Monday, November 05, 2012

Your Vote Counts, the final chapter

Random Thoughts
Eve of the Election Ruminations

Vote tomorrow because it is the right thing to do, not so that you can use your vote as a way to shame others or to feel superior.

On the eve of the election I propose this: the choice we have to make is not black and white (so to speak). There are great divides in the ideology of the top major party candidates, and some would say that you have a basic choice to make between free-market-capitalism represented by Mitt Romney, or big-government socialism represented by Barack Obama. I don't think Romney is a good choice by any measure, but on this count specifically I suggest that it is possible to believe that one of the roles of government is providing services for the people such as a retirement guarantee or support for the elderly, health care, and public assistance for those who are struggling right now, and still maintain a thriving free-market based economy. I don't believe that providing a social safety net and capitalism need to be mutually exclusive.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Random Thought
Cross the goddamn street already
Los Angelenos I beg you, please, for the love of god, when you're crossing the street, please, walk like you have a fucking purpose. After work the other day I was driving to the Trader Joe's and had to turn onto Victory. The car in front of me, my car, and at least three cars behind me were held up almost to the point the light turned yellow while a family of four meandered across the street. They were obviously enraptured and taking in the awesome fucking grandeur of the intersection of Victory and Verdugo.

We see this all the time in Los Angeles. People just lazily ambling across the street like they're on some kind of fucking zen pilgrimage. Not so much in Denver. I think it has something to do with how cold it can get in winter. People walk like they're on a mission all year long because they've been conditioned to think "If I don't get out of this cold soon I"m going to freeze my dick (or tits) off." That conditioning never goes away. It could be the dead of summer and a guy wearing flip flops, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt in ninety degree weather would still, at some level, be worried about frostbite on the fun stick.

The Matchbox Read My Mind
Two dear friends recently got married. At their wedding they had these adorable little matchboxes which had been wrapped with tiny children's book covers. We were sitting at the Fantastic Mr. Fox table, so that's what we got by default. In each little matchbox were a handful of refrigerator magnets. Between the two of us my wife and I could combine our magnets to come up with something meaningful, if abstract, but on our own they just didn't make sense (which is actually a kind of nice metaphor for our marriage). 

Fast forward a week or two and I'm at a mutual friend's place with the newlyweds to watch a couple of scary movies and they brought a bag with extra matchboxes, so I snagged The Cat In the Hat and Clifford the Big Red Dog. I have to admit I forgot about them for several days until tonight when I happened to see them in my laptop case, fortunately none the worse for wear for my daughter using the laptop case as a trampoline (the laptop is ok, too; I'm using it to post this). I shook the magnets out of "Clifford" and what should fall into my hand but this? Truer words never tumbled out of a children's-book-matchbox.

I haven't done this in a while, but a part of me really wants to take on National Novel Writing Month again. Partly it's to get the creative juices going again. Partly it's an exercise in cathartic escapism that might prevent me from beating the shit out of some people who desperately deserve it. I see this as a win-win. 

Joking aside I have not had an opportunity to really sit down and write for a long time. This is something I used to find genuinely rewarding and I need to do something to get back into it. Don't get me wrong, I love cartoons and cartooning, but my first and most enduring passion has always been writing. 

It's always been the one thing I could do that set me apart from other people. In college when I decided to study acting I had professors who would say things to the effect of "You are a fine actor, but I really like your writing," or "it seems like you're almost a better writer than you are an actor." Maybe I should have seen the signs, like how you know your kid has been sniffing the dry-erase markers. 

Basically I'm putting this out there to let those of you who read this know that I'm going to try it. I don't have high hopes for finishing. No one trying to write with a young child in the house is really likely to get very far unless they're J.K. Rowling level brilliant (or a lousy parent). That said I could use your support. Ask me how it's going. I'll post excerpts here. Tell me what you think. Tell me to keep going. I could use some good will. October was a lousy month. I'm still on my feet, but in the same way Rocky Balboa was on his feet after fifteen rounds of being tenderized by Apollo Creed. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Vote Counts, Two!

Romney Policy review continued

  • The Deficit - This is a boogeyman the Republicans trot out every four years to scare Americans with threats of "your children's, children's, children will be paying your debts!" Unfortunately Romney's plan cannot...let's look at that again...CAN NOT be done in a way that reduces the deficit.

    The plan is to cut revenue, while also cutting programs and somehow arrive at a balanced budget. This doesn't work without introducing crippling austerity measures that would crush the economy in its current fragile recovery state. In addition, the Romney plan is to dramatically increase the military budget. Lower revenue, increased military spending, while making the Bush Era tax cuts what way does this not balloon the deficit?
  • Women's issues - Romney has been all over this issue. He's pro-choice as a governor, then immediately shifts to the right when he starts running for president, then tries to appear moderate when he gets the nomination. He can't be trusted on this. period.

    The Romney platform is simple 1.) Appoint justices who will roll back Roe v. Wade. 2.) End Title X Funding for family planning and preventative health services. This would seriously impact Planned Parenthood's ability to service low-income women and those without insurance.

