Year End Update

I didn't realize this, but I had all of three posts in 2014.  That's unconscionable.  With only a few days left of this year, I feel I have to recap all of what transpired, but to do so would require me to dredge up memories and events that I either wish to keep buried or don't rightly believe are going to be accurate representations.  I'm listening to a new podcast now called The Serial in which one story is told over several weeks.  Each episode takes a look at, among other things, how we interpret the past.  Our memories are built upon emotion and any spin they receive will color them to the detriment of the facts.

Of course I'm speaking of my own emotions and events that happened primarily to me.  There was a lot that happened in 2014 and most of it very positive.  The upswing toward the end of the year is a welcome change to the calamity and moral destitution that marked the year prior.

So without further ado and with as much flair as I can muster, here are some high points.

As previously chronicled, Cheryl is reaching the end of her masters program.  She's been working very diligently on her thesis, lecturing, grading, reading, writing, and researching.  Yesterday was her last class for fall and now she has one semester left.  She's applied for PhD programs and will soon publish some findings in an area of sociology that has yet gone untouched.  It's a wonderful accomplishment and the family is hoping she doesn't explode before it's all done.  Her insurance won't cover Mental Detonation by Graduate Studies.

Rowan has collected a lot of hardware this year as well as two official boyfriends (not simultaneously).  She recently won All Star Cast for her UIL One Act performance, and won a spot on the UIL District Band for her oboe playing.  Her grades are still quite good, and while she lets things slip, she's always apparently able to make things up and right the ship.  She's the captain of her kickstart demo team and recently passed her belt testing.  She continues to be an amazing musician and spends most of her days either texting friends or playing one of three instruments for fun.

Gregory (or Greg as he's wont to be called) has become a bit of a chess fiend and an engineering nut.  His grades are fantastic and his mathematical and problems solving mind continues to amaze us.  While I was spending a few sick days playing Dragon Age, he was in my room building six different sized Poke-balls with accompanying Pikachus.  He's built more with my Lego than I have - something I mean to rectify for my own sanity and ego.  But for him I am really thrilled to see him doing so much with his mind and hands.  He still hasn't beat me at chess, but not for lack of trying.  He continues to enjoy scouts while he's involved, but getting him out of the house requires a bit more enthusiastic encouragement.

Both kids are still being medicated for brain chemistry issues.  Rowan is also going to therapy for anxiety.  It seems to be helping, but she does have moments when she breaks down for no reason.  As someone who was a bit of a slacker in middle school, I'm a bit awe struck by how much she has on her plate.  I don't remember being that involved and having that much to do and THEN have to come up to such a busy family.  I'm developing anxiety just thinking about it.  Both kids are complaining of lack of sleep as well, and before I read to much into that, I have to remind myself (and other parents) that they are children and children both require a lot of sleep and constantly fight you on getting that sleep.  These next few years will be exciting.

This year has also seen some increased physical activity.  Clair has run a few half marathons, in fact.  At one point she flew to Colorado to run 13 miles in Estes Park.  I used to camp there as a kid and I had to remind her that it's about seven thousand feet above us in Austin.  She did well and continues to be the healthy member of the family.

As for me, 2014 was what coaches like to call a rebuilding year.  I dated a little, I tried new things, new foods, and went on a few adventures I probably normally wouldn't have.  I made a few new friends, possibly lost a few, had my heart smashed a bit, and my liver beg for mercy.  I'm seeing someone new, have been for a few months, and it's very promising.  I hope I don't mess it up.  Didn't build or buy much Lego, but I got really good at singing karaoke.  Whether or not you think I have a good voice, I may be addicted to singing.  It's one of the things I'll miss when my voice eventually fails due to age.  I love singing, in the karaoke bar, in the car, at home.  If I could just speak to people in song, I would.  But then I'd be living in my own musical and would possible be put away for observation.

I still haven't found the muse for drawing.  I keep throwing myself into situations that would require a bit of artistry, but nothing ever comes of it.  The movie thing never amounted to more than a few sketches no matter how much I tried.  I received almost zero orders for robots.  The character designs for my friend's comic just didn't inspire me to do more of them.  I felt like I was looking for reasons to draw and it wasn't for the love of drawing.  There's also the chance I got burned a little from drawings I've done.  There's a lot that's still bruised from last year and it could be that drawing is just one of those things for which I have to be patient and let it come back on its own when its ready.

I recently watched a video of Kim Jung Gi, arguably the most skilled illustrator in the world right now, and it made me want to take all my old artwork, pencils, brushes, paints, markers, and other tools, put them all in a box, take that box into a field, cover it in gasoline, light it on fire, and then bury the ashes.  I've been drawing my whole life and not only was I not inspired by seeing his work, I was physically ill thinking of how much improvement lay before me.  I didn't feel hopeful at the challenge, I felt defeated.  It suddenly turned into a game of who could be best and it was just me against every other artist in the world and I lost.


