All right. That's quite enough of that.
A friend of mine remarked recently that he hates blog entries in which the author apologies for how much he or she hasn't written lately. He wished that the author would just get on with it and write something, already. No good comes of further delaying actual work by bemoaning the various reasons for the lapse. And I agree with him: it is more or less pointless.
If I am to give in to some backward-looking lamentation and offer some explanation as to why I've been silent these past two months, believe me when I say that it is inextricably connected to what I have to say now, and bears on what I will say in the future as well.
And now I hardly know where to start.
Writing things down, for me, has always served one or two functions. First, it provides a record of my life, thoughts, and progress. Documenting each day gives that day the feeling that it has not been lost, and no matter what specific details and observations I write, it is heartening that they have been set down.
But secondly, and far more importantly, is the fact that writing things down acts as a buffer against the incoming tide of new information: like Dumbledore's pensieve, it lets me take each day's barrage of information and store my thoughts and experience somewhere else than in my head.
I forgot how important this was.
I've never really believed that I would one day go back over my old journals and re-read what I'd written. Even if something was particularly profound or clever, I knew the odds were good that I'd never give any of it another glance.
I can see, in hindsight, that the real value of daily writing is not anything that I wrote on any particular day, but the sanity purchased by simply doing it.
And this is where the silence comes in.
When you slip from a discipline (I better speak for myself here - when I slip from a discipline), it naturally gets harder to pick it back up the longer I wait. Not just because I'm giving in to procrastination like any normal person - if that were all, it should be relatively easy to cope with. But in my case, the longer I wait, the more keenly I feel all the unrecorded days weigh on my mind. Inertia intensifies. The number of specific things I'd intended to say blur together until I feel fairly choked by the prospect of cracking the massive exterior that's grown over the period of lost time.
So it seems entirely appropriate, then, that another new year is upon us.
In years past I've downplayed New Years Day as just another day, dismissing the notion of resolutions. It was probably no more than this: at that point, I found myself in a strong enough place to make such claims. I do not find myself in such a position now.
Admittedly, I'm less interested in tiny, specific resolutions than a few general gear shifts. It's not just what I will or will not do; it's how I'll try to approach them. I know all too well that part of the reason I've been so paralyzed lately is that my standards for myself are quite high. I don't practice writing very much at all, and yet being unable to express myself perfectly right out of the gate (as foolish people like me expect to do) has made me doubt myself, write less and less, and so on and so forth. As 2008 comes to a close, my discipline is in a bad way.
A few years ago I audited a course at Reed College. My professor, Ken Brashier, would give us our daily reading assignment, but in addition, we were each to prepare something written for the next days discussion.
He called it an exploratory.
In the framework of the class it sounded very serious, but really it amounted to simply writing down your thoughts, unformed and raw as they were, about the reading. A simple idea, but an effective one: it forced us to come up with something, anything, to say about material we were still processing. And then to go on. It would never be perfect. It would just be a rough sketch meant to catalog our progress each day.
So, I've been thinking.
No resolution that obliges you to turn your life around with 100% success can be expected to be met. To say that this year I'm finally going to get rid of such-and-such behavior, or finally do that thing I've been putting off, is a bad beginning. I know, at this moment, that I'll fall again and again. It's crazy to think otherwise. But a resolution to try and do better than I have while allowing for this? Well, that sits with me comfortably enough.
The exploratory is the first step. Practically, it will take the form of more frequent updates in this blog (if you guys can stand it). I'll write, and try to let go of my perfectionist grip on the things I do. I'll write, and it'll be crap a good bit of the time. But it's a good start.
Monday, December 29, 2008
All right. That's quite enough of that.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
A quiet evening at home is a rare thing these days.
I know I've been rather incommunicado lately, so it may help to mention that I've just recently settled into a new house with some friends, ending my 2-year stint of living above a bus stop on Hawthorne. So long, noisy streets. Moving into the lush bubble that is Ladd's Addition has made the world seem a good deal quieter.
And what a crazy time it is in the world. Up until a few months ago, I hadn't followed politics too closely; hell, before trudging down to the Waterfront Park to hear Obama speak a few months back I'd never even heard the man's voice before (on that day it was not exactly clear - by the time I arrived the crowds made anything in earshot nigh indiscernible. But I digress).
Cut to now, mid-October. I've been catching up with the world in a number of ways. I finally discovered Hulu, much to the detriment of my productivity, DropBox, which makes the slow, temperamental file-transfer site YouSendIt seem Stone Age by comparison, and Twitter's constant stream of Election-related updates. It's Hulu that has really helped me reconnect with current events: Who knew you could have The Daily Show dropped in your Queue four days a week with the push of a button? A long way since TiVo, we have come.
At any rate, all this newfangled interweb technology has got me quite over-stimulated with Election-frenzy information, to the point that I'm starting to lose sleep over it. My resigned position over the last several months has been more or less pessimistic about the possibility of any real change (this shirt says it well). Sure, I'm hopeful, but anyone who's ever been let down will tell you it's better to prepare for disappointment than walk into it blindly. At worst you get what you were expecting, at best you're happily surprised.
