g a n z e e r . t o d a y

In 2004, Hunter S. Thompson had this to say about Houston:

Houston is a cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby, sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West.

Which is to say; Houston is my kinda town.

(Well, to a degree. More pedestrian areas would be nice, and maybe lose the drivers who aggressively harass cyclists.)

I've only “lived” here for 6 months now, but take away the time it took to unbox shit and move in as well as all my travel elsewhere, then I've only actually lived here for 4-5 months. But I'm embracing it. In fact, the wife and I are due to close on a little townhouse in just a week's time.

Which means a week's worth of packing everything up to move again, followed by however many weeks it'll take to unpack and settle back in. Not looking forward to that part, but I am looking forward to finally living in a place I can call my own, a place where I don't have to worry about hammering a nail in the wall or unleashing buckets of paint if I felt so inclined. I'm ready to nest a little, rebuild my library and record collection and feel secure in where I live, and just get to work without having to worry about the forthcoming wind of displacement.

Granted of course the swamp this city is built on doesn't flood and sweep us all out to sea. 🙃

#journal #houston

Back in Houston from Puerto Vallarta where I got to see humpback whales for the first time.

The thrill of being put into perspective, of realizing how small and insignificant we are, will never ever get old. I've experienced it only a handful of times in my life; one memorable time was in Baharia Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert, where the vastness of desert extends as far as the eye can see. Fish and seashell fossils are clearly visible throughout the various rock formations and there's the occasional “whale” carcass littering the sea of sand (it was all underwater some 7 million years ago)

And now this, within proximity to Mexico's West Coast, realizing that you and the boat you're on—along with all the other boats at sea—are just a bunch of croutons floating atop a big soup of whale and other sea life.

Because the habitat of humpback whales? Well it's kind of the entire Pacific Ocean, all of it. They migrate when seasons change (which climate change will no doubt really fuck up), and clearly things like borders and territorial waters and all the artificial constructs we puny humans have set up mean absolutely nothing to them.

One way for whale-watchers to spot humpback whales is to look for their “foot prints”. Essentially, big blotches on the surface of the ocean that have a smooth mirror-like look about them (pictured above), a kind of imprint left by the whale on the surface just by how its body affects the currents underneath, even at a distance. Seeing these things form and disappear is weird and alien-like, because on first sight it looks like some weird glitch in the laws of physics.

One of the things I didn't expect was how graceful these magnificent beings would be. They swim so eleganty, synchronize their movements and even their breathing—which unlike us, is very deliberate. They breath with absolute awareness apparently, wherein active decision-making is involved with every breath they take.

At one point there was a school of dolphins swimming alongside a group of whales, and just seeing these two different species—very different in size and mannerisms—getting along together and cohabiting the seas together was such a beautiful sight.

We also spotted a big grumpy sea-turtle, and several Mobula Rays (I think) leaping through the ocean surface into the air joyfully flapping their wing-like fins before diving back in. Seeing these things for the first time is like discovering whole new worlds. I failed to take pictures of... well, most things, because at a certain point I realized I was witnessing everything through my viewfinder, keeping me from truly experiencing it in the real. So I just put my camera down, turned it off, and decided to take it all in. Nothing in the way between me and the experience.

Which is exactly how I'd like to live my 2020's; more appreciation for the beauty of the world, for the miracle of being alive, for the air we take into our lungs for sustenance without thinking twice about it; the same air we share with the birds and trees and rats and cows and whales and all form of life on this incredible planet we all share.

Here's to a decade of being kind, loving, grateful, and mindful. Happy new year.

#Travel #PuertoVallarta #Mexico

A 90-page publication, 3 times a year.

That's what I seem to be honing in on right now. It would include: – 52 pages of comix: * 36 constituting one act of a single feature * 12 constituting a self-contained backup story (which I think works better than four 3-page self contained comix as suggested in Comix Engine 1) * 4 pages for story breaks, etc. – 48 pages of prose: * 16 constituting one short story * 16 constituting four 4-page micro stories * 14 constituting four 4-page essays – 2 pages of art: * perhaps a double-page spread of something that falls more in line with contemporary art than the heavily illustrated representation stuff often seen in comicbooks?

