Skanky Nerd Land

Sex, Science and Concept Art

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Being a Financially Viable as an Artist

Daniel Cook at Lost Garden has a blog on the Minimum Sustainable Success for a video games company. It’s a fascinating read that pulls no punches. Admittedly, indie video game development is possibly the most costly of independent creative endeavours, but the lessons in the post can be applied elsewhere.

Many creatives do not make a cost benefit analysis to their lives when they begin their career in art, music or writing. I know I didn’t. Despite the good advice of my parents, I persisted in choosing to go to art school. It’s a decision which I harbour some regret over, as the quality of education I obtained was dismal. Luckily, I left school with no debt and some technical skill, and was able to find employment outside the creative industry.

Since I planned to take a year off to make concept art at FZD school, I’ve been wondering whether I’ll be able to turn it into a career. Creating art is an expensive profession and can come at great costs, both financially and personally. Whether my art can support me, or whether I will have to support it, is a long term implication I can’t ignore.

Being able to weather set backs, I think, is key to success. J.K. Rowling credits the British welfare state as a safety net that helped her when she hit rock bottom. Many of us won’t have this privilege, and will need a plan to ensure that when we hit that moment, we can bounce back. Daniel Cook suggests some ways to “Survive the odds” in the video games industry, which are also applicable elsewhere.

I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr. Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. -JK Rowling on taxes

Every artist thinks their work deserves recognition, and of course there is an audience for every artist (even if its just yourself). But I ask myself this question all the time; What are the chances someone else will a. want to spend a portion of their day being my audience and b. pay me money to make the thing I want to make?

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. – Thoreau’s Guide to Living More by Spending Less

That said, the cost of perfecting a craft cannot be compared alongside the cost of everyday material things. Lots of times, even if nobody wants it, you still have to make it. The act of creation itself helps me to live life fuller, whereas the cost of most other things takes away from the experience of living.

Ikigai Venn Diagram, find your passion, financially viable artistSometimes I wonder if I could increase my chances of success by giving up everything else to focus on making art. But I’ve come to realise that that is but one aspect of my life; albeit a very important one. “Follow your passion” has slowly been going out of fashion. Possibly since the teenagers raised with that mantra (my generation) grew up and realised we didn’t know what our passions were in the first place. A better goal would be to find Ikigai – and that can only be found through trying lots of different things, and pursuing them in depth. Who knows where it’ll take you?

Compromises in Polyamory, hearts over candle flame

Compromises in Polyamory

compromise in polyamory, venn diagramI discovered Franklin Veux’s venn diagram for non-monogamy. What this complex diagram brings home is that there’s no one way, or right way to have a non-monogamous relationship and that compromises in polyamory are its essence. The variety of possible relationships and ideal states tells me that everyone starts out with their own arbitrary markers or benchmarks of what’s preferred, tolerated or outright prohibited. Everyone has different comfort levels based on past experiences (or lack thereof), their fears, and what they want out of their relationships. However, experiences change according to the people we meet, and fears can be overcome.

Dani and I have been together for almost six years now, and our markers have slowly moved to accommodate each other. To date, I can’t say he’s tested my boundaries, or that that’s something he would even want to try. Although I constantly test his – because I have a deep seated fear of having my sexuality controlled and I need to have this fear disproven. Although when I discount for the actions and demands I have made due to this fear, I realise we’re on the same page after all. We both want partners that respect our relationship and genuinely want to be part of our lives, as we want to be part of theirs.

Be Less Afraid to Fail

It’s not new years’ yet, but I’ve decided my resolution for 2016 is to be less afraid to fail.

I’m a believer in inculcating good habits. The only way for me to change for the better is to introduce slowly routines that will help me become a better person. I’ve done this successfully with getting and staying fit. I believe daily exercise has kept me sane and even-keeled all my life. It’s an everyday benchmark that reminds me, I’m alive, I’m healthy, I have discipline, everything else will fall into place. Through good days and bad, doing sport always made me feel better.

I’ve been doing it since I was 11. No other one thing ‘s stuck with me as much since. Lately, I’ve been trying to apply this attitude to other parts of my life. Just a little a day, or even a week, slowly but surely, the bridge will be built.

I was chatting with a friend of mine, who is a writer. He had been self-publishing for years, but this year found a publisher that is now bought by one of the big names in Science Fiction/ Fantasy writing. He told me that writing 500 words a day is better than writing 3000 words over the weekend. He also said that I will never feel ready. Ever. I should just create. Just do.

Lately, I started doing 30 minutes of French on Duolingo every day. I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and realised, the other day, I was able to follow a conversation my colleagues were having in French. This took me by surprise as I had taken two years of lessons without being able to use it practically. Adding a little bit of it into my life every day, instead of a lot of it, twice a week, made a difference. I had tried to do this before but always failed, because I told myself I had to do five chapters a day. Some days, five chapters took over an hour, which was more time than I could spare. This caused me to skip the task on some days, leading to even more procrastination the following days. I decided 30 minutes was just the right amount of satisfaction without getting into frustration, and so far, it’s worked.

