Friday, November 30, 2012


I feel like yesterday was a little heavy, and long, so I thought I would end the week on shorter and lighter note. If you imagine this read in a kind of a Valley Girl voice, not so much with the accent but with that intonation, then I think you will be on the right track.
I can still tie this in with teenage girls, because it’s interesting sometimes how something small with set them off. For example, @tyritter tweeted something about finding a new Neverland, and suddenly there was a ton of speculation going on about what that could mean, mostly focusing around maybe he was getting married. Uh, obviously not! Neverland is all about not growing up, and marriage is the opposite of that. Personally, I think he was just moving. However, a few days later he wrote about coming back from the Bahamas with a princess, so anyone who had calmed down over the first uproar was all roared up again.
I have no idea on the princess, but there was another small flurry that I believe I understand perfectly, and that was when Twitter exploded with excitement because @gerardway was following a new person and had tweeted!
Now, what you need to know about that is that not only @gerardway but also @mikeyway and @raytoro pretty much never tweeted, and the reason for this, according to @FrankIero is that they had all of these Latin American teens getting mad at them for not being gay, until finally the only MCR people really tweeting were @FrankIero and the homeless guy they had hired to run the web site. (I object to harassment in general, but harassment for this reason just seems really weird to me.)
Anyway, knowing that, I had been surprised to see @gerardway’s tweet, and I do follow him so I did see it, but it never occurred to me to keep track of how many people anyone follows, so that people knew there was a new one was kind of amazing. On investigating it myself, though, it made total sense, because the person he added, @alka_seltzer666, was new to Twitter, and I knew she was new, because @lynzway (wife of @gerardway) had retweeted her first few tweets.
Therefore, I believe that @gerardway got on specifically to follow @alka_seltzer666 at the behest of @lynzway, and as long as he was on, he sent a tweet, and then he just kind of started getting back into it, bringing @mikeyway along with him. It totes makes sense.
I’d still like to see more from @raytoro, but he just produced a new album, and if he does more stuff like that, and then promotes it, it should help. Also, I tend to think he would get less sexual harassment than the others, based on the relative frequency of names being mentioned in various sources. I could be wrong; as I don’t really delve into it, but it seems to focus more on the other three. Ray probably doesn’t wear enough makeup.
Anyway, it’s interesting how sometimes it can feel like you are personally connected, when you are not. If someone seems to need cheering, or calming, or information on a certain topic, I try to provide that. The other thing that I see sometimes is that people seem really bored and restless, and then I feel compelled to post something interesting, which is way too much pressure. So that leads to the next story, where I am going to leave the Twitter handles out because they are a little more likely to see it.
One night there were two different people that I follow who both seemed really restless and bored, and I was kind of feeling like I should introduce them to each other. After all, they are both creative types. She is a television writer, and he is a comic book artist, and she is totally into comics. On the other hand, I didn’t know if either of them were involved, and sure, it didn’t need to be a romantic thing, but it would be an easy assumption to make when you have boy/girl, and they are both straight, and also it seemed a little presumptuous because even though I have communicated with both of them at different times, still, we don’t know each other. So, I didn’t.
I now feel like it was the right decision. First of all, I now know he does have a girlfriend, but also, they seem to have very opposite positions on Michonne from The Walking Dead, and I think even for friendship that might be a dealbreaker. I mean, what I know of her admiration of Michonne comes from the comic book, and his complaints are specific to the television portrayal, which as far as I know she has not commented on, but, yeah, I think there would be some conflict now.
As you see, it can get very juicy in here. And even though you cannot count on celebrity encounters, I have at various times had replies from Reggie Lee, Richard Hughes, Derek Thompson, Matt Pelissier, Chris Roberson, Scott Hessel, and Bill McKibben. Well I know who they are!
The most attentive musicians are the drummers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

