Thursday, February 24, 2011

More work, ZX update, more 'what I did', et cetera

Click and click again for larger sizes.

First one is a 'nobody wants to be in charge when they pieces fall' type of thing, the second makes more sense for you foreigner savages if you look at a geographical map of Greece. The person doing the hacking is the esteemed mr. Papakonstantinou, featured once before.

As usual, if any of these strike a chord with the reader, feel free to link them around and whatnot. This is the purpose of political commentary.

Strangely, streamlining my process (to make increasingly hard deadlines) called for a return to digital inking, and a more watercolor type of soft wash. In any case, I'm getting faster/(better?). I regret how the second image is a photo trace, but deadline ridiculous called for 'anything that works' measures.

On other news! I've finally inked half of the missing chapter of ZX. Four out of the eight pages are done right now. The two first are introductory vignettes (seriously ten minutes to draw each), the middle two are heavy duty proper inking proper pages of proper artistry, then there's two sparser Eisner-ian pages that won't take too long to do. And then there's the final page, a comic strip I have in the past been torn on whether to do or not, to give a 'full circle' feel to the comic. I'd say I'm almost halfway with my final obligations towards this comic. Here's a teaser image of one of the more challenging inked pages.

Clicking for bigger sizes will prove fruitless. Buy the comic instead!

I'm proud of how this one in particular turned out. Hopefully next week, at the most the week after that, I'll be putting my final ink stains on ZX. And not a moment too soon, as we'll be going to the printers right after, and on the 8th of April it'll be for sale at Comicdom con. (I'll be posting more about this as the time approaches).

On other other news, one-coining ESP Galuda must have given me extra strength, because this week I managed to defeat an old foe of mine, Dodonpachi. Here's how this old devil plays, to give you an idea.

Actually it wasn't the second wind from finishing Galuda that pushed this one over the edge after years and years of playing. It was Ptoing (fellow shooter aficionado) telling me in conversation that I should switch from the red - laser ship to blue - shot ship, if I want to survive the first loop. So I did, and after a few days of re-training (blue ship is slower and its laser is much, much weaker than I have been used to) I one-coined this one as well! I bombed the hell out of the last boss. Let's just say that if DDP had auto-bomb on bullet proximity, I'd have finished the first loop years ago.

This is meaningless to the reader not familiar with the joys and frustrations of really hard video-games (or really hard hobbies in general, I'd expect) but it's a significant event in the lives of those given to such vices. I've been playing DDP off and on for what feels like at least six years, but it could be seven or eight too. To finally achieve some closure on such an endeavor has surprising psychological benefits. I feel like I can beat up a mountain right now. It's no wonder I inked for twelve hours in the span of two days. When I finished ESP Galuda I was somewhat "meh" about it, but here, after I got the Game Over screen there was straight-up primal hollering and sweaty adrenaline airfists and everything. Yes I realize that saying such things to the internet drastically increases my chances of sleeping alone for a long, long time to come, but hey. I'm Helm, I'm (trying to feel) fine with myself, how are you doing?

My fucking credentials, son

May the long-beaked stoic one reside in the pantheon forever!

Reality check: This is a small victory, as veteran arcade shooter players know. There's of course, a full second loop of Dodonpachi after the first one, which one is granted access too only on specialized conditions (scoring over 50,000,0000 points, only dying once or twice, getting all the hidden score items in at least four stages, that sort of thing). This second loop is somewhat harder than the first and at the end of it you face the true boss of the game, Hibachi.

Here's however that I draw a line. I'm not an obsessive achiever, I played DDP for all this time because it's a fun game to me, it seems perfectly balanced at the exact edge where my skill runs out and just before frustration sets in. I probably will still play it on and off, perhaps improve my score a bit here and there, but I'm completely resigned to that defeating the boss above is beyond my projected skill even years down the line. I have better things to do than train DDP every day concentrated for months (or possibly years) to achieve an one-coin two loop clear. So be happy for me for getting halfway there while still retaining some semblance of a social existence.

