Here are a few drawings I did last week. Two pandas and two cats.
I finished reading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut yesterday. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage it. Some passages are so spot on that one must immediately reread them to make certain such truths actually made it to print. I read my wife’s copy and the book had evidently had a previous owner as well. I don’t know them, but after reading all their notes and seeing the words they underlined, I feel as if I know one thing about them- they really missed the point of the book. Mostly they had underlined words, presumably so they could look them up in the dictionary. The underlined words were either SAT words or words with less relevance outside their time, geography, and experience than within them. The passages that were underlined seemed to be sentences that would’ve agreed the grand old American objectivist Ayn Rand, a woman whose philosophies run counter with the book’s Hamletesque protagonist Eliot Rosewater. The book looks critically at the class system of the United States, both as an institution and in everyday practice. It is particularly sympathetic to the poor, victims of economic turmoil beyond their control and becoming less relevant with the advent of machines. Eliot’s father makes a lot of statements against welfare assistance, social programs, and “obscenity”- these were the statements that the previous reader decorated with meaningless notes like “Well-stated!” Perhaps the saddest part is a little note they wrote to themselves saying “I think Kilgore Trout may have helped write this book. There’s a sentence on the back of book.” As readers of Vonnegut well know, Kilgore Trout is a reoccurring character in his books, a science fiction writer who tells heavy truths in his work, much like the author in Saga. That’s a great comic, Saga. Anyway, it was fun to read this book alongside such an innocent reader that I’ve never met. I’ve consumed a lot of used textbooks, mostly history and philosophy- nonfiction – and I could understand why people underlined and took notes. Nonfiction is much easier to untie than fiction- when you read along with a stranger with a nonfiction work, you can start to see the argument they’re putting together or at least pieces of it. With fiction, you often get people underlining for more sentimental reasons. Sure, they could be literature scholars, but you can tell the difference between a scholar and a sentimental reader. You don’t feel like a peeping tom when you’re sharing research with a scholar- that’ s the transparency that gives our knowledge value. However, reading fiction with a stranger’s notes feels a bit perverted and sparks the engines of imagination and totally unsolicited judgement on the person’s entire being. It’s a love/hate relationship- maybe other people fantasize about meeting that person, sharing their intellectual insights, falling in love, etc. but I just think “What a fucking idiot” every time I see what they underline or read the notes they write. I take those little clues out of context, build an unflattering context around them, and then rule that whoever read the book before me is exactly what’s destroying civilization. It’s worse if you borrow a friend’s book and they’ve underlined all these sappy emotional passages and your imagination forces you to apply it to things in your friend’s life. Or what your mom underlined in 50 Shades of Grey.
Anyway, here are a few different covers that have been used for God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. Who wore it better?
Here’s a picture I did for one of my wife’s old high school friends. She and her husband recently had a baby. Their daughter is pictured playing with a pack of cigarettes and adjusting her sunglasses. They live in Zhuhai, Guangdong province..
Here’s a picture I did a year ago for some friends when they became new parents. I’m going to do another picture of their son and plan to do one every year. The boy’s father is an old comrade of mine, benim yoldaş, who makes really good cheese and champagne at his farm in Maine. The boy’s future will surely be the stuff of legend.
I found out the exact time I’ll be presenting at this year’s Dragon Con. It may very well be the worst time to be scheduled to speak as it coincides with one of the con’s main attractions- the parade. Every year the parade seems to get bigger and bigger, both the participants and the swelling and sweating crowd of on-lookers. With so many of the con’s attendees enjoying with the parade, there should be plenty of seating available for my discussion. If you’ve ever been looking for an excuse to get out of sitting in the sun and squeezing in tight with the masses, my presentation is a great excuse! Truth be told, I’m pretty happy to have this excuse to get out of watching it myself. The only thing I’ll miss about missing the parade is sharing the convention with Atlanta residents who don’t join in the actual con- the bystanders, the henchmen, the non-playable characters.
My presentation will be held on Saturday August 30, 2014 at 10am, presumably in the Comics room and I will presumably be presenting with two other scholars with a somewhat similar focus- the shared focus bit will likely be a little forced. My presentations looks at the multiple mythologies, religious in nature, that appear in the DC universe, specifically in the New 52 and more precisely involving Wonder Woman, the Phantom Stranger, and Green Lantern Simon Baz.
Think of the panel as a parade for people who don’t like parades. It should be fun, but if you choose the parade over my panel, take pictures for me because you know where I’ll be (at my panel AKA the parade for people who don’t like parades AKA the grenade for people who don’t like Gatorade).
