Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In between

Awkward, man.

I'm not a professional artist. (Obviously.) I love to draw and have a lot of fun experimenting with art forms, but I've never taken any kind of class to teach me how to draw and I've never pursued it in a professional capacity. 

As far as art goes, I'm decent. Better than average with a pencil, can make an appealing design or express an idea with visuals. But if you consider me "an artist," I'm nothing special at all compared to people who dedicate their lives to it. And I'm also not trying to be.

But it's kind of weird to be in between. I enjoy interacting with other artists in my fan community, and much of the time they're really talented and accomplished artists whose work blows me away, while the other part of the time they're very young or very inexperienced artists who have a LONG way to go. Honestly I also have some friends who are my age and would love to draw better but haven't come even as far as I have in honing their skills, and again it's weird to be in between. To be able to look at very amateur work and think "yikes, well, I'm sure they'll keep practicing" and then turn around and look at incredible work and think "welp, I'd never be that good even if I DID decide I wanted to."

To be honest I'm probably about that way as a singer too. People who don't sing or don't know much about singing hear my performances on karaoke sites or YouTube and tell me in complete seriousness that I should be a career musician. And yet I can imagine these same recordings being mocked as cringey or being opportunity-ending disasters if they happened on a worldwide stage. For the everyman, I'm pretty good. For people who know what they're talking about, I'm mediocre.

It's awkward, yes. But truthfully? I'm at peace with it. 

I really am.

We have this obsession with excellence in our society. As if you have to do something professionally (translation: for money) or try to make a name for yourself in that field, or else it's a waste of time. It's NOT a waste of time if you're enjoying yourself. 

I make fan art from my favorite cartoon because I love having a chance to imagine the characters doing and saying things I find amusing or touching, or working out some ideas of what I think characters would say to each other if the show were to give us a moment with them. I do covers of my favorite songs because I love the songs' messages or really enjoy making something pleasant to listen to--it's fulfilling, and fun to engage with others who enjoy what I've made.

There's nothing quite like creating your own stories, which for me is something I think I DO do well enough to do professionally (well, I mean, I've been paid for it), but it's okay to have hobbies and it's okay to NOT have a goal of "progressing" or "succeeding" with them. Just enjoying them is reason enough to do them. People engage in all kinds of hobbies that don't create anything, and they're rarely asked to justify why they enjoy going to movies, having a picnic with friends, playing a sport, going out dancing, going to concerts. It's weird that solitary-by-nature activities like solo arts are so often considered less worthwhile unless they're your career. 

I'm okay with being in between.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: November 11 – November 17 [GIF warning]

Life news this week:
  • Saturday I chatted with my mom on the phone while drawing, got my blogging done, played ukulele, and got some chores done.
  • Sunday I spent a bunch of the day whining about Amino to some other people who are irritated about what happened too. Also made a video, did laundry, and talked to my sister on the phone.
  • Monday I did a bunch of stuff on a City of Tampa proposal and some other stuff on utility coordination. I missed my bus stop again and had to backtrack! I wonder how I keep missing my stop? I didn't really do much useful and talked to Jeaux on the phone.
  • Tuesday I was doing a bunch of utility coordination at work while trying to ignore a bunch of arguing. Also signed a petition at the bus stop for someone who liked the buttons on my bag. :) Mom's roomie David picked me up after work and I went to her house to eat spaghetti and help her with some doctor admin stuff.
  • Wednesday I submitted the City of Tampa proposal, put together a bunch of stuff for my co-workers, and went out with Jeaux after work to a Thai place where we both had yummy food. We came back to my place and listened to podcasts while I drew.
  • Thursday was my first time going to a DOT meeting. (I was just there to take minutes.) But none of our utility reps showed up, which was bizarre because like eight people accepted the invitation and then just didn't show. We talked about other stuff with our subconsultant and FDOT project manager people but we couldn't do much without the utilities. Then I talked to one of the people on the Amino place who decided to work with me on either getting unbanned or, failing that, at least making sure my new account doesn't get harassed into submission. So I finally started posting stuff again.
  • Friday I just did some follow-up utility stuff at work and updated some databases, and at home I finished my comic and finished reading a book. And talked to Amino people who were all confused about the posts I was making. (Either they think I'm an art thief or they realize it's me and want to know what happened.) I'm doing a lot of secret explaining. :P

Interviews, articles, mentions:

  • Nothing really this week but Topaz's Universe on Amino made me this encouraging GIF and I love it.