Let's see, what else did I do in the days between this and my last post? Did I post this?

I'm not helping my case with these projects, am I?



Saturday, February 19, 2011

What I did today

The internet is a strange thing, it leads me from data to data and then the day is suddenly gone. Here's the magical path of today.

Early in the morning I read this. It's 26 pages, it took an hour but it was really fascinating if you're interested in the workings of cults and other faith-first based social mechanisms.

I found that link in the incomparable Illogical Contraption blog, where everything is what it seems, all at once, all the time.

Then of course, off of to Wikipedia.

There I read the article on L.R.Hubbard again (I have read a biography of his also which I felt was too sensationalized. The slow motion rape was quite interesting, though). There's a link there to Hubbard's connection to black magic. This isn't the article, but it's close enough. Couldn't find the real thing. Sometimes tracing the internet back is a dangerous proposition.

Somewhere in that article about Hubbard and black magic, there's the connection with Nazi Occultry. This book is namedropped and quoted:

Which of course I promptly found and read the first fifty pages of, which is frankly, as much as I want to know about Nazi Occult history. But it did fill in some gaps in my understanding of why and how the Nazi regime could hold such sway over the German populous (and no, it doesn't involve any mass castings of spells).

In that book, there is a quote of another book, the Black Arts

Which I found and read 50 pages of as well. Besides the very Heavy Metal-esque cover, the recounting here is more general and I didn't feel as if I were learning anything new. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I managed to one-coin ESP Galuda. "You managed to what, what?" You might cry. Well, to one-coin something means to play an arcade coin-operated video-game all the way through on one credit. This is a mean feat usually (sometimes not to video game aficionados because some arcade games are generally considered easier than others), especially to the eyes of laymen. I am partial to a type of shooter game called "Bullet Hell". I've been playing DoDonpachi for years and I was at one time close to one-coining the first loop of the game (after which you replay the whole game at an increased difficulty, something I never viewed as an accomplishment for my fragile reflexes). ESP Galuda is a far easier game to DoDonpachi, and after only a few weeks of casual playing, I managed to finish it. My final score was 16 million something something. From such statements you may glean into how little I'm interested in score-based achievement in arcade games. But I finished the damn thing. To give you an impression of what that entails, here, watch this:

That's the last half-stage and final boss rush.

So, eight hours later I am much informed on issues Scientologist, somewhat on Nazi Occultry, barely further on the dark arts at large. I also carved a completely useless notch in my gamer belt and extensively corresponded with a few people on the internet over various common interests. And soon I'm off to watch "Black Swan" in the theater. No work has been achieved, no wisdom gained.

My life is half like this, half a mad dash to complete artistic projects at the nick of time. What did you do today?



Sunday, February 13, 2011

More recent work

"Troika rep: Excellent cuisine... you owe me one hundred and eighty euro!"

This is topical to a specific situation where representatives of Troika went to have a luxurious dinner in a Greece ravaged by severe economic legislation. But in a way, quite universal as well.

Ex-president Hosni Mubarak. This is a couple of weeks old, it was drawn while he was still in power. Good riddance.

Below the jump, ink and airbrush versions because I like to show steps.

I quite enjoy airbrush work of this type.

I generally prefer my black and white linework to the colored versions I do for work, but for this one I tried a few more soft-color techniques that I think worked out pretty well and look quite hand-made, so I guess I'm getting the hang of it.

... but all this is just a diversion. What you should be really reading is the post below. What I need to know is about the strength of your love.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Love and Excrement

I can live with myself insofar that I not only realize I have destructive & insensible tendencies but I embrace them and channel them away from the people around me. Usually they manifest as art or other such narcissistic mirrors, or they just become (the playing of) video-games and wasted time. I sleep relatively alright at night because the moral values I've adopted from peers and family (and which I do not recognize as an ideology or basis of an ideology) dictate that one recalls whom they have hurt before they go to sleep. This is so ingrained in me that I'm actively distraught when I realize I've stood as a detriment to people's feelings and I try to make amends as soon as possible.

