlying area I'd been unable to reach would solve the annoying double-clicking.  It didn't.

Experiments made with an alternate mouse confirmed that it wasn't a technical issue, since it worked perfectly fine whenever I clicked once.  I could've simply switched back to the old model, but I'd grown used to the laser guided mouse, compared to the old ball mouse model, and needed the fast movement and ease of progress.  I'm always afraid of trying out new things because I worry that I'll enjoy the new thing TOO MUCH and it'll take over my life, and I won't be able to return to the old ways.  I resisted using the internet and email for years because I'd heard horror stories about people suffering from social addiction.  After fighting an uphill struggle involving having to complete my college dossier, I joined the club of online addicts along with millions of other sufferers.  (Well, it wasn't so much of a struggle, as bowing to the inevitable)  I'm amazed at people who purchase the latest technological marvels in their Beta form even before they've gotten all the kinks out, and are willing to plop down hundreds of dollars on the latest device that for all intents and purposes, may not even work that well, and become obsolete within the span of a month.

This is another common feature of new technologies introduced in comics - outright resistance to the unintended disaster the device causes,
until it proves its worth during an emergency.  So yeah, you can blame comics for that too.
I'm very finicky when it comes to tactile stimulation.  I've worn jackets with their zippers missing because they have non-detachable hoods on the lining.  My shoes' arch support area have to be FLAT - no elevated cushions allowed.  Not an easy feat when everybody wants "pump" platforms in theirs. Trying to find new clothes that suit my requirements is always an uphill struggle, because changing fashions demands that I comply with the majority, when I'm more comfortable with what I'm used to, even if I'm a lone voice in the wilderness no longer being adhered to.  I've kept my old toothpaste cap for years, because the later models feel uncomfortable when I twist them off.  I can only drink Apple Juice from a plastic container, because I can taste the "rust" from a metal can.  (Strangely enough, I have no problem eating pineapple tidbits from the can, because I find the acidic factor works in its favor)  I can't even keep my supply of Apple Juice in a fridge that's different from another manufacturer because it tastes "off", even though the temperature is the same in both models.

This Princess & the Pea syndrome keeps holding me back because there are certain sensations that makes it impossible for me to function without constant distractions.  For instance, I can't talk to somebody if they're facing an open window, because the bright light makes it impossible to read their lips.  That's a biggie, but there are other minor details that I find annoying that keep me off my game and prevent me from operating at full capacity.  The mouse issue is one of them.

I heard that mouses (mice?) were relatively cheap at $10 each, so I was shocked to find out that the average computer mouse would sell for about $30+ nowadays.  And these are high-tech mice (mouses?) mainly used for playing online role-playing games, with multiple added buttons on the side.  But I didn't want any of that - I wanted a simple functional mouse that had a reliable scrolling wheel.

Sadly, the model that I coveted didn't seem to be in stock anywhere I looked.  I'd always been surrounded with similar old models in my household, so it never occurred to me that there might be updated models that operated differently from what I was used to.  I found a few mouses that looked fine upon first sight, but they didn't meet my requirements because they felt different scrolling down than when scrolling up.  I want my mouse wheel clicking to be CONSISTENT.  I found another mouse that was laser-guided, and scrolled comfortably, but it was too small for my hand.  Later, I found a mouse that seemingly matched all my qualifications: it was laser-guided, it fit comfortably in my hand, and it made a satisfying clicking sound when I scrolled.  But the ridges on the wheel annoyed me.

Being unable to find a working mouse to my liking, I asked a computer friend of mine if he happened to have any old models lying around.  He did, but they were all the kinds used for playing online games.  However, he helped me out by telling me that I could open up my mouse, which I never knew I could do because the screws were hidden by the sticky pads underneath.  Once I opened up the thing, I was amazed at the amount of hair and dust that'd accumulated inside.  You know how a corner of your keyboard tends to get dirty without your knowing?  Take a small piece of paper and drag it through the F-number boxes, and you'll get a fair idea of how much crap was in there.  No wonder the thing wasn't working properly!

