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July 2004 Archives

July 1, 2004

Anachronism, money and kicking it John A-style

In the forum, the recent use of a vaguely John Allison-like style has sparked some discussion! The topic has already drifted to, of all things, the economics of the comic's fictional universe:

From BCWolf:

gwalla wrote:
the "bag of loot" with the modern Euro symbol on it.

Actually, that temporal inconsistency bothered me -- we're set in the Dark Ages, that symbol won't be a glint in anyone's eye for a millenia yet. Granted, you're writing for a modern audience, but still... it's as jarring as having them whip out a cell phone and ordering a DVD.

Read my answer, and the ensuing discussion in the thread.

July 2, 2004

The loneliness of the ultra-short distance hobbler

I was never much into sports as a kid, but I took to it more as an adult. I think it's being able to decide the time, occasion, pace and the actual branch of sport myself that does it. However, my lack of training in childhood has left my adult body ill-prepared for any real activity.

One sport I took to a few years ago was running. As it turned out, I had quite a bit of energy, lung power and even leg muscle in my late twenties, so when I joined a running club for group training, I found myself keeping up a pretty good speed. And so it only took me weeks to wreck my left knee. My last real training session with the group ended with me feeling an excruciating pain in the back of the knee, and when I returned to training a few weeks later, the pain came back faster even though I was much more careful.
I've now given it several years worth of rest. I'm not sure that there's anything medically wrong with the knee (the doctor couldn't find anything), but the pain still comes back so rest isn't helping.
Plan B is for me to carefully build up strength and resilience by running very short distances at a slowish pace, stretching often and stopping before the pain starts. The problem is that the knee will start hurting long before I even break a sweat, so I feel like a bit of an idiot for going out and jogging 700 meters at an octogenarian's pace. That's been stopping me in the past two years, but I do intend to keep it up. If I get up early in the morning and do a quick hobble without there being any people in the streets to notice that I'm taking only a few minutes before being back in my apartment, I may be able to make a habit of it this time. Assuming that the problem doesn't get worse.

If it does, I'll just have to switch to cycling. That's also nice, but it doesn't even feel like a sport if I cover less than 40 kilometers, so it will be very time-consuming.

Not a-bloody-gain!

That flu virus that took a bite out of me two weeks ago appears to have come back for seconds. My throat is all sore again. This is not making me smile.

As before, I'm trying to at least keep up an uninterrupted flow of ROCR pages, but with deadlines for Floor looming, I may not succeed.

Pasta Defender Heliotrope

(Hat tip to Drooling Fan Girl)
Jennifer Diane Reitz writes:

And that is when it hit me. The teflon nibs were exactly -EXACTLY- the diameter of a single strand of Barilla brand Italian spaghetti. And, this gave me a wild idea.

I ran downstairs to the kitchen and took a strand of spaghetti, and returned to my room. I broke off a length slightly longer than the overly short teflon nibs, and inserted into my old, broken pen. And you know what? THE PEN WORKS NOW!

Seriously. Oh, it cannot do any fine linework, it can only do the thick, standard lines devoid of pressure sensitivity that I have been used to for the past several months...but it works otherwise. Perfectly, for basic, normal functions, such as standard line work, coloring, and erasing. Grunt work.

Which is why, now, I have two pens in service.

One is my brand new pen, which can still do pressure sensitive work. It has not lost that apparently fragile capacity yet. And I intend that it keep that capacity for a long time to come.

My plan is to use the new pen only for times when I want to do special, calligraphic, beautiful lines...for alien text, or fine eye details, or for graphic flourishes. But for the grunt work, I will continue to use my old pen, now made functional only because of a length of Barilla spaghetti inserted into the shaft, a dried pasta nib.

I did today's page entirely with that spaghetti nib. I painted digitally with real spaghetti.

July 3, 2004

A veritable avalanche of spam!

This Friday and Saturday, the Talk About Comics forums, where I am an administrator, were hit by what looked like a zombie attack: a flood of spam from a large number of different computers in a very short time. Many of the machines the spam came from were connected to the same ISP, but quite a few were not.
I have never banned so many IP addresses in such a short time, and one of my co-administrators had to ban a bunch more, just to stem the flow. I have posted a thread on the incident on the forums, with a full list of IPs from which spam was posted. If you administer a public system, you may want to know that these are dangerous, and maybe a talented statistician can use this information to reveal where the machine coordinating this attack may have been!

My modus operandi:

1. First I look at the spammed message and add the spamvertised URLs to the word censor, usually replacing them with an obscenity. This effectively neuters the spam and any spams advertising the same URL. This time, I have seen evidence that this technique is working, because quite a few spams had URLs that were filtered out in my last run of additions to the word censor.
2. I look up the IP address, checking if it isn't a shared address from a major internet provider like AOL - banning those would result in many innocent people getting banned. However, if it is a shared address from an ISP that I've never heard of, I will still ban it.
3. I delete the message and start looking for the next one.

The idea behind filtering the URLs is that the spammer will derive no benefit in the form of improved google ranking, even if an individual message is not caught. The "obscenity" under point one serves to make posts filtered in that way stand out so that individual forum moderators will still be motivated to delete them. Besides, we have a bit of a tradition on the TAC forums of using the Word Censor filters to turn swearwords into other swearwords. Also being mean to spammers in the morning helps me go through the rest of the day with a smile and a kind word for everyone.

I was glad, when the work was done, to get some props for the hours of police work I'd put in. That's rare. Still, it caused me to get even further behind with work on Monday's comic (which is almost done, so it's not that bad).