This is however, a more pleasant way to say I am confrontational and abrupt often in my social communication. I see problem - can we fix problem right now? - problem fixed - let's move on. More life experience, especially in the last couple of years, has shown me that this over-conscious method isn't exactly how people get over past issues. I come from a family of tough cookies who find it difficult to say the words "I'm sorry" at all (and even take pride in this in some warped fashion), so I've used to take inverse pride in at least being able to say these words when I felt I was in the wrong. It's a difficult realization that saying sorry isn't enough some of the time, though. It takes follow-up and careful consideration of distance to make amends. I write these things down so I can remember them.

All that said, sometimes seeming like a bad guy is a risk of communication in itself, and I accept this, because I desire things from this world too. Where the other person draws the line in what they're accepting to hear me tell them is something I can't know before I prod the space between us. And although I'm conscious of not appearing like a total jackass, I'm very curious about other people. I think existentially what I wish is to be reminded, often, that I am not the only person in this world (that other people aren't emotional and psycho-intellectual clones of me). We tend to congregate with our similars, so this is easier than it seems to forget.

Other people are fascinating. I remind myself of this by putting them on the spot with difficult questions and earnestly awaiting their answer. This post is about one such question I've put to the test many times and the range of responses I've gotten.

When I meet people I often grow impatient with small-talk. More in the past than now, but still. I think this is a common experience to introverts, they feel as if they're being manipulated when they extend the will for honest communication and what they get instead are safe pleasantries and bare-level social stroking. This is because honest communication is hard for introverts. It's the mark of a person without much social skill, it seems, to not pick up on the signals that the other person is just not willing to share any more than that at that moment, and to continue to prod. I have a lot of experience in this.

So often I meet people and I venture theoretical discussions to see what the other person can take. If we get to talking about interpersonal relationships, I recount, in even tone and without any telling emotional colorization, this hypothetical of a couple who are very much in love. Their love is perfect, they feel completely content together, their mind doesn't wander to other people's genitalia, they are absolutely content to be together for the rest of their lives. One supports the other in their life endeavors, yet allows space for them to grow individually. They enjoy a fulfilling sexual life, they're intimate on a deep level, they do not misrepresent each other to the outside world, it's all roses. I suggest that the person I am talking with is in such a relationship at the end of the flavour text.

I let that scene settle in in the mind of my conversational partner, which is a small cruelty, because it is a beautiful hypothetical and what I do with it later is disconcerting. I allow myself this small cruelty (for many reasons but also) because what I describe above is dangerously close to some Hollywood movie cliche , and although - honestly - I do believe that such couplings can exist in life, it can't be clear from my retelling to this point that this is so, so it sounds like a comfortable but distant fairytale where the other party to this conversation can swim about in for a time and then that's that, thanks, weird longhair I met! No, no. We're not done.

Then I introduce the issue: let's say the other party to this relationship approaches you (from third person to second person) reticently and lets you know that although your relationship is so great and so fulfilling... they have a want, a secret desire, a sexual hangup, something that could be considered aberrant behaviour. They've had this desire before they met you and they have it still, it's part of their emotional makeover and it's not going to go away just because your love is strong. This much is clear.

They're willing to live without their desire because what they get from the rest of your relationship is that potent. They know a good thing when they see it and they're not stupid enough to risk everything just because of such a small thing, so harshly judged in the eyes of society too. Yet, it is exactly because they feel so at ease with you that they're compelled to tell you what it is, to feel accepted and to fully belong in the relationship. They like to be defecated upon.

