Friday, 12 February 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.

Today’s entry is a letter from Dave to me, dated 26 May, 2005. It refers to an ongoing illness that he had been going through, the first one in my experience with him, but certainly not the last:

26 May 05

Dear Jeff:

To be honest, I have no idea of the state of my health. This has certainly been my worst year health-wise that I can recall but whether that was just “luck of the draw” or symptomatic of something worse, I have no idea. Because I’m pretty well disenchanted with this world as constituted, that very much includes medical “science”--metaphorically, I’m always in the Big Departure Lounge with my bags packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice, which is, I believe how you are supposed to be in the eyes of God--and, as a result, it would take an awful lot for me to see a doctor or go to an emergency room. I have no confidence in what they do there nor to I believe in repairing the human body. This is the body God gave me. If the clockwork was made to run down by ‘07, that’s when i’m going; if it runs down by ‘18, that’s when I’m going. I have a very bad couple of teeth right now which give me a lot of trouble intermittently. I’m just waiting to hear from a dentist about a couple of root canal appointment and in the interim I bought some Orajel which I’ve used a couple of times but most of the time when the pain gets really bad, I’ll just let it go and it usually subsides after about ten minutes. I think that’s the better way to go. Masking the pain seems like a really bad idea. The same as the bad shoulder that I had. I could go to the emergency room and get a shot of cortisone which would mask the pain but what’s the point of that? If the shoulder really hurts, I’ll take much better care of it than I will if it’s been numbed by some chemical. The shoulder has gotten better and ahead of the schedule I set for it: no exercise until the beginning of summer, so I’ve started doing things like carrying my groceries in my right hand to get it used to lifting weights again and yesterday I shovelled some dirt and gravel that needed shovelling. Ger would’ve been happy doing all of it himself but there’s only one way to find out if something has healed and that’s to test it, so that’s what I did. It’s a little stiff today but I obviously didn’t re-tear whatever I tore in it before and that’s the extent of my interest. So, short answer, my body could be ravaged by cancer and I wouldn’t have a clue nor would I care. Nor, I think, should you. Take care of your own body and pay attention to it, develop the self-discipline to live with pain when you have pain and when you’ve “done your time” the pain will go away. If you dick around with it with needles and chemicals, [then] most of the time you’re just going to make it worse. Prayer and reading from the Koran work a lot better than aspirin but I try not to rely too heavily on those either.

I have no real idea what the relationship is between the mayor and council here in town. I’m sure that there’s an on-paper structure, just as I’m sure that the actual structure probably differs from it. The three principal council committees, Community Services, Development and Technical Services and Finance and Corporate Services are each chaired by a different council member and the mayor is just another member with one vote. In the event of a tie, the chair of the committee casts the deciding vote. The mayor chairs the council meetings and casts the deciding vote in the event of a tie. THere are the various steering committees of each sub-committee of the overall committees and the moves the agenda items forward. At this point, the council is primarily made up of what I would describe as “tax and spend” liberals where the overriding perception is that government is charged with all of the big stuff--major capital works projects primarily, as well as bestowing tens of thousands of dollars on people who have learned how to suck up in the right way and to speak “municipal government speak”, which is a dialect of “regional government speak” and “provincial government speak” and “federal government speak”. In Kitchener, pink, pink, pink centre left. Marxism from the municipal level to the regional level to the provincial level to the federal level--Liberal Red from top to bottom. The urge is always to spend more taxpayer dollars and to pry more money out of each level of government in doing so. The balance of power I would describe as the momentum behind the sincere conviction. It’s a runaway juggernaut that not only can’t be stopped, it can’t be slowed down. The mayor and council ride the beast and try not to wind up in its belly.

Yes, definitely second thoughts on the poll of political affiliation among the [Cerebus] Yahoos [which refers to the old chat group at]. I do think that everyone tends to see their own positions as being moderate and that was what I was trying to point out to you. I’m seen as a lunatic right wing extremist--you edge over in the direction by acknowledging that you can understand how people can see me as being paranoid in you email to Charlotte Allen--so all perceptions are “relative to”. I see myself as a moderate and liberal thinking person in the dictionary definition 4, 5, 7 and 8 and also definition 1 and 2, depending on how you define “progressive” and “reform”. I would certainly like to see post-1970 attitudes towards women make some progress and reform themselves along sensible lines (and see society’s reactions as being universally “knee jerk reactionary”) and since I see gender as the primary demarcation in society (after “monotheistic” vs. “pagan”) that means that I’m about the only one in the middle and everyone else is standing on tippy-toes leaning as far out to the left as they can. I don’t like labelling because I think the pathological[ly] profligate spenders and social engineers--when scientists go bad--have usurped the term liberal and made it into an unthinking definition. In much the same way that they have usurped “gay” so that it can no longer be appropriately used about a certain vivacious, bright and charming manner of female. A great loss to me but no great loss to a society which take a dim view of a female who isn’t mordant, pedantic and grimly masculine. Why have a term for a condition you’re trying to eliminate?