I’m trying this with other parts of my life. Half and hour of drawing practice, a couple of hours of writing every day. I’ve decided to try and not care when the writing is bad, or the drawings are crappy. I’ve decided to spend time learning to code properly because it’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve decided to do all these things without worrying right now what will come of them and to do them because they are things I want to do. That even if I fail the small things, the small daily tasks, I will not fail the bigger picture. I’ve yet to meet someone who has honestly been doing a bit of what they love every day, who isn’t finally getting a break.

Retro Predictions of the Future

An ode to corporate finance and social ‘ science’ won a competition on predicting the future. I’m not sure if it was parody, or if its author, James Fletcher, was perfectly serious.

Check out these gems:

“[Kingdom City] represented a triumph for private finance and social science collaboration, setting a precedent for socially conscious corporation rule with minimal state involvement.”

“Whilst trickle down economics and stringent immigration controls have all but ended real-term deprivation, inequality remains entrenched. Employed by London Inc., who are concerned by talent prevention, I am currently developing proposals to stimulate social mobility. This is just one example of how corporate-social science synergy is cultivating prosperous city societies in 2065.”

He may be right, or wrong, but one thing’s for sure, aren’t these retro Randian ideas from the 50’s given a new coating of Paris green?

I dislike unchecked optimism unless its relegated to a far off future. The second placed essay is still optimistic but much more muted, championing collaboration between scientist and indigenous populations. Even the third essay has more contemporary ideas. I suppose no prize worth winning comes without its vested interests.

No Excuses

We rationalise bad behaviours we’re unable to change, or feelings we have no control over, to make the truth more bearable to ourselves. The sooner we admit failure, the sooner we can learn. I’m a bad liar, I’ve always been. My parents are terrible at detecting lies (and so am I); therefore I never learnt the art. I find it impossible to lie to myself. My failings exist in gaps I haven’t taken the time to look into.

Time is something I never have enough of. Every minute of my life is filled with some activity or another. The novel I have to complete, the website I need to tidy up, artwork to make, essays to write, friends I should stay in touch with. I think I’m pretty good at achieving most medium size goals I set myself. But the larger ones seem to take forever.

“I’m working on it, but I just don’t have enough time.” Would probably be my excuse. I never realised it was an excuse until now. I’m good at starting things and sticking to a schedule at finishing them… up to a point. When I think it’s almost done, I put things on the back burner and focus on the next thing. Thinking I can finish the project in the cracks of time I’ll find… somehow, somewhere. A month later I come back, realising I’d forgotten how I’d done most of the thing in the first place. Wasting days reacquainting myself with the task. This is wasted time. I’m very pleased at this revelation. Unfortunately, this means I will still have to shelve some things to make more time for others, which means I will inadvertently have to familiarise myself with those things when I return to them. I just wonder if there is a better way to manage it all.

Outside the House of Terror

This happened years ago; I was coming down on a cold winter morning in Budapest. It was one of those mornings where I really felt the world was beautiful, and that we, as a species, had left the Great Filter behind. Surely we are to become great space faring critters one day! A bit later, I walked past the House of Terror, which is a torture museum, and it occurred to me that sane people aren’t intrinsically evil, but are simply ignorant. After all, look how far we’ve come… the fact that there was a torture museum meant torture was a thing of the past. I’m still, ultimately, an optimist, but realise how untrue that thought is now. How easily we can revert back to our animal selves, governed by the indifferent brutality of evolution, from which both beautiful and ugly things come forth.

Tug of War

Given that we are a non-monogamous species by nature, the ribbon that ties up poly-pandora’s box is held in a tug of war between our feelings of jealousy, and our need for novelty. The freedom we are willing to give, and the freedom we crave.

Some believe jealousy is a cultural construct. Subtle forms… perhaps, but sexual jealousy, and the need to possess a partner (and all its associated behaviours) are fully natural. The one sole purpose of our existence, for most of the time since sexual reproduction was evolved, is to ensure that our genes made it to the next generation. In order for this to happen, we had to find the best mate available to us, and keep this mate around long enough to ensure adequate resources for child rearing. Hence, the existence of jealousy.

Naturally, most of the people I’m familiar with share my world view on the matter. Although I know some to whom infidelity would be unthinkable, if (and only if!) they were in a relationship they were fully happy with. I’m skeptical. Variety is part of a happy, healthy relationship. A friend expressed that the creepiest thing about most couples is that partners were forbidden to express desire for others. So, in fact, most people live a lie. Because of this, we’re serial monogamists more than anything else. This is the most common romantic arrangement.