But this has been changing over the last few days.
Maybe it's the influx of articles like this that do it. I know I can't read anything by Mark Morford or watch an episode of Jon Stewart and really allow it to get my hopes up; but any sign that the people on the fence might actually be backlashing against McCain at this late hour for the vile personal attacks that have been the mainstay of the McCain campaign lately is another matter.
And yet the more that little kernel of hope and possibility gnaws at my brain, the more worried I become. Have you seen those people in the McCain-Palin mob? I am well aware that places like New York and San Francisco and Portland are bubbles of primarily liberally-minded voters; but outside the small world I live in people are quite different. They are fearful and violent. Already there are accounts of incidents like this and this coming to the front. How many more people share these men's sentiments?
I am afraid.
For while a McCain victory (which, inevitably, would turn into a Palin presidency, something absurd to the point of seeming like some Monty Python sketch that never was) would no doubt be a spirit-crushing disappointment, an Obama victory brings out a different fear altogether: the fear of what certain Americans will do should it occur.
More than ever in my short life, I'm afraid of us.
So I hope that all goes well, and resign myself to trying to live as well as I can in the meantime. Trying to spend more time enjoying the simple quiet of walks through my new neighborhood, where squirrels and crows are the only life I encounter. Trying to savor the changing of the seasons, and think that while the whole world seems to be on the verge of something, be it for better or for worse, it's still a lovely evening that I'm pretty grateful to have to myself.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I'm not dead.
I have been quite out of the habit of writing. But this is changing. I've found a reason for it again. I have also not given up on the cartooning (especially the 3-on-the-3rds). It's had its rough periods, but the Bu is still chugging along.
I've just taken a much needed break from the world.
I'm coming back now.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
As any of you who've been keeping up with the Bu know, I'm still jumping around stylistically, and am enjoying the variety so far. However, I've been feeling increasingly frustrated with the process of writing the comics themselves. There have been times when I came up with a good punchline and the thing just wrote itself, but the more common situation is that of me sitting at my desk drinking coffee as I labor for hours trying to craft something funny. I'd never considered how difficult this can be to do on a regular basis. I've analyzed the formulas employed by a couple of my favorites, done the bulk of my comics so far in imitation of one of them or another, and yet I keep coming back to that old truism: make the kind of comic you'd want to read.
So I take it apart over and over again and try to establish just what this means to me. Sitting at the bar at Noble Rot tonight, I finally confronted the fact that I don't really like telling jokes in my comic. The idea of trying to structure a comic to get the most laughs seems dishonest and misguided. Already I've had several times when I felt crippled by the pressure to write something that would appeal to others, which is a backwards approach to the whole creative act in my opinion. So much of humor, to me, is bound in the context of specific situations, and the observation of true things. For my money, a sharp observational insight trumps a comedian's zinger ten times over.
Another thing I mean to avoid is humor based on outright mockery. I am critical of a good many things, but it doesn't feel right to use the comic as a platform to cast my judgments about, at least in such a direct manner. First, because I'm trying to stop being so self-centered all the time (I'm embarrassed by how many of the strips so far have been based on real-life events, for various reasons), and second, because while it's tempting to want to make fun of other people and their mysterious ways, it isn't all that funny.
Who knew writing humor was such a complicated business?
By the by, do any of you know of a decent comic layout program that I can get for free? I'm thinking about experimenting with a strictly photo/clip-art based style (maybe even creating a second webcomic devoted solely to it) which will let me indulge my more verbose side, but all the programs I've seen so far are awful..
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I'm a little late with this (y'know, with the whole Bu thing takin' up the majority of my time), but I assure you I did in fact draw all these on the Third (okay, the last one was begun around 11:15 and finished around 12:30, but hey, I had to wait for Pat Benatar for finishing inspiration). At any rate, I'm sorry for the delay.
Here are my contributions for this month's 3-on-the-3rd:
Also, in case you didn't know, Lindsey and Sanguinity have made a whole entire website dedicated to this comic adventure. You should totally check it out.
Friday, July 11, 2008
It seems apparent already that I'm a bit too busy and overwhelmed to keep up with the 100-theme project. Which isn't really any kind of excuse, but I am getting way too stressed, stretched, and generally depressed about everything else to justify the added pressure. I've been neglecting piano practice and yoga, much to the detriment of my emotional and physical well-being. And anyway, I'm still drawing all the time, working on improving the quality of the strip as well as my technique. So apologies for jumping the gun a bit there, I just need to recognize my own limitations.
On a different note, I've been feeling a bit schizophrenic about the Bu lately. I'm very conscious of wanting to do something new with each one, either a different layout/format or a different pictorial style. Which is all well and good, but I imagine it might be a little jarring from a reader's perspective. I am aware that given the fickle nature of internet-surfing these days, you have a better chance of keeping people interested if you maintain some degree of consistency, if not going quite so far as using recurring characters. I've thought about making it into a serial comic with a progressive storyline, but that just seems to close the door on so many ideas I want to explore... I love the freedom that drawing standalone comics affords me.
