Weeknight Concerts

My husband and I went to a concert last night, sort of a family tradition thingy. Normally it’s an all-day festival on a weekend; this year, it was an evening show on a Wednesday.

I… am not firing on all cylinders.

But I kind of like the sketch I’ve got. There’s an amazing amount wrong with it, but it has some kind of spark that I enjoy.

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See you tomorrow.

Be a Man

I’ve never heard him say it, but I’m told that my father-in-law has a saying: You’re a useless piece of crap if you can’t get your woman to her job.

(Well, he says “to work,” which flows better, but in text-format it’s too ambiguous.)

And I love it. It ties into a lot of the concepts of what it means to be a man while still allowing for a great deal of flexibility for specific situations. And, more to the point… in my experience, it’s pretty true. The guy who’s snorting his girlfriend’s paycheck, or beating her, or even being a generalized asshole, tends to also not be doing a damn thing to keep her car on the road. Or adjusting his schedule to carpool.

Basically, her ability to get to work—a net good for all parties, in general—is a good stand-in for whether he considers himself to have responsibilities to her, to the household, or basically to anyone except the himself he happens to be at any given moment.

To say the least, my husband takes this charge very seriously. When my car recently gave up the ghost, he managed to get a replacement up, registered and on the road in the space of a day. He felt ridiculously bad that I had to work from home that day. While he is a fantastic husband in many, many respects, on this particular issue he is fanatical.

And it makes me wonder what the corresponding female metric might be.

Now, comparing men and women is generally a crapshoot; they’re different. Duh. The duties and obligations on each is different.

But there’s gotta be something. And if what it means to be a man is to pull through and make things work for your household… what’s it mean to be a woman?

I have no frickin’ idea. As a woman, I find this somewhat distressing.

…but I’ll tell you what. I think I know where I can start: I’m going to be grateful to that man for keeping that car on the road, or for setting aside his schedule to make sure I can get to work*. And I’m gonna make sure he knows it.

It’s not very much. (And on a household level, I suspect that actually going to work every day is more useful.) But… if he’s gonna go and be a man for me, I figure I can at least let him know I noticed.

* One of these days, I’m going to have to break down the top times he’s rescued me when I got stranded. There’s some good ones. And yeah… most were my own damn fault.

For a drawing today, we have… something I haven’t been guilty of yet, but is always a worry in this toddler era. Shoulda done the last panel differently, but pen isn’t a great medium for realizing this isn’t the right path.

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Money and Communication

Over the weekend, I read an article on Yahoo! Finance: Why married couples should have separate bank accounts.

And it’s not completely horrible advice. At least, I can see the “competing to see who can rack up the most savings first” working for some people. And… um. Actually, that’s pretty much all I’ve got, because the article is so amazingly, deeply flawed.

So let me start by saying: I really don’t give a crap whether you have a shared account, separate accounts, or both. Not my relationship. You do you, and whatever works for you; life, love and marriage are difficult enough without trying to figure out how you’re doing it wrong based on what I think.

That said, the arguments this guy makes are really, really crappy.

First Issue: He takes an insanely specific case, and tries to apply it generally.

You notice something everyone in the article mentions? They’re rich. Even more specifically, not a single one of them seems to stretch for a budget at all; the issue is how much goes into fun versus savings versus whatever else that isn’t core expenses. Which is great for these people, and being wealthy does in fact come with its own toils and pitfalls! But… can we have just the slightest acknowledgement that you’re dealing in a specific subset, rather than pretending you’re talking about couples in general?

(This is particularly egregious at the stay-at-home-mom section, the one where you’re supposed to take the median income of your city and take it out of your account, giving it to your stay-at-home spouse because they’re worth it. Well, they might be. But half the city makes less than the median income… and that’s before bills. And yeah, some of those houses have stay-at-home moms.)

That said, this one’s a pretty minor issue. We can assume most people reading financial columns are pretty well-off, right? So speaking of all couples when you really mean couples living the high life is forgivable.

Which brings us to…

Second Issue: He’s framing a communication issue as a money issue

Miscommunication, mismatched priorities, seething resentments—when you look at what the separate bank accounts are supposed to solve, all of them lead back to one of these items. None of which are in the least helped by the separate bank accounts, and several of which are exacerbated.

