Saturday, 7 November 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I'll be running interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

Here's a letter from me, Jeff, to Dave Sim, dated 1 August 2004:

Dear Dave,

Thanks for you letters of 7 July and 15 July. First things first: the 7 July letter.

Yeah, I sometimes amuse myself by my occasionally low voice. I once called my last girlfriend at work and she told me that the secretary told her to tell me to “stop talking so sexy”. Meaning my voice, not anything I said. It still throws me, though, to hear you talk that way (meaning low, not sexy; you sexy beast, you). It did so again last week when we talked, both times.

Speaking of which, I don’t intend to be so brief when I call you. Of course, that day, at least for the first call, I had to be brief, as you called right at the beginning of the meeting. But, I have read on the newsgroup that some of the guys describe quite delightful and lengthy phone conversations with you and I wonder why ours are so brief. I have reached the conclusion that I get nervous when I speak to you (but not when I write to you). I don’t know why I do so, as you seem to be every bit as approachable by phone as you are by mail. I’ll work on that, as the immediacy of phone conversation is quite different than mail correspondence. I would like to think that I am every bit as capable of having a delightful and engaging phone conversation with you as are Lenny and the others.

Should you receive any response from Mayor Zehr, I would be interested in seeing a copy of that. I was very flattered that you would send my comments to him. I hope that I might be some small part of making light rail a success in Kitchener.

As to your comments over my “stirring things up” comment: I , too, am interested in ideas and how others defend bad ideas. In fact, I routinely throw out some of your ideas about women when I am in the company of women or of men who are with their women, just to see how they respond. I just was surprised that you sent Mr. Jeffrey a copy of “Tangent”, it being perhaps the best example of the outer limits of any given envelope you have chosen to push. Have you heard from him, other than his having cashed your check?

I suspect that your quotes of Mrs. Reagan and Ms. Ono gave you chills for the very reason that they did me. In both case, the underlying message seems to be that they were placing themselves, respectively, at the forefront of the relationship and that their respective husbands were the respondents (only?) to their leadership. Good point.

For what it’s worth, I still respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the verse from Luke 17:35. I did so just after you first wrote it, and I still do.

“will / be / two {and here you insert [women]} / grinding / upon / the / very / the / one / will be taken along / but / different {and here you insert [woman] / will be let go off.” I have to say that my (admittedly, very limited and undereducated) interpretation of the use of “very” is that it is far more likely to represent the location (as in, “the very spot”), rather than “really”, as you interpret it. Of course, I don’t have a copy of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, so I don’t know the context out of which the passage you quoted is taken. I still just find your interpretation so far-fetched. May I take a page from your book and, “as gently and with good humour” as I can, point out to you that the Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, Updated and Revised Deluxe Edition, copyright 1996, defines “grind” as follows:

Grind (grind), v., ground or (rare) grind-ed; grind-ing; n. --v.t. 1. to wear, smooth, or sharpen by abrasion or friction; whet; to grind a lens. 2. to reduce to fine particles, as by pounding or crushing; bray, triturate, or pulverize. 3. to oppress, torment, or crush: to grind the poor. 4. to rub harshly or gratingly; grate together; grit; to grind one’s teeth. 5. to operate by turning a crank: to grind a hand organ. 6. to produce by crushing or abrasion: to grind flour. 7. Slang. to annoy; irritate; irk: 8. to perform the operation of reducing to fine particles. 9. to rub to harshly,; grate. 10. to be become ground. 11. to be polished or sharpened by friction. 12. Informal. To work or study laboriously (often fol. by away): He was grinding away at his algebra. 13. Slang. (in a dance) to rotate the hips in a suggestive manner. Cf. bump (def. 11). 14. grind out, a. to produce in a routine or mechanical way: to grind out magazine stories.

(I’ll bet that’s your particular favorite!)

b. to extinguish by rubbing the lighted end against a hard surface: to grind out a cigarette. --n. 15. the act of grinding. 16. a grinding sound. 17. a grade of particle fineness into which a substance is ground: The coffee is available in various grinds for different coffee makers. 18. laborious, usually uninteresting work: Copying all the footnotes was a grind. 19. Informal. a excessively diligent student. 20. Slang. a dance movement in which the hips are rotated in a suggestive or erotic manner. Cf. bump (def. 22) [bef. 950; ME grinden; akin to Goth grinda-, L frendere]--grind’a-ble, adj. --grind’a-bil’i-ty, n. ---grind-ing-ly, adv. ---Syn.2. crush, powder, comminute, pound. 3. persecute, plague, afflict, trouble. 4. abrade.

