2003 Redux.

Jan. 1st, 2004 09:16 pm
richardf8: (Default)
Today as I was leaving work I cleared my desk of the papers and vessels that accumulated over the past three days, so that I would have a clean desk to come into come Monday. A year ago today I performed a similar task, but for a different reason: It was the last day of my assignment to a food processing company, and it was my final clearing out of my stuff. On December 31 2002 I donned my coat, shut the lights, and stepped off the precipice into an uncertain future. 2003 brought me another six months of unemployment, with a brief stint at a construction design company for flavor. Finally, in July, I landed where I am now - a health insurance loss control company. It's not my ideal place, but cleaning a desk I would be coming back to in 2004 was certainly an improvement over last year's leap at the abyss. So I am grateful to have four days off in which I can relax rather than too many days off filled with anxiety.

2003 was a strange year for that. When [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I tilled the ground and planted our tomato seedlings, zucchini seedling and leek sprouts in the spring, we had no idea if we would still be on this land in the fall to taste those home-grown tomatoes, Zucchini and full grown leeks. She had been laid off two days before Christmas, 2002. After passing seven anxiety ridden months coming up with all sorts of contingency plans, though, we each stumbled into our current jobs; the home grown tomatoes found their way into salads, appetizers, and Morgan and I. (Mostly Morgan; her love of tomatoes is immoderate, perhaps even a little intemperate). The leeks were roasted, braised and stewed for many a Shabbat dinner, and even put in a curtain call in the stuffing at Thanksgiving. The zucchini met a similar fate, spending much of the summer being grilled and served with vinagrette alongside tuna steaks and cod fillets. It too made an appearance, as zucchini bread, on the Thanksgiving table, having been sliced and frozen expressly for the purpose. That's important to us, having produce from the garden on our table at Thanksgiving. Especially so since this year was so difficult that planting the garden was a tremendous leap of faith. But it doesn't end there, for tonight we will be sipping sparkling cider made from the pitted fruit of our senescent Bartlett pear tree. Our land has been kind to us, and we have escaped being cloven from it.

Cat-Tharsis went from concept to reality this year too. Much of my time unemployed was spent developing the concept, developing my artwork (which still bites, but has been improving) and developing the software that runs the site. I thank [livejournal.com profile] kevinjdog and [livejournal.com profile] rain_luong for the inspiration, [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 for all the help with world building and artistic guidance, and Unit423 of If Then Else for the advice and encouragement. And I further thank [livejournal.com profile] kevinjdog for a variety of opportunities to exercise my creative faculties. They've really kept the juices flowing.

What really got Cat-Tharsis out of development and onto the web was the need to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Morgan's cat Rodent Baby. When I drew this strip I knew I had to display it, so that was the impetus for going live. Rodent was a high strung little cat, bound to hiss, growl, and spit at every tomcat she's met, but very loving and even a bit needy. Morgan had Rodent longer than she's had any other creature currently living with her, myself included, so the loss was, indeed, profound. Rodent herself seemed content to go, and, we think, has even given her blessing to the kitten, Maeve, that came into our lives in October.

All in all this has been a year of want and of bounty, of death and of life, of turning corners, renegotiating old friendships and forging new ones. I can't really say I'm sorry to see it goes, but I'm curious what the new one will bring; I am greeting it with greater hope than I've had in a while.
richardf8: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I took this. She got Millie, I got this:

What Ozy & Mille Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla </td>
You are Ozymandias Llewellyn, or Ozy for short. Your father is almost older than the world itself, but that doesn't matter much to you. Zen mostly rules your life. Okay, your bossy best friend mostly rules your life, but Zen is important, too. If you are much like Ozy, you too have an Ancient Book of Wisdom. Just try not to abuse it.

So now I know why looking at the strip I think, "this is my life."
richardf8: (Default)
When [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I first met back in the day when DOS 5.0 was new and Windows was still at version 3.0 and not ready for prime time (not that it ever would be), I made a trip to New York at Christmastime to do some grunt work for my mother. While I was there, I picked up some Lox and Bagels (both of which were unheard of in Binghamton in those days) as well as Morgan's Christmas presents (a Folkways recording of Goethe's Faust and John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces). She, in the meantime, had picked up a Droste (now Terry's) Chocolate Orange and baked some from-scratch bagels and muffins.

Ever since then it has been our tradition to eat Bagels and Lox and a Chocolate Orange at Christmas time, and so we did this morning. We also exchanged gifts which meant an Easel for her (she paints) and a 36-Marker set of COPIC Sketch Markers for me (I turn innocent pieces of Bristol into horrendous messes). We spent much of the morning playing with our gifts, and after a few hours mucking about and our breakfast, I settled down to execute a concept that has been knocking about my brain ever since I noticed that Thomas Dye's "Ferris" and D.C. Simpson's "Millie" have similar fashion sense.

Ozy & Millie/Newshounds Fan Art behind this cut )

I'm very happy with the color on the characters, the background colors in the spotlit region or OK, but the rest of the ground colors are a bit streaky in places. However, unlike with the water based markers, these have the potential to deliver a smooth ground. I achieved it in some places, not so much in others, but I am, overall, really happy with the way this came out considering how unskilled I am.

I hope you are all having joys of your own this Holiday Season.

[Edit: After some experimentation with a Prisma Colorless Blender and a less ginger application of color, I was able to abate some of the streakage. Also, a couple of friends stopped by to drop off some gifts for us. We really weren't expecting them, or anything from them, but fortunately we had a few goodies knocking about that we were able to reciprocate with. Thank God we are now in a position where a bit of surplus is a possibility, it was not so last year.]
richardf8: (Default)
I originally posted this in [livejournal.com profile] rain_luong's journal, but since it's my clearest articulation of these ideas to date, I thought I'd place it here as well. It should be noted also that "Family Values" is a particular paradigm for family organization that falls somewhere between slavery and feudalism, as I argue below.

