the_gneech: (Default)
Pop art is a business. I know that. Comics were always intended to be entertainment-for-money, and any art that happened along the way was a nice bonus.

I'm not happy about it, but I also recognize it as reality.

But in this era of crowdsourcing, Patreon and the like, the relationship between the artist and the consumer is more tightly-knit and blurry than ever. The script I'm working on for issue six started out as a commission someone wanted me to do, for instance.

And in the world of webcomics, this is complicated by the fact that there is a certain "amateur hour"-ness about it. Some of the most popular comics are stick figures; some of the most gorgeous art is done by people who refuse to monetize at all.

There aren't a whole lot of us who make a sustainable living off webcomics; however there is at least one prominent one who's been in the business a long time and is making money by the bucketload. I'm being cagey about naming said artist here because some of this particular artist's methods really put me off but I'm not in the business of calling people out. I'm talking here about my own mind, not to pick fights with other people.

The artist's regular comic frequently includes what I call "Rat Pack humor," the sort of casually sexist and privileged crap that make Joel and the Bots on MST3K say things like "I would like to apologize on behalf of the entire male gender, thank you" or "I'd slap this movie if I could." It always annoys me to see this kind of thing get applause in the first place. Said artist then takes this a step further by doing what is basically a porn spinoff comic as well, that is behind a paywall.

(In fact, almost everything this artist does is behind a paywall of some variety. They really buy into the idea of "content sold separately.")

I don't object to adult comics; I've got no problem whatsoever with Oglaf (wow, that's a NSFW link) or Oh Joy Sex Toy (holy crap that's NSFW) for instance. Gene Catlow's silly sex-addled side-stories get a thumbs-up from me. But I am very uncomfortable with the prostitution of characters.

At a convention some years back now, when I was still learning what to say "yes" or "no" to, someone commissioned me to do a picture of Tiffany in lingerie with one of his OCs. The guy had sheets of OCs to choose from– all of them being variations of the standard comic book woman figure, in different cliché "sexy" outfits. (Insert rant about it always being guys who do this shit... later.) I was uncomfortable with the request, but as I say, I was still learning these things. I did the picture, but I was unhappy the whole time, the result was not very good art, and I ended up only charging a portion of what I would have normally asked for.

And... well... I felt like I owed Tiffany an apology. ¬.¬

According to the philosophy of the artist referred to above, this is exactly backwards. The correct reaction would have been to let out a whoop, charge an extra $75, and draw the Best Damn Tiffany Tiger Porn any fanboy could dream of.

Said artist has set themselves up as a kind of industry expert on webcomics, sort of like the business writer whose main qualification is that they sell a ton of books on becoming a business writer. I can't really argue with their reasoning I suppose, given that they are one of the few people making a ton of money as a webcomic artist.

But their actual content makes me itch. -.- Their business practices make me itch. -.- And seeing people flocking to them and emulating them makes me itch more. >.<

Everything they do, from the format the comic is shown in, to the pacing of every gag, is designed to maximize the money squeezed out of the audience. If the artist's blog is to be believed, even things like character design/story arc and personal connection with the readers are also weighed against this metric. I used to follow their blog and social media presence on the grounds that they were, y'know, actually making a living in a field in which I am not, but I have finally reached the point where I just can't keep looking at it.

If money is the object of the game, why bang your head against webcomics? There are easier and more profitable ways of making money without caring about what you do.

I don't pretend for even a second to have a viable business model for my own work. And yes, that's a problem. But I can at least look my characters in the metaphorical eye without wanting to slap myself.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)
I've talked before about my flummoxation with the old saw of "sex sells," and its corollary, "what isn't sex, doesn't sell."

I don't get it. And there are many aspects of it I don't get.

I mean, I understand why sex might sell; I've bought comics myself because of the sex appeal of a particular character or story, but it's such a small sliver on the pie chart of what's interesting in life. In a world full of amazing wonders, exciting possibilities, and the vast spectrum of love, hate, and human relationships, why does the career arc of so many comics artists and/or furry artists follow the same pattern of, "Draws some stuff, doesn't get noticed, draws sex stuff, interest explodes, ends up drawing the same piece of porn over and over again forever because why bother doing anything else?"

Heck, I've seen it in my own work. I know how to push fandom buttons. I can predict with a fair amount of certainty which pics or pages will get a big response, based on sex content. And... just... enh. -.-

The part that baffles me the most, tho, is... are people buying the same porn pic over and over? Why would you do that? What could you possibly get out of the same thing drawn again? They must be, for sales to sustain in that quantum level of difference. I suppose maybe it's like hearing a remix of a favorite song... but even I can't stand hearing four different versions of Ghostbusters in a row.

How does a steady diet of the same damn porn pic over and over not get monotonous AF?

What prompted this particular rant was a trip to Barnes & Noble yesterday. I was looking through the manga section and came upon a title I forget now, which had an bait-and-switchy eye-catch cover of a genki girl in some action pose... who turned out to be a very minor character in a drama comic full of people in school uniforms standing around. Very clearly, somebody in the marketing department, following the principle of "sex sells, and what isn't sex, doesn't sell," decided a drama comic about people in school uniforms standing around couldn't possibly be of interest, so put this gal on the cover. But doing this leads to the worst of both worlds– people looking for genki girls in action poses aren't gonna buy the book after picking it up, and people looking for teenage angst aren't going to know that this is the book for them.

