Letters to Holly

Friday, December 3

Forward Progress

The first draft of my third convention comic script is done.

I write as long as the momentum allows, set the script aside, and return later in the day to see if it will bellow a lingering ember. Often that does happen.

This morning's work was not what I expected. I didn't know what the final image/thought of the story would be. I've provided the big moments of the superheroine origin but not an obvious exit. I figured I'd need to hammer out some dents and prune weak dialogue before building a new scaffolding. To my surprise, I only needed to apply one final sentence to button the script. I mentally skipped what could have been a page of talking and dropped the capstone in place.

I'm as relieved as I am delighted. Now I can print it and get to polishing. I still need to determine how many pages I can feasibly draw and afford between now and May.

Almost Obligatory Baby Information
Despite the doctor's advice, Your Sister gets a mite concerned when the boy doesn't have a bowel movement. He reminded us that some babies can go three weeks without it. He hadn't befouled a diaper since the weekend, and she set her mind to fixing that when I brought him back from Your Parents' house last night. Protracted stomach massage ensued, and she seemed as physically relieved as he when he was placed naked on the changing station and extruding what appeared to be a few pounds of batter. Within a half hour, he had drunk 8 oz. of milk and was sacked out in the crib. We see the otolaryngologist Friday afternoon.

Dramatic Confession from My Innermost Dungeon of Shame of the Day
I had to look that word up.

Picture of the Day
To celebrate my comic work, I shall mosh with my crocs.

Thursday, December 2

Baby Learning

I compared the sidekick to a videogame a few months back. I was referring to the template of a self-contained series of tests a player will encounter. Used to be, video games were simple button-mashers; the only trick was timing the correct button press. But as technology and competition expanded, the gaming universe developed a puzzle subsystem now seen in almost every current major game. This is what parenting is like.

Particularly, I could compare him to a customizable role-playing character. As we develop specific skills (solid food, sitting up, etc), he becomes distinct from other babies as he develops on the same general timeline. By giving him certain tools and tasks, we're molding him. But that means we have to respond to his responses. We're in a feedback loop, and that forces us to out-think him.

Take his new sleep position. We took him out of the bassinet last week, and he's slept in the crib ever since. I'm relieved with this; that crib needed more business. He proved he could sleep flat on his back with the travel bed, but he's accustomed to curling up in deep sleep because of the bassinet frame. As we moved him to the crib, he still curls up and his subsequent leg movement will often jerk him awake. I'm not shocked by this. He has the leg muscles of a gymnast. That muscle jerk keeps him from sleeping and us from eating supper. We would have to scoop him up again and hold him until he reached a deep enough sleep to last through the next put-down attempt. Recently, I tried simply holding down his legs after putting him down, and it worked. He crashes quickly. I told Your Sister about it, and she got the same results on her nights to put him down.

A few weeks back, I started setting him upright to build the sitting muscles. I'll keep him this way for ten minutes at a time. Just last night, he put his right hand flat beside him, locked the elbow, and stayed upright for a few seconds. He's evolving. Your Sister was amazed. By the end of the year, just after his six-month birthday, he might be sitting by himself.

He doesn't have the dexterity to mimic the sign language, but we suspect his acute arm movements are his tried at it. Not that there's any mystery when he's hungry. He began keening and lowing right before the hunger cries start. It gives us time to warm up bottled milk. He's teaching us.

Picture of the Day
We've become fans of the The Walking Dead. This season has only six episodes, and it ends this Sunday. This is a behind-the-scenes shot of the very first scene, and it influenced my comic script (first real draft almost done). Specifically, it gives us the tone of the series and some zombie violence early on before moving toward the slower establishing scenes. It hooks us. I needed that for my comic, and that helped unlock the other parts of the script between the major moments I had in mind.

Wednesday, December 1

Reading and Chewing

I've shaken up my weekly routine a bit by eating actual meals for lunch. I previously avoided all restaurants during my lunch break for a number of reasons, but mostly I didn't want to be That Guy Who Eats Alone. It's sad. I've always found it sad to see, and I didn't want to multiply that feeling by being That Guy.

I used to at at my office. When the office eating policy changed, I took to window shopping to kill my lunch break, and I'd snack to maintain my blood sugar. Recently though, I decided it was no sin to sit down and eat a meal, and I've ventured into a few of the local eateries: Golden Palace (great for lunch), Firehouse Subs (overpriced), Burger King (heavy on the stomach), and others. Whenever I went to a restaurant, I took a book. Otherwise, I hit a store or two and grab Starbucks and bananas for lunch. I think that helped me lose weight, and it is a filling meal. I eventually worked up curiosity about the sports bar and went in a few weeks back with a West Wing scriptbook.

Yesterday was my third trip into the sportsbar across the street, and I had a new book, The Wordy Shipmates, an extended essay on the Pilgrims. I've probably created a reputation as That Weird Book Guy because, come on, who takes a book to a sports bar? But the lunch prices are good, and I'm filled up, and it's well lighted. There are banks of TV screens showing mostly sports highlights, and I can only watch so much of that without hearing the channel. And instead of staring at the walls, I want to read. Yesterday, I made a shocking discovery: A man reading a book in a sportsbar lures waitresses. I'm sure, were I a hump, I could exploit this. I'm surprised by it, but the sight must be such a rarity that people slow down to interact with it like a car crash on the freeway.

