All about Me

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You might think it’s about you. But it’s not. It’s about me.

Radical self care. For me it tends to take the shape of being incredibly selfish. Sometimes it seems like something I don’t get to do very often, but on the other hand, drawing webcomics is incredibly selfish in many ways. It’s absolutely all about me. My art has always been all about me. The difference is, it used to be novels that a half dozen people read, and now it’s comics that 100s or 1000s of people read. But they’re still about me, my life, my experience, what I’m going through. Even if they seem political or altruistic, even when I do something like the Patricia Jabbeh Wesley comic the other day, or all those Bonnie Jo Campbell comics, I’m still in it. It’s still about me.

My brother told me yesterday that my comics were getting very dark. I say the world is getting dark. The comics just reflect my perception of it. But actually, I’ve been taking great care of myself since the election.

Not, of course, as good as my kitty, Lupin (pictured above). We could all take lessons on radical self care from cats.

Do You See How Ridiculous This Is?

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And they all lived without the oppressive weight of the assumed binary ever after.

Wrote this little script last week but nothing visually stunning came to mind even after so many days, so the artwork doesn’t really hit any sort of meaningful level, for which I am sorry. We were at the Bear’s house and didn’t get home until after 11 and my energy level kind of started flagging before we even left the house.

I know some people feel very strongly about identifying on one end of the spectrum or the other, but I don’t, and I never have. But if you do, I support your right to express that in whatever way that works for you without letting it inform my sense of what you can and cannot do. Sorry there’s nothing more today. I should have done a comic about the 7 earth-like planets discovered by NASA. Maybe tomorrow. Although Google kind of already beat me to it.

Here’s an article I wrote on Book Riot about a new horror anthology called Sycorax’s Daughters.

Poetry Is in the Air

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Always searching for words to explain.

This is my friend Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, the Liberian-American poet, in the first panel. We went to graduate school together. She came to America as a refugee, one of a million people displaced by a war that killed 200,000. There were only like 2 million people in Liberia before the troubles. She knows something about how bad the world can get.

Most of my poet friends seem to write Facebook statuses that are also poetry, and when I saw this update, it felt like it had the same rhythm of some of my 4-panel comics, so I asked her if I could adapt it and she kindly said yes. I love the line, “If you ain’t start writing poetry this year, you might never.”

If you’re unfamiliar, panel 3 is Harry Carey, a popular sportscaster whose catchphrase was “holy cow,” and panel 4 is an iconic picture of activists Gloria Steinham and Dorothy Pitman Hughes illustrating solidarity.

Facts

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I only believe ideas that conform to my previously held beliefs, and those are sufficient facts for me.

Nuances of style, voice, and tone in writing can be difficult to understand even for students interested in writing, which is a very small subset among college students taking freshman composition. Almost everyone who likes writing tests out of this course, so you don’t expect much more than average ability from your students to start. But some people defy your expectations, like this kid. I swear, this is a true story. He told me he was writing like a stereo manual on purpose, because that was the only good way to write, and he wouldn’t alter his written voice, even though revisions accounted for a huge percentage of the semester grade.

That’s the nature of reality. One person can spend a five years studying the structure, detail, and and elements of language that place Lolita among the pantheon of the most wonderfully written novels ever written and still feel that they have much to learn on the subject of verbal expression, and this freshman can proclaim with equal or greater certainty the stereo manuals are objectively the best, most effective use of English. This guy gave up an easy A because considering my perspective would mean compromising his own powerful belief.

And that is how we get to a place where people can proclaim that anything that isn’t personally a problem for them, isn’t a problem for anyone, anywhere, period. When you’ve already decided the truth about the world, you can’t hear further information on any subject.

So I repeat. It’s pointless to argue after you realize that the person you’re arguing with is choosing not to evaluate information that contradicts their predetermine notions. All the facts in the world won’t persuade someone who’s already made up their mind.

Monday Gratitude: Meaningful Work

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I got 2 phones.

I wanted pictures of a fluffy elephant toy and I didn’t want to pay for it, so I went to Toys R Us and photographed a fluffy elephant there. The Canon Rebel was in my bag but just as I found the store it occurred to me that it would be equally effective, for my purpose, and much less conspicuous to use a camera phone instead of a massive DSLR.

The black phone on the left is one of the crappiest phones you can buy. The keyboard sucks, the GPS sucks, the voice recognition sucks, and also the rear-facing camera is broken, so it only takes selfies. The white phone on the right is superior in every way, but it has a cracked screen and that bothers me more than all the  other things, I guess. But I carry it sometimes for various purposes. No one noticed me taking 30 photos of 1 plushie from 30 different angles, and now I can do some more work on my big project.

