Okko – Cycle of water (comic book)

Okko has been a favourite of mine for about a decade now. (It suddenly dawns on me that I’m advancing in years*)

*and still reading comic books.

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Okko is a French comic. Its written and illustrated by Humbert Chabuel (who goes by the nom de plume HUB) and then colored by Humbert Chabuel and Stephan Pecayo. Some lengthy period of time would pass after the French version was released and then eventually we would get an english translation. The release schedule was jerky, sporadic and frustrating. But since all four cycles are now available this has become a bit of a mute point. It published by Archaia Studios Press which stables another one of my favorites, Mouse Guard.

Okko follows the story of a Ronin-esque type demon hunter called Okko and his various misadventures. He is joined on his sojourn by his friend (maybe retainer is more apt) Noburo, a half demon warrior and a alcoholic monk called Noshin. The monk also gets an apprentice at the end of the first cycle.

The story takes place in a fictional realm called Pajan which mimics medieval Japan, specifically the Sengoku jidai period. Its meant for older audiences as it is often quite violent, bloody and features some nudity (sometimes all in the same panel). Which means twelve year old me would have LOVED it!

Older more discerning Joey likes Okko for a myriad of reasons other than the occasional display of boobs. It’s different from an American style of comic book. Not in a good or a bad way, it just has a different feel and flavor. I’ve heard Okko referred to as Franco-manga. (Which I thought was quite clever) It also has a lot more panels per page than your average Americana. (This makes it feel quite busy, but you get used to it quickly)

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It’s a very pretty comic and I really like the flow. It feels very cinematic and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. I also like the world build. It feels very solid, with its own intricacy, depth and mythology. If do have a criticism is that this fantastic world only serves as a simple backdrop. You never get to peel back any of the layers. That’s partly due to the main protagonist, Okko, who is a gruff, humourless… monster killer. He doesn’t have time to fuck around and smell the flowers. In fact you never quite get to understand Okko or what motivates him. Which I thought was pity. HUB spent a lot of time and effort thinking about his world, it deserved more glory.

The Japanophile in me loves this series. But I think it would a appeal to someone who just wants to be entertained, read a cool story and look at pretty pictures.

On death

Memento, homo … quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris’ (remember human, that you are dust and to dust you will return)

Interacting with a skeletal chassis wrapped in a black cowl and wielding a farming implement of questionable hygiene seems a little dated. (and let’s be honest, somewhat Pratchetty*)

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* look at me, creating an adjective.

Having never experienced death, I’m loathed to hypothesize on how our interaction will play out. I imagine some surprise (on my part) possibly followed by some light Q&A, maybe a pamphlet or laminated brochure being thrust at me, ‘Welcome to the afterlife’. Hopefully I will think of something witty to say, I’d like to make a good first impression. I think that might be situation dependent though, difficult to say something clever if you’ve just died in a suicide bombing and you’re preoccupied with picking drywall screws and bits of pressure cooker out of your skull (well.. what’s left of it)

Then again population dynamics being what they are, perhaps I’m being optimistic for a personalized experience. It seems more likely that we all get corralled into some sort of foyer or boardroom (along with the proletariat of the world) for the Death powerpoint FAQ. Which will likely fail to live up to the expectations, given the agitated excitement of the recently deceased.

After snacks and a bit of light banter we get separated into groups, based on religious preference, and led down markedly different aesthetic corridors. Atheists, agnostics and mixed faith couples unwilling to be separated are left to mill around aimlessly in the foyer. ‘Your representative is running a little late’, says Death. Which is somewhat of a relief. That we even have a representative I mean.

‘Something about the Hell-mouth over flowing’, Death mumbles. The audience shares looks of concern. Death laughs, ‘I apologize, a little joke I make, gets you guys every time, ha ha.’

It amuses me to consider some form of post death experience. For the most part it keeps me entertained about the inevitable. As Monty Python famously said, ‘Always look on the bright side… of death’.

