King of Anglers

Most animals, down to the single-celled level, are looking for an angle – an advantage on surviving and thriving. It works differently at different levels. A protozoan with a light sensing organelle uses some kind of chemical binary decision making to guide it to food or away from danger. A more complex animal gets more options – up down left right open or close your mouth. Nurturing animals angle to give their offspring advantages, laying those eggs in a caterpillar, whatever.

Why are humans so useless at doing the right thing on a mass level? At helping the flourishing of the entire species? It’s only natural to look for an angle, and we’re all doing it. But our behavior is so complex we might not even notice what we’re doing. There are those who convince themselves it’s cool to do obviously malevolent things. But the rest of us have our angles too.

In government and business, we diffuse responsibility so no one person can be blamed. Then we get that little leg up. We don’t have to be told by a mastermind or sinister cabal. We just have to want to do well for ourselves in our jobs. If that means harming someone to make your performance metrics look better, eh, it’s just one person, one time.

Just one little law bent or rewritten to help out your cousin’s business. It can be selfless – just do one person a favor and put two million at risk of lead poisoning. Maybe nothing will happen. You could get lucky. That contractor who was trying to do well for his business told you as much. The supposed high quality components are overpriced, the cheap stuff could last fifty years, you never know.

Animal instincts are killing us all. But we’ve never been able to stop. Maybe at an individual level, but en masse? It might not be possible. Ian Malcolm annoyed me as much as he annoyed John Hammond. “This level of control you’re attempting, it’s impossible.” I don’t like to believe that. Chaos seems like nonsense, like magic.

And yet. Global ecological collapse is out of the bottle, on a rampage. Nobody who was in a position to do anything about it could bring themselves to fight that instinct. They angled. Will they change their stripes now? Doesn’t seem like it. Even if they did, will it make a difference?

Humanity is the King of Anglers. But you can only steal so many advantages before you’re stealing them from yourself. Capitalism is a man eating his own legs and not noticing it until he’s almost dead. It’s a shame being a skin cell on this demented man, unable to affect the grisly scene. Being human is a real trip.

Sitting on the Ground

I have a less than average concern for how I look to passersby and tend to sit on the ground when I’m waiting for the bus. In the war against homeless humans, a lot of stops don’t have benches, so I’m down in the dirt, sitting with my legs pretzel’d. That puts me close to the small details of the environment – the tiny stones in the concrete, odd-looking weeds moss and stray plants, crumbs, garbage, insects. One time I saw the circle of dust being blown away from a wasp’s wings, as if it was a tiny helicopter. I wonder how many people notice these things.

This morning I had a dream I was in some kind of half-assed boot camp for work. It was in or around an antique church. At one point we had to swim in this heated pool. I was able to swim despite not having that skill in real life. There were ducks swimming underwater near the surface, big fish in the depths. After we got out I saw an automated stand selling posh ice cream cones and wanted one, but the alarm woke me up.

I get to work and there are two cars in the parking lot. Ask one person and tell the other the news. The freezing temperatures last night caused a power outage. We’re supposed to wait for a call at ten AM or check our work’s inclement weather line to find out if we’re going to come in later at all. I could have gone to the mall to wait til ten, but it was less walking and less waiting to just get on the bus home instead. Turned out to be the right call because work stayed cancelled.

While walking to the bus, I saw lots of robins chasing each other through the trees, making cute squeaks. I should clarify these are American/fake robins, so picture a thrush. When I sit on the icy concrete next to the frosted grass, I see crows out in the street poking at I don’t know what. One of the crows bounced back to the curb a few paces from me, nervous of traffic.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen bird breath, but it’s a thing. When the weather is cold enough and the bird is big enough, you can see their breath as surely as your own. Warm blooded, after all. I’ve only ever noticed it on crows, and then rarely. Whether it’s because they’re small or because weird bird respiration keeps their breaths short or thin, even on a snowy day, you can’t always see a crow’s breath. Just when they’re taking a deep one.

This crow on the curb was puffing out so much vapor that when it had its beak tilted down, I saw the vapors break over the concrete. It was like a fantasy creature using its ice breath attack. It was also occasionally sneezing, which was adorable and sad. The sun crested the east side of the valley about then and I wondered if one of those was a sun sneeze – where a temperature shift in your face tickles your nose.

