May 28th, 2012

Reflective Mermaid

Puny God!

So, clionona made this post:

Comment on this post with ‘PUNY GOD’ and I’ll give you seven things I want you to talk about. They may make sense or they may be very random. Then post that list to your journal with your commentary. Other people can get lists from you and the meme merrily perpetuates itself.

So I accepted the challenge and got seven questions from her.  Here's my answers:

01. How do you deal with negative reviews of your art or writing? Is there a secret to handing criticism?

No, no secret.  And it's not that I have a thick skin, either.  When it's something I'm passionate about, I can be just as devastated by negative crit as the next guy.  EVERYBODY has doubts about their abilities, EVERYBODY dreads negative crit.  Finding some way to cope with it is vital.  Otherwise, you never create because you are just too afraid.

My way of dealing with it is perspective.  Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows is the biggest selling book in US history.  27 million copies were sold when it came out.  Pretty awesome, right?  Until you realize that there are 400 million people in the US.  The biggest selling book in history was only read by 14% of the population.

As a result, I tend to view putting my writing out as, odds are, it won't go over very well.  So when it goes over well with someone, it's a great feeling and relief.  There are literally billions of people who won't like my work.  All the Internet and comment threads and such do is make me aware they are out there.  Otherwise, they would have this opinion and I wouldn't know.  Basically, whistling past the graveyard.  You can increase your odds of your stuff being liked by selectively targeting your reading audience, but it's no guarantee -- Whovians loved my Doctor Whooves fan comic, but MLP fans weren't thrilled with it.  You don't control how people react to your work, and sometimes, all you can do is shrug.  You do your best, and you keep in mind you are creating and getting the work done.  If you do all you can to make a good story and it doesn't go over, you can take comfort in that you gave it your all, it just didn't click with them for some reason, and someone else out there will discover what you did and enjoy it.

There is some negative crit that I do ignore.  The first time I ever had an industry pro review my work was a comic series I worked on.  It was a retooled comic strip.  Keep in mind, comic strips are different from comic books.  They have their own vibe, their own art limitations, their own goals.  I basically did the strip in comic book form.  The editor was Cat Yronwood, an industry legend.  She didn't read much of it, she started ripping it to shreds.  She didn't get insulting like Simon Cowell, but there was nothing nothing nothing she liked.  I walked away, and after the shock wore off, I thought, She doesn't get what I'm trying to do.  She was reviewing it like a regular comic book.  Of course, she would react that way.  So I just sort of disregarded her negative crit because, well, the advice she was giving conflicted with the goals I sought.

Now, the know-it-alls who basically give crit that translates into, "This is how I would do it if I were writing and drawing it?"  (You know, like the furries who hated Stress Puppy?)  Their negative crit means nothing to me because their opinion is not of my work but an expression of their superiority.  "I've got it figured out, you don't.  Nyaaaaaah."  I keep the more entertaining messages in that regard, but not only do I not let that affect me (filed under "No fucking clue"), but in the case of Stress Puppy, I turned their reaction into a running gag in the strip.  In other words, I used their perceived superiority as a way to get cheap laughs, making my strip better.  THAT'S revenge.

02. What's your favorite dessert?

Barring specialties like the chocolate eclair cake at Portillo's, cheesecake.  I love cheesecake.  Make it right, and I don't want strawberries or any of that crap on there.  It's like booze  -- you use extras to disguise the taste of the cheap stuff, the good stuff you drink straight.  Do it right, and cheesecake is better than sex.

...well, better than sex with myself.

03. What are your thoughts about tattoos on women?

If they want 'em, let 'em have 'em.  I don't care for tattoos in general (men and women), which I think is a result of my artistic sensibilities.  As you've seen from my art, I like open space and clean lines -- I only fill in with blacks or other colors if I absolutely have to.  For me, tattoos either interrupt the flow or are clutter.  But, there's a big difference between, "I don't like something, I don't do it," and "I don't like something, YOU can't do it."  Just like I don't like earrings, the vast majority of the public does, so if you want to be with people, Peter, you better get over it.

04. Everybody had a hidden, secret talent. What's yours? (And 'getting revenge' doesn't count! LOL!)

Well, technically, that was hidden from you until a few weeks ago.  But, hey, it's your question, it's your rules.

