Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There are... Three Aardvarks!

In light of the news of Sam & Fuzzy succeeding beyond their wildest dreams of their Kickstarter program, I've been reading some old comics as a way of celebration.  I've also been catching up on Dr. McNinja after re-reading the black and white portion of the increasingly awesome webcomic as collected in the McNinja omnibus from Dark Horse.  I was reluctant to jump back into the story when it changed to colour, and for awhile, it didn't quite have the same sense of zaniness as its early stories, but gradually it began to regain (and surpass) its former glory with ever-increasing weirdness often culminating into a climax - and then have things go utterly wrong at the most crucial moment.  While other comics would go the grimdark route when such an incident would occur, McNinja takes these plot twists and spins them into expanded stories.  I've had to stop multiple times in order to take a breather due to everything's that's been happening so far.

But for the most part, I've been rereading Cerebus.  Particularly the early issues which I mostly skimmed the text in order to rush on to the better later stuff.  (It's easier to appreciate a story once you know how everything turns out in the end)  Then I had an interesting thought when I came across this passage where Cerebus confronts a political rival on his deathbed where a certain piece of vital information is revealed:

Thing is, information shown in Cerebus is pretty much a two-edged sword - it'll either turn out to be utterly wrong or totally irrelevant.  Furthermore, the two aardvarks mentioned don't begin to show themselves until much later during the Mothers & Daughters arc - some 75 issues later.  That's almost six and a half years of waiting in publishing terms.

One of the many problematic issues with Cerebus is that it's laden with dozens of in-jokes that'd only make sense back when it was being released.  The most understandable in-joke is the constant references to S-heroes as exemplified via the numerous roles played by the parodic Cockroach.  This out-of-element character in a Medieval world was the only way Cerebus could be taken seriously by the S-hero centric comicbook community that existed back then. The only annotations that explain these references are in Cerebus magazines or various discontinued webpages devoted to the comic.  As a result, the circle of people who're aware of Cerebus' reputation is higher than the number of people who've actually bothered to read Cerebus.  It's very much a cult mentality.

For the sake of clarification, I'll be describing the two aardvarks in question to those of you who don't want to bother with the comic in question.  The first one is Suenteus Po, unintended founder of Illusionism and something of a philosophical messianic figure who's content to remain in the background and see events occur without his involvement.

The other is Cirin (not to be confused with Sarin gas), tyrannical leader of a matriarchy on par with the Female Shapeshifter from DS9.  (She only showed up in 10 episodes in the Star Trek spinoff, but she made quite a presence)  Apply those same Machiavellian tendencies to Cirin, and you have a close comparison to what she's like.  Also, at the time she appears, she's amassed a huge stockpile of gold for a project of hers.

So, with that in mind, what would these rival aardvarks look like?
Who, indeed?
This is the kind of thing I think about all the time.  Slightly bolstered by an article that pointed out various cartoon animals that look nothing like the species they're supposed to portray, both of the above whom are on the list.  Just in case this derivation wasn't enough to satisfy you, here's an alternate revision using another Star Trek reference that ties just as well with Cerebus' problematic "Male light" analogy that'll surely respond to a wider audience:

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Hymn of the Embattled Republic

The verdict of the George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin has caused further polar divisions between the Black and White communities in the States.  Most particularly in how despite the overwhelming evidence against him, the outcome would've been completely one-sided if the offending parties had their skin colours reversed.  The results have created a national divide between people who believe Zimmerman was cast in a negative light and those who are convinced he was outright guilty.  As was mentioned once by somebody, the Confederation Civil War simply never really ended.  There were still people in the South who continue to believe that Blacks never should've stopped being slaves.

I'm not culturally entrenched into this way of thought, and digging deeper into the comments of essays about this topic just reveals uncomfortable inner turmoil that I find myself despising myself for even thinking.  Rather than contribute a weak opinion that would fall short of identifying with a culture clash I'm still painfully unaware or accustomed to, here's an article from MAD Magazine #343 in 1996.  While MAD showed signs of declining quality in its later years, there were signs of biting satire now and then.  This revised stanza of the soundtrack from Inherit the Wind is still relevant almost twenty years later.  No further commentary is necessary.

Our land has seen the terror in the darkness of the night,
With the lynchings by the Klan and mammoth crosses burning bright;
You can read it in the textbooks - it's all there in black and white -
We thought those days were gone!