Barbara's beer

Today, I finally got a taste of Barbara Stok's Chocolate Beer. I'd heard conflicting reports about it, but because I didn't go to the Stripdagen in Haarlem, for which this beer was brewed, I hadn't had the opportunity to taste it yet. But Barbara recently received over a 100 bottles from the brewer, so she invited Jeroen and me to try it out.
Strangely, I share part of the credit, or blame, for this limited edition beer being on the market. Six or seven years ago, I found some bottles of an English Chocolate Ale at a liquor store in Groningen, and bought some. I mentioned this to Barbara on the phone and invited her over to give it a try. It turned out that this product, whose name I've long forgotten, was a pretty good brown ale with a strong aroma of chocolate and a solid brown ale taste. It was also pretty filling if I remember correctly. Not bad at all, but it was an expensive import and I never found any more of it anyway.
When brewer Jopen approached Barbara about marketing a theme beer for the biannual Stripdagen convention/festival, she thought of our chocolate ale experience and suggested a chocolate beer. The brewer ran with this idea and came up with a white chocolate-flavored Weissenbier - very different from the stuff we drank but promising nonetheless. It's a change from previous two editions (out of three), which were heavy beers tailor-made for hard-drinking cartoonists. This one is only 5% vol., sweet, with lemon more present in the flavour than chocolate.
The bottled version, coming in 3/4 liter containers with a champagne cork, is very different in taste and appearance from the same beer as served on tap at the festival, as a result of it still fermenting in the bottle. And boy, has this stuff fermented! There's a biochemistry Nobel to be won from researching this beer. Opening the bottle resulted in a spray of froth. Pouring it caused the first glass to be filled with nothing but foam. The next two (small) glasses from the bottle developed a large, solid head that looked a bit like baking dough rising, with an endless flow of CO2 bubbles rising from the bottom, visible through the clear liquid.

The final third of the bottle on the other hand was much more opaque and quieter, but with no visible dregs. This suggested that, even though it obviously wasn't safe to shake the bottle, the beer should have been shaken before pouring to homogenise it! The bottom of the bottle smelled and tasted much stronger too. There's a Physics Nobel waiting for the person to resolve this dilemma.

As Weissenbiers go, Barbara's Stripbier is pretty good. Maybe a bit too sweet for my taste (like the only American Weissenbier I've ever tasted, Celis from Austin, Texas), but nice, nonetheless. I liked the extra fizz in it - if soft drinks manufacturers made their products as sparkly as that, I'd drink a lot more soft drinks. And the bottle itself, of course, is a must-have for fans of Barbara's comics.

I'm going to experiment with putting some of this in pancakes. Should be fun, and maybe explosive.

Note: The site linked to above is in Dutch so international readers may miss out on the fact that the thumbnail on the right of that page links to a larger picture of the label.

July 4, 2004


Vector panel based on Friday's comic
I don't think this is actually good enough to post as a finished work of art, or indeed as a stand-alone illustration at all, but I could use some advice from experienced vector artists here.
The drawing is a more elaborate version of the second panel from last Friday's ROCR comic, and was done in a vector drawing program I'm experimenting with: Microsoft Expression(*). After using it in the comic, I've changed the strokes so they looked more lively and organic, changed the outline colors and added shading and texture to parts of the image. At that point I started to get stuck a bit. The shading method I've used, creating translucent duplicates of paths and adding gradients to these, plus creating individual shadow shapes, is hideously time-consuming. Is there a better way to create shading? The textures included by default are not very subtle, but creating my own in a bitmap program looks like a lot of work, and I didn't get the tileability right when I tried to create a skin tone. How do other artists create these textures?

I'm also unsure whether I use the right tools (within the program) for the right things. I used the B-spline tool to create Kangra's torso, but maybe it would have been easier to draw it freehand and then manipulate it?

Here are some source files if you want to take a closer look and play with the image yourselves:
Expression file (500 KB) || Expression color palette (if needed)
|| Exported Illustrator 9 file (100 KB)

Continue reading "Vectorating!" »

"Compile", they said, "Compile! It's easy and you'll enjoy it!"

I'm trying to get autotrace installed on the linux system. My aim is to keep it symmetrical with the Windows system at the studio, which now has autotrace, potrace to vectorize scanned images, delineate to serve as a GUI for both, and the latest Java Runtime environment to make delineate work. It's all part of my attempts to learn vector art.
On windows, the only thing that gave me any pain was that the makers of delineate vastly overestimated Windows XP's intelligence in the field of reading its own file paths. The only way to get the JRE to work was to set the environment variable like this: C:\progra~1\java\jre.whateveritwas, and replace all forward slashes in the delineate.bat file with backslashes. It was an annoyance but I know Windows' quirks well enough to solve it myself. It's working nicely now, and it was worth it to be able to turn PNG images into SVG without too much fuss and with previews and buttons and all that stuff.
With autotrace on linux though, there's only one Red Hat 7.2 binary file available that might not be suitable for my SuSE 9.0 system at all. So I decided "OK, I'll get the source and compile. People always tell me it's easy, right?" -- blocking out the nightmare scenario that invariably takes place when I actually try this in the real world. You see, compiling programs on linux is pretty easy, if, and only if:

  1. You do it regularly so you don't forget the ritual;
  2. You know your system inside out so you can recognise and troubleshoot problems that may occur.
  3. You succesfully keep your system up to date so you don't get any library dependency problems;

In other words, it's easy for a professional system administrator or a dedicated computer geek. For the rest of us, it gets complicated pretty quickly.

Continue reading ""Compile", they said, "Compile! It's easy and you'll enjoy it!"" »

Wapsi Square frequency increase.

Wapsi Square will start updating 5 times a week starting on Monday.

Cool. It would allow for storylines to become more developed and still resolve faster. Wapsi is one of my favorite webcomics of the moment. It has engaging characters and good line art. It's more story- than gag-driven so it can use the extra updates.

I wonder if it's Keenspot's increased payouts that make this possible? The time required to draw Wapsi has to come from somewhere...

