12.31.2011

Celebrate The New (or, "Fuck The Cynics")

I cannot tell you how many times this year alone I've heard someone say something like "Why celebrate New Year's Day? I mean, it's just another day..."

Cynics, all of them. And you know what? Fuck them.

Celebrate tonight as the end of things.

Celebrate tomorrow as a new beginning.

Celebrate milestones and birthdays and sunrises. Celebrate the new. Send off the old in style. Mourn your losses, and then cut them loose. Embrace the next; the thing around the corner. The wrapped present about to be opened. The cards not yet turned over.

Feel anticipation! Feel excitement! Allow yourself to prepare to feel joy! Because what is life without these things?

It's empty and hollow and broken and dark, that's what. And anyone attempting to bring you down into that abyss is someone who deserves to fuck right off. Don't listen. Don't succumb. Don't be dragged down. Cut those ropes and snap those chains and break free of forces that keep you feeling heavy.

Cynicism is another word for sad. Don't be sad. You get so many days on this Earth and then you die. There is no getting around this. You do not get out of life alive. Do NOT take it so seriously that you stop enjoying it. Don't spend a single one you don't have to feeling down or dark or sad.

...And don't you DARE let anyone take your joy (or the anticipation of it) it away from you with their bullshit.



12.30.2011

We All Fall Down...

Accept this one fact, and your life will become instantly easier:

You will fall.

Just like accepting you will get hit in a fist fight, once you're done worrying about whether or not you might fall and just accept that it IS going to happen, you can go about the business of actually trying new things and going about doing something with your life that makes you happy.

Once you stop being afraid of the inevitable, you can concentrate on the rest of what it takes to move forward.

And when you fall? Well, the natural inclination is to say "Get the fuck up." But reality disagrees with that, in my experience. If you just snarl and get up and start plowing ahead again without thinking, at least for a moment, about what went wrong and how not to do it again, you'll likely just do it again.

So no. No need to be a hardass about it. Take a moment. Indulge in the most natural and, frankly, satisfying instinct we have as human beings: feel sorry for yourself. Analyze what went wrong and blame yourself for it and cry if you want to. But spend no longer than you absolutely must for that instinct to show up and for you to recognize it and get past it.

Just as falling down in life is inevitable, so is feeling sorry for yourself. So you need to accept that part of it too, so you can concentrate on moving past it as quickly as possible and getting back to life.

That's the thing that separates the successful from the self-pitying whiners. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- goes through the cycle of fail - pity - move on. But the whiners' method of moving on is to let everyone in the world know why it is they couldn't pick themselves up and dust themselves off and go back to it, while the successful get past the self pity and use it as motivation.

Because pity is the single worst thing that can ever be felt about you. When people pity you, they see you as incapable. It's not your fault. You're not able to take control and fix it.

And when you feel it about yourself, you can very quickly get caught in a downward spiral which leads to self loathing. And you don't want to go there; not if you want to actually enjoy your life. So the trick is to let it happen, and then the moment you begin finding all those reasons you're weak and can't handle life, get stronger there.

The old saying is an old saying for a reason: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Failure exposes those weak links. It's up to you as the owner of the chain to identify them and fix them.

Or, just let the chain of your life lay broken and mangled in the dirt. Either way; it's up to you. But know that at the end of your life, you're going to realize that you're the only person on Earth who was ever capable of fixing yourself.

Use the self pity to do that. Find those weak spots. Double and redouble your efforts to get stronger where you are weak. Take the time it takes to repair and rebuild and move forward; don't waste a second longer than you must on it. Just like in the gym, before you can get stronger anywhere, you must figure out where you are weakest and get stronger in those places.

As it turns out, just like in the gym, most everyone starts off weakest in their heart. And so, that's the first place you should focus on getting stronger. And that's what this and all the rest of my December posts have been about. And I hope they have helped.

We all fall down. When you do, remember what the old Japanese proverb (and Courage Wolf) says:

"Fall down seven times, stand up eight."

12.28.2011

Change The Language

I guess December has been a month of little revelations here and there on this blog. I suppose the reason for that is, I've had a few little opportunities (and one really huge one) to evaluate and re-evaluate life and all its little nuances. And while I usually try to temper my "you can do it!" style posts with some juvenile antics and pithy rants, I figure since there's already a pattern and there's only 4 days left in December... Fuck it. I'm going to spend the rest of this month trying to fix you.

One tool I've found that drastically changed my life and how I live it: I changed the language I use about myself. I used to be horribly self-effacing -- and not just for effect on this blog and in my books (which, you should know, I'll probably still do, because come on... It's funny). I used to genuinely put myself down, count myself out, and write myself off, both in word and in thought.

Then one day, Drew Curtis (my boss at Fark.com) changed something I never really paid attention to. Our internal mail list for staff was nicknamed "Assholes." The joke was that when something broke, you'd just email the assholes at fark -- thus, Assholes@fark.com was the address we chose. We used that address for quite a while. Then, one day, Drew randomly emailed all of us and announced we needed a new name for ourselves.

