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Archive for December, 2005

Planned Yultide Self Indulgences

  • Charles Burns‘ Skin Deep. I really loved reading through the Black Hole hardcover. I had the opportunity to meet Charles Burns last month, and after that I think I’d read his grocery list if I could. And it would be good. When I asked him to sign his book he gave me one of this drawings (!!!), how awesome is that?
  • Sophie Crumb‘s Belly Button #1 and 2. This is new to me, I didn’t know she was a cartoonist like mom and dad.
  • Gilbert Hernandez‘ Luba’s Comics & Stories
  • Los Bros Hernandez‘ Luba Conquers the World and Hernandez Satyricon, thus completing a life-long dream of reading and owning the whole Love & Rockets series
  • Chris Ware‘s Acme Novelty Library 16. I met Chris Ware on the same night I met Charles Burns. Seeing him on stage feels like one of his characters walked out of the books and started talking. It’s so dark and ironic and depressing and funny.
  • Paige Braddock‘s Jane’s World Volume 4. I’ve been reading the whole series since the beggining and I can’t wait for more. What’s really curious to me is that Braddock works at Schulz‘ studios and illustrates Peanuts. It’s such a vastly different style!
  • Jessica Abel‘s La Perdida. ‘Mirror, Window’ was really interesting – I was not crazy about the story but I particularly like her drawing style. It feels very contemporary, which is not a feeling I get from most of the things I’ve been reading these days (except for the next one). I can’t wait to see more of her work.
  • Brian Vaughan‘s Y: The Last Man volumes 2-6. Dan first introduced me to Vaughan’s work with Ex Machina, which is absolutely brilliant (thanks Dan, I’m forever indebted to you). Both Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man have that contemporary feel (realistic social context), witty smart humour and such skillful drawing that I find myself staring at a single page for ages.

I guess these will keep me busy for a couple of days…

Focus, by Way of Shock

Or, “We Just Don’t Learn”

I was reading about Peter’s wrist’s unfortunate encounter with a German shepherd and his comment on how “such dramatic incidents always bring the immediate, the present, to snap into focus” made me think of past accidents that did the same for me.

Peter adds “It demonstrates just how tenuous all our plans really are”. True. But after a while you forget that, no matter how dramatic the event. And it’s definitely the present that comes into focus, not the future. I think that’s the main reason. You *think* you get this momentary power to infer into your future and set your priorities straight, but you’re really only able to do that about your present.

In January 2004 I was in London (I had been there for three days) and I was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street (no… I was not looking at the wrong side of the road). The impact catapulted me 10 feet away and I dove, face first, into the cold wet dirty asphalt. The result was not pretty. Or comfortable. Not even real in my perception at the time. It definitely didn’t hurt until a while later. My first thought after my uncontrolled body had stopped bouncing was “I’m alive”.

I, amazingly, did not break any bones – which is not a plus – the painful bruises were internal. I was on physical therapy for a few months (to get rid of the pain on my knees and put my jaw back in place) and all the facial bruises faded leaving only a few scars as souvenirs. But the experience of being chauffeured to the emergency room in an ambulance and spending the night in the hospital will always be with me.

That night I laid in the hospital bed for some 12 hours starring at the ceiling and thinking about life. I had never gone through a life-and-death moment like that before (shouldn’t they be called life-OR-death?). I promised myself I’d take better care of my body, mind and soul. I had sudden revelations about what was really important in my life, who were the people that mattered to me, what I loved about my work, what I wanted to achieve, etc. I had a plan!

I felt I *should* have known all those things before the accident, well, I *did* know them, but they didn’t really come out of me until then. Some would call it a religious moment, I think of it as a spiritual slap on the face. I knew I was a big procrastinator before this and procrastinators only work under pressure, but nobody would pressure me for those answers, they only benefit myself, so there was no reason to articulate them. That’s what these moments are for. I almost wish there were more of them to make me more aware, more often – if only they didn’t mean physical and/or mental harm.

My ‘lucidity fever’ must have lasted two months. I didn’t follow through with half of the plan, I changed my priorities again and ultimately slacked off into the comfortable nest of procrastination (by the way it’s socially acceptable to do that if you’re in pain and has suffered an accident – quite the contradition, eh?)

In July 2004, I was in Sao Paulo celebrating an upcoming job opportunity by going out to a club with friends and getting plastered ’till the whee hours of the morning. That was a fine way to commemorate – until we decided to go roller skating. Needless to say drinking and driving – whatever the vehicle – is the best recipie for accidents. So, again, I fell on my face and sprung those lovelly scars open again (with the added bonus of a few broken teeth).

