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October 2004 Archives

October 1, 2004

mclusky did Vera

They rocked.

Continue reading "mclusky did Vera" »

Sony blinks!

Via Boing Boing:

Engadget reports that Sony is going to stop releasing music on ShinyDisk:

Seems Sony is going through something of a change of heart recently: following its decision to support MP3 in its audio players comes news that, in Japan at least, Sony Music Entertainment is ditching copy-control CDs from November. They claim the reason is “an increase in awareness by music consumers”, which we assume is supposed to mean that they’ve succeeded in educating everyone that copying CDs is a bad thing. Dare we suggest that the truth is simply that they’re starting to see the light?

Dumpster-diving, redux

Also via Boing Boing, Newsday reports on a new alternative lifestyle: Freeganism.

They're not homeless, and they have jobs. They call themselves freegans, and though some fill their fridges with food from garbage bins to save money, many choose not to buy food for philosophical reasons.

"Freegan" comes from the term vegan - a person who does not eat meat or animal products for health or ethical reasons. Freegans take it one step further by eating food thrown away by stores and restaurants, to avoid waste and limit their impact on the environment. They say that by not buying food, they're boycotting a capitalist consumer society that needlessly slaughters animals and harms the environment by mass-producing nonessential food, much of which ends up in landfills.

I have wondered myself on the possibility of getting food for free by living as a modern hunter/gatherer in Groningen, where many edible plants and animals can be found in the wild if you know where to look. I had not considered hunter/gatherering in the trash at stores and restaurants though...

Also, I'm not surprised that one of the people interviewed in the article is an entomologist. Not surprised at all.

(previous dumpster-related post)

Dangerous and Fluffy Mary Sue test

After trying all the RoCR characters for Mary-Sueness, Reinder challenged me to subject Dangerous and Fluffy to the same treatment. So, does Dangerous and Fluffy contain Mary Sues? Let's find out!

Continue reading "Dangerous and Fluffy Mary Sue test" »

I was hungry

So I added Chocolate and Zucchini to the blogroll. Mmmm, zucchini rolls.

Seriously, I've been wanting to do more cooking, and more non-routine cooking, for a while. There's a vegetable pie in the electric mini-oven right now; probably the last time I will use that oven, because as I was working on that pie, the little door started falling open and refused to stay shut. It's kept shut for the duration with duct tape, which is remarkably melt-proof.

Continue reading "I was hungry" »

October 2, 2004

Fotheringay

I'll bet you thought I was done reviewing CDs after Thursday's barrage? Think again. This one has been in the queue since August, even before my review of Henry the Human Fly. In the comments, I mentioned another important reissue by Fledgling records.

Fotheringay is the band Sandy Denny formed after she left Fairport Convention for the first time. Within months, they had this self-titled debut album out. It sounds remarkably like Fairport Convention, except it is more singer-songwriter oriented (while still being a true band record) and has no fiddle on it. What it does have is mostly great songs sung by Denny and Australian-born singer-songwriter Trevor Lucas who would soon marry Denny. Only one of the songs, "Banks of the Nile", is traditional.

Continue reading "Fotheringay" »

Quick work/schedule update

The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic for Monday is uploaded and ready to go. However, I am still at risk from running late during next week, because I'll have to draw Floor as well.
I have filler material ready, should it be needed (thanks Timmerryn), and of course I can always run some sketchbook stuff if needs must. But like last week, I will try to get it all done in time anyway. My working habits have become a bit more disciplined in the last week, and if I can keep myself away from distractions by playing 70-minute CDs on my headphones, I have a good chance at getting everything done in time.

October 3, 2004

Sunday Cycling: Groningen - Westerbork plus a long walk

Today's cycling brought Sidsel and me to Westerbork, in just about the only corner of my battered old map of the province of Groningen that we hadn't explored yet. A 35-kilometer trip to the southwest of the province of Drente, made longer by our unfamiliarity with the terrain. We spend a lot of time and added quite a bit of mileage hovering around and winding our way through Assen, Drente's provincial capital.

We didn't go all the way to Westerbork proper, by the way. Our destination was the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center. It was picked because it was simply a place to go, but having been there one can't help coming away without a strong impression of the horror of what went on there.