That's not all of it, tho. An artist whom I used to love like crazy, I have had to pretty much stop following, because over the years everything I used to love them for (great artistic composition, interesting character dynamics, a clever sense of humor) have fallen away one by one, to be replaced by the service of a singular particular fetish. In short, their work has become monotonous AF. Artists gotta follow their muse, so I'm not going to call them out on it or anything like that. But as a fan of the artist-they-were, I can't help but resent they've evolved into this one-trick doppleganger of someone whose work used to mean so much to me.

There's a whole other rant about the male gaze aspect of "sex sells," but I should probably stop while I can still form coherent sentences. In the broader culture, this is a topic full of misogyny, but even in the super-gay world of furry art, where the males are gazing at other males, it's still there, and still annoying. But that's a rant for another day.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (I.T. Crowd FAIL!)
So a phenomenon has emerged recently, of the Pop Up Whining About Your Ad-Blocker. Sites such as Wired.com, TheMarySue, and probably dozens of others I just don't go to, if they can't serve ads at you, shove a giant "PLEASE SUBSCRIBE OR TURN OFF YOUR BLOCKER!" message in your face.

They're perfectly within their rights to do so. And I can't speak for anyone else, but my choice will almost always be, "I don't want to look at your site that badly."

"But! Moneys!" scream the website owners. "Hosting is expensive!" etc. Well, yes. I understand that. But you know what? I don't care.

Sometime during (or leading up to) the dot-com boom I remember seeing an ad for some corporation trying to market to middle managers, which had graphic design like a merchant bank and the header, "Finally, the web is good for more than UFO theories and pictures of cats."

My reaction then is the same as my reaction now: FUCK. YOU.

UFO theories and pictures of cats is what I want from the internet. Personal blogs, dorky little vines, silly memes? That's what the web is good for. The world needs another stream of commerce like I need another hole in my head. People making connections? That's what the world needs.

So people not being able to make money on the internet? That's all to the good. I want money out of the internet as much as possible, the same way I want it out of roleplaying games and conventions and universities and libraries and public TV and almost every other thing really worth doing. The relentless drive to prioritize short-term profit over doing the core thing that you're about has destroyed everything it ever touched.

The current crop of websites flailing around trying to block the ad-blockers may be a harbinger of the collapse of "Big Website," which would mean a lot of potentially-good content might be lost. On the other hand, it also means that a lot of clickbait garbage will also be lost, and I can live with that. I was perfectly content with grunky mostly-text webpages and very, very personal blogs. I have absolutely no problem with the internet being the realm of the hobbyist, now and forever.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Writing)
For the past several months, but most notably in the past two weeks or so, my friends list on LJ has been populated mostly by posts that begin with things like...

"So I'm going to post to LiveJournal, even though nobody uses it any more..."

"Oh wow, I still have my LiveJournal login! Does anyone still post here?"

"I sure miss LiveJournal. I wish people posted here..."


Well, in the words of the psychiatrist from Local Hero, "I'm still here, Happer!"

For a long time, I made a point of responding to these posts in a cheery "I'm still here! I still read! Keep posting!" But honestly I'm starting to get a little peeved about it now. Like newspaper articles about the death of print or songs about how the heart of rock and roll is still beating, these posts are quickly moving from the occasional wistful sigh to a particularly formulaic and tiresome genre all to themselves.

It's true that LiveJournal isn't the New Shiny Social Media Platform. Any platform older than six months is officially not the New Shiny Social Media Platform. Twitter is ten years old, and people have been saying "Twitter is dead!" for nine years. Tumblr was where all the cool kids hung out for about fifteen minutes, but even that was considered passé once one of its users noticed somebody over 20 had an account. And yet, somehow, there's more happening on my Tumblr feed than I can possibly keep up with, so I end up scrolling past most of it like flipping past 250 channels of cable TV and there's still nothing on.

Despite its 1998-tastic clunky interface, it's still among the best platforms for long-form posts. So I say this to LiveJournal readers: IF YOU MISS LIVEJOURNAL, POST TO THE SILLY THING ALREADY. As they say, "If you post it [and tell people about it, important detail], they will come."

The thing about all internet content, is that it thrives on regular updates, and withers if you let it sit. This is as true of LiveJournal as it is of the Huffington Post. This is one reason why Facebook has its infuriating and seemingly-random interface, to make you feel like you're seeing something "new" every time you log on. LiveJournal just shows you the feed, in blessed sequential order and in paginated form, something precious few platforms do any more because it doesn't make for "good marketing."

In short, LiveJournal, by virtue of still being itself after all this time, has managed to stay in the form of what social media should be like, and frankly I intend to reward that by staying here and continuing to post here. If you like it, and all these "I miss this place..." posts sure make it sound like people do, then you should keep posting too.

After all, that's kinda the point.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
So [livejournal.com profile] lythandra and I have been watching an anime on Netflix called The Seven Deadly Sins, in which the main character (a pretty standard anime Gary Stu) is beloved by everybody despite being a massive creep. Although it's clearly intended to be for laughs, he is forever groping the female lead, putting her into revealing "uniforms" for his own titillation, periodically stealing her underwear (while she's still wearing it) and so forth. You know, just your basic good old fashioned misogyny straight out of the Rat Pack era. Those darn boys will be boys.

In concert with this, a female supporting character has a crush on our "hero" (because Gary Stu) but normally can't interact with him much because she's a giant. When magical hijinks shrink her down to normal human size, she gets all excited because finally it means he'll be all lechy at her, too ("Dehumanize me, Sempai!"). Except he totally doesn't, because what fun is it to grope a woman who clearly wants to be groped? Obviously it's not the actual groping that he cares about: it's the violation of boundaries that gets his motor running.

