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Showing posts with label mom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mom. Show all posts

Panel Discussion from 2018 Low-Beer Memorial Lecture


2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo On September 27, 2018, I was part of a panel discussion during the 2018 Low-Beer Memorial Lecture that followed a screening of the documentary film "I Am Still Your Child." The film and panel discussion were presented by AMI Quebec (Action on Mental Illness) and was held at Concordia University's Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in Montreal. It was a pretty amazing evening!

The panel discussion was moderated by the always awesome Loreen Pindera from CBC Montreal and featured Megan Durnford (the film's writer and director), Rebecca Heinisch, Marie Leavens, and myself. AMI Quebec's Dr. Ella Amir added closing comments. It took a little while, but I'm very pleased to announce that the audio recording of the panel discussion from the panel discussion is now available! Yeah!

The MP3 can be played directly in your browser at http://vonallan.com/Audio/Low-Beer-Memorial-Lecture-September-27-2018.mp3. You can also directly download the MP3 by right clicking on the link and choosing "save as" (or whatever is appropriate in your browser).

It can also be played in the audio player below:

Panel Discussion from the 2018 Low-Beer Memorial Lecture:

Oh, and some additional photos from the events can be found right here.

2019 CBC Trailblazer Award



2019 CBC Trailblazer Award for Von Allan aka Eric Julien
It’s always a bit weird to be writing this, but here goes. I’m one of the winners of a 2019 CBC Trailblazer Award. With a trophy and everything! I have to admit to having mixed feelings about awards*, but it’s still pretty neat to have won one. And since this is the second award I’ve won for my art-related activities, it is another “arrow in the quiver,” especially given how hard it’s been to get to this point.


Hard?


Hell, yeah.


Art, as a career, is not the easiest thing in the world to make a “go” of, especially given the austerity-fueled times we live in. And it has taken me a long time, longer than I would have liked, to reach the point that my art is, for lack of a better word, “professional.” ‘Course, one of the interesting things about art is what one means by “professional” can take on all kinds of different meanings. It really depends on who you are and what you like.


In my specific case, I knew I was pretty rough, but we really do learn by doing.


“Doing” also meant falling on my face. A lot. I’ve covered that in a piece I wrote called “On Getting Stronger” so I won’t cover that again here.


I think one of the interesting things about the Trailblazer Award is it really is recognition for the work I continue to do around my first graphic novel, the road to god knows... Who knew, when I first self-published it almost ten years ago, it would still be finding a life now? That’s in large part thanks to the documentary film I Am Still Your Child, written and directed by Megan Durnford, produced by Katarina Soukup and the fine folks at Catbird Productions, and supported by all the creative folks behind it (including “behind the scenes” people like Alex Margineanu, Howard Goldberg, Kathy Sperberg, St├ęphanie Couillard, and Sara Morley, as well as folks like Jessy Bokser, Sarah Leavens, and Marie Leavens who I shared screen time with). The film gave a “second life,” so to speak, to the graphic novel and has led to speaking engagements, panel discussions, Skype conversations, and on and on.


Judith Lee Julien and me
And, more concretely, it’s given me an opportunity to talk about my mom. Not just her battle with schizophrenia, but also the poverty we battled combined with the lack of social programs to help her. To talk about the immense courage she showed (courage I’ve really only became truly aware of as an adult) while she fought a lonely and often terrifying battle to navigate a truly unforgiving health care and social aid system. And what it was like to grow up with her, for both good and ill.


It’s funny; my mom died pretty young, at 48. And I’m slowly but surely approaching that age myself. In fact, I’ve now lived longer without her in my life than I did with her (she died when I was 20, and I’m now well-past 40 myself). But the memory of her stays with me still. That’s partially because I loved her, of course, but also because I still find, to this day, how unfair her situation was. And the fact that it never had to be that way. Despite all of the “by your own bootstraps” nonsense we live in (you know, that idea that any failure, let alone any health issue, is a sign of personal rather than societal failure), what happened to my mom was grossly unfair. What is heartbreaking to me is that the unfairness she experienced is experienced by so many other people right to this very day.


Yeah, yeah, awareness about mental health and mental illness is better. There’s more open and frank discussion around it. Sure. But poverty has not gone away. The lack of social support really hasn’t changed. Welfare rates for anyone (let alone single moms) have, if anything, gotten much worse. We can talk about “resilience” and “perseverance” as much as we’d like. We can even point to individuals who’ve managed to do just that, but what about those who can’t? There’s still a chronic lack of systemic support. There’s still a culture that desperately needs healing (don’t believe me? Look at the suicides that are still occurring in the wake of the Parkland shooting).


