January 6, 2005

I am never going to get anything done this week.

I overslept this morning, so I had no time in the morning to exercise, read the Bible, read a poem, or get breakfast, as I usually do. As a result, my entire day was off-balance. I need those things to center me.

Which is perhaps not an entirely good thing. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with comforting routines in themselves, but I’ve begun wondering if I depend on them too much.[IMAGE]

I’ve realized lately that I’m poor at embracing uncertainty. When I’m faced with a situation that makes me anxious, I tend to freeze up. This happens to me a lot at work; if I have to do something new, I need some time to get used to it.

I think I’d do well by training myself to accept uncertainty. How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci suggests putting yourself in situations that make you mildly anxious—drive down a road you’re unfamiliar with, strike up a conversation with a stranger—and simply monitor your emotional and physical reactions. Learn what anxiety feels like, so you can recognize it when you have even a mild reaction.

Anyvay. Despite my off-kilter day (and tiredness), I had a productive day at work, followed by a wonderful dinner with my parents (my treat for their assistance with my townhouse), followed by a movie at my house (the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Tony Leung Cool Hand Luke rip-off, The Prisoner). They left at 9:30, but my Deep Discount DVD order had arrived, and I just had to watch one of the MST3K episodes contained therein. I contented myself with “The Gunslinger,” but slipped in a few short films as well. I still wasn’t tired, so I watched the first episode of Zeta Gundam (which, like the first episodes of most Gundam series, was good but not remarkable, though I am looking forward to future episodes).

So now it’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m at least writing a journal entry before I go to bed, despite feeling only a little tired. I fear I’ll oversleep even more tomorrow morning. Well, I’ll be working late anyway in preparation for the Redemption club meeting at 7:30 p.m.

I wish I had a snappy ending for this.

(Arrrg…this is meant to be for yesterday, but I can’t change it at the moment.)

I’d hoped to be a little more productive today, but I was quite tired after a (good, productive) day at work. I managed to make up a pot of stir-fry and bake a chicken breast for dinner, but that was the extent of my productivity. I plopped onto the couch and watched the MST3K episode “Red Zone Cuba”, the first episode of the anime Lunar Legend Tsukihime (which was mediocre, though anime is often mediocre early on), and the first three episodes of Paranoia Agent (which I’ve already seen, twice; it’s that good).

I’ve been a bit depressed all day, actually, what with the death of Will Eisner. My favorite blogs have been talking extensively about his death, but in case you aren’t familiar with him, Eisner was a comic strip guy from the 1930’s who was the first to begin seeing comics as a valid artistic medium.

To put things in perspective:

It’s the 1930’s. Daily newspaper comic strips are just now established, particularly thanks to William Randolph Hearst’s obsession with printing Krazy Kat in his papers. These comics fell into two broad categories: gag comics (like Krazy Kat) and adventure stories. The adventure stories favored heroic characters who were beginning to cross over the line into superheroes.

At this time, Will Eisner began drawing a comic called The Spirit, about a guy in a fedora who used his brains first and his fists as a backup. He was a prototype superhero.

But more importantly, the Spirit was drawn as a very human character who dealt with human problems. One classic episode has the Spirit and a lady friend stranded on a desert island, during which the hero is completely delirious. The island happens to be the home of a random criminal the Spirit put away many years ago, since escaped and holed up in a little shack on this island. He proceeds to beat the Spirit nearly to death before the lady intervenes. It’s a wonderfully human problem—what happens to superheroes when they’re not at their peak? They suffer.

Eisner became one of the central men in comics at the time, hiring many influential artists, including (pause while Brent consults his copy of Eisner’s Shop Talk) Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, and Joe Kubert. The Eisner & Iger studio was a major training ground for talent and produced many strips.

But then, the cannons of World War II thundered, and Eisner—along with many other comic strip artists of the day—went off to war. When he came back, he tired of comics and pursued more traditional business.

Fast-forward to the 1970’s (I don’t know exactly when this occurred). Eisner was sitting as chairman of the board at Croft Publishing when he got a phone call from Phil Seuling, who was one of the first comic convention organizers (he helped start the now-massive San Diego Comic-Con). His secretary said, “There’s a Mr. Seuling on the phone, and he’s talking about a comic convention. What’s that? I didn’t know you were a cartoonist, Mr. Eisner.

So he went to the convention, and he “was stunned at the existence of a whole world,” to quote him. He got back into comics and began writing about and exploring the idea of comics as a serious artistic medium.

Now, this was before big-budget comic book movies, and this was even before the term “graphic novels” had any meaning. This was before Watchmen and Sandman and Maus and Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns. In 1978, Eisner published A Contract With God, the first American graphic novel. It’s actually a set of four short stories that all concern the residents of 55 Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx, and it’s full of pathos.

Fourteen years later, after the rest of the comics world began producing graphic novels, Eisner published the first critical study of comics as an art form, Comics and Sequential Art. This inspired Scott McCloud to write and publish his seminal work, Understanding Comics, which has become the de facto primer on comics as a medium.

Eisner was still drawing comics until just before he died, and was responsible for a mountain of material. He may very well have been the American Osamu Tezuka.

I wish I’d written him a letter, to thank him.

Hopefully, he’s happily comparing notes with Tezuka now.

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