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As a followup to last Saturday’s fuckery in Charlottesville, some right wingers are launching a protest against Google in nine cities. It looks like my hometown of Washington, DC is on that list.

I seriously hope they call this off (or at least postpone it) because this nation doesn’t really need this shit. Of course they won’t because these alt-right pussies thrive on confrontation and, well, you know, they have to strike while the iron is still hot.

UPDATE (August 17, 2017): The organizers have decided to postpone the march for the time being after receiving numerous threats.

Since Pride Month is winding down, I decided to highlight this photo featuring a product that I purchased. Recently I went to a job interview that was held in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC. Afterwards I did some walking around the Chinatown area when I decided to check out It’s Sugar. I found this rainbow candy bar known as Gay Bar. I bought it for the heck of it. Here’s a photo of the wrapper.

Having tasted the chocolate inside, I have to say that it wasn’t too bad. Its taste reminded me of a Hershey’s bar. It tasted really good.

Ramadan

Like I wrote yesterday, I decided to devote a separate post to my attendance at the latest installment of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC because it would have made my last post extremely long otherwise.

This event was held during DC Pride Weekend and it was also held on the same day as a big demonstration on the Mall for LGBTQ rights. I wasn’t able to make it because I attended Sunday service at my church that morning, Dr. Sketchy’s was supposed to begin at 3 p.m., and there’s the issue of Metro’s unreliable weekend service where you typically have to wait between 15 minutes to a half-an-hour for the next train. I wasn’t too bitter about missing the march because it was very hot outside. (The temperature went as high as 95 degrees with high humidity.)

I saw rainbow flags everywhere in Dupont Circle as I was walking to the Bier Baron, where the event was held. Even the Bier Baron itself was decked out in rainbow colors.

Once I was inside I even got in on the act by laying out my pencils in a rainbow pattern.

Once again Reverend Valentine hosted the event. I gave her this toy dinosaur that I found outside Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, which was among the items that the STEM center invited the general public to take for free. (Makerspace 125 is currently undergoing some major spring cleaning and reorganization of the space.) I knew she was into dinosaurs so I figured what the hell since it was free and everything. (Besides, it gives me the excuse to post this picture right here.)

She loved it when I gave it to her. She said that it will live with the other toy dinosaurs that she has on display in her kitchen.

The event was pretty well-attended despite the fact that it was scheduled during DC Pride Weekend and that big march was still going on at the Mall just a few miles away. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Amira Jade and some of these drawings are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest at that event. This one was a beach theme. She said that she would also give extra points for including a dinosaur. So I had Amira Jade with Dino the Dinosaur.

I also decided to ad Batman surfing on a surfboard in the ocean as my personal tribute to Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960’s TV series who had died the day before. It was based on this incredibly campy clip from the TV show.

My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. Oh well. You win some and you lose some.

I did a couple of more drawings of Amira Jade before the event ended.

Ramadan

For all the times I’ve been to Dupont Circle, I’ve never went there during DC Pride Weekend, even though I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area for years. The only reason why I went this year was because Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was held at the Bier Baron that day. I originally planned on writing one post until I looked through the pictures and realized that I had taken so many that it really warranted writing two separate blog posts about my one day in Dupont Circle during DC Pride Weekend. This post will focus on the photographs I took that day while the Dr. Sketchy’s post will have to wait until the next one.

DC Pride Weekend had a big parade and party that took place in Dupont Circle the previous day. I wasn’t able to make it because of tight finances (the Metro system is not only getting more expensive but yet another fare increase is set to take place by the end of this month) and this heatwave has settled in the area so the temperature reached a high of around 95 degrees F.

The following day it was still very hot and humid with highs reaching 95 once again. At least the Metro trains are air conditioned and I spent as much time in the various air conditioned stores as possible. While Saturday was the big party and parade in Dupont Circle, Sunday was slated as a day of protest on the Mall. I wasn’t able to make it to that protest mainly because I attended church in the morning and Dr. Sketchy’s started at 3 p.m. so there was literally no way I could squeeze going to the National Mall in between (especially given Metro’s flaky weekend schedule where you could wait anywhere from 15 minutes to a half-an-hour or even longer depending on which stop you’re at and if Metro is doing any kind of maintenance work on a certain line at a certain station). I saw this couple who were clearly on their way to the Mall march.

I arrived at the Dupont Circle Metro station, which was definitely decorative for the occasion by having its list of scheduled trains arranged like the rainbow flag.

