Category Archives: musings

Epithet for a King

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It’s not every day that we are needed.

 

This is the quote by Samuel Beckett that precedes the novel “Hologram for a King” written by Dave Eggers.  If he had chosen to omit it and let the reader wander unfocused through the story I don’t think the desired effect would have been achieved.  Hologram for a King is about Alan Clay, a man that used to run a bike manufacturing company in the Midwest that closed its doors after outsourcing.  He lives in an empty house and watches old Red Sox DVDs.  His neighbor after discovering transcendentalism walks into a lake and kills himself.   His wife left him and he can’t help his daughter pay for college.  At the beginning of the story Alan is headed to Saudi Arabia to sell King Abdullah a hologram for his King Abdullah Economic City.  In 352 pages Alan waits for this king to show up- giving a second nod to Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot.”  And then it ends very open-ended but in line with the epithet.

 

Eggers litters his writing with echoes of Beckett’s bywords either with parallels to an eroding American economy or straightforward statements such as when Alan is writing his daughter and says “People think you’re able to help them and usually you can’t and so it becomes a process of choosing the one or two people you try hardest not to disappoint.”

 

Despite Dave’s intentions, this fundamental theme is lost by a large amount of readers as portrayed by the Amazon comments.  It’s as if everyone vaulted past the epithet and began tearing through a book with the expectation of a unique character in a unique situation attempting to solve unique problems.  But that’s not what this book is about.

 

Amazon quotes I found:

 

“I found the book depressing and often boring.”

 

“The main character wasn’t very likable to me, and I found myself irritated with his choices.”

 

“The story is rambling and nonsensical, with no real direction or purpose.”

 

This is a book about objects of importance losing their significances.   It’s about becoming a thing of the past.  After I finished reading it, yes, I felt it fell short of his previous works or what a story typically provides a reader, but the more I went back to the epithet the more it made sense.

 

My epithet for Sacco:

 

“If you told me nothing has a meaning you would be right, but something still has a meaning.” –Albert Camus

 

I chose it meticulously and with much thought because I wanted it to reflect the larger themes I was exploring.  It took me six years to find a sufficient ending and a suitably longer time to find the beginning.  But the beginning and ending, as it should be, are the hardest to write- they’re the bookends so to speak.  And unlike Hologram for a King I hope people don’t tear through it and not see the direction and purpose.

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Reference Material

When I was four I was immensely into tracing paper.  So much so my parents would perform this song-and-dance routine treating it as a big-ticket item burning a hole in their pocket.  But I knew it wasn’t costing them an arm and a leg as they purported it to be.  Tracing paper was cheap.  Still is.  But to their point, I’ll admit moderation wasn’t in my vocabulary.  I use to chain-trace images with barely a breath in between.  At my worst I was probably tracing two to three packs a day.  My composure towards tracing paper was that of a rabid dog- fiercely scribbling the black line paths of Casper and Scooby-doo from coloring books left stark white from an absent of crayon wax.

 

Those were my first memories of drawing and undoubtedly one of my first lessons.  That being- know what you draw.   A reliance on reference material is a common practice among illustrators and cartoonists but unfortunately misunderstood by fine artists.  In fact my stint in art school was littered with lamenting fine artists who detested references to the point that it was a religion.  The three issues not to bring up in art school were abortion, the death penalty, and using reference sources.   Personally I felt the drama was unnecessary.  Fine artists evoke inspiration from inside themselves and we, hedonistic miscreants, elicit inspiration from the carnal outside world.  No hard feelings.

 

To boot it was also a process taken lightly by art students, as I experienced first-hand in continuously harrowing critiques where a student, who plain as day spent forty-five minutes right before class haphazardly scribbling a potted sunflower on top of a corvette while a sun blared down on them from the corner of the page, tried to defend that their illustration does in fact correlate with the assignment’s subject matter- the overcrowding of America’s  prison population (to note the sun and flower did have a smile drawn on. Yes both of them).  And those that stayed on topic drew a prison cell consisting of a room with not a window in sight and an inmate holding bars shooting from floor to ceiling with no apparent door built into them.  Both of these individuals drew based on their internal interpretation of a prison cell (or smiling sunflowers- which don’t exist) and not from an actual prison setting.

 

To illustrate this point, below on the left is a horse drawing done by memory.  And next to it is a drawing I did of a horse  with references to aid me.  I know it’s tough to say which horse is better, but if you are the art director at Horse Illustrated and you’re hiring someone to draw you a horse for next month’s issue…..

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Spare Arms Needed

 

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I wish I had more time.

 

Or more arms.

 

And here’s why:  I want to draw a short story where I’m on a plane flying to China when it hits me- I forgot to learn how to speak Mandarin.  It probably happens to many people.  It’s one of those things like forgetting to turn off the oven.   Luckily the guy in the seat parallel to mine tells me not to worry.  He proclaims that with a little bit of guidance, his guidance, I can speak perfect Chinese.  Wonderful!  Perfect! Problem solved.  Not with standing, this man sitting next to me, the one giving me sagely advice…. is Rob Liefeld.

