A Joke About Abecedarii

This might only be funny to you if you share Mike's sense of humor, but I cooked up a funny little device that I'm planning to run (at very small size) on the frontispiece and the corresponding blank page at the back ("backispiece"?) of the micro-mini ABC that I'm preparing for the MoCCA Festival.

Basically, it relies on a few of the most hackneyed connections in the "A is for Apple" genre...


Then, when the images reappear (after the actual meat of the book), new labels give the images new names and assign them to new letters of the alphabet.

I imagine it would be fun to put one of these together for the whole alphabet, coming up with three or four different solutions that relied on different levels of the lexicon, different degrees of specificity, or different languages. But I have two micro-minis to prepare, plus the next Matteu strip, so I don't think I'm going to engage in any more elaborate wordgames today.

The Fourth

I had put a call into a doctor at my ob's practice a few weeks ago to ask whether or not I was "allowed" to get a massage. Needless to say, I have been a bit stressed. The doc and I played some phone tag, so I sort of forgot about it and asked the perinatologist when I saw him instead.

Today, the doc from my ob's practice called back again to check in and see how things were going, which I thought was nice. I updated him on the latest since the reports from our various visits with specialists haven't totally caught up with my ob's office at this point. And then, like everyone else we have spoken with, he delicately brought up the option of termination.

This whole question of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy has really gotten to me, and for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why. This morning, I figured it out on my way to work, and my frustration rests in the form of a question: Is our situation really that bad, or do people really terminate that easily? So I asked the doctor.

What proceeded was an interesting and honest discussion as this doctor proceeded to unveil the psychology of this decision. He was very straight forward: yes, according to medicine, this is pretty bad. He made the careful distinction between something that is possible versus probable. He talked all about how I am young with regard to the age of having children, and that it was important to think about how keeping a baby that could potentially have very severe needs would impact, me, my marriage, the rest of my family, and future children. It was almost this sort of idea that it would be better for everyone to just get a clean slate.

He told me general things about other patients... one who was so "heroic" for flying all the way to Kansas to terminate her pregnancy at 26 weeks because it's past the legal time frame in Maryland, and of another who recently found out that her baby has Down Syndrome and is considering termination. He said that in his fifteen years of practice, he can only remeber three... three patients who chose not to terminate when being given the diagnosis of a genetic defect or a congenital defect. I politely listened, because I did appreciate his perspective, but moreover was genuinely interested... not interested in the option of termination, but interested in the mindset behind it.

This doctor didn't know he was talking to the neice of a dear, sweet woman with Down Syndrome, or the step-sister of a girl who is blind, mentally retarded, mildly autistic, and who can communicate only limitedly. If my grandmother or my step-sister's mom had chosen what almost all of those other women this doctor has encountered in his fifteen years of practice had chosen, they wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be able to laugh when my aunt remembers things from years ago that I had soon forgotten, or have my eyes well up with tears at the beauty of step-sister singing at the top of her lungs at church, particularly around Christmas time.

Maybe our prognosis is that bad... but God is bigger. God is good, and He is the author and perfector of life. In the book of Psalms, David talks about how all of our days are ordained for us before one of them ever came to be. Our little boy's days have already been ordained; I don't know how many days that is, or how hard those days may be to walk. But I know God is good... always.

And so, I will be the fourth... the fourth woman that this doctor has encountered who has chosen not to terminate her pregnancy because of a difficult diagnosis, or the long road that it is to walk. God's grace is sufficient for each step; He has certainly shown us that so far. Just maybe, God is continuing to work out a miracle. And if He is, then today it was clear to me that this doctor is one more person who needs to see and be astounded by the miraculous work of God. Would you pray for him?

Would you continue to pray with us that our little guy would be healed? Maybe that's in the womb, and maybe that's out of the womb once He's born. Would you pray that God would do a miracle in his life, that his heart would be perfect, his lungs and every other vital organ, system, and limb would all be just right? Would you pray that his omphalocele would be able to be fixed and that once it is, everything would "work" correctly and be free of any complications? And would you pray that because of God's great work in our little boy's life, that other people who don't know Him would have the same reaction the centurion did when he witnessed Jesus's death on the cross that "Surely, the man is the Son of God," and that they would come to know Him as their own Lord and Savior?

What About Bob?

I am sure many of you have also seen the movie What About Bob? It just cracks me up. I love how Bob talks himself through seemingly mindless tasks in his day... "Baby steps to the elevator... Baby steps down stairs... Baby steps to the door." I also thought about how silly Bob seemed. Until recently, that is.

This pregnancy has been like a series of baby steps, even before we knew anything was wrong. It was baby steps until the first prenatal appointment, baby steps until the sonogram, baby steps until we're past the point of my previous miscarriage. I used to find those baby steps a little annoying, always wishing I would be past the point of baby steps and to the point of feeling like this pregnancy was on cruise control.

God has had other plans. He isn't through with the baby steps, and He is so graciously teaching me to embrace them and to be thankful for them.

