Category Archives: Writing

Journalists and Optimists Part 2: Dennis Schaal

As mentioned, recently, I had the great fortune to work with Veronica Chambers, author, journalist and Stanford Journalism Fellow, on her fellowship project Journalists and Optimists.

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Veronica Chambers

Chambers interviewed 3 prominent journalists, Gabe Spitzer, Dennis Schaal, and Rebecca Carroll about the ways they’ve pivoted their careers as journalists in the current hostile and at the same time fertile environment. I was dialed into the interviews and was able to make notes, and based on audio recordings, make a detailed visual record of each interview.

Here is my graphic recording of Veronica Chamber’s interview with Dennis Schaal (see my previous post for Gabe Spitzer’s interview):

Dennis Schaal_SCREENDennis Schaal_SCREEN2Dennis Schaal_SCREEN3Dennis Schaal_SCREEN4Dennis Schaal_SCREEN5Dennis Schaal_SCREEN6Dennis Schaal_SCREEN7Dennis Schaal_SCREEN8Dennis Schaal_SCREEN9Dennis Schaal_SCREEN10Dennis Schaal_SCREEN11Dennis Schaal_SCREEN12Dennis Schaal_SCREEN13

Journalists and Optimists: Veronica Chambers interviews Gabe Spitzer

Recently, I had the great fortune to work with Veronica Chambers, author, journalist and Stanford Journalism Fellow, on her fellowship project Journalists and Optimists.

VC photo Miami

Veronica Chambers

Chambers interviewed 3 prominent journalists, Gabe Spitzer, Dennis Schaal, and Rebecca Carroll about the ways they’ve pivoted their careers as journalists in the current hostile and at the same time fertile environment. I was dialed into the interviews and was able to make notes, and based on audio recordings, make a detailed visual record of each interview.

Here is my graphic recording of Veronica Chamber’s interview with Gabe Spitzer:

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Bindercon LA, March 19 & 20th

Binderlogo_WEBa.k.a. The best conference in the world, a.k.a. One of the most worthy ways I’ve ever spent my time or money.  I’m actually writing this from LA in a hotel room that just last night was filled with the unruly shrieking of 3 of the many, many new Friends For Life that I met here. In a few minutes, 2 more Friends will arrive and the shrieking will resume. KindredSpirits_WEB*I obviously meant “readings”

Bindercon is a conference for women and gender non-conforming writers. The panels were so intense and smart and wonderful that words alone could not convey the impact. Which is why I sketch-noted pretty much everything I saw.What'sSketchnoting_WEB

If you like sketch-notes, graphic recording and the stories, advice, and wisdom of powerful human beings, then please enjoy my notes from Bindercon LA:
Please feel free to share and repost as a whole or part with credit to Gillian G. You can link back to me here, at gilliang.com, or on twitter @GillianGdotcom.

Keynote Address: Jillian Lauren & Rebecca Walker 

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Out of the Comfort Zone: Creating a Diverse Career: Pamela Redmond SatranPamela_1Pamela_2 Pamela_3 Pamela_4

Lunch Keynote: Robin Schiff & Lisa KudrowRobinLisa_1 RobinLisa_2

How to Tell Your Story – It Matters:
Margot LeitmanMargot_1 Margot_2

Breaking into Book Writing: Minal Hajratwala & Stefani Von BorstelMinalStephani_1 MinalStephani_2

Breakfast with Tina AldatzTinaAldatz_1
Writing Cultural Identity: Sabrina Almeida, Natashia Deón, Simona Supekar, Monona Wali, Sandy Yang, Désirée Zamorano CulturalIdentity_1CulturalIdentity_2CulturalIdentity_3CulturalIdentity_4

Tense & Sensibility: Ways to Tackle Tragedy in YA Literature: Brandy Colbert, Lissa Price, Isabel Quintero, Lilliam Rivera, Elizabeth RossTragedyinYAlit_1TragedyinYAlit_2TragedyinYAlit_3TragedyinYAlit_4

Keynote: Effie Brown & Jenny Lumet EffieJenny_1EffieJenny_2

Every panel was incredible, the event itself was smooth and so thoughtfully & inclusively planned, and the connections and friends I made are… stupid hot. Like everyone blows my mind with the hotness of their minds and ideas and motivation and hilariousness and goof-offery and wisdom and drive.  I don’t have even one snidey, off-hand chaser for that sincerity shot. I mean it.

The event ended on the talk with Effie Brown and Jenny Lumet, and the  resonating theme for me was that we* have to hire each other      HireEachOther_WEB(*We: Women & non-conforming writers, producers, artists, collaborators, agents, creatives…) and support each others good work.

