Hey there. I forgot to tell anyone who is still reading this blog that I've migrated over to Wordpress. Tally ho!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
For those of you just joining us, my radio show The Dude Is from Circumstances is scheduled to move from Friday nights to Thursdays at the same time of 8-10pm PST. However, rather than wait a whole week to make the switch as originally planned, I'm putting the change into effect immediately, so we will be going forward TONIGHT. As always, you can tune in by clicking on the 'Live 128k' there on the left menubar, or just following this link.
Hope to see you there!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I need help.
But first, a little backstory.
After having the TV unceremoniously unplugged in my early teens, I never got back into the habit of watching television. It was strictly movies for me: no commercials, definite ending point. It wasn't til around the time of Six Feet Under that I finally considered that there might be some television actually worth watching; Babylon 5 followed, and then the Whedon dam broke with Firefly/Serenity. This led to the Buffy/Angel marathon of 2008, and the coda of Battlestar Galactica more recently.
With all these shows under my belt, I've come to a point where I lack any obvious contender for what to watch next. Dexter? House? I'm reaching.
But in the back of my mind I know what I have to do, and why I've resisted doing it until now.
The influence of Star Trek is hard for me to measure or understand. I enjoy Wil Wheaton's twitter musings and writing, yet have no perspective on where he comes from. I've seen only one or two of the films over the years (none of the big ones at any rate). The recent update renewed my interest, but I sensed something missing when I watched it with die-hard fans of the show; there was no way I could know what they were experiencing. I never used to mind this massive gap in my understanding of the cultural landscape, but as they say, to everything there is a proper time.
Here's where I need help.
I was always reluctant to dive into Star Trek largely because there was so damn much of it, counting all the different series'. But which ones do I watch?
My gut tells me that the original series and TNG are required viewing, but those two alone leave with ten-odd seasons to get through. I don't know if all of it is necessary, and if not, what I should watch and what I can skip over. I could just wing it, but in the interest of doing things properly (as I imagine anyone would want them done), I'm throwing this plea into the void.
Thank you in advance.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Happy New Year.
I know it probably seems as if I've gone radio silence once again - even my Twitter feed has been particularly quiet lately - and that I've again fallen off the proverbial wagon. The truth is, I've been writing almost every day since the amnesty; it's primarily involved timed writing practices and exercises in telling the truth, getting at the heart of things, etc. Basic stuff. It has naturally yielded a lot of terrible, scrawled pages in various notebooks; so while I've been producing a good amount, none of it has added up to much of anything worth sharing. So it goes.
The theme so far has been that of trying to replace old habits (ID tags: perfectionism, fear) with new ones (ID tags: truth, comfort with making terrible things as an inevitable part of the natural process). It is not an easy thing to do, but - lucky us - life offers constant opportunities to practice it. In the realm of writing, I've held to this by accepting the fact that what I have to say is much less polished (and definitely less insightful) than I'd like. No more blogs about resolve and revelation from me - I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, like everyone else - and I'm not gonna say otherwise anymore, as it would Not Be True.
Until I muster up the guts to share my terrible, unfinished writings with the big scary internet, consider this as a surrogate offering: For the past two weeks I have been recording my Friday night radio show and uploading it via Soundcloud for all to hear. It is live and unedited; if I am nervous or fuck up a transition, it is there on tape. The first portion of last night's show was lost due to an Audacity crash, and in a moment of doubt I considered re-creating the lost half with iTunes (as I'd done to make the pre-New Years show), but it felt wrong and contrary to the spirit of things. So there it stands, warts and all.
While I'm on the subject: I have officially begun my 2nd radio show, which is gearing towards nothing other than getting writing done. Consider yourself invited.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I am home for Christmas.
Being back among the old streets of my youth after years away gives me the happy opportunity to experience them as relatively new, with just the mildest trace of familiarity to sweeten the deal. I wind through downtown and up 8th Street, past apartment complexes I don't recognize, yet at the same time feel certain I've set foot in before. Maybe I lived in them once.
I walk, slower than I'm used to, to the town cemetery where one of my high school friends lies buried. It's a place I've seen mostly in dreams in years past, but I still intuitively sense just where to find him when I enter. I sit with a book and let the bulk of the tombstone block the sun from my eyes.
