Monthly Archives: July 2015

Microclimate Change Deniers

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting of anti-vacuumers to get to.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting of anti-vacuumers to get to.

Back in elementary school, in the very early ’80s, I remember hearing about global climate change for the first time. I was probably in second grade, and our class was talking about the future. (Speculating about the year 2000 was a popular diversion in the ’80s.) My project for this unit was building a model of the moon base that we were supposed to have by 2000, and just thinking about such a distant time was very exciting.

Even back then I was a skeptic, and I recall listening to the discussion of how industrial pollution combined with the greenhouse effect could raise the temperature of the earth by a noticeable amount and thinking, “Well, I’m going to wait and see before I believe that one.”

After 30 years of observation, I’ve determined that global climate change is undeniable to me, and I don’t get how anyone who’s been alive more than 20 years can pretend that things haven’t changed. Do you know how hard it is to get 97% of scientists in a particular field to agree on any new idea? I mean, you can wave the correlation-does-not-equal-causality flag all day if it pleases you, but you have to admit that hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, earthquakes, floods, and heat waves are happening with greater frequency/intensity. You don’t even have to admit that this has anything to do with human activity, but you do have to admit that it’s happening.

And yet some people don’t.

This is baffling to me. A recent issue of National Geographic addressed what seems, in America, like a basic war on science, but the concept that a person’s religious faith or political belief could dictate their perception of observable phenomena remains perplexing. Large freighters are navigating the Northwest Passage. The entire population of an island in Papua New Guinea was forced to relocate because their home is now underwater. Sugar maple production in New England has dropped measurably.

If you honestly believe that there is no such thing as climate change, you’re hanging your laundry in the rain.

I have a headache and now you can have one too

Alien world or weird filter? You be the judge.

Alien world or weird filter? You be the judge.

One of the hardest parts of drawing webcomics, for me, is the constant staring into the screen. My eyes, as I’ve written before, do not work all that well. They certainly don’t work like normal people’s eyes, and sometimes they betray me. Migraines, nausea, that sort of thing. When I was just writing 4 or 6 hours a day, it didn’t bother me, because I touch type, and by and large I don’t look at the monitor anyway, but I’m a much better typist than artist, and drawing a hand, or something like that, means squinting at the pixels and erasing and redrawing and shifting perspective, zooming in and out and erasing and redrawing again.

I’ve got a big analog project I want to tackle, which I will share when it’s ready, and tonight seems like a good time to start. No webcomic, no eye strain. There will be tiny scraps of fancy paper involved, but they won’t be backlit.

Instead, feel free to enjoy this weird portentous beach scene I painted about a year ago. My painting always looks pretty rough and experimental, because it is. I know nothing about painting. If I could afford it, I would take a class, at least something basic about technique, because I’d love to paint more, but it’s an incredibly expensive past time.

For that reason, I’ll probably be sticking to my Wacom tablet. You can have any size canvas, and any color paint, and it’s free.

Rejection Collection

Jack also collects life experiences, but he can't sell those. Not in this market, anyway.

Jack also collects life experiences, but he can’t sell those. Not in this market, anyway.

Almost 1000 people clicked on Friday’s PTSD comic; of course my best reception would be for the worst things that have ever happened to me. I’m thrilled that it resonated with so many people, but it also re-traumatized me to write it. I thought maybe today’s comic could be a little bit more upbeat. Just a little

Jack is not the only person who frames his quest for acceptance by asking to be rejected. There’s some science there about giving yourself permission to fail in order to work your way into succeeding. There’s strong research on this, and yet it’s still kind of a hard concept to embrace.

Personally, I’m terrible at dealing with rejection. I have too many negative childhood memories of being rejected. Asking for more rejection when I’ve finally gotten to a point where it doesn’t happen otherwise feels dangerous.My collection of “Thanks but no thanks” letter from publishers is substantially smaller than Jack’s and so is my “works published” list. Jack is a good inspiration, but it’s hard to keep up with him sometimes. Still, that’s what it takes, sometimes: a relentless pursuit of ones goals.

In addition to a massive collection of rejection letters and a substantial list of published stories, Jack also owns an old card catalog, or at least he’s the custodian of this unwieldy but awesome piece of furniture, for which I also envy him.

If there’s not a spec fic magazine called Unusual Anecdotes, there should be.

This Is Your Trigger Warning

When I say I feel your pain, it's probably because your pain makes me feel my pain.

When I say I feel your pain, it’s probably because your pain makes me feel my pain.

This is what we talk about when we talk about post traumatic stress. Obviously, this is pretty personal; most of my comics are pretty personal, but this one is deeper. I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about what happened in panel 3 here. A lot of people already know about it already, and it might come up in some other form later on. I don’t have any problem telling you if you ask. I just don’t want to write about it in my art blog at this time. But it did happen, and I was diagnosed with PTSD afterward. This was 16 years ago, and while trauma fades, I’m not sure it ever gets erased. What’s it like? It’s sort of like this, what I’ve inelegantly drawn here.

