6.29.2012

On Trusting People

Every single person in your entire life will, at some point or another, disappoint you.

This is inevitable. No one is perfect. No one is capable of reading your mind. No one is 100% capable of meeting every need you have, at every moment you have them. We know this, because you are not perfect. You are not capable of reading anyone else's mind. You are not capable of meeting every need anyone else has, at every moment they have them.

What is true about us is also true about everyone else. And when this is the case, and we are flawed beings, that means everyone else is flawed. Which means, at some point, you're going to trust someone to do something and they are going to fail you.

Relationships, therefore, are built on two things: how often this happens, and the reason why.

If someone disappoints you a lot, and they don't seem to care, they're a pretty miserable friend. In fact, it's likely they're not a friend at all, and you're throwing yourself away on that person, like spending good money after bad on a car that simply will not work.

If someone disappoints you a lot, but they don't mean to and they feel bad about it, you're at fault for trusting someone to do something they're incapable of doing.

If someone is reliable for the most part, and then one day fails you and feels terrible about it, you have to decide if you're going to hold that against them or get past it and give them another chance. If it happens again, the same way, you have to figure out if you're willing to live with that one person never being able to step up for that one thing and always feeing terrible about it.

And of course, there are strata of circumstances in varying degrees of both trust and concern between (and beyond) those above. And in every single circumstance, one thing is consistent: you.

You have to be able to make the decisions on what to do in every case. You have that control. If you stand back and think "well, I can't do better than this man who says he loves me but beats me" or "I love her, despite the fact that she's disgusting and nasty and mean and what can I do?" Or "He was supposed to get me a job with that company, and because he didn't, I can't be a [whatever]" -- Well, you're in control of that feeling, right then and there. You're making a decision via apathy or despair or loneliness. But you're still making the decision.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for how you feel. You cannot outsource your emotions; no one else can feel what you feel for you, and thus they are not responsible for your emotional state. That doesn't mean they aren't wrong when they fail you, and it doesn't mean that someone's hateful, selfish or negligent behavior should go without consequence. But how you feel about it? That's all on you.

And it's going to suck when someone fails you -- I'm not saying that you shouldn't be sad, angry or disappointed. You have to be if you're human and not a sociopath. What I am saying, though, is that you can't carry that feeing around with you and have it affect your life in a destructive manner. You cannot give up on life and point to the person that disappointed you at some point and say "It's their fault." You have to get up and eat breakfast and get dressed and live out your day, day to day, no matter who disappoints you, where when or why.

Giving up on anything because someone else failed you isn't their fault -- it's yours. It's your life. Other people are aspects of your experience. Don't make them responsible for your successes, failures, feelings and emotions.

6.28.2012

Back To The Drawing Board (Literally)


Update: Jesus christ, you guys! The post has only been live 30 mins and there's already 28 signups! You people must really love bad art!! Thank you!! 


*   *   *

I am restarting my $3 dollar sketches. I haven't drawn regularly in too long. When I started that idea, it ended up being the perfect impetus to get a pencil in my hand and get to drawing. I spent an hour (or more) every morning drawing something -- anything -- and it was AWESOME (To see a bunch of my crap, visit my Flickr page).

There is a joy in establishing a commitment, then meeting it. The fact that the sketches are only $3 means hey, they may be black and white, they may be in color. They may be head sketches, figure sketches, or if I get bold, full color. I've got the latitude to do whatever I want. I loved it.

Then, I got lazy. I need to not be lazy. My friend Casey suggested I start doing the sketches again, So I'm going to. But there will be a calendar this time -- the last time I did this, I limited it to 20 and it sold out in three hours.

Three. Hours.

It was ridiculous. So I opened it up to 50, and that sold out in three days. Apparently, a lot of people whom had never seen me draw ever before in the history of ever were interested in seeing just what the hell would come from a writer who decided to play artist.

I will be starting a Google Calendar for all of these, and will do one a day. When you sign up, I'll add you to the calendar. This doesn't mean you'll necessarily have to wait as long as indicated on the calendar, you may get yours much earlier.

I'll draw these in the order I receive them, but not before I finish the list of folks that I still owe drawings to. They are the first priority. If I still owe you a drawing, please email me and make sure you're on my list. I don't want to skip or miss anyone.

If you would like one, the line starts here.

If you really need a button, here it is:

$3 dollar sketch

I need to know what you want:

Here are some others I've done:








6.27.2012

"Why Doesn't Anyone Like Me?"

I spent a lot of time as a kid wishing people would like me.

I did stupid things to fit in. At the time they made sense... Mowing lawns all summer to buy a name brand shirt and shoes, listening to the same music and watching the same shows everyone else liked.

A lot of that aggravation manifested itself as aggression later in high school. Once I found a few guys like me who simply didn't fit into any kind of category, who liked me for me, I felt better. I found a family. But things still weren't okay. The days where we didn't have classes together and the nights spent alone at home; those hours were filled with backchannel thoughts of why I didn't fit in. "Why don't people like me? Why can't I just be normal?"

There were a lot of lonely nights. I didn't go to parties. I didn't do the prom thing. I drew a lot and wrote and played video games. I built models and listened to the same albums over and over again. I called what few friends I had on the phone now and again and we daydreamed about what we'd do if we could just get out of town.