Continue reading "Sunday Cycling: Groningen - Westerbork plus a long walk" »

October 4, 2004

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Today marks the last day I draw Dangerous And Fluffy: The Sheep Of Doom. Unfortunately, I cannot any longer spare time and energy to continue draw it.
I am very glad, though, that Timmerryn has agreed to take over, and I have all confidence Adam and Timm will keep entertaining any and all readers engrossed in the goings on in the town of Greepwhittle. I know I'll remain a fan :)
Thank you, all who read it, and thank you Adam for putting up with me ;)

October 5, 2004

Burn remasters

The Highway Star has a good feature on the remasters of Deep Purple's Burn album, criticising the choice of bonus tracks and recommending that buyers avoid the European pressing:


The European pressing of the remastered Burn is plagued by a Copy Control system that the record labels seem hell-bent on shoving down our throats. No, illegal copying of music is not endorsed, but manhandling the music that is the very livelihood of these companies is offensive, annoying and counterproductive. Throw the remastered Burn CD into your PC's CD-rom drive and it'll start up a mini media-player window (of sorts) which will only play back compressed versions of the music on the disc. Fine. Anyone should be able to live with this - that is, if the music hadn't been encoded at a measly 64 kbps! This postively ruins any listening experience as it makes the music sound like it came drifting in from a remote AM station broadcasting with stolen pre-WWII equipment. Yes, it's that bad.

The low quality of the pre-ripped files shows EMI Europe's lack of seriousness about the remaster program and their contempt for their consumer base. Fans buy remastered editions expecting the sound quality to be better than the original release. While Deep Purple's core audience consists of baby boomers who probably have CD players, their records are also bought by people now in their teens and early twenties, many of whom only play CDs (the ones that buy and play CDs at all are a highly desirable market within the youth demographic) on their computers*). If, when you sell a remastered CD to them, what they actually get for their € 19 is a much inferior sound quality than the original release, you have cheated a kid or a student out of their allowance, student loan or MacJob wages. Way to go, EMI!

My fear is that EMI will see any lack of interest in the remasters in Europe as evidence that buyers aren't interested in Deep Purple material after the Mark II era. Record companies have a habit of grabbing the wrong end of the stick when it comes to interpreting sales results. For example, the remastered editions of the second, third and fourth King Crimson albums were under-printed because Virgin concluded, based on low back catalogue sales of the previous editions of those albums, that few people would want to buy the remasters. It took them a while to find out that the reason people didn't buy the previous editions because they were waiting for those remasters, which had been in the pipeline for a year!

Continue reading "Burn remasters" »

October 6, 2004

Bwa ha ha!

Shot by Both Sides never fails to deliver good snark:

Meanwhile, Mark Chapman has been refused parole after a "review of records". Clearly they didn't review any of John Lennon's post-1973 records, otherwise they'd have granted him an official pardon.

Bones of All Men

Last one in the big catchup that began last week:

Combining renaissance music and rock has been tried by quite a few artists over the years, from Gentle Giant and Renaissance in the 1970s to Blackmore's Night and In Extremo in the nineties and aughties. It's... hard work. Underuse the rock instruments and you end up with kitchy renaissance-muzak-with-a-drumbeat, over-use them and you get bombast tarted up with crumhorns. The Bones Of All Men (and of several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of Davnces, Pavannes, Steps and such, played this time), by Mr. Phillip Pickett with Mr. Richard Thompson & the Fairport Rhythm Section, gets it right nearly all of the time. I suppose it helps that Mr. Pickett is one of the leading early music woodwind players, Mr. Thompson is a genius on the guitar, and Messrs. Nicol, Pegg and Mattacks form one of the most seasoned rhythm sections in the Western world. Together, aided by keyboardist Sharona Joshua and medieval violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk (on one track only), they create stomping, dynamic versions of mostly 16th century keyboard compositions.

Continue reading "Bones of All Men" »

I was going to like Orkut, but Orkut didn't like me back

CAPTCHAs, crappy servers and a terrible memory for passwords don't go together well.
KUT!

Previous "I was going to like..." entries

Promo art

GrimborgArt1-color-final.jpg

Continue reading "Promo art" »

October 7, 2004

I'd like to see this too

Spike challenges us to recommend

science fiction films where the pursuit of science isn't cast as a monumental act of hubris against God and Nature. Seriously.

Please tell me all about flims you enjoy that feature technology or scientific experimentation, but are as devoid of evil/insane scientists, researchers, or cold, faceless sci-tech corporations gettin' their comeuppance as possible....