I relate this not to talk about the specific show, but to talk about the psychology at work. Because it's a theme I have seen popping up in my own work. Drezzer Wolf, for instance, was prey to this exact same mindset, except his target of choice was Conrad. I always tried to paint this as a flaw in Drezzer's character and something that had hurt both his career and his personal life when he went overboard with it. However, I had more than a few readers for whom this was one of Drezzer's charming features, and it's a theme that comes up again and again in people wanting to commission art.

But the thing is, the more you think about it, the creepier it gets. When does "teasing" go from a friendly nudge into a bullying grab? The fundamental, underlying belief of someone who gets off on pushing boundaries is "How I feel about your boundaries is more important than how you do." This is not a relationship of one peer to another. This is an exercise in power over someone else.

Of course, when pushed back by someone who's had enough of their boundaries being trampled, the would-be pusher gets very defensive, using such tried-and-true bullshit responses as "I was just playing!" or "Can't you take a joke?" In the case of Drezzer, I did make an effort to have him own up to it when confronted, because overall I wanted Drezzer to be a positive character. But I wonder sometimes if I didn't make it too easy on him. He's lucky that Conrad didn't end up giving him a sock to the jaw, and I guess it's not really in Conrad's nature to do that anyway, but from a storytelling standpoint I'm not sure it wouldn't have been better if he had. (Of course it's also a topic on which I have stronger feelings now than I did when I was creating the original SJ, so I don't know how I would approach it these days.)

Anyway, this is just something that struck me as I was working on one of my "overheard at the Watering Hole" type commissions, because it's been a recurring theme of one or two commissioners and it's something I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to draw any more. I'm going to finish this set, as I've committed to doing it, but no more after that. It's not fun, and it's not funny.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Kero Power Tie)
Fortunately, most of the "war on Christmas" noise you hear is just that, noise. But there's a good reason for businesses and civic organizations to use the non-denominational notion of "happy holidays," which is, that not everybody celebrates Christmas, but anyone of good will should want people to be happy anyway.

I think most people get that. :) But where it gets a little trickier is where individual wishes are concerned. If I, raised in a theoretically protestant but actually pretty much just sort of "American pop Christianity" household [1], wish my Jewish friend "Merry Christmas!" am I being inclusive or being a jerk? Society hasn't entirely worked it out yet.

For myself, I feel like we should err on the side of goodwill. Certainly if said Jewish friend wished me a Happy Hanukkah I would not feel anything but gratitude. The fact that I don't observe Hanukkah is actually irrelevant to the discussion! My friend is engaging in a religious observance and is wishing me well. What could possibly be wrong with that?

"But Gneech!" I hear some theoretical strawman objecting. "He's othering you! He's making a point of bringing up the difference between you, implying that he is part of the group and that you are not."

Well that's the thing, I did establish that this is a friend we're talking about here, and when in doubt, I believe in working from the assumption that people mean well. If someone offers me well wishes and my response is to read snobbery into it, that says more about me than it does them.

"But Gneech!" says the strawman again. "It's easy for you to say that! You are in the position of privilege here, Mr. White Pseudo-Christian Dude. When someone is othering you, you barely feel it. For somebody who's already on the receiving end of social stigma, it hurts much worse."

Well... it's a good point, strawman. And I don't have a compelling argument against it, so I won't make one. That's why I try to make a point, when broadcasting generalized holiday wishes, to emphasize that I mean "Merry Christmas" in a very personal way. It's a day that brings me a lot of happiness and warmth, and I want you to have happiness and warmth too, whatever you want to call it. Love Everybody Day is just as good a name! [2]

Merry Love Everybody Day to all, and to all a good night!

-The Gneech

[1] Honestly? In beliefs and practices I'm closer to Hindu than anything else as far as I can tell. But I still put up a Christmas tree and find a lot to love about the season. My spiritual life is peculiar.

[2] I don't care about "keeping Christ in Christmas," seeing as how He's a Johnny-Come-Lately to the holiday anyhow. But that's a big and thorny post for another day and I don't know it merits all that much. If it's important to you, by all means be as denominational as you like and enjoy it.
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Version 1.0.

1. IF IT'S BROKEN, FIX IT! Because everyday practical problem solving is the most beautiful form of creativity there is. 2. IF IT'S NOT BROKEN, IMPROVE IT. A small, clever tweak can improve how something works for years to come. 3. GIVE YOUR PRODUCTS A LONGER LIFE. If we double the life of our stuff, we halve what goes to landfill. 4. FIXING MEANS FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE. As a fixer, you don't need to worry about wear and tear. Nothing stays new, so forget perfection. 5. RESIST TRENDS AND NEEDLESS UPGRADES. They fuel our throwaway culture. 6. DON'T LET COMPANIES TREAT YOU AS A PASSIVE CONSUMER. Every time we spend money, we vote for the kinds of products we want to see succeed. Buy products that can be repaired. 7. A FIXED THING IS A BEAUTIFUL THING. Every fix, whether skillful or improvised, holds a story. 8. IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA, START SMALL AND MAKE IT GOOD. If it's right, it'll grow from there. 9. NURTURE YOUR CURIOSITY. Keep trying things you've never tried before. It's good for your brain and your soul. Don't be afraid to fail– it makes success all the sweeter. 10. PEOPLE ARE INFINITELY DIVERSE. PRODUCTS SHOULD BE TOO. Everything can be improved or customised. 11. DISPOSABILITY IS A CHOICE, NOT A PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTIC. Plastics aren't evil, but we're using them wrong. Treat them with respect. 12. SHARE YOUR IDEAS, YOUR ENTHUSIASM, AND YOUR SKILLS. If you've found the joy of fixing, pass it on. It's a gift for life.


