Friday, 23 October 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Cerebus Readers In Crisis #2 (2007)
Art by Dave Sim
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 will be posting full paragraphs or pages of interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

A letter from Dave Sim to me, dated 7 July, 2004, in response to last week's posted letter:
7 July 04

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your letter of June 28. I answer to your question, it takes a prodigious amount of whiskey drinking (Jack Daniel’s actually), smoking and multiple forms of substance abuse to produce the deep, low voice that I have today. And that’s just my normal speaking voice, remember. I still like to amuse myself by pitching it a few octaves lower on those rare occasions (ordering pizza, fending off a telemarketer) when I find myself speaking to a female on the phone. Unbecoming as hell, but I am gratified that I can still vibrate them somewhere between their belly button and Christmas. Of course, it’s no great trick in a day and age when most men have been trained by their mothers to pitch their voices somewhere between MIckey Mouse and Michael Jackson.

Interesting your observation on free computers. I wasn't aware that BIll Gates was donating computers to libraries and you’re probably right that he's trying for some sort of absolution, which in no way undermines that fact that it’s a nice and a generous thing to do. Obviously not my area of expertise, but I do remember someone telling me that he [Gates] was, basically, the infidel who broke ranks with the computer pioneers’ virtually universal resolve to keep computers on a “power to the people” basis. I suppose it was inevitable that someone would do it. All those fat, lucrative concepts just lying there moaning, “Patent me. PATENT ME!”

Thanks as well for your observations on light rail, which I will be forwarding to Mayor Carl Zehr with a cover note.

I was interested in your observation that I do like “stirring things up” vis-a-vis my letter to Mr. Jeffrey at Hillsdale [College] over their 50-50 male and female enrollment. This is a perception of myself which has dogged me all my life but which in no way reflects my self-perception. I’m interested in ideas and particularly interested in how people defend what I consider to be singularly bad ideas, one of which, to me, is definitely the belief that there is a natural numerical parity between the genders. I mean, for the record, I don’t really anticipate any kind of a response, for the exact reason that numerical parity between the genders is our present age’s self-chosen intellectual blind spot. If Mr. Jeffrey reads my letter and “Tangent”, I’m certain that his eyes will glaze over briefly and he will throw both of them in the garbage, recognizing that there is no way to address the questions I raise in the early twenty-first century without a) having to support his arguments with self-evident twaddle or b) going “on the record” with a view that in today’s academic world would see him cleaning out his desk by day’s end if it were to come to light in any way, shape, or form. At this point, I simply “read into the record” -- completely for the sake of posterity -- my own accurate viewpoints and take it as a give that the Marxist-Feminist dictatorship -- so long as it is able to retain its present enslavement of our society’s intellectual life -- will simply pretend that I and my views don’t exist. This is particularly true in the academic world. I don’t consider that as “stirring things up”, but more as a way of indicating (to my satisfaction, if no one else’s) how unshakable things are at the moment. In the extremely unlikely event of my receiving a reply, I would be happy to share it with you. However, given Mr. Jeffrey’s untenable position, I would suspect that the only reply would be a vague generality committed to paper (“...thank you for your most idiosyncratic and bizarre essay”) or a surreptitious phone call: both of which would be options only insofar as neither presents a too-great likelihood of seeing him brought up before his local branch of the Marxist-Feminist Star Chamber. However, given that there’s nothing “in it” for him, don’t hold your breath, Jeff.

Yes, I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly how much Nancy Reagan was responsible for the Ronald Reagan we know and love, remember and revere. For her part, she finally got her chance to be Jackie Kennedy, which she had more than earned (however you want to take that), the Pivotal Figure Widow. There are too many female mysteries attached to the story (as is the case, to me, with any stories which involve women in key positions) to achieve any neat encapsulation. She was fond of saying that Mr. Reagan had “gone to a place where she could no longer reach him”, which gave me chills in the same way that Yoko Ono’s last word on John Lennon in the documentary Imagine (“He was a old soldier. And he fought with me.”) gave me chills. I mean, really read what the words say. Or, don’t, I suppose.

That neatly segues into your "Billary" Clinton anecdote. It is significant to me that the only point from "Billary's" My Life that was mentioned in every review I read was about his sleeping on the couch for several months after the Monica Lewinsky thing. I mean, leaving aside the complete unlikelihood that the President of the United States wouldn’t be able to find better sleeping accommodations than that in a multi-bedroomed Georgian Revival mansion, there is the POINT of the anecdote which must’ve been concocted jointly by “Billary”: that is, that the President of the United States had been deposed by his wife for a period of months. Rather in a direct line of succession for Jackie Kennedy’s decision to have John, Jr., sleep alone in his father’s bed in the White House after the assassination. It’s a peculiar female way of looking at things, to be sure, but it is always worth looking a the thing itself rather than its peculiarity when contemplating the fundamentally bizarre collective mentality of the unfairer sex: the one in the bed is the heir to all the powers which devolved upon the previous occupant. Le coup d’etat en le chambre de coucher.