After that long day in April where my world was turned upside down (the day we learned of our little man's troubles), this pregnancy has been all about celebrating baby steps. Baby steps until the FISH results from the CVS test.... normal. Baby steps to the thorough CVS results... normal. Baby steps to the next prenatal appointment... there's still a strong heartbeat. Baby steps to the next sonogram... the cystic hygroma has shrunk. Though the large omphalocele was a small step back, it didn't negate all of the baby steps forward.

Today there were more baby steps... baby steps to the echocardiogram... and we were told that out son's heart has all four chambers. God has been abudantly gracious so far, and I am confident that He will continue to be.

Granted, there's a lot of information still unknown. And so, there are more baby steps. Baby steps to the next prental vist, the next sonogram, and to our "marathon day" at Children's Hospital when we'll have another fetal echocardiogram, a fetal MRI, and a consultation with a pediatric surgeon.

Would you pray with us that God would continue his gracious work in both our baby's life and in ours? Would you please continue to pray that our baby's heart is forming perfectly, that it is strong, and that the rest of his little body is growing and developing just as it should? Would you continue to pray for Spencer and I that we would rejoice in the baby steps and the good news that each one has brought, and that God would continue to guard our hearts and minds with His perfect peace?

I am learning to love baby steps. And, I don't think that Bob is so outrageously crazy any more ! :)

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...

I always remember watching the movie "Annie" growing up, and was always captivated by the song "Tomorrow." I remember singing it when I was younger and had a bad day. Tomorrow is a big day for Spencer and I and in the life of our sweet little boy.

Tomorrow is our little guy's echocardiogram. We are meeting with a specialist from Children's Hospital at one of their outpatient centers, so I know we're in good hands. What we find out could play a large role in how the doctors view his viability, and how complicated things may or may not be for him after birth.

Would you please pray with us for our little guy's heart? That it is developing absolutely perfectly, that despite the perinatologist's speculation it is inside his chest cavity, and that there are no signs of a congenital heart defect?

God has been gracious in causing the cystic hygroma to shrink; this is our next big hurdle. Would you also pray for Spencer and I, that God would grant us His perfect peace that surpasses all understanding?

I will be sure to update after tomorrow's appointment. And hopefully, like little orphan Annie sang, "The sun will come out... tomorrow."

T- Shirts for Sale. Limited Edition!



I have a limited edition print run of this t shirt, comes with signed numbered tags. Non- fiction clothing is a company based in Washington DC, and these shirts come in 2 different colorways, Bright blue and White. The white t shirts are 20 dollars, and the blue ones are 25. There are only 4 blue shirts in existance, and they look craaazyyyyyy. I will post photos tomorrow night as soon as i can find a smokin hot babe to model some shirts for me.

Watercolor in the mountains



So i went to upstate new york today, took some time to do alittle charcoal drawing (its really small...half a sketchbook size) and another small watercolor.

Matteu (13-15)

For the next Matteu strips, Mike took advantage of the page break to move the story forward by a few minutes without showing them to us. (This is obviously something we're going to have to do from time to time, so we won't have to be drawing this story for twenty years.) I think the transition has done a lot to increase the tension of the story, even if the central conflict still hasn't really emerged.

Here's this week's installment of Matteu's story:



(As usual, I hope you'll click to enlarge and read.)

As you might be able to guess by looking at the last date (which seems to be Mike's date of composition, since he emailed the final copy to me just a few days ago), this brings us to the end of the three-strip pages. Now it's my challenge, I guess, to get another strip of this story done before this time next week, to keep up the regular updates.

Now's a great time for you lurking readers to pitch in and kibbitz a bit. Ask something about where the story is going: we may not know the answer until you pose the question.

COREL PAINTER




hey everyone, sorry for the draught. ive been in a terrible terrible rut for the past week that i havent been able to escape. but i recently got corel painter 10. its insane, and i basically have to relearn how to work digitally, here is the first thing ive started with the program. it is a work in progress. i will also have some REAL acrylic painting to how you very soon. stay tuned for the finish product of this and more to come!

God is BIG

We were able to gather lots of bits and pieces of information; certainly haven't gotten to the bottom of anything. Overall, I would say it was a small step in a positive direction.

God is BIG... Big enough that He SHRUNK our little man's cystic hygroma from 8.8mm at 12 weeks to 5mm at 16 weeks. Dr. Pinkert, the perinatologist who performed the sonogram today, wasn't even overly concerned about it.

So that's a HUGE praise! Dr. Pinkert said that fetal hydrops could still develop but didnt' think it was too likely, particularly if our echocardiogram next week looks good. He also said that there could be some loose skin on the baby's neck as a result of it being stretched from the fluid, but that it's easily correctable with cosmetic surgery, if that is even needed at all.

The spinal column, development on the limbs, the baby's brain and head all look good. I asked if there were any signs of cleft palate (which can be a marker for numerous different genetic syndromes) and he said that at this point he didn't see any indication of that. He also said he didn't see any signs of spina bifida. So, that was all good news.

Now for the part that wasn't so good. In the beginning of all this, the doctors didn't speak much about the omphalocele (the umbilical/abdominal hernia) because it seemed sort of secondary to the glaring concern of the cysitc hygroma. Now, the omphalocele is the bigger concern. Basically, the baby's intestines and liver (yes, his WHOLE LIVER) is outside of his body. The size of the "hole" (for lack of a better word) in the baby's abdomen where these organs are coming out is smaller than the contents of what's outside the hole since they've continued to develop. This will obviously need very extensive surgery at birth. Dr. Pinkert wants us to go for a fetal MRI at 22 weeks at Children's Hospital, and also wants us to set up a consultation with a pediatric surgeon at that time.

