Depression Comix 286 and 277

Clay Jonathan at the Depression Comix blog provides a regular series of disconnected comic strips, each comprised of three to four panels, that depict the effects of depression on a half-dozen or so recurring characters. It’s an unconventional topic for an art form that’s more often associated with humor and action, but the artist portrays his subject matter with honesty and integrity while managing to work within the conventions of his medium.

Not much happens within each strip — a couple walk through a park, a woman laces running shoes, a man showers — and this banality underscores the lack of energy and enthusiasm routinely displayed by the characters suffering from depression. The latest strip, 286, shows a woman viewing a former friend playing in a band, and regretting her inability to feel happy for her friend’s success. Yet she’s able to talk to another friend about her reaction, and it’s small interactions like these that make this series engaging. The characters are depressed, but they communicate — with their friends, with themselves, and most importantly, the reader. Other characters in the strip also communicate with the depressed characters, sometimes with empathy but occassionally with indifference or anger.

Humor, as I mentioned before, is a common element in comics, but it’s difficult to write about depression in a manner that’s both honest and funny. Fortunately, Depression Comix doesn’t take the easy way out by relying on lame jokes or mocking stereotypes; if there isn’t a good punchline, the comic doesn’t try to force one through. It’s this integrity that makes the occassional attempt at humor, such as strip 277, all the more poignant.

If you struggle with depression, you’ll be able to see yourself in many of these strips, and perhaps gain insight you haven’t recognized before. If you’re fortunate enough not to suffer from depression but want to better understand how it can affect your family and friends (and yourself, if only indirectly), you’ll appreciate the candor of this strip. And if you just like comics, you’ll appreciate the unique achievement of Depression Comix.

Did

Sharing a poem today by Pixie Annie, a playful yet serious rumination on humanity’s faulty logic and the irrationality of the heart. Thanks also to Unbolt for bringing the poem to my attention.

Fighting for Her Brother’s Freedom

Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town, frequently uses his blog to highlight human rights abuses across the globe, such as the case of  Hussein Abu Al-Khair, a Jordanian man currently facing a death sentence in Saudia Arabia over what appears to be fabricated charges. Mark’s columns are well researched and informative, and are written with a tone of controlled urgency that engages rather than enrages.

His blog also features a Today in History column that, rather than a nostalgic indulgence, demonstrates his fondness for trivia, a distinctive trait of an active, curious mind. The occassional short story or poem can also be discovered on this delightful blog.

Madness

A succinct, powerful commentary on the United States presidential election by Paul F. Lenzi, who describes himself as “an old school, conservative, flag waving, spirited patriot.” That’s exactly how my late parents and grandparents thought of themselves, and I’d like to think they’d share my disgust with The Fraud, the man who will likely become one of just two people with any chance of becoming the most powerful person in the world this November. (And for the record, I’m not a fan of the other likely candidate either, but the threat she represents is not nearly so dire.)

I hate the argument that dismisses comparisons of The Fraud to Hitler and Mussolini, simply because he isn’t assassinating his enemies and his followers aren’t goose-stepping in the streets. Continental European fascism, with its brutish displays of power and appeals to eugenics, is too antithetical to Anglo-American traditions to be anything more than a fringe movement in the United States. I believe it was George Orwell, writing in the 1930s, who claimed that English fascism would only come to power if it smiled rather than snarled. It’s the same sentiment expressed by Albert Brooks’ character in the 1987 film Broadcast News:

What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Come on! Nobody is going to be taken in by a guy with a long, red, pointy tail!  . . .  He will be attractive! He’ll be nice and helpful. He’ll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing! He’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing… he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit.

I honestly believe The Fraud, should he somehow win the presidential election this fall, would be an existential threat to this country. A friend this week told me she feared The Fraud would start World War III, implode the national economy, or get assassinated were he elected; I replied that all three disasters would be near certainties. His presidency would be catastrophic, and the United States would at the end of his term be a dispirited, broken nation, as emotionally devastated as a parent watching their children being executed. I’m semi-serious here — The Fraud must be stopped, must be sent back to hosting his crappy television show, to losing money over his failed business deals, to pitching his mediocre brand of products. We can’t be cosigners to his fifth bankruptcy.

Sorry for the political rant, my friends, but this sentiment just had to come out at some point. And I’m doubly sorry for diverting attention from Paul F. Lenzi’s fine blog.

The Point Of Living

Peter Wells, of the countingducks blog, is a proficient author of short fiction. Each of his stories exists independent of the others, and while they are typically only a few hundred words long they never leave the reader asking what’s next — the writing is precise and focused, providing a thorough examination of a concept or character while also being consistently entertaining, with the occassional clever line that never seems forced or overbearing.

His About page is worth reading on its own, and contains its own little gems —  Life soon passes, my skin attests to that.

His latest story, The Point of Living, is the first-person narrative of an unnammed man who follows numerous paths to personal fulfillment, each of which leads to a dead end. Over two decades of this man’s life is summarized in just a handful of paragraphs (approximately two mouse clicks are required to traverse from beginning to end, your exact effort a function of  screen resolution), and at the conclusion the narrator is as uncertain as ever, yet somehow in exactly the place where he’s most comfortable. Like most of Peter’s stories, it provides an image that lasts far longer than the time required to read this clever little fable.

Positive Probability

Wanted to direct some attention today towards blogs which are genuinely positive, even inspirational at times:

Bucket List Publications — Lesley Carter enjoys life, and this blog chronicles the adventures of her and her family

Passionate Creative Christian — Faye writes on spiritual themes without being preachy

Be Inspired . . !! — empress2inpire is a physician who’s committed to using her writing “to touch each and every soul on this planet” through her simple, direct advice

Towards a Balance of Light and Dark

As some of my followers have noticed, I’m drawn to bloggers who explore dark themes, especially in poetry. Yet I still appreciate writers who operate in the bright daylight of inspiration, such as Kristy, who blogs on A Renaissance Glow.

Her recent post, Bucking Niceness, explores how we often struggle with the light and dark impulses within us, and how we’re conditioned to distrust the dark, label it “evil,” suppress those feelings. To continually wear the nice mask, even at the expense of our integrity. Letting our dark impulses fester under the artificial light of a false face, until those impulses can no longer be held back and erupt in a spasm of violence.

What compels me about darkness is my growing awareness of its absolute necessity. My fencing coach talks often about “harnessing the beast” during competition; having the beast lead you to fly in rage against your opponent will probably result in a quick defeat, but letting the beast’s hunger drive you can dispel anxiety and inspire you to find the edge needed for victory. This harness is a metaphor for the balance between light and dark, and maintaining this balance has benefits that extend far beyond the fencing strip.

Our dark impulses, when properly understood, can complete us. Kristy expresses this thought much more eloquently, so I’ll let her have the last word:

It’s only in the dark that you truly feel and learn to trust your light.