I'd prefer a moral that doesn't involve things MAN, in all-caps, was never meant to do, because MAN (also all-caps) was never meant to wear underpants, rent climate-controlled re-conditioned lofts in the meatpacking district to impress their girlfirends, be immunized against polio, or live past thirty-five.

...Taken to its logical conclusion, the assertion that scientific curiousity or advancement isn't what's meant for humanity means we should all still be living in trees, trying to find a comfortable way to sit on an estrus swelling and working termites out of the branches with twigs.

Unless you people have a problem with twigs now or something.

To which I can only respond with a rousing "RAH!" but no actual recommendations. Some of the Star Trek movies might qualify but I'd like to think that she wants to hear about movies that are actually worth spending 90*) minutes on
for artistic and entertainment reasons as well as scientific ones.

*) If it's much more than 90 minutes, the bar gets raised much much higher than any Star Trek movie is capable of clearing. I don't know if the Dogma manifesto had a rule about movies needing to be concise, but it should have had one.

The color purple...

... is a hard color to create harmonious combinations with. Bleagh.
Purple faerie in dark red backdrop

October 8, 2004

Signs of the impending apocalypse

Harrumph. Not much stuff on the impending apocalypse here lately. About time somebody took charge and did something about it!

So gather around brothers and sisters, and hear this weeks summary of foreboding signs in the skies and bumps in the night.

For ye of the dark disposition: In time for Christmas (or perhaps she's aiming for Halloween), our favorite Goth Nemi appears for the first time between hard covers in a hefty collection of the series first four years (1997 - 2000): "Enhj�rninger og avsagde hagler". For the Norwegian impaired, that means "Unicorns and sawn-off shotguns". It's NOK 298 for 168 pages, and it should be worth it: This is vintage Nemi from before artist Lise Myhre got her current bout of verbosititis.

Those of you who're not willing to learn Norwegian to catch up on your Nemi, will for the time being have to make do with Metro's English translation.

Since there's four more years worth of Nemi material, I prophesy that Armageddon is still one publishing event away.

Or maybe not. It MAY be just 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. The director's cut of Donnie Darko - the semi-cult movie of giant, scary bunnies, falling jet engines and suburban American apocalypse that weirdly fitting crashed at the box office after premiering shortly before 9.11.2001 ---is out on DVD.

It's another buy that's well worth the money. But irritatingly, director Richard Kelly has decided to NOT add the original cut to the 2-DVD package. Apparantly he has a major issue with fans making the movie "theirs", and has gone out of his way not only to make a definite edition but also a definite interpretation. I'm not sure I like that. It may mean I'll have to fork out for the original also. And now I'll have to get it before the end of the month...

More signs of the impending apocalypse

The post below is from Geir, who has had posting privileges here since the blog started in February! Welcome, Geir!
I do worry, though, that Geir's sudden decision to start posting is itself a sign of the impending apocolypse.

They pulled this one with Dawkins too, you know?

A few days ago, Andrew Sullivan gleefully exclaimed:


AN ATHEIST RECANTS: Philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of the influential 1995 book, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," now says he sees a higher purpose in the universe. Bob Wright breaks the news.

Well, not quite. Timothy Sandefur looks at the evidence for Dennet's "recantation". Read the whole post, but here's his conclusion:

In philosophy as in all other scholarly pursuits, conversation is the least likely to lead to an important statement on a subject. Conversation is not peer reviewed, it’s not very carefully weighed before it’s uttered; people frequently misspeak, or concede points they don’t very clearly understand. Yet Wright is willing to declare on the basis of this statement alone, despite the nine or ten books that Dennett has published, that Dennett believes that evolution has a direction that upholds the concept of a conscious Designer.

This sort of “gotcha” argument is, to say the least, childish. When I was a kid, I would sometimes get in arguments on the playground, and perhaps I would misspeak—I would say the ball belonged to Rob instead of Tom—whereupon Rob’s friends would snatch my error as if it were some sort of subconscious confession of the truth, rather than a simple misstatement or error. What Wright has done here is similar. Hammering Dennett with terms like “design” and so forth, he has extracted from Dennett the most lukewarm of responses (“Yeah, I guess”) and takes the lukewarmness as evidence that Dennett is either scared of being caught or is embarrassed at how wrong his career has been all this time. At the least, Wright’s device here is the sort of exaggeration which makes for children’s playground conversation, not for science.

