April 26, 2004

No More Wire Hangers!

This is what democracy looks like.

And that's where I was most of yesterday, along with the missus and Caren and Niels and Matt, joining the evil feminist-homosexualist axis as we made a bright pink nuisance of ourselves on the streets of DC during the March for Women's Lives.

A conservative estimate puts the numbers at around 500,000. It may have been considerably more.

There was, of course, some opposition. But I was struck by how small (somewhere between a couple hundred and a thousand counter-protesters) it was - and, much like the asshats in the "Got AIDS Yet?" t-shirts who stood around on the corner for the Millennial March on Washington four years ago, how ultimately narrow and wrong-headed they seemed. The folk I was walking with - women, men, young, old, all races, all social strata - love life. They love families and children (many, many showed up with their own), and they understand the sacrifices - the hard choices - that have to be made to make the world better for everyone.

And, while I understand that the rhetoric on both sides of the abortion issue can get a bit intense, I have to say I have much more respect for the tactics of the pro-choice people. After all, I didn't see one poster yesterday with a photo of a mangled uterus from a botched DIY abortion. I'm tempted to say that might not be such a bad counterpoint, but I'd really rather let the opposition have a monopoly on the B-movie horror stuff. It's an ugly and unpleasant way to get one's point across. I'm more than willing to be disagreed with on any number of things I believe in, but if you can't do so without resorting to fetishized images of mutilation and gore - well, I'm also more than willing to let you.

UPDATE: Matt has posted a whole bunch of pictures. And in there are also reports from both Respectful of Otters and everythingsruined, for a couple of slightly more respectable bloggers' angles than mine.

April 24, 2004

All In a Day's Work

As Spyder relates, she's right now in the throes of 24-hour Comics Day. We all eagerly await her recounting of the insanity.

(I say this in the knowledge that this "insanity," in pure play-by-play terms, is probably as exciting as watching paint dry. This is true of all Art, despite its image in the popular imagination. The sad fact is that watching the creative process is boring as hell from anywhere but inside the head, and frequently from there too; we spend inordinate amounts of time on our asses with brow furrowed, putting one word [or picture] after another in the grim hope that it will all look like something eventually. I can imagine all too well tuning in to the thoughts of any 24-hour comics creator: "Next panel. Scribble scribble scribble. Next panel. Scribble scribble scribble. Next panel. Fuck. Oh, hell. Scribble scribble scribble. Next page. Panel 1...." And so on, and so on.)

Anyway, the concept of the 24-hour Comic - one of the madcap inventions of sequential-art deep thinker Scott McCloud - has been around a little while, but it's only recently taken on the status of an Event. I get the impression that some folks wonder at the reason such things as this and NaNoWriMo are scheduled Events, when they're the kind of projects a person could certainly just decide to do at any point. And this is true enough. But remember that we artistic types, by our nature, are a sedentary and antisocial lot, given to long stretches of time sitting around by ourselves and being brooding and complex. So it's good for us to take advantage of opportunities to both get a creative kick in the ass and to form communities around ideas like this, temporary as they may be. Plus it's just cool to know you're taking part in something larger than yourself, which is another thing it's easy to lose track of when you're all holed up in your studio by your lonesome.

So hurrah for 24-hour Comics Day. I'm a bit sad I couldn't take part this year (home improvement trumped improvement of the soul this weekend, I'm afraid - not that that isn't a worthy endeavor as well), but a big thumbs-up goes out to everyone who did. Finish or fail, it's a great thing to undertake; may neither your ink nor your imagination run dry.

April 23, 2004

"Alas, Poor Ghost"

Today was (as likely as not) the 440th birthday of Will Shakespeare, who as most of you know by now has had some small impact on my life.

Yesterday's post noted the comparison I draw between Shakespeare and sacred texts, which is only a very slightly tongue-in-cheek way of putting the effect his work has had on me over the last fifteen years. But I also think the parallel holds between the person of Shakespeare and the prophets and teachers of various religions. What we know about the Bard of Avon, when it comes down to it, is infuriatingly sketchy, incomplete, controversial, and open to wild speculation - which is about the same place we are with Jesus, Mohammed, Siddhartha, Krishna, and just about everyone else who ever managed to leave behind the kind of spiritual ideas that elevate fringe cults to respectability.

