Hey gang! Sorry this one is a week late, that has been life in a nutshell. Lots going on!
The biggest news of it all: the Brother Trucker Book Club has wrapped up for now (I haven’t ruled out future episodes, but it’s not on the docket for the foreseeable future.) Schaara and I batted cleanup last week and the final episode went live with much success.
And of course, the DREADPENNIES ADVENTURE HOUR is up and running! With an audio performance of SLEEPLESS HOLLOW by yours truly! You can now get the entire audiobook for free by subscribing to the podcast. Tell your friends about it, and please consider backing the Patreon! Behind-the-scenes episodes will post on Fridays.
This has taken a backseat what with having to record audio for the podcast, but since I just finished the final episode of SLEEPLESS, the next three weeks are focused on finishing the script for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, which will launch in November.
Once again, I am participating in Inktober! Check out instagram.com/dreadpennies for my daily entries. I’m behind by a day, but I’ll catch up.
I want to address the so-called controversy surrounding Inktober this year. Apparently someone has beef with Jake Parker, the founder, and tried to get his forthcoming book canceled over it. I don’t know the details of this beef, and I’m not going to dig it up. The beef has entered the legal arena and I assume will be settled there. For the time being I continue to support Jake Parker as I have for years, given my familiarity with his good work and the work of his good colleagues, such as Will Terry.
It concerns me that this trend of accusing, dividing, and taking sides based on Internet Hype has reached this specific realm of public creativity, especially seeing as how it coincides with an attempt to hijack Inktober and replace it with a very similar idea controlled by someone else. (There’s a new hashtag circulating, I’m not going to say what it is, but it’s a clear attempt to steal the success Jake has had, and it’s annoying to say the least.)
I’ve seen this play out in a number of other areas over the last several years; somebody makes something, it becomes a success, somebody else hijacks it and turns it into a shadow of its former greatness, and we’re left muttering over how “X used to be cool.”
Kind of like how “Honest Trailers” used to be funny, before it started parroting dumb cultural talking points from the public sphere. I don’t want to see that happen with Inktober so I’m going to wait for all the fact to come out, and, like I said, continue to participate in the meantime. High school is over, you guys. Let’s act like it.
Hoooo boy, my reading took a huge kick in September, haha. Mainly because I wasn’t listening to anything, I was training for my new position at work. I think I read maybe 2 or 3 books in the whole month. Things are picking up now, though.
That’s about it. I’m adjusting to the physical nature of the new gig, mainly how I come home sore and exhausted everyday, but my pants are all a little looser and will continue to do so. Kind of awesome how I got this job right around Pie Season, I don’t have to worry about gaining 20 pounds this year.
As much as it pains me to do this, I will not be releasing a physical book in 2020. But! I will still be publishing. WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE will be the second story on the DPAH podcast, broken into episodes all throughout November.
This has become necessary as a result of stuff in my home life and my day job. My career was affected by Big ‘Rona and that’s forced us to take on a bunch of other stuff at once. I will spare you the details.
Suffice it to say that if I tried to finish all the art that I want in that book, it wouldn’t be good, and some would be left out. So I want to take my time on it. I can still record the audiobook for the podcast, and meet the 2020 deadline.
The physical book will come out in 2021, fully illustrated. After all, the Pilgrims set sail in 1620, but the First Thanksgiving was in 1621. That way I hit both dates!
I finished my series on Presidential Puns. That actually got me a paid gig designing a logo for an old friend, so that’s cool. Exactly what I’m into. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram to see what I draw every day.
You can expect me to slow down a little on this too, as I am not going to be plugged into my phone as much, listening to books all day long.
That said, I am being more picky about my reading in general, and more nonfiction is taking the stage. Maybe I’m just getting bored with so much genre fic, very little of it transcends its peers.
I like to be blown away when I read something.
I’m still doing push ups. I’m about to get a much more physical position at work, so the burn is going to be legit. All the rust and cobwebs will be gone by the end of September. I seriously cannot wait.
