Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Polar Opposite Cats

I realize a big blog post about your pets is kinda silly, and thus lands me in that self-indulgent, no one really gives a shit column, but eh. I was thinking about them last night, about how weird and opposite they are. And I need to post more on this blog anyways.

So. These are my girls.

Kiko was born on Hallowe'en, and looked like an albino bat when we first got her. Skinny, ears full of mites, a little puffball that I put in my coat when we got her in February. I chose Kiko through the word kiku, which means "chrysanthemum" in Japanese.

She got prettier, though, thanks to some good care from yours truly. And even more so that she doesn't have that squished cat face of some white cats. Regular cat face, but bunny-soft long white fur. And she knows she's pretty- when you come into our house, she will daintily walk up to you, swishing her tail and her head high. One of her common nicknames is "pretty" and she responds to it. She also responds to "coochie" because she has the unpretty habit of laying on her back with her legs out on either side.
Kiko is the cat you admire for her prettiness, and you play with at close range because she doesn't use her claws. She and I have a lot of fun chasing each other through the house. She gets all hyper and bug eyed and darts around like a maniac. Trills and meows loudly if she thinks she's alone in the house, and when you call her, she'll come running for attention.

Is the first to try and get into forbidden places, like the basement or outside, so you have to be careful with doors. Recently, I opened the back door with groceries and she slipped through the crack. Luckily it was raining so she stopped dead in her tracks and I was able to push her back inside.

Kiko is not the cat you can give a hard scratch to, or pick up (without her getting really annoyed), or snuggle all that often. She likes to be pet gently, and to settle next to you on the couch and occasionally on our lap. But she startles easily and you have to be all cool about it, or she'll leave.

There are a lot of rules when dealing with this cat.

Now, Tora.

Tora is six months younger than Kiko. We got her from a shelter because I was worried that Kiko would be lonely. Tora announced her existence by mewing at me from her cage and purring like crazy. When I picked her up, she scrambled up to my shoulder and snuggled into my neck, continuing to purr. We chose the name Tora because it means "tiger" in Japanese (notice a trend?).

Tora's purring is a wonder. When we took her to the vet for the first time, she wouldn't stop purring. The vet had to put rubbing alcohol under her nose to get her to stop so she could hear her heartbeat. She purrs with her entire body and all breath in her lungs, so it sounds like a jackhammer sometimes (PURR PURR PURR). Tora isn't as obviously pretty as Kiko, but she has cool markings and colors, and a kitten face that's very cute. She also has a scratchy kind of meow, or sometimes no sound comes out at all.

Tora is always happy, and always wants to be pet, touched, snuggled, etc. ALWAYS. This cat follows me around all day, and sleeps with me all night. She is a cat who aactually wants to be picked up, who will sleep on my head, who always wants to be on my lap. Her happiness comes through in purring, and also licking. Yes, I have a cat who licks like a dog. She will purr and lick my hand or face obsessively until I push her away.

Tora is the cat you give lots of petting to, and the one you do long-distance playing with, because she will get excited and use her claws if you're not careful. Tora plays fetch with little sponge balls, and brings it back in her mouth. She also loves playing with a string, or with her "crunchy mouse" which is a hard yarn covered thing. Though we call her "pea-head" sometimes, she is a smart-ass cat. These are the words she knows: ball-y, string, crunchy mouse, bored, hungry, soft food, treats, the dot (and spelling out D-O-T), and there's probably others I can't remember.

Tora is a chewer,though, and is currently eating my plants. She will chew through any kind of string, including blind strings unless we keep them up. She is also usually the instigator of very rough fights with Kiko, that we usually have to break up. She does scratch when she gets excited, and deeply at times - I have a scratch scar on my thigh that has yet to fade away. And she is a shameless beggar for people food, whining and crying for it and generally being a nuisance.
But I love'em.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weird Moments in Teaching

A quick post before I go and start vacuuming up my flooded basement:

Teaching college creative writing has been a frustrating experience for a variety of reasons, but we'll focus on one now, since there was just an interesting moment that happened.

One thing I find frustrating is students who fuck around and, as cheesy at it sounds, don't live up to their potential. I had a student this semester who did that. And he is a great writer. For his young age (these are sophomores, mostly), he's got major potential. His writing is always interesting, always well done and complex and researched.

But he barely participated, just doodled in his journal. Sometimes didn't hand in stuff. And when he did participate, it was often with a quiet, but challenging tone. I quickly got the impression that he wasn't impressed with the class, or me for that matter, that he might have felt "above" the introductory subject matter.

Now I told these kids from the start: being a good writer does not mean an automatic A. I'm more interested in the effort put into it, the genuine effort to try and get better. You can be a great writer, I told them, but if you don't put in the work, you're not going to get a good grade.

So today. The kids came in to hand in their final portfolios, no actual class. I said I would be in the classroom from 10:45 - 11:15 to receive portfolios, and if they were late, it was their own fault, and I wouldn't accept it after that time. They trickle in slowly, unless it's down to one last student to come in, our buddy here.

