Bad Machinery

Some Love (and a Little Hate) for Comics

I was thinking this morning about the amount of time and mental energy I give to indie comics and wondering if I should spend more time reading screenplays and online short stories instead. For example, if you’ve been paying attention to my recent posts you’ve probably seen references to at least some of the following:

And these aren’t even all the comics I read–just the ones I love the most and spend the most time on.

Later in the day I decided that the answer is: No, I don’t spend too much time on these. It seems like a lot in the aggregate, but really it only takes a few seconds to read a comic page, so even the ones that update daily don’t usurp too much of my attention.

(I’m going to conveniently ignore the time I spend re-reading the same ones over and over. Scary Go Round, I’m looking at you, you sexy, addictive beast.)

Anyway, even the comics that suck up a significant portion of my time are ultimately still “literature”, and they provide most, if not all, the same benefits that reading narrative fiction or watching movies provide.

For exmple, I’ve been puzzling over why the characters in Scary Go Round are so very delightful and endearing. You’ll have to go read it yourself or just take my word for it, but the majority of the characters are selfish, blindly-inconsiderate people with no real ethics of any kind. You should really hate them, and you would if you knew them in real life, so why do I actually love them so very much? I finally figured it out (I think): because they’re all just big kids.

John Allison, the writer of Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery, gets away with writing alarmingly near-sociopathic characters because he writes them like 5th-graders–non-empathetic beings full of life and cheeriness and curiosity. They can be thoughtlessly cruel one moment and overwhelmingly affectionate the next, then throw relationship out the window to wander off on some vain and quixotic adventure.

This may have significance for me because I struggle with giving my characters flaws. Maybe my way into creating people who have actual bad qualities lies somewhere in this notion of turning them into pre-adolescents, who can be forgiven because they’re just so damned cute.

Urgh. Don’t judge that last sentence too harshly; I’m still following up this train of thought.

Anyway, Shut Up! I’ll keep reading comics if I want, and you should, too. Start with the ones I listed; if you like one of them, move on to other comics they recommend.

For example, Gunnerkrigg Court is a particularly wonderful blend of sci-fi and fantasy and British boarding schools.

Sadness Vodka is for Pity Parties

I’m not going to go into it, but I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and flirting with depression quite a bit over the past few weeks. That’s over now.

Earlier this week I was listening to the most recent episode of Back to Work, and Merlin Mann seemed to be talking directly to me. Specifically, his larger point (although you should really listen to it yourself) is that even if you’re in a less-than-ideal work situation you should still act like you’re the one in charge of your own destiny. Because you are. (Feel free to keep your Calvinist-based comments on this concept to yourself, fellow Christians.)

(P.S. If you’re going to listen to that episode, you should probably skip to about the 35:00-ish mark, because Merlin spends the first chunk of the podcast talking about super-nerdy stuff like TextMate Bundles.)

Anyway: No, I have not been using alcohol for self-medication, as the title of this post might suggest, but I have been acting like someone without agency, so no more of that.

I’m actually pretty lucky in quite a few ways. One of those ways is that I currently get to edit a movie. That I wrote. And produced. And directed. No, no one’s paying me to do it. Yes, it was still a pretty fantastic thing that I got (and get) to do, even if it never results in money. How many other people got to make a movie this year? Probably only about 10,000 in the entire U.S., and that is not very many, proportionally.

If you’re curious, I’m about 40% of the way through the rough cut of the movie. A little bit that’s because it just takes a long time to edit movies, and even more it’s because I don’t have as much spare time as I used to have at work (I work a third-shift gig with some dead hours in it for accomplishing personal tasks). But it’s also a little because I’ve been allowing myself to be distracted and pulled in multiple directions, and that’s where we circle back to that concept of agency.

I am not naturally good at multitasking in a macro kind of way. I’m pretty decent at micro-multitasking, such as when three of my clients at work ask me to do things for them all at once and I have to prioritize those requests and get them all done before the next thing comes up. I am not good at the kind of multitasking where I have to manage three or more different projects for several weeks or months and give each of them exactly the right attention at exactly the time they need it.

Recently, this has meant that I’ve ignored a lot of emails or answered them late, not finished blog posts in a timely manner (or at all), let personal chores slide while I worked on other things that ultimately turned out not to matter very much, and heavily used the internet for procrastinating because I felt overwhelmed by all the other tasks clamoring for my attention.

On the plus side, I discovered Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery by John Allison, which you should totally go read right now if you like funny and endearing comics.

So henceforth I will be focusing on two (2) things: editing this movie, and another thing. Which I won’t tell you about. It’s a secret, and you can wait along with everyone else for the official announcement. Builds character.

In other news, there’s a new Dresden Codak page coming soon! Look at this preview from Aaron Diaz’s blog:

Kim's Eyebrows