I’m pleased to do what I can to help. And I’m proud, damn proud, to talk about my mom. To help put a face on what otherwise might be simple dry statistics. To use my art, as best I can, to show what some of this is like. But it’s hard not to escape the idea that in a very real way, the 2019 Trailblazer Award should not have gone to me.


It really should have gone to my mom.


She died in 1994, alone and isolated. I had moved out some months before because I had to, for my own sanity and self-esteem.


What I try to stress to people, though, is that she had hopes and dreams. Things she still wanted to accomplish. Who knows what she might have done if she had managed to beat a truly vile disease and get healthier? She’d be 73 right now, probably feisty as all get out, and probably telling her own story to people, trailblazing change.


I don’t doubt that for a second. But it was not to be.

Judith Lee Julien, age 14
I placed, a long time ago, the grief along with the disappointment of what could have been. It is what it is and it happened a long time ago. But other people, right now, are going through similar things. And even if mental illness is not a part of it, there is still crushing poverty, a cold and often hostile health and social services system, kids going hungry, massive personal debts, and horrible unhappiness. All the celebratory economic statistics in the world doesn’t change that. There is a lack of solidarity with each other, not just with our fellow citizens but a lack of solidarity and fellowship with people around the globe (don’t believe me? Look at all the hate against immigrants and refugees we’re seeing now).


We have to overcome this.


And what about me? Well, I continue to grow and get stronger, especially with my art (both visual art and my writing, too). And with my art I try to not just focus on the past (though always to honour it), but to move forward with new stories and new adventures. One of the things about falling in love with art, with comics, and with visual storytelling, is that the growing and learning never stops.


Using comics to tell stories has been, I think, the most rewarding thing I’ve done as an adult. And I can still remember where I was when the journey started to where I am now. Harder than hell, yeah, but rewarding all the same.


I can’t wait to see what happens next.


* The late Harlan Ellison, back on the “Awards” episode of the TVOntario program PRISONERS OF GRAVITY said it best: “I think awards are bullshit. I think awards are detrimental to the writers…You win a Hugo, you win a Nebula, you win a Horror Writer’s Award, you win an Edgar, I’ve won all of them in multiples for god’s sake. What you’re getting are popularity awards. If you were a good boy that year. If you were published in the right place. If the right people read it. If stories that were five times better than yours were published in places no one saw them. Then you get an award. They’re meaningless.


They had value, years ago, as being, you know, you could put them on a cover of a paperback. “Hugo Award Winner.” Well, every book you pick up now is a Hugo Award Winner or Hugo Award Nominee. Or someone thought this should have won a Hugo. They don’t mean squat.


The minute you start thinking that you’ve won an award because you’re a terrific writer, you’re dead.”


Always good to keep in mind, right?


Postscript


Here's the CBC Video Interview with me about the Trailblazer Award:


CBC Montreal interview with Von Allan on Homerun


Just prior to the screening of the documentary film I AM STILL YOUR CHILD in Montreal as part of the 2018 Low-Beer Memorial Lecture (photos from the event are here), I scampered over to CBC Montreal to do an interview with Sue Smith on the drive home show "Homerun." And thanks to the CBC's Loreen Pindera, I now have an audio copy of the interview I can share!

You can listen to the interview by clicking here or by clicking play on the old timey audio player below.


Low-Beer Memorial Lecture Photos


As I noted in my last post, I was invited to participate in AMI Quebec's 2018 Low-Beer Memorial Lecture that featured I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, the documentary I'm involved in. The screening and subsequent panel discussion was held at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on Concordia University's Loyola campus in Montreal. It was a terrific evening. Possibly the best part for me was just being able to reconnect with so many of the awesome people who were involved in the film (writer/director Megan Durnford, producer Katarina Soukup, designer Sara Morley, as well as film participants Jessy Bokser, Marie Leavins, and Rebecca Heinisch). And to meet new people, including our fantastic moderator Loreen Pindera of the CBC and AMI Quebec's Dr. Ella Amir.

What follows are various photos of the event. These are courtesy of myself, I AM STILL YOUR CHILD's twitter page, and AMI Quebec's Facebook page. The panel (from left to right) featured Rebecca, Marie, Loreen, Megan, and me.

