Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #27 (October 8th, 2006)

O ye who believe! Be helpers (ansars) of God; as said Jesus the son of Mary to his apostles, "Who will come to the help of God?" "We," said the apostles, "will be helpers of God." And a part of the children of Israel believed, and a part believed not. But to those who believed gave We the upper hand over their foes, and soon did they prove victorious.

Sura 61:14 "Battle Array"

It's not often that your lawyer asks a favour of you, but Wilf called and left a message during the second week of September telling me that the nephew of a close friend (Christiane Kahlen) of his, was going to be visiting from Germany at the end of September. Evidently, in conversation it had come up that Andreas—Andreas Platthaus—was a big comics fan and Aunt Christiane had said something along the lines of "Oh, a lawyer friend of ours has a client who does comics, maybe you have heard of him. Dave Sim?" It is always funny to listen to relayed enthusiasm on a scale that is always unexpected and (the unmistakeable undertone) disproportionate for residents of Kitchener-Waterloo. In this case the effect was further magnified in that Andreas is a full-time reporter for the Arts Section of F.A.Z [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung], evidently one of Germany's largest national newspapers. You learn not to take offence but what is being conveyed is the sense of "I could understand some crazy high-school kid or maybe (MAYBE) a university student being this enthusiastic about what you do, but this guy sounds like the real deal. I mean, he has a real job on a real newspaper dealing in the arts and he STILL thinks you're the bee's knees. It's not that he USED to read your work and he wants to meet you as some sentimental attachment from when he was a kid, he wants to meet you just as if you were an actual artist of some kind and it sounds as if he wants to write an actual article."

Crazy Dave Sim takes many shapes and forms and Local Inexplicable Eccentric (i.e. Largely Harmless Nutcase) is one of them. Writing and co-drawing a 6,000-page comic-book story just puts you in that category. I don't take offence because it's certainly a useful protective colouring to adopt. To be taken seriously in Kitchener-Waterloo would really just entail a lot of interruptions that I can ill afford given that I have a lot of work to do.

Andreas said that comics aren't taken seriously at all in Germany—something I hadn't known—so I wondered if it wasn't part of that "bred in the bone" German quality that Kitchener-Waterloo as a German community might have absorbed by societal osmosis. As he reminded me, the Nazis had been swift in denouncing and eradicating comics and animated cartoons from their National Socialist (emphasis on the Socialist) experiment as "degenerate art". To have that happen in the 1930s when comics and cartoons were really taking their first giant strides as a medium, well, that's going to have long-term effects. Andreas had just visited with Art Spiegelman in New York before coming up here and Spiegelman had told him that Maus in its German translation still has its smallest worldwide sales in that country.

"So, it's not like Italy and France?"

"Oh, no. Far from it. That was the problem. Germans looked at Maus and they literally didn't know what to make of it. It was comics and how could comics address such a serious subject when comics are just for children?"

Interesting. So there we sat in my studio, the three of us, Andreas, myself and his partner Martina Gerhardt…

(who was very quiet—self-conscious about her skills in English as it turned out—and who, I had falsely assumed, was just another long-suffering life-mate who was mentally trading her own indulgence of Andreas' peculiar interest in comic books which had led to this visit with a local Nutcase for a series of family obligations—birthday parties, anniversary parties, extended visits by the in-laws. No, she was actually as big a Cerebus fan as Andreas: her most recent birthday present had been a page of original artwork from Minds)

…and Andreas began his interview—sans tape recorder and note-taking which is usually a bad sign, but maybe that was the reason that it was more just a comfortable conversation. Partly that and partly that I was just beginning to absorb that here was a fellow come from a distant country where even Maus can't get any real-world traction and what it must be like to be an Arts reporter and comic-book fan in a context like that.