I've been reading as many different sorts of comics as I can get my hands on, and I can't escape the fact that serialized comics - both of the web variety (like QC or Girls with Slingshots or Sinfest) and well-known strips like Bloom County or Doonesbury (both of which I have tremendous respect for) are limited by their 4-panel formats. Their comics on any given day are rarely that funny. Sure, there's the occasional strip that makes me laugh out loud, but their real strength is in the cumulative development of the characters and the story and the fact that they can tell jokes everyday while at the same time building something big and lasting. I admire that. It's also worth mentioning that most of those strips update at least five days a week, so there's less pressure on each individual comic to be funny. Whereas a twice-a-week comic carries (at least in my mind) the responsibility to make up for those days in sheer brute comic force. And honestly, the urge to set up a 6-10 panel comic, totally self-contained, in order to explore whatever amusing thoughts I have, is just too hard to resist sometimes.
I know that the comic is still young, and I'm in no hurry to lock myself into a specific format. I'm just musing about it, and I'd like to know what you folks think.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
So already it is clear to me that I will probably not be able to keep to the theme-a-day deadline I initially set for myself. I probably could do it, but that would be piling a little more stress on than is really necessary, especially since the project is so individually-oriented (my friend Joanne has undertaken to explore each them via haiku, for instance). That said, I'll aim instead for one every other day or so, with some leniency.
And now it is my 28th birthday, as of a few minutes ago. Not many words just now on this, as it doesn't feel like much to talk about. I dealt with the imminence of 30 in last years' birthday blog, and my feelings have not changed in that regard since then. We'll see how the rest of the day goes, but really I'm not anticipating much in the way of birthday goings-on. I'll go to work in the morning like any other day, help my boss move some stuff after, and hopefully have a relaxing evening after that. Ideally there will be more cartooning. And it wouldn't hurt to treat myself to a Reggie Deluxe before work, I suppose :)
At any rate, I've just finished another installment of The Mighty Bu, and am now going to get my 29th year on this planet underway properly by taking myself out for late-night pizza as a reward.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Hello again! And so soon!
Well, I was milling around on the old internet just now, as I have been known to do from time to time, and I came across a drawing challenge on Alec Longstreth's illustration blog which caught my eye. I poked around a little bit (there's another example of it here). Basically, it is an exercise in drawing a picture (cartoon, watercolor, etc, the medium is unspecified) about a single theme each day for 100 days. That's really all there is to it. With such a wonderful list of themes to work through, I imagine that it will be a really fun experiment both in interpretation and varying styles. Again, this is not something that begins on a set day like NaNoWriMo, nor are there any real strict guidelines as to the timeline of it all. I'm going to aim for one a day. I invite any of you who like the idea of it to join me in the challenge. I'll be posting the cartoons in this blog as they are drawn, so expect a good deal more tiny posts from me in the coming days. I will probably also be documenting the whole thing with notes and assorted reflections, as I am wont to do.
Update: here we go. One down, ninety-nine to go.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Why hello, Blogger friends. It's been awhile.
I surface again with my July contribution to Three on the Third, which, as in past months, has made for quite the busy day. I'd thought I would have a good deal more to say after having gone so long without blogging, but now that it comes to it there's not much that isn't already captured in these three little comics. Life is crazy and busy and full of practice and learning to be patient and a million other things. The Bu continues to grow and change, and so far I've been happy with what I've done (it's even gained a small readership, thanks in no small part to the kind folks over at the PSU Writing Center). I am more than a little bit surprised and delighted by this. At the least it is all the more incentive to keep drawing :)
So without further ado, I'll leave you (for the time being) with the 3 other comics I drew yesterday.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
So it's taken me a bit longer to get around to this than I intended (which seems to be the case with everything in my life these days), but I have been wanting to write a proper blog in which I check in about the whole comic process thing, how it feels so far, and whatever else. Sorry to be so single-minded, but it really has been consuming my existence lately.
I have now had more than one person get back to me saying they like my 'style,' as it has been thus far. I get a bit nervous hearing this, as I've been trying to push myself a little bit with each one, and try a different format each time. There've been multiple occasions where I was just too behind schedule and had to fall back on something familiar, but in general I've tried to avoid this. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad people are enjoying not only the comic's content but the art as well. It's just that I'm at a point where I want to move beyond my current style, which in my opinion is very limited, albeit pretty cute. I'm not trying to abandon cuteness here; it's more that I'm getting sick of myself. I should remind myself that even Craig Thompson gets sick of himself and his 'style' all the time (I heard it from his mouth), and take some consolation. It's not that I dislike the way I've been drawing, but that it feels lazy. I can do it without much effort, and it's not really helping me improve.
That said, I know that there has been some progress. I know that it takes time to really develop any skill. It's just hard when you see other artists (published or otherwise) produce things that, to them, may seem tedious, but seem quite beautiful to me. And then I look back at my own sketchbook, and my hand keeps drawing like itself. Sigh.
My road right now is still that of slow imitation, learning from the artists I admire (though I think I may implode with guilt if I rip off xkcd one more time). Sometimes the whole stick figure thing bothers me because it feels like an artistic cop-out, other times I find it really expressive and fun to play with. Also, as Scott McCloud has pointed out, there are many good reasons to employ stick figures instead of more specific characters from time to time.