    Two personal notes here; first, before my wife and I were married, and for years after, we depended on Planned Parenthood for subsidized birth control. Neither of us could have afforded it on our own. Planned Parenthood really helped us to avoid getting pregnant before we were ready. Second, my mother in law speaks in no uncertain terms about how bad things were before Roe v. Wade, when every major hospital in every major city had a septic abortion ward to treat women who had used coat hangers and worse to end an unwanted pregnancy. Conservatives say that won't happen again, but it already is in states like Texas and Arizona where they've instituted draconian laws that restrict access to a safe medical abortion. Make no mistake, a Romney presidency would be a bad thing for women.
  • Global Warming: Romney's position on this is just as mercurial as his position on Women's issues. In the last year he's been on the public record saying he believes global warming is caused by man, and he's been on the public record saying that no one (really? no one?) knows if man is really contributing to global warming. It's politically savvy of Romney to take this position as his campaign and Super PACs are getting huge sums of money from organizations such as Americans for Prosperity that are vehemently outspoken against climate change science.
  • Healthcare: There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, and there is a lot of heated debate about the Affordable Healthcare Act. Much of the derision for "ObamaCare" comes from those who view it as socializing our healthcare system, or creating a system of "social medicine." In the end "social medicine" is a pejorative term with no real meaning that is typically used by conservatives to throw fire on progressives trying to make real change to our health care system.

    In fact the United States has had a social health care system for decades. It's called the Veteran's Health Administration. This is a government body that operates government owned health care facilities and employs health care professionals. That's the closest thing to true "socialized medicine" practiced by any modern, industrialized nation.

    The Affordable Care Act is actually a step toward a publicly funded health care system that is privately administered, what's known as a "single-payer" system. It's actually much closer to the the way the Canadian system operates than it is to, say, the British National Health Service.

    In fact the United States is woefully behind in this regard. Ours is the only western industrialized country, the only real power in the world, that does not currently provide some kind of a public option as a step toward creating a universal healthcare system. I'm sure conservatives of all stripes will proudly puff out their chests and strut about while chanting the mantras of free market economies and competition leading innovation and the dignity of being self-reliant. To what end? In a ranking of life expectancy by country the United States was 38th in the world after such socialist hellscapes as England, France, and Canada.

    For me it has never been stated more clearly or succinctly than it was by a doctor who was interviewed about volunteering for a free clinic in Los Angeles. She had done the same for free clinics all over the state, and also volunteered for Doctors Without Borders. What struck me was when she said that she and the other doctors see hundreds of patients at the free clinic events, and people still end up being turned away. She said the need in this country is as great as some third world countries where she's worked.
This is the United States. We can do better.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Vote Counts!

This started as an email to my sister but started running way too long to send her the thing in its entirety, so I decided to put it here. I don't usually like to do this, mostly because it opens me up to smug condescension from people on the conservative side of the spectrum. I decided to go ahead with this because I think this is important and there needs to be an honest, hard look at the candidates. It's wonky and long, and I apologize. I hope that after the election I'll get back to writing about comic books and drawing cartoons. 

The subject is meant to be glib, but in your case it's really true. Colorado is a battleground state this year which means your vote actually counts for something. If I were to vote for...I don't neighbor's dog, and convince everyone I know to do the same, and they convinced everyone they know to do the same, and they convinced everyone they know. It would amount to squadoo in California. My state is so strongly Obama that were I to make a dedicated effort to get out the vote on the Labrador Party candidate it would result in a statistical blip at best. 

You on the other hand, and the other voters in Colorado, could actually affect the outcome of the race. Not as much know...Ohio...but more so than California. 

