Month: January 2009

Promoting for a coworker

Hey, promoting for a co-worker:

Her mom’s going to be having a booth at the Mid-Michigan’s Women’s Expo, February 6-8, 2009 at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI. She’s going to be selling some really gorgeous Pakistani scarves at reasonable prices (I bought one a few months ago and love it). Also, if anybody’s interested in reduced-price tickets, let me know — my coworker will be happy to give you some.

Obama’s First 100 Hours

Here’s a lovely wrapup.

One more.

I was going to link to a few more posts, but Rydra_Wong pretty much has it covered, so if you want to keep following this discussion, just go on over there. Anything I have to add is only going to be tertiary metatext at this time, and my time’s a lot better spent working on my own issues than commenting on anybody else’s.

Reading list from the library: Orientalism by Edward Said and Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Obama Administration, First Day Wrapup:

Looks like the entire day was spent pushing Ctrl-Z on the Bush Administration.

It feels like watching the sun come up.

CUCKOO, THE PLAY

Those of you who know me well know how much I respect the ever-loving shit out of Madison Clell. She is one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met, and is braver than just about anybody else I know personally. If you don’t know her story, I highly encourage you to pick up her autobiographical graphic novel, Cuckoo.

And now? She’s starring in a play, dramatizing her own life. For reals.

It’s running from February 5 – 28, 2009: Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Thursdays Feb 5 & 26 at 8pm; Sundays Feb 15 & 22 at 5pm at San Francisco’s Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason Street at Geary. If you’re in the Bay Area, or anywhere near it, I strongly encourage you to go check out this performance. If it’s a quarter as good as the graphic novel, it’s going to be an outstanding show.

YAY MADISON YOU ROCK SO HARD

One of the Remyth stories

From BossyMarmalade comes this incredibly important short-short story, our blackness is buried.

I felt all the air rush out of me as I read this. It feels like it still hasn’t re-entered me.

Go. Read. Very important.

Cryptic ConFusion

Hey!

I will be at Cryptic ConFusion this year, for Saturday only. Anne Murphy tells me I’m on some panels — some art panels, and some non-art ones, it seems — but I don’t know when or on what topics yet. Still, it should be a lot of fun. And Cory Doctorow‘s gonna be there, which reminds me that I’ve totally gotta get a copy of Little Brother now.

See you there!

Another round of links

Culled from the blog of the able Rydra_Wong, here are a few I think are very worthwhile:

Elizabeth Bear, Part three

Next of Kynn — Bone White, Blood Red is dead

N. K. Jemisin — We worry about it, too

and, perhaps the single most important thing to come out of all of this:

The Remyth Project. Go read all these stories. They’ll change your headspace. If someone collected these into a book, I would buy them in an Amazon One-Click instant.

And now — Hey! There’s still a beam in my eye! Back to digging it out.

Happy Obama Day!

Today is the best day ever. I had to work until midnight last night, but I sprung up at 7am, fresh as a daisy. I put on my CBLDF American Flag T-Shirt and am so excited I can hardly stand it. I only wish that there’d been some way for me to make my way down to DC to stand in the subzero weather with all the millions of other jubilant spectators.

Also, our company’s throwing a pizza party at 11:30 today so that we can all watch the inauguration together in the theatre with the big overhead screen and sound system. How awesome is that?

Man what a difference eight years makes.

Oh, yes, there’s also time to sit and reflect about the long hard road ahead of us, and how he’s just one man, and how he will indeed fail the electorate in new and different ways. But TODAY IS NOT THE MOMENT FOR THAT. Today we celebrate.

Cross #6 off the list: Best. Toy. Ever.

After looking more at Modbooks, I decided that the hardware’s still too beta for me. Looking through their forums, there are a lot of problems being reported, and that’s just not cool if you’re spending $3K on a new lappy. No early adoption for me, at that price.

I started trolling PC Tablet sites, looking for good deals. The one I was looking at, the Fujitsu T4220 Is currently being sold by Western Michigan University for about $1600, and I thought seriously about using Paul’s academic account to get one. But, I thought, let me check eBay first.

So I go on to eBay, and what do I find? An auction ending in two days, with a reasonable starting bid, and — get this — the seller lives in Ann Arbor. Rock on, I thought, and put in a bid, expecting to get sniped at the last minute like (literally) the last ten eBay auctions I’ve chased.