July 5, 2004

Tour de France

I don't know why listening to the Tour de France broadcasts on the radio makes me happy, but it does. Maybe it's because a lot of the music between reports is fresh and different to me. A lot of it stinks, but we don't hear a lot of French music the rest of the year. You never know when you may hear something that's really good, or takes you back to that French vacation in 1984. Or maybe it's because Radio Tour de France being on the air means that it's summer, a fact of which we've had scant evidence otherwise around these parts.
Most likely, though, it's because the Tour de France is a sports event that actually matters. I mean, football, even when played well, is just an entertaining game. Tennis is fun to play but I don't find contemporary tennis interesting to watch. The Tour de France, though, is a gladiatorial gruelfest in which the strongest of the strong suffer, and occasionally die. It's one of the hardest tests of the human body and mind, especially when the caravan enters the Alps or the Pyrennees.

Continue reading "Tour de France" »

Autotrace update

unvectorised Kel portrait cast-kel.png

I've got autotrace installed and am running delineate now. I'd like to thank Aric Campling of Hosers. To be honest, though, I eventually located a precompiled version of autotrace on SuSE's ftp servers and took the way of least resistance from there.

I've been playing with delineate and inkscape both at home and at the studio. I've got some really interesting effects out of vectorisation, especially when vectorising large, complex images, and I'm learning what the programs can and cannot do. The image on the left is a portrait of Kel from the Cast page. The one on the right is a vectorised version, re-exported to PNG with only minor changes from the SVG file. The SVG file is here. It's only 12 paths, unlike the monstrosities I created at the studio. See if you can read, manipulate and validate it!

July 6, 2004

You wanted Tamlin? You got Tamlin!

Tamlin cameo in today's Dangerous and Fluffy, on Graphic Smash. Go there now, before it disappears behind the subscription wall (Or subscribe and get access to the archives, and those of Fans, Digger, Flick and a wide range of other action-oriented comics.)

Fearless Leader explains, again, for uneducated masses

A while ago, I promised to write a long report on recent developments in webcomics. I still haven't got around to doing that, but while you're eagerly waiting for it, read Joey Manley's most recent thoughts on the matter:

Consider the fact that several webcomics (Sluggy Freelance, Penny-Arcade, and PvP, just to name three) can boast documented audience sizes that rival -- or blow out of the water -- the audience for a typical Marvel or DC comic book.

"Sure, they're popular," you may say. "But they're giving it away. Of course they're more popular."


Let's imagine a situation where an unknown rock band could put out an album online and have more listeners than whoever's at the top of the pop charts.

Can't imagine it?

Neither can I.

Even giving away their work, that band wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting even close to the popularity of this week's Top Ten flavor of the month.

On the other hand...

We're still not making enough money.

...if I had the resources to not need to look for outside work such as this, and could cover my expenses such as childcare, it would technically be feasible for me to do not one episode of Circle Weave each week, fully colored and on time. No, not one episode, not even two.

No, I could do at least three episodes a week, possibly even as many as 5. At that rate I'd be through chapter four in two weeks, and Chapter Five would be done about 9 weeks later. Following that math all through the rest of the story, Apprentice To A God would be complete in another two years.

And knowing that I'm capable of doing that, but for a few thousand dollars a month, is what is slowly killing me.

Things you didn't need to know about Jake

After today's appearance of Tamlin in Dangerous and Fluffy, Reinder decided to convince me to put the rest of the RoCR cast into it - and quickly. Whilst I have no objection - a cameo for the Green Knight is already forming in my head - I wasn't sure I could fit the whole cast in very quickly. The following conversation then ensued:

Barmaids, vagabonds, street artists, and that funny little man shagging sheep in the background.

...Which one would be the sheep shagger?

I suspect Jake.

So, now we know...

Whee! I'm an impressionist!

Putting complex images through the vectoriser (Autotrace) and back can result in some weeeeeiird effects. Here's a panel from tomorrow's (Wednesday's) ROCR comic:

Bizarre stained-glass impressionism effect
And no, I'm not afraid of spoiling anything here. The effect is even cooler at the size this image was originally exported at:


And this one looks cute too:

It's Kangra and Kel!

I'll have to use this style somewhere. I'll have to remember to feed the vectoriser images without word balloons and text (which I'll have to add later) though.

At last, I can run this blog on the Modern Tales site

Thanks to Einar, co-blogger at Waffle central and writer of the ROCR-cameo-tastic Dangerous and Fluffy, I have finally found a hack allowing me to feature the weblog in an Iframe on the ROCR pages on Modern Tales without having to tie it closely to a single episode. So welcome, ROCR readers on Modern Tales, to this blog that I've been maintaining for 5 months now. I use it to discuss art, politics and the work I'm doing behind the scenes on the comic. Also to announce hiatuses and extra stuff.

Continue reading "At last, I can run this blog on the Modern Tales site" »

July 7, 2004

On the shelf

Last week a writer I know asked me to create a comic with him. A spot was opening in the university paper, and he assured me, with our combined talents, we'd have a pretty good chance of getting the job. The spot was for a three-panel gag strip, something I'd never done before, so there lay quite a challenge for me. After a couple of days I managed to come up with this:

I was quite pleased with the result, especially since I had only two days to come up with it.

Unfortunately the writer had also approached another artist, whom he at first couldn't reach. And ofcourse he got the job...

So now it'll rest on a shelf, waiting for another opportunity. At least it will look allright in my portfolio.

I won't bother to translate the joke, especially since it isn't that funny anyway...


Quick addendum to At last, I can run this blog on the Modern Tales site:

When I said "I use [this weblog] to discuss art, politics and the work I'm doing behind the scenes on the comic. Also to announce hiatuses and extra stuff", I meant "we". Co-bloggers are Jeroen aka CMkaapjes and Adam aka Einar, friends, co-conspirators and creators of Dangerous and Fluffy. They don't post a lot but they do occasionally chime in.

