August 2005

Well, my PMS has ended in the normal fashion, thank god, but my peculiar artist’s block is still firmly in place. Two steps forward, one step back, I guess. I could fill this entire sketchbook with doodles (and may yet!) but I cannot seem to sustain anything long enough to get a painting out of it. I start a piece, I get maybe an hour on it, and then my brain simply stops, and I am no longer interested.

I suspect I am waiting for something to catch fire in my brain, but it’s taking its own sweet time about it. I’ve had this for about two weeks now, checking back through my past posts, during which time I have managed to get three paintings and a coupla fairly elaborate scraps done, plus enough doodles to choke a wombat. Lots…and lots…of doodles. My sketchbook is filling up with random cartoon heads. My studio is filling up with bits of illo board with the sketch carefully set up, and my hard drive is filling up with doodles equally abandoned.

Actually, I suppose three paintings in two weeks, plus four pages of Digger, plus an assload of sketching and said elaborate scraps is doin’ pretty damn good for somebody who claims to have artist block, so maybe I should quit whining. I’m starting a lot of things that don’t get finished, true, but I did finish a few there, too. On the other hand, I did three paintings the week before this started, so it’s a definite drop in productivity. On the gripping hand…err…I dunno, I just like using that phrase to re-establish my geek cred.

Eh, such is life.

I have, god help us, the worst kind of PMS.

No, not the wolverine killing rage kind. That one’s only bad for other people.

No, not anxiety PMS either. Although that one does suck, mind you.

No, I have…weepy PMS.

My first sign was wandering around Food Lion and suddenly being stricken with crushing despair amongst the Cheetos. I don’t think Cheetos are usually harbingers of despair,* so that was kind of a tip off. Then I went to the car, turned on NPR, and was moved to nearly to tears by the current price of oil, although to be fair, completely rational people would cry over that right now, so it might not be proof either. But the signs were all there. Random weeping to NPR is always my tip off–when you find yourself sobbing over a status report on IRA disarmament or an interview with a mime, you know you’re in for a rough couple of days, brooding over the deaths of fictional characters, sulking on the couch, and sighing heavily a lot.

I am in a funk. A hormonal funk, which is both the best and worst kind–best, because you know rationally that your life is really wonderfully fine, and it’s all just chemicals in your head, and worst because there’s not a damn thing you can do, nothing you can resolve, it’s all just chemicals in your head. Distraction and hard work, the great cures for despair, make no dent in weepy PMS. Well, hard work sort of does, but it’s hard to sustain. The vast wells of cheery energy upon which my life is founded are at the low water mark. I feel like the last day of the flu–not really sick, but not ready to get out of bed yet, either.

Fortunately, I only get this subspecies a few times a year, tops, and it tends to clear up a few days before the actual culmination of Ye Olde Hormonal Cycle, so at most I’ve got another day and some change. It does seem to be more common as I age, which is annoying. Why couldn’t I get more of the Deranged Cleaner PMS, or the Muse-Ridden PMS? Now those would be useful.

Oh, well. Time to shower, and curl up with a good book, and wait it out.

*NEW!! Extra Nacho Misery! Now with tiny black wings and more cheese flavor!

Until about five minutes ago, I had never seen anybody on TV handling a golden mole, which meant I had no idea how big they were. I thought that they were…well…mole sized!

Nope. They’re little tiny critters smaller than the palm of your hand. They are eyeless, and burrow through the sand of the Namib desert. And in the way of all very simple-featured creatures, like silky anteaters and muppets, they are painfully cute. (You may need to see them moving around, mind you, since this just looks like a fuzzy rock with a wart, but trust me, the footage of the little things trundling along made me make horrible squeaky noises.)

I like this.

You could say the same about a lot of art, too, which is why I am automatically wary and suspicious of any painting jumping up and down waving flags that say “LOOK AT ME, I’M SYMBOLIC OF SOMETHING!” Nevertheless, I would be a little hurt to think that my art was meaningless, but it’s not the sort of 1:1 symbol-to-meaning ratio that I could haul out and say “This abstract spoon is the suffering of women in Walmart sweat shops, and the chicken is capitalism and the moose represents the Vatican,” unless I’m trying to be funny.

Needless to say, t’other Ursula (in the shadow of whose name I have lived since I got the Earthsea trilogy at seven) says it better, because she’s da man. Which is why, when they read off the roster of Great Ursulas at the end of time, I am aspiring for the number four position at best.*

*The martyred saint and Ursula Andress, before you ask. Which one I was named after depends on which of my parents you ask. Sure, I’d like to think that an artist could eventually surpass a Bond girl, but c’mon, who are we kidding?

Three days to beat Jade Empire. I feel smug. Not that it was a terribly difficult game, and suited my random button mash style very well, but entertaining none the less. And not a bad story at all. (Damnit, though, I remember the infancy of CRPGs with romance-with-party-members subplots. I think it was “Gateway to the Savage Frontier” by SSI. At 28, I can’t claim this makes me old, but in twenty years, shaking my controller at the young whippersnappers, that’s gonna date me sorely.)

Probably as proof that I am inherently a wuss, however, every single game in the recent trend of good-or-evil sees me playin’ the noxiously good guy. I can’t stand to kick even virtual puppies. And it pains me to be rude even to conglomerates of pixels.

Obviously that early Catholic influence took with a vengeance…


Alas, the sliding glass door finally claimed a victim. Generally when the birds hit it, they do so at no great speed, since the trees block most of the avenues of approach, and they flap away, shedding down and looking embarassed, but unharmed. Even the doves, who sound like cannonballs when they careen into the glass, are usually unhurt.

The female cardinal today, however, must have come down in a stuka-like dive, because she hit the glass at ramming speed and broke her neck. Up close, she was an odd, patchy bird with surprisingly pale breast feathers shading into neon shoulders. Like many birds, the colors seem oddly artificial up close. I considered photographing her, but she was one of our mite-afflicted birds, and I figured it wasn’t worth that much close contact with her parasites. Alas, poor cardinal. Bummer.

Random Game Geekery

Okay, playing “Jade Empire” and the elephant demons are so damn cute that I wanna hug ’em.

Edit: And furthermore, there is not nearly enough Asian steampunk in the world. Somebody should get on that! I mean, it’d be COOL!

So last year was the Summer of the Botflies as far as my backyard wildlife was concerned, as those of you who followed the exploits of Lumpy & Co are well aware. (Gimpy is the only squirrel I’ve been seeing recently–all the others are doubtless trying to beat the heat somewhere else, but Gimpy still likes my railing as the premier crash spot.)

But not much botfly activity this year. A few suspicious bumps, a comma-shaped scar on Gimpy’s flank, but not the Quasimodo-esque excesses of last year. No, this year would appear to be the Summer of the Feather Mites.

From Kojak the completely bald-headed male cardinal to Scruffles the bald titmouse, we’ve got parasites or mange or something. There’s two female cardinals that went from elegant, understated tan to scruffy patched grey, large bald patches filling in with ragged grey down. Kojak is still around somewhere, still bald as an egg from the neck up. Scruffles has vanished into a sea of identically mussed titmice, and the mottle olive pine warblers are looking distinctly motheaten.

Now, some of this may be due to molting of one variety or another, but I can’t believe that Kojak’s absolute alopecia is a natual process. Some of these poor things look like they’ve been inexpertly tarred and feathered.

Who knows what parastitic horrors next summer may bring?

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  • I write & illustrate books, garden, take photos, and blather about myriad things. I have very strong feelings about potatoes.

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