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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

I spent all of last weekend accidentally holed up in my house by myself. There’s a particular weekend in May that is usually reserved for the perfect storm that is my mother’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, and Mother’s Day all rolled into one. But even though this weekend was all reserved for those festivities, they were all cancelled at the last minute and I found myself with loads of free time.

Now, for a lot of comickers, this would be a dream come true. We crave solitude and the indoors, shunning sunlight and interaction. And this is usually the case for me too. I work at home one day a week, and it’s always a struggle to force myself to leave the house just on that one day in order to mail stuff, run errands, drop off books at comic stores, etc. Do I drag myself out of the house the four days of the week I’m not working at home? Yes. But begrudgingly.

My dream is to someday make my own schedule and work from home at will. I love being holed up all day myself and not having to go out into the sunshine and be around the public.

So that’s why it was troubling that this recent unexpected stretch of hermitdom . . . Started to get to me after a while. I made it through Friday without a hitch. Plenty of stuff to do, plenty of fun meals to make. Come Saturday, knowing I had limited time before I’d have to go out and meet up with family, I was productive and level headed. But once Saturday plans fell through, even though I delighted in having more free time to myself, I started to feel … twitchy.

I read somewhere once that people need to see at least one human face a day. Not a photo, not TV. They had to get out and look at a real life person in order to feel okay. Like when you work in a cubicle all day, they tell you just being able to see something green and alive outdoors reduces your stress levels and allows you to pretend you don’t work in a tiny box.

Something must happen when you’re sequestered, even for a little while, that requires you to remind your brain you don’t live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. That there are other people outside, in case you need them.

I don’t think I’d ever get cabin fever. I see The Shining as a fun vacation spot. But I do know this – on Saturday, I was forced to break hermitdom by powers beyond my control and go out in search of a face. And then, magically, I felt better again.

How do you guys deal with the solitude? What’s your quota of human faces per day?

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Tomorrow is the most magical day of the year – Free Comic Book Day!

Even though I’m freshly back from visiting Portland and exhibiting at the Stumptown Comics Fest (and dying to talk about it), I wanted to take a minute to plug how awesome Free Comic Book Day is and the independent comic book stores that support it. Held the first Saturday in May every year, the main mission behind FCBD is to support comics and get new people interested in reading them. Most stores offer free comics, giveaways, fun events, creator signings (I’ll be at Collectors Corner in Baltimore – hollah!) – simply check out freecomicbookday.com for a list of participating stores, or just google the closest comic shop in your area!

When I was growing up in a teeny Maryland suburb, I found an amazing comic shop called Zenith Comics. The fact that it was located a couple stores down from a used CD store and next to a 7-11 made it a perfect storm of teenage hangouts. Zenith had a great selection of comics, graphic novels, and anime rentals, but most importantly it had owners who were willing to talk to 15-year-olds and let them lounge about the place for hours, happy to sit and chat and lounge someplace outside of their family homes.

My first comic obsession

Unfortunately, as is usually the case, Zenith eventually folded and was replaced by a run of the mill “Sports Cards & Memorabilia” shop. But I quickly found another comic store to fulfill my needs at the local mall (now a freestanding shop – Beyond Comics!), and thereafter every place I moved I was able to find a great local comic shop to suit my needs (these days I rely on Collectors Corner, Amazing Spiral, and Atomic Books). Even when I went on family vacations, I insisted on dragging my dad out to thrift shops and comic book stores. There will always be a NEED for these local comic shops and their hard working purveyors. We trust them to scour the distributor listings, get to know the repeat customers, and recommend titles to choose from. They provide a wonderful haven for imagination and lively discussions of what everyone loves – stories.

So as long as we keep remembering to support them in their noble mission (a.k.a. bringing comics to the masses) and don’t just buy everything via Amazon, they’ll continue to stick around and not go the way of Zenith.

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I know this was supposed to be a WEEK of Kick-Ass Women, but I’ve been a little busy this week prepping for Spring Bada Bing, so I think I’m going to turn this into an ongoing series on them instead. Because, let’s face it – I will never get tired of talking about them.

The next Kick-Ass Woman is actually THREE women who all impacted my view of what at a kick-ass woman could be. And they all happen to be named Michelle!

No, not Michelle Obama, even though she has charmed the entire country with her guns:

The three Michelles I want to talk about are Pfeiffer, Rodriguez, and Yeoh.

MICHELLE #1: Michelle Pfeiffer

After I saw Tim Burton’s Batman, I wanted to be Vicki Vale. I don’t know what it was about her I admired so much – the blond hair, the big red lips, the awkward way she handled herself around The Joker? I would draw her face over and over again, I suppose thinking I could transfer some of her power into my own body.  I couldn’t see her being surpassed in my mind as a memorable female character in Batmanverse until, of course, Batman Returns rolled around.