OKAY. That was a pain. Or, a grind.

My point is that our modern usage of “grinding” to refer to two persons (be they men or women or a man and a woman) having sex (whether lying prostrate or standing, or in some other position [use your imagination, if you haven’t used that position, Cerebites]) in a very active or rough sort of way, probably does not mirror any such usage of the word at the time that the book of Luke was first translated into English from the original Greek (or Aramaic, if that applies). Furthermore, I strongly suspect that “very” (whatever its original meaning was) was not intended to modify “grinding” in that passage.

I believe, based on our e-mail correspondence, that Billy essentially shares my view on this and I thanked him for bringing that up with you, as that particular item has shaded and continues to shade (even if just slightly) my impression of you as a deep thinker.

Okay, on to letter number two, of 15 July:

As you know, my regional manager asked me to post a copy of your letter to me on the bulletin board along with the other inspirational messages and photos. After I called you and you gave me the go-ahead to write up a biographical description of you and your work (you said, “It really would mostly be about Cerebus, and you know as much about that as anyone else, so why don’t you go ahead and write one up?”), I did so. I have enclosed a copy of that with this letter. I hope you approve and that I got all of the facts and dates right. If not, please let me know and I’ll make the appropriate changes. If you do like it and with to use it at any time, please feel free so to do.

I hope you don’t object to my having shared your comments from this letter and a previous one with Billy, as to your vacation. He has expressed an interest in what you have to say about it. Just so you know, he is reticent to tell me or other much about the visit, out of respect for you. I suspect that he is erring on the side of caution, as I believe you wouldn’t mind if he shared the entire account. But, that’s just my opinion. Regardless, thank you for what you have written to me. I have enjoyed hearing about it from both of you and both accounts are quite similar. The only difference I can see, so far, is in your respective accounts of you having broken your fast at 10 p.m. on Sunday. You wrote, “Fortunately, Francesca had made a lasagna earlier, which went down nicely.” He wrote that you “polished off three portions.” The difference was amusing.

Actually, it was a bit surreal to walk into Keith’s Comics that Wednesday and find that the two of you had been talking on the telephone earlier that afternoon and that one of the topics was the suggestion that I had written to you about you sending him some copies of the Sandman parody issues. It is a great pleasure for me to be able to help out. Thank you for sending the Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing and the signed copy of Party Pack.” Of course, the inscription in the Guide was much appreciated, as well.

I have read the Guide all through and found it to be quite interesting. Of course, I will never have any need to use the ideas for any publication [Ed.: Heh.], but what I found to be interesting was the insight as to how you and Ger did your work. For example, I had no idea as to just how laborious inking is: “It isn’t Zen-like. I is Zen.”

I had no idea that you can only do a few lines at a time before you have to stop, clean the nib (very thoroughly), re-ink the nib, and then do a few more lines before repeating. God bless you and Ger!

I am also going to post paragraph seven from page 21 on the bulletin board. That is true for just about anything in life. Very insightful.

Oh, and I got a big laugh out of the comments on page 43: “You are not a pen-pal. If someone writes you a nice letter and you write back, you are not obliged to strike up a years-long correspondence of Victoria proportions.”

What am am I, chopped liver?

I would still be interested in finding out what the local (for you) outcome of the elections was. The trial subscription of The Economist has expired for me, so it isn’t easy to get news from Canada. I would also very much appreciate any and all occasional updates that you might care to send along in your letters. I find politics to be of great interest, wherever they occur. Of course, the race here is just beginning to heat up. You should have seen how everyone was falling all over themselves to laud Kerry’s keynote address at the little shindig the Democrats just had. And, of course, former President Clinton’s speech had their hearts all aflutter. Sickening. Almost as sickening as will be self-congratulatory circle jerk that the Republicans are about to hold.

I mean, the National Party conventions are just a monumental waste of time for everyone except the delegates, who get a brief, shining moment of TV time and their just rewards for slugging it out in the precincts, but otherwise, the whole thing is a foregone conclusion every four years and has been so for quite a long while now.

I have enclosed some clippings. If you ever tire of the enclosures, just let me know and I’ll knock it off. I thought you might enjoy the sports column that mentioned Prime Minister Martin’s plans to revive a bill to decriminalize marijuana. I guess the other election-related emergencies just weren’t as pressing, as you pointed out in your letter.