For the most part however we as Homo sapiens aren’t amused by anything involving death. (From now on I shall refer only to the process and not the individual) We take it all very seriously, so seriously in fact that we attempt to prolong the inevitable. Not content with just kicking the bucket down the road (so to speak), we also spend an inordinate of time and effort creating narratives ranging from reanimation to resurrection to reincarnation to deal with post event uncertainty and potential consequences thereof.

What happens when we die? I have no idea. I mean I understand that we bloat, rot and get served up as a delicious all-day buffet for a menagerie of microorganisms (More than usual I mean). But that my consciousness is somehow backed up into an ethereal soul that streaks skyward on my demise, unfortunately, feels unlikely. If pushed for an answer I assume my consciousness just ceases to exist and that I disappear. Although to be fair, it’s difficult for me to conceptualize nothingness.

The good news is my thoughts and belief system(s) are completely irrelevant. As are yours. Untested and unprovable they remain purely theoretical until some future yet undetermined date. But feel free to continue any formalized rituals or mental models that you suppose might prepare you for the end, I certainly will.

Homo sapiens as far as I can tell have two purposes, to breed and then to die.

As to the former, breeding, we spend a disproportionate amount of time preparing ourselves, practicing our technique, validating mates and then post procreation, mopping up vomit and making aeroplane noises. In contrast we spend almost no time all considering our second prerogative, death, which is far more guaranteed and much less optional.

Death is an uncomfortable conversation. Only psychopaths, depressed people and philosophers think about death and dying. Death in my culture at least has become almost a taboo topic. I have (almost) never engaged with a co-worker at the water cooler about the manner in which they would like to die. Which is strange considering it’s a commonality we all share.

My genealogy is that of the Teutonic and Scandinavian tribes, who thought about death quite a lot. For the male of the species their entire life was dedicated towards a glorious end. Death in battle guaranteed a spot in the feast hall of Valhalla, whereas slipping in your own piss, falling down a gravelly incline and breaking your neck merely meant an entry on the waiting list (probably near the bottom). Better to die with an axe embedded firmly in your face and skip the queue.

But then out with the old gods and in with the new. Glorious self-serving death becomes a frowned upon exercise. (Along with masturbation and bacon*) However death is still very much in vogue. But more of the martyrdom variety and then once a critical mass of adherents is achieved, inflicting death on other faiths.

*both of which I love.

Since then dying seems to have picked up a lot of negativity. Possibly because it is so often prefixed with pain. The death part, as far as I can tell is completely painless. It’s the preamble that frightens us and then potentially what happens afterwards.

41 million minutes. That’s roughly the time allocated to me. Statistically speaking. Of that, at the venerable age of 38 I’ve used up 21 million of my minutes already. Leaving me with roughly 20 million minutes. (back of a napkin mathematics) Of that, I’ll be sleeping for at least 6 million minutes of that. Leaving me…. 14 million minutes. This is assuming I survive long enough to achieve my statistical allotment.

On some level we all know that life is short. We bandy about idioms like ‘Carpe diem’ and the more churlish ‘Grab life by the balls’. All of which are supposed to impress upon us the shortness of life and, that we really should get off the couch and ‘get after it’.

Is waking up every day and pretending that this is your last day a viable strategy? On the face of it I’m inclined to disagree, but only because I can imagine days like this to be frenetic, hedonic and ultimately exhausting. But that is more based on my personality. I often marvel at other people’s endurance to cultivate such a lifestyle and more perhaps more importantly to thrive in it. I have none of that zeal,. (I am completely dysfunctional until infused with at least one caffeinated beverage)

I have however, (recently) decided that since I am here and conscious, I should at least give try impress upon the world that I existed and leave some sort of mark to prove that ‘Jo was (in fact) here’.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney

‘Jesus, what an a-hole’ – Goodreads reviewer

(I’m inclined to agree)

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My cousin and her ten year old kid came to visit. He’d brought an actual book along, which I thought was commendable. Tiring of the adult conversation (and probably with less subtlety than I imagine) I extracted myself to a sofa on the periphery and picked up his book and started reading through it*. It was the Diary of a Wimpy kid.

