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The most insane things I have done because bugs.

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Sorry for the absence, everyone. I had computer problems. Where did we leave off? Oh yeah… bugs are terrible.


This cartoon was inspired by real life events, a bit of an unusual move for me. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that it’s not just spiders that terrorize me. Once upon a time, which is fancy story telling terms for ‘about a week and a half ago’ I had an incident which started out with a clogged toilet, It was that toilet that prevented me from noticing the wasp on the faucet when I went to wash my hands. This left me with a dilemma- do I brave the wasp again to turn the faucet off or do I leave the water running forever? Gathering every single iota of bravery I had, I lunged at the faucet and promptly tore my fingernail down to the quick (boy am I glad I didn’t get stung!). Miraculously, the wasp didn’t move. Not wanting to press my luck, I backed slowly out of the bathroom, which seemed like a brilliant plan until I tripped over that shoe.

I honestly don’t know why bugs frighten me so. I have no enemy more determined to do me in than me. Over the course of the next week, that wasp moved around my sink just far enough to let me know he was still alive and could (I assume) kill me. Sure, you can lighten up on the liquids as much as you like, but eventually you’re going to have to go in there. I thought about hitting it with a magazine, but what if I only made it mad? It could be a mutant super wasp. I thought about catching it under a cup, but it kept hanging out on the edge where nothing could really cover it, so clearly it had the genius of at least Einstein, if not Stephen Hawking,

Finally, I broke out the vacuum cleaner. Thankfully I have a super light super tight Dyson (who did not pay me to characterize it this way, but I wouldn’t say no to a few bucks Dyson reps who may be reading this), which allowed me to get him from a verrrrry long ways away. But even though this vacuum is so mighty that I can tear the nap right out of my carpet if I’m not careful, I had to immediately run it to the closet because what if this adamantine warrior of the miniature set survived and was really really mad about the involuntary amusement park I just ran it through? Clearly the vacuum will need to be quarantined for oh… I think about two years. Just to be safe.

This is part of a larger pattern with me. A laughably irrational pattern. In the past I have:

*Thrown a laptop across the room because a spider crawled across the screen in the dark. My panic as it left my fingertips doubled when it hit the wall.

*Slept under a nest of blankets because I couldn’t force myself to turn off that lamp while that moth kept hogging that space around the switch.

*Gone to the movies just because, the because being that I would assume that spider was somewhere less visible by the time I got home from the theater.

*And of course there’s the ‘I don’t want to look like an idiot’ dance I do every year because I’m really trying to play it cool but I have yet to discover signature scent that bees don’t recognize as ‘pollen’.

Please tell me, oh loyal readers, that I’m not alone in this bugaphobia. Because my shrink and I have been at this make me less insane thing awhile now, and we haven’t even got to the bugs yet.

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99 Days to Wed

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I’m a pretty singular person. Not in the sense of “oh look at me, I’m so great, there’s no one like me!” singular, but singular in the sense that I don’t like being in relationships. I like being single. Also in the sense that I used to work for Cingular. I was a singular Cingular person. Except I worked for them twice.

My point, readers, is that I like my own company. I’m a great conversationalist with myself. I could talk to myself all day. Sometimes I do. If you and I meet face to face, you will probably call me a good listener. Anyways, I’ve been fine with this arrangement for a few decades now. But the other day, my mom said something to me that changed everything. “What would happen” she asked, “if you were alone and a black widow bites you?”

(it’s this)

I can stomach the idea of a childless existence (prefer it, actually) and will gladly traverse into my twilight years alone if it means that I will always have the remote control, but this was an Achilles heel I had not considered before.

Some of you may have noticed, I’m a little scared of spiders. Actually, I know you’ve noticed because I have the gruesome stories, videos and pictures to prove it, you sadists. When I first started drawing about my arachnophobia, some doubters thought I could not conceive of 99 ways in which I was afraid of them. At least consider a different title, the doubters said. Leave yourself a back door. Sure, those doubters may have been in my head and this could have been one of those conversations with myself. What matters is that the doubters had a point.