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture photo


2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture


I'm very pleased to announce that the documentary film I AM STILL YOUR CHILD will be presented at the 2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture in Montreal on September 27th 2018. The film is presented by AMI-Quebec Action on Mental Illness. Even better, there will be a panel discussion on the film featuring myself, Jessy Bokser, Sarah Leavens, Rebecca Heinisch, and Megan Durnford, the film's writer and director. It should be a pretty special evening and I'm really looking forward to it!

Update! Charlie Fidelman did a lovely piece on the film and some background on the screening in the Montreal Gazette on September 25, 2018. 

Here are the specific details:

Thursday, September 27 at 7pm
Oscar Peterson Concert Hall
Concordia University
7141 Sherbrooke West
Free admission
Presentation in English

The poster is below. And a PDF of the poster can be found at http://vonallan.com/press/I-AM-STILL-YOUR-CHILD-lecture-in-Montreal.pdf

2018 Edith and John Hans Low-Beer Memorial Lecture

The film's trailer is below:


Glashan Symposium on Student Wellbeing and Mental Health

Glashan Symposium on Student Wellbeing and Mental Health poster

On April 20th, 2018, Glashan Public School hosted a symposium on mental health. I was invited by principal Jim Taylor to be one of the guest speakers at the event. It was a little daunting for a couple of reasons.

First, I'm actually a former Glashan student and, since my time at the school was not the happiest, stepping back inside was going to be weird. I literally hadn't been inside the school since I left it on my final day of grade 8. As it turns out, it was a "good" weird, but weird all the same.

Second, I was going to be talking a lot about my mom's struggle with mental illness. And since my mom died quite young, it was going to be emotional. On top of it, this is intertwined with my own memories if being a young teen while I went to Glashan.

It was, I'm very pleased to say, a very positive experience. All of the staff as well as the students helped me feel very welcome. I led two sessions of grade 8 students in a discussion about all of this. Probably about 30 minutes each, maybe a bit longer, plus a Q&A after. A number of kids approached me after each session to chat a bit more, too, which I take as a very good sign.

And if anyone wants to get a sense of what it all looked like, Glashan's Instagram page has a number of photos from the event. They're right here.

To prepare for each session, I made quite a few notes. I'm including them below (because, why not?) but the interesting thing is that I wound up not referring to them during the actual sessions. I felt comfortable enough and prepared enough not to need them. That doesn't always happen and I wasn't sure it was going to happen this time, but it did and I think (well, hope) that it means that it was a more natural conversation then a dry presentation.

Anyway! Here are my notes. A little stream of consciousness, but remember that these were here to help guide me if I needed them.

Starting with the Ending

I’m going to do something weird and start with the ending. So! My mom was diagnosed with mental illness when I was quite young. Maybe when I was around 8, but it may have even been earlier than that.

So, the bad news and the sad news was that my mom died quite young. 48, when I was 20 years old. It wasn’t her fault and it wasn’tfair. Life’s like that sometimes, but it can be very hard to place.I’ll get into the specifics in just a sec.

My mom was never able to recover or lead a normal life. I don’t really want to say “beat” or “defeat.” It’s not that simple. But she could never find the right mix of medication to help her lead the life that she wanted to lead.And as she got older, she got physically sicker, too. It was a double-whammy; she was struggling with schizophrenia and everything else and then her physical health declined, too. Partially because she was getting older and partially because it was hard for her to look after herself.

This can be an issue with mental illness; it’s hard, very hard, to exercise and eat right when getting out of bed is almost impossible. That made everything worse. She didn’t have a lot of “reserves.”

This is important: she didn’t make a mistake and get mental illness. She didn’t make a bad decision and get mental illness. It just happened.

But, at the same time, it wasn’t like it was always bad. The danger in talking about situations like this is that it tends to make them seem worse then in some ways they were. Compressed.

My mom wasn’t sick every single day. She’d have good days and bad days. Good weeks and bad weeks. And sometimes even good months and bad months. We did have fun together. And there were good times mixed in with the bad.

Beginning

I was born in Arnprior.

I’m an only child.

My mom and dad split up when I was around five years old.

My dad moved to Ottawa shortly after that for work. His health wasn’t great, either, but it was all on the physical side. A lot of surgeries and a lot of pain. And he was ex-military, so he and I had very different personalities.

My mom and I moved to Ottawa when I was eight.

I went to Mutchmor and then Glashan and eventually Glebe high school.

Through it all we were pretty poor. A lot of poverty. There was never much money and it meant everything was a constant compromise. My mom went to food banks. Declared bankruptcy. We were on welfare. It was pretty tough.