In the decade of the Fifties, Freedome Marchers led the way,
Helping blacks to gain equality throughout the USA;
If you think this stopped the hatred, take a look around today -
The madness lingers on!

Lordy, Lordy agita-tion
Leading us to ru-ina-tion!
Say... good bye to in-te-gration!
The hope for peace is gone!

On the airwaves we can hear the gangsta rappers do their thing,
Stirring up the inner cities with the hymns of hate they sing,
While they trample on the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King -
Their rage goes on and on!

We can't stop the drive-by shootings by the black gangs of L.A.;
We're afraid of white militias armed to blow us all away;
Still they've got one thing in common - they both back the N.R.A. -
The vi-o-lence lives on!

Far-rakhan his fame is spread-ing!
Da-vid Duke his words we're dread-ing!
Towards... a racial war we're head-ing!
The bat-tle lines are drawn!

When the cops caught Rodney King, no special treatment did they show,
Just the usual procedure as they clubbed him head to toe;
'Course, nobody ever told them they'd be filmed on vid-e-o -
The beat went on and on!

When the cops were found not guilty, all L.A. was filled with fright,
To behild the deadly riots that the verdict did ignite;
By the way it should be mentioned that the jury was all-white -
The trust in law was gone!

Shooting, looting, fires set-ting!
Bust-ing heads with no regret-ting!
Days... of shame we're not forgetting!
The horror still lives on!

We have seen teens in the ghettos hooked on heroin and crack;
We have heard the pundits say it's opportunities they lack;
"Quit your bitching!" cry Republicans, "And make it big like Shaq" -
The rhet-o-ric goes on!

"We must help them," shout the Democrats, "No effort is too small;"
"I've decided," says Bill Clinton, "that they need a chance that's all;
"We will make them model citizens with midnight basketball -
The gangs will soon be gone!"

Blabbing, gabbing as expected,
While... the needy are neglected!
How... the hell were they elected?
They ramble on and on!

Prosecuting O.J. Simpson, there was evidence galore,
Then Mark Furhman spoke the N-word, which the world could not ignore;
Johnnie Cochran played the race card and it split us to the core -
He raved and rant-ed on!

You could hear some people cheering when the jury's vote came in;
You could hear some others swearing he was guiltier than sin;
If you need an explanation, check the color of their skin -
All com-mon sense was gone!

Glory, glory, jubila-tion!
Blacks... began a celebra-tion!
Whites... were sickened with frustra-tion!
The big-o-try lived on!

From the squalor of the cities you can see the white folks flee,
To their condos in the suburbs, squeaky clean as they can be;
There's a token black allowed there - he's a Harvard Ph.D. -
The ex-o-dus goes on!

Once we had a house divided - now its soul is ripped apart,
With a fury and a vengeance that would break Abe Lincoln's heart;
If the hatred doesn't end, a second Civil War could start -
The bit-terness lives on!

Bat-tered, shattered is ou na-tion,
Racked by bloody confronta-tion!
'Til there's reconcilia-tion,
The dream we had is gone!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Children's Comics I've Enjoyed

The general consensus and resistance to enjoying children's literature stems from the bias that anything aimed at young readers must be mentally inferior to be comprehensible for young minds.  However, while it's recommended to keep things simplistic in order to make the story appealing, that doesn't immediately translate into dumbing down the work.  Rather, it means displaying a different mindset than what would normally be appropriate for older people.  Make your story too confusing, and you risk losing your audience's interest.  Go too far in the other direction, and you wind up insulting your audience's intellect.
It's a delicate balance between the two, and some writers aren't fortunate enough to cross that divide with a story that'll be enjoyed by all ages.  I'm more appreciative of those writers who go off the beaten track and create something that'll be enjoyed multiple times and won't suffer from the passage of time.

With that in mind, here's a summary of three children's books I recently read:

Around the World

Matt Phelan's debut book The Storm in the Barn played on a fantasy explanation for the droughts during the depression.  His second book is more biographical, but to me, it's much more interesting, simply because it's true.

Jules Verne made one of his many marks on the literary world with his tale of Phileas Fogg's legendary journey around the turn of the industrial revolution.  Before mass public transit would make travelling around the world in under a day seem as easy as crossing the street, there were other real-life individuals at the end of the 19th Century who took up on the fictional journey and took it upon themselves to partake their own version of the challenge.