It's not exactly the first time creationists/ID'ers (for reasons why I can't be arsed to make any fine distinctions between the two, I refer to The Panda's Thumb and Dispatches from the Culture Wars in toto — Short version: closer examination of their statements when they're among themselves reveal their agendas to be identical).

They tried to pull a trick like this with Richard Dawkins way back when. Then, it was a hesitation from Dawkins that was taken as proof that he was stumped by whatever damn fool question they'd asked him, and therefore, that Arrogant Science Had No Answers, and therefore, that the answers the Creationists had must have been correct. In reality, Dawkins paused because it was at that time that he realised his questioners were not the unbiased reporters he was led to believe they were.

Update: Man, the blogosphere is fast. Even as I type the above, I find that Ed Brayton, via Sullivan again (much to the guy's credit), has Dennett's response. Expect much hairsplitting debate to follow, but the bottom line is that Dennett's philosophical positions are as they were in his 10 or so books, not as they were in one spoken response.
Update #2: Doing Things With Words has more.

October 10, 2004

Trash!

Via Pete Ashton, here's a gallery of Pulp and SF book covers and movie posters. One day, I'll have no end of fun ripping these off for White House in Orbit.

Weird Tales covers

The mere mention of pulp fiction (and, of course: Whithe House in Orbit) make my blood bubble. Those similarily inflicted, may want to feast their bleary eyes on this collection of vintage Weird Tales covers.

Fafblog on Derrida

Jacques Derrida died yesterday. We threw a Deathday Party to undermine the hegemonic life/death binary but for some reason everybody was still kinda sad.

One of many "Bwa ha ha" moments to be had from the excellent Fafblog. Let's face it, everyone who has a blog fits the profile of either Fafnir, Giblets or the Medium Lobster (I'm a Fafnir - gullible, easily impressed and with poor long-term memory).

Sunday quicky cycling: Groningen - Winsum-Bedum-Ruischerbrug

Not much interesting to say about today's puny 40-kilometer cycling trip except that on a sunny autumn day like today the colors of Groningen's fields are extra pretty.
We basically ran errands today. Sidsel wanted to go back to a sheep farm where she'd bought wool to ask about the breed of the sheep, but the farmer wasn't home. Presumably he was in church. Sidsel will just have to look the sheep up in a catalogue and then check if their wool is suitable for felting. Also, we dropped by at my parents' house so that Sidsel could test my mother's old touring bike. It's been stored in the attic ever since my mother's rheumatism got too bad for cycling, and Sidsel can have it on an indefinite loan until she goes back to Denmark. The bike's been approved so next week she'll be riding a sports bike just like me. Good; people were giving me "buy the girl a decent bike" looks.

October 11, 2004

More on Wright vs. Dennett

Evolutionblog has a series of entries forming a single article about the bruhaha over Robert Wright's interview of Daniel Dennett. I'm sorry I can't give a single permalink for the whole article, but here's the conclusion:


Continue reading "More on Wright vs. Dennett" »

Why the *&^)*!@*)!!! didn't I know about this?

KRO Radio reports that Artis Zoo is having 4 special radio play evenings in their planetarium. One of the plays run these evenings is Het Transgalactische Liftershandboek a 1984 version of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy radio play. I didn't even know there was such a beast!

October 12, 2004

Taking a little breather

I've decided to take a day off from work to recuperate from the stress of the past few weeks. I'll do some reading and clean my house a bit.
Wednesday's ROCR comic will be rescheduled for Friday when I will do a double comic to catch up. That way the story doesn't get slowed down any further.
In place of the regular comic I'll run a guest page by Timmerryn, who, as it happens, is also taking over drawing work on Dangerous and Fluffy starting today!
Friday's double will be a goody, I promise! That is, if I don't get another comment spam storm on the blog - I've had two already this morning.

Minor Update: I have a book and a record to review for you, plus I have tinkered with the chapter division of the ROCR archives at Modern Tales splitting the Trial Sequence in two. I have made some minor fixes to the ROCR cast pages - things that people pointed out to me almost a year ago. I somehow found the time to draw some more cast portraits and think about the characters' histories a bit more. These new portraits aren't inked or colored, but I'll get around to that tomorrow-ish, so they'll start showing up soon enough. Come to think of it, I may set them up as a blog so they'll be easier to build. Movable Type can do a lot more than I've been doing with it so far.
Finally, I've spent some time thinking about the Trial Sequence and what I'd do differently if I were starting it now. In all, this day off has probably helped get the creative juices flowing again.