And then, there's this invisible line we all like to pretend exists called "graduation." There's an illusion that the day we graduated high school, the heavens opened and a divine ray of light shone on us, filling us with everything we never knew about ourselves which made us powerful and independent. And of course, that's complete bullshit. Most of us carried every insecurity and neurosis we'd spent 18 years cultivating with us into college or the workplace. I know I did.

I was the youngest kid working at every company I worked at throughout the late 90s.  There was a minimum of a 10 year age difference between me and the next youngest person everywhere I worked for years. I'd love to tell you that I had all this amazing confidence and that all my efforts and talent and whatever you want to call being on the rise of a trend made me awesome, but it's just not true.

It was like someone hit the reset button. I wasn't old enough to go to bars with my coworkers... Like I was even asked. The friends I did have were more of convenience than of camaraderie. And I'd love to lie to you and tell you I didn't spend a lot of time saying and doing things in an effort to get people to like me. So I won't lie to you.

And then, one day, something dawned on me: I'm me. I'm me at work. I'm me at home. I'm not changing... Not really, anyway. Why am I spending so much time on worrying about people liking me? What about me liking them?

It didn't change everything right away, but it was a huge step toward learning how to like myself (and it is a process -- if you don't already like yourself, you have to dedicate a lot of time and effort learning how to...  But it's worth it. My God, is it worth it).

And that's the thing I want to share with you -- quit making all the concessions and the effort. Put it on them. Not that you should force people to audition for your friendship, that's pretty much bullshit. But you absolutely get to be half of the equation of the friendships you're a part of.

You are worthy of being someone's friend. And you are worthy of deciding if you want to be friends with them. If they like you, let it be YOU they like, not something you do or say or wear or are just to have a friend. And remember... You have to like them, too.

6.26.2012

If You're Boycotting Oreos, You're Kind Of A Fucking Retard

I swear to God, every day I wake up and think "Man... I have no idea what I'm going to write about today..." Boom. Fate drops some shit in my lap and the fundamental Right gets up in arms about gays again. So yes, here's yet another "Joe defends them damn gays" post. If that bothers you, go ahead and close the browser window now.

And there goes the vast majority of my family...

Anyway. This whole Oreo cookie boycott thing is sad. Not that there are people who are boycotting the cookies. That's not really sad. I've been not eating cookies for a while now, as a dietary choice. It's hardly made a dent in Nabisco's overall profit/loss report. No biggie.

The sad things, in order:

1) That there are people think that a national boycott of a cookie is going to stem the rising tide of support for something that more and more people are beginning to understand isn't going away (because homosexuality isn't a choice, it's something you're born being -- like left-handedness and race and the color of your hair... All things that the religious folks of times past have persecuted people for)

2) That there are people who actually have enough of an opinion on what happens behind closed doors that doesn't affect them to actually boycott a cookie (seriously, a fucking cookie! IT'S A COOKIE!)

3) That this conversation is even happening right now.

If you're seriously sitting there in your home or at work and you're thinking "Man, it's a shame that Nabisco came out with an ad in support of Gay Pride, because I really do love Oreos and now my closed-mindedness is going to deprive me of a treat I enjoy because I can't eat a cookie from a company that doesn't hate them there homos," you're a fucking retard.

Look, it's simple: I respect everyone's right to believe whatever the hell it is they want to believe. I don't actually care. This is why I stay away from atheist vs. theist discussions and all things associated with them... Because they don't matter. They change nothing. You will believe what you believe; I will believe what I believe. With any luck, both of us will use fact and research whenever available to hone, shape and enhance our beliefs.

However, when your beliefs hurt someone else, FUCK YOUR BELIEFS.

The end.




6.21.2012

How To Actually Get A Decent Tattoo (or At Least, Not Get A Bad One)


Note: Today, I go to get yet another piece done on my Ghost in the Shell sleeve on my right arm. I figured it was a good day to repost one of the most popular pieces I've ever written on getting a decent tattoo. If you're interested in watching the progress of today's session, check out my Instagram feedFacebook or Twitter, as I'll be annoying people with photos of the session all day today)

So, by this point in my "tattoo career", I've pretty much done everything you can do, both the wrong way and the right way. I've got a full Akira-themed sleeve, I'm working on the second sleeve (which is Ghost in The Shell themed - 1, 2, 3), several calf pieces (soon to be "pant leg" - whatever you call a sleeve on your leg), and some back pieces I hate and will be getting covered very soon. And through it all, I've learned quite a bit of stuff. Given that God has somehow decided that my entire existence is to serve as an example to others, I figured I'd take a bit and pass on some of my hard-won knowledge to you, the tattoo newbie.

Now, there's going to be some debate here, as some of my advice flies in the face of the standard guidelines of most franchised / smaller tattoo shops. And while I'm sure there are other ways than mine to achieve great results, the things I tell you NOT to do, I assure you, lead to BAD results. You don't have to do the things I suggest, but I highly, highly, highly suggest you DON'T do the things I say don't do.

The inner forearm part of my Ghost in the Shell sleeve. By all accounts, a decent tattoo


So to start with:

Coming Up With Your Tattoo

What You Want: I can't tell you what you want. Your friends can't tell you what you want. The artist cannot tell you what you want. Only you know what means enough to you to put on your body for the rest of your life - and it's VERY important you realize that's what you're doing. You're putting an external avatar representing you on your body for the rest of your life. Don't count on being able to get it removed - removal is tricky, and doesn't work on all people.