In addition, the wall of the baby's chest surrounding the heart looked a bit weak/thin to Dr. Pinkert. He said that if the heart is in the chest cavity, that that's something that could also be repaired. He said that he wasn't 100% sure that the heart was in the chest cavity, but thought that it was. I think his words were "it's close" to the opening through which the other organs are protruding. I asked him if, as the heart was growing, it could slip out and he said no; it's either in or it's out. Let's hope that next week's echocardiogram shows that it's in!

Dr. Pinkert wouldn't begin to address my question of the baby's viability. I did ask him if there was any sort of reasonable chance that, if the baby is born, he could live a fairly normal life. The doctor's response was that "that's why we're doing all this... that's the hope." So, for the first time I felt like there were other options than the baby either dieing in utero or being born with severe and profound disabilities. There's obviously still a chance of the baby not making it, but it gave me some hope to hear that if the heart looks good and if he can make it through the surgeries and the surgeries are successful, this little guy could live a somewhat normal life. As of now we're still left way up in the air, and are far from out of the woods. Next week's echocardiogram is a pretty big deal.

Other things Dr. Pinkert said were that if the baby makes it, I would deliver via c-section, and that this baby would be in the NICU for quite a while. He did also reiterate, though, what a great thing it was that the chromosome results from the CVS test were are normal. AND, I was even told that I am allowed to get a massage!!! (My doctor before said no... this one said, "By all means! I am sure with all this you could really use one!")

God is good in taking care of the cystic hygroma and it having shrunk. God is good for having the baby's brain, spine, and limbs all looking good. This poor little guy's abdomen needs some work.

So, would you join me in praising Him for the good works He has done so far? And would you pray with us for next week's echocardiogram and our little boy's heart development? Would you continue to pray for peace of mind and heart for Spencer and I as we continue to go to one appointment after another and receive bits of news? And lastly, would you continue to pray that God would move in big ways so that our baby would be healed and that He would be glorified?

Tick... tock...

Waiting can be so hard. These last few weeks have been full of waiting... waiting for CVS results, waiting for my next prenatal appointment. And today, it's waiting for 3:30.

We haven't seen our little guy since we received our horrific news at 12 weeks (today is 16 weeks 3 days). As much as I am excited to get to see him on the ultrasound screen, I am also petrified.

I just keep playing that Passion song, "My Glorious" over and over, reminding myself that God is so big. If He wants to heal our little boy, He can; and if He doesn't, well that's His perogative, and we'll have to walk through it.

Would you pray for us today? That God would work a miracle and that the news we receive would be positive? Would you pray that the cystic hygroma as decreased or resolved, that the omphalocele (umbilical hernia) has decreased or resolved, and that all of our little boy's organs and limbs, specifically his heart and his brain, are developing properly? Would you pray for God to move in a big way... one that would stun the doctors and bring glory to God?

I'll be sure to update this afternoon.

Fun Color Cartoons for Stickers

Okay, so I wasn't done with Photoshop. When we publish "Stepan Crick and the Chart of the Possible" as postcards, it'll be available bundled up in an envelope, and we're thinking that we'll want some images to make the envelope look more like the cover of a comic.

...So we're going to take advantage of the cute little vinyl stickers that Moo.com makes, and put a few flashes of color there.

With that in mind, and realizing that Moo has to ship to me from England before MoCCA, I spent some time yesterday working up color images from Mike's "Forty-Nine Fantasy Folk" images (not all of them).

A few of them turned out pretty nicely. Here's a little gallery:


A SARACEN



A WODEWOSE



A STRANGE VISITOR FROM A SHADOW REALM



A CUTE LITTLE CYNOCEPHALOUS GUY

I might be getting the hang of this Photoshop business, I tell you...

Matteu (10-12)

I'm done coloring the images for the postcard version of our Elfworld submission. Once I get them back from the printer, I'll set up a post to sell them through the website; they'll also debut at MoCCA next month.

And, in what I hope will be my final wrangle with Photoshop for the week, I've put together the next page of the Matteu story. Things are starting to get tense, now, with a real conflict emerging, sort of...



(Please do click the image so you can read it.)

You may notice the cameo Mike and I are making in that first panel. Two free sets of the Stepan postcards for the first person who can identify our clan costumes! (Use the comments section and your knowledge of the comics Mike and I grew up reading.)

This is around the time when the chronological gaps between tiers started to get kind of long. I think more than a year passed between my two strips on this page. This is what you get when you mix comics with academia, I'm afraid.

I Wandered Lonely as a Crowd

I'm still coloring that Elfworld story, but I'm finally working on the last page, which is also the first page. You may remember that the first page is set in a bazaar. There's quite a crowd there.



This makes the job of coloring the thing very complicated. I wish I could say that I'd picked up enough facility with Photoshop to make this sort of thing quick and easy; alas, it looks like this page is going to take me about an hour per panel.

