Sunday, December 3, 2017

i love the dead

With so much going on in the world — so many important topics up for discussion and debate — I thought I'd focus on a subject that holds the utmost importance to me.


Specifically, my wonderful and turbulent relationship with the internet. Over a decade ago, I entered the world of the World Wide Web when I published the first entry* on, my illustration blog. My blog consisted mostly of entries for the weekly challenge posted on Illustration Friday, a sort-of community of artists from all over the world. Illustration Friday offers a single word of inspiration and allows artists a week to interpret that word until the next Friday brings a new word. I have actively participated in this process for eleven-plus years, never missing a single week (even when Illustration Friday missed a few themselves). I began small, hesitant to post anything controversial, fearful of editorializing, expressing my opinions or — gulp! — causing a stir. In between my weekly drawings, I began to create drawings of my own inspiration, under the category title "from my sketchbook."  But, over time, I began to inject some of my unorthodox sense of humor that has become the unofficial Josh Pincus trademark. 

In 2008, I posted this drawing of aspiring actress Peg Entwistle, who met an untimely demise in 1932. A distraught Peg, weary of the cruel treatment she received from film executives who crushed her glittery dreams of stardom, flung herself from the top of the massive "H" in the famed "Hollywood" sign that loomed over Tinsel Town. My illustration pissed a reader off so much that he contacted me with a series of threatening emails. I was so pleased that someone took that much time and effort with something that I created, I couldn't have been more flattered. As an artist, as far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as bad publicity. I would rather have my art evoke anger than joy. Anger is a much stronger and more passionate emotion. 

But it didn't end there. I was reprimanded by the admin of another illustration website. I received more threatening emails regarding a drawing I did of session drummer/convicted murderer Jim Gordon. I pissed off a fellow artist who accused me of being a bully. The list goes on and it's all documented under the "About" tab on my blog's homepage.

In 2008, I joined Twitter, which — depending how you look at it — was the best or worst thing I could have ever done. Twitter became the ideal place for Josh Pincus to flourish. It became an outlet for  my jokes, commentary, sarcasm and stream-of-consciousness thought. To date, I have logged over 55,000 tweets. It's a wonder I ever get any work done. Soon, I began to promote my drawings on Twitter. I gained more followers and widened my audience, although, I maintain, that I draw primarily for my own amusement.

Last year, while looking to amp up my illustration output from what had dwindled to just one per week, I began a new series on my illustration blog. I kicked off 2016 by posting the first drawing in my series I decided to call "Dead Celebrity Spotlight." As I stated in the premiere entry, this would marry two of my prime interests: drawing and celebrities who had passed on. The "drawing" part was obvious. I have been drawing since I was a child. The "dead celebrity" part stems from my love of old Hollywood, chock full of obscure tales of fleeting fame and spectacular deaths and my affinity for visiting cemeteries (yeah, I do that). So, after drawing and writing about a different dead celebrity (some that you recognize, some that you hardly even heard of) every week for an entire year, I continued the series into the current year, adding some special "mid-week" entries as the news of the passing of a beloved and renowned public figure broke. There are (as of right now) one hundred and twelve drawings and stories in the Dead Celebrity Spotlight series. I plan to keep posting new ones every Friday. I hope they garner the reaction that my most recent post achieved.

Early Friday morning, I woke up at 5:45 and, after showering and brushing my teeth and warming up the Keurig, I lumbered up to the third floor of my house to post the daily celebrity death anniversaries on the Josh Pincus Facebook fan page. Then, before heading back downstairs for a cup of coffee, a bowl of Raisin Bran and a couple of episodes of The Andy Griffith Show prior to catching my morning train, I selected a draft from the backlog library of "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" section of my blog to publish. This day, I chose a personal observation of teen idol David Cassidy, whose death just last week at a youthful 67 shocked and saddened a generation of fans who grew up watching and loving him on The Partridge Family. My drawing and commentary went live at 6:19 AM and, little did I know, all hell was about to break loose. My tweet, which is set up to automatically generate from Facebook, got some "likes," some "retweets," and some "replies" — one of which was quite displeased by my sentiment.

A Twitter user named Mar offered this reply:
In typical Josh Pincus fashion, I responded:
I thought this was funny enough to post as a screenshot on my Facebook page as well.

Later, another angered Twitter user, suspiciously calling herself  "Laurie," perhaps as an homage to Susan Dey, David Cassidy's TV sister on the 70s sitcom, expressed her displeasure at the choice of terms I used as the title of my illustration series (on my blog).
This one was puzzling. Was she offended? Really? It's not like I said "Croaked Celebrities," or "Celebrities Now Residing in Box City," or "Lifestyles of the Rotting and Famous," or any number of other derogatory euphemisms for "The Great Beyond." "Dead" is a perfectly good, non-offensive word. Funeral directors, doctors, newscasters, even your mother ("Oh dear, I just heard from Fannie that Milton is dead.") use it all the time. 

So, not being one to drop things until they are thoroughly beaten into submission, I questioned:
Laurie replied:
But the criteria for inclusion in this series is the celebrity has to be dead. Not for any particular length of time, just dead. I have done drawings of celebrities within minutes of the announcement of their death (former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay comes to mind). I tried to stress this in 140 characters or less, but my confusion hindered my ability to be as articulate as I would have liked. Instead, I returned this:
Her brief retort popped up almost immediately, followed by what is commonly known as  a "kiss-off:"
And, just like that, she was gone. Her portion of the debate ended. Her final summation delivered. As Archie Bunker often proclaimed: "Case closed!"

When I was compiling screenshots to compose this entry on It's Been a Slice, I was met by this message when I visited "Laurie's" Twitter account page:
Now we're talking. Or... maybe we're not.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: Oh, do I love the internet!

Ironically, that initial entry, in March 2007, featured an illustration of Bill Cosby, whose shattered career has been chronicled in recent headlines. How prophetic of me. I think.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****
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