Letters to Holly

Friday, January 14

Cooking With Villainy Supplemental

Dear Warren Ellis who just posted a recipe,

Doom warns you that Doom is working this corner.

Not that your dish does not intrigue Doom. Mayhap Doom will command a chefbot to whip it up while Doom is off conquering Asia. Don't get all atwitter. Doom said "mayhap."

Yours in Christ,

Putting My Back Into It

A strange, yellow object appeared in the sky yesterday afternoon, and it brought warmth and light. I remain confused and frightened. The city's storm passed by, and our road was obviously plowed again. The driveway had a new inches-high border of frozen gunk. But what caught my eye were the tire tracks near the carport. Clearly, Your Sister tried to leave the house, and the car couldn't make it. She managed to get the car back in the garage.

When I asked about it, she said she tested the driveway before loading it with gear and child. She could back out, but the car wouldn't get up the caked pavement to the road. She had to free it from the packed snow to get it back into the garage. And that gets me worried. If something were to happen to her or the sidekick, she's stuck. That won't do. I offered to shovel the driveway on the spot (about 6:30 after I just got home), and she said she'd rather have me indoors than out there. OK, I said.

Cut to this morning, and I hop out of bed before the sun does. Most of the slop is powder, and it shovels away in convenient clumps. The tire tracks are iced, however, and I could only chip away at them with the broom head. If I chop at them with shovels, I might have woken the neighbors. Or their babies. So I stayed polite and stuck to the quiet cleaning.

After about an hour, all that remains are the tracks, and already the lingering snowdust was evaporating. If she needs to get out today, she should be able to. I feel for her: I can imagine the cabin fever she's suffering. She was still in bed when I showered and dressed, but she mumbled good morning.

"You should be able to get out of the driveway easier today," I said.
"Yeah, it should be warmer."
"Wait. You didn't shovel it, did you?"
"Just remember this the next time I do something stupid."

I expected her to say this was something stupid. It was mighty cold, after all. The feeling returned to my fingers only when I got in the shower. Still, I'll need to get up early to work on the comic pages, and they will seem much easier compared to hunching over and heaving snow for an hour. I'm sure I'll feel all that work after eight hours sitting at a desk.

Speaking of comic pages, I'm officially on the list of artists for the May convention. Note that I am not listed as a card artist, meaning they won't be using my art for a collector card. It thus becomes a flyer.

Pictures of the Day
These are two new images of upcoming Marvel heroes.
The first is Captain America, the first "official" film in what will become the Avengers franchise, including Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk. The second is the new actor playing Spider-Man in a reboot of the franchise.

Thursday, January 13

Digging Out

A third day of shoveling ended with dry pavement around the car and a road caked with snow. Unlike with previous storms, this ice and snow have turned to Styrofoam. It's much slicker to walk on, but walk I did to check the conditions of the road leading to ours. It looked clear from what I could see, and that part remained clear as I drove to work this morning. But the stretch just around the bend is just like the road outside our house: caked and slick. I also drove into sideways snow halfway to work. The city is a mess again. I'm supposed to tend to Your Parents' house while they're gone, but I won't get there until next week.I have to get Your Sister out of the house this weekend before she cracks. Although, we have taken to primetime hot toddies as we eviscerate each other at Jeopardy. Weak ones. She's still breast feeding, after all.

I expanded my comic to a more-traditional 24 pages from the previous 19 by beefing up the fight scenes. I printed out comic pages at the size I'm looking at for this year's hero comic, and I think it will show off the art better and sell better. It will be twice as tall as last year's books. It will also cost more so I'll print fewer of them. I've got to start penciling soon. I have four months before the convention.

Our buddy Kathy dropped by yesterday to drop off some videos and CDs as a follow-up to conversations from last Saturday. She and Travis have borrowed our "one and done" parenting discipline and adapted it to "two and through." They call it bolstering to define their family to people asking when they'll have more. I congratulated them on the stance and said this is what they mean by "planned parenthood." Family doesn't have to be random.

Picture of the Day
MAC Cosmetics has launched a line of Wonder Woman products.

Wednesday, January 12

Thoughts on Tucson (Again)

I like the idea of continuing the decal decor as the deputy ages. Those images are cool.

We watched the Monday installment of the Daily Show, featuring Stewart's request for a change of rhetoric so we can distinguish discourse from insane ramblings.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
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And then we talked for a bit.