There's a Christmas card that needs to be done and I'm running out of time.  Deadlines tend to force the creative juices to flow a little more readily.  It might be a needed jump start.

Who's ready for The Hobbit?


Liebster Awards

5.  If you had to rename your blog, what would you call it?
I'm not entirely sure.  That would imply I'm not happy with it's current name, or I'm competing to have a better name as a web address.  I actually like Life In Austin and it suits the random nature of the site.  It's about someone living in Austin, their thoughts, reactions, announcements, and interactions with the surrounding city.
Strength 9, Intelligence 8, Wisdom 6, Dexterity 11, Constitution 9, Charisma 12.
I think I would end up being a Wizard.  I like playing fighting dwarf tanks so I can just kick open doors and spring traps that the rest of my party fights off.  But I also like the idea of hanging back and throwing giant blue fireballs at things.

So, I'm not sure what to make of this.  Life In Austin was nominated by an online collaborator/friend who I know from doing writing and art and editing duties for a web comic (anyone remember ASJ41?)  Anyway, he was very cool in nominating my blog for this award, which is apparently a kind of pay-it-forward type of thing where bloggers recognize their contemporaries.  I like the idea but I'm just not sure still why he thought mine was a good fit.

This is the humility folks.

I think there's a whole process to being nominated, including recommending other blogs that you read.  Sadly I don't read as many blogs as I used to.  If hard pressed I don't think I could come up with 10.  Most of what I read any more are just feeds from random friends and strangers.  Tumblr is a child with a camera and no ADD meds, Reddit is more about snark than substance and Facebook is kind of a circlejerk, but in the nicest way possible.  (Love you guys.)

So I'll answer the questions and I'll let my nominator Dan let me know if I've done right or if I've mangled this responsibility.


Turns out I have mangled it, so I'll see if I can rectify that with an edit.

Ten Things About me:

I'll try to make this interesting.  Lists are kind of boring if you don't have some exposition.  I feel like I'm filling out a dating profile.

I. I can sing The Nations of the World from Animaniacs.  The problem is, that song came out in the early 90's so there are some countries that don't exist any more.

II. I had a drawing win a cartoon contest in the New Yorker.

III. I eat salted peanuts shell and all.  It started when I was a kid going to Air Force football games.  My dad would bring a bag of peanuts.  I would put them in my mouth to suck the salt off, but then I didn't want to shuck the wet shells so I just chewed up the whole thing.

IV. I have a scar on my chin from where I had surgery to fix a broken jaw.

V. I throw a lot of movie lines into everyday conversation.  1/3 of people don't know, 1/3 pick up on them, and 1/3 are probably annoyed I do it.

VI. I was in a commercial when I was 12.  I won a contest for a local Fox station in Denver and I got to claim my prize on air.

VII. When I finally stopped going to college in Denver, I had roughly 120 credit hours, more than enough to graduate, but I'd shifted majors too much.  Luckily most could transfer and I'm very close to finishing.  Just have to do it.

VIII. I own a lot of Lego but right now I'm sadly doing very little with it.

IX. The closest I've ever been to a celebrity is when Lou Ferrigno ignored me in an elevator.

X. I live in "The Live Music Capital of the World" and I hate large music festivals.

Now answering Dan's 10 questions.

1.  What is your blog about, and why did you start it?

My blog was originally just a way for my out of state parents to keep up with the day to day events of their oldest child and their grandkids.  I was chronicling my life and that of my family and any other thoughts I had about life, the universe, and everything.  I have used it to write reviews of toys, movies, books, TV shows.  I've used it as a political platform discussing whatever cause du jour happened to be tickling my fancy.  And I've used it to hock my freelance art.  In recent years it's use has dropped off because of Twitter or Facebook, but I will still occasionally  feel the urge to express myself in a greater number of characters than is allowable in a single text message.

2.  Did you serve in the military?  Why or why not?

I did not serve in any branch of the military.  Although 3 of my closest friends from high school immediately went either into the service or to the academies for those branches.  I didn't feel it was a good match for me, although I did have hopes of one day being a fighter pilot.  In the end, I decided that spending my college years skillfully navigating the registration and majoring process, exceeding the number of credit hours needed, and then not actually graduating.

3.  Are you an athlete?  What’s your favorite sport?

I am not an athlete.  I played soccer from about 9 till I broke my jaw as a junior in high school.  I also progressed very far into tae kwon do and ended up one belt shy of black.  I've dabbled at other sports and like playing basketball the most.  I would however say I'm a fairly naturally athletic person, in that I have a good sense of balance, coordination, and can pick up new sports pretty quickly.  I played roller hockey for a while and love ice skating.  The older I get the more it's just about staying active so my sport of choice now is running.

