Sketch 12-20-15

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Been messing around with the Wacom during the holidays and drew this guy. What a hoot!

 

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Happiness is (a Conversation About) a Warm Gun

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Nothing like being polarizing as soon as I decide to start posting again, right?

But really, I was trying so very hard to avoid having the “gun discussion” on my blog, but when I can’t go a week without hearing about a shooting (or a shootout) taking the lives of an innocent person (or people) who never intended to be in the crossfire, it’s time to ask ourselves questions, namely these:

When are we going to take responsibility and what are we going to do about it?

So, reader, I’m going to be honest with you about how I feel about gun rights and I’m also going to admit that I’m trying to understand those who have a different view of it than I do. But let me start at the beginning.

When I was a kid, I took karate class for at least 3 years. I loved it. I loved the feeling of being in control of my body and using it to protect myself. I felt connected to all of my movements, I felt like if I wanted to defend myself or use my training that would be responsible for what I did, because it was my body that was doing the work, I was connected with my motions and emotions.

In other words, if I hit someone who was trying to hurt me, my hand would hurt. But if I hit someone who wasn’t trying to hit me, I had to reconcile with the fact that it was my own hand that did the damage, and my conscience would end up hurting.

The first time I shot a gun, I was 19. It was a small handgun — nothing special, but I fired it into the backyard of my then-boyfriend-now-husband Jon. The bullet rocketed into the trees and then, it was gone. I felt absolutely no connection to the event. The bullet was gone, my ears hurt for a second, but that was it. I felt so far from the piece of metal in my hand.

And I had 9 more rounds left.

And I know not everyone feels the same way when they fire a gun, but I personally felt no responsibility for the little metal shell sped through the woods. Could it hit something? Someone? I didn’t know.

I didn’t fire it again. I just didn’t feel like it.

Like I said, I didn’t feel connected, and it didn’t feel like it was something I wanted. And I know everyone doesn’t feel that way. But hear me out, if you would. I promise the rest of my point will be short. And I’m more than willing to hear yours.

When it comes to social aspects, I take a pretty flexible stance on things that can be boiled down to this:

Do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t inhibit anyone else from existing.

Yes, I know that’s really boiled down. But basically, if you want to drink, go for it, If you want to smoke weed, go for it — it’s none of my concern what you do in your own domain. But the minute you leave your door and enter in to the public space, be responsible and attune to those around you. Don’t drink and drive, don’t smoke weed at work, because it can affect someone. If you want to own a gun, that’s great, but you need to be able to prove to a qualified committee that you are able to handle it in a public place (because everybody seems to be really focusing on being able to conceal and carry a gun). And when it comes to carrying a gun in public, that kind of stuff makes me nervous. Guys, there’s a reason police officers wear uniforms, it’s so they don’t have to constantly walk around yelling, “IT’S COOL, EVERYTHING’S COOL — I’M A GOOD GUY.”

And guns wouldn’t bother me if we weren’t one of the only developed nations where shootings happen this frequently (and that’s using reported shootings, might I add). Seriously. When we experience 74 school shootings in the 18 months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in December of 2012 — or an average of almost one school shooting a week, something is really, really wrong.

Almost 65 percent of the killers in these 74 situations are white and most use guns that are purchased legally. Three-fourths of weapons used in mass shootings were legally purchased and between 1982 and 2012, more than half of all mass shooters possessed high capacity magazines, assault weapons, or both.

Personally, when I’m confronted with stats like these, I’d rather people just get rid of them, or only use them in extremely dire situations, such as armed combat/war. And yes, I’m aware that gun violence won’t stay at this peak, but to know that just one person lost their life to gun violence is troubling to me. I think that if we’re really concerned about protection, teaching kids martial arts and proper, connected ways to defend themselves rather than lash out with bullets, we’d have a lot less violence. But that’s just my own opinion and I totally understand that. Some of you really want a gun, and that’s okay with me. But I really feel the need to ask why.

Is it 1) To protect yourself from the government? Then why do you feel the need to shut the government out with a metal weapon? Why not engage the government through politics instead of just arming yourself and saying, “I’m safe now.” It’s like putting on layer after layer in a cold room rather than just turning up the thermostat. And yes, I know totally getting rid of guns sounds intense, but so does just giving anyone a gun under the guise of “protection” and expecting everything to turn out okay.

Or is it to 2) To go hunting? Well, you’ve got me there — and I don’t mean that sarcastically. I believe that people should own a gun if they want to use it to go hunting. I mean, after all, you need to get a hunting license, and that’s another screening option. But no one needs to own an AK-47 to hunt a buck. I have no idea why people would want to own a bigger, more destructive gun for anything less than some seriously shady reasons.

 

But whatever your stance, I feel like we don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to have solutions, we don’t want to balance things out or even attempt to compromise. You want a gun, I want to get rid of it. Done. But that’s not how things should be. We should ask questions and respectfully try to compromise.

Congress doesn’t want to touch the issue because it would mess with election results, and people are too busy calling each other “bleeding liberals” or “right-wing nut jobs” on Facebook to actually form a solid argument, pick up a phone or a pen, and contact their local representative. Ask your friends how they feel, have a logical debate about it. Because the longer we stall behind a message board, the more likely it is that this will happen again.

But there is one other reason I can think for owning a gun, one I mentioned before — And that’s 3) Protection. Because I can really understand that too. It’s a scary world out there, and knowing that “a bad guy” could be out there with a gun (who was able to get one because getting a gun is easier than getting a driver’s license) and could open fire. But good lord, if you walk into a Chili’s with a RIFLE and claim to be a “good citizen,” don’t be surprised if people seem a little….hesitant to believe you.

