Monday, April 29, 2013

Creative Character Druthers I Have You

Do you remember when I called forth Jim into being?

It was last week.

I drew Jim for the first time, and then I felt like dying on an emotional level because he was so useless.

It's not personal, Jim. Well maybe.

I am having trouble pinpointing why you suck so bad, or why all the air goes out of me when I draw you.

But I guess it could be something about how you look.

How come you don't make me laugh?

Oh Jim, sad, stupid Jim, a rubber pencil and fake pooey are pretty good, but it's not just having funny stuff in your hand, the humor comes from what you do with them.

That's just juvenile. Babies stick things in their ears, Jim, not original characters bursting with inherent hilarity.

It gets worse though.

After I decided Jim would exist in a fantasy land with it's own incredibly dense and planned out lore and back story, I had some even better ideas.

My fantasy world would just turn every convention on its head, you know?

I have always been kind of a trailblazer. I was the first boy in my family to go to a public high school. At work, I am usually the first person to say out loud what I think about everything.

So in my children's marker pad that I bought at Big Lots for .50 cents, (for my Australian readers, fifty cents American is like two of your farthings, so like omg, bargain, right?) I began to lay the groundwork for Jim's world.

For one thing, I thought, holy crap, what if elves were short and bearded and stocky, and what if dwarves were tall and skinny and had arrows?!?!?

It was at this point in the creative process when I realized I was at a crossroads.

I'm not a fool; I know these drawings are kind of silly. No detail; childish; anatomically muddled.

But here is the thing: silly drawings can still convey serious themes in a meaningful way. Look what a miserable portrait of a marriage that The Lockhorns comic strip portrays. It's like a Bergman movie.

Was Jim's world going to be one of epic tragedy, or one of complete ridiculousness?

An example: I wanted Jim to have a weapon, but not a sword, because that is what people would expect. So I gave him a mace.

I was drinking my first mug of coffee in the school kitchen when a hilarious thought came to me. I drink a whole pot of coffee a day. By the time we put the kids on the bus, I am usually kind of sweaty and intangible. But the hilarious thought was unrelated to any of that. The hilarious thought was what if Jim had a spikeless mace?!??! HA HAHA!


I ignored lots of people and my entire job to draw that picture of Jim. You don't make art, art makes it.(?)

But here was the problem: this is the worst:a double colon. No just kidding. The worst is having an idea that makes you laugh in your head but when you write it down or draw it, you pray to God that no one finds it in the trash and traces it back to you because it is so terrible.

Now I have to redraw spikes on a hundred different pictures because I erased all the spikes back when the whole idea was unbelievably funny.

Do you want to learn to draw?

Here is how you draw spikes on a mace:

First, take your picture of a spikeless mace

Then cover it with pointy mountains.
Now draw me.

and call it either Adonis in front of yellow gradient fill or Hindenburg Rising. Let me know if you pick Hindenburg Rising, so I can get mad at you, eat all the Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the school pantry, and drink my tears mixed in with sweet, sweet milk.

I hope one of my loyal readers is a medieval weapons expert, and takes the time to let me know that a spikeless mace was a real thing and not funny at all. That it had a cool Latin name and was the weapon of choice for some fighty old weirdos. Sometimes I sound so nonsophisticated. Be smarter, I tell my brain. He can't hear me because he is not an ear.

So any epic hero needs a steed.

Do you know how hard it is to draw a horse from memory?

Or Snoopy??

Ok, this is an honest to goodness horse that I drew from my memory. It took a really long time, though, and I find that very discouraging.

Have you ever sat around all day, just being discouraged? It's pretty terrible.

So, although Jim's mace will be rendered at an epic level of fantasy realism, I have decided his steed will lean towards the silly.

Pssst...let me tell you a little secret, an artist's secret, if you will:
I like drawing blood-tee hee! lots of it! It's so nostalgic, like being a kid again. sh sh don't tell anyone hee hee

Anyways, Jim's steed is a classic children's toy-how ironical!

Looking around, I suddenly remember that I am at work and lunch break ended like four hours ago or something.

Don't worry, I have LOTS more GOLDEN CONTENT just like this to come.

But for now, I leave you with our hero beginning his epic quest:

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I was trying to write a novel but the songs on my MP3 player kept changing.

With each shift in tone and tempo, the novel would veer off in a direction that matched.

What started as a fantasy romance set to the music of a young Phil Collins quickly turned to the ethnic hijinks of some merry vagabonds prancing to my Songs of the Balkans CD. By the time Flatt and Scruggs started a'pickin the banjer, the whole story went terribly south. 

That was all in the first paragraph.  I gave up.

I have a tremendous envy of other people.

Those who can wear their earphones so discreetly you hardly notice.

Just a white slip coming up from a secret corner of their hoodie.

Mine dangles all over me in a mass of figure 8's and hopeless knots.

I am sure people see it hanging and assume it is some sort of intravenous feeding device.

If the volume takes a considerable jump from one song to the next, or heaven forbid someone is attempting to communicate with me, I can never find which pocket I shoved it in in order to turn it down.

There is a brief period wherein I scramble my body. My hands tangle in the cords of the ear buds and accidentally yank them from the port on the device.  

