Get That Bone-Deep Gnawing Feeling

In the cold and painfully bright world beyond the internet, I do graphic design that tends to target parents and schools, which means I’m never allowed to do anything remotely fun. No jokes that even a twelve-year-old would consider “edgy,” current events carefully whitewashed, reality edited down to a PG level at all times. This may be why I’m so extravagantly sweary and filthy around here – I have all this spare vitriol stored up from work.

The funny thing, then, is that I kind of love the work itself – I love Photoshop and Inkscape and I spent all day being kind of overwhelmed by After Effects. I love designing logos and writing inane ad copy so long as I’m allowed to be as ridiculous as I want to be in it. Spare me your booster club meetings and chamber of commerce lunches, but if you need a flyer for your semi-legal taxidermy business, or a great logo for a dominatrix, I’m your man.

You can tell I got my start in gaming more than narrative; I love the worldbuilding, the details in the background that give you a sense of endless layers of structure, each more batshit than the last. So today you get a flyer for A Deeper Gnawing, which used to be a pet store before the Fall, and now trains, treats, modifies and maintains all classes of familiars, non- and semi-sentient pets, contractors and employees. If you’ve been chewing through the latest issue of The Hand That Feeds, salivating over the newest biological weaponry, but you’re balking at the prices – $59.99 for rabies, you have GOT to be shitting me, when I could piss off any feral raccoon and take my chances – come on down to A Deeper Gnawing, where they’re having a back-to-school special on installations! The school board has just approved the new list of campus-safe upgrades – you could be the first one at your school eating acorns, cherries or grapes straight off your faithful familiar’s horns right in class!

Insufficiently Ferocious

Today we get our first glimpse outside the Sects house. I realize zombies are done to death, so you’ll be pleased to know that they’re not a major feature of this world – this was not a zombie apocalypse; the zombies are the equivalent of an old man’s garage tinkering for one of our characters. He raises them, makes them march around the yard doing rifle drills, and tests the corgi’s reflexes and ferocity against them. So far the corgi has been rated insufficiently ferocious.

My new technique is to block out the light and colors with pastels, scan that in, tart it up in Photoshop a bit, then print it out and draw on the resulting print with the Micron pens. This protects the Microns from dragging through pastel dust, which I’m not certain would ruin them, but who wants to risk nice pens? And it seems to be working out really well; I’m very happy with the detail I was able to achieve here while retaining the depth of color and layering of the pastels.

Also, corgis are fun to draw, whereas zombies are annoying to draw. Still haven’t named the corgi yet; feel free to comment with great names for a perfectly ordinary corgi with absolutely no supernatural qualities whatsoever.

Rabies costs extra

‘Lo, child! I hope your weekend is going as well as mine. Made some progress on the Shadowplay rewrite, but you can’t see that yet; I’m still adding even more murder. More murder than your body has room for! I think. Presumably your body has room for, at most, one murder.

On the subject of bodies with room for more than one concurrent murder, Sects has a new page. Will be introducing two more of our cultists, a pansexual fish-boy and a very Texan zombie, on the next page after this one. I think that’s going to involve pastels, so we’ll be back in color. I’m really enjoying working with the Pigma Microns for the black-and-white pages, though – I’m not good enough yet with the pastels to get the kind of gritty precision that I’d like, so when the scenes get complicated or text-heavy I’m switching to the pens.

This page I ended up drawing, scanning in, tweaking it in Photoshop, then printing it out to draw more on the shopped version, which worked way better than I expected. I’m thinking that might be an effective way to combine the pastels and the pens without having to draw directly on pastel with the Microns, which I feel like would destroy the tips. I’ve ruined cheaper pens trying to do that, and I’m disinclined to risk it with these, but if I do punch-up in Photoshop and then come back in to draw over the result, it might produce something both pretty and readable! Imagine!

Apart from the page, I also did a (very) rough blueprint of their house, for my own reference. The layout will probably change a little as I actually start drawing the rooms and figure out the flow of action through the space, and once it’s settled I’ll make a cleaner, sexier blueprint that will be of use to anyone other than me. For now, feel free to bask in the horror that is my handwriting.