41 – 14

As I mentioned when examining my geekiness, I have been looking back more.
Some of that comes from my month of thankful posts, when I realized that one thing I was very grateful for is that I was not picked on that much. The times it did happen left really deep scars, but based on what I was like it seems like it could have been a lot worse.
I kind of thought the post might bring some affirmations about why I did not get picked on much, like maybe people would tell me I was not really that unattractive and nerdy. I did get responses, but it was more people mentioning being bullied themselves, or dealing with it with their children now, and it just reminds me of how hard growing up can be, and yes, somehow I was inordinately lucky, and I am grateful for that.
The other part though, is with those unexpected followers on Twitter, a lot of them seem to be teenage girls who like the same bands I like. I think I have picked up more All American Rejects fans than My Chemical Romance fans, but I haven’t really been keeping score. I don’t think they overlap.
Initially, I held off on following back. I wanted this nice and orderly feed where it was not spiraling out of control all of the time, with text-speak and parental angst and passive aggression and little hearts and symbols that I don’t even know how you get, and exclamation points. So many exclamation points. Still, it felt wrong not to follow them, so I did.
I do not generally know much about them, including ages and locations. I saw one conversation where one apparently had just turned 13 and another is a few months away from 16. Some of them are older. Two I think are not even teenagers. I think of them all as being around 14, because that was kind of the key age for me, and then we have a mirror image thing going on, because I am rapidly approaching 41.
I was trying to think why 14 seemd like such a key age. I turned 14 in 1986. I guess the 80’s were in full swing already, so it wasn’t that. Somehow, by 1986 maybe I was a part of it.
Turning 14 meant I could go to church dances, and that was such a huge part of my life. Maybe a church dance doesn’t sound that cool, but they happened monthly where school dances were rare, having a boyfriend did not matter, and even though there were some dress standards, we still had a guy there who looked just like Terry Bozzio, and another who looked like John Taylor, and I danced with both of them.
Also, I started going to concerts that year. A-ha and Charlie Sexton were my two favorites at that time, and I saw both of them, about a month apart, kind of like how I just saw two bands I have really wanted to see in the last month. 
Of course, 14 was also when an unfortunate combination of teasing and sexual harassment convinced me that no guy could ever be seriously attracted to me, that as a girl, I was a joke, and I gave up on drama and plays, and I discovered that I was hopeless at guitar.
That’s what 14 is like though. Your emotions are not on an even keel yet, because maturity takes a while, so things are exhilarating and devastating, and maybe the only thing in between is boring. You’re learning what your gifts are, and how the world is, and how you are, so a bad message received then is a lot worse than one received a few years later. It’s a roller coaster, and I care about the current riders. I like them. And, I keep remembering ways in which I resemble that tweet, or at least I used to.
There are two separate things going on. One is that I try to be organized and orderly, and that doesn’t work. My following list tripled, and now there are times when I know that someone is mad at someone else over something, with no context, and often with language that I do not appreciate, though, hey, I follow musicians so it was going to happen anyway. It is not orderly.
Talking about my birthday party, I said I was experimenting with chaos. This is part of it. I have spent many years learning that things do not go as planned, and there are many elements of my life outside of my control. I seem to be moving from accepting to embracing, Maybe this means that the future will also hold times when I blog about comics, music, writing, and politics all in the same week, rather than going through themes. Maybe it means I will start dating again. I don’t know.
What I do know, and this is the other thing going on, is that the other issue is that I care. I feel drawn towards mentoring, or doing something helpful. I feel the vulnerability of teenage girls more, but the truth is, it’s everyone. So even though I have clearly decided and said that Twitter is not good for the personal, I’m starting to use it more that way now.
Often, I have no idea what to do, and I will say something encouraging but trite, and I don’t know that it does much. Sometimes I send music videos. Mainly, if I get a thought, I send it. I do this with the musicians and writers too. I will send “thank yous” a lot, because I am grateful for good reading or listening experiences. Those have a positive effect on my life. I know that often it won’t be seen, and maybe it won’t matter, but I don’t want to get in the habit of deciding who needs affirmation and who doesn’t. You’re too good-looking; you don’t need me to tell you that. You have more than 5000 followers, so anything I say will be pointles. Yes, sometimes they don’t need you to tell them, but sometimes people seem so shocked by compliments that maybe it doesn’t happen enough.
It’s not always about that. When I “like” and “favorite” dog pictures, that’s not even necessarily for the person who posted it; I’m just a sucker for dog pictures. Well, pretty much any kind of animal picture actually, and nature shots, and film quotes, and really, I am kind of easy in some ways. I don’t know how much people care about seeing “likes” and “favorites”, but it does not require that much effort to do it.
I do think there is something important, though, about remembering that Tara and Matt love otters, and that Ben is into Bob Mould, and Nick is addicted to Rooster Sauce. If you see something that you know they will like, share it. I have a better than average memory, which helps, but you can build that up if you will pay attention to others, and look at them, and just care. And those are all real people and likes, that involve interactions on Twitter and Facebook and even in real life, but I am the same person across all media. Some people do adopt personae, but I can’t.
So, I’m going to tell a story that is kind of emotional for me, relating to the ancient medium of snail mail. In Aloha 1st ward I was called to do the Relief Society newsletter, and when I was going through the birthday list, I noticed that some of the women were marked that you could only contact by mail or phone. It occurred to me that I should send the letter to them, so for all of the time I was editing the letter, I would also mail it to those five.
There was not much to it. The first time I wrote notes explaining what I was doing. When it was their birthday month I would send it in a birthday card, and I did some Christmas cards, and then when I was going to be in Cooper Mountain ward, so not doing it any longer, I wrote a note explaining. Maybe the next newsletter person would carry on the tradition, but if not, there would not be this sudden drop. I had given them my contact information in the first note, and I enclosed it again this time.
I never heard from any of these women, or knew anything about them, except one was kind of special to me, because I went to school with her son, and I had mentioned that when I first wrote. A few days after I sent her letter, my phone rang, and it was another son of hers telling me that she had died, but that he wanted to let me know because she thought of me as a friend she never saw, and she looked forward to them.
I offered my sympathies, and thanked him for letting me know, and then when the phone call was done I just wept. There were so many emotions going on there, with this deep feeling of loss and confusion, because should I have done more? Was that really enough? But there was also relief, because if I hadn’t sent that last note with the contact information, I wouldn’t have known. Or if I had given up after a while, because obviously none of them cared, I would have been wrong.
So, as is typical, I don’t know what I’m doing here, or where it’s going. Embrace it. I am turning into a big mush who gets teary-eyed a lot. Embrace it. I do keep reaching out, which brings up all my fears about being annoying and unwanted and irritating. Sometimes I might be, but it seems more important that I stay loving. I embrace that too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ineffective Twitter tips

When Twitter was first introduced, I thought it sounded incredibly stupid. Who cares if Ashton Kutcher just ate a sandwich? As covered yesterday, it can be a lot more than that. Twitter has exposed me to more comics, and it has exposed me to more music.
One really great thing has been how it helps me find good news articles. I started by just following a handful of writers that I liked. This included David Cay Johnston, Paul Krugman, Leonard Pitts, Nicholas Kristof, and Joe Conason. They all have different levels of activity on Twitter, but in addition to seeing columns of theirs that perhaps my paper did not run, or seeing their columns sooner, they would also post interesting articles they had read, or retweet comments from other people. That is how I ended up reading more by, and eventually following, Ezra Klein, Derek Thompson, LOL GOP, and the Daily Edge.
In each case, it is not just that they post their own work, but they post other items of interest. I know of several great news sources, but I do not have time to filter through them all, and having someone else pointing out what is especially interesting or noteworthy or troublesome helps. There is still that element of opening me up to more, but conversely it also acts as a filter.
That seems like touchy ground, because of my frustration with how so many people get far too much filtered out. However, it can always act as a starting point. If I feel like something is missing, I can do other searches. I can always check to see what Fox News is saying about something, and I periodically do. Often, their links work more to add context to what is already there.
Just to be clear, this is primarily one way communication, where I receive what the sources I choose to follow broadcast. You can send messages to the celebrities, but if they have a lot of followers, it will probably be swallowed up in a flood of other messages. Some musicians have started Twitter accounts and then neglected them because they are inundated with communication that can be surprisingly abusive since the writers are supposedly fans.
The advice that I always give with any social networking is that you need to decide how you want to use it. This has come up a lot with Facebook, where various friends, especially men, get on, and then hate it, and retreat, but often work their way back. Eventually they learn to block the game requests, or to turn off the chat window, and use Facebook in the way that works for them.
I had some people that I followed and had to unfollow because they just tweet too much. I still like them, I just can’t deal with following them. (I feel guiltiest about Steve Martin.)
I know one musician who follows the people who follow him, but then he turns them off from his feed. My first thought was that I had no idea you could do that, and I still don’t know how it is done. My second thought was that it seemed like cheating. However, he pointed out that many of his followers are from South America, so their tweets are not in English. In addition, this is the same boundary-challenged sex-obsessed fan base that drove three others to stop using Twitter, and they do tend to focus a lot on his past project, where he is trying to move forward with the present and future, so that choice make a lot of sense.
Why still follow them? Well, I haven’t had a chance to test it, but I think it is because if I send a tweet to you, but you do not follow me, it still will not show up in your feed. If you click on Connect, it should be both under your Interactions and Mentions, and you may have email notifications set up, where it will appear in email, but still, if you have a lot of active fans, that can get your email really full, or your Interactions and Mentions really full. So, I believe the way it works is that he does not see everything that they post, but he sees when they write to him.
And I have to say that he is great about responding. No matter how poorly written and ill-advised the tweets are, he just deflects with humor, and he answers again and again, and this is huge. It is an amazing thing when a fan hears back and even though the odds are against it happening often, sometimes it still does happen, and you just love them even more.
This is a reasonable solution for him, based on his situation, his goals, and his follower base. If he gains more followers in the future, he may need to alter it. As his band starts touring more and has a completed album available for sale, things may change there, including that they may need to focus more on an account for the band, in addition to their individual accounts. There are ways that can be worked out.
I had worked things out successfully where I was not being overloaded based on whom I followed. I was holding at 49 for a long time, but then I kept being attracted to more and more accounts. Some of that was the suggestions, and remembering to look up other people, but that was not all. Oddly, I started picking up followers that I did not expect, and just as I said that Twitter is not ideal for personal contact or 2-way communication, I seem to be heading more that way.
That is so like me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twitter is my enabler