It was also fitting that the same station had this banner ad for Cher’s upcoming concert at the MGM casino in nearby National Harbor.

I didn’t mind missing the big march on the Mall, especially when I stepped outside and felt the high heat and high humidity smack me in the face. There were people milling around in Dupont Circle but I suspect that there were far more people protesting at the Mall. The first thing I did was head over to Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe where I saw these LGBTQ-friendly signs.

There was also this excellent sign that made fun of Donald Trump’s notorious “covfefe” tweet by announcing a new Covfefe cocktail featuring White Russian while providing quotes from former FBI director James Comey’s recent testimony that introduced the phrase “honest loyalty” into the English language.

I browsed among the books at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe while noticing this prominent shelf towards the front of the store featuring LGBTQ books.

I also saw rainbow flags and store patrons who were all decked out in rainbow and/or LGBTQ-themed attire .

After Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe I walked along the streets of Dupont Circle where I noticed rainbow flags everywhere and people dressed in rainbows. I took the bulk of these pictures before and after Dr. Sketchy’s. (Hooray for longer daylight hours!)

I eventually made my way to the Bier Baron, where Dr. Sketchy’s took place. Even that place was decked out in rainbows.

I even got into the rainbow festivities by taking pictures of my colored pencils all lined up in a loose Roy G Biv rainbow pattern (which also included colors one usually don’t see in a rainbow like brown and white) before Dr. Sketchy’s began.

Like I wrote earlier, I’ll devote my next post to what I drew at Dr. Sketchy’s.

While there were rainbow colored palettes everywhere in Dupont Circle, I found this one interesting non-rainbow thing that I photographed. This is a tiny statue (which reaches no higher than my calf) of a baby sleeping on top of a baby elephant. How cute!

I ended my time at the fountain that’s located right in the middle of Dupont Circle. There were a few people chilling out even though it was dinnertime and the temperature was very hot and humid. Strangely the fountain was turned off that day plus the basin had no water in it. (I honestly don’t know what is going on with that fountain.)

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for my next post on attending Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron during DC Pride Weekend. 🙂

Ramadan

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I headed to Dupont Circle to check out Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron in Washington, DC. Usually I would get to Dupont Circle by taking the Green Line Metro from the Greenbelt station, transfer to the Red Line at the Fort Totten station then taking that train the rest of the way to the Dupont Circle station. This particular Sunday the Greenbelt station was closed because Metro was doing this month-long Safe Track work and it was offering shuttle buses as a substitute.

Rather than dealing with shuttle buses, I decided to go from Sunday service at my church and drive to the Silver Spring Metro station because it’s on the Red Line (plus I wouldn’t have to do any transfers). It also gave me an opportunity to take a few photographs of this charming penguin mural that was recently erected outside the station.

A homeless person’s belongings sit across from the penguins wall mural.

Once I arrived in downtown Washington, DC I saw this dog sticking its head outside the window of a car that was driving through Dupont Circle.

Here’s a welcoming sign that was posted in the window of Second Story Books.

The next few photos show the window display at 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors, including Absolute Vodka in a rainbow bottle and a few skull-shaped decanters.

I found this interesting relief outside one of the buildings in Dupont Circle.

I eventually made my way to the Bier Baron where Dr. Sketchy’s was held. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Candy del Rio. Some of the drawings in this post are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest during this event, which I took part in. The theme was science (in a nod to the March For Science, which was held in Washington, DC the day before.) I decided to go for science fiction and incorporate the movie Jurassic Park and dinosaurs.

I won that contest and my prize was a drink of my choice from the bar. I chose a hard cider that made me a bit loopy. (Fortunately I had taken the Metro so I was pretty much sober by the time I reached my car at the Silver Spring Metro station.)

I did a couple more drawings of Candy del Rio before the event ended.

I took a few more photographs after I left Dr. Sketchy’s and the Bier Baron starting with this window display.

I really love this building with the red brick. This one houses the Portuguese Embassy.

I’ll end this post with yet another dog sticking its head outside the window of a car.

It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).

Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.

Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Recently an executive at Marvel made this statement where he claimed that the reason why the sales of Marvel comic books have gone down is because there is too much diversity among its superheroes. Not surprisingly that executive’s quote has literally lit up social media as comic book fans of all stripes weighed in on this matter.

As someone who has been reading comic books off and on since childhood, I have my own reasons why comic book sales have gone down and none of them have anything to do with increased diversity in the number of superheroes who are female, LGBTQ, and/or people of color.