Also, I thought that you might just find some pleasure in reading about the bookstore in Paris. Sounds like it might be your kind of place. In addition, the comic strip amused me and made me think of your search for The Way. Made me think of both you and Billy, in different ways. Kind of like, what it the two of you had met under different circumstances; say, like when he was doing the Jehovah’s Witness mission, going door-to-door?

Spoiler warning: Don’t read the next clipping if you are eating your lunch: Can you believe the letter to the editor I enclosed? Of course, it was written by a female.

“Unless we unanimously vote George W. Bush out of office, we will appear to still stand behind a president who made the most egregious of errors, and we will never recover our reputation and good standing in the international community.” What twaddle!!! It is faulty on so many levels, not the least of which is rational logic, that I don’t know where to start! Like we ever had good standing in the international community? Like they don’t all, universally, hate us? “Unless we unanimously vote [him] out of office…” As if we could? Well, I know I’m preaching to the choir…

Also, observe the first part of article about new ways of viewing the cosmos. I wondered whether it impacted, in any way, your view of the cosmos. Also, did you hear that Stephen Hawking has said that he believes that some (or perhaps, all) black holes actually spit back out some matter in a different form, instead of just sucking everything into oblivion? Any thoughts?

Lastly, thought you might like the leftover item from my Fourth of July musings. They had a very inspirational concert/sermon at the First Baptist Church of Dallas that Sunday, and I picked this up for you. Thanks for so steadfastly being a supporter of these United States.

[It was the 3” X 1 1/2” sticker of the American Flag that I sent to him, which is still in the front window of his house; lo these 11 years later.]

Okay, that’s all for this time. As always, I enjoy our correspondence and the lively (if slow) exchange of ideas. I don’t know whether I will make it into the Collected Letters, but please know that my continued and regular pace of writing back to you is based exclusively on the enjoyment that I receive from knowing and “talking” with someone whose intellect and way with words I so greatly admire and respect.

Wow, I should have put that in the bio, huh?

God bless you, and I remain, as always,

Yours beyond 300


P.S.: Did you actually go out buy the copies of the Guide and Party Pack that you inscribed for me? The backing boards said Now and Then Comics on them. Maybe you just had a supply of them from comics past?

P.P.S.: I didn’t mean to bother you about Following Cerebus. Your comments were amusing, about the higher standards to which we hold you guys. Actually, I had considered that you guys might have held off on shipping it because The Last Day came out later than had been planned. Thanks for being good-natured about it, though.

P.P.P.S.: I wrote the last time that it was about time I got around to asking a Cerebus question again, so, here goes: Having seen an excellent series of DVDs by the BBC and Simon Schama that I checked out at the library, I wondered whether Weisshaupt had been based in any part on Robert Walpole of early 18th-century English politics, as Walpole was, essentially, indeed, if not in title, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain?


Tony Dunlop said...

The idea that whatever Koine Greek verb is traditionally translated into modern English as "grinding" had any sexual connotation to Saint Luke and his audience of slaves, peasants, and a few aristocrats (mostly women aristocrats, if the Gospel accounts are to be believed) is, to put it mildly, risible.

Dave Sim said...

Again, trying to stay focussed here: we are really "all about" fundraising right now. That's why I'm experimenting with posting daily in these comments sections. Something I would consider repeating with the next (God willing) Kickstarter if there's an uptick in pledges. Present model: no good purpose is served by Dave Sim's presence 1995-to-date. Obviously I don't agree, but that, too, is democracy.

And good business. If Dave Sim hurts the CEREBUS "brand" keep Dave Sim as hidden from view as possible.

[yesterday's Camp David insight: people want to give money to the 1977 to 1985 Dave Sim as directly as possible while -- grudgingly -- accepting that he's somewhere housed within the Evil Monster Dave Sim of post-1995. In an emotion-based Feminist Theocracy you don't argue with that. You accept it and find a way to reinforce it. Which is what Sandeep and I will be working on "going forward"]

I can't really afford to be wary of Red Pill MGTOWs (whatever those might be) as was suggested yesterday, any more than i can afford to be wary of the Occupy-style anarchists who are drawn to CEREBUS. Any port in a storm.

That's a potential problem for the Feminist Theocracy, unquestionably, but a problem of their own making: anyone voted off the island still has to eat and keep a roof over his head. If MGTOW sympathies are all you're leaving men with in your political...zeal...and you keep voting more and more men off the island then you're ACTIVELY building an external economy inimical to your own political interests. MBM. Men Backing Men. "Sorry. I only donate to causes that are exclusively masculine in nature."