"The simple fact is, words matter, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves," he wrote. His theory is that the more we called ourselves assholes, the more we could begin to believe we really are assholes. So we changed our name to The Gnomes Which Run Fark. And you know what? I can attest that mentally picturing myself as one of several little gnomes banging a wrench on things definitely changed how I perceived my role at Fark. I was no longer the bad guy. I was a little helper man.

A little light went on in my head.

I'd heard for years about positive mental attitude, and believe in it whole-heartedly. Think good, be good. Point yourself in positive directions and positive things happen. It's just a fact. My entire career is a testament to it (and if you're sitting there brooding about how you've "totally tried it" and it's "all a bunch of shit," well... You're kinda fucking it up right now).

But I never applied that mentality to myself. And with Drew's inadvertent advice, I began changing the language I used when describing myself, at least out loud. It was hard, and it still is, but I forced myself to refrain from saying things like "I suck" and listing off all the ways I am talentless, and instead started saying things like "I admire the talent it takes to do [whatever]" and "I'll have to work on [aspect of myself]."

And slowly, changing how I spoke about myself began to change how I felt about myself. The language in my head began to change. And that's something that's both cool and odd about how our brains work: we don't realize when we're out of pain until we are in pain again. And when I started feeling down on myself after a while, I remembered that, for a while there, I was feeling quite good about the work I was doing and the things I was writing and the pieces I was drawing. Sure, none of it measured up to the highest talents in any industry... But who cares?

Drew obviously thinks highly enough of my talents as a carnival barker and designer to let me go talk to folks about non-intrusive marketing and design the things I come up with. You guys obviously think highly enough of my writing to read it every day and buy my books. Some of you think highly enough of my ability to draw that you tossed money at me last Christmas.

And I realized: why would I presume to know better what you think of me than you do? It's true that we all know ourselves better than anyone else could possibly know us, but at the same time, we are usually the worst at figuring out what others think about us... Which is why it's sad and strange that we dedicate so much time to that pursuit.

It's a challenge to change the words you use about yourself, that's for sure. At first, you'll find yourself thinking "This is silly. I feel ridiculous." I suggest those be the first words you change. Think instead that you are taking a new course, especially for yourself and by yourself. No one else can hear the thoughts in your head, so to them, your choice of more positive language about yourself has no context. It's just what you said about yourself. And while eventually you won't care what other people think, during this time that you still do, know that you leave them with an impression far better than the one you leave when you bag on yourself.

Even if they don't leave thinking "That was a pleasant conversation," at least it's not "Wow, that guy really hates himself. What a shame."

And after you master the art of stopping yourself from ripping yourself to shreds verbally, you'll begin to see that your brain actually rewires itself. It's conditioning. You're conditioning yourself to not hate yourself.

If you're miserable; if you're constantly feeling down and worthless, ask yourself: Do I WANT to be happy? Don't ask "Do I deserve to be happy" because right now, you'll just answer "no."

Just ask if you want to be happy. And if (when) the answer is "yes" give yourself a present. Give yourself the gift of trying to be happy. Trying to be happy is a gift that's yours to give AND to receive, and no one can ever take it away from you. Will you be happy? My answer is yes, and I stand by it. Trying to be happy will make you happy. Doing things for yourself will make you happy. Seeking new ways to think positively about yourself will make you happy.

For 2012, try changing the language you use about yourself (and, if you want an extra challenge, try changing the language you use about others as well... I've failed at that challenge, but mostly because everyone else sucks). Let me know how it goes.





12.24.2011

My Christmas Gift To You (Or, "On Making Candy Canes")



I've always wondered what kind of gift I could give to everyone at once, over the internet. 

The "over the internet" part automatically eliminates physical goods, or else I'd give you all candy canes. And not because it's a seasonal treat, but because I absolutely love candy canes (I really do -- they're my favorite candy. I like sucking on the long end and spinning it around until it's made a sharp point. In fact, it's the only way I can eat candy canes. At this point, it's a compulsion). And to share something I love with you is the point of giving a gift. 

So that leaves something digital. I don't write video games, and long ago gave up writing software. I'm no musician, and to watch me on video is a chore. So that leaves me with something written.

But what? Yet more stories about my foibles and misdeeds? While those are fun and definitely get laughs, they're transient. I don't want to give you a transient gift. I want to give you something that matters. 

So, I'll give to you this holiday season a lesson I learned this year. It's not just "a really good idea" or "a lesson you learn until you forget about it" -- it's something that hit me like a brick and won't ever go away, forever. And it's something I wish I'd learned -- not just heard, not just thought about, but genuinely learned -- when I was young.

It's not "don't make mistakes" and it's not "don't make the same mistakes I did." In fact, it's the opposite. It's actually "Please make mistakes." Mistakes and the screw ups are part of the process. 

