And I’m off!

Y’all have been great in the post about the death penalty about being civilized and rational, and A) I’m proud of you and B) please continue to do so in the absence of your humble blogger riding herd.

And thank you all for your kind wishes on my deer vs. car experience, too. (Thank god it wasn’t a moose…)

See ya at Anthrocon!

Apex Predator

So I was driving back from Pittsboro, where Kevin lives, having just had a nice dinner with him and his kids and done some last minute trip prep.

I was just outside of town, traveling down a fairly generic country highway at twilight, and–you can probably see where this is going–two deer bolted into the road.

I stomped down on the brake, knew immediately that it wasn’t gonna matter, and a quarter-second later, my Nissan Altima plowed into the pair of them, one on each side, with a pair of simultaneous and very unpleasant thuds.

Exit two deer, stage left.

I finished hitting the brakes, sat in the car for a minute, said fuck, turned on the hazards, said fuck again, looked in the rearview, saw one deer thrown across the road and into the opposite verge (the driver’s side deer, which I hit squarely in the head and neck and can pretty much guarantee instant death) and the passenger side deer gone, either into the tall grass or into the woods, depending on whether the smack to the hindquarters was lethal or not. Given that I was going around 45, I suspect the former.

Thank Ganesh they were out of the road. I know that as a responsible motorist, it’s my duty to haul the victim out of traffic, but there’s a big difference between knowing your duty and actually going and grabbing onto a freshly killed deer as big as you are and trying to wrestle it onto the shoulder. I’m not sure what I would have done.*

I said fuck a few more times, sighed, thought something to the effect that of COURSE this happens the night before a long roadtrip, felt immediately guilty, since I was fine and the deer were not going to be taking any roadtrips ever again, and tried to get out of the car.

That was when I discovered that the driver’s side door now only opens about a foot. The front driver’s quarter panel is dented rather badly, and the front passenger headlight is cracked and full of deer hair. Still, the scrawny new me can get in and out, and the car drives just fine,  no apparent crumpling on the hood, nothing hanging loose and sparking, so it could have been a helluva lot worse. And I’m perfectly okay, of course.

I drove off and called Kevin up, mostly to say “Fuck! I killed two deer! Dude!” as one does in such situations, got his machine, and drove away. He got ahold of me two minutes later and his first question of course was “Are they out of the road?” (Actually, it might have been “are you okay?” but that one got brushed off, since I was fine, just rather frazzled.) Kevin is also a responsible motorist, and furthermore worries about the fate of the buzzards and crows and raccoons and other scavengers. This is part of why I love him. We established that they were indeed out of the road.

If I were the person I wish I were, I would have gone back and checked to make sure the deer were really dead, but I honestly didn’t think of it until I was another five miles down the road. (I’m not sure what I would have done if one wasn’t, frankly…perform the coup de grace with my Leatherman?**) I suspect I wasn’t thinking of anything much except “Dude. Dude. Dude. Dead deer. DUDE.”

So I got home, car seems fine (Kevin’ll check it over in the morning, in case I’m missing anything) and the insurance company has been notified.

Never hit a deer before. It’s worth noting that I’ve apparently become calmer in my old age, because I never did get the mad adrenaline rush that a near-miss used to generate in my youth. So that’s a good thing.

This is not the start to a roadtrip that one hopes for, but here’s hoping that was all the bad mojo out in one place.

*Okay, yes, I do, I probably would have called Kevin and said “Help! Can’t move this deer!”

**Okay, yes, I do, I probably would have called Kevin and said “Bring an axe.”

Death Penalty

So there’s been a lot of stuff in the news lately about the guy who brutally raped an eight-year-old and how the Supreme Court decided not to give him the death penalty.

This is the sort of discussion that churns the stomach of decent people in many cases, and so I’ll cut tag it because I can perfectly understand not wanting to be involved in it, even in passing.

Now, I am generally–in most cases–fairly opposed to the death penalty, and I’ll tell you why.

I believe that justice, right down at the bottom, is based on punishment and learning. You do something wrong, you get punished, you hopefully learn not to do that bad thing again.

We could argue for centuries about how it doesn’t really work out that way in PRACTICE, and the various problems with our current legal system in this country and people just learning not to get caught and other people getting excessively punished for things that aren’t particularly wrong, and believe me, I’m right there with you, but nevertheless, that’s the basic premise. We punish people and they’re supposed to learn from it.

I’m fine with this. This is a reasonably sound ethical system, so far as I am concerned.

