Monday, July 12, 2010

What Timing

I find it interesting and somewhat eerie the timing of fellow contributor, JJ Binx, in posting a video about Professor Randy Pausch yesterday.  Dr. Pausch died almost two years ago of pancreatic cancer.  Before yesterday, I had not heard of this man.  His words, however, will simmer around in my head for a few days, if not more. 

The reason I cite JJ Binx' thread is because Harvey Pekar died early today.  Harvey, who was also diagnosed with cancer, worked as a file clerk in Cleveland, but he's best known for writing the comic book, "American Splendor."  A movie of the same name was made in 2003 which detailed, warts and all, the life of Pekar.  That's when I learned of the writer.  But Harvey was a different creature.  He didn't possess the grace and charm that Dr. Pausch did.  And I don't know if his words carry the same philosophical and emotional weight as the professor's as I only have the movie to go by.  Nevertheless, Harvey and his movie left an indelible mark on me.

If I had to sum up the movie, I would say:  It's the story about a thrifty college dropout who works in a dead end job as a file clerk and decides to write a comic book about the triviality of daily life.  The Warriors, this is not.  I would hardly recommend this movie to anyone.  But for me it's one of my all-time favorites.  It's blueprint is not one used often in movies.  Animation is used alongside live action.  And Harvey Pekar makes cameos in the same frame as Paul Giamatti, who plays Pekar in the movie.  It's creative but overall the movie has a depressing feel to it.

Harvey enjoys a certain degree of success only to be sidetracked by the news of cancer.  He trudges on with the help of his wife and friends.  News of his cancer's remission offers a glimmer of hope.  Yet, in the end, you can't help but feel a sense of uncertainty.  He might be smarter and stronger for having experienced a life-changing event, but the future is anyone's guess.

My heart isn't heavy today, for I think Harvey Pekar lived his life as best he could.  He was, by no means, perfect.  But his story is one that I'll enjoy for years to come.


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