Why, a marketplace like this is enough to give a person agoraphobia! (Sorry. I'm sure Mike would have said it if I hadn't.)

I'll post more of the Matteu story tomorrow, by which time I should actually be finished with these postcards.

Comes the Apocalypse

Why does this exist?



And why, Lord, why does it feature Ozzy Osbourne?

The wretched details are found here.

If Sauron had won...




It's all on!

My Glorious

Today I have had the fortune (or misfortune) of sitting here on my periods off grading my sixth graders' essays. They were to write about a difficult choice they've had to make, exploring the pros and cons of both sides of the choice, and then ultimately what their decision was. It has been somewhat interesting to catch a glimpse into their minds and what seems important to them.

As I have been grading, a song by Passion that I haven't heard in a while came on... My Glorious. I was captivated by the lyrics as they hit me in a way that they haven't ever before:

And all You ever do
Is change the old for new
People, we believe that

God is bigger than
The air I breathe
The world we'll leave
God will save the day
And all will say
My glorious

Isn't that just awesome? Over the last few weeks, things deep within me that I never knew were there have been brought to the surface... old ways that I have viewed motherhood, people, how I view this pregnancy, and even my view of God. Through the last few weeks He has been trading those old perspectives for new ones.

And I just love the lines that say that God is bigger than the air I breath, the world we'll leave. If I can't cling to that, what can I cling to? God is big... bigger than statistics, bigger than medicine, bigger than a prognosis.

The prayer of my heart through all of this is captured in those last three lines, that God will save the day, and all will say, my glorious.

Would you continue to pray with us that God, our God who is so big, would do a miracle for our baby and that he would be healed... that God would save the day so that all will be in awe of Him and have no response other than "My glorious!"

Comics in Hungary

In April I traveled to Hungary for the first time in ten years. Ten years ago I wasn't reading comics at all, much less making them; and I was certainly uninterested in seeking out comics produced in Magyar, a language that laughs at the non-agglutinating, un-vowel-harmonious simplicities of the Indo-European or Semitic tongues with which I am more familiar.

But this time, when Becca spotted an ad for an exhibit about Hungarian comics, conveniently on view in Budapest right when we'd be there, I was keen to check it out, language obstacles notwithstanding [Edit: See comments for further links, courtesy of Becca]. We had a nice walk along the mighty Danube, passing by the beautiful Parliament building...

...on our way to Margit-Sziget (Margaret Island), a big green patch of land amid the river where it widens, just before narrowing again to divide the originally separate cities of hilly Buda and flat Pest. The exhibit was being held in Holdudvar, a restaurant-artspace on the island. Here's the exterior of the site, with a banner promoting the "Frame Up" exhibit:


As the English-language title shows, the curators of the exhibit catered rather graciously to their non-Magyar-speaking visitors, and a number of the pages were displayed in English translation (so please do click images below to enlarge them unto legibility!). The exhibit was curated by kArton (sic), a gallery dedicated to comics in Hungary, and it featured works ranging from decades-old adventure stories and humor comics to quite recent stories that display a kind of Dark Horse Comics sensibility (by which I mean it's attractive, professional work that happily employs genre tropes without appearing to be swallowed whole by genre clichés or over-corporatized).

One of the artists most responsible for that Dark Horse Comics vibe was
Mátyás Lanczinger, whose sample pages from a detective story called "The Woman in the Yellow Wig" looked like a parody of Frank Miller's Sin City yarn That Yellow Bastard:


Some of the more recent work fell more in the "art comics" column, with the bulk of its interest coming from painterly techniques and whole-page composition rather than storytelling or joke cracking. Unfortunately for this post, I didn't bother to photograph samples from those art comics, both because I wanted to spare my camera battery and because I'm a philistine, apparently. Also, in my effort to record details with my camera, I haven't caught the attractive display of original pages and oversized reproductions in frames that were themselves decorated with cartoons and color. Sorry!

Anyway. Another seeming reflection of English-language comics came in artist Zoltán Fritz's story "Death and the Compass" (or "The Compass of Death," as the kArton website puts it). Based on a tale of Borges (with script credited to "Zorro de Bianco"), its details of mystical arcana (kabbalistic, in this case) and occult urban mapping recall the creepy revelations about London's wicked architecture in From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell:


Fritz's story was serialized (in Magyar) in a Hungarian comics anthology called Pinkhell, whose pages also featured Noname by Miklós Felvidéki, likewise on view at the exhibit. In fact, both artists' stories won Alfabéta awards from the Hungarian Comic Publishers Association for "best comics short story (3-19 pages) of 2007." I liked their work enough to buy an issue of Pinkhell despite the language barrier (thankfully overcome in some measure by their visual storytelling skills and by recourse to a Lonely Planet Hungarian phrasebook). Here's a mostly silent page by Felvidéki from the exhibit, since it's the visuals that appeal to me most in his work:

He also tied for an Alfabéta award for best cover of 2007, again featuring his fox-man from Noname:


