My husband woke me up with this article which filled me to no end of glee, mostly because David Brin’s writing always fills me with glee, and if you haven’t read his annhilatingly cool article on Star Wars (which included the unbelievable ‘fix’ that actually cleared up almost every hole in the plot–pity they’ll never use it) then you should do so, because it’s a delight.

It’s not a rant about the flaws of the movies over the books, because anyone who is willing to expend time and energy arguing that there SHOULD have been twenty minutes of Tom Bombadil singing “hey-nonny-nonny-whatever-the-hell” needs to get out and get some fresh air and maybe take the crayon out of their nose, nor does it get bogged down in the percieved racism of Tolkien, which, while YES, the orcs are always bad and YES, the elves are always good, is not something to alert the ACLU about because, fer cryin’ out loud, it’s a movie, not a blueprint for future society. They’re slicing the genitals off three-year-old girls with dirty razors in Ghana, for Christ’s sake–go deal with that before you ask people to boycott a bloody fantasy epic because the orcs are mean. Um. What was I saying? Oh, right. Even though the headline is rather sensationalistic, it’s actually a fairly sympathetic handling of Tolkien, who was, after all, a product of his time and place, as are we all, and is more of analysis of the context in which the books were written. And his points about the Lord of the Rings being a Romantic epic are, I think, well-taken, and god knows, I agree that it’s better to be a snide and disaffected net-weirdo in this day and age then to be a snide and disaffected serf farming dirt in ages past. And yet, I feel that the essential point is that wizards and warriors and Romantic heros and so forth are really cool and thus valuable as fantasy, so long as we don’t get all weird about it.

Being that fantasy is pretty much my job–other than the occasional murder mystery cover, I essentially make money by illustrating other people’s fantasy lives or selling ’em chunks of my own–the whole topic is one near and dear to my heart, and LOTR is sort’ve the foundation myth for what I do. And it’s nice to hear it discussed without being taken TOO seriously, the way that too many such discussions inevitably go. Brin’s down on the elves. I approve of that. Elves are fantastic if you want to bonsai the forest, but I imagine they’d get really really annoying really quick. (I gotta say, I thought they did a fantastic job on Elrond in the movie, just for that reason–the Matrix agent bit was icing on the cake. “The worst thing about humans…mister…Gandalf…is the smell.”) Right, I’ll shut up now, I just wanted to share.

I have PMS.

*listens to the fading footsteps of half her readers fleeing into the night*

No, seriously, this won’t get messy. No gory details, I promise. I have that rare and weird form of hyperactive creative PMS that strikes every few months, which means that I’ve turned out a heckuva lot of art in the last few days, and will culminate in an eventual collapse into a bag of potato chips and ranch dip. Mmmm….ranch dip….

Err, right. The results are that I’ve been practicing my exaggeration and foreshortening lately. They always say that you’re supposed to be able to render correctly before you can distort convincingly, and I’m finally at the point where, whether or not I can render correctly, I at least think I can, which has given me the confidence to play around with a couple of exaggerated pieces lately, which I’ve quite enjoyed doing. I dunno if the results have any great artist merit–they started out as a “big pants” kind of lark, and we all know what they say about the big pants thing–or are even any more lively than my usual, but I’ll share ’em anyhow.

Kirin Eating Ramen
Shrunken Head

and, for Raynflower, because she’s right that there are dozens of lemur species other than the ringtail:
Aye-Aye

Score!

This morning was “Pack the Christmas crap up” day, characterized by the boxing and the strapping and the labelling and the hacking apart of large pieces of cardboard to make art mailers, and the age-old question of “How tightly can I scrunch a stuffed rhino so that I can shove it in a box with a stuffed elephant and a stuffed tarsier and wedge the whole thing shut through liberal use of packing tape? And while we’re at it, how many stuffed animals can dance on the head of a pin?” And then, of course, there’s the last minute Divvying Of The Art Amongst The Relatives, a sort’ve musical chairs where you put paintings that didn’t sell with people you couldn’t buy for. At first, you nobly attempt to match art to friends and family based on shared affections, in-jokes, themes, and species preferences, and then give it up and just send all the ones with nipples to people who don’t have kids.

But in the midst of this annual chaos came a happy surprise, as I waded through the closet searching for a box suitable for the plush safari, and pulled out a box labelled “Art–Crap–Misc.” (I believe in truth in labelling.) Opening it up I found the usual array of cheap (and dry) markers, scraps of leather, a container of gesso resembling the Great Salt Lake in miniature, and for some odd reason, a half dozen rooster tail feathers.

At the very bottom was a heavy square halloween candy bag. Curiousity piqued, I pulled it out, opened it up, and discovered the first forty issues of the “Books of Magic,” which I didn’t know I owned, residing in solitary splendor (and pretty fair condition, too) in a box unopened for the last six years. Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be descended in an unbroken line from the Pilgrims to have unexpectedly cool stuff lurking hidden in the closet, even if it’s not exactly ‘Antiques Roadshow’ material, and at the very least, gives me something to read now that I’ve gone through all the Discworld books yet again.