So On the Shelf was a message from Jeroen, and the drawings shown in it, pretty though they are, aren't mine. I should really redesign the blog template so that it's clearer who posted what. I'll do that in my copious spare time.

July 8, 2004

Separated at birth?

Atra / The Hag. I should ask UrsulaV about this.

(Link will probably stop showing the current page by Tuesday, but may show pages featuring the hag for some time)

CRFH influence

Kel talking Traces of Maritza Campos of College Roomies From Hell in this detail from Friday's ROCR comic. People, especially artists, outside the webcomics world are often baffled by the success of CRFH, because they can't get over the technical faults in the artwork. But Maritza's art is actually highly skilled in those areas where it counts, such as effectively conmmunicating facial expressions. In my sketchbook, I've often spotted the influence of her way of drawing faces, and it's worming its way into the finished art as well.

July 9, 2004

Open thread: Ask away!

Previous attempts at doing an open thread kind of thing here haven't worked all that well, but now that the blog is included in the Modern Tales pages, and the "Rite of Serfdom" story is slowly inching towards its end, it may be a good idea to try again. What I'd like to hear from you is your questions. If you're confused about something in the current ultra-long and convoluted storyline, if you were wondering about this loose end or that, or have a question about the world in which the story is set, ask away! The most challenging, silly or embarrassing questions will be turned into one-page comics to run after "The Rite of Serfdom"! It's even quite likely that the one-pagers will answer them!

Dangerous and Fluffy - a detail

As you can see in this somewhat small detail from next week's Dangerous and Fluffy, Jeroen has chosen to use black lines around his characters, thus connecting himself with an ancient tradition that goes from Woodcuttings and even before through the cartoons of Leonardo Di Vinci to such respected comics as Li'l Abner, Krazy Kat, Peanuts*, Bruno the Bandit, and Digger.

Of course, other, far inferior options exist, such as coloured borders, computer modelling of the characters, even (god forbid) sprite comics, with their foul original sprites.**

Yes - Evil lies all around us in the form of these blasphemers, but we at Dangerous and Fluffy will stamp them out with our hobnailed boots, overcome them with sheep, and squash them with leaping kangaroos! Mwahahahaha!

* Every article about comics MUST reference Peanuts, even though Calvin and Hobbes is actually far superior.

** We shall not mention the comics that do not have original sprites. They scare us.

Innocent Victorians?

As Fred Goldrich pointed out on Savoynet today...

Robert Browning in "Pippa Passes", wrote:

Then owls and bats
Cowls and twats
Monks and nuns in a cloister's moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry.

presumably under the impression, encouraged by mischievous
friends, that a twat was a sort of hat worn by nuns.

...I don't think I can add anything to that.

July 10, 2004

Modern Tales sites down

At the time of writing (11.37 GMT) Modern Tales and it's affiliates seem to be down.
Do not panic: we'll do that for you.

[Update by Reinder: It's almost 4 PM, CET, now, and the sites are still behaving badly. Talkaboutcomics.com returns a download prompt for a *.php file after a very long wait, and Modern Tales is also kinda sorta responding. I think the PHP engine at the server farm is down causing PHP programs to not be interpreted. But my opinion is not to be trusted.

Update 2 by Reinder: Joey Manley reports that whatever it is it is serious. He has two solutions for the problem, one quick and dirty one and one that is more structural but more time-consuming. In any case, he expects to be working on it all weekend]

Modern Tales Outage: Sod's law at work?

Let the record show that I made an effort to promote my work and something disastrous happened soon after. Usually Sod's Law works more in a tit for tat manner: I post a press release on a few high-profile sites and Keenspace, which hosts the ROCR home page, collapses under its own weight within hours. This time it took a bit longer; I can think of two reasons.

1) the site affected is Modern Tales, which is more stable (usually) than Keenspace, and
2) the promotional technique I was trying to use was more crafty than just posting a few press releases. I had just integrated the blog into the Modern Tales pages the dual goal of improving communication with my readers at Modern Tales and increasing the reach of the blog itself, which I would use, in the long run to promote ROCR elsewhere. It was a long-term sceme, so Sod's Law answered it with a slower-moving crisis.

If the Modern Tales server isn't up by Monday, I will leave the old pages up on ROCR.net for a little longer. Actually, that won't be too hard, since I comply with the rule in my contract about not keeping the pages available elsewhere by cleaning old stuff up periodically. All I need to do is to add a link to the previous comic on the front page so it's easy to find.

And on Sunday, I'll post a little preview of Monday's comic. That was part of my evil masterplan, and I'm not going to stop doing that just yet. Sod's Law can just go Cheney itself.

Mini Me


Found this little fellow in a gift shop on a tour to Sterling. Sadly, he wasn't for sale.


July 11, 2004

Hari Echo Chamber returns

I haven't blogged much about politics in the past two weeks. If I have time, I'll explain this later today using a little Zen parable from my misspent days trekking through the Hillemayas wearing saffron robes and a shiny skin wig. However, in the absense of original political thinking cheap shots and deep thoughts along the lines of "injustice is bad", here are three new articles from Johann Hari about some of the issues of the day.

In The Golden Age of American Documentaries, Hari mentions two other documentary movies I should very much like to see:

Continue reading "Hari Echo Chamber returns" »

Fade-outs, from Monday's comic

From Monday's comic. The fade-outs and fade-ins are inspired by Dave Sim's use of the same device in the Cerebus comics, especially in Guys and Latter Days. Full color should make the device even more effective than it is in the meticulously hand-made Cerebus, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

The fade-ins were made with Layer Masks. I hadn't really used layer masks since late 2000 when I was still working with The GIMP for everything except the lettering, but I found the layer mask implementation in Paint Shop Pro 8 easy enough to use.

Outage update

Everything seems to be up and running again in the vast and evil Modern Tales empire. However, if any of you are reading the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives there, please report any missing images or seeming database mixups to reinder@despammed.com .