I just don't want to get complacent.
On a different note, I am very much wanting to improve the general layout of the site. What I'm looking for is the single-comic main page look, with a side panel where I can say a few words about each strip, much like Jeph Jacques does with Questionable Content. I've found it really insightful to go back into his old strips and read about his progress from doing it twice a week, to three times, to making it a full-time job. Right now I can only dream about doing that myself, but it's nice to read about it.
So I want to throw it out there and see if any of you fine readers are html-savvy enough to help me design this sort of website, or know someone who knows how... I've registered a proper domain for the comic, but am holding off on choosing a webhost until I have a lead on how to make it look the way I want it to. It's probably very simple, but I don't know where to start.
With that said, I must tear myself away from this computer and get back to drawing. I'm in for the long haul; I have to practice some more.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Hello! Just a quick posting... yesterday was a busy day for comics, getting the biweekly strip of the Bu up as well as doing these little cartoons. I've got to run out the door for coffee now, but I'll write more about all this drawing soon. Happy Three on the Third!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
I haven't blogged in awhile. I just wanted to remark quickly on how the Bu turned one month old yesterday. It makes me smile.
It may not seem like much, but let me tell you: each time I manage to get a strip done and uploaded on time, it feels like a victory. I feel like I've barely got enough time to get the comic done, let alone make time to actually practice and improve my technique. But having passed the one-month mark, I'm starting to ease into it a bit more, as well as refocus the drive that got me doing all this cartooning stuff in the first place. Hopefully you'll continue to see improvements in both style and form.
p.s. I truly appreciate those of you who have been reading, and leaving me feedback. It really keeps me going.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Well, the hard part is over. The first few episodes of the Bu are up, and I've managed to keep to my schedule for two weeks. I'm hoping to get increasingly comfortable with just doing fun, silly comics (there's this little voice inside me that screams make it poignant! make it poignant! every time I draw) and experimenting in different styles, even if they occasionally don't work. I hope you'll bear with me, and of course, give me feedback. The style is far from being fully-formed.
I'm also looking to improve the design of the comic layout itself (moving away from Blogger and towards a more easy-to-navigate design, like most webcomics use. One strip per page, with the whole previous/next/first links, etc... if anyone can point me in the right direction for getting started with that kind of html, I'd be grateful. I'm going to give Comic Genesis a try, see if that helps. Ideally you will be able to read the comic at full size on the main page without having to click on it.
On a totally separate note, I want to share with you all something that has made getting my work done infinitely easier these past weeks.
It's called Freedom, and it is amazing.
It's sole function is to disable your wireless internet connection for a period of your choosing, up to 3 hours. It does this so you can actually be productive. As it seems to affect the wireless permissions on the kernel level (whatever that means), the only way to override it (if you feel like cheating) is to reboot your computer. If you're willing to do to get back to surfing, this program probably won't help you. I could also say a few words about the implications raised by the fact that such a program needed to be created in the first place, but I won't.
p.s. Freedom is only available for Macs at the moment (muahaha! that sentence makes me smile), though maybe if you plead with the developer he might make one for PCs as well.
Back to work!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
If you've ever heard me grumble about my art in the years past, you know that my constant gripe was never that it wasn't good enough technically, nor that it didn't convey exactly what I meant it to.
My complaint was always that it was cute.
As long as I can recall, this has been a dirty word to my ears, worse than derivative, worse than saccharine. Cute. The real 4-letter word.
Maybe it was just a matter of time until the Hordes of the Cute Army wore down my defenses and I could resist no more. Maybe it was seeing the work of artists I respect and admire and realizing that beyond the quality of their linework and brushstrokes, beyond the great pacing and storytelling, hidden underneath it all like a sugar coating on a bitter pill, was Cuteness.
And I liked it.
I've consciously avoided cuteness in my own work for a long time, to no avail. No more shall I resist. If cuteness is inherent, let it be embraced! Let it be one more tool in the cartoonists' arsenal. Let it be a weapon, not a hindrance.
To quote (heavily) from James Kochalka:
For these reasons we choose cute. We deny the ugliness of the world around us and stand in opposition to it. When we draw, our line will be as supple as the precious spring twig and as resilient as the fat cheeks of an infant. Our art shall remain as pure and innocent as the sleeping babe and it shall shine with the inquisitive twinkle of his wide, waking eyes. We shall not use cuteness to champion commercial ventures, for that use merely serves to corrupt and defile, twisting cuteness from beauty into ugliness. Nor do we live in a fantasy world where we pretend that suffering does not occur. Rather, we fight for beauty and purity and we fight to make the world a more joyful place.
~from The Cute Manifesto
To this I say Amen! Let the Cuteness shine forth!
