29 June 2013

End of June


I really hate this mindset I’ve been in these past few weeks where I simply don’t feel like working on anything. I’ve hammered out a few small pieces the last few days, but I spent far too much time on them. There’s no shortage of projects; that’s thankfully never been an issue for me. I don’t think it’s a motivation issue as I like to think that source is equally inexhaustible. I get a satisfactory level of feedback on my work and I’m nothing if not appreciative of it. Lately though, I’ve felt tense and angsty, irritable and drained, and all around deflated. Maybe it’s merely this month, as June and October (for some odd reason) tend to be very hectic months for me, but I don’t like having these “down & draining" periods those months or any other time. It’s easy to break a routine, especially a productive one, and end up with what I’ve heard wrestlers call Ring Rot, essentially falling out of practice and having to start from the bottom all over again.
As I said in my post about Trigger Warnings, I do not suffer from depression. I am depressed at times, but nothing I’d call manic or even debilitating. Then again, I’m not a therapist. Maybe I’ve been unconsciously self-medicating a condition I don’t fully understand.
Maybe my art, my “therapy" as I’ve called it for years, isn’t working anymore.
Maybe I’m realizing that, in the grand scheme of things, I have no idea what I want.
Maybe I simply need to take a break.
I don’t know.
I should get some sleep. I’ve got a big day tomorrow I’m looking forward to, and hopefully things will start to look up after that.

28 June 2013

I Made a QR Code That Can Be Scanned

qrcode

26 June 2013

Planarianes


Hadn't distressed paper with tea in some time, so I cut up my cheap watercolor paper again into tall strips. It has a nice texture to work with, and the wide landscape format carries its own special challenge. After applying the green tea and letting it sit for a bit, I got the idea to give it a reddish tint by really diluting the red ink I use and applying it as a thin layer, something that would give the impression of dried blood on parchment. It was also a nice change of pace to have a more earthly color palette instead of the normal stark whites and cool blues I tend to favor. 
I love sumi-e ink and wash paintings as well as traditional Asian calligraphy, both ideas I wanted to visit for this piece. 
This has also become a somewhat impromptu preview of a project I've had on the backburner for far too long. If you saw my "Magic Middle Finger" piece or my Elements Journal video, you saw part of it already. I worried about repeating myself, but these are thematically different enough that I didn't even want to give it a similar name. 

19 June 2013

Snowfall


Got the idea for this from a Royksopp video. It was a fan-submitted rendition of their song "The Drug"  that used very simple, almost abstract neon shapes for rather fluid animations. One sequence showed a forest, conveying scale and distance using only parallax scrolling and basic perspective. The idea of a forest got me thinking about D2 for the Dreamcast. It had this really eerie opening cinematic of a man drudging through the snow, bloodstains accompanying his footprints. The red really stood out against the white... and then it turned green. I wanted something to convey that same unsettling feeling. May have honestly gone overboard on the blood. I'd forgotten how much ink my nylon brushes actually absorb ink and ended up overestimating. It's only problematic because while the texture of this watercolor paper (cheap stuff) works for the snow and trees, it doesn't quite work for the blood. Ah, well, it was an exercise to get me back to making art after a fairly slow period I'm still going through. June and October are almost always Hellish months for me for various reasons, and I've simply felt very bogged down and unmotivated to start anything planned or finish anything in the works. I can't let myself fall into that kind of spell, even if I've still been keeping up with my "notebook" quota of a page per day, even if it's a short list in Evernote or something.