Y’all got any more of those… teeth?

Happy Tuesday! I can do things, I swear. Actually there have been a lot of thing-doings, just mostly things I’m cuddling close to my generous bosom; some work on Shadowplay that I’m very excited about but can’t show you yet, and about half of a rant about names that I’ll probably have finished later this week. But today I spent some more time with my new fancy-ass pens (not to be confused with fancy ass-pens) and I have two new pages of Sects I’m pretty happy with. The dialogue may make more sense if you read the rest.

100 Sonnets – Final Thoughts

All right, so… here we are. Oh right, no need to be in italics all the time anymore. Got to be a reflex.

I’ve been known to go on, so if you’re just here for the pretty pictures, here’s the TL;DR:

Be back here Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for new stuff in the future. Gonna be a lot more words and pictures both.

I’m gonna be honest, guys… I didn’t think we’d get here. I really didn’t. When I made you a promise on August 2nd to write a hundred sonnets, I was pretty sure I was going to let you down.

I write the way I do – to you, as if I know you, as if you’re here with me – because I’ve always found it very hard to get things done just because I know that they’re “good for me” or I’m “supposed to.” But as a perfectionist people-pleaser, I can do anything if I promise someone else I’ll do it.

I could move the mountain to Mohammed with a melon baller if I told you I’d have it done by Tuesday.

I’m better about sharing with you, more honest and more consistent, if I treat you like you matter. And that’s good, because you do matter, for more reasons than just that one.

I watch my blog’s traffic stats with the same insecure thirst everyone else does, which means that as I’ve been working on this project I’ve gotten to see a couple of things that helped me stick with it. One of them was expected: posting every day attracts traffic, which I had heard but, as usual, had assumed I would somehow be the exceptional failure. That tends to be an operating principle of mine, you see – I embark on every endeavor assuming that, even when it defies statistical probability, I will manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Absurdism! *jazz hands*

So sure, the little bars went up, that made me feel good. The other thing I saw meant more to me, though: there were some people I started to recognize. Some people who came back every day. I don’t know a better way to convey what that meant to me except to say that I cried when I told my wife about it, and I’m crying again now. I’m an absurdist because continuing my life has required a belief system and a reason for living that doesn’t depend on success or good fortune. The fact is that I’ve been writing the things I couldn’t say to anyone else since I learned to write when I was four. It’s what this machine is for. I’ll be here doing it forever even if nobody ever sees it. So I hope you understand that I’m not trying to solicit pity when I say… the idea that a stranger even could give enough of a shit about the wide range of nonsense I think to come back and read it every day genuinely did not occur to me. Nor did the idea that I might actually write a sonnet every day for a hundred days. I didn’t imagine for a second that I might finish, or that it might be interesting to anyone.

My brain is wired backward, you see.
Hope is suicide.
Success is never possible.
Which means failure never matters.

I don’t tell you how things affect me because I want your pity or your money, and I hope that’s clear; I tell you because I want you to be certain that I’m always going to tell you the truth, and all of it. That’s the deal, that’s what I do here: I tell you honestly what I see. The nonsense I see is under Stories; the rest of it is real. If you want to see more, you stay. This relationship has become important to me in a way I didn’t anticipate. There’s a different echo to the ether when I know someone’s listening, how’s that? I never dreamt of you, but you’re precious to me now.

Since I turned around from puttering with my altar to discover that a few lost souls actually did wash up in the pews, (here please imagine me blinking owlishly and groping about my person for spectacles to see if you are real) it seems to behoove me to have something to offer you on some kind of schedule. That said, there are things that I would like to work on – rewrites, practicing with a new artistic medium, that sort of thing – that aren’t necessarily spectator sports, and I don’t want to feel pressured to always be creating “in the public eye,” as it were. So while I often may have things to show you every day, I’m going to make a promise to you for three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. They’re days when I have a lot of time to write or draw and should reliably have something cool for you to look at. No promises what it’ll be, mind. I’m not part of your system, maaaaan, I do what I want.

What’s next then?

