Thursday, March 24, 2005

Marmaduke, philosophy and Kafka

Look at this:

It's been a while since I've ragged on this orange piece of shit, but look at this panel. It's fucking terrible. About the only thing that Brad Anderson drew well were the legs of the kids. Look at how the chairs are pulled against the counter and they're sitting on the knees. That's something that a kid would do if they bellied up to a counter, you don't see people do that at a bar, do you? So kudos to you Brad, you actually remember what it's like to be a kid.

Everything else about this comic literally sucks. For one thing, it should be the older sibling (the sister) telling the brother that Marmaduke can hear the spreading of peanut butter. It just makes more sense and aside from the "humor" of the strip, it allows a passing of knowledge from the older generation to the younger. It's something that we can all look at, understand and laugh about.

Maybe it's not about spreading peanut butter quietly so your idiot mutt won't come begging, it could be about the time you were cautioned about putting a wiffle ball bat in your spokes, but you did it anyway. It's sort of an every-man right of passage, but since Anderson is lazy and is going for the easy joke, he lets the younger one say it because it's "more cute".

Look at the art in this particular panel, terrible. For a guy who has been drawing (I can only assume Anderson is drawing and writing this claptrap and some poor soul hasn't been trapped into doing this for the rest of his or her miserable life -- this would be a bad choice that I speak about this later) he is very sloppy when drawing his bread and butter. Speaking as an artist, every time I draw one of my characters, I take great care as to how they look and how they interact with their surroundings.

Anderson does none of this. Look at Marm's front leg, it looks like a table leg. Look at his chest, it's box-like and horribly misshapen. His jaw line calls to mind a rotting jack o' lantern and his calling card (the ears) look like the horns of Satan himself. Is this the message that Anderson wants to convey; that Marmaduke is a nefarious pig that will slobber and devour a young child's only form of sustenance and nourishment? If so, what does that say about Marmaduke ... and what more does it say about his owners?

Who is the real pet (dog) in this relationship? It certainly isn't Marmaduke. Does Anderson's sloppy art belie a truth that even he may not be willing to admit? Is he the dog in his world, forever bedeviled by shapeless orange lumps who steal his food, destroy his comfort and make his life a hell? We will be going over more Marmaduke comics in the coming weeks and the answer will become more apparent.

Since I've been walking a mile to get my car every day, I've had an opportunity to think a lot. After the usual thinking rigmarole of home, work, money, the Sox, television, etc. I began pondering about something that I haven't thought of in a long time.

When I was in high school, I used to work at Friendly's in Newburyport as a dishwasher/soda jerk. It wasn't a bad job, hot chicks, free grub, not a lot of responsibilities. One of the guys that I worked with was an older dude (about 23, how ancient!) named Steve Zappala. Steve was cool, he was one of the first people that was older than me that didn't talk down to me and I appreciated that.

He liked baseball as much as I did and got me into a Stratomatic league with his buddies, where the drafts were more fun than the actual games. All we did was drink, which put me at a distinct disadvantage in the latter rounds because I was absolutely shitfaced picking up guys like Ron Karkovice and Kurt Manwaring while they chose normally. The cool thing about drinking with Steve is that unlike other older dudes that ran packies for us, he'd get us what we wanted. If we gave him $20 for a case of Rolling Rock, he'd come out of the liquor store with the Rocks and change. Most guys would tell you that they were out of whatever you were looking for and give you a six pack of Meister Brau and tell you it cost $20.

Not only did we share the same likes, but he introduced me to some new stuff like the Doors, Nietzsche, different ways of talking to chicks and Whippets (which were the old canisters of whipped cream that were filled with CO2 and got you high for a little bit if you did enough of them.) I wasn't reminiscing about Steve, but something he said to me once.

We were talking about Nietzsche when he went off on a tangent about a philosopher (whose name I can't remember) who said that every person has millions and millions of alternate reality people who live the same life except for little differences. I had no idea what he meant, but he broke it down even more: basically every day you make hundreds of choices, even though you may not realize it. For the most part these choices are yes or no. Should I get up at 6:30? Should I cross the road now? Should I eat lunch after working out?

When you come to one of these choices it's like coming to a cross roads, inevitably you choose one road and head down that road. The other you, the one in the alternate world, chooses the other one. Take this for example: you wake up, get in the shower and decide whether you want to put conditioner in your hair. You decide not to, but the other you decides to use it. Down that other path the extra moments you expended to condition your hair could mean that you're late for work, which pisses your boss off, which gets you fired. Or it could mean that your hair looks better, which turns the head of that hot secretary, which leads to a night of awesome sex.

Every decision, no matter how innocuous, has consequences and the consequences are played out in millions of shadow worlds that you will never see. What I have been thinking about is two things:

1. Have I made the optimal small choices? I don't worry about the big stuff, I'm very happy with Aly, with my job, with where I live and everything, but if not waking up earlier did that save my life (maybe a speeding car would careen off a rock and slam into where I am), did something good not happen to me because I wasn't there at the time? I don't know. And this not knowing can drive a man to madness.

2. How do I know that I'm not living in the shadow world? What if I'm just an alternate reality of the Byron who has it worse (or better) than me? I have no idea and the sucky thing is that I'll never know.

Good old Kafka. For years I've been threatening to read something by Kafka, but I've sort of held off because I was always a bit frightened by the author. I heard that most of his stuff is very dense, multi-layer and tough as shit to figure out. Last week I dove right in with a collection of his short stories and letters to friends.

According to the preface only one of his stories (The metamorphosis) was intended for the public. The rest of his stuff was released by his friend and editor after Kafka's death, even though K. asked him to burn all of his stuff. His friend couldn't do it because the writing was so good.

"The metamorphosis" was very good, basically it's about a guy who wakes up and discovers that he's a bug. You probably have heard of it, it's his most famous story. Anyhow, it deals with his day to day life and how he is trapped in this body but still has his human intellect. The story unfolds perfectly, it wasn't slow and it moved well. I beginning to think that my earlier trepidation about Kafka was all for naught.

Then I moved on to his other stuff: "The Judgement" and "The Great Wall of China". I couldn't get past the fifth page in each case. Boring, confusing, just not very good. I put the book down and started to read something else. I am going to attempt to read it again in the summer. The reason? I read during my lunch hour, which I take at my desk in the winter. Unless it's an awesome book, I am constantly distracted by checking my email, Internet, talking to coworkers.

However in the other seasons, I'm eating in my car for an hour to 45 minutes, where I have nothing to distract me. So, I have to give Mr. Kafka an incomplete.

1 comment:

Mr Weebles said...

This dude Steve molested you, didn't he?

Show us on the doll where the bad man touched you, Byron. It's OK.