One of the recurring comments during the Thanksgiving assembly was how much a baby instills within a new parent (me) an expanded scope of love and purpose. So far, I'm not feeling it. My resolve to care for the sidekick remains intact, and yes, I'm willing to punt other kids who bother him. But that alleged supernova glow of harmony doesn't broadcast through me. I'm still the same me as before, but now I have a small roommate who can't walk. I suppose I'm the kind of parent who doesn't romanticize the infant stages. I prefer someone who can talk and walk, someone who can convey a personality. I can work with that. I can grow attached to that. Now? He's a larva in clever onsies.

Picture of the Day
I found this yesterday.

Tuesday, November 30

Socks and Sabers

I've enjoyed my months of wearing Converse without socks, but now that time must end. The sharp, cold air is too stark, even for my short walks from the car to the office or the mall. Add to that the strong probability of rainstorms, and these simple canvas shoes won't cut it. I must dust off my socks. I must smother my feet and say goodbye to the Converse until spring's sunlight again warms the earth. Converse with socks, so suggest? I'd need to buy a size larger to accommodate the socks. Also, that combination doesn't look right. Converse are practically boat shoes. Socks are unnecessary.

I bought three new pairs at Target, and the flustered clerk only rang up two of them. I debated saying something, but the register aisles were crammed. I didn't want to add to the wait times of those behind me, and, hey, free socks.

I've been paralyzed in writing the new hero comic. My brain churns with plot strands and scenes, but formatting it on paper freezes me. concerns of issue length and format stymie me, and I need to simply write everything down as it flows and whittle it to an affordable size later on. This is what I must do. Yes. Now to do it. I know what happens in the story but not how the comic will depict it. I'm wary of starting with four pages of conversation -- and as I type this, I think I figured out how to avoid that.

The deputy seems to have forgotten how to sleep all night, and I wonder if the change to crib sleeping put him off his schedule.

Picture of the Very Cold, Rainy Day
Empire director Irvin Kershner died this weekend. This image is from Ain't It Cool News.

Watching Empire this weekend, by sheer confidence, I noted a new subtext to the Vader/Luke fight created by the prequels. We know from an earlier Empire scene that Vader would rather turn Luke than kill him. But Vader reveals to Luke that he wants to team up to overthrow the Emperor. I suggest that that's half the new story.

I think Vader wants Luke to turn to prove to himself that he wasn't weak when he turned on the Jedi and caused Padme's death. If Luke can turn, anyone can, and Vader would be no worse than anyone else. I propose he yearns to settle this in hopes of redeeming himself, but Luke wants Vader to join him and redeem himself via a Skywalker family intervention. They both want the same thing -- Vader's peace of mind -- but Vader sees himself as so corrupted and low that he fights Luke's sales pitch of the good side of the Force. We get that in Return, but it's delivered in such simple terms that it lacks heft.

Also, I wonder if age plays a part in the Empire fight. As they begin, Vader exclusively wields his saber with one hand, and it's a theatrical move: Luke is fresh from Jedi boot camp with Yoda and Ben and is fighting to save his friends. He has initiative and vigor. Vader plays the part of a grizzled gladiator who is in no way threatened by this. The stance gives him a swagger I missed the first four dozen times I saw the film. Vader has been cleansing the galaxy of Jedi and rebels for decades; he shouldn't be threatened by a dirt farmer even if he is carrying Vader's old weapon.

Maybe we do need to show the films in episodic order to the deputy. I intended to go by release date before I considered all this.

Monday, November 29


I did a strip for my friend's Comics From Space webcomic, and it went live this morning. There will be a batch of guest strips, and mine is the first.

I was flattered to be asked and immediately set down what I thought was the perfect idea for a joke involving those characters. Within two weeks, the joke was used by a Conan O'Brien ad. After much cursing and cat kicking, I summoned up another gag and sent the strip in ridiculously early to avoid a similar joke theft. That's probably why my strip is the first to see daylight.

My voice is low and rumbly today, making me sound hungover. Your Sister and I ended the weekend by watching The Walking Dead, a new series based on a zombie comic. It's hitting her hard, spooking and exhausting her within a hour. We have to watch more TV afterward before we dare go to bed.

Moving Picture of the Day
60 Minutes gave the first extended preview of the new Spider-Man musical last night. The backstage story threatens to eclipse the stage work: Bono and The Edge wrote their first musical, and director Julie Taymor's reputation as Broadway's most dynamic creator helped this show stay alive despite financial collapse. Also, the two original leads actors left during production delays. The show is alleged to cost about $65 million, making it the biggest show in the history of the Great White Way, and it will have to summon the loyalty enjoyed by Wicked to break even. It's a giant enterprise, but it looks amazing. There's no way this could tour though; it's too technically demanding.

I'm very curious about it, of course.