However, there was a slight complication.  Upon opening up the mouse, some pieces fell out, and I hadn't taken the time to take notes on which part went where.  However, because I'm notoriously stubborn when it comes to accepting outside help, I resolved to solve the dilemma myself.  I won't bore you with the details of how I managed to put Humpty Dumpy together again, but when I was done, I found some pieces of plastic with no idea what they were for.  But the mouse seemed to work fine without them, so I didn't press it any further.  But then the double-clicking started happening again, necessitating opening up the patient again.  After various matching, I eventually determined that the plastic pieces were actually broken off support material that had broken off during my earnest abuse on the mouse.  In short, it's internal organs were a mess, and it was my fault.

I tried to do some transplant surgery with other spare mouses I had lying around, but found out their plastic skeleton designs were significantly different from mine.  Upon further exploratory surgery with different models, I found that later mouse designs had the scroll wheel attached to the cover, which were different from my preferred model with the wheel at the bottom.  I could've taken the easy route and removed the offending plastic obstacles, but my lack of confidence and experience in handling plastic surgery prevented me from doing so.  Besides, I had no way of knowing if removing the offending part would work, and the cover would be ruined if I tried to put it back in the original mouse.  Of the four spare mouses I had, I only managed to switch between two fairly similar models.  That goes to show how rival companies stick close to their competitors.

Finally, in a dilapidated place next to an abandoned library, I found a computer store that sold the kind of mouse with the following qualifications I wanted.  So far, there's just one small glitch - I don't like how the stickers underneath feel when I move it about.  There's just no pleasing some people.
On the left is my preferred model.  On the right is the latest model.
Note where the scroll wheel is attached.
At times like these, I'm reminded of a Wayne & Shuster solo skit where a man was talking about his failed dates:

"I went out with a woman.  She liked me, but her parents didn't like me.  I went out with another woman.  Her parents liked me, but she didn't like me.  I went out with a third woman.  She liked me, and her parents liked me.  

"But her husband hated me."

It's such a relief to be able to move things around and not worry about when the computer's going to turn against me.  I'm hoping the scratchy underside will be resolved in the next few days.  As for the name of this post, it comes from the title of a Dilbert collection when it was still about amusing things other than office humour:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Well, This is Embarrassing

I originally meant to update this blog the day after the so-called Mayan Apocalypse came and went without incident.

Unfortunately, I received some unwelcome news about a sudden change in my work schedule, which means that there’s less of a chance that I might be able to update my blog twice a week.  The Mayans were right - it was the end of MY world.  I was so upset that I’ve developed a sudden loss of appetite, and lost six pounds, which is quite helpful around the holiday season and plenty of temptation abound.  I’ve spent the last four days sick with worry about the new year, and could only relieve the pain in my stomach by pressing against a hard object.  Ironically enough, the one object that matched my specifications turned out to be a medical book of symptoms.

In order to make up for lost time, I’ve been cramming as much as I can accomplish in the two weeks of free time I’ve got left.  All the side projects and notes I’ve left lying around, all the newspaper articles I meant to file away, all the VHS tapes I meant to transfer to DVD but never got around to, all the remixed Garfield comics I had in mind that were pretty time-consuming.  So far, the notes are the most problematic, because there are so many of them, and they're spread out between multiple word documents and folders, without any sort of proper organization, and that's not counting the dozens of scraps I haven't entered yet.  In a way, this recent scare is a great motivator, though I would be reluctant to admit it.  I need some kind of structure if I’m ever going to do anything.

And yet, despite everything I’ve accomplished and put off since then, I feel that I haven’t done much of anything.  All I see are the stuff I haven’t done, which has been on the backburner for longer than I intended.  Too often, I kept procrastinating feeling that I would get around to it “when I felt like it”.  Now I'm finding that a recent ZenPencils comic is much more relevant than I thought it would be.  Perhaps after years of taking it easy and getting back to a routine, I'll be able to concentrate more on my story concepts.  I operate best under total deadline pressure.  If that's true, don't expect this blog to be updated as much as often.

Sorry for a rather dour outlook on Christmas Eve, but this was the only way to present this news.  Originally,  I wanted to point out that dreading the future is nothing new with these pages from Electric Company, where Spider-Man faces Dr. DOOM yet again.  Sometimes it feels like Dr. DOOM fights Spider-Man more often than the Fantastic Four, even though they're his primary focus.  So, after Dr. DOOM threatens the innocent bystanders he was plotting to infect anyways, just so he can make his escape and gloat, Spider-Man rushes to the scene as fast as he can in the vain hope that he might be able to stop the ball before it drops down and delay the upcoming year from arriving ahead of schedule.  Will he get there on time?  Can he make it???