Take your time. And I don't mean a few hours to look through art books - take a few weeks or even months to plan out your piece. This is going on your body FOR. EV. ER.

My advice to everyone is to start with thinking about the things you love. Don't be afraid to look through books of tattoos, flash art, or other "premade" stuff for inspiration - but definitely take it to another level and make it unique. You don't want to be at a party and see your tattoo on someone else's arm. Or maybe you do, who knows... I can't tell you what you want, after all.

Also, don't be afraid to ask your artist to work up something unique for you. Most, if not all, artists LIVE for the chance to come up with something new and unique for their clients. They're artists, after all - and if they're not willing to work with you on a unique piece, that says a lot about them as an artist.

Just know that every tattoo is a story... And picking "E-17" off the wall tells a story that ends with you eventually being sorry.

And really... If you're going to get Kanji, KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IT MEANS. The collection of tattoos in this video is full of stuff that's just plain wrong, and anyone who speaks / reads Japanese will get a big kick out of it:











Where you want it: Again, I can't tell you what works best. I rock a full sleeve, with many below-the-shorts-line pieces on my leg. I also work for myself, so I have no one to answer to.

It's a sad fact, but we live in a judgmental society, and you will be judged based solely on the fact that you have a tattoo no matter what the tattoo is of. So if you work in an environment where tattoos may not be socially acceptable, or if your community is particularly judgmental of tattoos, keep these facts in mind. Most people will opt to stay above the sleeve line on their arms, or go for the back or legs for their art. Some place they can cover it. Your mileage may vary.

A question I get a lot is "where does it hurt most / least?" The very basic rule is "The closer you get to bone, the more it hurts." This is 100% true in my experience. But there are also areas that are covered with muscle and tissue that still hurt, such as the little gap on the inside arm between the bicep and tricep, or on any joint.

That said, there's no place on your body that you'll get inked that you WON'T feel at least something... But for the most part, shoulders, forearms, biceps, quadraceps, chest and back don't hurt much at all. The sensation is much like a rug burn - it burns more than it "hurts" if that makes sense, and all but the most pain-sensitive people can tolerate it. But each individual is unique, so to determine how much it may hurt for you, you can try one of two simple tests:

"Slap Test" - get a friend to take two fingers, hold them about 4 inches from your skin, and "slap" you with them. If it feels like "pressure", the tattoo won't really hurt. If it feels like "stinging," pack your ibuprofen and a bite stick :)

"Tickle Test" - lightly rake your fingernails over the area you plan to get tattooed (or get a "special friend" to do it. Tell them it's in the name of science, they won't be able to resist). If it feels pleasant, like a nice back / arm scratch, it probably won't hurt to be tattooed there. If it tickles... Yeah. Probably going to hurt.

Beautiful... And probably painful.

The bottom line: ribcage pieces hurt. Inner thigh pieces hurt. Armpit pieces (or any piece that goes "inside the arm", like an upper arm wrap) hurts. Ankle pieces hurt. The elbow joint (both inside and on the bone) hurts. The wrist hurts. And don't even get me started on the knee pit. Know this going into your decision of where you want your piece.


Selecting Your Artist

Do NOT Bargain Shop. I can't emphasize this enough - price, while important, should not be your determining factor. I can't tell you what the going rates in your area should be, but really, what you pay today for your tattoo will matter MUCH less than how it looks in 3 years. Will the inks fade? Are you scarred? Does your "photo-realistic" piece actually look photo-realistic? Will your artist work with you on their own time to come up with a nice piece for you? Trust me, $20-50 more dollars an hour is a small, small price to pay for someone worth a damn.

The submitter of this pic is a close friend of mine. She says (and I vouch):
"The photo isn't blurry. This is what the tattoo actually looks like. Be careful what you get and
who you get it from... It's on you for life."

Stay Away From The Chains. We have a chain here in Georgia called Ink Wizard Tattoo. They boast 17 locations. They SUCK. It's basically the puppy mill of tattoo artists. Summer jobs for kids who passed their bloodborne pathogen test and can put ink into the skin of a grapefruit. That's not to say every chain sucks, but it's a pretty decent rule of thumb. Some things to look for - if they require a "needle fee", push retail sales of aftercare products and / or body jewelry, or have walls covered in flash art, you're likely in a tattoo mill, looking to churn customers. Keep your wits about you.

If You Can Afford It, Go To A Named / Known Artist. Even if you have to travel. They're known for a reason, and the wait list is WELL worth it. My artist is Todo of ABT Tattoo. He's done everyone from Joe Perry of Aerosmith to Scott Wieland of Stone Temple Pilots to Slash of Guns N' Roses / Velvet Revolver. I also get work from Jeremiah (JET), who apprenticed under Todo. He's unbelievably talented, and will someday be a rockstar in the tattoo world. Neither are cheap, but the work is worth it. I trust them. I know them. But before I met either one of them, I knew who they were - and they came highly recommended.

Trust me, Kat Von D is worth every penny of the $400 an hour she charges, because she's Kat Von fucking D. You know her name for a very, very good reason.

If you find a guy who claims he can do your piece for $75 an hour, and you know a guy who you KNOW can do your piece for $150 an hour, SAVE UP FOR THE $150 GUY. You've waited this long for your piece. Wait just a bit longer and do it right.

Yeah, no.

