MKE ZineFest 2019

Bad drawing of me at my ZineFest table

One year ago was my first ZineFest EVER. I knew a little about the world of zines back in the 90s, but didn’t know they were still a thing… but our friend, @ArtOfQuinn I’m , was participating so we wanted to support her and see what the zine life was about.

And it was amazing! Mind-blowing! Life changing!

We did the workshops, spent a ton of money, and for months after I regretted not spending more. I wanted to be part of that world but also felt so outside of it; but I started jotting down ideas and stashing away little doodles I meant to finish, just in case it ever became something real.

And then came signup day for 2019… within the first minutes I registered and got receipt number 5! The three months since then, all leading up to yesterday, have been a blur of writing, drawing, and printing/building some of the most personal, important and stupid things I’ve ever made in my life. And it’s the most creatively fulfilled and happy I’ve been with something in a long time (back to the days of my wonderfully simple webcomics).

Poster design by @teamnerdpress

Yesterday was the ZineFest itself, and it was nothing short of a blast… and a huge success to boot! I sold out of my “Letters To People I’ve Lost” zine an hour before the show ended and brought home less than half of my other zines. 86 copies of my work are in the hands of other people and I’m struggling to believe this is real life.

I was also sharing a table with @kpollyart, a total legend here in MKE, and managed to not just talk to, but act like a human being around him. It couldn’t have gone better for my first time.

My haul from various awesome zinesters

Although I didn’t get a chance to make the rounds and spend all my money like I wanted, I did grab a few great pieces from my friends and zinesters close to our table, and copped some amazing trades with other zinesters who did make the rounds. I’ve poured through my new collection twice already and feel so energized and ready to start the next project. Sickness be damned, I wanna get rolling.

And that’s why I started my Patreon today. The day after the event. The first day my work is outside of my head and hands, and given up to the world (or at least Milwaukee).

Hopefully you check it out because you enjoyed what you read and want to see more. Hopefully you are as excited about zines and their potential as I am. Hopefully we can change the world one little piece of folded paper at a time.

Whatever your reason for your interest, thank you. I can’t wait to get more zines out into the world and sent to your mailboxes!

Originally posted on Patreon

Hey Siri?

As with most mornings, I was running late yesterday and one of my many alarms went off while I was still in the shower. The phone is usually within arms reach, but in my fog of trying to wake up, I hadn’t left it where I usually do. Instead of stepping out and making the stretch to grab it, I tried something that usually doesn’t work with any background noise whatsoever…

Hey Siri,” I shouted, as quietly as possible, “turn off my alarm.

She sprang to life on the very first try …but didn’t quite do what I asked. Instead of stopping the alarm that was currently happening, she asked which, out of my impressive array of morning alarms, I wanted to turn off. The screen lit up with a list of every alarm with a green toggle next to it and she waited for my response.

Although it took an extra step, it did work, so I decided to try Siri a few more times throughout the day. Changing my AirPod volume, calling someone instead of finding their contact card, even shooting a text back while driving. I almost considered pushing the Siri button on my MacBook, just to see how it worked, but I was still at the office and I’m nowhere near brave enough to talk to her within earshot of other human beings.

But this morning, when another alarm interrupted my oft delayed shower, I couldn’t get Siri to respond to any volume or inflection of the “Hey Siri” trigger. Even turning off the shower and leaning out over the phone did no good; so I tapped my soapy finger on the screen and felt a little stupid for even trying.

That, to me, is the worst case scenario for AI assistants: day-to-day inconsistencies. Maybe it’s my mid-western guilt, but being unable to achieve regular results with voice commands feels like my fault, not Apple’s. Why? Because I got it to work yesterday, so I know that Siri can do what I want. And I know the phone can hear me, because it worked from the shower just yesterday… which means it must be something I did wrong. So my brain spins through my possible failings, looking for a clue as to what went wrong.

Did I not speak clearly?

Did I leave the phone in a bad spot?

Did I forget to thank her and now she’s salty?!