Our points:
1) Politicians used to kiss babies. Now they wield guns. Guns have become the symbol of political expression in a country founded on election cycles moderating revolution. When you can vote and impeach and recall, you don't have to take up arms against your government. But the notion that the government is within minutes of instigating martial law is too profitable for those who woo audiences with fear and paranoia. The NRA contacted me just within the last two weeks to ask for my help against a mythical nationwide gun ban to be magically imposed by the United Nations.

The 2010 campaign featured fundraiser events where voters could shoot machine guns, sometimes with the candidate. Healthcare protesters carried guns to town hall meetings, allegedly to prove their political firepower.This latest asshole, this shooter, he did exactly the same thing: He took a gun to a political event. And until the second he pulled the trigger, he's supported by those who advocate "gun rights." But when he fired, he magically became crazy and dangerous. I argue he was dangerous before that.

I'm for hunters owning hunting rifles. I'm for collectors buying replicas. But handguns are designed for mobility and quick fire. Cops can have them (cops can have anything, frankly), and sky marshals should have them. Law enforcement, I'm talking here. Personal citizens don't need concealed handguns. The boogieman of rogue cops or federal military coming to your house won't be stopped by handguns, which is why the NRA supports automatic rifles and machine gun ownership. Look, if the military is coming for you, they don't have to knock on your door. They have bombs. They have drones, missiles, chemicals, and snipers. Gun advocates learned a lot from Waco. So did the federal agents.

2) Crazy is relative. Your Sister noted the special-ed kids she teaches. They are separated from the majority student body schedules and criteria because they can't handle expectations. This stunted ability to handle mundane tasks could easily classify them as limited to the same degree a crazy gunman. He was able to hire a cab to drive to the event, and he walked in with the cabbie to the store to break a $20. He managed to keep his composure until he aimed the gun. He wasn't a drooling, flailing maniac. His past behavior suggests at least an eccentricity, delusions, and antisocial demeanor that kept him marginalized and angry. But that's not "crazy." Sullen, perhaps. Emo, maybe. A jerk to the fifth power, I'll grant you.

So what makes him crazy, and for how long does the definition of crazy stretch back along his personal chronology from the gunshots? Was he crazy on Friday? Last year?

"Crazy" is a convenient label. It suggests that he would go violent and irrational no matter what environment he dwelt in. That relieves some burden of introspection from those who may have been even indirectly influential, those who threw our violent imagery during the recent campaigns. And I agree that he's directly responsible. He's not a robot. He chose his target and the manner of attack. But why didn't this happen before? Why now? Why this way? He had a YouTube page, Facebook, and MySpace. He was connected and swimming online among us. He had the same access to the rhetoric and the means to debate it online. He was plugged in. I consider that exposure and environs critical to his thinking.

But if "crazy will out" regardless of influence, I think we then have to park all accusations of influential media. If craziness trumps environmental factors, then drugs, heavy metal, the lack of prayer in schools, ready access to abortions, and all the other bugaboos have to be shelved. They can, by argument, be no more responsible for violence and a decline in civilization than constant angry. political accusations on the various media.

Also, handguns can't help you against the crazy. If "crazy will out," as if the crazed are invulnerable zombies, concealed weapons can't save you from the faceless enemy. Also, a concealed weapon wouldn't have kept the first bullet from hitting home. Maybe not even the third and fourth. A concealed weapon can only respond. It can't prevent. The argument for concealed weapons claims that the threat of retaliatory gunfire would deter the mugger or burglar. Except, of course, for the crazy, right? They're crazy; they don't operate under the logic we do.

The new argument seems to be this: In a gun culture permeated with angry accusations, everyone knew to behave themselves except for the village idiot. Someone how the one loony who couldn't distinguish rhetoric from identification grabbed his gun and went to town. Again this doesn't excuse those who construct the pollution. If anything, it should behoove them to be more mature in their product. Media broadcasts are global migrations now. The perceived audience has to expand beyond the key demographic. Even I, with this blog, am talking to you but can be, and am, accessed around the world. That's why I use "Your Sister" instead of naming her. I don't trust everyone who might read this to respect her privacy. So I filter. The possible audience reactions affects my communications. It's not limiting. It requires me to be more clever without diluting my message.

We live in a nation of mass shootings. The audience doesn't just include people who grok your intent. The violent and dangerous are among us and breathing the same air. It's senseless to pretend verbal vehemence can't wind up the easily swayed. I mean, the easily swayed are a key demo. They'll buy without thinking, they'll subscribe without considering, they'll act without doubting. Does that make them crazy? All of them? If you court the gullible, you can't then pretend your audience is devoid of them.