We had been discussing the nature of education today and I had been citing (as I often do) the fact that our parents and grandparents studied Greek and Latin as a matter of course in addition to the subjects that children study today. And they certainly didn't feel themselves ill-used in being expected to do so. Not so today where two hours of homework is coming to be viewed as a violation of a child's fundamental UN protected human rights. As I put it, "The Bill Clinton theory of education: `We will leave no child behind.'" And there I had to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it. "If you're going to slow education to the point where NO child is going to be left behind you are definitely going to make education a mind-numbing and torturous ordeal for anyone brighter than the dullest-witted child." Although they both laughed spontaneously, there was a self-consciousness to their laughter: their own quick-wittedness instantly at loggerheads with their sincere, heartfelt empathy for "slow learners". Liberals, I surmised—or skewed left, anyway. In a social context such as we all inhabit, it's always diplomatically important to back-peddle at least a bit when you point out the self-evidently true even (and with Liberals, especially) when it flies in the face of compulsive compassion. "That sounds elitist, I guess, in our present context, but, come on…" I mimed a child looking at his imaginary watch and then up at a teacher. "Yes, I understand. I understood it the first eighteen times you explained it."

At that point Andreas started on a rather lengthy question, the gist of which was the number of people who I have cited as creative influences—Charles Dickens, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, etc.—and who are all associated with leftist thinking as opposed to conservative thinking…and here he got lost a little bit in what he was driving at but what it really amounted to was "How could you?" That is, how could I not only switch political allegiances but how was it possible to do so when I had obviously been weaned on and studied and absorbed the best of leftist thinking even to the extent of turning so many of my readers onto those influences that they might not otherwise have encountered? And particularly how could I choose the Bible over the best and the brightest of progressive intelligence, the Bible which is so inextricably bound up with Conservative thinking?

"Is it part of that `no child left behind' thing?"

It was a thing devoutly to be wished that he might have had a tape recorder at that point because it was certainly a novel question. It's always difficult to convey to Liberals that it's never really just any single given element of what Liberalism has degenerated into, it's the sheer self-conflicted interconnectedness of it all. They want the best possible education for all children AND they want to leave no child behind. Well, which is it? You can't have both. The best education is going to leave any number of children behind and an education that leaves no child behind is going to be an education in name only. The best it can be is an "education". And you're still going to have to fudge your numbers in order for everyone to pass on to the next grade. To me, it's female "thinking". Which quickly gets into awkward areas. Bright red "MISOGYNIST" flags suddenly waving all over the place, so it's completely unfruitful to even begin to venture down that road in conversation even with a Cerebus fan who knows who he's talking to. For everyone but me there's a giant "Road Closed" sign on the avenue that plainly indicates that the introduction of numerical parity between the genders in virtually all professions has led to female "thinking" superseding male thinking. But again I think that the fact that it is female "thinking" is self-evidently true: Not passing into the next grade makes children feel bad and making children feel bad is wrong so we have to figure out a system where everyone passes. It starts with the emotionally desired outcome and develops a system which will provide that outcome. If you want to see where society is going wrong just look for any area where female "thinking" has supplanted male thinking and education—or "education"—is a glaring example. But, when talking to Liberals, as I say, you can't take that direct an approach. Whatever might be wrong with education it can't be the fault of women and female "thinking". Only a misogynist would think like that. So, you have to take a different tack. But, there's an intellectual dishonesty in being forced to do that, so—right away in attempting to discuss a subject with Liberals— you have to adopt their own approach of closing off avenues of debate with the result that instead of having a discussion you are then having a "discussion". Let's not talk about the elephant in the room if talking about the elephant in the room is going to make women feel bad, but let's pretend that we're actually discussing the subject in spite of that.