Well, I know this is going to come as a shock, but I am stoked as hell to do anything that isn’t a fucking sonnet. My preference – forgive me, your poor heart – is long-form writing. I also want to do more visual art than I have in the past, and move the site itself in a different direction maybe? Here are some thoughts:

  • I’ll be doing a full rewrite on Shadowplay, but I won’t take what’s up there down until I’ve got something substantial to replace it with, so I guess enjoy the shitty first draft while it’s there and know its days are numbered!
  • There’s going to be a lot more Bluebird coming; that story has been bubbling on the back burner and is starting to boil over.
  • There’s going to be a LOT more Sects; that one is starting to take over my life and my desk. And I got fancy new pens! So much more drawing incoming. I often post in-progress stuff (and thrift-store vests) on my Instagram if you like those things.
  • Advice for Sluts is still a thing; I will probably steal a question out of the mail of someone more important fairly soon, but if you want to motivate me, you could ask me a question yourself.
  • I’ll still rant about my broken brain and backward emotions, if that stuff is of interest to anyone. I’m thinking about ways to tell some stories from my childhood, some things that aren’t about trauma and some things that are, and there might be more in that vein going forward. We’ll see.
  • In terms of overarching site stuff, I’m probably going to switch to something other than WordPress around March of next year when this re-ups. Feel like the money could be better spent in terms of functionality. I’ll let you know when that’s happening, and there’ll probably be a sexy redesign, but ideally the URL shouldn’t change so you won’t notice. Maybe we’ll even slap an M on the end of that .co like a big boy website.
  • It’s come to my attention, from my porch from which I shake my fist at the sky, that nobody reads anymore. This is a problem for me as I am a very wordy person. However, I’ve always enjoyed reading aloud, and I got this great new vest you just have to see, so I’m considering reading some of my words into a recording device of some kind and posting the resulting shitshow on Youtube. I’ve been reliably informed that talking heads reading their own words into webcams are what The Kids(TM) are all about these days. We’ll see how quickly I get on that. I’m an Elder Millennial; I interact with the internet at the speed of a BBS, not Twitter.

So that’s about the size of things! If you made it all the way to the end of this, you’re my kind of person, and I’ll be capering for you from here on out. If you like it, don’t be shy – the best thing in the world to me is jamming with people about ideas, creating with other people. If you want to make a friend and make some art, or something I’ve written around here resonates with you, let me know. Pester me on Twitter if you must, or email me. Share with me your delicious brainmeats. Let us nobble them together.

65 – Saturated

Some free associating around sensory images from growing up in the desert. I spent a lot of time outside when I wasn’t confined to my room, because being at home generally sucked, and I remember many long hours just wandering the streets of Tucson, walking into construction sites and washes and under bridges, taking pictures, finding cool rocks, listening to my Discman. Mostly alone, sometimes with my best friend or my dog.

It’s easy for me to lose myself in a sensory experience. You’ll catch me making faces at memories and taking pictures of brightly-colored trash, convergences of lines and shadows, stark contrasts. I can lose an hour on an interesting pile of stones. I’m really fond of this sculptor and photographer named Andy Goldsworthy, and I fall into similar kinds of activities, building little patterns or arranging debris just so.

Andy Goldsworthy, “Winter Moss and Fog.”

Thus, the poem, I guess. Thus, I tend to make a mess. Thus, when things go badly, I pretend to be worried about real things – money, house, other people – but deep within the private spaces of myself, I’m only truly concerned with whether it was the most poetic and interesting catastrophe that could have occurred at this point in the story. It doesn’t bother me much when my life is full of failure and chaos – that’s life in the wasteland. It bothers me when the chaos is not interesting, when the struggle is banal rather than beautiful.

Ultimately that’s a matter of how you look at it, though. I choose to steer toward the rocks, so I can see them very well, and when I do that, I almost always discover something beautiful. A lot of times, that thing is my own blood, the taste of a new and novel form of failure. Sometimes… sometimes it’s a new island, the shore of a vast new world to explore, one that takes apart my life and stitches it back together full of love and wonder and data.

Thing is, if there’s an island, you can’t see it until after you hit the rocks. The only way you ever get to the island is if you find the rocks, or the crash, or your blood beautiful enough to keep steering that way.