That said, I have to follow it up with this, I don't understand why anyone who didn't drink an entire bottle of NyQuil before going to the polls would vote for Romney. Here are a few of my general thoughts about the GOP candidate:
  • Don't judge a person by what they say when the cameras are rolling, when they have scripted questions to answer, and when their campaign has had an opportunity to coach the interviewer on what questions not to ask. Judge a person by what they say when his answers haven't been prepared in advance or they're not aware the camera is rolling. Romney fails this test of character time, after time, after time. From the infamous "47% of Americans don't want to be responsible for their lives" remark, to telling a student asking about federal funding for an education that he should "shop around and get the best education he can afford," to "I'm not concerned with the very poor." There have been dozens of others, but these comments really reveal Romney to me; an out-of-touch, rich, white plutocrat who's only out for himself.
  • Judge a person by their ability to say something and stick to it. Romney is laughably bad at this. Laughably. It's not for nothing that he's called the "etch-a-sketch candidate." He's taken every imaginable side on just about every major issue you could name. Try it some time. Pick an issue than do a search on YouTube for both sides. I'll tee one up for you Romney believes in global warming (climate change is a euphemism created by the right to downplay the severity of the problem) AND Romney does not believe in global warming. Try this with any issue you can think of. I can all but guarantee you will find Romney making arguments on both sides. Incidentally, cap and trade was originally presented to congress in the 1980's as a way to address industrial emissions that were causing acid rain. The group that presented it was the Environmental Defense Fund, and consisted of a coalition of free-market-Republicans and environmentalists. It goes back further than that, but the argument can be made that the origins of cap-and-trade as a political concept were in the Republican party.
  • There are volumes to be read in what's left unsaid. This goes back to Romney not releasing his taxes. I'm sure you're tired of this, but you should know that his father, George Romney, released five years of taxes when he ran for president. The elder Romney was also a very successful, very wealthy businessman, and yet felt it was appropriate as someone who was running for the opportunity to influence tax policy to disclose his own tax history. It shows integrity and honesty, virtues Romney lacks. When he ran for Governor he was caught lying about filing his taxes as a resident of Massachusetts.  
Those are kind of personal objections to Romney. The next points are all policy. 
  • Foreign Policy - Libya: let's get this out of the way first, according to the Vienna Convention host countries are responsible for providing security. America provides its own security because we've learned the hard way that we can't always rely on the host country. A big part of the problem here is that prior to the attacks in Libya congress voted to reduce the budget of the Diplomatic Security Service by almost half-a-billion dollars. Paul Ryan voted for that reduction and neither he nor Romney have really acknowledged his part in that. Syria: Romney called it Iran's path to the sea, it's not, Iran has hundreds of miles of coast and their own Navy. If a man is going to be responsible for influencing the policy for dealing with the region he should probably know at least something about the fucking geography. China: He wants to label them a currency manipulator. In truth every candidate going back several elections, including Obama, have made this promise "I will immediately declare China a currency manipulator!" For the most part they all find upon taking office that A.) America does not (surprise surprise) dictate Chinese economic policy B.) The Chinese know they're doing it and frankly don't give a shit what we think, and C.) To label them a currency manipulator could seriously upset trade relations with them. The best way to affect Chinese economic policy, by far, is to provide incentives for American companies to make their products here instead of overseas. 
  • Iran: Both sides claim to have a hard red line on Iran creating a nuclear device. What's worrisome here is Romney has all of the same foreign policy advisers as George W. Bush. It's not too far fetched they would lead Romney to decide on a preemptive strike on Iran. This would not be like attacking Afghanistan or Iraq, not remotely. Iran is a prosperous country with a well-equipped, well-trained, modern military. They also have powerful allies with vested interests in Iran's security. That said. Iran is most likely not going to be come a nuclear armed state. The minute Israel has actionable intelligence that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon they'll reduce Tehran to a smoking crater. Not a great move for global peace or security, but understandable. Iran has been outspoken in their desire to make Israel go away.
  • Terrorism - Romney claims that Obama has allowed al-Qaeda to proliferate. While it is true that al-Qaeda affiliates exist in several countries and pose a threat, it's also true that in four years the military, CIA, and law enforcement have killed or captured more key leadership figures than at any time in Bush's presidency. Most of whom were hiding in Pakistan, as the president mentioned in the debate. While they are recruiting all the time, this kind of "brain drain" has a cost. Bin Laden is just one on a list of terror leaders who is no longer a threat thanks to the efforts of the military and intelligence communities under the leadership of the Obama administration.
  • Economy - Romney wants to make a flat reduction to tax rates to the tune of 20% across the board. This is not a new concept. In almost every election someone, usually a Republican, tries to sell the country on a flat tax, or a flat reduction, or "leveling the playing field." There are two reasons this has yet to find traction with voters and/or politically 1.) It won't make filing taxes easier for anyone. It doesn't matter what the tax code is, you still arrive at the numbers using the same calculation. 2.) It explodes income inequality. In a flat tax system the very rich end up paying substantially less as a percentage of their income, while the middle class, and especially the low-income classes, pay more. Romney's plan is no exception to this. 
Romney dancing on the graves of our honored dead

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kitty's Random Jargon on the High Road

Very not daily doodle: Kitty Cat!
Every now and then I try to branch out and try to draw something other than people, cartoon people, naked people, and...well...more people. I really should work more on still life, landscape, and architectural drawing, among other things. That said every now and then I do lay down the graphite to produce something other than yet another humanoid rendering.

I'm pretty sure the photo reference for this drawing came from, but whatever the source I had a lot of fun rendering a more or less realistic cat face that is only slightly cartoony around the eyes.

I like to think this is plaintive face cats give you to lure you into petting them. Once you're touching them, that's when they strike.

Random thoughts
I drew a picture of a woman making an...ecstatic face on my notebook at work. I got away with it by calling it "The Sneeze."

Frozen Gogurt...not as good as advertised.

Have you ever driven at night with your pants off? Just to pass people on the street and think, "they have no idea i'm half naked?" I have to think that would be a liberating feeling. To get pulled over would suck, though.

Homemade food rocks. It's a lot more effort, but when you start being able to cook food without turning it into building materials or poison the results are better, and cheaper, than you can get in most restaurants.

The hardest thing about working a job where you don't feel a lot of satisfaction is watching people get bent out of shape about things you think don't matter.

Business Jargon That Needs to Die: The Asks Edition
The business school habit of turning verbs into nouns for the purpose of giving a catchy name to something that doesn't need it has perpetrated yet another obscene violation on the English language. Have you ever had a business person tell you to increase the number of "asks" in your sales process?

Comic Book Review: Taking the High Road Edition
Title: Higher Earth
Publisher: Boom
Issue: 1
Price: $1.00 (Holy shit! An affordable comic! Worth. the price. alone) 

Although this book has a high quality cover with well done, engaging artwork, I must confess that what swayed me to buy this was the price. At one dollar the price tapped into my sense of nostalgia and transported me back to the early days of my blossoming geekdom. All comics were a buck, or a buck-twenty-five, and you could spend twenty bucks and get enough reading material for a whole afternoon (back when I had the luxury of being able to spend a lazy afternoon reading comic books). Beyond the sentimental mist forming in the corner of my eyes and the great price, I wasn't expecting much from this book. I mean, c'mon, it's a dollar-comic. For that you usually get badly drawn knock off Archie-porn.