Reading progress:
    New singing performances:

    This week's song was "Linger" by the Cranberries.

    New drawings: 

    High art this week is Garnet on a Post-It Note.

    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0653: "Measured and Considered."

    New videos:

    Letters to an Asexual #52 is about misconceptions associated with masturbation and asexuality. 

    I don't have a ukulele song finished, but I've been practicing a lot on a HARD one and that's why it's taking me a while to come up with something that doesn't sound terrible. If you want to listen to me practicing to see why it's maybe in a different league from my previous performances, that should shed some light.

    New photos:

    A close-up of one of the difficult chords I'm trying to learn.
    Someone on the Internet asked to see my Cheeseburger Backpack
    hoodie and I thought it looked cute so here.

    Social Media Counts:

    YouTube subscribers: 5,272 for swankivy (lost 10), 655 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 900 for swankivy (2 new), 1,328 for JulieSondra (lost 9). Facebook: 296 friends (no change) and 202 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 655 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,493 (2 new). Instagram followers: 125 (no change).

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    Wednesday Factoid: Hate Your Job?

    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you hate your job?

    Short answer: Nope!

    Not at all. My job is actually pretty sweet.

    I can't say I "love" it since it's not something I'd do for free, but they treat me very well at my office (with, you know, a few days here and there where something might be a drag or some situation gets frustrating). I'm compensated well and the big drag of it is honestly the commute.

    I felt similarly about my previous job filling a similar function. 

    I don't get to have too much fun and don't have much of a relationship with any co-workers, but I am comfortable there and don't have to deal with high-stress situations very often.

    At my retail job before this, there were times that were actually really fun at work sometimes, and some of the co-workers were friends, but it was very stressful and I was very, very unhappy more often than I was happy. I wouldn't do it again. Working with the public is pretty awful. Of course, the down side of working in an office is if you're forced to work with someone you don't get along with. That happened at my previous job and that person's unreasonable antics made everyday life there really, really stressful. Thankfully working together there was relatively short-lived. And there were a few aspects of it I could control, like when I asked my boss to step in over a few disputes and make it so I didn't have to work alone with the person. Doesn't work really well if your boss happens to be the one who's the problem or if they aren't accessible or sympathetic to your plight, but I was lucky.


    Tuesday, November 14, 2017


    Hey you know what's weird?

    I posted a video recently and one of my commenters was obnoxious. This is nothing new, though this particular one was sort of unusual in that they repeated a lot of the same things I debunked in the exact video they were commenting on. But ultimately, what was weird about it was how the commenter immediately defaulted to QUESTIONING MY CREDIBILITY when we disagreed.

    They questioned my credibility. As an asexuality activist.

    You know, that thing I've been doing since, I dunno, 1998--about which I have been interviewed perhaps three dozen times in various mainstream media, had literally thousands of conversations, and written a book which was widely reviewed and multiply recognized with awards.

    True, the person was questioning my credibility as an AUTHORITY--yes, it's true that anyone can talk a lot on the Internet and write a book, and it proves nothing at all about whether I am right--but they offered these criticisms in response to my saying I was EXPERIENCED. Not qualified--experienced. We were discussing the frequency with which people ask a particular question, and they were pestering me to acknowledge that this specific question was "the" question people will ask the most and accept that I had a responsibility to answer it a particular way. Otherwise, said this commenter, I would be ~confusing people~ and muddying the waters. And when I pointed out that my experience did not corroborate this based on the incredible number of opportunities I've had to have these conversations, my commenter said this:

    "You're by no means an authority on this subject. You don't even have relevant degrees. [...] We both know you are not unusually intelligent or educated, so for you to think your opinions about asexuality, which isn't even a self-contained field of study [...], trumps that of [...] commenters you disagree with is absurd."

    (I made some omissions there to make it a little easier to understand because the original comment is really convoluted.)

    And here's what I consider to be the weird part.

    It is absolutely clear to this person by this point that they are talking to someone who has had more conversations about asexuality than just about anyone else on Earth. Though I am not claiming to be a scientist, I am also not making any scientific claims, so reporting on and contextualizing these conversations isn't misleading or dishonest. And despite knowing my background includes twenty years' experience writing about this and a lifetime of BEING part of the population I describe . . . I am somehow not qualified to talk about it because I'm just plain not educated or smart enough.

