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The Tower

Two figures embracing as they fall from a stormy sky, trailing a shower of bedraggled black feathers. The woman's figure is nude and has captured the fading light of the sun in her belly. The man's figure is half-transformed into a wolf, with his face obscured under a wolf's-head mask with yellow eyes that stare directly out of the painting.

Photoshop and Wacom

 

Happy Halloween!

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Shashigai

I guess I need to get it together to make a public post. My partner, shashigai, died from complications of cancer last Sunday night.

We've been keeping it on a private filter because he didn't want a lot of people to know he was ill. He believes that it's too easy for people's expectations to shape reality, and he didn't want to live the reality of being treated like an invalid. He wanted his accomplishments and his mistakes to stand on their own, not to always be tainted by "You're doing so well, for somebody who's ill," or making excuses for him. It carried over to offline life as well, and his work. He has an advanced degree in psychology and for the past few years he's been teaching online. Being a college professor was one of his dreams.

I've known him for twelve years, and we've been together for ten of them. When I met him, he was working in a hospital as a psychiatric crisis clinician. He's always had a thousand stories from his time there, from the silly ones like the woman who went dancing naked down a public street and when questioned, sung out, "I'm a treeeee! My branches need to grow free in the wind!" to the serious ones, like the former alcoholic who was being written off by the doctors and herded off to rehab. Under questioning from Shashigai, she admitted she felt a "tight band around her head", which he correctly identified as carbon monoxide poisoning. He sent a fire brigade to her apartment, where they found a gas leak behind her stove, the source of the faint hissing noise that everyone else had been calling her hallucination.

He's always been a storyteller. I only know a fraction of the stories in his head and I'm sure I could only tell them a fraction as well. He's left me journal after journal of writing. When we met, I introduced him to our world, Karn, and he took it on as his own. He made it his home in the Dreaming, and his presence has left it infinitely richer. I believe he is still there, both as his own self and in the dozens and hundreds of people we met there. We discovered other worlds together - Ua, and Beren Gan - and wrote stories and made art and stood together in fascination and admiration as it breathed into life.

We've fought like cats and dogs, we've screamed at each other and hurt each other, and I hope that in the end it was enough for me to stay with him when he acknowledged that there was no other treatment to be tried and the only question left was how should it end. He asked for his cowboy boots and his Superman hat, because that's the kind of guy he is. He's been defying human physiology for as long as I've known him. He's set me on fire (it was an accident!) and I've cut him on purpose, and beyond all that, I did every damn thing I could to support his free will in a society that is all too quick to disempower. He'd disagree with that and in the worst times he'd call me lazy and selfish, but we hung the fuck onto each other through the storm. We were proud of our track history of resolving conflicts.

He is a collector and a tinker and an idea person. He can name every brand of fountain pen and clean them to work again too. He could fix our dryer and our internet and cook like a professional chef. When we went out to eat, he would pick the best dishes and reproduce them at home by taste. I've managed to save some of his best recipes and I'm sad for all the other ones that were never written down. He did his best to teach my reluctant self not to be afraid of breaking things.

We went camping together and he took me for a walk through the deep woods at midnight to show me the delicate white mushrooms that creep out of the ground and the blossoms that only open at night. He knew all the secret places in the town where he lived, like the little tea hut at the end of the trail where we shared a thermos of ginger tea. He gave me a pen that could light up, for writing at night, and any number of blank books and journals in encouragement to write. We went hiking in the early morning so that we could be painting watercolour as the sun rose. I taught him everything I could think of about painting, so that he went from hesitating to do anything more than mix colours, to painting lighthouses and clouds and landscapes from Karn.

I could keep going. He helped me get my dream job despite my frantic efforts to take the first halfway decent opportunity that would have gotten us out of one place where we were living. He helped me rediscover my sport, rock climbing, and took me to the climbing gym religiously every weekend despite the fact that he often wasn't well enough to climb himself. He used to say that one of his biggest mistakes was allowing his former partner to discourage him from his own sport of marathon running. He ran ten marathons before she got to him, and he finished nine of them.

He said he'd lived enough for six lifetimes and blamed it on his ADHD. It still tears me up to think of all the things we still wanted to do together. We were in the middle of a move across the country which we had to delay because of the illness at the end. We were just buying a house together and ready to start a new life. All his things are halfway across the country now and I'm going to be putting pieces back together in the place we chose to suit both of us. I want to honor him and I want to share his stories with the world. I only hope that he can still see it.

 

RIP Polly Samuel

Also known as Donna Williams, the author of the Nobody Nowhere autobiography series, Exposure Anxiety: The Invisible Cage, many other books, and the music albums Nobody Nowhere (2000) and Mutation (2005). She was also a fine artist and performing artist and gave presentations on autism all over the world.