Once I cracked the pages there was a pleasant surprise waiting inside. Too often these days comics will feature a high-quality, well crafted cover drawn by a recognizable name, only to fill out the interior with artwork drawn by the Editor in Chief's six year old nephew who actually wants to be Spider-Man when he grows up. To a great degree, those were my expectations going in, but the artwork is sound throughout. Solid line work, good layout, and really well done color that evokes different locations throughout the book were a treat for my optic nerves.

With that in mind a cynical person might say, "Ok, so, the price is good and the artwork isn't crap, so the story must be utter shit." No? Maybe that was just me, but this book defied conventional wisdom again and provided a story with a good blend of excitement and carefully placed exposition, plus a solid a hook at the end that I would feel no shame in picking up issue number two.

Overall I feel good recommending this book. It's well worth the "$1.00" cover price. Even if you don't like it, you're only out a buck. So what the hell?

As with all my comic reviews the cover art and interior art are used without permission from the publisher or the creators. This is why I use small, low-resolution images and link those to the comic's listing on If you would like to read one of the comics I've reviewed for yourself I encourage you to order from, or (even better) support your local comic book store and buy your comics from them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Google-ize Airbender Guns

Random Thoughts
I really hope that "Google-ize" doesn't actually become a word because torturing a proper noun so it can be used as a verb like this makes me want to vomit.

I'm not narcissistic enough to be an atheist.

Fast food fried chicken is the sarcophagus inside the food pyramid. Tasty, but made of death.

The Last Airbender's Soup Catcher
I love Avatar: The Last Airbender, (the original animated series, not the live action abomination by M. Knight Shyamalan) but...Aang grew up and grew a douchey looking chin strap. That's not right. You'd think Katara would have had something to say about that. Maybe she compromised. He could keep the beard if he shaved...somewhere else. On second thought I'd rather not think about it.

Don't take my guns, bro! 
Recently a friend posted this image on facebook:

At first I read his comment as "I wish I understood this more," which I liked right away before I reread his comment and realized that he was actually saying, "I wish more understood this." After thinking about it for a little while I did something I almost never do in general, and have never done on a friend's post; I "unliked" his update. My views on our right to bear arms and gun control are complicated, and sometimes I don't fully understand them myself.

On one hand, a man much smarter than me once said, "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." There's something to that, and I genuinely believe that people should be allowed to defend themselves.

On the other hand, if everyone is wandering around armed they might be more inclined to engage in vigilante justice. There was an example of just this kind of shenanigan in the news recently when an armed neighborhood watch captain (seriously, what kind of neighborhood watch has freaking guns), shot and killed  an unarmed seventeen-year-old high-school student.

Are guns necessarily bad or evil? No. Guns are a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver. They are arguably more dangerous than a hammer or a screwdriver, but guns are fundamentally just another kind of tool. Is our right to bear arms important? Yes. Does it make me feel safer? Hell no.

Look at it this way: Anyone who opts for a career that will require them to carry a gun professionally, whether military, law enforcement, or even personal security, undergoes hours and hours of training before they are full qualified to do so.  Now, of the people who will buy weapons this year, how many will take even a basic gun safety class? Never mind taking home defense classes that just might mean someone not shooting their daughter's boyfriend when he sneaks into the house at midnight. Can anyone really trust their safety and the protection of their rights to the guy down the street who bought a gun just to exercise his second amendment rights?

I'm not against more people owning guns, and I'm not even really against people carrying them publicly. That said, there needs to be some measure of accountability for owning and carrying something as potentially lethal as a gun.

I would feel better if I knew the gun owners in my neighborhood had completed a gun safety course, had spent some predetermined number of hours at a range, and some kind of course in defensive shooting before they were even allowed to bring the gun home. I would feel better about the gun owners in my neighborhood carrying weapons publicly if I knew they had met even more rigorous standards before being issued a permit to carry. Last, I would feel better about people owning guns and carrying them publicly if there were very, very serious consequences for harming another person with a gun.

Our right to bear arms is an important part of the freedoms we enjoy, but the responsibility that comes with it must be taken very seriously.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Business jargon that needs to die: High Level
When I'm playing a video game and I'm nearing the ultimate conflict in the game, or ready to face the final boss fight, that's a high level. Martial artists who achieve more than a third-degree-black-belt, that's a high level. When you're talking very generally about things related to a project, that is not a high level. In fact if that conversation is with anyone but the CEO and his closest sycophantic suck-ups (company officers) it's really very low level. Take "high level" out of your business vocabulary. Drag it out in the street and shoot it. Then run it over with something big that spews a lot of really toxic pollution.

The rise of Linux! or...not...
Every year or so there is a flurry of articles in trade journals and online news sites dedicated to Linux that this year will be "THE YEAR OF LINUX." Why? Is this year really going to see more users adopting an operating system that A.) Won't run the software they want to use unless they happen to be relatively well versed in Linux B.) Has more distributions than Mitt Romney has opinions on a single issue?