The PROBLEM for me with the death penalty is that we are punishing people and allowing them no opportunity to learn from it. The dead don’t learn. At that point, it becomes unethical. In essence, we’re trading justice for vengeance. (Is vengeance bad? Is it helpful? Does it do more harm than good? I don’t know. Everything gets squishy and relative on questions like that. I do not think, however, that it is a useful basis for an ethical system, and when I see people whooping and hollering and waving signs outside of prisons on execution day, I feel that I am watching some of what is worst about humanity.)

All I know is that punishment with no expectation of learning is an act of cruelty.

Nor do I believe for one minute that the death penalty is any kind of deterrent–I think that most people have only the haziest idea of what punishment occurs for what crime, and I include myself in that number. How long do you go to jail for arson? Shoplifting? Manslaughter? Getting caught with an eighth of weed in a school zone? Couldn’t even begin to tell you.

The deterrent for me, and I suspect for a lot of us, is always Fear of Getting Caught. I’m guessing that this holds true whether you are someone like me, whose great sins these days are things like jaywalking and speeding, or someone like I was in college (possession for personal use, accessory to vandalism*) or someone who is doing Very Bad Things like murder or rape. I have always been very suspicious of the claim that the death penalty is a deterrent, because it doesn’t square with my experience of people and their knowledge of the penal code. Shit, up until an hour or two ago, I thought you probably could get the chair for brutally raping a child. I think death-penalty-as-deterrent requires a much more informed populace than we currently possess.

Ergo, I have a lot of problems with the death penalty.

However, here we run into the Mad Dog Exception. As various parties have said, far more eloquently than I, some people are mad dogs. You can’t punish a mad dog for being mad, and expect it to learn from the experience. As I said above–that’s cruelty, right there. With a mad dog, you usher them out of this life as quickly and cleanly as possible, and that ENDS the matter, and everybody’s happier. (I include the dog in this, and not just literally rabid dogs–I have met dogs with behavioral problems who were miserable, paranoid, aggressive, and downright psychotic, and honestly, I think once a reasonable and decent effort has been made to resolve the issue, it’s better to put the dog down. I realize this is not a popular view in some quarters, but there y’are–in a perfect world we’d be able to help everybody, but it’s an imperfect world, and I do not believe that letting an animal live out their natural lifespan in rage and fear is any great gift.)

So this is why, despite being a fairly ethical person, I’m ultimately NOT completely opposed to the death penalty, because I genuinely believe that some people are too far gone, for whatever reason, to learn not to do bad things. And there is no point in punishing them for this lack, but nevertheless they need to be put down.

Now, it would be really really emotionally satisfying to say that any bastard who rapes an eight-year-old is obviously a mad dog and needs to be shot at once, and trust me, there are large parts of my brain that are yelling just that. REALLY emotionally satisfying. I strongly suspect that most decent human beings feel exactly that way.

But. But, but, but.

The thing is, it’s not the heinousness of the crime. You can tell me all the gory details of anything, and I will cringe and sweat and shudder and agree that yes, this was a very bad thing. But. The basis of the ethical system, much as it occasionally pains me, is not the question of whether I be emotionally satisfied. Watching criminals be fed to lions is probably plenty emotionally satisfying, but it sure ain’t ethical.

The point of justice is not to make me feel better, it’s to make the world better, and I am only a very small part of the world.

The question is whether or not the person in question is a sentient being capable of learning from being punished. And I don’t know. I wouldn’t know without meeting the guy. I am unlikely to ever know. I’ll leave that to his psychiatrists.

I don’t particularly agree with the Supreme Court decision–a lot of the rationale was based on arguments about punishment-as-deterrent that I already mentioned, and the argument that rape of children is not as morally depraved as murder. And my brain says that’s idiocy. Frankly, I think that if you’re the sort of bastard who rapes an eight-year-old, and you can’t learn that that is A Very Bad Thing, you probably need to be taken out back of society and shot. But the key for me isn’t WHAT you did, it’s whether or not you can learn that you shouldn’t do it. Otherwise we’re back to vengeance rather than punishment.

Ironically, this puts me in the weird position of just about believing that the insane and retarded should be executed if so required, because even though it’s not their fault, per se, they are incapable of learning not to do otherwise. I dislike that idea, but it IS the logical conclusion here, and I can’t see much of a way around it, because my ultimate argument is that the death penalty is not a punishment but a humane removal. There are those who are insane and retarded who would probably be happy merely being removed from society, and if so, then absolutely, do that!–but I suppose I don’t believe in making the mad live out their lives in misery any more than the sane. Ugh, what a mess.

