stretching again

Back in splits class for the first time in months. Somewhere in December was the last one.

It was agony. But it was agony I’m familiar with. Agony I know intimately. Agony I know will pass if I keep at it.

Well, maybe not pass. But change, and spread out, and become focused on one particular muscle or another.

During the final, really serious stretches, I could sort of feel my body remembering how to do this. How to relax a muscle being stretched to its limit. How to push it close to the edge of pain, relax, and maybe find that the pain comes a tiny bit further out when I try again.

I’ve lost a lot of flexibility. But it feels like i still remember how to become more flexible. How to breathe in calm, and feel the tension leaving my body as I exhale.

I’ve really gotta start doing push-ups though. I could barely hold myself up a couple times. Ah well. That will come too.

It was exactly as terrible as I expected it to be. And that was kind of comforting.

the dream of not realizing I’m dreaming

Huh. So usually going to a bathroom with a broken toilet and using it anyway is a sign that (a) I am dreaming and (b) I am about to wake up. I haven't dreamed this in a while, but I did tonight – I was in the house I grew up in, and the toilet was just gone, with a neat little hole in the floor, and I still casually pissed all over the floor where it used to be.

I even asked myself “hey, this feels like a dream toilet, am I dreaming?” but kept on proceeding as if it was not. Go figure. Maybe next time this happens I'll actually have a lucid dream or something. I would say that would be nice but I'm not sure I really have any idea what I'd do in one.

Oddly enough I did not wake up with a bursting bladder, either. Or in a puddle.

There were also some brief appearances by my mom in this dream. I haven't dreamt about her much lately. Not sure I've really dreamt much that lingers after waking at all, lately.

No butterflies.

So I bought Rez Infinite when it came out late last year. Played the first four original levels, put it away. Just didn’t really feel like going through it all again.

Today I booted it up again. Looked at the options. Nope, still can’t access the new level. You’ve got to have either played it for at least an hour, or have finshed the whole thing. So what the hell.

I did level 5. Didn’t ever feel like I was involved in it. Just sat back and kinda watched the part of my brain that spent a month playing that level again and again back in ’02 stretch and wake up and, well, I mean I didn’t shoot enough of the targets to get the butterfly ending, but I finished it in Space Baby form without really worrying about it. And watching myself do that – with no tension, with no real conscious thought – felt weird. Was I digging up memories of playing it fifteen years ago, staring at a 30″ CRT plugged into a Dreamcast? Or has playing Polybius a lot lately really given me the level up in playing video games that it generally feels like it has?

I am still not sure I have spent an hour playing the thing but I guess I can play the new content now. It told me I wasn’t really done after the credits rolled, but I was all, man, I’ve done this before, I have sweated out the optimal path for shooting down 100% of the enemies and getting 100% of the pickups, I don’t need to prove this again. Not when this is the third system I’ve owned a copy of it on.

It’s still a very pretty game. You should experience it someday if you’ve never played it.

Rar.

So there’s this thing I do. That a lot of people involved in the furry fandom do, really. When I’m around my ex-with-benefits, I don’t always speak in words. I’ll regularly say “Rar” instead. Because I am a dragon, and dragons go rar. Or rawr, or rrraaooowwwllll, or assorted other growly snarly noises, plus the occasional purr.

We have had entire conversations this way. It carries emotional meanings pretty well; you can get a lot of mileage out of pitch, inflection, and volume. Sometimes when we’re in different rooms one of us will just say “Rar” and get a “rar” in reply; it sort of functions as emotional radar in that case – are you still awake, are you doing okay. It’s not a dragon-only thing; at Biggest Little Fur Con the other weekend, I had a functional conversation with someone who is mostly a cat and thus says “mao”.