I have used Linux and liked it, but to get work done I stick with Windows because it runs all the programs I use, I can play the games I like, and I don't have to be a super-geek, uber-user to make it work. Admittedly most Linux desktop distributions have gotten better about this, but a lot of intermediate to advanced use of even the best Linux based operating systems (Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora) require at least some knowledge of using a command line interface and a working knowledge of Linux syntax.

If Linux is ever going to be a contender it needs to do better than being a scrappy second string operating system for enthusiasts and people who inherited an older second hand computer that won't run any other modern operating system. Any Linux distribution needs to step into the ring with a stinging jab and killer right hook if it ever hopes to take minds and hearts away from Windows and MacOS.

The doodle (giving up on "daily")
I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who and the Daleks can be really scary (when you forget they're an upended bin with bits glued on). Also, the unofficial mission statement of Google is "don't be evil." Something occurred to me one day. When you're blinded by love, can  you tell the object of your affection is truly evil.

That, and I thought an Android going to hug a Dalek would be funny.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random business private school thoughts

Random thoughts

More money is not the same thing as more happiness.

"And remember to have fun!" is only ever said by people who A: don't have to do whatever it is everyone else is doing, and B: when "fun" is not a likely outcome.

I don't really love my job, but there are days I love some of the people I work with. Had an hour long conversation a couple of weeks ago about the classic children's film, The Dark Crystal. After a brutal two (now up to six) weeks, the levity was really refreshing.

Business terms that need to die, episode 1: "Thought Leader"
I hate this expression. Absolutely hate it. If it were a six year old yelling "I hate you" I'd yell, "well fuck you you little shit, die, die, DIE!" Ok, I wouldn't actually say that to a six-year-old, as a dad I know you can't do that to kids that young. They should be teenagers at least.

To say that you or your organization are a "thought leader" in anything just sounds smug and smarmy and...other disparaging things that begin with the letter "s."

Private School Blues (and that's just the uniform)
Listening to the radio a while ago there was a discussion about education reform. The debate was more or less what you probably expect, i.e., whether or not there's a crisis in public education and is privatization (for profit education) the answer. While this wasn't exactly gripping radio it raised a kind of disturbing question. If teaching to the test is failing our schools and our students, how does teaching for profit solve that problem?

My formative years in the school system, from kindergarten to sixth grade, were spent in a private, Catholic school. My parents, like many others of a similar conservative leaning mentality, were convinced that public education was equivalent to socializing the teaching of our country's children. Like many other conservative leaning people they felt the best education could only be found in private schools run on a tuition basis.

While attending private school we were indoctrinated to think of public school as a kind of purgatory where mean, dumb kids were sent. Horror stories about the goings on in public school abounded. We scared each other with stories about knives, school yard fights, and atomic wedgies. We were also told the education we were receiving was far superior, and we would be so much better off later in life because we were in a private school.

First, I got the shit beat out of me more in a month attending private school than I did in seven years I spent in public school when my parents could no longer afford tuition. So...the whole image of public schools as anarchic hellholes where bad kids go to eat good kids for lunch was exposed for what it was: bullshit.

Second, we were told that private school would better prepare us for when we became adults. I am now an adult and have been for some time. When I look back I don't feel that I was any better prepared for classes, tests, or new subjects just because of my private school education. If I performed better than my peers in a given class that had everything to do with my own aptitudes, abilities, and hard work than any kind of "privileged" educational background. Thus, the notion that private schools do a better job of preparing students for adulthood is also bullshit.

When this debate comes up the discussion very often turns to teachers, and how they are failing our students. There's a lot of chest-thumping on both sides of this argument. I tend to side with the argument for teachers as overworked, underpaid, and grossly unsung heroes. That said, teachers provide a framework for learning and present students with information. They are professional educators. The actual teaching of our country's youth begins long before they step into a classroom. Teaching must begin with the parents.

This is what makes any discussion of private education or public education at once moot, and much more complicated. If parents aren't doing the things they need to do to nurture learning in the home, there is next to nothing teachers can do, whether they work in a for profit charter or private school or as part of a public school program. If any child gets to high school and can't read at a minimum of a fifth grade level, that's the fault of the parents, not their teachers.

I don't think privatization of education addresses this problem. In the end all privatization of education will ultimately do is make sending kids to school more difficult for the lower end of middle class, and low income parents. The moneyed elite will get the best education money can buy, while everyone else either makes do with what they can afford, or goes without. Right now, rich or poor, most people can read; they've had at least that much education. Can we as a country really afford to change that? Can we afford to go backward to a time when most everyone knew at least one person who couldn't read at all?

Those in favor of privatization of education would argue this would never happen. That parents would have more choice. These are the people who would benefit most if we were to move in this direction. The risk here is the same people who will argue that parents have more choice aren't remotely interested in offering a choice. They're interested in control. First control over who can afford a good education and who can't, then control over the content of that education itself. This is a dangerous road to follow, and I sincerely hope we don't start down that path.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Random thoughts
Things that are true are rarely ever uplifting. My wife and I talked about this after reading a t-shirt slogan. Think about it, even optimistic platitudes like "every silver lining has a dark cloud" aren't really all that uplifting. Fine! Great! There's a silver lining! Bully for the silver lining! You're still surrounded on all sides by a fucking dark cloud.