    (I will admit I laughed a little at the gaslighting attempt, y'all. It's transparent and weak.)

    AND YET!

    Without any disclosed background, without any personal experience cited, without any relevant degrees discussed, this YouTube commenter believes themselves qualified to make these observations AND reject mine.

    So, isn't it weird that we marginalized people are held to incredibly high standards when we make our claims about our own experiences, but there are no minimum qualifications for them to make counterclaims or reject ours?

    It makes sense that we who live this life are the authorities, right? I don't need a degree in women's studies to accurately report on what it's like to be a woman and have some valuable observations about it. But if someone who isn't a woman pops up and says they don't think what I say is true, their default understanding is that their belief can only be earned if I agree to jump through unjumpable hoops (hoops they have constructed with minimal understanding, perhaps even deliberately constructed to be unjumpable).

    . . . However, I throw up my hands and give up when I get a commenter like this. Not just because they think they can avoid answering for their poor reasoning by questioning my credibility, but because they are always, always hypocrites. This one made an incredibly unscientific blanket statement about a behavior they insist every single asexual person on Earth has engaged in (full disclosure: they claimed that we all need to admit every one of us engages in masturbation, and that until we "admit" this, we shouldn't be talking about this subject). But then refused to address how they justify making such a ridiculous claim despite being called out on it by me and other commenters. (And there's also the fact that they accused me of "refusing to address" a topic the video was literally about, which was itself a response to someone accusing me of refusing to address the issue, in response to me addressing it the first time I did so in 2007. But I guess pretending I "refuse to" talk about something is easier than listening to what I said about it if your agenda demands that I come to a different conclusion about the subject.)

    This is the kind of person who earns a block from me. There is no discussion possible with a person who does not accept the lived experience and qualifications of someone they would otherwise accept (if only I agreed with them). Especially not if they're going to have said discussions arguing against positions I never took and contradicting words I never said.

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Personal Digest Saturday: November 4 – November 10

    Life news this week:
    • Saturday I drew some cute comics and put a few more things up in my new house that I'd been meaning to put on the walls. I fell asleep pretty early.
    • Sunday I had family over! Sister L came with husband Mike and Dad came with Connie! My sister hadn't seen my place yet since moving in and she and Mike seemed to dig it. I made omelets and we ate in my living room. And they hung out a while. Then after they left L took me to Mom's and we hung out there for a few hours too. It was a very family day! Er, except I also got banned from Steven Universe Amino and had no idea why, and when I finally made a second account to message someone in charge to investigate, they said I'd been banned for SENDING PORN TO PEOPLE and obviously I did not do that, but they didn't believe it wasn't me and said I had to stay banned because I couldn't prove it. Wow.
    • Monday I went to work and also posted a couple cute pieces of art using my new Amino account. One of them got chosen for a front-page feature very quickly but I have a recognizable style so people kept asking why a newbie account was posting art that clearly belonged to an established member and while I was addressing it THE NEW ACCOUNT ALSO GOT BANNED SUDDENLY WITH NO EXPLANATION. Just . . . dangit! Why!!! I dealt with fallout from that for a bunch of the day and chatted with some new friends who were righteously angry on my behalf.
    • Tuesday I went to work and wrangled the ban thing some more. I wrote to the supervisors of the whole system and they actually reviewed my account and found I'd done nothing wrong, so they unbanned me. And then within a couple hours I was banned again. Getting whiplash here. I found out from one of the Leaders there that the second account I'd made was also banned for spamming porn. So at least now I know it wasn't random and someone really is trying to get me in trouble. Unfortunately for me the people in charge there don't care to think critically about the issue. I was told both accounts will stay banned and I need to stop making trouble. Awesome. Some of my friends are helping me get a different angle.
    • Wednesday I had to do some technical stuff at the office that was new to me, and had a few pieces of progress with the ban issue. Went to eat with Jeaux and bought a new comic book. We ate at Cici's Pizza and went grocery shopping. Then at my place we talked about cartoons while I drew webcomics.
    • Thursday was uneventful at the office and when I went home I finally got in contact with a different member of management who was willing to listen to me, so I e-mailed her. But I missed my stop on the bus while chatting with her and had to get off the bus in an unfamiliar place, and then while navigating to the best bus stop going back the other way, I stepped on a low place in the sidewalk and fell and busted my knees. But at least I didn't drop my phone, haha. I went birthday shopping for a friend since I was accidentally near a store, and then rode the bus home like usual. I talked to Victor on the phone while finishing my webcomic.
    • Friday was pretty maddening because the Steven Universe cartoon is back and released six episodes in the early morning, and I had to wait until after work to go watch them with Jeaux. My new Amino friends kinda kept me sane (by also being nuts). Jeaux picked me up from work and we ordered pizza and watched the new episodes. It was great to have new cartoons after the longest hiatus in the show's history! But though I enjoyed the show, none of them were really standout episodes and I'm looking forward to what's next. 