Even if you revisit some themes.

30 plus comics in, I am running out of steam. Not because I am running out of ways to be afraid, but because I’m running out of ways to convey it in my chosen form. How do you draw a stick figure representation of a spider crawling in your mouth and down your throat and laying eggs in your stomach so that it’s million babies eat you slow from the inside out? Seriously. I’m asking.

Not that it matters, because I had a flash of inspiration. It is very, very easy to take horror movies of all shapes and sizes and drop a spider in as the villain.

Norman’s mother was a spider and you know it.

Why is it so easy? Because spiders are very very evil and they do in fact want to kill you. I know they do all sorts of awesome things like kill pests and other stuff I guess, but I’m sticking with my them or me mentality.

Which brings me back to the beginning. My circular, singular journey. You cannot remain vigilant when your enemy can seize you in your sleep. I now know I have to be married, post haste. All you have to do is promise to be by my side, always always always and protect me from any and all spiders in line of sight. For this, I will pledge my eternal love to you and perform any service you consider to be a spousely duty and in the bounds of legality, or at least ethics.

All applicants may send reply via any small animal antithetical to the presence of spiders or time travelling carrier pigeon, serious inquiries only please.

Matrimonially yours,
Martin

(the preceding article is dedicated to Vince who lovingly shared that he found a black widow in a space which I regularly visit… thanks for the inspiration?)

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Older than I used to be, and Now I’m Getting Older

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It was my birthday this week and as I pass further into the realm of not as young as I used to be towards no longer a spring chicken, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the nature of comedy. Because it’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy. Or so the saying goes. I don’t remember laughing a lot during Romeo and Juliet.

As a regular reader (I hope) of what I’m doing here, you may have noticed that I have the style of humor that I like to think of as classic. You can call it corny if you like. I love a good pun and I could never understand why Stephan Pastis felt compelled to put those self flagellating final panels in Pearls Before Swine where Rat felt the need to pulverize his author every time he felt the bounds of clever wit had been transgressed. But then, that’s probably why you’ve heard of Stephan Pastis and I’m uh… not in that league. Here’s a thought though: By having a character confront the author is it railing in the face of God? Am I so responsibility averse that I don’t use recurring characters for fear that they gain sentience and kill me in my sleep? That’s crazy. Of course not. Stop looking at me!

So… classic comedy. I am lucky (?) enough to have been raised pre reality television. If anything, I like to think that my general ennui/malaise towards life can be attributed to Punky Brewster, the Golden Girls and Cheers. Great as those characters were, the shows were not character driven. They put the situation in situation comedy. I thought when I grew up I would have all kinds of hilarious hijinks where I was mistaken for foreign dignitaries and business scions. Where I would have casual encounters with celebrities where I learned a great Life Lesson when we passed for thirty seconds in the hall. Where I faked my way into great jobs and made wonderfully anecdotal mistakes while fudging my way to competency.

Then reality tv came along. Sure, it was sort of there all along but it didn’t REALLY take off until I was already in college. Then we got to see survivors face their fear factor in the real world under the eyes of big brother. Of course, having to eat a pile of worms or run a footrace over a pile of craggy ankle beckoning rocks is about as likely for most of us as casual celebrity encounters. Despite that, reality tv became the new reality. Our relationships (to this old biddy) feel more complicated and dramatic than they used to be. Our conversations more rhetorical. That’s when I realized that somehow a funny thing had happened to us. Less funny haha than funny tragic (it’s tragic cos it’s true!). The more that we escape into fiction, the better we understand what is real. The more we tried to replicate (regulate?) reality, the more we hyperinflated those things that are fake. Art’s a funny thing, isn’t it? What happens when life imitates crap? Anyways, I think I’ll go infiltrate a strangers’ high school reunion. Time to put the wacky back in this whack job.

