Tag Archives: education

Comic Book Villains

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And allow me to add that, if my demands are not met in 3 days, I will release this paralyzing neurotoxin into Gotham City’s water supply. Bwoo-ha-ha-ha.

Adequate funding and educational success rates correlate pretty strongly in any type of school, but this genius, Betsy DeVos, parochial school cheerleader, believes the solution to failing schools is to cut funding. To punish them, you know, until they behave. Like strangling your child when they melt down in the grocery story until they learn their lesson. Or stop breathing. Whichever happens first. But really, she just wants to abolish the public school system and force all children to receive Christian “education.” Like if the First Amendment didn’t exist and we lived in country where separation of church and state wasn’t specifically guaranteed.

I had another insomnia night last night, totaling 0 minutes of sleep over the last 36 hours, but I couldn’t think of an Insomnia Comic. All I could think about was this woman’s terrifying smile, which, to me, says, “I know I’m a fraud but I really think I’m getting away with it.” It’s the smile of a missionary promising eternal happiness in the next life, in exchange for your embrace of physical and mental servitude in this one. The longer I’m awake, the more the incoming administration remind me of Batman villains. Their plots are so insane as to strain credulity. I don’t think I’m the first to make the Dolores Umbridge connection, either. Betsy DeVos creeps me out. I wouldn’t want her around my kids. I believe children should receive straight answers. Especially where it concerns education.

Maybe tomorrow I should do Trump as the Penguin.

Sorry I’m not terribly funny right now.

Bwoo-ha-ha-ha, indeed.

Washing Machines

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But tell me again about how all kids have equal opportunity to achieve the American dream.

American public schools are structural inequality in motion. Rich kids go to well-funded institutions, and they attend prepared to learn. Many poor children don’t have that option. Here’s the source: One Answer to School Attendance: Washing Machines. We live in a world where little kids miss out on whatever advantages might be available to them because they’re afraid other kids will make fun of their clothes. And some people are OK with this. The solution is so simple, but society doesn’t consider clean clothes the right of poor children, apparently.

But some people do care.

Anyway, I felt like that story needed a little boost.

Morning in America, 2017 (part 1, maybe)

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Also, music offends me. You’ll have to replace it with the sound of a two-stroke engine.

I’m worried about public education in Arizona. I mean, it’s worrisome all over America, but I live in Arizona, which typically ranks about 49th out of 50 in educational funding. It just doesn’t seem to be a priority for a lot of the population, which includes many aging retirees who just don’t care about other people’s children. But public school funding is important, if only so you don’t end up in a state full of ignorance. You wouldn’t believe how important education is to an outcome of competent adults.

There are 2 schools of thought concerning the nature of education. For me, education is a process of teaching people how to think, so that can adapt to new conditions and make intelligent choices as situations arise. For some people, education is about teaching people what to think, so they parrot your opinions and don’t believe in the validity of any others. Facts are facts, and if your facts cannot stand up to independent analytic scrutiny, your facts are actually opinions, and if your opinions are so frail they fall apart upon examination, why would you expend so much effort to protect them?

That’s what education is for, to keep humanity moving forward, to improve our odds as a species to achieve the best possible outcome. To prevent us from making the same mistake over and over.

Ms. Kitty’s Heart

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You know what would have helped? If I had any idea how to paint. 

Well over a year ago Ms. Kitty was extolling the virtues of her heart collection–a series of paintings by various artists, which she’d acquired over the years, and which all featured prominently the image of a heart–and asked if I would contribute. But I don’t paint all that much (the last really big painting project I did was like 18 years ago) and I didn’t have any real canvas and it just kept getting bumped. But she had asked me again a little before Thanksgiving, and during Thanksgiving my sister was cleaning out her room at my parents’ house (my parents are retiring and threatened to throw all her stuff away, which is something they would totally do and had already started doing) and she was going to toss a painting she did in high school, so I just painted over it.

I know that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, but, as I said, I don’t know how to paint. Unlike me, my sister has taken painting classes, and she told me to cover the canvas in gesso, but I skipped that step and just laid the paint on thick enough to mostly obscure the original image, although you can still see a prominent line on the left side (through the wrist) and there are a couple places where her textures or colors peek through.

For all that, I think it came out decently, even though when I look at it all I see are its myriad flaws and I’d like to paint over it again and do it right this time. But Ms. Kitty seemed to like it. At this resolution, you can’t see the 6 ghost cats hidden on the bottom right.

The canvas itself is about 18″ x 24″ and the paints are acrylic, just the common stuff you can get at Michael’s or any art shop. I think the brand might even be called Basic. Most of the paints were fairly old but still seemed fine. I had to acquire 2 new brushes and 1 new paint. Even in acrylic, painting is a really expensive hobby.

This took me about a week, working between 2 and 5 hours every day. I imagine, if I knew how to paint, it could have gone faster.

Painting made me want to paint more, but I don’t have more canvas. I was actually thinking about trying that thing where you buy terrible landscapes at Goodwill and then paint monsters into them. I bet I could make a killing if I painted Pokemon into them. But actually, getting paintings at Goodwill is not as easy as you’d think.

In other news, The Man decided to give me an early Christmas present by teaching himself bookbinding and creating a hardcover version of The Hermit! I am astonished. It’s really remarkable work. If you’d like to see the step-by-step tutorial of his process, you can follow this Reddit link (and upvote if you’re a Redditor and you like me and you think his work is worthy, which, of course, it is). Now that the paperback version is available, the ebook will be offered, for a limited time, as a free download.

Sleepover (More or Less)

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Obviously, I took a couple liberties with this one, but I think I caught the gist of it.

