50

A week ago today, I turned 50. Up until then, I spent the year alternating between not really caring, feeling apprehensive, and feeling a bit depressed. So on the day, it was a relief to finally get there and find that it was not really that different. And it was a really great day. My son Jack was here all week visiting, so I got to spend the day with him and Nicole. I took a surfing lesson and stood on a board (more than once!) for the first time. We ate dinner at Swiss Chalet and watched Roman Holiday. Oh, and I bought a Nintendo Switch with the new Zelda game and Mario Odyssey. :)

The rest of the week was good too. We took day trips to the nearby animal preserve and a nearby waterslide park, saw several movies, and the rest of the time stayed in and binge-watched Brooklyn 9-9 or played the Switch. And the movies, since you are no doubt wondering, were The Equalizer 2 (**), The Meg (**1/2), and Crazy Rich Asians (***). The first two are worth streaming when they come around but Crazy Rich Asians is delightful and well worth seeing in theatre.

Unlike films like The Great Wall, Skyscraper, or The Meg, where you can see the seams of how Hollywood and a Chinese film company are combining their efforts, Crazy Rich Asians is seamless and charming. It is the best Westernized expression of a Chinese genre film since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If all of this sounds like a strange tangent, fear not: I have literally watched hundreds of Chinese films, most from the very busy Hong Kong studios, and continue to love them.

Anyway. It was a good week, of much needed relaxation. While Jack and Nicole played Nintendo or watched TV, I did some drawing and tried to slap together something new for DCAF, but in the end time and some technical issues prevented it. I made a point of not stressing about it, because I still have copies of the “Hey Judas” comic that I made last year after DCAF, plus Story Mode cards and other stuff that was new to DCAF. The show was yesterday and it was great as usual. I had enthusiastic fans chatting to me not only about comics, but also some of my prints (Donair Trail was a particular hit), the Story Mode game, even the page I was sketching in between chats.

I finally feel like I’m leveling up in some areas that I care about. Was I just waiting for the birthday? Who knows. I’m glad for it in any case.

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A New Decade

As I write this, I have exactly one week left in my forties, and that is a strange feeling. Not a bad one, exactly. But very strange. I was talking with my mother recently, as we sometimes do on the phone, about the disconnect between mental age and physical age. Because they had me in high school, my parents were always younger than other people’s, and my mother could justifiably say stuff like “I can’t believe my son is 30!” when she was not yet 48 and could still pass for 40.

Anyway, she said something that I had been feeling for some time but hadn’t really articulated. It is simply that once you hit a certain age, your hypersensitivity to how old you are drops off. Perhaps you remember being a kid under 10 and demanding that people recognize you were 7 and a half, not just 7. I grew up younger than my cohort after skipping grade one and it was a bizarre experience, in retrospect, to go to college having just turned 17. What the hell were we thinking back then?

Mom told me that even as she approaches 70, she feels like she’s about 50. And I, at nearly-50, feel like I have the energy and kind of engagement with the world that someone in their 30s would have. Or that is just the age group I relate to? She told me how her mother, the late great Alice Amero, always talked about feeling young. It is a good way to be, I can’t deny it. Where does this ability come from? Does everyone have it? Is it healthy? I couldn’t say. But this vague and probably unimportant delusion is where I currently rest, like an old man on a bench in a mall, waiting for his wife to finish smelling things in Lush.

So how are you doing? Well, I hope. I last posted here two months ago and joked about how infrequent I have gotten with posting. That’s the kind of year it’s been, like we are in one of those weeping angel episodes of Doctor Who. Every time we blink, something weird and disturbing appears behind us. But you can’t just go around with your eyes bulging open, so we carefully blink and keep making adjustments to whatever new horrors have appeared.

These days I am mostly trying to get some drawing done and finish up some comics in time for DCAF, which is less than two weeks away. I am fairly certain that I will get at least one of them done. And then, after the show and the week off that precedes it, I will rest; by which I mean I will go back to my day job, but at night I will relax and play video games or something until my guilt overtakes me and I start spending my evenings trying to learn a 3D sculpting program or something.

Meanwhile time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future as Steve Miller so infuriatingly predicted. My very general plans are to draw comics this month, finish and revise a short novel next month, do Inktober in October, do National Novel Writing Month in November, and then do my usual December rituals of making some gifts and gift tags, updating my website and scanning stuff, and generally getting organized for next year. What was 2018? Where did it go? Blink.

