My minor surgery turned into something more serious. I’m okay now, I think, but I wasn’t. And I’ve never been in that position before.

What I thought was going to be a quick in-office slice ‘n’ dice became a deep surgery before I knew it. Sedated and anesthetized, tube-down-the-throat, IV-in-my-hand, girlfriend-trying-not-to-cry surgery. I’ve had a relatively healthy life, and I can count my hospital visits on one hand (stitches above my eye when I was 5 when I slipped on a wooden floor and hit my head on a bedframe, two separate instances of stepping on a screw sticking out of a board). I’ve had minor dental surgery to have a wisdom tooth removed. I never expected this to be serious, and it all happened so quickly that I didn’t have the chance to be scared about it.

When I woke up, I was back in the recovery room. My girlfriend was there. I was surrounded by doctors and nurses who were trying to explain things to me, though I couldn’t exactly get a good grip on my brain, which was slippery and kept on fading out of focus. By the time surgery was over, an icy snowstorm had taken over the valley, and we crept along the roads to get medication and get home.

I now have a tube coming out of me, which should only last for a few weeks. The purpose of the tube is to create scarring, since muscle blocked part of the procedure, or something like that. Things are sutured into place, large wounds are left open to drain, bloody gauze is being placed and replaced. I’m on a diet of soup and bread, and I’m taking bets on whether or not I’ll lose or gain weight being stuck in bed for a few weeks, but eating minimally. Food has never tasted so good. Ramen feels like the most exciting thing in the world. I’m really looking forward to being able to eat a burger at The Daily Planet.

Three or four more doctor visits until I know if everything is healed up. Typing from bed, watching all-day marathons of nonsense, and just starting to lose my mind from boredom. I’m psyched to start freelancing again, but it’ll have to wait.

I don’t write here a lot. It’s hard to find time to express yourself, or even summon the energy to form expressions, when you work 14-hour days. ‘Expression’ takes the form of trying to sleep on the train while I guy I hatefully call “Business Meth” smacks the back of your head with his newspaper, or trying to eat fast enough after work so you can get a full night’s sleep, because you don’t actually have a life outside of work anymore. Choosing between nourishment and sleep is a choice that no one in the civilized world should have to make, because it’s effing depressing.

I’ve tried the corporate world. I gave it a year. I tried financial security and working in an office, making spreadsheets of data to analyze, and fighting through a pervasive sense of spiritual meaninglessness, and four hours of commuting every day. I tried to make the best of it. I saw it through. I knew that it really wasn’t for me before I stumbled into it, and I still know that I have no place in the credit-stealing, subtly-insulting, always-kinda-broken world of the corporation. I had no idea that a job I landed because of the creative role I played as a freelancer in the company would turn into full-time customer service and writing sanitized blurbs for meaningless things, and absolutely zero expressions of actual creativity. The very worst part of this is that I lived without art for a year. I feel like I cut off my arms.

I also gained like 20 pounds.

The company that hired me is now collapsing. Without divulging any trade secrets, the company funding our company has changed their goals, and we’re not included in them anymore, and there’s no money left in the bank. So, I’m getting laid off at the end of December, along with every other person in my company. I’ve already made plans to start a few new projects and blogs to continue the kinds of creative work I enjoy, and most importantly, restart a once-lucrative freelance business which I was forced to abandon. I miss creating different things, and learning new techniques, for a wide variety of projects and people and guidelines. I miss game design and art direction, and having the time to make a sandwich, instead of ordering one from the rat-infested deli down the street and hoping to make the 2-hour trip home before the food poisoning really set in (which happened at least 4 times this year). And if I give myself food poisoning, not being stuck on a crowded train with no possibility of egress.

I have minor surgery today to deal with a problem that’s been bothering me for many years, and I need to do it before my health insurance runs out. I would have done this earlier, but it’s hard to find time when there are spreadsheets that need to be analyzed. So, it’s time to get my health back, and get creativity back, and start to enjoy life again.

I started a new job in NYC : the city where a thousand douchebags come out every time it rains to take photos of puddles along Broadway, and probably get into local galleries because NYC loves, above all else, NYC.