I have been meaning to write about Twitter again. My use of it has been changing somewhat, and also, I still get a lot of question on it by people who have tried it, or thought about trying it, and have doubts about it.
There is a really easy way to start by tying it in to yesterday’s post with the comic reviews, because all of those came about via Twitter. If you haven’t been following along, listening to My Chemical Romance got me reading and writing comic books in about April. Well, I only wrote one long comic, but I read several, and I developed an appreciation for the art form.
Just before that was going down, in February, I joined Twitter, and while that started as more of a television thing, it ended up being more of music and political thing, and more recently it started growing exponentially.
I guess it started with Danger Days, because I started following Shaun Simon shortly after following the members of My Chemical Romance. He is a writer on the pending comic, along with Gerard Way, but also, I was rather delighted to see the name because he was the keyboardist in Pency Prep, and I like them a lot, and there is some beautiful keyboard work in there.
So I started there, and eventually I added Grant Morrison and Kristan Morrison, who are both in the Na Na Na video, and I guess this was about when I was writing a lot about comics, because Sequart followed me. Their prime role is publishing books and documentaries, but they have some really thoughtful essays on comic on their web site. Then I followed Becky Cloonan, who is the artist for the Danger Days comic.
The way all of this works together is that once you are following people they may post things that are interesting and lead you places. In addition, you get suggestions from Twitter on whom to follow (similar to Facebook friend suggestions) based on what you appear to be interested in, and I started following @JohnMiserable, who I am pretty sure is Hambone or John McGuire i.e. the bassist from Pencey Prep and that led to me Unwinnable, where he works, which is a great site for comics and gaming. Seriously I say this as someone who cannot personally risk gaming, and yet reading what other people have to say about it is really cool. Plus, now with the others that I follow, I keep getting more comic book related suggestions, and that is what led me to David Hahn. (And David Hahn led to me following a local falconer, which, how cool is that?)
For those three comics that I reviewed yesterday, my even knowing about them is wholly contingent upon that chain of followings. Becky Cloonan posted about Swamp Thing Annual, David Hahn retweeted an announcement about Memorial, and Unwinnable had an article about an expo where one of the photos accompanying the article was a promotional picture for Halloween Eve.
I’m not quite that susceptible a shopper. Okay, Memorial was impulsive. Somehow what they said about it was intriguing for no obvious reason, though the payoff in reading it justifies it right there. With Halloween Eve and Swamp Thing, it really was the pictures. The Halloween Eve picture wasn’t even labeled, but it was so gripping, and had such promise, that I wrote to the author of the article and asked, and Ian Gonzales replied promptly and helpfully, so I appreciate that.
With the Swamp Thing, Becky Cloonan put out a picture of Abby Arcane (when Alec first sees her), and it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s even more beautiful looking at it in person. It’s like Terence Malick shot it during the golden hours. And yes, ordering from Things from Another World, and following them so that I know about sales, has had an impact too.
It’s not that I would not know anything any comics without Twitter. The reading list I first compiled all came from reviews and articles I had already read, plus suggestions from talking with friends, plus a little bit of browsing around Heroes and Hobbies. The items that I am currently reading now, Flaming Carrot and Van Von Hunter, which will get some write-up later, were both already known to me. I learned about Flaming Carrot researching the Mystery Men movie, and Van Von Hunter used to run in the Sunday Comics. Twitter has just given me more.
And that is only what Twitter is doing in comics, which, while significant, is not nearly as high-impact as the music or politics. (The comics have eclipsed television.) It’s not that Twitter drives everything, but it brings me things I would not necessarily find on my own. It makes the world bigger, and more interesting, and more beautiful. Well, no, the world is all of those things whether I know it or not, so Twitter is just giving me a better view.

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Comics Review!

