I was just going to post December's Ramsay Community Newsletter comic strip, and realized I hadn't ever gotten around to posting the November strip! Well, you know, there have been a few distractions around here. Anyway, here they are!
But today, I actually did get all that stuff done... except for the part about actually doing some work. That's still a fantasy, alas...
"It is certain my Conviction gains infinitely, the moment another soul will believe in it." – Novalis
After I drew this picture of my playgroup (coming up, below), I thought of that quote - which, apparently, Joseph Conrad quoted at the beginning of Lord Jim, according to this handy little article. (I had no idea. It doesn't appear in my copy of Lord Jim!) No, I know Novalis (he's the guy in the picture) - and that quote - from a long-ago German literature class, from which I took away: great language, not so great literature.
I didn't really like Novalis. I remember really not liking this quote, and putting it up on my wall just so I could look at it and feel disdainful. My thought was: Shouldn't you stand by your own beliefs, whether anyone else believes them or not? Novalis sounded to me like the person in the Bob Dylan song, about whom it's said: "You need a watered-down love." No watered-down love for me. Give me John Proctor, the hero of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, who couldn't bring himself to confess to a witchcraft he didn't believe in, even though the confession could have saved his life. No, as I suddenly remember having read a while back: "I define my humanity by trying to do the right thing even when no one is looking." Which I guess is exactly how I'd sum up Lord Jim, come to think of it - epigraph or no epigraph.
But how did this turn into a diatribe on ethics and literature? All I wanted to do was post this comic strip about my playgroup and how the positive feedback of my peers made me feel just plain awesome:
After I had my first baby, the playgroup kind of saved my life by providing a weekly chance for socialization, constructive feedback, learning opportunities, and just plain fun. Even though I may have started out having nothing in common with those guys other than the fact that we were all parents, by now, after all we've been through together, we have a history. That's why their kind words about my new baby meant so much.
So, yeah, I guess my Conviction may have "gained" a bit, once I heard that some other "souls" believed in it. But once in a while, a little moral support from a few other souls can be a good thing, right? Especially when it's about something as emotional, hormone-charged, terrifying and magical as having a baby.
So maybe Novalis should have said, "My Conviction gains infinitely, the moment a member of my playgroup believes in it." Not just any old soul will do.
Mike & the mamas
By the way, here's another note about playgroups while we're on the topic:
A little while back I happened to read an article in Metro by local writer Jeremy Klaszus about how Calgary's parenting scene is a lot more about the moms than the dads. (You can read the article in this online edition of Metro.) For example, he notes, you can't always count on finding change tables in men's washrooms. And an informal organization of parents and children is often known as a "moms & tots group." What about the dads?
Rather than "the moms & tots group," my own group has always just been called "the playgroup." However, my son had another name for it when he was two. Thanks to the presence of one lone dad who came regularly with his boy, Alec dubbed the group "Mike & the Mamas." Alec was just calling it what it was, but it did draw attention to the fact that the presence of a dad was a bit anomalous (as well as making it sound like we were going, not to the playground, but to jam with our band, or something like that).
From what I've seen in this city since I became a parent almost five years ago, it does seem accurate to say that there are a whole lot more moms - and nannies - out and about with their children, than there are dads. But these dads do exist, and they're in a tricky spot. I'd like to add my voice to the chorus of Calgarians who would like to see more dad-inclusive events and venues in this town. (Who knows... maybe if enough "souls" believe in that one, we'll see some changes!)
And now. To wrap this up, just a page about the playgroup from Alec's Yearbook:
Thought I should just put in one last (hastily-scrawled) installment of my story about Gian-Carlo Carra's campaign for Calgary City Councillor:
If Gian-Carlo ever gets tired of city politics, he could open a Mexican restaurant... yum!
I'm looking forward to the city council's new term in office. There should be lots of good stories - stay tuned!
Well, everyone, it's the night before Calgary's civic election and here I am posting a last-minute final installment of my "Carra Artist in Residence" comics. The idea was that I'd follow along with Gian-Carlo Carra's campaign to be re-elected as Calgary City Councillor in Ward 9, and draw some pictures about that. I did draw some comics about Gian-Carlo's campaign (which you can read here), but over the past month or so, I got busy with other things (as you will see below). So here's my summation of how the last few weeks of the Carra campaign - which, by all accounts, has been both busy and fun - has looked from my vantage point!
