This is a bit of brainstorming and navel-gazing.Continue reading “Making Things”
Here is a panel from an Asterix comic:
I will never be this good.
Here is a bit from Dog Man.
I will never be this bad. And the creator, Dav Pilkey, didn’t even color it. One of the advantages of being a famous producer of authorized children’s literature is you can just do the bits you like.
Mind you, Pilkey can draw. He just chooses not to.
Here’s a bit of One Punch Man.
It’s unpleasant. But we’re all glad One decided to go ahead and do it anyway, aren’t we?
I am unlikely to ever make anything half so gorgeous.
Alright, here’s my work:
Better art than Dog Man and One Punch Man (as for story, I guess we’ll have to wait and see). Worse than Asterix and Black Hops.
So long as actual comic books like Asterix and Black Hops exist, I have no excuse to put on airs and act like I’m some sort of visionary genius.
So long as things like Dog Man and One Punch Man find a market, I have no excuse not to produce and sell my books.
I understand Imposter Syndrome plagues creatives. Well, I think all of us could stand to improve. But if you take an honest look at your own work and at the other work that’s out there, I think you’ll tend to find that while you ought to up your game, your current game may still be good enough to make a few dollars.
Anyway, in my last post I intimated that I’m better suited to vidya than comic books. I wanted to demonstrate to everyone it’s not because I think I’m hopelessly bad at comic books. Its because the areas where I stand to improve the most are also A) areas I’m not especially interested in, and B) areas where I wouldn’t need so much improvement if I were making vidya. It’s a matter of focus and interests, not scathing self-criticism.
Growing up with an artistic bent, I constantly received two sermons.
- Art is just work. Do the work, research the market, get paid. Thinking about muses and inspiration and all that baloney is just the excuses of the lazy and incompetent.
- Art is this epic, painful struggle where you pour out your soul, and then have to defy the crass moneylenders who want to change this hallowed thing you have have created.
Neimeier neatly solves the conflict.
The ancient Romans had a saying, Ars longa, vita brevis. Moderns take it to mean that life is short, but works of art last.
We post-Renaissance types get the, “Life is short,” part right. But ancients and Medievals didn’t restrict the meaning of ars to “fine art”. For them, it could apply to any craft.
The equivalent Greek word is techne. That’s a big clue that everybody before the Modern era would have put Michelangelo and Steve Jobs in the same general category. Both made stuff according to a standard.
That’s really what writing is. A carpenter makes a birdhouse by putting wood, nails, and glue together in the right configuration. An author makes a book by doing the same thing with character, setting, and conflict.
Art is craft. Craft is art. That simple.
Ancients and Medievals understood that man is spirit and flesh at once, and thus all of his actions have a spiritual dimension. There is a role for both Martha and Mary. The shoemaker is no less holy than St. Anthony.
Cartesian philosophy, with its crude mind-body dualism, caused a rupture between the mystical and the mundane that’s since plagued Western thought. The body perishes, but the soul is immortal, so the soul must take priority.
Christendom has always had a bent towards the Gnostic. John writes against it in his first epistle. And of course, we’ve always called it a heresy from the first, but a heresy wouldn’t last long enough to get a name if it were not easy to slip into.
Especially in Baptist circles, which is very much the heartbeat of the American religious heritage. Part of the impetus in claiming Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are mere symbols is the very wrong instinct that God wouldn’t act using crude matter.
But He does. He always has. E=MC² tells us even luminous beings are crude matter. God was up to His elbows in the material world from the instant He said “Let there be light.”
Conversely, physical acts like kneeling, breathing, speaking, are at once also spiritual acts.
This is one of the unique points of Christian theology.
C.S. Lewis held that religions tend to fall into two camps. You either deny yourself, take up your cross and reject the material world. Or you embrace the material world. You slaughter a bull to the gods and feast on its flesh, and then sleep with a ritual prostitute, or else you practice austere self-discipline. Christianity is a middle way. No! It is a both way. It is an incarnational way. A hypostatic way.
To worship the Muse, to agonize for her embrace, this is a Gnostic thing. We are not gnostics.
To reject the Muse, to subject goodness, truth and beauty, this is a materialist thing. We are not materialists.
Artistic integrity, as it turns out, is nothing more or less than when a carpenter has an opportunity to lay down a sloppy floor in a corner or a closet, and save a few minutes or a few dollars, but chooses to do it right, right down to the bones of the house, because he is a carpenter and that is his job.
We are artists with skin in the game. We are craftsmen with soul in the game.