I disappeared for a couple of days to think about the past, present and the future. I reviewed my priorities, re-affirmed my goals, focused on my game. I emmerged feeling like a new person. I had a plan! Again. And so time went by. I moved to another country, got another job, bought two new guitars. And in my new house I built another one of those cozy little nests of procrastination. I learn nothing, do I ?

Focus by way of shock is bull. It’s reactionary, a mere reflection. You do it because you’re scared. It’s not a plan, it’s a band-aid. A band-aid is probably too small, it’s a temporary patch. It makes you feel secure and tricks you into feeling in charge, but it wears off with time. You’re not 100% – you’re hurt, but healing; traumatized but improving, but less aware of the present than you were before the shock.

Focus requires the attention and scrutiny we give to life under those moments of stress, but the result does not come in the blink of an eye. To focus or re-focus, one needs a plan, but a plan is not an insight or a couple of wishes. A plan is concrete, it states its purpose, it has dimension.

But you won’t know your ‘plan’ is just wishful thinking until it fades away (or you suffer another shock!) You may never know how bogus was your plan – that nest of procrastination is immensely confortable. Other times it doesn’t really matter, because your life might take you in a different direction and you may turn into a different person. You’ll be able to craft just the right plan without having life bully you into doing it.

New Year-of-my-life Resolutions

I debated whether I wanted to continue blogging or not for a while, but after a brief hiatus I decided to get back to it. It took me a while to get comfortable writing regularly since I first started, but when I was not doing it I really missed it. The real reason for the hiatus was my birthday. I love birthdays. Not only is it an opportunity to get plastered with my best friends, but it’s also when I make my new year resolutions. Yes, I am *that* self-centered that my year starts with ME, not the Gregorian calendar…

The date also coincided with my one year anniversary living in the United States – a good time to revisit and reflect on the age-old question, “What do you want to do with your life?”

Living abroad for the past year has definitely made me see the world from a different perspective. Good and Bad. Living in Philadelphia is great – it gives me a good sense of what living in a US city is like, and yet, it’s not entirely removed from the diversity I am used to. The entertainment options are superb – the highlight of the year has been experiencing a live performance by Chick Corea with a special spur-of-the-moment guest song alongside Bobby McFerrin. It was so unexpected and blew me away in such a way that it made me cry.

It’s immensely interesting to live in a richer country and in a society with less economic disparity between lower and higher income groups. I thought living in Sao Paulo removed me too much from the challenges of the Brazilian class struggles (and it did), but now I have a different appreciation of the issue. It feels as though it’s easier to approach people here because of the narrower gap. At the same time issues like racial and sexual orientation discrimination are appalling and not at all what I experienced growing up in the second largest city in the world (population).

Fortunately, I absolutely love my job (the origin of my north-wide move). Before joining Comcast, I had been consulting (for much too long) and felt I was not serving my corporate clients well enough – I had no experience with large corporations and the intricate mess intersection of processes, technology, money, problems, solutions and everything else that is unique to any self-sustaining group of 75,000 people. I sought an internal position in a large company precisely because I wanted to acquire those skills and knowledge. Now that I’m an innie, I think sucks to be an outtie. The only real benefit of being a consultant is the money, and that has never been a key driver for me, so I’m seriously reconsidering the original plan of going back to the home-office and working in my pajamas at 2:00pm.

Growing a respectable collection of comix graphic novels has been one of my proudest achievements, though that is probably not seen by many as an achievement whatsoever. When I was in high-school I remember picturing myself at this age and wondering if I would still read comics and love Concrete Blonde as much as I did then. The 12” vintage Happy Birthday vinyl I scored from eBay this week tells me I have not changed. Still, I feel I have changed immensely, and it feels great.

It’s been a good year. For the next 12 months my resolution is to take care of myself. I’ll do something healthy and physical (it’s been so long I don’t think I own any sports clothes), read real literature (not just technical books and blogs), draw more and play more guitar, travel to places I haven’t been to, explore different customs and foods, and ultimately enjoy things I really like. This is My Hedonistic Year!

I’m starting this weekend with a field trip to Trenton, NJ to visit the Grounds for Sculpture and see The Lascivious Biddies perform live.

Good times.

Update: I will migrate posts and comments from the previous blog sometime in the future.