And now, if you haven't already done so, go out and vote!
So, I've been a bit distracted over the past week or two by the arrival of this really great new baby in my household. But even throughout all this time, I can't help but be aware that there's a civic election happening pretty soon (October 21st). Since I was fortunate enough to get involved with this team of volunteers who created VoteKit - a local non-partisan initiative that is geared towards encouraging Calgarians to get out to the polls - I seem to have been hearing a lot of talk about why people don't vote.
There are lots of reasons people don't vote (including my own, which I wrote about in this comics post). But one reason that seems to keep coming up is that people don't feel they're informed enough. For example, a person might not vote for their city councillor because they don't feel they know enough about the candidates and wouldn't want to influence the outcome of the election with an uninformed contribution. (Well-intentioned, I guess, but sometimes it's still a good idea just to exercise your right to vote - you know, let the government know that we care about democracy!)
Other non-voters are even less informed - for example, they don't know what a city councillor is or what a city councillor does. And I'm not just talking about new Canadians who are still getting the hang of this country's political system. I'm talking about Calgarians who grew up here, went to school, read the news... but still don't feel they're on solid ground when it comes to the nuts and bolts of a civic election.
And that's an awkward spot to be in. How can you ask without feeling silly? Shouldn't you just magically know this stuff?
The answer is no. There's no "Civic Politics 101" that's mandatory for Calgarians of voting age to take at school somewhere (not that I know of, anyway). So don't feel silly!
Here is a little comic strip for folks who wish they had a better handle on the most basic stuff. Even with three more days until the election, it's never too late to learn!
Consult the Municipal Government Act for a fuller description of what the mayor does - according to the MGA, the mayor really is the "CEO" - it just stands for "Chief Elected Official."
If you want to know more about what city councillors do, you can read this very straightforward (and rather fun to read) post about their job description, on the VoteKit site.
A bit late, but here's this month's Ramsay Community Newsletter comic strip.
A little while ago, I found out about a Calgary volunteer initiative called VoteKit, which "strives to be a resource for clear, unbiased information about how to vote in the 2013 Calgary Municipal Election so that all eligible Calgarians can voice their opinions about who should represent them as their mayor, councillors and school trustees."
And here's what the group says about itself:
" We are a group of volunteers who have come together with the single goal of increasing voter turnout."
That's a goal I really like! So yesterday, I went to a very unique event called VoteKit LIVE, put together by these hardworking volunteers. Here's a comic strip I wrote about it.
There are two big events on my mind right now: the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo and the Calgary civic election.
So, needless to say, I'm thinking about superheroes.
Let me say straight up that I've never been a superhero-comics kind of person. I don't know my Marvel from my DC. I'll admit I loved Alan Moore's Watchmen (I read it after a friend of mine told me it had a Bob Dylan reference in it), but I've just never felt too connected to an alternative universe in which underwear-clad vigilantes take part in maintaining the peace.
However, right here in this universe, there are a few super people - some of them even unconventionally clad - who have been on my mind.
First, though - just since we're on the subject - here's one of the only superheroes I ever drew in the Drawing Book: "Wolverine". I never read these comics, just saw the movie (apparently right around the time I was painfully getting over a heavy-duty ditching by a much-loved boy - another story):
All right, fast-forward about fourteen years and let's get on to some real-life superheroes. I found this article about real folks who dress up and go around doing anonymous good deeds, in Metro last year.
Why did I hang on that article? (Other than the fact that it was a little bit cool and more than a little bit creepy.) Because I met Polarman. He is a real guy whom I met when I visited Iqaluit in 1998 (and I have just spent over an hour looking for the photograph I took of him, to no avail. I give up.)! I couldn't believe that he was still around over a decade later! Now that's commitment.
Actually, I think that just living in Iqaluit for over a decade makes you a superhero. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to live there... for a little while, at least.