Mono-Normative Ideologies

Jess went to this conference (Non-monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies) and met a certain Pepper Mint (that really is his name). A quick google search revealed his website, with some interesting pdfs included. A little of preaching to the converted, perhaps, but still worth a read. The only point I disagree on is that the mono-normative ideology is sexist. I daresay monogamy is the result of increased equality between the sexes in the last few centuries, with polygamy the result of increased inequality between the sexes and also within society. Although this may be with respect to monogamy itself and not the ideology, which may well see women at a disadvantage (i.e. Men claim it, but do not practice it; it is enforced upon women, but not condoned with men).

I will end with this thought – we cannot own the bodies of our lovers, although it is inevitable we seek control over them. Is it fear of engulfment, or abandonment, that drives us? Nobody is ‘naturally’ monogamous, so why swim against the river? Choose your course.

Mono-Normative Idealogies, assumptions, sexual monogamy is a pre-condition of love

Click to go to full pdf


Bigotry of the Mainstream Porn Audience

A couple of days ago, this article on FTM porn director and star appeared on Alternet. What surprised me were the nasty comments by readers of the site, who were supposedly far left-leaning, liberal types. I’ll admit I don’t understand people who would op for plastic surgery to change their sex. Then again, I don’t understand perfectly decent looking people who would op for plastic surgery in any case. I think natural is beautiful and biology or sex organ endowment is not destiny. But hey, I have never suffered from body dismorphia, and am in no position to have an opinion.

I’m not quite sure what the criticism towards Jame’s FTM porn is about; likely they are all illogical, an instinctive reaction towards something they think is ‘against nature’. Pah. Birth control is against nature, our entire built environment is against nature.

Most people watch porn, and a lot of the porn is made by people who don’t want to be in the industry. At least our man JD here is in charge if his own destiny. This is his choice. It’s ethical porn. Most queer porn is ethical porn. You can never be sure of course, just like you know not all the so labelled ‘organic’ products are actually organic, but it’s a start.

I follow a few alternative porn stars on twitter. They like making porn. It is both a lifestyle and a career choice, and they love it like I like making art and writing. It fulfills a need in the world, opens up our eyes to the diversity in tastes out there, and what shows us beauty in variety. No, not all porn is like that, most mainstream porn is not. But unsurprisingly, if you go just a bit off the beaten path, it’s there. Tbh, I never enjoyed watching porn until I discovered these alternatives, because, you know… the woman didn’t seem to be having fun. But that’s mainstream porn for you.

Through the Looking Glass

Dares came to visit me. It was not exactly out of the blue, but almost. I told her to meet me at the airport, and she did. Why did she trust I’d show up? I have no idea. Why wouldn’t I? We went to the beach with Lily, followed the rabbit through the thick pine forest and low scrub land, with its pretty flowers, to the strandslag. We lay in the sand, naked, hands between legs. I couldn’t tell where my body ended and hers started. Every time I shifted my weight, I felt the air, the sand, and everything around, move to accommodate me perfectly. She was a giver, I could tell, as she watched me. Lily teasingly accused me of drawing in all the attention, which I denied.

Through the Looking Glass by Salvador Dali

by Dali

“I thought the worst while waiting for you at the airport,” She told me, laughing. “After all, I’d met you only once… in Berghain.” She was right I suppose, there had been so many ways this encounter could have gone wrong. But we got each other. She was from a different world, we were born continents apart, and she could barely speak a word of English when I met her, and yet… we understood each other, on some crazy, deep, transcendent level.

Lily pulled out her notebook, having decided to condense the beauty of existence and the meaning of life into words and pictures. It was futile. Under regular circumstances, it would be futile; in this particular instance, it was physically impossible. An elephant might as well have tried to copy Monet. In the clouds, a painting unfolded. I saw Lady Liberty mounting her horse, leading a heard of centaurs to victory. The day had lasted forever, and we felt an eternal sunset dawn upon us. The sky turned into water, and twilight cast a glow under my skin. Beneath the flesh on my thighs, I saw the Carina nebula writhing, shifting, glowing. It was magic. 

As we meandered back home, we passed a square that had been around since the 1600. There was a barbecue going, and children played on the red brick streets. “It’s beautiful,” She told me. I had thought she would find the suburbia I lived in deathly boring, but nothing could be farther from the truth. “There’s nothing like this is São Paulo. I don’t ever want to go back.” For my part, I had never seen this area, and definitely not with the eyes I carried with me, at that moment in time.

Through the Looking Glass by Dali

by Dali

We made love that evening, three of us. Dares asked if Lily and I had ever hooked up before. No, we hadn’t. We were both takers, me more so than her… perhaps. It would not work. Dares was different. It was something I felt noticeably. Her gender, how that affected the image she chose, naturally, to project. She was easy to like, and took it upon herself to make sure everyone else had a good time, because she always did, regardless.

Lily and I laughed about it after. “Remember when I took out the vibrator and she said, ‘ oh good… I can take a break?'”

As she fell asleep, she pulled my arm across her breasts and turned on her side, back towards me. Hah, I was the big spoon, for once. She felt adorable in my arms.

I’ve tried to find a place to put this memory, tried not to think about it fading away. As memories do. Even ones that seem so powerful at the time.

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