She and her work had a massive impact on our life.Collapse )

She answered the next day.Collapse )

~

In the dream home that j-t had designed in her head, there was a reproduction of Donna Williams' sculpture My World-'The World' at the end of the entry hall/art gallery.

A life-size bronze sculpture of a nude young woman, holding an apple high in her right hand and gazing into it. Her left hand is behind her, palm out, as if to ward something off.

I just discovered she's left an incredible array of entries in her blog about her thoughts preparing for death and how she would like to be remembered afterwards. I'm going to have to read through this slowly 'cause I know I'm going to end up crying a lot.

She writes, "I felt really strongly I didn’t want a funeral and when I learned I didn’t have to have one, or a grave or any of the trappings, it fitted me. ... I wanted those who loved me to remember and celebrate me in nature, where I belong and will endure in a spiritual place and to make a personal alter or plant a plant to commemorate me where they can commune with me within their own world, for I am a patchwork of all who loved me just as they are, so this is where I live, in life, and after leaving my body."

We're not in a place yet where we can do this. So instead I'm going to take a risk and set this entry to public, at least for now.

Edit: Removed the "Vale" from the post title, which I learned is actually a Latin honorific for the deceased, meaning "farewell", not a first name as I had thought.

 

King of Cups

A deerlike being standing in a dark foresty place, with head lowered over a shallow bowl of water. He is staring directly into the viewer's eyes and his long tongue is lapping the water. His ears are cocked as if listening and there are dark circles of fur around his eyes. On his head, instead of horns, is a crown of living tentacles that coil and spiral like a halo around his head.

Photoshop and MotionComputing tablet

Concept was inspired from a sketch by the Spacerobots


There is a lot that could be said about the Nethik King, but very little that he will let me say tonight. Maybe the image can speak for itself.

 

Catching up with sketches

I've gotten behind in posting sketches. I've been doing character studies for the set of stories that Shashigai is working on. I just scanned a few pages of them last night. All of them except the last one are done direct from reference, from photos I found on the internet. Not exactly the characters themselves yet, but working out a sense of them.

Drawings under cutCollapse )

 

Book review

Crossposted to 50books_poc.

Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

I thought I wasn't going to like this book. I'd rather read about a protagonist I admire, or at least one I might like as a person. There's not a lot to like about Lupita at the beginning of the story, and the first few chapters show all the signs of disintegrating into a preachy literary slice-of-life tale.

But Laura Esquivel surprised me. The seemingly random series of events surrounding the death of a local political figure start to shape up into a compelling mystery. As Lupita stumbles through her days, the reader gets a sense of a vivid social climate surrounding her, and the whole story is saturated with the cultural details of everyday life. It becomes clear she's in a lot of danger, and she barely escapes with her life on more than one occasion.

It's a murder mystery made of feeling as well as deduction. I've read a lot of detective fiction where the main character is coldly rational. Lupita is anything but rational, but she has a powerful intuition that serves her just as well. It was a breath of fresh air to realize that the author was deftly illustrating how it could be possible to solve a crime without high education or legal brilliance in an environment where the police are just as corrupt as the criminals. The character development is handled with grace and realism, and I really had to take back my initial judgements about Lupita's character.

Spoilery discussion of the endingCollapse )

Regardless, I really enjoyed the book and I'd recommend it to people who like mysteries with a dark or unusual bent.

 

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New game

We discovered a new game at GDC that's been my addiction for the past few evenings. It's Niche, a genetic survival game that's sort of a cross between SimLife and Watership Down. You start with Adam and Eve, a pair of little foxlike creatures that don't have an official name yet, and you have to breed your people into a whole tribe while exploring their territory, finding food, and fending off carnivores and illness.

It's made by a small group of people from Switzerland, an indie team, and it's still in the very early stages. They've been Steam greenlit but haven't started a Kickstarter yet, and the publically available build of the game is still a demo version that you can't save. I shut down my computer every night because it has a really loud fan, so I've been obsessively playing the beginning of the game every evening but rarely making it past generation 10 or so.

At GDC they had a little stall and they were running a contest where if you could breed your little tribe to ten members, you would get on the list for a free early access key when they get that far. We are on the list. :) If you join their Facebook playtester's group, you can get a bleeding-edge recent version of the build which is better balanced than the public demo.

The best part about it is it's turn-based. And it has nothing to do with war. It's rare to find a good turn-based strategy game that's not about nation vs nation.

 

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Too many things to do

I'm procrastinating by playing Drawception.

It is a ridiculous cross between Pictionary and Telephone where someone makes a prompt, the next person does an awkward 10-minute sketch of it in a little app like Paint, the next person guesses what the sketch was, on and on for fifteen iterations until the end result in no way resembles the prompt. It is oddly hilarious and also addictive. I figure what the hell, at least it's drawing practice, right?

Three sets of three drawings and prompts.