I was sitting just outside this coffee shop (depicted below) with a couple of local folks I'd met, when Polarman came by for a friendly, brief chat - perhaps to check out the stranger on the scene. He didn't stay long, but having presumably established that I wasn't a threat, he literally bounded away. I actually don't remember if he was wearing a mask, but he was definitely wearing an all-black costume including a hood and gloves. As his figure retreated, my companions filled me in: "That's Polarman, our local superhero." It sounded like a bit suspicious to me. I am amazed and kind of delighted to find out that he's still out there.
Polarman: a regular guy who dresses up as a superhero to help his community.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi: a regular guy who doesn't dress up as a superhero, but got dressed up in this poster made by Calgary comics superwoman Fiona Staples.
During this year's flood, this cool and original image was splashed around town. Later, I saw it on display at Rileys Reproductions. Somehow, I wasn't surprised to learn that Rileys was the place that made the poster, since they're one of the best printing businesses in town - and a local business at that. I've been hanging out at Rileys for years, but I spent even more time there than usual this summer, since they were helping me to make some comics posters for another great local business, Red's Diner.
This poster made me think about "the Mayor as Superhero," and so then, of course, I had to think about whether there are any other mayor superheroes out there. In literature and/or pop culture, that is. I'm sure everyone can list few iconic real-life mayors (think Hazel McCallion, Rudy Giuliani, Boris Johnson... and one of my favourites, single dad Gregor Gysi. Well, he was just the Deputy Mayor of Berlin for a while - not the actual deal. But you get what I'm talking about).
I didn't come up with much. Maybe the post of "Mayor" has just not traditionally been such a sexy, "super" kinda job description - not like other political job descriptions like, I don't know, "Leader of the Rebel Alliance." But here are the two superhero mayors I did find:
1. Salvor Hardin, Mayor of Terminus City in Isaac Asimov's classic sci-fi Foundation Series. Hardin is the guy who always manages to come out on top. He's smart, a straight talker, supremely unafraid of taking (calculated) risks, and maybe most important, an independent thinker who seems to be able to see what's coming before it actually happens. And he's definitely the hero of the story - despite the fact that he's "just" the mayor of a city. (Just the most important city in the Galaxy, that's all.)
2. The Mayor of Whoville, from Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who." OK, so you know the story. The whole Who civilization, located precariously on a speck on a clover, is in danger of being destroyed because the bigger animals don't even believe it exists - they're too small to be heard, except by Horton, the large-eared elephant. Well, in order to save their own lives, the Whos have to make a whole lot of noise. And who leads them in this apocalypse-averting effort? Who ensures that every last Who, including that lazy brat Jo-Jo, is doing his part? The Mayor, of course! Yes, he's the one that the Fiona Staples of Whoville would have depicted in a superhero costume after the city was saved.
So, now that I've shone a light on the glamour of civic politics: enjoy the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo this weekend, everybody! And when you're done, remember to vote in one of the upcoming civic elections - that's whether you live in Edmonton or Calgary.
Here are three parting notes:
1. If you can think of any other literary superhero mayors (other than the Mayor of Casterbridge) - please do let me know.
2. While we're on the subject of civic elections:
If you have never voted before, and you're starting to think it sounds like a cool idea, you may want to check out a unique, free event that's happening this Monday evening: VoteKit Live! Creative folks from Calgary's theatre scene will walk you through a simulated voting scenario that's guaranteed to banish any intimidating notions about what's actually involved when you go to vote. They'll also do their best to create positive associations with the voting process, by providing a little free food and music. I'm liking this idea so much, that I'll be there with my sketchbook (unless I'm having a baby. It'll be one or the other). Stay tuned for some comics about how Calgarians vote!
Do you know someone who's just turned off by the idea of going out to vote? This is the event you will want to drag them to!
VoteKit Live is happening at the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness. More details at www.votekit.ca.
3. Regarding Calgary's superhero mayor: Back when Mayor Nenshi was running for office in 2010, he famously attended a lot of "coffee parties" hosted by random Calgarians around town. He'd just appear at a house full of interested folks and answer all their questions. The last party - the night before the election - was at my house in Ramsay. A neighbour of mine took this video of part of his Q & A, which I just found on Youtube - complete with a glimpse of my weirdo mosaic wall/ceiling. That was a fun night!
All for now!