Felvidéki's skill at visual storytelling comes through in his four-page short story in Pinkhell 3 (a story that communicated its ideas quite well even before I resorted to the phrasebook to puzzle out some of the Magyar). It's a masterpiece of compression and the expressive use of color--or, rather, the narrative use of color, as color is used less to convey a mood than to connect scenes as they play out between past and present, real life and fantasy in the mind of the protagonist. Here's how the first page sets out the method of the story. In the first tier, the fox-man protagonist is speeding along in a car with yellow-green flames on the hood in the year 2007 (if the flames look insufficiently green, I apologize and blame my scanner). The car comes to a drawbridge--

--only to crashland in 1981, as a toy car hurled by his younger self. Note the way the distinctive yellow-green of the car's hood (tinily visible in the second panel above) is transferred to the background of the fourth panel, as the fox-man realizes his mistake, before recurring in the explosive sound effect of the toy's crash against the wall. This sort of passing-the-color-baton to bridge gaps in time, place, and perspective works really well in this story, and it comes together nicely on a final page that reveals the bridge-jumping hotrod of 2007 to be still another fantasy (far from speeding away from pursuers, the fox-man is stuck in traffic; and his car doesn't have yellow-green flames: it's entirely yellow-green, and looks a little sickly).

Finally, the cartoonist whose work appealed to me the most at the exhibit was a member of the old guard, Sándor Gugi, who apparently (according to my friends at Wikipedia) got the idea in the 1950s to produce comics adaptations of literary classics in order to avoid the charge of producing imperialist vestiges of Western cultural trash. Happily for me (as my scholarship is mostly on Arthurian literature), the Gugi comics featured at Holdudvar included his playful take on Lancelot's love for Guenevere. The story is amusing, but what I really loved was Gugi's cartooning. Check out this detail of Lancelot languishing while the wizard Klingsor traps Lancelot's love in a bottle:

Masterful black and white, and an adorable owl. What's not to like? I'm just sorry that this story wasn't featured in the only Gugi collection I could find.

From my outsider's eyes, it looks as if the current Hungarian comics scene is in an interesting place, though the Wikipedia entry on Hungarian comics seems to take a dim view of prospects for the medium and its artists. Be that as it may, with evidence of over fifty years' worth of interesting cartooning on display in a single small exhibit, and a current anthology showcasing quite a variety of approaches, Hungary's comics just might deserve a more optimistic outlook. Perhaps in the future more of us, Magyar or not, can join together in a celebration of comics and declare: "It's all on!"

ROAD TRIP! Or: "We ripped San Fracisco open like a pig and roasted it!"

Faced with a 4 day weekend, what other choice does one have but to drive 820 miles from Seattle to San Francisco for no reason?


It’s Wednesday and I get a text from my beautifully insane friend Nichole.

“What are you doing this weekend”

“Nothing yet. Why?”

“Wanna drive to California?”

“Yes. Meet me in Seattle tomorrow.”

So Thursday afternoon we load up the Hyundai with a grocery bag full of CDs and a bottle of Jack D, then we’re on the road like Jack K. We laugh at the amazing number of goofy town and street names on the exit signs. Balls Creek. Cox road. Vagina Ave. (Not really, but why not?) We consider stopping in a town called Drain, but….doesn’t sound very exciting.

Finally, we’re driving through the woods in total darkness so we stop at an obscure gas station and ask for camping suggestions. The attendant tells us to take a left and drive a few miles out this one road past these mills and factories out into the woods, and then we can camp anywhere. How many slasher horror movies have started out this way?

We find some flat ground that doesn’t look particularly menacing, no open graves or satanic statuary anywhere nearby, so we pitch our tent. The tent is supposed to be a 2 person tent, but I’m 6 foot 2, so I think I count as at least 1.5 people. Luckily, Nichole is like 3 feet tall and 50 pounds, so she counts as about half a person. I manage to stretch out diagonally, we have a dram of whiskey, and fall asleep to a lullaby played by the demo on my Casio mini keyboard.

(In the morning)

(We talked all night about the naked feral mountain man who was going to come raging out of the woods to steal all our clothes and technology and then eat us...but he never came.)


Friday night around 8:00 we finally arrive in San Francisco. As we’re rolling over the Bay Bridge into downtown, it occurs to me that the destination on my Google Maps directions is simply “San Francisco”. So uh….where to now, Joe?

We manage to park somewhere in the Mission District and start wandering around. Nichole is craving a cheeseburger. After passing millions of taquieras we finally stumble upon a Burger King. The first thing that greets us as we walk in the door is the sight of this black guy sprawled out in his booth, asleep, with his mouth hanging open SOOOOO wide. Seriously, it’s like his jaw has come unhinged. The temptation to toss straw wrappers into his gaping maw is unbearable.

From there we go to a coffee shop that’s so coldly pretentious it makes the average Seattle café feel like an Applebees. The barista doesn’t say a single word to us when we order. Not even the price. He just stands there and lets us read the numbers on the register while giving us a world-weary head-tilt.

We end up getting directions and advice on where to sleep from probably the scariest looking dude in the city. I can’t tell you how interesting it is to be warned away from “sketchy” neighborhoods by a 6 foot man in a brown leather trenchcoat and thigh-high studded leather boots with wild eyes, a long beard, a full-face mask of tribal tattoos--and the voice and diction of a Microsoft executive. I guess it was a fitting introduction to this rather odd city.