As to my recently completed vacation, it was most enjoyable, particularly given that Portorecanati (which was founded in 184 BC) and the entire Marche region was in the grip of a heat wave (34C and higher) at the same time that Southern Ontario has been struggling to achieve temperatures in the mid 20s for most of the summer. Billy [Beach]'s house is literally steps from the beach and he was most generous with his time, shepherding me around to the Cathedral at Loreto: the Sanctuario dello Santa Casa (it is certainly an irreplaceable experience to actually enter the simple Nazarean cottage where the Annunciation took place and where the Synoptic Jesus passed his childhood--or even to allow for the possibility that one has done so), the Civic Museum in Recanati with Lorenzo Lotto’s Annunciation picture. Macerata (a really nice selection of pictures in their Civic museum, including a phenomenal recreation of the Picture Gallery of Palazzo Buonaccorsi: Garzi’s Venere della fucina di Vulcano, Del Po’s Il Dio Tevere, and several other huge works, beautifully restored and displayed), Gradara (including the room where--purportedly--the murder of Paolo and Francesca as documented Dante in the V canto of The Inferno took place), the Ducal Palace at Urbino.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most was talking freely and openly with Billy about the Bible and indulging in a certain amount of Bible study with him. I have a number of other letters to answer, so two anecdotes will have to suffice. I recently borrowed David Johnson’s copy of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of Greek Scriptures which, being a Jehovah’s Witness volume, Bill had a copy of as well. In explaining my enthusiasm for fasting, I mentioned at dinner one night that much of my motivation came from the Synoptic Jesus’ assertion--when he had been able to cast out a devil that his disciples had been unable to cast out--that “this kind can only be expelled through prayer and fasting.” Well, sometime the next day, Billy looked up the passage (Mark 9:29) because my quoting of the King James translation struck a wrong note with him. Sure enough, Mark 9:29 doesn’t mention fasting. The word-for-word translation is: “This / the / kind / in / nothing / is able / to come out / if / not / in / prayer”. I’m always delighted to be proved wrong and I spent a lot of the following day mulling over the obvious questions this presented. First, of course, was Why add fasting if it wasn’t already in there? And it seemed to me that the obvious answer was that the actual answer made it sound as if the disciples didn’t pray. It was already established that they didn’t fast--the scribes and Pharisees had asked Jesus why his followers didn’t fast when John’s did--but it was taken as a given that they prayed. These served to reinforce a viewpoint I’ve been led to just in copying out the first eight chapters of Matthew--that the disciples were very far from our perception of them. I can get into that another time.

Then there was another occasion when Billy wanted to revisit Luke 17:35, the “two women grinding together” passage which I rather notoriously attached to lesbianism. It had completely slipped my mind, so I was more than amenable to taking a look. The translation in the margin certainly favoured the conventional view: “There will be two [women] grinding at the same mill; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned,” but then I pointed out to Billy that the actual word-for-word Greek translation says nothing about a mill. “will / be / two [women] / grinding / upon / the / very / the / one / will be taken along / the / but / different [woman] / will be let go off”. As gently and with as good humour as I could, I pointed out that all the text appeared to be saying was that the women would be “really grinding”, which rather favoured my own interpretation than it did his.

Okay. Gotta run.

Thanks again for your letters and your support.



P.S.: Sorry for the confusion on the Guys Party Pack and Conan tie-in. The former was in the vein of the "college town" potential. I was just in Now & Then Books yesterday and Dave Kostas, the owner, was mentioning that he has had a lot of success passing around a copy of Guys in his other job of bartending. People who work in the service industry really take to it. Unfortunately, this requires a real hands-on approach, which is a little too labour intensive for the average store owner and is usually outside the bounds of polite conversation ("Say, do you drink like a fish? Have I got the comic book for you!"). Conan has been revived by Dark Horse in a new monthly title that selling really, really well. It's at issue six right now and Dark Horse is on its third printing of issue one, so it’s definitely got the makings of a major hit. Any sign of a Conan revival is good news for Cerebus, particularly the first volume. I'd almost recommend something as simple as photocopying the front cover of the Cerebus trade and putting it in every Conan subscriber's subscription file. In the long term, I'd like to develop a promotion just around the first volume, just tailored to the Conan fans, but in the short term, it would be interesting to see what kind of reaction a bare-bones approach could achieve. I'd even guarantee to two-day UPS Cerebus trades to Keith's in immediate response if they wanted to try that approach. "The next batch is coming in on [Thursday if it's Monday, Monday if it's Thursday]", and then make the call for however many copies they need. It's probably jumping the gun and the Conan revival will take a year or two to actually take hold, but I thought I'd make the suggestion.


Tony Dunlop said...

Completely off-topic, but Go Royals!

Jeff Seiler said...

My oldest friend is a lifelong Mets fan and I, of course, have been a diehard Royals fan most of my life. When baseball fan planets collide!

CerebusTV said...

I recall when Dave's voice changed several octaves lower (I was there) from that of the shrill pitch of Little Dave Sim and I can assure you it wasn't due to whiskey and cigarettes but to several months' of puberty, accompanied also by an alarming increase in stature...