Time to mention that an item several years under way, with more bumps and hiatuses than progress to show — owing especially to no one who’s involved having any money — has hit a milestone: the Solidarity Hall site-refresh project I’ve been quietly pursuing has moved from development on my Mac to live demo space. [This link updated on 5 Sep.] There’s a good deal to do from here, but my hope is to see this go public within a few weeks. (Note that making it fully ‘responsive’ is one of the completion tasks: for now, should be looked at on a conventional computer screen rather than tablet or phone.) If I were a real developer I’d be doing this on GitHub or something, I suppose, but I’m some indeterminate way yet from the confidence to consider outward-facing, collaboration-oriented method for the web work I do. That said, this project does more or less represent the full scope of design / dev / content-management skills I’ve been gradually patching together into what I hope is marketable form, and it’s important to me in that respect. I’m not a real developer, but what I do — whatever one ought to call it — is beginning to feel substantial. The importance Solidarity Hall has for me is another, larger subject — one I’ll put off for another time, of course.
If you’re following the Hellboy stories at all, you have some sense that they’re coming to an end. An end, that is, of the world — another one, there having been an end of the world in the stories already, kind of. Or another, final(ish) layer of ending, better. Hellboy, a child half human and half demon conjured from, well, down there by unkillable priest-cum-wizard Rasputin and a rogue SS occult task group code-named Ragna Rok in 1944 England, is introduced in issue one, ‘arc’ one, 1994’s Seed of Destruction, as a sort of key by which the End is to be induced. An accelerating, merciless end-of-days unfolding and our hero’s unwillingness to go along with it (saved from the Nazis and raised, as he is, on baseball, pancakes, and comic books in America in the 1940s and ’50s) is the basic ‘Mignolaverse’ premise. I haven’t been following the stories all that closely of late, actually, and won’t discuss further in this post. What’s been on my mind is the end-of-world-as-we-know-it theme increasingly prominent in popular concern with global climate shift. Now, I haven’t been following this tonal development terribly closely either, I need to say. David Wallace-Wells, for instance, making a name for himself as uncompromising teller of the hard facts in this vein, I only became aware of a couple of weeks ago. I think the trend deserves attention, though, and I want to start giving more to it. But more than that, I want — perversely? — to give attention to my own evolving understanding of Christianity. I was brought up with the idea that the End was very nigh. Like, seriously: nigher than ever. The Rapture of the Church was imminent — had always been, strictly speaking, but now was recovered from recent supposed obscurity to a new, somehow more urgent relevance in the American 1970s. It’s an idea dismantled pretty thoroughly by religion and culture watchers ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ alike, from that decade till this, and one that nevertheless persists — persists even at the hotly contested heights of American socio-political rank right now, in fact, in a way never imagined as the scene was cast for us in the remnant-minded religious environment of my childhood. In my immediate family today, still largely Evangelical (in the late-20th-century-America sense of the term), moreover, it both persists and doesn’t. These are pretty interesting things for me, and I hope to come back to them here. Not, though, as interesting for me as the drift in my personal understanding of Christianity, which seems to me more attuned to the apocalyptic obsessions of the faith’s early adherents now than it ever was when I was a kid being terrorized by preachers and Sunday School teachers with Great Tribulation hard-ons. On some level I still want this to be (but semi-covertly, you know) a theology blog, see. I know, geez, right?

Headline and ‘social’ buzz around recently elected congress­woman Ilhan Omar’s statements about the position of Israel in mainstream American politics has wound down a little in the last few days. Just a matter of time before it flares up again, of course; she and like-minded new ‘radical left’ colleagues aren’t about to let the issue go. I’ve taken part in the action on Twitter in a small way, defending her — particularly in an exchange replying to Yair Rosenberg:

But I also had this to say into the void, a couple of weeks earlier:

— worry I gave vent to again, shortly after, in responses to a thoughtful post from Chris on parallel — or more-or-less obliquely linked, rather — conflict in the UK.

Anyone who’s known me a while online will likely find my ranting and sparring in this vein a familiar enough spectacle. Israel and antisemitism are long-time — decades long — recurring preoccupations for me. That isn’t to say, though, that I think myself especially well informed on either subject. Indeed this is part of the nature of the preoccupation: the ongoing discovery of my own ignorance. My way of looking at the problem has certainly changed with time, accordingly, if my fundamental position hasn’t to any dramatic degree. It’s the sort of change I’ve said here, very recently, I want to get a better handle on.

As a point of reference, I note that this delicately balanced article in Toronto-market MacLean’s (whose political tendency I wasn’t aware of at the time) is a five-year-old Facebook share about which I can’t say I find anything objectionable today.