NOTE: Fixed this. An Oxford comma was missing. And yes, that counts as broken.

I'm going to be living this motto here at the Staircase. I figured it was worth a refresher.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
WARNING: You may have heard this already. But it's my journal, you don't have to read it. ;P

ON TO THE RANTING! )
the_gneech: (Default)

“Jeeves is a secret agent, starring Colin Firth.” I should love that, right? I mean, I have one or two other buttons you could push, but this should be a slam-dunk “instant favorite” for me.


Nope.


I loathe this terrible, awful, no-good movie. Besides not actually being very good at what I would have considered its selling points, it is also deceptively marketed and prurient in its intent and tone. All of the “charm” is not charming. All of the “humor” is not funny. And instead of being escapist superspy fare, it’s just idiotic, hateful, sophomoric violence-porn with no aesthetic or story value.


In short, it sucks.


NOTE: There will be spoilers ahead, if it is indeed possible to “spoil” a movie that is already rotten. But you’ve been warned, in any case.


So we start things with a clear “George Lazenby couldn’t make it” James Bond stand-in being sheared in half by Gimmick Henchman, with one half flopping to the left and one half flopping to the right, Wile E. Coyote style. It’s dumb, but they’re trying to establish an OTT aesthetic, I get it. Amazing how there’s not even a drop of blood in this room full of rubber body parts, but yeah, okay, I get it. CGI dismemberment is fine as long as it’s not bloody, sayeth the ratings board. That enough would have knocked the movie off my faves list, but it isn’t the real problem.


So then we move into the main meat of the story, where Forgettable Protagonist Boy gets inducted into the Kingsmen, hitting all the same beats MiB did better, while Colin Firth investigates the mystery of Samuel Jackson as Lisping Steve Jobs Wants to Destroy the World. It’s serviceable if a bit dull, but leads to where the real problem is.


Samuel Jackson as Lisping Steve Jobs has stolen the macguffin from Secret Agent Super Dragon: he has a hate plague app implanted in cellphones all over the world, which makes people go berserk and kill everyone within plot device radius. He decides to run a test of this at the !Westboro Baptist Church; Colin Firth attends to investigate, gets hit by the mind control ray, and then spends the next ten minutes slaughtering everyone in the church, because he’s a badass superspy in a bulletproof suit and they’re all just degenerate hicks.


And then I walked out.


I’m told it gets worse from there. I don’t even want to imagine. But let’s dissect this moment of cinematic poo-throwing, shall we?


First and foremost, it’s clear that the movie thinks that filling the church full of annoying bigots makes it totally okay to spend ten minutes showing them all slaughtered one by one, in close up from almost Colin-Firth-cam view. It’s all super-quick cuts and choreography, and again without a drop of blood. You’re not supposed to be thinking about the horrors being inflicted on these people, you’re supposed to be impressed by what a badass Colin Firth is. (Luckily for us, we were reminded by a PSA at the beginning of the film that if a kid puts on harris tweeds and shoots up a school after seeing this, it’s totally not the movie’s fault.)


Well guess what, movie? It’s not okay. Do you maybe not understand what makes bigotry bad? The reason these hate group people are awful is because they would think it was funny to have a single person walk into a room full of [group they don’t like] and wipe them all out in gruesome ways. Ha, ha, darn those wacky bigots! …Wait.


Presumably the movie will then follow up with Colin Firth being all horrified at what he’s done and whinge about not having any choice, etc., etc. (I don’t know, because as I say, I walked out); and while that may theoretically be an out for the character, the filmmakers had a choice. You were the ones who chose to revel in this crap; you were the ones who said, “Hey, who wouldn’t want to vicariously slaughter a church full of crackers?”


I was shaking with rage when I walked out of the theater. Not just at what the movie had done, but that none of the previews or reviews had objected to this, or even fucking mentioned it. I went in expecting classic superspy escapist fare; instead I got loathsome violence porn. If I’d wanted to watch a goddamn Tarantino movie I would have had my head examined watched a goddamn Tarantino movie. One of my standing policies is to never willingly watch movies in which “murdering people and laughing about it is totally okay, as long as they’re the wrong sort of people” is a core value.


To hell with you, movie, and to hell with your poisonous mindset. You are absolute garbage, and you’ve brought shame to everyone involved in the production.


-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Drezzer cool)
I'm in a ranty mood this morning. I'm going to channel that pent-up energy into more productive things, but I do have a few thoughts I'd like to record somewhere.

Life, as has famously been observed, is short. Too damn short to go around second-guessing every thought you have and every goal you set for yourself. I wasted decades of my life trying to be anybody other than who I was, and that's time I'll never get back.

The reason I did that was purely my hyper-critical parents. Growing up, I was constantly told that I was an amazing, genius talent, but that somehow nothing I ever did was good enough. If I got good grades, they wanted to know why I didn't get perfect grades. If I got perfect grades, they wanted to know why I didn't do the extra credit. If I did the extra credit, they wanted to know why I was fat and not getting any exercise.

The clear message a child receives from a steady diet of this bullshit is "You are inherently wrong. It doesn't matter what you do, the fact that it's you doing it makes it bad."

Now as a fully-realized adult, I understand that the proper response is "Up yours with a wire brush!" But as a child, when it's your own parents doing this to you, you don't understand that it's just two screwed-up people operating in a tiny little sphere of influence. To you it's your whole world.

My parents are gone now, and as I say, I'm an adult and responsible for standing on my own feet, making my own decisions, and making my life be what I want it to be instead of just taking what's handed to me. Yes, those decades are gone and I can never have them back. But I do have right now, and I'm going to use it to its best possible purpose.

