Doodle Penance Triple: "superheroines in jumpsuits," "tintin's ontological meaning," and "christian larp"

I might have shot myself in the foot with the challenge of this week's "Doodle Penance." You see, people found the site by way of some very interesting search terms this week, and we couldn't really make a good choice between "Superheroines in jumpsuits," "Tintin's ontological meaning," and "Christian LARP."

I mean, how could you decide between those terms?

My proposed compromise was to draw all three at once. Alas, you'll have to click this image to read the dialogue.



I don't think I've handled it very well, but I don't have time today to improve on that.

Mike?

...Well, I didn't have time to improve on that on Sunday, either, which is why I'm finishing this post on Tuesday! Plus, I had an idea that I thought would look neat and didn't want to rush it, exactly, though you tell me if this cuts the mustard. I just went for two of the options, "superheroines in jumpsuits" and "Tintin's ontological meaning." Here's what I got:


Perhaps a word or two of explanation is in order. Since Tintin's ontology is basically visual—he's a cartoon—I wanted to represent Tintin as a kind of exemplary case of a cartoon made up of the primary visual elements of contrast and tone. For contrast, Tintin would be sketched out of marks on a spectrum of hues from black to white, with grey at the center. For tone, rendered in terms of the primary colors of light (and of a computer monitor, where this image will be displayed), that means Tintin would be made up of red, green, and blue, and combinations thereof.

Therefore I have set an image of Tintin's diagram-like face at the hub of a series of spokes radiating out to discs whereon stand superheroines who represent these colors in their costumes (or, in the case of She-Hulk, in their pigmentation). I went with three Marvel and three DC superheroines (or, well, female athletes dressed in jumpsuits that loosely resemble the superheroines' costumes—I'm not convinced these women are those superheroines themselves). I wanted to stick with mainstream, familiar superheroines for the most part, but somehow I still ended up using the Kimiya Hoshi version of Doctor Light (because I needed a superheroine in a mostly black costume, and I'd already been reduced to using Storm's white costume). Also, if I'm honest with myself I would admit that I went with RBG instead of red, yellow, and blue as the primaries because I couldn't think of any appropriate yellow-clad superheroines. (Isaac has since suggested a couple, but they were even less familiar to me than the female Doctor Light.)

Anyway, that's my doodle. I'm not sure what its ontological meaning is, but by gum it features what look like superheroines in jumpsuits, apparently warming up for some sort of weird track meet. Was this drawing worth the delay? Was it worth drawing in the first place? And must penance itself be a reason for penance? Perhaps only a Christian LARPer can answer that last question.

Doodle Penance Warm-Up: Ancient Doodle, Newly Colored

Well, it's entirely my fault that the expected Doodle Penance for Sunday last is going to be a couple of days late, but there have been extenuating circumstances. Moreover, it's ALMOST ready to go--but not quite.

In the meantime, I offer this old doodle from ca. 2000-2001. It's from an abortive project that was one of the first attempts between Isaac and me to produce a collaborative comic; indeed, it may have predated Satisfactory Comics #1 and our independent minicomics, though I can't recall for sure. As should be plain from the image, it was a goofy superhero story. What might need explaining is that the superheroes were all versions of our grad school colleagues, teammates on the League of Graduate Heroes; this guy's superhero identity was Boy Genius:



The thing is, his real-life counterpart was also already known as Boy Genius before Isaac and I got the cartooning bug. Various members of the class ahead of mine had code names like "The Little Colonel" and "Sunshine," and "Boy Genius" was just another one of those. Isaac and I made up a few new nicknames for some of our other colleagues, strictly for comics purposes and never used IRL. And we refrained from casting ourselves as heroes, though somewhere I have a doodle of Isaac summing up the would-be comic's plot, much in the way that Stan and Jack would occasionally have a walk-on appearance in the Fantastic Four (and yet, how different...).

At any rate, this doodle from almost a decade ago seems in keeping with the doodle I ended up doing for the latest Doodle Penance, as will be evident when I finally post it...and, come to think of it, it's not out of keeping with the last post offered in penance for a tardy Doodle Penance.

Something im workin on



A Grace Disguised

Currently, I am in the middle of reading 4 different books. I have no idea why I can't just read one cover-to-cover and then pick up a new one. For some reason, this just seems to work better for me.