Speaking of: Please check out my weekly webcomic Jerkface A-hole. It’s a teen diary, drawn in-class, coloured with highlighters, and written with the toxic combination of feelings and a sense of humour. Jerkface A-hole.
ALSO, I do this type of work for hire. So if you’re speaking or running a conference, I can sketchnote (as above, for posting later), and can do graphic recording  (live-draw on a stage during talks). I’m based in Toronto, and can travel.  

Note: These were initially for my own reference only, and so include the points that stood out to me at the moment and cover only the panels I attended. Any and all spelling/grammar mistakes are TOTALLY intentional. I swear.

ELCAF & Beyond

The thing about working on great projects is that it leaves little room to talk about the great projects you’re working on.  Same goes for great trips, and I have been privy to both, remedied in one blog post, right here, right now.  (I will TRY to keep it interesting, but lord knows you will be skimming it anyway. HIDE NOTHING FROM THE LORD. Anyway, let’s get on with it) IMG_9913-2 I recently contributed a comic to a BEAUTIFUL (yes, caps are necessary) private press anthology called Pack Mentality. It’s printed in the most stunning risograph you will ever see (by Toronto’s peerless press, Colour Code).  I have it on international authority that riso has never looked this good. International authority? Who thinks they are hot stuff? ME. I DO. I whisked Pack Mentality away to rainy, moderately weathered London, England for the East London Comic Arts Festival (ELCAF), where it was summarily praised.  Just look at it! Wouldn’t you? 11012517_10155633272705577_3899087376958630850_n 11351278_10155633272040577_638209227342712607_n 11227923_10155633271545577_4674968222645264913_n   ELCAF was dreamy, by the by. I sat next to Joe Sparrow, and was flanked by some amazing Italians.

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Left: The lovely Joe Sparrow. Right: Lovely Italians! Centre: My table, full to the brim. Blow: the ELCAF tote I never saw again. RIP, tote. We had a good one day together.

IMG_9889Hot Tip: The new trend is artist created Tarot decks. I saw at least 3 gorgeous decks from different creators.  Stunning, and legitimately great idea. The whole show is hosted by NOBROW, and honestly, the people who put it all together were a DELIGHT.  They took a lone Canadian under their wing, and we all drank pints and ate amazing thai food like only the British (and people who now live in Britain) can. Nicest, funniest, most relaxed people. IMG_9951 Look at these beauties!  Magic. Every one of them.

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Marseille. A little blurry, but you get the idea.

After that I went to Marseille! Beautiful everything! (Sky! Buildings! Sea! Vistas!) Terrible people! (Homophobes! Dickheads! Catcallers! Public Urinators!)   The difference was insane. How can such rude, leering, mean frat boys exist in this exquisite place?  It boggles the mind.  Fortunately, I was there with a like minded friend and we foraged our own little way amidst street harassment, heat, and scooters speeding from the sidewalk through red lights into oncoming traffic. Insane.

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Not pictured: The smell of urine

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Calm now, but in mere moments 5 scooters will rush out and plough you while swearing in french.