Was the scheduling of my presentation at the same time as the parade an act committed by a secret organization (or cabal of secret organizations) worried that I might reveal truths that would send their pervasive institutions into paralyzing shock, essentially crippling the most powerful and sophisticated network of control ever put into practice in the history of the world? Is the EU worried my revelations on changes to Wonder Woman’s lineage could fuel an economic rebirth in Greece- a Wonder Tiger for the second half of this miserable decade? Will the 700 Club have to change its name to the 701 Club after I expose the Phantom Stranger for the strange phantom he is? How will OPEC react to my forgiving portrayal of the oddest of Earth’s Green Lanterns Simon Baz? Will they share my appreciation his unlikeliness? Or was it the Freemasons all along… worried about how Killer Croc is going to look when it’s revealed he’s been pulling the strings in this puppetshow ever since Brentwood!
Maybe this is a piece on time travel, maybe it’s a love story between a second and a minute and how their respective second and minute communities don’t approve.
Here the subject is stepping out on its own terms in the face of circumstances beyond control- that comforting lie as we chase a manufactured sense of tranquility. See how the beast lets their hair down! Capture them at their most vulnerable! Prove your authenticity via your dormancy! Demonstrate your value to the system through your recreational activity! Everything can be work! —or—- It’s some kind of villain alien, best case scenario fortune teller/oracle/celestial grifter.
When I was living in China, the internet was my primary tool for keeping up with life in the Western world. Internet censorship (or “harmonization” as the Chinese call it) limited my access to the Internet Movie Database, Facebook, and a number of other sites, but I was able to regularly access of a number of sites that might expect to be censored like one of my favorite art sites or this awesome oracle for insight into the lives of Chinese people. Living with such restrictions on my internet taught me to exercise caution on the net. One peculiar symptom is my resistance to engage in internet argument, a side effect that may be silencing my voice, but doing so in my best interest. I’m also not sure if credit belongs with the restrictive policies of the Chinese government or with the rise in general awareness of the consequences of web presence. Either way, I fucking hate censorship and that point will come into play further along in this report.
I found a cure for homesickness in the site 9gag which, while an international site, is primarily in English and dominated by Americans. This site introduced me to meme culture and kept me abreast of the stupid jokes Americans were telling to each other. Similarly my wife uses a Chinese site Qiu Shi Bai Ke to reconnect with the stupid humor of her homeland. Globalization enthusiasts will not be surprised to find out that the same material can often be found on both sites. I see a gif of somebody hitting their nuts on a Tuesday and my wife sees it on a Wednesday- one world, one dream. We can’t spread basic health education to all corners of the Earth with all the resources of the developed world, but fart jokes and nip slips travel at the speed of light. As is the case in most instances of intercultural exchange, the information can change meaning from culture to culture.
I kept following 9gag for a while. It served as a stupid enough distraction from whatever I was supposed to be doing, but like other sites in the same vein, it became overwhelmed by reposts, pictures of pets, products people bought or desired, and depressed people bragging about their infinite sadness. I eventually made the shift to HugeLOL, a site created by people from the 9gag community who were fed up with humor-lacking material and reposts clogging up the streets of 9gag. While HugeLOL definitely featured more joke-related images, the frequency of racist, misogynistic, and anti-gay imagery noticeably increased. This material wasn’t topical either- über-misguided patriotism condemning Islam or immigrants, but that kind of racism that’s almost too stupid to take seriously like “Black people love fried chicken” or “Women shouldn’t be allowed to drive because of their menses.” There was complaint from the HugeLOL community and the moderators made efforts to purge all racist content with minimal success until they hardened their community standard guidelines and policies and created an alternate site that would be free from moderation called HiddenLOL. At HiddenLOL, a person could post anything and the only thing (except perhaps a child porn post) that could cause the removal of content was the downvoting of the community.
As a free speech enthusiast, I eagerly explored the contents of HiddenLOL and followed it closely in the early days of its inception. I found some of the sexually graphic material disturbing, but mostly I found it pretty funny and some of it quite innovative. The flood and popularity of racist material shocked me. The site quickly became overrun with slavery and Holocaust humor. Hitler became a mascot, giving rise the unfortunate title for fans of HiddenLOL- “HidLers.”
As much as the appearance of desktop Klansmen-rapists-Nazis in my online community surprised me, I was much more taken aback at how these vulgar advocates for free speech often took positions staunchly against material that was sexual in nature. A web democracy of sorts was giving freedom to choose their content and with that freedom, they consciously chose and actively worked to make the platform about hate and then with equal enthusiasm, worked to remove sexual content. I won’t lie and say the sexual content can be equated with love. Some of it featured pretty violent imagery, usually towards women because the some of the community equated rape violence with slapstick. The objective of the sexual material was humor, not romance, but I would say the material was predominantly motivated by a love-driven laughter rather than spite (except in the cases of rape violence I mentioned early).