Well, I have the day off, so that’s one three day weekend soon to be followed by a four day weekend. I know I need the practice at work so this isn’t great on that level and undercuts my appreciation of this luck, but I do hope to enjoy myself.

Ghost Cats and Gauntlets

You get used to a cat being a presence, like any given movement or patch of appropriate color the right size in your peripheral vision could be the cat. Walk in the room, dark spot on the bed. Did you leave your t-shirt there or is it your black cat? Your eyes adjust, it’s the cat.

When I get tired I get minor hallucinations of movement. Might be something to do with the floating debris on my eyeball that I can see well due to nearsightedness. I see that stuff sliding by and my eye chases after it, imagines a more substantial source to the motion.

So sometimes I see a movement, not dark enough to be my alive cat Hecubus, and forgetting her recent passing, fills in my deceased cat Momo. She’s ghosting about my room, animated by the frailty of human senses and endurance.

This coming week is the most likely yet to cause me to flame out of my new job. Every day I work there I feel like my brain is being taken apart and put back together. My chest is hollow and my arms weak. I might find it easier with less direct oversight. With fewer interruptions from someone trying to catch my mistakes, I may be able to relax into things more. Or without close supervision I might get flustered with difficult customers and get shouted down, broken like a dog.

This weekend is half over and too fucking short. The shit we’re expected to do for the right to not be homeless, amirite peoples?

The Black Coach of Sorrow

…or Darby O’Gill and the Goodbye Momo

content warning: animal death, dismal feelings

A long time ago film companies had studios. There are vestiges of this arrangement, but as exploitative and sheisty as the studio system was, it had too much overhead for modern capitalism. They had to go. Once upon a time, though, Disney was in a system where they had a film studio and a sense of obligation to use it. It was just how things were done. Get a studio, use it or lose it. So they cranked out some really bizarre little films for a few decades, like The Absent-minded Professor and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Did they do Herbie the Love Bug and The Parent Trap? The Shaggy DA? I think they did.

Eventually the production values dwindled until there was nothing left but made for TV fare. But back in the halcyon days before pomade quite fell completely out of style, they made a goofy Irish-sploitation leprechaun movie called “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” Now it’s mostly used in clip form to show Sean Connery singing romantically a few years before he became James Bond. But believe me, it’s an entire-ass film. I saw it on TV when I was a child and a few things stuck with me.

Darby O’Gill catches a leprechaun king and tries to be smart about his wishes. But something (karma?) something, his young daughter was going to die, and he had to use his last wish to take her place in hell. The leprechaun king lets him off the hook and they live happily ever after. But it was a bit dark for small children.

I remember him yelling “The BawnSHEEeee!” when the spectres started appearing, and that Death wasn’t a guy with a boat. He had a flying horse-drawn carriage. Maybe it influenced Jowling Kowling Rowling’s thestrals. I just remember that element being pretty spooktacular. Translucent horses show up and you get inside, resigned, nowhere to go but beyond that veil.

About 5:20 AM today, my sickly old cat Momo woke me up making these rhythmic choking sounds. I knew she was going to die real soon. I had been intending to schedule her to be put down on Saturday – after my work week and a little more time to keep her company, say goodbye. She’d been given subdermal hydration and an appetite stimulant to prop her up for a little while, but apparently her various lethal afflictions had a different agenda as goes the timeline of this.

So I roused my boyfriend’s mom to drive us to the emergency veterinarian, where we knew they would be ending her pain. It was dark out and the closest emergency vet was a few towns over. We went this way and that, through dark pre-dawn valleys, highways, freeways, and winding hillside roads. Along one such road we had to slow to not hit a raccoon. It was leaning into the road with one very human-like hand on the ground, ghostly and silver, teeth slightly bared, eyes glowing.

We all draw our own standards as to what constitutes respect for non-human animals. Cultures and religions factor into it, take away some of our choice, but at the end of the day we know what we want to do. Some people want to kill raccoons on sight, thinking about their overpopulation and menace to domestic animals, their spread of rabies. Or they just like killing for fun, because they’re gross creeps. Me and my ride are not the kind of people who want to kill a raccoon, so we gave it a chance to stay on the side of the road like a good boy.