The job has been punctuated by subway trips along the 1 line, during which angry, bald men scream from passages of bibles which they (apparently) wrote, peppered with hellfire and train safety instructions. Or the other bald man who decided to stand up and groove in my face for a minute or two before 42nd street. You ignore these things, because attention is a catalyst for the remote potential of violence.

NYC feels like millions of people trying to justify why NYC exists; it is a dirty town with people desperately attempting to make it liveable by perpetuating the thin, tepid illusion of culture. If you deny it, you are a philistine. There is no strength in building a furrow and eking out an existence in the city : your furrow is built by money, not physical effort. Your money comes from manipulation : of an audience, of your bosses, of those you can push past. You rent a car to be able to bring groceries home from the one supermarket which doesn’t charge 40% over full retail price. You live in a small, expensive room : you buy an apartment for $500k because location makes you cool to a select crowd of the superficial, while a comparable price will buy you a luxury home in the Midwest, where strength is real, and effort is palpable.

There’s culture in NYC : the two button salesmen (Michael and Perry, I believe) being forced out of their office in the Garment District because of poor sales. Vintage iMacs and metal shelves stacked high with tens of thousands of buttons, and the stain of being in the same office for thirteen years. The old ladies who shuffle the streets on the Upper West Side, living there from the time when the city still had meaning. People live in NYC because things happen there, and it is a locus of activity, but it never feels like genuine activity.

I’m sitting at my desk at work, obviously counting something very intently.

SHE walks in.

“IT IS BRENSDAY?!?!” (All caps and a proliferation of excited, confused punctuation couldn’t be more appropriate. For every moment she speaks.)

I reply, without looking up, because making eye contact is a repulsive prospect : like gazing into a pair of face-anuses poised over a choking mess of teeth that can’t possibly chew through anything (can they?). I can no longer be bothered to feign interest or kindness after this woman gleefully wooed me with tales of how her backwoods redneck husband has created a population of “eye-less” and “tail-less” squirrels around her house from his backporch shooting range. Her delight at animal mutilation, and a man not even MAN enough to kill a critically injured animal (were these tales true) killed the last give-a-fuck I could muster for her.

I reply, as usual when she spouts a half-sentence of nonsense which has stumbled through her jagged mouth and out into the unsuspecting world, “I don’t know what that means.”

“MY FRIEND BRENDA AT THE ZOO! IS IT BRENSDAY?!?!”

“I don’t know your friend Brenda.”

“BRENSDAY!”

She acts as if I’m an idiot for not knowing her secret dialect. She is a woman so supremely arrogant and stupid that her own mysterious language, cobbled together from the worst aspects of pop culture and always delivered in her “funny voice” (aka “Incredibly Loud, Constipated Old Man”), is the only language that matters, and anyone who does not know it is a fool and requires reeducation.

I count louder, to reinforce the fact that I am counting, and I am not smart enough to count and listen at the same time.

“ARE YOU COUNTING? SHE DOES TATTOOS!”

“BRENSDAY!”

“THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO I’M TWO WEEKS BEHIND I CAN’T DO IT ALL!”

I’m still obviously trying to count, louder and louder. She knows I’m counting – why doesn’t she shut up about her friends?

“IT’S BRENSDAY!”

I leave the room as quickly as I can, before the urge to kick her chair out from under her becomes too great. I go home early. After a co-worker had tried to look up “Steven Hawken’s A Brief History of the World” earlier today, I’d had enough.

Beckie and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do this past Saturday. We’d spent a long day napping, poking around at the computer, and trying to discover some miraculous, new, not-too-far-away thing-to-do in the Hudson Valley, but once tag sale season is over, there’s very little in the way of keeping the late 20-somethings entertained out of the house that doesn’t involve some form of substance abuse. Feet get cold, people get cranky, and it’s a long wait until Craigslist starts to flower with all-caps ‘YARD SALE’ blossoms again.