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Brave New World

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Now that the Super Bowl is over and (as you can probably guess), I didn’t watch it I can share a secret with you. We’ve been friends a while now and I think it’s something you should know.

I have a secret love affair with sports movies.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. I would rather… well, you’ve all played the would you rather game. You can end that sentence any way you want to and it’s something I would rather do than watch sports. Any sports. I don’t get them. They are beyond being Greek to me. I studied Greek a little and I sorta get that. Sports are more…. advanced quantum mechanics to me.

But here’s another little secret: Sports movies aren’t about sports. Any more than disaster movies (my other way more public love) are about disasters. In fact, they’re both about the same thing. Little guys overcoming long odds. Movies that always have the worst things happen in them have the best possibilities of a happy ending. It’s not super awesome if some messed up stuff didn’t happen along the way.

Think about the news. Wouldn’t you like to hear more stories of karma and hard work paying off for the right people? Well, that’s what sports movies are for. Most… hold on… come back. STOP THINKING ABOUT THE NEWS! That bottle isn’t gonna help you! Ok… welcome back. So, most sports movies seem to be based on true stories which is pretty great. I like to take the view that if we cared as much about other things in society as much as we cared about sports, we would be those super advanced plucky survivors of Interstellar in a heartbeat. And you know what made them survivors? FOURTH DIMENSIONAL BASEBALL made them survivors! That could be us!

You could argue that I could get the same euphoric optimism from learning to watch sports but I don’t see how that’s inspiring. No guarantees of a happy ending exist there but in a movie, all the ups and downs of broken hearts of a whole season of (sport) are condensed to an hour and a half where you get fifteen minutes of origin story, five minutes of training montage, 20 minutes of love interest, 25 minutes of moving through the brackets to the playoffs, twenty minutes of the big game and then a recap of where they are now.

All of this is my reeeeeally roundabout way to say I don’t do a lot of sports jokes.

With Deathbed Forgiveness
Pretty sure this is the only one I’ve ever done.

If anyone out there has a neat idea for a sports joke they’d like to see, feel free to share it. I can’t promise to draw it, because I might not get it enough to draw it, but I’ll give it my scrappy underdog best. See you at the afterparty.

P.S. Sorry for all the yelling. Sports movies get me carried away.

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Not Inclusion

Brutha, Can You Spare a Home?

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So things have been a little quiet at Camp EaZee lately. I know you would probably think current events have me too down to speak up, but then you would have not met me. I may be down, but I plan to speak for at least three years after I’m dead (note: this is just a when it happens thing. I’m alive and well and writing from an undisclosed location that in no way resembles the island on Lost. Sadly).

No, what’s kept me quiet is my sacred trust of pet sitting for my BFF. I know that there’s this rumor that cats sleep sixteen hours a day , but god the damage they do in those last 8 hours is formidable. And it doesn’t even have to be damage of anything but the mental variety. Cats have their own way of gaslighting. They do things that make you doubt your own reality. Right now Marley, who is a colorful character, is sitting on the heating register and cleaning himself. Is this the kitty version of a hot shower or a bidet? Just what the heck is that about? The heater was already on, so there must be something about the feeling of hot air on one’s bum this little kitty finds appealing.

His mate (as in pal, not literal mate) Mithras does this thing where he goes down to the basement and he yowls. He does this long and he does this loud. Again, the Rorschach thing. I have no idea why he does this. I imagine he’s sad. He misses his owner and he needs a quiet corner to express his displeasure at the universe. I have no reason to believe this. On the contrary, he does it when he owner is here as well. But that’s what my mind imagines. His owner is a musician and he could be just as easily writing her a song. These cats are cryptic.

But creative. This took some skills.