I'm starting to wonder though whether that much prose would be seen as a plus or minus? Is it better to include something other than prose in those 48 pages?

As far as the comix component is concerned, there's no way to go above the 52 pages, at least not at my current drawing pace.

Funding-wise, I've discussed in Comix Engine 1 how a minimum of $68,000 U.S. in the bank would be wise before even attempting to put pen to paper.

My initial estimate for retail price was $10, but it now looks like going below $15 would be difficult. And I'm not entiiiiirely sure 15 bucks for a 90-page black and white publication is something potential readers would be interested in (help?).

My dilapidated mathematics tell me I'd need a minimum of 3,800 regular readers for this to be a sustainable endeavor. Which in principle isn't an outrageous goal, but is considered rather ambitious in the current climate of independent comicbook publishing.

Allow me to clarify: The latest TANK GIRL (published by Titan) sold about 3,856 units. Todd McFarlane's SPAWN sold a meager 2,996 units! Even Marvel's GHOST RIDER has fallen well below 2000 units (as has their CAPTAIN MARVEL). Titan, McFarlane, and Marvel are all heavyweights who have way better resources and distribution pull than I'll ever manage. So, the numbers just aren't looking very optimistic.

(But then again, Michel Fiffe's COPRA moved 4,594 units!)

#ComixEngine

Part of the need to express oneself through a variety of media has to do with a terrible strain of creative restlessness. Even within the very same medium, I can get a little restless, and that is perhaps not-so-secretly why I wrote/designed THE SOLAR GRID to incorporate numerous illustration styles, whereby different points in the timeline are given a different visual treatment.

Another reason is to test out the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. One very important “strength” to take into consideration when making comix is speed.

I conducted a little survey on my Kickstarter backers about their favorite TSG style, and much to my surprise… two of my fastest styles came out on top!

Fast syles - from THE SOLAR GRID

Style on the left-hand side (which we’ll nickname… the Templesink), gets its speed from its looseness and heavy reliance on atmospheric “suggestion” for backgrounds and environment. Although it utilizes a wide variety of media in its execution (nib+ink, pencils, black and white ink washes, geso, blowdryer, all on brown-tinted kraft paper), it still allows for speedy implementation due to its nonchalance for accuracy or lack thereof. Also, you’d be surprised how much time not having to draw in proper gutters will save you. I remember at some point in the book, I knocked out about 4 pages a day done in just this style.

You might say the style on the right-hand side (which we shall nickname the Eurofrank) is the polar opposite of the Templesink. It utilizes one single tool instead of several—namely a 0.1 mm Staedtler Pigment Marker—thereby eliminating any variation in line weight. It features no shading whatsoever, and thus allows for a complete disregard for light and shadow. It does mean that you have to put in the line-art for every little thing quite clearly (none of the murky suggestiveness of the Templesink), but the need for only one single drawing tool on top of the unconcern for shadow work make this approach a major time-saver as well.

This is good to know when considering what style to employ for future comix projects; projects that—unlike THE SOLAR GRID—won’t necessarily require stylistic variation within the same yarn. I think it’s safe to say that the Templesink proooobably works best for comix intended to be in black and white, while the Eurofrank is kind of more suited for color.

#ComixEngine

In the previous Comix Engine, I discussed the prospect of a 90-page periodical containing a mixed bag of comix, prose, and other art to be released three times a year. With 36 pages of those 90 constituting Act 1 of a 3-act graphic novel. It occurs to me now that a 4-month wait for an installment in a story is probably… a bit too long.

Heck, even monthly is a considerable wait. Weekly is the ideal. I think we as humans are kind of hardwired for weekly doses of pleasure. Hence: Weekly week-ends, weekly sermons, weekly television episodes, weekly “city mags”, and so on.