The person trying to talk to me assumes I was only pretending to listen to music because the headphone jack flings out, plugged into nothing.

I envy writers.

You hear them interviewed, and they talk about characters they created "coming to life". Surprising the writer by what they do or say.

"I had this guy, this character, running around in my head for awhile. And I was curious about him. Who is he? What does he want?"

I wish I could think like that, have a head filled with characters and worlds and be surprised by how they all interact.

It would be the best place in the world, and I would never leave it; just sit observing my interior, continually laughing at how surprising everyone was being.

Of course I want beautiful things to happen in there as well. It would be so great to create something beautiful.

Beautiful surprises. And then, after a series of like nine novels, I would have to kill off one of my characters. My wife would hear me crying from the other room.

"Is somebody stepping on the cat?!?" she yells.

"No," I whimper back, "no. It's just me. I...I...just killed Jeremy Titmouse. On the wall of the Obsidian Fortress. Run through by the Centipede King. The 11th of Dun, on the..
...the year of the...*sniff* the Owl."

How do those writers do that??

When I try to create a character, I end up making myself.

I may call it some terribly bland name like Jim or Tim but it always ends up being me.

My anxieties; the exact same interior monologue as I, obsessing over stupid things in the same whiny voice.

And then I populate the world around the character with the mental equivalent of a set from a 1st grade production of Peter Rabbit.

Jim walks past tree number one. He sits on the floor in front of a cardboard cutout park bench. Ten kids sing and furiously pump their legs, none of it on beat. Jim sighs. The fourth grader playing Farmer Mcgregor hammily crosses his arms and yells Boy Howdy that dang rabbit is up to it ageeeeen. Some flatus escapes the music teacher's buttocks when she angrily shakes a finger at misbehaving boys.

Jim feels guilty all the time. He doesn't know why.

Peter Rabbit does that absolutely dreadful imitation of rabbit sniffing and whisker wiggling that theater people do, where they make circles with the lower half of their faces while scrunching up their noses.

You are not a violent person, but when they do that, you feel you have no choice and somehow you have to kill them.

The first time I ever felt irrational hatred for someone was at a play.

Our Town. The guy playing the father made an elaborate display of brushing imaginary toast crumbs from his fingers. You could tell it was one of those authentic details that actors know how to do, and the rest of us marvel at how effortless it seemed.

For some reason, I stared at him and could not stop thinking how he was a complete buttmunch.

Then Jim felt guilty.

My wife once almost broke up with me for calling someone a buttmunch.

It was an old lady who stole my parking spot.

I muttered how she was a buttmunch.

I think my wife was just repulsed that I could dismiss another human being, especially a frail old lady on her way into church, as a particularly unhygienic act of cannibalism.

I envy actors because maybe I want to be one.

There was an opening for a voice actor advertised on the internet, and I thought I could do that job.
I really did.

The description said, "Male voice needed for wake-up messages aimed at female listeners. Think warm and sexy. Sample lines might be "wakey-wakey" or "hello sunshine."

I crouched in front of the little microphone on my computer and said the lines over and over again.

It seemed OK. Pretty good, even. When I played it back it was the shittiest thing I had ever heard.

"What about being an essayist, or a man of letters?" no one asks.

A good essayist extrapolates larger truths from their personal experiences.

I can't extrapolate. All I see is me.

There is no one for me to write to. Can you be a man of letters that you wrote to yourself? If you describe yourself as a man of letters, are you a total ass?

It's like calling yourself a poet, I guess. You just shouldn't do it because it sounds kind of stupid.

You have to wait around forever until someone else calls you a poet, and then you can kind of go with it.

But the someone else can't be just your girlfriend or something; it can't be yourself as a man of letters writing about yourself and referring to you as a poet.

It's got to be someone like Oprah or Rabbi Kushner.

How I long to create something beautiful, something that truly moves the emotions of a whole roomful of people.
Or write a book that has a map in the beginning, and an appendix at the back.

My imagination is so destitute, though. The map would look something like this:

Okay, Jim. You are my character. I created you. Now run free in my imagination and amaze me with all the surprising decisions you make.

I drew this picture of Jim and suddenly went blank. Blank on Jim, on this post, on everything even remotely creative within me.

What should he do? Is he conflicted?

I hate how much he looks like an idiot.

Is there more to you, Jim?

Of course you are.

This novel sucks.

Don't characters have motivation or something?

I wish I had paid attention in all those writing classes. I wish I had paid attention to anything, ever.

Jim you idiot-looking fool, you are motivated by....your fear of people.

NO DAMMIT that's one of my fears.


Jim is pointing at someone who is different then he is.

One time I pointed at a midget in a convenience store and my mom refused to buy me candy because she was so mad.

I wrote that sentence and hit another wall.

Why is being creative so painful?

Shut up Jim.
But no, you're right.
I would take a break, but every time I leave a post I can never finish it. Hours later, I've lost the thread of where I was going.....

Ha ha ha.

Yep, pretty stupid.

Jim leaves. Cross-eyed boy exits the other side of the stage.

Take a bow, Peter Rabbit.