Then there are the dogs. Like many dogs, these dogs are the opposite of cryptic. Their transparency would be laughable if it were in a movie instead of in the kitchen. Ranger looks at the cat dishes about once an hour to remind me that they’re empty. I can (and do) tell him that he’s not a cat. He shouldn’t eat cat food. But he’s a dog and doesn’t speak english. He does speak dog, and the language of dog is “I’ll eat anything that looks like some kind of food substance”. The cats must be practically hand fed because Ranger is a nervous eater.
Finally, there’s Stella. She’s the most loving creature you will ever want to meet. Like many love stories, she worries that she’s not loved so much as she loves. She has giant brown Disney doe eyes and she knows how to use them with military precision. She’s 45 pounds and has yet to be convinced she’s not a lap dog, because she’s a big furry walking hug. If you don’t mind having the world’s heaviest fur stole, I think it’s a role she would happily take on.

Taken all together, all four of these animals are a handful and a half. Because they outnumber you four to one. Imagine having two sets of twins, one pair two years old and the other pair one and it’s something like that. Easily managed if you live in an it takes a village house, more daunting if there are four of them and you have only the two hands.

Guess which one of these is my favorite right now.

For all that, I’m enjoying myself immensely. Not only because these are incredibly quirky, cute, adorable animals and my landlord says “No pets! Grrr!”, but because this will probably be the last time I get to pet sit them. Their owner has had a lot of life changes over the past few years and no longer really has the capacity to care for the twins and the twins. If you are in the area of Utah (ok, so my location isn’t totally undisclosed) and your household (or a friend’s household) would like a super awesome animal that needs some one on one TLC, drop me a line. The more free time you have, the better it will work. Stella, in particular, is about the best emotional support animal you would ever want to meet. I guarantee these animals will love you more than you love them, however much that is.

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Resolved

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Since having these seems to be all the latest rage, I thought I better throw my New Year’s resolutions out there. Never let it be said that I won’t grow. So without further ado, I give to you 2017.

1: Allocate time better in 2017 so I have one of these ready to go on the first of January 2018.

2: Have an income of some sort. By the way have you seen my Patreon account?

3: Clean my apartment. This shouldn’t be a year long resolution but.. it is.

4: Eat a vegetable.

5: Make some art money. By the way did you know I have a Threadless store?

6: Have at least one guest author on the site that I don’t already personally know.

7: Live through the entire year.

8: End racism forever. Politely decline the statue. I roll modest.

9: Pet any cat I see.

10: Lose some weight. I refuse to set a goal in this regard because if it’s a stone (in honor of our brave new post Brexit mates across the pond) or an ounce, I win.

I tried to cover the gamut here from modest to… let us say… unrealistic? (I’ll let you guess which is which) How are the rest of you on New Years Resolutions?

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Threat Levels

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It’s Christmas eve, so that’s as good a time as any to talk about stranger danger, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this week as a very uncertain year draws to a shaky close. Someone I know pointed out that we keep blaming the year like that baby who came in on January 1 was a real live being that was stalking us relentlessly from the shadows with a chainsaw out of resentment for our incipient replacement of him with a younger model (Ok, they didn’t use those exact words, but isn’t it colorful imagery?)

We probably need to stop victim blaming and look at our own behavior and go what am I doing that makes the world a worse place? I offer up the following as an example of my point:

The trees KNOW that Lumber Jack is a threat. Maybe one or two of the more paranoid ones suspect that the rock is a threat, but what none of them know is that the real mastermind is the squirrel! The squirrel has been whipping up the antagonism between the rock and the trees and Lumber Jack and the trees, and in the meantime if the trees, Lumber Jack and the rock teamed up they could get rid of that damn squirrel once and for all! But they’re too busy hating each other from fear to compare notes.

I guess the lesson here is we need to manage our fear before we can overcome it. I will admit there is a (big) part of me that fears this in 2017:

But my fears are not only not helping, they’re counterproductive. I’ve adopted a new credo for 2017, coopted from Alcoholics Anonymous:

Lord, grant me the serenity to fear those things I can change, to ignore those things that I can’t and the wisdom to tell them apart.

Fear is a survival tool, that ironically is killing us. Let’s use next year to fear wisely, yeah?