Michelle Pfeiffer was amazing as the pitiable, weak “administrative assistant” who, at the beginning of the film, lets people walk all over her. So great, that even when she transforms into the whirligig force that is Catwoman, we don’t have to squint too hard to see Selina still in there, calling the shots. Catwoman is incredibly sexy, but she wields her sexiness as an accessory. Her motivation and her appeal is her craziness, her craftiness. (After all, she did whip up her whole black vinyl outfit on her cute little pink sewing machine she had tucked away amid her stuffed animal collection.)

One of my favorite scenes is when Catwoman stops a mugger attacking a woman in a lone alleyway – the stereotypical set-up for a hero to save a damsel in distress. Catwoman instantly recognizes the opportunity for what it is, and DOES save the woman, but she also takes a dig at the woman for letting herself be vulnerable. It’s an interesting parallel to her past, having been manipulated and abused at the hands of her boss, Max Shreck. Catwoman abhors the part of herself that was victimized but luckily doesn’t use that as a weapon against other victims. She still has her humanity left.

MICHELLE #2: Michelle Rodriguez

I don’t pretend to know anything about Michelle other than in her role as Anna Lucia on LOST (Although my 17-year-old cousin thinks the only movies are the Fast & The Furious movies). Anna Lucia was a damaged ex-cop who wound up amongst the unlucky pack of Tailies on the island TV show. Before the island, Anna Lucia had brought vigilante justice down on the guy who had shot her and unwittingly killed her unborn child. As soon as craziness starts happening to her little group on the island, Anna Lucia defaults into protector mode the only way she knows how — by blurring the lines between necessary force and an excuse to shoot everything that moves. And yet, even though she lost her confidence in herself as a police officer, she’s still damn good enough to recognize Goodwin for being the lying murderer that he is.

I really wish they hadn’t cut short her character on the show and had allowed her more time to develop. And, I also wish I looked as buff as her in a tank top.

MICHELLE #3: Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh is the only honest-to-god action star I’ve mentioned so far. She doesn’t just play one onscreen, she IS one. She’s in it, doing the action, fighting the fights, falling the falls.

I first saw her alongside Jackie in Supercop, and then in the regrettable Tomorrow Never Dies, playing probably the most competent and bad-ass of the Bond Girls in any of the movies.

But in the graceful, beautiful Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, you get to see how incredible she is in every single scene. LONG, continuous scenes that show you the range of her skills and talent and don’t try to hobble it together with cuts and fancy angles.

She’s the real deal.

I’ll admit it’s been several years since I’ve seen CTHD, so I won’t discuss the aspects of that particular character in terms of an action star. Michelle Yeoh is an action star that WAYYY supercedes any single role.

Those are your Michelle’s for the day. Anyone else got a Michelle who’s particularly bad-ass that they want to bring up?

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I consider myself to be someone heavily influenced by story. When I read something, I want to believe it. When I watch something, I feel like I still linger in that world a little bit, long after the credits role. And with characters onscreen, there’s always a piece or two of them that I want to absorb.

Since I announced that this is Kick-Ass Women Week, I’m going to celebrate just a few of the female characters I consider to have been the most inspirational on me growing up. Why? Because, just like when I watched the male action heroes onscreen, I wanted to fill those shoes for a moment and be them. Without crushing fear, doubt, hesitation, or (let’s face it) puny muscles. I wanted to be running, jumping, punching things. Sort of the reverse of Eddie Izzard’s desire as a young lad to be an action transvestite. Instead of dressing up in feminine clothes and running around, I wanted to mimic the male counterparts, put on a tank top, show off my guns. Until I finally found some females I could drool over.

Inspiration #1 – LINDA HAMILTON

Linda Hamilton is pretty much the pinnacle of what women interested in female action heroines look up to. Although she only really existed in the form of Sarah Connor in Terminator 1 and 2, and was pretty average in Terminator 1. In Terminator 2, however, she brought it.

Terminator 2 was when Sarah Connor realized, after being tormented by a robot in the first movie, that this shit had gotten real and she was going to have to learn how to defend herself, her son, and her human race. From the MACHINES. So, naturally, she got herself locked up in a mental institution for telling the truth.

Luckily for us, being locked in a mental institution means Sarah gets to do loads and loads of chin-ups. Otherwise known as the bane of my existence when I was 11 and this movie came out. Hang on – women can DO those? And be casual about it?? After the chin-ups, Sarah treats us to some pretty sweet bad-assery as she breaks out of her cell and nearly the whole institution before her son and Arnold Schwarzenegger come along and ruin everything.

So what if she’s a little nutty, and it takes her a while to remember that her son is not old enough to be a good soldier yet? Look at those arms and look at the fear she instills in those guards. Later on in the movie she gets some guns and grenades and stuff, but this is where I fell in awe with Linda Hamilton. Just a woman, all by her lonesome, cooking up ways to be prepared for the Robot Apocalypse.