There won't be many problems but there could be some. Thanks.

July 12, 2004

A farewell to chickens

Jean-Pierre the roosterWhat a handsome fellow!
This fellow may have been the model for the character of Jean-Pierre

I recently found out what had become of the chickens that used to have the habit, during the summer, of coming into my backyard at 6 AM to wake me up and steal my berries. Their owners, who live in a squat nearby, are preventing new chicks from being hatched so the flock is dying off naturally, and I'm afraid it's happening rather fast (at least I don't think the squatters kill and eat the adult chickens. There are always some people in a squat who object to that sort of thing).

Right now there are only two roosters and three hens left. I'll be sorry to see them go. I'd got rather fond of them (except at 6 AM).
On the plus side though, more berries for me, even though the growing conditions this year have been abysmal.


GIMP 2 for Windows actually talks to the Wacom tablet like a good little application should!
This new version also has the rewritten interface that will make it easier to learn for new users. But all the cool features in the old interface are still present.
Also, it can import SVG files, but then maybe the old version could do that as well - I never needed to try.

I don't use GIMP as much as I used to, but that may change, depending on how good this new version actually turns out to be.

Panels from my other comic

Floor and Mike hanging out

Floorseizoen4-panel1.png Two panels from the second installment of season 4 of Floor, my comic for Hello You. In the morning I will reduce the orignals on a photocopier, scan the copies (I prefer doing that over making partial scans and digitally splicing them together) the scans, digitally clean them, correct a few dozen errors in the inked art, reposition the figures in some panels, add digitally-drawn backgrounds to those same panels with PSP 8's vector tools and make 1-bit image files to send to the editors and the colorist. From the colorist they go back to the editorial team, where by then, the lay-out people should have a quick preview by me indicating where the text should be positioned. I am going to be more conscientious about supplying these previews this year, because the letter positioning is often done wrong. I know that this is a risk, and it's my name on the byline, so it's my responsibility if it happens.

Until then, though, the art is all mine, mine, mine. It'll be months before the kids see it. Actually, I'm itching to color these pictures myself just to see how it looks with my own palette instead of that of Marjorie van Doorn, the colorist.

July 13, 2004

Time to start shopping around, I think

Cartoonist Mary Fleener has got into trouble with Paypal, and she's not the first. This Comics Journal thread discusses inconsistencies in the way Paypal applies its acceptable use policy. Andrew Farago asks the $ 64,000 question:

Wait a minute--

To get a PayPal account, you need to have a bank account and a credit card, right?

To get a credit card, you've got to be 18, right?

Once you're 18, you can look at and buy whatever you please, right?

Am I missing something here?

Mary Fleener does not appear to be taking this lying down. Good. Paypal was a Godsend for cartoonists when they first appeared but they're not the only game in town, nor should they be.

Objectively pro-delicious

Crooked Timber's Ted Barlow would rather cook lamb than argue with Glenn "Isntapundit" Reynolds' latest bit of bollocks. Can't say I blame him myself. MMM lamb.

He says that Michael Moore (who is responsible for writing and directing left-wing films of questionable accuracy) is the American version of the Iraqi rebel cleric al-Sadr (who is responsible for killing our soldiers and running a repressive fundamentalist regime in Fallujah). Etc., etc.

I could argue with this nonsense. But wouldn’t all of our time be better spent sharing a genuinely delicious recipe for braised lamb shanks in red wine? I think so.

The recipe is impossible to screw up and requires little attention. I usually make it for just two people, which means that I only cook two lamb shanks with the same quantities of vegetables and liquids. Since the skillet easily holds two lamb shanks, this is a one-dish meal for two people.

Lightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

6 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium onions, sliced thick...

Yep, Still there.

Tamlin, long missing from RoCR (for shame!) continues his Dangerous and Fluffy cameo in this week's comic. The background cameo concludes next week. HEre's a smidgen of that script:


...I didn't say it was a useful smidgen.

July 15, 2004

I aten't dead

Sorry I haven't written much on the blog. I actually had quite a few things I wanted to write about, but they were all long, comparitively thoughtful things that I'd have needed to take time for, as opposed to just writing up a link with a quote and a comment. Instead of doing that, I decided to work as hard as I could on the comics, so I'd stay ahead and be in a position to take a quick break or two as soon as the weather improves. (It's moved to the soul-destroying drizzle stage, which I find the most depressing of all).

I have just uploaded the comics for next Monday and Wednesday, putting me (narrowly) three updates ahead. I have also been looking at Bitpass again. It's been almost a year since I abandoned my plan to make Courtly Manners available as a Bitpass feature, and while I still don't think it's worth the work to publish only that comic that way, I've been thinking about making more comics available as Bitpass comics. That way the work would become routine and the Bitpass section would be more attractive from the start. I'm undecided though. Like with many other business/publishing models, I don't think I have the reader base to pull it off succesfully. Maybe I should publish more material for free to attract readers before even thinking about adding more for-pay comics.

I have got my tax refund for 2003, and I may spend some of that on promotion. Even if I don't, I will start doing more work to promote ROCR in the very near future. It's long overdue.


...In the Modern tales Newsletter this week, Ursula Vernon praises Dangerous and Fluffy.

...Ursula Vernon's Digger is the webcomic I judge my work against. Her brilliantly unique, funny, and incrediably creative tale of wombats, Hindu Gods, and Shadow Creatures is such a wonderfully unique voice - the only thing I can think of that one can compare it to is China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. The river of sheer creativity washes you away, and before you know it you've lost yourself in an entirely unique world.

...And yet, evidently, she's excited by my comic. I'm really not sure I can absorb this properly yet.

July 16, 2004

Friday's update

Several people wrote in to say that they didn't think the fade-outs were working. I think I agree, so this will be the last page with fade-ins and fade-outs for now.

I think they *ought to* work, though, so I'll revisit the idea at a later date.

