Tag Archives: grateful

Gratitude: Connectivity

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Seriously, do you remember life before wi-fi? Before dialup? Were we truly even alive?

In some ways the internet is making us all stupider. We don’t have to remember things, because the internet remembers them for us. We don’t have to search for things; the internet does that too, which means we miss out on all the things we would have learned if we undertook our own, more arduous searches. The internet supports the rise of a lowest-common-denominator culture where there are no gatekeepers and anyone can publish anything, so the authority of the average piece of writing can never be assumed. Also, it’s destroying our ability to focus and concentrate. And it’s probably wholly responsible for the rise of white supremacy in America and the election of the current president.

But also, the internet brings us everything: new friends, old friends, music, movies, books, games, homework help, advice, cat pictures, instant news, school, an easy cheat to “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and the basic sum of all knowledge discovered by our species. Can you imagine going back?

I don’t want to go back, anyway. Not if I can’t telecommute, digitally spy on people from my past, instantly discover the answer to almost any question I might have about the world, share my art with 1000s of people minutes after I complete it, and chat, for free, with anyone, anywhere, any time, in a format that allows me to also do 50 other things without the person I’m chatting with having any idea what percentage of my attention is focused on the conversation.

Despite its drawbacks and abuses, I’m grateful for the internet.

 

Gratitude: Age

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Here’s something you don’t see every day, right? Unless you are The Man. Sometimes he gets pretty close.

This is a weird, hard one for me, because we do live in a culture that worships youth and denigrates middle age, particularly when that age is exhibited in people who appear female, and also because my own internal childhood pretty much lasted until the age of 35, so I only had 5 years to adjust to adulthood before middle age started kicking me in the face.  Among other body parts. Although they’re faint in this picture, the vertical lines above the inside corner of each eye are the ones that make me feel it. They’re worry/squinting lines, and the older I get, the more worrying/squinting I seem to do.

So I remind myself that age has its privilege. Nearly everyone over 30 rejoices in what I call “over-30 brain,” which is a phenomenon that hits most reasonable people around their 30th birthday. Basically, by the age of 30, if you have been paying any attention to your surroundings for most of your life, you find that you have achieved general life competency. That is, whatever happens around you, you realize that you have either seen something like this before, or heard about it, or read about it, and that your experience gives you the necessary information to know what to do next to handle that situation. It’s way better than being 20 and just pretending you have any clue what you’re doing. (I guess 20-year brain is the one that’s thrust into grown-up roles and responsibility despite the fact that it knows it’s still not fully developed, and is desperately trying to convince the other brains around it that it’s competent and grown up.)

Today’s events reminded me how great it is not to be a child. I mean, being a child has a lot of great perks, but probably an equal number of drawbacks. Consider homework. You’re a kid; you probably hate it. You probably don’t want to do it. You probably try to get out of it. You probably fail. And then maybe you end up with 8 days left in the semester with 3 weeks’ worth of work to catch up on if you’d rather be promoted than attend summer school, and now you have this insane weight of awful work on your plate.

And if you are the kids living in this house, you are both on indefinite electronics restrictions until you finish the pages and pages of work you blew off in the last couple weeks.

Of course, being the adult in this scenario, chained to the supervision of sullen and probably crying adolescents, your situation is not optimal, but all in all, I’d rather be the supervising adult than the crying kid.

So, I’m grateful that I don’t have attend to all the steps leading up to the acquisition of a high school diploma. (Now, if someone wanted to pay for me to go back to graduate school, I’d be pretty excited about homework, but that’s a totally different situation.) I’m going to make myself grateful for my age.