I won it, at my minimum bid of $600! $1K saved! This morning I drove out to Ann Arbor, and met the seller, a very nice guy who turned out to be both a surgeon and a hockey player who, after our meeting, was going home to build an ice-rink in his back yard. He let me power up the machine and showed me all the doodads and how to work it, and I left with my faith in eBay restored.

So I get it home and power it up and start playing with it, and holy crap, this thing is the tool of my DREAMS. I have been waiting for a machine that can do what this thing does for — I am not exaggerating here — twenty-five years, ever since I saw this episode of Reading Rainbow when I was in the third grade (fast forward to 5:30 for the scene I mean). Yes, that one goofy television program made me think that doing art on the computer was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and when my parents got me a C64 for Christmas two years later, my head literally exploded. (no, really. you should see the home movies. blood and grey matter all over the ornaments. but I digress.) However, it took twenty years for someone to invent a consumer-grade tool capable of doing what I wanted it to do — and five more years for me to be able to afford one, even used. But now I have one, and I may just sleep with it under my pillow. It’s that awesome.

I cannot WAIT to get some proper software on this shiny new toy and start really seeing what it can do. I’m going to get a wee-tiny USB keyboard so I can do p’shop shortcuts while I use it, and a better Wacom pen for it, but that’s about all I need to get going.

Does this mean that I’ll probably stop producing original pieces of art on paper? I dunno. I had originally planned to keep all the original Clockwork Game art and sell it at the end, but my originals are so scabbed up with white paint and patch-paper and fingerprints that I don’t think I could really charge all that much for them. They look pretty grotty. I love having the originals all in one book so that I can feel them and run my fingers over them, but working digitally will allow me to go so much faster it’s not even funny. We shall see.

Now on to other business: Does anyone have a LEGIT copy of Photoshop CS2 or CS3 they’d sell to me? If you’re looking to upgrade to CS4, this’d be a way to get a little more money towards it. Let me know. Also? Manga Studio 3.

Fail Better: A self-examination of White Privilege in a current work

Over the last couple of years, thanks in large part to the writings of the incredible Pam Noles and other friends of mine, I started realizing that I have some problems with racism. Not my own railing against institutional racism, but being racist myself, however unwittingly. It turns out that just because I don’t use racial epithets at the dinner table, I’m not incapable of repeating or internalizing racist ideas, or absolved of my responsibility for constant self-examination, what a shocker. It also turned out that I had some pretty deep misconceptions about the difference between race and class that I’d been harboring all these years.

In the time since then, I’ve made it a point to read, and listen, and try my best to absorb more diversity in my daily life. I thought I was gaining self-awareness pretty well, slowly moving from being a Clueless White Person towards being a Marginally-Less Clueless White Person.

And then along came this new round of discussion on Cultural Appropriation. It has really deeply hit home, showing me the real depths of my ignorance and lack of understanding, and how much further I really have to go. If I am really interested in the self-growth and anti-racism that I blog about, then it’s time for a good hard look at the script of the webcomic that I’m currently writing.

Oh, come on, white writer. It’s not all about you. Well, no, it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be, but this is my blog, so I guess it can be all about me for just one post, since I’m not derailing anybody else’s discussion, and also because I want to put my own experiences up as an object lesson, for me if no one else. And to thank Deepa D. and Avalon’s Willow, and let them know that their words — written at great cost to their own spare time and sanity — are sparking more than just discussion. And also to open my current mindset up to interpretation from commenters, because if I’m suddenly seeing blind spots as big as the ones I’ve noticed in the last day or so, there are bound to be others.

Okay, so as many of you know, I’m currently writing a graphic novel about the world’s first chess-playing automaton, commonly known as “The Turk”. I have a completed script, which is essentially a big fat outline that is still fairly open to editing, and I write and draw one page a week. I’ve been at it for a year, and at my current rate of progress, it’ll take about another two years to finish.

I was drawn to this story by all the nerdy aspects of it: all the historical intersections with famous figures, the evolution of modern (Western) society’s relationship with machinery and machine intelligence, the uncanny valley, the dramatic changes in the relationship of the automaton to its various owners: the tortured artist, the scurrilous showman, the plucky secondary heroine, the hidden “hunchbacked” chess-master, the Civil War surgeon, the modern-day illusion-builder. So much delicious plot to work with, such beautifully-drawn characters, all laid out for me by history. I realized early on that the automaton’s “persona” would be an issue, and I tried to minimize the its effect by making my depictions of it as inoffensive and “clinical” as I could, and now I’m seeing a big hole in that way of handling the matter.