I recently started reading A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. Sittser is a professor or religion and received his MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also a bereaved parent. A man who lost his mother. A widower. He lost all three of these people, his youngest daughter, his mother, and his wife, in one tragic car accident in 1996.

I am only on page 75 of this book, but boy, does Sittser get it. He has lived it. He continues to live it, even 13 years later.

In his second chapter, entitled Whose Loss is Worse?, he talks about how all people suffer loss, but that really it's useless to compare losses. He does make a distinction, however, between natural and predictable losses and catastrophic, devastating, irreversible losses. The natural predictable losses include things like growing up... losing your youth, but gaining adulthood; or, watching your child get married... "losing" your child, but gaining a son or daughter in law.

Then there are the catastrophic, devastating, irreversible losses. About these, Sittser writes, "If normal, natural, reversible loss is like a broken limb, then catastrophic loss is like an amputation. The results are permanent, the impact incalculable, the consequences cumulative. Each new day forces one to face some new devastating dimension of the loss. It creates a whole new context for one's life."

He continues this sort of analogy in chapter 5. Sittser talks about a couple named Andy and Mary, whose daughter, Sarah, was born with cerebral palsy. Sarah's health and development are not good, and their marriage is suffering.

Sittser writes, "Andy and Mary will never 'recover' from their loss. Nor can they. Can anyone really expect to recover from such tragedy, considering the value of what was lost and the consequences of that loss? Recovery is a misleading and empty expectation. We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss, by definition precludes recovery. It will transform or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. What ever the future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it. sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss. If anything, it may keep going deeper."

Sittser continues on to talk about how that sorrow is in fact a sign of strength and authenticity; and how in Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

I suppose all of this just really resonated with me. It resonated with me that "recovering" isn't really an option because a deep, tragic loss forever changes you. It doesn't mean that you will be remain forever in the pit of sorrow and despair; because by God's grace, He meets us there and carries us through.

What hit me the most was when Sittser talked about how catastrophic loss has the power to transform or destroy us, but will never leave us the same. I am keenly aware that I will be forever changed. And as I spent time thinking about being transformed or destroyed, so many pieces of scripture came to mind...

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

I thought a lot about that Ecclesiastes verse... about how in His time, God will make beauty from ashes. He has already started to... by His grace, God has allowed me to see glimpses of how Isaac's life and legacy are being used for good. He has set eternity in our hearts... a yearning for heaven that I had never known before; a complete shift in how I even view time. And all the while, I still can't get my head around how this fits into God's great plan. I don't understand why Isaac couldn't have been healed. But part of the grace God has shown me has been in the fact that He is enabling me to start slowly becoming more okay with not getting an answer as to "why," but to simply trust Him.

I am excited to finish the rest of this book... to read more about Sittser's journey and all that God has shown him.

I know I am not finished this book yet, but I have to say, that of all the books I've read, I would rank it up there with When I Lay My Isaac Down. This book is great if you've experienced a loss, or if you're the friend or loved one of someone who has and you're seeking to understand their pain. Sittser's honesty and authenticity about his pain, but also about the hope he has in our God, has just really touched my heart.

Cars!

Sneak peak




heres a sneak peak at a couple pirates from the piece im working on now. stay tuneeeddd
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (E. B. White)

The desire to enjoy the world has certainly won out these past four weeks in Florida. It has been a whirlwind of visiting friends, activities, and enjoying the beauty of the Sunshine State. I can't believe that our time here is almost over, it certainly proves the old adage that "time flies when you're having fun".

As soon as we arrived we made arrangements to meet fellow blogger, Poker Bluegill and his lovely wife, Elizabeth at Rainbow Springs State Park. Following a picnic lunch and hike we traveled to The Villages for their Mardi Gras celebration.
The next day, Ruth arrived from Zephyr Hills to spend a lovely day with us that concluded with dinner at Sonny's BBQ. Then we were pleasantly surprised with a visit from Richard and Zoe who were making their first post-retirement visit to the Sunshine State. They especially enjoyed dinner at Gator Joe's and dancing at Spanish Square.We have also had the opportunity to visit a county fair and witness a demolition derby, taken a train ride to a reenactment of the gunfight at the OK corral, visited New Smyrna Beach, attended the local stock car races, shop at the huge Flea Markets, picnicing at various parks, attend two concerts; Mel Tillis and Asleep at the Wheel, and attended a Mets spring training game in Kissimmee.