We were on a mission to ease the suffering of an animal, our minds wracked with sympathy for her, locked in a box with some towels, on the back seat as it sloshed this way and that in the hilly terrain, who knows what happening in her abdomen. The dark chaotic ride, the silver goblin on the roadside, the boxes within boxes. I was put in mind of Darby O’Gill and the carriage of Death.

We were the carriage of Death, as we had been on a similar night a few years ago when Mochi was dying. He’d been in horrible condition and was screaming in pain as much as he was able. When I found out it was gonna be over for Momo soon, I thought she had at least a little more time, that it wouldn’t have to be like that. I was wrong. Maybe she was in less pain? Her heart rate was slow, temperature low.

Anyway, I feel like shit for having guessed wrong on her expiration date. My boyfriend said I should be with her and I said I’d see if I could try. But when we got there she wasn’t making noises anymore. I didn’t know if she was alive. They said she was, but wasn’t tracking on anything. Even so, I also feel like shit for not looking into her eyes as she went. Or at least facing her with eyes closed. Cats like that. I just wanted them to let her go as quickly as possible, so I didn’t go there.

My boyfriend and I got Momo and Mochi about a year after we moved in together, if that. Now they’re both gone. And I got to be one of the sad coachman for both those rides into the abyss. Then it was straight to work for a full day of crapola. I’m dead like the studio system. Good night.

momo the cat, a fresh young dilute calico american shorthair.

¿Inktubres Conmigo?

Inktober with me? Last year when I did Inktober the results were really weird. But it’s a case of garbage in garbage out. I wanted to do the official Inktober prompts because I wanted to be official. But they were lazy and uninteresting, so at the same time I did the mythology prompts. My boyfriend said I should do legitimately Halloweenish content, and helped me generate a much better list of prompts for this year.

So, anybody interested? You do a drawing a day. Traditionally that was ink, but I really don’t care. You can do cosplay photography if you like. Each day of October there’s an iconic horror movie monster to draw. And below that list, a cloud of art styles you can use to spice up the image. One plus one. Will you draw Jason Voorhees in a rococo style? Dracula as a dog playing poker?

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THE INSTRUCTIONS:

Take the iconic horror movie character and render them in an art style you choose from the Style Cloud!  When an iconic monster has a group (such as Lost Boys), you can choose your fave.  When there are multiple movie depictions, you can choose your fave.

  • 01  Jason VoorheesFriday the 13th
  • 02  NosferatuNosferatu
  • 03  Carrie WhiteCarrie
  • 04  BeetlejuiceBeetlejuice – Beetlejuice
  • 05  JigsawSaw
  • 06  ChuckyChild’s Play
  • 07  GodzillaGodzilla
  • 08  The ChildrenVillage of the Damned
  • 09  PennywiseIt
  • 10  The TetheredUs
  • 11  Freddy KruegerNightmare on Elm Street
  • 12  ErikThe Phantom of the Opera
  • 13  CandymanCandyman – Candyman – Candyman – Candyman
  • 14  The Saeki FamilyJu-on
  • 15  Michael MyersHalloween
  • 16  The WolfmanThe Wolfman
  • 17  The XenomorphAlien
  • 18  PinheadHellraiser
  • 19  The NunThe Conjuring 2
  • 20  GhostfaceScream
  • 21  The Creature from the Black Lagoon
  • 22  Audrey IILittle Shop of Horrors
  • 23  The Lost BoysThe Lost Boys
  • 24  Gorilla Wolf MofosAttack the Block
  • 25  LeatherfaceTexas Chainsaw Massacre
  • 26  The MummyThe Mummy
  • 27  Regan MacNeilThe Exorcist
  • 28  Hannibal LecterSilence of the Lambs
  • 29  Bride of FrankensteinBride of Frankenstein
  • 30  Frankenstein’s MonsterFrankenstein
  • 31  DraculaDracula

    the Style Cloud

When a certain artist is named, they are just a stand-in for their style or spirit.  You can make take Kazuo Umezzu for Junji Ito, Lucian Freud for Egon Schiele.  Some categories are inclusive enough, you could range Hannah Barbera from Scooby Doo to the Flintstones.  Or choose a style not on the list.