The buskers weren’t even good. One dude hitting some drum thing with a stick. All day!  Who is paying for this? Where is the showmanship?  One juggler, standing next to two of his stoned bros, looking terrifying.  Mothers were ushering their children away.  Who would ever approach you with money?!  Baffling.  Poor Marseille. Poor Marseille that also has this, IMG_0016 and this IMG_0064 and this and this, IMG_0152 IMG_0148all just lying around for you to behold. SO PRETTY. The plus side of this loose approach to regulation and law, is being able to go on board a tourist boat to the Chateau D’if: IMG_0107(Real location of the fictional Count of Monte Christo – one of my favourite books!), with your own wine ($4 for an excellent bottle), cheese ($3 for a sublime round), and glasses, and just enjoy them openly.  It’s inconceivable that you could do such a thing even on the Toronto Island ferry. The big downside is the garbage and omnipresent smell of urine. OMNIPRESENT.  Everyone is peeing in the street and it rarely rains.  So you get a sort of piss-seasoned patina on EVERYTHING. And it’s hot everyday. So the whole city becomes an aromatherapy stone soaked with the piss of the ages, released by the heat. Welcome to sunny Marseille! But who can complain when you can swim in THIS water? IMG_0169 (Everyone, is the answer.) London and Marseille were the big legs of my trip, but on the homebound portion, I stopped in Barcelona and Lisbon.  Quick notes on each: Barcelona IMG_0266 IMG_0296 IMG_0219 IMG_0194 Impossible to walk even one block without seeing something amazing. SO BLOODY HOT. I am so intolerant of heat. This was a real problem and impediment to my enjoyment of its obvious beauty. Also the omnipresent message that Barcelona is VERY SAFE… but watch your belongings at all times. Don’t carry your passport or valuables with you. Just keep a wide berth around you and don’t let people brush up against you.  Keep your credit cards in your butt crack and then wear a heavy coat to cover your butt. But, really. It’s very safe. I managed to not be robbed or pick pocketed in anyway, so I guess they were right. But my credit cards will never be the same… Lisbon IMG_0357 I fell in love. The air is fresh, the colours are so… SO. IMG_0349 IMG_0343 Old buildings mixed with surprisingly clear and modern graphic design.  The metro was so easy to navigate, a child could do it – No – The better acid test: a car-spoiled aging boomer could do it.  The airport metro station had some of the most pleasing caricatures I have ever seen. IMG_0325And these are not vinyl transfers, they are TILED INTO THE WALLS. Each one is a notable Portugese figure – writers, economists, play-wrights, artists, scientists, etc.  THIS is what well done tourism should look like: a classy, integrated, beautiful immersion into the culture that is interesting for its own sake, not for the social obligation a tourist must feel to stand and read some historical placard. It’s the perfect addition to their clean and amazing subway system – a sublime use of the line up every metro using tourist is forced to stand in to buy their (affordable!) ticket to get into the city. Look at these funny, expressive figures!  Notice the subtle names below them! Figure out for yourself that these are famous figures!  Ignite your curiosity about a city that asks you in with so bold and yet so quaint an invitation.  I fell in love.IMG_0328 IMG_0329 IMG_0326 IMG_0327

IMG_0335This was my room. It was 24 euro a night. I went to a market and ate the nicest lentil daal I’ve ever had, and drank a little cervesa for 1.50.  There was a notable police presence, but I’d say the same for everywhere I was, except London. In Lisbon, from what my non-Portuguese speaking ears could tell, the people felt really comfortable giving the police what for. I saw two instances of people ragging out the cops in annoyed tones and receiving measured responses. So that’s something. Then home! IMG_9883I have to thank Jerkface readers for being so cool about the suspended break- as a web comic reader myself, I know it can be annoying to wait but I assure you I am grateful, and used my time to the utmost. Up next for me: I’m helping wunder-curator Mia Neilsen (of the Drake hotel) install her curatorial genius at the WAYHOME festival’s VIP tent.  There’s an illustration for real estate agent Linda Mayer to go with the logo I made for her last year.  There’s an update of an existing logo for Vancouver theatre company Skinny Walrus. Now, with a podcast!   Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 5.27.09 PMOh and did I mention the anthology I’ll be doing with MARGARET ATWOOD?  Not just her and I, of course.  Hope Nicholson of Bedside Press has put together an amazing group of women writers and artists for the anthology The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, and I am delighted to be contributing a comic alongside amazing contributors like… well, have a look at the 200+% funded kickstarter (which ends this week, so get in on it while you can!), and be wowed.  I am also going to be drawing another ending for Ryan North’s upcoming choosable path adventure. He did it with Hamlet. He did it with Adventure Time… now it’s Romeo AND/OR Juliet’s turn.  Look for that in the foreseeable future.

Jerkface A-Hole: A Comic

No, no, not you!  Jerkface A-hole is the name of my webcomic. It’s been running for a little while now, but so have I (running my arse off) and I realize I haven’t mentioned it here.  The neglect ends now.

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Jerkface is a teenager and jerkfaceahole.com is her comic diary, written/drawn in-class and coloured entirely with highlighters and whatever else is in her backpack.  She lives with her aunt (The Aunt), a bouffant real estate agent with whom she has little in common. Here’s a little sample page:

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The comic updates 3 times a week, Monday to Wednesday. You can like it on Facebook and get updates there, or on twitter @FirstClassAhole. (Can you believe that “@jerkfaceahole” was taken?! It’s as though the internet is getting used up or something. Incensed!)

Descant 164: Cartooning Degree Zero

It’s funny when the end date of a project that once seemed far away catches up with you.  The release of the cartoon/comics/graphic novel issue of Descant magazine is one of those things.  The issue contains a comic called Christie’s Smile that I worked on with Mariko Tamaki (whose comics SKIM and This One Summer with art hero Jillian Tamaki are magical and not to be missed). This is a panel from Christie’s Smile:

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According to the back of the issue: “In “Christie’s Smile,” Mariko Tamaki and Gillian Goerz tap into teenaged impressions of beauty and the great lengths some will go to embody them.”