By 4:30, hunger finally motivated us to move and find food. At 4:32, a bevy of sirens and firetrucks were occluding the only exit from the road and out into civilization. Since we were already walking out to the car when the ruckus began, we walked towards a smoking building at the end of her road, within sight of her apartment. Firefighters were dragging hoses around and smoke was pouring from some windows as they were being smashed out by firemen inside and using long poles on the outside. The sound of shattering glass continued for far longer than the limited number of windows in the building would sensibly permit, and the noise had summoned an elderly lady who called herself “Boop” from the far end of the road, where the nice houses live, who believed that things were exploding. This distracted her from her preparations for “Sunday Thanksgiving”. Her puffy billows of white hair doubled the size of her head and made her body look even tinier than it was. She told us about all of the neighbors she knew and kept on making the sign of the cross with skeletal, restlessly alive fingers.

By 6 PM, the swarm of police cars and firetrucks had barely abated, but we managed to slide past and get food. By morning, news revealed that the squat, concrete building attached to the burning house was actually a hydroponic marijuana lab. Which explained the prolonged sound of glass smashing to the floor as glass equipment was plowed over by the sprays of water, as well as the presence of drug enforcement agents in the morning.

In the daylight, the venetian blinds grinned stupidly like broken teeth, and yellow police tape spun around the building, ricocheted off of a barbecue grill in the back yard, and cordoned off all of the interesting from the grey expanses of Route 44 again.

On Sunday, we once again poked at Craigslist, and found something.

ON SALE LARGE ESTATE OF ANTIQUE DEALER INCLUDING A LARGE AMOUNT OF ALL TYPES OF ANTIQUES, AN IMMENSE AMOUNT, 15 LARGE BOXES OF ANTIQUE COSTUME JEWELRY, NICE COLLECTIBLES AND LOVELY ANTIQUE DOLLS. ALL NEGOTIABLE. ALSO BIG BUILDING SETS, GI JOES, BIG WOOD SLEDS ALL VERY LOW PRICED FOR THE KIDS, AS WELL AS BIG OLD POWER TOOLS, QUALITY MEN’S SUITS, BIG WINTER JACKETS, AND A 1,000′S OF ALL KINDS OF NICE ITEMS. CHRISTMAS GIFTS REASONABLY PRICED AND NEGOTIABLE!!!!

ITS COME AND BROWSE AT YOUR LEISURE.

CALL 845 632 XXXX TO ARRANGE A TIME TO COME VIEW THESE ITEMS. EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE AND WE GIVE YOU NICE JUICE TO DRINK.

FIND SOMETHING WONDERFUL. WE HAVE TOO MUCH TO KEEP.

We called, and set up an appointment to sift through boxes at noon. We discovered that this house was only a few houses away from where I once purchased a Space Shuttle pinball machine from a guy who called himself “Jim Pinball”.

We were escorted up some wooden stairs as a man named Charlie watched football, brought box after box to his low coffee table, and cut the filters off his cigarettes with a pair of black-handled, steely scissors. His son is the top nanotechnology student in the world, and Charlie worked for GE for 18 years before retiring, “doubling accounts” every year and maintaining a “90% retention rate” and other business words. He gives “Mexicans” bonuses and takes them out to dinner when they help him paint and refinish floors – but also believes that they should be shot as they cross the border illegally after a certain, as-yet-undetermined date. He wore a knit cap the entire time he was inside, and when he followed us out to his car.

When we were lamenting the high cost of living in the Hudson Valley, I mentioned that I take graphic design jobs to make ends meet, and was subsequently accused of being the reason that his friend, who coincidentally came up with the idea for Fudgie the Whale, was canned from his job : young kids willing to work longer hours for less money. While I reassured him that the real problem with making a living as a graphic designer is competing with hiring people overseas with a lower cost of living and generally less concern about quality of work, I don’t think that he was convinced.

The dissonance between crates of costume jewelry (which he never gave us a clear answer about the origins of) and a case full of Hummels and rare china sets, left-wing politics and football was unsettling as we creaked on his leather couch and I began sweating through my jeans. I came away with a handful of free brass pieces which will eventually turn into rayguns, and Beckie with a few interesting odds and ends. Charlie knew what he had, even if we had no idea what we were looking at – the names of certain makers, types of metals, how to test them. No one was pulling one over on Charlie – especially those “Jews” who came last week and was very rude to him because he asked fair prices.

