SomeDay in February

When I learned about the #SomeDayinFeb project on the fantastic Danica LeBlanc‘s Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, I thought “Wow, what a great idea! I am very good at frittering my time away and not getting to the things on my ‘Nice To Do’ list. I should write about this and put it out there, because I know exactly what I’m going to do for that project!”

And then I didn’t write anything about it. Because — as has been stated above — I am very good at frittering my time away.

The last few…months, really, I’ve felt like I’ve been stagnating. Just scraping by, getting the barest minimum accomplished, and sometimes not even that. There are a number of reasons for that, few of which are interesting or unique. And they’re not even reasonable, like “I would love to learn to waterski but I have three kids and two jobs and a mountain of debt and also I live in a desert in space where there is no water and also it’s the fifteenth century and the internal combustion engine hasn’t been invented so there are no motorboats.”

(Your definition of “reasonable” may be different than mine.)

Which brings us to my #SomeDayinFeb project. I’m going to do an oil painting.

bobross

One of my biggest sources of comfort and inspiration is the American painter and television personality Bob Ross. The man who hosted The Joy of Painting on PBS, who painted almighty mountains and happy little clouds and friendly trees in half an hour or less. When I think of his paintings, they’re rarely  brilliant works of art — though there are some that I think might fit that description — but his show wasn’t about showing off how good he was at painting. It was about teaching, getting people inspired, and yes, probably to sell some of his Bob Ross Art Supplies too. I’m a pretty big cynic, but even I don’t think that Bob Ross did over three hundred and fifty painting shows just to make a happy buck. He always said “Everyone can paint.” And I honestly think he believed it.

I’ve been watching Bob Ross videos semi-religiously for about ten years. I discovered his show one Saturday afternoon while visiting a friend, and couldn’t believe this was a television show. For my friend, who had grown up with PBS, it was old hat, but for me it was a revelation. Here was someone who had dedicated his life to art, making beautiful things and helping people find that spark of joy and creativity in their life. When he said things like “We don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents,” or “Just like life, we need the dark in order for the light to show,” I didn’t actually believe it, but it was comforting to hear him say it. He shared his love of nature through his paintings and by bringing rescued animals on his show to raise awareness about animal rehabilitation. And even when the paintings turned out a little lackluster, I was in awe. It was something I could never do, but I could be happy just watching him create. I never dreamed that I would make a painting myself. I just wanted to watch from the sidelines.

Then just over a year ago, my brother and his fiancée gave me a gift of a mess of canvasses and a Bob Ross Joy of Painting DVD set. “This way you can make your own,” they said, smiling at me. And a hole opened up in my stomach. “Don’t you know,” I wanted to tell them, “that I’m not supposed to do this? I’m only supposed to sit and watch!!” But I accepted their gift as graciously as I could, then put it on the shelf and didn’t do anything with it for twelve months. Occasionally I thought about it, but I kept pushing those thoughts out of my mind, crushing them down, tricking myself that I could forget about them. I can’t make a painting. I can’t do this. I can’t.

Then a few months ago I was watching The Joy of Painting, an episode I’d seen probably a dozen times if not more. Bob Ross looked right into the camera and said “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it.” That line hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized in that moment that even if I don’t think that I can do it, Bob Ross does. And he’s a lot smarter than I am.

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So I got an easel. And some paints. And I set aside some time today to see what I can do with them. I’m terrified of what’s going to happen. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be an absolute mess, a waste of time and money and effort. I’m also worried that when I fail at this, it’s going to ruin The Joy of Painting for me forever, and I won’t be able to watch an episode again without remembering the art atrocity that I’m about to commit.

I’m still going to try, though. Because Bob Ross believes in me. Even if I don’t.

Scotch & Comics Episode 26: A Hero of Noble Enterprise

 

Seriously: anyone who can write a half-decent poem about haggis is okay with me. (Full disclosure: I love me some haggis.)

Seriously: anyone who can write a half-decent poem about haggis is okay with me. (Full disclosure: I love me some haggis.)

