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2020 was a strangely garbage year, but let's not forget the things that we were able to achieve and our resilience during these hard times! If you are reading this, hope you have a happy new year!

Positives

  • Read a lot of books and increased my knowledge
  • Finished Here We Are book 1!!!!!! MY FIRST BIG SOLO BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!! So many sweat and tears hahaha
  • Finished BL Tease. Big heartfelt thanks to Linda for leading and Maguro for bringing it to physical life. This is on top of their existing excellent design work and story/comic contributions. I am truly privileged to have such great collaborators!
  • Helped a friend bring her baby/parent book to life :)
  • Lived on an island and worked with a slew of strangers for a couple of months
  • I can (but barely) lift my cast iron pan with one arm
  • Starting exercising routinely in September...then exercised daily since October (though this is both positive and negative as I still don't particularly enjoy this HAHA)
  • Published freetalk posts every week since the summer! This was not my intention, but I'm glad I did it, even just for practice. I noticed that I have to do a lot of editing for these posts to be coherent. I tend to insert a lot of extraneous words, adjectives, and phrases: I think, perhaps, maybe, just etc. Good self awareness.
  • Drew 31 tamagotchi for tamagoctober. I put my tamagotchi on pause afterwards because it was a lot of work.
  • Did a bunch of updates and upcycling with existing materials (apron, tshirt, tarp, etc.)
  • Tried out ink marbling/suminagashi
  • Made a cute and fun card game with ittybeatty in December 2020! Concurrently, we learned how to the use Affinity suite to do all the illustrations and design (weaning ourselves off of Ad0be...)
  • Started working on HWAnimation (though there is still much to be done)
  • Getting suspended from birdsite even though I didn't post anything HAHA
  • Began HWA arc 2 with chapter 12
  • Organized and hosted many boardgame arena sessions to stay connected with people
  • Got more fountain pens and I think I'm done...I have a good lineup!!!!!
  • Convinced more people to play Yakuza and fall in love with Majima Goro
  • Made a solid switch over to non-g00gle things for everything that I need
  • I drew this very good raccoon plush
  • Donated $ to a good handful of organizations!

Photo of comic thumbnails and finished comic pages, featuring Sabina from Here We Are

Memorable moment of 2020

I was on a Jackbox games group call, playing Fibbage: Enough About You, which is a game where you answer questions about yourself. Other players can add their own responses to the same questions, based on what they think you'd respond. One of the questions was something along the lines of

If Dirchansky had a Ph D in a topic, it would be in [fill in the blank]...

The false answer that was chosen the most by other players was old man yaoi hahahahahaha...is this the reputation that I have among the youth?!

Negatives

  • Travel and vacation plans destroyed
  • Couldn't really enjoy life because of various-stages-of-lockdown
  • Cockroaches appearing inside my apartment during lockdown WOOOOO (still going through chemical warfare)
  • Accumulated more plastic and waste because of lockdown (take-out, groceries, etc.)

Reflection

On December 31st, 2020, Koyama Press is closing down. They've been a mainstay in the Canadian comics/indie publishing scene, and I've been personally blessed by both Annie and Helen's generosity throughout my comics-life in Toronto. We officially got to get to know them because we travelled to Kaigai Manga Festival (2012) and exhibited next to them in our little Canadian Comics TCAF corner. Since then, they've come to Love Love Hill's table at TCAF to chat and grab our newest releases and treated us to all sorts of wonders (meals, snacks, drinks, karaoke, stationery, reference books, etc.). There are countless other stories like this from other creators over at Quill and Quire's article about Koyama Press. Most of all, they were absolutely unconditionally supportive—they made you feel supported, seen, and respected. When you're too shy to reach out, they'll find you and drop some love bombs on you. I'll miss them, wish them the best, hope they get some downtime/relax time, because I know they've worked incredibly hard for our community. Koyama Press's existing books will continue to be available, while stock remains, at your local bookstores!

As I've been getting older, with less brain and physical capacity to do things, I'm taking a long hard look at where I should be spending my time and efforts.

I've been quite successful in de-coupling my self-worth from what I produced (in a quantity, artistic sense). Visual arts and comics have been part of my identity and being for over 20 years. I've funneled most of my time, energy, and money into art/comics as a "hobby". Do people usually exert this much money and labour into a hobby that brings them a mixture of positive self-improvement, pain, stress...?! What return on effort/investment am I looking for? What's in it for me? What am I hustling for? What/when is enough? I wonder whether I should continue to be a content creator, and if so, how and what kind?