The most substantial related thing I’ve written remains this — from about the same time as the FB post, it bears observing. I’d been seeing Susannah for some time then; moved to New York at end of that year. With her and the Jewish side of her family I found little occasion for any such discussion in all my time with them, though I doubt there was ever a hairsbreadth of difference in our basic stances. That itself was, is, an important index of (my evolving grasp of) the ignorance I have to acknowledge. Charged and personal as the issue is for me, I’m an outsider in crucial respects, and always will be.

This post is a private one in part just because, as I put it to Chris, the question’s thorny. It’s private because it’s a way into other tough matters, though, too — matters of that kind, for which I’d like to find time and room, ideally, with this space, and certainly never will if I can’t free myself from a dozen different representative challengers real and (perhaps mostly) imagined.

Not least among my reasons for wanting to keep some posts out of public view is self-consciousness about how much my ideas about some things have changed — in the last few years particularly, I guess, but really over the whole span of this experience as an opinionated person online. I don’t really feel the need to make this blog a better record of change than it’s been. (It has been that — I’ve tried at points to get myself into that mode in blogging — but certainly a very scattershot one.) But unless I’m really worked up to rant, it’s gotten awfully hard lately to say anything about anything I think without addressing this seeming acceleration, the change itself. A purely public-facing blog has never been a good place for that kind of discussion for me. I’m not serious enough a writer.

I’m certainly no less opinionated a person, now at 48 and a quarter years of age, than I ever was. I’m not embarrassed about it; it’s just how I am. Again, though: with me, the feeling that opinions need to be handled with context seems only to get stronger with age. Makes me a laborious (and too often, with people I’m close to, a tedious) conversationalist. Or, when I can’t see how to work in the background points and metacommentary I want, it just shuts me up. Neither of these either an admirable or a bad thing, necessarily, in itself. At any rate, as long as I’m still delivering myself of opinions here and elsewhere around the web, I could be making better use of this space of mine, at least, for exploring those contexts.

‘Elsewhere around the web’ means Facebook less and less. It means Twitter to a degree (though with nothing like the pace of posting of those who really depend on the platform). It’s not thoughtful direct exchange with others who write — in their own spaces or for publication — as often, relatively speaking, as I’d like.

I’ve always meant to use this blog for less carefully thought-out, more fragmentary writing. On occasion, the posting here is like that, but for the most part I have a hard time getting free of the idea of the reader — even while well aware there are hardly any actual readers! — and of the qualifying and parsing functions in my head, and I end up with a load of paragraphic chunks that may or may not amount together to a relatively developed thought, but anyway don’t have that sketchy character that lets you quit the exercise without a close or pick up later and play with something in it really free of concern for how everything ties together.

I bring it up because as this blog is situated now, the kitchen-door side of a site whose front needs to serve in a fairly intentionally public-facing way, I’ve come to think I ought to keep some of the posts out of expressly public view altogether — which you’ll know already, actually-reading-reader, since this is such a post, only accessible to the logged-in. It’s occured to me that this not only makes room for conversation it might otherwise be difficult to keep up here, but maybe also loosens me up a little and leads to somewhat more productive, less painstaking (or painful, at any rate) posting.