1. Price.

I’m old enough to remember when comic books used to cost 25 cents per issue. They were cheap enough for children to buy with their own allowance money or convince their parents to buy one or two issues. I fell out of reading comic books when I hit the fourth or fifth grade only to briefly pick up an issue or two of Howard the Duck which I found at a local pharmacy for around 35 cents when I was in middle school. (At least the reprinted volumes of the 1970’s Howard the Duck comic books, which I wrote a series of reviews about last summer, had the 35 cent price on the covers.)

I put comic books behind me after that until college when I dated my future ex-husband and he was the one who was into collecting comic books. By then comic books were priced at around 75 cents per issue, which still wasn’t too bad because they were still affordable to kids, college students, and people who either were unemployed or worked low-paying jobs. My husband and I continued to read them after college and during the first few years of our marriage until the prices shot up to $1.25 per issue and we grew tired of shelling out so much money for comic books. By that point we had also gotten more involved with our jobs and other activities so we didn’t have as much time to read comic books as before.

I started checking out comic books again over the last few years but nowadays prices have risen to an astronomical $3.99 per issue. That high price has definitely put a damper on resuming collecting comic books to the point where I’m extremely picky as to which comic book I’ll purchase. That has an effect because in the past, when my ex-husband and I collected comic books early in our marriage, we used to buy an extra comic book or two on impulse because we liked the cover. Thanks to that $3.99 price tag, I tend to pass on the comic books that have awesome covers, especially if I’m not familiar with the characters or storyline, because it would be incredibly easy to drop $75 or higher on a pile of comic books. In fact, not too long ago, I saw a young couple at the cash register buying a stack of around 25 comic books. They reminded me of the days when my ex-husband used to buy a stack of around 25 comic books. The big difference is that we used to pay something like $25 for that comic book stack. In contrast, I nearly gasped when I heard the store clerk charge the couple $100 for that comic book pile.

2. Too many knock-offs of the same character or concept.

This started while my ex-husband and I collected comic books. My ex had turned me on to The X-Men, which was a well-written series about a group of mutant superheroes who try to do good deeds even though much of society are prejudiced against mutants because it’s a classic case of hating/fearing those who are different. Many of the storylines were analogous to the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and Islamophobia that occurs in the U.S. The X-Men led to one spinoff called Dazzler, which was about a mutant who was more into using her mutant light creation powers to entertain people than becoming a superhero but she frequently was dragged into situations where she had to use her mutant powers to defend herself or help someone else. Then there was Alpha Flight, about a superhero team in Canada—some were mutants and some were regular humans who wore special suits that enabled them to have powers. In addition, there was The New Mutants, about a team of mutant kids who were essentially X-Men in training. I think there were a few more spinoffs from The X-Men but I don’t remember. All I know is that the storylines in these mutant comic books began to overlap with each other to the point where we had to read all those series in order to get the entire story. It was also around the time when comic books began to be priced at over $1 per issue and it just got too expensive for us to keep up.

Since I started looking at comic books again I noticed that this trend has gotten more ridiculous. One example: There’s the currently popular comic book series Guardians of the Galaxy. Two of that group’s most off-beat and popular characters—Groot and Rocket Raccoon—not only appear in Guardians of the Galaxy but they also appear in separate solo titles. In addition, there’s also a Rocket Raccoon and Groot series for those readers who can’t get enough of either one and want to see them together without the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Anyone who wants to get all four series would have to pay $16 per month.

I remember a time when there was only one Iron Man comic book. Now there are at least three or four separate Iron Man comic books and each one has a different person wearing the armored suit. I remember when there was only one Spider-Man comic book and there are now something like three or four Spider-Man comic books plus two or three other comic books featuring female versions of Spider-Man that are sold under titles like Spider-Gwen and Silk. Here’s a photo of a shelf full of different Spider-Man related titles—all of which are separate comic book series—that I shot at a comic book store a few years ago.

Numerous Spider-Man Titles at a Comic Book Store

All these variations of the same superheroes tend to confuse comic book newbies and casual comic book readers plus there’s the $3.99 price per issue. It just makes those who aren’t hardcore comic book nerds with deep pockets end up just saying “The hell with this!” and walking out of the store empty-handed.

3. Limited distribution.

There were no comic book specialty shops in my area when I was a kid. But that was no problem because one could find comic books being sold at newsstands located in pharmacies, grocery stores, five and dime stores, and book stores. Seeing those comic books in plain sight encouraged kids to beg their parents to buy them a comic book. Parents had no problem with obliging because the prices were pretty cheap.