Lastly, beware of "flat-rate" tattoos. Some artists may claim a rate of $75 an hour, and tell you they'll do a piece for $100 bucks when it takes them 30 minutes to knock it out. That's not to say all flat-rate artists are bad or shady, but the vast majority of them are (this is pretty much true of every contractor in every field, by the way... Think about the last "flat rate" website you saw if you doubt me).

RESEARCH YOUR ARTIST. Find out if there are any health department complaints on the artist or the shop. Ask everyone you know with a tattoo who they went to, and begin looking for dotted lines between the quality of their piece and who did it. Go to their website (do they even have a website?). Study their portfolio. This is your body you're about to have inked with needles - do not rely on a kind smile and a promise that they'll do a good job, make damn sure they will (and that you won't catch staph or Hep B from them).

Go watch for a day. The good ones don't mind, and you'll learn a LOT about their style, hygiene, and attitude. You are looking to see if your artist examines their needles under a jeweler's loupe (hooked / bent / hole-spotted needles are BADDDDDDDDDD), how well they clean and prep their area, their demeanor while tattooing, their needle policy (how often they change - a good rule of thumb is new needles every 5 hours), if they use paper towels / extra gloves to reach for items that aren't already sterilized, if they eat and drink in their station, etc. Oh, and I don't think I need to say this, but I will anyway: You want brand new needles. Not "cleaned" needles, not "sterilized" needles... NEW. Never been used before. Ever. If they're not brand new needles, run - don't walk - to the health department and report that shop.



Getting Ready

Don't shave the area. Let the artist do it. They're used to it, don't be embarassed. Besides, if you're not used to shaving your arm / leg / whatever, you may nick yourself there - and they won't be able to finish your tattoo there (most artists won't even approach an open wound with their needle). You really don't want to wait another 2-3 weeks for your piece, I'm sure.

Absolutely NO Alcohol. You don't want to bleed all over the fucking place. Also, no aspirin or acetaminophen for the same reason. BUT:

You Can (And Should) Take Ibuprofen. Take some about 30 minutes before you start, and recharge every 3.5 hours during your sitting. It'll keep swelling and inflammation down, and helps a bit with pain issues.

Bring Your iPod (or Zune). It helps to drown yourself in some music if you're nervous.

No Working Out The Day Of. Seriously, I need to repeat this: Do NOT work out or lift weights or run or anything before your tattoo session. Just... Trust me on this (and regular commenter Jeremy can vouch). Your skin gets tighter and tougher, blood pools around the muscles, your metabolism is higher... It's just plain unpleasant.

Eat An Hour Before. Keep your blood sugar level, get some food on your stomach before you go. It'll also help buffer the Ibuprofen.


During The Tattoo

To prepare you for what to expect from a great artist, here's a video of my artist Todo at work on one of my favorite pieces of his:










A video of Todo doing a Jack Nicholson piece from The Shining - this is a really great example of what you can expect from a good tattoo session.


So, while all of this is going on, keep the following stuff in mind:

Think Before You Speak. Some artists like conversation. Some do not. You should respect your artist's attitude and try to read them - if they're a "zone" type artist, they're not being rude by not talking to you. They're concentrating on giving you the best job they can. But if they do like to chat, don't hesitate to get to know them. I've made two lifelong friends that way.

But Don't Be Afraid To Speak Up. A good piece is a collaboration between you and your artist, so if you see a spot that they didn't hit or you change your mind on color during the session, don't be afraid to mention it. But be polite, ask their advice - don't demand. And if they're flat-out not doing things right, say so. This is your body they're working on.

Pain is not Pansy. It's okay to wince or grit your teeth or even groan if it hurts. You are not a wuss or a pansy if you do this. Trust me, they've seen worse.

Flinching is BAD. Yes, you shoudn't feel bad if you show that you're feeling pain. However - if you're feeling jumpy or flinching, this is going to negatively impact the artist. A GOOD ARTIST knows how to pull away if / when this happens (everything goes back to your choice of artist), but even the best can't read your mind and know exactly when you'll flinch. So, do your absolute best to stay calm and go into your happy place.

It's Okay To Come Back Another Day. If you feel you can't hang on and begin flinching heavily, go ahead and "tap out" (call it a day). Come back later. It's not worth screwing up your piece (or scarring yourself) to prove you can take pain.



After The Tattoo


For God's Sake, Tip. Unless your artist just flat-out sucked, TIP THEM. You will be remembered, and they will treat you right next time. It's not just proper ettiquette, by the way - even artists who own their own shops have costs they factor into their rate, and the tip is a nice little bonus they will appreciate.

Ask About Aftercare. Don't just let them hand you a sheet and tell you what's up - ask questions if you don't understand. Aftercare is the single most impactful part of how your tattoo will look (after the quality of your artist, of course).

No Tattoo Goo. I don't care what the aftercare instructions say, do NOT use TattooGoo or any other specially-made "aftercare" product. They suck. They are expensive, and do very little to actually heal your tattoo with no color loss. Don't use them.

My Aftercare Advice: I've got one of the best sleeves and two of the best leg pieces I've ever seen - the color is still as bright as the day I got them, and they're super clear and healthy. Here's how I did it:

Your artist will apply something like A&D Ointment, then they'll "bandage" the area with saran wrap (or at least they should). This should stay on for 2 hours MAXIMUM. Once it comes off, you want to use antibacterial soap and gently wash the area. I personally use Liquid Dial and a little warm water. Lightly rub the area, do not scrub (you won't want to anyway). Wipe down with a warm wet paper towel. Dab dry.