October 13, 2004

ROFL3000 keyboard

Especially for Adam's mom and all those others who speak in chatspeak: the ROFL3000 keyboard. It comes without an @ key to keep people like that away from email. (via Pete, again)

No double ROCR on Friday

Yesterday I promised that Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic would be a double to catch up on today's missed update. That's not going to happen, I'm afraid. I'm a bit under the weather (for some reason, this always happens when I allow myself to relax a bit after a period of strenuous work) and there are too many interruptions in my schedule - including getting a 'flu shot, yay.
To be able to run a double episode, I'd need to have two pages ready to scan and color by 5 PM today. By 3 PM, it was clear that that wasn't feasible; I'd only had one page penciled. So I decided to work on that other thing I mentioned yesterday: turning the cast pages into a Movable Type template. That's working fairly well except that my CSS coding abilities are extremely rusty. CSS positioning gives me special trouble. This test page has the two graphics on top aligned correctly in Opera, nearly correctly in Internet Explorer, and not at all in Firefox/Mozilla. In fact, the only things that work in Firefox are the things that have been in all my stylesheets for years and years. I need a refresher course! This is how it's supposed to look. That page is done with tables though, which I want to avoid because I want to get with the times.
As for ROCR: regular update on Friday, and I'll shoot for a double update on the Friday after that.

October 14, 2004

What fun

My gas company has just socked me with a bill for € 826! Luckily I have that much in my savings account, because I put it aside to pay taxes with...
Studying the bill, it looks as if the cause of this little surprise isn't me stoking the central heating up to sauna levels, but instead the fact that they haven't billed me for monthly payments since September of 2002! It was about that time that I switched ("green") electricity providers from the same company that provides the gas company to another, who - it appears - also do their billing through the old company. Yay for utilities market liberalisation. The first few months after that, I got two identical monthly bills each month for the electricity (of which I paid only one until the double bills stopped coming) but none for the gas. It seems that pay time has come today.
So, I've got it, I clearly owe it to them, but I'll be sad to say goodbye to it. Just when I was thinking about buying a flat screen for the home PC out of those savings.
It's not leaving me with a high opinion of the gas company's efficiency or the quality of their record-keeping. Of course, it's arguably atrocious record-keeping on my part as well, but that's not exactly news to me, and besides I don't spend millions of Euros on accountants and enterprise-level databases each year.

I also note that the new monthly payment starting this month is quite a bit higher than the last one. Admittedly, getting cable from them may explain part of the difference, but still, there's a second setback hidden in that first one.

October 15, 2004

Talk about a rapid response!

On the Internets, it only takes a day to get from the sex-drive-destroying documents detailing the alleged sexual harrassment by some troglodyte TV personality or other, to this: a new Psychopatia Sexualis entry with its own website. Don't click either of these links if you're a vegetarian - your dietary options are limited enough without the desire to ever eat a falafel again being knocked out of you.

(Via Boing Boing without whom I'd be a lot more productive)

Eldritch unspeakable horrors that man was not meant to witness

Forum thread showcasing hideous statuettes of mostly European comics characters. The link goes to the second page of the thread, but the unspeakable abominations don't really start until page 3, featuring ghastly 3-D renditions of Alix, Ric Hochet, a nude woman taking a shower, Rahan, Blake, Mortimer, Olric and two pantsless Manara girls that creatures of gruesome taste and accursed mien can use as bookends to support the grisly and revolting tomes in their dread collections. I'm sure that the loathsome, tentacled denizens of the forum will soon add some more appalling examples the sight of which will break a strong man's mind, leaving those wretched unfortunates who behold them as pale, empty, hollow-faced shells of their former selves!!! Aiiiii!!!!!

(Sorry, I've been hanging out at the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill a little too much, and reading Lovecraft, lately).

Haemoclysm

From the "most of what you and I believe is wrong" files:

Matthew White's history site is essential reading. It gives a thorough account of the 20th Century's wars and massacres, answering such questions as "Who was worse, then, Stalin or Hitler?", "What killed more people, gun control or Christianity?", "Who and what were the most over- and underrated people and events of the 20th Century?" and "What are the parellels between the USA and the Roman Empire?" (that last one with a bit of future history thrown in! Yay!) Not bad at all, for an amateur.
Interestingly, White concludes that there isn't any religious, racial or ideological pattern to the atrocities of the century of genocide - the factors are all across the board. He considers it to make more sense to think of the slaughter that took place between 1900 and 1999 as a single historical event unfolding over time, just like the Medieval European Migration, the American Great Migration and the Great Vowel Shift. He calls it the "Hemoclysm", a name that I can see as having staying power. I'll be wasting spending quite a bit of time on this site.