Google

Before I get to Google, I wanted to say that I am glad that my list of ways to help someone who is grieving the loss of a child (or anyone) was so helpful. For those other parents out there who have had the painful experience of burying your child, I am glad that much of what I shared resonated with you. And for those who are friends and loved ones of someone who has lost a child, I am glad that many of you found my suggestions helpful.

I also wanted to say this: If you were reading and found yourself thinking, "Oh rats. Did I say that to her? Did I share the right verse?" or "Did I send the right card to my friend... I think it was created my Hallmark... uh-oh!" that my intention was never to make you second guess yourself. I would rather you say something than nothing. We know that the people's intentions are truly good. I also know, though, that being in the position of having lost a child offers a unique perspective on some of those things, and so my hope in sharing what I did was to give you a peek inside the heart and mind of a mother who misses her son terribly, and to equip you with some information that you might find helpful.

Okay. On to Google.

A few weeks ago I was at home, just killing some time, and yes, I decided to Google myself. I was curious to see if when I did, my blog came up. Here's the crazy thing. As I started to type in my name, one of the options that popped up from the list of options Google gives you as it tries to predict what it is you want to search for, was "Stacy Delisle blog." WHAT?! I couldn't believe that people has been searching Google for my blog!

Then I decided to Google Isaac. We have a birth certificate for him, and wanted to get him a social security number because we really want him to count. And, if in the future anyone ever did a genealogy or something on our family, we would want him to be included. So I googled him. And wouldn't you know that "Isaac Timothy Delisle" and "Isaac Timothy blog" both popped up.

It was one of those moments that I started to both laugh and cry at the same... chuckling that my sweet little boy can be Googled, and crying over the fact that the only way he will be really known is through me, Spencer, and my blog. I wish so much that he was here, and that his future accomplishments could also be Googled.

It's a cool (cold?), rainy day here in Maryland today, and it just seems sort of fitting. I am pretty exhausted from a crazy schedule and form things just having been more difficult lately. I am just missing Isaac a ton today...

Thank you for continuing to offer prayers on our behalf. God continues to be very present, and we are grateful for that.

Rough for an upcoming piece

The Academic Decathlon Team We Root For

As far as central-California high-school Academic Decathlon teams go, there's only one that really stokes my team spirit.

Here are the fightin', thinkin' Grizzlies of Granite Hills High, of Porterville, CA, getting psyched for another round of competition at the recent Academic Decathlon competition in Sacramento:



Those are some sharp kids, with a fine sense of team style, wouldn't you say?



And what's that interesting heraldic device adorning the backs of their team colors?



Doesn't that look familiar? Yes, indeed, they're wearing an enlarged version of one of my Darwin cartoons. No kidding.



Their academic coach, Mark Harriger, found the cartoon a few weeks ago with Google. (In fact, "Darwin cartoons" is one of our most popular search terms these days.) Mark emailed me and asked whether he could use the cartoon on their shirts, and I was only too happy to provide him with a high-res (and slightly improved) version, on one condition: that he let me post a few photos of the team back here on the blog. (Thanks, Mark!)



Go Grizzlies! We salute you!

Isn't the internet awesome?

Bulldog

"Naked 15 Year Olds" -- A Scene in a Laptop Shop

CAST:

REPAIR GUY:
Late forties, easy-talking, confident electronics expert.

CUSTOMER:
Mid-forties, mouthbreathing man in awkwardly baggy clothes, visibly unintelligent.

ISAAC:
Twenty-something guy waiting quietly while his broken laptop is tested.



REPAIR GUY: (To CUSTOMER) Your power cord’s busted. I can get you a new cord for about 50 bucks.

CUSTOMER: What about those other laptops you’re selling? Are they any good?

REPAIR GUY: They’re ok, but yours is newer and more powerful than those ones. I’d just keep yours and replace the power cord.

CUSTOMER: How much would you give me for trade in on this one?

REPAIR GUY: Trade in for what?

CUSTOMER: For one of those other laptops you’re selling.

REPAIR GUY: (confused) What’s wrong with this one?

CUSTOMER: Well it ain’t working.