In relation to this, and thanks to Lindsey's new favorite holiday, I've set out to revive my old webcomic. For those of you who had it bookmarked before, the address has changed slightly. I'm aiming to update it twice a week for the time being, on Tuesdays and Fridays. So without further ado, I give you:
The Mighty Bu
Sunday, May 04, 2008
So I had a very full, very busy Third. I've been working on my comics most of the day, though I did take a break to ride out to Guapo Comics for Free Comic Book Day. After that I went straight to a show at the Wonder Ballroom, and when I got home I got right back to work. I am really happy with how these comics turned out, but because of the extra detail, they took me a good deal longer than they did last time.
Long story short, it's now past 2am and I've got two out of three finished. The third one exists as a rough draft, I just need to knock out the final version. Does this count, Ye Overlords of Three on the Third? I swear I will get the last one done tomorrow. I'm just beat and I am pretty sure I've reached the point of diminishing returns with my drawing.
So, begging your forgiveness, here are the two I've got so far:
UPDATE: Here it is. Sorry for the delay.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Mornings are a crucial time for me.
I woke up around 9 o'clock, as I usually do. My first incoherent thought was: Do I have to work today?
My brain began functioning. No. It's Thursday. No work. Joy. So I allowed myself to drift back to sleep, guilt-free, for another hour.
And that's when things began to turn sinister.
The later I slept, the more I was aware that I should be getting up and getting on with my day. The longer I stayed in bed, the harder it was to get out of it. I am already fucked. Lost before I start. Same as it ever was.
So much of it is arbitrary. I feel that my morning productivity speaks for the whole day; there are others who don't get up 'til noon and have their peak productive hours at night. But whatever your settings read, once you make a misstep, there's always something inside you begging you to make another, then another, and then one more after that, ad infinitum.
It makes me wish we humans had a reset button.
A quick push and the useless thoughts would be gone. I could proceed unencumbered. Ah, wouldn't it be nice?
I know, in my higher mind, that it doesn't matter what the day's been like so far. I still have all day to be productive, live well, etc. But I know, too, that depression is a self-perpetuating entity. Maybe it's just me, but feeling like I've wasted my morning increases the likelihood of wasting the rest of the day a thousandfold.
It's quite mad, really. Nothing is wrong, per se; just the knowledge that I've let the hour and a half I've been up slip away without anything to show for it is enough to irrevocably mar the next 11 hours. All the while, I'm aware that you can spend a good amount of time putting off doing something, but when you finally work up the stomach to take care of it, it takes practically no time. Focused effort is a force to be reckoned with. Yet here I sit, prey to my computer. Instead of making breakfast, putting away laundry, and getting on with things, the internet holds me in its clutches.
As I've no doubt touched on before, this is most common on days when I don't work, with the free hours stretching out before me. We all know the theory of the advantage of working within a schedule. But if I'm getting more done on days I work than on my days off, something's very wrong.
I can't give in. I know that button is there, somewhere.
Ah, there it is.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I am working tenaciously on a project I started long ago; an experiment in behavioral psychology designed to help me make a few personal changes. As self-help projects go, this one is the most straightforward, scientifically sound approach I've ever come across. I am pretty sure I've written about it before. I could go into greater detail, but it would cause your eyes to glaze over. Something about technical speak just has that effect on people.
The subject of my project is that of time management. I've been struggling (not for the first time) to give due time to all the practices I've been doing lately - writing, sketching, and learning piano, to name but a few - and in addition to feeling overwhelmed and unable to give any of them their proper amount of time, I've been feeling generally dispirited about it all, compelled to do them out of a sense of obligation instead of doing each because I enjoy it. So the project is a dual endeavor: both to learn how to actually manage my time more efficiently, and also to approach the things I use my time for with a better perspective.
So far so good. But like most things, this is gonna take some time. There ain't gonna come a point when I wake up and find that I've arrived at the plateau of perfect discipline and mindfulness; it's always gonna be a process. But the whole thing will be documented and, hopefully, the road to wherever I'm going will be littered with an abundance of cartoons, assorted writings, and new songs.
To this end, I want to say that I appreciate all of your words regarding my last post. Your collective wisdom is resounding in my ears as I plow forward on the road to having a healthier relationship with my various disciplines and try to find my way through it all. You are all awesome, and I will repay you in cookies yet.
Friday, April 04, 2008
Due in part to yesterday's comic-drawing frenzy, I started musing in my journal about how often it is that you find yourself unable to draw even the simplest things; things you might look at a hundred times a day. It's partly that old truism (which I first came across via Danny Gregory), that you can really only know things after you've drawn them. Before this fact, what you draw is more likely to be your mind's image of the object: Coffee Cup, Bus, etc. By looking long and hard at something and drawing it specifically, you notice all the particulars that make it unique. Fine. Plenty of validity to Gregory's slow-as-snails contour practices.
But having done a fair amount of these observational sketches, what I keep being struck by is how unnatural each one feels (and looks) after the fact. The lines are always fractured and broken, there is either too much detail or not enough, and it reeks of trying overly hard to render exactly what I'm seeing in precise detail rather than making, well, a drawing of it. But maybe this is part of the exercise? (Ashley, I'm looking to you here).
My eye then wandered over my various notes to myself, and I realized that one thing I am totally comfortable with is my handwriting.