"The process of what?" You may ask. The process of anything. Making things, drawing things, writing things, trying things. You are supposed to fuck it up. You are supposed to take a hard fall when learning to ride a bike or draw the wrong line in a drawing. It's part of the process. 

And what's more, the mistakes and the screwups don't extend solely to missteps or falling or screwing something up. Sometimes, the mistake is waiting too long to start and having to rush to the end. Sometimes, it's starting way too early and learning midway through a new parameter or constraint that makes you start all over, which you could have learned if you just waited a minute. 

And that's the point. You're supposed to screw that stuff up. Sayings like "It's not the destination, it's the journey" and those sorts of things exist because they're true. Indeed, they are platitudes -- simply sayings and advice that are so overarchingly true, they hardly apply to you when you hear them. They're not things that you feel when you read it. You don't take them in, you don't internalize them. You basically hear them and in your head, it sounds like "I told you so." 

But I really learned that lesson this year. And I can't take out the thing inside me that makes me feel what I feel when I think about it, and then put it in you and make you feel what I feel. All I can do is try to put into words what I'm feeling, so I hope this works:

You can't have a candy cane unless you put sugar into the machine. 

It's all part of the process. You take the sugar. You put it in the machine. Out comes a candy cane.

Every step of that is part of the process that creates the product. Remove the sugar or the machine, and you can't have a candy cane. And that's the trick -- if it takes you six hours of agony, staring at a blank page to get started writing your book, or drawing your first panel of the comic book, or striking that first chord of a song, then it takes you six hours.

That time is part of the process. The procrastination, the hemming and hawing, the research, the noodling and doodling and humming. It's who you are. It's the machine.

And sometimes, you gotta put the sugar through it to get the candy cane at the end.

The sooner you embrace this fact -- that all of it is the process -- the sooner you can get to work making and doing what you want to make and do. And as you do that, you can begin fine-tuning the machine, taking out bits you don't need and streamlining the process to be more efficient.

But not until you realize that the process is the process. And once you do realize that, life gets better.

I hope this helps, because it really helped me in my life. I cannot tell you how much, because to try would be to fail. But know that my most sincere wish this year is that you can take this idea, think about it and accept it, because I want YOU to be happy. That's your present to me.

Merry Christmas.


12.21.2011

Last Minute Gift Idea -- Alcoholic Bliss Basket

If you're like me, you fuck around until the very last minute every single Christmas, then scramble to get shit done. You're also 6' 3", nearly 300lbs and tattooed up one side and down the other, and are obsessed with Akira, comic books and Jeff Buckley. And if you're that much like me, stop it, you're creeping me out.

No, seriously. Freak...

Anyway, I happened upon a genius idea for a last minute Christmas gift when I was coming up with options for a nice group gift for Studio Revolver. I was in Target when I spied with my little eye a set of Marvel and a set of DC pint glasses:



My brain went "DING!" and I said "What the fuck? Why did my brain just ding? That isn't biologically normal" but I had shopping to do so I just ignored it. I'm sure I'll end up with a paralyzed left face sometime in the next week from the ensuing stroke.

I grabbed the glasses, bought some decent mid-shelf liquor, put them in a basket, and voila:




Yes, there are marvel glasses in the DC box. I couldn't fit all 8 glasses in the basket, so I just mixed and matched and put the rest back in a box. IT'S A MULTIVERSE CROSSOVER EVENT OF ALCOHOLIC BLISS. If only the box came in limited edition die-cut chromium gloss gatefold. Then it'd be ultra collectable.

It'd also be the 90's.

At any rate, the beauty is that you can do this with just about any type of pint or shot glass. There are so many novelty types, ranging from The Beatles to Twilight. And if you do the Twilight option, might I suggest adding cyanide to the basket? Preferably pre-mixed into the liquor?

Happy holidays!

12.16.2011

You Got You Here...

You're driving your car, and you get lost. 

You want to get to where you intended to go, but you just can't find your path. So you keep trying. At some point, you realize, you're really, seriously lost. Time is ticking, gas is running out, and you need help. What do you do?

Even the most macho Tough Guy on Earth will admit that, at some point -- even if it's the last second before he burns his last drop of fuel wandering blind -- he will get directions.

And if he doesn't? Well, he runs out of gas and has to walk and admit defeat anyway. Or, sit by the side of the road until he starves to death. Either way, he got himself where he is.

Now, replace the car with living your life. 

At some point -- and for some people it takes longer than it does for others, but at SOME point -- you realize that the source of your misery and your pain and your suffering is you. Either you're willfully punishing yourself, or you're willfully sticking around someone pushing you, but at some point, after years and years of assessment, all the data comes back and you realize, you're the common thread.

So what now?

Maybe the answer is to stop trusting yourself for a moment, because it's obvious you're fucking up and don't know where the hell to go, and you need someone to tell you exactly where you are and how to get out. 

