Thu 12/31/2020

Well, this goddamned year is finally over. Good riddance! My 2020 New Year's Resolution was "write more." These monthly blog posts grew out of that goal, and also as a way to back off of social media a bit. I (obviously) didn't know that it would end up being such a bizarre year to document. It often felt like I was writing the same post over and over again as the months blurred together, but December actually felt a little different.

A big part of that was just Christmas. The girls popped out of bed each morning and ran to open the next window on their advent calendar, and the countdown (or build up) to Christmas kept things chugging along. The day itself was stressful, but the infusion of new toys and puzzles has made these past few days of parenting a bit easier.

Another thing that felt different was I actually managed to complete a few personal projects. Claire and I put together our annual family zine (which doubles as a Christmas card) and after three and a half years I finally finished another issue of Phase 7. I am slowly chipping away at shipping out issue #024 to subscribers, and will have ordering information available in the new year. The very first issue of Phase 7 was also published in the last days of December (eighteen years ago!) so I always get a pang of nostalgia when sending out an issue during this time of year.

At the end of November Rivers Cuomo released 2,500+ of his demos from the last twenty years for sale on his personal website. For weezer fans this is the holy grail. I'm taking my time listening to them all - this month I made it from pre-weezer days up to about 2002. It's been an amazing experience. There are so many things I never thought I'd get a chance to hear, and it's incredible to hear songs form from riffs, lyrics, chord progressions, etc. It's given me much deeper insights into Cuomo's songwriting process, and the creation of so many songs that I love. I was initially upset about the delay of Van Weezer (their new album) until sometime next year, but now I'm like, "Take your time!" I've got plenty of music to dig through.

Okay, so... how did I do? Did I write more this year? Let's look at the numbers:

  • I wrote twelve monthly "backer blog" posts (about 6,000 words) for the Isle of Elsi Patreon (only $1/month if you'd like to join)
  • I wrote eleven posts for this blog (about 10,000 words)
  • I wrote four drafts of the fifth Isle of Elsi story, Liz Tekcar in The Contested Contest, which ended up being 29 pages. It is currently being serialized online, click here to go to page 1)
  • I finally wrote a blog post about Edward Lear that I've been meaning to write for a few years (tonight! I wanted to get it in before the buzzer).

This blog makes me feel two ways: 1) I want to delete it, along with all my other blogs and just start over with a simple, clean website that just has some of my work on it and like a CV or whatever. 2) If I delete it, it feels like the social media corporations win. Like the only way you're able to share anything online is through their toxic capitalist system. UGH.

I don't think I'll keep up the monthly blog posts, but I guess ideally I'll keep writing here. I think the key might be smaller posts, not big monthly recaps. We'll see how it goes...

Anyway, if you read these posts this year, thanks for following along with my pandemic experience! Here's hoping 2021 starts to head in a better direction for all of us.


Mon 11/30/2020

Well, Biden and Harris won the election... thank goodness! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to bring about this result. Trump's ridiculous refusal to accept the election results is frustrating and embarrassing for our country, but not surprising. One of the many valuable life lessons I learned from my beloved soccer coach Mr. Innes (who sadly passed away this year, RIP) was how to lose with dignity. Hustle to half field, line up, high-five every member of the other team and their coach, make eye contact, tell them "good game," go home and take a shower, then get back to work trying to improve your skills. Trump obviously never learned these lessons. He even cheats at golf when he's only playing by himself. What a despicable human being. I look forward to watching him being dragged, kicking and screaming, from the White House. Good riddance.

There's still so much work to do. In the short term, flipping the two Georgia senate seats would allow democrats to make some real and lasting changes. In the long term we need to hold Biden and Harris accountable to the ideals that helped get them elected.

The predicted late-fall COVID-19 spike is currently happening, and New Mexico is one of the hardest hit states. We therefore were one of the first states to shut things down again. My family is very hunkered down and are trying to prepare for at least another six months of staying safe at home, to protect ourselves and our community.

Earlier this month I wrote a long blog post over on my illustration blog about how I have been using animation to help me deal with the stress of the pandemic. I also bought a resistance trainer for my bike, because I kept reading about how exercise can help with your mental health right now and I was definitely not getting enough of it. I put it out in the book shed, where I ride for 15 minutes a few times a week while listening to antiracist audiobooks (stronger body, stronger mind). While I'm in there I also try and visualize the 1,500 copies of Isle of Elsi Book One someday not being in my shed, but in the hands of readers. Shoutout to any cartoonists (or authors) with a new book out this year that they are unable to properly promote. It is very dispiriting and frustrating. Hopefully someday when things open back up we'll be able to get our books out into the world!

We try our best to get the girls outside at least once a day, either to play in the backyard, to ride bikes on our street, or to take a walk to one of the nearby parks or public spaces (of course being careful to socially distance from others while wearing masks).