Be excellent to each other. And stand up for yourself a little more. Let people know that you love them, but they don’t own you. Own yourself.
This morning I thought about a man that I haven’t remembered in a while. Back in the days of my old blog I wrote about him once or twice and he deserves to have his story told a little more often, or at least, to have my part of his story told.
His name is Jim Heller, and he was an artist. He was also almost completely paralyzed; anything from the neck down was immobile, except for very slight movements in his right hand.
It was those movements that allowed him to become a precise artist. I got to see him work every now and then because we went to church together, and our ward would divide up service assignments to help him out.
On the 2nd of every month, my brother and I would ride our bikes down to his place and make him dinner. This was always a bit of a process because Jim was a slow eater. He would wheel his electric chair into the doorway of his kitchen and tell us what to pull out of the fridge or the cabinets, then have us nuke it in the mike.
We had to cut everything up for him and feed it to him one small bite at a time. He had to tell us every time he was ready for another bite, or a drink through the straw. It took a few hours.
Not that it was an imposition or anything; he was very easy to talk to and we had great conversations. Jim loved movies too, so we would put on a John Wayne flick, or a cheesy sci-fi, or a WW2 film. I watched Anaconda and Tora! Tora! Tora! while feeding him. The only time I’ve ever seen The Ghost In The Darkness was while I was spooning peas into Jim’s mouth. (Awesome movie, btw.)
In my teens I didn’t have a lot going on that wasn’t scheduled for me by my parents. Go to youth activities at church, go to piano lessons, go to Boy Scouts, go go go. When I had time to myself, I spent it ignoring my homework so I could sit at my drawing table while blasting KoRn or Offspring on my CD player.
The lack of a full schedule made it easy for me to visit Jim. I don’t remember seeing it as an imposition or anything, because what else was I doing with my life? Goofing off and daydreaming about girls who would never date me because I was the weird kid?
No, go take one night in thirty and feed someone. That’s a kind of service I don’t do any more. I’m too busy, too dialed in on my own stuff. Plus, obviously, I’ve got a wife and kids now, it’s just different.
But back then, I think it was really good for me to see up close the life of someone who had to rely on others for absolutely everything. Jim had a nurse come by who helped him with his medical stuff, his pill sorting, his bathing and dressing, getting in and out of bed, all that. He always had to have his remote on his tray and his LifeAlert right next to it.
One night he called his neighbor at 2AM because there was a bug chewing on the soft skin under his arm and the pain was excruciating. Jim tried to ride it out without calling and it just got to be too much.
Think about that next time you have an itch and you scratch it and it goes away. Think about a life where you couldn’t do that for yourself.
I never once, in the three or four years that I regularly visited him, heard Jim gripe about his condition, or pity himself. Dude got diagnosed with whatever had put him in a chair in his 20s. Doctors said he would probably die in his 40s. He made it to his 60s.
And to the utter extent that he was able, he worked to support himself.
Every time we came by, we wrapped up the night by setting his art supplies out on the tray on his wheelchair. Pencils and brushes with long sticks attached. Paint pallets with just a drop of this color here, a slight mixture of these two there. Throw some water droplets on to loosen up this shade here, I don’t need much.
He painted scenery, animals, westerns, faces. Indians and mountain men, cowboys and pioneers. Wolverines battling wolves for a kill. Lynxes in the wild. Temples. Christ. His friends.
A few times a year we would load his stuff into his big old van, then help him onto the ramp so he could get inside. Hook his chair to the floor with ratchet straps and drive him to convention centers so he could sell prints and originals. It was heavy and repetitive, and tiring in the Vegas heat.
Yet the whole time you’re doing it, you’re saying to yourself, what am I going to do? Cry about it to the guy who can’t walk? Can’t take a leak without help? Come on, man. Even when I was just a low-ambition punk@$$ from Henderson I could figure that part out.
There are still times that I feel bad about not being there when he died, in July of 2001. I had missed our appointment on the 2nd of that month because I finally had things on my calendar. I had a job (tire tech) and a sport to train for (cheerleading).
