Saturday, 5 March 2016

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. 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 each week.

Continuing sequentially and chronologically, we come next to a letter from Dave dated 24 October, 2005, when I still lived in Addison, Texas. This is a timely post, given that I am currently beginning what will (I hope) become a long time of proofreading the reprints of the Cerebus volumes. Two down, one half done, 13 to go.

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your letter and enclosures of October 16.

No offence intended by my remark on red pens. [Ed: A reference to my having started proofreading the first volume of Collected Letters.] I used to pick up on the same thing from Diana Schutz [Ed: A former proofreader and girlfriend(?) of Dave’s.] that it really does become an addiction. I think anyone who knows the universal symbols (which I don’t) is already pretty far gone. They not only correct things, but they have to correct things CORRECTLY. My own proof-reader [sic.] nature is all “ear”. I fix it until it sounds right to me. Proper lilt, proper cadence which is very often not the same thing as grammar and phraseology.

[Ed: May I just, as an aside, say here that, when I proofread Cerebus volumes, I don’t mess with the “voices” or the sound of things. And, rarely, with the cadence. I look first for the typographical errors {straight-up errors}, then punctuation, and misused words. Plus, Dave told me that his use of single quotation marks in, say, Reads, was an affectation and that they all needed to be fixed, except, of course, when they set off a quotation within a quotation. That’s why the proofreading on Reads took 30 hours. What’s that? Oh, no; not straight through. Do you think I’m crazy?]

Glad you finally got the postcard. [Ed: From when he went to Niagara Falls {his favorite place}, to meet Neal Adams to do the interview/conversation that was printed in Following Cerebus.]

Glad as well that you weren’t offended at my “red cape in front of a bull” analogy in announcing celibacy to a woman. It isn’t just the woman in question: remember, they’re all linked up both in the conventional terms of gossip and telepathically or “telepathically” with those with whom they’re sympatico. You set it in motion and it will come back to bite you on the ass. Fair warning is all.

Tried reading the Critical Thinking brochure [Ed: That I sent to him. I have forgotten where I got it or what it contained, other than generally speaking.] and I’m afraid that there were areas of it with which I disagreed. As with grammar and phraseology (and theology and any number of subjects) I just don’t do it by prescribed numbers. I doubt I would’ve “smelled a rat” in feminism going A to B to C to D in proper alignments. Nor would I have come up with the [Ed: then] 14 Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast. As it says in the Koran: You to Your Religion and Me to Mine.

When I’m watching Niagara Falls, I am literally just experiencing watching Niagara Falls. I watch a particle descend from the precipice and then watch another. Then I look at the overall picture. Then I look at the mist. Then I look at the people standing at the edge and compare them to various dips in the water right before it goes over. Several of them are twice the height of an average man. If you were in the river, you would descend twice your full height and then suddenly get hurled aloft just before going over the edge. I watch the shale jutting out below the surface shimmering in that dark coloured green that it has, counterbalanced by the “Coke bottle bottom” green of the descending water, marvelling at the fact that it’s seventeen-feet deep but, owing to the refraction of the light, it looks as if you could put your foot down and push off from the precipice. The fact that it never stops. Every second, 50,000 bathtub’s worth of water is plunging over the edge. Realizing that the channel at the base of the falls is the same height as the falls. Watching the way the thin ribbon of water at Prospect Point sways from side to side. That’s really it. Five hours, six hours, twelve hours. I paid eighteen dollars for two cookies and two bottles of peach juice at the Starbucks in the lobby just because I didn’t want to be away from the Falls (and I was finishing my four-day fast).

Thanks for the clippings. Yes, the Cathy Young quote was interesting [Ed: {excerpt}: What’s clear is that, in the 40 years since the rise of the modern women’s movement, large numbers of women blessed with the opportunities denied to previous generations have not followed the egalitarian feminist script. Instead, they have, to a greater or lesser extent, embraced traditional female roles--much to the chagrin of feminists such as Yale’s women’s and gender studies professor Laura Wexler. “I really believed 25 years ago,” Dr. Wexler told The New York TImes, “that this would be solved by now.”].

I forget how it goes but there’s a quote that insanity consists of repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The vast majority of women want to wives and mothers. Because a small percentage finds that inconceivable, we have to run society as if they are in the majority for as long as it takes them to realize that they aren’t. Given their intransigent natures in virtually everything that’s going to be quite a spell, I reckon.

Likewise, thanks for the clipping on Charles Carroll. [Ed: From the Dallas Morning News, October 1, 2005. It pertained to a talk to be given by one Scott McDermott, a then circulation librarian at the Vanderbilt University. Carroll was, obscurely, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. {Excerpts from the article: “How may well-educated Americans -- even well-educated Catholic Americans -- can name the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence? Charles Carroll was that man. He was the richest of the signers, and he outlived all the rest, dying in 1832 at age 95.” Carroll “signed the Declaration of Independence not on July 4, 1776, but on August 2, 1776, as did most of the other signers.” He “served on the Board of War and Ordnance” during the Revolutionary War. And, “he invented the first working electoral college in the United States, for the election of Maryland state senators.” “He was briefly both a U.S. senator and a Maryland state senator. When the Maryland Legislature declared that state politicians could only hold one office at a time, he resigned his U.S. Senate seat.”}]

It’s always good to be reminded that there have [sic.] been no shortage of impediments along the way and that feminism is just the latest one. I can understand your regret at missing Mr. McDermott’s lecture. Thanks again for writing--gotta run. I’ve got a prayer time in fifteen minutes. Twenty down, inshallah 10 to go!



Anonymous said...

