Monthly Archives: April 2015

Roots and Branches Mandala

It's alive!

It’s alive! Alive and full of pointy microscopic tree ejaculate.

Do you know what pollen looks like? It looks like this, which may explain why it hurts so freaking much when you get it in your eyes.

Some people say that the desert is dull and colorless, but this is only because some people only visit the desert in the middle of winter. So, yeah, it’s all tawny and dusty in the middle of winter, but who are you to talk? You came here because it’s all white right now where you came from!

Now spring is a very colorful season in Tucson. There are wildflowers galore, and then every single tree explodes into flower. Imagine that: hills dotted with red, orange, purple; blanketed in yellow and chartreuse. And every last one of them spewing microgametophytes in every direction.

It’s sort of perverted if you think about it.

It’s also debilitating if your immune system treats tree pollen like a deadly pathogen and mounts a full scale defense. Which mine does. And then you take every allergy remedy known to man in an effort to simply breathe. Which I do.

It’s only a couple weeks in a year of generally clean air, but it’s been gradually knocking me over for days, but yesterday and today have been the worst. Last night was almost completely sleepless and today has been a near total loss. I’m barely aware of what I’m writing right now.

And that’s all. And that’s why that’s all.

Dragon Comics 98

Not all who wander are lost. But some percentage of those who wander are lost. And it's probably not a small percentage either.

Not all who wander are lost. But some percentage of those who wander are lost. And it’s probably not a small percentage either.

Getting lost in the woods is a way of life.

Antioch College, where I earned my psych degree, faces a 500-acre nature preserve, Glen Helen, which a lot of people consider a sort of hotbed of magic. Whether it is or isn’t, I spent a lot of time wandering around there, getting deliberately lost so I could find my way out again. As a result, I know those woods very well, well enough to walk around them in the dark and know where I am. You could probably drop me in them now, almost 20 years later, and I wouldn’t have any trouble getting out again.

I used this same technique to learn how to navigate in Chicago when I moved there after college. Even though I grew up in the north suburbs, we rarely visited the city, and when we did it was typically to very specific destinations, usually with detailed instructions. When I lived there as an adult and got irritated with the traffic, I would simply find some other way. Yes, I got ridiculously lost all the time, but after a couple months, that didn’t happen anyway. When I thought I was lost, I would suddenly realize that I had been lost in this exact place before. All I had to do then was remember how I found my way out the previous time.

This was before GPS, of course,

Now I have The Man, whose sense of direction is unerring, except for this one time that the VA prescribed him a very powerful headache medication and he became disoriented in an IKEA parking lot. Typically, though, he can look at a map and recall all the salient features, even in a city he’s never visited before. Seriously, I’ve probably flown into Miami-Dade Airport over 30 times in my life, and the idea of renting a car and driving myself out of there is terrifying. The Man not only tackled this task with no anxiety, he also refused to pay extra for the SunPass and managed to drive us all over the state without ever once getting on a toll road. He can drive from my dad’s cousin’s in Coral Gables to my mom’s sister’s in Boca Raton without even thinking about it. At least that’s how it looks. He does have GPS, so I could be wrong about the extent of his abilities.

Cool New Products from My RedBubble Store

Instant hipster cred for your legs!

Instant hipster cred for your legs!

Here is the part where I try to sell things even though I’ve never been interested in selling things and throughout my career have put the most lackluster effort into any aspect of selling things required by any job I ever held. Only creating things interests me. For example, I drew this picture of a truck that The Man admires greatly, and then I used the Internet to make available to you this item: The ’52 Ford Bus Leggings. Designing for leggings is complicated, due to the fact that the image or pattern has to wrap around a person’s legs and so on. Personally, I think these pants are hilariously weird. However, I’m sure that someone, somewhere in this world, wants these leggings. There is at least one human being who would be amused to go around wearing a pair of orange leggings festooned with the image of an old rusty bus. It is the power of the Internet that makes it possible for me to offer such obscure bottoms, as well as the power to allow that mythical person to access the ’52 Ford Bus Leggings, so, even though I’ve probably not done a successful job of selling them here, I can leave it up to the universe to connect these fabulous pants with their rightful owners.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption

Here’s another relatively new product at RedBubble, for people who need to drink coffee everywhere and also either admire the abstract concept of beauty for the sake of beauty or else appreciate reminders regarding their own concept of themselves: The Vanity Has a Thousand Eyes Travel Mug is basically a painting of a peacock, emblazoned on a travel mug. What you see is what you get. It’s also available on a ceramic coffee mug, a canvas clutch, and a variety of other products, but it looks especially good on this mug, and if you like it, it will probably look especially good in your hand, in the cup holder of your automobile, and on the corner of your desk at work. See, that’s what advertising sounds like to me. It’s a coffee cup with a picture on it. Either you like it or you don’t. The point is to convince enough people to look at it so that there’s a statistically good chance that it appeals to one of them.