Nowadays if anyone wanted to read a comic book, that person has to go to a comic book specialty shop because the vast majority of comic books are no longer distributed in grocery stores and other non-comic book specialty shops (with the exception of Archie comics, which I can still find at the supermarket checkout line). I’m lucky enough to live in a populated urban area plus I live near a college town so I have no problem with finding comic book stores to browse in. But people who live in rural areas just don’t have that option unless they happen to live in a college town. Limited distribution is just as short-sighted as charging $3.99 per issue because people living in areas without a comic book specialty shop but who would be interested in buying a comic book just don’t get that opportunity.

Limited distribution just results in lost opportunities. Here’s one example: When I was trying to get rid of my ex-husband’s comic book collection that he left behind, I ended up making coasters with them because I couldn’t find anyone willing to buy them. While I was looking through various issues while deciding which comic book panels to cut up for my art projects, I saw a notice in one of the old Marvel comic books gleefully announcing that one of their newer comic books at the time, Power Pack, was being distributed exclusively in comic book specialty shops.

I remember my ex and I reading Power Pack in the latter days of our comic book collecting before we gave up on it altogether. It was about four young siblings between the ages of 5-12 who were given superhero powers. These kids had to juggle taking on the villains with other things like going to school, doing homework, and adhering to curfew. I thought it was incredibly short-sighted of Marvel to not distribute Power Pack more widely because most kids going to the local grocery store or pharmacy with a parent would have gone crazy over the idea of superhero kids their age and begged their parents to buy them that comic book. Thanks to that corporate bone-headed decision, the vast majority of kids never knew that the comic book even existed and that series no longer exists. (Or at least I haven’t seen any latest issues of Power Pack on sale at a comic book specialty shop.)

4. Too many large corporate-wide comic book events that are hyped as “THE MARVEL/DC UNIVERSE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!”

This started back when my ex and I still collected comic books when Marvel came up with a special limited series called Secret Wars where a variety of superheroes from Marvel’s bigger-selling comic books at the time (such as The Fantastic Four and The X-Men) were taken to a planet by someone known as the Beyonder and forced to undergo a series of battles. That series affected the storylines of the regular comic book series. I don’t remember much about the Secret Wars other than feeling annoyed that the storyline of The X-Men had them dealing with being alienated by the other superheroes in the Marvel Universe while two X-Men ended up ending their budding romantic relationship over what went on during the Secret Wars.

Now Marvel and DC go to the well frequently by coming up with a corporate-wide events where limited series are released under names like Rebirth, Civil Wars, and Civil Wars 2 that literally changes the storylines of the regular comic book series. Hardcore comic book fans are asked to spend even more money on these limited series in order to keep up on what’s going on with their regular favorite series while confusing casual fans so much that they pass on the entire event.

The comic book companies will more likely gain readers if they quit doing these stupid events that tend to cater mainly with the small minority of hardcore comic book fans while screwing up the storylines of regular comic books so much that the more casual readers are turned off.

5. The comic book industry caters to the hardcore comic book fans at the expense of kids and more casual readers.

When I was a kid comic books were mostly action-packed series with very little of the “I have a lot of personal problems that are wearing me down” storylines. They were pretty escapist for the most part.

Recently I heard of an uproar when Marvel decided to turn Captain America into a fascist. Never mind the fact that the comic book first came out during World War II and Captain America was depicted as an active Nazi fighter. I remember reading Captain America as a child when he was basically a good guy fighting villains. Only the hardcore comic book fans would be okay with this sudden change in character.

One of the reasons why I quit reading The X-Men besides time and price is that I grew weary of the dark dramatic storylines depicting the team as being persecuted for being mutants while continuing to fight bad guys and save the same people who would love to see them get discriminated and/or annihilated simply because they are mutants. I don’t mind dark dramatic storylines if they are well-written but after reading such storylines for years I began thinking that if I was a mutant superhero defending people who would want me dead, I would reach a breaking point where I would just say “Bye, Felicia!”, give up being a superhero, and pursue something more quiet like gardening. What’s more, these dark depressing storylines tend to appeal more to hardcore comic book fans with deep pockets who have no problem with spending years keeping up with various convoluted storylines about persecuted mutants.