 

                           A Brief History of Rob Liefeld (if you don’t know who he is)

 

Rob Liefeld became known for drawing comics in the 90s, specifically the New Mutants and X-Force.  Spike Lee put him in a commercial.  A video was made on how to draw like Rob Liefeld.  And you can buy pillowcases with his drawings on them.  At one point he left the Oligopoly of comic book publishers and founded Image Comics with a few other well-known comic artists and writers wanting to produce comics they owned out right with the ability to explore new content of what comic books could be.  Rob did not follow this formula.  Instead he ripped off nearly every character that already existed and gave them generic names such as Psilence, Diehard, Riptide and Prophet.  He became known for the lengthy delays between his comic releases- having several months go by before even a mention of the next issue.  Today there is a fake twitter account under his name with comments that almost sounds like the real Rob is writing them.  And this is all without diving into the swiss cheese like holes in his actual drawing skills.  For that you should see to the below two articles:

 

http://www.progressiveboink.com/2012/4/21/2960508/worst-rob-liefeld-drawings

 

http://www.progressiveboink.com/2012/6/14/3084348/the-second-40-worst-rob-liefeld-drawings

 

The Rob in my story attempts to cover up an inferior knowledge of Mandarin with the same techniques he uses to cover up his inferior knowledge of drawing… anything.

 

His go-to: pouches. Lots and lots of pouches.  Are you unsure about how to ask where the library is?-cover it with a pouch!  Does your pronunciation of the words “Ni Hao” pass off as the sound of a car running over a chubby fourth grader – cover it with a pouch!

 

Hey- I can’t really point a finger at the guy.  I bought his comics when I was a kid.  But what inspired me to want to draw this twisted idea was that at the end of one of his comics he drew a couple of pages featuring him proposing to his wife.  To me, Rob Liefeld might just be better on the page than he is at creating one.

 

Snow, Snow, Snow

Every few days it dumps snow all over New York and it seems never ending. The snow is okay.  The part I hate are the pedestrians.  They turn into idiots when that sidewalk gets slick.  Plus their cellphones are still glued to their eyes.  Personal safety, schmersonal safety.

 

I’m still tinkering with elements of this site.  I am having trouble making images larger so I haven’t posted any more pages for Sacco.  But soon……

 

I’m currently  re-drawing certain pages from chapter one and two.  I’d like to focus strictly on the next chapter but when asked to see what I have done I don’t want to show pages I know I will edit.

 

I finally received the 30 page sampler to send to publishers.  Here’s a few pics I took.

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Chapter 4 -back on the horse

This past weekend I began drawing chapter four.   If I have calculated it right- I should finish it next December.   However during the down time between chapter three and four I’ve been prepping documents to send to publishers.  I found Ka-Blam.com, an online printer, and had them print the first twenty pages of the book for me as a test run. What they produced far surpassed my expectations.

 

In addition I’ve been attempting to build this website (the one you’re on now) which has been one huge headache.  I do not know why the wordpress program would be built as wonky as it is or why they have it be the farthest thing from being user friendly- but it is.  And for some reason a large amount of people use it.  It’s the One Direction of web programs.

 

If the people who made wordpress blog’s were pre-teen girls.

 

 

Oh! Also I’ve become addicted to two comic books: Saga and Stray Bullets.  Saga most people have heard of and they recently went on hiatus from their third story arc. (They release 6 issues, break, release 6 more issues, break, etc- it’s sort of their thing).

 

Stray Bullets is a DIY comic from the 90’s that is getting a fresh start thanks to Image.  If you read comics on any digital device you can download the original first four issues for free from Amazon or Comixology and get hooked yourself.

 

 

Oh and if you like Saga, check out Panelsyndicate.com for an online only comic written by BK Vaughn.  The site has a pay-what-you-can motto so if you want a free taste- do so.  And then throw them a few bucks.

 

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Epiphany

Do you like novels with talking sheep and cities that have a population consisting entirely of cats?

 

Well I do.

 

Or course I’m talking about, Haruki Murakami, Japan’s most famous novelist.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent article where a journalist  describes why Haruki  began writing:

 

And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.

 

It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realized he could write a novel.

 

That’s the foundation for his literary career- a man hitting a double.  It doesn’t sound like a momentous action that would stir someone to write a novel.   It’s absurd.

 

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And yet in 2006, on a Friday night after getting home from my day job, I saw a man hit a double too.

 

My girlfriend (now wife) popped in with a friend.  We were having a drink before that evening’s plans of going to some sort of themed party- if I had to guess, which I’m not, because it’s not important, because we never went.    The man hitting a double happened first and it erased all of that night’s activities with it.