The ultimate problem, of course, is how the death penalty is carried out in this country, which is, in a word, badly. And that’s why I find myself opposed to it, despite my belief that it is ultimately necessary in some cases, because we hit the imperfect-world problem again, and we’ve been doin’ a shitty job keeping the innocent off death row these days, to say nothing of the prolonged period of keeping the guilty ON death row, which is nothin’ but a clusterfuck. So even though I believe some people NEED to die (which is NOT the same as “deserve to die”) I in no way trust our current system to make a good decision on who those people are.

I dunno. That’s as far as I get from mulling over the question, and my own thoughts are pretty well conflicted, obviously. Other people may have a clearer and more elegant answer to the situation, and if so, I’d like very much to hear it.

*I had a friend with a potato launcher, and yes, it was wrong, and yes, I probably deserved to be punished for it, even though I wasn’t and it’s a really funny story. Remind me to tell you some time. But still, I had no idea what the punishment for accessory to potato launcher is. Still don’t.

R.I.P.

A moment of silence, brothers and sisters, for my faithful scanner.

Twelve years that beast lasted me. I bought it from a drug dealer in college in my younger, less ethical days* and it traveled across the country half a dozen times and survived each move intact.

Today, it failed to turn on. All the jiggling and replugging and rebooting did not change matters. Mr. Scanny has gone to that great big-box store in the sky.

A buddy of mine has an extra scanner he’d offered me as a backup awhile back, and Kevin’s got one so I can get the last dregs of art scanned before the show. Still, it is a sad, sad day.

Particularly since I may need a goddamn forklift to get it out of my studio. That sucker is HEAVY.

Alas. We will not see its like again. At least, not unless we want to spend a helluva lot of cash.

*This is a true story.

Okay, gang, it’s THAT time of year again…I’ll be at Anthrocon in Pittsburgh this coming weekend. (Can I sleep enough between now and then to restore the reserves depleted by Heroescon? Sources say…probably not!) Alas, given gas prices, I’m pretty much expecting sales to be slow this year, but as long as I make enough to break even, and I have fun, I’ll call it good.

Lookin’ forward to it! And, to that end, have the Anthrocon meme that’s been goin’ around, for all your Useful Information Needs!

La la la…
Where will you be most of the time during the day/s?
I have a table in the Dealer’s Room…C…something or other. I think. Generally speaking, that’s where to find me, orsomebody who can tell you where I am and when I’ll be back.

Where are you staying?
I’ll be at the Omni!

Who will you be with?
I’m sharing the table with my old buddy Psuedo-Manitou, a very talented artist, and poor Kevin has volunteered for the relationship Trial by Fur, and is coming along to help man the table. Look for the chick in the boots wedged between the two scary bald tattooed men. That’ll be me.

Also, Carlota will be there with her boyfriend Dusty. At any given moment, I will probably be in one of their company, or possibly pestering the guys from Sofawolf.

Can Kevin and Carlota, between them, make sure I actually remember to eat and do not attempt to live on PURE CAPITALISM? Tune in to find out!

Do you do free art?
Nope. I am a grubby-fingered mercenary.*

Do you do trades?
I’ve been known to swap prints with other artists, sure…

Do you do commissions?
Yes. However, it’s gonna be a little different this year–while I normally took eight to ten sketchbooks a day in the past, I’m not going to do that this time. I want to have FUN at a con for once, and hang out with the people I love, not stay up until 2 AM blearily scratching in sketchbooks. (Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy hanging out doing homework with other artists, but y’know.) So I’m gonna raise the prices–$30 for pencil, $45 for ink–and take a very limited number ‘o sketchbooks this time, no more than three to five a day, in hopes that I will actually get to hang out and party and enjoy myself and not wear myself to a shadow of a nubbin.**

So, um, get in early on that, if you absolutely MUST have one…

Do you have prints/ CDs ?
I have prints! I have big prints and regular prints and little wee prints! I have prints like you wouldn’t believe! Come one, come all, and see the prints!

Do you do badges?
I will, but only if you bring the stuff. I don’t have the badges and laminator stuff at the table.

What is your gender?
Two X chromosomes, no waiting.