Yes, I am a little excited.
I was writing about comics a lot back in August, and there were some notes and things, but here I am actually going to take individual works and analyze them. It will not be only that, just like when I get to music reviews it will not be only that. For one thing I am writing as a fan and not as a professional, and also, I am specifically searching out things I expect to like, so I will probably never eviscerate anything. Also, I may toss in personal details and related stories, because that’s how I roll.
Halloween Eve (Writer: Brandon Montclare, Artist: Amy Reeder)
This is basically A Halloween Carol, with a protagonist who does not appreciate the holiday coming around through the marvelous happenings of a single night. As the holiday is Halloween instead of Christmas, the underlying message is more about knowing who you want to be and being willing to put yourself out there, but it is still a good message.
The story moves in fits and starts, with the pacing not being great. I wonder if part of the problem was that the author found it hard to find the female voice, because there are gender references that are a little clumsy. I can’t blame them for going this route, though, because Eve herself is so visually striking.
That is where the comic really works. The artwork by Amy Reeder is fantastic. The characters are vibrant and alive, and the page layouts are interesting, and the colors are gorgeous. Reeder did the coloring and the lettering too, so her achievement just keeps becoming more impressive. I love her style, and I think these characters could do other things. Also, knowing this started as a Kickstarter project endears it to me as well, knowing that this is truly a labor of love.
Swamp Thing Annual December 2012 (Writers: Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, Artist Becky Cloonan)
This is the first Swamp Thing I have read. I do have some background knowledge, but in terms of knowing how this fits into the most recent issues, I don’t actually know, and my impressions may be wrong.
That being said, it appears to me to raise the emotional stakes. From the first page Abby is dead, Anton Arcane is the enemy, and Swamp Thing is angry. On the last page the situation is much the same—all that has been added is a personal desire for revenge on the enemy. It seems that would be inevitable, though, so everything that happens in the middle is all about the emotions, and we know they are doomed. The blossoming feelings will be interrupted, the memories lost, and the players dead (even if Alec’s memories live on in the Swamp Thing).
This is underscored with imagery of death and decay everywhere, from the skin of the villagers to the stone formations in the castle walls to a very effective foreshadowing when Abby and Alec first shake hands. This cannot end well, and it doesn’t. Something that could be isn’t, and all that is left is a sense in Swamp Thing that there was something. He needs to be told what it was, but that sense is still there. It was beautiful, and it did matter, despite the world’s decay.
Memorial (Writer: Chris Roberson, Artist: Rich Ellis)
I think this is the most perfect comic I have ever read, and I don’t say that lightly. The pacing is excellent. The story moves along quickly, and is hard to put down, but it covers the points that it needs to, without that feeling that things are being glossed over.
The artwork is gorgeous. I admit to some bias here, because I did not realize that the creators were based in Portland, so I was pleasantly surprised to see MAX, and Powells, and Mr. Portland and that bear statue. That built up some affection quickly, but it wouldn’t have been enough if the rest didn’t work, or I would still be watching Portlandia. Anyway, it goes to many unfamiliar places, mostly destinations that you can only visit through the courtesy of the creators, but there are familiar things about them nonetheless.
There is a wealth of imagination in the ideas, and the base conflict raises some really interesting metaphysical questions. There is clearly more story to be told, so it is interesting wondering where it will go. Plus there’s a sarcastic cat. What more could you want?
Note: Memorial author Chris Roberson will be signing Masks at the Portland Things from Another World November 28th from 7 – 10 PM. 2916 NE Broadway Street, Portland, Oregon 97232

Friday, November 23, 2012

Conscientious consumption

I’m posting this early, but it feels important.
I am not participating in Black Friday or Cyber Monday at all. I am totally down with Giving Tuesday:, and I support the idea of Small Business Saturday, though I have already done my shopping, and that’s what we are getting into today. There will be parts of this post that scream “Geek!’ I’m aware, and we covered that yesterday.
I think about social responsibility and helping others on a regular basis. I apologize for the feelings of shock you may be having now.
My sisters and I try to favor local businesses over corporate chains, but also to think about frugality and conservation and not being wasteful. One thing that had come up was how to contribute to the economy, and some articles that I had read made me feel like the best strategy would be purchasing personal services: get your haircut, get a massage, and hire a babysitter. These are often the people who see their business fall away the most in times of recession, but also it feels good getting these services, and often they don’t have very much overhead, so more of it gets invested in the community. Ordering a plastic trinket that was made in China and distributed through Amazon is not as helpful.
I decided that the next best purchase would be going out. Go to a restaurant, or to a club, and go with friends. The impact on the local economy might not be as large as when you purchase a service, but the time shared can strengthen relationships and the sense of community, and again, it is an area that people cut in a recession.
I have found one more way to spend money now, and I am really enjoying it.
I guess it started with the music writing, and it was percolating with my feelings about people not paying for music. The plan was that I was going to start buying more anyway, because I was listening to more, and I was going to actively seek out things I liked via Spotify, then purchase via Music Millennium and EM.
At the same time, Twitter was speaking to me loudly on the topic of comic books. I had always intended to get more Flaming Carrot books, and then an article on had a picture from Halloween Eve that really pulled me in, and someone else retweeted an announcement about Memorial, and it ended up being a very impulsive thing, but on Halloween itself I ordered all three of those from Things from Another World ( I felt so giddy about it.
I’m not a really acquisitive person, and I have become less so. I mean, the reason I was thinking about buying anyway was because it is important for supporting the arts. Royal patrons are hard to come by now, but the arts don’t need to suffer for it because we can be totally democratic, and support what we like, essentially voting for it. And comics and music are bargains! The prices you pay for what you get are amazing.
So there was that mental part of it where I was deciding to contribute to the economic good of these artists that I like, and these businesses that I like, and that was fine; I get that. I in no way anticipated how excited I would be to place that order, and to get that order, and to open that order. I kind of know how fun it can be from shopping for the toy drive every year, which totally does make me feel like a kid, but this was for me, and that was cool.
I thought the way things would go down was once a month I would get some comics and get some music. With the music I would trade off between buying CDs at EM and ordering digitally from Music Millennium, and if at rare times I could make it to MM in person, great. For the comics, it would vary depending on what I was getting, and I just sort of started a running tally of what I wanted so I would know what to get. If there was a month when I didn’t need anything, then I can always go browse and Heroes and Hobbies and see what Max has. It was a plan, and it seemed like a good workable plan. Obviously, things have not been going quite as planned.
The music has gone well. I went to EM Saturday. My list said All-American Rejects (not ruling out a hard copy of Kids in the Street, and I never got their third one—it came out during my black hole year), Cirque Survive, Fall of Troy, Gin Blossoms (I don’t have No Chocolate Cake), and Fall of Troy. I ended up finding Losing Sleep by Parachute and In the Unlikely Event by The Fall of Troy. It occurs to me now that EM is almost always used, so it is supporting a record store, but not the band as much. And I feel bad because the Parachute CD is signed inside, and someone just gave that away!
So, the music part is going to have to evolve. For one thing I know eventually I am going to have to go more and more digital, and I’ll have to adapt to that. And, I still need to think about being good to the bands. I did buy some ambient music directly from Cy Curnin. The page admitted I might find it cheaper, but this helps keep the lights on. How could I resist that?
I may be out of control on the comic books. It may be just be some early issues that will even out. I had my Halloween order, and even then I was thinking maybe the period needed to be longer than monthly, like every six weeks, because it takes time to stay caught up. So I definitely was not going to order before November 30th, but then TFAW had this Grey Friday sale, and I ended up ordering Swamp Thing Annual and Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, and I tweeted for their contest, and Alec Holland himself ended up marking that tweet as a favorite. (Yes, I know Alec Holland is a fictional character. I assume someone at DC is running the account. Still cool.)
Okay, that doesn’t sound out of control yet, but I started wondering about some of the others that I am interested in, because the sale kept going on, and I saw that finding Van Von Hunter in stock anywhere is going to be kind of difficult, so I ended up having another order in November, and since I had also ordered some things directly from Becky Cloonan on Halloween, I am in fact ordering at twice the rate that I intended, which is a concern as I am neither a wealthy person nor a person with a lot of space.
So, perhaps I should skip ordering in December, and pick up again next year, but I know that I am going to want to get a hard copy of Breakfast of the Gods and I am almost certainly going to want Ultransylvania. There are always new things coming up. And it is getting so exciting discovering how much of a comic scene Portland has. I’m starting to understand how we can support both Stumptown and Rose City conventions—everyone lives here! They don’t even all work for Dark Horse!
(Yes, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but still, there are a lot of artists around here. Good ones.)
Anyway, I may need to even out a little, but I’m sure it will be fine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Geek = Joy