The first person, Thomas Stevens took up the task of travelling around the world - on a single vehicle.  This was so he could help do some promotional advertising for the bicycle since it was highly preferable to his daily job of toiling in the mines.  With this newfound activity, he could get a chance to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and impress the passerbys who would be seeing this innovative mode of transport for the first time.

But this wasn't your typical two-wheeler kind of bike, this was the old-school tricycle with the meter-long front spoke that's reminiscent of antiquated photos.  This was back when bicycles were called Velocipedes, as immortalized in a certain Kate Beaton comic, where anything technologically innovative was looked upon with suspicion.  The bicycle is basically a modified function of the wheel and axle.  It's the most openly revealed engine out there.

You know those old two-ply boards that are endlessly seen advertising signs such as "Eat at Joe's"?  I saw a modernized version of that when I saw somebody downtown who was rollerblading with an ad on his back.  I can't remember what was being advertised, but it certainly seems innovative, even as I was more impressed by the innovativeness of subliminal media for usage of short attention span tactics.  But I'm digressing.

The second person, Nellie Bly was a reporter who wanted to see if it were personally possible to travel around the world via the same limitations as outlined in Jules Verne's story.  However, there were large hindrances against such a ambitious undertaking.  There wasn't enough funding / readers wouldn't be interested / it was too dangerous.  But the main reason for the resistance was that Nellie Bly was a woman. And not just any woman.  She was a truly investigative reporter.  She simulated madness so she could gain access and report on the harsh working conditions of an insane asylum.

A year after she proposed her offer, she finally got permission from her publishers to undertake the task in question.  Taking the barest minimum for travelling, consisting of an overcoat and a single travelling bag, she set off on her reportive journey.  She was less impressed with sightseeing and more on reaching her destination.  Despite her grumblings of making unnecessary detours, she still made time to interview Jules Verne himself in person.  Her articles garnered the attention of girls worldwide who began emulating her by wearing miniature versions of her trademark hat and overcoat.  Attention only increased when a rival female reporter from another newspaper claimed to accomplish the same deed in less time - in the opposite direction, resulting in a strange kind of race between two women who never see each other.

The last story focuses on Joshua Slocum who took upon the task to go around the world - the hard way. While the other two had the benefit of making their trips via land and had brief intermissions on boat, Slocum decided to make the pilgrimage entirely by boat.  And considering the majority of the world is made up of water, that's a major handicap indeed.  Even more so considering he went upon the entire voyage on a single boat stocked with minimal supplies and reading material, only refueling on supplies when he reached land. Also, unlike the other two, he didn't have a self-imposed deadline to worry about, and was free to sail at his leisure.

Moving on from these short biographies of lesser-known figures, the next book touches on a personal note rather close to me.  The inspirational story that inspired my mother to do some early intervention in order to teach me how to read and talk:

Anne Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Hellen Keller's infamous upbringing made immortal in The Miracle Worker is slightly retold in the first third of the book, as well as an emotional rendering of the water scene where it all suddenly begins to "click" together for Helen.  In particular, some of the most interesting visuals come from Helen's interpretation of how she perceives the world around her, mostly in the form of a blank self interacting with objects she has little comprehension or understanding of.

But this book focuses half of its attention on Helen's mentor Anne Sullivan who deserves just as much praise as Helen does.  And the things Sullivan put up with growing up were completely unknown to me, and should be a real eye-opener to understanding just how she could manage to be so tough against Helen's stubbornness. The remaining 2/3rds focus on their relationship as they continue their lessons from the Helen household and beyond.

Even as Anne Sullivan has managed to teach Helen the basics, she's still confronted with the insurmountable obstacles such as Helen's parents who are still woefully ignorant about the amount of intensive teaching that Helen requires.  Their perception is that now that Helen's learned what a few words mean, she should be fine by now.  It doesn't help that Anne's mannerisms plays at odds with the South's perceptions of how women should act.

