So today I finished “Watchmen” by Alan Moore, a graphic novel that has been previously mentioned to me as a paragon of good layout. All I can say is that it might well be good layout–I didn’t notice. I was too busy being captivated by the story. (Well, okay, the placement of captions and word balloons was really slick, I did notice that.) Superbly well done, I recommend it highly, particularly to those, like me, who have a passing interest in comics but did not break into the genre at a young age, and so have only a mild acquaintence with most of the titles out there. Being rooted very strongly in the Cold War fear of nuclear war with Russia, it doesn’t have quite the same relevance today–it’s set in 1985, and I am just barely old enough to remember the peculiarly resigned terror that most of us had of nuclear war then. However, it weathers well, and conjures up the atmosphere so well that even if you were fortunate enough to become a sentient being after the days of mutual assured destruction, I think it’d ring true.
Everyone is probably glutted on holiday stuff, so I won’t mention it, except to say that I got a copy of “Watchmen” and of “Mother Nature” (an anthropological study on maternal instincts or the lack thereof) and seeing them both on the table together made me realize that I’m a weirdo. (My husband also got me a snazzy optical mouse. It’s only a matter of time before I blind myself with the little laser.)
The random factoid comes from this book on maternal behaviors, and has to do with infanticide in mice. Researchers couldn’t figure out why some male mice would commit infanticide sometimes, but not others. And then some brilliant soul, in 1994, discovered that some species of mice have a–brace yourself–“ejaculation clock.” Once the earth moved for the male mouse, a timer started up in the ‘ol hind brain that lasts twenty-three days, the length of gestation/nursing. At the end of that time, the male mouse becomes infanticidal, because there is absolutely no chance he could have fathered any of the babies he’s killing. If the mouse ejaculates at any point during that, then wham! Timer resets, because a male mouse doesn’t want to kill his own offspring. A bizarrely elegant solution to the question of how to let your own young live, while turning the young of rival males into handy protein.
I realize this is a little weird and disturbing, but god, ain’t nature cool?
Well, I’ve resigned myself to getting nothing done tomorrow, and very little done today, ‘cos it’s traditional and all. Took me forty minutes to buy a case of Coke and some chicken breasts at the grocery store today…urrf. That’s what I get for shopping on Christmas Eve, and I oughta know better.
Not being a Christian, I have no particular affiliation to the religious connotations of the holiday, but that’s okay, because it’s a pagan holiday anyhow–Yule, Solstice, “Natalis Solis Invicti,” whatever you wanna call it–and as we all oughta know by now, nobody knows when Jesus was born, the Romans just slapped the date on December 25th because the peasants were going to party anyway, and it might as well have a religious patina. As a celebration of friends and family and showing your appreciation for the people you love, I approve whole-heartedly. I could do without the music. Back in college, I worked in this grocery store, in the deli, and every christmas, they’d get these musicians in, who would stand right by the deli counter and play carols. The really weird bit was that whenever they did “Rudolph” the lead…whatever he was…would put on little antlers and do this little pawing-the-ground dance in time, severely traumatizing any small children in the vicinity. (Bear in mind this was a middle-aged, six-foot-plus man.) It was like the proverbial trainwreck. You couldn’t look away. When I write my memoirs, I’m putting that in.
Having no bearing on that tidbit whatsoever, and depending on who you ask, Dec. 25th was originally sacred to various deities, one of which may have been Mithras. I like Mithras. I like ‘im despite the fact that his was a patriarchal, fraternal religion of the variety that mostly sees women as spoils of war and breeding material, solely because I once had this professor in college for a class called “Pagans and Christians” which was about the rise of Christianity in ancient Rome. I always suspected he was a closet Mithraic. Whenever he started talking about Mithraism and the associated rituals, he would wax passionate and eloquent, coming up with these lavish, gorgeous descriptions of rituals that, let’s face it, boil down to laying in a hole while somebody slits a bull’s throat on top of you. (This is where we get the phrase “bloodbath” evidentally. Well, so he said.) But this guy could make it sound like a–well, a religious experience. I suppose it’s no weirder than anything else.
So, even if you’re not going to be laying in any trenches slitting bull throats–and I’d look at you strangely if you were–a happy Natalis Solis Invicti to all, and to all a good night.
I am bloody sick of nature romantics.
I realized this today, having read one more “Humans are unnatural and the bad guys, animals all live in harmony with their environment!” post. As the Valley-dwelling natives of years past might have said–“Gag me with a spoon!”