4.  Name three authors that other people should spend more time reading.

I've always felt that books are the most private and introspective media a person enjoys.  You can't really share a book while you read it, like you would a TV show, or music, or a movie.  Reading is a solitary event that can span several weeks (or months if you're an avid but slow reader like I am.)  So it's hard to say who anyone should read because the experiences are truly solitary.

That said, I suppose I'd be remiss in not telling people that you should read Clive Barker.  Not horror Cliver Barker, but fantasy Clive Barker.  Imajica is one of the most unique books I've ever read and deserves at least a chance by everyone.

If I had to rename it, maybe Life As A Robot.

6.  When you read comics, do you pay more attention to the writing or the art?
Both, but to be fair, I got into comics because of the art.  I'm an artist, not a writer, at heart.  I love the 90's style of Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio and Larry Stroman and Joe Quesada.  I pay attention to it because I try to pick up tricks on how to improve my art.

Writing to me is a bit of a grey area.  I like to read and I like writing, but I'm not very skilled at recognizing the structure of stories.  I don't see when there are plot holes.  I'm bad at figuring out mysteries.  Most times when watching cop or law shows, I have to wait for musical cues for important events to know what's going on.

7.  Marvel has had a string of hit movies, but DC has fallen behind.  Besides Superman, Batman, and/or Wonder Woman, what DC superhero would you like to see in a movie?
I'm not as big of a comic geek as most of the people I know online.  So my choice of The Flash will probably seem pretty pedestrian.

8.  The game Dungeons and Dragons uses a set statistical block to describe Player-Character abilities on a scale of 3-18:
 -- Strength
 -- Intelligence
 -- Wisdom
 -- Dexterity
 -- Constitution
 -- Charisma
Using the attributes above, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 3-18, with 3 being incredibly feeble and 18 being amongst the best in the world.  If you were a D&D Character, would you be a Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, or Cleric?
Super in depth question for what will likely be a really small, sad answer.  Assuming the scale was applying to humans and not magically empowered humans.

9.  The secret of your success is…?
It wouldn't be a secret if I told you.

10.  If you’re still in school, then what do you want to be when you grow up?  If you’re grown and working, what are you doing now?  How does that compare to what you thought you’d be doing back when you were a kid?

I'm not doing what I thought I'd be doing when I was young.  I'm not a fighter pilot, or world class soccer player, or even a comic book artist.  I work in IT during the day and I putz around with art and Lego at night.  Even in college I thought I might have a promising musical theater career, but when I started hearing about how awful it was for my friends who moved to NY, I stopped going to school and got a job with the city.

Stay in school, kids.

Now Nominating 10 "blogs."

I don't actually follow many blogs.  I subscribe to some YouTube channels and kind of follow some Tumblr feeds, Facebook pages, and webcomics.  I don't know how I'll be able to sort this out.

Polished Pear - Amanda is a friend of mine and this is her editing and coaching site.  She writes on her own as well.  More than the basic editing skills, she works with authors to help find their voice and bring out not only their ideas but an obvious sense of passion that made them want to write in the first place.

Validation - A webcomic about a transgender girl and her everyday life.  I started following because I was impressed with the idea.  I know a couple of transgender folks and it's good to see some representation.

Hobotopia - Adam Koford is a wonderfully talented cartoonist.  While we haven't technically worked together, we did collaborate on a large project a few years ago.

Playing Doctor Podcast - I've been an online friend with one of the hosts at Playing Doctor for a long time.  I've been a guest on their podcast a few times and will be again no doubt.  They take an in depth and thoughtful (and at times irreverent) look at each episode of Doctor Who.

Monster By Mail - Len Peralta probably doesn't need any additional accolades.  He's such a prolific artist that it's only a matter of time before he just explodes into a cloud of confetti and dollar bills.  Although his big thing now is Geek A Week, he's also done comics with some fairly big names in online nerd-dom.

James Hance - Another artist that likely doesn't need a blogging credit, but I just love his style of art.

The rest are kind of the same things everyone else reads or watches.  Mostly random stuff on Tumblr and the typical following of anything Felicia Day or Wil Wheaton puts online.   I know I've left some people off here, Jeremy, Sunday/Mike, Nate, Loston, Shane.  And I've left off my favorite sites like XKCD and Hyperbole and a Half, but I think everyone likes those and I honestly don't have many blogs that read.

For the above sites, I'll ask some questions.