REPAIR GUY: Yeah but you just need a new power cord. I’ve got one right here, 50 bucks.

CUSTOMER: Yeah but how much would you give me for trade in?

REPAIR GUY: (frustrated) Well, I don’t know, 150, 200 bucks? But I’m telling you, you’re better off just keeping this one, it’s a better computer.

CUSTOMER: (distressed) So what happened to my power cord?

REPAIR GUY: It broke.

CUSTOMER: Why? What happened to it?

REPAIR GUY: They’re just cheap, you know? They’ve got 12 year olds making these things, they break, what are you gonna do?

CUSTOMER: Ok I guess I’ll take the new cord.

REPAIR GUY: Ok. Also I noticed you got no antivirus on here.

CUSTOMER: What’s antivirus?

REPAIR GUY: Keeps viruses off your computer. If you’re surfing the internet and you got no antivirus you’re like a naked 15 year old standing outside the dock bars when the ships come in.

CUSTOMER: (pause) What?

REPAIR GUY: I said you’re like a naked 15 year old standing outside the dock bars when the ships come in. Your computer is.

CUSTOMER: What’s that mean? What happens?

REPAIR GUY: To what?

CUSTOMER: What happens to a naked 15 year old on the docks?

REPAIR GUY: (flabbergasted) Well she’s gonna get sex!

CUSTOMER: (nods) Oh. So my computer…

REPAIR GUY: I’m just tryin’ to say your computer is vulnerable if you got no antivirus. They write viruses to look for computers without antivirus.

CUSTOMER: That sounds like it’d be illegal.

REPAIR GUY: Well it’s illegal to spray gang tags on my dumpster out there but they still do it!

CUSTOMER: Yeah but it seems like if they caught someone making viruses--

REPAIR GUY: Look, I’m just saying you should get some antivirus, but that’s up to you.
(Turns to address ISAAC, slightly under his breath) That was pretty good right? A naked 15 year old outside the dock bars when the ships come in?

ISAAC: Uh, yeah, seemed pretty clear to me. Good metaphor.

REPAIR GUY: Thanks.


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A Link or Two to Click

Well, check this out: one of my poems that got published in the latest Hayden's Ferry Review is available online. Enjoy.

Also, my review of an excellent book of poems by one of my favorite living poets, Maurice Manning.

Doodle Penance: "jack kirby machines"

I'm pretty psyched about this week's Doodle Penance, not because I think I've done an especially good job with the doodle, but because this week's search term was absolutely, 100%, or-your-money-back guaranteed from the start to be fun to draw. And I did have a lot of fun with my doodle.

Someone found our site this week after a search for "Jack Kirby machines."

I can't think of a nicer way to spend a Sunday morning.

I figure what this person was looking for was a good set of principles for building his own Kirbytech machinery, so I've created this handout that outlines a few of the most important points. I hope it's helpful.

(Isaac says, "Don't ask! Just click and enlarge it!")



Have a look at how some of these ideas are employed in a couple of panels from Fantastic Four #46.

You can use the principles of Kirby machine design to create something as complex as a two-man Terrigen-mutation-scanning device ...



... or something as simple as a cigarette lighter:



Mike, what have you got?

—All's I've got is a Jack Kirby machine:
There's a lot I'm dissatisfied with where the drawing is concerned. But my greatest mistake was giving it a name! I should merely have referred to is as a Jury-rigged Apparatus for Cartooning Kind-of-Kinetic, Idiosyncratic, Robotic Beings with exposed circuitrY, instead of shortening it to Jack Kirby! But now, as you can see from the vexed expression in the view-screen, it can reason...can compute...can feel...and, as is plainly evident from its uni-wheel, it wants to move...to be free..! Despite all the fear it may engender, I pity this machine-man, this monster!

Sunday Night - OR - How I Almost Got in a Fight and Kissed Someone's Girlfriend at a Barry Manilow Concert

What do you do when a beautiful buxom blonde invites you to a Barry Manilow concert in the VIP box for free? You go to the Barry Manilow concert and almost get in a fight with a middle aged couple sitting nearby because they keep shushing you for talking during the songs even though it’s an arena show and it’s very loud but apparently this Barry Manilow concert is the highlight of their miserable lives because they are treating it like a religious ceremony and when you try to mildly reason with them the man makes as if to get out of his seat and says, “Oh are you a tough guy? Are you a tough guy?”

