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Monday Gratitude: This Here Ukulele

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She ain’t pretty. But she is cheap. And easy.

Settling on a gratitude came with difficultly tonight; I seem to exist in a state of muted rage lately. That makes it hard to count your blessings. I’m either working or avoiding work at all times, and the number 1 way I’ve been avoiding work lately is this ukulele. Why is that slowly picking out “Stairway to Heaven” 40 times in a row feels easier than accomplishing the tasks I need to do, I want to do, other people are depending up me to do?  Tasks I’m actually capable of successfully completely, unlike ever being able to play “Stairway” at tempo.

That’s just this week. Usually I don’t use it as a distraction, but more as a calmative. I had developed a bad habit of staring at the screen late at night, and the ukulele gives me something I can focus on in the dark (much like with touch typing, I realized the only way to learn to do it without looking was to make it impossible to look), allowing me to pull back from electricity and possibly sooth my psychotic circadian rhythms.

I’m grateful for the uke, and the ability to play music. I always, always wanted to play, but I hated the music I was supposed to learn for the piano, so I hated practicing, so I never got better. And my hands are too little and intractable for the guitar. And certain things I can only learn on my own, with my own hands. I pity the people who tried to teach young dragon about music.

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

I just spent the last 3 hours drawing an insomnia comic. It was 99% finished, lacking only the word bubble. And then Photoshop just…closed itself. I didn’t close it. I didn’t click anything as far as I could see. It didn’t even ask me if I wanted to save. It just closed and lost all the changes I had made since the last save, and I was working so intently that the last save had been about 2 hours and 55 minutes earlier, even though I thought I had been saving as I went. So it’s 2 a.m. and I don’t have anything. Plus, it was an insomnia comic, so…you know. Sad Dragon. It was visually a very interesting comic. Challenging details. Gone. Gonna cry myself to sleep now. I really did draw a comic today.

Monday Gratitude: Class Consciousness

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This macro image obviously has nothing to do with this blog post. I’m sure I could concoct some convoluted metaphor that would tie together tiny bugs and class stratification in America, but I won’t lay all that weight on this poor little bug’s exoskeleton.

[Artists] are acquainted with all classes of society, and for that very reason dangerous.

Had to do a little digging on this quote, which has been attributed, in a slightly altered form, to Joe McCarthy and Queen Victoria, but apparently it was actually written to Victoria by her uncle, Leopold, the King of Belgium. He concludes that artists are “hardly ever satisfied” and spending too much time around them gives one ennui.

Ennui is probably not a side effect of art, but of having too much money and not enough to do with oneself. This reminds me of a passage from an Louisa May Alcott book, An Old Fashioned Girl, in which wealthy Fanny, who has lived the life of a debutant for several years, feels prematurely aged as a result of her glamorous but pointless existence. Because she is rich and sheltered, she is also clueless, and she confides her problems to Polly, her one working-class friend, who never judges her (out loud).

“A little poverty would do you good, Fan; just enough necessity to keep you busy till you find how good work is; and when you once learn that, you won’t complain of ennui any more,” returned Polly, who had taken kindly the hard lesson which twenty years of cheerful poverty had taught her.

“Mercy, no, I should hate that; but I wish some one would invent a new amusement for rich people. I’m dead sick of parties, and flirtations, trying to out-dress my neighbors, and going the same round year after year, like a squirrel in a cage.”

In case you’re wondering, Fan loses her fortune a few chapters later and spends a while learning how to live in genteel poverty, before marrying the richest guy in the book.

Artists aren’t satisfied because they have the vision to see how much better things could be. I don’t know if all artists associate with all classes of society. If you have not, it’s hard to understand how vast the chasm between the wealthy and the underprivileged actually is.

I accidentally went to what I heard referred to as a “socialite” party last night. I didn’t realize that’s what it was until after I found myself watching a bouncer check my name off a list and usher me into a 10,000 square foot house full of exquisitely dressed models where nobody, and I mean nobody was talking about politics. They were talking about the 3 swimming pools and how many selfies they needed to take, but they weren’t talking about the plight of the immigrant in America, or the destruction of the environment, or Russian interference in the election, which in itself set it apart from every gathering I’ve attended this year. And I was thinking about how many refugees could have been comfortably housed in that building, and how I escaped the culture of material worship and ostentatious wealth. Which I guess makes me dangerous.