And, like those other worthy gurus, what we mostly have of Shakespeare is his words - or, at least, the words that are generally attributed to him. I tend to steer clear of the Authorship Debate, largely because most anti-Stratfordian arguments are based on a weird kind of classist snobbery, but also because it distracts from what seems to me to be the real point - that the thirty-six (or thirty-seven or whatever) plays in the canon attributed to Shakespeare are a pinnacle of poetry and drama, and collectively say things about the human experience in a way that has not been equalled before or since.

Shakespeare the man is a cypher - each generation, each artistic movement has made of him what they want him to be, finding in the historical record a convenient blank slate rather than the chronicle of a person. He suits all agendas because he answers no questions. But Shakespeare the author is another thing entirely. William Burroughs said, as he came more and more to terms with his own mortality, "The Work is the mainsail to reach the Western Lands." What we have of Master Will is all Work, and if that has managed to suit all agendas as well since it was first performed, it's for the opposite reason: the text here seems to answer all questions, or at least address all matters of living and love and passion and death, and does so every time in an eloquent, concise, utterly convincing manner. And for everything it says, you can probably also find something in the plays that says, just as convincingly, the exact opposite thing. (Sounding familiar yet?)

The upshot of all of which is that it doesn't matter whether Shakespeare was Shakespeare or just, as they say, someone else of the same name. We may always have to resign ourselves to a kind of agnosticism on the matter of authorship, and I think that's okay. Shakespeare the author is an eidolon, a mirror we can look into and see whatever we need to see (which is why the major plays can stand a new interpretation every five years or so). Who he "really" was is beside the point, and of only passing relevance to what he has come to mean to our literature, our language, our culture. (The idea of a Bard is a Bard.)

So happy birthday to the Bard of Avon, the master playwright of Lord Strange's company and the Globe, the author of Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus, of King John and King Lear, of Hamlet and Measure for Measure and Much Ado about Nothing - whoever you were. "Youth's a stuff will not endure," you once said, and you said it over again in a hundred ways as you explored your obsession with time and mortality - that most basic and pervasive of human concerns - and I've only become more your disciple each year the truth of it comes home more and more to me. Here's hoping you rest well in Elysium now, and perhaps look in from time to time on what some of us have made of what you left us, and think on it kindly.

April 22, 2004

Credo and Meme

So I posted the following in the comments of Teresa Nielsen Hayden's "Things I Believe" post the other day, just about in time for the thread to be in its death throes. I reprint it here; comment, pass along, or roll your own. (Or just have fun playing spot-the-reference, if you're the same sort of pretentious pseudo-intellectual nerd that I am.)


I believe that there are more things in Heaven and earth than anyone's philosophy has yet accounted for.

I believe that stories are more valuable than dogmas. I believe that calling religion "mythology" elevates rather than denigrates it.

I believe that something unseen and numinous moves through people in the process of Art, and calling it "divinity" is as good a word as any. I believe that the work of William Shakespeare is probably all the evidence you need of a divinely-inspired text, and he had lots of stuff to say about women and Jews and Africans that was just plain nonsense, so treat holy writ with caution.

I believe that all beings are Buddha-beings and worthy of compassion. I believe that to live is to suffer, and that there is nothing to be done about this, and everything to be done. I believe that desire is the root of suffering, and this doesn't stop me from fiercely embracing all my own wants and lusts and passions anyway.

I believe that the idea of a god is a god. I believe that our own ability to draw connections between things imbues them with significance, and that our capacity for irrationality, contradiction and magickal thinking is not a design flaw. I believe that whether or not angels and demons exist is less important than understanding that the universe occasionally behaves as if they did.

I believe that the Force flows through everything, and that luminous things are we, not this crude matter.

And I also believe that to reject the world is to miss the point.

(I believe that contradicting one's self is an acceptable position, and that I am infinite and contain multitudes. And I believe that ambiguity is itself a kind of holy state.)

I believe that the deep human need to play dress-up and speak in poetry is a good a reason as any to participate in religion.

I believe that much of our nature becomes clear with the realization that a human being is a sort of big naked lemur that can drive a car, but that our biology is neither an imperative nor an excuse for behaving awfully to each other.