Then you drink six whiskey gingers and watch an orange, oompa-loompian Manilow gyrate through a few hits before you leave the arena with the buxom blonde who on the way out tells you she wants to make out with you which never happens because her boyfriend unexpectedly shows up at the bar you stopped at several blocks away and angrily takes her home so you just go back to your apartment and hang your blue “ULTIMATE MANILOW” glowstick on your wall and call it a good night.


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How to Help a Grieving Friend

The past couple of weeks I have been in a really tough place with my grief. I think one of the hardest things about that is that for so many, this is all "old news..." and for others, I feel as though they think I should be "doing better" by now. It's almost like there's this pressure to be over it, or in a better place with it all. To be grieving your child is a hard enough, and having that added layer that I have been feeling lately only tends to compound it. I know that the people who want me to be "better" are people who care deeply about me; but I don't think that they realize the pressure and hurt that it adds. It makes me feel as though this loss is something less than it is. And worst of all, it causes me to no longer want to be authentic for fear of judgement or for fear that I'm making other people's lives difficult by still having a hard time with the loss of Isaac... like somehow it's so hard on them that I am still struggling. But they are not the ones whose son has died. Recently, I read an entry on Molly Piper's (daughter-in-law of John Piper) blog about what her grief looks like 17 months after losing her daughter, Felicity. Within that time, she and her husband Abraham have also given birth to another child. You can find her blog post here. When I read it, I was encouraged in some ways...knowing that she is a Godly woman and is still struggling, even after having another healthy baby and even almost a year and a half later... Of course sitting here at 5 1/2 months I would be, too. Another blog friend who lost her twin boys e-mailed me a little while back and shared that around the 5-6 month mark was right when the shock of it all started to wear off and it really started to all sink in. Please know that my intention in sharing this isn't to be critical; I truly do believe that people are well-intentioned and that in wanting me to feel better, to move on, etc, that ultimately, people care about me and Spencer and don't want to see us hurting. But we are. And that is just honest and real. Some days are fine, and some are even good; there are days when we laugh... but many days are still hard. We are making progress with all of this, but at least for me, the past few weeks I feel like I have taken so many steps backwards. But I know that grief is like that. It's not linear progress. It's a roller coaster with ups and downs, twists and turns. It's hard, it's exhausting, and it hurts. For it to be anything less than that wouldn't be real. God has been faithful in being a steady presence in the midst of it all, and I know He will continue to be. The bottom line, though, is that every day I carry around the heart of a mother who longs for her son and misses him more than words could ever convey. And that's a heavy cross to bear. So I want to offer some encouragement to those of you reading who are friends and loved ones of someone who has lost a child. These thoughts come from things that we have found helpful, things that have been hard, and from other blogs I've read that have offered some great suggestions on this. I am definitely no expert or authority on this topic, but just wanted to share some things that we have found helpful. 1. Say something. There are a few people we've encountered who have yet to say anything to us about losing Isaac. They know that it happened, but have avoided it like the plague. That is incredibly hard. If you're not sure what to say, saying "I don't know what to say other than I am so, so sorry" is a great place to start. Bereaved parents what so desperately for their child to be acknowledged. And of course... say something to our Heavenly Father and pray for them. 2. Avoid "Hallmark" responses. This one may seem in direct conflict with #1, but it's true. These types of statements tend to minimize the person's loss. For instance, take the line "When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." While that may be true, a grieving parent didn't want the door closed in the first place. They want their child back. And while whatever might be on the other side of the open window might be a good thing, it still doesn't take care of the ache of the closed door of losing a child. It's good to think carefully about statements such as these. While the intention may be to encourage, many "Hallmark" responses have the flaw of minimizing the loss. 3. Choose scripture carefully. I absolutely believe that the Bible is the word of God and that it is true. Every word of it. And there are some great verses of encouragement in there. What can be difficult, though, is realizing that the timing of encouragement from scripture is encouragement. A wise person that Spencer and I know recently shared that he never walks into the room of a grieving person and shares Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Why not? Because in the midst of the rawness of grief of losing a child, all you want is your child back. I absolutely believe in the truth of this scripture, but am only now getting to the place where this is of encouragement to me. When you lose a child, you often feel forsaken. And bereaved parents want to know they are not alone. So verses focusing on God's love, peace, and Him being near to the brokenhearted are generally good places to look to encourage. The time will come to use verses about God working all things together for good, but in the wake of a child's death isn't the best time because the bereaved parent's heart will likely not be ready to receive it. 4. Know that there is no timetable for grief. Through the books I have read, my conversations with other bereaved parents over e-mail and at the monthly support group I attend, and in discussing this with my counselor, the consensus is the same: people grieve differently and there is no timetable for grief. This is really important to understand. While as a family member or friend, you may feel as though you had your "brief history" with the child who has died and although it was sad, you know you will see them again in Heaven and so now it is time to move on, it's important to realize that it isn't that way at all for the parents whose child has died. For them, it's like a part of them has died. One of the books I read talked about how there's this piece of your heart that was specifically for that child, and that when they died, that piece of your heart was broken off and went to heaven with them. Along with the loss of a child comes the loss of so many other things... I talked a lot about that in my post entitled Ripple Effect. It's also important to know that grief is like a roller coaster, and that it is exhausting. So please, don't hurry your friend or loved one along. It may hurt you to see them struggle, but the best thing you can do is come along side of them and just be with them, letting them know you're there... not to judge, not to analyze it all, not to make them better, but to pray with them and for them, and simply to mourn with those who mourn as we've been encouraged to do in Romans 12. 