Should I continue to share my work? If people aren't going to see it, why do I even have social media or a website? I don't know the answer to that right now. For a long time, I hoped to be able to help grow a community, but the horrible data privacy practices of major social media and chat sites pushed me away. I like to help others, I like to be kind to others, and I like to use whatever limited/meager resources and voice that I have, to uplift others. I don't want to be on those platforms and I wouldn't want people I care for, to be on those exploitative platforms either (e.g., read this article by RainyLune on IG's algorithm.

Maybe someday, I can be as selflessly generous as Annie Koyama.

Things to look forward to in 2021

  • New planner: I'm particularly excited to have a calendar that starts on SUNDAYS again (instead of MONDAYS; I'm not used to it)
  • Paper tasting: trying out a lot of notebooks (I bought a handful of lower page count notebooks to try out throughout the year)
  • Playing Yakuza 3-7 on PC; goodbye life
  • Continuing to evolve and to improve myself and the community (e.g., be more understanding and forgiving)
  • Release at least one HWAnimation video, if only to showcase the people that contributed their skill and efforts to the project
  • Maybe vaccines will be deployed to people who need it and there will be a gradual shift to a new normal?
  • Becoming more unknown and more obsolete, or finding some more ethical/reasonable ways to put myself out

In the meantime, I'm counting down the days to meet my favourite fictional man again in the new year...

photo of a notebook spread, featuring hastily drawn sketches of Majima Goro from Yakuza

Today's music post: Moonchild's Cure from their Voyager album.

November and December 2020 media round up

What I read during November and December 2020

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They said this would be fun by Eternity Martis

This is an unfiltered memoir about Eternity's 4 years attending Western university (a predominantly white campus) as a racialized person. I must admit that my own university experience was extremely uneventuful compared to hers. I was and continue to be a non-drinker, non-party-er, and non-social person!! I found myself wanting to pull her outta all the toxic situations she found herself in, and that she eventually finds more opportunities to stay true to herself, and love herself more.


Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong

This was some much needed-reading on my part because I am soooooooooo unknowing about disability-related experiences. The format of the book is short writings/essays/stories by different authors, organized in loose themes. I appreciated how intersectional the book was through its inclusion of a wide variety of stories and writers from different backgrounds. I am grateful to this book for introducing me to more voices, and so much more...it's just the tip of the iceberg, re: how much I need to learn.


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I first saw this book because it was recommended on Wonderpens...but honestly had no real idea about what it was about and just added it to my HOLDS in my library account. There was a 8+ week hold, due to its popularity. As a plant lover and a (former?) scientist, I was pleased to find out that there is a big plant component to the book! You can really feel the author's passion and respect for all things living: the descriptions of her experiences and relationship and JOY that she feels when she is in the moment, observing and respecting nature. I also like the critique of English language and science, and how it others humans from all other living things, which is fundamentally different from how many Indigenous cultures associate with the world. She also wrote about her struggles to reconcile the feelings of gratitude/reciprocation and science/traditional ways of thinking and living. I thought that it offered a fairly clear viewpoint about our paths forward: we've done a lot of damage, and merely stopping the damaging isn't going to help; we have to work on restoring our relationship with mother earth. I will think hard about my gifts, and how I can reciprocate back to nature.

The book felt long to read; I think this is driven by the fact that (a) my book was almost overdue and I was in a mad scramble near the end, and (b) the author finishes her chapters with extremely eloquent closure/lessons statements, so it gave me the false impression MULTIPLE TIMES that I was done reading/the book was over (I'm reading an ebook copy from the library), but NOPE there was still more to go! I'm grateful that I had time to really think deeply about what I read in this book.


Today's music post: Inuugannuk by Terry Uyarak.

Tamagoctober 2020

Lovingly revisit 1 tamagotchi a day in October

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Here's a compilation of all 31 of my Tamagotchi ON generations I drew for #tamagoctober.

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The full ones are on masto for now!