If I don’t post a show on Robbie Burns Day then I feel like I’m probably doing something wrong. Also: hello! It’s 2017 and I’m still occasionally rambling on about comic books while walking arm and arm with John Barleycorn. This episode John is rather silent but I talk about Astro City, The Anchor, Deathlok, and The Punisher MAX. It’s a kind of a short episode but don’t worry: the next one is going to be extra-long to make up for it. Just you wait.

Show Notes:

  • Sorry for the voice quality in this episode. I had a heck of a cough when I recorded this; hopefully I edited most of them out.
  • For the record: I misremembered what Priest said about Denys Cowan’s work on Steel. It was probably all that Scottish water. For more of Priest’s thoughts on his Steel run, check out this entry from the man’s own website.
  • Music in this episode: “Anti-Orgasm” by Sonic Youth; “Ultimate Devotion” by Strung Out; “Let Down” by Easy Star All Stars featuring Toots & The Maytals; “There Goes My Gun” by Pixies.
  • Thanks again to Jason Farrell for his help with this episode. Go tell him that he’s the bee’s knees and a snazzy so-and-so!

Link: Episode 026 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 026
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics

Scotch & Comics Episode 025: Carry A Big Stick

I took this photo with my own two hands!! And also with a camera.

I took this photo with my own two hands!! And also with a camera.

I’ve tried to write the show notes for this episode five or six times now and it always just comes down to me trying to not talk about how it’s been a while. So I figure the less said the better!

Long story short: if you want to hear your intrepid host Devin R Bruce talk about awesome independent comic books like Polly & The Pirates, Bitch Planet, The Hypernaturals, and Injection, then this is the episode for you! Also if you are interested in the fantastic comics in Showcase Presents Metamorpho and the unbelievable talent of Ramona Fradon, that’s here too! Enjoy!

Show Notes:

  • I didn’t mention it but Polly & The Pirates was published by Oni Press.
  • Here’s a link to buy Cunning Plans online.
  • For more information on Ramona Fradon, check out this interview at Sequential Tart, or go to her website and marvel at her artistic talents. Because Ramona Fradon is the freaking best.
  • Music in this episode: “Late Bloomer” by Jenny Lewis; “Help I’m Alive” by Metric; “Mouth’s Cradle” by Bjork; “Used To Know Her” by Veruca Salt; “URAQT” by M.I.A.
  • Thanks to Jason Farrell for all his help with this episode. Jason is a class act and a great guy, and you should go tell him so.

Link: Episode 025 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 025
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics

My Depression

I don’t talk a lot about my experiences with depression. I tell myself that I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But that’s just an excuse. Really, I don’t talk about it because I’m ashamed of it. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to admit that I struggled with depression, and that I still struggle with it. There’s still a part of me that feels like talking about it will cause people to look at me differently. To pull away from me. To keep their distance.

The terrible truth, though, is that not talking about it forces people away from me. It keeps them at arm’s length. Not talking about depression makes depression worse. It causes the thing that I’m most afraid of.

So today, I’m going to share a little bit. To be vulnerable. Because, as I’ve learned from Brené Brown, vulnerability is what connects us to people. And that’s what today’s supposed to be about.

My depression came suddenly, when I was an adult. Though I was never a positive, happy, optimistic youth, I think managed to weather my good and bad moods fairly well. In my twenties, I did everything I thought I was supposed to do, tried to make the best life I could with the circumstances I had. And then, just after I turned thirty it all fell apart. And I fell apart too.

I spent six months depressed and not admitting it to myself. Everyone around me knew I was depressed. They told me that maybe I should talk to someone about it, but I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew better. After all, I had a psychology degree; I knew the tricks that therapists would try to pull on me, because I’d seen therapists before and I trapped them in logic circles and I danced around their questions and they never managed to fix me. I didn’t see how this would be any different. This was just the way I was going to be from now on.