*I have limited capacity for grown up stuff. Unless topics wander into my limited Venn which is a fairly rare occurrence.

A couple of weeks later the box set became available as a post Christmas special. So I whimsically bought it. I generally like box sets having recently acquired the Roald Dahl,  Beatrix Potter and the Paddington Bear box sets in similar offerings. (in anticipation of the girl-progeny, in several years starting to read)

I think this series has quite a lot of hype about it. Its a genre (pre-teen) I have limited experience with, but I gather there is some degree of polarization of parents whose children have read this series. Apparently you love it, or you hate it. I have a suspicion that the parents that love it, haven’t actually read it, and are potentially just happy their kids aren’t binge watching cartoon network (this that still a thing?) or surfing Pornhub.

While hate is a relatively strong emotion this series did make me feel uncomfortable.

  1. The protagonist, Gregory Heffley, is a serious a-hole. He treats his best friend REALLY badly and bullies kids of a lesser social standing than himself. Diary of a douche-bag, seems like a less disingenuous title.
  2. This book celebrates mediocrity and makes it seem almost aspirational. Greg lies, cheats, is lazy, has zero-ambition and is kinda pathetic. Why you would want this character as role-model for your child is beyond me. Greg is the kid you hope your child doesn’t become friends with.
  3. Greg’s parents are also a-holes that need to take responsibility for stuffing up their kids. They see-saw between neglect and doing their school projects for them, but don’t actually teach them any values or instill a sense of responsibility in them.

I guess the biggest problem is that I can’t relate to this book at all. My childhood wasn’t like this. In fact I feel a bit sorry for Greg. Even if he is a fictional character.

I think about the sort of books I read when I was ten. It was all pretty heroic stuff. Enid Blytons Famous Five, Secret Seven, Willard Price’s adventure series (I loved these), The Hardy boys, Alfred Hitchcock and the three investigators. Books that inspired me to go outside and build forts, inspired me to play in the pool, to catch bugs, to go camping, ride my bike. Diary of a Wimpy kid does none of these things.

I prefer Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink. Or The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul.

Maybe I’m overthinking this.

Kids don’t necessarily have the same take on the books they consume that adults do. Kids are reading and this a good thing right?

Honestly I don’t know. Society has evolved and with it values and norms. Being a kid in  the 80’s was awesome. (Stranger things makes me super nostalgic) Maybe I should get off my high horse and stop moralizing.

Now where did I put my Playstation controller…

Not bananas!

My sole experience with plantains was accidentally buying one in a supermarket in Hell’s Kitchen, just off Columbus Ave. I thought I was buying a banana.

What he hell is wrong with this thing I wondered shortly thereafter, completely disgusted and spitting the half chewed contents into a bin.

At the green grocer on Sunday morning I noticed a crate labelled Plantains. And then underneath someone had scrawled ‘Not Bananas!!!’ in sharpie. I felt quite smug that I knew this already.

Supposedly Plantains are a super healthy alternative to starchy carbohydrates. Kinda like Sweet potatoes, so I bought a couple, not entirely sure what I was going to do with them. (I’m trying to mix things up and not buy the same old boring produce every week. Next time I might might dive off the deep end and buy some okra!)

This morning  I furtively googled how to cook a pla…

Placenta?!?!?

I find it quite worrying that Google suggests placenta as an option to finish your search query. Is this really such a commonly googled phrase? I know some cultures do eat* human placenta (I know this from my prenatal class… in so far as you needed to let them know that you wanted the placenta post delivery and that you needed some sort of document or form lest you were mistaken for an organ trafficker or witch doctor) In any event I didn’t really think people actually went for this sort of thing… but humanity constantly surprises me.

*with a fava beans and a nice Chianti?

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Anyways. The first recipe that popped up was frying them up for 4 to six minutes a side. (The Plantains I mean) Which is nice, I imagine, if you like your food resembling and tasting like charcoal. After about a minute and a half on each side they were done.