Interruptions in the general pattern of not-drawing have come with some increasing frequency for me lately. Not with great frequency; just a slight uptick. Back in December, I said I was going to start posting sketches in the sketch section without mention here in primary posts, and just about everything I’ve managed in the drawing way since then is there. Most of it’s pretty haphazard stuff. I haven’t had much time for the comics artists on YouTube in the same period, this better-part-of-a-year; but on the other hand I have developed something of a habit of ‘following’ comics artists on Twitter. I’m also picking up a handful of comics a month, now, at the corner comics store which must be passed on my walks down & back to the Trader Joe. (This would be bad if it weren’t that I just don’t like most of the comic books I pick up. I like being a supporter of my local shop, but it’s work sometimes to find anything I’m willing to read, let alone pay for, among the monthlies.) So the comics are a regular part of my media diet, in short — not to say a heavy part. There is much to be said about this that I’m not going to let myself get into in the present post. It remains true, suffice it to say, that comics art is highly accessible and works to keep the juices flowing for me. It also remains true that keeping the juices flowing is having tangible effect in renewed ability to draw. I haven’t really figured out what to do with this. There is no ready transition to simply drawing for a living. That means being free and being motivated to draw all the time, conditions not met in my life. And I have no clear sense that I ought to be drawing for a living even if there were a ready transition. That this recovery and/or new discovery of capacity belongs in (pardon!) the picture somewhere as I find my way in this new period of working life seems plain enough, but a definite aim to focus it by way of has yet to emerge. Anyway, here’s an interruption in the general pattern of not-drawing notable enough to warrant its own post. Sometime last year, I got a cheap marker/brush-pen set with the thought of playing at comics-style inking. I dabbled very briefly, saw no immediate satisfying result, and set it aside. Now, you can guess that I’ve continued to have it in mind — that regular diet of comics art and all. But every time I think of picking up the pen, I think better of it. Other things I should be doing. Until yesterday evening, that is. inked head What has to be said about this fun little thing is that it isn’t quite what I was trying to do. I had a something much sketchier in mind, more cartoon-ape-like à la Mignola, which seemed like — don’t know why, except that it was late and I was winding down mentally from RCIA group — something to hazard while I waited for my machine to run a backup. I did a very quick, indefinite pencil and took up the brush. As anyone experienced with ink or paint will know, though, it takes comfort with the medium to get what you want with fewer marks or with loose handling. This sketch is a welter of lines & fussy touches not because I know what I’m doing with the brush but because I don’t. (Some of the more interesting details are definitely accidents, as will again surprise no experienced inker.) Still, it was pleasure, not at all pain, to do. It tells me with a degree of precision where I am along this weird path of progress in skill (if not what to do with it). I’m going to call it my Inktober participation, though it doesn’t qualify, and I guess for that matter it’s a nice 47th birthday gift to myself, a few days late, sort of a surprise.
‘I’m afraid I only take ironic pleasure,’ Darrell begins, signaling a shift from communal to personal frame in the course of multi-angled reply here a couple of weeks ago. He’s talking about what we were talking about there, the musics of our youths in church, but let’s strip away the impending specifying phrase and cut him off in mid sentence. It’ll do, truncated like so, for calling up a fear, or a lurking problem, that I’m starting to reckon with — a problem I’m no doubt late in coming around to, and that smart folks will no doubt think uninteresting as I express it, but that I figure I might begin to try to draw into the light a bit in this space. What I mean to get at is the difficulty of owning my own tastes as I get older, and particularly as my view of the historical situation I belong to changes. It’s a difficulty reflected, though not with much clarity, in my confession to my sister (recorded in the post Darrell’s replying to), ‘most of this stuff [that I’m saying I love] is trash.’ If it looks at this point like I’m about to announce some embarrassment at being (to whatever degree I am) ‘lowbrow,’ we can dismiss that. I’m not embarrassed. (And hope I’m not so tedious as to announce it, if I were.) On the other hand, I’m not unsettled or upset at recognizing that there’s frequently irony, open or veiled, in what I may have to say these days about many or most of my aesthetic interests and attachments, either. But where does irony stop? That’s the difficulty — though boiled down further than a really incisive self-examination would allow, probably. Here I’m not interested in big-culture, big-ethics troubles about irony. I have yet to grasp entirely what the matter was when the word was much in the air a few years ago. What’s on my mind right now is a personal problem, it seems to me, not so much a society thing. It’s not clear to me how far ‘irony’ goes for this purpose, for that matter; but it’s a place to start, anyhow. Somewhat in the foreground, not in focus for the moment, is a dual turn in my life to be made some sense of with time. My work has taken a fairly drastic new direction recently, so that I’m caught up (not to say necessarily enraptured) with ‘creative’ concerns in ways I hadn’t been for a number of years. More profoundly, though, I’m bothered by history in a new way — or have new sensitivity, rather, to long-working ferment in my view of it. But back to the thing demanding attention further out, further back: Can I keep reconciling doubtfully grounded affections by way of a negotiation we’ll call (for lack of a better word, for the time being) irony? I’m a pretty resiliently un-cynical person, to my own mind, but might I be on a sort of methodological path that rarely ends other than in death or conversion to cynicism? If so, is that fine as long as I make it to death first? I don’t want to seem to say that it’s a problem that gives me no rest. I’m sleeping at night. But I’m also living with a constant awareness of contradiction, and of gaps where, when younger, I could believe with relative ease that things strung together, somehow, behind what I felt right about (which is perhaps closer to what I think, uneducatedly, aesthetic experience comes to than to say ‘what I took pleasure in’). I still ‘feel right’ about the things I always have, broadly speaking — about the sound and the sights that come together in jazz in the second- and third-hand forms I know it by, say, and its part in the appeal of Americanness, but also about still much less uncontroversial things: the instruments and manners and popular culture of warfare and violence, to choose an example of no small import. I skate over whether that felt rightness has any reliable basis, however, with a lot more consciousness of what can only be taken for granted and, more acutely, of what’s in jeopardy in concrete terms — terms of being able to live with people, of being able to work — should what’s taken for granted be revealed to be nothing, than I did only a few years ago.