And slowly, over time, I was becoming aware, probably around the time I was eight or nine, that my mom wasn't like other moms; but I didn't really understand why. She was my mom. And I think, looking back, she probably tried to hide some of what she was going through, too. Until she couldn’t anymore.

My Growing Awareness

Only later did I realize that what she was going through had names. Mental illness. Schizophrenia. Anxiety disorder. Nervous breakdown.

These descriptions are not well-defined. And, to make it even harder, science is still figuring it out. So, “schizophrenia.” What does that mean? Practically, it means that my mom couldn’t deal with things very well. She’d hear voices. Her sense of time (hours, days, weeks) would be very distorted (she’d say something happened yesterday that happened last month). Her thinking could be very confused. It was very hard to know if what she was saying was true or just what she thought was true.

What about “anxiety disorder?” Well, sometimes she’d get very, very worried and have a very difficult time calming down. She would imagine the worst (often involving me), focus on it, and be unable to imagine anything positive. This could go on for days.

What about a “nervous breakdown?” Well, generally it means that someone just can’t cope anymore. But what does that mean practically? In my mom’s case, everything became so overwhelming she’d be almost paralyzed. In these cases, she’d check herself into the hospital and get help. I can’t imagine the courage that must have taken. And how scary that must have been. She wouldn’t have known how long she’d be there. She wouldn’t know what would happen while she was there or when she got out.

And, to make it worse, she was also on medication and that would have an effect on her, too. Sometimes she’d be very, very dopey. Sleepy, but more than that. Other times the medication would work great and she’d be herself. It was just very unpredictable.

And, of course, it meant that my childhood and teenage years were pretty different from a “normal” one (whatever that might mean).

And there wasn’t much support. My grandparents and aunts and uncles didn’t understand and didn’t help much. My dad was there, to a point, but he didn’t understand, either. We’re not close, but to his credit he did help, especially when my mom was hospitalized. I could stay with him for a few weeks and that gave me some stability. There also wasn’t much government support (aside from welfare) and there wasn’t much in the way of education.

I also felt ashamed. It was hard to be poor. Hard to be embarrassed about my mom and my home. I rarely invited anyone over. And it was hard to fit in. It was hard to afford nice clothes, good school supplies, and all of that stuff.

It also meant I was pretty shy. Shy, quiet, poor, fat. So there was bullying and whatnot, too.

And sometimes it was hard to go to school. It felt kinda surreal compared to what was going on at home. Managing as a student was really hard sometimes. You need to have homework done and you need to be in school and all of that stuff. I’m not saying that school isn’t important, but there were times I’d get home from school and my mom hadn’t gotten out of bed all day. Or there were a few times on a school night that she passed out and I was picking her up off the floor. And then, of course, there were the times she couldn’t function at all and wound up being hospitalized. Or times where she just couldn’t function but wasn’t hospitalized. That meant she couldn’t be a mom. And there were times where she wasn’t even herself. Like a stranger had taken over.

Compared to that, things like homework didn’t seem that important.

Confusion and Stress

In my case, there was also a lot of confusion. No one really ever told me anything. And I didn’t know what questions to ask or even who to talk to.

There weren’t any supports at the time. Or at least none that I was aware of. It’s hard to know what to ask for when you don’t have the right information. Or who to talk to. Or who to ask. And remember this was pre-internet. I didn’t know who to turn to and there wasn’t anyone I could really ask.

No one really explained it to me; my mom tried, but it was very hard to understand what she was going through. It was pretty scary and it left me feeling very insecure and shy. This also meant that I didn’t talk to anyone about it, so no one knew what was going on.

Other parents didn’t know because I didn’t tell my friends. Teachers didn’t know, mainly because there weren’t any teachers I felt really comfortable about talking to. And I didn’t talk with guidance councillors because I never really trusted them.

And I was scared; what if I talked to a parent or teacher about this stuff and then they called social services? What if I was taken away from my mom? I loved my mom and I didn’t want to be separated from her.

Epilogue

But...the weird thing about this is that in some ways it got easier as time went on. What do I mean?

Well, at first I didn’t know what was going on and I was scared. A lot. And unhappy. A lot. And stressed. A lot. There was tension all the time, mainly because my mom’s struggle with mental illness meant that, emotionally, she was really up and down.

But slowly, I got better at taking care of myself.