All of that went through my mind in a flash which is just, you know, par for the course. I do it automatically now as I think everyone in our society does. A question is posed and you first eliminate, mentally, all of the things that you're not allowed to say and then pick from the limited selection that remains. Of course I've had a couple of days to think about it since the interview took place, so this is a rough combination of what I said and what I should have said in retrospect:

I basically climbed a scaffold of thinkers as I was growing up and very little if any of that took place in a classroom setting. I was taught Shakespeare in such a way that apart from the beauty of the language and the plot outline of his plays nothing was really conveyed that would have anything to do with the thought that he might have put into his work. I memorized Shakespeare and I compared things in Shakespeare's plays to other things in Shakespeare's plays. I started with a supposition which was advanced as a thesis by a question on an exam which obviously originated with a committee of some kind. A School Board had decided what was relevant and meaningful in Romeo and Juliet and embarked upon the course of leading me to the correct trough so that I would drink in the manner prescribed. The entire process was so tangential to the play itself and whatever thinking it may have contained that I really think you could have substituted the movie version of West Side Story without any serious detriment to the educational structure. The point wasn't the play, the point was thinking correctly and identifying apples as apples and oranges as oranges according to the classifications the School Board held them to possess. I knew, intrinsically, that school was not a place for thinking, it was a place for correct regurgitation.

I would have to say that my first experience with thinking was reading science fiction novels. Most science fiction novels were just science fiction novels but every once in a while I'd read one that stood out. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness as an example—where I could see that something more was being said than "Hey what if you had a planet where everyone was (fill in the blank). What would that be like?" And then within science fiction, I gravitated to Harlan Ellison's writing because he had the best track record in that area. He did write science fiction stories that were just science fiction stories, but he tended to admit it when he did so. He not only knew the difference between sci-fi, sf, and genuine literature but he wasn't afraid to say so out loud (which would have been career suicide in the sf field if he had been less talented). Sometimes he was serving you fish crackers and sometimes he was frying up a large denizen of the deep. Certainly "The Deathbird" had a profound impact on me in my teens. "All is not necessarily as it seems" but conveyed in a much larger sense. "All is not necessarily as it seems and the distinction is critically important—what does it appear to be? and what is it really?"

And, of course, the boogeyman of the time was Richard Nixon so at one level or another Richard Nixon and what he represented was the diametric opposite of who we all —Harland and his devoted readership—were and what we represented. Harlan enunciated this dichotomy better than most. His was a clear voice on the political left as opposed to, say, the voice of Robert Crumb who, to me, was slumped down among the nihilists and I think that clarity can be attributed to the fact that Harlan had never ingested drugs or alcohol. To have a fine mind in the 1960s untrammelled by either gave you a distinct advantage in the clarity department over just about every other left winger.

From Harlan I graduated to Norman Mailer. Here was the same kind of hard-edged prose—both had been profoundly influenced by the writings of John dos Passos—but on a completely different level. Mailer didn't have the constraints of the science-fiction field setting and limiting his boundaries for him. Context is a large factor—witness my own present circumstance, discussing profundities with a journalist from a country that universally regarded what I did as being on the same societal level as a clown at a children's birthday party. You can seek to expand your context—as I do and as Harlan did and does—but to one degree or another you inhabit the context you inhabit.

What Harlan and Mailer had in common was a clarity of sight. They saw clearly and they were both self-evidently always "on". There was no such thing as an intrinsically irrelevant episode in their lives. Neither of them were "s—t happens" types. The things they documented that they had experienced always bore within them larger meaning and had an interconnectedness to other events, something they had read or something they had heard about. And the interconnectedness was usually precise, the significance implicit to them in a way that they were compelled to convey with the greatest and most obvious sense of urgency to their readers. They seldom if ever related an anecdote that was as vague as "There was a woman at a party somewhere and she said something about children's toys, I forget what it was exactly…" Implicit to their way of living was that accurate memory was important. They engaged your attentions on the page because there were really only two possibilities—either they were either making it all up out of whole cloth or they were actually more awake than everyone else: alert for those triggers that might generate a short story, a novel, or a newspaper column. Their track record allowed of no possibility of wholesale fabrication, indisputably they were more awake than most people.