Another uneventful day…new comic up, at least. Other than that, just general putzing. Did some sketches for the Victoriana steampunk game that I’ve been doing art for–those are always fun. (I mean, hey, who doesn’t like painting musclebound demons and eyeballs in jars?) Fretted over cat. I had vowed that this will be the last time that the emissions of another being’s rear end are of deep concern to me, thereby once again ruling out any possibility of having children. I’ve noticed that I keep getting vehement about my desire not to have children, which is probably indictive of some kind of nagging pressure that I’m feeling. Except that nobody’s putting any pressure on me–even my mother’s given up and started referring to my cats as her grandchildren. Although frankly I’ve always thought it’s a little weird when people do that. One of the women I worked with at the vet used to always say “Oh, so you’re [insert pet name]’s mom!” to the owners. I always had a vague urge to follow this up with “Funny, you don’t look like a spaniel…” but figured it wouldn’t be polite. Worked on Great Unfinished Samurai Novel. G.U.S.N. has blood-drinking hummingbirds. (Hey, everybody loves a blood-drinking hummingbird.) Knowing what I know now about vampire bats, I have a terrible urge to work out the constantly urinating bit, but somehow, I think it would kill the magic. ‘Sides, I know in my heart of hearts that a vampire hummingbird is ridiculous. They’d starve to death. Blood’s not nearly an efficient enough food to power those little wings, and they’d need complicated (and hence heavier) little digestive tracts. But damnit! It’s my Great Unfinished Samurai Novel, and I can have blood-drinking hummingirds if I want to!
Not much goin’ on today…did the layouts for the next three “Irrational Fears” (and either two or three more after that, then this story arc ends, for a grand total of either thirty-one or thirty-two pages, depending on how long it takes Chu to recover from being pummelled by a monster.) I’m not sure what the next fear is gonna be, but I did promise to at least get Bob & Squeak & the severed brain a bit more resolved, so I’ll have a little while to think about it. Mothman is currently the top contender, neck-and-neck with Two Nightmares About Lizards, with perhaps a one-page interlude to handle my atavistic terror of the lowly house centipede. Cat still leaking, but seems otherwise chipper, eating like a fuzzy little hog. Have cordoned off kitchen and bathroom as “incontinent cat territory” and am grimly anticipating a few hours spent with Pinesol once cat is healthy again. The joys of pet ownership are myriad and neverending.
I’ve got something with a flying squirrel and magnolias in progress, but I may work on my Great Unfinished Samurai Novel instead…been neglecting it for awhile. However, watching “Samurai Jack” always gets the creative juices flowing–I love that show. Actually, I’m not sure how I lived without cable–there’s this rivetting documentary about honey badgers on right now. I had no idea that honey badgers were the African equivalent of the wolverine–I had a vague impression of good natured, cuddly little things. Shows what I know. They’re really cute, though, even if they are psychotic little buggers. I should paint an anthro one.
Speaking of anthros, I tripped over this while poking idily through the VCL recents, and thought it was really engaging–check out the artist’s other work, there’s some very nice stuff there, and c’mon! You’re reading a livejournal, obviously you’re looking for stuff to peruse, right? Right.
New comic. (woohoo!) and thus ends the set that I illustrated in one furious swoop last Saturday, while my gaming partners, having walked into a trap, constructed a crude siege engine out of a couple of benches and a cauldron and used it to break down portcullises in an medival dungeon, despite the fact that we’re ostenibly Shadowrunners from 2053 or so. (Our GM attempted to adapt a Forgotten Realms module for Shadowrun. Unfortunately, the strength of ancient dwarven architecture, while impressive, does not hold up well to a rocket launcher. I don’t think the writers of the scenario quite anticipated our “Let’s just blow everything up,” method, but it’s all good. I do feel a little bad, though, as our poor GM attempts to lavishly describe the elaborate carvings on the doors, only to be told “Look, just tell us how big a hole we put in it.”) Anyway, the do-a-few-pages-in-advance method seemed to work out well–I’m much more likely to work on them if they’re layed out already, so if I can just turn out another few pages of illustrations and do the layouts in one evening, then I can ink and color at my leisure. Since things are finally moving towards their ultimate conclusion in the Underbed, I’m eager to wrap things up, too, and move on to weirder pastures. (Still don’t know how she’s gonna defeat Mothman…)
Cat still has bladder infection, although it seems to be getting better. You know that you love an animal past all good sense when you hear yourself exclaim with delight “Yes! You’re peeing more! Great! Good cat!” as he widdles on the linoleum (but it’s a good sign, with a bladder infection, that he’s going less frequently, but in greater quantity.) Hmm….maybe I should do an Irrational Fears on “Fear of cat with bladder infections”?
Not that we expected anything less, but I’m pleased to report that Jackson didn’t drop the ball on this one–absolutely fantastic, better than the first one, emotionally draining, and possessing of the best siege scenes ever filmed. (It makes me wonder what Kurosawa could’ve done with a huge budget and today’s tech, actually.)