They were quite tasty. I’m not sure what they taste like…. certainly not at all like a banana… maybe more like a potato fritter (kinda). It had my mind doing mental somersaults. Like some weird herbaceous Batesian mimicry. (There might actually be a term for food that looks like other food that isn’t, but I only know the milk snake/coral snake zoological version)

I think I could get into it though. I’m trying to reduce my carb intake these days and this seems not only super easy to prepare but also infinitely substitutable.

Canis familiaris foetidus

Apparently the noise humans find most comforting is the crackling of a fire, combined with the snoring of dogs. It’s apparently an ancestral thing. I can get behind that with out much further rationale.

Currently however I am getting an additional sensory input. That of damp German Shepherd.

I took the dogs to the park this morning at 5am before it got blisteringly warm. The basset hound being ostensibly lower to the ground than his counterpart and the fact that he is also a firm adherent of the ‘let no muddy puddle be left unplumbed’ school of dog waking, came home looking a tad worse for wear.

While I can abide a stinky French man, my wife/his mother cannot. After a brief chase around the garden the le petite corporal was captured, harangued and then placed in the tub of torture.

The German adding her input on techniques best suited to water board a baguette eater.

It’s not so bad, here let me put this damp towel on your head.

After the basset hound we thought maybe we should give the German a go. None of us really relished the thought. The basset hound, once in the tub of torture, becomes super compliant. The German fights you the whole time. Alternating with shaking like a leaf. Which means I have to implement some doggie type Ju-Jitsu on her while the wife does stuff with shampoo and the garden hose.

For our sins (and because she is basically a 40kg sponge) we now to sleep to the aroma of moist canine assailing our nostrils.

In other news I finished building my Christmas present!

The residents of Joey… polis have a new carousel. And they are very pleased with their benevolent, omnipotent, sky god, creator type person.

I really enjoyed building this set. In fact I’m super impressed with the engineering that went into its construction. The whole contraption is driven by a single axle which is then ‘geared’ up to create the rotation of the carousel and the up and down motion of the animal figures. I’m not naturally inclined towards this ‘type’ of thinking, so I find it incredibly clever. I’m ridiculously excited for this years ‘creator’ releases. I’ve already racked up some serious YouTube time perusing sets and watching reviews.

Almost free stuff.

I broke my Fitbit.

…sooooo my Fitbit broke. (Like a car accident let me not admit culpability). And then two weeks later I broke my wife’s Apple Watch

my wife’s Apple Watch broke (randomly)

The resulting trauma of these events fueled a foamy and introspective apoplexy where I raged against all fitness trackers and vowed from hereon-out to track my fitness data via journal (with a pencil) instead..

…that little endeavor lasted about a week before rolling over and assuming a position not unlike a dead bug. Clearly I have almost no capacity to self motivate.

I need colored circles and stupid achievements. I’m guessing that is probably psychologically quite telling and likely positions me on the spectrum of someone not to share a foxhole with.

I’ve been counting down the days for my banking rewards program to assign spurious pretend money to my account, which happened this morning. (I have this thing about not spending real money on such frivolity)

Sha-zam! Four hours later I have a new shiny Apple Watch.

I have to laugh at the size of the delivery box though. Although maybe they just didn’t trust their courier, so they Trojan horsed it. Which now that I think about it actually makes sense to me.

In other news our slide got delivered yesterday afternoon.

We’ve been building a fort (raised platform, whatever) in the garden for the girl spawn. Up until this point its been a completely free exercise. We’ve using wood (pallets, boxes, container dunnage, etc) that I’ve scavenged from work and brought home piecemeal. The only thing we’ve paid actually money for was the fiberglass slide.

Basset hound used for scale.

The little ‘house’ structure was also free. My brother in law was using it as dog kennel but it was starting to fall apart (and his dogs never used it anyway) so he offered it to me. Replaced some of the rotting timber, a coat of paint, a home made stable door and Tada! This corner of the domicile is starting to take on the form of a real Branch Davidian compound (from which to wage war)

Jo sticks the landing. But gets smashed by a German Shepherd in full gallop shortly hereafter.

*fade to black*

Drums in the deep…

My two year old daughter likes the Pixies.