I did think about doing something Thanksgiving-themed. I also thought about doing something anti-Thanksgiving. When my post about my father ended up landing on Father’s Day, I had some hesitation, but somehow, maybe it was the “baddad” hash tag, it ended up getting more hits than usual. For every holiday that is generally liked and feels good for most people, there are people for whom it is awful, and I sympathize with that, and I don’t mind providing an outlet and some sympathy.

I can’t really rage against Thanksgiving though. First of all, I think it is one of the best things about us that we have a holiday that is about gratitude. Yes, people give at Christmas, but they also get, and it can get really out of hand. That shopping keeps encroaching on Thanksgiving, and knowing that in addition to the greed that drives it, some of its success is people longing to escape their horrible families, makes me sad.

Also, I can see how the Native American Day of Mourning thing can put a damper on it. However, that is not a reason to go against Thanksgiving; that is a reason to work towards improving the plight of Native Americans now. That’s a complex issue, too, but I am about to start my Native American Heritage month reading (and yes, I will be getting a late start, but what’s new?), and one thing I will be specifically looking for is what can be done now.

So, moving past all of that, gratitude is beautiful, and makes you healthier and happier, and yes you should practice it all year long, but taking some time to specially focus on it is something I value, and you will not get an anti-Thanksgiving post here, but you are also not getting a Thanksgiving post, except for these first few paragraphs. This post should nonetheless prove to be very appropriate.

So, I have noticed that I am much more of a geek now than I was before. Yes, this can largely be blamed on My Chemical Romance, because it was Danger Days that got me envisioning a comic book, and that got me reading other comic books, and that escalated everything. Also, I may have gotten on Twitter for Grimm, but it has ended up being more of a music thing, and that has led to it being largely a comic book thing as well.

This is not blame-throwing. First of all, the geek was always there inside me. Also, when I started reading comics, I started with Maus, and that was because I had always planned on reading it, and Persepolis, and I had intended to read the Umbrella Academy even when all I knew of MCR was “I’m Not Okay”. It may have gotten the ball rolling, but the ball and the inclined plane were clearly already in place.

Also, there’s no blame, because that’s where a lot of happiness comes from. This is going to be all over the map, but I there should be a point in here somewhere by the time I’m done.

One thing that has had me thinking about it is that a lot of musicians are clearly geeks. I remember watching the video for “High on You” by Survivor, and realizing they were not cool at all, and it was not fair that I still found them attractive merely because they were musicians. The passage of time has shown me that this is true about many musicians. You listen to them talk, or hear them laugh, and sure, they may talk about being socially marginalized, but suddenly, you get it. They just seem cool now because they rock.

It makes sense. Part of being a geek is that passion where you can devote yourself to and lose yourself in something, which may be exactly what it takes to master an instrument and composition and all of the things that allow one to make beautiful music, and some sense of alienation doesn’t necessarily hurt, from an inspiration point of view.

(And a lot of them are into comics and gaming—that’s not just MCR.)

So, I had been thinking about that, but also I was thinking about my own youth, for a few reasons. Some of that is Twitter, and that I have ended up connecting with young music fans, and I will write more about that later, but suddenly there are all these memories of what it was like back then. Also, connecting with people from back then, I seem to have become retroactively cool. This is from different sources, who did not realize how cool I was then, or now realize that I was the coolest person there.

Well, I wasn’t—at least, not that way—but one thing that I did have going for me, besides being able to be tough or crack wise when needed, is that there was always so much going on that I missed out on a lot of the social game entirely. I was reading books or making up stories or joining clubs and learning things.

I had linked to an article a while back about how nerds can’t be popular because they want other things more and popularity requires a total effort. Well, it’s lengthy but I will link to it again:

Anyway, it’s just a much richer life when you are passionate things. It is richer when you can get lost in music, or in art, or in a book, and then find yourself through there as you are losing yourself. I love listening to music, but I also love watching musician perform, and it is because they are (usually) having a good time, and I respond to that.

So much of what being cool means when you are a teenager is not caring and not being impressed and not being an open book. I was not that person in high school, and I am even less that way now. Yes, sometimes I am embarrassed by it. I do not know, between my sisters and I, how many times we used “cute” and “awesome” while we were at Yellowstone Bear World. I knew we were overusing the words, and that there are plenty of synonyms out there, and I can be more articulate than that. In that moment though, everything was cute and awesome and awesomely cute, and we were impressed and we were loving it.

