As part of my preparations for the upcoming re-launch, I’m moving this website over to a new server. I installed WordPress on Network Solutions and they are not one of those open, friendly hosting services that gives you access to the database. I have to manually transfer the content into the new admin. Consequently I find myself going back through my blog posts from 2003 onward, getting a sometimes excruciating second look at the last six years. My blog entries from that time and that place no longer have much to do with the person I am today. They may have been part of my foundation, but the person who wrote them is a stranger to me now.
For one thing I spent A LOT of time blogging about the effect of foreign outsourcing on the animation industry. Bad press and impracticality kept foreign outsourcing from completely eliminating American jobs, a lot of people just immigrated here, and the animation industry went to 3D anyway. It was interesting to read the entry announcing the closure of the Disney Florida feature studios again just as the first traditionally animated Disney feature since Home on the Range is about to be released. Like a backyard garden, things wither and things are born again. This window into the past just reinforces for me how I slipped away from animation altogether and found a new love for comics.
In other news, my last trip to my grandparents’ house revealed a lot of letters I didn’t realize we had. My great-grandparents kept a scrapbook while their son was at war and attached every communication they received during those 4 years to its pages. There were also a ton of newspaper articles from the Port Arthur paper, many of them referencing my grandfather and his parents. The contents gave me a lot of additional information, enough to scrap all of my current page numbers and say I will just have to number the script when I’m done with it, I can’t plan for how many additional pages I might insert throughout. Two sets of letters have filled out the brief stay on Angel Island prior to deployment and considering how weak I thought that section was in my original manuscript, obviously I’m reworking it. One thing I noticed: my grandfather outlined his entire Thanksgiving menu. Apparently food was high on his mind even before he was starving in Japan.
While I was on the phone with my proposed colorist last night, I was telling him about the project and did a little research. I found this page detailing the history of the Lost Battalion, which my grandfather was a member of. To be precise, he was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division (Texas National Guard). It was a little moving to read through the facts outlined here and see exactly what my grandfather has notated in his diary. He mentions the departure from Angel Island, and he makes some colorful remarks about the stop in Australia which the website puts particular emphasis on. The sinking of the USS Houston is mentioned by both my grandfather and his best friend in his interview, but Zerb gives it a little more elaboration. What is very helpful about this site is it gives the names of the commanders, which neither the diary nor the interview covered. All three go into detail on the tropical diseases and other horrors. The website mainly covers the experiences of those that stayed in the tropics to work on the railroad, which makes my grandfather and his friend’s experience in Ohasi unique – they were taken to the mines almost immediately. I’ll become a WWII South Pacific expert by the time this is over.
Last week I finished splicing together three interviews I’ve done over the last two years: My grandmother, my mother, my mother’s godfather. They now alternate with the contents of my grandfather’s diary. From here, I write the script, and this is a big moment. I’ve started, paused, stopped and restarted this project so many times that if I can’t say now that I’m ready to complete it, I never will be. Tomorrow I meet with the colorist I’ve picked out, but we won’t be discussing color, we’ll be talking grants. I made the decision a few months ago that I am not the person who should be the artist on this book. It’s just not the look I want to go for, and maybe more than that, it’s too massive to be undertaken by someone who can’t devote full effort to it. I need to pay an artist and a colorist, and so I’m looking into grants. A book detailing the experiences of two WWII prisoners of war sounds like something a grant might go towards, especially since I’ve got all of these photographs of the Japanese prison camps from the inside and I can’t remember ever seeing that kind of thing in print before.
What worries me the most about this book is how inadequate I feel towards the material. Beyond what is in my grandfather’s diary and the interview with his best friend, I really don’t know that much about WWII. I couldn’t claim to be a subject matter expert on the war or begin to discuss the war on my own with any reasonable authority. What the artist researches for context will be as much a learning experience for me as for him. Should anyone ever read this book, will they dismiss the author right away? I might if I were them. I can say at least that I am a subject matter expert on the family and the person.
I’m going to be blogging about it occasionally to keep myself on task. I’d like to chronicle the effort, to see how long this is really going to take me.