What I didn’t know at the time was that during those six months that I couldn’t admit to myself that anything was wrong, my brain was changing. It was stewing in poison, rewiring itself and changing the way it processed information. All of my new memories were tinged with the depression, and all my past memories were painted with it too.

Because memories aren’t recalled perfectly like finding a photo on a hard drive; every time you remember something, you reconstruct it, and part of the reconstruction involves the mindset you’re in at the time you “remember.” So every old memory got reinterpreted negatively. That’s one of the worst things about depression, in my experience. It makes it hard to form new good memories and it blots out old good memories. It makes everything grey. It numbs you out.

There have been a number of times in the past few years where my mind would go into what I called “sleep mode” when I was alone. I would just wander my apartment, or go for a walk, and I wouldn’t feel anything. I’d just be numb. When people were around, my brain would go out of sleep mode, and I could feel things again, but when people went away, it was time to power down. Use what little energy I had for basic functions and otherwise just zone out.

Depression can also hide. A number of studies have shown that once someone suffers an episode of depression, they are very likely to suffer a relapse or recurrence at some point. When things in life change, circumstances get better, and it becomes easier to cope, a little positivity can seep in, and the depression seems like it’s gone. But often it’s not. Often it’s just hiding. And it just needs a little push to come back, and then it’s like being smothered. Except this time, you know what depression feels like, and it all comes back on you.

In the past, it was all I could do to just cope with it. I spent months in survival mode, barely able to get through the workday before collapsing in my bed. I spent weeks where every time I looked in the mirror I said, out loud, “I hate you.” There were years that I frittered away because my only goal in life was “make it to Friday.” On Friday, I had two whole days where I wouldn’t have to do anything if I didn’t want to.

Sure, there were days where things felt okay. I don’t mean to imply that my life has been a grey cloud for five years. There have been great things, wonderful things that have happened to me in that time, things that even the depression couldn’t completely suck all the colour from. But they always felt like anomalies. Eventually, I knew, things would go back to “normal,” and I’d be struggling again.

Depression is insidious because it makes itself feel like the default mode. It makes working to keep it at bay seem like an insurmountable battle. All the work I’ve put into trying to work against depression in the past few years often seemed worthless, because I knew it was all going to fall apart again eventually. But I kept at it, because I got to the point where I decided that literally any change would be better than what I’d been feeling. Through a contact at work I found a new therapist, a good therapist, a therapist that costs a lot of money but I am fortunate that I can afford the rates. And I’m putting in the work.

In fact, by interesting coincidence, this January has been the first time in over four months where I haven’t felt tired and sad all the time. And, because depression tricks the brain into thinking it’s normal, my reaction to not feeling tired and sad all the time has been to ask myself, “Oh man. I feel weird. Am I sick?” That’s what depression did: it made feeling alive seem wrong.

I know I still have work to put in. I know that statistically there’s a very good chance that if I get over this bout, another will eventually occur. But talking about it, with my therapist and my friends and my family, and putting in a hell of a lot of work, has made a difference. And it makes me feel like the next big bout will be survivable.

So I guess the reason I wrote this is to share what I’ve learned in the past five years. To speak to maybe one person out there who will identify with one small part of this and take one small step to talking about it. So if that’s you, here’s what I’ve learned:

Depression will trick you. It will hide, and it will lie to you, and it will convince you that living tired and sad and numb and without hope is your normal now. And you will have to fight back against it, and you won’t always win. But you can be strong enough to keep fighting, and the way to get that strength is by talking to people. Talk to professionals if you can. I know that good help is often hard to find, through a lack of resources or income or qualified therapists, but I encourage you to try. And if you do find one and they’re not a good fit then keep looking until you find one that works for you. Talk to the people who love you, because they want to understand, and if they walk away from you then you can take comfort in the fact that you just discovered someone you didn’t actually need in your life anyhow.

Just don’t keep it to yourself. That’s what it wants.