The big thing that helped me was escaping. Just being able to read books or comics and kinda lose myself in them for awhile. Hang out with friends, playing games or watching movies or whatever. And exercise helped, too. I started doing a lot of biking.

Basically, getting away from it sometimes and learning to give myself a break.

I don’t mean running away. And I don’t mean pretending that everything was okay (though I did some of that). What I mean is just finding some joy, some happiness, and taking a break from the crap that was going on around me. I realized that I had every right to be happy.
Also, my mom did start talking about it, on her good days, sometimes. She was seeing a psychiatrist and was more open about what was happening with her. And she had a lot of hope.

And I got more experienced. The first time she was hospitalized was very scary. But it got less scary as it happened a few more times. I started to have a better sense of what to expect.

I realized, and this was hard, that I couldn’t fix this for her. I could support her as best I could. I could love her and be there for her as best I could be, but I couldn’t fix it.

And I started to understand that the mental illness is just that: an illness. It wasn’t my mom’s fault.

And, you know, my mom was a pretty amazing person. She was very kind, very loving, and very courageous. She liked to read. She taught me a lot about life, about being thoughtful and compassionate. I didn’t doubt, through it all, that she loved me. And she was a teacher. Despite all the ups and downs, I consider myself very lucky to have met her.

And you know, I started to realize that mental illness isn’t that scary. Yes, there are scary moments. Sure. And yes, it can be weird. And yes, it can be really frustrating.

Again, mental illness is an illness, just like any other illness. Science and research are getting better and better all the time. If someone was in my mom’s situation now, there’s now a whole range of options that weren’t there for her. So there’s a lot of hope.

A really good example is here, right now. When I was at Glashan, an event like this would not have happened. It just wouldn't have.

A lot of things are changing for the better. How we, as a society, approach mental illness. How science treats it.

It’s really amazing. We have a long way to go. There is still stigma and resource issues and all of the rest. But there's a lot of hope. And a lot to fight for.

I Am Still Your Child Canadian National TV Broadcast


I Am Still Your Child, the documentary on parental mental illness, will have its national broadcast premiere on Saturday, March 31st on CBC television! It's at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. I'm really excited it to see it broadcast this way!

CBC's TV program guide is at http://www.cbc.ca/programguide/daily/2018/03/31/cbc_television/. You should be able to find the film in your time zone.

Speaking of the film: writer/director Megan Durnford was interviewed on CHML's Health and Wellness Show a few weeks back. If you'd like to get a glimpse of what went into making the film, please give it a listen at https://omny.fm/shows/chml-news/14-health-wellness-mar-11-2018. On top of it, Westmount Magazine did a great story on Megan and her work. It's at https://www.westmountmag.ca/megan-durnford/

I Am Still Your Child documentary film logo

Documentary Short - Coping Strategies


I'm one of the subjects of a documentary titled I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, dealing with parental mental illness. In conjunction with the film, a number of short videos have been released; kinda like extra features on a film. The below deals with coping strategies. In my case, my mom was dealing with schizophrenia and it led to some pretty rough experiences. Being able to escape into comics as well as sci-fi and fantasy really helped. Sarah and Jessy, two other subjects from the film, also talk about their strategies in the short.


The entire short series can be viewed on the film's official Youtube page. They add up to over 30 minutes of bonus content. While the documentary is only available for streaming inside Canada right now, the short videos should be watchable anywhere in the world.

Documentary Short - Financial Impact and Poverty



The filmmakers behind the documentary I'm involved in, I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, have released a number of short supporting videos that focus on different aspects of living with a parent struggling with mental illness. The one below deals with the financial impact of mental illness. Simply put: it ain't easy.


The entire video series can be viewed on their Youtube site and add up to over 30 minutes of bonus content. While the documentary is only available for streaming inside Canada right now, the short videos should be watchable anywhere in the world.

Ottawa Citizen front page article on Von Allan



Well, this is pretty neat! Reporter Blair Crawford along with photographer Julie Oliver from the Ottawa Citizen did a feature story on yours truly. The story explores my childhood, my mom's struggle with mental illness (specifically schizophrenia), my graphic novel the road to god knows..., and the documentary film I'm involved in titled I AM STILL YOUR CHILD.