I don’t usually like making blanket statements regarding relationships; God knows that there’s little enough that applies to all of them. But I think that this is on that list: If you’re in a marriage, or at least a marriage where you share a household, you have to be able to come to an accord on financial priorities, and you have to be able to agree on a budget. You’re sharing expenses, you’re sharing responsibility, you’re sharing a life; expenses and direction just aren’t his and hers anymore, but theirs.

And it kind of seems like, with the exception of the folks challenging each other to save more, none of the examples he mentioned even start to have come to an accord on any of it. The hidden separate bank accounts that having an open separate bank account is supposed to solve is an outright admission of it!

And it’s nuts. How do you operate at all without having a vague sense of how much of the household income can be set aside for frippery? I don’t know. But the fact is, this separate-accounts business as described in the article seems to be completely an issue of papering-over the fact that you never did come to an accord.

Which brings us to…

Third Issue: Public Expenses, Private Profit

There’s a pernicious assumption underlying all of this. I find it’s most obvious in the stay-at-home-mom section. Specifically:

Now take that monthly salary and subtract it from the day job working spouse’s salary, and that figure should be his or her income which can be spent however he or she chooses. Of course, it’s a good idea not to spend it all. The money should be allocated similarly to the way the day job working spouse’s money is allocated in terms of savings, investing, spending, and so forth. And of course, you don’t have to give a salary/allowance. You can just agree to earmark this money in a joint account as his/her right to spend at will.

What am I talking about specifically? What’s yours is ours and what’s mine is mine.

There’s a brief aside about allocating this amount similarly to the other spouse’s. But it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t actually believe it, at least not when it comes to subtracting household expenses; he spends three times as much talking about how it ought to be spent however she chooses, to spend at will.

And it bleeds through the whole piece, not just here. The non-budgeting spouse needs a separate account in order to have the freedom to spend on things that the budgeting spouse wouldn’t approve of. Expenses and bills are the budgeter’s/higher earner’s problem; this is my money and I deserve to spend it.

And it’s bollocks.

You have formed a marriage. Both of your earnings are literally marital assets. (As an aside, it’s rather surprisingly underhanded, the way he refuses to talk about divorce while continually insinuating it—he doesn’t know a goddamn thing about how either divorce or probate works (or else is being maliciously misinforming), and if you take his insinuations here at face value you’ll get in trouble. Separate accounts protects you from your spouse illegally clearing out your account before divorcing you; it does not protect your account from equitable distribution or being community property.)

Anyway, where was I? Everything you make belongs to the marriage. Pretending that everything you worked for is just yours to do with to do as you see fit—and he’s controlling meaniepants if he wants any input over that—is frelling stupid.

Have separate accounts if you want to. Every relationship handles the issues facing it differently, and so long as the fundamentals are there—that you agree on the broad strokes of how much money needs to go toward what items (including individual leisure budget items for both spouses)—any individual path of reaching your goals is more than okay with me.

But this obsession with independence in a fundamentally interdependent structure is crazy.

And it’s going to explode into a million itty bitty teeny tiny fragments the exact first moment that you have to give up something you want in order to cover an expense.

Now, onto writing news…

The bad news is I think I’m not going to be able to use much of the snippet I posted on Saturday. The good news is because I think I’ve found my feet on the story and it’s going well.

(I had assumed that mad scientist meant either superhero or horror, and I didn’t really feel like horror. But… well, it looks like the guy I’ve actually got chasing my mad scientist is a hard-boiled detective. Which means I’ve got a particular reality-warping element in a mostly-realistic world. Which means I lose the cybernetic arm and the dramatic lab accident that disfigured my villain, like every Batman villain in the world. Alas.)

(Also, my husband said, “So, Dr. Poison?” and I went “Goddamn it, you’re right, aren’t you.” What’s funny is I was actually channeling Dr. Blight from the old Captain Planet… but still, I can see the issue.)

So! That’s going well. And I think once I finish my short, I can get to editing my novel, so that’s good, too.

Today, we have Queen Froggy.

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Saturday bonus–snippet

All right, my ghost-medium story isn’t shaping, but this other snippet from a different concept came out, so… enjoy! (It’s got all the cliches, but I figure as I go further I can figure out which ones I need and which I don’t.)