He called our house and asked if I was coming. It was 6:30. I apologized profusely, I can’t even remember what I was doing that night but I was busy. He said NBD, he would call his niece, she was over there all the time.
I said I would make it up to him next month. He died about two weeks later.
I made it a point to sing at his funeral. Felt I owed him that.
Often I make the mistake of assuming that everyone has had the same life experiences I have, that they’ve known the same kind of people and have shaped their expectations of life accordingly. I have to remind myself that that isn’t the case.
We’ve all had unique struggles, they just happen in the same vein sometimes. And there will always be someone who has it worse than we do–not that it’s a competition. The point is that someone else’s trials can help you realize not only your blessings, but the limitations you are putting on yourself.
Especially today, in the age of competitive victimhood, with social media being such an easy platform for you to scream your hardships into the void of the world, looking for validation.
When that temptation arises, think of men like Jim. He dealt with those demons at some point in his life, I’m sure of it. That kind of stoicism is usually a destination, not a starting point, and he got there.
I for one am very grateful that he did, and for what he taught me in our short time together. Men like that ought to be remembered.
But the real gem is the launch of the DPAH, coming next month 🙂 I’ll draw the cover art for it then.
Edits are humming along for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. I am fighting distraction because I keep getting ideas for other stories. The best thing for those ideas is to just let them percolate, because they’re not ready if I’m not actively working on a story.
I’m glad that I have finally embraced the short story model. Lots of my ideas will work better that way.
Funnily enough, after I read HOMEWORLD to Schaara, she suggested I write a full-length treatment from one of the other character’s POV. That one is percolating. Dunno when it’ll happen, but it just may.
Still plugging right along. I fell back on a lot of puns and stuff in July, what I need to do is change it up and do more structured exercises. I have an anatomy book I’ve been meaning to dig through, however…
…as I get ready to homeschool my kids with my wife (she’ll be doing most of it, but I’m not going to be a bystander), I have to read some other preparatory materials, and that’s getting my attention.
Also I’m getting bored with fiction generally. That’s a weird feeling. Nonfiction is finally entertaining me more.
I’m doing over a hundred pushups a day, every day. With my schedule, that’s all I can manage. If it changes, I’ll let you know.
Please understand, from the bottom of my heart, that I do not care about anyone’s panicky opinion about what’s going on in the world. I wash my hands of it. It only serves to hold me back from conquering my own corner of this island Earth.
Me and the homies broke into the Disney Vault over the weekend to liberate a copy of Song of the South. Here’s what you need to know:
This movie is one of those mixes of animating and live action. If you’ve ever heard stories about Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch, then you’re familiar with the cartoon characters that make up half the movie. The stories of Brer Rabbit were written by Joel Chandler Harris in the late 1800s.
Harris was born in Georgia and was only 13 when the Civil War broke out, so his formative years were steeped in the conflict of ending slavery in this country. Small wonder then that he would go on to write stories about how happy people were in the post-war South, especially considering the improved conditions for black people.
Yes, yes, there was still a lot of headway to be made on that front, calm yourselves. They weren’t exactly living in the same mansions as white folks. They were no longer property though, and their quality of life was improving every year.
Naturally he wanted to reflect that in his writings, and so the character of Uncle Remus came to dominate his pages.
Now, I’ve gotten my hands on some of Harris’ books, and they haven’t aged well. He does that thing that writers are told not to do when it comes to dialects and accents: he writes phonetically, to the point where it tires the eyes as you try to read it. I didn’t make it to even the 5% mark on one.
Apparently that wasn’t a problem in the 1940s though, because Disney still thought there was enough value in the property for them to make a movie out of it. James Baskett (above) won an Academy award for his portrayal of Uncle Remus, and the song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” also won an Academy award.
This is all kind of interesting when you consider the timeline. The 1940s were only 80 years after the 1860s, so there were still people (although few in in number) who had lived through the Civil War. Plenty of the older generation in the 40s had grown up with parents who saw it all up close.