Via Shot by Both Sides (whose RSS feed appears to be on the fritz, or at least Bloglines no longer gets it), via Sussurration.

October 16, 2004

Archival storyline restored!

Modern Tales finally allows authors to set sequences from their subscription archives as free samples without having to nag management about it. I can set free up to 10 % of my existing archives, and have just done so. The 2001 Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan storyline "Dolphins and Dragons" (note to those unfamiliar with the series: the title was intended as a send-up of gooy new age-inspired fantasy stories. In this one, dolphins are nasty, predatory creatures appearing in the lead character's nightmares. Dragons are sort of manageable, if handled with care, though.) is now available as a free sample at Modern Tales (use the back button to go back from each chapter to the sample page), and as a page-by-page archive at the ole' Keenspace site (I may need to do some integrity-checking for that one).

I'm happy to have that story back in free publication. It's a fun story from when my webcomics had just started to grow in length and complexity, but it's still concise enough to be read in one sitting, without a crib sheet. I've been meaning to free it up for almost a year (but didn't want to nag the already over-worked Modern Tales management). The reason why I chose this one over other stories, though, is that it is the story that contains the infamous Framed!!! Matrix crossover, which was part of the even more infamous Framed!!! Great Escape mega-crossover. As I wrote earlier, that project has degenerated into a big mess as a result of websites disappearing or moving, and files getting lost. Within the Matrix sub-project, it didn't help that I and No Stereotypes creator Glych moved our archives to Modern Tales and put them behind a subscription wall. Glych's contributions are still missing, but at least mine are back, making that sequence almost understandable.

I hope that readers will still enjoy this story despite the missing Glych comics from the crossover. It's one of my faves, with scary dolphins hunting a school of Kels, pregnant Kel kicking ass and taking names, Jodoque putting his talents to productive use and the Leafy Green Dragon. Oh, and hard salty meat.

Continue reading "Archival storyline restored!" »

October 17, 2004

Going Postal

The 33rd Discworld novel, Going Postal, is, on the whole, another average one. It has new characters, but lacks new ideas. It has no belly laughs to speak of, but does have an unusually good plot with more real suspense than most other novels in the series.

Continue reading "Going Postal" »

Laibach - Anthems

I may well be the only person in the world who gets a bit nostalgic about Laibach. I can still remember the day I first heard them: some time in the late 'eighties, I was browsing at a record store when I noticed that the urgent, militant rhythm that was playing over the speakers had the chord progression and tune of Queen's then-recent hit "One Vision". The words, however, were rumbled in a sepulchral bass-baritone, and were in German! Queen's Live Aid-inspired paean to world unity was transformed, simply by literal translation, into something much more sinister. I went to the checkout to ask who had done this, and found the checkout guys puzzling over the same thing, and wondering if these lyrics were even legal to publish!
I didn't buy the record then, but have always remembered that it existed. Last year I bought Laibach's latest album W.A.T. and found that a decent but not particularly innovative industrial dance album. It's very listenable and somewhat menacing, but lacks the edge of that earlier work. Laibach's albums are hard to get around these parts, and I have not seen the Opus Dei album that that Queen cover, known as "Geburt Einer Nation", first appeared on in the shops since then*). Now at least, there's a good career-spanning compilation out: Anthems.

Continue reading "Laibach - Anthems" »

October 18, 2004

Sunday Cycling: Groningen-Slochteren

Another shortish trip at 40-odd km. Went to Slochteren to visit the Fraeylemaborg - old, grand estate with lots of portraits, now a museum. Pretty interesting; liked giraffe piano and old servants' quarters. Didn't have time to look at gardens. Trip back very chilly.

Had coffee in hunters' bar. Guns and trophies on wall. Not historical: bar renamed "hunters' lodge" 15 years ago, symbolic of desire to keep rabble out. No rabble in clientele - mostly middle-aged motorcyclists. Good soup served, but Sidsel not happy about portion size. Sidsel always like that.