You got you here. Are you happy? No? THEN QUIT FUCKING LISTENING TO YOURSELF FOR ONE GODDAMN MINUTE AND ACCEPT HELP. Because you're wrong. Period.

And if you don't, don't be surprised when you starve or freeze, alone. 

These aren't just platitudes. I'm not just posting fucking anecdotal shit here. I WENT THROUGH THIS. I learned my lesson. It took forever, but I learned it. And there's far more to learn, I realize that. But this lesson? And all the other lessons I post about? First hand experience.

You know... In case you were wondering.




12.15.2011

Dread

Dread is the worst feeling. It's the knowledge that something's going to happen (or an approximation of what's going to happen), combined with the knowledge that it's going to be bad, combined with the knowledge that you can do absolutely nothing about it.

And there it stands, like a nail waiting to be hammered. It's just a matter of time before the weight of fate comes slamming down on its head.

There is a silver lining to dread -- you have time to prepare for the inevitable. At least it's not surprise and shock. When you're in shock, you deal with the situation, and then you have to deal with the consequences -- and by the time those show up, you're out of shock and feeling all the pain and duress of things after the fact. Dread beats shock because you get it all over with ahead of time.

The other thing that dread brings with it is the ability to reflect on both the before and after of the event. You can call it a chance to harden yourself, or a chance to grow and mature. I'm not sure there's really a perspective on it that's succinct. It is what it is.

To paraphrase Frost, the only way out is through. All you can do is hunker down and steer the ship into the wave. Turning away and shrinking from it will find you washed over and crushed.

12.14.2011

Tough Guys Versus Real Men

There's this concept I've been struggling with lately; the concept of the Tough Guy. Not internally, mind you -- I long ago let go of the notion of being a Tough Guy. I mean, I'd consider myself tough, and I am pretty sure I'm a guy. But as far as the Tough Guy brand, I think the moment I started writing about my feelings on the internet, I cashed that check and moved on.

The Tough Guy is the guy who can't admit weakness. He can't tell his friends when he hurts. He can't cry. He can't admit that he doesn't know something. He must challenge everything as if it's an attack against him. He can't let go of the notion that there's a pecking order. He can't live his own life. He can't allow himself to appreciate beauty, art or grace, because that'd make him a faggot.

This syndrome is killing men everywhere. It's driving them insane. It's the major cause behind breakdowns and midlife crises. It's an obsession with the external view of their lives. By living outside of themselves at all times and trying to control the perception the world has on him, the Tough Guy loses touch with the most basic element of life: awareness of self. His awareness becomes with the self he invents to keep up the Tough Guy act.

And this doesn't extend solely to guys who drive big trucks and wear Affliction shirts and act like they can kick everyone's ass. This isn't a machismo issue. This is engrained in the male social dogma. This is what fathers who were raised from the 20's through the 50's instill in their children from day one. It doesn't simply manifest itself in hanging nuts off the trailer hitch of a truck. It's men behaving like men. Not acting like men, mind you... Just behaving like them.

You must stand tall. You must be strong. You cannot show weakness. You must be stone tough. These things are absolutely the hallmark of a Real Man. But the Real Man knows when to turn this on and off. He realizes that in times of hardship, he must lead those who need to follow to a place of comfort, and to do that, he must instill confidence and steer the ship through the storm.

But that doesn't mean he cannot be afraid. Avoiding fear is not the same as pushing through it. In fact, if you're going to actually handle fear, the best thing you can do is internalize it and accept it's there. At least then it cannot sneak up on you and affect you in ways you don't expect, because now you own it.

It does not mean he cannot admit weakness. Seeking help when weak and needing comfort is a human trait, and like it or not, men are -- by the very nature of existence -- human. The human psyche can only handle so much load. If you don't offload the weight periodically and reduce the stress and strain on the shelf which stores our emotions, it will eventually snap -- and when it does, there WILL be a mess.

It does not mean he cannot admit failure. In fact, admitting failure is the key to success. It shows you've learned a lesson. Even if you don't admit it publicly (which, if you don't, is just stupid, for the world at large is not dumb. They know when you fail, and not admitting it just makes you look like a dick... Or worse, exposes the fact that you don't belong in a place to succeed in the first place), he must admit it to himself. It's only when we learn the basics of math that higher functions can be learned and used, and failure to accomplish a thing is just the basis of learning how to proceed with that task or goal in a new way. It's learning.

Real Men learn.

Real Men cry.

Real Men do not inflict themselves on others.

Real Men stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

They do not admonish the weak, they protect them. They do not abuse the meek, they lift the load and get them where they need to go.

Tough Guys break. Their stone exterior is just a shell covering the softness inside. Once the shell is cracked, the insides spill out.

Real Men are carved from wood. Not made of; carved from. They are shaped and molded and formed from the lessons of life.  They have flex and can weather the storm. They provide shelter and support. They hold up the structure. They are not impenetrable, but they are solid to the core.

