the Internet, considered as a mirror

This story about some fiftysomething YA authors holding up a mid-twenties college student for ridicule because she dared suggest a piece of YA popcorn fiction was not worthy as an assignment for an entire incoming college class to read is making me think about some discussions I’ve had lately with people I only realized were kids halfway through.

On the Internet, age is largely hidden. Is this person you’re making fun of someone your own age, who it is appropriate to hold to the same standards of critical thinking and underlying knowledge you hold your colleagues and yourselves to? Are they someone much older than you, whose vast store of experience must be dismissed because it always seems to be used in the service of telling you to do boring shit? Are they someone much younger, who should be patted on the head and gently shown the error of their ways, or simply ignored if you don’t have the time for that?

Maybe you’ve got an icon to give you a guess. Maybe. If you’re lucky. Lots of places don’t have those. There’s no guarantee it’ll represent the user even if you do – I tend to favor cartoon dragons, for instance. Maybe there’s a scent of another nationality coming off of particular word choices. Which could sometimes just be autocorrect. It’s hard to tell. You might get some clues if you went and looked at someone’s profile before responding to them but who the hell can be bothered to do that nowadays?

And I find that the default for me has always been to assume that people are pretty much the same as myself. When I was a teenager I assumed everyone I met on dial-up BBSs was a teenager. Now that I’m in my late forties, my default is to assume that everyone has a similar depth of experience as I do. I’ve gotten a little better at remembering this is not true, but it’s still a thing I have to make myself do. Unless someone is actively disagreeing with me, in which case the tendency is to very quickly stick them into one mental box or another, that’s probably filed inside a larger box of “enemies”.

Sure, sometimes it’s good that this exists. “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, to quote a once-ubiquitous New Yorker cartoon of two dogs sitting in front of a computer. You can be free of some prejudices and stereotypes. But you’re just as likely to quickly be sorted into other boxes based on a few bits of pattern-matching. Especially on an Argument Machine like what Twitter has become.

I don’t really have any conclusions or deep thoughts about this. I just feel like I’m suddenly really aware of how much this is a thing that happens.

(I also find myself wanting to make a feature suggestion for Mastodon of “when replying to someone, display their profile text next to the reply box and the text you’re replying to, to help combat this effect”. Because honestly it’s gotten worse over the years, BBSs and forums had a lot more side data about who you were talking to than just “a name and maybe a user icon”.)

another special night

Sitting outside the coffee shop in the park, working on comics. It’s night.

Suddenly there is the sound of a lone trombonist and his recorded accompaniment coming from around the back of the building. It’s kind of nice, kind of romantic.

Then he starts doing Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and everyone starts going to look.


On the way home, the moon is low on the horizon, yellow behind a light wash of clouds, lighting the edge of darker clouds. It was astoundingly gorgeous. And I found myself thinking about how I live in a place that people from all over the world dream of coming to visit. I feel pretty lucky.

It might get irrecoverably destroyed in my lifetime, what with melting icecaps and rising sea levels and being, on average, five feet below sea level before all of that started happening. But until then I’m savoring every day.

Even the days when something crawls up my sinuses and has me sneezing constantly. Hopefully that’s not gonna return to being the new normal, I was really enjoying not being allergic to the place any more now that I’ve been exposed to half a lifetime of other nasal irritants.

the dream of the airless room

Yesterday, Nick and I had brunch at a popular place with a slow cooking time. Our conversation while waiting for our food turned to our dreams. I noted that it seemed like I’d quit dreaming about my mother over the past couple years; there was a sort of acknowledgement from Dream-MJ that she was dead, and she’d quit coming around any more.

Last night, Dream Me found herself rummaging frantically around the house I grew up in to grab a few keepsakes before it was engulfed by some kind of Doom. She dig around the tiny place full of built-in shelves that my room was  in this dream, grabbing a few books. Then she went into the kitchen, which for some reason had little plastic cartoon figures sitting on every flat surface. None of them were the right one to grab. Maybe the right one would be in MJ’s room?

So there I was at the threshold of my mother’s room. Musty, weirdly lit, no sheets on the bare mattress. With a distinct sense that going in was a Bad Idea. But I stepped in anyway. And the air went from “musty” to “completely nonexistent”; my throat closed up and I started gasping for breath, the lights went out and I could just see a shimmering rainbow aura of me waving my hand in front of me as if I was trying to stir up the air.

And then I heard Nick behind me, asking if I was okay. And then I was awake with no lingering fear, and none of the disorientation I’d normally expect from a sudden transition like that.

When I went back to sleep, I spent some time trying to investigate the dream version of my childhood home. But all I could get was a black void. I dunno if that feels portentous or no.

identification

I have been procrastinating on renewing my passport, so I can use it to get a Louisiana ID without digging up my birth certificate. Today I finally got the form and started doing it.

Halfway through I discovered that my current passport is actually good until 2022. I misread its issuance date as its expiration date. OOPS.

Hopefully the rest of this process will go as easily as this did.

(for later reference, the list of documents:) Continue reading

Vacation

It’s been weird lately. Something in the back of my mind keeps on feeling like I’m on vacation, and I should be getting ready to pack up and go back to where I actually live. Somewhere colder. Somewhere more stressful. Somewhere I feel like I’ve gotta burn a certain amount of energy dealing with a constant low-level incompatibility with on some deep instinctual level.

But this is home now. I never expected to be living here again, but here I am in a place in my life where returning to the weird swamp city that I grew up in seemed like a sane plan. Despite global warming.

Maybe I’ll stop feeling this way when I have a decent desk in my studio. Maybe once it’s been around a year it’ll feel like I Live Here.