One of the differences between Harlan and Norman Mailer was that there was nothing of the mystic about Harlan. He could write effectively about mystical subjects and weave a very plausible construct out of belief that is reality and reality that is belief, but there was nothing of that in him personally that I ever saw in his writings. It was all "What if…?" This set him very much at odds with the vast majority of his audience—whom he rather vocally deplored—who believed any number of cockeyed notions. There was never any danger of Harlan following in the steps of L. Ron Hubbard: if anything he was the anti-L. Ron Hubbard, endlessly pleading with science fiction fans to get their heads out of the clouds and actually engage the real world on its own real terms, to ascertain what was right and what was wrong and to "go for the throat" in the latter case. He had—and has—a small army of devoted readers who heeded his call to arms but which army was largely insulated from the world by a much larger constituency that swerved in the direction of terminal hippie-dom and "head in the cloud" nihilism.

Mailer, by contrast, saw everything in large mystical and quasi-mystical terms. When he discussed cancer (as he did at interminable length) there was cancer and there was Cancer. The former was a physical disease, the latter was a Spiritual Miasma into which we were all descending. He wasn't afraid to frame things in terms of God and the Devil as Real Presences in our modern world. Harlan could write "The Deathbird" but you had the sense that Mailer was actually living it. There were always huge issues at stake for Mailer in even the smallest daily undertaking and I gravitated to that perception. Mailer's writing indicted you and suggested that each action, each word, each moment of each day was weighted with meaning—"0" or "1", good or evil. You were either helping God or you were helping the Devil.

From Mailer I elevated my line of sight to Dostoevsky who was clearly mining the same territory but had clearly concluded that you had to do so at exponentially prodigious length in order to attain to the maximum desired effect within the reader. Yes, you could write short stories and newspaper columns, but your measure would be taken by your novels and your novels had to be as all-encompassing as could be imagined. Here again was the Titanic Struggle but across a broader spectrum of nuance from the smallest detail to the largest and broadest of strokes. To understand man, you had to immerse yourself in his condition and to immerse yourself in his condition so that your reader experienced it in the same way that you did, you had to overwhelm the reader's context with your fictional context. That meant big novels with big casts and Large Core Points meticulously developed.

In each case, with Harlan Ellison, Norman Mailer and Fyodor Dostoevsky there was a part of me that was learning to be a writer and part of me that was learning to be a thinking member of society. In each case the two were inextricably linked. It was clear (to me anyway) that in each case they were in search of Absolute Truth with the idea that if it could be found and brought to heel within one of their stories it would prove a societal panacea. Mailer cited his own ambition to "change the nature of consciousness itself". This was worlds away and worlds above the humble notion of "yarn spinning". And it seemed to suit my own nature by about the point where Dostoevsky had overwhelmed my own context with his. At that point nothing else seemed to be worthwhile but to begin writing and begin the pursuit of Absolute Truth,

I read any number of authors from then on but—apart from finally reading Robertson Davies (Christian and mystic in equal balance) and Tolstoy (Christian and anti-mystic in equal balance)—I never encountered any authors who seemed to be as genuinely ambitious as the above-mentioned individuals. Most of the time I was just aware that I was reading a book that someone had written to make a few bucks and because they seemed to be rather good at it. Scott Fitzgerald was a magnificent writer but not, to me, a particularly ambitious one. Writing was what he did, but it wasn't what he was. What he was, primarily, was a husband and an alcoholic or an alcoholic and a husband.

So, I basically climbed—as far as I could see—three giant rungs on a ladder and then couldn't find another rung above that. Anything I read after that was either a cheat, a conceit or just a sideways step.

Which is why, I think, the Bible had such a profound effect on me. I was only about ten pages in when I thought, "This is it. This is what I had been looking for. This is Absolute Truth." And that impression never flagged for a moment as I read it cover to cover. I understood very little of it, but I did recognize that it was the Socratic Ideal (if you will) of what writing is, the lodestone narrative from which all other narratives derive their form. It shifted gears rapidly and changed contexts with the sure knowledge implicit that what was being expressed was being expressed as succinctly as possible and that after that all was basic literary "safe cracking". Where are the tumblers and how do you get them to align properly in order to open the safe.

If I had a criticism of the previous construct—derivative narrative as its own "thing"—at that point it was that it was inherently evasive of reality. Harlan's prodigious imagination could conceive of worlds and connections and What ifs that I couldn't begin to bring to fruition as brilliantly as he had. I had the same experience with Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

Where do you guys come up with this stuff?