There are distinctions between sand and dust
that you can feel, and some that you can taste –
never let a sensation go to waste! –
dust tastes like coffee, and sand tastes like rust.

My senses don’t lie, they’re just overwhelmed.
So much more happening than you can see,
it’s like the colors are shouting at me.
Without asking, the painter takes the helm.

The painter steers us straight toward burnished rocks.
The sailors, so fatalistic before,
throw their hats and cheer when they see the shore.
The ship cracks up and unfolds like a box.
The painter tastes his own blood. He’ll need more
to make a shade of red bright enough to talk.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

Sects

All right. We’re all set! I’m super excited to share this with you, but because of who I am as a person, it requires a little explanation. And because I live in Colorado, it starts the way most Colorado stories start, with “This one time, while I was high…”

So. This one time, while I was high, I was trying to have a conversation, which is fairly challenging under such circumstances, as you’ll know if you’re consuming this site under the conditions it was created. I can’t remember what I was trying to say to begin with, but I do recall that I was interrupted by a failure of memory.

“I haven’t been to a Baskin-Robbins in forever; they don’t seem to have them as much here. I think I’ve seen one. Hold on… how many flavors is it? Their whole deal. Is it 31 flavors or 51? Fifty-one seems high. That’s a lot of flavors.”

My wife stared at me with ready enthusiasm but little sense. She was also very high.

“Never mind. Whatever. From now on it’s Baskin-Robbins, THE EVERFLAVOR.”

Many of my ideas come from misunderstanding or misremembering what someone said to me, or from offhand things I say myself. One idea collides with another in my head, sloshing together, bubbling in the barrel of my brain until the right words pound a tap into my skull and liberate a brew that knocks me flat. This was one of those moments.

I saw a Baskin-Robbins, and through the glass of the freezer, I saw things that were never meant to be frozen. I saw a little girl totally at home in a world where her ice cream might have tentacles in it. She’s too young to really understand that the world she barely remembers, the world of school and newspapers and governments that didn’t all worship a different unknowable horror, is gone forever.

Her older sibling Johnny understands that very well. They’re the only family they have left, and sometimes it’s tough putting the rent together, but the glowing thing that lives in the router seems to like them, and the cults that make crossing the city such a thrilling all-day activity have a strange aversion to the little girl they call “the Terrible Child.” Which is good, because Johnny can’t make her sit still long enough to finish a sentence.

Instead, Johnny’s been working on a book that maybe someday their sister will deign to read. They write down the answers to questions, advice of the right shape to drip right out the ear, rituals to live by and to avoid. They write down what the world was like before. Someone somewhere should remember.

So here it is. I give you… a pile of pastel dust and a cheap pun! Ahem. I mean, I give you:

Sects: A Young Girl’s Illustrated Primer

A sequence of illustrations in pastel.  A small person in a black robe enters an ice-cream shop, presses themselves against the freezer, and says, "Is there... BEAN?"  They are answered by a figure behind the freezer wearing a hot pink robe, who says, "Still no.  No beans till fall.  I've told you that every day this week."
A pastel illustration of a dramatically-lit woman's face, her mouth messily stained red and open to utter her curse: "Mother, mother, cool your aching teeth once more in the frozen blood of this insect who has thrice denied - "
 A series of pastel illustrations.  A person in a black robe is beaned by a small plastic spoon thrown by the person in the pink robe, who says, "Can you NOT?  I'm not in charge of BEAN SEASON, for one, and two, if you wreck another freezer they will LITERALLY kill me.  Please.  Just order off the fucking menu."  The figure in the black robe answers, "SIGH... woe... woe and human misery illimitable..."
A pastel illustration looking down on the freezer and mixing slab of an ice-cream shop.  A figure in a pink robe reaches for a scoop among various other twitching, unearthly ephemera on the slab, and says, "That I can do.  One scoop or two?  And you want that woe whole on top, or mixed in?"  A black-robed head and upraised fingers are accompanied by the words, "Two.  On top.  Please.  also... smol spoon?  no throw..."
A pastel illustration of a girl holding what appears to be a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cup, filled with some kind of pinkish substance and topped with a translucent pyramid, inside of which is a tiny city.  The page is bordered by a fleshlike tentacle that contains the title: "Sects: A Young Girl's Illustrated Primer."