More things that should have words, but don’t–for example, the nagging guilt when you have failed to update your webpage recently. Or the nagging guilt mixed with vague defiance when you have failed to update your webcomic in the last week. Then, of course, we’d need a word for the short-lived sense of relieved accomplishment when you actually churn out a page, although it’s so short lived that, like many super-heavy elements with twenty syllable names, it’s only possible to detect it by the by-products it leaves after blinking out of existence.

Regardless, those by-products could currently be detected in my vicinity, if one had an electron microscope, say; and a particularly agonizing dungeon crawl in this morning’s gaming session allowed me to storyboard out the next five pages of my comic “Irrational Fears.” Now I just need a word for that sinking sensation that occurs when you realize that what was originally gonna be a ten or fifteen page lark is steaming toward thirty pages. Still, a story takes as long as it takes, sometimes longer, particularly, when you have no bloody idea what you’re doing. (But it’s all worth it for that equally nameless, but warm and fuzzy, deeply astonished feeling when total strangers come up to you and say “Man, I love the thing with the chupacabra!”)

The latest installment of that thing with the chupacabra

The Middle East is historically a hotbed of all kinds of trouble, and I think in the U.S., even leaving aside Dubya’s recent schtick, there’s a lot of sort’ve undirected hostility at the entire region, which runs the gamut between thinly-veiled racism, and an exasperated “For the love of god, can’t you people just get along!?”

However, out’ve that region, in addition to such niceties as the zero, astronomy, and a lot of the roots of Western civilization, came what I think is some of the finest poetry ever written, the works of the dervish Rumi, one of which I tripped over more or less at random a few hours ago, which caused me to renew my love-affair with the man’s words.

You have said what you are.
I am what I am.
Your actions in my head,
my head here in my hands
with something circling inside.
I have no name
for what circles
so perfectly.

I could go on and on, but I won’t, except to say that everybody owes themselves a read through the works of Rumi, either on-line or if you happen to pick up the spectacular ‘Unseen Rain’ collection. My parents read his poetry at their wedding. He was one of the greats, and he could do it in a dozen lines or less, too.

Went to Toys R Us. Shopped for the various nieces, nephews, and my three-year-old brother. (Don’t ask–when they tell you that brewer’s yeast and kelp pills will make you feel young again, they’re not kidding.)

I’m not sure if it’s merely the fuzzy golden glow that age always casts over the past or not, but damn, toys are cooler these days. They have dragon Legos! Dragon Legos! I would’ve lopped off my arm for dragon Legos! Both arms! And action figure quality has gone up astoundingly in recent years, too–I think it’s because they assume adults are collecting ’em. I’m not sure if toys in general have gotten cheaper, or if my concept of money has changed–ten dollars is no longer a small fortune to me now, but they all seem quite reasonably priced, with the sole exception of things like Harry Potter toys, which were ungodly. (The Barbie-esque Hermione had my husband making theatrical choking scenes in the aisles.)

Bein’ me, I mostly went the stuffed animal route–every child needs a stuffed rhino, right? Right. And my kid brother can now lock his foes into the mini-crow cage of the Fisher Price Goblin Dungeon. (I would’ve KILLED for a dungeon to keep the My Little Pony prisoners in, when I was a kid…)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–inserting the word “fur” wherever the letters P, E, and R have a chance get-together is a crime against the English language, and good taste in general. If I see one more furson’s fursona being furrennially fursecuted, I may gouge my eyes out to escape my own fursonal Furgatory.

Or at least make them write “I will not make an already fringe movement look even more silly by mutilating a language that never did anything to deserve this kind of abuse,” six hundred times on the chalkboard.

Didn’t we learn from “herstory” and “wymmyn” and all the other tortured verbal constructions of the more embarassing bits of the feminist era? This sort of thing does not lend a movement legitimacy, it makes you look like a raving nutjob. Call it furry, sure. Call yourselves furries, great, although some sneaking part of my brain still expects a “furry” to be covered in body hair, rather like my husband’s psychotic ex-roommate, Eytane, who had back hair that you could lose change in. (And that was his best trait.) But really, hasn’t the poor language suffered enough under l33tsp33k and the tragic bastardized Japanese “OOOO! KAWAAAIIII!” thing? Must insult be added to injury? Using “fur” as a gender-neutral pronoun is one thing, but c’mon–some days it reminds me of how the Smurfs talked.

Enough! The language is for communicatin’, not some kind of depraved voice-recognition code between the terminally cute! Fur Is Murder! (of the English language, anyway.)

Thank you. That is all.