16 June 2013

Itchy Trigger Finger Warnings

WARNING: The following post contains a discussion of TRIGGER warnings. If you are sensitive to TRIGGERS themselves or the results of said TRIGGERS or if you consider the very word TRIGGER itself to be a TRIGGER, please take precautions against TRIGGERING any further TRIGGERS that may or may not have already been TRIGGERED. Due to the TRIGGERING nature of the following TRIGGER-centric material, this program has been rated T for TRIGGERS by the American Association of Abso-fricking-lutely Nobody. 
And if you clicked on this because you saw the word TRIGGER and were allured by what it may hold, well you're just TRIGGER happy, aren't you? 
I've been really, really frustrated with Tumblr lately. By extension, the internet has been bugging me lately, but Tumblr stands as a kind of distilled vertical slice of the pop culture conversation, so I freely admit to potentially picking on it. 
A few weeks ago, I was ranting about how I hated the term "viral" because, for all intents and purposes, it simply means popular. To be fair, it was very kindly explained to me by a friend that it refers to a phase of popularity where it moves from being spoken of in forums, social sites, and the like to being featured in mainstream media venues. The "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" meme is a rather perfect object lesson in how the process works. It still irks me a little bit to hear it because it makes it sound like the internet is still somehow not as legitimate as terrestrial television, print, and radio. It's that whole "medium is the message" phenomenon that McLuhan spoke of all those years ago. Seriously, the internet as we know it has been around over 20 years and we're still regarding ABC News doing a story on Keyboard Cat as some sort of validation. I get it, sure, and I'm not condemning anyone as "part of the problem" because I don't think it's a problem, it simply makes me wonder if either I'm missing something, or everyone else is, with both being terrifyingly equal in likelihood. 
On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson made a joke about Lancia's R&D department being more than a little behind the times in terms of their engineering. He said, "Guys, we've this brand new invention. It's a clock that you wear on your wrist!" This is basically how I feel when I see a term used for something that already has a perfectly fitting one. Trigger warnings are the wristwatch du jour. 
I never heard the term "Trigger Warning" until a few weeks ago when a friend on DeviantART posted an image of a woman with her mouth stitched shut. To put this in context, horror themes were nothing new for this artist, it had a maturity warning on it, and a special note was made in the description of its theme. None of these things stopped someone from flipping out (or acting like it) in the comments about "triggers" because the needle was visible. I didn't think anything of it because, like I said, it already had a disclaimer among other measures that would have stopped people from being startled or alarmed. 
Later on, someone else I follow posted an <b>Instagram</b> snap to their Tumblr of a spider they found. Given the reaction this got from a certain reader, you'd swear it was a woman with her mouth stitched shut. "THIS NEEDS A TRIGGER WARNING! I DO NOT NEED TO SEE THIS IN MY TUMBLR AT 7 IN THE AM!" my friend responded very apologetically, and even found a way to put a banner over the image's preview thumbnail. As for the person who vehemently insisted on the trigger warning: 
"I'm not mad or anything... arachnophobia is a weird thing to warn for... that picture wasn't all that bad. Just, y'know, future reference." 
It's that last sentence that downright ticks me off in the worst way. I've dealt with this so much in my life, even from people in my family, where they overreact to something, apologize and admit to how irrational they were being, then effectively put the blame back on you for causing that reaction or not being sensitive enough in the first place. If you tell someone, "Don't mind me when I get carried away." you don't get to be mad at them for not minding you when you get carried away. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stand the Hell by it. Otherwise, either don't say it, or give a real apology that puts the blame exactly where it belongs. If you're going to accuse people of not reading between the lines, make sure that you can actually read what you've written between said lines. 
Later on, I come across a photo of a girl who looks about thirteen with a bit of back hair. Apparently, it's a phenomenon in some eating disorders. There's also the increasingly present discussion about standards of beauty and body hair. I'm not entirely sure what the context of this photo was meant to be, but what had my attention most was one of the comments: 
"I hate my lanugo. I wish I could shave it off without being triggered as hell by the razor."
Let's ignore the fact that lanugo (a word I only learned today) is present in newborn babies and typically shed after 3 or 4 moths or is replaced by what is called terminal hair (in other words, unless you're a baby genius, you don't have lanugo, you just have body hair in an unusual place) and focus on the part where this person explains why they can't do anything about it. The razor will trigger them. 
A safety razor? Not a straight razor or the razors you get for box cutters or the razors you get for really old shavers that I've only ever seen in movies where people are cutting lines of cocaine for snorting, but a damn Schick Quattro? Now, I'm not saying they're harmless; it's very easy to cut yourself with those so-called safety razors if you're not careful. Hell, I nicked the crap out of my legs a few weeks ago while shaving for... You know what, it's not important. Here's what is: 
I do not suffer from PTSD. I have certain phobias and even a few irrational fears, but none of them entail especially severe reactions or cause any debilitating emotional stress. I am not suicidal. I have on occasion had suicidal thoughts at various points in my life, but none have been more than passing thoughts in times of stress. I have never been diagnosed with depression. I have been depressed and I do get depressed (in fact, I have a rule where I don't have so much as a sip of wine if I'm feeling depressed), but that's not the same as having manic depression. The point I'm making with all this is that my heart goes out to people who have these conditions, it really does. However, there's a fine line between being sensitive or even accommodating to someone's disability and walking on eggshells or just being a doormat. 
The fact is that you have absolutely no idea what may well set someone off and send them into a raving panic. You really have no clue. You can make some educated guesses, but they're still guesses, not guarantees. I would argue there are maybe a total of three, possibly four or five subjects that should carry warnings, things I believe most people would agree on as being particularly loaded or charged. This should especially be kept in mind if it clashes with your normal content or typical output. I don't expect everydaysexism.com to have a warning about rape or abuse, because the damn site is called "Everyday Sexism." Some people are terrified of blood, but does my recent short story, The River of Blood, need a disclaimer? 
I want to be sensitive. I do not want to upset anybody to the point of uncontrollable panic attacks. I do not want anyone's repressed memories to resurface and hit them all at once like a ton of bricks. I do not want to set off anyone's suicidal tendencies. I come across as a cynical and condescending dickhole at times, I admit, and it probably sounds like a convenient excuse for me to say it comes from a place of good intentions, of wanting to be proven wrong, and wanting people to do better because I earnestly believe they can, but I mean it. All that said, the fact remains I am not a therapist. I am not a life coach. Hell, Stuart Smalley has more qualifications than me, and he's not even real. I can help you in addressing your concerns. I'm willing to listen, but I can't live your life for you. 
If you're that sensitive to something that the very mention of it can hurl you into a state of blurry, inconsolable hysteria, you need counseling. If you're already in counseling, get more. If you're already getting more counseling, try another counselor because that one's clearly not doing you that much good. I know it can take years, practically the rest of one's life, to overcome some of these issues. I don't expect you cured in a week and unshakable in the face of danger any more than you should expect me to read your mind and know what gets under your skin. I'm not blaming you, but I don't want you blaming others. Is that fair? 
Further reading from differing points of view: 
http://privilege101.tumblr.com/triggers.html
http://eighthlifecrisis.blogspot.com/2013/02/trigger-warnings-are-stupid.html