Tough Guys act tough. Real Men are strong. Strength is not always being correct; it's always striving to be right. Even when it means admitting you're wrong, or that you're afraid, or that you can't accomplish something.

Tough Guys fit a mold. Real Men grow. There is no mold for a Real Man, for nothing holds him in place. He's too busy expanding himself to be held to rules.

I'm sure there's likely to be Tough Guys who read this and think I'm full of shit, or that I'm a pussy or a faggot or whatever. That's fine by me, because my goal is not to convince a Tough Guy to stop being a Tough Guy. The world needs Tough Guys to highlight the differences between them, and what a Real Man is. And my goal is to get to young men and guide them towards being a Real Man before the Tough Guys can get there and waste yet another life.







12.12.2011

If You're Hurting, Say Something

Goddammit.

That's all I can think right now -- fucking goddammit. I'm so angry. And I cannot process it, and I cannot get rid of it. All I can do is use it.

So I'm using it to tell you, reading this right now, that you have a responsibility to everyone you love to tell them when you're hurting. They have the right to know. Sure, it's your life, and you get to lead it any way you want -- but if you're part of a family, whether blood relatives or friends or a collective or a business, and you start to fall down, you OWE it to those around you to reach out and ask for help.

You fucking owe it to them. Because you're a part of them. No matter how much you want to fight it, the fact that you've got people caring about you makes you a part of them. And when you remove yourself from them, you're cutting a part of themselves out of them.

You have the right to remove from your life the people who hurt you. You have the right to those who take advantage of you. You have the right to be happy.

But when you're hurting and you isolate yourself, you're not removing people who hurt you or take advantage of you from your life, you're removing yourself from people who love you and care for you and are part of your world, which makes you part of theirs.

Say something. Goddammit, just fucking say something. It's scary and it hurts and you don't want to burden them... But trust me, the burden they feel when you share how you feel is nothing compared to how they'll feel if they never have the chance again.

Update: Jeremy shared this in the comments, and I love how it's said. So here it is, for you. Please watch it:



12.11.2011

Good News / Bad News (Or, "The Book Is Going To Be Late And Here's Why And I'm Sorry")

Last night, I sent an email to each person who preordered my new book. It says pretty much everything I want to say, so I'll just post it here:

Short verson:

The book will not be done in time for Christmas. I will refund your money if you like, or if you want to receive something extra, read below.

Long version:

First, sorry for the mass email. I owe each of you a thank you for ordering the book, and that's been on my list to do for a little while. It was one of several things that was supposed to be done this weekend. It didn't happen. Instead, you're getting this one.

The other things on that list: Finish the book, order the proof, get it overnighted, approve the proof, make the order of 110 hardcovers and several hundred paperbacks. Then, write an email about how the books are shipping a day or two late, but they're on their way, then ship all the books out to everyone.

It was a VERY tight timeframe, but doable. I've been beating myself against the rocks of productivity and got to a point where, after getting home from San Francisco, I could concentrate solely on this book and getting it out. It would take every hour I had Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but it was on the way to happening. That's how the last 2 books were done, and I figured, why break tradition?

What happened instead: If you read my Facebook or Twitter, you saw that one of my best friends attempted to hurt himself Friday night. I had to make him the priority this weekend. I am not sorry for that, nor am I sorry for the fact that this week and some of next will be spent handling things related to the situation.

What I am sorry for is the fact that this situation has made finishing the book in time to ship for Christmas impossible. The very best prognosis -- the books could ship to me by the 23rd, which will put them into the mail by the 26th -- meaning they'll arrive just in time disappoint everyone and ruin Christmas and make me the Grinch. And that would be rushing it BIG TIME, skipping steps and cutting corners. And honestly, I'd much rather just take the time I need to make it right and produce something worth being proud of and push the date back to January and fall on my sword here.

The absolute truth is one you know quite well if you know me.  I could probably have pushed a little harder and finished it earlier, and I didn't, which lead to this weekend being the "final push" and "get it done" and "light a fire under my ass" moment. And then, one of the worst things I can possibly think of ever happening, happened.

I want to make this as right as I can. To anyone who wishes a refund, one will be made immediately, and your reserve spot will be held for a hardcover if you wish to order it again after Christmas. I want to free up your funds so you can replace this gift with something else if you wish.

And now, the good news: For those who wish to keep their orders, I will be including a few bonuses: a free fold-out poster print of the cover Casey Edwards did for the book, as well as a one-time only, print to order standalone book of a brand new story I was going to include in the new book, but cut for space (if you've ever attended any of my readings, you've heard it, and you laughed your ass off because it's hands-down the best story I tell).

The tentative new date for the release is January 31, 2012. I will lock that date down as soon as possible, and hopefully even move it up, but that's a worst-case date.