Joseph Lambert's drawings remind me very much of the artwork from Ordinary Victories who tended to look like they were claymation figures.  Of all the Center for Cartoon Studies books done so far, this is the most impressive title to date.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Miyazaki has high status for being the Japanese Disney, but despite his sterling reputation, his movies leave me somewhat cold.  I've never quite felt the sense of accomplishment and wonder that his characters are supposed to convey.  For a long time, I was wondering if there was something I was missing, like with Eisner who was highly regarded in artist's circles, but whose storytelling mechanics I found difficult to appreciate. The craft was there, but the way it was assembled together didn't impress me.

Likewise, I could never quite get into Amulet because the character interaction between the characters, for all their fantastic artwork, felt somewhat... dull.  As if all their human interactions were left simplified in order not to offend any finer sensibilities.  However, there's none of that sickening sentimentality to be found in the pages of Hilda.  I know this sounds like I'm advocating regular shouting matches between members of the family on a dysfunctional level, but this could not be further from the truth.  What I want is authenticity between people, where dialogue sounds natural, not forced or acting out of a play.  Unless that play is improv theater, which due to some surprising developments, can happen occasionally, and is still enjoyable upon a reread, even as you already know how it's all going to play out.

So I was delighted when I read Hilda by Luke Pearson which has obvious Miyazaki influences, but goes above and beyond the usual fantasy setup.  Unlike other worlds where the parents are generally disbelieving of their children's spouting of fantastic creatures they've seen, the mother is aware of the amazing creatures that populace the province.  It's among the cheapest cliches along with the schoolchild getting bullied in order to foster audience identification.
It's hard to ignore incriminating evidence when invisible people
leave polite warnings to get off their property.
However, this is thrown slightly out the window in the presence of the titular giant who in the midst of these tiny people shows up briefly at night, and vanishes abruptly with hardly any clearing to hide behind.  In the presence of tiny invisible people and flying cat faces migrating to the North, it's this little oddity her child proclaims that she finds unbelievable.

Mostly, the giant plays a minor part in the book.  The main focus is on the teenies whose hostility towards the family is really a matter of bureaucracy.  The teenies never really had much of a problem with anybody living on their land.  It just happened that the recently elected Prime Minister promised to drive away any settlers in order to get the votes.  It's purely political, and Hilda has to wade through nonsensical higher branches of authority in order to get any peace in her home.  I won't spoil how it all turns out, but the ending with the giant fits appropriately well with the overall theme of the story.
Moreover, it's just plain... fun to see the characters talk
with their twisted Kafkaesque logic.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recommended WebComics: Sam & Fuzzy

Last week, one of the more innovative and imaginative webcomics out there, Sam & Fuzzy started a Kickstarter to collect the intimidating backlog of seven years of bad jokes and stories into a comprehensive two-album volume.  Back when the comic was still middling along getting by with marker artwork and wacky scenes.

And then it met its goal in less than half a day.  (More like a third of a day, but 1/3 doesn't quite roll off the tongue that easily)  And support continues to pour in.  Evidently, there are lots of fans out there who want to share their joy of the early comics and what the strip has evolved into for computer-monitor allergic comic fans.  For years, fans had been clamoring for the release of the early comics into a dead tree version, since reading the early stuff online can be something of a pain, and it takes awhile to get to the "Good stuff".  But once that starts to happen, it becomes a veritable pageturner on par with the second half of Church & State.  But what is it about this long-running webcomic that made online devotees so ambitious about wanting to share their joy with the world?

The uphill battle for spreading buzz about Sam & Fuzzy is somewhat understandable since it started out as a simple gag-a-day comic between a man and his demented talking teddy bear.  But somewhere between the taxi jobs and demonic talking refrigerators, it had suddenly morphed into an epic about a man on the run from the Ninja Mafia who'd been chosen as the rightful successor, ultimately culminating with an EPIC confrontation at the top of Sin Music Tower.