I don't know what "hidden" talents I have since I'm generally pretty open about what I do.  I know there's some I don't discuss often, mainly because they don't seem as "dynamic" to me as the writing and the drawing and such.  So I'll just put out a few and you can choose which one is the best / coolest / rad / whatever.

1)  My buddy Chester and I can do Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch perfectly.  As in, down to the second (Live At City Center version).  We know, because someone tested it.  I do John Cleese's character.  Surprised?

2)  I can do improv comedy.  I mean real improv.  A lot of "improv" troops don't really do it.  They take suggestions from the audience, but they have a predetermined way for their sketches to go and they only touch on the suggestions, they can't incorporate them, and there's no spontaneity.  Result:  they aren't funny or entertaining.  Part of improv is, if someone does something to either move the scene in a better direction or just to screw with you, can you keep up?  I do really well at that.  I'm one of the few that you can plop me in a nearly blank scene and I'll come up with something to build on.  During my post-college days, I was part of a troop that sometimes did guerrilla theater at mall food courts.  Those were some fun days.

3)  I used to be able to drink an entire pitcher of iced tea without using my hands.  Grabbed the spout with my teeth and chugged.  Good icebreaker at parties.

4)  If you ask me nice at a swimming pool, I will do my Shamu The Whale routine where I jump out of the water and grab a hot dog with my teeth.  Yeah, it looks silly and idiotic, but you can't get through life without looking silly and idiotic at least once in a while.  Might as well have fun with it if it's going to happen.

05. You talk a lot about comics. Do you have a collection? What's your favorite series? [I feel stupid for not knowing this.]

Nah, don't feel stupid.  Anyway, yes, I do have a collection.  Not a huge one, and it's mostly indies or recent series (read that:  I won't be using it for collateral for buying a yacht).  My favorite will fluctuate based on how the series is doing or if it got canceled or what.  I love the funny, so my favorites for a while were Liberty Meadows and Dork Tower.  I love the current run on Deadpool because it is such a scream to read when the writers get going.  And I hope I don't sound arrogant, but I do enjoy reading my own comics, especially Sound Waves.  I am basically writing the things I would read if someone would just make them, so I guess it figures, but I'm aware of how snooty it sounds.

06. What are three TV shows that you think everybody should see at least one episode of?

Mystery Science Theater 3000, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, and Rocky And Bullwinkle.  According to astrologers, Cancers are fascinated with history and have The History Channel constantly on.  Not this puppy.

07. If you could listen to only one album for the rest of your life, what album would that be?

Inward Harmony by Marcey.  I meditate to it.  A lot of people don't like it (one guy described it as "Hearts In Space outtakes").  But the music has a secret.  And if you figure out what the secret is...well, if that's the only music you'll have, it's the one you want.  (I can't tell you what it is, you have to discover it.  Well, assuming you want to keep listening to it in the first place.)
Twilight For President

Points On The Curve -- The Road To Washington Goes Through Wisconsin

"Hello, and welcome to Capitol Gains, the show you watch when you want real analysis.  With us today is our dean of political studies, Peter G.  Welcome back to the show."

Good to be here.  Although, this isn't my usual day.  Why did you bring me in?

"Well, we asked you to come in...." ganged me....

"...because of the whole thing about Bain Capital.  Obama ran a series of attack ads targeting Romney for his work with Bain, and they are backfiring.  We're hoping you can explain why."

Oh, yes.  THAT little debacle.  Anyone who says Obama has a lock on winning 2012 is crazy.

"The Bain Backlash is that bad?"

You have to remember what the 2008 election was like.  While the D's were duking it out, McCain was the R's nominee.  McCain was making clear that he was going to tighten federal handouts to corporations and make mergers and acquisitions tougher.

"Sez who?"

Says the company filings with the FTC.  While McCain was the frontrunner, lobbying for handouts and mergers shot through the roof.  And it went back to normal levels when Obama became the frontrunner.

"Because they thought they wouldn't be able to get it done as easily with McCain as President."


"Which also underscores your belief that the R's sacrificed McCain's campaign to get Obama elected."

Look at the auto bailouts and bank bailouts.  Plenty of R's supported those, not just D's.  The R's are just as beholden to corporate benefactors as the D's are.  McCain would never have allowed the bailouts.  Obama would.  So, in order to keep at the public trough, the R's cut a deal to get a candidate friendly to their own interests in the White House.