Anyway, since I am posting so infrequently now that you could fairly assume that I have taken up residence on the event horizon of a black hole, here are some things I should plug while I have your attention:

  • I have a new online store! I spent a long time tinkering with it and trying to ensure that the shipping costs were going to be fair. If you want an autographed book, or Story Mode cards, or if you want to commission a piece, you can do it all there.
  • Come say hello at DCAF on Sunday, August 19th at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth if you are going to be in the area. It is always an enjoyable show with cool stuff to see.
  • I finally launched the Story Mode card game, and you can try it yourself for free by downloading and printing the cards or you can order a set from me while supplies last through the new online store, or you can get some from me at DCAF. If you are an English Lit or drama nerd, a teacher, actor, improviser, or card game nerd, you will probably find something to enjoy in Story Mode.

That’s it for now. Thanks as always for reading. I hope you are having a good summer.

Work Cut Out

This week’s post title is a tip of the hat to my fellow bluenosers Sloan, who are just about to release their twelfth album. I have had the pleasure of seeing them probably half a dozen times over the last 25 years.

The title also applies well to my creative goals between now and the end of the summer. I just turned in my application for DCAF, which if accepted, would come to my third appearance of the spring and summer. I hope to have an assortment of new stuff for each of them, as you can see in this public post on my Patreon.

It’s a lot, but I am just going to put my head down and power through, work with as little stress as possible, finding the joy in creating something, especially something I don’t usually create.

The long weekend was pretty good, a bit busy but good. I took Jack to see a couple of movies (Pacific Rim and Ready Player One) and to the board game cafe again. He turns 16 next month. Oy.

I enjoyed both of the movies well enough, each is more or less a three star entertainment. I talk about both on the new episode of the podcast, as well as some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

That’s it for now. Have a great week.

Spring Forward

It’s been a good week, despite my son falling ill for much of his March break, spending half of it prone on my couch and the other half propped up in his mom’s basement playing video games. I managed to be reasonably productive without feeling a lot of stress about it, which is a good zone to find and stay in.

As I write this I have just come back in from my third excursion of the day. The first was skating on the Emera Loop with my dear wife this morning. The second was a walk to the waterfront, by way of the central library to return a book and DeSerres, where a thick pad of their watercolour paper and a pad of their mixed media paper made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

My ultimate goal for the waterfront was to pick up this week’s comics at Strange Adventures, and it was most of my pull list: new issues of Assassinistas, Black Bolt, Captain America, Giant Days, Jughead: The Hunger, and The Wicked + The Divine, plus a Harley and Ivy comic with a cover by Tula Lotay, whose work I buy wherever possible. A few of those titles are ending soon or have ended already, so I added a few upcoming books to the list to try out.

The third walk was in the opposite direction, to the Anchor Archive zine library on Almon street, in the Radstorm space. I donated some copies of recent zines and comics after meaning to for ages. I also gave them some extra copies of what I have in my inventory for sample zine packs that they were talking about putting together. If you’re in the Halifax area and you are interested in zines (making them or reading them), you should pay them a visit.

The new episode of Sunday Night in Cinema 3 is up. Do check it out, won’t you? And speaking of movies, I realize that the new Tomb Raider is probably the destination for most moviegoing manchildren next weekend, but if you want to see a film that is genuinely special, one that is fresh and smart, I urge you to check out the teen dramedy Love, Simon. It’s directed by Riverdale showrunner Greg Berlanti, based on an excellent YA novel called Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli, a child psychologist turned author. Nicole and I saw a sneak preview of Love, Simon last night and absolutely loved it. I am so glad that gay kids and their allies will have it, however it does at the box office.

And speaking of Albertelli, the sequel to Simon, called Leah on the Offbeat, comes out next month. Her second book, set in the same book-universe, was called The Upside of Unrequited, and I also recommend it. I love good YA fiction, the more of it kids have to choose from, the better.

I was feeling glum after taking my son home, as I usually do, and I decided to cheer myself up by spending some time working on one of the card games I hope to publish sometime this year. It’s called Story Mode, and it will be an open source project. I plan on working on its alpha website after this blog post, so if you want to read more about how that would work, I’ll explain there.

Anyway, I had a couple of little breakthroughs, both in terms of the game taking shape in my mind and in technical terms. I was able to map out a development strategy for the game, basically taking it through alpha and beta editions before publishing a true 1.0 release for public consumption. I’ll go into that in more detail on the Story Mode website too, if you are interested in downloading a copy of whatever I have ready or playtesting. Or both.

So it has been a pleasant surprise to work on that at the end of the week, and my new goal is to have the alpha version posted online and printed for a limited distribution. The game will always be free to download online, but if you want a physical copy that comes from me, the easiest method to ensure you get one is to join my Patreon.

I am going to be doing my first mailout to patrons at all levels in the next few weeks, as an orientation package. It will include a new exclusive minicomic, the alpha version of the Story Mode game, a little bit of original art, some small prints and probably a mid sized print, a holder to put it all in, and my eternal gratitude. So don’t miss out!