Malmberg bought out

Adformatie reports that Finnish publishing giant Sanoma have bought out Malmberg, publishers of Hello You among others. Sanoma are not known for having equitable contracts with freelancers, so this may affect my ability to work for them after my fourth season drawing Floor (Malmberg's current contracts are pretty fair when it comes to intellectual property rights).

Swarbrick plays Swarbrick

I was surprised to find the other day that folk violinist Dave Swarbrick, who has been very ill with emphysema, had somehow managed to record a new album. The fact that despite being practically bedridden, he has been able to play at all is miraculous enough, but what makes it even better is that English Fiddler: Swarbrick Plays Swarbrick is such a strong album. Being a collection of classic tunes written throughout the man's long career, it's not groundbreaking by Swarb's standards, but it has fine playing from everyone involved and the arrangements are as daring as ever.
Musicians on the record include Swarb's old friend and partner Martin Carthy, old Fairport Convention stalwarts Simon Nicol and Dave Pegg, more recent Fairport Convention stalwarts Martin Alcock, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, Whippersnapper guitarist Kevin Dempsey and Swarb's old mentor Beryl Mariott. They revisit the tunes they were originally involved in, sounding occasionally under-rehearsed but performing with skill and feeling. Sadly, Swarb doesn't sing on the album because his illness has cost him his singing voice, but the violin work is still a joy to listen to. There's even a return to the electric violin sound from his Fairport days. The other musicians get plenty of space to make themselves heard as well. The best example of this is in the final tune, "Miss Stevenson/Turnabout", where they get to jam for almost 2 minutes in the middle of the song before Swarb cuts in with the electric violin.

English Fiddler is out on the Naxos label, so you may have difficulty finding a store that carries it. Naxos is mostly known for commissioning inexpensive recordings of classical music and reissuing jazz and pop from the period before World War II, but they also have a great selection of folk music from across the world (the bluegrass album Little Grasscals has become a favorite in the studio), and it's all red-book compliant and cheap!

(Note: Oddly, Amazon lists this item both under Popular Music and under Books. This may have something to do with Naxos' distribution arrangements. When listed under books, it's a special-order item, but the music listing says it should ship within 24 hours.)

July 17, 2004

Along the edges of the map

I spent a day cycling with Sidsel. We started off at 10.30 from her place in the south of the city, in the direction of Roden and Leek, keeping an eye on the weather to see if we might have to turn around early to avoid the thunderstorms that we'd been warned for. In Leek, the clouds were still scattered, so we carried on to Zevenhuizen and then Ureterp, a Frisian town right at the bottom left of my cycling map. When we arrived there it was still mostly sunny and in fact pretty hot, so we stopped for ice cream (lots of ice cream, in my case. Enough to go into a caloric coma. When I start doing some serious speed-oriented cycling I'll observe dietary discipline but when I'm just touring I'll eat ice cream when I damned well please) and plotted our journey back. Distance covered at that point: some 36 kilometers, which is nice enough for a trip we'd planned at short notice with a dramatic change in the weather later in the day in mind.

Continue reading "Along the edges of the map" »

July 19, 2004

You could wait for this review to happen

Slightly predictable but funny in the execution: at the new parody webcomics review site Modern Humor Authority, there's a contrarian review of Chris Crosby and Owen Gieni's insight-free political satire/gaming comic Sore Thumbs:

Owing equal amounts to Paul Conrad and Calvin and Hobbes, Chris Crosby and Owen Gieni's Sore Thumbs is a blunt yet pointed satire of leftist thought in the United States. The strip uses the device of its protagonist's fantasy world to poke fun at popular Democratic-party standards, while simultaneously endorsing the creators' own ultraconservative ideals in the subtext.

It's easy to mistake the strip as a raucous, nasal Democratic broadside, and no doubt some readers remain blissfully ignorant in that belief....

The punchline:

...The double-edged politico-comic is a clever idea, but leftist Bruce Tinsley has been doing the same thing with his own Mallard Fillmore for over a decade.

Hold off on the tort reform until Geir and I have raked in our millions, please.

Geir just emailed me a link to the website for George Lucas' forthcoming Sky Captain movie. This is what White House in Orbit would look like if it had a mega budget and some actual creative talent at its disposal. Even the character names are similar! "Polly Perkins"? From now on that will be President Samuel T. Perkins' wife's name.

Professor Buttumsup is still a lot cooler than "Dex" though.

Anyway, we're contacting our lawyers and as soon as we find one that isn't afraid of being eaten alive by George Lucas' lawyers, or his neck, vengeance will be OURS! Muahahaha!

Where Turkey is headed

Via A Fistful of Euros:

A long and well-written article in the New York Review of Books, about the progress made by Turkey's prime minister Erdogan towards democracy and qualifying for EU membership. Short version: there's a long way to go, but the country's becoming freeer and wealthier.

What's noticeable about this is that Erdogan is an Islamist. Contrary to expectations at the time and popular belief in much of Europe, this has not stopped him from proving himself

more committed to democracy than any of the self-proclaimed "secular" leaders who misruled Turkey during the 1990s. He has secured passage of laws and constitutional amendments abolishing the death penalty and army-dominated security courts; he repealed curbs on free speech, and brought the military budget under civilian control for the first time in Turkish history. He authorized Kurdish-language broadcasting, swept aside thirty years of Turkish intransigence on the Cyprus issue, and eased Greek–Turkish tension so effectively that when he visited Athens in May, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis proclaimed that the two countries now enjoyed "a relation of cooperation based on mutual trust."

I don't really know that much about Turkey, but it will be interesting to read this article again in December and see how things have gone since it was posted.

July 20, 2004

Bring your own cigars and brandy

I'm having a friendly chat with René van Densen of The Grim DotCom. If you can speak Dutch, read it, and throw peanuts at us from the sideline.