Not my personal preference but -- given the nature of the Feminist Theocracy -- what I and a LOT of men are being driven towards.

In 2015, I can say definitely that I see potential there that I don't see in the comic-book field, a field which I see as having the Feminist Theocracy camp since at least 1995 and, consequently, a dead end when it comes to preserving CEREBUS. But, again, I'm always happy to be proven wrong. Any comic-store suddenly finding the preservation of CEREBUS GOING VIRAL on its premises overnight (because, really, all Dave needed to do was ASK) and that sweeping like wildfire from store to store...well, foolish, me, eh?

Dave Sim said...

Tony: Jeff and Billy Beach both held your position and -- Billy, at least -- finally admitted on researching the spectrum of definitions that the Koine Greek term for "grind" did include my inference.

It's in the Synoptic Gospels which, to me, is "pure YHWH" and it's only in the one text.

God's Christ, to me, is the one documented in John's Gospel and, consequently, the only text (besides Revelations) that I read in my Christian observance on Sunday.

My opinions are no more "risible" in my view than are the Synoptic Gospels themselves in most places.

Different things make different people laugh.

The important thing is not to be offended when your deeply-held opinions are deemed laughable.

All that matters is what opinions are "risible" to God and THAT, none of us will KNOW until Judgement Day


Dave Sim said...

Luke was a Greek physician so I'm pretty sure he knew exactly what the reference was to. The Apostles as nice, provincial Jewish boys, I'm pretty sure, didn't. Which I'm sure posed a problem for Luke -- who finally opted to just "go with it -- it's what the Synoptic Jesus said and that's what I'm here to document." PARTICULARLY since the Apostles were recounting something they DIDN'T have Clue One about. It makes them recounting it to Luke that much more authentic.

Compounding that, the early Church fathers (presumably at Rome, where the reference would be likewise unmistakable) grafted on a third reference which doesn't appear in the earliest Codexes of Luke to make the reference LESS unmistakable. The Church fathers, alas, did a LOT of that.

Which, I'm sure, the YHWH found QUITE risible. "WAIT 'til this blows up in God's face!!"

And which God, being omniscient, knew would pose no problem whatever, since He knew no one was going to see it until I did.

Tony again said...

Hmm…my priest is a fluent reader of (and well-read in) various ancient Greek dialects, Koine included, to the point where I'm pretty sure he hasn't consulted an English translation of the Gospels for his sermons in a couple of decades. Perhaps I'll get his view. If so, and if I get his permission, I'll share it here.
Also, the sexual interpretation has been a favorite of feminist/lesbian theologians for decades as well, so you are actually in…well, company of some kind. Of course as an Orthodox Christian I don't share Dave's unique views on the status of the various Gospels. Thanks to Dave for responding here; I didn't expect it! (I'm sorry I can't be more helpful in the restoration drive, but I'm an introvert and have very few "outside contacts.")

Yes, Tony once again said...

I do have a humble suggestion for Tim, however. It is still possible to make "one-time contributions" to the "Dave Sim Fund" at without actually buying anything, but this is not obvious anywhere on the AMOC home page. Ther used to be a link saying "Contribute to the Dave Sim Fund." Could that be restored?
Perhaps I'm the only one, but I'm happy to make regular contributions but am unwilling to have some electronic entity dip automatically into my checking account every month in perpetuity (a la Patreon).

Anonymous said...

What about doing what a lot of indie creators from the more profitable past ended up doing and getting a job. A job is a great fundraiser for food and bills.

Eddie said...

The donation button on Cerebusdownloads was removed for a while, but is now back up, so I think Tony's suggestion of adding a link to it from AMOC is a great idea

Tony Dunlop said...

By the way, based on what we saw in Latter Days, shouldn't Cerebus be folding that vintage Batman comic back on its spine (comic collectors collectively shudder in horror)?

Steve Peters said...

Coincidentally enough, Dave's original 2004 reply to Jeff Seiler and Billy Beach on the "grinding" issue appears in Collected Letters 3, which is available as a CAN4 Kickstarter reward (and I was sent my digital copy BEFORE the Kickstarter ended). So why not make a pledge for Collected Letters 3 NOW, in the few days remaining before the Kickstarter ends? (Or adjust your pledge to get a copy if you've already pledged for something else).

I've already finished reading my copy; totally worth my $15 and I hope 4 and 5 will be made available in the future.