Today's music post: Kuyaw (Hala Ka) by Han Han. From the bandcamp website:

Filipino-Canadian rapper HanHan, an operating nurse by day and an MC by night, released her eponymous EP in 2014. It’s an album pulls no punches, unflinchingly tackling HanHan’s identity as a woman of color, her experience as an immigrant (she moved to Toronto from the Philippines in 2006), and the politics she sees playing out both at home and abroad.

October 2020 media round-up

What I read during October 2020

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Honey & Clover 1-10 by Chica Umino (2000-2006)

Ahh, coming of age, self discovery, multiple love triangles (in all senses of love), and art school woes, coupled with beautiful artwork that seems both effortless, beautiful, and hilarious. I gotta say that I got so many Wai vibes from the art/expression/paneling (especially the exaggerated freak out parts). So if you like Wai's work, you'll probably like H+C, vice versa. The way that the title "honey and clover" is woven into the ending was chef's kiss.

The author draws herself as the best bear ever in her freetalk!!!!!!!!!!!!! Freetalk goals!!!!

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Untamed by Glennon Doyle (2020)

I listened to the ebook narrated by the author, which I've never done before, but it's quite effective because I could hear her passion in the delivery of her words. She uses a caged/zoo-born cheetah as an analogy at the beginning of the book that is carried throughout the prose. I'm about to butcher it:

The cheetah in the zoo has never been in the "wild" before. She has a Labrador dog best friend as a role model. As a performance for the visitors of the zoo, the dog first demonstrates running after a dirty pink bunny plush down a race course track. Later on, the cheetah does the same, but does it much faster and is rewarded with a store-bought steak for her performance/obedience.

The cheetah is a representation of a creature who has never been let out into the wild, who has their path pre-forged for them, and who follows that path for a sub-par reward at the end. BUT, when placed back in her enclosure, the cheetah begins to show more instinctive/wild preying and stalking. There's more energy and sparkle in her eyes. Something innate in her, that has been suppressed. Tamed.

The book itself talks about forging your own path, rather than the path that was defined/given for you (e.g., following the dirty pink bunny), thus the title of the book, untamed. I was concerned about the title feeling cheesey (e.g., RAWRR FIERCE GIRL POWER!!!) but the way the analogy is used, is very effective. Although she addresses untaming primarily from a women's POV, but it can also apply to any person.

The author breaks away from being a devout/traditional christian living a straight life with husband and kids, to living and building a life with a female partner. The book has several examples of how she tried to "untame" herself in a lot of different contexts, primarily by:

  • looking inwards instead of looking at what is already out there (before the world told you who to be) and
  • living from imagination (instead of indoctrination).

In particular she addresses being called a racist (as a white woman) and describes how we fundamentally live in a racist world, where we're taught to be racist, so yes, in fact, we are all racist, and need to actively try to unlearn it.

Overall I think it's a worthwhile book to read if you always felt like there's was something about your life that feels unsatisfying, because you did what was expected of you. Personally I think I've been untaming for a while now, so I'm glad this book exists for those who haven't strayed off their indoctrinated path (yet).


One Native Life by Richard Wagamese (2009)

As we all know, the recent news about our indigenous relations in Canada is pretty terrible, on top of being historically awful.

Richard's book was meant to be positive and introspective, specifically written to help heal and reclaim his identity as a displaced Ojibwe child who was tossed into the foster/adoption system, because his parents/family suffered trauma from residential schools, and couldn't necessarily be parents. The book itself is written as micro short stories (a few pages each), compiled in 4 themes within the book, so it was an easy read. Could easily be picked up and down without losing your place. I think I read it in about 4 hours straight.

Richard was put into a foster and adoption homes of white people since ~5 years old. He shared a lot of stories about not belonging/being heard, learnings and heroes along the way, and overcompensating with wearing super native things (e.g., having long hair) when he tried to reconnect with his native side in his 20s. It was interesting to me that there are specific camps and retreats that exist purely for people like him, who were displaced, to relearn and reclaim their native lifestyle. The existence of such camps/retreats speaks to the historical erasure and genocide of their culture at the hands of settlers/colonizers. A lot of stories about native lives are ones of anger, injustice, and despair, so knowing that positive reflection (while acknowledging the historical issues) can still be a path forward, feels important.


What's coming up?

Hopefully:

Today's music post: Window by Midori Komachi. The song itself is kind of peaceful but kind of uncertain at the same time, which feels appropriate as it is from I hope this finds you well in these strange times – Vol. 1, an on-going and multi-artist album compilation made for the COVID-19 crisis.