The issue is out now and it looks amazing, thanks to Trevor Abes and a host of other geniuses. The launch party was great (despite odd nature of reading comics aloud), and if you like high quality things in your life, I urge you to pick up a copy at your local retailer.

Memoirs of Someone You’ve Never Met

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This a book cover for a book I haven’t written yet. But they say you have to start with a good title (no one says that).

Shameless Magazine: on Food and Family

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My illustration of Tracey Wan’s article “Eating Your Way Home” in the most recent issue of Shameless Magazine. Mag.Photo.Food.WEBAs always, read the whole thing… but we are on page 38. As well as a recipe for Wan’s family comfort food.

 

An Unsavoury Review of Bunheads

Let me start of by saying that I HATED the Gilmore Girls. The quippy, rapid-fire dialogue, the theatrical, low-stakes relationships between everyone and everyone else, the adorable real-problem-free town that they all exist in (where never shall be heard, “Oh no! Another homeless man froze to death!” but are often shall be heard, “Oh no! We lost the venue for our bake sale-slash-judgement-free community event!”), I hated it all. I was raised by a single mother and actually had (and have) a great relationship with her, AND YET the Gilmore Girls dynamic with a mother who acts like a college student and a 12 year old that acts like a college student, where both of them just GET ALONG like it ain’t no thaaaaang! Pop culture reference! High five! is BULLSHIT. It rankles me and I hate it.  So if you like the Gilmore Girls (and many, many do), you will probably think Bunheads is juuuuust fiiiiiine.

I don’t.

Firstly, the name. If you don’t know, “bun heads” is a name reserved for ballerinas… because they wear their hair in buns on their heads. Bun-heads.

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From such a name I expected a show that got into the world of dance. Dance! I am very interested in that world. I would love to see a program about a choreographer training new dancers, and the back-stage machinations that must work together to bring the production to stage, with a backdrop of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, stage fright, divas, fame whores, politics, and personality. That sounds great.  I understand it wouldn’t sound great to everyone, but considering the MARGINAL connection that Bunheads has to ballet, it is astonishing that they should chose such a title, since it will surely turn away or confuse those who AREN’T interested in dance, which is probably the majority. Those who do get it will be disappointed because the show  isn’t really about ballerinas.

So what is the show about?  Plucky, unlikeable Michelle- she is gunning with all of the guns towards the newly coveted “aDORKable” moniker and achieves merely dippy and not even able – is a dancer. In Las Vegas. The pilot opens with a line of identical, feathered show girls high kicking and it is not even close to immediately discernible which one we are intended to be noticing.  They start to talk, and even then it takes a second for our protagonist to assert herself. And the feeling then is, “Oh. Her?”

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Michelle is a quippy, rapid-fire talker (uh-oh) who has an admirer. It’s Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!  His character is played like a low-IQ, high income, possible pervert that inexplicably has zeroed in on Michelle as the object of his gifts, dinners and affection. She blows him off as often as is polite – and with that, let me break off here for just a minute.

Here the show traipses over something of fairly serious importance. Michelle has an unwanted admirer. She doesn’t tell him officially to go away or stop calling on her, but it’s known his affections are not welcome. He is allowed (by whom?) into the group dressing room backstage (!!!!) where Michelle lies and puts him off. He returns the next night, plying her with more gifts and offers for dinner. After a crushing audition, her spirits and defences are down and she accepts his dinner offer.  WHAT THE HELL, GUYS!?  The executive producer of this show is a woman, which is actually shocking considering that an emerging theme that will continue to the three-quarter mark of the pilot is that “your stalker might actually be prince charming” and “at no time should you be clear or direct about what you want in terms of your relationship with said stalker, since gifts and dinners are nice” and “if someone gets you incredibly drunk and then convinces you to MARRY THEM IN VEGAS” this is in no way a violation.

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That is the premise, since this is exactly what happens.  The sober Cameron gets the narcissist Michelle black out drunk, she confides in him her malaise, dashed hopes, bent dreams, he promises to FIX EVERYTHING and she – while drunk – agrees to marry him.Consent!_WEB

He has no problems taking her up on this. She wakes up – or comes to – in a moving car driving on an ocean road and notices a wedding band on her finger.  This is what creator and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino is positing as a reasonable premise for a show targeting a female audience. Baffling, insulting and even harmful, this is the foundation upon which Bunheads is built. Pasty, much older man lands resistant much younger Las Vegas dancer because he is wealthy and persistent and easy with the bottle.