"Heterosexual privilege" is largely defined as the rights conferred upon married people. The assumptions behind it are paternalistic in nature; built on the assumption that a woman requires a man's care, and that a man obtains power to care through his relationship with a corporation. From Ozzie and Harriet to Malcolm in the Middle this paradigm has been submitted as the American Dream.

The problem is that this paradigm never completely described reality and does so now less than it ever has before. And thus "wives" have become "partners," not just because of the existence of same-sex couples but because of the variability of which partner may have a relationship with a corporation.

In short, the reality of dual career couples has deconstructed the rationale for heterosexual privilege; yet the institution remains, along with the false nostalgia for the family-as-portrayed-in-sappy-sitcoms. In short, conservatives want to get back to the day when a corporation owned a man who owned a woman, and any revision of marriage undermines that agenda.

So, when you speak of "heterosexual privilege," what is in fact being spoken of is the privileging of a specific type of heterosexual relationship that receives state blessing. If the goal is that "everyone should have the same rights, because hey, we're all people," we need to stop privileging this particular class of relationship. In order to see the types of heterosexual relationships that are not privileged, one need only listen to congressional prattle about "unwed mothers" and "single parents."

One of the reasons that Canada can grant gays the right to marry more easily than America is that in Canada domestic partnership is defined in terms of things like shared household expenses, a joint mortgage, a joint account. These are the proofs required to demonstrate a relationship for the purposes of immigration; the state shows no interest in whether the people involved are married or not, nor in their genders. Of course, in Canada one does not need to be owned by a corporation in order to obtain health-care either.

Until we deconstruct the notion of marriage as a means of expression for patriarchal power, it will be a challenge for same sex couples to obtain it. And until we deconstruct marriage as a means by which rights that ought to be inalienable are conferred we will not see everyone receiving the same rights.

For this reason, while I back same-sex marriage on the principle that the opposition to it stems from hate, I do so with reservation, on the principle that marriage should confer no privileges in the eyes of the state.
richardf8: (Default)
I've been mulling over a post in rain_luong's journal, that struck closer to home for me than I suspected its like still could:

"I wonder if I am in the wrong field. Or the wrong place. Of course, I always second-guess anything I happen to be doing at the time. It's just, having had to argue with a prof who apparently believes 2+2=4 only because humans arbitrarily invented the idea (and a friend who thinks the same, although we were both sort of drunk), and had to listen repeatedly to words like "paradigm," "post-positivist," and "semiotic" being spoken seriously by very somber people, I kind of think I will get through grad school only by focusing and not taking anything all that seriously."

First, my heart goes out to rain, I've been there, done that, and got the rag to hang on my wall.

One of the major shortcomings of contemporary philosophy, which is driving both literary criticism and, apparently, communications theory, is that it dismisses reality as irrelevant, or worse yet, an invention. The way this is achieved is by granting primacy to the signifier while dismissing the signified out of hand. Or put another way "Image is Reality." This trend has completely and utterly destroyed American culture. It has robbed us of the ability to see that there is no sense in phrases like "Black is the new White," or "War is the new Peace." Indeed, it has turned reality into something so thoroughly malleable that it ceased to matter.

This leads to a morally bankrupt society. Now what do I mean by morally bankrupt? I mean a society so distanced from reality that it is incapable of making choices with reference to reality. Morality is not, as some would have us believe, adherence to an established set of norms. Morality is the ability to make ones choices based on an understanding of real harms and real goods. When the relationship between signifier and signified shatters, two things occur:

1) The emperor has no clothes.
2) The clothes have no emperor.

In this case the emperor represents reality, and the clothing represents language. The purpose of language is to couch reality in comprehensible terms, just as it is the purpose of clothing to let us know that the emperor is, in fact the emperor. But these days we worship the empty robes. This serves people who try to sell us things and ideas very well. But when we look for value, we are at a loss.

Deconstructing the tools we use to represent reality can be a useful exercise, but it is not an end in itself. The task that follows deconstruction is reconstruction. And I have yet to see anyone who is interested in taking up that particular yoke. After all deconstruction is the simple task of knocking something down. It's fun, its easy, and we can then point and laugh about how weak the structure was. But until we build a new structure, we are homeless.

And that is where we are right now. We have a president who became president by deconstructing the electoral process and dismissing the reality of the popular vote, who calls tyranny patriotism, and who happily destroys other nations and runs away when someone says "fix that." And what we call "Reality" these days is a genre of TV Programs based on sick power fantasies of superficial competition. Our obsession with signifiers is a type of idolatry. And when signifiers are all we pay attention to, fascism finds fertile ground.

As a final note to rain, who does not watch my journal, and is therefore probably going to find this post in his inbox, you are in the right field. You are in the field where a David Craig Simpson is most necessary. Grad school is not something to enjoy. It is a rite of passage, a hazing ritual, and vocational training all rolled up in one. Do not assume you are there to learn anything. You are there to survive long enough to pick up the qualifications to join the profession. If you should happen to learn anything along the way, that is an unintended consequence. But once you are through it, you have the capacity to put your own theories out there, to contribute to the field. And what the field needs, more than anything else, is scholarship that is willing to reassert the link between signifier and signified, to heal the disconnects, to demonstrate, by counting on your fingers, that 2+2=4, and that to argue otherwise is to cripple our intellectual faculties by denying them the tools with which to describe reality.

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