Oh that liberal media


(This Modern World, from Salon, via Atrios, although Talking Points Memo had it too)

'shrooms



Note when identifying mushrooms: if the guide book asks: "is the mushroom easy to push in?" the next sentence may very well be: "this mushroom is extremely toxic."


Pictures taken by me. Book: Readers Digest veldgids voor de natuurliefhebber paddestoelen van west- en midden-europa.

The faith-based presidency

Update: The article can now be found at Truthout, in full, registration-free

The New York Times' Ron Suskind describes George W Bush's metamorphosis into Nehemiah Scudder:

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

Continue reading "The faith-based presidency" »

Alternate alternate reality

This makes my head spin: from an alternate reality in which Gore won the Presidency of the USA, comes a critique of an imagined alternate reality in which Bush won the presidency of the USA:

Continue reading "Alternate alternate reality" »

Rock and or Roll!



The first time a saw M.A.S.S. play it was unexpected. They were opening un-anounced for The Datsuns and were taking the audience by surprise. I remember distinctly thinking "W.T.F.?!" when walking into Club Vera's main hall - "this band rocks!" They didn't have an album out then, and I learned they made the trip London- Groningen, just for that one gig, for a fee of €100... This band, at the very least, had their heart in the right place!

Now they have their first album out, which is called "Revolution." Is the album revolutionairy? Not in my opinion. But that doesn't matter at all, because it contains some of the best kick-ass Rock'n Roll tunes I've heard in some time. They're touring like mad at the moment, so if you live in the U.K. or mainland Europe, you have a good chance they're coming to a place near you. And you *do* want to check them out!

I joined the reality-based community and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!

Following up on this post and the widening bruhaha over Suskind's NYTarticle*):

I'd buy the T-Shirt if someone made it to professional standards and the profits went to an anti-Bush cause.

Continue reading "I joined the reality-based community and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!" »

It's a rahball!

Hello, it's me!

That is to say the entity better known as Timm, the author of The Pantheon and recently the artist for Dangerous and Fluffy on Graphic Smash (yay!)

I also make 3D things like soft toys and sculptures, which I sell through my CRE'ATURES website. Am hoping to expand this into a business, as I want to do something arty after I finish my honours year in June. Much as I love invertebrates, I've had enough of writing those science papers!

*flop*

Welcome, Timm!

Yup, as you've read below, Timm is now a member of the little group that outputs Waffle. And he's a lot quicker to make his debut than Geir has been!
Timm lives in Australia, so he's the first non-European here. We've been in touch for quite a few years, even making a comic together. And as comics are the binding factor between the other four bloggers, and Timm now replaces Jeroen as the artist of the comic that Adam writes, he should take his rightful place among us wafflers.

What with there being 5 of us, upgrading Moveable Type could end up being an expensive proposition (though I haven't looked at their terms recently).

Should I add separate sidebar listings for each author the way the eggheads do? It's not something you get out of the box, but I'm sure a little futzing around with templates will enable me to build this feature.

October 19, 2004

New Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

- Her �t Arnhem in Ni�erlande w�s gemynde for ��m gefeohte �e w�s ��r in geare .mcmxliv., ond on .xviii. d�ge eft feallhleowodon ��r teon �e feallhleowodon in ��m gefeohte. Ond on .xix. d�ge Charles ��eling Weala eode �ider.

The New Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collective effort that everyone who can write anglo-saxon can contribute to. But it's not as up to date as the News in Latin.

The only card I need

Hayseed Dixie's cover of "The Ace of Spades" is purty durned good, if a bit on the slick side. Download it. (17 MB Quicktime video)

Art within art

bodypainted faerie, detail of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comicOne of the things I enjoy most about drawing my comics is drawing art-within-art, and the pages that end up looking best are the ones that have lots of it in them. It's something I don't have enough time for, but I should make time for it.
From a Sinn Fae banner
(Top right and above: details from the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic for Wednesday, October 20, 2004: Sinn Fae logo variant, partial Sheila-na-Gig painted on Sinn Fae activist, "Kangra is innocent" banner)

October 20, 2004

Come on, validator, help me out here

After a comment-to-comment talk with Branco Collin, I realised that the reason why the stripped-down front page that is fed to my various websites shows up with such a large font (the default) in Firefox is that the page is broken somehow. A few passes through the W3C CSS and HTML validators helped me find the error that caused CSS to be ignored. However, both validators would be a lot more useful if one or more if the following things were true:

1. if it was possible to validate CSS if the HTML page it is on contains errors; or
2. if it was possible to set the validator to ignore ampersands, which cause the bulk of the error messages in the validator and which in a blog with multiple entries take a non-trivial amount of time to fix (meaning they're still not fixed - I checked in Firefox if what I thought was the cause of the problem had gone away, and it had, so I stopped).

