I don't know how we were ever authorized to do it, but earlier this week we instructed the next generation in the construction of surprisingly inoffensive comic strips. Using Andrew Vestal's Penny Arcade Remix Project as a template, we wiped the text out of a few old strips and also made a blank set of frames to encourage their own trembling forays into the sometimes intimidating realm of raw potential.
Gabriel began by teaching them how to draw basic figures, figures which I attempted to recreate myself on the blackboard, warping the true shapes to create a vile menagerie. This evil zoo leered at the children and I do not doubt that this mockery of nature shook them to their core. Once he had done this, we leveraged the overhead to "create" a comic strip for them, to show them how the process works - that each panel has a job to do, and what kinds of jobs those are. The marvelous power one has when writing comics: to keep a secret from your readers, and then reveal it. The example strip depicted a young woman and her simian cohort, a naughty monkey indeed who had surreptitiously purchased a considerable supply of tropical produce. He tried to play the whole thing off, as though he were disinterested in the fruit and had no idea how it had gotten there, but when she suggested she might do away with them he quickly changed his tune.
Needless to say, it killed. The monkey alone, in a blank white panel, with nothing, would probably have been sufficient for this crowd.
The things they came up with were marvelous beyond words, in some cases. There was a comic where two cats saw a procession of succulent mice, talking about how they might enjoy such a feast, but when the mouse king came by they had no choice but to bow in supplication. I believe there was a comic where two bunnies, both of them named Bunny, hopped and enjoyed themselves.
It's not nice, but young people are easily manipulated. For example, if you would like to make them feel good, you can have them hold their pictures up. Once they have done so, you can look at their teacher with astonishment. "Mrs. Erickson," you will say. "I thought you told me these were third graders. These students are drawing at a fifth grade level!" and so forth.
We left a not insignificant store of strip templates (our URL carefully brushed away) in the hopes that between now and when these organisms are loosed for the summer, they can invest some period of time in the manufacture of scenarios which may potentially incorporate hideous giraffes. I haven't really communicated it, perhaps because it is beyond my ability to do so. But doing this was so unlike the activities that characterize a given day for me that the comparisons and harsh appraisals were essentially automatic.
This relatively pure experience came hot on the heels of our recent drama, and the disparity between the two scenarios helped me to understand that such things are best reserved for your mama. Tracking the fusillades from site to site, even dragging the mouse pointer from link to link eventually becomes a tremendous chore. To what end? Apologists from every conceivable side have resumed stable positions on their respective corners of the board. The community has a kind of elastic equilibrium that makes genuine dialectic progress illusory. It's like when the cuckoo emerges from the clock at the appointed time and then recedes, his vigor authentic but largely irrelevant. I would rather that comparisons between myself and mechanical birds not leap so readily to the tongue.
Also, we found a pair of magic rings that will help us protect the Earth's fragile ecosystem. So the level of positivity around here really has reached a new level.
we're all liars