08 June 2013

Free to be Personal

Disclaimer: possible TMI/NSFW warnings may apply.

Many years ago, circa 2003, I took out a personal ad in a local newspaper. It was a free paper, but you had to pay to check your own messages or if your ad was too long to begin with or you wanted more time. The point is you got what you paid for and that made it very manageable and easy to navigate.
Later on, I discovered dating sites, namely Yahoo! and eHarmony. The latter proved to be the better site by way of its guided communication, which eliminated nearly all small talk and thus made connections so much more efficient. Yahoo! meanwhile, had a bit of a quality control problem, mostly due to the fact that most people only took out ads because they were pre-registered via their e-mail accounts, simply thought to themselves, "Oh, what the Hell!" and left it at that. There's also that age old problem that far too many people simply can't write. I'm not a fascist about grammar, more like a constable in a small township, and I'm on record saying I don't even believe there is any such thing as perfect grammar, especially when it comes to pronouns in this liberally-enlightened age. Still, despite those standards, most people can't get past a headline without notching punctuation. What's worse is they openly admit their fault and essentially give up right then and there, as if the thought of giving their words a once-over would be an irredeemable sign of weakness. That saddens me; if you can't be bothered to take presenting yourself even somewhat seriously, what kind of people do you think you'll attract? There's being yourself, and then there's showing off your "lazy place." If you're going to wear a T-shirt and jeans to a wedding, at least have it be one of those tees with the tuxedo printed on it. It's an old joke, but at least you thought of one.
I think the biggest part of the problem (besides giving free users too much freedom) is the sheer volume of information you can put on a dating site. Sure, you can keep things concise, but that's not going to change all those potentially barren headings that force you to compartmentalize your persona, spread yourself thin across all vaguely similar topics. It's Blank Page Syndrome with your love life on the line. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the old newspaper style of classified ads. You wouldn't use them to find your future spouse, but for a simple date or fling, it gets to the point and doesn't waste anyone's time. Some may argue there's more risk involved due to the pithy presentation, but the risk of someone abusing a free service is greater. This brings me to Craigslist.
Craigslist is a damned cesspool, and I'm not merely referring to those horror stories about child prostitution ads being wah too easy to come across and seemingly impossible to moderate. I'm talking about it being the worst of both worlds; the way people try to combine the newspaper style of simplicity with the pure unrefined illiteracy of some online personals. That Craigslist is free is its deepest flaw. Couple that with its popularity, and you've got a breeding ground for depravity. Granted, microtransactions aren't a foolproof deterrent for creeps or a magic bullet of quality assurance, but they are not without merit.
There has to be some kind of middle ground, a way to reach about the same number of onlookers as Craigslist, have the simplicity and directness of a newspaper ad, but still convey a serviceable amount of trust like a more upscale dating site. I once thought of Twitter, having a separate account that would operate entirely through Direct Messages for correspondence (casual flirting, icebreakers, and the like) until calls or meetings in person could be arranged. I even wrote up the ad, trying to best summarize what I'm looking for in a not-too-serious/casual-with-an-option-for-more relationship. I don't know if I'll post it there or go through with the plan, but I do know that I'm essentially done with dating sites (for reasons I won't bore you with right now) and I doubt I'll give in and tread the dreaded waters of Craigslist's "casual encounters/misc. romance" listings. So, I'm simply going to post the ad here, get this out of my system and see what happens next. I should add this is modified to include age (I've decided my cut-off is my own age +/- 10 years) and expectations (I have an admittedly laissez-faire attitude about longevity in relationships). Everything else is how I'd planned the tweet, possibly with a hashtag like #personalad. Hopefully the shorthand isn't out of date.