But lately I’ve begun using this to talk to myself, too. I’ll be in the shower, not thinking of much, and I’ll open my mouth and just see what sort of emotional freight is carried when I say “rar” to nobody in particular. Sometimes it’s a polite little “Rowr”. Other times it’s an angry “rrRRRRAAAaaahhrrrr”. Sometimes it’s a sad, pleading “Raawwrrraarrrr”. And then I ask myself: why is this the emotion that came out of my mouth? What’s going on with my emotions right now?

It’s a useful tool for self-monitoring. Sort of a chiller version of a primal scream. Just open your mouth, make the cartoon caricature of an animal noise you’ve gotten in the habit of making, and see how it falls out.

Last week, I went out to Reno for BLFC 2017. It was a pretty good con.
I spent the vast majority of it trapped in the chillout hotbox of my room – my roomies were running a Secret Smoking Lounge and it was this incredibly relaxing wonderland of swirling lights and vapors.
Things I did when I left it:
  • Spent an evening flirting with one dragon
  • Got circled by a mob of crows (and got wingsnugs from their leader without having to provide any bribes of shinies first)
  • Saw photos of the utter clawed up mess two dragons left of this one slutty tiger’s back, got thanked for inspiring her to be that slutty
  • Flailed around on the dance floor with a pair of wings on
  • Passed through the swirling chaos of a Femboy Party and threatened to do terrible things to this one pretty mouse but went out dancing instead
  • Waited forever for breakfast in the hotel’s very own Black Lodge Diner, I dunno maybe I was stoned and sleep deprived but they sure were slow and unearthly.
  • Jumped around the edge of the dance floor snarling and clawing at another dragon
But I also ended up hanging around the room and kinda turning it into an ultra downtempo darkwave hangout whenever I ended up being the one whose phone was providing music and that was pretty nice too. As always there’s something to be said for finding a nice place to hang out while the con passes by, instead of chasing around looking for the party; parking my ass in a Chill Lounge was a hell of a nice change from the usual madhouse of the dealers room. Absolutely none of my conversations were about a financial transaction and that was nice. I’m debating doing a table next year with sharply limited hours – take a few commissions in the morning, then vanish to work on them for a while.
On the other hand I’m also debating making some short runs of designey dragon wings and selling those behind the table. I dunno. I definitely wanna do BLFC next year in one way or another, it’s super relaxing for its size. I heard this year broke 5k attendees which is big enough to be real good to the dealers but not insane.
Major thanks to Splice, Amethyst, and Karu for sharing their ultra chill room with me. Especially to Splice for being the motive force behind organizing it and pruning the list of folks who knew about it.

A fragment of memory

So. Let me tell you about a little sore tooth in my mind. A fragment of memory that just doesn’t fit with the narrative of the rest of my life as I remember it. Every now and then it bubbles up and I wonder what the hell was happening; the other day I went for a long walk through the park and… poked at it.
The scene: upstairs in a sunny house in New Orleans. Probably summer. Probably next to Bayou St. John. Probably around 1986-88.
There are two children sitting there listening to a man, dutifully taking notes. One of them is a skinny boy with black hair, who would eventually grow up to be me. One of them is a girl. Was she someone I knew in school? I don’t know. I don’t even have a solid memory of her ethnicity, let alone her name. The guy is white. I want to say he’s slim and possibly balding. I don’t have a solid memory of that either.
My brain says this is somehow related to Future Problem Solving, which was a thing I did in high school. Which is where I get the 1986 guess from.
But the content of what this man is telling me and this girl doesn’t seem to match with any kind of preparation for this very rational exercise in Creative Sci-Fi Thinking. Because I am being told a bunch of New Age sounding stuff about… well, that’s misty too. I mostly recall being shown diagrams. Concentric circles. Rounded off teardrops. A general sense of the text being about the Shape of Reality. Mystical stuff. In a relatively new book.

Something vaguely like this? I dunno. There were labels.