Panel 1, of course, riffs off the famous scene from the classic 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger. Bond does not die. He also does not show any outward signs of PTSD, although some might argue that the drinking and womanizing are symptoms.

Panel 2 is not my story, but it did happen to my friend, whose father came home broken from Viet Nam. She told me he would wake up in the middle of the night, mistake her and her brother for Viet Cong, and threaten them with a gun. So war traumatized him, and then he passed that trauma on to his kids.

Panel 3, as I said, is more or less something that happened to me in 1998, and I’m still fucked up about it, even though I’ve had therapy and go for long periods of time without thinking about it at all.

Panel 4 is basically the 9 of swords from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. Some people refer to this card as “The Dark Night of the Soul.” I think it’s a pretty universal image.

Panel 5: I wasn’t anywhere near New York on 9/11, and I didn’t really know anyone there, but this was the first time I learned that people with PTSD get to re-experience their PTSD if they hear about other people’s extreme trauma. Like a lot of Americans, I had a rough time of it that month; I had to have therapy and leave grad school for a week in the middle of the semester. I couldn’t bring myself to draw the plane hitting the WTC, so I just used a screen grab.

The guy in panel 6 did not die. He was in the coma for about a month, and he spent a year learning to walk and talk and eat again, and then he spent 5 or 6 years getting his head on, and now he lives independently, which is a pretty big deal, considering we spent 3 days not knowing if he was going to survive.

This is, by far, the most morbid thing I’ve posted in this blog. I hope I can be funny again next week, but I just don’t feel funny right now. The longer you live, the more likely you are to experience trauma, meaning the older you get, the more likely it is that you and the people around you are suffering these invisible personal catastrophes. My big one was maybe only 15 minutes of my life, but it gathered up all the small hurt from before and it amplified all the small hurt that came afterward. And my situation really is nothing, compared to some lives. It’s hard not to feel my own trauma when I hear about someone else’s, but I also can’t turn away. People want to tell me, and I want to honor their pain by listening.

An Off-Kilter, Interlocking, Pointy Mandala

Careful with this one; it's sharp.

Careful with this one; it’s sharp.

Tuesday was my best day ever for traffic on this blog; Yesterday’s comic got some traction on Reddit and over 400 people visited. My second-best day was also due to a boost from Reddit. I am not on Reddit, of course. Maybe I would be more popular if I was. It just seems like a massive time suck, and there are already enough of those in my life. Maybe if I could just upload comics to Reddit without reading any of the site, but my understanding is that you need karma before people take you seriously, and you can’t get karma unless you basically live there.

I posted it to Tickld but they are pretty fussy about comics there and the last time I posted a comic they just removed it, apparently because I didn’t sufficiently prove that it was my original work. Considering what percentage of that site is screen grabs from Tumblr, their editorial policy confuses me, as does the criteria for things getting on the hot page. It used to be a hilarious site; now I find that 90% of the stuff that gets upvoted is old, or boring, or stupid. Why the hell did I want to cross post there anyway? I’m being downvoted into oblivion even as I post this.

Marketing fail. Story of my life.

Today I never got around to drawing because I had house guests, and when I wasn’t hanging out with them, I was cooking food for a bunch of people, and finishing reading a PDF of The Book Thief so the Boy knew I meant business about him finishing his summer reading, and nagging the Boy to finish his summer reading. I cooked 11 eggs today. That is important. Also, I have an aggressive headache from reading that massive PDF on my laptop. My brain is angry with me.

Disaster Movie Sequels

Clearly, the way to prevent all these explosions is with even *bigger* explosions.

Clearly, the way to prevent all these explosions is with even *bigger* explosions.

According to Aristotle, of the six components of a tragedy, spectacle is the least important. The most important is plot, followed by character.

In the typical big budget, special-effects heavy blockbuster action adventure disaster film, plot is irrelevant, characterization is perfunctory, and the only feature that matters is the spectacle. Much like a circus, but with death. Escalating quantities of increasingly gruesome death. Explosions, monsters, blood, that’s what people pay to see. They don’t care if it makes sense: sound and fury, signifying nothing.

That is to say, the kids talked me into seeing Jurassic World and it gave me a headache. Not since Pacific Rim have I so fervently wished that someone would recut a film so that I could watch the 30 minutes of CGI without suffering through 90 minutes of pat stereotypes and cardboard dialog holding up a flimsy excuse to showcase primal violence and random explosions. This movie was very stupid. I read that it had one of the highest grossing opening weekends of all time.