Now, the implication is clear that although this person will remain in the relationship with you (or so they profess at least) regardless of whether this aberrant desire of them is fulfilled, there is a reason they shared it with you. They word it in such a way that it seems as if the reason is sharing, but anyone with half an heart knows human beings aren't so simple. The first step in accepting oneself is saying the words that describe oneself to the world. There are more steps. Wouldn't you, dear co-conversationalist, who have been so gradually ensnared in this theoretical situation, have to consider their desires in this light? Wouldn't you have to, in your full and blooming love, calculate on whether you will concede to their desire or not?

I've gotten a range of responses to this querry from a range of people. To (some?) credit, I've chosen targets at least adeptly enough that outright abandonment of the construct once fecal matter is introduced, is not a common retort, although whether they keep with it because I seem like a person who genuinely wants to know or because they want to 'show me their guts', I do not know. Now, before I present the range of response I've had to this, I urge you, reader and human, to consider where you stand yourself on this. Although the construct might appear cartoony (perhaps) or grotesque (certainly) at first, anyone that has been in a relationship can see the implications of the dysfunction described here. I may not be into coprolagnia, for one, but I am into other things... aren't you?

How strong is your love?

So you've considered your options (I'd appreciate reading them, by the way. Even if you feel the range I describe below captures your position as well... please don't shy away from putting it in your own words.) and you have internalized the issue. You have a position on this matter, most probably not colored by actual life experience with something as strongly aberrant as fecal play, but instead approximating it via more pleasant & civil vices. Perhaps you've allowed for worse, perhaps you've been horrified with much, much less. However, you have altered yourself to get to this, to an opinion. You are not what you where before this theory was presented to you, out of the blue, in some social function where you met some longhair and his friends who, more used to his bad manners, might look at you as some ancient Greek chorus, waiting your considered reply. Here's what I've got so far:


* Absolutely out of the question. I know what I like and I don't like this. Not only will I not do it, I will break up with that individual, though it's no skin off my back: people are different and they eventually realize. He might find what he needs elsewhere, I certainly will.

* Not only will I not do this horrid thing, I never want to see them again. I feel completely betrayed in my love and trust. How long have they wanted this? Do they imagine me in such-- I can't even consider it.

* No way. This person is clearly emotionally unstable and I will try to get them into psychotherapy or even more drastic assistance. For them to have these desires something must be very wrong with them and although your relationship is over, my last offer of good will is to help them on the road to recovery.


* Can't we meet in the middle somehow? Fake it? Chocolate's close enough, isn't it? I don't hate this person for their kink nor do I think it upsets the basis of our whole relationship, but I can't see myself committing to this completely and utterly. Can't we work through this somehow? Wouldn't they understand if I explained my incapacity to them?

* Let's say I do this... what's in it for me? Relationships are a transaction anyway, and this probably comes at a high cost. Does it mean I get to explore real and invented lusts as well.

* Well alright, let's say I do this, she'd have to stand still and I'd take a dump on her and not touch any of the shit myself, so everybody's happy.


* (usually a long pause to think, often after some of the bargaining positions were initially tested and discarded) If I love them so much, I guess I'd try to make them happy in this way as well. I can't make any promises on how it'd impact how I feel for them, though.

That's usually the range. Most people aren't ready to adopt one stance seconds after the hypothetical is presented to them. Often they try to work through them to see what reflects most favorably on them, with me being the reflection. I do not offer judgement in return, I just work through the common arguments for/against more stances. Most people who start out in the negative range stay there though. Often people who negotiate end up accepting the situation. Only very rarely have I met people who were accepting relatively early in their consideration of the issue. I do not think it was because I just stumbled on their hidden sexual fantasy at all.

Now, most of these positions have merit to them. It's easy to criticize those that are negative with empty claims of intolerance. However, it seems to me all three negative stances have to them a basis in real life experience, not the airs of untested ideology. The first one one is very practical, for example. Instead of trying to fix every problem that may come up in a relationship, it knows when to cut its losses and start searching anew. It doesn't romanticize a relationship as some sort of Godly coupling that happens once in a lifetime and knows that although relationships take hard work to function, there's some things that cannot be fixed with just hard work. It seems to demean the power of 'True Love' but ... some people actively live like this and are happy with their choices, so who am I to say they're going about it wrong.