Gratitude: The Public Library

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Pima County Public Library, Martha Cooper branch (Garden District), rear view

Can you believe that there are otherwise sensible people who don’t “believe” in public libraries? Yeah, this seems crazy to me, too, but these people exist. They use arguments like, “I can get any book I want on the internet” and “Google is faster for research.” Never mind that fact that some people can’t get any book on the internet, because, just like the people for whom public libraries were originally constructed, they can’t afford that technology. Never mind the fact that search engines prize popularity over objectivity and readability over depth, delivering so many fast results that you could spend the rest of your life sifting through all 1.58 million of them, without necessarily finding the results you needed. Besides the primacy of facilities available to anyone who wants them, staffed by professionals trained to discover, curate, and deliver reliable content, libraries serve as public meeting spaces, classrooms, clubs for nerdy kids, safe spaces for those with terrible homes, and temples to knowledge. Many people couldn’t get jobs, or tax information, or any one of hundreds of things most of us take for granted, if they didn’t have access to library computers. As more and more common functions become more online (typically making them more difficult to access in meatspace) libraries allow those without computers to simply participate in their own culture.

My property taxes are somewhat itemized, so I can see that, last year, I paid $50 toward these services. That’s $50 for 1 year. I pay more than that for one month of internet service at my house. And you can have all the internet you want at the library. Even when it’s closed; in my town, library networks are strong enough that you can park your car in the street near the library and get online. That’s on top of all the other things you get inside the library when it’s open. And that $50 doesn’t just get my family and me through the door. It helps keep the doors open for everyone.

If you want to stand up and say that you don’t believe in libraries because you think a certain percentage of the population shouldn’t have access to information, good luck with that argument. Obviously, there are people who will wholeheartedly agree with you, but I assume these are the same people who don’t believe in public roads, or public police forces, or public fire departments. At this point in human history, access to information should be considered a human right, like clean air and fresh water, but, of course, there are people who don’t want you to have those things either. And if they can keep you out of the library, you might not even know that you have a right to those things.

So, all hail the public library. I am grateful that you continue to serve as a sacred hall of knowledge available to all who seek it.

Gratitude: Solitude

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Today was a weird day. This is a weird picture. 

The picture and the title don’t really go together, except inasmuch as you can see the corner of my office—bookcase and window—reflected in the eye, and my office is where I most often enjoy my solitude.

Some people have difficulty being alone, and some people have difficulty not being alone. I can cheerfully spend entire days without human company; it takes at least 3 or 4 hours of solitude a day to recharge my batteries. It takes a while to really settle into that quiet place, so I’m grateful for solitude.

This lovely blue eye belongs to my friend Scotty, who always shares my blog posts. I still don’t know how you light a person’s eyeball so you can really see all the detail of the iris in a macro image.

 

Gratitude: This Guy

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He’s The Man. And he’s not at all threatened by his relationship with a hideous, fire-breathing dragon who could destroy him.

I probably don’t say it enough, but this guy keeps me going. And, of course, he has substantially more hair on his head than his namesake character is drawn with in Dragon Comics, which is a bonus, but it’s not the most important part of a stable marriage. Knowing that someone always has your back is a much bigger deal. It’s a huge deal, and it’s not easy to always make that work. It’s a lot of effort to make it work most of the time, and effort alone is no guarantee of success, so a functional marriage, in this day and age, is kind of a big deal.

This picture was taken on the Marin Headlands; that’s the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. As air travel has, since 9/11, become increasingly uncomfortable, unpredictable, and invasive, I’ve gradually come to a point in my life where I would rather spend days in a car than hours at the tender mercies of the TSA/FAA. So The Man drove me to San Francisco. From Tucson. That’s 13 hours door to door. On the way back we had a little extra time so we spent 2 nights in LA, but he still drove the entire way. He’s my hero. I am very grateful to have found him.

 

Gratitude: Adventurous Eating

 

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Bitter melon is very bitter, but I suspect cocoyam doesn’t taste like cocoa.

It’s time to recommit myself to a lot of things, including this blog. Even though nobody seems to care or notice that I haven’t drawn a comic in over 3 weeks, I remind myself that this blog is for you. It’s for me. You just happen to be lucky enough to read it. There are going to be some Dragon Comics soon.