Now, don’t you feel like running around barefoot and shoving people who get in your way?

How about you guys? Did Terminator 2 similarly change your life?

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Sometimes it’s difficult creating work outside of school and having to invent your own deadlines. It can be hard to get inspired or get ideas for new projects. I’ve found a way around this stumbling block, and that’s to find a person who’s style/work I admire and decide to silently compete with them.

It doesn’t matter that they have no idea that you’re competing with them, or even any idea you exist. What matters is that, in your mind, you are going to TAKE THEM DOWN.

When I was in college, I had a Photography class with this girl who I thought had great style. Everything she wore seemed put together just-so, so naturally instead of befriending her and asking her where she got her cute duds, I decided to silently up the ante on my own outfits. It was a tough competition – I think I only won once out of every twelve outfits. It was fun, though, and gave me a reason to try. Later, I saw her a couple years after graduating, and she looked kind of frumpy. And I was sad that I no longer viewed her as a competitor.

For the past two springs, I’ve been talking about creating a little vegetable garden in my backyard, but have always been thwarted by weeds, hornets, my knowledge of planting things, insert your excuse here. This spring I’ve been eyeing the spot where I want to make it happen, carefully planning my steps, y’know, holding off until I’m truly ready. Low and behold, suddenly our NEW neighbor has not one, but two roommates, every weekend they’ve been spotted tilling away in their backyard, and now what do you know – BAM, garden. Right next door, in the plot of land that used to look like a lush forest for rat families. They beat me to it!

That’s it, I’m gonna have to pull a Herman Blume. Take them down.

 

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That Tina Fey line perfectly captures my mood while I’m at work. When guys are rushing past me in the parking lot to get into the building in the morning or impatiently hovering behind me while I’m walking down the stairs. (These are the same guys who, while wearing comfortable tennis shoes, insist on taking the elevator up a floor.) I feel like this when I have to run errands after work – clomp through the pet store carrying the heavy litter, navigate my way in the aisles of the grocery store, pump gas and clean my windows. What I love about heels I also hate – they make everything more of a statement, and it’s impossible to be subtle or quick and efficient in them.

Last summer, while I was in the middle of a meeting, we had an earthquake. Other states/people made fun of us after the fact, because apparently it was a wee baby earthquake, but since we’d never had one of that magnitude before, it was a big deal to us locals. I was taking notes and clicking slides while the important people were talking. All of a sudden everyone’s chairs started rolling about uncontrollably and the projector started swaying dangerously from the ceiling. Everyone was like, “Is this an earthquake?” “Does anybody feel that?” while we were still in the middle of it. I calmly logged out of the computer I was using and got my coffee cup. Of course, I was wearing heels.

Since I’ve never considered having to move about suddenly in an emergency situation, I don’t plan my outfits very well. Sure, I can totally walk/run/jump over dead bodies in heels, if I have to. It just struck me in that moment of shaky-shakiness where no one knew what was going on (because we just don’t HAVE earthquakes here) that this might be something I should prepare for in the future. I considered this as I watched one member of the meeting immediately jump up to claim possession of the doorframe (which I’ve since been told will “cut you in half”), as people contemplated hiding under a desk (“you’d be crushed”), as I crowded with others down the stairs (“which will chop you up”), and nervously looked at the WORST, most unnecessary artwork ever – a giant stone sculpture suspended over the entrance to the building.

I’ve always viewed my day job as temporary and I’ve always tried to separate myself from it. Comics and design are what I love, what I get excited about, what I think of myself doing out here in the world. But every morning I still get back in to my car for the long commute and clomp back into the building, heels echoing off the hallways, to start another day at work.

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Sometimes it’s so durn hard just to retain a little positivity throughout the day. I let myself get bogged down in the minutiae of the gridlock and mind numbingly dull work conversations to the point where I forget about stuff to look forward to. But luckily . . . that’s where random road/plane trips come through to save my outlook.

Last week I got to attend the HOW Interactive Design Conference in San Francisco, one of my favoritest of places. I used to go to San Fran on a yearly basis, thanks to the kickass indie comics show APE, that takes place annually at the airy Concourse Exhibition Center. For four lovely years in a row my friends and I would pack our gear, pick a pink hotel to stay in, and immerse ourselves in the hilly chilly lifestyle of that fair city. Sadly, when APE moved from APE-ril to November, I stopped going and haven’t been back since. I also started going to Portland in April, and was forced to make a West Coast choice. I’m sorry San Fran! I’m so sorry!