Don't be ridiculous, he's Spider-Man.  Of course he makes it.  Or rather, the Spider-Man of yore who used to go out with Mary Jane and had a wider supporting cast that wasn't composed of S-heroes, and a moral code that never shook from its foundation.  Frankly, with the recent editorial staff in charge, the current stories are so dismally removed from the core subject that I no longer even bother reading new stories about him, and only keep my eyes peeled for criticisms aimed at showing what the producers do wrong.  In my mind's eye, Dr. Octopus was more the definitive villain than the overhyped Green Goblin, but I didn't want the tentacled scientist back like this.  Seriously, if you're a fan, you're better off not knowing.
See you next year.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ripped From the Headlines

On Thursday’s Doonesbury, there was some confusion regarding Roland Hedley’s tweet of his point bulletin sound bite message where he was giving up-to-date accounts of what was happening in the region he was in. A trait that has gotten lesser reporters in trouble for alerting troops where they were going to attack in advance to the media. (Thus giving their targets time to readjust their strategy) EDIT - just remembered it was Geraldo who did that during the Iraq Gulf war. This reminded me of a certain duo of Sunday comics that I was naturally confused by.

On one side of the page, I had a Cathy, which ended with an unseen sound effect from behind an elevator.

Coincidentally, that very same sound had a very different meaning for the throwaway panels in Adam right across the very next page. At the time, I didn’t know that RIP could be abbreviated for Rest in Peace, and thought it meant that the milk carton should be torn up and thrown away.

Still, this was a very rare occurrence of two completely different strips having a common element at opposite sides of the spectrum - one at the beginning, and the other at the end, somehow (but not quite) linking them together. I often make a big show off how cartoonists lift ideas from each other, but this kind of synchroneity is probably almost impossible to accomplish nowadays.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Political Windbags Windfall

With all the hooplah over Newt Gingrich's self-imposed portrayal of "family values", I'm surprised that no one's bothered to remind the public about the man's past behavior when Gingrich was dealing with his own martial problems around the same time he was attacking Bill Clinton for having "relations" with an intern. Remember, this is the same man who believes in not allowing gays to marry because it would threaten the sancity of marriage.

There was a time when Doonesbury was cleverly written (if boring) satire of current events, but lately, it's become somewhat lackluster compared to its heyday. I was always disappointed that Gary Trudeau never portrayed Obama as a stethescope back when he was championing for Health Care. Heck, even a floating medical light would've been preferable. Now Obama's regulated to the corner of invisible Presidents along with Jimmy Carter, because he's become too intangible to portray. Even Feiffer couldn't manage more for the latter than a floating cloud in the form of a smile.

So with a flagging Democracy who's supported the SOMA/PIPA bill (before it was shot down due to an internet blackout*) because they were getting backing from Hollywood sponsers when no other corporations would bother sponsor them, it would be high time for the Republicans to make a strong stand and portray themselves in a flattering light. (While diverting attention away from their biggest supporters)

Only problem is, of the two representatives who've bothered to gain enough support and media hype, neither Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney are suitable candidates for the head of the party. Their actions and manners have been regulated to shouting matches, and the whole result is so embarassing that I don't even want to look. The whole point of a debate is to present a proper counter-argument to an otherwise convincing soundbite, not to let your opponent self-destruct on their own issues alone. Where's the sense of fighting and fair play there? I'd rather have a worthy opponent defeated by reasonable logic rather than have them self-implode from their own inepitude. It's cases like these that make the other side look good by default, and that's no way to run a country. Similar to how it was better that Hitler was kept from being assasianated, because doing so would've made him a martyr, and he was already doing such a good job self-sabotaging his own plans, the allies felt it was more benefical to keep him alive. So too do the Democrats come out ahead by letting these two hotheads fight over similar territority.

What's strange is that for all the outrageous misdemeanors and deeds that they've done, people still feel that they're the best choices, because of their name recognizeability. (The worst part may be that Sarah Palin wouldn't even rank among the worst choices) But considering the amount of damage they're doing to their brand name, you'd think they'd rethink the whole "no publicity is bad publicity" angle.

