Making Comics

What’s Spencer currently thinking about?

The Art of Comics

I was never a comic book kid. When I was growing up, I read the funnies in the newspaper, and for a short time, a little of Ranma ½. I would pore over anthologies of newspaper funnies, but without too much refinement of taste; at the time, I loved the beautiful Calvin and Hobbes just as much as I loved stale old Garfield. That was the extent of my exposure to comics, though. I never peeled open a Batman or a Superman story, and didn’t really give professional comics much thought. Continue reading

Classes have started!

My schedule’s a pretty nice one– I’m taking Elementary Japanese, Encounters (the mandatory first-year humanities course), Social Problems (a sociology class), and Intro to Visual Arts Practices. I’m happy to point out that there are absolutely no math classes in this semester’s lineup. After Calculus II last semester, I’m rather burnt out on math. I’m not sure if I’m done for good, since that depends on both my future whims and the requirements of whatever major I settle on, but I’m done for right now, which is a relief. I’m also fairly lucky with regards to how the week pans out: three days a week, I only have two classes, and am out by noon! Of course, the tradeoff here is that on Wednesdays, all four of my classes meet… but I think I can manage that. All of these courses seem really interesting.

Today I had two classes: Japanese and Social Problems. Japanese was great, as always–Professor Takemoto is an animated and engaging professor, and he helped us brush the dust off, as it were, and start speaking the language again. He also distributed the packet of kanji characters we’ll be learning this semester, which contained quite a few beautiful characters containing strokes and radicals I’ve never seen before. We’re also, unexpectedly enough, reading a 2006 novel in class this semester. It’s an English novel, but it’s by a Japanese-American author, and it has a lot to do with Japanese culture. All in all, I’m looking forward to getting back into the Japanese groove.

Social Problems was interesting as well; the class is large, but there are a lot of people I know on the roster[ref]Large by Whitman standards, that is. It’s about 30, 35 people. I love small schools.[/ref]. We started by discussing what constituted a social problem, and whether or not cultural/demographic perspective had anything to do with what we classified as social problems. Our first text is entitled Gang Leader for a Day, and it follows a young sociologist as he integrates himself within and observes a Chicago crack gang. We’re also reading texts on the criminal justice system, inner-city poverty and crime, and juvenile crime. Looks like there’s a common theme here, but I don’t mind. All the texts sound fascinating. Also, oddly enough, the class isn’t going to meet this Thursday because the professor will be out of town, so I’ll have only one class that day. Awesome!

Other parts of campus life have been similarly easy and enjoyable to readopt, such as living in the dorms. My section met last night, and our new RAs introduced themselves. Although they might not have quite the charisma as last semester’s beloved Daichi, Hayley and Bailey seem to be a couple of pretty cool characters. Bailey also mentioned, as he spoke to us, that while sections usually get smaller at semester breaks, as students change their housing situations, 4-West actually got bigger–so big, in fact, that his room is actually in 4-East, the neighboring section. Like I mentioned before, I’m really proud to be part of a section that’s got such a strong family vibe.

I’ll write some more about school when something more interesting happens here.

2009 is over. With that, the first decade of this new millennium is over– as well as my first semester at Whitman College.

It’s certainly been an unusual ride, and one filled with many great stories and experiences to boot. Although I can’t possibly hope to retell every one, I figure the least I could do is make up for my sparse and uninteresting blog posts during the semester and give you a notion of the many things I learned during my first semester at Whitman. Continue reading

Dear Spencer:

Congratulations! I am delighted to inform you that you have been admitted to Whitman College for the class entering in the fall of 2009

So began the process, almost nine months ago. Or, perhaps, so began another step in this journey, a journey that started years ago as I sat on my couch opening envelopes from various colleges, trying to pick the gems out of the garbage.

Whatever. Continue reading

Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

I am not currently a happy Spencer.

For a month or so, I have been trying to find a job. It’s summer and I’m about to be a college student; there are things I really need to pay for and pay off. Among the items at the top of my list are a new bicycle and a number of accessories for it, as well as various items for my computer, new clothes… the works. I could definitely use a bit of an income, for a number of obvious and logical reasons.

Unfortunately for me, it feels as though there are a million and a half things stacked against me. For starters, I have no experience. I’ve been so busy being a high-achieving high school student in the last four years that I haven’t actually had time to hold a job. This is problematic by itself, but when coupled with the current state of the economy, it’s downright nasty. Continue reading

What an interesting few weeks it has been.

I haven’t been able to blog lately due to some connectivity issues– when I’m on my local network, I can’t, for some reason, access the blog. Right now I’m leeching connection from my neighbor, which is why I can post. I’d love to get this fixed, but it may require a new URL for the blog. I’ll keep you posted.