 

That moment was when I walked to the kitchen to get a beer.

 

I began feeling an odd excitability in my head.  My mind  wasn’t analyzing or assessing.  It wasn’t categorizing  or filing.  It was acting remarkably different.  And in an instant, before I even got to the kitchen,  it was 5:30 on a Saturday morning and I was sprawled out on a gurney in the Masonic Medical Center on Chicago’s north side.  Apparently, I passed out.

 

This bothered me for weeks.

 

Why? Why did I pass out?

 

My girlfriend and her friend told me they heard a sound like something heavy falling hard to the ground.  When I walked back in the room I started talking in loops and when questioned about certain topics, such as a recent vacation to Costa Rica, I couldn’t recall ever being there.  They brought me to the hospital where I kept this up until the next moment I remember, around 5:30, when I woke up.

 

Like I said it bothered me for weeks.  But what compounded the situation was a week later I saw a person faint on the brown line on the way to my day job.  I’d never seen a person faint before and it freaked me out.  Let alone the fact that she woke up 10 seconds later, stood up and pretended nothing happened.  People offered her their seats insisting she should sit down, but she refused, as if this was a common occurrence and everyone should get about their day.

 

A few weeks later I was crossing the street as a man on a bike was going through the same intersection.  He was on the other side the street from me.  And right as he was crossed the middle of the pavement- he fainted!  While riding his bike! It’s okay- he was going quite slow.  He didn’t shoot off his bike or pummel a pedestrian.  And you couldn’t really call it a busy intersection for car traffic either.    He just sort of crumpled on the cross-bar and tipped over.  By the time I got to him he was already on his feet shaking his hands at me to indicate “it’s cool, it’s cool- no worries.”  He jumped backed on his bike and pedaled away.

 

In twenty-seven years of life I never saw a person faint or faint myself.  And yet in a matter of weeks three incidences occurred.  This is the only truly weird thing that has happened to me.

 

And then there was an epiphany.

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Pg 176-177: My Doppelganger

Besides having a double life- I also have a doppelgänger.

 

He’s actually my twin and he lives in South Korea.  No, he’s not evil but he chooses to live very close to it (if you consider North Korea evil, or NoKo as my brother calls it).   This week he visited with his wife and daughter, Da Won.

 

To celebrate, New York City decided to climb to one hundred degrees for four days in a row… and it’s killing me.  My Midwest blood wasn’t made to stand this temp.  I grew up where winter could start in October, go until April, and most people lost feeling in their ears by the age of ten.  I have friends who in January will declare it “T-shirt day” and strictly wear a t-shirt the entire day whether it’s 5 above or 5 below.  Superman might gain his power from the burning rays of our sun but his fortress of Solitude is in the arctic. So there’s that.

 

Anyways my niece, Da Won, couldn’t stand the heat either.  The only time she cried was when she was not in the shade.  Somehow though I managed to don my tights and get 2 more pages completed while taking them to Staten Island, Korea town, Central Park, and several museums.

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It Was Meant To Be

“It was meant to be.”

 

I overheard a co-worker say this.  She was talking about how she landed a job at the company where I pretend to be Clark Kent.  She was unemployed looking for work. Things were really about to hit the fan when out of the blue she receives a phone call from an old associate of hers that inquired if she needed work.  That’s was how everything fell into place for her.

 

It’s a well-played story line.  I’ve overheard it many times over. Like:

 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

 

“It was destiny.”

 

“It was all part of God’s plan.”

 

“It was kismet.”

 

“I guess it was meant to be.”

 

But was it?  I want to believe, that most people, at some point in their lives, come to a crossroads where they realize that most- if not all things do not happen for a reason.  That randomness is the true culprit.  If this woman’s old associate never called, what would have taken place next?  And would whatever happened next still be for a reason?  Can our brains not recognize the real narrative?

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Try this-

Flip a coin one hundred times and mark down a “1” for heads and a “0” for tails.

 

1

0

1

1

1

0

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Looking at the results above, you can see string of 1’s and 0’s and even possible patterns of complex alternations with longer string of a solid number in a row.  When most people are asked to generate a random placement of zeroes and ones it tends to look like:

0

1

0

1

0

1

0

1

0

1

 

Ridiculously uniform because we understand randomness to be inconsequential and perhaps constantly changing- but randomness, as shown above, can act very static and unchanged.

 

This is a snapshot of  Sacco.  What’s ironic is in the process of making this graphic novel I relied heavily on random influences.  This generated the impression of things falling into place at the most opportune times.  If an element of the story wasn’t crystallizing, I’d ruminate over it and then go about my day.  A short while later a headline would magically appear in the papers or a fortuitous line would be spoken on TV that would ignite the sparks to fill that gap.

 

It was my interpretation of randomness that filled that gap.  Just as it was this woman’s interpretation of her life that made it fall so perfectly in sync.

 

 

Or maybe it was meant to be.

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