And until then, hey, I’m on permanent vacation I guess. This place is a tropical resort compared to the past fourteen years I spent in the North. Maybe having a whole winter pass with me barely having to break out a coat will convince my body I’m not about to have to go back to somewhere cold and miserable any day now.

Fourteen years.

Fourteen years ago today, I was in a motel room somewhere in the South with my mom and one of her friends. I’d moved back in with Mom after a decade in Los Angeles chasing the dream of animation; I’d gotten off a train barely a week ago. All my stuff except for one suitcase and the stuff Mom had never shipped out yet was in a shipping container in a warehouse.

Fourteen years ago today Hurricane Katrina sloshed in up through Lake Ponchatrain and drowned half of New Orleans. Mom’s apartment was on the second story; the wind took the roof off the other side of the building but her stuff survived. My stuff was thoroughly inundated. With nothing tying me down I ended up in Boston with Nick and Rik.

A little under half a year ago, I came down from Seattle to look for a place. Moved in about a month and a half later.

There’s a restaurant a few blocks from here – Mandina’s – that has a plaque commemorating where the flood line was. It’s above my head when I’m in there. I think my place is on ground a few feet lower than Mandina’s. When we left ahead of Barry and the scarily high river, I didn’t really bother trying to put any of my stuff in high places around the apartment. If the bowl of the city fills again, I know that everything I own is gone.

I keep on feeling like I’m waiting for this vacation to end. Waiting for me to have to get on a plane and go back to Seattle, where I will resume dying for half the year due to lack of sun. Maybe lingering trauma from Katrina is part of why.

This city is absurd and improbable and wonderful and I hope I get to live here a good long time.

depression begone

I am looking through some old tweets on the Locked Account than I haven’t hooked up to the autodeleter.

I was a giant fucking mess my last couple years in Seattle, holy shit. People say you should never pin your hopes on moving away from your depression because you’re still the same person after, but you know what? I’m a very different person when I’m getting enough sunlight, and when I’m not having trouble sleeping due to a loud, near-subsonic HUM that fills my home. And when I’m not watching the rent go up and up past my affordability zone.

I’ve still got some shit gnawing at the back of my head but I am dealing with it a LOT better now that I’m back in the tropics. Plus being able to visit my parents’ grave makes dealing with the part of that shit that’s from my mom dying a couple years back a lot easier.

Fuck, I have forgotten that damn hum. Seriously. Even though it lasted for like two fucking years. Nick couldn’t hear it and I was constantly gaslighting myself into wondering if it was just something wrong with my body or brain. Even though I never heard it when I slept away from my place. Tonight I’m gonna really enjoy sleeping in a bed where the only sound is occasional creaks from the overhead fan, and the faint sound of the neighbor’s window AC unit.

but yeah. Sunlight. Sunlight is good. Lots of it. I’m probably at risk for skin cancer now or something but it’s worth it to actually feel alive again and not be fighting suicidal urges eight months out of every year.

I like layers.

This is the entire layer structure for pages 18/19 of the Mixolyne side of Parallax. It is pretty average for the number of layers per panel.

I threw together this quick composite screenshot due to a post on the Illustrator subreddit where someone questioned a statement that “most designers don’t use layers”. I am neither “most designers” nor am I “a designer” but layers are super useful.

kitty?

So uh I think we might have a cat now.

A week or two after we moved in, we met our neighbor on the other side of the double shotgun we now live in, and the black cat who lived with her, and the kittens this cat had just had. Shadow was a local stray who’d decided she was Crystal’s cat, or at least that Crystal’s apartment was the best place to have some kittens. There were four: one black cat with two white toes, one stripey grey, and two calicos. Over the ensuing months all but one of the kittens stopped showing up one by one; they seem to have wandered off to find places to live in the general society of Mid-City Stray Cats. (New Orleans has a lot of stray cats; when people got lifted out of flooded houses in Katrina, the rescuers made them leave their pets behind, and the survivors have been living here and there ever since.) I’d pet them whenever they were on our side of the porch, if they’d let me.

At the beginning of last month, Crystal and her family seemed to vanish. The cat tree and food bowl next to her door were gone. We were concerned about Shadow and the remaining kittens; she reappeared after a few days. This happened again this past weekend – maybe she’s just making a habit of going on a little vacation near the beginning of the month? I’ll have to ask about this next time I see her, if she reappears.

For the past couple days I’d been finding eviscerated roaches close to the front door of the apartment. Something about them felt like cat offerings: the ancient bargain, where the cats kill small annoyances, and get a nice warm place to live. Yesterday as I was leaving the house, I turned around to close the gate that leads to the back of the place, and saw the black cat with the two white toes leaping in the air, chasing after a dragonfly or butterfly or one of the other numerous flying bugs that hangs out by the wildflowers growing there.

And then today I got back from brunch and there she was, just sitting on one of the chairs. Waiting. I looked at her and she looked at me, and then I sighed, and got out my bike and ran out to the pet store for a scratching post and a couple dishes and some food.

I think we’ve got a cat now.

If our neighbor doesn’t reappear in a week then we are gonna get this little fleabag a flea collar with her name and address on it.

edit: Sugarfoot may have just claimed a rolling suitcase that’s been lying around open on the floor since we first got here as her temporary Cat Bed.

Your Own Personal Lilith

click for naked snake lady

A while back I doodled this out in about a half an hour. It sat around unfinished for a good while. Today I pulled it up to experiment with some texture techniques, and ended up spending an hour getting it to where it is now. I’m still not entirely sure it’s finished but it’s good enough for now.

Dunno why I felt a need to draw my cobra sorceress character as a lamia, but here it is. I should really draw her with clothes again; it’s been forever.