When we're young we're taught how to write cursive and to cultivate 'good' handwriting, and this stays or wears off to varying degrees as years pass. For my part, I went through a very clean handwriting phase, then went off the deep end in the other direction, filling notebooks with completely illegible (I'm talkin' like a heartscan) scribbles. Now I look back at my journals from the past several months, and see that my handwriting has settled into a style that I very much approve of. It's messy and occasionally still illegible, but it's very me. It has it's own character and eccentricities. After all this time, I've found my proper expression with it.
This got me thinking: how do you achieve such a thing in other forms? In my sketches, I still lack any kind of identity. Same thing with songwriting. In both fields I find it much easier to create pieces that imitate someone else than try my own thing (as I may have written prior, each of my FAWM songs was a direct attempt to be like a specific artist), under the premise that through imitation, eventually your own style shines through.
I offer up the following sketches that I did this evening as examples of this dilemma.
The Doubtful Guest
Cat and Girl
Pintsize (from Questionable Content)
My hand can imitate these styles, but I know that none of them are my own, per se. So what does it take? I know the only real answer is that long, hard road of daily practice. But lordy, those contour sketches can really get a boy down. What say you, friends?
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Last night was another attempt at purging the old closet out. Finally gone to the recycling bin are my old college notebooks; xeroxed copies of old Chinese scripts that I will never read again. Week after week of handouts; remnants of my past lives. Out in the alleyway. It feels good.
One of the boxes in my closet is filled to the brim with old VHS tapes. Now, as I have no means to play these tapes, and no intention of acquiring such a means, I thought I'd offer them up here, to any who want them. So, without further ado: my old collection of videos. If you want any (or all) of them, simply drop me a comment or email me straight at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they shall be yours.
(I'll do my best to come back to this entry and X off names as they are claimed)
Pump Up the Volume
Dead Poets Society
Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Fawlty Towers (3 random episodes)
Big Trouble in Little China
Your Friends & Neighbors
Alien Trilogy (box set)
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Leaving Las Vegas
Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!
Eagles: Hell Freezes Over
Monty Python & the Holy Grail
Monty Python's Life of Brian
Beverly Hills Cop
The Silence of the Lambs
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Radiohead: 7 Television Commercials
Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy
Al Pacino's Looking for Richard
Wow. That offers a somewhat telling glimpse into what I used to spend most of my time doing...
also, a few stray books that need a home:
3-volume set about The Swing Era The Beatles Anthology
Get 'em while they're hot and sticky!
Now, as I hinted at before, here's something of a poem.
What of Spring?
Already the muck of cherry blossoms dot the streets.
Can I not import Kate for at least one bikeride under their streamers?
still Low is playing
and the rain is coming down.
I can wait.
I'm looking at an unfinished book
silent and still
as static as Roman ruins
I'm looking at my bandaged finger
one small ambassador of the ever-breaking body
but like Wolverine I clean
and move on.
The body is a better healer than most give it credit for.
If you're reading this, maybe I finally let go
maybe I made it to the far shore
and found something my hands could not malign
nor my mind destroy before I even begin
like the drums I sold
or the corpses of the unused instruments.
I hate these cryptic communiques.
I would face my enemies on the field of war
so I can at least see their faces
when I take
Alrighty folks. Back to the trenches.
The Weakerthans - Everything Must Go!
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on my songs, as rough as they are. For the most part, I'm proud of them. I went over the lot today making notes about how each will be tightened up for when I record my Proper Album, and I think I'll keep as many as 11 of the 14 for the final project. Some need a good bit of work, but some came into being, through some miracle, fully-formed and ready for their close-up. Funny how that works. I guess it's just a by-product of deadline-fueled creating. As my friend Lindsey put it: when you punch enough holes in the card, once in awhile you get one for free.
It works out well enough for me that I have to wait until April to claim my free membership at CD Baby (as a result of finishing and donating to FAWM). I'd thought I'd have to rush to get the songs re-tracked and off to them, but it turns out I have a bit of breathing time to do it properly. April 1st is a good deadline to aim for. And once that's all said and done, dear readers, I might just have a finished CD that you can actually spend money to hear.
That is a strange, strange thought.
In other news, I've fallen (again) into the trap of excess downloading. In the place of OiNK (or maybe they were there all along, and I just didn't know it?) I've been made aware of a handful of the mp3 blogs that exist solely to provide free access to all sorts of good new music, usually months before it is due out. It's an interesting balance they strike; it's all listed as strictly promotional on the sites, and users are encouraged to support the artists. They even offer to take down links upon request (quite a few labels make such a request, and they are honored). But it's remarkable how, with a little resourceful googling, most things can be acquired easily. It really reinforces the argument for OiNK: that torrent sites are not the villains responsible for pirated music; they are merely one tool of many. The music is out there. It can be found through proper internet channels if you just know where to look. When you use acceptable methods to steal music, who is responsible? Is it more ethically reprehensible to download an album than to check it out from the library and then rip it personally? The only difference is a little patience and (probably) a better quality set of mp3s. But no one gets paid in either instance...
And while it's wonderful to have a new source of music, the constant influx is again becoming problematic. I need to slow down...
