Rodger Swan

An intellectual prodigy, age 28, invents a vaccine which effectually eradicates syphilis. An army of self-conscious sufferers the world over rejoice. The next morning, a rare but incidentally present breed of spider bites the prodigy’s toe. By noon, the prodigy is dead. His legacy will live on in the hearts and immune systems of those he affected. Sadly, his body, dreams, future, and genius, will not. They are gone forever. For all the grandness of one’s deeds, there’s no defying your own fate, and sometimes fate is a total asshole. But it doesn’t do any good to point out the obvious–that bad things happen to good people and it’s not fair–so I’ll leave it at that and those of you at home can try or not try to convince me that there’s some logical method to all this.

Instead, let’s talk about Rodger Swan. Do you know him? I didn’t know him personally, but since I feel devastated all the same, I don’t guess that really matters. He was an American English teacher living in Iwate, Japan. He kept a video blog of his life and his travels, and also had a separate video series of reviews of Japanese horror movies. I was a fan! He lacked the snideness of your average film critic and emanated a sort of goodness not common enough in people with video cameras. I’ve never been that into the video blog thing, but I was a subscriber to Swan’s channel because he just had a way of brightening a gloomy day, even when he was talking about a movie that might feature multiple evisceration scenes.

Well, Rodger’s gone now, taken at age twenty-three by an apparently sudden case of acute pancreatitis. For all the cheer and warmth he spread around the world to his friends and his fans, it was the rupturing of a small blob of flesh that would decide his fate. I’ve always said it takes a certain surplus of comfort and stability in one’s life to be able to enjoy something like horror movies. Without that sound state of mind, horror is either too upsetting or just boring in comparison to reality. If you don’t know what I mean, grab yourself a Stephen King book next time you’re dashing to the bathroom with diarrhea. Likewise, nothing in any of the movies Swan ever reviewed is anywhere near as horrifying as the reality of his death or the frailty of life.

Though I never knew Rodger personally, the loss I feel is personal as I ponder the departure not of a stranger, but of a comrade and member of the community I’ve somewhat reluctantly been a part of. Call it trite if you will, but don’t say anything until you’ve taken a look at his channel. We’ve lost another saint to Heaven. At least, I hope so.

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