Bug me do

I am somewhat concerned about the popularity of Bugmenot. I use it myself more and more often, and I know that my Modern Tales earnings are reasonably safe against the use of this service, but it still bothers me.

The difference between the login arrangement for Modern Tales and the registration/login for sites like The New York Times, from the user's point of view, is (or should be) that logging in to Modern Tales serves a beneficial purpose - verifying that you are a paying customer - and the nytimes login does not. We don't know why the nytimes wants your identity, but we think it has something to do with profiling your behaviour and leveraging that information with the advertisers. We don't like that or benefit from it.

However, there will be people who see the two situations as essentially the same. Hey, it's easier than remembering a password, right? And that information wants to be free, right?

People, quite rightly, are fed up with having to register for everything, remember passwords and sign in. A backlash against registrations could end up hurting fee-based sites. Or am I too pessimistic? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Update: Adam refers me to Bugmenot's FAQ which advises pay site owners to submit their URL for automatic blocking from their database. That's good. Still, I think there's something to worry about when it comes to the hearts and minds issue.

July 21, 2004

reinder declares Grimborgsman permanent character (or else)

Pushed by the many spontanious fans of his character design for Grimborgsman, Reinder will soon announce that Grimborgsman will become a permanent, recurring character, or the popular Dutch cartoonist will be given a wedgie.

When Timmeryn was not asked for comment, he did not say, but probably would have, "Reinder best not make a character like that only appear for one sequence. If he does, I can see no alternative but to call in the Mafia."

Faced with these comments, Reinder replied, "Oh, bugger."

Speculation on whether this implies Grimborgsman having a romantic comedy plot featuring the Green Knight remains in debate.

July 22, 2004

Another one to disqualify from the human race

Three spams in a row to this weblog, from an outfit called paxilmedication.biz. All of them posted from IP address .. They have a phone number which may or may not be genuine. It's in New South Wales, Italy.

Again, the domain name is registered with GANDI, which means they can spam the domain with impunity. If you have a domain that you need registered, avoid GANDI until they have updated their policy to ban spamming, and if you're already registered with GANDI, switch away from them and tell them their support for spammers is the reason.

The domain registration may be fraudulent. The only Krastio Atanassov I can find through Google is a linux HOWTO writer who seems to be concerned with anti-spam measures. The spammed web page itself doesn't appear to have a contact address on it (yes, I checked! The things I do in the battle against spam), which suggests that the spam may have taken place as a way to smear and discredit the real Atanassov. Considering the psychopathic behavior of spammers in the past, it is not at all unlikely that they'd go to such lengths.

Continue reading "Another one to disqualify from the human race" »

Must... resist... lure... of... Great Escape!

Over at the Keenspace Forums, people are discussing another Great Escape. The Great Escape was the biggest webcomics crossover ever, organised by the sick mind of Damonk, and put into place by the computer-stained fingers of Damonk. It was one of the most hair-raising things I ever did as a cartoonist. I was teamed up with Glych of No Stereotypes, Scrubbo of Silly Cone V and Pam of Purple Duck Mambo. Despite Glych being overworked and Pam having trouble finding the time when real life was interfering, we completed our sub-section of the crossover story, only to find that it started breaking almost at once. The day we were supposed to launch, Keenspace, which at the time hosted all of us, went on a multi-day outage. In the months after that, Damonk's site which served as the hub for the event, was eaten by another server failure, and still hasn't been fully reconstructed. Then Glych and I both moved to Modern Tales, breaking the continuity. There has been occasional discussion of ways to make our archived material available on a central location so that everyone could read it without going "Huh?" or at least going "Huh" in any other way than we intended, but nothing ever came of it. The thing has been a constant headache since August 2001.

And yet...

Even though the consensus in our sub-group was "that was fun, let's never do it again", the idea of doing it again now seems strangely alluring. If we can Murphy-proof it while still having a story idea that is fun to do, I would probably want to take part in a Memorial Edition of the Return of the Son of The Great Escape. My big question, though, is, who'd be crazy enough to organise it? Who has Damonk's mad knowledge of the online comics world?

Salon interviews the bearded one!

Salon has a lengthy interview with Alan Moore.

July 23, 2004

The day I banned half the internet

Being an administrator for Talk About Comics can be an exhausting experience. This morning, I awoke with a weird feeling of premonition, like a disturbance in the Force or something. I thought to myself "It's going to be one of those days when I start off motivated to do real work done, but this motivation will be defeated the moment I log on because there will be another spam attack on Talk About Comics." And Nostra-Dijkhuis was right again. There were already several complaints, both in the Trouble Ticket forum and elsewhere, about casino and other spams, following the same modus operandi as the attack that gave me so much trouble two weeks ago. Then, as now, old threads were resurrected with postings from Guests duko, bugi and wlulax_60, containing off-topic messages (variants from a small pool of standard texts) with a URL randomly inserted mid-sentence. They were once again posted from a wide range of IP addresses, in disparate ranges, but with about half of them belonging to one Internet Provider, Telefonica. When I logged on, Fearless Leader, who really has much more important things to do like paying me, hyping the Modern Tales sites and inventing new things to conquer the world with, had already deleted 120 of them. But they were still trickling in at a steady pace.

Once again, I set about neutering the spams by feeding the URLs to the Word Censor Filter, then banning the IPs from which they were posted, then deleting the messages themselves. I was frustrated to find that wildcards in the ban list didn't work the way I expected them to. But I've figured it out now. But even with wildcards for the third and fourth blocks of the IP addresses, I'm hitting the ban list often, and it really does feel like I'm banning half the internet, or at least most of Spain.
The process took hours of productive time away from me, in which I did things that were the opposite of fun. I am not a violent man, but I have some interesting ideas about how the appearance of the person behind these spams can be improved.