How old are you?
Thirty-one and counting…

Can I touch you?
I’m never sure if the occurrence of this question on these sorts of things is a sign of our enlightenment as a community, or a sign that many of us can’t read social cues for blazes. Regardless, yes, if we know each other, you may hug me, I have no problems with that. I’m a social hugger. If we’ve never met before…umm…maybe not so much, but I’m happy to shake your hand. I don’t have don’t-touch-me-itis, anyway, if that’s what the question is about, so attempting to hug me is not going to cause me to go into screaming fits.

If you start randomly skritching me, though, odds are pretty good that I will feel rather awkward, attempt to politely disengage, and somewhere around then a bald gentleman with a lot of tattoos is probably going to tap you on the shoulder and give you a Look. The management cannot be held responsible for what may happen after that.

Can I talk to you?
Absolutely! If the table is crammed with people trying to hand me money, I may have to cease conversation, mind you. But I’m a pretty sociable type at cons, so no worries.

Can I buy you a drink?
Oh hell yeah.

*Okay, I lie. My hands are actually quite clean.

**What the hell is a nubbin, anyway?

Con Report!

So I spent the weekend at Heroescon, with the crew of the Dada Detective and Brooke of Girl and her Fed. Kevin came out Friday night and helped at the booth Saturday, getting a small and tame preview of the madness of Anthrocon, and a good time was had by all. We did all the things one does at cons, like get punchy as hell and start making lame jokes, infect each other with earworms (I may never get Kenny Rogers out of my head again…although even that was better than Kansas…) make appreciative comments about hot guys walking by, some of them in spandex–“I wouldn’t kick HIM out of bed for fighting crime…”– and playing “Pair or couple?” with passersby.*

A few highlights…

Saturday morning, Kevin laced me into the corset, which he hadn’t seen me in before. I readjust all the bits, turn around, and watched his pupils dilate like a bad trip to the opthamologist.

Kevin: You are gonna make soooo much money…

I went down to the convention floor, where Steph of the Dada Detective had ALSO dressed up and was smokin’ hot (although she was more Roarin’ Twenties than House of Leather.)

Brooke: We are gonna make soooo much money…

Saturday afternoon, Ahmet Zappa drops by the table. Now, Ahmet and I have the same agent and have known each other for awhile, we did a little work on a project together, he calls me up for a graphic novel proposal now and again. He wanted to talk about another possible project, we chatted about that for a bit, and I introduced him to my cohorts. (Ahmet is a charming guy, and has a great deal of presence. Possibly it’s hereditary. He also has a tendency to end every conversation with “Love your balls!” regardless of gender, but hey…)

I turn my back for two seconds, and Ahmet has descended on Brooke, and says “So! Ursula says you’re her security! Are you gonna kick my ass if I get out of line?”

There was a brief pause. Brooke gave me a look that said “I cannot BELIEVE you just told Ahmet Zappa that I was your security guard.”

Brooke: I don’t beat up large bald men. Or old ladies with canes. Everybody else, sure, but those two, she’s on her own.
Ursula: Some security guard YOU are…

After Ahmet had left, she turned to me.

Brooke: I cannot BELIEVE you just told Ahmet Zappa that I was your security guard!
Ursula: Well, he wasn’t going to believe that you were my lesbian lover!

…which lead directly into an incident Sunday. I was, at the time, wearing a leather halter-top and a cut velvet skirt. This will be important later.

Two guys had come up and were buying something or other, and chit-chatting a bit, very nice guys. (Pair, not couple, I b’lieve.)

Ursula: I need a bag! Right behind you, Brooke… (I was bent over behind her digging through boxes.)
Brooke, still in mid-spiel: And this is the artist, right here in the corset…

At this point she smacked a hand down behind her, intending to slap me on the back. But, as she said “And then I realized my hand was on velvet, not leather…”

Never let it be said that Brooke does not react well under pressure. She spanked me a few times and said, with flair, “We’ll be doin’ the show for the rest of the day! Come on back by!”

I straightened up–it’s the third day of a con, nothing fazes me any more–and saw the two guys looking somewhat poleaxed. They eventually stumbled off, and I looked at Brooke.

Brooke: Look, once I’d started, I figured I better finish off the joke.
Ursula: Next time, charge admission up front.

The best line of the Con, though, went to a woman who’s name I didn’t catch… I was in the bathroom with a nice woman applying her Borg makeup. We chatted for a minute, and she was very nice, and had a very thick Southern accent. As I left the bathroom, another woman leaving at the same time and I made brief eye contact, and she said “Y’all’ll be assimilated!”

