Friday, October 28, 2011

Draw your own conclusions.

I am feeling in the middle right now.

On the one side, I'm watching friends and even a colleague or two who are doing exciting, incredibly creative things that, even if they were not my friends, would impress me.

On the other, I'm working on several deadlines that require me to stick to formulas that I've already created. They are, if we were to borrow from the language used to describe other media projects, elements of the "legacy" media.

And, and I'll do this up here and not in footnotes, here I am using the word media as an element of communication and not, as the shorthand is often used, to imply a journalistic endeavor.

I'm writing and designing print documents...items that some will simply tag in their PDF form onto an e-mail and send with the same care and attention with which you would forward a knock-knock joke or electronic chain letter.

I even had a meeting today where I realized, midway through, that I felt like I had run out of ideas. A few of the items I proposed were even met with the phrase that makes the creative mind go cold, "Oh, we did something like that a few years ago."

And now I'm sitting here wondering not just how to get my own creative juices flowing, not just how to get excited about work again...but how these folks feel as they're watching their projects take flight.

I e-mailed one of them today, cheering the fantastic piece that he had helped bring about, and his response sounded a bit like he was surprised that I would have been so taken.

So, is that what it is when one of the expectations of your work is that you will be creative, always wanting to do more, better and surprising?

Are you simply always living in the eye of the hurricane?

And, if that is the case, then how do you know the difference between the hurricane's eye and creative dead air?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Squatters.

So, if you stopped by earlier today you might have noticed a comment had been made on one of my posts.

It seems the reader, whose name I did not recognized, was so moved by what I had written that she decided to offer low to no interest loans to anyone who happened to come by.

I know. It's very, very generous.

The world would be a better place if there were more fake-person-robo-spammers posting to random blogs about their dubious financial products.

It reminded me of a running issue that I had with another arts writer (1) who, out of the blue, began placing links to his stories in the comment section of my reviews. On a few occasions, the message left was, essentially if not explicitly: "Artboy might have hated this show but our critic thought it was great. You should read our review here [insert link]."

The situation infuriated my editor who was mostly angry about the fact that the other arts writer was plugging his publication for free on our website. It was free advertising that was capitalizing on the fact that I was a critic who people actually read.

Now, my writing is simply anonymously spammed.

How's that for a really depressing virtual reality check?

1. For any who happens to know the individual I am talking about, you will likely be amazed that I refrained from placing the word "writer" in quotes.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Holy [BLEEP] Batman.

So, Frank Miller wrote a graphic novel.

I love Frank Miller or, more accurately, I love Frank Miller's work.

Like a lot of self-identified comics geeks, The Dark Knight was nothing short of epic in my world. It's beautiful and dark and moody and was, truly, my ideal for what a comic book should be.

He wrote, and another huge favorite of mine Bill Sienkiewicz illustrated, an Elektra: Assassin mini-series that absolutely blew my mind.

He created Sin City. Pant. Swoon.

Sigh.

But now there is a significant ruckus being kicked up about Miller's new book, Holy Terror, which some have said falsely conflates Islam and the terrorism of Al Qaeda.

Comics Alliance, my personal online workday cigarette break, closed out today with the following quote from Miller: "I can tell you squat about Islam. I don't know anything about it. But I know a goddamn lot about Al Qaeda and I want them all to burn in hell."

Shocking quote, right? The kind of thing to drive folks into a frenzy.

But here's the thing. After reading that quote I went to Frank Miller's website, and here's what he had to say:

"Let's keep in mind that, back in the forties, Superman punched out Adolf Hitler. Or that the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series in the seventies was a left-wing screed that climaxed with Jesus strung up on the head of a jumbo jet. Subtle stuff, all of it.


Come on, Propaganda is rampant. News objectivity is a twentieth-century myth. We only complain about propaganda when we don't agree with it."

There's more. You can read it for yourself. I agree with bits and pieces and feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise from others.

What do you do then, with a writer who says, without shame or hesitation, that he's well aware that he's created something that is blatantly, without shame, one-sided in its view. He's mad as hell, and he's venting it out in the way that he is able. He's a guy that has created some of the most iconic comic books of recent times, so he's created a graphic novel that is explosive and angry.