Scotch & Comics 024: Patchwork

The Best Nerd-Themed Patchwork Quilt on the Internet. (via The Driftwood Thimble's Instagram page)

The Best Nerd-Themed Patchwork Quilt on the Internet. (via The Driftwood Thimble’s Instagram page)

This episode of Scotch & Comics is trying something a little bit different. This episode isn’t the result of a single evening’s “hard work” but rather a handful of books spread out over a few days, then stitched back together. (It’s fun to spend an entire evening sipping whisky and reading comic books, but sometimes it can be difficult to find five consecutive hours to set aside for that Herculean task.)

In this patchwork of an episode your intrepid host Devin R Bruce takes a tour of a wide variety of comic book stories, from Marvel and WildStorm’s World War 3 crossover, Warren Ellis’ rocketpunk adventure Ignition City, psychedelic espionage book Change, and Scott Morse’s mind-expanding Strange Science Fantasy. Wrap yourself up in the warmth of this episode of Scotch & Comics. It’s hypoallergenic and breathable, and made from 100% natural ingredients.

Show Notes:

  • Boy, I hope I pronounced “Ales Kot” properly.
  • TV on the Radio “Happy Idiot,” Charles Mingus “Hora Decubitus,” Potty Umbrella “Love Song,” Funkadelic “Where Do I Go?”

Link: Episode 024 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 024
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics

Scotch & Comics 023: Rum and Television

This zombie is a certified bartender. You can tell by the umbrella in his skull.

This zombie is a certified bartender. You can tell by the umbrella in his skull.

A little while ago I was talking with the ladies from the Boozy Boob Tube podcast, and I said that since I have a podcast where I drink and talk about comics and they have a podcast where they drink and talk about television, we should figure out some kind of awesome crossover. They agreed that it would be a good idea and a fun time, we just needed to come up with a show that I hadn’t seen that was based on a comic book that they hadn’t seen.

Then, iZombie happened. AND A PODCAST WAS BORN!

Special thanks goes out to Jess, Emma, and Katie for agreeing to this meeting of the minds! I had so much fun and hope we can do another one of these in the not-so-distant future.

Show Notes:

  • Note that this is just an audio version of the video they recorded for their website; if you want to see us in our tipsy glory, you can find the link to the video here, and catch up on the rest of the Boozy Boob Tube episodes here.

Link: Episode 023 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 023
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics

Scotch & Comics 022: The Lost Episode

I looked basically like this in my search for the lost episode, except that I was sporting a magnificent beard.

Devin looked basically like this in his search for the lost episode, except that he was sporting a magnificent beard.

Gather around, podcast listeners, as I tell the tale of Episode 22 of the Scotch & Comics podcast, also known as…The Lost Episode! Abandoned shortly after it was recorded because of its strange aural qualities, it was thought that this episode would never see the light of day, but your intrepid host Devin R. Bruce was not going to let it go that easily. After searching the world for hints about the episode’s location, he tracked it down in Marrakesh. He escaped an underground city of feral accountants and social workers with the artifact, dusted it off, and sent it off to you for safekeeping.

Thrill at the exploits of Bronze Age Superheroes in Adventure Comics #464! Gasp at the twists and turns of The Janus Directive! Shiver as your host revels in the finales of FF and Young Liars. Shudder at the strange audio happenings! All that and more in this very special episode of Scotch & Comics!

Show Notes:

  • As I say at the beginning of the podcast, there are some weird sound issues with this episode: the limiting filter was over-sensitive and cut out a lot of my quieter sounds and some unstressed syllables. It’s still mostly comprehensible but it sounds a little weird.
  • Speaking of Lost Episodes! If you want to hear me wax rhapsodic about Wildcat, please tell Kim Stolz that we should redo our Listmakers episode about superheroes. That last podcast was one of my favourite episodes we ever did, and then it got legitimately lost.
  • The first part of my Young Liars review can be found on my article This Column Has Seven Days on Comics! The Blog, originally published June 6, 2014…
  • The musical excerpts featured on this episode are: The Roots – “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New;” Ashley MacIsaac – “Devil In The Kitchen;” A.C. Newman – “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve Things;” Thelonious Monk – “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Link: Episode 022 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 022
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics

Announcement: The Road Ahead!