Dusty wooden floors and a bearded son who went to study at Starbucks as we sat there, and the tinny strains of opera playing somewhere, somewhere from the depths of the house. No mention of a wife during the two hours we spent on his couch, but words edgewise weren’t really to be had anyhow.

I guess we really didn’t need any. Charlie had us covered.

There were two or three months about two years ago when everything felt good. There was a feeling of infinity, of accepting the place where life dropped me, and of possibility, of running and walking at the same time. The idea that anything was possible, and that I could do or be anything, was very liberating. Especially because it enabled me to be okay with who I was, which is something I’ve never been able to do.

I don’t know what aligned to make this possible. Nothing had changed. In fact, I was recovering from one of the worst defeats of my life. Maybe it was the contrast between terrible and mediocre that I was experiencing, and that elation was only relative to itself – but I think it was more than that.

I remember it precisely : it felt like fresh air, like space. It haunts me almost constantly. I want it back. This feels like starving : an angry stomach and an angry brain seething constantly is no way to live.

I wish that I could say I’ve spent my time away from Blogalopod being crazy creative and producing a ton of awesome artwork, but if anything, it’s been corporate whorage : lots of great clients, making stuff for commercial purposes. “Building a portfolio” is the “don’t kill yourself” word for it.

I’ve had a creative block for a long time, in terms of anything that didn’t immediately bring me cash. I guess that’s the thing you drag around behind you when your day job pays you about 60% of living wage in your county—that constant quest for the other 40% with all of the waking hours of your day, waiting for a resume to hit home with someone, or that dream job to finally come through and be unleashed by its corporate leash holders. There’s an awesome writing-traveling-creative-social media job on the horizon, but it’s a horizon that keeps on creeping back with every step I take.

So I took a few days off to see Jeff Mangum’s first show in Burlington VT (as seen here on Splice). Something about sitting in the church, seeing this guy play, freed up a lot of creative stuff that I’d been hesitating on, or unable to get through my hands. My drawing skills felt crippled, but they found their way out. And I started working on the next series of trading cards I’ve been commissioned to do : Suckpax Series 3.


Most of the rest are kinda pornographic, so I’ve been debating about making them public. I still want to illustrate a childrens book some day. Still, it’s fun to work with someone else’s themes.

Comics and custom toys are on the art-roster, and it feels pretty okay. As always, updates on Facebook.

[Half-finished post from January 8th, 2011]

So, what’s been happening?

It’s been snowing in New York. I wouldn’t mind moving to a place that was gloriously snow-less and had restaurants shaped like giant animal skulls. I made an attempt at driving to work yesterday, but my tires have exceeded their expiration date due to a constant lack of funds, and I was spinning and sliding far too much. The snow continued to fall until closing time anyhow, and my town was mentioned on the news for getting the brunt of the storm and having poor road conditions. The people I work with drive SUVs or live 2 minutes away, so I’m the odd one out. No one mentions my town on the news unless someone is killed or going to be killed, circumstantially. We’re New York’s great inconsequence.

Christmas wasn’t a disaster, but I’m very prepared to walk away from family and never return. My girlfriend got me Green Lantern shoes, an awesome Ghost Rider shirt and a giant talking Galactus, among other things. It’s nice to finally date someone who doesn’t shoot down my appreciation for comic things, and despite not being interested in comics upon entering the relationship, completely understands why I’m into them. Weirdly costumed people who bend reality and have complicated stories? Why not?

I’m halfway through four or five new drawings and paintings which I’m not completely ready to show off yet. Hexagons, skulls, and a drawing of Galactus which is pretty awesome. I’m still drawing and painting, and it feels great to balance all of it.