Specifically Vamos off the Surfer Rosa Album. Which is probably the most ‘insane’ song off any Pixies Album. I used the word probably quite loosely.

To be fair she also likes the Muppet show.

Actually so do I. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. Spectacularly creative titles like, ‘The Great Gonzo eats a rubber tire to The Flight of the Bumble Bee’, and ‘I’m in love with a big, blue frog’.

In any event I’ve been wondering if should buy her a (tiny) bass guitar, à la Kim Deal, in an attempt to head off the inevitable progression towards becoming a drummer (like her mother)

I have this reoccurring nightmare where all my progeny are girls and all of them want to be drummers and I live out the rest of my days in this estrogen infused haze, driven slowly mad by the rhythmic thumping of the tom and snare.

My wife used to have an acoustic kit set up.  The down side to this is that everyone* within a quarter mile radius knows when you’re practicing.

*What do you mean everyone? EVERYONE!!!!!

Its difficult to express in words how much I love Gary Oldman.

Weirdly the German Shepherd loves the drums. She’s used to come in and lie on the sofa. In fact she was super upset (in so far as I can read doggy emotions) when my wife swapped to headphones and electric. The lying-on-the-sofa-playing-PlayStation version of me was very glad. (difficult to hear the sound of my gunfire over the crash of the hi-hat)

My libertarianism suggests that I shouldn’t try influence the musical instrument proclivity or disposition of my daughter… and if she wants to play the Tuba… or the drums… so be it.

 

 

 

*opens browser*

Second Hand bass guitars

GO!

Housekeeping and accouterments

I cleaned out my shooting bag yesterday. I seesaw between fanatical orderliness (The Prussian trait of Ordnungsinn) and the worst kind of slovenly disregard for my gear.

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Everything is neat and tidy (again) and the empty shell casings have been transferred into… a plastic fishbowl… which now graces a position of prominence on the bookshelf in my office…

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Where I imagine that it makes an interesting feature. You may also be able to deduce from this picture that I am a Ryan Holiday fanboy. I would deny it of course…. but I think I really might be. Although I’ve stopped following him on Instagram, because his donkeys and daily workouts are boring and repetitive*. Also I am back on Instagram. (#resolution fail)

*I can be mean about a stoic. Because if he chooses not to feel slighted, he won’t be 😀

The previous resident of the fish bowl was a Brown house snake I’d caught. It had wrapped itself around the light next to my kitchen door and on leaving to go work I’d suddenly become aware of something brown and snake like in my peripheral vision.

I wearily managed to unfurl it from around the light and coaxed it into the fish bowl using my fencing épée. Being relatively juvenile in mind I had to bring it to work to show everyone my achievement. (you know, show and tell)

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I even went to the pet shop and bought it a pinkie, which it dutiful devoured. But then I felt sorry for it, so it was transferred it into a Tupperware container and gave it to one of my sales guys who released it that evening on his small holding.

In other, sadder news, I finished book three of Kings Dark Tidings on Audible this morning on my way in to work.

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I love this series. I’m generally not a big fan of the fantasy and sci-fiction genres, (because there’s so much rubbish) Nick Podehl, the reader of Kings Dark Tidings series, is phenomenally good. In fact he may be my favorite voice artist. I’m sad that I have to wait another year for the next one. My binge reading/watching mind demands immediate satisfaction!

When is it Bibliomania?

I don’t want to brag or anything, but while you were unwrapping your lame ass socks for Christmas I got this…

My wife gets me.

I’m about half way. ‘You can see how challenging it is because it says 16+ on the box’, my sales manager says to me when we compare swag. I agree with her, but afterwards I think she’s might have laced that observation with irreverence and snark.

My weekend was spent building Lego interspaced liberally with reading. I have a modest resolution this year to read at least one book per week. I’m counting The Diary of a wimpy kid box set I bought online as one… because otherwise I’d already be 9/52.

When I wasn’t achieving either of these two activities I was swimming. I say swimming, which might evoke the image of someone earnestly achieving laps, possibly freestyle.

In my case swimming means lazily gliding underwater from one end of the pool to the other using the minimum amount of effort and energy.