I dutifully took notes on a yellow legal pad. I don’t know if I copied any of the diagrams. Or wrote down the name of this book.
I don’t know where those notes went.
I don’t remember talking to this man ever again. Or anything else along these lines.
I have a memory of wondering what the hell this new age bullshit had to do with anything but this might actually be a memory of remembering this later on and wondering just that.
I’m pretty sure my mother was there. As was the other kid’s mother. I don’t know if she was listening to all this. I don’t remember talking with her about it later. And I can’t ask her about this any more; I’d have to perform a seance for that.
I can’t recall any more details. And to be honest I would be suspicious of the truth of any more details I managed to dredge up; I’ve read enough about how easy it is to get people to remember things that never happened.
It feels weird. It feels like something that tugging on hard enough could be the start of a paranoid conspiracy novel set in the eighties, with children being recruited and programmed into… well, pick your own narrative here, really. Indigo Children becoming soldiers in a secret psychic war or whatever.
My memory of most of my teenage years is a tapestry of holes. I’ve always just assumed it’s due to the depression I fell into after my father died; when every day is grey and sad despite the blazing New Orleans sun, it’s easy to disassociate and just… forget. But pulling this out into the light suggests an alternate story of… something. Something secret and buried and hidden from me.
Part of me is reluctant to talk about this publicly. What if there is some kind of Secret Society involved? What if They see this and decide it’s finally time to activate my programming or whatever? What if I really am in a Phillip K Dick novel instead of the sensible mundane life I’ve always thought I had? Maybe you’ve only ever heard of me because this was a test that I failed, so I was left to make my own way through the normal world instead of being a character in a real-life version of Psychonauts. Or the X-Men I guess but I’d rather imagine the goofy cartoon version.
I wish I could remember anything about the title of that book with the diagrams. Anything to ask Google about. But I can’t.
It might just be a dream I had. I’m pretty sure the time I walked into my parents’ bedroom at night when I was five and saw a glittering crystal cavern hidden behind their dresser was a dream, for instance. But this feels like a thing that really happened.
Welcome to the hole in my head. I don’t know how deep it goes. I don’t know if I want to find out.

VanCaf: a good weekend.

This weekend, I got in a car with Iris and Nero and went up to Vancouver for VanCaf. I brought twenty copies of the Rita omnibus, and 24 of book 1. I came back with, um, two copies of Book 1. And a wallet full of Canadian money that we didn’t get a chance to exchange up there because it’s a bank holiday.

I dunno if I made any connections, though I had a few “Morning, Ralph.” “Morning, Sam” kinds of conversations with the people I see at every single comics con. But I definitely made some new fans, and that’s a lot of the point of going to cons.

Watching the stack of the omnibus shrink throughout the show was pretty exciting. Would I sell out? Would I wish I’d brought more? Would I have to pack these awkward huge books home? About an hour before the end of the second day, I got down to nothing but the one copy I’d unwrapped and put on my table as a reader copy, and decided I was done; I put out a post-it saying “hey you can have this reader copy for $20” and went for a walk outside. When I got back the book was gone and Iris directed me to another $20 she’d taken and stuffed inside my pencil case. I even ran into the guy who got it and signed it for him, and told him the Illustrator Pencil Tool Secrets – I find I usually tell a few people that over my table, and I really should just get some stickers or cards made up with them to be honest.

Anyway. Now I sleep for a day or two. I might get up and go use some of these funds to buy the electric guitar I’ve been wanting the past few months, after I exchange all this maple-scented plastic for boring American dollars…

The Objective Reality of Gender

Every now and then I find myself in a discussion on the Internet of whether or not trans people should be allowed to exist/have their chosen pronouns respected/etc.

And inevitably there’s someone who insists that “penis=man, vagina=woman, that’s the OBJECTIVE REALITY”.