    New reviews of my book:

    • Tabi Card gave it a three-star review on Goodreads. (For a three-star review it's awfully positive!)

    Reading progress:
      New singing performances:

      This week's song was "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette.

      New drawings: 

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0652: "It's Coming."

      New videos:


      New photos:

      Brother-in-law Mike enjoying the pillows!
      Hard at work or hardly working, amirite?
      Jeaux and me gearing up to watch Steven Universe new episodes.
      I might be a little excited.

      Social Media Counts:

      YouTube subscribers: 5,282 for swankivy (lost 3), 655 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Twitter followers: 898 for swankivy (no change), 1,339 for JulieSondra (7 new). Facebook: 296 friends (no change) and 203 followers (no change) for swankivy, 654 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,491 (lost 1). Instagram followers: 125 (no change).

      Wednesday, November 8, 2017

      Wednesday Factoid: Blushing

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you blush easily?


      That's a boring question, isn't it? There's hardly anything to elaborate on. 

      I'll figure out a way to expand on it.

      So I'm pretty pale, and theoretically if I was blushy, you'd be able to see it. I guess that means I don't really experience that phenomenon. Especially since when I exercise, I do get visibly flushed.

      I think the real issue is I'm not easily embarrassed, or maybe also my emotions don't cause particularly physical reactions. 

      Maybe the original thrust of this question is more about whether you're easily affected by things in ways other people can observe.

      It kinda depends. Because there's not too much that sends me into emotional turmoil; I keep it together easily for the most part and don't get flustered or upset. When I do get flustered or upset, it seems like my most obvious physical reaction is crying. I would say I cry pretty easily, though it seems to be more common for me to cry about happy things or about emotional things that are not happening to me.

      But in addition to this, I'm not embarrassed by things that many other people find embarrassing, I think. The kinds of things other people have described as being devastating (especially when something happens to them in front of a bunch of people) don't seem to affect me the same way. I guess I'm pretty good at playing things off? Or making fun of myself if I deserve it? Or shutting down disrespect if it's cultivated just to embarrass me and I'm able to turn it around on the perpetrator? Or just eating it in a way that doesn't bug me?

      For instance, I don't particularly like public speaking, but I'm relatively comfortable doing it. I don't mind having a bunch of eyes on me and I don't worry that the increased pressure might make me mess up. Same with performance; singing in front of a crowd or having a big audience just doesn't heighten fears or make me more likely to make mistakes. (At least, I don't think it does.)

      I think that's as far as I can take that relatively limiting question. :]

      Tuesday, November 7, 2017

      Senseless acts of Internet drama

      I’ve been a happy and very productive member of the most popular Steven Universe Amino since March 2017. Amino is an app you can download to share and enjoy content on a specific (or sometimes broader) subject, and people had told me a while back that I should get on the one for Steven Universe. (For obvious reasons.) I quickly found friends, other SU nerds who liked my work or wanted to talk theories, and I had a blast sharing everything I was passionate about. 

      I was best known for my epic merchandise posts and my embarrassing love of my favorite character Garnet, I guess, though I was always posting my amateur-but-heartfelt art, my unpolished ukulele covers, my character analysis and theories, my SU food recipes and photos, and even the occasional quiz. 

      Posts that seem unusually valuable for some reason get featured on the front page. It's got a big audience (nearly 200,000 members), so people freak out a little when they get a featured post.
      My posts got featured all the dang time. 

      Like, once a week, almost. I had THIRTY front-page features from March to October.
      And lots of younger people looked up to me there, knowing I was older but still into cartoons, saying wonderful inspiring things like they wish I was their mom or they want to be me when they grow up.