Well, that’s a wrap. There were a few moments when I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did: 16 comics in 4 weeks and 1 day, 6 panels for every one of the 16 stories in Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell. And now I can tell you that these comics will all be available in print, an actual physical comic book that you may have the good fortune of possessing if you happen to check out Bonnie Jo’s upcoming book tour this fall, and maybe if you attend the Tucson Festival of Books this spring, and perhaps some other places as well. It’s pretty exciting.

So, yeah, it’s more about me than about “Sleepover,” but I think, if you parse this comic the way I parsed the rest of the stories, you’ll see the connections. From the very beginning of this project, while trying to figure out where and how to begin, I knew that I would have to tell this story, and so the first piece in the book would have to come last, because who wants to read about Monica? Besides the people who apparently read these blog posts, I guess. Actually, more people read any of my individual blog posts than have read all of my novels put together.

Really, I don’t think I totally understood “Sleepover,” or Stu’s advice entirely until reaching the last panel. Although, don’t you just understand everything on an increasingly deeper level the older you get? Maybe in another decade it will all carry even greater meaning.

It seemed imperative to get Stu’s actual words and handwriting into this comic, which necessitated spending nearly an hour going through papers for this one particular paper, and even though I was kind of freaking out about the time as it happened, looking over some of this stuff was delightful. I had forgotten what excellent feedback both Stu and Bonnie Jo gave, voluminous critique. Stu covered almost an entire page with comments about “Changing Planes,” a story of fewer than 250 words. He wrote almost as much about the story as there was story, and it wasn’t even for class. He gave me an extra critique just because I asked. And Bonnie Jo headed my thesis committee, even though she wasn’t even employed by the university at the time.

I miss grad school. But the future might be even more fun.

Brave Back-to-School Bulletin Board

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The great thing about this is that, the more you doubt it, the truer it is. Theoretically.

Once or twice a year, my insomnia gets so bad that it comes full circle and after a week of falling asleep around dawn, my circadian rhythms get pushed back so far that I literally miss my window of opportunity for that night and never get to sleep at all. Last night hurt. Probably by 10 a.m. or so I could have slept, but at that point it makes more sense to power through for another 12 hours and get back onto a schedule that puts me in alignment with the majority of humans.

But I had to make a bulletin board! On zero hours of sleep! Fortunately, I had hung the orange background Friday and cut all the letters Monday, so I just had to reinforce the background, space and attach each individual letter, and then get some graphic elements. Due to the no-sleep, walking-around-basically-hallucinating situation, the lion cubs somehow came out half the size they were intended to be but by that point my brain was done. I scarcely felt competent to hold scissors, let alone pilot a car, and I really needed to use the reserve for the driving part, since The Man randomly stopped by, hung out for a while, and then left the Girl in my keeping.

So, I feel like this design could have been 10 times better but I also feel like it’s good enough, and if I get tired of looking at it I can change it later. School starts Thursday in my district (the kids to the south went back last Thursday; the kids to the north, including the Boy and the Girl, start next Thursday). The teachers all seemed to like it.

Normally this is a weird color combination for me. I don’t care for orange unless it’s food and typically I only like secondary colors if they’re right next to their primaries, but it’s just as with the mandalas: I forced myself to choose a different color (orange, to go with the yellow lions) and then convinced myself that purple would stand out against orange, and it really did.

Malala Yousafzai and Love of Learning

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We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. ~Malala Yousafzai

Considering my final message of the school year, I really wanted to do something that spoke to the ideas of unity and acceptance and love, concepts that seem widely absent from the world this year, and decided to choose a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the education rights activist. If you don’t know about the amazing life of Malala, you should check her out. In a nutshell, she was an 11-year-old girl living under the Taliban when she was asked to blog about her experience as a schoolgirl in a country where education for girls was outlawed, and she began to speak in favor of education and against the regime. Four years later, the Taliban shot her in the head to shut her up, but she survived, and kept at what she had been doing, and went on to win a Nobel Peace prize and some other things too. She graduated high school and went on to open her own school. I don’t think she’s yet turned 20.

It seems like a lot of the problems in our country are predicated by a lack of comprehensive education, a sort of selective myopia about what education means, and what’s important, which is why I chose this quote. You can’t make informed decisions if your schooling has massive lacunae. You need science and literature to understand your world, and you need a good overview of science and literature. You can’t for example, teach science and literature but deliberately leave out the workings of evolution and stories about sex  and claim that you know the shape of the world.

If you must zealously guard your deficits in case something that clashes with your beliefs slips through, then your beliefs are probably not as not as strong as you think they are. Learn about the things that scare you and then evaluate whether or not they’re useful (and why they’re frightening). And that means actually learn. Don’t just be like some people and sit in the classroom with your fingers in your ears, or demanding the teacher reconcile observable phenomena with your preconceived notions. That’s not learning. Science means you look at the quantitative data, not just the parts that validate your story. Literature means you look at the entire human experience, not just the parts that are pretty and clean.

Technically, and from an artistic perspective, this is one of my less ambitious bulletin boards, but I think the kids will enjoy it. Those are real strings on the balloons, and they move when the wind blows. Someone will probably pull them off. Oh well. It took 4 days total, although the first day I just put up the background because I was busy. Then it took a couple hours to make and paste the letters, a couple hours to make the rainbow and the books, and a couple hours to finish and hang everything. The Girl was there to help me, because her school got out a week before mine, and she helpfully pointed out, 3/4 of the way through the rainbow, that I had arranged the colors backward, probably because I haven’t had a good night sleep in weeks. Then she said that it was OK, because the rainbow was unique, like Malala.

So tired.