The cheese stands alone.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Redundant Serialized Funny Papers

Regular readers: scroll down for the new stuff. SCROLL DOWN I SAID.

These are the continuation of my earlier serialized funnies post, and dumped here from my facebook.

I hope to hear back from that library job this week. yay.

Martin's dad really was mad at me about something, but I had to change the details of it somewhat.

Kan-cho and his family returned to Korea about a year after this event.

Please let me know if you like these comics, because I have very low self-esteem.

If I had more things to say, I would write them right now.

Have you noticed that I have a problem with repetitive sentence structure?

It's like: "Badunk badunk badunk COMMA badunk punchline/non sequitur." 

That is what it is like.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Well, I broke up with my therapist recently.

It might've been around Christmas...can't remember.

My thinking is so cloudy and muddled lately; maybe I should start smoking again.

Ironically, I felt very clear-headed when I smoked.

It is ironic because it is smoky.

Anyways, I broke up with him in a manner befitting the terror-filled donut that I've let myself become.

Then I did my tension reduction teeth grit seizure I do when I'm on the phone and I can't take it anymore.

Something like this:

oh man, that's an ugly gif. Oh well, first attempt.

I hung up the phone and went into the basement to play toys.

Ten minutes later, it started ringing.

We have one of those caller IDs that shout out the source of the incoming call, but pronounce it all wrong like a really stupid robot.

You still have to get off of your bottom and check the number visually, which defeats the purpose of having any kind of talking machine.

It proclaimed his number: "U NIV OF MO EYE ITCH AGAIN".

I was afraid.

It was irrational fear; he was not a mean or a gruff man. In fact, I do not even know if his face registered any other emotion but empathic listening.

When he yelled at you, it was like being gently chided by Droopy Dog for not loving yourself enough.

But I could not put down my action figures and go get the phone.

I just could not.

Please have no illusions about me: I am fully aware that these are terrible, heartbreaking days in which we live; that the daily news has become a log book of what cannibalistic bastards humanity has chosen to be.

I never forget that, or lose perspective on how ridiculous it is that I cannot face obstacles head on like a corporate CEO or take the bull by the horns like a wrestler of large animals.

But really, in the final analysis, I am a ridiculous person.

No one is surprised by that anymore.

The doctor spoke into our machine.

He spoke for a long time.

I sang the G.I.Joe theme song and smacked the figures together even louder so I would not hear him.

"Hello, Gween, this is...."


"...and I thought that if we"


"....the odor probably comes"


" really just ten minutes to"


"...well, good-bye then".

Everything of significance he might have said, I drowned out with the power of my imagination.

But I knew.

Up there, waiting in the dark, the red eye of the answering machine blinked.

It called to me.

Come play back the guilt I have here waiting for you.

This doctor loved you and your problems.

Come push play and know how wretched you are.

I drank one Capri Sun, then another.

I rubbed at invisible stains on our basement windows.

Anything, any reason, not to go up those stairs, not to see the terrible blinking of the one red eye.

But time waits for no man, and eventually families wonder why a father might be standing in the shadowy storage area of the laundry room, having not moved for over an hour now.

Damned life; why come you cannot be spent in perfect isolation?

I climbed the basement stairs.

"Are you going to listen to the message?" my wife asked.

Are you going to unzip your skin and fling your skeleton about willy nilly? Are you going to put your face straight through the bathroom mirror?

Are you going to know the scolding of Dr.Droopy and then welcome Death?

I am a jumpy, excitable person.

Even, when I drink a prudent amount of coffee, I still manage to stutter and vibrate.

Anything beyond that, and I become a yodelling blur of topless idiocy and poor muscle control.

I tell you this because it is the only explanation of what happened next that I can reconcile with and not feel like an utter coward.

My every intention was to play back that message.

It was.

But when my hand neared the button, it spasmed. Instead of 'play', it mashed the 'delete' button.

All that he wanted so earnestly to tell to me, lost in a caffeinated stab of finger.

Gone forever.

You might argue that I could have called him back, or that somehow science can retrieve things from answering machines.

You would be arguing with yourself however, because I have already left the room, whistling and free of guilt.

As for my problems?

Ha! Well, let's just say....let's dammit.

I guess they are still here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Pornographic Parent

Parenting blogs get a lot of attention these days.

I like attention, so this is a parenting blog now I guess.

I threw the word "pornographic" in there because I am not too picky about where my attention comes from.

My children can be kind of annoying.

For instance, they do this thing where they laugh at each other and tattle on each other simultaneously.

He means "inappropriate" body, which I think refers to his underwear.

Bun dances started when they were two and we laughed as they shook their very small bottoms.

Now it is just creepy and provocative.

They do other annoying things.

I have skin tags and I am not proud of them.

My children like to pull and stretch them in public.

I would get the skin tags removed, but I appreciate how they keep the kids entertained while I pay attention to other things.

It also bothers me that they react to my toplessness the same way they react to the toplessness of my wife.

When I go get the mail without a shirt on, you would think by their reaction that I was reenacting the famed ride of Lady Godiva.

Anyways, if I think of more ways I am an awesome parent, I will post them here soon.