I will be posting this to my blog as well, but I wanted to send this email to you first. I owe you that. And you WILL be getting the thank you email soon. For now, here a HUGE thank you for ordering the book and supporting my writing and keeping me doing what I do, and another HUGE thank you for your patience and understanding on this situation.


The only things I'll add: 1) If you were planning on pre-ordering, you still can. And I'll still include the gift thing, and 2) I am well aware that I suck. I'm sorry. But I do keep myself clean and well-groomed, so there's that.

12.09.2011

Meeting Steve Oliff, And Acquiring The Original Color Art From Akira


My friends, I just had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Not 24 hours ago, I met a childhood hero of mine and a legend in the comics industry, Steve Oliff. He single handedly changed the way coloring in comics is done, and invented the processes by which digital coloring in comics takes place. And the very first book he did that with?

Akira.

As you well know, I'm kinda sorta a little into Akira. And I've been meaning to get out to San Francisco area and meet him -- so, when an opportunity to head out with my buddy Casey Edwards (the amazing dude doing my amazing new book cover -- which by the way, the book is a bit behind, but will still be done for Christmas gift-giving, never you mind that) came up, I called Steve and asked if we could finally meet. And he agreed. Thus began a series of jitters and 14-year-old-inside-me insanity that persists until right now.

First, we took a flight out to San Francisco:


Then, we took a nearly four hour drive North from San Francisco, to a little town called Point Arena, California. It's up the Pacific Coast Highway, which is an astounding curvy dip-filled stretch of road overlooking some of the most amazing scenery you've ever seen:





It took a few hours, but we finally got to Port Arena, home of Olyoptics -- the company that invented the process of digital coloring for comics, starting with the Epic (Marvel) release of Akira -- and the owner, Steve Oliff. Regretably, the one thing I failed to do in all my excitement during all of our talks was get a picture with Steve. But I did get pictures of all the artifacts remaining from the making of the Akira graphic novel... Which I now own :) (Well, will soon -- I couldn't carry it all on the plane and Steve is going through pieces he wants to keep for his personal collection, but the rest is going into the Art of Akira Exhibit and permanent archives:














It's unfortunate that our visit with Steve was so short -- we only had a day to hang out, discuss Akira, talk comics, dig through the archives, and so on. It wasn't nearly enough. But Steve did get to share with us the sunset at the cove in Point Arena, and then we had fish and chips and beer, before driving like madmen back to San Francisco to catch the 10:50PM flight home to Atlanta:







So, not only do I own the world's largest collection of original Akira cels, backgrounds and production artwork, I now own the ONLY collection of the original Akira color tests, proofs, layouts, and hand-colored guides from both the pages and covers of the Epic release of Akira, by both Steve Oliff and Katsuhiro Otomo himself (except the pieces Steve is keeping for himself).

 I have not slept. I am a giddy little boy.I will be posting scans and pics of the stuff I brought home (roughly 1/50th of the collection) very soon, and heading back out to pick up the rest next month.

Life is good.

12.06.2011

Random Thoughts On An Airplane

There's a fly that somehow got on this flight. I bet when we get to San Francisco, he's going to get out and be all like "Whoa. Where the FUCK am I?"

*     *     *

There's something sweet and endearing about a child who is taken aback by the marvel of flight. When they go "Wheeee!" as we take off, I can't help but smile, because I know that little brat won't be crying and screaming the whole flight.

*     *     *

There's a girl sitting in front of me who could be very pretty, if she'd stop being a joyless, bitter bitch and smile a little. Just a little, mind you. I'm not asking for a wide tooth-filled grin. Just a little smile. Something to show she's not a robot built specifically to sit in front of me on an airplane and make me blog about her being a joyless, bitter bitch.


*     *     *


"I'm totally going to get 4 hours of work done on this flight to San Francisco." "Oh, wow, good, there's Wi-Fi on the plane. That'll help me get work done!" 3 Hours Later, I've made 7 status updates to Facebook and Twitter, blogged random thoughts I had on the plane, and finished a few more levels on World of Goo. It's just like being in the office.


*     *     *


Sometimes, it's hot on the plane, and my ass sweats. About a year ago, I figured out that I could go into the bathroom and sit on the john and flush it a lot. If you've never used an airplane toilet, it doesn't use water as much as it violently sucks everything down the hole, creating this refreshing vortex of drying wind around your nethers. And it just occurred to me what the other passengers must think, as they hear the toilet flush 10-12 times in succession.


*     *     *


I always ask for a can of Coke Zero, no cup, no ice. I always get a weird look from the flight attendant. I don't understand why -- I'd rather have room temperature Coke than watered-down-yet-cool Coke. Plus, if there's ever a terrorist event, I want the can so I can fold it over a few times, rip it in half, and SLICE THAT TERRORIST'S THROAT. Of course, they could do the same with their own can of Coke Zero. Which is why anti-terrorism actions like taking off shoes and limiting access to nail clippers makes no fucking sense. But hey, at least I feel safe.