Cultists page 3

2019-06-13 12.09.34

The pastels are getting more fun and more interesting to use as I work with them!  I’ve got a bunch of pages to scan and tart up in Photoshop, most of which I’m pretty happy with.  Been sticking them up on the corkboard so they don’t smear.  I guess people probably use some kind of fixative on pastel work they want to keep?  But because of who I am as a person, I just scan it immediately and then assume the originals will melt away, like dreams after breakfast.  Yes, all this agonizing over googling “pastel fixative.”  If I didn’t have to contemplate the cosmic significance of every little fucking thing, I would get a lot more done around here.

I’m going to mess with the little pages you see here over the next few days and then I’ll put ’em up.  For now I give you the third page of our little prayer for wi-fi.

Sunset Eyes

Gonna have to figure out how it’d be best to display these all together and arrange a page for them, as it seems likely there’ll be a lot more.  New keyboard should arrive today or tomorrow, which will be lovely as it will almost certainly arrive a fraction of a second before I have chewed off my own arms in frustration with my current keyboard (which is working orders of magnitude worse after I meticulously cleaned it, of course).  The up side is, I could smoke all of you out on the pile of ground bud I found under the keys.  Apparently the keyboard needed that and now it’s suffering.  But I don’t permit weakness in my peripherals, so its replacement is on the way.

Desert Desires

In the morning:

I send a song to you. I choose it carefully.

There’s always a reason.

I’d tell you if you asked;

no one ever asks.

I only seem to do this for one person at a time –

it’s my way of courting.

Like leaving flowers at your door

A mouse corpse on your mat

I did not make it; I simply caught it.

Dead things say “I love you.”

 

Around 10 AM:

I light incense in two places around my apartment,

and I ponder rituals that could accompany this moment.

Like everything, I insist on doing this backwards.

I crave faith, conviction, a sense of meaning

I cherish catechism; my fingers naturally curl to count a rosary.

But though I make the moves on hands and knees,

though I see things and hear voices,

though I go through all the motions of the martyr,

I never pull the trigger

because I still don’t feel a thing.

 
Around 1995:

Religion was like any other fantasy world when I was a child

Jesus was a hero but not as brave as Ged,

A lot whinier than Frodo.

No cool powers.

Woo, he makes fish appear and walks on water?

So he’s a shitty Aquaman, is what you’re saying.

No one divided the Bible from Bradley and Bradbury

So it just seemed like it had too few dragons to me.

My first memory blinds me — the sun on the water in a copper bucket

that also contained me.

The bucket was just big enough for me, and the water

and the infinite light of the sun.

I could never see how this world needed God.

 

Every day since sixth grade:

I loved her all wrong, then and now —

Far too close in all the wrong places.

Like tongue-kissing a goddess

Like bringing frankincense and myrrh to McDonalds

Like living all my life on my knees

Before the sixteen-year-old girls we were.

Over time it’s become a genre

A color I paint in

One of the shapes that shows up again and again.

If you knew her, you could never miss it —

She’s in every drawing, every story — or something like her,

the pieces of her I stole, and kept, and tended

in my dirt-floor basement heart.

The garden I grew there spawns each day

mycorrhizal homunculi with her eyes.

They tug at my arms, whisper in my ears

Beg to be drawn, to be cherished, to be beautified

To be loved, forever.

To always be loved.

Cult doodlings page 2

Lots of pain this week.  My flesh prison is revolting, in every sense of the word.  This pleased me, though – I finished the second page of the cultist thing.  I’m gonna get sick of calling it “the cultist thing” way before we get to the title page and I can start using its name.

Our Mother

None of the working stages were worth saving, although some of them were very interesting.  I did take some reference shots for this one, which involved dangling a flashlight from a fold of a jacket in the hallway, but hey, if dramatically lit hands are your jam, we got those.

Yep, it’s an ethernet cable our cultist is holding.  One more page to clean up still.