Monthly Archives: October, 2008

Small Shining Moments

For the vast majority of my life, I have paid very little attention to current events.

If I read a newspaper, it was only for the comics. Even when I became an internet junkie, checking out the latest news was the last thing on my list – my awareness was entirely on the world around me, on that which had specific relevance to me, and not on the world at large.

Sometime in the last year, that has changed. In part due to the US election, obviously an important upcoming event. In part due to the various problems the world seemed to be going through – things of which I had always been tangentially aware, but largely oblivious to. Whatever the reasons, I have found myself reading news stories and trying to stay informed.

Of all the reasons to be glad to have done so, I did not expect one of them to be a keener appreciation for Sinfest.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my renewed appreciation for Sinfest several times over the last two years, ever since it underwent a pretty thorough evolution – adding incredibly gorgeous and elaborate Sunday strips, having a more subtle change to the core art style… and in general, renewing the humor and imagination of the strips. For the years prior it had gotten into a rut, returning often to the same jokes, same punchlines, same concepts. Now, it started to… expand. To return to the habit of looking at things in a new light, and exploring philosophy and parody in equal measure.

And these last few months, it has done a fantastic job of both.

Politics and the economy have been, unsurprisingly, on the agenda. And Sinfest is hardly alone in this – many strips, these days, are quick to take a shot at such topics. But with most comics… the attempts to do so aren’t funny, aren’t clever, and can even be actively frustrating to read – regardless of which side the webcomic is on or what opinion it has to share. Far too many are simply mean-spirited, or bitter, or angry… and without any insight that might really justify such emotions. Without any reason to make those comics worth my while.

Sinfest, though, has poked its fun with elegance and grace.

And the reason why, as far as I can tell, is that despite having a very clear bias in what the strip is saying, it manages to say it all in fun. Portraying the presidential race as a rock show performance, showing a glimpse of emo Uncle Sam, and showing tough times for various cartoon icons… it all works, and works well.

It is solid, effective commentary on the election, the nation, the economy – but manages to still have a sense of laughter, of lighter thoughts. The strips are focused on some very dark, very depressing topics – but it manages to keep an upbeat spirit despite it all. Now, I’m sure this comes as no surprise – the attitude of the strip has always shown that Ishida, the strip’s creator, has long understood that one of the best ways to deal with a tough topic is to laugh at it.

But his real accomplishment is not just in doing so himself, but sharing that same sentiment with all his readers, and providing a small shining moment of awareness each day… a small little bit of humor to provide a short smile or brief laugh or simply a grin at the absurdity of it all.

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Day of Atonement

These things I have not done:

1) Delivered the promised post on Starslip Crisis the weekend I proclaimed I would… or anytime within the next month, or even the month after that. Or, in the end, at all.  

2) Followed through on my claim from the month before that, even in the absence of proper content, I would post at least one brief update each week to keep the blog from vanishing into the dreaded indefinite hiatus. As, in fact, it did.

3) Live up to my goal to, if nothing else, keep open a line of communication with my readers, since I have always proclaimed that while constant and regular updates are nice, they are not the most important thing, which is to keep readers informed on when updates would be… and when they would not be. As, of course, I have failed to do.

I’m not altogether pleased with my failings in this matter, and I’m sure my readers are even less so. and while it is a disappointment that I’ve fallen behind in not just my writing here, but all my writing and creative work in general, it is even more of a disappointment that I retreated into absolutely silence, rather than even given an indication that posting was likely to be absent for a while. That has always bothered me when I’ve see it done, and now I find myself just as guilty. I can offer little explanation nor can I give a guaranteed date when my posts will return to their former abundance.

All I can say is this: I resolve to do better in the year to come.

That said, let me also try to answer some of the questions sent my way during the downtime:

Have I been ill/dying/dead/suffering amnesia on a desert island?

No, I can’t say I have. 

No major illnesses have struck me down during my absence, though I have been plagued by a thousand petty annoyances and frustrations, each one more bothersome than the last. I have a particularly amusing story to tell about how the very medicine I was taking to combat one afflication did, itself, traumatize me even further – and when I solved that problem by cutting back the dosage, and decided to compensate by increasing my fruit intake as a home remedy for the original problem, I thus discovered that, as a matter of fact, I’m allergic to a wide variety of fruit.

So that was fun.

I fnd myself taking drugs for blood pressure, which has always been a danger in my family. I find myself being warned about cholesteral and other elements of my diet in need of fixing, and so I have been working on eating healthy and adding more exercise to my schedule, even as my responsibilities at work grow ever more hectic – which, I suspect, is not exactly helpful for any blood pressure concerns.

Yet I am, by any genuine standard, healthy. Allergies and diet concerns and the hustle and bustle of life are no more than the norm, challenges intrisic to the walk of life, and I am threatened by solely these such minor vexations, which merit only the complaint I have given them thus far, and nothing more.

Have I lost interest in the ways of comics?

No… and yes.

On the whole my interest remains. And in many ways, I am pleased to say, the comics that stand out are the ones that excel and continue to surprise, with brilliant plots and gorgeous art and characters I feel genuinely connected to, rather than frustrations over comics that have failed to live up to their promise or proven a disappointment in some way. Which is a good thing, since that was the original goal of this blog – to focus on the accomplishments, and recognize work done well.

Yet… in my webcomic queue on Piperka, I’ve got well over 2,000 updates floating in wait. Oh, the majority of those are from a few dozen comics I’ve fallen behind on over the last few months… but it has become a trend. Many comics I’ve always followed because they were “good enough” for me… are no longer. I’m willing to follow the best of the pack, but I don’t have the time or motivation any longer to keep track of the rest – let alone to go hunting through new ones. To all the many souls who have sent me comics for review: I appreciate the sentiment, and would certainly love to take a look at all the ones presented to me, but I’ll tell you know – don’t hold your breath.

And unfortunately, as my reading list does drift towards focus on a smaller section of quality comics… it also means it is focused on comics I have reviewed before, and talked about all that there is to talk about, so long as they keep the quality at the same level of excellence. Simply writing a post to say, “Hey, this update was just as awesome as all the rest!”… well, it only goes so far.

In spite of this, I do have things to talk about. In the last few months, I’ve seen several of my favorite comics come to an end, and some came to an expected conclusion in a satisfying fashion… while others simply stopped. Webcomics has had the usual share of drama, and somewhat more than the usual share of theories on how to make a living from it – and while many of these discussions are over, they are sure to crop up again, as they always inevitably do.

So in summary – yes, I plan to continue writing. I’d like to say I hope to get regular posts started back up within a week or two. (Likely the ‘two’, as I am largely without internet access in the upcoming week.) And I’d like to say that I do have a wide variety of topics on which I’d like to share my thoughts in the usual rambling fashion. But given my past few posts, I think any specific promises of content may well be met with disbelief… so I’ll simply say that is the plan, and let the future bring what it may.