I'm gonna be me. They way I like me.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Kero Magic Whupass)

c/o Fleen

The Mighty Godking Goes Full Cobain

Writing a pithy post that adequately sums up my feelings about all of this is essentially impossible because a certain subsection of nerds seem determined to never, ever stop being terrible people, and put all of their energy into being terrible people, and make sure that they win simply by exhausting anybody who’s even halfway decent.

…but I do have one response, and that is to take a page from Kurt Cobain:

“If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of a different color, or women, please do this one favor for us… Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records. –Kurt Cobain”

I write a blog, I does a Twitter, I make comics. And this one goes out to the dickheads out there who seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for fangirls and geek girls and girls generally: don’t read my stuff. Just pass it by. I will make do without your eyeballs, attention, and (when there is opportunity for you to spend) monies. You are not needed; you are the fleshy little wart on the ass of Life, purely extraneous and mostly unpleasant, and I don’t want your business.

And for everybody else who makes comics – or other nerd stuff – you should be telling these people the exact same thing. You’ve probably been implying it anyway, but it’s time we all vocalized it.

This is a good policy, and I hereby adopt it, and attempt to spread the word.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Cramer Crap)
So, the first week of the rest of my life has not gone anywhere near like what I expected. In fact, it's largely been a giant not-so-hot mess, triggered mostly by the government shutdown.

I was prepared for a certain amount of stress, around the issue of the house not moving. I was not prepared for the House republicans to shove a potato into the tailpipe of the car of state in what I can only see as a seditious attempt to thwart what is the by-the-book established law of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare"). The unbelievable gall of those self-same republicans to then claim that "Obama isn't willing to negotiate" and that "they didn't want the shutdown" is disgusting. There's lying, and then there's just being insulting.

You don't negotiate with someone trying to burn down your house. The best summary I've seen of things so far goes like this:

"We want to burn down your house."

"No."

"Can we burn down the garage?"

"No."

"How about just the attic?"

"No."

"Well let's talk about the parts of your house we can burn down."

"No."

"YOU'RE NOT COMPROMISING!"


The shutdown is being orchestrated by a small handful of zealots who don't care who they hurt (and from their press, apparently don't believe they're actually hurting people) to score points. They're doing this, of course, because they cannot get Obamacare by any legitimate means. All 500 babillion attempts they made to strike the law were non-starters. With the entire appratchik of Fox News, right-wing radio pundits, and the old media smear machine, they can't seem to convince the country that "poor people being able to get healthcare" is a bad thing.

Here's where we get to how this impacts [livejournal.com profile] lythandra and me specifically: the contractor where she works (and I did until Monday) cannot bill 90% of its clients during the shutdown. This comes on the heel of one government agency already not paying the company millions of dollars it legally owes because apparently the contract officer is barking mad and just doesn't want to.

So, when the shutdown happened, the contractor said, "Unpaid leave for everypony! YOU get unpaid leave, and YOU get unpaid leave..."

So where we had been expecting our income to get halved, it instead got obliterated completely. :P

We are hopeful that if and when the rest of congress comes to its senses and fixes the mess, the contractor will get up to speed and pay Laurie what it owes her. But there's no guarantee of that.

So on Wednesday, while going on a walk for a little exercise and to relieve some stress, Laurie and I came upon a couple in the park, who were joined by a Herndon policeman, all of whom were attempting to rescue three kittens from a tree (with a fourth kitten on the ground nearby). This was not an easily-climbable tree (as the man of the couple discovered, getting a fractured elbow in the process), and the kittens were quite high up (roughly 8' and 16', respectively)... but there was no sign of any mother. The cop managed to get the lowest kitten down, and Laurie and I volunteered to take the kittens back to our house and return with a ladder to get the other two.

The woman of the couple had apparently been out performing her profession of part-time dog-walker when the kitten on the ground had basically come running to her meowing in distress, and led her to the tree with the others. That a kitten would approach a person leading a dog shows you the level of desperation the poor kitties had reached.

We put the first two kittens (provisionally named Sweetie and Inky) into the library, which we had already set up as a cat quarantine zone for showing the house, then returned to the park as quickly as we could with a ladder. The cop, being the youngest and fittest of the bunch, climbed up the ladder, with me close behind to hold things steady and act as kitten-catcher, and retrieved the other two (which for lack of better names were called Fluffy and Other-Inky). We then gave our contact info to the couple and brought the other two kittens home.



Unfortunately, we discovered after the fact that the kittens all had a quite severe flea infestation, especially Fluffy, whose long hair gave the little bastards lots of hiding places. So we were up until the Whee! hours on Wednesday night transferring the kittens to the downstairs bathroom (no rug) and shampooing the heck out of them. I will never forget the sight of swarms of fleas climbing all over the kittens' faces to escape drowning as we submerged their bodies into the warm water of the sink. :( It was horrifying.

So yesterday we took the kittens to our local vet (fortunately just a few blocks away) where they got thorough examinations, claws trimmed, and flea-removal treatment. Upon hearing that the kittens were rescues, the vet office very kindly charged us for a "new litter examination" (even though the kittens are probably about 8 weeks old) instead of charging us examinations for each individual cat as they normally would. It turns out that one of the black cats is female, but the other three are all males. So their names have been provisionally been altered to Fluffs, Sweetums (or Sweets), Inkyboy, and Inkygirl.

Today we need to flea-bomb the library just to make sure, so we can move the kittens back up there. (It's a much homier space than the downstairs bathroom.) We also need to start looking into working with Fancy Cats or someone similar to find good homes.