One of the things that Scott McCloud said he was excited about webcomics was that everybody online had potential to create their own personal Cerebus.  And nowhere is that dream more explicitly verified than in Sam & Fuzzy.  Much like how Cerebus' High Society was released first since it was better quality stuff, and only went back to reprint his early stuff once sales and demand proved strong enough.  (Incidentally, it may seem obvious today, but when Dave Sim first published High Society in telephone book format, comic retailers put down his repackaging, since it meant they wouldn't be able to sell back issues of his issues anymore)

Summarizing up a comic as esoteric as Sam & Fuzzy is pretty difficult, since there's no clear story summary that would do it justice.  Rather, it's an experience to be relished.  It plays off of various archetypes, starting out as a wacky sitcom like setup (A man & his talking teddy bear!) but then evolves into a Fugitive-like scenario by being on the run with a rock band, and becoming increasingly drawn into an underworld of a mysterious society just hidden from reality.  Sam has shades of a reluctant John Constantine with Peter Parker luck.  Fuzzy is the annoying chorus sidekick mascot who's just as much of a hindrance as he is a help.  Fuzzy is an anthropomorphic talking bear who has disturbing displays of homicidal tendencies, nonsensical non-sequiturs and sometimes surprisingly prodigious insights.  And yet, for all his annoying traits, he somehow has managed to stay friends without Sam (or anybody else for that matter) hacking him up in a state of gleeful maniacal cackling.

The webcomic didn't start to show shades of becoming ambitious until a 4-day Christmas special that showed the extent an expanded version of the comic could aspire to rather than restrict itself to the usual 4-panel format.

So what do you do if you have a cult comic filled with wacky endearing characters, but it's laden with an improbable origin that sounds completely insane taken out of context?  (It doesn't help that it's insane even WITH context)  You create a new jumping-on point for new readers.  That way, once readers see the creative energy and humour evident in the comic, they'll be naturally curious to go back and find out how this zaniness all started.

HOW Sam became Ninja Emperor isn't that important.  Only the fact that he's Ninja Emperor is relevant, and the little clues that surface from time to time only give a small sampling of the history that lies within.  In the same context that Cerebus' past as a Veteran Mercenary and Tax Collector was hardly relevant to his becoming Prime Minister and Pope, so too does Sam's past as a Taxi Driver and bookstore employee seem like minor footnotes.  They're interesting bits of trivia on a resume with far more impressive qualifications.

It's not mandatory to read the early stuff in order to understand the later comics, but it certainly clears up some backstory and some inside jokes that makes more sense in context.  In this instance, it's easier to dive straight into the new starting point and then go back and read the early stuff when you know all the good things that'll happen later.  It makes for a much more rewarding experience.  Chances are that if you go straight to the beginning, you'll suffer from repetitive burnout as experienced from this comprehensive review that does a much better analysis of the mechanisms behind Sam & Fuzzy.  It's been described as Cerebus Syndrome gone right.

Much of Dave Sim's bad rep comes from his outlandish constantly changing worldview of religion and don't even get him started on women.  His misogyny is the stuff of legend and would be considered unbelievable if portrayed in fiction.  The ironic part is, Cerebus had some of the strongest portrayals of women in comics, and had a high female readership until that infamous tangent in issue #186 that turned off a lot of his faithful readers.

By comparison, there's plenty of admirable women within the pages of Sam & Fuzzy, and even those females aren't entirely faultless.  They're no generation of Mary Sues or Shrinking Violets.  They're capable, smart, manipulative and as cruel as the next guy.  Oh, and they're funny as well; did I forget to mention that?
If there's an ugly divorce involving a secret mistress looming in the horizon, we're all in big trouble.  Baring any sudden affairs in the unforseeable future, we should be enjoying the antics of Sam & Fuzzy for a long time to come.

Fortunately, the only conspiracy nut is regulated to Malcolm, whose insane insights can be laughed at for the world to see since there's no way they could possibly be taken seriously.  Right??  Right??!!  If the creator ever shows signs of believing the words that come out of his conspiracy nut's mouth, that's a warning sign to slowly back away.

While there are superficial similarities between Cerebus and Sam & Fuzzy, (they're both black and white independant comics created by Canadian cartoonists) the difference between the two could not be more pronounced.  Cerebus is a dense intimidating read that takes time to absorb, and its sense of humour may not translate easily to an audience today, which can be offputting to new comic readers.  Sam and Fuzzy is a light breezy comic that despite its long-running storylines, the author is having fun making things up as he goes along.  I would say that Cerebus is for comic veterans ONLY, and should only be attempted by those brave enough to take the plunge.

That still won't stop me from doing another side-by-side comparison of the two comics, since those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.  Even if creator Sam Logan never read Cerebus, some of the similarities (and deviations) are somewhat surprising:

Cerebus has a keen mind to immediately improvise his surroundings to suit his needs, even as all odds continue to conspire against him.  If a plan is mentioned, you can feel free to ignore it, since it will almost certainly fail to come to fruition due to a technicality.  (This is one of the most frustrating things about Cerebus)

Sam has a tremendous ability of being able to improvise to the current situation under tremendous strain from repeat experience with weirdness.