So perhaps a weekly trickle of 3-page installments in the lead-up to the publication is a good idea?

Online obviously. Not much point in a 3-page print publication. It would need to be written with that 3-page “beat” structure in mind though. With something of a sort-of cliffhanger every 3 pages, while avoiding the likely camp that comes with that sort of gimmick. The trick is to make sure that that “beat” doesn’t become too tiresome as a 144-page volume at the end of the year 🤔

(First published in Restricted Academy no. 141 on December 14, 2019)

#ComixEngine

It is that time of year again, where I find myself haunted by Ideas. I get restless, insomniac, and spend hours trying to capture the tsunami of thought in scribbles, notes, and sketches. This is a recurring state, and possibly the closest thing I get to a “Manic State” (other artists I’m sure can relate). The important thing to remember is not to act upon said Tsunami of Thought, and instead realize it is a phase of idea-development, not idea-implementation. Idea implementation comes later, after you’ve had enough distance from the heat of the idea’s inception to consider it rationally, and think through the facets of its realization. Of course, it depends on the idea. Certain ideas are only capable of being done in heat. This however isn’t one of them.

Because what this is, is not a one time thing. It’s a long-term thing that would require a sustained and very regular flow of production, and that is something that requires careful planning as opposed to sheer dependence on a singular spark that lights up in the dead of night (essentially not unlike the difference between a one-night stand and an actual relationship).

Backstory: Whenever I step away from something for a while, I get the strongest itch to get back into it with vigor. So, for example, if I step away from contemporary art and the exhibition circuit and spend some time invested in working on comix, it’s only a couple months before I wanna get back into contemporary art again. Right now? I’m very excited about comix again. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

So, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve been thinking about a structure that would allow for a sustained production of All The Things! The Art, the Comix, the Design, and the Writing!

And I think I’ve found it! A publication. Or rather, more like a publishing model. Or more accurately, a little bit of both.

(This of course is not surprising to anyone who actually knows me, as the dream of self-publishing has been a very long one—for publishing is itself a creative act—and I’ve been toying with a variety of ideas in that regard for a long time now.)

It’s clear to me now that the format popularized by American Corporate Comics is quite simply… insane. Assuming one has a life beyond making comics and only works 5 days a week (hahahahaha), one would have to produce about 22 pages of comics in a mere 20 days. So that’s a little over a page a day. Of course, it’s a little more doable within the assembly line system of Corporate Comics, but if you’re a very independent maker of comix, that would mean writing, penciling, inking, lettering, and assembling all on your own (color is obviously not even an option here), and doing all that work on a page-a-day basis is simply impossible.

(There are of course exceptions to the rule; Ditko, Byrne, Eisner…)

This realization naturally led me to consider the format Warren Ellis invented for his collaboration with Ben Templesmith, FELL: 16 pages of comix in a 24pp unit. That left 8 pages; 2 for the cover and backcover, and 6 for some backmatter: a bit of script, some sketches, and random thoughts connected to the installment at hand. On top of that, the series was very episodic, with each episode largely self-contained. Prrrreeetty genius if you ask me.

But… and this is no small but, producing 16 pages of comix in 20 days is 0.8 pages a day, which… y’know, is still about a page a day (and remember, I’d be writing the thing too), so it still doesn’t quite shave enough off.

But then, Warren (who is the cause of all my sleepless nights) recently mentioned another format that’s been nagging at the back of his head: 48-page graphic novellas, 3 times a year.

That, ladies and gentlemen, entails producing no more than 12 pages of comix a month. About half a page per day, which is very very doable.

But because I’m interested in more than just comix, I began to expound on the idea a little bit (I may very well backtrack and start to re-simplify, but bear with me for now). Before I get into the non-comix stuff though, I think it might be nice to divide the monthly comix output into two features instead of one (helps keep shit interesting). Three of those 12 pages can be assigned to a self-contained short, along the lines of say… SLICES which Andrew Dabb collaborated on with a wide range of artists for the long defunct Opi8.com (including, by the way, the aforementioned Ben Templesmith and other would be comicbook professionals such as Brett Weldele of THE SURROGATES fame—Opi8 also featured the early work of Molly Crabapple and Kieron Gillen, a testament to the importance of “anthologies” for the development of any creative field, even in the “Cyber Age”.)