After a crash photography shoot and some bare bones work in the library, I went to Ms. Kitty’s house, and she told me about “2 Phones” for Kevin Gates. In this masterpiece of self-aware modern music, the upcoming entrepreneur must carry 2 phones, one with which to communicate with his lover, and the other to conduct his business. I told her that I used one for Pokemon and the other to play words with friends. And then later, while I watching the video, Miss Kitty came in and told me about the Pokemon Go remix. Which makes sense.

Anyway, whenever I think of all the things I haven’t got…it’s important to remember how much I have. I’ve got 2 phones. But what I’m most grateful for is the work I did with that phone. It really is a true privilege to get paid to create things.

Superlative Abuse

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You’ve never seen torture like we’re going to torture your academic sensibilities. 

For 8 enlightened years, our president was a man of letters, an academic, a reader and a writer who engaged with books because he wanted to read and write them. He possessed a deft and detailed grasp of the English language, allowing him to communicate nuanced information at an advanced level. And yes, this alienated him from people who found education suspicious, and thinking heretical. But for those who admire intelligence, and especially after 8 years of Dubya, having a smart guy run the show was pretty reassuring. And maybe it made us forget that being eloquent and logical are not requirements for the office.

Critics keep saying that ridiculing the current administration isn’t the answer, that positive engagement is the only way to effect change, but how else are you supposed to respond to something like Thursday’s “press conference”? Like, at what point within the rambling, lies, evasion, lies, aggrandization, lies, self-congratulatory fantasy, and more lies do you interject a ray of enlightenment without touching on the inanity? It seems to me that it has to go the other way. When the majority of people finally understand they’ve been duped by word salad and ostentatious noise, then America will get off its butt and demand sanity. But obviously, I don’t know much about human beings because I couldn’t imagine that the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum could ever win a presidential election, and because I wrote this incredibly nerdy and somewhat esoteric comic that’s probably only funny to the sesquipedalian among us.

Words are important to me.

So, in between all of the rambling, lies, &c, it was the inappropriate use of superlatives that stood out for me in the text, this pattern of seeing everything not just in black and white, but also in extremity. It can’t be “good.” It has to be “the greatest.” And it can’t be “bad.” It has to be “the worst.” Unless you were actually born and raised in a neo-Nazi stronghold somewhere in the mountains of Montana and never left the compound, I guarantee you that the president is not the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet, not just because it’s crazy to claim the superlative on anything that hasn’t been measured by the Guiness Book, or someone with higher standards of accuracy, but also because I’ve heard audio clips of him making anti-semitic statements in the past. But he can’t say, “I don’t believe I harbor harmful stereotypes about Jewish people.” He has to claim to be the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet.

Man, I was raised in a traditionally Jewish family and I wouldn’t say that I’m the least anti-semitic person you’ll ever meet. I mean, I was on J-Date.

I rarely watch press conferences, and I didn’t watch this one. Even when Obama was president, I didn’t watch the State of the Union: I prefer to get my information textually. It allows for a more personal and thoughtful analysis of words. Also, I’m a terrible listener. So I always read transcripts. I read this one twice. I bet the guy who spewed those words out of his face hole didn’t read them once.

 

You’ve Made It! Now Where Do You Go?

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Crippling hand pain is a side effect of pretty much everything good, and a lot of bad things too.

Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, maybe my outrage meter needs recalibration, or maybe nothing outstandingly egregious happened in Washington today. Nothing struck me politically, and I didn’t even start thinking about this comic until midnight, so if it’s a little light, blame my running-on-fumes brain.

When I took up ukulele, I usually couldn’t hear how out of tune it was. I asked some musicians if it was possible for someone with little musical talent to develop and ear for that sort of thing and they assured me it was. Now I can tell, more or less, if it’s not right, but I can’t tell you if it’s flat or sharp, and I can only tune it with an interactive device that visually tells me whether I’m flat or sharp. And even then I’m not great at it. But I love playing it.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that I realize, now, that never in my life has it even been a particular desire of mine to be successful. All I ever wanted was to spend my days immersed in the arts. Society and my family told me that it was only important to be successful, and after I achieved success then I could do the things I actually wanted to do. Just doing art without worrying about success or whether the world would agree that that’s what I should be doing with my time seems like a real crime sometimes. But now that I’ve achieved a modicum of success I guess it’s all right?

Not that the world needs more successful people. But it probably needs more happy people.