The second negative position seems reflexive and prideful, but then again, love can be said to be as much about the love of love itself than it is about the love of the internal representation of one's partner. It's relatively easy for the feelings between a couple to be damaged once doubts enter the picture. Once the innocence of love is lost, it is difficult to regain. Although the person with the sexual desire might be able to see "the other being covered in excrement" as a profoundly innocent and beautiful mental picture, this is a big chasm to bridge, perhaps too big to try.

The third negative stance is super-judgmental and uses pop-psychology in an ugly way: to marginalize the Other and condemn them to a lesser life for their issues, perceived or real. However at its core it has a real insight. A person who has a very strong sexual fetish such as coprolagnia might often be unable to function sexually without it, and to the degree that they've managed so far they've been "faking it", inwardly imagining their fetish even in the course of regular sexuality. How would you feel if you were the subject to the worst thing in the mind of the person you loved and trusted? Not all sexual deviance suggests emotional troubles, but all mental troubles seem to come hand in hand with sexual deviance of some sort. People are trained to keep away from others with mental or psychological issues for a reason. It's a risky life to stand next to such a person, and love might not be enough.

From the bargaining positions:

The first one seems wishy-washy. Anyone how has a strong imagination as to what true love must be will rebel to such a position. Compromise isn't something that comes to mind when they think of true love, instead they expect everything to click immediately and completely, effectively all the hard work with being with somebody else is nullified. For those people, true love mostly means 'comfortable love'. The person trying to compromise isn't actually taking the most comfortable route in this case because they'd have to meet somewhere in the middle in the end. They'd have to do at least half of something really unpleasant to save their relationship, and the results might not be enough after all. It's a risk and an ongoing burden.

The second seems crass and inhuman, but I think what's mostly crass about it is that some people would admit to feeling this way (though as I say they are usually circumspect about how they phrase this). In reality, most people consider the pros and cons of a relationship in such a fashion, at least at some point. So this person has this and that annoying trait, but they do that and this for me, so I'll stick around. Although we do not like to subject our romantic notions of true love to such measuring, the person who expresses this position is more likely to achieve a fair transaction with the other person. However transactions, as fair as they may be, are no longer innocent, and this will come to the forefront as a much bigger problem than any pile of poop could ever be, eventually.

The third bargaining position to me seems the most misogynistic (because it was a man, and a very beautiful man at that who expressed it) and inhuman of them all really. They say they're willing to treat their true love as a toilet, as long as they don't get any shit on them. It is implicit in the original scenario that whomever is willing to entertain the notion of remaining in this relationship would have to not only talk the talk but dance the dance. Only the most dim of hearts would consider such a solution, I think. From the whole range of responses I've gotten to this question, this is the only one I cannot find any merit in.

As to the accepting position. It is beautiful, is it not? I am glad such people exist, as I'm sure you are also. However... it should be telling that the people who have replied so were either young or of little life experience in matters sexual. The imagination of the aberrant act itself comes easier to those that have perhaps strayed closer to some variants than none of them, and the imagination is a powerful thing. As they imagine strongly the beauty of what True Love could be and say 'I'd do anything for it', others imagine strongly the stench of excrement and know what they would do to avoid it.

As to my own position, I fluctuate between a negative position, a bargaining position, and sometimes the accepting position. Whenever in my mind through over-thinking I have pacified this example, I try to switch it around. What if a person wanted to molest children along with me? What if the other person was very into getting cut with knives during sex? What if the other person wanted to be beat up? The examples are rotated to regain distance: the issue is the cost of intimacy and one's preconceptions about how similar other people are to themselves. We are a solipsist species, the result of sentience is undoubtedly profound loneliness. We seek the intimacy of our mother and father when we were infants, we seek to return to genesis, to a time before self-knowing. We might have to crawl through glass and excrement to get there.