Here’s the head of an epic tweet thread discussing the creation of Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure how this accords with my philosophy. It’s a necessary data point, however.
The internet is alight with the controversy over a Netflix movie, Cuties. Now, I’ve not seen it nor intend to see it. I’ve seen two reports from people who have claimed to watch it, but for all I know, they are lying.
This is not a blog post to denounce or affirm Cuties on the basis of itself. Rather, it is the reasoning I can do from the meta-data.
I have seen five-ish general categories of takes on the Twitters, which I can dub the Cuties spectrum:
- Cuties is straight up porn, all all adults involved should be immediately millstoned.
- Cuties is a coming-of-age film that does critique the sexualization of young girls, but does so by crossing the line and sexualizing the actresses involved.
- Cuties is a critique of the sexualization of young girls, and this justifies the depictions of the actresses.
- Cuties is a normal coming-of-age film, and if it depicts things that make you uncomfortable, that’s because that’s how society actually is and you need to grow up and deal with reality.
- Cuties sexualizes minor girls, and that’s a good thing.
I’m not going to pick one of these takes as my take, because I don’t need to.
If positions 1 or 2 are true, Cuties and the forces behind it are a demonic evil to be opposed. Position 3 is that position 2 is true, but the ends justify the means. I reject that. Position 5 is in and of itself a demonic evil to be opposed. And notably, it is the position taken by a lot of media.
The fact that the pro-pedo forces have taken up this film as their banner would make me loath to endorse it even if it were otherwise innocent.
So we are left with position 4.
Way back when I was in college, I returned home for a visit. Now, my siblings and I were homeschooled in different proportions. As the oldest, I went to Kindergarten through Third Grade, and that is when my mother started teaching me. My youngest sibling, on the other hand, was homeschooled at first, but sent to a public school for the last several years of his education.
As I visited from college, my brother’s school put on a talent show, and out of solidarity for my bro, I attended the talent show.
And it featured twelve-year old girls singing highly sexualized songs.
Some little girl, on the cusp of puberty, flirting with a crowd of adults, and neither her parents nor her teachers thought to object at any point. Probably because it was a pop song, acceptable to play on the radio. Or because they grew up swapping body fluids at a young age, and saw nothing wrong with it. Or maybe because they were Minnesotan, they were just too darn nice to protect the children they were charged by God to protect.
At that point I realized that whatever that girl’s parents and teachers were doing, I wanted to go the other direction. I wanted to fight it. And I wanted to help anyone who wanted to fight it.
So, let me be perfectly clear here:
I object to the culture as it is. I believe it harms children who ought to be protected. I take action to alter it. Educating my own children and advocating others do the same. And especially, attempting to create entertainment that is free of the propaganda of the spirit of the age, as much as any man can.
I do accept that the world out there is really like that, and this is how young girls are actually behaving. I just do not accept that this is a good thing to be embraced or even a neutral thing to be tolerated.
I am, and have ever been, a Christian. I am charged with upholding the Christian standard of morality regardless of how out of touch with the modern times it gets. Being a sinful son of Adam, I will fail.
But I will not pretend up is down just because everyone else does.
As to whether you should cancel your Netflix account over this, I have no reasoned position. Niemeier presents the pro-cancellation position in his book “Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You.” I have not read the book yet due to lack of funds, but I have found his reasoning is frequently sound.
Around Christmas last year, my wife set up a crèche, and my kid was all like, “What’s that?”
The child was directed to her father, who punted. It was an excellent punt. I wanted to weave a tale that spanned from a dragon tempting Adam, the first King of Earth, in a garden, to the return of Christ, the second Adam, nestling the nativity right into its context. But my brain wasn’t quick enough to manage it, so I just read a bit from the beginning of Matthew or Luke.
“Oh, gee, darn” the perceptive among you are saying. “You only relied on God’s words instead of your own words. What a terrible outcome.”
It’s okay. There’s sarcasm in the Bible. God thinks it’s funny too.
And I agree. Better to rely on the Word of God than man’s words.
Here’s the thing: Christianity is this epic thing. Angels and Dragons wrestling with flaming swords behind the curtain of reality. Echoes of Christ back to Adam and forward to the end, which is the new beginning.
And the available kids’ books are… well, they are sanitary. The heady communal wine has been replaced with grape juice. In sippy cups. And it’s probably really peach juice with artificial grape flavoring.
I’m not saying let’s break out the book of Judges or the Song of Solomon and read ’em to our five year olds. But our five year olds do need the death and resurrection of Jesus, which means there’s a level of sanitizing that you just shouldn’t do.