I don't worry about anything when I'm here, because being home is like stepping out of time.
It's a reprieve from the world, and it's one I've needed.
I need it because I want to prepare.
I entered 2009 full of good intentions and plans, and absolutely no warmup at all. And if I've learned anything this year, it's that new years' resolutions don't succeed by the strength of the initial burst, but through slow perseverance and unsung toil. Think of it as a race and you're already done for. (Forgive me if I wax a bit poetic here, the holidays just do that to me).
If every moment paves the way for the next, and all we've been through shapes, to some degree, what comes next, then the themes for 2010 have already been well developed by now. The mistakes of 2009, if recognized, dictate the work still to be done. And while it's important to recognize the problems and mistakes we've made, it's just as important to take this particular moment to discard the things that might carry over into the new year and cause us to make these same mistakes again and again. Therefore, 2010 will begin with a declaration of amnesty for all offenses, real and imagined. We don't have to be what we have been.
The past can do a hell of a job of repeating itself if we're not careful. And old habits die hard. If we keep telling ourselves that things are a certain way, they'll invariably be that way. If we open to the possibility of change, maybe we stand a chance of getting better.
So as I sit here by the warmth of an electric fireplace, I'm thankful to have the time to think a little on where I want next year to go, and where I want to go with it. About the importance of forgiving myself for the things I've done wrong, and letting go of the wrongs that might have been done me. And I'm feeling grateful to be able to spend time with the people I care about, even if they might occasionally drive me crazy. I'm grateful to have the friends I have, and for the patience they show in putting up with me.
If you're reading this, that means you.
In the spirit of the season, here's a little video that I hope will bring a smile to your face, as you prepare for what's to come.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Unless you're one of the few who track me on other forms of easy internet stalking, you probably didn't know that my planned final radio show of 2009 (did you know I have a radio show? As I write this I realize I never really said anything about it) - had to be canceled due to issues with the station's streaming computer. I was annoyed at the time; I'd picked a nice batch of songs to play for folks that were very specifically for wrapping up the year/decade, closing things out on a good note, etc etc. To prepare it all and be unable to share it left me frustrated, to say the least. It wouldn't be any good in the new year...
Anyway, I had given up on the thought of doing a make-up show another day; time was too tight and I had work and then was leaving for California on Wednesday. It just wouldn't work. And even if I did, the chance of anyone tuning in at a random time slot just so I could get some satisfaction was slim. At best.
Though the magic of computers, I've found a solution that I might not have even sought had the show gone as planned. I took the songs I had set to play, and mixed them together live (in that I arranged them on the fly and manually handled the crossfades) into one long, continuous track. And through the power of the internet, that file is here for you all to hear and enjoy at your leisure, without having to tune in at that rather difficult time slot I currently occupy.
Unlike past mixes, my hope is that by making this one long track (as well as not providing the playlist), you'll be able to listen to it with the deliciousness of the unknown that makes music so better. In an age of cataloging and tagging everything we hear (guilty), it's nice just to listen to music without knowing what we're hearing sometimes.
You know, kind of like listening to the radio.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
It'd be pretty hypocritical to come back for what feels like the hundredth time and give you guys some line about how I have a good bead on things now, and know just what I'm doing this time. If you've been a reader of this blog for any amount of time you know how often I like to do that, and how the bursts of resolve are usually the only thing you hear from me between the long stretches of fearful quivering. I just can't do it anymore.
I've been made aware recently just how capable I am of deceiving myself about who I am. You all know (or you can take my word for it) that I'm generally too hard on myself, and that my life is ruled by standards unrealistic in their expectation and borderline psychotic in their approach to how things should be done (see previous sentence for clues), but it's another thing when someone else is affected. Long story short, I've got a few things to face.
A main aspect of my programming has always been to gauge my own value by how much I could produce creatively. Behind this is the perverse certainty that I must not only Do, but Do In A Certain Way and Up To A Certain Standard (again, see bulk of prior entries). I got problems. But who doesn't?