She’d once been beautiful, though it was hard to see how anymore—not just the vicious burn scars that splattered across the surfaces of her body visible behind her long lab coat, but the harshness and cruelty that infused every action, every line in her face made it clear that such a woman did not exist any longer. Yet if you looked, there were hints in the statuesque figure and its carefully controlled movements of what had come before.

Rex swallowed as she approached, shied away despite himself—as far as the chain that connected him to the floor would allow. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the foreboding yellow vial in her hand, the dosing gun she slid it into. “Mira,” he said, and his tone was soft and pleading. “Mira, none of this is you. It’s all him. You don’t have to do this.”

She smiled, as much as she could in spite of the scar tissue, but it was cold. “Your mistake,” she said, emphasizing every third syllable with a click of her heels against the stone floor, “is to think that there was ever a difference.”

Even had she still been fully human, it would have been difficult to resister her, at least from their relative positions; with her cybernetic arm added to the mix, seizing his jaw in a bruising grip, there was less than no chance. She met Rex’s eyes from a distance of inches as she brought the gun to his neck, her gaze fit to freeze steam in the air.

“We all serve God in our own ways, you say?” she hissed. “Now you can serve mine.”

Then she pulled the trigger.

The burning was instantaneous, sharper than in any injection he’d ever had before; Rex gritted his teeth against the pain as it spread, moving throughout his body with every elevated beat of his heart. He didn’t hold out long; despite himself, he felt scream rip itself from his throat as the agony grew and spread, infusing itself into shifting muscles and lengthening bones.

“You have always been a dog,” she growled, and her impossible hand let him go; in a second, she was out of the furthest range of his chains. “Now you can be my master’s dog.”

It was physically impossible that the wolfman serum should work so quickly, inconceivable that an injection should so completely remake a man. But as he hunched over with the shifting of his spine, felt the claws erupt from his fingers—he couldn’t deny it was true.

The transformation was almost complete before he felt it began to touch his mind.

He stared up at Mira, once his truest love, through wide, yellow eyes with the startle of comprehension as he practically felt words, concepts, facts fall out of his brain, felt his very personality shrink and sharpen its way away from him. He opened his jaws to speak one last time—but the only sound that came out was a small, pathetic whimper.

Seconds later, he couldn’t remember what he’d meant to say.

A minute after that, he couldn’t remember what he’d thought was so important anyway.

The wolfman formerly known as Rex Ambruglio lifted one lazy leg to scratch the itchy place at the back of his ear, then yawned his big jaws wide. Carefully, Mira approached, human hand extended with its fingers in a wide, placating gesture. “Are we all better now? Do we feel like being a good boy?”

She started as the wolfman lunged forward—but relaxed as all he did was shove his great, furry head beneath her hand in a pleading gesture. With a small chuckle, she scratched his neck, earning a guttural sound of contentment.

“You know,” she mused, “we might have stayed married if you’d acted like this before.”

The words didn’t make any sense to him. But he nuzzled close to her and thumped his tail against her, enjoying the familiar smell. He didn’t have the word for it, but the concept was clear. Home.

At his side, Dr. Mira Bergman just smiled.

Song Analysis: The Rainbow Connection

One of my hobbies is to analyze (or over-analyze) song lyrics.

A lot of times, it’s a non-starter: there are a lot of songs that make no sense explicitly for the purpose of making no sense, and a lot of other times you have lines thrown together because they sound good rather than due to anything the writer’s actually trying to say. But discounting those, there’s some interest to be had.

(This is one of the reasons I like Warren Zevon so much; several of his songs take on a different meaning after you’ve dug into it a bit, frequently turning on one or two lines. Down at the Mall from Transverse City seems like a silly little piece making fun of consumerism, but I tend to find the whole concept hinging more on one line: We’ll put it on a charge account we’re never gonna pay. Which goes from “Silly people wasting all of their time and money trying to chase happiness in commercial goods” to “the entire thing is built on a fraud, there’s no actual money changing hands, and this is a very brief period of frivolous excess before everything crashes and burns because nobody’s producing anything.)

Anyway, rabbit hole.

