For January 2007


January 19th, 2006 


 Finally I am back again. I was very, very sick for several weeks. It was kind of a double-whammy; first some kind of pretty serious cold or light flu, and then just as I was recovering from that, a terrible bronchitis. I just barely avoided having to go to the hospital. Which is good - devoid of insurance, like most Americans, it is always unhappy having to beg for help at the emergency ward. The closest thing America has to universal health care is that some states have made it law that anyone who presents themselves inside the emergency cannot be turned away. The hospitals don't like it, but they have to comply. Mostly. In some states.

I wish I lived in a civilized nation. One that took care of its people.

Anyway, after weeks and weeks of coughing up bloody sputum, physical weakness, mental confusion, and sweating out raging fevers, I am a bit shaky and fragile, but I am working to get back into action. It's taken me a week and a half, but I finished new To Save Her strips for Friday and Monday; alas not without a few problems. My lines are a little weak, and I messed up on the font size, so the text is six points smaller than normal. Hopefully that will not be unreadable for most people. It's too late to try to change it now; they are some very wordy strips.

One thing I am satisfied with is my lighting; I think that is going well in To Save Her. My goal, in case you are interested, is to capture the kind of lighting used on old TV series like the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and the original Star Trek. In those days, lighting for scenes was custom designed, because production was done from pre-planned angles, with editing following the same script. The current method of doing television and movies has actors re-doing the same scene over and over with the cameras in different locations so that during editing, numerous versions of the same scene can be considered - and so studio executives can butt in and determine content and have the equivalent of directoral control. This new requirement means that, in order for the numerous shots of the same scene to all match, the lighting has to be fairly bland, and fairly even. It is much more rare to see truly dramatic or artistic lighting anymore, except in very rare situations; the bulk of scenes, especially on television, all have very plain lighting.

In the 50's and 60's though, shadows were deep, and lighting was an art. Light would be used to exaggerate a scene, or the expression of an actor, or to illuminate just part of their body. You might remember times on the original Star Trek, for example, where, say, Shatner's face would be in shadow except for a streak of light across his eyes, to make them stand out, as a dramatic touch. On the original Twilight Zone, shadows might be so deep that an actor would be little more that a light-dappled silhouette in a given scene, or the only lighting might be a single spotlight just above their head, making of their face a craggy and mountainous image.

I'm not going to quite those levels, but I do miss the days of artistic lighting, and that is one thing I now try to do in To Save Her. I reckon that a black-and-white comic should make maximal use of what is best about black-and-white imagery, which is contrast. Light and shadow are at their peak of power in the black-and-white image, and that power can evoke mood like nothing else. Or so I am convinced.

I don't know how quickly I can get back into my usual production levels of two comics a week (one PDH, and one TSH), but I am working a bit every day. As my stamina returns, the comics will appear more regularly. TSH is easier to do than Pastel, so I may focus on it primarily for the immediate future, though I will keep working to finish the page of Pastel that I had begun just before I fell ill.

Thank you everyone for your patience.




January 29th, 2006 

Life And Death

 One of my spouses, Eldenath, her dad just died. He was 80, and I only met him a few times, but I remember him surprisingly well. Kind of strange for me, since I don't remember faces, or names, or much of anything, especially since I've been on my damned but necessary anti-panic medication. I remember his voice, even kind of what he looked like. I don't know why. He wasn't that interesting, to be honest. It's strange how memory works, when it does.

His name was Warren, and the most notable thing I know about him is that he survived being blown off of a destroyer when a kamikaze pilot took the ship out. He floated for nine days and then came back for more. When I first met him, he was a weak, round little man, utterly dominated by Eldenath's overbearing mother. He had a weak, weedy little voice, almost as though from a cartoon.

As the years passed, he deteriorated even from that, and the last time I ever saw him, he needed a walker. Yet once he must have been incredibly impressive, a real World War II swabby who could get blown off a ship and laugh about it. Such is the unencompassible horror that is life in a universe where we must all slowly disintegrate and then die.

Eldenath is taking this with great strength. Oh, she is very sad, very very sad, but she is also magnificently strong in the way she bears her sadness. I am terribly impressed with her.

You see, death is my Achilles heel. I am strong about some tragedies, and less strong with others, I am good in a crisis, though I may collapse after the crisis is over, but I am weak against dealing with death. It, above all else, is the one thing I have no coping skills for. No decent ones, anyway, or so it would seem.

When Eldenath's pet rat, Kelly, had to be put down, I decided I had to be there with her. The rodent had grown terribly attached to me, and I to her (despite my best efforts to avoid liking the little vermin), and I could not conscience failing to be beside her in her last moments. The vet put her down gently enough, but much to my surprise, and the worry of everyone in the pet clinic, I just...fell completely apart. I couldn't stop crying, I couldn't breath, I was utterly, pathetically useless. They feared for me, it was so bad. Utterly pathetic. It was Eldenath's rat, but she had to take care of me because I just couldn't cope with the loss.

Like I said, I seem to be weak against the tragedy of death.

Or, as I sometimes wonder, perhaps everyone is, it's just the most people are better at denial.

Elde's sister, an evangelical, displays such hypocrisy; if she truly believed in all of her Superhero Pixie-Dust Christ Heavenly Ever After bullshit, she should be dancing in the street over the death of her father - after all, now he is with Jeebus in paradise. He is to be envied, for he gets all the candy and all the toys, forever and ever. But she doesn't really believe her own fanatical words; she is taking things far worse than agnostic-Pagan-ish Eldenath, and more, is ignoring what Warren wanted done after his death, and putting on a big memorial fuss against his specific wishes.

Funerals are for the living, though, of course. The wishes of dying men are not of interest, once they are gone.

It's strange, how the agnostics and atheists I have met in my life are so powerful, while the magical card houses of the True Believers fall apart when they are confronted with hard and cruel reality. Then again, having people all happy because someone is dead would be frightening; any person so deluded that they absolutely believe death is paradise has little reason to value their own life, or yours. Such a person is capable of anything, any violence, to serve their absolute beliefs. Perhaps the generalized hypocrisy of the religious today is a blessing. Their lack of belief restrains them. At least for now.

While Elde's sister alternately whines and prays, Eldenath cries honest tears of personal loss, then goes on with her life, one day at a time. She knows that over time things will get better, but that for now she grieves. She hopes for an afterlife of pixie magic for everyone, but she knows she has no certainty of such a thing. She understands that she will never hear her father's voice again, and she will follow her father's last wishes to the letter (no funeral, no fuss, spread his ashes on the grave of their long-lost first child). She grasps the magnitude that is death, but she lives with courage in the face of it.  She needs no gods to lean her weight upon, she stands upon her own legs.

I share in her worldview, and I try to be courageous, but I cry much harder and longer, and am utterly useless for overlong when such things touch me; which is why I admire her strength so. 

But really, the true grief is always about ourselves, isn't it? Yes, we are sad to lose those we love, but worse yet is that in their loss is a glimpse of our own destruction; there is none who will not be as Warren became; from strong soldier to weak invalid, to a terrified mind in a failing body, hearing a last desperate heartbeat in our dimming ear.

This is the true horror of the universe, that we are all lost, and any achievement we may make is but a fleeting illusion, soon in the past, and even sooner forgotten forever. We are made to be immortal, we can imagine living forever, yet we die. It is intolerable, and it takes a strong person to face it honestly.

Eldenath is such a person. I admire her.


By Jennifer Diane Reitz

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