Mixed day, today…on the one hand, finished a cover for a book that I’m actually pretty pleased with–had to tackle the “How To Paint Cyberspace” problem, which has stumped much better artists than I. Fortunately you can’t go too wrong with lots of cubes and radical one point perspective, and the end result looks sort’ve Art Deco, which I have no problem with. On the other hand, my poor cat Loki has a bladder infection, which gave me the obligatory Oh-God-Let-It-Not-Be-A-Blockage panic that is generally reserved for the owners of male cats over five, even if, like me, they feed them ungodly expensive urinary-health-formula cat food. Fortunately, it’s not a blockage and he’s in no immediate danger–he’s just got a textbook bladder infection, which is uncomfortable for him and involves a lot of laundry for me. So I’m trying the herbal supplement recommended for cats, and plenty of water…my mother swears by it, but if it doesn’t produce results by next week, it’s into the vet. I’m all for nature and not overusing antibiotics and all that, but the poor guy shouldn’t have to mope around when a straightforward course of somethingorotherclin will do the trick.
The worst bit about animals being sick is that you can’t tell ’em “Yeah, this sucks, drink cranberry juice for the next week and you’ll be fine, it’s nothing, I used to get ’em all the time,” even if it’s true.
Went to the bookstore today, doing last minute Christmas shopping. They didn’t have “The Transparent Society” by David Brin, which is supposed to be a rivetting book about privacy and accountability, and which my husband James really really wanted, so I ordered it off Amazon, and as is inevitable when visiting their seductive clutches, picked up something else as well, a book called “Mother Nature” which purports to be an analysis of learned vs. instinctive maternal behaviors.
Since I don’t like kids and have no plans to have them, it’s probably weird, but lately I’ve been obsessed with the whole question of maternal behavior. I think it’s an outgrowth of my earlier feelings of wanting to do some kind of political art about abortion. In trying to take Pseudo-Manitou’s excellent advice of find some a story and illustrating that, I’ve been gnawing the issue over in my mind for awhile, coming up with storylines, mulling them over, discarding them. There’s plenty of documentation of women who are raped during wars, giving birth, and not realizing on any meaningful level that they have had a baby–they’re in pain, the pain eventually stops, there’s a bloody mess, they clean off the blood, get up and leave. Chimps do the same thing if they’re raised without witnessing parenting by other chimps–they treat an infant like some kind of weird parasite and try to get away from it. In this country, you get girls with no sex education who go into labor in bathroom stalls–the one side calls this pre-meditated murder, but I suspect it’s a lot more akin to what happens to the chimps. In many minds, these women (and possibly the chimps, for all I know!) should be punished for failing to be mothers–the notion being that they gave birth to a child, they’re it’s mother, and they have to take care of it. I think that’s the assumption that underlies much of the abortion debate–you’re it’s mother, you have to take care of it.
The thing is, I don’t think it works that way. Maternal behaviors are learned, in us as in chimps. Your body can get pregnant, the same way your body can get polio or the common cold or any of a number of things we’d prefer they didn’t do, but the mere fact that someone’s knocked you up will not turn a scared, stupid, functionally illiterate sixteen year old into a competent caregiving mother. Except that a large chunk of the populace seems to think it ought to, as if there is some kind of grace bestowed the moment a zygote divides–we actually talk about the “sanctity of motherhood” for god’s sake. So I mulled this over for awhile, and decided that that was the thing that was nagging at me most, the assumption that all women are, by definition, potential mothers. I, for example, am not. Like our hypothetical chimp, I was raised in relative isolation from examples of parenting other than my own–I was an only child, had no fecund relatives, I have never changed a diaper in my life, and I have been exposed to exactly two babies for longer than thirty seconds at a stretch. (My experience is that they seem small, breakable, generate noxious odors and fluids, require constant surveillance, and cannot be reasoned with. This does not make me eager for the joy of parenthood.) I could probably learn it if I made a concerted effort, but it’d cut too much into my painting time.
So that’s where I am–having decided that mothering is a skill one learns, not some state of divine grace that is bestowed promptly to all owners of a uterus–and that women don’t deserve to be punished for not having this skill. And that, I think, is what I’d want any story I illustrated to be about–but the form still escapes me. I’ve mulled over everything from a mini-comic from the point of view of someone ignorant of all details of pregnancy (although my script immediately ran to fourteen pages and made me realize that ‘mini’ is just not in my vocabulary) to an episode of “Irrational Fears” with our faithful chupacabra playing battlefield midwife in the middle of war-torn Sarajevo (rejected due to lack of subtlety–because I hate it when comics stop trying to tell a story and start trying to preach a sermon, and I have no desire to turn Chu into some kind of freakish green Anti-Ziggy.) So I continue to mull. It make take months, or years, or it may never happen or I may be siezed with inspiration tonight at three AM, leap to my feet, and lunge for a pad of paper. The nice thing about being an artist is that you never know when inspiration will hit, but unfortunately, that’s also the part that really sucks.
In completely, totally, and utterly unrelated news, I tripped over this at VCL the other day, and after my rant about fat animals, (and because I love Anna’s work) I couldn’t resist sharing this little gem.
Hopefully she won’t mind…Check out the rest of her VCL gallery if you haven’t ever done so, or I’ll sic peeing vampire bats on you or something.