Unfortunately, since it’s 12:37 on a school night, I don’t have time to write about everything that’s happened. I had an amazing but unorthodox Christmas and New Year’s, we got tons of snow, and– oh yeah– I got accepted to Whitman College, my top choice for schools. I’m psyched.

Also, in a slightly more materialistic vein, I received tons of awesome presents for Christmas. Individual thank-yous will come later, but I want to thank everyone who gave me such thoughtful, exciting gifts. From what I’ve seen amongst family and friends, it seemed like everyone gave good gifts this year, coincidentally enough. I’m fairly certain I made a good few people happy with my gifts, which is a wonderful feeling. It was also great just to bond and hang out with family and friends. Thanks, everyone.

Since I had a great Christmas, I don’t want to add too much to my birthday wishlist (oh, by the way, I magically become an adult in less than three weeks), but every so often, something strikes me that I’d simply adore to receive.[ref]insert obligatory apologetic statement here about not wanting to be greedy or ungrateful. I don’t want to be that way at all– but I also realize that I probably apologize way too much for things that aren’t even problems except in my own crazy mind. If the addition to my wishlist offends you, please consider this apology.[/ref] Right now, that thing is Doctor Horrible merchandise– specifically, the DVD and the soundtrack. If you haven’t checked it out, take 45 minutes out and watch it. It’s a short musical-comedy-tragedy that was written during the writer’s strike by Joss Whedon, writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and stars Neil Patrick Harris as a low-rent supervillain who’s trying to make his way up (down?) in the world, but also wants to win the attention of the girl of his dreams. It’s fantastically witty, very catchy, and moving (at least for me) at the end. It’s not a paragon of excellence that will set the bar for generations to come, but it’s damn good entertainment for 45 minutes. Check it out.

Anyway. I’ll try to blog more this year, as life is about to get very interesting, and I’m sure that the Internet wants to hear about nothing more than it does my life.

I’ve just got to get this connection thing fixed first.

Got this from my friend Billy, who got it from Dumb Little Man, where it was written by Leo Babauta. Please, I implore of you, take a moment to read and consider this. I think it’s really, really important.

“The proper function of man is to live – not to exist.”— Jack London

Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before it.That’s fine, and comfortable, until you have gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life.That’s fine, until you have reached old age and look back on life with regrets.

That’s fine, until you see your kids go off to college and realize that you missed their childhoods.

It’s not fine. If you want to truly live life, to really experience it, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from the mold and drink from life.

What follows is just a list of ideas, obvious ones mostly that you could have thought of yourself, but that I hope are useful reminders. We all need reminders sometimes. If you find this useful, print it out, and start using it. Today.

1. Love. Perhaps the most important. Fall in love, if you aren’t already. If you have, fall in love with your partner all over again. Abandon caution and let your heart be broken. Or love family members, friends, anyone — it doesn’t have to be romantic love. Love all of humanity, one person at a time.

2. Get outside. Don’t let yourself be shut indoors. Go out when it’s raining. Walk on the beach. Hike through the woods. Swim in a freezing lake. Bask in the sun. Play sports, or walk barefoot through grass. Pay close attention to nature.

3. Savor food. Don’t just eat your food, but really enjoy it. Feel the texture, the bursts of flavors. Savor every bite. If you limit your intake of sweets, it will make the small treats you give yourself (berries or dark chocolate are my favorites) even more enjoyable. And when you do have them, really, really savor them. Slowly.

4. Create a morning ritual. Wake early and greet the day. Watch the sun rise. Out loud, tell yourself that you will not waste this day, which is a gift. You will be compassionate to your fellow human beings, and live every moment to its fullest. Stretch or meditate or exercise as part of your ritual. Enjoy some coffee.

5. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, worried about what might go wrong. Be bold, risk it all. Quit your job and go to business for yourself (plan it out first!), or go up to that girl you’ve liked for a long time and ask her out. What do you have to lose?

Continue reading

To the few people who read this blog, here’s a challenge for you.

As I wrote about in my last entry, I’ve been going out every couple of days and picking up trash off of the streets. It needs to be done, unfortunately, but it’s not that hard to do, and it’s incredibly rewarding. You can get an immense sense of satisfaction from doing the right thing, and if you’re careful enough, you can make a visible impact. I could walk my route and notice the spots that are cleaner– but maybe that just means I have a dirty neighborhood.

Since I can’t clean up the entire Milwaukie area by myself, though, my challenge is thus: In the next week, spend a little bit of time and pick up trash around your neighborhood. It doesn’t need to take long. Half an hour will even make a difference. You don’t need any fancy stuff, either– I wear gardening gloves and take along a black plastic garbage bag, though I’ve done it with a grocery bag and no gloves, as well. The important part of this challenge is that you just do it.