Apply Neosporin CREAM (not ointment) + Pain Relief every 4 hours for the first 24 hours, then every 6 hours for the next 24 hours. LESS IS BEST - apply only a THIN film across the entire tattoo, don't saturate it. If you can't see the tattoo clearly through the white cream, you need to remove it. DO NOT GO PAST 48 HOURS with the Neosporin Cream, or you risk your color falling out.

After the 2 days of Neosporin Cream + Pain Relief (again, I stress, NOT OINTMENT - use only Neosporin Cream), use Curel, Eucerin (that's what I use), or Lubriderm. In all three cases, use perfume-free, oil free lotions. Do not use the "hand cream" versions - make sure it's lotion. Test a little bit in the store before you buy - if it stings, DON'T USE IT. Apply this lotion every 6 hours for the next 5 - 7 days. Again, less is best - you want to keep it moisturized, not wet. The skin needs air to heal, don't block it.

This is the lotion I use. Not too thick, doesn't stink, and works.

Your skin will go through at least two peels - DO NOT PICK AT THE PEEL. Just let it fall off. Picking at it may pull into non-peeling skin and scar you.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT PICK ANY SCABS THAT MAY FORM. If you've done all of the above, you shouldn't scab at all, and if you do, it'll be only in spots of heavy, thick needlework. No matter how long the scab is there, do NOT pick it. You will scar, and the color will fall out there. Additionally, unless it's a horribly bad scab, don't put Neosporin on it to heal it faster. Just let it heal.

That said, if your artist sucks and you've got a monster scab that won't heal up, Neosporin it and insist they touch-up the area once it heals. Then never, ever go to that artist again.

Keep It Clean: No matter your shower habits the rest of your life, you need to wash your tattoo at least once a day with antibacterial soap, and after every workout / gardening session / whatever-gets-it-yucky. You don't want an infection... At least, I assume you don't.

Don't Sweat Too Much the Next Few Days: This may not happen to everyone, but for me, I went right into the gym the next day after getting tattooed quite a few times. Sweat cannot come out of the freshly-inked area, and you may form a heat rash around the area where sweat soaks under the skin. It's not contageous or dangerous, it just itches like crazy. So feel free to work out, just keep it cool.

Sunblock Rocks. SPF 50 or more is recommended on any and all ink you've got to keep the color vibrant over the years. It's tedious, yes - but you want your tattoo to look great years from now, and sun will fade the inks. More importantly, if you've got light blues, whites, light yellows, etc. and you tan underneath them, they're going to turn green and brown, and your tattoo will look all fonky.

Take Advantage Of The Touch-Up Session: This is time the artist will (should) not charge for, to go over the piece and get it to a standard she or he sets for their work. You will likely need a touch up after healing, and you absolutely should take advantage of this session - you'll be surprised how much tighenting-up can be done on your piece, no matter how great you think it looks.


And that's pretty much it. Years of tattoo experience condensed into an article on a blog that you'll probably comment on with "TL;DR". But seriously, I hope it helps you in your next tattoo adventure. If done wrong, tattoos are usually synonyms for "mistakes" - but when done right, they're life-long representations of you and what's important to you. Make the right choices early on, and you'll have a lifetime of staring at your own piece in awe.

6.19.2012

It's YOUR Fault.

If you are not what you want to be, it's your fault. Everything else you, I or anyone else can say about it is pathetic, boring bullshit. It's not your wife's or husband's fault. It's not your kids' fault. It's not your parents' fault. It's not a lack of opportunity's fault. It's not your current job's fault.

It's your fault.

"But there's not enough time..." Bullshit. 
"But I don't know how..." Bullshit.
"But..." BULLSHIT. 

A case study:

I left college after one and a half semesters to go build websites in the dot com boom. I taught myself how to use Photoshop and write HTML, then eventually Javascript and Java. No one handed me any books and said "You'd be good at this." I got interested, I studied and researched and learned on my own, and then I went and got a career. I worked for some of the most forward thinking foundational companies in the early days of the dot com boom, and helped pave the way for all kinds of neat things.

Six years ago today, I turned in my notice to my full time job at the time. I was writing software for a medical training and education company. It was a nice job and I liked my boss and the people I worked with. But it wasn't what I wanted anymore. I didn't give a two week notice, it was simply a notice that, once I finished everything that was on my todo list, I was going to leave the company and pursue my dream of being an author. It took until November of that year, but I did indeed leave to tour the nation in my pickup truck to support my new book.

By the time I'd turned in that notice, I already had a book written. I was working on getting it laid out and ready for print. I didn't have a publisher. I didn't need one -- I already had several thousand people who committed to buy my book, because I'd been writing it online and having them edit and vote on which stories would make it into the book for the past four years.

I left that job on very friendly terms. It was very scary. But I did it. And the way I did it was by realizing in 2002 that my aspirations of being an author rode on ACTUALLY BEING A FUCKING AUTHOR. No publisher asked me to do it. I didn't wait for an engraved invite to sit down and write the Great American Novel. I found the time to write while working and consulting on the side for extra income.

Over time, I went back to work here and there for clients that needed my help. Eventually I took a full-time job at Fark.com because it was one of my favorite websites, and I'd just finished a stint as the producer of a web-based video series based on news from the site. I started that show and sold it to Turner Broadcasting for their SuperDeluxe network without anyone asking me to -- I just went to Drew, said "Hey, here's a great idea -- I'll pay for it if you let me use your site for material." Then I went to Turner and said "here's a great show, pay me."