Sleep softly, sleep in beauty

Sleep softly, sleep in beauty

This Golden Barrel Cactus Flower Duvet Cover is available in three sizes–twin, queen, and king– and is a lovely accent to the natural environment of your bedroom. What else can be said about it? I assume it’s soft and comfortable and I’m pretty sure it’s machine washable and color fast. What I do know for absolute certain is that it’s the first digital painting I ever did where I was 100% happy with the result. These flowers look really, really good. I know I’m proud of what I painted and that this design is a good one. I know that if you like it here, you’ll love it on your bed.

Perfect in any weather

Perfect in any weather

This is one of the newest products: big scarves, great for wrapping around your neck or head. You could probably use it as a beach cover up or fold it in half and wear it as a skirt. Cheer up with the Rainbird Scarf.

Zip your stuff up in beauty

Zip your stuff up in beauty

Finally, the last new product is this canvas clutch. It’s just right for holding pencils, pens, and other art or school supplies, and with this Blue Morpho Butterfly Studio Pouch, you can contain all your small details in a pretty package. /endpitch

Funny comic tomorrow!

Dragon Comics 97

How about just a postcard, maybe?

How about just a postcard, maybe?

Souvenirs get expensive actually. I used to bring the kids things, but they already own so many things. New things that were actually in my budget (and I go away at least 4 times a year) just ended up in already existing piles of things, forgotten minutes after they were received. Postcards, though…postcards I approve of. You can get lot of postcards for a little bit of money (it’s a good idea to travel with your own stamps, though: touristy places are usually out, and it’s not always easy to get to a post office) and it’s always nice to get real mail, especially when you’re a kid and no one sends you mail.

I have pretty much every postcard anyone’s ever sent me, which is a decent number of postcards, but, being mere scraps of paper, they still fit in a single milk crate, with room left over for another couple of decades of postcards. I imagine that I’ll want them toward the end of my life. Every once in a while I dig through them for a bit, but mostly it’s nice to just have a box of tangible proof that people think of you from time to time.

Dragon Comics 96

dragon comics 96_edited-1

I don’t know if there’s something *wrong* with these kids today, but there’s definitely something suspicious about all that energy so early in the morning.

Kids like me; my mom calls me the Pied Piper. I remember what it was like being a kid, and usually, I understand what they’re going through, even if I don’t always have the energy or inclination to deal with them. Your food is touching, you’re not ready to leave the park, nobody understands your deep, abiding need to stay up 5 minutes later. I get it.

I felt like I was a kid until I turned 35, so I guess there’s nothing to complain about there, but it is weird to wake up and realize, wherever the finish line, I’m probably at least halfway there. In a lot of ways, I still feel like a kid, but at the same time, it’s hard to hang on to that “I’m gonna accomplish everything I ever wanted” feeling after a certain period of life. Not if this is as far as you’ve gotten. Not that I haven’t done a lot of amazing stuff and racked up some serious accomplishment and enjoyed myriad enviable life experiences, because I have. I’ve got some great stories.

It’s just that you can’t have everything. Except when you’re a kid and every single avenue is still open. You really could do all those things, if you just make the right choices. Of course when you’re a kid, you don’t necessarily get how important those choices are, that your attitude toward homework, or exercise, or practice can make or break your dreams. But those doors haven’t shut yet. You still could become an astronaut. You still could break a world Olympic record. You still could be a pop star.

A Lively Mandala

Life...don't talk to me about life...

Life…don’t talk to me about life…

Complexity. I really, really want a macro lens for my camera so that I can take pictures of minuscule insects; they tend to have really complex patterns on their little carapaces. So much of the world is not merely beneath the notice of human beings, but beneath the ability of human beings to notice. Yesterday, while helping the girl with vocabulary words, I helped her understand the difference between a telescope and a microscope. Telescopes show us things that are big but too far away to see, while microscopes show us things that are close but too tiny to see.