Continue reading "The day I banned half the internet" »

Putting the cap on a bad day

It looks like much of my incoming email for today was eaten by something or other. If I don't respond to a message you sent, it may be because I didn't get it.

And now I'm off to get annoyingly and belligerently drunk.

July 24, 2004

Cycling/henge-climbing biathlon

Another Saturday, another endless trek through the verdant countryside with Sidsel. This time we went south, through the northern and middle parts of Drente, where the dominant species is the potato. I spent 3 years working for a software company supplying database and decision support systems to potato farmers, during which I learned more about potatos than any non-farmer should. They have interesting mating rituals.
Seriously, Drente consists mostly of arable land with spuds, sugar beets, wheat and maize being common crops. There are many winding little paths to cycle on, and some sights to see. Our destination today was Borger, where we'd look at some henges and enjoy the forests.

Continue reading "Cycling/henge-climbing biathlon" »

July 25, 2004

Email disappearing.

It looks like one reason my email is disappearing is that Despammed.com is down. I am not about to publish any unfiltered email address online, so if you must reach me, use the comments to this post or the Reinder Dijkhuis message board.
April 28, 2007: Comments closed due to spam.

From the heart of the Marxist-Feminist Axis...

The Village Voice reviews Cerebus:

But despite Sim's anti-feminist crusade, Cerebus stands on its own as a ferocious critique of power. Sim believes that freedom is an absolute, and to this end he has self-published Cerebus, advocated for artists' rights, and bucked intellectual-property laws wherever possible (after his and Gerhard's deaths, Cerebus will become public domain). In an era when selling out is considered synonymous with success, Sim's resistance is bracing. But independence comes at a cost, and the price of Sim's is that his 26-year project, his life's work, is ending largely in silence. Tired of his grandstanding, most people long ago tuned him out. But for the scale of its ambition, the intricacy of its characters, the beauty of its artwork, and its commitment to mapping the at times objectionable mind of its creator without ever blinking or looking away, Cerebus remains a staggering declaration of independence.

July 27, 2004


Over the past couple of months I've made a few avatars which I thought I'd share with you. I haven't done them up in any systematic way; I've simply used whatever I thought would be nice for use on a forum or on MSN.

Sheep, 100*100Oog, 100*100isolde.pngjakeavatar.png

Ottar.png Kel talking


These are all my original work (one of them is from next Monday's comic). You have my permission to use them. Please don't hotlink to the server they're on now, though; save them to your local machine (for MSN and other messaging clients) or to a webserver of your own (for forum use).

On Henges and Funnel Beakers

Mental note: if I'm going to write about archeological sites, in English, in this blog, then this glossary of archeological terms is going to come in handy. But I should keep looking for a more extensive one.

Third time's the charm... of a diseased toad!

Because I don't like having my time of my resources stolen from me, I am not happy with the proprietors of Adult-movies.org and Hot-gay.tk (both links go to the Sam Spade pages for the spammed URLs) who spammed this weblog three times from the same IP address ( - may be spoofed) in the past hour or so.

Unfortunately, both domains are less than penetrable. No domain registrar that I recognise as a reliable name, so no use complaining to them (although the domainsbyproxy IDs suggest that it's a subletter for Go-Daddy who are usually responsive). However, I have reproduced what I could find in the hope that a smarter person than me can take them down.

Continue reading "Third time's the charm... of a diseased toad!" »

July 29, 2004


I'm fairly deep into the internal workings of the vast and evil Modern Tales empire. I'm in the know, in the loop and in the swing of things.
So why didn't I know that Ursula Vernon was drawing Fans?

ZUM reviews Pin Drop

A pretty fair and positive review by Pete Doree of my collection of wordless comics Pin Drop in ZUM!. I think I've got some of his work, but can't recall.

What makes this review extra-noticeable is that it appears six years after the book came out! I think the ZUM! people got this when I went to the CAPTION convention in 1998...

July 31, 2004

Note to punksters

I just saw The Apers at Vera Groningen as part of Vera's series of summer gigs. In these gigs, well-known underground bands get to play cover sets of a band of their choice. The Apers did a great job with their set of Rip-offs covers, but kind of lost me when they started playing a mix of their own songs and classic punk repertoire after that. Their presentation is energetic, they have a powerful sound and they know their stuff, but there's only so much punk I can take in a single evening before I want to hear something else. No punk group should be allowed to play 35 songs in an evening no matter how short the songs are.
So I left them without hearing them play "The Ace of Spades" which people in the audience were calling for. Bummer. I hate walking away from a good band.

Help Maritza color

Maritza Campos has carpal tunnel syndrome and wants a drawing tablet so she won't have to color with the mouse anymore. Good choice, and a worthy cause to donate a bit of money to. I've found, based on my own long term carpal tunnel/RSI experiences that working with a tablet makes the difference between coloring with relative ease for long sessions with no lasting ill effect, and becoming completely crippled in the arms.
However, the difference is already made with a $100 Wacom Graphire, and it's not strictly necessary to switch to the solution that Maritza has got her eye on, a $1700 Cintiq 15x. I'm not sure the extra $1600 makes that much extra difference. Not that I begrudge her a really nice tablet; it looks really useful, productivity-enhancing and generally nice if you can get it. In fact I donated a bit of money before writing this up. I'm a fan, and I'm all for hitting up on your fans for the means of production as one of webcartooning's few perks. But the medical case can be served much more cheaply.

Saturday biking: Groningen - Eastermar Houtigehage

Adrift in darkest Fryslân

This Saturday's bicycling trip took Sidsel and me into Fryslân/Friesland again, with our intended destination being Eastermar/Oostermeer where her aunt and uncle have recently moved. Things became a bit of a shambles as far as reaching that destination was concerned, but I am liking this cycling thing, and what it's doing to me, more and more.

Continue reading "Saturday biking: Groningen - Eastermar Houtigehage" »

About July 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in July 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2004 is the previous archive.

August 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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