When I’ve given thought to the automaton’s relationship to its owners and audience, I’ve been thinking this whole time only of the automaton as metaphor for the gap between man and machine, which it is. But what I’ve almost completely left out of my own mental equation is the additional subtextual metaphor of White society versus The Mysterious Other. And lensed through all the feminist/Person of Color essays I’ve read in the last day or so, I’m suddenly realizing that modern Readers of Color are simply not going to be able to escape seeing that metaphor. More importantly, how did I manage to escape seeing the importance of that metaphor? Why lookie there: That’s some big old White Privilege right there. I’ve never seen it because I’ve never had to see it. Also — not by way of excuse, but by way of explanation — every other book I’ve read about the automaton (all of which were, unsurprisingly, written by White writers) also glosses quickly over this subtext. Looking now at my three primary resources, Standage gives it about a paragraph, Wood three lines in two separate paragraphs, and Ewart pretty much nothing at all. Then again, these three books represent by-the-facts historical accounts, not historical docudramas that create fictitious versions of actual persons and give them personalities and agendas for the purpose of making a good (and at its truest center, fictional) story.

So I need to address this hole in my thinking, which means more research, and not just the book-reading type, but research into my own mental paradigms. Like — how is it that, as part of my research, I’ve thought to read books about servants’ behavior and period clothing and women’s 19th century societal repression and Maria Theresa’s reign, but I’ve never bothered to actually read up on Vienna’s troubled history with the Ottoman Empire beyond securing a few dates and place names? Perhaps this is reading too much into my little bout of self-flagellation, but I’m suddenly seeing a connection between my own reading and writing behavior and the arguments of so many Women of Color when faced with 60′s-era Feminism: I’m taking all sorts of time to make sure the (White) women and (White) lower-class citizens are accurately represented, but I’ve given practically no thought to accurately portraying how the purposefully-Othered automaton was being received by its probably-entirely-White audiences — and more importantly, by my modern-day Readers of Color.

When he created the automaton in the guise of a Turkish man, Kempelen was responding to late-eighteenth-century Austrian society’s dual infatuation with the beautiful, exotic trappings and omnipresent threat of the Ottoman Empire. The Battle of Vienna was still undoubtably on everyone’s mind — it took place less than a hundred years before the automaton’s debut — and his audience would have immediately understood both the alien mystery and intimidation inherent in Kempelen’s choice of costume for his figure.

Funny, that: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more that I think about it, the more that I realize not engaging with this specific metaphor is really doing the book a disservice on a lot of levels. The question now is how to address it? I’m planning on making redactions to the opening scene anyway, maybe I’ll stick something in there. I do know that bringing this subtext into my forebrain will also color my characters’ future interactions with the automaton, which is good, and necessary. I can’t promise their reactions will be a moving treatise on the state of man’s suspicion of fellow men, but my being aware of it is the first step towards writing a better-balanced script.

Also, there’s a direct intersection between the story of the automaton and the sad end of Joice Heth that I was going to purposefully avoid (due to issues with plot derailment and pacing), and now I don’t think I can get away from it: Maelzel and Barnum were exhibiting their respective “shows” in the same building, for crying out loud. I think it’d be disingenuous to my readers to gloss over that bit of history because it makes me uncomfortable to talk about, and casts a stain on our collective mental image of PT Barnum as a scoundrel-but-still-mostly-an-okay-guy. There just aren’t any other major Black historical figures that cross direct paths with the automaton, and for me to leave that scene out would be a loss to the story, and a loss of a teachable moment for both myself and the readers.

Aside: The Congress of Vienna essentially outlawed slavery in Europe in 1815 (or rather, condemned the idea in polite society; Roma were still kept as slaves in Transylvania and Wallachia until the late 1850′s). It would be a interesting juxtaposition to have Maelzel — this guy who has been seen as a larcenous, misogynistic scumbag so far in the story — call Barnum out on the fact that Barnum had purchased a human being for the sole purpose of displaying her in a freakshow.