But, once I had passed over to the Biblical context, the question became one of: this is all very interesting, but what do you believe? In Harlan's case he was certainly literal-minded. Science fiction was science fiction but reality was reality. Any step away from there was a step in the direction of L. Ron Hubbard. Neil appeared to take tentative steps away from Harlan's unassailable empiricism and Alan appeared to take a few larger strides although in both instances it's impossible to picture them actually founding a system of belief and turning into a church or church-equivalent comparable to Scientology. All to the good. But that still left the question: what do you believe?

Harlan was the most unassailably moral of the three. If there had been even a whiff of anything in proximity to the womanizing and alcoholism of Mailer or Dostoevsky's gambling addiction, we would have read about it by now in the Comics Journal. Which served to indicate to me (once I had "passed over") that this might have been a key element in what appeared to be the richer literary tapestry offered by Mailer and Dostoevsky, the greater densities of prose and the larger insistence that Grand Doings Were Afoot. It strikes me now that a lot of what impressed me at the time as Large Thinking was really just Large Evasion: a means of evading the central question of life which is personal belief—what do you believe?—and which is therefore always inextricably bound up with personal modes of behaviour—what do you do? While it is dazzling to read Mailer's dawning realization that there is a Large Dichotomy between the Devil and God and that that Extreme Contention is enacted within each of us on a daily basis, that we are either contributing to God or contributing to the Devil in each microcosmic and macrocosmic action, thought and deed which make up our lives of quiet and, for some of us, un-quiet desperation it is far less dazzling (in retrospect) to realize that he's holding a coffee cup full of bourbon while declaiming on the subject.

Who is kidding whom?

If you genuinely believe in Extreme Contention and your own role in it, how can you not see that the coffee cup full of bourbon has to go? Conversely, how can you believe that a coffee cup full of bourbon is of any direct or indirect benefit to the cause of God? And if your final decision is to inhabit squarely the uneasy borderlands between God and the Devil (my own ultimate decision was that if you could even see the Devil you were, by definition, too far away from God) why am I listening to you? Why am I reading you? This seemed to me to be a self-evident vice of the left that they were strong on theory and expression but short on action. They will come to the aid of God as long as it doesn't mean they have to miss the next great party or (God forbid) reign in their excessive appetites in the process. Likewise with Dostoevsky. There is certainly a great deal to be said for and about someone having such prodigious aptitudes in documenting the human condition from the macrocosmic to the microcosmic (and Dostoevsky biographies would fill a small football field) but, I think, you really just make yourself a buffoon in the larger context you are attempting to access if you are incapable of applying those aptitudes and awarenesses in directly addressing a central reality—not a literary reality but a REALITY reality—and keeping yourself away from the gambling dens.

In reading the Bible, what I had previously seen as the exercising of mighty intellects, I came to see, instead, as theatrics, literary histrionics, a burlesque on the printed page which was the product of a dissociated personality: If I write this chapter really well, I will permit myself to drink myself into a stupor. If I get this paragraph right I will permit myself to go and gamble all of the money left in my advance against royalties. Small price to pay for Armies of the Night or a Crime and Punishment? More like a win for the Devil and an unlikely but perhaps Pyrrhic victory for God.

The dichotomy once I had passed the threshold could no longer be ignored. Let's get out of the realm of the theoretical and let's start with the Largest Identifiable and Relevant Reality—what you are actually doing—and proceed from there. To say that a Crime and Punishment is worth whatever human toll Dostoevsky exacted upon his own soul through his gambling vice is, in my view, to play the Devil's game by the Devil's rules. And I think that's a common vice on the left, to mistake cause for effect, the means for the end, and so on. The Bible and Crime and Punishment are both texts but that's really where the similarity ends. Crime and Punishment essentially counsels misdirection when you move outside of the limits of its confines and include the author with the work. What the author is saying through his life, rather than through his work is: The point of life is to be able to write like this, the point of life is to document a scene so accurately that you can see it with great vividness in your mind's eye, the point of life is to see the manifold layers of beauty and ugliness which make up life and to describe them elegantly and evocatively.