It’s kind of like 2020’s relationship with World War Two, which is fast approaching the 80-year mark in historical distance. My grandfather fought in WW2, but he was 90 when he died in 2015. In the national conscience it still seems to feel kind of recent, though. The fingerprints are still fresh on the present day.
That being the case, Song of the South was a mark of ideological progress in its day, the kind of progress that tends to jump ahead of itself, look behind at its wake, and say “I’m embarrassed of all that road behind me.”
Disney has all but been outright ashamed of it in the intervening decades. They never released it for home media in the US. They did, in the late 80s, build the Splash Mountain ride around a Brer Rabbit theme at Disneyland, because those animations had remained popular. But they adamantly refused to give Song of the South any more place in their lexicon of entertainment.
There are a lot of things I could say about this, but they’re best left in the capable hands of Disney historian Jim Korkis. He covers it in this book:
My favorite part of this book was actually the forward, written by animator Floyd Norman, whose career has run from 1959 to to the present. He’s my grandma’s age and his career is as old as my mom. This dude is living history, and he has a lot of things to say in defense of Song of the South.
Also he’s a black dude. I’d love to sit in a room with this gent and listen to his stories. Fortunately it looks like he’s written a lot of books, and I want to get to them.
Back on track though: the movie itself takes place in the Reconstruction Era, which is important to understand because a common criticism is that it depicts “happy slaves.” While the demeanor displayed by the white characters toward the black characters wouldn’t fly today, it was a far cry from the master-slave relationship that blacks were forced into for so long before that.
I’m not going to sit here and pick apart every criticism of it though, because that would be tiresome and a waste of time. The most frequent attack leveled against Song of the South, the attack that has kept it locked in the vault for decades, is that it is racist (a term that loses a little more of its meaning every day based out how people throw it around.)
No, the main problems with Song of the South have more to do with the fact that it is 1) poorly constructed, and 2) boring.
Johnny, the main character, has to stay at his grandma’s plantation with his mom. His dad has to go back to Atlanta for undisclosed reasons. All we know is that he’s writing things in the newspaper and people are pissed off about it. His departure makes Johnny sad.
Johnny finds new friends on the farm though, including a white girl named Ginny and a black boy named Toby. They hang out with Uncle Remus and listen to his stories. That’s…pretty much it, for a while. Eventually Johnny sneaking off to chill with Uncle Remus makes his controlling mother sad, and she tells Johnny not to see Remus anymore.
Blah blah blah, Remus goes to leave the plantation, Johnny takes a shortcut through a bull pen to stop him, a bull tramples him, he almost dies, but Remus comes back to tell Johnny another story and he survives. Johnny’s controlling mother lightens up, and his dad comes back from Atlanta, the end. Remus walks into an animated sunset with all manner of cartoon critters hanging around him.
If that sounds kind of flat, the on-screen execution is a little flatter. Don’t get me wrong, the set pieces are beautiful, the animation is fine, and Uncle Remus has a warm and friendly demeanor. The in-between scenes are just kind of devoid of life and make it a chore to watch. Set this movie in any time period with any cast and you’d have the same problem.
Which is a shame, because there’s a lot you could do with the source material. Too bad Disney will never reboot this and do it better. They’re trying to make more hay out of their “cash cow” animated flicks. They’re even replacing the Brer Rabbit stuff at Splash Mountain with a Princess and the Frog theme.
At the end of the day…eh. I know where to get a copy of the movie, I’m not a hundred percent sure it was worth the excursion into the vault, but if Disney ultimately doesn’t want me to own it, that’s enough reason to get my hands on one.
This week episode 9 of “Welcome to the Faro” went live. It’s the 2nd of a 3-episode arc that covers my time in Tarragona, the hardest stretch of my mission.
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts here, or look it up on your preferred podcast app. As of right now almost 20 episodes are recorded, and it will have 25 in all.
The Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast comes back this month as well, airing weekly on Wednesdays.