So yeah. Lots to think about in the next hundred pages or so. Depending on how I feel over the next few weeks, I may consider putting the book on hold for a bit at the natural stopping point of the end of the first part (coming up for you readers in about five months) while I get this sorted out. If I am going to Get Brave and Try Harder, then this is something I need to do in order to Fail Better.

As a self-publisher, I don’t have an editorial checkrein on my writing; this can be both good and bad. I don’t have anyone else supervising my work and calling me on easy bullshit like what I’ve just written above — but I also have the freedom to go back and re-examine my own work, and redo it if necessary, on pretty much whatever schedule I choose. I want to be a better writer, not because I’m hoping for brownie points from People of Color, or because I want to assuage my White Liberal Guilt (which I am wallowing in right now, I won’t deny it) but because I value my own discomfort and ignorance less than hurting my readers.

This graphic novel started out as a learning experience, to teach myself how to write and draw better, but in order for this to work, I have to be willing to learn what it’s trying to teach me — especially when the lessons are frustrating and difficult and mentally challenging — and I think I’d prefer to get taught during the process of this one rather than after its published. I can’t guarantee that I’m going to stick the landing on this one — in fact, I’m expecting to fail in new and different ways — but I can guarantee that I’m willing to try. This public post, while unfortunately being all about me and not my prospective Readers of Color, is here to remind me not to back down from that pledge.

Try harder. Fail Better.

Comments are encouraged.

Try Harder. Fail Better. Cowboy up.

As a White writer who tries to create a diverse cast of characters in her books, I fail a lot. I have deep misgivings about initial portrayals of some of my characters. I tried to rectify those portrayals in my second book, but wound up failing in other, more metatextual ways in my haste to prove I was a more mature, nuanced, well-intentioned writer at thirty than I was at twenty-five. My enthusiasm often outstrips my knowledge and self-perception, and I often fall short of the mark due to lack of perspective, research and experience.

That’s where today’s post comes in. This afternoon, thanks to Layla, a fellow traveler on the same path of well-meaning-failure-but-still-trying-hard, I stumbled across what I think is one of the most important discussions I’ve seen on the internet in years. If you’re a writer — a writer of any sort, from comics to poetry — please take the time to read through these posts. I find them incredibly valuable.

Start here, with Elizabeth Bear’s original essay on being a white writer who tries hard to accurately and fairly portray characters of Color in her books.

And then go read this open letter to Elizabeth Bear, written by a reader of Color who had some deep misgivings about one of Bear’s books.

And then go read what I think is the most important, clear, nuanced, thoughtful, educational essays I’ve read in a long, long time, I Didn’t Dream of Dragons, by Deepa D.

And then, if you’re White, Deepa also wrote an important followup essay just for us. It’s also very, very good.

And then finally She Who Has Hope also writes an excellent take on the situation, and includes many links to other helpful essays.

Writers, all: bravo and brava. Please keep talking; know that we are listening.

This is what the internet was meant for. Conversations like these are tremendously humbling and force open my eyes to see how much I still need to learn about Racism 101. There’s much food for thought here, and I will probably spend many more hours going over these essays. My thought-trenches are deeply dug; often it’s only a good swift kick-in-the-ass that can lift my head above the walls. This series of essays is just such an asskicking.

From all of this, I resolve to go back to Elizabeth Bear’s motto: Try harder. Fail better. Cowboy up.

I think I’m going to tack that above my desk, now.

AKIRA in twelve seconds.

Some of you old Ypsilanti folk may remember this from Mike Z’s answering machine… but my buddy Trevor has reassembled a new clean copy out of MP3s.

Ladies and Gentlemen: AKIRA in twelve seconds.

Stumptown Races

I really, really really want to go to Stumptown Comics Fest this year. I have a table reserved, a place to stay, and I’ve never been to Portland. Plus, like, all the cool kids are gonna be there.

The cheapest plane tickets I’ve been able to find, however, are five hundred dollars. I don’t have a new book out this year, the Vögelein market is largely saturated, and I’ve nothing else to sell other than some Clockwork Game minicomics, and maybe some freshly non-irradiated steampunk jewelry, so I doubt I’ll make even half the plane ticket back. I have some money put aside, but I’d rather save it for tools that I desperately want. I could always save money by driving to Chicago or Detroit, but then I lose most of the same money in gas and parking.