I also need to actually do some, y'know, writing, Laurie and I both need to do some job-hunting (sigh), and I've got to call my mom and sister about getting mom's assisted living arrangements made. It's already Friday, and I have accomplished precious little in my plans. Cripes, how did I ever live with a full-time job? And how am I gonna keep living without one?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Default)

When talking about problematic social stuff, there is a concept that gets thrown at me a lot which, depending on my mood at the time, occasionally really rankles. The first time I was really hit by it was some years ago now, when Drezzer Wolf was revealed to be gay in Suburban Jungle, and someone described him with a heavy sigh as “the obligatory alternate-lifestyle character.”

My own thoughts in response ran along the lines of: “‘Obligatory?’ I’m creating this comic in my own time and paying somebody else to host it– who the heck do you think I’m obliged to? Here’s a crazy thought: maybe Drezzer is gay because that’s what’s right for the character! So sorry you have to put up with a gay wolf in a furry comic, you poor old thing.”

In the years since then, I’ve seen this idea come up again and again, that there’s some kind of “obligation” to do what I consider basic decency, or that I’ll somehow “score points” for expressing an opinion (usually of a feminist or anti-racist variety).

To those who try to undermine my beliefs or opinions this way, I have only this to say: fuck you.

Seriously.

If you disagree with me, well fine, you disagree with me. Nobody agrees on everything. But at least have the common courtesy to work from the assumption that I say what I say because I mean it. There isn’t anyone in the world whose good graces I care about enough to espouse a cause I don’t believe in. I’ve quit jobs and dissolved friendships based on my convictions before and there’s no reason to think I won’t do so again.

Similarly, the other day an author I like awarded me what I assume was a feminist cookie for my comment that I don’t like being called a ‘brony’. I’m pretty sure she meant it in a friendly sort of way, but it still touched on that same nerve. It could be that I come across as looking for approval; I’ve never been very good at guessing how I appear in other people’s eyes. But really, I’m not.

I’m not in it for the cookie; I’m not obliged to anyone (except myself); and I’m not here to score points. If I wanted to fish for approval, there are much easier ways to get it than discussing these sorts of topics.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
When your gaming is already restricted to a maximum of "Saturday night from 6:00 p.m. until everyone has fallen asleep," having even one session get knocked out (say, by going to a convention) will start a cascade of missing and delayed games. And since scenarios take two or three sessions to finish in a satisfying manner, this cascade combines into games taking FOREVARRRRRRR (tm) to get through.

Case in point: our group is currently 2/3 (or is it 3/4?) of the way through [livejournal.com profile] jamesbarrett's current Pathfinder scenario, which we started in what, February? Maybe March? Aside from one particularly railroady bit in the middle [1], it's an interesting enough adventure, but I'm starting to forget there was a time we ever played anything before it.

To do my best to scratch my gaming itch when there's no gaming to be found, I figured I'd get an early start on prepping for my next round as GM, which will be a return to my Ghostbusters campaign.

Well, that's done. And this weekend's game got delayed again, so it'll be the middle of May at the earliest before I get to use that prep I did. I can't prep any more! It would be wasted effort at best, or a muddy mess at worst.

Bah! And also feh. For all the advice there is about decreasing the "away from the table" part of gaming, I don't know of any good way to increase the "at the table" part!

-The Gneech

[1] Most RPGs are more railroady than they care to admit, and part of learning to be a good player is knowing when to stick to the rails and knowing when to jump them. However, one of my personal quirks is that when I find my character being yanked around by "grand mysterious forces beyond my reckoning," I immediately go all Jonah at them and start searching for the nearest whale. I think a lot of that has to do with why I play RPGs. I spend my whole waking life being yanked around by forces beyond my control. When I play games, I want autonomy, dammit!
the_gneech: (Kero asleep)
I need to get my sleep pattern fixed again. It got all knocked out of whack by Further Confusion and I haven't properly gotten it back into place yet.

I am by nature nocturnal as it is, but the world I need to live in mostly is not; the net result is that I spend a lot of time at night trying to force myself to go to bed, or trying to force myself to go to sleep once I'm in bed, and a lot of time during the day trying to force myself to stay awake.

One side-effect of this is that my weekends seem to race by, because I stay up late trying to squeeze in as much productive-me-time as I can, only to sleep until 11:00 the next day and feel like I've lost most of that day... and need to stay up late to get stuff done! Nasty self-reinforcing cycle, that.

So... tonight, must force myself to put down anything cool, awesome, fun, or productive, and GO TO BED. And then, for the rest of the week, KEEP DOING IT. Maybe eventually it will stick. If I'm lucky. I hope.

Bleah. I hate you, diurnal world default. -.-

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (It Stinks)
(To the tune of "16 Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford...)

You blow 16 tons of junk out your nose
try to do it discreetly where it doesn't show
You blow 16 tons, and what happens then?
You get out another tissue and do it again

Sinusitis is a crap malady
you have it every day but get no sympathy
You blow 16 tons out your nose every day
but it ain't good for nothing, so you throw it away

You blow 16 tons of junk out your nose
try to do it discreetly where it doesn't show
You blow 16 tons, and what happens then?
You get out another tissue and do it again

If boogers were gold I'd be a rich man
instead crusty dragons fill my garbage can
If I had stock in Kleenex I could pay my own way
'cos I use at least twelve boxes every day

You blow 16 tons of junk out your nose
try to do it discreetly where it doesn't show
You blow 16 tons, and what happens then?
You get out another tissue and do it again

Blowing out 16 tons, you'd think I'd lose weight
The Sinusitis Diet man, sure would be great!
When doomsday arrives, I'll know how it goes:
I'm going to blow the whole world right out through my nose

You blow 16 tons of junk out your nose
try to do it discreetly where it doesn't show
You blow 16 tons, and what happens then?
You get out another tissue...
...and you do it again!