The full article can be found online at the Ottawa Citizen's website at http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/a-child-of-schizophrenia-graphic-novelist-von-allan-on-growing-up-with-a-mentally-ill-mother


I should add that the online article also contains a short two minute video interview with me. Plus the great and mysterious Corbin makes a surprise guest appearance! I've embedded the video below:


Scans from the Ottawa Citizen are below:

Ottawa Citizen article by Blair Crawford on Von Allan, the graphic novel the road to god knows, and the documentary I Am Still Your Child

And the interior page (the scan is a bit hard to read, but the full article can be found online here):

Ottawa Citizen article by Blair Crawford on Von Allan, the graphic novel the road to god knows, and the documentary I Am Still Your Child

Update!


As it turns out, the Citizen's sister paper the Ottawa Sun also ran a story. This is pretty much the same thing, though there are a few minor differences. I'm not crazy about the headline, but pretty neat all the same.

Ottawa Sun article on Von Allan, the graphnic novel the road to god knows..., and the documentary film I Am Still Your Child

Ottawa Sun article on Von Allan, the graphnic novel the road to god knows..., and the documentary film I Am Still Your Child

Potential Repercussions - Documentary Short



As I noted previously, the filmmakers behind the documentary I AM STILL YOUR CHILD have released a number of short supporting videos, including the one embedded below. The entire series can be viewed on their Youtube site and add up to over 30 minutes of bonus content. While the documentary is only available for streaming inside Canada right now, the short videos should be watchable anywhere in the world.

In this short, the three subjects of the film (Sarah, Jessy, and myself) all talk about the repercussions of living with a parent who has a mental illness.

Maintaining a Relationship with the Ill Parent - Documentary Short



In conjunction with the documentary I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, the filmmakers have released a number of short supporting videos. The entire series can be viewed on their Youtube site and add up to over 30 minutes of bonus content. While the documentary is only available for streaming inside Canada right now, the short videos should be watchable anywhere in the world.

I embedded one of these shorts below. Titled "Maintaining a Relationship with the Ill Parent," it showcases all three subjects of the film. For my part, I talk about my mom and her sensitivity and compassion. And, as a special bonus, Corbin makes an appearance!

CBC Arts Profile on Von Allan


This is a short (approximately 4 minute) CBC Arts profile on yours truly. In it, I discuss art and comics, growing up with a parent that's mentally ill, and also my process of making art. I should add that this short is actually part of a larger documentary, titled I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, that is available to stream anywhere in Canada right now. Information on viewing it in other parts of the world should be known soon. The documentary's official website is a good way to keep on top of this.



As noted in the accompanying CBC article, the documentary I AM STILL YOUR CHILD gave me an opportunity to revisit the artwork from my graphic novel the road to god knows.... This is mainly because the original graphic novel was published in 2009 and the film premiered in 2017. That's a long time and my art has grown and developed between those two dates. For those who'd like to learn a little more about this, I did a short essay discussing the changes (including direct comparisons with the art).

If the player doesn't work, you should be able to find the video here.

October 2, 1994 - Twenty Years Ago


It is a strange and bittersweet day.  Twenty years ago today my mom died.  She was forty-eight years old.  I was also twenty years old.  It's a very odd feeling to know that she's been dead for half of my life.  She never saw me draw, she never met my wife , and she never met Rowen.  She never had a chance to do many things with her life; mental illness, the events of her own childhood, plus crushing money issues (bankruptcy and welfare) were a devastating combination.  She fought pretty hard and she fought with a great deal of courage, something that most people who knew her (family, my father, others) didn't understand.

I will always be deeply sad that I never got to know her as an adult.  And I will always be deeply sad that she never had a chance to live a healthy, normal life.  While there is great deal of beauty in this world, there is also a great deal of injustice, cruelty, bad luck, and plain unfairness.  She experienced all of that and I think it wounded her on a very deep level.  And made the mental illness she was dealing with that much harder to cope with.  She deserved far better breaks. 

We, as human beings, have a long way to go on the empathy front.  I think empathy, both on an individual level but also on an institutional one, would have helped my mom a great deal.  Fundamentally, she fought a lot of battles alone; I don't know if the end result would have been that much different if she had experienced more empathy and compassion, but it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't have helped her, giving her a stronger foundation from which to fight.  And maybe --maybe-- helped bring some joy in her life.  That's one of the things I find extremely sad about her life; there wasn't much joy in it, especially in her final years.

Here's to you, mom.  I will miss you forever.

MORTALITY, or OH! WHY SHOULD THE SPIRIT OF MORTAL BE PROUD
by William Knox (1789-1825)

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,-- Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure, - her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
The scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died, aye! they died; and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

Link to Von Allan's Wolf's Head comic book series

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I Am Still Your Child Trailer

Documentary Film Excerpt