We find the beach he directed us to, and we find an area to set up our tent, but there’s a problem. Gale force winds are blasting up from the ocean. It takes the two of us to manhandle the tent to the ground, and it keeps trying to fly away. We finally get it pitched and crawl inside, but the wind is squishing the walls inward to the point where we might as well be sleeping inside the actual tent bag. It’s like being in the churning stomach of a nylon whale. We lay there for a while laughing hysterically while the freezing wind absolutely rapes the walls, whipping and rattling them like that scene from Blair Witch Project if that scene had gone on for 30 minutes straight. We give up and sleep in the car.

Next day we get our tourism on and hit the Golden Gate Bridge. Halfway out, Nichole reveals she’s terrified of heights, and has a few panic attacks. She still manages to get a few pictures.

(It was very very orange.)

The most interesting thing to me about the Golden Gate Bridge today is that it is completely swarming with Girl Scouts. They are everywhere, a blue-vested and badged infestation. San Francisco is known for it’s racial, cultural, and sexual diversity, but by the looks of things here the population has been homogenized into about 85% Girl Scouts. What the hell, man.

(Run, m@th3rfucker!!)


And then here's a few I took with my wacky new Holga camera:


After the bridge we go to the Legion of Honor museum. Outside is the Holocaust Memorial, featuring memorial statues of the dead in a concentration camp scene. We realize we are going to hell when the first thing that occurs to us is how funny it would be to get pictures of us humping the prone statues of Holocausted Jews.

Oh no he DIDN'T!!! (But come on, if anyone needs some loving it's holocausted Jews!)

(For the record, this idea makes even me cringe, and I’m the guy that celebrates September 11th Day by baking tall layer cakes with all the candles at the top and playing double-stack Jenga. I do have some sense of atrocity.)

This entire time, I’ve been trying to get ahold of my friend Michelle who lives here, but no answer. Saturday afternoon, she calls me back and tells me she didn’t answer because she was on a plane. To Washington, oh the irony. But she sets us up to receive hospitality from her room mates. We go to the house and are promptly invited to a PIG ROAST. We go to the PIG ROAST and sure enough, they have an entire ROASTED PIG laid out on a table, fresh from the giant PIG ROASTING spit. Apparently this is not unusual at all. Apparently this guy has PIG ROASTS pretty frequently. We pick over the scorched carcass like starving dingos.

Sweet young thing Nichole says she feels a little “out of her element” amongst all the thirtysomething professionals at this party, but like a fish gasping on the edge of a lake, she soon flops her way back into her element: beer. Within 20 minutes she has befriended everyone in the place and gotten twenty phone numbers, myspaces, and invites for places to stay tonight. But our room-mate liaisons have disappeared, I’m too buzzed, exhausted, and lost in the city to try to find any of the other people’s downtown apartments, so we end up sleeping in the car again. I drag her out of the party draped over my shoulder like a gut-shot soldier in Vietnam, carry her to the car, and pour her into the seat like Jello. We park on a dimly lit street corner, and sleep.

Finally, we have come to our last day in San Francisco. We find ourselves in Asiantown, and Nichole buys a bag full of rubber duckies that are dressed as other animals, dogs, cats, etc. We go to an obscure Chinese (Japanese? Korean? Laotian?) restaurant where no one speaks English, and Nichole orders some of the most bizarre Dim Sum stuff ever seen, topping it all off by ordering a whole goddamn crab just plain by itself with no sauce or anything. We smash it to bits and eat its insides. Apparently it’s a week for consuming entire animals whole.

With evening approaching, we make our final attempt to be classy and go to the Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately, it closes just before we get there, and we end up going to a bunch of girl-trap fashion stores instead. Nichole puts it best when she says, “We came downtown to get some culture, and we left with a cute skirt.”

It’s now Sunday night, and it’s time to go home. We drive deep into the night on some unbelievably twisty forgotten highway in the desert. By this point we are starting to feel a little bit lunatic.

(Please help, I'm being driven across the country by a skinnyass shirtless madman...)

(Umm, hello? We're like...lost.)

(Cute as a lost tired hungry drunk little button.)

We go through Napa Valley and finally park just off the street next to a pretty orchard. Of course this earns us a 3:00 am wakeup call from the local cops, wondering why on earth we would try to sleep in a country orchard under the big starry sky instead of in a blindingly lit rest-stop parking lot between gangs of rapist truckers. I am really getting tired of being woken up at 3:00 am by the knocks and flashlights of soulless cops.

And that, folks, is about the end of the story. We drive all day Monday and finally arrive back in Seattle, where we are immediately slapped with all the back-home mundanities and dramas, our angry bosses and clients, our contemptible exes marrying each other, etc. Travel is a drug, and the come-down can be hell. Somebody please buy me a helicopter and magic neverending fuel.

But hey, next week is Sasquatch Festival. Off we go again!

Sent

I received this in an e-mail from a dear friend about a week ago and it spoke to the depths of my soul.

Sent
by John Fischer

Sometimes I act as if I'm just muddling through life. I'm lucky if I make it through a day. People ask me how I'm doing and I hear myself say -- even to fellow Christians -- "Oh, I'm hanging in there, just barely." Then I remember Christ praying to the Father: "As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world," and I have to ask myself: Do I sound like someone who has been "sent?"