I believe that our culture isn't doing itself any favors with its preoccupation with messianic figures, but I'm as guilty of that fascination as anyone else, so there you go.

On the other hand, I believe there are a lot worse role models than Christ, and that the issue of his literal divinity is hugely unimportant in light of this; see "the idea of a god," above. And I believe that there are lots worse things to build your faith around than "God is love."

I believe, maybe more than anything, that it's often necessary to just let the Mystery be.

I believe that conversations are a hell of a lot more useful than creeds in bringing people together. And I believe thanks are in order to TNH for starting this one.

UPDATE: Never folk to blanch at a challenge of self-discovery, or perhaps exhibitionism, both Matt and Martha have now composed Things I Believe posts on their respective blogs. But of course, all y'all knew that already, because you've gone over there by now, right? Right?

April 19, 2004

Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly

I am such a lousy leetal brother - spent Saturday gallivanting around the Big City, and it totally slipped my mind that it was Tony's birthday. I suck. No cookie for me.

Everyone should be so fortunate to be as young as long as he's managed to be. And everyone should be as lucky as me to have had a mentor, role model, partner-in-crime, fellow-traveler and friend exposing them to cool stuff for thirty years and counting, and generally making their life a better and more interesting time. Thanks, Big T, and many happy returns.

(Anyway, he's, uh, forty-and-a-bit, so go wish him well.)

Also, while I'm making the rounds of the people I've failed to properly acknowledge, you should check out Maija's new site, fresh-minted Easter weekend. And if lots of mangaesque androgyny isn't enough to entice you there, note that if you tool around for long enough you can find a picture of her lovely self. Huzzah!

In that spirit, I go to write comics now, and possibly punish my sinful and unfilial flesh.

We Don't Live Like Other People, Item #549, 4/17/04

"Dude, I totally just got fucked up with your mom."

April 17, 2004

Me and Ray and the Big Red Guy, part 2

I'm writing this from the very heart of NYC, where Spyder and I are planning on catching a wee-hours showing of Hellboy tonight. (I did manage to catch it a couple of weeks ago, despite crutches, but it's more than worth returning to. Go see it, if you haven't yet.)

It occured to me at some point during my drive last night that the New Jersey turnpike may not be the best place to subject yourself to a listen of "Hey Ho the Nodding God Comes," but it was too late by then.

Note some new blog-linkage in the sidebar now, bringing the roll up to date with where most of my daily slack time is spent. I was absolutely delighted to see that R. Sean Borgstrom (she of Nobilis fame) now has a blog, and it's as quirky and odd and cool as you'd expect such a thing to be.

That's all for now. Time for breakfast, or whatever. (Is two diners in twelve hours excessive? No, I didn't think so either.)

April 08, 2004

Formless Spawn Revisited

Update on the mutant frog story posted last week: Apparently, folks who know what they're talking about are saying this is not what it seems to be. The phenomenon in question isn't amphibian teratology, but a kinky frog threesome.

Personally, I find this only mildly less unsettling than the other option.

Fascinating stuff, though. I now get to add "amplexus" to my vocabularly of biological weirdness, and the phrase "anuran gang bangs that look like frog transporter accidents" got more than a few wicked giggles out of me.

(Link via Mock Turtle Soup.)

April 02, 2004

"Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun"

In honor of just-passed All Fools' Day, a motley fistful of unsettling and topsy-turvy images for you:

Andy has been playing with his time machine and dredged up in this post (scroll down) a picture from our disreputable drama-geek past. This was taken all of thirteen (!!) years ago, back when I still looked good in tights and before the beard was real. See how cool theatre is?

Meanwhile, Spyder imperils her immortal soul. I tremble to think of the promised Flash version.

Moving further afield into the realm of wiggins-inducing Forteana, Stacy sent me this article last month, concerning a weird-ass mutant frog in England. The word you're looking for is probably "squamous." Not to mention "eldritch," and of course "batrachian."

I remain among the mobility-impaired for now, and indeed for the forseeable future, since my follow-up to the doctor went something like "Yeah, sure looks sprained," with no real indication of how long I can expect to not be able to walk on it. Not happy. I'm hoping that watching Ron Perlman brutalizing the fuck out of monsters and Nazis this weekend (which I'm doing, gimp or no gimp) will do what ibuprofin and Ace bandages cannot.