*     *     *


Why do people with horrific birthmarks or skin ailments on their scalp shave their heads?


*     *     *


There has never been a single time I've ever entered an airport with a Sbarro's or California Pizza Kitchen that, while I'd NEVER entertain the thought at home or elsewhere, I don't want a Breakfast Pizza.


*     *     *


My deodorant smells a little like carrot cake. It didn't smell that way in the store. But dammit if it does't smell like it right now. And now, I want carrot cake. I'm pretty sure there is no carrot cake on this flight, and my tongue won't reach my armpit.


*     *     *


Three hours left on the flight. I better get to work.

A Sneak Peek At The New Book Cover Art By Casey Edwards

So, the new book is only a week and some days away from existence (have you preordered a copy yet? There's still a few hardcovers left, due to a few reserves not being able to come up with the cash in time -- so hop to it!!!)

I could tell you that I was feeling nice and wanted to satisfy your curiosity about the art from the cover, but the truth is, I can't wait. It's just too awesome. Casey Edwards has outdone himself. So it's not me doing you a favor, it's me being twelve years old and wanting to show off :)

So, here are stages from the pending cover -- not all of them, mind you. I'll show you guys the final art once the book is ready. But for now, I thought it'd be fun to show the process we went through getting to the final art.


First was the pencil rough -- the second Casey showed me this, I cackled and immediately knew it was going to be awesome. 

Now, the color roughs and flats. This is getting the basics down, and roughing out what I'm going to look like.

Combining the sketches with the colors.

Roughing in the tattoos and tightening up the line art 


Now, the fun -- the little icons and callouts from my various stories over the past eight years. See if you can match each one to each story :)


Some staged color in the icons and callouts. 




And that's as much as I'm willing to show you for now. The final art is nearly ready, and once it is, it'll get uploaded along with the book metadata to Bowker (the ISBN people) and Ingram (the book catalog people), and will begin showing up on Amazon for presale.

I'm also contemplating making prints of the final art available -- would you buy one? Comment or email and let me know!

12.04.2011

Help Me Write The Foreword To The New Book!

So, I had this idea: What if YOU wrote the foreword to my new book? I mean, you're perfect for the role. You read my crap for one reason or another. You obviously have reason to. And there's a good chance that, simply by reading this blog and my books, you know me better than most of my friends. So share that reason with the readers of the new book!

Yes, I'm dead serious. I want YOU to write the foreword. All you have to do is post it as a comment on the official Mentally Incontinent page on Facebook (and obviously, if you're not yet a member, join). If you're not on Facebook, feel free to email it to me with the subject "MI3 Foreword" -- but I really would prefer you post it in the MI Facebook comments, just for the fun of sharing it with everyone and ease of collection when it's time to copy + paste.

If you're like me, you're probably all like "Oh man, that's a great thing I'd very much like to do!" and then you start to do it and you waste days -- maybe weeks -- trying to figure out where to begin. So here's a smattering of things you could include if you want:

  • How you found my blog / books
  • Your reaction to the first or second (or both) books
  • Your favorite story
  • Have we met? How did it go?
  • Are you friends with me in meatspace? What's your favorite memory we share? How did we meet?
  • Do you want to bash me? This is your chance!
  • Make shit up -- compare me favorably or unfavorably to Facault or Douglas Adams or Dr. Spock


I'm going to cut this off Wednesday night at midnight EST, so get to scribing! And thank you, very very much!

12.01.2011

Something Someone Needs To Hear

Let's think about driving for a second. You get in the car with the full intention of pointing a certain direction and steering the thing however it needs to be steered to get wherever it is you decided you wanted to go. 

What you don't do (at least, I hope you don't) is get in the driver's seat, crank the thing up, put a brick on the pedal and say "That's my car! I'm just along for the ride! I wonder where it's going to take me today..." And then bitch and moan when it runs right into a ditch. Or worse, another car.

That's your life. Literally. You're in the driver's seat. Stop just going along for the fucking ride. Steer the goddamn thing. 

I'm not so naive to think that you'll think it's just that easy. But I would argue that you actually realize it is, you're just not empowered to do anything to about it. 

You are. If you're unhappy, just fucking stop being unhappy. It really is that easy. It absolutely takes time and is a process, but the first step to not being unhappy is to take the first step in the process. If you feel overweight and unhealthy, go to the gym. Stop eating bullshit. Empower yourself to feel the way you want to feel. It won't happen overnight, but the change in your demeanor will be nearly instantaneous. You just took control.

The same goes with hating your job (start something at night and work at it until you can quit the job), feeling stuck with a boyfriend or girlfriend (just fucking break up with them, being alone isn't that bad if you actually like yourself), hating yourself (change! It's not you that you hate, it's how you perceive yourself, and you can easily change that perception by changing your behavior -- and if your perception is guided by what others think of you, well that one's simple enough -- change who you're around). 