I can't believe this actually happened:
It's like RIM is actually trying to go out of business. Maybe under the right circumstances total failure as a business is more profitable to the guys at the top than being successful. Someone tell Mel Brooks these guys are stealing his moves.

Pacifism is a modern, first world point of view. Maybe it's because I'm reading Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling, but it occurs to me that pacifism is an outgrowth of the rise of super powers and modern technology. Imagine a world without mass transit or mass communication, hell most people have trouble imagining a world with out fucking iTunes and Starbucks. In this world you eat only what you can grow or raise, or hunt on your own; at the very least you have to grow part of everything you eat. Those who can't, or won't, either starve or roam the land taking what they need to survive even if that means killing people. Who is really going to say "I respect your personhood" to the guy who wants to disembowel him for the world's last package of Skittles?

Whiteboard wise guys
As much as possible I try to stay far, far way from talking about work in this space. Once upon a time I wasn't so careful. That ended tragically. There was wailing and gnashing in the street. The worst was the gnashing. Every now and then, however, something happens that I think is worth sharing.

We have a number of walls with large whiteboard surfaces for use by our various teams. On one a company visionary wrote "the most important knowledge is the ability to anticipate the future," then proceeded to credit themselves for the quote.

The temptation to add to that, "Satirists quote themselves ironically, narcissists do so in earnest" and add my name to it is terrible. Not only does it have a funny ironic twist, but it's a nice poke in the eye of pretentiousness.

Today's (so very not) Daily Doodle:
It's not just that I seem to be saying "mea culpa" at work a lot these days, but at some point the notion of a steaming cup of culpa popped into my head. Completely unbidden came the idea of a ballgame vendor walking the stands with piping hot paper packages of Culpa for five bucks. So while I was sitting in one of a seemingly endless series of sync meetings while the drone of business jargon and self-congratulatory rhetoric slowly liquefied my brain I drew a picture of just that. I wonder what Culpa would taste like. I like to think that it would almost have to be bitter. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Random Birthday Muscle Porn

Random thought of the day
If you were to eat an "Airborne" table, would it boil your mouth, or just make your breath effervescent?

Old enough to be president
This year marks a milestone in my life; I have joined the ranks of the "mid-thirties" crowd. I am now old enough to run for president, if I were ever to be brainwashed into thinking that taking the job would be a good idea. This was also my first birthday as a new dad. Given that my daughter's birthday is also this month, my birthday was pretty much what I expected, that is it passed mainly unnoticed in the looming event of my daughter's first birthday. Which is ok, I think that's as it should be. I've had thirty-five birthday's now, and this will be her first. It should be a bigger deal.

That said events of this week have been difficult to bear. Work is...not going well, and on top of it the baby was sick, which meant I had to be out of work for a couple of days. Add to that the frustration of having to turn down a call back, not an audition, a fucking call back, because I needed to be home with my sick daughter, there was no alternative, and work piling up on me and this birthday was something I have never experienced. Namely, I just wanted the fucking day to be over with already. No more passive aggressive bullshit at work, no more sick baby, no more of feeling guilty for trying to be a good dad even if it means missing out on paid acting work, just no more. Just be done with the whole goddamn day.

I've never felt that way about my birthday. The one shining light in my day, and arguably my week, was my wife made lemon bars. For anyone who's had the good fortune to sample the ambrosia that flows from our oven when my wife decides to bake you'll understand what I mean when I say that I'd been looking forward to tasting these all day. When I finally did get to bite down through the sticky, crumbly, crunchy, sweet, tart treat it made so much of my week up to that point melt away. Every bite was worth the wait. My week, and possibly my birthday, may have been shit. But my wife made the best lemon bars I've ever had.

The (who am I kidding) daily doodle: for the ladies
When I'm just doodling my tendency is to draw women, more often than not. It's not anything puerile (usually) I just enjoy drawing what I think to be beautiful women.

It occurred to me that I would not be complete as an artist if I just focused on that. The running horse from my last post came from a similar impulse. To round out my understanding of anatomy and the human form I would need to draw men.

Once again I turned to the holy bible of figure drawing resources known as It yielded a lot of photos of guys making self portraits of their junk, but mixed into the forest of dong shots (with varying degrees of shrubbery) I found a few gems.

Truth be told there are a lot of very serious artists on, many of whom produce beautiful work, like the photo I used as a reference for this drawing. I'm not sure why I picked it. I think the lighting and the model's expression evoked a kind of bashful melancholy that called out to me.

I call this drawing "muscle porn."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Random Fable Horsies

Random thoughts
I'm having a passionate tech love affair with Down Them All. It's a Firefox plugin that will let you download multiple documents or images from a web page in a multi-threaded (yay tech-speak) process, so that you don't have to do one download at a time. Don't tell Google Wave, it gets jealous.

We're watching Downton Abbey which is an absolutely amazing show full of mumble-y British people. In one episode the heir of the estate is explaining that his job (oh, scandal) won't interfere with the day-to-day running of Downton Abbey because there are always the evenings and weekends (help, I feel a swoon). To this Maggie Smith, in the amazing way she has of delivering her lines says, "What's a weekend?" It made me realize that we take for granted some things that are fairly recent developments in the scheme of things. In fact, the 40 hour work week wasn't a national institution until 1937 with the Fair Labor Standards act. Saturday morning sounds that much sweeter when taken in that context, doesn't it?