I frustrate myself writing, but I enjoy myself too. The other day I wanted to check something in the comic book, and in the process of looking for it I got lost in it all over again. And I wrote it! I knew what was going to happen and what they were going to say, but I still fell completely into it.

I know the geek = joy equation is an oversimplification. There are other paths to joy than geekdom, and there are impediments to geek happiness, whether it is from the rejection of others or being too locked inside yourself to relate to others well, or just being tortured by the frustrations of your art. I don’t think you have to suffer more than anyone else to be an artist, because there seems to be enough suffering to go around for everyone.

I am glad that there are people who suffer who are able to find relief by making something beautiful out of it. Mainly, though, I am glad that it is such an amazingly beautiful interesting world, full of books and songs and animals and tastes and kindred spirits. I am impressed by many things. I am passionate about many things. And I am grateful all the time for finding these things.

There is no coolness there; that’s a fire. And I’ll burn both ends until my fire’s out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Halloween Follow-up


Remember how I posted that I felt like I wanted to go all out for Halloween, but I wasn’t sure what that meant? It did not end up meaning much.
Actually, I have had this issue for quite a while with most holidays where I really want to celebrate big—whether in terms of decorating or giving or partying—is that as I get there I am too busy to plan anything.
With Halloween I would have loved to have an amazing costume, crazy decorations inside and outside of the house, and do some fun things. There are germs of ideas there. I have been wanting to get back to the Sauvie Island Corn Maize for years, I wanted to go to Fright Town because one of their sections was post-Apocalyptic, I think I could do interesting things with incorporating the natural twists of my hair into a Medusa costume, and the Christmas version of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland makes me want to experiment with pumpkin gargoyles. And I say that as someone who really wishes they would wait until after Halloween to Christmas-ify something that is so perfectly Halloween-ish on its own.
Ultimately, none of this happened. Time sped on, as it always does, and none of those ideas were achieved, even though some of them have been going on for a while now. It’s not that Halloween was a total disappointment. I was writing about vampires. In fact, I was writing the scene where Nick and Dexter were fighting off Tori at midnight on Halloween, which was pretty cool. (I was also writing about vampires on Bram Stoker’s birthday, and will be writing about them on Thanksgiving, though that doesn’t relate as much.)
Also, I listened to spooky music that week, including the Misfits, Concrete Blonde, Oingo Boingo, and Warren Zevon. I changed my Twitter name and picture, so that I at least had a Twitter costume, changing it back at 12:15 AM November 1st (I needed to finish the scene and make sure Dexter was okay). I was Desultory Plebe. If I can find a picture of an irritated looking water fowl, next year I will be Sulky Grebe.
Just to really change it up, I wore make-up that day, and I think it was exactly a year since the last time I wore make-up. All it really does is remind my mother that I should do it more often, so in retrospect that was probably a bad idea.
So, those were things that were cool, but for me Halloween is all about the creativity, and the only thing that even came close to my original plans was that I did still carve five pumpkins. This is the one thing that I always seem to manage; even if I am carving one pumpkin the day before Halloween, I somehow get it in.
My initial plan was that I wanted to do one Draculoid pumpkin (for Danger Days) and I wanted to do one like the Misfits skull. Those would require larger pumpkins. Maria took her class on a field trip to the pumpkin patch, and came back with a small pumpkin. Now, what they do with the Haunted Mansion is a Nightmare before Christmas theme, so with all my mixed feelings about it, I thought I could do a Jack Skellington head on the small pumpkin. Maria said, no, do Zero. Well, I love Zero, but again, that would require a large one. I bought three large pumpkins, but then it felt wrong to have Jack with Zero and not Sally, so I bought one more small one.
The carving results were mixed. Actually, I feel like Jack and Sally came out best. Zero would have been better if his nose had not fallen off. The Draculoid was pretty good, but I was not at all equipped for the Misfits one. It’s a rather complicated design, and one eye was kind of okay, one was already going downhill, and then it was all over when I got to the teeth. (While that was disappointing, it was, I think, the one that looked best when lit up.)
I started thinking that maybe it was time to invest in some better tools. I use a table knife for carving, and a tablespoon for scooping out. It’s pretty low-tech. I did trying using a vegetable peeler for working through the layers, but it was a total wash. I also picked up one of those carving kits one year, and the blade snapped right away. However, it probably is possible to find something with a blade that is thinner yet still strong, so I can do more detailed work (like tiny teeth).
As I had in mind to keep my eyes out for a good knife, it occurred to me that if I really wanted to do something for Halloween, I was going to need to plan it long before October, when there is no time pressure. If I start looking for a knife now, and start sketching ideas for the house in March, that’s how it could actually happen. Waiting till October is basically deciding that nothing will happen.
That’s when I realized it was time to start planning my birthday. It’s already only two months away, and sure, that sounds like plenty of time, but the reasonable amount of time is not enough for me, so I need to plan on being unreasonable.
It’s weird how awesome planning in advance feels. The things that I go back and forth on don’t seem to matter so much. Maybe the extra time changes the perspective.
So, it will be much like last year, with karaoke at Pyzano’s, except that this time it is actually going to be for my birthday, rather than something that I happen to be doing near my birthday. That’s right; I’m owning it! This primarily means that I am bringing cake.
Sure, the thoughts and concerns come up, but they are resolved so quickly. Like we will be on the early schedule for church next year, so getting to church at 9 after being up singing would be rough, and then I thought, hey, I’m going to visit Aloha 1st Ward that day. I miss them anyway, and it gives me an extra two hours. Plan!
I have scheduled a hair appointment for a few days before, so I will be looking as presentable as I get. I will also start keeping an eye out for a new outfit. I love my family, and without them I would only own three shirts, but those three shirts are the ones that I like, so okay, I can reasonably put some effort into finding a new top that will be good for rocking.
I have thought about doing a scouting trip to see if certain songs are available (top picks: I Wanna, Dragostea din tei, and Saturday Night), but I am going to wing it. If we end up closing the evening on a group sing of Bohemian Rhapsody, well, that is pretty fun.
Yes, it is common for there to be weather concerns around the time of my birthday, but I’m going for it. It’s close to where I live, I could walk if I needed to, even in snow. And that’s one thing that I have found, is that trying to make it convenient for other people does not work, so I am making it convenient for me. I am also starting the invitation now, so people have plenty of time to decide, and I am just inviting everyone on Facebook. Okay, I won’t invite the two dead friends, but people in other countries, in jail, or on missions? Invited! I may even invite my pharmacy tech.
This is different for me. Usually I try and think about who might enjoy it and who could realistically come, and nope, you decide. Yes, I am worried that only annoying people will come, or people who get along with me but hate each other. I am also a little worried that I will have to tackle someone for their car keys. I’m just going to go with it though. I’m welcoming chaos more lately. It seems to be the right thing. I’m not sure why, but if I understood that, I probably wouldn’t need to do it.
If you aren’t friends with me on Facebook and want to come, comment on this, or message me through Twitter, or something like that. I’m down with it.
So now the only real question is whether I have given myself enough time to be up for major baking for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