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.
the_gneech: (Kero asleep)
Sittin' in O'Hare, waitin' for my flight home. MFF was fun, but wore me out by the end. I could use the day off tomorrow to recover, but I'm going to need to save up my time off, as more family drama is bearing down on us like a train. My mother is in the hospital, having gone from not being able to stand up to having pneumonia to having a collapsed artery and losing the use of her left arm over the course of the past week. I'm endeavoring to maintain a mature and level-headed attitude about this, but given the past couple of years my instinctive reaction is to flip the nearest table and start yelling. I ddin't post about it in the days leading up to the con, as I didn't want the con to be overshadowed by the situation, but I suspect the entire family will be spending the next several weeks coping with the fallout of this.

As you might guess, that's not how I wanted to spend the next few weeks. In fact, I had great hopes for the next few weeks, which I am now going to file under the heading of "pipe dreams you might get to someday." Even if I have the mental bandwidth and the physical time, the emotional stability required may simply not be there. We'll see. I'm currently very tired, and I'm sure that's impacting my outlook on the topic.

IF the universe will permit it, I hope to finish off all my backlogged commissions in the upcoming month or so and maybe even do a more fun pieces of art. I have two new "Ponies vs. Daleks" ideas, and have a few more comic ideas I've been noodling with. Also, I had a publisher tell me, "Whenever you want to put out a book, you've got a reserved spot with us," which I have to admit is a very gratifying thing to hear! I just need to actually honor that mighty compliment with, y'know, actually creating something.

So, we'll see what the upcoming weeks will bring. I keep working to get past some big fat hairy deal, only to have another big fat hairy deal show up-- living in a constant state of crisis management is no way to run a railroad, and I need to figure out some way to get out of this cycle.

If crap would stop happening at me, that would help. :P But I can't control that-- I need to figure out a way to keep getting things done, on the assumption that the crap is just gonna keep flying at me or even get worse from now until doomsday.

But that's for later. Right now, all I need to do is get on the plane and get home. :) So that's what I'll concentrate on for a bit.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Liberty)

Warning: Politics! Which should be obvious.

Obama 2012I voted! Huzzah. :) Since it’ll hardly come as a surprise to anyone who follows my LJ or Twitter feed, I’ll go ahead and put up a sign, even. It’s nice to be voting to re-elect a President I actually like, that’s never happened before… but my decision was made before the republican candidate had even been decided. This time around there was not a single candidate in that ring I’d want anywhere near the White House, and several that would have been just plain disastrous.

For what it’s worth, if Obama isn’t re-elected, it won’t be so bad. We survived Bush the Younger, whom I can’t even really talk about with Godwinning all over the place, so I’m confident we’d survive Romney who, as bad a choice as he is, is no Bush. The real problem with Romney isn’t himself, so much as the fact that he’d be sympathetic to all that’s worst in the House of Representatives, instead of checking and balancing them. If we had a less malignant Congress, Romney would be a total non-issue either way. But in this environment? I’d frankly prefer a liberal President if we could get one, but I’ll take a moderate democrat.

(NOTE: If you stand there and say with a straight face that Obama is a liberal, I will point and laugh. He is a very solidly moderate democrat. It’s just the demagoguery of the right that holds that “middle of the road” is “far to the left,” as part of their never-ending crusade to shove the US further to the right whether that’s where the rest of us want to go or not. I have many liberals in my life. Obama is not a liberal. And neither am I, so don’t go there.)

In this election, the real issue for me on a local level is a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would force eminent domain to be applicable only in the case of public use of lands. In other words, the state would be prevented from snatching land with the express purpose of handing off to private development “for economic growth.”

I am all over this amendment and have a hard time believing this is my state that proposed it! I couldn’t believe it when the SCOTUS ruled that gov’t land-grabs on behalf of corporations was a-ok. I thought you guys were supposed to be a bunch of conservatives who were in favor of restricting gov’t power! Or does that not apply to using gov’t power to hand money over to wealthy developers? Ugh. So damn corrupt.

Keep in mind, I’m no fan of eminent domain for public use either, nor indeed a fan of eminent domain for any use whatsoever. However, government forcing you off your property so it can hand that property off to a private interest who just wants it? No way. Big, big kudos to Virginia for getting this onto the ballot, and even bigger kudos if you manage to get it passed.

Anyhow! That’s enough of that. :) We’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, have an awesome day, all.

-The Gneech

EDIT: Corrected spelling of “eminent” domain. Stupid homophones. :P

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Six Million Dollar Man)
I'm generally of the opinion that engaging in a direct debate on political or religious issues is a waste of time. It generates a lot of heat and very little light, and by the end of it both sides are more firmly entrenched in their existing opinions and probably pissed off at the other guy. So I don't get into it.

Every once in a while, though, somebody will say something that really just sticks in my craw and it becomes very hard to stay disengaged. Usually it comes in the form of self-serving ridiculousness such as "Anti-harassment policies are part of a deliberate campaign to oppress white men, the real minority!" or "I don't have anything against gays, I just want them to be silent, invisible, and totally divested of most of the rights I take for granted every day! Or just quit being gay. That works too." or "[People of opposite political stripe] do nothing but call us nasty names. What a bunch of assholes!"

My response to this sort of short-circuited thinking is to head for the keyboard for the literary equivalent of "It's high noon, and I'm callin' you out!" But I know from bitter experience that this doesn't solve anything, and just makes for bad feelings all around. So I stop, take a deep breath, and do my best to let it go.

