Strange Animals 25jul2018: Snip-Snip

I’ve missed the last couple of editions for various reasons, but as previously indicated, I absolutely intend to get these out once a week on average, so please expect a surfeit of newsletters over the next month or so. I’ll space them out so it doesn’t end up being a barrage, though.

I’m a bit stressed out at the moment. My cat Loki was spayed today—or castrated, as his vet put it rather bluntly. The vet’s a gregarious, funny chap who has a way to put you at ease. He asked me if I’d like to see Loki’s testicles after they were done with the surgery—and usually I’d have been fascinated (which probably tells you a lot about me), but Loki’s my little buddy, so it didn’t feel right.

He was completely drugged out most of the day (with eyes starkly open as a rather disturbing side-effect of the anaesthetic), but towards the evening, he’s been wandering around the place bumping into stuff and tripping over his own paws like a drunk toddler, and it’s simultaneously hilarious and aww-inducing.

For the first time since he was a tiny little kitten, it feels like he’s utterly vulnerable, completely at the world’s mercy, and I can’t help but be worried.

Anyway, on with the show.

Having a Blog

For a little while now, I’ve been getting interested in blogs.

Blogs are a bit weird—we think of them as a bit of an old-fashioned thing, but they’re basically all around. Most websites you frequent are essentially blogs, and, you know, there are people out there who still have “proper” blogs—like Jason Kottke or Seth Godin or whoever.

But that’s not what I’m thinking about. A few months ago, I ran into an honest-to-goodness web-log. I was Googling a word to check its usage out in the wild, and it led me to a little blogpost where an elderly man was talking about something someone had told him at his church group. The post was from five years ago. I was about to close the tab, and I thought, Let me see if this blog petered out ages ago like every other personal blog in the world, so I went to the main page, and (at this point it would be ridiculous for you to find this surprising) he was still posting. The last post was from three days before.

So I subscribed to his feed, and it’s been fascinating. He’s a small-c conservative white American in his mid-fifties. Christian, but not belligerently so (I know because he writes about it), married, with a dog but no children as far as I can tell. One post will be about walking said dog, the next one will be wondering how his love for beer and whiskey fits in with his version of Christianity, the next will be about what he thinks about the friendships he’s had and the way they seem to fall away over the years.

I like following him. He posts a couple of times a week, and if I go to the actual blog page rather than reading the feed, I can see that there are always 5-8 comments, with a couple of names following him from post to post, and he replies to them politely and thoughtfully.

What I like about this is … he’s just a guy. He’s not someone whose work I know, nor is he a “personality” in the way that the internet seems to accrue these days. He’s not making any money out of his blog, nor is he trying to express any particular creative pursuit through it. It’s just him, his thoughts, his life.

I used to have one of those. Before Google Reader died and everybody abdicated to Twitter and Facebook, there was a thriving blog republic, and that was how a lot of people used the internet back then. But somehow, at some point, I stopped using my blog to express myself, and instead it became a repository of my attempts at having various careers, and I couldn’t sustain it, because it just required too much thought every time I sat down to write something. Things had to fit a certain picture of what my blog needed to be. It was no longer the place where I wrote because I felt like writing at that moment.

I’ve kept a journal for the last five years or so, fairly regularly. It’s not a daily thing, but I think every year I average around 150-200 entries. But it’s not something I can put up online. Partly because it’s private to me, and partly because it’d be tedious to read for anyone but me. You don’t need to know exactly how many pages I lettered everyday, or what trouble one of my friends is going through in their family life or whatever. My life is interesting to me, not to strangers.

But there’s a space between that and the all-opinion, personality-based nature of blogging these days. Pretty much any other single-writer blog I see now is some mixture of punditry, media commentary or actual creativity—mostly fiction and artwork, because that’s where my interest lies.

I think one of the reasons this man found the ability to write the way he does is that he’s anonymous—his profile is under a pseudonym, he never mentions his name, and he even has a cute nickname for his wife that masks her actual name. It’s not, I think, an anonymity created necessarily because he doesn’t want people to find him, but because being yourself on the internet these days is to have an entire personality profile always connected with who you are everywhere else, and he probably didn’t want that. He wanted to be just a guy.

The reason I’m rambling so much about this is partly that I miss those days of the internet—getting to know someone through their long-form writing about their life, occasionally confessional, but mostly just wittily written mundanity. I’ve made friends in those days—in fact, I’ve dated someone I originally got to know because we liked each other’s blogs—but there are people I still fondly remember whose real names I never knew, and it didn’t particularly matter.