Since I got pregnant, I started doing more analysis with children’s songs. Most of which, admittedly, don’t provide much in the way of material. But I find The Muppet Movie’s Rainbow Connection to be a fairly beautiful exception. Take a listen before I start:

It’s deceptively simple, and when I was looking for what other people had to say, I mostly found the same comment over and over: It’s just a kid’s song, meant to be light and cheerful, stop overthinking it. But, y’know, I’m constitutionally incapable of that—and more to the point, I think it’d be a lot less vague, and a lot less unsettling in parts, if it was actually meant that way.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of going line-by-line, because this has a bit of a tendency for missing the forest for the trees… but basically, after mulling it over for a long time, I basically came to the conclusion that… well. I think it’s about depression. And pushing through despite that, of finding something beautiful and meaningful even if everything in the universe tells you it only means anything in your head.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions—and rainbows have nothing to hide

Okay, so I’m going line-by line like I said I wouldn’t. But this first part of the first verse—for purposes of my analysis, I’d like to just leave this labelled as such: “The world says that the things rainbows satnd for—hope, beauty, God’s forgiveness, whatever—aren’t real, they’re illusory.”

That’s what we’re told, and some choose to believe it;
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Label: I don’t accept that. I don’t have anything to base it on, and there’s nothing special about me to give me the knowledge or faith… but I can’t believe that. I won’t.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing, and what do we think we might see?

Label: My own good sense and reason tells me that everything hopeful, beautiful, and magical is stupid and illusory, just like the world said in the prior verse. Someone made it all up, and… it’s ambiguous, and I think intentionally ambiguous, what that’s done so far. Because you really could go both ways with it—that wishes don’t come true, or that the belief in wishes makes extraordinary things possible. I see that as a struggle within the singer, spoken wryly. (Because this is the speaker singing of his own observations, now, not a nebulous world that he can reject.)

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

Label: But I’m still clinging to the fact that there is meaning, even if it’s nothing I can reason or sense, and that someday isn’t here yet.

Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice could be one and the same

…this is the main part that makes me think it’s about depression. The rest of it’s kind of got a wry, exhausted sense to it. But, taking the sweet sound that calls the young sailors to be sirens, who inspire seamen to dash their ships against the rocks…

Label: My very brain is set against me, and trying to destroy me, and convince me that hope is an illusion

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it, it’s something that I’m supposed to be

Label: And I’m losing

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Label: …but I’m still not giving up, and cling to the idea. Even if I can’t manage to love or dream myself.

So, yeah, there’s my analysis of The Rainbow Connection.

I don’t know if it’s anything like what they had in mind. But… it’s the closest I can come to something that makes sense given all the lyrics.

I’d like to see the take of someone more familiar than me with faith and Christ and all that stuff… it’s just, particularly with the rainbow being a sign of God’s covenant and the fact that the World is continually trying to sever Man’s connection with God, and that whispering demons and singing sirens aren’t fully separate concepts from one another, there might be a more meaningful reading there. But I don’t have the background and I don’t have the knowledge to do well by it, so… I work with the tools I have, I guess.

But I do like the reading I’ve managed. Kind of… it makes me think of a little man in a coracle, one against all the elements without much in the way to guide or protect himself. But pushing forward regardless, because… the good stuff is out there somewhere.

And… I plan to cling to that, myself.

More fun with crayons!

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Crayons

Another art-only post. But I spent a little longer making the art than usual, so I hope it’s worth it.

On the downside… it’s made with Crayola crayons.

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I actually really enjoy working with non-standard, ill-respected materials. (One time when I’m not throwing things off the cuff, I’ll have to show you the portrait of a witch with a lamb I drew in Crayola crayons once–I sold the original for $80.) There are a couple of reasons. First is that I’m trying to resist the temptation I have with *any* hobby to immediately spend all of the money on the best materials, as though buying supplies is the same as accomplishing something. Very human. I have to resist it every time I toy with a new hobby.

The other reason is that I really believe the adage that it’s a poor workman who blames his tools.

I’m not against quality, expensive tools. I own a few dozen Copic markers and find them an absolute joy to work with. (I’ve needed to put together an order to refill my paler grays and skin tones for, oh, three years…) But you don’t need them. A piece with Crayola crayons will probably never be as pretty as something I could make with Copic markers, but you can still make a fun, functional piece.

(I also like to do a lot of my experimentation and doodling in dirt-cheap materials, only moving onto my expensive stuff when I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m trying to do.)

…so, yeah. That’s, er, all.