I’m pretty open-minded about content. I have a discerning taste to be certain, but I approach most content as an artifact of its time, given its the benefit of the doubt that it is has social value. Largely I feel pity for those whose opinions I oppose and I admittedly do feel anger towards them, but I cherish freedom of expression above most things and wouldn’t want to deny someone an outlet for their ideas. The idiotic memes of American rednecks or the “GAAAAAAAAAAAY!” comments on every youtube video and news article don’t scare me nearly as much as the consolidation of major media outlets, encroachments on net neutrality, or the influence of religious groups on education and public policy. The most alarming conclusion I’ve drawn is that some people prefer Hitler to pornography. I like sex. I like sex in art, in movies, in literature, in real life. The truth is I like sex more than Batman and I like Batman a lot. I can’t imagine thinking about hating any race of people more than I think about sex. Every single citizen of France could take turns pooping on my doorstep for the rest of my life and I would still think about sex more than hating the French, so how much do these people hate? Is there an equivalent to the orgasm in this depravity?
Should I really be surprised? Kids see a lot more guns than genitals and that’s how somebody (a wicked cabal? the silent majority? everybody) wants it. For a species so obsessed with both sex and violence, we’re incredibly resistant to understanding their consequences.
As someone who prefers pornography to Hitler, I struggle to understand the mindset of people for whom the opposite is true.
I had the pleasure and privilege to join fellow Atlanta artists Laura Asherman, Peter Brooks, Chandler Cox, Kelly Crosby, Crystal Desai, Larry Holland, Hillary Jourdan, Nick Madden, Sara Santamaria, and Dallas Ward as part of WonderRoot Gallery’s Members Only exhibition which runs from July 24 to September 9 at WonderRoot Community Arts Center in Reynoldstown. I had to miss the opening because I had to work, but the missus and I went over there this morning to check out the exhibit. I know a couple of the other artists, but hadn’t seen work by many of them before. It’s a variety of mediums, crafts, and sizes that come together nicely. I had hoped to post a few pictures of the exhibit, but this morning was a very busy time for the arts center. In the gallery, aspiring dramatists awaited their auditions for a casting call downstairs while a candle-making class took up most of the gallery and the entire building shook with the live drums coming from the recording studio. It was a little too cramped and all the actors were sitting underneath the pieces so it would’ve been presumptuously invasive of me to start snapping photos. If you live in Atlanta, I definitely encourage you to check it out.
Here’s a picture of my piece:
Here’s a quick piece I did, paying tribute to two of Japan’s greatest cultural exports from the worlds of Godzilla and Nintendo by depicting the Mothra twins from the 1964 film Godzilla vs Mothra as the Mario brothers Mario and Luigi. I haven’t seen the new Godzilla movie, but I’ve been playing a lot of Mario Kart 8.
This first picture was done as a birthday present, a wolf-bat visiting upon the home of the birthday boy in question. The birthday party itself was pleasant and included a nice spread of grilled meat action and traditional sides. As far as I know, no bat penis was served, but there were hot dogs and while the presence of such exotic fare as chiropteral phallus muscle would surprise me, it is not beyond the realm of reasonable ingredients. I myself had a delicious burger, expertly seasoned and grilled. During the time I was at the party, the music played predominantly was Madonna.
This second drawing features some of the staff from Slice of Brookhaven, a friendly pizzeria and bar located in Brookhaven, which neighbors Atlanta. The staff there is very pleasant and the pizza is top notch. I host pub trivia there every Tuesday at 8pm and encourage you to come by. I always ask a DC Comics question and I think I put together a pretty good trivia DJ set list. I struggled at first with the musical demands of the trivia host because I was hung up by some of preconceived notions on transforming a space with music- I was born to score alien weddings, robot pornography, and non-consensual ketamine dosings, so adjusting those artistic sensibilities to fit the trivia vibe took a few tries. Eventually I stopped worrying and learned to love classic rock, but I assure you I’ve retained some of the spirit of the fringe. Hopefully I’ll do a few more panda portraits at the restaurant. I like the look of the place and after all is said and done, if an artist truly wants to celebrate the beauty of life, surely their themes address the sophisticated psychic power imbued in pizza. The staff all wear red shirts, which makes them easy to identify but lowers their chances of survival should they be sent out on a mission by Captain James Tiberius Kirk. That’s the cost to be the boss, I suppose.