I'm not going to pretend that this is easy. The girls often bicker and fight (they are 2 and 4 and are both learning how to share), and Suzanne especially has been having some really massive meltdowns where she is yelling, slamming doors, throwing stuff, etc. Can you blame her? I often find that kids are just mirrors of the stress surrounding them, and this situation is very stressful. We're trying to take it one day at a time, and to be kind to each other and keep working on communicating with each other. There are good days and bad days.

Wendy has been making some really beautiful paintings at the easel in our kitchen. She talks more and more each day and it is amazing to see her growing in so many different ways. I am very thankful to have this extra time at home with her.

Suzanne has rocketed into a new level of creativity with her daily drawings. She now creates original characters and draws their houses (usually with multiple stories), and incorporates writing, and various objects from around the house or from her books, movies, music, etc. I can't help but think of all the incredibly talented 20th century cartoonists who have similar stories of growing up lonely and isolated. I don't hope that for my kid, but maybe someday there will be an increased output of creativity that will come from all this time of everybody being stuck at home.

I hope everyone reading this is staying safe in your part of the world. Hang in there! We're gonna get through this.


Mon 11/2/2020

October felt like a month where a lot of things that had been in the works for a long time finally came to fruition.

On the art front, my friend Aron Nels Steinke's new book Mr. Wolf's Class: Field Trip was released. I had the pleasure of coloring this book (with some help from my wife Claire), plus my daughter Suzanne loves the series, so it was great to see the fourth book in print. I will begin coloring book five soon!

On the teaching front, The Center for Cartoon Studies announced that it will be offering Winter Workshops for the first time ever! This is something we've wanted to do for many years, but it was never feasible because of how hard it is to travel to/from Vermont during winter break. After the success of our online summer workshops however, we decided to offer three workshops 100% online, including my Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation workshop. They all run January 11-15 from 11am-5pm ET. Check them out!

In conjunction with the new Winter Workshops, CCS also launched a new merit-based scholarship to support professional development for BIPOC cartoonists. Submissions are due December 1st and one scholarship will be awarded per workshop, which covers the full tuition. CCS alumni and current students also receive 50% off tuition for any of the workshops!

After a long, hot, dry summer which seemed to be dragging into autumn, it finally began to get cold at night in October, which made the leaves begin to fall. Suzanne and Wendy really got a kick out of making leaf piles and jumping in them this year, which was fun to watch. Then, a week ago we had a big ice storm that dropped something like eight inches of snow over two nights, which was very exciting. We made lots of short expeditions out into the snow, and then rushed back inside to cuddle up by the fire.

For a few days this month we had access to a car, so we drove out to Claire's dad's land, to pay him a socially-distanced visit with masks on. The girls have been cooped up at our house since March, so it was nice for them to get a brief change of scenery. Even just walking around his property and playing with Grandpa's dog Nina was very exciting for them.

Suzanne wanted to be a bat for Halloween, so Claire dutifully made her a costume, which she wore once (luckily I snapped a photo!). We were never able to get her to put it back on, not even on Halloween. I can't blame her because we didn't go trick or treating. Wendy did not request a specific costume, but she also wears a dress-up dress seven days a week, so I guess every day is Halloween for her.

Claire's mom dropped off some pumpkins, and my Mom and Liz sent care packages, so we did our best to make it a special day with pumpkin carving, cookie decorating and some candy too. Suzanne has been obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, which has been on repeat for the past few weeks. She's watched a bit of the movie, but most of it is too scary.

For about a year now Claire and her father have been working on a new front gate for our house, to replace the '70s Sears chain link fence that was on there when we moved in. Four months ago she submitted scale drawings, photo mock-ups, and plans to the city, and finally this month our permit was approved. We've been chipping away at it on weekends (literally - chiseling out old concrete to remove the Sears posts) and then finally this past weekend we got the gate in place, which Claire's dad had built months ago. There are still a few small steps that need to be completed, including the fabrication and installation of the decorative steel plates which Claire designed. Hopefully we can have it all done by the end of the year.

Other than that? We all got our flu immunizations (shown here are the post-shot donut rewards), and are planning on hunkering down as much as possible through November and December, so that we do not contribute to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in New Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter.

Claire and I voted by mail the day our ballots arrived. I'm writing this on the eve of Election Day, to try and separate all of these October events from whatever is going to happen tomorrow (and in the following weeks). Obviously, if you haven't already, please get out and vote tomorrow! Thank you to all the poll workers and postal workers who have been working so hard to make early voting possible. I'm nervous and anxious about the whole situation, but still hopeful we can climb out of this mess and restore some sanity to our country. Hang in there and stay safe, everyone!

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