As soon as he's appointed Ninja Emperor, Sam takes the reins of power immediately - purely for altrustic reasons.

As soon as Cerebus is appointed Pope, Cerebus lets power go to his head immediately and abuses it to the full letter of the law - for purely selfish reasons.
He's also more vocal about his reservations.
Cerebus confronts a flying being known as The Regency Elf  who's somewhat ditzy, and only presents herself to certain people.

Conflicted women are continuously plagued by a floating Conscience Cat whose presence can only be seen by a select few, and whose existence remains somewhat dubious.

Caricatures of musicians Mick Jagger and Keith Richards showed up in a "filler" side story.
If anybody asks about the inherent weirdness of Cerebus,
 just tell them drugs were involved.
You won't be lying.
Of all the famous dead celebrities to choose from, Sam & Fuzzy had a guest appearance of The King.

Cerebus takes on a job at a pub to take on a mysterious (yet cute) menace that's occupying the basement.

Sam & Fuzzy take on a job at a wine restaurant with a dilemma similar to above.

Cerebus was confronted about his species' identity in a bar, after which no one ever questioned or found him looking unusual ever again.

Fuzzy had cat-burglar Hazel do this for him.

In a "lost" episode of Jaka's Story, it's revealed that Lord Julius has a staff of Like-a-Look body doubles posted everywhere all with his mannerisms.
What's worse than two Grouchos in a room?
Don't answer that question.
Early on, there's a time-travelling Fuzzy with a Sombero who occasionally pops up, and when a bunch of Fuzzy Robot Clones shows up later, one of them gains sentience, and differentiates from the real Fuzzy by wearing a Sombero.

The culminative climax of Sam & Fuzzy takes place in an office building ascending towards the stratosphere.  During which all prospective players deal with varying levels of threats on every floor with hilarious banter and tension throughout.
That smashing sound would be Sam being dangled out a window.
At the climax of Church & State, Cerebus finds himself hitching a ride on a black tower of faces rising towards the heavens.  Sandwiched between two lengthy monologues lasting 130 pages, the last word Cerebus utters is a barely audible "No".
He actually said "no" ten pages earlier.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's Raining, It's Pouring, My Old Man is Snoring

Just recently, my mother had trouble getting to sleep because my Dad was making noises in the middle of the night.  When it comes to sounds, my mother is something of a light sleeper, especially if the offender is outside her bedroom door.  (I've had to stay completely silent when on my late-night excursions when my writing inspiration kicks in)  So you can imagine her frustration when the perpetrator of sound pollution happened to be lying right beside her.  To make matters more infuriating, even after prodding and pushing the offending person to stop the noise, the perpetrator barely took notice of the assault on his person, and promptly stayed asleep, leaving my poor mother feeling more tired and awake than ever..  For her, getting up is easy.  It's staying asleep that's hard.  Oftentimes, she'll spend the night awake dealing with her personal insomnia all on her lonesome.  It's very annoying when you're tired and everybody else seems to have an easier time falling asleep than you.
"Pictures, or it didn't happen."
The next morning, my Mother confronted my Father about this annoying habit, which he honestly admitted to not remembering even happening.  Furthermore, he denied ever indulging in any snoring despite all proof to the contrary.  Even if there'd been a tape recorder handy, it's doubtful that it would've convinced him of his midnight misdemeanors since he would've laughed away such evidence.  To him, he finds these accusations against his person funny.  (More on this later)

In contrast, my father is the very opposite of this condition, which infuriates my mother to no end.  He can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, often without any need for meaningless buildup.  His choice spot for rest and relaxation is where countless men have chosen for their refuge: in front of the television set.