For this gratitude, which was supposed to go up last week, I was thinking about all the foods in the world I haven’t tried. Like a lot of kids, I was a boring and picky eater with a very limited repertoire. A lot of people would still consider me picky—I largely avoid grains, particularly wheat, and white sugar, and won’t eat anything made with ground or preserved meat, or most fast or junk foods—but I’m fairly open to trying new things, especially if they come from older and healthier cuisines. Lately, we’re obsessed with West African cuisine, particularly fufu and peanut sauce. It’s delicious, and if you haven’t tried it, especially with goat, you’re missing out on some of the good things in life.

For a little pick-me-up it’s fun to go to new grocery stores, especially ones run and patronized by immigrants. There are 100s or 1000s of fruits and vegetables you’ve never tried, with which other people are familiar, and now that we have the internet there’s no excuse not to try them. In all honesty, I tried the bitter melon a few different ways and it was too bitter for me, but I’m glad I tried it. You never know what you might enjoy. The cocoyam I’ll try to work up into something tonight.

My gratitude is for the existence of and will to experience countless new foods.

 

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.

Monday Gratitude: If you haven’t got your health…

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No, I’m not shilling for Whole Foods.

I’m choosing to be thankful for my current health. And hopeful regarding my continued health. At various points throughout my timeline I’ve been pretty proactive about my health, and, as a result, enjoyed decent health. At other points, I’ve ignored my problems until they overwhelmed me. It happened last year, a confluence of allergies, asthma, and the common cold that culminated in me being force-fed a nebulizer during a routine physical because the doctor claimed she couldn’t hear any air moving through the bottom part of my lungs.

Last fall, I felt something coming on–achier than normal, tonsils way bigger than normal and scratchy like the desert, so I was sure it was going to hit me hard–and my massage therapist told me to take these zinc tablets. And I didn’t get sick. And I started taking them semi-regularly, definitely any time I’ve been vaguely under the weather, and I haven’t gotten sick yet.

Today the Girl turned up with a disgusting cold: coughing, sneezing, congestion, &c. So here’s the real test of this product, because I definitely don’t want to have what she has, even though she assures us that aside from all her symptoms, she feels fine.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on zinc. When I bought my first bottle, the cashier who rang me up said, “Good for you!” and the lady behind me in line offered me her thoughts because she had researched it thoroughly when her father was dying of cancer and it “really works because it’s an RNA inhibitor.” Most people seem to agree that it works but don’t take it because it’s usually served in an unpleasant preparation. But this Whole Foods 365-branded version doesn’t seem to. It taste good, like a lemon drop. Just don’t take it on an empty stomach.

Anyway, I haven’t had any type of cold or flu or any viral/bacterial health issues in almost a year, so even though chronic conditions slow me down sometimes, in general I’m a very healthy person, and I’m really grateful for that. Now, I hope I haven’t jinxed myself.

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.

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Seriously. You should try it sometime. You'd be surprised how well it works.

Seriously. You should try it sometime. You’d be surprised how well it works.

Right now I’m grateful that I actually finished this comic. After 4 days of nonstop holiday cleaning, I find myself sick like a little kid, with an actual fever and everything. So if this comic makes no sense, blame it on my 100.5° temperature and my inability to breath the air that remains after you run the cleaning cycle on an oven where you regularly roast entire chickens. Not to mention my allergy to pretty much every cleaning product ever. My house is now toxic to me, and the sad part is that it doesn’t look substantially cleaner than it did before we started.

This is another comic that’s more about me than the kids. In reality, the Girl is something of a Pollyanna, with a strangely sunny disposition and a powerful ability to love her family. Although she also loves butter, sugar, milk, salt, cheese, and Taylor Swift. The redundancy of dairy products is due to the fact that The Man really did grow up on a dairy farm.

Not sure how many more comics I can write this week, since there’s family coming and also I am now the walking dead. We’ll take a little break for the holidays. Web traffic drops off like crazy at the end of the year, unless you’re selling holiday gifts.