Tall, slim SWM, 31yo, seeks 21-41yo fit or avg SWAHF bass player who doesn't mind being tied up for FWB, possibly more. Must love cats, movies, and retrogaming.

Yep, this is pretty much what I want. Hopefully I won't have to pursue more realistic goals like hunting unicorns in the Atlantean wilderness.

I shouldn't drink and type.

*Singing voice can be subbed for bass guitar.

01 June 2013

Practice > Perfect


OR:
Vent-ish Art of Sorts
 
Fun fact before I drone on in a "woe-is-me" fashion: this was originally upside-down, the red veins meant to convey "branches and trunks" of sorts. When I looked at it again, after applying the horizontal lines, I realized they looked more like roots hanging over an underground river, so I flipped it around. Good thing I didn't sign it ;P 

It's been a rather rotten day, the sort where this is the best thing to come out of it, and it was merely practice before the main shoot. 
I'd planned to shoot three videos today. They weren't anything special, little more than, "Hey, look at these ridiculous things" plus a trailer for the ePub edition of The River of Blood going live on Smashwords, as well as possibly some reader stores like Kindle, Kobo, and Sony. However, the first ridiculous thing video this morning simply fell apart. I had one of those epiphanies best summed up as, "The Hell am I doing?" It didn't help that for all the talking points I had worked out, they didn't fit together as well as I thought once I started rolling. It's like those behind-the-scenes docs where the team is putting together a monster costume, making sketches, forming molds, shooting test footage in the lot with a camcorder, and it's all looking real good... then they get it on set and everyone realizes how utterly ROFLMAO stupid it looks. 
So, I figure, "Brush it off, I haven't made a video in a while." and write the whole thing off as practice. I decide to hold off on the second one, which is just showing off something funny about a notebook I bought (don't pretend there aren't worse things on YouTube with a thousand times the hits my whole channel gets), and double-down on the third, the trailer. It involved a lot of fairly complex editing of very tight shots of me painting the cover illustration (or rather, an approximate likeness thereof). In the meantime, it was a very frustrating day out with my roommate, whose recovery from abdominal surgery has her in a fair amount of pain; pain's she's somehow convinced (like far too many problems in her life) can be alleviated by whining about it endlessly whilst carrying on doing things to aggravate it. It didn't stop there, suffice it to say: Not a great day on that front. 
Managed to wind down after that, get a bit relaxed so I could work on the trailer video, making the practice image above to nail down a brush technique, which can be a bit hard to do with Sharpie brushes as they tend to dry out fairly easily mid-stroke. I've got some calligraphy markers from them that may fair a bit better if I make anything like this again, though the fading does have a nice effect in their own way (like my sumi-e pieces). The video frankly looked ridiculous, totally unfitting with the tone of the story, and I realized I was simply not in the mood to edit the damn thing. Like post for my drawings, editing for videos is the step I like to minimize as much as possible. If I were a Hollywood director, I'd be very much in the Kubrick vein of the long take. 
I may still resurrect the trailer later, possibly tomorrow, on the off-chance I wake up in better spirits. It's not likely, which is why I'm posting this here.