Usually, he'll be watching some awful B-movie with terrible jokes, and he'll be really enjoying himself, when all of a sudden, overcome with a wave of euphoria, he'll suddenly falls asleep sitting up.  Sometimes he'll be eating his supper at the table and then he'll nod off with his head hanging slightly above the plate, with his utensils still in his hands.  Often, he'll sleep sitting up for a good while, while the action continues in front of him unnoticed, and then wake up and then continue watching the program without caring about missing a large chunk of the narrative.
This is not an accurate dramatization.
This narcolepsy would be alarming if it occurred anywhere else with frequent happenstance, but it only happens when he comes home and relaxes.  Dad is completely unable to handle movies with too much plot, since he hates trying to figure out what's going on, and when he tries to pay attention from beginning to end, he'll be constantly asking questions such as "who's that guy?" and "why did he do that?" like an annoying member of the audience asking questions throughout the whole theater.
Included mainly for the throwaway panels.
Don't complain.
He doesn't really care about catching the whole essentials of the story, and is content to catch little snatches of comprehension here and there.  He'll watch anything that's on TV by jumping right into the middle, while my mother can't stand watching something without a plot synopsis or summary.  This is particularly evident since we're now in an age of multi-episodic TV series plots compared to the episodic episodes of yesteryear.  Trying to jump into a new series by jumping blindly into the second episode loses all the impact if you haven't seen all the buildup outlined in the first episode.  This is why I increasingly prefer to watch TV series on DVD, so I don't have to worry about missing something, especially if in the next episode, it opens up to a rather unorthodox flashback or something, leading me to wonder if I missed something or if I recorded the wrong channel.

I'm a little of both camps, since I'm constantly living in a world where I seem to be missing the script and nobody's bothering to correct my lines.  That's why I've take steps to ensure that all the comic links in my sidebar go straight to the first strip, baring some exceptions, depending on whether it's serial or episodic. It's always good to make a good first impression.

Getting back to the bedside manners, my mother was undergoing some heavy painkillers to deal with some recent dental surgery, and was planning to listen to some relaxing nature sounds on tape to unwind.  It was at this point that dad pointed out that his meditation method was plucking dandelions and mushrooms off the lawn.  When he's outside in his element, being outstanding in his field, he feels totally at ease, and suggested using that method of relaxation for my mother.  Mom understandably wasn't convinced, since she's more likely to participate in Reading than Weeding.
This seems excessive.
The thing to understand about my dad is, he's not really a sadist - he's a gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a fly.  But he takes great pleasure in the suffering of others.  He finds such tragic comeuppances like Mom's insomnia amusing.  At least when they're not happening to him.  To him, that's the pure essence of comedy.  (To a certain extent, this is true)  The problem is, he's the living embodiment of schadenfreude.  He loves nothing more than to poke fun and tease the members of his family for what he considers to be "silly mistakes" that could be easily avoided.  In a sense, this is pretty much the essence of humour.  What makes it somewhat unbearable is his take on what he perceives as "funny", often verging in the realm of awful puns and bad jokes.
It's only funny when it's not happening to you.
In comparison, the rest of the family tends to go for more sophisicated humour.  When I found out that Mom was going for a dental checkup and going to a party later, I told her to "have as much fun as a root canal".  The problem is, Dad is mostly French, and any mangled metaphors I tell him will be utterly lost on him, since he's unaware of such idiom.  On the one hand, it's good that I don't have to suffer more
On the other hand, it's somewhat of a lost cause not having a potential audience get my jokes.

It's raining, it's pouring,
My old man is snoring.
He went to bed
And got bumped on the head
And can't get up no morning.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The July Shall be First

It's the halfway point of the year, which also happens to coincide with Canada Day (formerly known as Dominion Day), and what better way to celebrate the birth of my country than with some Garfield Calendar comics?

Okay, so that's only patriotic to Americans, but that's what you get when you deal with a multi-corporation icon that only panders to one country without supplying regional alternatives.  Back before the internet ruined everything by supplying lengthy material online, we had our versions of Newsweek and Time magazine, which apart from not being that much different from each other, still had different articles relevant to the great white north, and different covers as well.

There's not much to say about the remainder of the month images, save that this is the only party that doesn't have "party" in its title name, and has an alternative version of Odie's girlfriend.  From the look of things, the couple in the background seem to be getting some of that Flashdance fever rather than complain about the sudden traffic jam.

Road Dance

Pack lots of people in your car and drive till you hear a song on the radio.  No matter where you are, hop out and dance to the music.  Then, scramble back into the car and drive till the next song comes on.  This is not a good party for an interstate highway.
Dear Diary... I had a surprise for the mailman today.