(Note: I thought that I had auto-scheduled this to post on Monday January 5, as I had promised, but apparently I hadn’t. My apologies.)

Greetings! If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you at one time listened to a podcast called Scotch & Comics. That was a podcast where I got to combine two of my favourite things in the entire world – reading comic books and drinking Scotch whisky. The last time I published an episode of that podcast was a long while ago now, and I have had at least one person ask me where it went and if there would be new episodes coming in 2015.

The answer to that question is “Yes!”

Yes, there will be new episodes of the Scotch & Comics podcast coming in 2015, which makes me excited because like I said, two of my favourite things. But I have more planned than just that that.

I am a man with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, which is good because I also like pie, but it does mean that sometimes I get distracted. So in November of 2014 I decided to turn this website from just a rarely-updated podcast site into a repository of my various projects and maybe even some original non-podcast material. That means that there will be a few changes to the way I do things here, including the following:

  • Links to the weekly editions of This Column Has Seven Days, the column I write for the wonderful Comics! The Blog.
  • Links to episodes of The Listmakers Podcast, my other podcast which my best buddy Kim Stolz (of the Action Sofa) and I are also planning to relaunch this year.
  • Links to guest appearances on any other podcasts that I am lucky to be asked to participate in.
  • Entries about books and movies and television shows and other non-comics content.
  • Links to any and all events that I am organizing, performing in, or going to in 2015.
  • And maybe even a few other things as well.

Basically, what I am hoping to do for 2015 is more content, more often, and more consistently. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, but I am making a commitment to be more involved in the things that I care about.

Mission statement over. Later this week: Scotch & Comics Episode 022. It’s coming, Jason. I promised.

Watch This Space

Something’s going to show up here. In four more days.

I’m excited.

Scotch & Comics Episode 021: Let’s All Have Some Cake

No Martian Manhunter layer, but you can only ask for so much. (Image via the Fuck Yeah Marvel! Tumblr page.)

No Martian Manhunter layer, but you can only ask for so much. (Image via the Fuck Yeah Marvel! Tumblr page.)

Today may be “his special day” but that doesn’t mean that your intrepid host hasn’t thought of you listeners! Yes, on this very special thirty-fifth birthday episode, host Devin R Bruce has crafted an audio grab bag that is bursting at the seams with comics goodness! Open up and find treats featuring comics from such luminary creators as (in alphabetical order): Brian Azzarello, Richard Corben, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Sean McKeever, Peter Milligan, Sean Phillips, Eric Powell, and John Severin. (And even more!) Though the journey may get a little dark at times, Scotch & Comics will shine a light at the end of that tunnel. BUT DON’T GO INTO THE LIGHT!!

Show Notes:

  • The article about the Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme can be read here. (Still think that “scheme” is a bad word to include in a government plan.)
  • The Mike Carlin episode of The Nerdist Writers Panel can be found here
  • The Polite Dissent Medical Reviews are fun and interesting, and the one on Batman: Jekyll And Hyde #1 is no different.
  • I never did get back to that thing in The Punisher segment, did I?
  • Here’s a link to my column on Comics! The Blog. It’s weekly. It has to be; I promised them it would be!
  • This episode’s musical selections were “Shake It” by Tom Waits; “Unglued” by Stone Temple Pilots; “I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie; “Sinister Rouge” by Bad Religion; “Soft Rocked By Me” by Jonathan Coulton; and “The Honeydripper” by The Oscar Peterson Trio. (I know. I was surprised when Stone Temple Pilots showed up too, but I thought it fit Batman: Jekyll And Hyde thematically rather well.)

Link: Episode 021 on Libsyn
Download: Scotch & Comics Episode 021
Subscribe on iTunes: Scotch & Comics