Letters to Holly

Thursday, January 27

Reverence and Honesty

As we sat down for reubens and sweet potato fries, Your Sister mentioned a few things about the sidekick's day: he seems to recognize a request to roll on his side, he understands what "cat" means, and she wants to get him christened.

Well, huh.

She said she went to the local Lutheran church to talk to their priest about it. She seemed happy with the conversation, and she was informing me this was what she wanted and wondered what I thought of it.

Throw your brilliant mind back five years. She wanted to get married at the Anglican church we attended then, and, by "we," I mean she was a member, and I was a semi-regular pew companion. I knew little to nothing about Anglicanism, and I was curious. I liked the priest's messages a lot. He had great delivery. It was with this priest that she asked about a wedding there, and he informed us that the church would have to approve my divorce. That rankled us both, and the warning of mandatory marriage counseling didn't help. I told her that we didn't need someone else to tell us how to work our relationship. We defined it through a prolonged courtship, creating plateaus for each of us and both of us, and moving forward as we conquered each mutually agreed milestone. We thought this through, probably to a fault, and we didn't need a third party shoehorning in to give us what-for, especially a third-party that was going to step on her feminist toes.

I told her that I would gladhand and amen my way through the whole process if she wanted, including the church wedding, but I would tell her what I would tell no one else: my fingers would be crossed the whole time. I'd lie to everyone involved except her. I wasn't going to start our marriage on a string of lies to her, and she needed to know where I stood as she decided to marry me.

She wilted at the idea of subjecting me to what appeared to be a prescribed shaming by the church hierarchy; the priest would pass my divorce deposition up the ladder, and they would decide if I was well and truly divorced. This would add to our delay to get married. This was before we found out we bought a house and decided to wed immediately before moving in. So the whole idea was dropped. No divorce testimony and approval process, no counseling to tell her to mind her place and fetch my slippers, and no wedding in the church.

The whole thing bothered her so much we stopped attending the church, and it's only been in the last year that she's tried out some local assemblies, starting with Anglican and moving to Lutheran. We've talked along the way about what kind, if any, of religious foundation we'll give him. While it's not my bag, I deferred to rearing him in the denomination she preferred on the condition that I will petition when they start telling him he's a worthless, horrid creature doomed to hell probably predestined to burn no matter how good he is. That's how I was raised, and I'm here to tell you it stinks on ice, and no one is talking like that to my boy while hiding behind a pulpit.

I had no idea she considered christening the deputy, but I'm not so surprised. I can't say I object upfront. I don't know what it entails, and that's what I told her. I have no reason to veto the idea, but my understanding of christenings comes from pop culture depictions, and they're usually Catholic. I suspect Lutherans invest different significance to it, probably with distinct obligations by the attendees. It's those presumed obligations that I said might be am obstacle. I need to know what, if anything, the priest will ask we swear to regarding his upbringing. I don't take a lot of oaths, and I take seriously those I do proclaim. I need a briefing on the matter. But again, I'll gladhand and amen through it if it's what she wants. I won't lie to her about it. I don't tell her this to burden her decision but to allow her to make as informed a choice as possible.

I don't rustle my leaves at the idea of dabbing him with water and hoping the best for him (Do Lutherans christen with holy water? See, I don't even know the basics here.). If the ceremony gives Your Sister a stronger sense of confidence in his kindness and well-being, I won't poo-poo it. But I will remind her that he won't have a clue what we're doing, and we still have to steer him toward civilization, with or without a midday spritzing and a benediction.

And with that we gobbled dinner. She has just returned from yoga and was starving.

After, we discussed Valentine's Day, and she reminded me I hadn't used her gift from last year: an hour massage at the spa we all visited before the wedding. I insisted she use it; she's got the twigged back from carrying around the boy. She said, if she did use it, she would worry I'd get her another gift, a "real" one that I would buy. I promised I wouldn't. I said I'd swear to it if I could find something I held sacred to swear upon. I had an idea, opened the pantry, and pulled out a bottle of wing sauce. I swore upon the condiment that I wouldn't buy her a second gift if she used the massage certificate. She said she'd think about it.

Can we christen with wing sauce? Can he be as delicious as he is adorable?

Picture of the Day
A peek at the making of the Star Wars Lifeday Special.

Wednesday, January 26

My Fellow Americans

The teething is already calming down. The teeth are erupting quickly, and he slept through the recent nights with only one dab of the gum medicine per bedtime. Maybe we got lucky. He turns seven months today. I can feel the time we've spent caring for him, but it's hard to remember him being smaller than he is now.

He attended a second library event, and it's my hope he'll watch the other kids move around and be inspired to start crawling. He's getting there, but he can't quite get from shoving with his toes to alternating weight on his knees.

+  +  +

We built the evening around watching the State of the Union address and the two responses. Popcorn and M & Ms were devoured. We liked the speech -- the organization and flow were top-notch -- and I was impressed that he ended the speech with the official decree of the state of the union. He suggested detailed notions on how to cut spending and reduce government, and that undercuts the opponents who nonetheless claimed he provided no such ideas.