"So what does that have to do with Bain Capital?"

Obama had a lot of support from idealists who bought into his Hope and Change campaigns.  But the election was still close.  What put Obama over the top was the support of business.  The Wall Street types.  The so-called 1%.  If you look at Obama's stump speeches after he became the unofficial nominee for the D's, he started softening on bashing Big Business.  The D's had to present themselves as Wall Street's friend to get their support, and they did.  The result is the bailouts.

"So you're saying the Bain Capital attack ads paint Obama as not Wall Street friendly."

That's exactly right.  Big Business is under attack from the Occupy movement (who are just wasting their time, they are doing it completely wrong) and from Obama's own policies.

"What policies?  There've been bailouts for the bailouts.  GM paid off its first bailout with a second bailout that the press didn't cover.  And the administration has been trying to squash lawsuits against the banks for wrongful foreclosure."


"...ooooooooh.  Forgot about that."

The businesses haven't.  And neither have the unemployed.  The increase in fees for health care has forced some out of business and forced some people to the unemployment line.  I personally know three people who lost their jobs because health care became too expensive for the company.  Obamacare is also a beaurocratic nightmare, the only industry benefitting from it is the health care industry.  There is a backlash that needs to be addressed if Obamacare stays on the books.  Obama is counting on improved economic numbers to satisfy the unemployed.  Big Business, however, needs to know Obama is on their side.  And the Bain Capital ads show he isn't.

"Which makes Romney much more likely to get their support."

Right.  Romney's one of their own.  He understands bidness.  So Obama has to show he's more their buddy than their connected insider.  That's a pretty tall order, and attack ads like the Bain Capital ones don't help.  Obama is getting desperate.  Despite his attempts to connect with the same core voters that got him in in 2008, he's not doing it.  People resent him for not fixing everything.  Unlike 2008, there is no one just saying he's awesome and everyone buying it, he has to actually produce evidence that he's a good President.  And the last four years don't help.  Obama is actually weak this election.

"Prove it."

Gladly.  North Carolina and Wisconsin, for starters.  Those are usually solidly D.  In fact, no R since Ronald Reagan has carried Wisconsin.  But NC's ban on gay marriage shows a leaning towards Romney ideology, and Obama's support in Wisconsin has been eroding.  Wisconsin is big about labor unions, and they are pissed that the Democratic Primary is being held in North Carolina, where labor laws are pretty weak.  Wisconsin is part of a block of states where the poll numbers are too close to call for one candidate or the other.

"How big is this block?"

Huge.  The states are Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

"Wait...Nevada?  With the heavy Mormon population?  And that's not already in Romney's pocket?"

A-yup.  As you can see, that's a pretty sizable chunk of electoral votes still in play, and most of them used to be Democratic locks.  With the last four years as a measuring stick, all Obama can do is play up the ideological angle.  Remember, he didn't support gay marriage until Veep Harry Reid opened his mouth and forced Obama to do something.

"That sounds like...insurrection."

No comment.  The general public is drifting towards marriage equality, but that support is not turning up in the polls yet.  NC passed its ban on gay marriage 60-40.  Obama needs to sell himself on things where there isn't a past record to undermine him.  That's why he's clinging to social issues.

"No one has any guessing how the election is going to go yet.  Including you, right?"


"Any way we can get a hint of what may be coming?"

Yes.  Look to Wisconsin.  The election itself is five months away.  Wisconsin is having a recall election in less than two weeks.  The last two recall elections around the US, the incumbent lost.  Governor Scott Walker is hanging by a thread, his core constituency trying to hold off the D's and their allies in the labor unions.  Don't just look to whether or not Walker stays in office, look at the margin.  Remember, there were several small elections before 2010 that portended how the midterm elections would go and people ignored them at their peril.  This is an unpopular leader.  This could tell a lot about voter sentiment once the numbers get crunched.

"You suggest some popcorn?"

Lots of it.  It's going to be a really big shoe....


A Camp For Guys Who Like Playing With Their Balls

Before I get to the latest thing that's pissing me off, let me start with a simple illustration.  I would like to illustrate the difference between general group behaviors and stereotypes.