Here's what I do know: My capacity for self-deception is as strong as it is because I've made practically no effort to change. I've coasted, and I've smiled, and I am none the wiser. Nothing's gonna change for me unless I swallow a healthy dose of Shut The Fuck Up And Get On With It, Already. You don't have to remind me.
For the time being, this means a few things.
First: The Mighty Bu is over.
While I used to enjoy making it, by and large the history of my comic has been a struggle with trying to make things that I thought other people wanted to see (this is because I'm crazy, not because you fine folk made me this way). I went into hiatus, and came back still in the thrall of a backwards approach. And while part of me still loves making comics, I'm much too close to it to be able to simply start doing with a healthy perspective. Even if I return to comics again in the future, there's just too much memory and negativity tied to that title for me to continue. It's my hope that starting whatever I do next with a fresh slate will make it easier to establish new patterns.
Where do we go from here?
The short answer is I really don't know. I'm on a brief self-imposed vacation from making anything at all, just to see how it feels, and to examine what it is that I actually want to do vs. the nefarious urges that drive me to make things lest I be revealed as a useless piece of shit. Forgive the dramatics - did I mention I was crazy?
In place of any regular comic output, one thing I know already is that I'd like to start writing more, if only to clear up some of the space in my brain. I'd like to start using this blog as a place to submit more general writing exercises, rather than a place to poke my head up every few months and make the same old excuses.
I feel myself slipping into the same old territory here, so I'm gonna cut myself off now.
See you soon.
Friday, October 09, 2009
As you may or may not know, I've finally decided to stop putting off the relaunch of my old webcomic, The Mighty Bu, any longer. The 6 or so months it's been on hiatus were becoming more and more a period for me to build up expectancies of just how great and thought out I wanted it to be when it finally came back; pressure built, expectations soared. Naturally none of it went anywhere productive.
Perhaps the key addition to my already sizeable surplus of theoretical 'wisdom' about creating (most of which has kept me back) was a pair of interviews I listened to recently (you can listen to them here and here). The gist of these interviews is the same stuff I already knew: that you have to start, and not worry about where you're going. That you have to accept the idea of sucking at it, etc etc ad nauseum.
But there was one thing that struck a new chord.
In the middle of the interview with KC Green, he referenced the old saying that everyone has 1,000 shitty drawings in them (or songs, or poems, etc., depending on your medium), and the best thing to do is to get them out as quickly as possible. I'd heard this sentiment echoed elsewhere but had pretty much forgotten about it in my quest for Impossible Precognitive Perfection. Thinking it over, it seemed obvious: much like the shock therapy of NaNoWriMo or 24 Hour Comics, it was an exercise perfect for my current overly precious predicament.
Having done NaNoWriMo a few times, I'm aware that even the most well-intentioned exercises can be perverted into masochistic, fruitless acts if you go about them the wrong way. I'd done it with the novel writing, and I could just as easily see myself doing it with the comics.
The theory is this: it's perfectly easy to gain nothing from an exercise like this if you do it with the wrong perspective. I know very well that I could barrel through the thousand comics, consumed with knowing my trajectory, highly susceptible to tracing the steps of Gunshow or The Perry Bible Fellowship instead of trusting my intuition and doing comics that I want to see. I could rush through it, more concerned with getting to the end than with actually learning what it's meant to teach me. I've done it before (most recently with my old Mighty Bu strips - the more I drew the more I realized I was pushing myself towards some imagined destination without enjoying any part of the process). I tricked my brain into disconnecting so I could crank out empty, yet serviceable, product, thinking that this was the point.
To actually operate in the spirit of these exercises is to understand that there is no finish line; no point you can reach when you're Done.
The point is to free yourself from worry about quality and direction. You create an expanse of space in which quality doesn't matter - these are Shitty Comics. With that in place, you can focus instead on making whatever you want to, piece by piece. Comic by comic. The theory suggests that by deemphasizing destination, you free yourself up to be present with each step, knowing that it doesn't matter if it's any good, 'cause there are always going to be more.
For my perfectionist brain, this is naturally threatening and quite counterintuitive.
Enter the 1,000 Shitty Comics Exercise.