Start steering. And while there are miles of road between you and the goal, at least you're driving and not just along for the ride. Because there's no getting around this: when you die, it's YOU on that deathbed. It's you facing your past and thinking through things you wish you'd done differently. And if you're satisfied knowing that you're going to look back at right now and say "Boy, I wish I'd..." instead of saying "I'm glad I..." Well, that's on you. 

But fuck you if that's true. Seriously. FUCK. YOU. You're wasting your life, and I cannot abide waste. Just like people on the road who don't know how to drive and get in my way and slow down the process of getting from point A to point B, I wish you'd just go ahead and pull over and get the hell off the road. 

But my first wish is that you'd wake up and start steering your life toward where you want to be. 

If you woke up this morning and asked yourself "Where's life going to take me today?" you asked the wrong question. You should be asking "Where am I taking my life today?" And if you woke up thinking FML (Fuck My Life) and that you have no control and that life sucks and everything is bad and blah blah blah... You need to realize two things: 1) you're in control of your own life, and 2) if you're miserable, you're doing it to yourself.

And don't delude yourself into thinking that accepting where you are in life is the same as being happy with who you are or what your life has become. You can accept all sorts of things about yourself -- who you are, your talent, your skill set; that certain things don't work for you. But never, ever accept the notion that you don't deserve better. Anyone who tells you that (or even suggests it) doesn't love you and never will. 

No one's stuck anywhere. You feel stuck, sure. But you're not. There's a door in every room. Open the damn thing, walk through it, and go somewhere that makes life better. It's a cliche for a reason: The journey begins with a single step.

The secret to winning at life is not getting what you want, it's heading where you want to go.

UPDATE: 8:09 AM:

If you think I'm just filling you with platitudes, let me share with you something I just wrote as a response to Amber in the comments of this post. Amber (who is very sweet, despite not knowing who I was at NYCC) said:


Oh, Joe. ..Joe. Joe. Joe..... While I agree with you on the fundamentals about taking the baby steps needed for a change, I doubt you realize how difficult it is. LIFE does get prohibitive. Whether it's nature, the economy, or other outside forces, we do not have complete control. I realize you're making a generalized blanket statement but when people are out in these cities protesting about their student loans and no jobs and some of us are driving off to jobs that don't provide enough hours or medical benefits -- trying to make those desired changes is like pounding our head against a brick wall. I disagree with you. It is not that simple nor easy.

To which I responded:

You act as if I wrote this from the perspective of a life led with no adversity. You're relatively new to knowing me, so I'll give you a short rundown.

We were dirt poor growing up (literally; I lived with my grandfather and my room was a dirt-floor basement). My mother worked two jobs to keep 3 kids fed. My birth father was a horrible alcoholic. I spent most of elementary school and junior high in clothes that wore out after 6 weeks, while all the other kids I knew were well off. 

I mowed lawns in high school to afford decent clothes, until I got a job at 15 after football and wrestling practice from 6-10pm every other night. I worked horrible shifts in retail, three of them a day for the six short months I spent in college -- where I volunteered in the computer lab to learn HTML in my off hours so I could spend at least some of my time doing something I liked. 

During the first dot com boom, I quit college (which drove a wedge between my adopted father and I, as his dream was for me to play football at a prestigious college -- and when I didn't do that, he settled for just "college") to chase a dream of doing web development for a living. And it worked out for me. 

I travelled around the world and lived in some very exciting places, and did just fine -- until the crash, when I had to take a job paying 1/3 what I was making during the boom. But at least I had work -- and thank God, because my wife and I were close to $70,000 in debt (not including the house note) thanks to a sudden and continual drop in income all the way around.

So I started writing on the internet, hoping that after a year or two, I could hone the craft into something -- ANYTHING -- that would pay, since software development had long since lost its luster for me and I was miserable (despite working around great people). So once again, I volunteered my time to something I adored hoping -- HOPING, meaning "without a plan" -- that something would pan out. And it did. By freelancing for magazines and selling my own self-published books and consulting with clients I had built during my development days -- all while maintaining my day job which paid 1/3 what I needed to "survive" at the time, my wife and I paid off all of our debt.

I worked my ass off. I put in the hours. And today, we're in a great position. I've built a business that provides work to artists, I work for Fark.com and I write articles for CNN (or will, starting this month) and Huffington Post, I've published a book with Penguin and didn't like it so I went back to self publishing (five times the work and one fifth the sales, but much more rewarding), I've lost all the weight I put on during the highly depressing dot com crash (over 100lbs!) and keep in the gym at least 2 hours a day, and somehow I still manage 6 hours of sleep a night.

So yeah, I know exactly what I'm talking about here. 

Choose a direction and start going. Don't let anything stop you. You can't afford to pay your debts? Work harder. Can't find a job? Create your own. Can't afford where you live? Move. 

It. IS. That. Simple. 

 So, yeah. There's that.


*******

My third book, Mentally Incontinent: The Third, is available for preorder now! Go get it!