“But not germs,” she told me. “They’re too tiny for microscopes.”

But of course, they’re not. “They’re too tiny for the microscopes in your school, but not for scanning electron microscopes.”

Those pictures are amazing. Have you seen these high rez images of tardigrades swimming along like the kings of the universe? How about simple viruses and bacteria? There is an entire alien world living in your bellybutton. And smaller than that, photos of atoms: like, the actual building blocks of matter atoms. I remember having my mind blown by this 25 years ago. And then tinier still, subatomic particles whose existence we can observe only in partial glimpses, whose physicality we possibly couldn’t even comprehend even with visual perception.

Extremely small things really demonstrate how large the universe really is. We can’t even sense its superlatives.

Anyway, this mandala looks to me like something a scientist in a movie based on an HP Lovecraft story would observe when asked to magnify small sample of an alien organism. And the pallid, bespectacled academic explorer who’d acquired the sample, which was discovered 100 years ago buried under the Antarctic tundra, would bemoan the fact that the species was long extinct and the world would never know this beautiful creature, but then the scientist would notice that the cell was only dormant. Awakened by the heat of the electronic equipment, the cell would begin rapid mitosis. Within twenty hours, the scientist would be dead and the wild-haired, wild-eyed explorer would be ranting in Arkham Asylum about the ancient menace waiting to devour the world.

Dragon Comics 95

The times they are a-changing...

The times they are a-changing…

I was force fed a lot of antibiotics as a child. Once, when I was about six or seven, I was prescribed some really foul-tasting white fluid; I suppose it was suggested as an alternative to the excruciating intramuscular shots in the gluteus maximus they used to give me before that. I remember being held down by several people and screaming through those, but at least when you’re held down and given a shot in the ass, there’s nothing you can do and it’s over fast.

This medication, though, was beyond disgusting. It was the absolutely worst thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, ever. It was the taste of moldy shrouds and rotting corpses. It was the taste of nightmares. The first time they forced it into my face, I threw up back up. I cried and begged and pleaded but they gave me a second dose anyway. I also threw that back up. They didn’t make me take it a third time. They claimed it was because I was allergic to the medication, but it had nothing to do with allergies, unless a person can be allergic to being disgusted.

Now, when you go into a pharmacy, they have a list of 150 different flavor additives they can mix into your children’s medicine so they don’t have to taste unpleasant things. My mother wouldn’t have bought that even if it were available then; she felt that children should not expect separate categories of flavoring. We were supposed to eat when adults ate, and that included medicine and toothpaste.

The Girl is actually pretty good at taking medicine. She did state her preference for chocolate cough syrup over tropical fruit cough syrup, but she took the tropical fruit, albeit with a lot of muttering. Last week, I also taught her how to take her allergy medication in pill form, which is a pretty big milestone for a little kid.

Anyway, this comic is just a little bit of silliness. I’m happy about what I’m doing. The world is a funny place.

Also today, Panels ran my love letter to the graphic novel, Beautiful Darkness, which is a really stunning book

Keep on Truckin’

Swimming upside down? Sideways? No? Good. You're OK. For now. Just keep going. What else can you do?

Swimming upside down? Sideways? No? Good. You’re OK. For now. Just keep going. What else can you do?

Back in high school, I used to write short stories for my friends’ special occasions: birthdays, mostly or if they were going on a long trip. They were irreverent, sometimes angry, but usually hilarious to the people receiving them, tall tales about us and the things we would never do, decorated with the things we longed to do, full of in-jokes and insults. Parents and bullies were cast as easily-disposed antagonists, or hapless casualties to the larger menace; we were always punk rock anti-heroes in a cruel world, destined to inherit the earth.

In the last 18 months, I’ve started about a half dozen serious short speculative stories, all inspired by really wonderful ideas, concepts full of potential, characters with meat. None of them went beyond a few pages, even the ones where I knew how things ended. The only substantial thing I’ve written in that time is the first 3 books of the 5 book graphic novel I’ve been wanting to draw, but the script still isn’t finished. I’ve been drawing every day, using the headspace I used to use to write, so focused on the tablet that even my touch typing has suffered.