The official post-speech response is, at best, a mix of gainsaying and dittos, and this year, at least, wasn't a trainwreck like the 2009 speech by Bobby Jindal. The Tea Party response by Michelle Bachmann, however, did fall to that level, and I expected nothing less; she's daffy. I believe she compared the Obama administration to the Japanese in WWII:
Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who can say that we won't see a miracle again? The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.
Yeah, I think it's there.
+  +  +

In another attempt to snag mainstream coverage, Marvel printed a story in which one of the Fantastic Four dies. Now, anyone who has read hero comics for more than three years knows that no one stays dead, but this is the flagship franchise for the Marvel Universe of heroes.It's is somewhat newsy.Yes, Spider-Man is better recognized, and the X-Men make more money, but the FF were the comic that created the Marvel style of angsty heroes and a common theatre of operations. Also, they were the first hero group made up of heroes we hadn't seen before; all the previous hero groups were all-star assemblies. Even people who don't know the FF comic know the FF premise: Pixar's The Incredibles is essentially the FF with swapped powers, and the film's final villain, The Underminer, is a mix of Sub-Mariner and Mole Man.

I have managed to avoid the spoilers for now, but there's no way I can keep it a secret from myself before I get my books in two weeks. Still, there's only four possible candidates; supposition takes about 30 seconds. I mentioned this to-to to Your Sister, and we spent a good ten minutes debating who should have been whacked, and I again realized I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Incidentally, we both agreed that Johnny Storm should get the axe. He's a younger version of Tony Stark and therefore redundant. His death also provides an immediate solution: Can a man made of fire really die? Would he necessarily stay dead?

Motion Geekiness of the Day
You can make your own Star Wars opening text crawl here. It looks better larger, but I shrank mine to fit it here.

Monday, January 24


As I sketch my comic out near the printed size, I realized that the time crunch can be addressed if I alter my drawing style. I grew up as comic art blossomed with detail and camera placement. In particular, I was lucky enough to see one artist, George Perez, drastically improve during his tenure on a book called New Teen Titans. This was one of my favorite titles for years, and it ran at the same time Uncanny X-Men (another favorite) was becoming THE Marvel title with the Phoenix story used in the film trilogy. I imprinted on that '80s style of art, and my comic art is heavily influenced by it. I'd love my art to look like that

However, I now have a bambino, and I can't devote the same amount of time to drawing this year's comic. Last year's comic was a happy experiment, but my struggles with time crimped the artwork. I have to do things differently. I realized Friday that I need a simpler art style, and I was reminded of artist Paul grist who makes a comic called Jack Staff. Now, my favorite artist is Alan Davis, but I have to stop trying to draw like Alan and lean much more toward Paul.

This is Alan Davis artwork. I have to cast this aside.
This is Paul Grist work. I shall look to this.
I picked up a clutch of Jack Staff comics Friday and started sketching the page layouts with this simplified style in mind. It's helped, and I feel more confident about the progress. I have to get the whole comic sketched by the end of the month to give myself almost three months to hammer it out before I print it. Another benefit of the style is that it helps sell the story. It's possible my comic ideas benefit from a more cartoony style versus the super-clean style of mainstream comics.

That night, I almost passed out from joy when our new favorite series, Fringe, made a strong connection to Twin Peaks. This comes about a year after it directly referenced X-Files as part of the show's history. So, these series then exist in the same world. The Peaks reference was fleeting and existed solely to catch the ears of genre fans like me, and it worked. Twin Peaks was an obsession from the first episode. You could tell it was a different kind of show from the initial advertising campaign, but I wasn't prepared for a show that moved and sounded and looked so different from everything else on TV at the time. And it was massively influential. Consider these:
  • The soundtrack introduced my generation to acid jazz/lounge music, which revived the cool and charm of the Rat Pack and Vegas.
  • It brought back noir, right down to conflicted heroes and smoky dames. That last was of crucial importance to me. This was back when girls were still wearing that poof of forehead hair, and the Peaks gals were straight out of the 1950s.
  • The oddball, small-town quirkiness set the stage for Seinfeld, the "show about nothing." The original Seinfeld pilot debuted a year before Peaks, but it was only brought back after Peaks's success as a parade of weird characters acting under their own logics.
  • It set the stage for Silence of the Lambs and the serial killer cultural obsession. Peaks and its serial-killer mystery debuted almost a year before Lambs. Not only do the films share a dark, arboreal tone and federal pursuit of a faceless serial killer, but the film cribs the show's credit font.

We drove to Asheville Saturday to clothes shop and get some time out of the house before Tuesday's predicted snowfall, and Your Sister noticed that morning that the sidekick was teething. We could feel the tips of the lower two teeth at the gumline. That night, the pain started, and we were all miserable. We bought Orajel Sunday afternoon, and it helped him get through last night. Hopefully, this weekend is the worst of it. We understand that the first eruption of teeth is peak of his discomfort. It's supposedly is much smoother with all the later teeth.

Way back in September, Your Sister picked the two teams that will play in the Super Bowl in two weeks, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. I honestly like both teams so much, I can't pick which to root for.

We've discovered a new easy side dish: sweet potato fries. They are ridiculously easy to make. I'm sure Doom will speak on this soon.