Loved the Opus [comic] strip; thanks for sending it.

And, yes, I have to give Bill Cosby major marks for cashing in some popularity chips telling his people what they don’t want to hear--and probably knowing that they won’t, in a general sense, do anything about it but realizing that that really isn’t the point when the condition has worsened as bad as it has. [Remember, folks, this was over a decade ago. Not one of us knew about Mr. Cosby what we now know.] If he can address 2,000 parents and get three of them to actually turn back into what parents are supposed to be, it’s still going to be worthwhile. The journey of a thousand mile begins with but a single step, and all that.

I think that I’m reaching an accommodation with the Yahoos about S.P.A.C.E. My biggest concern last year and this year was that I didn’t want to jeopardize what I see as my obligations to S.P.A.C.E [Ed: Sorry, that stands for Small Press and Alternative Comics Exposition--look it up and go, folks] and independent publishing by indulging to too great an extent in a decidedly “me” thing. It isn’t just the Yahoos. Last year and this year, I missed the S.P.A.C.E Blast party at the Laughing Ogre [comic book shop] because it’s such a long ways downtown and the dinner with the Day Prize recipient seems to take priority. {Ed: The Day Prize was initiated by Dave to award what he and Gerhard deemed the most worthy independent comic book or graphic novel of the year from all of the submissions from the previous year’s S.P.A.C.E convention, in honor of his old friend and mentor, Gene Day. It ran for about five years, if memory serves, and then was renamed and continues on at S.P.A.C.E, under the aegis (and a different name) of Bob Corby, the founder and continuing organized of the convention.] But Gib Bickel puts on this party for all of the exhibitors and he’s one of the best retailers in North America and sells a lot of Cerebus, so I’m loathe to give it up. This year he asked if I wanted to have breakfast with him and his crew and I said sure. I had already had breakfast but I had coffee with them so I think that might be how that one resolves itself. I won’t be at the S.P.A.C.E Blast party but I’ll have breakfast before the show with the Ogre guys. Just as this year I thought it worked well to move from the Day Prize recipient dinner to having coffee with the Yahoos, so I hope it will be possible to make that another tradition by coordinating what restaurant the Day Prize dinner takes place in. If the Yahoos start dinner forty minutes or so after the Day Prize dinner, it should work out pretty well. The dinner with the recipient isn’t rushed and I’m not joining the Yahoo table after everyone’s been done eating for an hour. The thing I have to avoid is eating six meals a day for two days and we seem to be working that out pretty well.

S.P.A.C.E next year will be held on May 15 at the Aladdin Shrine Complex, which is out in the Easton Town Centre part of Columbus, with more restaurants and things within walking distance. The convention hotel will probably be the Hilton (which will be within walking distance) but no final word yet, in which case that’s probably where the various dinners and breakfasts will take place. Obviously, we want to keep everyone in the same hotel if possible so Bob can get the benefit of booking a block of rooms. I don’t think we’re particularly fussy about where we stay. It can be the Hilton or Motel 8 as long as everyone’s in the same spot.

Actually, Bryan wasn’t shooting a documentary [Ed: This refers to some video interviews Bryan did with some of us Cerebites at S.P.A.C.E, 2005; the project got cancelled, for reasons unknown to me.]; it’s actually a Cerebus infomercial expanding on the seven-minute tribute film he did in 2004 and my best guess is “slowly”. The tribute film actually started as Laughing Ogre’s contribution to Campaign 2000: Four More Years and was barely ready for S.P.A.C.E 2004, so that should give you an idea of the progress. He’s won two Emmy awards, though, so it will be well worth waiting for. We’re trying to limit the exposure of the short video for the moment so it doesn’t become stale by the the infomercial is done. If I change my mind on that (which I might well do) I’ll be happy to send you Bryan’s contact info.

Gotta run,


Margaret said...

The video referred in the video is here on youtube: Cerebus - 2004 Tribute.

Kit said...

[Remember, folks, this was over a decade ago. Not one of us knew about Mr. Cosby what we now know.]

Over a decade ago, but almost a year and a half after Andrea Constand's public statements, and several months after Constand and 13 Jane Does' civil case was filed. Possibly one or two of us did believe them when there were only 14 women, rather than 40.

(That case was settled in November 2006.)

Jeff Seiler said...

Okay, Kit. I'll take your word for that. Still, it was pretty low under the radar back then, compared to "now".