I started that project because I realized that my aspirations of being a writer for video rode on ACTUALLY WRITING FOR VIDEO. No one gave me a wad of cash or begged me to try it out, thinking I'd be good at it. I took it upon myself to shoot a pilot, get the nod from Drew, and sell the show to Turner. It turned out that I hated doing that job, so I gave the show to the crew that was working on it, wrote off my losses, and went back to consulting and writing my 2nd book. Eventually Drew asked me to work for him -- and that was a bit of a pipe dream in and of itself. But I'd proven to him I'd do the job to the best of my ability. He didn't call everyone he knew and beg them to work for him, he just saw my work and decided to bring me on.

I left Fark a few months ago to follow some new dreams. These days, I'm pretty much professionally curious. I write columns for CNN and Huffington Post while blogging and writing books. I also belong to a fantastic art and animation studio, Studio Revolver. I get to be around art all day long. I consult for some clients who need my help. I get to work with some extremely cool companies and do some extremely cool things with emerging internet tech and extremely talented artists, and I get to do it all on my own terms.

I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My family wasn't connected anywhere. I knew no one in any industry I ever started working in -- All I knew is that I wanted to be something, so I went out and became it. This isn't patting myself on the back. Far from it, in fact. I'm not special. I'm not hyper-intelligent. I'm not immaculately talented. I simply possess the understanding that books don't write themselves. Websites don't code themselves. Shows don't shoot themselves. Careers don't build themselves. If I can do this, you can do this.

So, you say you want to be a writer. How many words did you write today? It doesn't matter what the fuck else you have to do today -- you have to write to be a writer. Same goes for drawing comics -- you can't draw comics without drawing. You can't be a musician without playing music.


Step one to being what you want to be -- shut the fuck up and do it. You can't be anything if you don't do anything. So do something.


6.17.2012

About The Man Who Gave Me (A) Life

My column on CNN GeekOut this past week was about my dad. My editor Ann wanted a geeky angle on Father's Day, and definitely didn't want to get all cliche with "hey, it's Father's Day, I write a column on a geek-targeted section of CNN, I'll do a gift guide!"

Let me tell you, there are no shortages of those out there. Thank God for the proliferation of the internet in today's day and age. The democratization of content has allowed anyone and everyone with an interest in writing to use free tools to broadcast their thoughts and feelings about any topic they want, which allows hundreds of thousands of bloggers with no imagination whatsoever to mix "Father's Day" with "geek" only to advise you that the perfect gift for that "geek" dad is Dr. Who Season Six on Blu-Ray. Because Geeks who are Dads ONLY LIKE DR. WHO AND NOTHING ELSE. Who cares if he already has it (and if he's any kind of geek, trust me -- he does)? Who cares if he's never seen any other seasons? The gift guides certainly don't. Buy it for him. Force him to watch it. Buy him three copies so he can keep one in the packaging and hang the third from his rear view mirror in his new Jeep with a custom license plate that reads "BADWULF" because he couldn't get to the DMV in time for the proper spelling.  He's a Geek who is a dad. The only gift for him this Father's Day is fucking Dr. Who Season Six on Blu-ray. He'll love it.

Anyway, I didn't want to do that shit, so I wrote about how my dad fostered an environment for me that allowed me to be a huge, huge geek. Now, you couldn't possibly know how huge a statement that is because, well, you're not me. In 2012, geekdom is a much more accepted thing than it was when I was growing up (and trust me, I'm VERY aware that it was easier when I was a teenager in the 90's than it was before that -- the ways have been paved by every generation previous).

To give some perspective, it wasn't cool at all to like comic books, comic book related movies and television shows, cartoons and animation, anything at all related to computers or even video games. You got teased if people found out you liked guiding plumbers around a mushroom kingdom, saving princesses from castles (well, really saving toadstools who gave you round after round of disappointing news).

But there was way, way more going on with me than just kids at school calling me geek and nerd as insults. I was a fairly damaged kid. My dad married my mom when I was 10 years old. He adopted my sister and I. He basically volunteered to pick up the pieces of our lives at that point and make something out of them. And those pieces... They were pretty jagged.

My birth father was a horribly abusive alcoholic. My mother left him twice -- once when I was three, and again when I was seven (after being convinced that he'd cleaned up and deserved another chance).  The second and final time she left, all of my toys and belongings had been left in Taccoa, GA in the middle of the night. We ran to escape my birth father during what can only be described as a drunken rampage that, even though I'm in a particularly open mood and sharing things I've never written about before, I still can't bring myself to describe.

We lived in my grandfather's garage with no heat and no air conditioning for about two years. The winters were raw and the summers were unbearable. Then, my dad came into the picture and attempted to give us some semblance of a normal life. He married my mother and overnight, I was living in middle class suburbia. I had toys. I had cable television. I didn't have to worry about a drunk madman beating anyone up in the middle of the night.

And really, when you do the comparisons, that would have been enough to celebrate. But my dad didn't just go "here, life's normal, you're welcome." That was just resetting the needle to zero. He worked his ass off to straighten me up, which all by itself was a full time job. I was a mess, to say the least. He disciplined me in ways that drove points home, and never once did he raise a hand to me. His business started declining when I was 13, and the short glimpse into upper middle class life I had faded -- but his resolve didn't. He did everything he possibly could to give my sister and I a normal life.