(Hey, it was the early 2000’s.)

So: 3 pages of self-contained comix + 9 pages of comix towards a longer story.

I imagine I could manage to also work in about 4 pages of prose fiction and 4 pages of non-fiction. And maybe even 4 more pages of other art: painting, collage, graphics, Stand-alone art things that can be sprinkled throughout the publication (there go my weekends).

Which puts me at a total of 22 pages of material per month.

Now, I wouldn’t print the thing monthly. It’d come out 3 times a year, collecting 88 pages of content, plus a couple of pages for frontispiece and index. So say, 90 pages in total.

(Although, maybe digital-only for the monthly installments?)

A 90-page perfect-bound paperback journal of comix, writing, and art, printed in black and white save for the cover (which would be in color). At 6”x9” I can probably manage to price it at around 10 bucks. Not dirt cheap, but not obtrusively expensive either. Of course, only 48 pages of that 90-page volume would be comix. 36 of them dedicated to one single comix story, and 12 assigned to four self-contained 3-page comix.

36 pages would be too short for a graphic novella though, so let’s say that 36-page comix story isn’t a complete story, but is only Act One of a story. By the end of the year, you have all three acts finished and collected in their very own 144-page hardback without any of the other stuff (that stuff only appears in the journal). Still black & white, but on nicer paper. This would likely end up on the pricey side, around $30 or so (rough estimate).

So to summarize, I would only publish two types of things:

A 90-page paperback journal of mixed content—3 times a year.

A 144-page hardback graphic novel—once a year..

(And maaaaaaaybe a collection of all the prose stuff every… 3 years?)

Still, if one was to play it safe, you ideally want all the material for at least 2 journal editions in the bag before you actually print anything. So that’s essentially 8 months of work in advance without pay. And then you want to account for the likelihood of not turning a profit for… at least 4 issues (if you turn a profit at all), which means best not attempt to even start anything like this at all without 16 months worth of expenses set aside. A conservative estimate I’d say is… maybe $68,000.

Which y’know, isn’t impooooossssible, but still, not something you wake up in the morning and just decide to do. Not a bad target to set and plan for (while fully acknowledging that it still may totally flunk in the end, which is always the most likely scenario, and that’s okay).

So if I do in fact sustain the necessary madness to actually embark on this ridiculous idea one day, it wouldn’t be till a few years after I’m done with THE SOLAR GRID (keeping my fingers crossed for 2020), so no way before… 2023-24, if at all.

(This post was first published on December 1st in Restricted Frequency no. 140)

#ComixEngine

“I remember back when 10,000 pesos got you a house with a gardener!” exclaims the elderly Canadian, 10,000 pesos being the equivalent of 527.55 U.S. dollars. She also remembers when it rained for two weeks straight in 1998. I imagine her life hasn't been all that eventful since.

“Yeah, you can't do that now. I pay 11,000 pesos for a two bedroom.” responds her friend. That's still just 580 U.S.

Five hundred and eighty dollars a month for a place that is a stone's throw away from the beach is not something you can get anywhere in North America. I'm not so sure what these ladies are complaining about.

Puerto Vallarta is an idealic fishing village turned tourist hub on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. Even with the influx of white Anglo tourists—especially during the months of December and January where the temperature hovers around an unbeatable 30C/86F—it still hasn't lost its small town charm (unless you spend all your time in the “Zona Romantica”, which is just big hotels and stores for white-tourists). Roads are narrow, paved with uneven stones, houses are small two-three story structures, often adorned with intricate metal gates and a color accent or two. The “central” part of town is designed for walking where you can do everything on foot: go to the marketplace, hit the beach, sit at a cafe or bar, get a haircut, go clubbing, check out an art gallery, try out a different restaurant everyday, go to the bank, buy clothes, you name it. Pelicans hover in flocks, iguanas chill on rocks, and the locals go about their day with the cheerful nonchalance of beachside living. Seafood and fruit are always very fresh and available in great abundance. As are the cocktails. At very affordable prices too (at least by U.S. standards).