If I have been sent, then I am on a mission, and if I am on a mission, how can I just be muddling through life? Somehow I don't think muddling is in my mission statement.

I'm thinking of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 where he says that he is always being lead in a public display and is manifesting, wherever he goes, something real about the nature of his faith in Christ, and it is always having an effect on people, and I realize God can accomplish this mission in spite of what is currently happening in my life. Paul even makes this statement right after he has confessed his anxiety over plans not going as expected (verses 12-13). Even then, he could still say he was being lead on a mission.

That means nothing can stop us because nothing can stop God's work in our lives. It would be great today if when people ask how I am, I could say, even if it's just to myself, "I'm on a mission," because I am. I'm on a mission to love God today with all my heart, and let that love reflect in all I do. I'm on a mission to love those closest to me -- to be ruled by care and compassion. I'm on a mission to tell my story to anyone who wants to hear it. I'm on a mission to manifest the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ wherever I go. All this can happen regardless of the circumstances in my life. I don't get to muddle through anything.

In the movie "Saving Private Ryan," a platoon of men in World War II are on a mission to find Private Ryan and bring him home. Sometimes they struggle with their mission. Some of them almost abandon it, but as long as they are moving with the mission of the group, they are all in on it. They were sent.

How about you today? Have you been sent? Then you aren't just hanging in there; you are on a mission. Be aware of it today, and look for what God has for you, because you were sent.

Sent. Lately, I haven't felt sent. I've felt like I have been muddling through life, and on some days, barely hanging in there. But I love what Fischer says about meing on a mission to love God with all my heart and to let that love reflect through all I do, and to be on a mission to tell my story to anyone who wants to hear it, knowing that God's goodness and glory can be revealed through it.

Fischer's words were a wake up call to me as I remember that these current circumstances are part of something much, much bigger, and it's a tool of the enemy to have me take my eyes of God and on the desperation of my circumstances. It's then that you drown... much like Peter when he stepped out of the boat when he took his eyes off Jesus... not because of what the circumstances are, but because of your (and my) perspective.

So today, I've decided that I want to act like I am sent. I don't want to feel like I have to hide being pregnant, but rather feel proud that I am a mommy who loves her little boy, even though he's still in the womb and may end up going straight to heaven. I want the love I have for him, for my husband, for my family, and for those closest to me to be a fragrance of God's love for His people. I want to have the courage and boldness to tell my story to all who want to hear, that it would lend compassion and sympathy to anyone with similar circumstances, and would reflect God's goodness and glory.

I am on a mission. I have been sent.

Color Update on the Stepan Story

I've been coloring the pages out of order, skipping over a few that I thought would present problems, and I just finished my fifth one -- which is p. 7. I think that means I'm halfway through with the work, or at least nearly there.

The page I just finished, as you may recall, is the one that swipes its layout, more or less, from Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. I thought I'd try doing that page with a flat version of Duchamp's palette, leaving some of the painting visible in parts of the background.



What do you think?

Miniature Dogsbody

Page 6 of the Stepan story has a lot of tiny details in it. (It's my own fault. I know.)

Here, for example, is a very, very small image of Kalbi, sitting on the back of the stagecoach.



This is enlarged around 4X for your viewing pleasure.

Oops!

Mother's Day

Mother's Day. Every year, this is something I typically look forward to. I love spending time with my Mom and my sister, honoring my Mom and building memories together... even if it's something as simple as lunch and a movie.

This year was somehow different, somehow tainted. I don't know if it was because I had already ingrained in my head that "next time" Mother's Day comes I would get to celebrate, or if it is because I wouldn't even be comfortable at this point if someone had given me a "Mom-to-be" card for Mother's Day. Or maybe it's something entirely different that I haven't put my finger on yet.

Yesterday we went to a cookout for some neighbors who are moving. In our neighborhood, "alley cookouts" are pretty popular. It sounds strange, but these alleys aren't what you would typically picture. There are four streets whose alleys form a large square, and in the middle is a great playground. There were kids everywhere... riding big wheels, playing with a ball, sitting in their strollers. At first it didn't phase me, but after a while it did and I had to leave. I just felt so.... jealous.

I was jealous of the mom with the 11 month-old who was just starting to walk, and of the mom with the 4 month old who sat in his carrier most of the time while other people went over to see him. And of the moms with the older kids who could throw a ball, ride a bike, and run around. If this little guy makes it, would he ever be able to do any of those things? It was a reminder that all the ways in which I have envisioned motherhood... teaching your baby to walk, showing a toddler how to ride a big wheel, or playing catch with your 5-year-old... may end up looking completely different.

Deep down I know that's okay. I know that loving your child doesn't have to mean playing catch or riding bikes. I think of Jesus when he reached out and touched...touched... the leper, and how meeting that man's need of human, physical contact, was a greater act of love than many of us would dare encounter.

And so I am back to the passage in I John that I wrote about previously... that perfect love casts out all fear, and that we can love, because He first loved us. My love is so far from perfect, but it is the cry of my heart that this experience would help to perfect my imperfect love, and would help me to be a little more like Jesus in the way that I love others. Being a mother means loving well... loving children unconditionally and helping to meet their every need, even their deepest ones.