Now, general group behaviors are just that.  General.  Take any collective of people with similar circumstances and you'll find some things enjoyed by the majority of the group.  Not everyone, but the majority.  This is also known as "marketing demographics."  Not all men enjoy action movies and women parading around in little attire and guys getting hurt for the amusement of others.  But enough do that there is a TV network with nothing but that, Spike TV.  Not all women are into women in jeopardy movies and such, but enough are that there is a TV network for them, Lifetime.  There are certain behaviors shared by many in a particular subculture.

The problem is when these generalities are regarded as absolutes.  If so and so is part of this group, they MUST enjoy this because others in this group enjoy it.  This is stereotyping.  This is where it goes wrong, because people are not being defined by what they may or may not enjoy, but by what the observer feels they should be enjoying.

Let's take a good look at me, your friendly neighborhood manga-ka.  I am a straight male.  According to generalities, I should enjoy sports and other "manly" pursuits.  Instead, I can't stand most sports (and have more or less given up on basketball) and have a thing for mermaids and watch My Little Pony -- Friendship Is Magic.  Does this mean I am not a straight male?  No, it just mean my interests are at odds with what is generally considered straight male behavior.  There's no cause and effect, liking these things doesn't make me any less a straight male.  But someone who thinks it does?  THEY have the problem.

(I also note that some people think, because my interests are so...unique that I'm a wimp and an easy target.  I'm open about enjoying these things because, should someone try and stir up shit, I can more than handle it, something a few people found out a little too late.  I can express myself freely because I don't have to hide it.)

When it comes to straight males, one of the biggest lines of logical fallacy is sports.  Manly men like manly things, so manly men will like sports.  As I've mentioned, I'm a straight male who doesn't care about sports.  And I'm not alone.  It may be the minority, but there are plenty of straight guys who don't like sports.  Likewise, I know plenty of gay men who dig sports, and not in the "fantasy about sweaty guys in the locker room" way, they appreciate and enjoy the game and can argue basketball fundamentals with me all day.  According to the manly men/manly things, THEY should be the ones watching MLP-FiM and I should be figuring out what the fuck a Cover 2 is.  But we like our own stuff and it reflects our tastes, not our sexualities.

The reason for me rambling on as above is we have a new entry in the "pray away the gay" sweepstakes.  We've seen denying your sexuality doesn't make it go away.  We've seen brainwashing cannot overwrite how those little neurons in your brain have come together.  One of the founders of "pray away the gay" has even admitted he was wrong.  And yet people still cling to this stupid idea that homosexuality is something that needs to be "fixed."

Courage (he said, and pointed toward the land....) is the name of a Catholic group that tries to teach gay Christians to remain celibate and resist their homosexual urges (trying to get ANY guys to deny ANY sexual urges is pretty much a lost cause to begin with).  They are holding their thirteenth annual sports camp where, according to the web site, “men physically compete on the field while enriching their souls through a daily regimen of prayer, confessions, mass, and the Liturgy of the Hours.”  Basically, the camp is hoping that, by giving men the chance to do manly things, they'll become regular men.  You know, straight men.  It's such a preposterous notion, I don't see how anyone thinks that it would work.  In fact, a camp for men isolated from society, no prying eyes to judge them, usually is the start of a lot of lemon party erotica out there.  It's not going to inspire people to respect them, it's just going to make people like me snicker uncontrollably.

One of Courage's proponents is Paul Kleponis, a therapist at the Institute For Marital Healing in West Conshohocken (and you would not believe how many times I had to retype that because of sarcastic typos my unconscious mind kept channeling through my fingers).  He speaks at Courage conferences, and has his own beliefs about what causes homosexuality.  The bullet points:

*  He believes homosexuality is the result of childhood rejection and trauma.  That can't be true, or every boy in high school except the one with the most expensive car would be gay.

*  Part of that rejection can be linked to failure at sports.  Once again, lots of guys suck at sports, and they aren't suddenly turning gay.

*  He says that boys who are rejected because they can’t play sports “begin to identify with the female instead of the male.”  Yeah, because women totally can't do sports at all.  Nice to see he's not limiting his bigotry to just one group.

*  The problem is bad hand-eye coordination (I'm not making this shit up, this is part of his speech at a Courage rally in St. Louis in 2006).  So if guys develop good hand-eye coordination, they will succeed at sports, and that will keep them from being gay.

Which just proves that the Internet isn't the only place where bullshit is accepted as fact.

Whatever happened to live and let live?