Anyway. Just being back flooded me with warm snuggly memories. (Despite the fact that the homeless population has gotten a wee bit more aggressive since the last time I was there. Oddly enough, I can now say I haven’t been trailed by scary guys in Baltimore as much as I have in SF.) And I’m not sure if it was the uber inspiring conference, the chance to meet up with friends AND family AND meet faces in person (the amazing Adrianne Ambrose), or the major bucks I dropped at H&M (it was RIGHT. ACROSS. THE STREET!!) … but I’ve returned home feeling full of things to be happy about.

Thing #1: My new book to read

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve been a drooling fan of  his since Virgin Suicides, and although I haven’t read all of Middlesex yet, I was dying to read this one. Happily, it hasn’t disappointed and it successfully kept me entertained through the multiple bumpy plane trips I endured in the last week.

Thing #2: My new way to run

It looks totally silly, and I’ve already lost my balance AND made my calves super sore by attempting it, but I love the idea of this Once and Future Way to Run. Although, admittedly, my favorite thing about this could be the random Peter Sarsgaard in the video. The world would be a better place if it had some more P.S. Or is this just because I’ve seen Skeleton Key too much lately, and my logic is all skewed?

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/11/02/magazine/100000001149415/the-lost-secret-of-running.html

 

Thing #3: My extra hour

That’s right, it’s mine, that hour. For all the people who complain about winter and the darkness creeping in on them at 5:00 when they’re trying to leave work and make it home before the vampires get out … I say “God, finally!” Fall is engulfing us and winter is right around the corner and everyone is batting down the hatches trying to get ready. Here’s to layers, gray mornings, crisp weather, and all the loveliness that is November!

Yes, this picture was actually taken in November

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Sorry folkses for the incommunicado … I’m still recovering from a wild weekend wedding in New Orleans! I’ll leave you all with this picture of one of my favorite spots from that fair city:

. . . and a ghost story!

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STAY CALM

I’m so glad summer is on its way out. Even though it’s still 80 degrees today, I can feel a (for once) cool breeze wafting around town, promising me that I may no longer have to be sweaty as I get dressed for work in the mornings. So it seemed like the perfect time to bring up this outdated billboard advertising Ocean City I saw the other day and I remembered how much I liked.

It was a great campaign. And not only because it was bold enough to catch your attention when you were stuck on the freeway in endless traffic, with nothing but muggy nights in the city to look forward to. Or because it featured “Rodney” – the Lifeguard Angel sent to fly you away to the beach and forget all of your troubles. Rodney reminds me of visiting Rehoboth Beach last year and catching the lifeguard tryouts on the beach. One wonderful, perfect vision of lifeguards running laps, swimming sprints, hootin’ and hollerin’ and encouraging one another in their red uniforms while the rest of us pale, fat suburban beachgoers gazed on admirably. Wonderful, but yet reminded me of how skittish I am to even go near the water nowadays for fear of jellyfish.

No, I think I love this ad most of all because it’s the exact opposite of what Ocean City actually is. Removed from it’s uppity siblings, stuffy Bethany and artsy Rehoboth, Ocean City is a beach eternally locked in a time warp from when you were thirteen. Awkward, unsure, so excited to be at the beach but so not supposed to show it … you’d put up with anything to be at a beach when you were thirteen. Anything just to get a chance to be out at night among teens you didn’t know, play games, overdose at Candy Kitchen, get your fortune read, and buy some ridiculous neon fad you’d never wear again. Ocean City is always reminding you of that feeling, with its endless supply of offensive t-shirt stores,  black light paraphernalia, and chotchkey malls. Telling you it’s okay to be sunburned for a week. Encouraging you to start binge drinking fruity drinks at a young age, because all the bars pimp out their waitresses. And if you’re ever in doubt of your identity, there’s a t-shirt store around the corner that verifies what an ignorant, misogynistic racist you really are.

It’s hitting you over the head with nostalgia in such a way that makes you never, ever want to go back.

And yet, when I see campaigns like this I get excited that one day OC may shove off its identity as the cheap, sleazy younger brother of the east coast beaches and embrace a bolder, brighter, (cleaner) future as the BEACH THAT MEANS BUSINESS. The beach for those serious about BEACHING AND RELAXING AND NOTHING ELSE. That it will sweep away all the blinking, loud, screeching stores and remake itself as the BEACH OF ALL BEACHES. Yeah, then I’d go. And I’d have Rodney to thank for it.

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I’ve mentioned I’m obsessed with Greek Mythology, right?

Well, to celebrate the return of my much neglected webcomic, Gods & Undergrads, on Tuesday, September 27th, I’m posting some pictures of what I recently re-discovered on my last trip home. At one point, I was so nerdy that I drew each of the Greek Gods, taped them to my wall (complete with name tags and icons of their attributes), and organized them into a family tree.

(no, this isn’t the last time I would do such a thing – certain college photo projects involving real people as Greek Gods would come later – but I DIGRESS …)

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