I’ve talked to plenty of people who lived in giant houses, and I’ve talked to plenty of people who lived on the street. And, although the knowledge of inequality’s depth is heavy, it’s never a source of ennui. And I’m grateful that I can see the big picture, no matter how frightening the big picture is when you get the whole thing into frame and focused. I’m grateful for the privilege that gives me this perspective.

If you’re satisfied with the way the world is, you probably haven’t seen that much of it. You’ve just been dazzled by the sparkly parts that were bright enough to blind you to the details.

Footsies

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I swear, I’m a goooood boy. I would never go past second base before the election.

If I wanted to stay totally topical, this should have been a comic about Mike Pence’s hacked AOL account, but at this point, it’s just the same thing over and over. Hypocrites and liars being hypocrites and liars. And the fact that Mike Pence uses AOL is like…post-humor. It’s gone past comedy into some other realm where political theater and the theater of the bizarre have merged into one horrific blacklit broken mirror Wonderland where events defy categorization or comprehension.

Anyway, at least he recused himself from an investigation into the Russian election hacks he already knows didn’t happen because facts are malleable and you can discard the ones that don’t fit your world view.

My truth is that last night, after I posted the Sessions/Ozymandias comic, I realized that I had made the better joke in the blog post. So I started to draw that comic, because it was only 1 a.m. and knocking out another comic felt totally doable. But them I remembered my promise to myself when I started this project to let go of the drive for perfection, and also things that trigger insomnia, and I just let it ride and played the ukulele in the dark for an hour instead.

And then tonight, I thought I’d try a little caricature, which I haven’t done lately, because, let’s face it: Jeff Sessions looks like a kewpie doll with muppet ears. From a design perspective he’s sort of adorable. The gag was already written and all I had to do was not cross the line between big-eyed coquette Sessions and Peter Jackson’s Gollum. You would not believe how fine that line is. And here we are. I drew a comic.

Have a great weekend. Enjoy your freedoms.

No Contact

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There is definitely nothing to see here. I’m pretty tight with the administration and I can assure you that none of them did anything wrong.

Remember when these guys lost their freaking minds because Bill Clinton didn’t count fellatio as sex? But now they’re all cool with not counting multiple meetings with a Russian ambassador “considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials,” as having “contact with the Russians.”

Jeff Sessions: “Oh, by contact with the Russians, I thought you meant playing footsies under the table with Ambassador Kislyak. We never did that. It was strictly above the waist.”

Remember, if there were to be an investigation into Russian interference with the election, this is the guy who would lead it.

Like Ozymandias, I’m sure he thinks he’s the good guy saving the world.

The Scent of Lemon Blossoms

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Maybe this year is the year that life will hand me sufficient lemons for a sizable recipe of lemonade.

If there was a technology that allowed photographs to capture smells, lemon blossoms would probably be up there with cat pictures in terms of popularity. In fact, if cat pictures smelled like cats, image of lemon blossoms might be more popular than cat macros. There are few scents in the world that compare to lemon flowers in the spring (it’s spring where I live). I had a Spanish teacher who once told us that there is a word in Spanish that means specifically the aroma of lemon flowers, but of course I don’t remember what it is.

I was happy to spend some time taking this pictures right up in the cloud of this delicious smell. Only later did I realize that the settings were all wrong for the light and the lens and everything else. But you can see it’s a lemon flower. There are probably 100s of them, although in my experience, 3/4 will fall off in a strong wind and 95 of the tiny lemons that result from the remaining flowers will die without explanation long before they reach maturity.

Most of this tree isn’t fruit-bearing: it’s whatever thorny, hardly rootstock they graft the lemony part to so it survives in this climate. I’m gradually pruning that back to give the good parts a chance to thrive but the thorny bit is the life support system and the only part high enough to get sun over the garden wall. The parts of my lemon tree that are fruit bearing are low-to-the-ground and a small percentage of the tree, but one day I know this tree will fulfill its destiny of being amazing.

Gratitude for air redolent with the esters of lemon flowers.

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.