It’s an old conundrum on this blog. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end the book.”Continue reading “Awesome Moments”
Allexander Hellene is one of my favorite dudes on the internet, and I endorse everything he’s written in this blog post.
Enjoy the battle. This fight will never end. There will be losses, but there will also be victories. Celebrate the wins and keep going. Morale is important, so don’t spread despair. Blackpilling does nobody any good.
One of the things I enjoy (yes! enjoy!) about living in Corona times is that it has stripped away the illusion that we do not live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I came to terms with this reality a year or two ago, and it sucks to realize that this world will always be a battlefield and Satan will have the upper hand more and more right up to the moment that Christ comes back…
But once you embrace it, it’s freeing. You start to put your hope in the world to come. You start to really understand how trivial and light is death.
It’s the paradox of Ecclesiastes. Everything is dust in the wind. But once you realize you’re building castles out of soap bubbles, the proper joy of building castles out of soap bubbles is revealed.
When you cannot win, you are free to do as you like. When you cannot lose, you are free to do as you like. And the Christian gets to live under both of these realities at once. This is how the martyrs go singing to their own executions. And when we win (and we have won from time to time), it is how we win.
I recently ran across a take by C.S. Lewis on eschatology. His concept of the end times is that the point of end times passages is not so that we can play Pin the Tail on the Antichrist, but to put our actions in perspective. Christ might return in a thousand years. We’d better make long-term plans and brace ourselves for the long haul. Christ might return tomorrow. We’d better not neglect our neighbor today.
His point was that it is good to plant oaks in whose shade you will never rest. But if you prioritize the long game to the point of actively harming those around you, and Christ decides to end the show tomorrow, that would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
Lewis was writing before Eugenics was a dirty word. When everyone thought “if we only let science do whatever it wishes, we shall cure death and suffering in a few years,” instead of having the general distrust for boffins in white coats which the technocrats have earned for themselves in the intervening years. At the time, the idea of breaking a few eggs to make a civilizational omelette was in vogue in a way it isn’t now (though sadly, as a culture, we’ve rejected it not because it is wrong, but because of the teh feelz).
His take, however, ties in quite well to thoughts I’ve been entertaining of late.Continue reading “Building Castles out of Soap Bubbles”
Yesterday I read The Trojan Mouse: How Disney is Winning the Culture War by Samuel Lively.
One of my constant contentions is that the serious plays in the culture war are to play the long game by building families and making entertainment. So it seemed this book would be up my alley. And it was and then some. The book traces both the physical and ideological histories of Disney. It is of peculiar interest to me because I grew up during the Disney Rennaisance in a Baptist-adjacent family. So I caught both the Baptist Boycott denunciations of the Mouse, and the average Joe’s apathy to that boycott.
When I analyzed Disney movies for myself at the time (as a teenager, mind you,) my conclusion was that the more wildly occultic and salacious accusations were overblown (which in turn made them easy to dismiss), but the philosophical trends were real. There were no secret pentagrams in the animation, but the Mouse had switched from a default of honoring the parents to a default of undermining them.
To this very day, though, most people will look at me like a crazy person if I tell them I don’t want to take my kid to the latest Disney flick, let alone something so old that present day Social Justice Warriors find it problematic.
The Baptist Boycott didn’t work. Audiences naturally rejected the more explicitly subversive Disney Renaissance flicks organically — Hunchback and Pocahontas did not do comparatively well — but Aladdin and Mermaid did extremely well despite (despite?) having as their core value the idea that horny teens ought to ignore their parents.
To a certain degree, people will choose what is bad for them. Humanity is fallen. But to a certain degree, people will choose the good over the bad. Even the most depraved sugar addict will choose steak and vegetables over a plate of manure. People won’t, in mass and as a rule, choose nothing at all. Audiences favored Toy Story over Pocahontas. Was it because of the shiny new 3D, or because it was more in alignment with core American values? Hard to say. But Aladdin didn’t really have that kind of competition.
I’ve already made some kids’ books, and will continue to do so, but books are seeds of the culture war; the fighting happens on screens, with music and animation and acting and drama. It may be best for me to stay behind the lines planting seeds. It may be best for me to try and charge for the front line and use my animation skills. I don’t know. But in the spirit of putting that conundrum to the test, I’ve begun work on a video game, which is the best route for my skill stack to reach the screens.
Hat Trick 1: the Death of Arthur is the start of a dark Christian scifi/fantasy serial. And it has pictures! Check it out now on Amazon.