Or maybe it's not that amazing after all. Like Doonesbury, MAD was capable of producing timly comics that could remain relevant years later. I don't know when this was published (probably around the S & L scandal) but it's still timely today.

It'd be hard to read all these descriptions and not have a name come to mind. I was planning to post these later this year, but the recent insanity of the campaign trail has has forced me to show this earlier than I ever thought.

A minor artistic quibble - I was often confused when I saw that the rats behind the title letters didn't quite line up with the lyrics. The first four were exact matches, but after that, they were only sporadically related. Turns out they work if you follow them via how they'd look via a double-page spread, and not numerically.

If you've ever wondered about the unfeasibility of the political system, most politicians are actually lawyers who've gone on to better business and publicity. That's how they start getting their funds and arguments - from their experience in court. Does politics begin to make more sense now?

So far, the wisest course of action is not to vote for anyone with any significant value, but to vote against the most reprehensible choice, as so portrayed in this comic by Barbara Brandon, Where I'm Coming From, which is basically the Black female version of Feifer. (Whatever happened to her anyways?)

This is not a case of choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don't, but making the choice between whether you want manure shoved down your mouth, or being forced-fed high quality fertilizer. Remember when nutbars such as Ross Perot were forced to form third parties since neither side would support their views? The only problem with that strategy was that the voters couldn't take them seriously, since there was no chance of them ever getting voted into office. Sounds perfectly reasonable compared to the current nuts currently on the job.

*Though that didn't stop the FBI's assault on Megaupload, though that was an entirely separate organization two years in the making, which gave a definite scare to other file-sharing programs.**

**And now there's ACTA, the European global equivalent to SOMA, which is threatening on a wider scale.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tell me a Story

I've been reading The Storyteller, the recent autobiography of reknown children's author Roald Dahl. It's full of interesting tidbits about his life, sure, but more importantly, it gives side-by-side comparisons of the stories he was most well known for. When your best impression of a favorite writer is the stories they've done, its best to familiraze your audience with their works. Especially if you've never read their earlier works before. I'll have to admit that I've never read his previous memoirs, since they were much more serious than his lighter fare.

For somebody who was a beloved writer, he could be a rather pompous jerk. Indeed, near the end of his life, he had alienated almost everybody around him and had few friends left. Not to mention that his output had become a shadow of its former self, being regulated to short stories and silly rhymes. In a sense, the lighter his literature became, the darker the man became. It was a kind of reverse-Dorian Gray thing. His later works were chipper and youthful while the author became crotchy and unfriendly.

EDIT - it was only after finishing the book that I was surprised to find out that the books Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts were published before he gained his reputation. Those rhyme books were later reprinted with Quentin Blake's artwork, which led me to think they were recent publications. His last children's book Matilda burned him out from producing any more novels, and forced him to focus on shorter stories of which he had an abundance of. (The story of Matilda's original conception was so far removed from its final version is a story in itself) I was reluctant to correct this glaring oversight, because as the man said; facts always get in the way of a good story.

Finding out the truth behind his history can't have been an easy task, considering how much material was left behind. The task was originally assigned to his younger daughter Ophelia, but when she got pregnant in 2006, she asked Donald Sturrock to contribute. It took four more years of research before the autobiography was finished.

The fact that somebody became good friends with him in his later part of his life and was willing to work with his notes is nothing short of miraculous. The fact that Donald Sturrock interviewed him for a BBC special presentation back when children's writers were seen as less respectable than modern-day novelists is more of a happy coincidence.

His personal memoirs in Boy and Going Solo were amazingly honest and told with a down-to-earth sensibility. They were also rife with innacuraties that differed from what actually happened. Some of them were even based on his earlier stories that were superimposed onto his exploits. Furthermore, he would contribute outlandish trivia without checking to see if they were true. When it came to his personal life, he never let facts get in the way of telling a good story. An ordinary kitchen knife could become his grandfather's trusted heirloom handed down through the ages.

The autobiography makes a considerable effort to find out which tidbits are made-up, and the underlying reasons why they were rewritten in the first place. While most biographers would resort to a deep-seated Freudian explaination, Sturrock manages to back up his claims by providing actual evidence.