I have two semi-finished drafts of different books, HOMEWORLD and FOOL’S SILVER. Right now I’m reading the former to my wife, and her feedback is helping to tighten it up. She’s been really supportive of my storytelling, going all the way back to our dating days 10 years ago.
When I can, I pick at WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE too. I’m not in as much of a rush with that one, but I don’t want to dawdle either, as it needs work.
Still drawing every day over on Instagram, and I finished the rough inkwork for the WAC cover (above). Digital art is similar to traditional, different in a few ways, and really crisp overall. I quite like it.
The Reading (and the Watching…)
I’ve been getting more DVDs from the library for background noise, Turn is a really interesting show, if historically inaccurate in spots. Par for the course with the genre, I’m liking it for the most part, it’s just too horny sometimes.
There’s an old flick from the 50s on Disney+ that I started to watch and it mentions the novel JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes, which I never read. Grabbed an audio copy of it from the library, and I will read it this month along with BUNKER HILL.
My wife has a subscription to some online workouts that I like so far. Intense stuff but the results are really great. My back is popping a lot more, haha.
I also did over 2,000 pushups in June. So that feels pretty good.
I have to keep reminding myself not to surrender to malaise, there’s just a lot of it going around. Everything is a matter of perspective though. Maybe I haven’t been tried hard enough or in the right ways. God knows what He’s doing.
Chin up kiddos, the best month of the summer is now upon us. Get back to work.
Summer is upon us! Wherever and however we may, let us roll the top back and put the hammer down, for beyond us lies ADVENTURE!!!
Welcome to the Faro has been a great project so far, and it’s now on Apple Podcasts! I’m recording these several times a week but they only go live on Mondays, so I’ve got a bit of a buffer in case things go crazy.
The Brother Trucker Book Club is still scheduled to resume in July, but there will be a special bonus episode for THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins. Schaara and I finished reading it and we’ll team up for a discussion about it. (We both loved the book.)
I’m up to #9 on a list of presidential puns that I came up with a year ago. (I tweeted them all out with GIFs in an epic thread starting here.) The ones I’ve drawn are mostly the same as the ones I tweeted, but I’ve changed a few because they worked better visually.
This particular theme will run its course right around the 4th of July, maybe a little sooner, we’ll see. As we head into Month 6 of 2020, I feel the need to structure my sketchbooks a little better, and work on particular weaknesses of mine. When I’m done with the presidential puns I think I will grab one of my old artbooks and go through the exercises to sharpen my skills. That or I’ll work on Figurosity poses. I don’t know, the options are limitless.
Oh MAN this is picking up! Once the Faro podcast starts to wind down, I have a new podcast on deck tentatively called the DreadPennies Adventure Hour. My writing at the moment is focused on generating content for that new show. I finished the cover art for the first short story I will feature, called HOMEWORLD. Add it to your Goodreads list!
This one will last about three episodes. The following short story will be called FOOL’S SILVER (completely unrelated to anything I’ve written so far). That will also be three episodes, and the third story will be WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, my Thanksgiving epic fantasy.
Whether I will immediately have another story ready in December or not remains to be seen. More details as the year unfolds, because it’s hard to predict my schedule with certainty right now.
JUNE IS THE MONTH I GO ON A SUGAR FAST. I will probably spam my Insta with daily reports, we’ll see.
In addition to doing pushups almost every day in May, I did decently well on my food intake. I have no way of knowing whether I hit 205 on my body weight because my scale died and funds are, let’s say, frozen at the moment, so replacing it isn’t a priority. Nevertheless I shall improve my eating and also work out every day but Sunday, because this train never stops and I WILL weight 177.6 this year.
Doesn’t look like it will happen by July 4th, unfortunately, but it will happen. All my pants are fitting looser and my pecs only bounce when I tell them to. Things are going well.
The country is going insane and I refuse to be a part of the problem. I’m gonna be a good neighbor, a good father, a good husband, and a good artist. Summer is upon us and we can still make it a good one for ourselves and the people we care about.