The other pity is that I used to get something out of writing like that—I could bunge in a short piece of fiction whenever I felt like it, but mostly I was writing about the time my friend’s bike broke down near my house in the middle of the night and I gave him company while we figured out what to do, or one time I went for a walk and something funny happened. There was occasional virality even back then—a little satirical essay I wrote about Pune’s potholes got featured in a local newspaper and I got thousands of visitors for a few days and hundreds of comments.

But mostly, I miss the days when nobody knew you on the internet and you didn’t have to make any sort of impression.

So this might be something I try doing again. There’s this newsletter, which necessarily is just whatever’s on my mind at the moment, but still, people read this because they know me or my work. I’m also currently getting my website rebuilt such that my blog becomes a much bigger part of my internet presence than it has in a while, but I might actually try and write something small every once in a while, something human, something mundane, but possibly amusing. Hell, I have a cat now, I might as well become one of those people.

Comics

On sale the week of 18th July, with my lettering:

VS #5

End of story arc!

Satta Flynn is off the grid but not out of the game. As the forces that seek to end his life threaten to take all of humanity down with him, the ruined gladiator will have to reconcile with what in his life at war is still worth saving.

Writer: Iván Brandon
Artist: Esad Ribić
Colourists: Nic Klein, Ive Svorcina, Em Roberts
Designer: Tom Muller
Editor: Sebastian Girner
Publisher: Image Comics

Euthanauts #1

Death is like outer space—a seemingly unknowable, terrifying blackness that yields beautiful discoveries and truths—if only you’ve got the right kind of rocketship. Thalia Rosewood has had a lifelong obsession with death, keeping her from living her life to the fullest. Mercy Wolfe has a brain tumor the size of a billiard ball, and a need for a new recruit before her next journey begins. Inigo Hanover is a reluctant tether to the world beyond, seeking to continue a cycle that exploration would halt. Go toward the light. Then go beyond. EUTHANAUTS.

Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: Black Crown

Days of Hate Vol. 1

The United States of America, 2022.

The loss that ripped them apart drove Huian into the arms of the police state and Amanda towards a guerrilla war against the white supremacy. Now they meet again.

This is a story of a war.

Writer: Aleš Kot
Artist: Danijel Žeželj
Colourist: Jodie Bellaire
Designer: Tom Muller
Publisher: Image Comics

Recommended Reading

I’ve been reading East of West over the last week, and I’ve fallen in all kinds of love with this book. Written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Nick Dragotta, colours by Frank Martin and letters by Rus Wooton, I’d been recommended this book multiple times over the last five years.

This was my fourth attempt at reading it, and I finally figured out how to read it. I tried three times before, and I’d always get tripped up by what I saw as the narration captions, which confused the fuck out of me, and I’d get frustrated by issue 3-4 and then stop reading.

This time, I realised that what I’d been seeing as a single strand of narrative captions was in fact a mix of narrative captions (rendered in italics) and quote captions (non-italics) that for some reason are rendered without quotes. So my frustration with their continuity was because I didn’t realise that multiple people in the story were speaking, and not just the narrator.

Once I got that, I blazed through the book, and I’m astounded at the depth of Hickman’s plotting and Dragotta’s knack for character design and staging. On top of the formal elegance, it feels like a proper epic in a way most comics tend not to in comparison to tv because of the limited real estate. Hickman does this interesting thing where there’s a massive void in the centre of the story that keeps you constantly aware that there’s reams of history that you can only deduce from stuff around it, which make the whole thing feel bigger than it is. Comics is particularly conducive for this trick, but East of West is the first time I’ve seen it sustained over this long a period.

And finally, Nick Dragotta has a fan for life simply on the basis of his work in this book. I’d rather leave you to discover the beauty of his art, but his felicity with composition and layouts makes this book work emotionally in a way it couldn’t have with pretty much anyone else.

My only caveat would be that the story’s still going on (I think #38 came out fairly recently) and you’ll be left hungry for the rest.

From the Commonplace Book

As an inveterate procrastinator, this checklist I noted down in April 2017 has been useful to me. I seem to remember it came from either a video or a podcast about something else entirely, but I noted this down because it was kind of a revelation.

Basically, if you’re procrastinating on something, the reason might be not be that you’re lazy, but that the task you’re avoiding is one of the following:

  • Boring

  • Frustrating

  • Difficult

  • Lacks personal meaning

  • Lacks intrinsic reward

  • Ambiguous

  • Unstructured

Identifying which one is the issue can go a long way towards solving the problem.

Filed under #thinking and #personality.