In the end, people will either find the revelations behind the Dickensian stories to be explainatory or a passing fancy. Normally we don't want to think about the stories behind stories - we're more interested in the first versions we hear than think about their history. For others, they're curious about the influence behind the creator's lives and how it shaped their worldview. This book is dedicated to those historical truth-finders.

The main reason for this post is this comic below. It's well known that Roald Dahl didn't start to gain any success until he branced out his more adult stories and started aiming for a younger audience.

You too can write wholesome entertainment for the whole family! Just don't sugarcoat your stories too much and watch your audience swarm in! (That's the theory anyways) The real formula is not to treat your potential audience as intended idiots and give them something they'll find worth reading.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Regular Bill Tozer

Wanted to do a small follow-up to my Veteran's Day tribute. Pat Mills often lamented that there weren’t any Historical War Stories that covered any of the grounds that he was unable to write, such as the Iraq presence in the first World War. (That later theme was covered in Rebellion.)

So far, only Garth Ennis’ War Stories seems to be among the relative few that manage to do the research and be lucky enough to have artists willing to do their illustrations for him. I’m not usually a fan of War Stories, since there’s a sense of futility to most of them, but there were two stories Ennis did that I particularly enjoyed, both of which dealt with a small group of men. One was Screaming Eagles, the remainder of Easy Company being ordered to safeguard a house at the end of the second war, and most likely influenced the HBO series Band of Brothers.

The other was Condors, about four soldiers from opposing sides bunkering under a bombing bombardment during the almost unknown Spanish War. Each of them took turns talking about their reasons for fighting. In particular, I wanted to point out a certain Socialist Sergeant:

Quite an enthusiastic cheerleader in the vein of Full Metal Jacket, ain't he? Of course, it doesn't last for long...

So, faced against increasingly diminishing long odds, what does he do?

Sergeant Lilley may have been based on a chapter in Alvah Bessie’s Spanish Civil War Notebooks, but its just as likely he was influenced by Bill Tozer, since Garth Ennis was living in Britain at the time Charlie’s War was serialized. He even does the afterword for the second volume talking about how his favorite artist was no longer working on an airplane story, and was now working on a WWI comic.

Bill Tozer might be a watered down version of Sergeant Lilley, but don’t let that discourage you. He’s watered down only in the same sense that Duke from Doonesbury was a watered down version of Hunter S. Thompson. Even in milder form, Duke was crazy enough to do things that defied common sense, such as putting land mines on the couch to keep the dogs off them. This brought the uncomfortable question of, “What dogs?” Even though all this was done off panel, it should give you some idea of what Bill Tozer is like.

All in all, he's a much more three-dimensional Sergeant than another I could name.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wedding Outcome

Well, my sister’s finally got married, and I’m still recovering from the event. I lasted a lot longer than I thought I ever would. Since the reception took place near my house, I was given permission to go home anytime it became too stressful for me. Especially since the morning wasn’t particularly favorable for me. The night prior, we had a guest in the basement, so I couldn’t use some of the faculties there. I was hoping to use them the next morning, but that floor was taken up when my sister used it for doing her hair, dress and whatnot.

Then my Mother got upset at me for being in a sour mood while she fixed my corsage on my fancy-pantsy suit. (The place was still a madhouse, and I planned to get dressed once everyone was gone) Not to mention that she didn’t trust me to take my bike, since she was worried the chain might’ve gotten caught on the pants leg. I found this slightly insulting since I’d had a similar mishap with my regular pants - years ago, and developed a system to avoid that from ever happening again. Ever since then, I’ve never had an occasion where my pants have gotten stuck ever again. After I took care of my business in the basement, I went towards the reception hall (which was also the Community Centre), being doubly careful not just of my pants, but also a binder full of stuff I’d been preparing.

A week before the wedding, my Mother suggested that I gather a bunch of Wedding comics. I followed a prior request for my Father’s retirement from Government work. Since I have an uncanny ability to recall any comic that fits the bill, it wasn’t much trouble. But this task was much more daunting. There were SO MANY Wedding comics out there that I was worried I wouldn’t find them all. She reassured me that it wasn’t necessary, but I’m something of a perfectionist, and demand nothing less. If she’d made the request a month ago, I could’ve scoured through my archives much more easily, but with only a week left, I was pressed for time.