So: Does anybody know of any super secret sneaky airfare sites (I’ve tried Priceline, Expedia, Kayak and the NWA site)? Anybody want to donate some frequent flier miles? Commissions, anyone?.

Nightskiing… deserves a quiet night

A friend and I went skiing under the full moon last night for about two hours, a perimeter trek around a 390-acre parcel of land on the outskirts of town. It was *awesome*. We just strapped on these little LED headlamps and went out in our bluejeans and sweaters and hats and mittens: no bulky coats or snow-gear required. There was heavy cloud cover which kept the temperature at a comfortable 25F or so, but also reduced the moon to a glowy grey smear — and honestly, there was enough light between the pink glow of the city and the moonlit clouds that we probably could’ve done without the headlamps.

The woods were hauntingly beautiful — branches heaped with six inches of perfectly-stacked vertical snow. The night was perfectly still, so my friend tried to rouse the sleepy barred owls with the male’s call. No luck, but we set some neighborhood dogs to barking.

We’ve received about a foot of snow over the last 48 hours (with another six inches due tonight and tomorrow), and the snow was light and fluffy and perfect. We’re probably going back tonight. Seems a darn shame to let all that perfectly good snow go to waste.

Steampunk Crafter Public Service Announcement

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to cast blame on any eBay seller, any crafter, or any manufacturer. I’m sharing this as a public service, because I was really taken aback by what was shown to me this evening. I’m not posting this to encourage the kind of 11 o’clock news paranoia so often raised by this kind of information, but rather to raise a healthy level of awareness in my fellow hobbyists.

As many of you know, I make Steampunk Jewelry for fun and sometimes profit. I buy old watch parts off of eBay, glue them together into new and interesting shapes, and make them into pins and necklaces and earrings. Back in October, I won an auction that contained a bunch of old military watch faces. When they arrived, I looked them over, and after fiddling with them for a bit, and even preparing some of them to be made into jewelry, I noticed that several of them had greenish paint on their numerals. Huh, I thought. I’ll bet that’s the infamous radium paint I’ve heard so much about.

I didn’t pay it much mind. After Googling a bit, I decided they were probably risky, so I segregated the suspect faces into a plastic bag and stuck them inside an Altoids box. I made up the rest of my jewelry, and took it to a local show. I sold a few pieces.

Fast forward through the holidays. I was making up a care package for a buddy in Alaska, because I had promised her a pin for Christmas. I picked out a hair barrette for her that I was particularly proud of, and noticed that the center dial had slipped under my radar: It too had greenish paint on the numerals. I hemmed and hawed a bit. Is it risky? Is it safe? Am I being paranoid? More Googling. More wibbling. (Side note: I grew up on a farm, around pesticides and cow manure and axle grease. I’m a little less paranoid than many people about “toxicity”.)

I finally gave in to my suspicion and contacted the DEQ and also sent an email to a friend of mine who’s a Chem professor at Western Michigan University. He directed me to WMU’s Radiation Safety Officer. After an exchange of emails, the Radiation Safety Officer graciously agreed to come over to my house after work and check my jewelry supplies with a Geiger-Müller meter.

Turns out it was a darn good thing he stopped by.

The faces that I thought had radium paint were definitely giving off minute levels of radiation — not enough to be immediately harmful, but definitely there. We surveyed my entire batch of watch parts and found a bunch more faces and parts — plain metal parts the casual observer would never suspect — were also radioactive. Old movements that probably had radium faces on them — but without the faces, there was no way to tell. Tiny wristwatch hands with a pinhead-sized dab of paint on them turned out to be giving off as much radiation as some of the full-sized faces. Faces with so much of the paint flaked off of them that you could barely see the numerals on them showed as being hot. That barrette I was going to send my friend, the pin that a co-worker was going to get for Christmas, a pair of earrings a friend of mine made for me years ago — they all had radium paint.

How radioactive were they? Not enough to harm you unless you swallowed one of the radium dials or duct-taped it to your forehead and left it there for a few years. Casual contact would probably not do you much harm; even an inch or two away from the hot pieces, the meter only picked up background radiation. Metal that had been in contact with the hot faces was also largely fine: after I pried the hot movement off of a pin-back, the pin-back registered as normal. Still — radium has a half-life of 1600 years, so it’s not like it’s going to go away anytime soon. Far better safe than sorry.

