Friday, January 15, 2010

Who are the Bad Guys, Sara Ellis?

In the comic book I am writing with Meghan Kinder, there is a definite villain. There is a terrible witch who preys on children to contrive her immortality. There are more ambiguous conflicts : a mother left to raise a child on her own, a child without friends, a man without a home.

These problems, however, pale beneath the great evil that is the child-murdering witch. In fact, they seem to guide the characters towards heroism, and help them come together to fight evil. And, spoiler alert, they win. Good beats evil, evil is vanquished, and everything seems to have a purpose.

What happens when there is no witch, no clear villain to battle? What happens when that which preys on our children has no wicked plan to thwart, no jaw to punch, no wand to break?

Tomorrow I am attending the funeral for an infant. My friend's newborn got sick, and it was found that she had brain cancer. She was born on her mother's birthday, and passed away after less than a month here among the living.

There is no one to fight, but so many are left wounded.

It is very hard to understand. I don't know if it is even understandable. I want to fight, but it seems that in this war, the only warriors are those with hands that seek to comfort rather than crush. The only heroic feats are to mourn, and to heal. And to hope the things that mattered to us have a purpose. That we will find what was lost, and will be found in return.

The First Mourning, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Theophanu, 960 - June 15, 991 AD

Here lies a bird, in memory of Theophanu, once Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.

You were married to Otto II, and his mom totally hated your guts. In fact, she was quite pleased when you died. Maybe she just hated on you because you insisted on bathing every day and dressing to the nines. Some people say you had a big mouth, but maybe you were just trying to keep it real, and to hold onto the power that was rightfully yours. You were a protective mother, and were friendly to peeps who weren't trying to lie to your face. Because of you, I get to eat with a fork.

Thanks, Theophanu, thanks. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Do You Like Old Japanese Guys, Sara Ellis?

Today is Hayao Miyazaki's 69th birthday. He is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and a great filmmaker. You don't have to be an anime fan to be familiar with his work. Look, he is also dapper:

Why should you want to bake a cake for this man? He doesn't just make beautiful animated films, he makes beautiful animated films with brave and well developed female protagonists. I'm not talking about breasts, people. Several of his protagonists are prepubescent. He even had the gall to make one of his heroes spend most of the film in the body of an old woman. Yes! They don't have to be naked or murdering people to be kickass.

Here is a man from a generation and a country where feminism is not exactly celebrated, and yet he is not afraid to tell stories with females as our main characters. When asked why his protagonists are almost always female, Miyazaki had this to say:

I don't logically plan it that way. When we compare a man in action and a girl in action, I feel girls are more gallant. If a boy is walking with a long stride, I don't think anything particular, but if a girl is walking gallantly, I feel "that's cool." Maybe that's because I'm a man, and women may think it's cool when they see a young man striding. At first, I thought "this is no longer the era of men. This is no longer the era of taigimeibun." But after ten years, I grew tired of saying that. I just say "cause I like women." That has more reality. (1994)

What?! He is also adorable, this Old Japanese Man!

You don't ever watch a Miyazaki film and think, Hmm, you know what would make this better? If the hero were a boy. The success of Twilight has explicitly shown the economic power of young women to even the most adamant naysayers. I think it is time that Hollywood, the comics industry, and media sources at large start recognizing that female characters that aren't merely girlfriends or victims aren't a niche market, or a gimmick. (Okay, Twilight is a bad lead in for that, Bella Swan is totes a weenie.)

That is why Miyazaki films are so great. His films aren't made for girls. They are made for human beings. Sometimes I think we forget that that is what girls are.

Click here for an interview with Miyazaki from when Spirited Away, my favorite of his films, was released.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Doom Eager

According to Agnes de Mille: "I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. ... I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly,

'There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.'" ~ The Life and Work of Martha Graham

These words are my guide this year. Doubt that we will not measure up to our own standards of excellence is one of the biggest obstacles for an artist.

I am not the athlete I was once was. I am still a lousy asthmatic. Inhibitive injuries, and the relentless march of time, have restricted my movement in ways that have made me fearful and shy. As a human being I am doomed to be a shambling sack of broken for the rest of my life, but my passion is intact, and my imagination is without limits.

I can work harder to be stronger. I can find ways to work with my weaknesses instead of against them. I can strive for new ways of thinking, seeing, and moving. My knees are bending and my heart is beating.

I can still pray that in 2011 I'll be a cyborg.