Why are there so many birthdays in March? It's really hard to imagine all those young couples humping to the tune of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

I know I'm kind of going on about this series but I just finished books ten and eleven of the awesome ongoing story of Fables. When I come across writing of this caliber and stories this well constructed it makes me shed a few tears for the state of literacy in our country that so many are ready to turn up their noses to graphic novels, but they'll religiously follow Jersey Shore.

Fables 10 is a particularly good story that takes a famous fable with whom we are all familiar, but casts him as a strong and heroic figure. For those who've read a little bit of Fables, this character is one who's been a beloved fixture of the supporting cast since book one. The arc he takes in this book is the best example the transformation, or awakening of an unlikely hero that I've ever read.

If I have a complaint about the Fables books it's that you can't just dive right in. If you haven't followed the story from the beginning, the latest issue of the comic book on the shelves of your local comic book store is going to leave you feeling lost. That said, get the trades. The entire series is worth a read.

The (laughably not) daily doodle
For a while I'd been drawing faces, cartoons, weird aliens, and boobies...more boobies than I would be likely to confess to drawing, if I'm being honest. I realized that I'd never really tried to draw an animal, much less an animal in some kind of dynamic pose. So I turned to the magnificent treasure trove of (boobies) art that is In it I found a picture of a horse running, which led to the drawing here. I hadn't finished cleaning up this drawing when I scanned it, and you can still see the guide marks I made for the horse's face and body.

Monday, February 27, 2012

billy crystal

Random thought of the day
Life would be infinitely cooler if we could have a symbiotic relationship with a dragon. Be as one with a flying fire-breathing creature of ancient and powerful magic. That would be bad ass. It would also make my morning commute both faster, and several orders of magnitude more awesome.

Thirty something RAGE!
Just looked at the excellent, and there's an entire page dedicated to tween morons tweeting "Who is Billy Crystal?"

Jesus Christ, kids! There were movies made before you were fucking born, you narcissistic twits! Pull out your iPhone and use it for something other than looking at porn and bashing kids at your school who will probably end up giving you a job someday. It's called "IMDB" for fuck's sake.

Didn't actually post that comment, but really thought about it.

The (not really) daily doodle

So...this is a succubus. She was ultimately supposed to be sitting on a pile of skulls, but I was drawing this at work (risky to begin with) and drawing a pile of skulls is A. difficult B. time consuming, it takes a log time to draw all those tiny details and C. did I mention that it's difficult?

As I look at this again I think I definitely need to stop drawing half-naked demon temptresses at work.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Parents lie about beholder's money

Lies our parents tell us: making good money
I don't know what everyone else's experience was growing up, but I remember being told on numerous occasions that I needed to work hard, get good grades, and go to school (meaning college) so that I could "make good money." Through all of my childhood, and into the early years of adulthood I associated "good money" with "lots of money." My life so far has taught me different.

When I entered the workforce I was in college, which is later than most. I started out as a waiter at Denny's, working the graveyard shift. When I talk about it now I sometimes sound like a soldier returning from war, "I saw things there I'll never forget," or, "when it's the dead of night and you're tired and your feet hurt and sleep seems a thousand years off, all you have is your resolve and your brothers and sisters in aprons." Let's dispel this myth right now, Denny's doesn't pay for shit, and working for tips is kind of like being a street walker with a Moons Over my Hammy.

While working at Denny's I thought if I could get away and start making just six or seven dollars an hour I'd be ok. I could make ends meet, maybe save a little, and I could buy some of the things I want. Well, not long after I left Denny's I started working for a company that paid me around six-fifty an hour to do tech support. While it was pretty cool to get a paycheck every week that had my name on it and around four or five-hundred dollars that belonged to me, I found pretty quickly that I hadn't discovered the elusive "good money." I remember thinking that if I could just get to eight dollars an hour I'd finally start breaking even. Not long after that I hit the high-water-mark I'd set for myself and it may surprise you to learn that I found it still wasn't "good money."

Things went in this vein for years; me thinking, "If only I could make ten dollars an hour," then it was, "if only I could get to twelve dollars an hour, then everything will be ok because I'll be making 'good money.'" As I got older and the jobs I took became more and more what are generally accepted as "real  jobs" the standard for good money changed from what I made per hour to what I make per year.

It started at twenty-eight-thousand per year. When I started I honestly remember thinking, "I'm finally making good money." It wasn't long before I learned how wrong that was. Over the years that calculation has changed from "thirty-five-thousand, that's all I really need," to "We'll be ok when I get to forty-thousand."

It wasn't that long ago that it occurred to me the whole concept of "making good money" might be bullshit. Money in and of itself is neither good or bad, it's just a means to an end. Someone making thirty-thousand dollars a year can still do many of the same things as someone making a hundred-thousand dollars. It just takes longer to budget for it, and there are more sacrifices along the way. Most people just don't have the patience for it, me among them.