According to the Radiation Safety Officer (and this MIT document),the legal annual occupational exposure of radiation for an adult (people trained in the use and handling of radioactive materials and radiation-producing machines), above background levels, is 5 REM per year. (1 REM is equal to 1 rad times a quality factor for the type of radiation being emitted.) The watch-hand in the middle video was giving off 5 millirads (Beta-Gamma). Since 1 rad == 1,000 millirads that means that you would have to affix that watch hand, radium-side-down, to your skin for about 1,000 hours (41 days straight) for this to start becoming a hazard.

The danger here is from proximity; radium emits radiation, but it’s a relatively weak emitter. That means that just about anything (metal, glass, skin, even a few inches of air) will stop its radiation. As you saw in the videos, you had to get the Geiger-Müller meter really close to the objects before the radium registered.

Another danger is that as the radium paint gets older, the binder that holds the paint together decays, allowing the radium paint to flake off and migrate around. Which means if you’re handling a lot of radium pieces, and then you wipe your nose, or eat a sandwich, or if you have cuts on your fingers, you’re introducing radium into your body, where it will migrate to your bones and hang out, still emitting radiation slowly for years to come.

Exposed radium paint on jewelry is a bad idea — not because wearing it under normal circumstances would cause heavy exposure, but because the risks associated with handling the piece and allowing the radium dust to spread to other places, or internally. If you’re intending to make jewelry out of watch parts, you should be very careful to not collect any pieces with unshielded radium paint, and if you see anything you even remotely suspect is radium, set it aside and get it checked out by a professional. You should not try to scrape or wash off the radium paint yourself. Radium dust can move around easily, so you may also want to have your work areas checked. When the Radiation Safety officer did an inspection of my work areas, we found only background radiation. That was comforting, let me tell you.

The good news is that now all the clockwork crafting supplies I currently have in my possession are clean and have been inspected thoroughly by a professional. The bad news is that I’ve made and sold a bunch of this jewelry already.

So: If you, or anyone you know, has ever purchased clockwork jewelry from me, you may return it to me for either inspection or a full refund, your choice. Just mail it to me with a note telling me how much it cost, and I’ll either have it inspected and sent back to you free of charge, or if it turns out hot, I’ll have it properly disposed of and will send you a check, including your shipping fee, for the balance.

I’ve probably only sold about fifty pieces of jewelry — I don’t have an Etsy shop, but I have sold my jewelry at several comic book conventions, including SPX and Wizard World Chicago. I suspect that only one of my pieces contained a radium watch dial, and I’ve already contacted the owner of that piece directly. However, I’m offering the buyback/inspection to my customers because I care as much about their peace of mind as much as I do my own work.

Please feel free to cross-post this to other forums and boards, and share this information with anyone you know who is a Steampunk crafter or who makes jewelry out of watch and clock parts. If you have questions about your own materials, do what I did: call your local public university and ask to speak to their Radiation Safety Officer. Alternately, call your state’s Department of Environmental Quality: the Michigan DEQ rep was also willing to come out, free of charge, and inspect and remove any hot material — the WMU Safety Officer just responded first*. A blogger with experience in radioactive materials also offered this helpful link to the Health Physics Society, which has a FAQ and links to help you find health physicists in your area.

The Radiation Safety Officer asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about registering the material and was told that Michigan has exempt quantities of radium for timepieces and it does not require that the pieces be intact. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also has exempt quantities, but does have stipulations about intact or loose parts. If you have questions regarding disposal of radium timepieces (or their parts), you should look into your particular state requirements for quantities. However, it may open an expensive proposition in quantifying the curie content of the materials.

Radium paint isn’t anything to be terribly frightened of, but as crafters, we need to be well aware of the risks inherent in our medium, especially if we’re intending to sell our pieces to the public.

* I need to give an enormous thankyou to WMU’s Radiation Safety Officer for the time he spent inspecting my house and crafts, and for safely disposing of my hot material. He was very kind and thoughtful and thorough and took the time to explain a lot more about how radiation works, and more importantly, how it doesn’t work. I totally got my science-nerd fix for the week. Thank you again, sir!

Gang aft aglay

Dang, so much for my first post of the new year.