I was still snerking on the way back to the booth.

And then there was the drive home…

Brooke and I were carpooling, and I was taking her back to Greensboro. Now, Brooke and I get along way too well.** Dead sober, well-rested, in public, we will eventually reduce one another to hysterics. But by this point we were past punch-drunk and into punch-obliterated, giddy as hell, and dead tired. It was bad.

So we’ve packed up the car, with the very kind aid of Matt, Steph, and Matt’s girlfriend Cassie, and we drive off. Since all my clothes are packed, I’m still in leather/velvet/boots, and we’re both ravenous, so we stop on the outskirts of Charlotte for a sandwich.

Somehow we find ourselves on Dale Earnhardt Blvd, which is hung with signs proclaiming it to be “The Dale Trail.” Mmm’kay.

We pull into the sub shop just as the rain is starting to pour down, run in, and…I felt uncomfortable. Couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I was just gettin’ a bad vibe. Not that anyone was rude, exactly, but…just bad vibe. I expecting somebody to stroll up at any moment and go “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Well, I’m a little naive. It takes me a few minutes. (It took Brooke about a quarter-second, by contrast.) It’s worth noting at this point that Brooke, by her own admission, despite being unrepentantly heterosexual, looks kinda stereotypically butch. (Not to say unattractive, mind you, but short hair and rather boyish look.) And here I am, still in leather and the Boots, and eventually the penny drops and I realize that ohhhhh…the staff is ALSO playing “pair or couple?” and has arrived at the wrong conclusion.***

Brooke claimed it wasn’t just that. “It’s not just that they think we’re lesbians. It’s that you stroll it in leather and studs, heavily tattooed, with your butch girlfriend, and obviously don’t belong here.”

“So if we were local lesbians, it’s be fine?”

“Maybe.”

Regardless, we finished our sandwiches in a hurry and got out. The Dale Trail had rejected us. Time to go. (I have a new sympathy towards the plight of homosexuals in America. I mean, I’ve always been sympathetic, but dude. That was really kinda uncomfortable.)

By the time we rolled into Greensboro, we were so giddy that youcould have replaced the air in the car with nitrous oxide with no noticeable effect. Somehow we came to the conclusion that the perfect end to a convention trip would be to visit a sex toy shop.

Unfortunately, it turns out that you can’ t buy sex toys at nine at night on a Sunday in Greensboro. There will be no vibrating on the Sabbath! You are screwed (or not, as the case may be.) We drove around looking for an open shop and only saw…one.

Ursula: Well, that one says “fantasy superstore,” but it looks a little shady.
Brooke: That’s the one that caters to men. We’re not going in there.
Ursula: We’re not?
Brooke: Not with you dressed like that.
Ursula: …oh. What would happen?
Brooke: Excellent customer service.

I bowed to Brooke’s expertise, and took her home.

By the time I got OUT of Greensboro, mind you, in torrential rain, having fought my way through a maze of streets by reading mapquest backwards, I was less giddy and more on the fine edge of hysteria. I called Kevin up to get directions.

“You sound a little punchy,” he said, in the soothing, pleasant tones one uses on drunks and mental patients.

“I’m a little tired. I have…um…noun.” I began giggling.

“Ah.”

“…please have coffee.”

“I will.”

So I made it out to his place, was declared probably unfit to drive in my current state, had coffee and a brief rest, felt infinitely better, and headed home.

All in all, a most excellent con! Money wasn’t fabulous, since everybody’s broke ‘cos of gas prices, but it paid for itself and I had a blast, and that’s pretty much the important thing. Will definitely do it again next year!

Now, to prepare for Anthrocon…

*Look, you’re stuck behind a table for three days, you take your amusements where they come.
**The fact that after being being a table for three days together, we were still talking on the ride home is kind of a giveaway. Eventually we will be in jail together.
***Karma, man….

Off to HeroesCon, in Charlotte, NC!

I will be in the small press area with the good folks of Dada Detective and Brooke of Girl and Her Fed. Stop by! Say hi! Buy art! Get your copy of Nurk signed! (Subtlety. I has it.) See the Boots! (Saturday & Sunday)

Nap Theatre

I dreamed–brief and vividly–of driving in a van full of people, most of whom I didn’t know. I was looking for a painting, which was titled “Two Ninjas Negotiating With An Earth Elemental To Buy Gravity.”

I wish like hell I’d actually SEEN the painting, because with the title like that…