Tag Archives: money

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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Dragon Comics 153

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I don’t need anything but my precious, precious gold. 

Last night was a mini-insomnia night: I got enough sleep to access basic functions for part of the day. In the afternoon I worked on my Linda Addison project but by the time I started thinking about a comic there wasn’t much charge left in the battery. What little I actually drew of this comic seemed very difficult. Even typing it took a ridiculous amount of time. Tonight will be better.

The funny thing about taco trucks is that you can barely throw a rock around here without hitting one. So you wouldn’t really need directions. You would just need to pick one direction and walk 1d6 blocks, scanning the desert for a truck with a taco sign on it.

Seriously, how great must it be to achieve the level of greed and selfishness needed to be happy about American politics. I almost wish I had a billion dollars and no conscience, because it’s kind of a massive to burden to have feelings all the time and actually care about the world around me.

Alice in Blunderland

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“But I don’t want to go among selfish, greedy people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all selfish and greedy here. I’m selfish and greedy. You’re selfish and greedy.”

Today, in a thread about ACA and profit in healthcare I questioned the foundational American belief in the nature of capitalism and decided not to respond to a comment about the futility of trying to “escape the trap of money” in a “ridiculously hedonistic, unhealthy narcissistic society” written by a woman who listed her current occupation as “artist” (she apparently worked in gems and precious metals) and her previous occupations as a manager of a Lexus dealership and “private jet broker.”

Private. Jet. Broker.

This is why some people don’t think there’s any room at the table. Because someone took up all the space with a private jet.

The woman in question seemed to consider herself fairly liberal, politically speaking. I didn’t know her, except I felt like I did, because I grew up in  place where money–not just enough money, or a comfortable amount of money, but ALL the money, as much money as a person could get, and then more money on top of that–was considered paramount. Not that they were bad people. The rich people I grew up around gave lavishly to charity and voted in favor of social services. But they lived in another world, and their children didn’t understand how ridiculously much more they had than everyone else. They knew they were rich. They just didn’t understand how poor so many people were.

This weekend I had a couple comic ideas around the theme of people debating whether or not the president-elect is fascist, whether the people who support him are nazis, and my thought that this kind of labeling/identity politics/name-calling is pointless. I don’t care whether or not a regime’s qualities align 100% with those of the 3rd Reich. I do care whether or not their actions result in .01% of the atrocities of World War II. So I’m trying to stay focused on a discussion of what people do, whether it is kind and helpful or selfish and greedy.

I maintain that 1) money is only one possible way of dividing resources, not a necessary evil, but a cultural system that exists because enough people want it to exist, and 2) that there are sufficient resources on planet Earth that everyone could have everything they needed if we all chose a more equitable way of distributing good and services while communicating the value of community and meaningfully contributing to society, but that 3) the reason we don’t usher in a true utopian era is because most people are greedy and selfish.

We’re almost all at least a little greedy and selfish. Even if we love our fellow human and wouldn’t personally wrong them, we accept a system in which some people can be a lot greedy and a lot selfish and love their fellow human not at all, and have no compunction about personally wronging them if it could be done for profit and power. We say it’s OK for one person to earn a private jet while many more people cannot earn homes for their family and food for their children even though they work 40, 60, 80 hours a week. We don’t have to accept this system as the only possibility, but the vast majority of us do. We could change that. For sure we could work out a system where everyone receives healthcare.

I’m afraid my Alice looks too much like Janet Jackson. I was going for Latinx. But you know I made the Hatter’s hands small on purpose. That’s not like calling someone a fascist. That’s comedy. The Putin-Hare kind of creeps me out. Also, I did this Tenniel drawing before, in a Dragon Comic. I already had the “Alice in Wonderland” tag.

 

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.

Dragon Comics 139

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First you go viral. Then the virus kills you.

If you’re asking someone to submit content to your website, and the very first thing that person says in their response is, “Before you go any further, is this a paying gig?” and it’s not a paying gig, then what you should say is, “Sorry, no.” What you should not do is send a poorly worded boilerplate description of your website that doesn’t answer the original question in a straightforward manner, and then, when the person whose favor you are asking reiterates that they need to understand whether or not you intend to compensate them for their work, get all bent out of shape and snarky about it. You’ve wasted their time by not just answering the question.

I’m lucky because I have The Man looking after me, and before that I had a very solid and well-paying corporate writing gig, but I know too many freelance writers getting shafted by a system that runs on their talent but devalues their skill.

Drawing a comic is better than getting riled up about it. So actually, I did profit from the exchange.

Macrophotography in a Nutshell: Tiny Fly on Tiny Flower

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Just chillin’ with my new carpet. You guys like?

(Click this link to see the original image at 4217 x 2811)

Another San Francisco capture, so don’t ask me to identify. I only do flowers of the American Southwest, and even that, not terribly gracefully. To me, tiny bug on tiny flower is the most macro of all macrophotography images. I know some people like to take extreme closeups of currency or body parts, but the things I want to see in minute details are tiny bugs and tiny flowers, so pictures like these are synergy.

Anyway, if you zoom in on this one you can see the cool little sticky bits that look like white fluff around the edges quite clearly. I don’t know if it’s moisture in the air that stuck to the flower or something the plant secretes for some reason, but it’s interesting to see.

Per the new schedule, I’m not even attempting to draw a comic until Friday, so I can consider the possibility of writing a few words. It would be nice to work on my T-shirt shop, too.

Oh! I got another paying photography gig. I guess I can call myself a professional photographer, since this will be the 3rd time that’s happened even though I’ve never even told people that I take pictures for money. They just sort of offer it to me. It’s somewhat nerve wracking: formal portraits for a wedding. Like, if you screw those up, you’re not just screwing up a photoshoot. You’re screwing up someone’s memories. The Vampire Bat does a ton of wedding photography, and it seems crazy-making to me. In this case, I’m fairly certain that neither of the brides will bride-zilla on me or make unreasonable demands or be nitpick-y about the work, but I’m sure that people who make a living at this must deal with that all the time. I can barely deal with writing clients, and I know that I know what I’m doing for them.

Maybe I should take a photography class? Then, one day, I’ll remember which aperture and which shutter speed goes with which environment, and how to set these things on my camera. Until then, it’s great that modern technology can handle a lot of those decisions for you.

A Career in the Arts!

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The Unicorn of Creativity supports this message. So does the Moth of Poverty. Your parents are just disappointed.

I say “get older” because I’m not sure “growing up” is something that is compatible with the creative life. At least, it’s been a couple decades now and I don’t seem to be doing it, at least not in the sense that my parents used the term. Maybe other creative types have had better luck, but I’m pretty sure that we’re all just big kids going through the motions of putting on pants in the morning and driving cars.

This comic isn’t 100% representative of my life, because I did try to have a career in my 30s, and after the novelty of having a lot of money wore off, I hated every second of it, and it wasn’t like I needed so much money anyway. It just felt like squandering my creativity. Even now when I get desperate and take the little freelance jobs that still come to me sometimes, I feel guilty.

Anyway….

I’m really digging this very web aesthetic of drawing black and white designs with small but meaningful hints of color. A lot of web artists seem to employ this style, and it’s pretty effective. Berk Breathed has been using it in the new Bloom County strips, for example. I hope it’s apparent that panels 1-3 feature colorful butterflies while in panel 4 you see a gray moth. The comic still works if that’s not apparent, but it has a nicer balance if you see that.

The really important part is that you know that mystic unicorn is always right behind you, whispering in your ear: You have made all the right choices. If you can hear her, just keep skipping through that flowery meadow. Tra la la.