Announcing: Against Stupidity – the Webcomic

Heya readers,

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new public project, a webcomic named Against Stupidity. From the summary:

Meet Jesse Grunwald.

He just finished two years at community college in Santa Fe. In a fortuitous coincidence, earlier this year, he got offered a four-year scholarship at a Denver university and inherited his grandmother’s estate–a vintage victorian right by the lake in south Denver. Now it’s fall, and he’s moving in. He’s prepared to balance the quadruple demands of keeping up his GPA, holding down a job, making new friends, and keeping repairs up on the undoubtedly shitty car he’s about to buy. Unbeknownst to him, he’ll have to add two more demands–taking care of grandma’s pets, and holding up his magical karmic duties as the only grandchild of the powerful witch Clarita Grunwald.

I hope you’ll join and follow his adventures. Here’s the cover for Chapter 1, Over The River and Through The Woods:

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Symbols, Definitions, and Representation (A Study of a Park)

A little over a month ago my wonderful mother got me a drawing tablet for my birthday, and since then I’ve been brushing up on my skills and working on a new webcomic. More on that some other time!

The comic’s main character lives near a park with a lake, so I’ve started doing some work on that front since it’s been a while since I’ve drawn outdoorsy stuff. (In ‘analog’ painting, trees are, in fact, my nemesis.)

So I was tooling around the Internet trying to find information on how to draw a tree. There’s a lot of good stuff out there! And a lot of bad stuff. But I was surprised, I guess, to find so many talented artists writing up freely available tutorials. This wasn’t something you would’ve found when I was last seriously Doing Art in my teens and early 20s.

I say I guess I was surprised because lots of people are doing lots of high-quality hobbyist writing out there nowadays. Some folks write about areas of interest, some folks write about a their profession, the lucky ones find little gap between the two. So of course there’s going to be a lot of good content about drawing. It just wasn’t something that I had available to me when I was younger, and I’m jealous of people who do. Which is stupid, since obviously I have access to this as well, but I’m not slightly younger than myself, so, jealousy. Being human is hilarious.

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Literary Ledes

I was talking with somebody about the recent bee heist story out of Sacramento and they linked me to the great maple syrup heist of ’12, a Bloomberg article that begins thusly. 

On the morning of July 30, 2012, an accountant named Michel Gauvreau arrived at the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, housed in a huge red brick warehouse on the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, about two hours northeast of Montreal. Inside, baby-blue barrels of maple syrup were stacked six high in rows hundreds deep.

The question for me, when I’m evaluating a first paragraph, is whether it makes me want to read the second. If a novel started like this I would. 

A Cambodian Circus & a Museum – Siem Reap 2017 pt. 2

A Cambodian Circus

To finish up the Siem Reap leg, let me tell you about a circus we saw. It’s called Phare, and describes itself thusly.

Uniquely Cambodian. Daringly Modern. More than just a circus, Phare, the Cambodian Circus performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern.

The artists are all graduates of an NGO school, which is where the proceeds from the performances go.

Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA)

PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal K-12 education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.

It was a circus in the Cirque du Soleil style, I guess, though it feels like there’s got to be a better term for that since Cirque didn’t invent it. But I digress. The performers acted out the story of a young girl whose family (and homeland) was brutalized by the Khmer Rouge and later took solace in the healing power of art and the joy of teaching others. It was a bit tricky to photograph, but that didn’t stop me from trying! Continue reading

An Ancient Megacity – Siem Reap 2017 pt. 1

Greetings from Hanoi. It’s a lovely day here, a nice cool eighty-two degrees. Perfect for, say, a stroll along a tree-lined boulevard next to the lake.

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The French left their mark on this city.

We arrived here yesterday on a late flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is next to the Angkor complex containing among other things Angkor Wat. Angkor was the seat of the once-mighty Khmer empire, and a thousand years ago was home to a million people. Nowadays it’s known for the temple at Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest religious monument on the planet. Originally a Hindu temple, as well as the mausoleum of the king who oversaw its construction, it gradually turned into a Buddhist temple as the Khmer people began to favor Buddhism themselves.

And of course it’s really amazing.


Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat outer courtyard, looking East from the gateway

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A Deconstructed Portrait of the King – Bangkok 2017 pt. 3

Greetings from a cafe named Dexter, probably not after the serial killer.

Yesterday we went to the Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC), which will apparently like your posts on Instagram if you tag them there. It seemed to be, essentially, a modern art museum without any permanent exhibits from the new masters. It had some pretty cool stuff! And it was for the most part cultural art, which I guess makes sense when you consider the name.

Much of the Center’s offerings were dedicated to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was very, very popular around these parts. Very very. I don’t know as much about him as I should, but might very well pick up a book on him. Trying to understand Thailand very well, without understanding Bhumibol, seems pretty impossible.

Anyway, he died in October, and they’re still officially in mourning. The very front of the museum, right at the big National Stadium rail stop, featured the exhibit 5 Graffiti Artists in Remembrance of H.M. King Bhumibol.

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Pretty cool stuff. I recognized a couple of the artists from their works around town. Continue reading

The Soles of the Buddha’s Feet – Bangkok 2017 pt. 2

Last night, we had dinner at Gaggan, which was amazing and wonderful. The tasting menu was in emoji, which was very silly, but it encouraged discussion and gave the whole thing a less serious feel than it might otherwise have had. But more about that in a different post.

Today was a big contrast from that, in some ways. I was by myself much of the day, and it was very contemplative and austere. I got up earlyish, around seven, and headed out to Wat Pho, a big Buddhist temple complex next to the Grand Palace. I had with me the bag I bought yesterday.

I just followed the directions on Google Maps and reflected on how much simpler travel has gotten over the years. One train ride and I transferred to a commuter ferry, then six stops or so and I was in the right area. Much more straightforward than I was expecting.  Continue reading