In keeping with my belief that process is an invaluable thing to be able to observe, I'm going to be using this experiment to rebuild my original comic, no matter how ugly or immature the places it takes me may be. It's what I have to do to get where I need to be - understanding that I have no idea where that is - but also, it's there for you to see, if you want to.
So far I've got 5 done, 995 to go. Come on over.
Friday, September 11, 2009
It has never been a problem of knowing what to do, or how to go about doing it.
Regardless of field, the common wisdom concerning getting any sort of work (especially creative work) done is easily found, echoed in a million books on writing/drawing/what-have-you. I won't go into them in depth here, but it always comes down to a simple idea:
Shut up and get to work.
Maybe it's the direct simplicity that scares people; no room for misinterpretation there. No, the only recourse for someone desperate (is it fear? I think it is fear) to put off getting started on (insert any project here) is to hop from book to book, soaking up ever more wisdom and instruction on how they might best proceed.
As one who's read more than his fill of these books, I assure you: eventually you know all too well what you must do.
The question then becomes: what particular devices do we each employ to prevent ourselves from doing this relatively simple thing?
Just as the best way to work is unique to each person, so are the specific designs by which they keep themselves from it. I can only name a few of mine by way of example; you have to identify your own. But perhaps this will help.
Obstacle One: The Implied Expectations of the Vessel
Be it a Moleskine notebook (like the one I'm writing this in right now), or a sleek and fancible Sketchbook, it is the experience of procuring a book specifically to work in, and promptly feeling petrified to sully its pristine pages with anything but the most quality work (itself a dubious, amorphous notion). Fine journals are a fine thing, but when they work psychologically to make us overly precious about what we fill them with, their purpose is corrupted. More on this later.
My second obstacle is the notion that I must know precisely what I want to say and where I want to end up (and must identify all of the in-between steps) before I begin.
This flies in the face of all that ubiquitous, obvious wisdom: nearly all works, of every stripe (pick any specific book/comic/tv show especially dear to you as example) were almost certainly conceived as they went along, rather than extensively mapped out and executed in a linear fashion. All were begun and all change in the making. The growth and progress we so easily recognize (and assume to be both intentional and inevitable) most likely happened entirely by accident. That is to say, naturally.
Yet still the delusion holds sway. If you don't believe me, trust that I have several unfinished drafts of blogs which remain untouched simply because I have yet to figure out exactly what I want to say with each.
The third obstacle sounds a bit silly when said aloud.
Whatever we make must not, at any point in its existence, suck.
And so on.
Your obstacles may have some things in common with mine; no doubt you could make your own list of things that stand in your way. Never a bad idea.
But what then? If you're like me, the one thing you know just as well as what you should be doing is why you aren't doing it. Your knowledge on this subject will be thorough, specific, and vast.
The question of what to do with all this information is what interests me the most. Here's what I've come up with:
It's no good to abandon your notebooks or any other tools just because of the mindset they may induce in you; at least, not altogether. Sometimes having something shabby or handmade (point: not store-bought) helps. But this is often impractical. Mass-produced notebooks are made to be written in. Moleskines' paper feels wonderful against the hand. There must be a compromise.
To put it another way: you have to figure out how to make the things you have work for you. If that means trading in the fancy sketchbook for its DIY cousin, so be it. But only if that's what you really need.
Before I started writing this, I surveyed all the previous entries in the journal. Each page was crammed with tiny, near-illegible lines; none of it invited review. Even as I wrote them, I knew I'd likely never go back and read what I'd written. It seemed beside the point.
But if these things are to become useful, they have to be easy and inviting, at least at first.
I turned to a blank page, and began writing sentences in letters 3 or 4 times larger than usual. Barely a paragraph's worth fit on a page.
And immediately I felt the difference. By loosening up my grip and taking a little more space to stretch out, I found a way to make the Moleskine work for me.
It's that kind of redefined relationship that I want to find with all my tools. I encourage you to try to find the same relationship with yours.
If you need it.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I'm a little late with this, but I'm going to be at the Portland Zine Symposium all day today and tomorrow selling my comics and generally mingling. It's happening in Smith Memorial Ballroom on the PSU campus and entry is free. If you're around, come and say hi!