1. What do you find most rewarding when you are doing what you love?
2. What material (book, music, film, etc) has inspired you the most in recent years?
3. Creativity isn't always a lightening bolt, sometimes it's dedication and perseverance.  When the muse doesn't inspire, describe how you get yourself up, how you motivate yourself to be creative.
4. What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome recently, and were you able to turn it into an advantage?
5. How are you pursuing your passion now?  Is it a hobby?  Is it professionally?  If you could change it, would you?
6. What would you tell yourself if you could go back 5 or 10 years that might make you think about your creative endeavors differently?  Would you actually want that?
7. A lot of changes in past years have made it easier to be published as a writer or distributed as an artist.  How as being online affected your ability to produce or connect with the people you want?
8. How much of your own life do you put in your work, and is that something you do consciously or only recognize later?
9. If you aren't already doing your dream job or able to spend 100% of your time on your passions, describe what an ideal work day for you would be like.  If you are doing what you love, would you improve anything?
10. Admit something about how you work that you wish you could improve, something perhaps that you know is just a simple force of will task.



I realize I haven't written in a while.  I seem to only come here to alleviate guilt, promote a project, complain about life, or perch on a soap box.  Truth be told, my day-to-day isn't as exciting as you might think.  In fact, I bet if we compared lives, mine would be just as banal and intriguing as yours.

So it should come as no surprise that there is yet another movement to write about.  Long ago it was breast feeding, then it was the horrors of homophobia, then bullying in schools, now it's how horrible it must be to be a vagina carrying human.

And again, it's hard to talk about this without seeming like a typical privileged white guy.  I can side with all these issues because I have no issue of my own.  I'm not treated unfairly in the workplace.  I don't get profiled by police.  I get paid pretty well for what I do.  I can get married if I want.  No one questions me if I'm taking photos of landmarks.  I can walk around without a shirt if I choose.  If my dick stops working, my insurance will cover treatment.

If I walk home late at night, I don't have to worry about my genitals being a target.

If I dress up as a comic book character and go to a comic book convention, I don't have to worry about being the object of sexual ridicule or "pedestalism."

I can't even apologize for my sex without getting backlash from those who find it egregious that I would assume they need a spokesperson.  It's apparently not up to me to speak for the masses and say, "I'm sorry guys suck."

Well, sorry, but I disagree.  If I'm not sorry about how women are treated (or anyone who's suffered from abuse or an attack) than who will be?  If I'm apathetic and wait for something to change, who will change it?  If I don't stop and say, "No, dude, that's not right.  You shouldn't be going to comic con just to see the girls in cosplay," then who will?


Part of this, I suppose, is selfish motivation.  It's hard enough dating being a divorced father of two who lives with his ex and her wife without also being considered a threat to those I wish to court.  I wouldn't want anyone to feel that, to paraphrase Louis CK, a successful date means you weren't attacked.  Guys, this isn't the Serengeti for fuck's sake.  We have frontal lobes and continually espouse the virtues of free will.  Why are we still allowing baser instincts to control us and turning a blind eye when the object of our affections live in constant threat of violence?

I can understand petty theft.  I can understand greed and desperation.  I can't understand this.  And it's not because I'm jumping on a bandwagon or because I want to feel superior, but it just completely escapes me.  Outside total and utter psychosis, why would you willingly choose to do this to another human being?  Especially the types of human beings you are otherwise spending a lot of time, effort, and money trying to get to like you in return?

So what's next?  What do we do?  I'm not sure.  Talk to your sons early.  Treat everyone the same no matter what's between their legs.  Try not to give in to your base instincts as often.  Use some common sense and courtesy.  Stop objectifying women in art and advertising.  You folks who are my comic book art friends, let's put some real clothes on people, huh?  Next time someone makes a patently lascivious remark, call them out on it.  Say it's not okay.

I don't like writing this.  I don't like feeling like I owe someone an apology for something I didn't do.  I don't like feeling as though the act of apologizing is somehow going to make others resentful and defensive.  But you know what?  Fuck 'em.  I'd rather my daughter and my friends and my future partners not feel as though I'm a threat in anything other than a defeat at Scrabble.  And if that ruffles some feathers, than those feathers need to be torn off.


The Father

Hey everyone.  I'm reaching out to let you know that a friend and local Austin filmmaker Stephen Beyleu is working on a new sci-fi film.  He's currently running a kickstarter campaign to fund a special effects shoot that will be shown to investors to help fund the film as a whole.  It's a small step toward a larger goal.  I've helped with some storyboards and artwork and if you back the project at certain levels you'll receive some of that artwork as a thank you.

You can see more here.

Here's Stephen talking about the project.

These campaigns are difficult to drive so even if you don't contribute, please pass it along to any sci-fi or indie movie fans you know.  The more backing it receives, the higher quality of film he can produce.  I've read the script and the story is pretty amazing.  I'd like to be able to see it come to life.

Thank you!