I reckon it would be a great place to come for a writing sabbatical (or any kind of “workation” that can be performed remotely).

The best way to do it to have access to tourist/foreign amenities without being too isolated from the town's authentic vibes is to get a little rental somewhere between Calle Allende and Isla Cuale, or within proximity to Mercado Emiliano Zapata (especially if you plan on being in town for a month or more and will need to buy groceries often). Stay away from restaurants that are awfully touristic; food is never as good and prices are usually significantly higher. La Isla de Marin's Seafood is absolutely slamming, as is Balam Balam.

As a rule, if you see too many gringos? Just keep walking (which I understand goes against the nature of many a gringo).

Puerto Vallarta

#Travel #PuertoVallarta #Mexico

As you can see, I've returned to the “Isles of Blogging” again, this time with ganzeer.today, a seethingly deceptive title because I don't blog everyday (although I may be encouraged to just by having that as a blog name).

The actual reason I ended up with this title is that I was facing a lot of technical hurdles getting a ganzeer.com subdomain as the blog's URL, and so I figured I'd go ahead and give it a dedicated domain name (which was easier to set up for some reason). And I just went with—what seemed to me—like the most obvious domain name I could think of at 5 in the morning. A spur of the moment decision. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

If, like me, you use an RSS reader for your blog reading, the RSS feed for this blog is quite simply: ganzeer.today/feed

I have it set up so that it transmits directly onto the Ganzeer.com front page (along with my Instagram and Twitter), so you can more or less access all things Ganzeer right on my homepage. Which I believe is how it should be. I'm oldschool enough to retain the idea of a person's website constituting more than a mere online brochure. I came upon the internet when the main online presence for anyone making anything was their website, where that was the go to place to see what they were making and what they were up to. If social media platforms aren't entirely avoidable for the time being, then at the very least have them feed into your website. I loath the idea of using Instagram as a “portfolio”, it's not how I ever intended people to see my work. I only ever got on it to share mediocre cell phone pics of the world around me.

Anyway, here's my blog. I use write.as to write it. The feed's format on ganzeer.com isn't very ideal; I'm having trouble making it mirror ganzeer.today's specs exactly, but this should do for now.

#housekeeping

A little while ago, Anna Iltnere of the Sea Library blog asked a number of cultural operators, including myself, what the word “cosmopolitan” meant to us. This was for The Sultan’s Seal, an online literary journal started by writer Youssef Rakha (author of THE CROCODILES and THE BOOK OF THE SULTAN'S SEAL).

Below is my answer:

A person can be described as cosmopolitan, and so can a place. A cosmopolitan person is likely a polyglot with an excellent command of multiple languages. This allows him or her to become equally immersed in an array of cultures by way of literature, music, art, food, cinema, fashion and all manner of a people’s being.

A cosmopolitan place on the other hand is a location that allows for the convergence of cultures on an equal footing, without a single culture imposing itself as the hegemonic umbrella for it all.

You should absolutely check out The Sultan’s Seal link though to see what the other authors said, all of who are far smarter and far more eloquent than myself.

#Commentary

Got back from New York last night and still decompressing. The TAHRIR IS NOW night at Joe's Pub was powerful, special, and immensely emotional. One of the highlights for me was when the crew, slyly scattered between the audience, shouted “down with the president” at the top of their lungs, getting everyone in the otherwise gentile space that is Joe's Pub totally riled up and very much on board.

May the spirit of revolution continue to live and prosper, and propel beautifully where it is most needed and least expected.

Tahrir Is Now (Photo by Kelsey P. Norman)

(Another major highlight was the presence of literary giant Alaa Al Aswany in the audience!)

#Appearances #NYC

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