I think the truth about good money is that money is just money, and it is only as good as the good you do with it. So what am I doing with my money? I'm raising my daughter. I'm trying to make sure that, when the time comes for her to be on her own she gets a better leg up on life than either my wife or I were given. In the end I don't think there's a greater gift you can give your children than a good start when it's time for them to go and be their own people; make their mark on the world.

No matter how much money we make, as long as my wife and I can say that we gave our daughter the best shot possible, then we can finally say, "yeah, we're making good money."

The (not really) daily doodle: Cute Little Baby Monster Who Will Kill Us All

For almost twenty years now I've enjoyed fantasy role playing games as a hobby. One of the most terrifying monsters in all of fantasy role playing lore is the beholder of Dungeons and Dragons. These highly intelligent floating balls of gruesome death have a single central eye, and multiple eyes that extend from their blubbery, spherical bodies on muscular stalks. Each eye is imbued with a different way to kill even the most prepared of adventuring loonies. This doodle came about when I asked myself, "what does a baby beholder look like."

Cute little ball of death, isn't...uh...she?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Talking nerdy about Joe Hill

Lovecraft is not a good name for a town
One of my good friends recommended some comic titles I should read. In my lasts post I mentioned one of them, Skullkickers. Another of the titles he recommended was Locke & Key. In my bi-monthly comic book crawl through the local purveyor of books of sequential art I remembered his recommendation and picked up the first trade.

Sweet fancy Moses, this is a good book. The writer of the book, Joe Hill, weaves a tense and engaging story that would have you on the edge of your seat on its own. When coupled with the exceptional artwork of Gabrielle Rodriguez the story takes on a visceral life of its own. As the story unfolds and the tension mounts  you can find yourself checking the hallways and blind spots for fear that Sam Lesser, the story's chilling homicidal antagonist.

You would be forgiven for thinking the photo of Joe Hill on his Wikipedia page looks like a young Stephen King. His given name is Joseph Hillstrom King. He writes under the pseudonym for totally understandable reasons. After reading this first story arc of Locke & Key I feel as thought he inherited his father's sensibility when it comes to crafting stories around the plausibly disturbing.

The (almost) daily doodle: talk nerdy
I was sitting in my acting class, waiting for my turn at the stage, when I noticed one of the ladies wearing a shirt that said "Talk Nerdy to Me!" She was not unattractive and, being a married man myself, I found myself thinking that some brave nerd would be a happy man indeed if he accepted the invitation brazenly emblazoned upon her bosom. If his head doesn't explode with the effort of talking (gasp) to a girl. Her shirt tickled another part of me entirely. Then I sneezed and thought a little about how to take the statement on her shirt to the next level. Thus was "Pythagorean stud" born!
You're welcome.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Skull Kicking Dracula's Dad

Random thought of the moment
Skull Kickers is awesome, and I recommend you read it. Also Fables. It's hard to describe exactly how good this series is. The first few books are an excellent read, and if such a thing is possible the story and the writing get better as you go. Recommended reading for almost anyone. Some of the content is really better suited for kids fourteen and over.

I'm the Dad
For those of you who know me really well, you will remember a time that I insisted I would never have a child, much less children. In the passionate rhetoric of youth I insisted that, should my resolve weaken, my wife and I would adopt, because the world is full of unwanted children (there are a few Angelina Jolie hasn't adopted yet) and it would be better to give one of them a home than to contribute to swelling the world's population. Years have a way of tempering passion into something far more valuable and enduring; perspective. My daughter was born in March and she has become a bright light in my world. With her I do things I never thought were possible for me to do, like pick another human being's nose and then call her cute.

I like to do drawings
So, I've been posting artwork to Facebook for a while, but they're a bunch of evil privacy violating, intellectual property stealing, fuckheads. It's getting to the point that I use Google+ because I don't want Mark Zuckerberg and the legion of Zuckernauts to sell my daughter's information to a phishing scheme that will run up credit card debt in her name just because I played the latest version of the Facebook municipal waste processing game. All of that said, the night that I write this I have also finished filling up a sketchbook with drawings. I would like to share some of those so I'll be posting them here as a daily feature. Some days it may be the only feature. What can I say, some days I have more to write than others. Here is your daily doodle.

The first R-rated movie that I saw after turning seventeen was Bram Stoker's Dracula. It featured actors I knew, actors who were big at the time including Anthony Hopkins, whom I'd seen in The Silence of the Lambs; Gary Oldman, whom I had only seen in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead; and Wynona Ryder, whom I'd been crushing on since Beatle Juice. The experience of seeing this movie in the theater with my best friend who'd turned seventeen only the day before was a defining one for me. Not only did I feel like a grown-up for the first time, but it was one of those movies that made me want to make movies for a living. It helped to shape not just the kind of story I would like to tell, but the way in which I would like to tell it.

Truth be told, the movie has not aged well. I'm not sure which scrapes a sore spot on my nerves more; Keanu Reeves and Wynona Ryder doing possibly the worst British accents I have ever heard, Gary Oldman hamming it up in over the top villainous fashion, or the sense of camp that doesn't feel at all intentional. I can't help but watch Bram Stoker's Dracula now and think, "Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow was scarier." Still, when I watch this movie I'm transported back to the Seven Hills 10 and I'm seventeen again, watching the movie with my childhood friends and feeling like a grown up for the first time. Also, the woman who played Lucy was fucking hot.