And, if you know Miller's work, you know that explosive and angry is not a new thing.

And I couldn't help but wonder if Miller's work is being viewed differently because it is a graphic novel, a series of ideas and emotionally-based expressions being played out in a format that some identify with Archie and Veronica. We've had other artists create works of art as provocative as this. We've certainly had writers raise issues with the same violent enthusiasm.

And, more often than not, when the artist in question is pressed, they often divorce themselves from their work. They are "exploring the public discourse." They are "trying to incite a conversation."

Miller's work? It's because he's angry.

Don't get me wrong. Anger can go too far. Propaganda can go too far. Virtually anything in this world over which we have control can go too far.

The question here, it seems to me, is whether it's Miller or the criticism of his work that's perhaps gone too far.

Artboy in the attic.

On Wednesdays, Leopold teaches piano lessons.

Normally, I find a way to be out of the house for his evening lessons. Not because I mind the sounds of a piano lesson, but because I suddenly become horribly aware of how generally loud I can be up here in the attic.

Just less than an hour ago, in fact, I was listening to NPRs All Songs Considered music feed, while waiting with the phone on speaker for a student loan representative, while asking the dog to stop doing whatever it was she was doing at the time (1), while talking to myself, wondering aloud when it is that Mr. Rochester will be getting back with those whoopie pies.

Yes, I made that last one up.

Edward Rochester would never have brought whoopie pies.


1. Say what you will about dogs being or not being child substitutes. All I know is that I find myself correcting Finkelstein's behavior with such blind regularity that the minor, ongoing infractions barely register. Not, "don't pee on the carpet" reprimands (2)...more like "don't", "stop", "knock it off", "I'll kill us both, I swear to god"... That kind of thing. You know how moms do.
2. Which, don't get me wrong, is awesome that I don't ever need that one.

*cough*

So, sometime between yesterday and today, I got sick.

Scratchy throat. Stuffed up nose. Hacking cough.

It's really charming.

But it also raised, yet again, an interesting element of working from home.

When you work from home and you are sick, what would it actually mean to call in sick?

I mean, when most folks call in sick, they're calling in to say that they will not be at work that day because they are staying home.

But I'm already home.

Keep in mind, in this instance I am raising the question of an illness that is more irritating and annoying than anything else. The kind of an illness your co-workers would actually like you to stay home with so that you don't pass it along to everyone else but you don't because, well, it's just a cold.

So I went to work...which is in my home. So I was home, sick, but not home sick.

Or homesick.

Which would be another really interesting thing to stay home from work over.

"I'm afraid I won't be coming in today. I'm homesick."


Monday, October 24, 2011

Well, I'll be...

So, last week was a BIG week which meant my time, for the most part, was not my own.

It's amazing how much more drained you feel at the end of the day when you realize that you're not going to your own house.

You're not going to be sleeping in your own bed.

There's no reason not to pick up a project after getting home, curling up in bed (1) with your laptop and not the book you're reading (2).

It also means that I tend not to write anything that isn't going to have someone else's name on it at the end of the day. It's not that there isn't a silver lining to be found there (3). This time around I got to have an actual working breakfast with Tintin, a journalist who is neither red-headed nor known to travel with a small white dog, but whose country-crossing schedule makes my own look quite zombie-like.

It was at breakfast that this happened:

Tintin: So, it sounds like you're really settled in.

Artboy: What?

Tintin: Well, like this is what you do now.

Artboy: What?

Tintin: That BIG is where you were meant to land.

Artboy: What?

I mean, what?

This was a line of thought that I had not previously entertained. In fact, what I had been thinking for much of the week is how stealthily I have systematically booted myself backward every few years. Moving myself further back down the proverbial ladder and the payroll chart. While it's starting to look like I'll be able to pick up some additional freelance work, my mind is wandering again. I've been wondering what comes next...where I will go next.

I was not thinking, this is what I do now. 

Damn.

1. Or sofa bed.
2. Which, right now, is Swamplandia. Fan-freaking-tastic.
3. Beyond the part where, most of the time, other people pay me to write far better than I pay myself.