5. Ask specific questions. I have a friend who is great at this. She listens well, and so she knows what to ask. She doesn't just ask how I am doing... she asks things like, "How was the 7th for you this month?" or "How did things go when you visited the cemetery with your family?" She also isn't afraid to ask me the harder questions... "How are you doing with your anger about this?" More often than not, my brain is mush. There are so many thoughts swirling around, that to only ever be asked "How are you?" would be really hard. Plus, "How are you?" has become just the polite thing to say to each other, often times just in passing. Asking specific questions not only communicates that you are listening well, but it also communicates that you really care and you truly want to know how the person is doing. 6. Know that he/she may not be him/herself. I mean a couple of different things by this. First, know that the grieving parent may be a scatterbrain, may be exhausted, may seem like they're going to explode. Grief is just plain exhausting and it's a lot of work if you're going to grieve well and do the work rather than just stick one toe in then pack it all up in a nice neat box and put it on the shelf. That's when it becomes a ticking time bomb. Just know that your friends who have lost a child are doing the best they can, and that often they really may be exhausted. They may forget things or seem scattered. Be patient with them and know that it's normal. Secondly, it's also important to realize that if you're waiting for the "old Stacy" (or whoever the bereaved parent is) to come back, you may be waiting forever. Losing a child changes your life. It changes everything. That's an explanation for another blog entry at another time, but just know that your friend or loved one will likely be forever changed by the death of their child, and part of navigating grief is figuring out how to integrate the death of your child into who you are and the tapestry of your life. 7. Offer specific, practical help. Your friend or loved one is most likely too tired to ask. Or, if they are at all like me, already feel like their grief is a burden to you, and don't want to burden you with anything else. Offering to bring a meal, clean their house, run to the grocery store... all of these things are so helpful. While saying, "Let me know if you need anything," is kind and well-intentioned, it can be too much work for the grieving parent to even know what they need. All they feel like they need is their child back. I know we greatly appreciated all of the meals we were brought through the month of October, and for our dear friend who cleaned our house on a weekly basis. These things were just set up for us, really without us even having to ask. Some dear people knew what we would need, and just did it. Having those burdens carried for us freed us up to just be... and in the wake of the child's death, that alone is a lot of work. 8. Be present. Many parents who have lost a child feel lonely and forsaken. It's really important to communicate to them that they haven't been. In addition to sharing scripture that speaks to that, being with the parents who have lost a child is important. Of course, there are times when they will likely want space and will want to be alone. Please know that if you are an expectant mother or the parent of small children, this may be especially true. It's nothing personal. But, often, parents who have lost a child will likely want company. So call, and set a specific plan. Offer to come over and bring dinner; offer to come and play a board game or watch a movie. Offer to take him or her out for lunch. Offer to go to the cemetery with them. And know, that if you make the plans, the bereaved parent may, an hour before your supposed to be there, call and say that they just can't do it today. Know that it's nothing personal, be patient, and keep offering. I appreciated so much, particularly once Spencer went back to work and I was still at home, that friends would come and take me to lunch, or my mom would come and take me to the outlets, go to the cemetery with me, play speed scrabble, or would just be here at home with me while I watched tv or took a nap. 9. Talk about and remember their child. I am not really sure what else to say about it than that. Talk about what you remember about the child. Talk about how beautiful he/she was in pictures. The Friday before my birthday, some friends spent some time talking with me about Isaac and what he meant to them... the tears just started coming and I was so grateful. On anniversaries, visit the cemetery and leave flowers. Send a card to the parents on anniversaries. Parents who children are living get to hear their children's names all the time; but for the parent whose child has died, it can be a rarity. And when you hear that child's name it is like music to your ears. It is such a gift. Don't be afraid to bring up their child who has died; more than likely that child is always on their mind anyway... at least mine is. 10. Repeat. Grief can be a long, complicated process. Those who have lost a child need to know that you still care even when the rest of the world has moved on. It's a difficult thing when you feel as though your world has stopped, and the rest of the world is racing by. Bereaved parents need to know that people remember... one of the greatest fears is that their child will be forgotten. Let them know that you haven't forgotten. I hope that the above suggestions are helpful and are able to provide some insight into the heart of a grieving parent. My intention with this post was never to be critical, but rather, to share honestly about where I am and to provide some thoughts that I hope are helpful to the friends and loved ones of parents who have lost a child. Another great place to check out for thoughts and ideas on this is Molly Piper's blog (her blog is great!). You can find a specific series of posts on helping a grieving friend here. If you are a bereaved parent and have other suggestions you have found helpful, please feel free to leave a comment. If you're the friend or loved one of a bereaved parent and you have received some positive feedback about something you have done for a bereaved parent to support them, please feel free to share that as well.