Ghanaian Poster Art    Urban Art    Rap CD Art    Outsider Art    Looney Tunes    Rococo    Roman Dirge    Robert Crumb    Hernandez Brothers    Daniel Clowes    Saul Bass    Gibson Girl    Winsor McCay    Popeye    Stoner Art    Hanna Barbera    Caricaturist    Tumblrized    Furry Art    Disney Art    Mascot    Pee-Chee    Harry Clarke    Dictionnaire Infernal    John Tenniel    Struwwelpeter    Klasky Csupo    Max Fleischer    Spongebob Squarepants    Tim Burton    Batman: The Animated Series    Cartoon Network    Stevens Universe     Rage Comics    Egon Schiele    Surrealism    Chuck Tingle Cover    Romance Novel Cover    Jack Kirby    Rob Liefeld    Garfield    Strip Comics    The Far Side    Sailor Moon    Pokemon    Alfonse Mucha    Yoshitaka Amano    Cave Art    GrecoRoman Statuary    Faerie Art    Pop Art    Kitsch    Cubism    Mannerism    Impressionism    German Expressionism    Americana    Hieroglyphics    Ukiyo-e    Hindu Art    Mesoamerican Art     Paracas Art     Bayeux Tapestry    Illuminated    Saint Art    High Renaissance    Noir Comics     Dr. Seuss    Little Golden Book    Patrick Nagel    Lisa Frank    Airbrushed Van    Goosebumps Cover    Jack Chick    Audrey Kawasaki    Junko Mizuno    Junji Ito    Keith Haring    Louis Wain    James Audubon    Mad Magazine    Rumiko Takahashi    Nintendo    Castlevania    Joshua Timbrook    Jhonen Vasquez

If you want to participate, link to your art below!

What’s Up With Me

I went from working the most physically difficult job I’ve ever had to the most intellectually difficult job. Learning so much it hurts. Also the second most emotionally difficult job I’ve ever had, and it’s a close second. I may well flame out within a month or two, though I’ve been in training since June. But if I survive, it’s the quickest road to the best money and job security I’ve ever had. Of course, those stakes also raise the pressure.

I’ll blog more actively again when I get over the hump, or after I flame out. So in one or two months, or no sooner than eight, I think. I am still doing some odd creative things. If they go well, I may post them here. Just keep the expectations low and you won’t be disappointed, haha.



California Love

WOOOOOOOOOOOO California just outlawed private prisons! Some are talking about how this affects ICE detention centers, and sure that’s important, but this is fucking huge for human rights even beyond that issue. Public prisons are underfunded overcrowded dangerous messes, private prisons made those factors worse by bidding their way to the bottom of the barrel, feeding people moldy scraps and letting them die of horrific diseases. Shame this phase out plan is gonna take nine years. Now if they can just outlaw prison labor too – or at least restrict the scope of it to public works instead of a corporate slave industry – we might really be getting somewhere.

The Treacherous Center

Not talking about centrism today, not strictly speaking about what’s wrong with it or anything. I’m thinking about this situation with the Atheist Community of Austin, and in the larger sense the youtubers and organized atheists around that situation, and in a larger sense any situation where degrees of progressivism start sorting themselves out. (And disclaimer upfront – this is pretty stream-of-consciousness. I wrote the title at the beginning and not sure how relevant it’ll be by the end.)

At the beginning of the gnu atheist movement the big heads were all about equality and lgbt rights and so on. Any time the subjects were up, they were very quick to proclaim them as their own. As if simply not having codified rules of repression like the abrahamic faiths would guarantee you a less repressive society.

But then the rubber met the road. Some mild feminist sentiment was issued from a perspective other than that of an old white man, and our whole shit exploded. Oops. As of now, do people like Harris and DickDawk even consider themselves feminist, even in a vile CH Sommers version of the term? Are they done with that? What about other progressive issues? When the old man tweeted that he’d heard the term SJW for the first time, he was boosting a very nasty bunch indeed.

Slice, slice, those who posture that they have some degree of progressive beliefs define themselves and their positions in a way that backs genuine progressives into a smaller and smaller corner. Now we have Austin – the most politically progressive city in Texas. The Atheist Community of Austin. Equality for women, people of color, them LGBTs. All seemed in order, right?