I was sitting at home this evening feeling a bit stir-crazy, and so decided that an evening of semi-mindless entertainment was in order. I hied me out to the Laurelhurst to watch the new Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend with my friend Nate. While it was certainly not a bad film (at least not according to the standards I hold such films to), it was, I'm told, not even close to being on par with the book it was based on - which should come as no surprise, given the way these things go - but I couldn't help but wish they'd tried a bit more to retain some of the psychological depth that the story hinted at. With such subject matter, there's such potential to really explore the kind of thoughts and delusions that one would suffer when being the only survivor in a post-apocalyptic world. But no, instead they chose to pair him with a buddy-dog and use Bob Marley's music as a metaphor for struggling against the darkness of hatred and injustice (and, you know, annihilation) And I might add, at the risk of spoiling a minor plot point, that they risk all credibility by suggesting that one character has lived so far under a rock that she's never heard of Bob Marley. Damien Marley, yes, but Bob who? Come on.
Despite all this, it was a good popcorn movie.
Though next week is really going to be a treat, as not only has No Country for Old Men finally come to the beer theaters, but this week's feature film is none other than Big Trouble in Little China. Oh yes.
Anyway. Enough rambling. With all this talk about new sites and music, the least I can leave you with is a few links and songs to enjoy. I'll even throw in a tune I recorded a few days ago, in which I taught myself how to over-use the reverb plug-in while covering Lesley Gore. You should really listen to it in headphones to hear the full silliness in effect.
Robin Hood of Indie Music 2
Some songs I'm really liking:
The Mountain Goats - Sax Rohmer #1
John Darnielle has become one of my personal heroes lately. Seeing him perform was like a revelation; as my friend J put it, if he didn't write and sing his songs, he would die. Amen.
The Minus 5 - Cemetery Row
This band is new to me. It seems they specialize in writing groovy, front-porch country pop music and then get all their friends to sing on their albums. Colin Meloy handles the vocals on this one.
Of Montreal - Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games
Listen to this song and just try to keep from dancing.
Jens Lekman - Julie (Rmx)
I know I'm late to the party on this guy, but better late than never... he sure does write a mean pop tune. And the voice grows on you too.
Retribution Gospel Choir - Breaker
Ever wondered what Low would sound like if they rocked a bit more? Look no further.
Doubtful Guest - What Am I Gonna Do With You? (Lesley Gore cover)
Oh, and last but not least, I've decided to add a little Paypal Donation button to my blog, taking inspiration from Dorothy over at Cat and Girl. If you feel inclined to support my less-than-lavish lifestyle, I will (in straight rip-off fashion) draw you a picture depicting what I do with it and mail it to you. I certainly believe that people should get something back for their generosity, but if a drawing isn't your cup of tea, email me and we can work something out.
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, looks you crooked in the eye and asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that.
Friday, February 29, 2008
And I am done.
What a long month it has been. They say that as you go, your personal style eventually emerges. I have no real songwriting identity yet, so I tried to approach each tune as a different sort of exercise, to see what felt right, like trying on different skins to see which characters I felt most comfortable inhabiting. Listen to the demos and you can probably name which band I used as a point of reference for each song; some of them are derivative to the point of absurdity.
Like Nanowrimo, I worry that being done will create this vacuum where I fall back into inactivity and despair; post-nano blues they call it. Let me tell you, it is Real.
One thing that will rise up to fill the hole left by FAWM's ending is more freewriting practice, a la Natalie Goldberg. It's really the only tried-and-true way to cut through the shitty writing and get in touch with the heart again. All this time I've felt more or less like a fraud whenever I managed to write something good. It's an unfortunate reality that I've always been able to fake it and turn out something passably decent without having to do the real ground work. Anyway, I'm going to be doing that more nowadays, which, if past experience tells me anything, means that my blogs will become much rawer for a time, but eventually they'll be far better for the practice. Hell, I may even start writing poetry again (much as part of me finds the idea repulsive). I'll just be focusing more on writing copiously, and less on whether it's good or bad.
So with that said, I'm going to tend to a few personal things that went completely neglected during this frenzied month, like basic house maintenance and dish-doing. Here are some demos from my FAWM experience. Keep in mind that most of them are not really finished; sketches, if you like (read: feedback is welcome) If you want lyrics to any of them, you can find them on my FAWM profile. For some reason the files on the website are cut off 30 seconds into each song (perhaps because the month's almost over) so I've made them available for download via YouSendIt.
love love love
On the Frustration and Futility of Second Hand Shopping (Punk Song)
Song for Fishes
p.s. my internet has being acting funny lately, so let me know if any of the links are broken.
Friday, February 01, 2008
This can only mean one thing: February Album Writing Month.
That's right, it's the musical equivalent of that equally breathtaking and insane quantity-over-quality venture, NaNoWriMo. I've gotten off to a good start so far, with one song finished on the first day. We'll see if I can keep it up for the rest of the month...
I promise to write an honest-to-God Real Blog soon. In the meantime, I'll be sharing the songs I've recorded (to save you the trouble of having to go track me down on the website). Any feedback is appreciated.
As always, headphones make it sound better (this kind of goes without saying, don't you think?)