And then everything got hard

That’s what she said. There, now it’s out of the way.
This screenplay writing experience is very different. The comic book was huge and it flowed. I may not have known right away that it was going to end up being 415 pages (which is good; that would have been intimidating), but still, it kind of wrote itself, and even if there were parts that I had to dig deeper for, there was still a lot of flow where I would have days that I wrote 10 to 15 pages easily.
With Family Blood, that eight pages on the first day was my most productive day to date. Sunday night I wrote half a page. I am at 71 pages now and I keep needing to change things.
Now, I knew that it should be short. The standard is 120 pages (or minutes), but you can have shorter movies and for an action film 90 minutes can be completely respectable, or you risk getting bloated. I thought this one should probably come in at between 95 and 105. I don’t know if I can get there. I still really only have one major action scene to do, and it is not going to be 19 pages.
Adding more deaths isn’t necessarily as helpful as you would think. I realized that I did need to add some, so I threw in two hikers who explore the wrong cave, and that really only added a page and a half. It was not completely gratuitous, because it demonstrated some things that had not previously been seen about the vampires, and it totally traumatized Sarah, so that scene works, but obviously if I keep throwing in more extras just to kill them, not all of those scenes could possibly be justifiable.
I have to admit that working on it kind of makes me want to go for an all-out hordes of vampires killing lots of people story, but that would not fit in this story, and ultimately I would really only do it if there was another story that was compelling where that scenario would work. Seriously, I thought it was time to write about zombies, and I do have zombie ideas, but they are three incompatible ideas, and until one of them wins, or I realize they are compatible in a way I had not seen, or something like that happens, then it is a no-go.
Also, I thought I was going to start drawing for the comic book. (I wrote that on the 15th.) That doesn’t even go into how I was wrong about how the blogging was going to go, or that all of the books I was reading were really slow going too. Also, my sisters and I had been in a good exercise routine, and then scheduling issues and an injury threw that off.
The first thing that happened was that I found out that I can’t draw at all. Well, that’s kind of harsh. Even though I expected over the course of the project that my drawing would improve, and I would probably end up wanting to redo the first couple of books, I found that I did not even like what I was doing enough to start.
I decided that what I was going to do there was to start using the comic books I have as models so that I could get the hang of drawing again. I mean, I used to be better at this. Apparently it is not like riding a bike. I’m not even sure that riding a bike is like riding a bike. Anyway, for this one, I need to get in some practice where there is no emotional cost to me, and I can try different styles. Yes, as I have learned from that one arc in the ComicCon movie, to really be good you need to draw from your head and not from pictures, but I think drawing from pictures is a reasonable intermediate step.
At this point I anticipate starting the actual drawings for the comic in the spring, but again, I am wrong about everything. I thought I was going to start copying those characters right away, and then I realized something else I need to do that also involves drawing, and it involves reviving an old project. I don’t want to write too much about that one right now, but I hope to have it online around December 15th. I will need to resolve some more technical issues for that as well.
So, I was going to be drawing, and editing, and blogging about politics, but the blogging about politics was not flowing, and the drawings were awful, and I hadn’t really gotten started on the editing at all. It’s not just that nothing was going as expected—frankly, I’m kind of getting used to that. It’s more that suddenly everything was a struggle, and it had been going so well before!
So right now I am working on something that is hard, and it is frustrating, but is still satisfying. This is a temporary thing. I have already started reading a new book that is going faster (after finishing another slow one), I think now that I am back to writing about creative things that blogging will feel better, and well, the drawing is just going to take time. At the same time, there are things happening that are so much fun, and most of my shows are going on hiatus so I will have more time there. We are adapting our workout routine.
I feel like this last bit of time has been about pacing. I remember when I would come home, and blog, and then write fifteen pages in the comic book, I would be like “Who is this girl? I’ve never been that productive before.”
There were a few different factors there. One is that I think there has been a progression. First it was writing to Aaron, and needing to be conscientious about that, but also constantly looking for content so I would have something to write. Then it was getting back into the blogging, and being consistent with it. Right now, I may only write a few lines at a time in the new screenplay, but I write in it every day.
The other thing is that I really have given up on the computer games. I still want to play them. Especially when I am struggling, the temptation is there. There can be that quick fix of the game, before I get into the frustration of trying to coordinate the moves of eight people when only two of them can die and one needs to be incapacitated and one needs to be injured seriously but not fatally, and where you should never really have anyone just standing around and it is all happening too quickly. However, there is no quick fix from the game, because then I just keep wanting more, and I really cannot handle it. It’s ridiculous, but it would be more ridiculous to not acknowledge it and let it keep stealing my time. Anyway, dealing with that addiction has been an important part of my productivity.
It has also been a lesson about pacing though. No matter how much I have improved as a writer, it will not always be easy. Actually, it would appear that no matter how good I get in any one aspect of my life, those gains cannot be assumed to be permanent, and then the point becomes to keep going.
Early morning walks becoming nasty due to winter setting in? What about aerobics videos indoors? No ideas to make it impossible for Sarah to escape but possible for her to be rescued? Okay, let’s rework the dialogue in that other scene, and worry about the captivity issues tomorrow. Can’t manage more than a few pages at a time in this book? Well, it’s still a few pages. I’m still going to finish it.
It’s nice to know what euphoria feels like. It is more essential to know what struggling feels like and not surrender to it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In which I am wrong about everything