It’s this kind of inconsistency, the type that leads to self-doubt, which drives people away from new features, devices, or just about anything else. If a kitchen knife won’t keep its edge, you stop reaching for it because you know you’ll have to grab a second knife anyway. And if your voice commands become frustrating instead of novel/useful, you stop using them and reach for the phone with your wet, soapy hands, because you know it will get the job done on the first try.

I’m not giving up, because it felt cool to live in Star Trek’s vision of the future… plus I want to solve the problem of how to get her to respond with regularlity. But I hope the girlfriend never hears me screaming “Hey Siri” at 7am with varying degrees of volume and inflection, because the embarrassment might honestly kill me.

Beard

I spent several days last week stuck in a small photo studio with one other guy: our lighting contractor. He was at least a head taller than me, very outgoing, and carries a large presence into every room he enters. As the video guys from that area came through to check on our progress, he’d introduce me to the people I hadn’t met and often bring up my beard. Not knowing what to say, I usually just laughed and stroked it like a new and improved version of The Thinker. It gets a good response, and usually ends the discussion right there.

But on the last day of shooting, while walking back from a quick and early lunch, he lamented how he can’t grow a beard like mine because his facial hair comes in patchy, his skin gets itchy, and it becomes uncontrollable and wiry as it gains length. So, I started in on my typical spiel about how that’s normal, that even mine gets that way, and uttered the words that force this discussion to go off the rails without fail: find and use a product specifically made for beards. (I use a combination of a particular shampoo, beard oil, and variety of waxes and balms, depending on the day and how much control I need.)

His response, like everyone else I talk to, was the same: disappointment that my beard isn’t 100% natural.

He, like most, wants to believe that a “good” beard is about nothing more than the will to grow it, and possibly a genetic disposition towards facial hair… not patience, product, and styling. Other responses I get span responses like: it’s not a beard if you use product; try conditioner/shampoo like your head hair; or body wash works fine… it is, after all, more akin to body rather than head hair.

These suggestions are always tossed out by short beards or shaved faces, and it’s one of the main reasons why they won’t grow any longer. With their current methods it will itch, it will be wiry, and it will look unprofessional. I know, because that was me as recently as last year. The fact is, that just like curly hair needs different product than straight hair, beards need a different product than head hair. And no matter how incredible your genes, beards will always do better with a little help from specialized products.

But the root of the problem most men have with beard styling isn’t the need for a different or separate type of product, but that they need one in the first place.

There’s a sort of machismo mythology behind a man and his beard. A good beard signifies manliness; holder of wisdom and power, the beard is a signifier of his experience and years. In media we see that Gods, prophets, and kings have beards, and this serves to reinforce that narrative. A patchy beard, however, is a sign of immaturity, inexperience and possibly evil intentions; in this system, it’s better to have no beard than a bad one. And looking at styles of facial hair, we can see how mustaches, goatees, and sideburns all have slightly different meanings that fall closer to the bad/patchy side of beard mythology (eg: Villains have goatees, like evil Spock from Star Trek or Jafar from Aladdin. Creeps and dudes in 80’s bands have mustaches).

These social narratives mean that trying to grow my facial hair as a young adult was a frustrating experience that ended with short, and sometimes dyed styles aimed at hiding the bad patches while bringing out the good. It was almost always geared towards sideburns and goatee, or a chinstrap beard, so I could avoid the area on my cheeks that still refuses to grow as well or quickly as the rest of my face.

If it hadn’t been for older friends that freely experimented with different types and styles of facial hair, and encouraged younger guys to join them, I may have never stopped shaving. Events like Mustache March and No Shave November gave us the excuse to try out a new look and see how our beards were changing as we grew. It was a freeing, fun, and safe experiment since everyone was doing it. We made a Facebook group, gave each other titles, and kept one-another from shaving before the month was up.

That’s what things like Movember should be about: acceptance and experimentation. Dudes tend to settle on a look and dig in their heels for fear of ridicule upon the slightest change. So, instead of teasing friends for trying out their personal brand of beard swag, encourage them to not give up before December; pass on the hard to accept knowledge of what healthy beard care involves; and enjoy another made-up holiday.

At least this one’s a bit fun and doesn’t involve fighting with your relatives.