Well, no.

More important than all of those, the point of life is not to do things like gambling compulsively so you're always bankrupt. To not gamble all of your own money away and then gamble away money you've borrowed from others that you have no possibility of repaying. I don't mean to diminish the work in saying this—far from it. To a greater extent than any other author—with the possible exception of Charles Dickens— Dostoevsky came to epitomize his time and his country. So invested in his writing did his countrymen become that it is difficult to figure out precisely where Dostoevsky stops and Russian history begins. If you have the soul of a mystic, let me suggest to you that in attaining to just such an inextricable level of linkage between himself and Mother Russia, very possibly Dostoevsky not only gambled away his own fortune but Russia's larger spiritual fortunes as well. Large Ambition Achieved—and what writer doesn't secretly hope to epitomize his own time and place as Dostoevsky did his?—can have it's downside of Large Consequence Suffered.

The intricacies of the full-throated debates between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal that I had found so fascinating in my youth proved, in retrospect, to have all of the intellectual value of a schoolyard name-calling contest when measured against the eternal verities and layers upon layers upon layers of mysteries in the Bible. It's something that you could devote a lifetime to and many have. Apart from my Torah commentaries which made up a large part of Latter Days I also try to answer as many letters as I can on the subject and I've also been trying to devote the beginning of each working day to working on my commentaries on Mark's Gospel. Even at the height of my devotion to the works of Ellison, Mailer and Dostoevsky, I never felt compelled to do that—I just wanted to compete and do what they were doing.

If the Cerebus fan was content with this explanation, the leftist journalist was less so.

"If it's any consolation, I find the devoutly religious just as misguided as leftist authors most of the time. Looking back at what I had considered the largest intellectual issues dealt with by the towering intellects of the progressive left, it seems to me that they were just obsessively making mountains out of molehills. Conversely, my complaint against most deists is that they persist in seeing the Torah and the Gospels and the Koran, this monumental work of genuine interlocking mysteries and layered meaning to be a series of disconnected anecdotes, the message of each of which they seem to believe is usually `families are a good thing,' or `it's not nice when brothers fight.' On the conservative religious right, they take a mountain and make a molehill out of it."

The next question was "Why Islam?"

That was an easy one. Having spent 40 years of my life completely immersed in sin I was—and am—a massive reclamation project. The discipline involved in praying five times a day and fasting for thirty days, I think, gives me a fighting chance against the temptations of this world (as does finding sudden unexpected strength capable of unplugging my television and putting it out back of my apartment building with the rest of the garbage). As just so massive a reclamation project, I found the present-day Christian observance (as opposed to the Gospels themselves) just too easy to "cheat" on. As long as you go to church on Sunday and spend a couple of hours being penitent, the rest of the week is your own to get in as much trouble as you want. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit of a one, in my view. Even keeping Sunday entirely reserved for prayer and fasting and reading scripture, I'd find myself very far from God by the time Saturday night rolled around. Praying five times a day serves to remind me that faith in God is all that we actually have. Everything that we think that we have, including our physical selves (as Neal Adams indicated to me in Niagara Falls) is in actuality just an electromagnetic field turned inside out.

So there you have the combination of what I said and should have said. Obviously pointlessly lengthy in the context of a newspaper interview but, I thought, a question deserving of an answer since I had never had it posed to me in quite that way. The core issue is that I find the Bible and the Koran—taken on their own terms, which is to say God's own terms—don't permit you to evade what I see as my core responsibility for self-improvement. As a writer I of course tried—and try!—to create staggering works of heart-breaking genius but I no longer see that as a sufficient goal in life. As I see it now, my personal behaviour is my central concern and there's always more than enough room for improvement. Just the contrast between my Ramadan self—obsessively determined to make sure that I begin my prayers consistently to the exact second of the mandated prayer times, that I keep up my 100% record of never violating my self-imposed ban of eating and drinking between sunrise and sundown—and my day-to-day self where I pray roughly an hour before dawn, roughly at noon, roughly at three, roughly at sundown and roughly an hour after sundown and (however restrained) I still tend to let my appetite for food "off the leash" more often than I'm proud of, gives me a clear demonstration of what is possible in this world versus my usual behaviours. My better Ramadan self leads a better life than my not-as-good non-Ramadan self. Knowing that difference I have found extremely valuable in improving the condition of the latter self. The pictures I draw and the writings that I write are very much a side issue, not completely but largely irrelevant.