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Did one of those extremely long surveys What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be? courtesy of Easydamus. I don't play DnD so I didn't fully understand what this all meant...haha. The results used "he" pronouns for everything in the original.

You are a Chaotic Good Human Ranger (4th Level)

Ability Scores

  • Strength- 8
  • Dexterity- 9
  • Constitution- 9
  • Intelligence- 11
  • Wisdom- 14
  • Charisma- 11

Alignment

A chaotic good character acts as their conscience directs them with little regard for what others expect of them. They makes their own way, but they're kind and benevolent. They believe in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. They hate it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. They follow their own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.

Race

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class

Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses their skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature they bear a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. their skills allow them to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and they also have special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that they can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid they is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

What if this was in wuxia-land instead of euro-fantasy land?

Later on I thought about what DnD (which is usually more based on euro-POV and worlds?) would be like if it was in wuxia/武俠 universe instead. I didn't dig too deep into that topic (since I don't play DnD), but I did brainstorm what my wuxia-sona would be!!

My friends said:

  • She doesn't leave footprints, only oil stains
  • If she ever leaves a message, it'll be in oil stains

Some random patterns that could be associated with my character:

Today's music post: Rain of Fury by Rhapsody of Fire. When I think of DnD I think of this kind of fantasy metal!

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Been trying to engage with work by BIPOC creators so I didn't end up drawing comics. There's always a guilty productivity tradeoff...but now my brain has more knowledge! Here's what I read/watched in September 2020.

7 Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga (2017)

A book about 7 indigenous teenagers who died in Thunderbay between 2000-2011 (ish). Its tagline is Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City and I think the book is a must-read for any Canadian. I wrote down several 'real talk' quotes from the book in my commonplace book; here's one of them:

We didn't have space for them in our world and didn't make space for them in theirs

An important book to read about our failings to support indigenous youth in our country. Right after reading this book I went to donate to the Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san 1 and 2 (2019)

A few weeks ago, Papermaiden sent me a message with a photo that showed an old man in glasses from this comic. She said that the character reminded her of how I draw old men (haha). I had seen photos of this series around and enjoyed the slivers I saw, so I borrowed the first two volumes! It is pretty funny, especially if you like over-the-top emotions and facial reactions and know about fandom subcultures in Japan. I feel like there's something very Japanese about the humour-style, in terms of dramatic shifts in emotions (kind of like what I remember from Gintama). There were some parts that were harder for me to understand from a...visual clarity POV? There's also tons of small text crammed all over the place. Kudos to the translator who must've had a lot of work to do (they also provided lengthy translator notes at the end)...

Becoming by Michelle Obama (2019)

I feel like I would really get along with Michelle Obama. Lots of relatable content and attitudes/orientation to life/growth/development. The book is written very clearly, and she doesn't hold back on writing honest and raw feelings that she had during her life. I hurhur-ed at the portions where she was insulting Barack but then somehow totally falling in love with him.

Like a Dragon (2007)

I'm a huge fan of the Yakuza video game series (though I've only played 0-2 and am cursing the lack of PC console releases). This movie will make no sense unless you've played the games, and they even changed the plot a whole bunch to get it to fit into 1h50min-ish time frame. The redeeming points of the movie were Majima Goro's extremely chaotic portray by Kishitani Goro and the shiba inu dog. I laughed at Nishikiyama's weird CG back tattoo (that was clipping into his hair as he randomly stripped?!), the helicopter that was flying extremely recklessly and blowing off Kiryu's blazer so he could be ready for his bare-top fight scene, etc. I think it's still a worthwhile movie to watch for any Yakuza fan!

Raising Multiracial Children: Tools for Nurturing Identity in a Racialized World by Farzana Nayani (2020)

Even though the book is targeted at parents (which I am not) or teachers/educators (also not), I was interested in learning more about multiracial experience and having productive conversations about race in general, with adults and children. This book has a lot of practical knowledge for that. The me right now would peg myself as monoracial POC but multi-ethnic, so a lot of the experiences outlined in the book still felt very familiar to me.

Didn't finish: The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King (too slow and ambiguous even after 1/3 way through the book).

What's my on October media list?

Hopefully...

Today's music post: DJ Shub - Calling All Dancers.