Well. Let’s unpack the objective reality of this seemingly simple concept:

  • people have some combination of X and Y chromosomes
  • most people are XX or XY
  • some people aren’t, maybe they’ve got three, maybe they’re chimeras of two non-identical twins who merged in the womb, whatever
  • these chromosomes are not necessarily perfect copies of your parents’ chromosomes, nor of the ones in the egg and winning sperm – transcription errors happen
  • the body is shaped by the ways these chromosomes express themselves, both as the fetus grows in the womb, and as the child grows to adulthood and beyond
  • the body is also shaped by many chemicals fed into it, whether it be something the mother ingested while the kid was in the womb, something in the water, something in the food, something in the air, or something ingested voluntarily as part of a deliberate gender transition program
  • the brain is part of the body, and is thus shaped by chromosomes and chemicals in the same way, from gestation to death
  • pretty much every human language contains words for the concepts of “male” and “female”, which often combine both expected social roles with expected body parts related to the process of making more humans (penis, vulva, testes, womb, breasts, etc); English has historically combined these two things and considered deviations from that combination to be freakish. Up until relatively recently it also combined expected sexual orientation with both of them and considered any deviation from that to be freakish as well.
  • all children in America are currently assigned a legal gender based on examination of the genitals shortly after birth, either “male” or “female”; babies with ambiguous genitals often have this surgically “corrected”
  • human thought is shaped by the languages you speak; if enough people start using a new word, then the people who make dictionaries will take note of it and put it in the dictionary; if enough people start using an old word in a new way, that, too, will be noted and placed in the dictionary, thus documenting the slow change of the language, and the slow change of the set of concepts available to people who speak that language
  • some other languages contain words for people who are not necessarily “male” or “female”; English does currently allow for separation of sexual desire from genitals (gay/lesbian/straight/bi) but does not commonly distinguish “what’s between your legs” from “what expected gender-based social norms you prefer to conform to” (well, kinda – the fact that “sissy” is an insult but “tomboy” is not opens a whole new can of worms)
  • the community of people who do separate “what is between your legs” from “what expected gender-based social norms you prefer to conform to” has developed its own set of words for the concepts of other parts of the gender spectrum; we can say things like “Steve is a dmab man who prefers traditional male pronouns”, “Nile is a dfab enby person who prefers ‘they’ pronouns”, or “Peggy is a dmab woman who prefers traditional female pronouns, and what she has between her legs is only your business if she wants you to touch it”. (DM/FAB: Designated Male/Female At Birth. Enby: an abbreviation of Non-Binary, presenting as neither male nor female.) Which means queer people have a more nuanced set of mental boxes to put people’s gender into than other English speakers do.

I would argue that, thus, the queer community can approach the Objective Truth of sex, gender, and social roles far more closely by separating “what your primary sexual characteristics were at birth”, “what gender marker was put on your birth certificate”, “what your current primary and secondary sexual characteristics are”, “what gender you would currently prefer to be seen as”, and “what gender do people sort you into when they see you” into separate categories, each of which often contains either “male” or “female”, and often will have the same choice selected in all of these categories, but each category may contain something from a richer set of choices, and is not required to match any other category.

From another angle: Consider the research people have done on color names in different languages, and the way some languages have more color words than others. If the only terms you have for color are “black”, “white”, and “red” is someone who points at two things you call “red” and calls one of them “red” and the other one “orange” denying an OBJECTIVE TRUTH, or are they just using a finer set of mental boxes to categorize the different energy absorption spectra of these things than you are?

TL;DR: Words mean whatever the fuck a large enough segment of the people speaking that language want them to mean, and there is a large enough segment of people now saying that “male” and “female” are simplifications of some complicated-ass things that you may have always taken as Objective Truths.

sure, why not

god did i just impulsively send off an application to a storyboard position at cartoon network

i sure did

well whatever, don’t hold your breath peggy

all goofed up on hopballs

The ex-with-benefits tweeted the cartoony cover to an old book about DRUUUGS and expressed a desire to spend the weekend looking like one of the characters in it.

So I drew this. Illustrator, 30min.