I’m still pushing through a deluge of client work. The current project entails creating 100 icons : 5 icons for 20 different keywords. In essence, I have to interpret “pets” in three ways, “house” in three ways, etc. It’s a challenge to create five diverse aesthetics that are consistent throughout a set, and it would be more enjoyable if the client didn’t take 2 days to respond to every question. Or forget to officially “approve” the contract. Freelancers set deadlines for two reasons :

a) to get your project done on time
b) to get paid at a certain time

… so when your lack of response pushes back a project for no good reason, it doesn’t help your artist by “giving them more time”. We have bills, guy.

Working through Guru.com is insanely, unnecessarily complicated. There are a million little steps that barely function, but the competition there is minimal, since most of the users are still stuck in MSPaint. You can click on just about any profile and find a winning image, like this.

[End transmission]

I’ve been away for a while, but only because I found myself weighed down by a bunch of little deadlines handed down by clients that suddenly clustered around me. In a grand scheme, it’s very fortunate that I was able to freelance my art things out and build up my credibility on a few freelancing websites (like eLance and Guru), but it’s exhausting. And none of the work has really been that creative – just interpreting ideas of clients and being told that I wasn’t doing it just like they had in their head.

I wrote about it here.

It really emphasizes the gulf between basic communication skills and what people expect in terms of what the “artist” produces. I can’t even describe how many files I created, was told that they needed to be changed, and had the client go back to the original samples I send them. It’s a lot of wasted time and efficiency that could be used on bigger ideas, not smaller ones. The creative ideas are constantly clipped for more generic, expected, simple ideas that don’t really emphasize the merits of the project or product – but I guess that’s why these folks hire outside artists. I just wish that they were more receptive to the ideas of people who have seen the breadth of these projects, have interacted with the push and pull of visual marketing, and know what they’re doing. There’s a synthesis of the intellectual and the emotional that a lot of people forget to integrate properly.


I’m at the other end of the client tunnel, and I want to take a break, but I also can’t wait to embrace the challenges of each new project. I’ve designed 5 t-shirts, 4 Boy Scout-type patches, 24 coloring book and dot-to-dot pages, and a whole bunch of other stuff, but if I don’t take a break and focus on the tangible, I’m going to lose my mind.


My girlfriend and I went to Tim & Eric live right after Thanksgiving, and there were never so many super-hip dorks collected in one place. I wrote about it here. On the way in, I foolishly left my multitool out in my bag, when I had about a million options to put it somewhere safe. When the security guy saw it, he suggested that I throw it in some bushes and hope that I find it later. I tried to give it to the box office with my business card, but they were assholes about it, and I finally got a security guard to take it, but despite my best efforts, I never saw him again. At about 1 AM I got a phone call from him asking me where I was, but I was already about 100 miles away and in bed, so I told him to keep it an enjoy it. Fortunately, I found a replacement on eBay for 99 cents. I’m not a fan of unnecessary loss.

================

Finally, I’ve been seeking a few more clients. The most recent one who took up my evening is based in California. What was presented as a job making graphic icons was ACTUALLY a job making complex, text-based icons. And they needed to use very specific fonts – which she didn’t know the names of, and could not provide. She wanted every font file I used, even though I explained that all fonts would be provided as images (outlines, to you AI people) on a separate layer. And she wanted each complex text image to come in 15 color variations – literally 15. It would have worked out to $2 an hour, for about 35 hours.

I was informed that I was competing against bids of $4 per image. I replied that I can’t compete with Pakistan, withdrew the bid, and registered a complaint regarding the nature of the proposal and the nature of the final project being completely different.

Thus ends my negative rampage. Things are good, too – I have a great girlfriend, a better job is possibly on the horizon, and hamburgers are delicious. So there.

It took me almost 3 weeks to complete a series of 65 icons for a website which is revamping itself, Game Friends. It should have taken less time, but the day job and daily writing tasks tend to keep me away from art. I’m excited to hunt down more freelance art work after this project is over, because the challenge is exceptional. The icons will represent levels of interactivity on this website. I’ll leave the official ones secret for the site’s ultimate reveal, but here are some rejected ones I like :

So, there’s that.

I’ll be participating in another project in Portland involving NES carts and an 8-bit skull. Details to follow, no doubt.

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