The sort of things that I wrestle with is giving so much of my personal money to charity that I was caught short last year when I needed a series of very expensive root canals. I cut my spending even further to the bare bone than it had already been and most months I just squeaked by.

"You have to be realistic, Dave. You don't need much money but you do need some money."

It's hard to know if that's true or how true it is. The Koran warns against that very syndrome "Neither have thy hand bound up to thy neck, neither give with all openness lest thou sit thee down in rebuke and beggary." The idea is to help the poor, not turn yourself into a poor person. But finding that balance is difficult when the comic-book field goes through its feast and famine streaks (or we do, anyway).

Just a few minutes ago—while I was writing this part—the 2006 Christmas Gift Catalogue from World Vision ( came in the mail with a whole shopping list of things you can buy for the world's poor in developing countries. (Build a greenhouse - $500, Stock a medical clinic - $100, Dairy cow - $600, 2 rabbits - $35)

One female rabbit can produce up to 20 baby bunnies a year. Those bunnies produce more bunnies. And the rapid rabbit breeding phenomenon goes on and on. Bunnies are simple to raise, provide a highly nutritious diet rich in protein and can jumpstart a great family business. Give 2 or even 4 rabbits to provide an easy, income-generating opportunity. For needy families, the bunny business is a bountiful thing.

…and then I'm pulled back in the other direction. How much money do I "need" when these are the things that are at stake? 2 hens and a rooster, $50, "Learning tools for an entire classroom" $50

"4 Harvest Packs for 4 Families"

What could be more perfect for the gardener on your list than crops to feed hungry families? Thanks to generous North American corporations, your gift today will provide 4 Harvest Packs for the price of one. A single Harvest Pack includes hearty seeds and sturdy tools for planting. And with each Harvest Pack, a World Vision staff person will provide training to help bring bountiful harvests of vitamin-rich vegetables, legumes and grains for years to come. Now's your chance to help four families for the price of one.

Not four individuals, four families. Guess how much four Harvest Packs are going to set you back. Go on, guess. Thirty-five dollars.

35…measly…dollars. Now, what do I just HAVE to spend $35 on this week that's more important than that?

Of all the giant intellects that I read in the ranks of the progressive left I never got the sense that any of that was especially important. Quite the contrary, the impression that I got from reading them was that a wide latitude of self-indulgence is only to be expected—and encouraged!—in the "human animal." We all have our vices, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, etc. That seems to me a recipe for the slow erosion of civilization as each successive generation grants itself greater and greater latitude and less and less personal responsibility. To me, the Bible and the Koran lead in the opposite direction of less and less latitude and greater and greater personal responsibility.

Definitively, the latter course has made for, in my view, anyway, an exponentially better Dave Sim than did the former course.

But, it's all individual choice which is why it takes a direct question to provoke these kinds of observations out of me. So thanks to Andreas for that if you enjoyed this and curses to Andreas if you didn't.

Take a look at the Christmas shopping list at and see if there isn't something there you can't afford to give.

Unless, of course, you think it's a complete coincidence that the catalogue came in just this minute while I was writing this part of today's posting on the zakat, alms-giving.

In which case, forget I said anything.

Scripture at the Registry Theatre

122 Frederick Street in Kitchener

November 12, November 19, January 7, January 21,

January 28 All 1 pm start times

2-DVD sets of the

50 chapters of Genesis

40 chapters of Exodus

27 chapters of Leviticus

36 chapters of Numbers

are available from

Trevor Grace at


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.