But this debate about intersex and transgender athletes (that first started being covered on FtB at Reprobate Spreadsheet). The old boy network of Youtubers that included important figures in the ACA closed ranks in favor of the more trans-exclusive side. Given the complexity of the issue, I don’t want to claim any authority to speak to it. But smart people who’ve taken a closer look say the instigating youtube boy was being unreasonable and transphobic, and their arguments are airtight. So is youtube boy a transphobe? Should he be rejected as such?

No, there should be no reproach for the special rational boys of rationalism. SJWs gone too far rabble rabble. Initially the ACA had enough progressives on board to denounce youtube boy, but the oldboy network hedged them out. Slice, slice.

Once again the political center has expanded in a way that shoved an oppressed minority into a smaller slice. Once you’ve defined yourselves that way as an organization, once you’ve excluded those voices, how long before any other lip service you’ve paid to progressivism disappears? How long before you’re all thunderf00ting about the joint, licking lady legs and moaning about feminazis?

Maybe you do keep most of your equal rights cred in place. It was just one marginal little issue right? You can be a feminist and anti-racist and pro-trans (in most instances) while still thinking the bodies of athletes must be crammed into narrow little genderholes.

But in a way that’s worse for the people you’ve sliced away. Because if you’re eating up progressive bandwidth and you’ve shown yourself to be an unsafe group for trans people to be around, they’re stuck on an even smaller fringe than they were already. Progressive atheism is small enough to fit in a schoolbus. Fully trans-inclusive progressive atheism is gonna be stuck in a Prius.

The right wing in the USA is a fucking nightmare show of hardcore nazi-assed hate goblins. Any degree to which you inch toward them, any inch you step toward the center, is necessarily coming at the expense of some of your friends, families, lovers. It’s a treacherous move.

Spoilery Thoughts on Next Black Panther

This contains spoilers for Avengers: Whatever Whatever and Spider Man: Far From Shabby.

So I found out while watching the new Spiderman movie on my b’day yesterday that the people who had been snapped out of existence by T. Hanos were de-snapped 5 years later having not aged a day. For the purposes of spidermanning, it meant some kids were younger than their little siblings, which is kinda funny. But I started to think about the ramifications for other parts of that world.

Wakanda lost a king and got a replacement that was immediately rocked by some turmoil. Then that king got snapped, along with half of Wakanda, after battling and losing against an alien Grimace. I can’t imagine the average Wakandan thinks highly of T’Challa given those events, and do think they’d be quick to blame it on T’challa opening the borders.

I know some of the Black Panther comics involved dealing with movements for Wakandan democracy, but haven’t read them and don’t know how they went. But it’s a really safe bet the next Black Panther movie is going to include some amount of that.

T’Challa is going to come back to a kingdom in some level of turmoil. Maybe his mom will be acting as a regent, maybe his sister be queening. Maybe they will have capitulated to some form of democracy or republic. And you know there will be an agitator who is xenophobic, maybe racist, pushing to become a strongman “reformer” …

What I’m saying is I’d like to see if they make a bad guy of an African Trump. I don’t know how I’d feel about that kind of character being held up as symbolic of democracy itself, opposed only by an ostensibly righteous monarchy. That’s a mess. But it might be funny to see that orange scrote lampooned in the film. What do you think?

It Always Comes Back To Us, Doesn’t It?

I haven’t been following the debate with this transphobic chode on youtube, just catching one side of it in the form of HJ Hornbeck’s posts – which are quite useful and informative even outside of the original context. Because I didn’t follow the original context, I didn’t notice the chode in question is a member of the atheoskeptisphere, and has been backed by more prominent voices in our creepy little community.

I’m unsurprised, but it does hit me in that pit of despair, the place where I can see my people – the atheists, those who hold faith in reason – being both irrational and malicious, making the world a worse place. Just a week ago, murderous atheist islamophobe Craig Stephen Hicks was finally sentenced for his crimes. But there’s no true justice in the universe, and most of us won’t have to answer for spreading hate while robing ourselves in words like “reason” as if they’re magic armor.

Thanks for propping up this status quo, my bros. It’s important for people like me to stay humble. As long as it’s fucking impossible to be proud of being an atheist or skeptic, I’ll stay self-aware enough to avoid acting the fool, maybe do less harm in my blundering.