I’ve been pretty far under the weather, because one of my Christmas gifts from Paul was plague, and for my fun vacation activities, I’ve been horking up odd-colored gunk, downing unholy amounts of cold medication, and sleeping roughly sixteen hours per day. This sucks especially because I had been greedily hoarding this four-day weekend for myself so that I could get a bunch of art done, and instead I’ve spent the better part of it unconscious or snuffling into wet kleenex and praying for recovery. My studio’s still buried in filing and dog hair, I haven’t bothered to look at making resolutions yet, and all I feel like doing is picking at a couple of pages from the Kempelen/Goethe scene, and not really making much progress on either.

So, since I’m finally awake and reasonably coherent (yay coffee at 7pm): New Year’s resolutions. Or at least, hopeful thoughts.

1) Continue to work on developing a better work ethic. This has been helped immeasurably by having a new job where I feel like I’m needed, valued and respected. In fact, other than the continuing loving presence of Paul, who continues to be the single best thing that has ever happened to me, the thing that I’m most thankful for in the last year is my new job. It’s been amazing to me just seeing what a difference spending the last six months in a highly functional, highly demanding workplace — especially one so full of friendly, crazy-ass-smart coworkers — has made in my work ethic, in my artwork, in my self-perception. I still have a ways to go, but now I have a structure that I really care about being a part of, and that helps immeasurably.

2) Be thankful for what I have. Especially Paul, and my family, and my job, and my friends, and my home. Everything else is minor, minor details, and I need to remember to keep that in focus.

3) Eat less, move more. This one never changes. I’m feeling especially blobby right now, and I can’t wait to feel better so that I can get on the treadmill and get my old self back. Lately, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m being crowded out of my own body, and that’s kinda gross.

4) Continue to improve my art. January 1 marks the one-year anniversary of starting the artwork of the webcomic (I wrote the script between Hallowe’en and Christmas 2007, and began the art on New Year’s Day, 2008). Clockwork Game is one big portfolio piece, and while there are many, many instances on each page where I am “phoning it in” for expediency’s sake — faking folds in clothing instead of getting reference, bluffing backgrounds, etcetera — there are just as many where I’m forcing myself to work out problems I’ve never faced before. Each page is a challenge full of new puzzles to solve, and I hope to keep myself from falling into caricature, into stylistic ruts, and keep solving each page afresh as a new challenge. It’s hard, and most of the time I just want the effing page to be done, but the difference between the page I’m inking today and the one I started last year is quite noticable to me, so I’m encouraged to keep throwing myself at the bug light.

5) Travel. Dunno where it’s going to be, yet, but I want to take a week’s vacation to somewhere new this summer; the hard part is going to be deciding where. I would love to go hang for a week in Anchorage with Layla and watch whales and climb on rocks. Our buddy Nelly said she’s going back to Paris this summer, and made some serious mention of having either me alone or me and Paul both tag along. How often do you get to go to France with a native speaker? Also, the Olympic Peninsula just keeps calling and calling to me. One thing is for sure, though, I will not be taking this vacation in conjunction with a comics convention. Period.

6) Save up for, and purchase, a ModBook or similar device. I know how ridiculous it must seem for me to put “acquire a device” on my list of resolutions, but I really, really want one, have wanted one for years and years, and I think having one would really improve my speed and get rid of a lot of hangups over changing artwork and trying new styles. My way of making art is really old-school, and while I enjoy that, it is also hang-dog slow and frustrating. I’ve looked at getting a Cintiq 12WX, which I could afford right now, but the whole point is to have a little tablet to cuddle to my chest like a sketchbook, not a tablet and another computer and a pile of wires and inverter bricks. I could get a PC tablet, but then I’d have to spend another $1500 in PC software. I have no interest at all in getting a non-display Wacom; and if I wanted one of those I can always borrow Paul’s. So, it’s either the ModBook or hold out for an Apple Tablet (Sheah, right.) The question is — how the heck will I pay for it? I don’t think I can line up enough people who’d want commissions, not with keeping the comic on schedule. So I’ll either have to go on what amounts to a complete fast from acquiring new stuff, or take on another job. Unless somebody wants to throw three grand at me, that is. ;)

So yeah. Not really hard goals, but a re-dedication of mental energy toward important things. What did everybody else resolve to do?

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