(Man, catharsis galore! I shoulda gotten one of these years ago…)

Idiocy and Anteaters

When I say “This image must be around 650 pixels high–you can make it as long as you want, but keep it at least 650 pixels high,” you know what that means, right? And if you were doing that image, you would make it around 650 pixels high, right?

You wouldn’t, for example, make it 500 pixels high and then put it on a blank white background that was 600 pixels high, and assume that your addition of blank white space (and not even the correct amount of blank white space) freed you of such size constraints, would you?

*sigh*

In the cosmic scheme of things, this is a minor annoyance, and as is usually the fate of such minor annoyances, I’m saying “It was a miscommunication on my part,” because it’s infinitely easier to say it’s your fault (or nobody’s fault) than attempt to impress on someone you’ve never met, have no authority over, and know only by the intervention of a third party who’s paying you both, that they’ve screwed up and you wish them to do it again, and do it right this time. It’s not that big a deal. They probably just misread what I said. It’s just that when you have issued only ONE constraint that you need followed–and they don’t follow it–you wonder why you even became an artist, when being a medical test subject pays so well, and being a professional beggar in India only requires the loss of one foot.

In happier news, I’ve been on an anteater kick lately, ever since seeing some of the adorable little critters while watching “The Jeff Corwin Experience.” The silky anteater is possibly the cutest thing ever, I think because it’s as simplified as an animal can be. Big eyes, long muzzle, everything else lost under fur. It’s almost a cartoon, and has led to the following exercises in cute.

Moo.
Xmas
Two Little Gay Anteaters Are We….

Political Art And Other Horrors

So a buddy of mine send me a link to this news article t’other day. Like so many political things these days, I don’t know whether to laugh at the ludicrousness of it all, cry at…well, the ludicrousness of it all, or just invest in a large placard that says “These People Do Not Represent Me” to wear whenever I leave the house.

This will not be a rant about abortion, but about art, so bear with me for a paragraph or two.

Saying that I am pro-choice is like saying that the sea is a bit damp, but the older I get, the less I feel like arguing about it. I’m past the angry youthful days when I secretly dreamed of forcibly implanting fetuses in all the top male pro-life activists just to see if they’d practice what they preach–my husband James pointed out that such an act was in fact a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, which forced me to actually look up the Geneva Convention, something that should not be required of anyone before breakfast. He was right, too. Damnit. So I cling to the moral high ground, such as it is, and take guilty pleasure in books by Sheri S. Tepper, and every now and then I wonder if my current stance on the matter is a morally advanced one, or whether I’ve just been beaten down by ennui.

My intent here is not to debate abortion because I don’t believe it’s a topic TO debate–what happens in my innards is my own business and no one else’s, particularly not any government’s, and I’ll extend the rest of the world the same courtesy. Your innards, your business. The contents of my reproductive anatomy are no more a subject for general debate then, say, the contents of my digestive anatomy, and believe me, you don’t want to spend any time discussing that. (Trust me.) And, in any event, I have in all my life seen exactly ONE case of learned debate changing a mind about the topic, which I think was a statistical fluke and not likely to be repeated. So it’s not worth it.

That said, the real heart of the matter is that things like this make me want to do political art. I read things like this and get twitchy urges to make posters, in that sort’ve Angry Eastern European, post WW2 style, replete with catchy bumper-sticker style slogans and eye-searing primary colors. And while I know how I feel about abortion, I don’t really know how I feel about political art–I’ve seen some magnificent stuff done along those lines, I greatly admire artists like Pseudo-Manitou who do it well, and at the same time, whenever I see art that requires a message in order to be worthwhile, my hands itch for the sledgehammer.

Art should look cool. Everything else is secondary. If I had a religion, that would be inscribed on the stone tablets. And yet…and yet…I don’t know. I loathe artists who’s work is only a vehicle for their particular axe to grind, and I am contemptous of art that is “obvious”, where the message is so blazingly obvious that it’s the visual equivalent of a Rush song. There are paintings that I’ve done myself where I’ve curled my lip up at how obvious I was being, and felt as if I was insulting my viewer’s intelligence–“Ooo, look, it’s a fairy shooting up on heroin! Here, why don’t I just hand you a sheet of paper that says “I.V. Drugs Are Bad For You.” (God, I hate that painting.)

And then I read news articles like that and wonder if the vast majority of humanity is so incredibly thick that only the artistic equivalent of a two-by-four between the eyes is gonna get through. And if I have some kind of moral obligation as an artist who actually believes in things, since I don’t volunteer, donate money in great quantity, or really, do anything other than mutter to myself, to do make art reflecting that belief. And then I wonder if anybody, anywhere, has ever had their mind changed about an issue by a painting. Because I never have, and I don’t know if I should be delighted that art COULD change someone’s mind, or sad that something as trivial as who’s got the best graphic designer could sway the minds of men.

Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” but he failed to mention what to do when you were stuck at both ends of the spectrum.

Man, this livejournal stuff is cathartic.

And that’s my rant.