It didn’t help matters much that when I was in the process of looking for said comics, I was accused of not doing anything to help with the cleaning up. At the time, I didn’t know that my Mother had gotten a flat tire and was upset with me not putting away the groceries, but I felt pretty bad about it afterwards. So bad, that I almost blabbed out the project to my sister. I had no idea that it was intended to be a secret. My Father also almost spilled the beans himself when he talked about putting something in a speech my Mother prepared (which was also a secret)

Fortunately, my sister is deaf too, and missed these slip-ups, so she had no idea what we were talking about. (More on Mom’s speech later)

By the time I arrived, things de-escalated from there. Although the reception was planned fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, the wedding was still delayed by half an hour or so. The hallway was pretty sparse when I entered, but a few minutes later, the hordes moved in. It didn’t help matters that there was another wedding planned right next door. This wedding looked to be even fancier than my sister’s even though there were fewer guests - they’d giftwrapped their chairs and everything.

Then I found out that the seat that had been reserved for me (right up front) wobbled a bit. After much experimenting, I found that it wasn’t the chair itself, but that particular section of floor that caused wobbling. I had no choice but to take a seat a row back and hope nobody would complain. It was fine with me, since I’m used to watching interpreters from a distance rather than up close, and nobody sat next to me anyways.

Then after much delay, the wedding finally started, with what I called the groom’s funeral dirge. (Everybody moved very slowly, which made me think of death marches.) Then my sister made her appearance. I saw her dress before she wore it, and thought it looked like something a cardinal priest would wear - there was too much red. Then when she wore it, I noticed that all the red was bunched up behind her back, so it made more sense there. Of course, it took me awhile to recognize her since she had her hair all done up in a singular curl.

Then the reception started in three languages, English French and Hebrew. Even though she had a script handy, my interpreter was still unprepared to translated the majority of what was being said, so I lost about 1/3 of the vows. Fortunately, I was able to snatch the transcripts later so I could rehash what they were talking about. After the groom smashed the glass to smithereens (he had to stomp twice), he and the bride made a brief detour outside the door. At this, I replied to nobody in particular, “Okay, show’s over. We can all go home now.” Of course, it wasn’t over, and we had to stick around a little longer for the guests & food.

There were several people who’d been singled out that I was told might be worth talking to, and I brought the list with me. I find it easier to talk to someone if I have a profile on their current hobbies / jobs / interests, so I can instantly engage in conversation rather than find out secondhand. A few of them panned out, and some conversations went to a complete standstill. Even with preparation, I still wasn’t used to carrying on dialogues past a saturation point. It probably didn’t help matters much that there was a lot of background noise as well.

Fortunately, the longest conversation I had was with a relative whose baby boy had autism. I talked to her at length, conveying what little wisdom I felt could help her. I heard that my parents were greatly influenced after meeting a profoundly deaf man who was an inspirational speaker and motivated them to try harder, and that was what I was trying to convey. I was a little worried when she started tearing up because of guilt, but pressed on, saying “It’s not your fault.” I explained that my purpose was to help rise the level of her boy’s autism to Asperger levels. I also explained that forcing her boy to look people in the eye is the most painful thing one can do. Instead, tell him to look at people’s lips, since they make more sense. Eyes convey too much information - constantly shifting, pupils dilating, never staying still, but lips have a rational basis to them - they move when they’re talking. Although parents may worry that they’re not truly looking at the person’s face, the lips are so close to the eyes that hardly anybody notices.

After milling around with not much else to do but sample the breadstuff and drink pineapple juice and apple juice (I’m a total teetotaler - I can’t even tolerate fizzy drinks) I was wondering if I should go home for awhile, since most of the food served wasn’t to my taste. But then I wouldn’t get a chance to sample the cake, and isn’t that why everyone goes to weddings anyways?

Finally around 6:30, my Mother started her speech with the song “Is this the little girl I carried?” playing in the background. Her first line was that preparing this speech was extremely difficult for her, because my sister wasn’t able to help edit it for her. Later in the speech, my Mother mentioned that while my sister was growing up, her favorite Disney movie was Dumbo. (Mine too) She would watch it over and over, at least once a day. Most parents would go mad from so much repetition, but my Mother didn’t mind, since it was her favorite movie too. The reason being that it was about a baby animal being persecuted because he was different. And what was different about him? His ears.