I had the same issue with the movie Crazy, Stupid Love in which the 14 year old son of Steve Carrell learns the important lesson that even if a woman (or girl) says no to your advances, persistence will wear her down and in the end she’ll give you naked pictures of her with which to masturbate until your age gap is less significant and then you can have the sex you have earned and deserve after such a tireless campaign of attrition.

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PITY.  Women are supposed to PITY the foolish desire of men they don’t desire in return.  POOR GUYS.  Never mind your own desires, ladies!  These poor, poor men WANT you! And you said no?  How could you?!  I am sickened and ashamed! What if they try again and again? What if they try a whole bunch even after you said nicely, then petulantly, then angrily, that you weren’t interested?  Don’t you owe it to them to allow their desire for you to direct your actions? I think you do. I think you do!  Yes you do!  Oh Yes! GOOD GIRL.  Those poor little puppies should get what they want and what they want is YOU! And probably – most likely in fact – your stubborn refusal to acknowledge their desire was just you getting in your own way!  They’ll make you happy if you just LET THEM.  Because happiness is something you get from men who are willing to dole it out to you.  That’s where your power lies, ladies: with the men who are rich, or persistent, or willing to get you too drunk to resist, or all of the above!  It’s your choice to make, women. Choose wisely.

So Michelle comes to in a car cruising along an ocean-side highway with the irritating admirer she has been avoiding who is now her husband.  Fortunately for him, she is too hung over and apathetic (with or without the “a”) to make any decisions for herself, and with one mugged “yeesh” by way of reaction, she continues to hang her head out of the car as they drive towards her new life: his.

Here we really delve into the Gilmore Gulch of television worlds.  His home is a town called Paradise, where he has a beautiful house (shared with his mother), an ocean front view from his bedroom (in the house shared with his mother), an ex-girlfriend who is still in love with him (and is the favourite of his mother, who he lives with), and a mother who runs a ballet studio that is on the lot of the home he SHARES WITH HIS MOTHER.

Mommy_Dearest_WEBAt this news, Michelle gets a lil’ P.O.’d and really, that is the extent of her anguish at this overturning of her entire world that has been peppered with omissions and without consent. The stakes are low – so low you wouldn’t trip over them in the dark. No one is taking this life seriously: not the producers, not the writers, not the characters and certainly not Michelle.  So when Cameron dies in a car accident by the end of the pilot, it’s a hiccup not a gasp even for those that love him the most: his Mother (WHO HE LIVES WITH) and the new bride he wed when she was drunk. What? Oh, yes, because Cameron and Michelle quickly had sex in there somewhere after he promised again to give her exactly the life she didn’t even realize she always wanted – and yet it’s what she always needed! –  and Michelle’s rubbery heart began to melt and ooze towards the realization that maybe getting black out drunk on someone else’s dime was the best decision she ever made.  But no, because he died.

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Now Sherman-Paladino was also the producer of Gilmore Girls so the similarity isn’t a coincidence. On these grounds you could argue that the style of this show is just that: a style. It’s a little bit farce, a lot vaudeville, and it’s “smart” – in that the characters, instead of speaking, spew a stream of references to everything from pop culture to classic literature. (Remember the Gilmore Girls episode where they won’t stop mentioning Daughter’s copy of Franny and Zooey? Because she’s SMART, you guys.) And it’s chock full of women just like you wanted, FEMINISTS!  My beef with this style (in addition to the very subjective fact that I DO NOT LIKE IT) comes up when the plot glazes over the gross and abusive nature of Michelle and Cameron’s relationship in order to push plot.  She’s a flawed character, the plot tells us, that is why she made such a foolish decision!  But isn’t it just a part of her loveable goofiness?  The style is happy to let Michelle absorb all of the blame for this decision with those same adorable flaws, leaving Cameron (his character has a name, but who cares) to die a near martyr; the frog, now semi-transformed into Prince Charming with one furtive fuck, croaks. POOR GUY.

AND NOW MICHELLE LIVES WITH HIS MOTHER.  Was ever an couple more odd? Mismatched? Were ever zanier circumstances contrived?  NO!  Everyone is delighted with the mess of conflict and coincidence and cosmic crapola that our hapless heroine is entrenched in!  Watch her mug and pose and natter non-stop to an audience of no-one as she inexplicably STAYS AT THE HOUSE and begins her new life with her mother-in-law of 24 hours.  Hilarious_WEB

Oh yes, and did I mention – I believe I did – that the mother runs a ballet studio full of 12 year old girls (and a few lean lads) who will now be the sometime focus of the show? It’s true.  So let’s call it Bunheads. And never watch it again.