The main reason why I haven’t resume reading The X-Men or any of its many mutant superhero spin-offs is because of the fact that if I wanted to spend my time reading dark stories full of prejudice, death, and general mayhem, I’ll go online and read BBC News or Al Jazeera without being charged $3.99 per issue.

The only Marvel superhero series I even follow these days is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and that’s because the stories are more lighthearted and full of humor. Squirrel Girl is a mutant and she doesn’t let it get her down as she juggles fighting super villains with being a college student. More recently I checked the Batgirl of Burnside graphic novel out of the public library and I found that one to be in a similar vein to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as Batgirl learns the hard way the folly to taking selfies for social media while battling crime at the same time. Like Squirrel Girl, Batgirl is smart, hip, and is very comfortable with the latest technology. If more comic books were a similar vein, they would gain the attention of casual fans and even increase sales. Plus parents would feel more comfortable buying such comic books for their children instead of a comic book series with an ongoing dark and depressing storyline about a persecuted superhero mutant with major personal problems.

Which leads to the issue of appealing to deep-pocketed hardcore adult comic book fans at the expense of children. Sure it’s a cliche to say that children are the future but in the comic book industry it’s vital to gain the interest of children because these kids will grow up to become future comic book fans. If children don’t live in an area with a comic book specialty shop they won’t see comic books being sold in their local store so they won’t ask their parents to buy them an issue of Superman or Captain America. If children can’t afford the $3.99 per issue price tag, they will grow up without reading comic books. And if the dark storylines are too adult for the kids to read or if the kids are so confused by the numerous separate comic book series about Spider-Man or Iron Man that they end up not even picking a comic book, then they won’t grow up to become adult comic book readers nor will they buy comic books for their own children when they become parents.

Ultimately children who don’t read comic books will end up not reading comic books as adults so they won’t be there to replace the current crop of adult hardcore comic book fans when these people start to die off. This will put the comic book industry in a total death spiral to the point where some of these comic book companies may eventually go out of business.

In a nutshell.

The problem with the decline of comic book sales isn’t too much superhero diversity. It’s the price, the numerous knock-offs of the same characters, the limited distribution, the comic book events, and the constant catering to hardcore comic book fans at the expense of everyone else that are all slowly killing the comic book industry. Unless the comic book industry takes a hard look at these issues and do something about them instead of blaming diversity, it will recede further into irrelevance over the next few decades.

I went to my second Dr. Sketchy’s event in 2017 but it was my first one in DC for this year. It was raining that day so I didn’t do much walking around in DC other than walking from the Dupont Circle Metro station to the Bier Baron.

This is the rare Dr. Sketchy’s event in that all of my drawings are perfectly safe to view at work or school. That’s because the model for this event, Alyssum, is a belly dancer not a burlesque performer. Alyssum is also a contortionist so I have some drawings where she’s posed in some pretty unusual looking positions.

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Alyssum made a costume change where she posed in this pretty colorful outfit.

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Alyssum made one more costume change where she was dressed in a mermaid-themed outfit.

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Unlike all of the other Dr. Sketchy’s I’ve attended in the past, there were no contests at this one. It was pure drawing the entire time. Alyssum is also a jewelry designer and artist and she had some of her work on sale at that event. (I didn’t buy anything because of tight finances.) You can view and buy some of her work here and here.

I found out on Facebook about a dance protest that was being organized by the LGBTQ activist group Werk for Peace. They were protesting the Trump Administration giving plum jobs to homophobes along with its policy towards Muslim immigrants. The protest started at the Trump International Hotel and it ended at the White House. It was a pretty joyous protest despite the fact that it was bitter cold outside. (The temperature was in the low 30’s.) The high point was when they played Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and people were cheering and dancing outside the White House. Here’s a short video of the protest when the people initially gathered and danced outside the Trump International Hotel.

Here are my still photos, starting with the Trump International Hotel.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The next photo shows the pickup truck that led the protest as it blasted dance music.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The protest went down Pennsylvania Avenue as people were literally dancing in the streets.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The employees at the White House Gifts store came to the front door and cheered the protesters on. One of the protesters (draped in a rainbow flag) ran over to the store and embraced the employees.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The protest ended at the White House as people were dancing in the streets while holding anti-Trump signs.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

This next photo made a humorous reference to the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

I’ll admit that this protest was small compared to the Women’s March on Washington but I don’t mind because I wasn’t crammed in as much and there also seemed to be more of a sense of joy as people were cheering and dancing. It also didn’t receive as much media coverage, aside from this WTOP story.

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