Even though I am not celebrating Mother's Day in the way in which I thought I would be, there is something to celebrate... and that's the fact that by God's grace, I am learning to love more boldly, more deeply, and less fearfully (though this is coming slowly) because of the road He has set before us.

More Summer fun






Kicking Off summer day 2 with some killer productivity. Enjoy, back to the fun stuff as you can see. maybe youll see an acrylic version of one of these robots.

Summer is here!




Hello everyone, Summer is finally here! Now starts the fun. I will be posting at least one drawing a day, bad or good, it will be a drawing. I plan on trying a lot of new things this summer so to kick things off here is a very very fast little acrylic painting which i might work on some more tonight. Its very small, expect more quick little studies like this, hopefully they will get better as i learn new techniques.

Romans 12:12

I came across this verse as I was spending some time reading and praying before our appointment this morning... Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. I know that Spencer and I have been praying relentlessly about this pregnancy, pleading with God for wisdom, strength, and for His mercy on behalf of our baby. But joyful in hope? I wish it weren't true, but my hope is starting to wane.

This morning we had to wait forever for my "regular" (as if "regualr" describes anything about this experience) prental appointment. Several glowing, young, pregnant girls graced the waiting room while we waited. About 40 minutes later we were finally called, and they took us back and weight me. I had actually lost about half a pound from four weeks ago... I thought for sure that meant that our baby had stopped growing and was no longer alive.

I was wrong. The nurse found our little guy's heartbeat in just a few minutes on the doppler... a whopping 166 beats per minute.

I was hoping that this would have given both Spencer and I some feeling of relief, but truthfully it didn't. There wasn't much information to glean from this appointment, but my doctor was able to answer many of my questions. She said that she is most suspicious of a rare genetic syndrome which wouldn't have been picked up by the CVS test, since that tests chromosomes and not the specific genes. She also mentioned that fetal hydrops (when the cyst-like structure on the baby's neck basically spreads and impedes the functioning of many of the baby's organs, including the heart, usually resulting in fetal heart failure and death) is still a definite possibility. She also reiterated that the viability of the pregnancy is low (in that 10-15% range) and that should the baby be born, it's difficult to say what sort of functioning he would have. She did, however, seem to speak more to the baby's birth (both at term and pre-term) more than anything else and some of the care and management that would accompany that. The other thing she mentioned that caught me off guard was that she said at this point should we lose the baby, I would have to be induced and deliver at the hopsital. A few days ago I thought I was about two months away from that, learned a few days ago that many doctors start choosing to induce labor at around nineteen weeks or so... I had no idea that at fifteen weeks that would be the route that would need to be taken. I'm having a hard time swallowing that.

In addition to our sonogram coming up on May 20, she also referred us to Children's Hospital for a fetal echocardiogram. That should give the doctor there the chance to get a really good luck at the baby's heart, as fetal cardiac development is also of great concern right now.

So we're left with more waiting. And I don't know what it is we're waiting for. At times I become restless, though overall feel as though I have done well with being patient through this. I know that I have been faithful in praying diligently about all aspects of these circumstances. But I am not sure how to remain joyful in hope. We weren't given any good news today, other than his heart is still beating. Medicine is telling us that there really isn't a favorable outcome any way this situation were to work itself out. The only thing, then, I know to be joyful in hope about is the chance of a miracle.

God is in the habit of doing that. He can, if he chooses to do so. Would you pray with us that God, in His mercy and grace, would prove medicine wrong, and would heal our little boy, so that His glory and His honor would shine through it what seems like a dark situation? And in the meantime, would you pray that Spencer and I would remain joyful in hope?

Matteu (7-9)

So far, these Matteu pages haven't garnered much comment, but I'm going to keep posting installments at least once a week, hoping that Mike will lob the ball back into my court some time soon so we can get a nice volley going.

Without further introduction, here are the next three Matteu strips:

(Click-to-enlarge.)

... Apparently we got pretty interested in that business about horses. But now we're getting into the city itself, and I'm sure the plot is going to start moving forward. I can just feel it in my bones.

Notice the weird timing on this batch. I drew the middle tier as a response to a pencil version of the first tier; Mike inked both the first and the third tiers of this page on the same day.

Stepan's School of Hard Knocks

Well, I'm working on the color version of our Elfworld submission.

It feels like it's going to take forever, but I actually have some time to devote to comics for a change, so here we go. If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'm sure I'll make visible progress soon.



Or, in the words of a captcha letter combo I got this evening,


But actually I am having fun with this, though it's terribly slow. Working on page 2, I've noticed a few things I hadn't seen yet, including a piece of Stepan's costume that disappeared pretty quickly (when I started drawing him, I guess -- oops!) and a pun (of sorts) that Mike slipped into panel 6. It's a real pleasure to go over Mike's pages and find all these little details. I'll post the next page of the Matteu story tomorrow.

Keith

Continuing Color Cuandary

All right: based on some feedback to the first post about Kalbi's costume, I've made some tweaks. Does this meet with everyone's approval?



Also, how about this color combination for Stepan? It's a little different from what I was showing Mike earlier today.