3) What do we want to happen now? Well, I'm not for Congress folk arming themselves. We don't need to return to dueling legislators. People attack the Capitol or the White House often, and security protects the lawmakers. As they should. (And for those who are for small government but want to beef up personal security, how do you pay for that?) The local police should work the appearances of politicians in official events. The Tucson appearance wasn't a fundraiser; it was a casual town hall meeting. The police are trained to respond and protect. Let them do their jobs.

I suppose I want the constant media to take a breath and look at itself. Not that they aren't already a narcissistic bunch. Half the job is branding and marketing, after all. But I want people to consider that we need to scale back the tone. We need to talk like adults. That's going to end the careers of some professional bomb throwers, but that's a small price to pay. If all they can do is insult people to make a living, get off the political shows and do stand-up. There's a legit arena for that kind of talk, and rare is the comic whose incited violence.

But let's remember that "inciting" exists a legal term for a reason. Words can be regarded as accountable.The "fire in the theatre" hypothetical is a classic example of inflammatory language, pardon the pun. It's not simply a concept for political gamesmanship. Intentional or not, those swayed are just that: swayed. Let's stop pretending we're all on the same frequency. Even my limited experience as a dad has already told me I'm gonna have to watch the language among kids. They don't know better than to recite. It's not just clear-thinking mature people tuning in out there. There's some dangerous fuses easily sparked.

We talked for about an hour about this, and we commented on how we hope to have responded at that event. I'd like to think I would incapacitate him for the authorities to retrieve. But if I saw him shooting people, I admit, I'd be violently angry. I'm pretty sure he expected to be killed on site. I wonder if he feels lucky to be alive. I wonder if he feels, period. I wonder the same about those who have taken a defensive stance amid the reactions. We're not looking to blame. We're looking to salvage.

Picture of the Day
And then we watched an all-robot cast re-enact Dynasty catfights. Alexisbot9 just clocked 6Crystal-12.

Tuesday, January 11

Watching and Blinking

The crushing snowfall has us huddled in the cave. Your Sister jumped at the chance to shovel the driveway -- as the snow continued to fall -- just to get exercise. The dish service never cut out, and I didn't go on the roof. I bought a water gun to knock off the snow from the dish if needed, but the gun doesn't have enough distance to it to reach the dish from the ground. If we have to clear it, we must go topside. Well, I must go topside.

We've spent some time talking about the shootings in Arizona. I happened to flip channels Saturday when the news broke and watched the rumors and reports slowly congeal into fact.

It's difficult not to jump to conclusions. But I'm partial to the theory that political rhetoric influenced the shooter. The 2010 campaign was ugly, especially on the west coast, and the rhetoric got heated. There's a video spreading online of the Congresswoman speaking against a PAC campaign map that put her district under a crosshair. she said someone would get hurt. She was right.

Various accounts say the shooter fixated on the Congresswoman, possibly because he didn't get the audience from her he wanted, possibly because he blamed her for supporting the healthcare reform. He seems to have prepared for the day, and that suggests he wasn't as crazy as some need him to be. But how many people who commit mass shootings are sane?

Still, a political component can't be dismissed. He chose his target and disqualified those he knew personally. He filtered out those closest to him. He didn't commit a similar act before this. If he snapped, if he reached some point where he was nudged toward the violence, did that happen in a vacuum? I tend to doubt it.

What I hear and read now is a desperate effort for nothing to change. We should still apparently sell extended magazines for handguns. We should still use outrageous political comments to scare audiences. If he was crazy, as they argue, why should we change anything? Crazy people can't be stopped from being crazy. Except we've militarized airports because of crazy people. And we've detained suspects indefinitely because of crazy people.

I have the same stance on the environmental/climate debate: Maybe we can't alter the weather by being cleaner, but why can't we be cleaner because it's what responsible people do?

So we talk, and our voices echo off the walls as we watch the snow fall.

We cleaned out the TiFaux list by watching the Crucible. She'll watch anything with Daniela Day-Lewis. I had seen the original Wicker Man a few weeks back, and the two films make a strong argument against zealotry in all dogmas. We also watched Vantage Point, a clever political thriller buried under a needless gimmick of multiple perspectives.

I'll work from home a bit before attacking the driveway.

Picture of the Day
I can't quite make the joke between stitches and sutures.