A few weeks ago, the Vampire Bat asked me if I could do one of my old stories for her birthday. The Bat is a dear old friend; we have known each other almost 30 years. No kidding. She’s only appeared in about 3 comics so far, but we talk on a pretty regular basis. So I’m writing a story now, and kicking it to the “Creative Scraps” file in my documents folder (where I stick things that refuse to be finished) is not an option, because then, of course, I will fail the friendship test.

It didn’t seem like I knew what to write for her, but of course, I do. When you know someone that long, you know them. It’s all just waiting to come out. And it will come out.

So, it’s good, really. Finishing a story will help this whole experience come full circle. Because I am a good writer. I am a really, really good writer. Even though my writing career hasn’t gone anywhere near where it promised to take me, people have paid me lots of money to write things for them, and a sizable number of great (successful) writers have told me I’m a great writer. And that drawing of the goldfish that’s gonna keep on truckin’? Well, that’s just a little doodle. It didn’t take any time at all, and it’s a million times better than my first webcomic, which I drew a little less than a year ago. So here I am.

I always liked to draw, but I only embarked on this project because I wan’t to try my hand at graphic storytelling. Now I’m just about ready to start this new project. First, I just have to finish a few more things.

Dragon Comics 94

Yes, obviously I had an extra lot of fun drawing this. Originally baby Cthulhu was supposed to be juggling baby seals, but it got late and the seals weren't working. Just imagine that's what would have come next.

Yes, obviously I had an extra lot of fun drawing this. Originally baby Cthulhu was supposed to be juggling baby seals, but it got late and the seals weren’t working. Just imagine that’s what would have come next.

I feel like I’m finding my way a little more easily; drawing panel 1 was such a joyful experience, and panel 3 came so easily. Panel 2, I was just giggling the whole time I picked colors. Just doing my best here. Have ideas. Go with them. Figure it out along the way. Valkyrie mermaids! Goth rave Alice in Wonderland tea party! Baby Cthulhu juggling baby seals! There is a funny place inside if you know how to get there.

It’s late and I’m feeling more visual than verbal. Been tired and headachey all weekend, probably because there is a fire on the mountain and the air quality is terrible.

Dragon Comics 93

Some things are just private. Sheesh.

Some things are just private. Sheesh.

Bees are fascinating. I can watch them for a long time. Some people freak out about bees, but generally speaking, unless you’re doing something to aggravate them, they’re not going to bother with you. You can just go stand right next to the hive and watch them zooming in and out, hovering as they maneuver through the traffic, zipping off and landing again like little helicopters.

I mean, don’t lose your cool if there’s one on your head. It probably just likes the smell of your shampoo. Just having a bee on you usually doesn’t result in a bee sting, unless you freak out and do something threatening, like slapping at it. Most creatures don’t like to be slapped. Try gently brushing it away. If you’re in nature, try to walk through some leaves.

In the summertime, they like to visit my swimming pool, which I don’t understand, because it’s saltwater, but that doesn’t seem to deter any creature. The bees misjudge and break the surface tension a lot, though. I’m always pulling them out of the water. I just use my bare hands. They never sting. I like to hold them in my palm and watch them dry their fuzzy selves before they lift off again. I guess they’re too heavy to fly when they’re waterlogged. They’re certainly completely unthreatening in these situations. The only place I’ve ever been stung by a bee is the bottom of my foot: in other words, I actually had to step on one before it tried to hurt me.

Bees are super important, obviously, in terms of the health of the environment that sustains us, but also super cool.

To me, there really is something very passionate about the bee at work. I’ve had moments watching one penetrate the depths of a flower with regular thrusts, then suddenly turn around and look at me in a way that seemed sheepish. It definitely felt like I was interrupting something.

Bees don’t have a work ethic, but they do seem to work ceaselessly. When they’re too old to gather pollen, they do tasks at home. Bees don’t give up; they keep at their job as long as they’re able, and they never require creative inspiration. They just know what to do, and then they do it, and they keep doing it until they die.

I’m no busy bee, but in a way I envy their steadfast intention and finality of purpose. If only I could go about my task, day in and day out, with such unyielding determination.

ETA: A kindly redditor has informed me that I have the work-life cycle of the bee backward, and that it is the youngest bees who stay at home and care for the hive and the oldest bees who fly out to gather pollen. Reddit has a thousand and one household uses.