New Stuff and Why

We didn’t have summer reading when I was a kid. Actually, I read all summer long, but we didn’t have assigned books. It’s hard for me to understand that some kids don’t read for pleasure, despite the fact that both the kids living in my house fall into this category. The Girl probably would, sometimes, but her dyslexia makes it hard. I have no idea what the Boy’s excuse his. He is supposedly a very good reader, but I have never, ever seen him read anything for pleasure besides gaming manuals.

Anyway, 6+ weeks into summer break and he’s barely cracked his summer reading book. Considering he’ll be spending a week on vacation in San Diego with his mom, and a week in Seattle on vacation with his dad and me, and that school starts up on August 8th, and the book in question is 550 pages long, he’s really cutting it pretty close. We’ve been bugging him about it off and on, but today the Man cracked down on him. No Kindle until you’ve read a big chunk of that book, he was told. Fifteen minutes later the Man found him hiding in his room, watching YouTube on his GameBoy. Now he’s lost all screen privileges.

So now I feel compelled to check. That is, I got my own copy of the book. This morning he claimed to be on page 47. Now he claims to be on page 125. At any rate, I’m somewhere at the 35% mark (mine’s a pdf and it’s paginated differently but I’m guessing I’m probably somewhere around page 175 of the print copy) and now we can all experience the joy and excitement of me going all English teacher on that kid. There will be book talks. I will determine how much he has actually read. He will be prepared, goddamnit.

It took me a couple chapters to get into the story, but it’s very beautifully written and I ended up reading much longer than I had intended. However, now it’s 12:30 and there are no comics for your reading pleasure.

Great Things Are on the Horizon

Great Things Are on the Horizon

What I have instead, is a couple new product types in my RedBubble shop. It feels like they’re adding new stuff too fast for me to keep up. No sooner have I enabled one new kind of notebook for one product than they introduce a different kind of notebook. This spiral one looks pretty sturdy. It’s 6″ x 8″, 120 pages (ruled line or graph, your choice), and comes with a pocket in the back. Pictured here, My Sister and Brother-in-Law Look to the Future is very timely, as their wedding is fast approaching and my mother bought a bunch of these T-shirts for the grandkids on both sides to wear.

I’m working to get all product types available for every design, but it may take a while, since I now have a lot of designs and I also have a lot of more pressing other stuff to accomplish. Like finishing this 8th grade reading assignment and find a wedding present for my sister and brother-in-law. I can’t use this design because that’s what I gave them for their engagement present.

Big, blue, and beautiful

Big, blue, and beautiful

This is a different style of notebook, the hardcover journal. It’s similar in size to the above product, but not quite the same: 5.2″ x 7.3″, with 128 pages. In addition to ruled lines or graphs, you can also order this one as a blank book for a more freeform writing/drawing experience. The image wraps around to the back of the cover, which looks pretty cool.

This, of course, is the Blue Morpho design, a painstaking and velvety recreation of one of planet Earth’s most spectacular insects. Although they’re all pretty spectacular if you really open yourself to that sort of thing. I mean, I was strongly considering drawing a comic about the tarantula hawk, a giant local wasp that literally hunts and eats large spiders. They are spectacular in their own way, although not everyone will be filled with awe and wonder at their presence. I can still hear the pained shrieks of the Girl after one flew in the general vicinity of her head 5 years ago. She didn’t stop screaming for about 15 minutes. She only got over the experience about a year ago. But really, they’re pretty cool, for what they are.

Draw attention to your middle part.

Draw attention to your middle part.

I’m actually sort of torn on this pencil skirt, simply because it seems like only women who are perfectly comfortable with the shape of their legs, hips, and belly would want one, and generally speaking, I don’t know a lot of people who fall into that category. At any rate, this style of skirt in the Vanity Has a Thousand Eyes design is certainly a hugely striking and attention getting way to CYA, if you feel comfortable drawing the gaze of other people to this region of your body. It’s a personal choice, I guess. It comes in 7 sizes from XXS to XXL, and the price is reasonable.

There are actually more new products but I shall save them for another update.

Some fun things: last night the actual physical human being Matt Paxton, a guy whose wit and wisdom I have enjoyed for a number of years on the horribly voyeuristic and schadenfreude-tastic reality show Hoarders, saw my comic in honor of his superior organizational abilities and retweeted me with a compliment.

Go me!

Go me!

Then this morning, I woke up to 2 i.m.s, 1 asking me to review the ARC of an upcoming book by an award-winning author I love and have known personally for some years for a website where my work has never appeared, and the other asking me if I would be willing to help someone write their autobiography. It’s nice to be recognized. Although, to tell the truth, I get asked to help someone write an autobiography about once a year and so far no one’s ever written anything.

Well, better get back to my middle summer reading assignment. You know that sort of thing goes on your permanent record.