Funniest thing I've read all day (and which tends to confirm my opinion): "Tried reading the Critical Thinking brochure and I’m afraid that there were areas of it with which I disagreed."

-- Damian

Jeff Seiler said...

Ah, the Snarkmaster chimes in once again.

Sorry, but Tim said I shouldn't use the t-word, so you have a new nickname.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

I'm going to sound like a mother here but...
I don't understand why you let yourself get so wound up by Damien. He is entitled to his views and doesn't resort to calling you names. Why not just tackle the specific points that he raises instead.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Tim, Dave said ignoring someone, anyone, isn't a good idea, but Damian's post above doesn't rise to the level of alerting Dave. It's just snarky. Damian could, routinely, post his views and opinions without being snarky or denigrating and he, very rarely, does so. I think he could and should, if he wished to (though he clearly doesn't), be non-snarky and undenigrating all of the time.

Oh, and yes, he has resorted to calling me names. He called me a liar.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Last time I looked, having a snarky or denigrating attitude isn't against the site's comments policy.
I'm resisting the urge to turn off the comments feature on AMOC, but you're pushing me closer in that direction almost on a daily basis.

Travis Pelkie said...

To be fair to Jeff, this one IS a bit of a snarky one from Damian. However, I'm of the view that there's nothing wrong with some snark in a comment.

I also don't quite agree with Dave and Jeff's view that they have to respond to anyone posting anything negative, or it looks bad (or whatever their viewpoint is, that seems to be what it boils down to). If a number of people start to pile on with the same denigrating (in your POV) comments, sure, take them to task. But it really starts to seem laughable when you get all worked up over Damian. I think we're all adults here, and we can, if we disagree with him or if he's saying something negative that we don't agree with, collectively roll our eyes and say, "that's Damian again". When you (and Dave) feel the need to match him point for point, well, things start to get ridiculous. In my view.

And Jeff, if you're referring to last week's letter that you posted, I didn't read his comment as Damian calling you a liar. What he was saying, as I recall, was that the advice Dave gave you in the letter, to not tell women that you planned to be celibate, was unethical (and that Dave made it less unethical by further walking it back here in 2016 by saying not to associate with women period if you plan to be celibate). I believe it'd be classified as a "sin by omission" rather than "commission", but if you followed Dave's advice and didn't tell women that you were committed to celibacy, well, you weren't being wholly truthful, right? I wouldn't go so far, myself, to therefore classify you as a liar. There are all sorts of things we don't come out and tell people that we come in contact with in our lives. I don't think being 100% truthful is something anyone is able to do (or necessarily OUGHT to do). However, if you were going into situations (bars and stuff) where the main objective is to "hook up", as the kids say, and you didn't establish early on that you were not going to be doing the horizontal mambo with the lady in question, in that situation you were being somewhat unethical. In my view. Doesn't make you a bad guy, though, Jeff, and I wouldn't classify you as a liar. And I don't think that Damian was, either.

Anyway, I've seen you dressed as Carmen Miranda, Jeff. Was celibacy REALLY that hard to commit to? ;)

Jeff Seiler said...

Never as Carmen, Travis, although you'd be amazed how many times I got my butt squeezed by women of all ages, as well as how many of them wanted to see what was under the skirt.

Okay, from now on, I will let Dave fight his own battles with Damian, or anyone else.

I certainly don't want to be the cause of Tim shutting down the comments part of this site (although why I would be the cause, instead of... "Ut! That's enough out of you there!").

And, for the record, I have almost never gone to bars to try to hook up. I go and have gone either to listen to live music, to sing karaoke, and/or to watch the game and drink beer. And to socialize in with co-workers in groups, back before I retired. Women, to me, are an aside in bars. Honestly.

Travis Pelkie said...

*shivers* Get me the brain bleach! I don't want to think about what was under the skirt! (curls up in corner in fetal position, weeping quietly)


Mostly wanted to chime and request that Tim keep the comments, as that comment of his went up while I was typing my other comment. Even when Jeff ... overreacts ... I think the comments section here is one of the better ones on the internet (along with my pals over at Comics Should Be Good). Heck, even the NPR comments sections get ugly fast. While we've had some dustups here and there, overall we're adults and conduct ourselves accordingly. Doesn't mean we can't have fun and tease each other, of course.

Also, it's fun to be able to interact with Dave when he comments, especially since this is about the only place he comes online.

Tony again said...

Oh, and if the "critical thinking brochure" was what I suspect it was - a product of some academic committee and/or "educational services" vendor - then it was almost certainly a mixture of pseudointellectual gobbletygook and banal platitudes, and I don't blame Dave for not wasting his time on it.

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, Travis, I didn't make a copy of it, but at the time, I was teaching at Brookhaven College, so I probably picked it up there. And, having taught about critical thinking many times, I agree with Dave that going sequentially from points A to B to C to D, in order, does not always constitute critical thinking. The mind is a complex and complicated organism. Just ask David Gelernter, a Yale professor and author of "The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness". Good (effective) critical thinking employs the mind in multiple ways, not the least of which is what Gelernter calls "down-spectrum consciousness".

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I did not call you a liar any more than I mocked Charles Krauthammer for being disabled. You're so eager to be offended by me, that you don't even read what I say.

In 2005, Dave advised you to lie to get what you want from other people: "If you want to get laid and telling them that you’re celibate works, well, hey, go nuts". In 2016, Dave said, "the only ethical way to live is to stay away from them and definitely do not have sex with them." I characterized this as, "Dave has changed his mind since this letter and would no longer advise Jeff to lie to people to get what he wants out of them. That's an improvement, ethically speaking." I didn't address your conduct at all; only Dave's.

-- Damian