11:10 - nothing.

11:15 - nothing.

I'm having this internal monologue at this point - I'm asking why do you do this? You're so talented, but you keep fucking around, and now I'm going to have to drop your grade by 15% because you're not here on time to hand in your portfolio, blah, blah.

11:16 - pack up my stuff.

11:17 - he walks in.

I say "oh, you are lucky! I was just about to leave!" He says "yeah, I guess I am" with this offbeat, kind of light tone (very ususual).

He hands in his portfolio, then sticks out his hand.

"Good class," he says pleasantly.

Shakes my hand. Then leaves.


But weirdly enough, I find that one sentence to be a big compliment.

I might post more later, after this flooding thing is dealt with.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moving Sloowww.....

Finishing up page 5 of AE#2, did a thumbnail sketch of page 6 and will probably pencil it tonight. It's kinda slow going, but it's happening. Don't know if I can get it all done by January like I hoped- will have to see if I can get some extra work done when I go home to Canada for Christmas.

Am thinking that I need to step up with a strip or regular short comic on this blog, rather than just lame-duck entries updating on the second mini-comic. Maybe take the focus off of my life and get creative again. I have a bunch of stories I've put aside in the past few months - maybe I should do something with them. Or do something completely different.

It's hard - I think the winter is slowing down both my brain. I don't want to do fucking anything when I get home from work.

Too bad, because I like winter, and when we got a dusting of snow last weekend, it not only made me happy, but also homesick. Isn't that weird - the most stereotypical aspect of Canadian life is the thing that makes me all gushy? But for whatever reason, that cold, crisp smell does take me right back to Ontario, to Sauble, and the way the beach is in the dead of winter.

I actually love going back to Sauble in the winter. Sure, it's known as the ultimate summer beach location, but I love how much it's like a ghost town in the winter: pillars of snow, trees covered in white, and the sound of the water rolling in slowly. It's really beautiful. But an acquired taste, I think. Not for most people. Probably because you need to wear layers upon layers to do anything. But I like layers. So there you go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Huzzah! Success!


Am thrilled to death with the progress on page 4 - just had a *very* satisfying inking session, where everything was just working out perfect. After the struggle with 2 and 3, it's a welcome change, and actually boosts my confidence. Now to figure out what to put on all the bare walls of the scenes. Pictures? Plants? Graffiti?

I also moved my drafting desk further away from my work desk, and feel like I got a bunch of new space to breathe. Why didn't I do this earlier? Dumb dumb.

M and I just got our Christmas tree, and it's all fat and falling slowly and filling the house with piney smell - we'll decorate tomorrow, I hope. I have some ornaments from when I was a kid that my mum gave me, and also a silver bell from my Gram's tree from when she and my dad-dad (granddad) first were married. It's signed: "A & W, 1948." I love it.

I'm surprisingly in the spirit this year, and I'm a notorious Scrooge - I'm the one who usually refuses to let M listen to any Christmas music until about two weeks before the holiday because it's just wrong. But now I'm the one humming. I like all the old versions of Christmas songs best - Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole. Probably because my parents played them, they just sound familiar. But these days, I'm mostly humming one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pages, Inking Gods, and Waiting for my Turn to Kill

The much-cursed Page 2 and 3 of AE #2. Yes, it's taken me a long time to get this done. Bad, bad Canook. Back to the grind. Trying to average 1 finished page every 2-3 days. Trying to juggle the jobs and errands.

Something I notice as I look at the above picture (again, no scanner, so digital photo it is) is that my bodies are stilted. That is, there's a stiffness I know I have to work on. I know it'll come with more practice - I should probably go back to AS220 for more figure drawing classes. And take some time and just go sketch people in a public place. I think it'll also come with the increased comfort I get with inking with a brush.

I am in awe of those comic artists who are doing what I do with an inkwell and brush, but are so masterful and smooth and confident with their lines. Again, I'm sure that it comes with years and years of practice, but when you're hunched over your art desk, brush in hand, that inadvertant quiver causing a slightly wiggly line as you stroke down, well, I can't even image inking like Terry Moore of Strangers in Paradise, for example.

Now he's a guy that I study as an inker. The way he has extreme detail, varied lines thick and thin to create three-dimensional, realistic characters (realism being the key and drawing real women what he's known for) His use of shadows and full on black to achieve a fully balanced page, the way he illustrates hair and cloth - total inspiration. I doubt I'll ever get to that level, but it's worth trying to learn.

Beyond the pages, planning my trip home to Canada to see my family and friends, preparing to sing with my chorus in a Christmas concert (with lots of singing about Jesus - very strange for a non-religious person like me - I just try to enjoy the singing) getting into playing Scrabble and Scramble, and right now, enviously waiting for my turn to play Ninja Gaiden II (so gross, so hard, but so fun) and making a cup of fresh Red Rose black tea, the stuff I grew up on and one thing I am truly thankful for finding here in Rhode Island.