Thesis: Zack Snyder Fetishizes Blood

I waited a little while, but this week my curiosity got the better of me, and I went to see the Watchmen movie. Here's my take on it. It wasn't terrible, but it seemed to miss the point of Moore & Gibbons's comic in a lot of important ways. A lot of the comic's complexity had to be streamlined and flattened out for the film, and although Zack Snyder obviously had time to put a lot of stuff in slow motion—and to extend a number of quick melees into fight-scene set-pieces—many of the subtler parts of the book got sped up so that they didn't have time to register properly. (The revelation and decision on Mars might be the worst example of this.)

There were also things I liked about the movie—Rorschach's death was played remarkably well, for example—but mostly it felt to me overly faithful to the surface properties of the comic while completely missing its soul. I'd compare it to a note-for-note cover of, say, an early Elvis Costello song, played on "updated" instruments and sung by someone who doesn't speak English and is only repeating the sounds of the words phonetically. Maybe all the right sounds are there, but everything about the rhythm of meaning is screwed up.

And then there's the question of blood, which is the reason I've gathered you all here tonight. Moore & Gibbons's Watchmen has some brutal violence in it, especially considering the context of mid-'80s superhero comics it was written in. (Many more violent mainstream superhero comics would eventually emerge, but that hadn't happened so much yet.) And when people are hurt badly in the original Watchmen, they do bleed. But watching Zack Snyder's Watchmen, I got convinced that he thinks the human body is a highly pressurized balloon full of blood and bones. It's an alarmingly gory movie, and many of the bloodiest moments are actually places where Snyder and his screenwriters depart from the text they're otherwise following so faithfully.

For example: Big Figure's tubby henchman never gets removed from in front of Rorschach's cell; he's killed quickly so that he won't suffer when the other henchman cuts through the lock with an acetylene torch. No bloody stumps waved at the camera.

When Dan and Laurie are ambushed by the knot-tops in the alleyway, they fight back brutally—the book certainly gives the idea that the way superheroes survive their tussles is by fighting dirty—and there are probably some broken bones. But click this image to enlarge it, and see if you can find a compound fracture:



When Dr. Manhattan is "fighting crime" at Moloch's gambling den ("Dante's"), we don't see human debris splattered onto women's faces or the ceiling. In fact, I'd always assumed this guy was just getting a face full of nitrogen or something like that.