Doubtful Guest - On a Sunday Night
Friday, January 25, 2008
I have much to say and to write and to do, with nowhere near enough time to do it all. But between working, cycling, and perfecting the slippery art of time management, I thought I'd share a page from my sketchbook. I grew tired of doing coffeemugs and teapots, and the massive trees outside my window are a bit too daunting for me to attempt just yet. So instead, I've taken to drawing from my LP collection. They're nice to look at and they're good at holding still while you draw 'em.
So without further ado...
Mr. Nick Cave, à la The Boatman's Call.
Nick Cave - People Ain't No Good
Friday, January 18, 2008
Just a quick update to let you know that my lappy is currently off at the Apple Headquarters being fixed up, so I've been pretty absent from the ol' internet lately. This hasn't stopped me from visiting the library's computer system, of course... Ah, it's just like the old days.
It's been nice to have one less distraction at home; I'm actually getting a good bit of sketching done (reading Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage has inspired me quite a bit), and reading graphic novels as well. I'm currently starting on the massive tome known as Bone. There's something magical about comics that no other medium seems to get. At least for me. And if there's anything finer than reading comics, drinking tea and listening to records while ungodly crappy weather rages outside, I sure don't know what it is.
That's all for now. Normal life will resume when the lappy gets home, hopefully without disrupting this pleasant new discipline I seem to have found.
Thank you to everyone who made t-shirt suggestions! They were all PERFECT. I intend to make at least one of 'em into a shirt. Keep 'em coming!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
This year has been throwing off mixed signals left and right. So far nothing overtly shitty has happened to me, but a few friends of mine have already endured some bad news, and it's not even the 15th. The wind and rain have been almost Biblically gloomy, and things are falling apart in subtler ways all around me.
I spoke to one of my co-workers about it, and we agreed: This year is not bad, but nor is it to be trusted.
I never did sit down to write out any resolutions for 2008; I think it might be time (naturally, this will be an ongoing process).
First: I resolve to practice mindfulness in everything I do. I've begun to suspect that the practice of being aware of yourself and paying attention to your thoughts and surroundings might very well lead to better relations with others as well as better creative output. It cuts through the tendency to look anxiously towards the end (of the show, the affair, the high, or what-have-you), and roots you right where you are. This is surely a good thing.
Also, it makes you aware of just how many thoughts you have each day that are really little anxiety-loops, always circling around two or three key nodes of concern. They're usually not much to think about at all. Yet when you pay attention to them, it's startling just how much of your time they actually take up.
This leads to the second (apparent) benefit of mindfulness: things bother you less. Be it a recycled fear, a thought of some unfinished business, or simply seeing an appealing member of your preferred gender on the bus, all the things that come into our systems as raw data invariably get processed, identified, and, as quickly as they came, slapped with a label: Want. Do Not Want. Mediocre. Indie. Cheeseburger. And so on and so forth, ad nauseam. But mindfulness teaches you this remarkable fact (by way of a skill): that there is a moment between receiving new information and judging it when you simply encounter it without trying to make it anything other than what it is. You just see it.
Paying attention in this way teaches you to extend this moment out to the point that you never lay down your automatic judgments. Imagine! Nothing you face has to provoke such responses. After all: what, in reality, do your judgments on a thing, (example: song/film/idea) have to do with said thing? Answer: nothing at all. The way you interpret something has actually got no bearing on what it is unto itself. So if you remove that filter, you free up the room to actually see what you might have missed otherwise. I think the personal implications of this approach are vast, but I will leave you to make them for yourself rather than continue to talk your digital ears off about it.
Second: I resolve to be my own anchor.
My friend S and I have talked on a few occasions about the anchor idea. Basically, it comes down to having a stabilizing force in your life, something (or some-one) who keeps you on task. It's very easy to see why one would seek out a relationship with this in mind: having another person around is a great way to make yourself accountable. But, getting back to my prior discussion (via Amanda Palmer's blog), it's not really healthy to rely on people to keep you on task. For support, yes. But only you can push through the door, sit down at the booth in the coffeeshop, and do the work. No one can make you stop looking at the cute girls across the room (though engineering a device for just that purpose sounds like a fun idea).
So what it comes down to is just being more focused and learning to keep perspective. How often do you find yourself able to guide others out of their creative/personal slumps, but unable to do the same for yourself? It's hard to give ourselves the same slack, but it's important to try anyway.
I am determined to develop a sense of stability this year. So many projects have been born out of the urge to attract others (or at least keep them around); when they invariably go, the projects generally go the same way.
No more of that. This year I will not be moved from my work, though I expect that the nature/direction of the work will change frequently. It does that.
There are so many more I could list, but that'll do for now.
p.s. taking inspiration from Amanda's blog yet again, I want to get some ideas from you all for fun t-shirt slogans. Seriously. Two that she came up with:
I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR YOU IN MY LIFE
WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME I'M AWESOME
I would totally make either of those into a shirt.
But I also want to get some new ideas. Maybe we can all vote! Maybe the winning slogan gets printed on ten super-limited shirts for only the coolest of the cool.
Bring on your suggestions.