I can see that on October 17th I specifically wrote that I hope I don’t end up writing about a band again for my next project. I also know that a few days later I had decided that if I didn’t have an idea that I loved, then I should focus on editing previously written screenplays, and getting things ready for marketing. Then I had a dream.
My timeline for this is quite precise. I was going to see the All American Rejects on October 28th, and the play for The Lost Boys on November 1st, and my theory is that it was the anticipation of these two events that led me to the dream I had sometime between going to bed on the 27th and waking up on the 28th.
It was over very quickly. Basically, Matt Rubano (bass player for the Rejects) had been attacked by vampires and was in the hospital, and one came to finish him off. I tried to help, and couldn’t, but Tyson Ritter (lead singer) showed up.
I woke up thinking that was weird, but I wasn’t really planning on doing anything with it. I just kept thinking about it. Otherwise the day went as planned. I went to church. I went to the concert (which was so awesome and there will be like five blog posts just from that), and I don’t think I dreamed anything weird that night, which maybe was why I was still thinking about vampires and AAR on Monday, and it didn’t stop. Later that day I gave up, and did not stop writing until I had eight pages and the first vampire attack had occurred. Hence, I am now writing again, a new screenplay, with members of a band as characters.
It’s not quite the same. First of all, it may be about a band, but it is not set in a world and populated by characters that the band created and about whom they will be releasing their own comic book. Therefore, there is no reason that it could not be marketed, which is a relief. I said you could get a narrative out of Kids in the Street, but this has nothing to do with any of their albums, as far as I can tell.
Obviously the names will need to be changed, but right now I am not worrying about that. They are becoming their own characters, not just based on my impressions of the actual people, as it should be, and when that is done, maybe some names will work better. (Matt is nothing like Matt anymore, and that makes me feel better, because he, um, well, the real Matt can be their new bass player.)
I realize vampires are a fantasy element, but it is otherwise very much grounded in reality, rather than the post-apocalyptic dystopian future. In the comic book, there were references to the characters being musical, but they closest you come to it is that Frank and Ray jammed sometimes before going on the run.
Here the characters are totally a band, but not a successful band that tours and has fans. They are young guys with day jobs to pay the bills but living for the gigs they can get, and I know so many people who have been there. Actually, some still kind of are, but being older now they have better jobs and maybe families, so it’s different. Here Nick and Scott are UPS drivers, and Tyson works at an oil place. I nearly had him at a regular garage, but that could have been too fulfilling, so all he does is change oil.
I didn’t actually do it, but I kind of felt like I needed to add “crappy” as an adjective to all the nouns: Tyson’s crappy car, Nick’s crappy apartment, etc. But then the scene at Nick’s apartment got cut, and Chris’s apartment, where a lot happens, is actually kind of nice. (Chris is an art student.)
So, there are not the trappings of musical success, but they still have that camaraderie and that love of music, and so some of the conversations that happen around that are fun. There is a threat of throats getting torn out, and so Nick says they obviously can’t let the lead singer go, and Ty points out that they can’t send backup vocals either, and yet they do still all go, to help a friend and because it seems like the right thing to do.
Actually, what may be the most striking similarity between this and the comic book is that it is still working with males, therefore talking about emotions is hard, and we do still get some gallows humor and silliness as a way of relieving the tension.
One thing I have been doing is occasionally putting quotes from or references to the screenplay on Facebook or Twitter, and I realized that I was being misleading after one friend responded that something could be the tagline. Well, I’ll just write it here:
“Four days ago I’d hardly even spoken to her, now we’ve waited in hospitals, been interrogated by the police, and fought a vampire together. How do you even evaluate that?”
So the problem with that as a tagline is two-fold. It sounds like the focus is romantic; it isn’t. Clearly there is something building, where I expect Ty and Sarah to end up together later, after the credits roll. However within the movie, the story is about the twisted dynamics of one family, and contrasted with the second family you can build with your friends and band mates. And that’s not a slam on birth families, but it should be hopeful that if you have a toxic situation it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have anything else. (And if you are choosing between vampires and musicians, ALWAYS go with the musicians.)
The other problem with that as a tagline is that it sounds kind of funny and light-hearted, and this story is not. It is scary and desperate and the characters face some losses that are going to be really hard to recover from.
But there are still funny lines and those are some of the best lines, and so those are the ones that I post, but I give the wrong impression that way. This is nothing new. I remember telling one friend that I wanted to write screenplays, and he had assumed that I would be writing comedies. That’s not how it worked out. Even now, somewhere between six and thirteen later (depending on how you count), the only one that is even remotely a comedy is Coulrophobia, and it is not a straight comedy. But that’s how I live my life. It is a very serious deal, but there is room for fun and jokes. Actually, sometimes that’s the only way to make it through the very serious deal.
It is easy to draw comparisons between this screenplay and the comic book, but there are also some interesting correlations to it and my other vampire screenplay.
One thing about Hungry was that Nick and Teri both needed to be responsible for defeating their tormentors. It felt very important. If Nick had been the one to stake Lucas, instead of Teri, I’m not saying that she wouldn’t have still been free, but it felt very important for each of their arcs. I guess it was about empowerment.
Here (working title is Family Blood, which is awful but I am bad at titles) no one takes out the one that got them. Everyone gets a chance to be heroic, and but none of the vampires are staked by someone they have bitten, or really even someone they have injured.
It was actually a concern for me because in terms of feminism, this story could be kind of a letdown. Sarah only kills one vampire, and her other attempts all fail, and she pretty much does need the help of the guys. She has been brave and dedicated in looking out for Matt, but she has basically given her life over to care-taking for the last three years, and she couldn’t even tell you her identity beyond that. She is just starting to be able to relax and to think about herself again when Matt is attacked and the past roars back into the present. And yes, she does end up needing to be rescued. So, I can totally imagine people reading it, or watching the movie, and ripping it apart for gender stereotypes.
(And of course Maureen is a very strong woman, but she is also controlling and evil.)
I understand it, but I can’t change it, because that is how this plays out, and it isn’t about that. Everybody needs everybody else’s help in this one. No one saves themselves. Usually the only reason that they need saving is because they were trying to help someone else anyway (except for Matt and Sarah who are just in trouble for family reasons). I do kind of like that. Really, the way things break down has nothing to do with gender in this one.
Differences in plot and characterization are not that big of a deal, but there has been one big difference between this project and the last one, and we will hit on that more tomorrow.