Similarly, when Dr. Manhattan is winning the Vietnam War for Nixon, we don't see him exploding any people. In fact, the trio of enemies in the foreground (uniformed here; in stereotypical conical hats in the movie) seem to flee in fear pretty successfully:



I'm not sure whether these changes are meant to make Dr. Manhattan seem more distanced from human morality (something that's supposed to happen gradually, not all at once, so placing that change in his past is a problem), or whether they're just meant to make him seem more dangerous, or more of a badass. Given some of the other aspects of the movie, I'm inclined to guess that Snyder's driven here by the cheapest and dumbest motives, but I could be wrong.

Similarly, there's more blood when Rorschach fights people. As a boy, Walter Kovacs bites the cheek of a boy who has been teasing him. (That's fruit juice on young Walter's face.) The cheek never splits open to gush blood.



The man who kidnaped Blaire Roche doesn't exactly get off easier in the book, but his demise seems to require a more cold-blooded detachment or dissociation from Rorschach. It's not a crime of passion. (Killing the dogs might have been.)



(In the movie, Rorschach tells the kidnaper that "dogs get put down" before he swings the cleaver. If anything, Chapter VI figures Rorschach, not the kidnaper, as being like a dog: in the panel right after he bites the other boy, two different speech balloons say he's "like a mad dog." And of course the split dog's head has the same fearful symmetry as a Rorschach blot.)

When Rorschach dispatches Big Figure in the prison bathroom, it's pretty clearly a death by drowning. As he walks out of the bathroom, Laurie tells him they shouldn't "dive head-first into things," and he answers:



Somehow, in Snyder's Watchmen, that turns into a seeping puddle of blood, not toilet water. (I hesitate to speculate how Snyder's Rorschach got that much blood out of Danny Woodburn.)

In these instances, I can really only guess that Snyder just thinks blood spatters are kewl, and that a badass super-vigilante would be even more awesome and extreme if he left a trail of bloody carnage.

Remember that flashy kung-fu sequence in the prison riot? Well, in the book, Dan and Laurie incapacitate most of the prisoners who are still alive after the riot by turning on the "screechers" in Dan's Owl-ship. These seem to give the prisoners nausea and headaches. So here's the kung-fu fight sequence from the original prison break:



That's some adrenaline-pumping action, isn't it? (Again, I think Snyder is mainly at pains to make his superheroes seem like badasses, instead of like out-of-shape middle-aged people with sharp minds, a bit of preparation, and some martial arts training.)

Oddly, there are a few scenes of blood in Moore and Gibbons's Watchmen that get played less brutally in Snyder's movie version.

One of them is the moment when Adrian Veidt is attacked by a gunman in his corporate offices. In the movie, Snyder's camera lingers over the bullet piercing Veidt's secretary's calf (in the book, she takes the bullet in the chest, and bleeds a lot). This is one of the few moments when his Matrix-style slow motion is justified by the tempo of the scene in the book. But look at how harshly the original Veidt handles his assailant, compared to the movie's quick, balletic strike:



My guess is that Snyder's Veidt doesn't hit as hard because he's never as athletic as the original Veidt. Snyder seems to want Veidt to be merely an effete ultra-rich celebrity, not a match for all comers in hand-to-hand fighting.

In fact, one of the other places where blood disappears in Snyder's adaptation is in Veidt's super-fast dispatching of Nite Owl in their "final battle."



That hurts. And in fact, that's the last moment when Dan tries any sort of attack against Veidt. (Rorschach keeps coming, and Veidt almost absent-mindedly neutralizes him several more times while Dan stands around, pats a cloth against his nose, and talks to Veidt.) In Snyder's vision of Watchmen, Nite Owl isn't pudgy around the middle, and is still able to imagine taking Veidt in a hand-to-hand fight. Moore's Nite Owl knows better than that.

And of course, there's one other scene in which the blood totally disappears.



Snyder shows us a few immolations in the climactic attack on New York, but the only aftermath we really see is architectural. What do you think that says about Snyder, or about his fetishization of blood?

Lecture Doodle: a Robot with a Sense of Fear

Well, I went to another lecture this evening, and while I was listening to the presentation I filled about half of a notebook page with random, silly doodles.



I liked that robot doodle enough to color it. Enjoy:



I don't have much to add to that. See you in a few days.

ANIMALS!