Occasionally I write about how hard it is not to get in a fight about it.

Just sayin'.

Anyway! On to the workout report.

Numbers hidden behind cut. )
Weight: 322 lbs

It took a lot of discipline to go into the gym this morning. I'm still recovering from last week's franticness, and the desire to goof off is strong. But I managed to go in anyway. I notice that Skippy the Wonder Scale says I've regained 13 pounds since Sunday. Dorky thing.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Kero Bluestreak)

Yesterday, John Scalzi posted a righteous smackdown upon those who cry “fake geek girl” and demand proof of geek cred whenever someone engages in geeky behavior while also having the nerve to be female. His smackdownery was in response to a specific editorial written by a guy named Peacock, but also sums up well the feelings a lot of us have had over the past months as more geeky gals have stood up and pushed back against the phenomenon.

As someone who is not a gal but is of the general opinion that gals are awesome, I stood and applauded at this. On reflection this morning, however, I remembered that I have myself encountered, and commented upon, exactly the sort of “fake geek gal” Mr. Peacock was describing. She was at Dragon*Con, some years ago now, sitting at a table adjacent to mine, and well… let me just quote from my LiveJournal entry at the time

Sales were slow on Saturday, so late in the day I crafted a new “BMSIBYF” ["Buy my stuff, I'll be your friend!"-- a running gag of mine at cons] sign out of bristol, tape, and extra cardboard and went back to the campy grin technique. Immediately sales picked up, and by midday Sunday, I’d made lots of new friends. :)

This caught the roving eye of the booth bunny next door. I have only a passing familiarity with the group who was next to us, but like so many of the people at D*C (and even more at Comic-Con) they are an indy comics shop who are Not Dark Horse and Not Image Comics, if you see what I mean. Demons in spandex and leather-trenchcoat vigilantes, that kind of thing. Their table had fairly brisk traffic, but their only product as far as I could make out was a $20 shirt with their company logo on it– not exactly an item calculated to set the congoing public on fire.

Thus, they had a booth bunny, a latter-day Betty Boop who appeared to be in her early twenties, with abs and eyeliner and auburn-in-a-bottle hair, who would take turns sitting on their table and lying on her stomach on their table, batting her eyelids at the people who walked by. Unfortunately for our neighbors, even having a booth bunny was not enough to make a $20 shirt bearing an indy comics label logo an attractive commodity, and sales were suffering. Meanwhile, 85% of the people who came back to our little corner and spotted me smiling happily and holding up my silly little handmade sign, would at least laugh, and a good 50% would then come over to the table and even if they didn’t so much as buy a button, they’d walk away having heard of NeverNever and The Suburban Jungle and remembering me as the “buy my stuff sign guy.” Several people who’d never heard of my work still wanted pictures of me with my sign.

Well, not knowing the booth bunny I can’t really ascribe motives to her, but I got the distinct vibe that she was jealous. At a lull in the proceedings, she sidled over to our table, batted her eyes at me, and cooed, “Could I borrow your sign for a little while?”

Halfway between annoyed and amused, I responded, “Wellll … I dunnoooo…” In the past, I’ve been approached in exactly that same manner by people who then proceeded to punch me in the face and take my lunch money. But she assured me that she only wanted it for ten minutes, so I acquiesced. And, having learned from bitter experience that discipline is paramount in these situations, made an exact note of the time.

So she took the “Buy my stuff! I’ll be your friend!” sign, hiked up her midriff-tied torn-off t-shirt, and started posing with it and telling people, “GOSH, if you buy our SHIRT, I’ll be your FRIEND! What more could you WANT?” [A business partner at the time], being susceptible to booth bunnies and insufficiently clad females in general, took the opportunity to take several pictures of her.

Not a sale.

After eight minutes of the fanboys not noticing the difference between her with the sign and her without it, their continued insistence on not buying the shirt no matter how much they stood around and ogled her, and my answering queries of “You gave her your sign?” with a casual, “Yup … she’s got six minutes left!” she apparently got disgusted and handed it back to me.

“Here,” she said. “I guess I’m just not as cute as you are.”

Now here’s the thing: I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for over ten years. Of the thousands upon thousands of women I’ve met or seen at Dragon*Con, regardless of whether they were supermodel types or not, this gal is the only one I have ever encountered who seemed to actually hold geeks in contempt and only be there with the purpose of being gawked at. (Technically she was there to sell books, as she was the model the artist had used to base his heroine on; I don’t know if she was getting a cut of book sales or what. The gawking was intended to lead to book selling, not actually the desired goal in and of itself.)

So it’s not like “fake geek girls” are exactly a rampant epidemic.

On top of which, and this is the part that gets me, can you blame the gal? By wearing her ridiculous outfit and posing in her ridiculous poses and doing that duckface, she got crowds of hormonal nerd zombies to line up at her table, staring and making Beavis and Butthead noises. If the table had been stocked with a $10 book instead of a $20 shirt, I have no doubt they would have made a killing that day from all the troglodytes going “Uhhh… hot chick… me give money…”

Meanwhile, a perfectly nice and real, genuine, bona fide geek gal artist of my acquaintance who was across the aisle was being roundly ignored by those same troglodytes, because she wasn’t vamping it up but instead sitting there, drawing and smiling quietly at anyone who walked past. If Mr. Peacock feels insulted that “I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence,” maybe he should be railing at the troglodytes who create that environment rather than the occasional (and frankly rare) woman who tries to capitalize on it.

Y’know, those same troglodytes who do this crap. And this crap.

Those are the real “pox on our culture,” Mr. Peacock.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

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