I find building Lego and swimming underwater for distance quite meditative, in so far as it allows me to escape my mind for a bit and enter the realm of pure focus.

Interestingly I can’t achieve that with books (anymore). Based heavily recommendation I started listening to The Shallows, what the internet is doing to our brains, on Audible. I’m only about two hours in, but it’s been a frightening two hours. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been wondering why they’ve suddenly gotten so shit at reading.

For all it’s benefits the internet is changing us. The ultimate double edged sword.

My stack for the next while.

I’ve semi-committed to not buying more books until I’ve finished the ones I’ve got. Which is a basically an untenable situation… and likely a commitment that will be disregarded in the very near future. Maybe even now…

Fighting Fire by Caroline Paul (Softcover)

Caroline Paul is a Nietzschesque Ubermensch. Basically a homo-sapien version two point oh. Normal peeps wither and die in her presence from the radiation of her awsomeness. She is also really measured, reasonable and supremely likable. Which is weird, considering she’s a vegetarian [1]

As a kid I never wanted to grow up to be a fireman or a policeman. I wanted to be a zoo keeper. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why that was. Possibly because of a Gerald Durrell type upbringing where I collected (and raced) dung beetles, kept tadpoles in terrariums and rescued hedgehogs. I got bitten catching lizards with my friend once. Which lead to my first tetanus shot. In fact… now that I think about it… I’ve been bitten by A LOT of creatures. Including the kindergarten hamster. (which ran up my chest and bit me on the lip)

Whatever strange enthusiasm for animals this was, it waned in middle school. And was likely replaced with (I’d like to say girls… but really it was) Dungeons and Dragons and computer games.

It’s only much later on in life that I decided I wanted to be fireman. (Like five years ago when I was having this big Ikigai-ian, Raison d’êtr existential type crisis) Ie. When I decided I wanted a job that actually meant something (and had a positive impact on the world). You know… that thing that motivates you to get up in the morning. Not that I’ve done anything about it… it was more a theoretical thought exercise…

If you want to read a book about someone else’s enviable life however, this might be it. Caroline is a pilot, white water rafting guide, firefighter, Golden Gate Bridge climber, diver, paraglider and Olympic luge(r)… published author, decent writer, TED speaker….

Writing that last paragraph makes me feel a little inadequate. I can flip pancakes. And… *Joey considers for a moment*

…can block a jab/cross with my face. But really, that’s where my talents ends.

Fighting Fire is a memoir of Caroline’s time with the San Francisco fire department.

I really enjoyed it. It’s a quick, easy, entertaining read. It’s also made me realize I am definitely not firefighter material.

Firefighters have to deal with a lot of seriously disgusting stuff. Some of her stories really gave me the heebie jeebies. A two month old body in the apartment whose face had collapsed inwards and was writhing in maggots for example…

Maggots freak me out. Not as much as sharks. Or getting eaten by a shark. But it’s definitely in my top 10.

And then there’s having to deal with the dark side of humanity. I think cops get this more than firefighters… but still… how they manage to compartmentalize and carry on really impresses me. I don’t have that sort of mental fortitude. I would get angry. And then depressed.

More than the book I really like Carolines personal philosophy and her girl child advocacy. I recommend her various appearances as a podcast guest and her TED talk. It’s because of Caroline that I’ve been really conscious of letting my daughter climb to the highest point on the jungle gym. I’ve also been really careful about demonizing spiders and snakes as something girls should be afraid of. Which of course has led to to snakes, spiders and all manner of insects now being her favorite animals.

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;;l;;;””uuu.lpp- kkoop[;;;,,///// /pp;//;l;l …  .,laq*

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As if on cue the female progeny discovers me, reclined on the sofa, Macbook balanced precariously on my midsection. She quickly adds her thoughts to his blogpost.

Then she sneezes on me. Some of it goes into my mouth

 

Notes

[1] Caroline replies to my mail to tell me she is now in fact a vegan. She hopes this means I won’t cut her out of my life.

After thinking about it for a while I decide that I still like her.