I remember once going shopping for school clothes and trying on shoes in Marshall's. He sat down in one of the shoe-trying chairs and took a moment to rest, and when he crossed his leg over his knee, I saw that he had holes in the bottom of his shoes. When I asked if he was getting new shoes too, he said "Naw, sport, they don't have my size here. I'll get them next time."

We spent most of my high school life being what you could easily call poor -- and yet there was always food on the table and the lights stayed on. We didn't have cable TV anymore, but it didn't matter since I spent most of my days on restriction for getting in trouble somehow -- but the one thing he never took away from me was my art supplies (and he was the only person in my life who didn't find ways in varying shades of bluntness to remind me that drawing and art was for "fags").

In very real terms, he saved my life. And I love him for it.

It's been very hard to write this. There are lines that I told myself when I started writing that I would never cross. Talking about my rotten childhood and my birth father were two of them. But I really feel the need to celebrate my father and all that he's done for me, especially lately. It's been becoming clearer and clearer that I get to be the world-travelling Art of Akira Exhibit guy and the web consultant guy and the writer guy and everything else I am -- both "geeky" and in general -- because of my dad.

It's interesting; when you tell stories about your fucked up childhood to your wife and your close friends, and they say "Jesus, that is fucked up" and you suddenly realize... You know, it really was. When you're a kid, that's just life. You have no perspective. Your day to day experience is spent dealing with whatever's coming that day. You haven't the ability to look outward and survey the landscape of what life is supposed to be and say "I'm not getting what I deserve." You just take what you can get.

And then someone shows up and takes you by the scruff of your neck out of a pit and says "you're safe." And you can't appreciate that until much later, because when you're born into a life where good days include not getting beat up by the man who conceived you or running in fear from him or any day where it was less than 90 degrees and warmer than 50 so you could actually sit in your own bedroom... You don't really understand that that's not how it's supposed to be.

And that's what my dad gave to me. He didn't give me life, but he gave me A life. He gave me normalcy, and then he gave me permission to be myself (even if no one else did at the time). He gave me an actual Dad. So I wanted to pay him tribute in the column and share with the world what I see as being a model father. I wanted to share a geeky perspective of fathers that I feel is important and worth sharing. And today, I wanted to explain why being able to write that article means so damn much to me. I am the man I am today because of my dad.

Happy Father's Day.

6.14.2012

So You Want To Know Why I Hate College? Okay, Here You Go

If you're reading this, you've also at some point likely read that I'm not a fan of the whole College thing. In fact, I think it's a waste of time.

Before I go any further, I absolutely believe that doctors, lawyers, physicists and the like need specialized training and years of education. I'm not a fucking idiot. Colleges and universities provide this training and education. To that end: Yay college. Woot.

Now, I've had several people over the years write me to express, in varying degrees, how offended they are that I would say this. The response has ranged from "That's just, like, your opinion, man..." to "I used to be your fan but you've insulted me for going to College. I will never read anything you write again." Apparently Tolerance 101 wasn't on some folks' curriculum.

You have to understand: I am vitriolic. I am caustic. I am not faking these things, but I absolutely play them up in an effort to invoke a need to respond. I want dialog on topics I cover. I want people to talk about them, consider them, and ideally see things my way because I'm fucking right all the time and life will be much easier when everyone realizes this.

And as far as college is concerned, I really think the vast majority of people who go to college are simply seeing it as some sort of price of admission for success -- and that's total bullshit.

As a whole, our society is far too focused on steps.
  1. Go to school. 
  2. Get a degree. 
  3. Get a job. 
  4. Succeed.
Why not just skip right to number three? Oh, right, because no one will hire you without a degree...

That's a myth. Period. There is no company worth a shit out there that would look at someone with talent and maturity, and another person with a degree, and hire the person with the degree first. Not one. If they would, you don't want to work there.

I am not anti-education. Everything you need to know to start doing just about anything period is available on the internet and the library. Hell, I'm actually not even anti-college, insofar as the purpose for which it is intended. But college has long since stopped being about learning. It's gone from college to College. It's about partying and socialization in-between staged, highly-planned courses designed to take as long as possible to educate you before you realize the price tag of that education. And then, you get the Degree.

Outside of medicine, law and highly specific sciences, it's so much less about knowledge and education then it is about paying dues -- literally. It's supposed to be a sign of commitment, maturity, sticktoitiveness and dedication.

For a vast majority of things, especially in arts, humanity and computer sciences, it's a waste of fucking time. The industries associated award experience, creativity and the ability to keep up (or better yet, set the pace). College necessarily puts unnecessary steps and this concept of getting permission to feel like you've done a good job in the form of grades. That's nonsense. And it's annoying as hell to have conversations with people who feel, because they have a degree, they're somehow better than me (or anyone else who doesn't have one) -- regardless of our respective successes.

Let's face it -- elementary school through high school is set up specifically to teach you how to be a factory worker. You are assigned tasks by your manager, you are told to concentrate on those tasks for a set period of time, take a lunch break, and do what you're told. All day, every day, for eight hours or so a day.

College, for the most part, simply serves as advanced factory worker training. You sign up for advanced education to get ahead, which might somehow get you into a management position if you're lucky. But for the most part, kids go to college because they're not yet ready to actually work for a living, and they have been convinced they have to go to a good school and get a degree to get anywhere in life.