      Sunday I woke up from a nap with my account banned with no explanation.

      Looking up info on bans, I saw that usually you’d get a strike or a warning, or get your posts hidden, before something like a ban would happen, and I’d never done a ding dang thing to even get a warning. But the guidelines did say in rare cases you could get instabanned for illegal activities, sexual/graphic content, or violence.

      As a banned member I didn’t even have access to chat functions, so I couldn’t do what the guidelines kept saying to do (“message a staff member!”). I enlisted the help of a really kind friend I’d connected with on Tumblr after meeting there, but we knew there was little hope of helping that way because they also explicitly say there are to be no third party queries.

      I eventually figured out how to log out of the Amino and make a new account (shut up, I’m old) and I used the new account to contact one of the Leaders. The Leader was kind enough to reply quickly, but the response itself was pretty horrifying. 

      I’d been banned for sending sexual content to another member.

      Without warning, the Leader sent me a screencap of what “I” sent someone, and it was a close-up photo of genitalia and a comment inviting the user to sexually engage with said genitalia. Suddenly seeing that on my screen made me feel pretty ill. But the Leader had sent it to me under the impression that it had originated with me, even though I’d already claimed I did not know why I was banned. Yeah so basically the Leader sent me porn.

      So, a conversation ensued, and though the Leader was polite enough, I did feel that I was being talked to with full suspicion that I was a liar and had committed this offense. After all, according to the Leader, the reported incident was a live link of the offensive content leading directly to my profile. Which makes me think perhaps someone else accessed my account.

      I asked what kind of options I had but the person I spoke with shut all my options down very quickly. No, my reputation, history of celebrated content, and lack of motivation to do such a thing is not relevant. No, my obvious confusion was not good evidence that I hadn’t done this. No, my being asexual doesn’t preclude the sending of graphic content. No, there are no other steps to take to investigate and absolutely zero wiggle room in a case like this. You can’t prove you didn’t do it; therefore, we have to treat you like you did. 

      I was told the account would stay banned and there was nothing I could do about it, but that I would just have to use the new account from now on. When I expressed concern that whoever framed me could just track me down and do it again if they hate me, I was told it would be “simple” to just hide my identity. Easier said than done, since my art style’s recognizable, everyone’s seen my merch posts, and some things like cosplay and ukulele covers have me physically in them. But I wasn’t given another choice.

      I figured I would still investigate some options, like talking to the broader Amino support to see if they can help me prove those messages did not originate from me, but in the meantime I still love talking to people and sharing content, so I posted a couple things–one little essay on Sunday, and two pieces of art on Monday morning. 

      One of the art pieces was immediately featured. 

      (See? My content is considered worthwhile and valuable to the community.)
      I had been in the process of trying to find my friends and tell them what happened, so I was in a bunch of chats, and then my chats exploded with people confused about the feature since it was clearly the art of a known popular member being posted by some n00b. The comments on the featured post filled up with people asking what happened to me or accusing my new account of art theft. 

      When I tried to reply to some of them so they wouldn’t worry it was stolen, I suddenly couldn’t post anymore because THE NEW ACCOUNT HAD ALSO BEEN BANNED. 

      So they banned me, featured me, and then banned me again. (???) Seriously, I feel like I have whiplash. 

      I don’t know what the second ban was for. It could have been that I wasn’t supposed to be talking about having another account or what happened to it, even though it was true and I wasn’t in the wrong, but it also could have been someone reporting me for art theft or the person who has it out for me framing me again. 

      I don’t know why that person hates me or what they have against me to do this.

      I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my account back (with its 2000+ followers, 30 featured posts, chat full of conversations I can no longer access, wiki entries with organized book reviews, merchandise inventory, and all the lovely relationships and posts I cultivated). I’m so exhausted from spending my mental energy on trying to save this thing I loved so much that got yanked away from me when I literally did nothing wrong. 

      I joined another group called Senior Universe where old people can be SU nerds. The folks there are welcoming but it is small too. I posted a piece of art there as my first post and now it’s featured. Well, some things don’t change. ;) 

      I hope to get around to messaging my friends from the original account because I don’t want to lose them or leave them wondering what happened to one of their favorite members. I wish someone could help me.