At this, I got a little misty-eyed since, being deaf as my sister, I hadn’t made the connection before. My Mother went on, saying that Dumbo was able to use his handicap to his advantage and be appreciated for who he was. She said that she was extremely proud of my sister for being able to rise and surpass their expectations. Then she mentioned that I prepared a small collection of wedding comics, and if anyone was interested, they could come and take a look.

In addition to scanning the comics and organizing them, I also divided them by theme, starting with the proposal, going into wedding planning, the late arrival, the hesitation, the vows, carrying over the pedestal, and finally the inevitable outcome after the wedding, usually ending in divorce. I also thought it would be more interesting if several comics were mixed up in their storylines, so I had one week of Doonesbury followed by a week of Bloom County and three weeks of For Better or for Worse. I also organized the Hermans by narrative, trying to find a pace that would be consistent from one panel to the next. Lastly, I had to think ahead so that on opposite sides of the papers would be a similar theme. I had to do all this for about 50 pages worth of material.

Of course, the printing was compounded by the difficulty of the only working printer in the house be connected to a computer that had Windows Vista, and a low ink cartridge. Fortunately, we were saved at the last minute by a nice neighbor who allowed us use of her printer which not only printed out colour versions of my Sunday comics, but also made things easier since hers was a Windows XP version. On Vista, the only way I could print something in full was by opening it in Paintshop, then copying & pasting on a Word document. But with Windows XP, I just had to open it in Windows & Fax Viewer, press print and click enter five times. Then I noticed that the printed versions were dangerously close to the margins, so I had to re-edit all the comics again to make sure nothing would get obscured when I punched holes on both sides. The printing alone took two hours.

However, even though I’d been mentioned in my Mother’s speech, it seemed that I was just another footnote - my sister was the main attraction, and I was just a passing comment. If the molehills weren’t coming to the mountain, then the mountain was coming towards the molehills. It was left up to me to seek people out who might be receptive of my hard work. The interpreter certainly helped me gain the confidence I needed in talking to people.

Several people seemed confused, since they thought that since my sister was an artist, the collection of comics were done by me. I had to explain multiple times that I didn’t draw them, I found them and made copies of them. Others just flipped through the pages, not really looking or reading the material present. However, those who took a genuine interest in my collection, I gave them little slips of paper with my e-mail and blog address. (I have to do my own viral advertising) For those of you visiting, sorry it took so long - I was still recuperating.

I also had to be very selective about my audience, since the dimmed lighting made reading my works more of a chore than they should’ve been. There was one table that was encased in darkness, and I’m sorry that I never got a chance to show them. Eventually, all the faces started to run together, and I started showing my comics people who’d already seen them before. It didn’t help matters much when they got up and moved around and started to dance.

The most enjoyable comics were the Hermans which were easy to read. The Doonesbury and Bloom County comics were the most often skipped since the printing reproduction made the already small text virtually unreadable. Fortunately, the samples I’ve posted here should be more manageable.

By the time the dessert tray rolled out, I was amazed at my endurance - I managed to last all the way to 10:00 PM. I never thought I’d be able to last 8 hours straight. The most I can manage is 6 hours at work without a break. It was mostly the promise of food and wanting to spread my knowledge that compelled me to stay. By now, I was feeling rather full, definitely tired and decided it was time for me to cycle home. After making my wishes known to my Mother, she commended me on staying for so long without making a scene. Upon leaving, I made one last announcement of farewell and left to a smattering few who waved goodbye.

I left the binder containing the comics in care of my sister, since she’s also a comics fan, and greatly enjoys anything I show to her that’s not S-hero related. When she moved out of the house, it was a great loss for me since she was the only person in my life I could share my interests with. Now she’s married and her new hubby will take up whatever little time’s she’s got that’s not taken by finishing her last year of art school, looking for a new job and, y’know, sleep. So there’s not much chance of seeing her on a regular basis in the future, except for family events.

As impressive as the sampling of comics here is, there’s a lot that weren’t included or because of space, had to be left out. I’ll blog those in a future post.