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Night Owl!

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I’m one of those people that has trouble with the whole being awake during the day thing. It’s never been easy for me. There’s a good chance I’m sleeping while you’re reading this. Just like there’s a good chance you’re sleeping while I’m writing it. I’m one of those people known as a night owl and that gives me plenty of time to think about things that probably don’t cross the minds of the Normals.

Thing 1:
th-38
Apologies to Dr. Seuss. It’s an homage. This is how Things look in my head when I think about Things.

Why do they call us night owls? Isn’t that redundant? I mean, if you take something that’s most well known for being that one thing, do you really need to add the thing it’s known for as a qualifier? Shouldn’t we just be owls? We don’t call that drinker with the hollow leg a water camel. Or a camel at all I guess. Yet. Try it and it might catch on. Anyways, I mean, what’s the danger of misunderstanding here? “Oh? You’re an owl too? I love eating mice?” Also, language evolves. Owls might be awake at night, but vampires burst into flames in the day. Their claim to being  synonymous with the night is way over that of owls. I know someone will come in and tell me that vampires (or night vampires as I now like to call them) have historically not until recently been inextricably tied to the night. But that’s my point.  Besides, mistaken ideas lead us neatly into

Thing 2:
thing2.jpg
It’s running because it’s a wave.

I’m sure you know this, but things are louder at night. They don’t seem louder and people don’t do things louder. Sound just likes to be louder at night and murder those things that bring sleep to the world. I call this the psychological Doppler effect. PDE will soon be playing at a rave near you. It’s what makes those upstairs neighbors sound like they’re wearing the kind of lead boots that leads to deepwater expeditions for giant squid. I’m sure there’s probably some big scientific explanation about how the air is thin and carries sound better or something. All I know is the volume at which I can barely hear my tv during the day is 3 times the volume at which I’m afraid it will wake the neighbors at night. There’s no ambient noise that makes a difference or anything. It’s just a case of PDE gone awry.

I have other things but the sun will be up soon so I should hit the sack. I’ll leave you with this old doodle. I drew it at night.

vamp

 

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I’m Irrational

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People have been saying it for years but I’ve been reluctant (refusing?) to believe it. I am an irrational creature. And so are you. And that guy over there. And that woman… well it’s possible she’s a robot. But us flesh and blood humans are off the deep end.

I had this hammered home to me in a dash of insight while I was playing video games. That’s when all the best insights happen. I realized that as I was trying to turn a tight corner I found myself leaning to the right. Like the balance of my weight was going to be that one crucial factor that put me over the top to victory.

I am not new to video games. I’ve been playing them since 1982. This was not a wii or a PS4 with gyroscopic controls or motion detectors. No Kinect with a camera mapping my every move. I was playing a PlayStation 2 game and leaning as hard as I ever yanked on an Atari 2600 controller trying to make things go faster. Remember how bad your hand hurt using a 2600 joystick? How you were afraid you would snap the stick right off? No? Then you weren’t gaming in the 80s.

So what’s the point, you ask? You’re irrational. Big deal. The big deal is that I realized I was functionally irrational. That that is a constant human state of being. That no amount of knowledge or education can counter my most tightly held beliefs. It used to be that we would all employ rationalism as best we could to come up with a common consensus of what is real and what is not and make that the world in which we live. That was before King Rhetoric came to town. FDR once famously said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and we believed him. Because we are dumb. And irrational.

There are plenty of things to fear besides fear. I won’t list any because I’m trying not to be overly a bummer and I’m sure you can think of 40 or 50 on your own. What I will say is it might be helpful if we redeployed our common rationality to separate the irrational fears (say, the boogeyman) from the rational (spiders- it’s true, you know it, shut up). If we can see reality, we can fix reality.

Optimistically yours,

Martin

p.s. Sometimes Admiral Ackbar is right and it’s a trap. Sometimes it’s just a house. Or a cigar. <.<

venus

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