Yes, I want my lawyer and my doctor to have degrees. But that's because in matters concerning the courts or my continued health, I want absolute proof that the individual advising me knows what the hell they are talking about. For these purposes, the step is absolutely necessary.

I also like the idea of anyone who wants to pursuing advanced education. Learn more. Do better. Good for you. But the idea of paying admission into this amusement park of learning and greek letters that is somehow going to guarantee you success in the world is ridiculous.

If you want success in the world, there are two skills you can acquire that, accompanied with will to succeed, will get you anywhere you want:

1) be so good you cannot be ignored. If you're not that good yet, practice until you are.
2) Meet the right people.

The rest is pomp and circumstance -- literally.

Look, waste all the time you want. Go to college. Take on heaps and heaps of debt for a degree that, more and more these days, means less and less. People like me will be out in the world doing things, learning from experience. We look forward to the day you finally join us.

6.11.2012

Close The Browser.

Quit stalking the ex. Don't read the press releases from your old job. Don't subscribe to his Twitter. Don't friend her on Facebook. Don't call your friends who still work there. Don't email him about her or her about him.

Close the browser window. Hang up the phone (better yet, turn the thing off so you don't get the call in the first place... Or run the Facebook app or Twitter app or read their Tumblr or get alerts on their activities or read the texts). Don't drive by the old haunt.

There's enough pain out there. Enough of it has your name on it. Don't go creating more. Do something else instead.

  • Instead of driving by there (wherever there is), drive to the gym.
  • Instead of reading his Facebook page, read a book.
  • Instead of keeping up with the old job, interview for a new one (or start your own company -- it's actually not that hard).
  • Instead of Tweeting about her, write it down on paper, find a meter (iambic pentameter being my favorite) and turn it into poetry.
  • Instead of staring at her picture, paint one.

When you're already hurting, don't punch yourself in the face. Attack the world. With gusto.

6.08.2012

Secrets To 10 Years (and counting) Of Wedded Bliss

I could write lots and lots and lots of shit about how to spend 10 years with someone. There are really only two secrets:

1) Marry the right person. You need to get to know the person before you sign a document entitling them to half of everything you are and do. You need to spend time with them. You need to fall in love with them. You need to move in together and live with them. You ABSOLUTELY need to "try them out" first. Fuck your family, your friends, your religion... All that "why buy the cow" talk is bullshit. You want to spend the next WHOLE REST OF YOUR LIFE with someone, with a penalty of losing half (or more) of everything you have if you can't hack it? Do the homework. Get to know them. Loving isn't fancy warm feelings and fucking a lot. Love is acceptance, and you really need to know what it is you're about to accept. And that's where we get to...

2) Nobody is perfect -- not even the perfect person for you. Every. Single. Person. On this planet has issues. There's no getting around it. Now, some issues aren't issues to you. Some issues are cute, endearing, or just flat out don't register. My wife adores animals to the point she's committed her life to them. I adore this. But then, there's issues that are hang ups or big deals. Those you have to work with, on both sides. You have to be willing to talk to them about it and ask them if they can change...  And you have to be willing to accept that, sometimes, the answer will be "no." And on the same note, you have to be willing to change the things you can, and you MUST be honest with the things you can't or just don't want to. Give them all the information they need to make a good decision.

No one I have ever seen, heard or read has ever put this better than Dan Savage in his talk on "The Price of Admission":







There you go. The only two secrets to being married for a long, long time. It really is that simple. Get to know who it is you are marrying, and be willing to accept who they are -- and be honest about the things you can't accept. That's really all it takes.

Now, there's life events that will occur. Times will be hard. There will be good times and there will be bad times, and then there will be REALLY bad times. I can't coach you through any of those, and I'm not really willing to share stories of ours. Because they're our stories. They made us who we are today, which is magnificent and amazing.

What I can say though -- if you have done the above two things, you have all the tools you need to weather any storm. It's like a workshop. Rather than give you plans on how to build a table or a bookshelf or a decorative birdhouse, I'd rather give you the drill, the table saw, the screwdrivers and glue and say "this is all you need. Go."




6.04.2012

The New Thing: Joe's Coffee Break

Some of you already know, but for those who don't: I've started a Tumblr called Joe's Coffee Break.

I'm doing this because, all day every day, I'm finding and posting to Twitter and Facebook all these funny, silly, strange or otherwise interesting things. Some are pics I take, some are articles / photos / what-have-you by others. And all day, every day, they enter the stream and then float away into obscurity.

I wanted something more present and persistent to post to. I have them cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter still, so those who like reading them there still will. But this way, there's a repository of the crap I've found that sticks around a lot longer than it does on $socialmedia.

I will be treating this as a catch-all -- everything I find, write, say, do, capture, post or otherwise want to share will end up there. If you are on Tumblr, feel free to follow me. If you're an RSS junkie (like me), you can subscribe. Otherwise, you can get the same daily dose of the stuff I find while on my breaks via the same old mediums.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Check out Joe's Coffee Break and let me know!

6.01.2012

I Had A Donut For Lunch...


Today is National Donut Day. So for lunch, I had a donut.

While I ate the donut, I was offered a weekly column on CNN GeekOut.

Apparently I did alright with that geeky manifesto thing. They want more of The Joe. So starting next week, you'll see my big head and read the ridiculous stuff that comes from it every Tuesday until they figure out how big a mistake they made.

Happy National Donut Day!