Let me put it this way — I have no problem with people owning guns and keeping them in their homes. But what I do have a problem with is thinking that anyone can own a gun. No.

I shouldn’t own a gun.

I don’t know how to use one, the action of firing one doesn’t feel like a responsibility to me. Like I said, I’m not connected to it. And I shouldn’t have to own one to feel safe because someone else was told they had a right to own a gun, even if they might not be mentally to fit enough to have one.

But for me, I’d tell the person who feels this way, “Well, why not get rid of them?”

And this person (I could imagine) would say, “That’s a rather utopian world you’re asking for.”

And then I’d say this: “But your world where everyone who has a gun is mentally responsible enough to own it and would never misuse it — that sounds pretty utopian, too.”

Southern California Review — Vol. VII “In Transit”

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On Friday, I got to attend a publishing party for the Southern California Review, a publication I have been working for as an assistant editor for months. I have gotten to see the issue grow and become a great, great book everyone could be proud of. We have a wide variety of pieces, from fiction to stage and screen, to even comics. If you would like a copy, they can be purchased here!


And, though I am a bit late in posting this, I’m proud to say that I was made Editor-in-Chief of SCR at the party! I am so proud to take over such a stellar publication and help make next year’s issue the best it can be.

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Grandparents

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Susan.

The word is sunny. It’s canary yellow —a buttercream blossom in a sea of green. Yes, they might exist in packs, but you only pick one to slip into the vase at home or to tuck behind your ear, and she was my one. She was my grandmother, Gran, my Susan. She spoke kindly, simply, but always with hints of tenderness, crisp and lovely as the grapefruit we picked from her tree in the back yard and sliced open on her kitchen counter. She was soft, light, easy as the mint chip ice cream she loved, or as smooth as the speckled shells of the eggs I collected from her hen house. Every word from her lips was a command to love — her animals, my own mother, myself. But the words I held dearest were the ones we shared when she asked me to brush her short, bristly black hair — a mane we referred to as “the burning bush.”

I’d stand behind her as she sat in the rolling desk chair in the guest room and I’d brush away. I’d spray her hair with a small water bottle and listen to her hum as I ran the comb through her hair. Then she’d ask me things. There was never a limit, but she’d continually ask, “Have you learned anything lately?” I still ask myself that question when I see her eyes staring back at me in a mirror, but all I can answer now is, “I’ve learned to miss you.”

***

            When I screamed, “It’s a goddamn diesel you piece of shit!” from my car seat in my mother’s burgundy van,  she didn’t have to wonder where I’d picked it up from. John. Grandfather. Pocky, as we all referred to him. I never knew why, but it just made sense. Short and to the point, just like he was. A New Jersey native that had lost his accent beneath the gravel of his throat, he wore thick, heavy glasses that distorted the wrinkles under his eyes, turning them into fleshy lines of static. I always enjoyed the way his hatred was spread equally, he had no party affiliation when it came to calling someone an asshole — he yelled at both Bill O’Reilly and Rosie O’Donnell. But when he wasn’t teaching me new four-letter words, he spoke to me in the snap of the newspaper, the zip of casting fishing line, the hinging of the cage as we went to sell the birds he bred at a market.

He spoke to me in words of leniency,” You can stay up and watch the boxing match or the History Channel with me, but only if we both get ice cream.” And so there we sat, watching two guys beat the shit out of each other or watching tanks blow things up while we ate ice cream and my mother was none the wiser. And if there were a sound that went along with the phrase “cutting loose,” it would be the sound he made when he opened the box of Entemann’s coffee cake he brought home every Saturday morning. He always cut my slice a little bit larger. There were times when he was like that, when I imagined my grandmother’s love had rubbed off on him. Times when I’d sneak out of bed to watch him feed the baby birds, cradling them in his palm and cooing — but then there were times when I wondered if he had taught her that kind of love, if she had been showing the world his reflection all along.

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If That Mountain Comes…

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Often, one of the biggest questions for writers can only be described as “the money question.” Now, this question comes in several different forms. Some of them are on the conservative end of the spectrum, such as:

“So what if you get a big advance on your book? You still have to pay it back, and then what?”

“What are you going to do with your life, just write books — how will you make any money?”

Or the questions can tend to lean on the liberal side of things (or also known as the questions you get from other writers):

“Don’t you want to make it big?”

“When do you get to buy that *insert expensive item here*?”

and, “Don’t you dare sell out!” (whatever that means)

But when all those things are taken into consideration, at the end of the day you are left with two very important facts:

A. You want to be a writer

and

B. You want to eat.

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The (Plot Arc) of the Covenant

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When it comes to plotting a novel, things can quickly go to absolute shit — and that’s putting it lightly. Even plotting a short story can look more like an awful wedding night.

Yes, I’m making a joke about the climax of the story arc, because don’t tell me that you’ve never done that before.

First and last time, I promise.

But for those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, this is what your average storyline looks like in nearly every creative writing classroom:

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So, for those of you who just stare at this graph in confusion — or for those of you who haven’t been in a writing class for awhile and feel a bit rusty, let me expound on some of those points real quick.

Let’s begin!

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Mini-Comic

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Well bonjour, friends!

As I said in my last post, I’m trying to teach myself French! Jack is usually who I get to practice on, though he’s not too great when it comes to responding. As you might’ve noticed, I’m also trying to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator (without an actual mouse). It’s…a little difficult to say the least.

But Jack, as always, remains hungry.

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PawprintHensley & Jack