Here are some tips:

  • Gloves are a good idea, but regardless of whether or not you wear them, be mindful of what you’re picking up. Always be sure to wash your hands when you’re done, even if you were wearing gloves.
  • Be mindful of other people’s property. Try not to stray more than five feet from the edge of the road, and less if you can help it.
  • If you might encounter blackberry bushes, long pants are recommended.
  • I also recommend close-toed shoes. I’ve had to step into piles of dry twigs and leaves and kick down renegade blackberry vines– things that aren’t too fun to do with open shoes.
  • Try to pick up everything you see– even cigarette butts or things that are slightly buried. As a rule of thumb, I tell myself that if I see trash, I will pick it up unless it’s too far on someone else’s property or is too dangerous/ridiculous to pick up (such as a bunch of tiny shards of glass).
  • Obviously, do this while it’s light. I really don’t think this town’s a very dangerous place at night, but it is safer to be out during day. Besides, how well can you pick up trash when it’s dark out?

When I was in Japan, my group met with a man named Mr. Imai, who lived on the beach and made salt. He told us that we are all connected by the oceans; what we put in to our seas washes up on someone else’s shores. No one in this world is isolated– the Pepsi cup on the side of the road may wash into a drain, where it may flow to a river. Perhaps that cup will wash up on the banks of a forest. Maybe it will float to sea.

Every little thing counts. If you walk somewhere– to a friend’s house, perhaps, or to the store (becoming less and less likely, I’m aware, as more of us get our licenses and cars)– take a spare grocery bag in your back pocket and pick stuff up as you walk along. The aim of this challenge is twofold; picking up trash cleans the world we live in and helps the environment, but hopefully we’ll help others realize that they can take action and make a difference.

Exclamation point

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Having been home for a week, I figure I ought to actually write something of content. Here it is.

On July 5th, 2007, I left Portland, Oregon at 7:30 am with a group called People to People. I boarded a plane, which ascended above the clouds and flew for an hour before landing at San Francisco International Airport.

After a 4-hour layover, I then got on a bigger plane and took a ten-hour flight… to Japan.

I spent two weeks in Japan, traveling all around the country. I saw the unbelievably large megacity of Tōkyō, and experienced the slow life in the little community of Hirado. I discussed world peace with students my age at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum, and walked around downtown Kyōto as preparations for a summer festival were being made. I spent two nights living with generous homestay families. The trip was amazing beyond belief, to the extent that the first word I use to describe it when someone asks is always “life-changing”.

And now I’m back in the United States, and it’s horrendously difficult to readjust, partially because there’s so much that I simply can’t take for granted anymore. Continue reading

Sleep, and dream a troubled dream. Intruders on the property, invisible in the darkness. Sour waves of ill intent ignite the adrenalin powder keg, and you have panic. Call for help, but how do you say it? You’re no longer safe. There is no safety. Your world, your order, your chaos, they crumble; and you have no safety.

Wake, blink it from your mind, and cautiously edge your way back to sleep, ensuring yourself you won’t dream it again.

It’s Day One of a one-and-a-half day-long trip. They’re out of town, looking for a future house. Back tomorrow, of course, but today’s the boys’ day. Dinner comes, a little less gourmet than expected, but it cures hunger. A shower, finish your homework, and dry some dishes, then go upstairs to draw. Cathedral halls in pencil claim the virginity of a new sketchbook, quickly sketched with the illusion of detail.

A sharp crack on the window not three feet from your head scatters your thoughts. What was that? Freak sound of the window, perhaps, or the weather. Before you can relish that calming concept, another sharp crack, the gristly sound of stone on window, at once impacting and scraping and knocking. A third, and now there’s no doubt: someone is throwing stones.

Holler to your brother downstairs, even though you know he’s on the computer: “Are you throwing rocks?” No, of course not, so race downstairs.

Pull the blinds across the glass door before you realize that you’re standing in full view of all three facets of the bay window. Rocks came from the backyard. The bay window faces the backyard. Don’t look out; you might see a face. Oh, god, there’s someone out there.

Brother walks in from computer room, catching the panic. The dog is barking. They could kill the dog. Why isn’t he doing anything? They could be watching you. Do you tell brother to hide upstairs? They can’t reach upstairs unless they enter the house. God, they can’t enter the house.

They’re out of town. Call them for advice? Call for help? You should probably get low to the ground, that way, they can’t see you. You’re in the worst possible point in the house to hide. They can see you. What are they going to do?

Then a warm guitar chord is strummed, and your fears begin, slowly, to melt.