I understand the need for strictness in XHTML. But the point of the validator is to help weed out errors, not to distract a developer with technically correct but ultimately useless information.

October 21, 2004

The Ocean, Helsinki Suicides

I like listening to metal records, but I rarely go to metal concerts. Strangely, it's mostly the idea of having to endure the music at ear-splitting volumes that turns me off. The dirty secret of metal records is that most of them aren't actually that loud. If I were to play a Finntroll record at home or in the studio and follow it up with an acoustic record by, say, Dave Swarbrick, the first couple of seconds of the Swarb record would have me running to the deck to turn the volume down.
Metal producers create the illusion of loudness by using heavy compression and saturating the mid-to-high range. Soundmen at metal concerts do the same, but also turn the volume way up.
Tonight, though, I went to a metal gig at Vera. I wanted beer, Jeroen wanted to see a gig, so we quickly arranged to combine the two. And it has to be said, metal is always good for drinking beer to. The acts on display were The Ocean (warning: Flash-based site with sound), supported by The Helsinki Suicides.

Continue reading "The Ocean, Helsinki Suicides" »

"Tax cuts aren't conservatism"

Linked primarily so I won't forget to read them properly in the morning, Henry at Crooked Timber highlights some articles I oughtta go read.

Continue reading ""Tax cuts aren't conservatism"" »

Okay, what am I doing wrong here?

Found this in my referrers: a listing that includes Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan.




Comic: Updates:Style:Rating:Readers:Comments:Forum:
Rogues of Clwyd RhanSporadicUnknownPG-1300NoneAbout

My update schedule is Monday/Wednesday/Friday. It's mentioned at the top of the page. I'm pretty reliable - one missed update every few months, so I'm not up there with Gav Bleuel, but it's a pretty good track record.
My forum is also mentioned near the top of the page. Should I make the link red and blinking? Should I make it automatically pop up a warning with ghastly midi sounds playing a specially composed "go to the forum, my dear friend" tune? Should I make it a column filling image link, left uncompressed so that readers notice it when it finally loads?
I can understand casual readers not noticing these things, really. I know that web readers are lazy, selfish and impatient and that it is right that they should be so and that there's nothing you can do to change that. When I'm surfing the web, I am lazy, selfish and impatient, and I like it that way. It's good to be the king.
But when you make a listing for a comic, you put a bit of work into it. You find out the update schedule, you find out the forum, you look for the about page. I do.

Ah well. A polite note to the webmaster should do the trick.

Update: The mail form on the site turns out to work only with registered members, and when I pressed the back button, it ate my polite note. They'll just have to find it out from this blog entry then.

Are you a Neocon?

Via Nosemonkey at Europhobia:

Are you a neoconservative? Take this quiz to find out.
It's only 10 questions, covering all foreign policy bases, and it's placed me correctly (as a liberal internationalist - I'd have liked to see more granular results to find out if there were any questions that I'd answered like a neoconservative or a realist would have done). I've had one other online quiz declare me a George Bush Republican so I've got a bit wary of these quizzes, but this one seems accurate enough.

Wot, no casualties?

Josh Marshall gets to the bottom of Pat Robertson's account of a conversation with President Bush in which Bush poo-poo'ed the notion that there'd be significant*) casualties in the war in Iraq:


Candor requires me to say that, as a general matter, I don't trust this guy as far as I could throw him. I certainly wouldn't put in any stock in his say-so if he were accusing someone I supported.
...But in this case, it's sort of an admission against interest. Robertson's no Kerry supporter. He has no interest in hurting the president.

And even if you assume that Robertson is acting out of some sort of intra-Republican pique, he's said this before -- and not at a time when the statement would be quite so politically charged.
...
When he spoke a few months ago, Robertson's point was that President Bush was sure the war would be a painless one.

That sounds a lot like our president.

Robertson had that conversation. Don't doubt it.

Continue reading "Wot, no casualties?" »

Liliane, Bi-Dyke

I'd seen Liliane, Bi-Dyke somewhere before, and kind of liked it. In print, I think it was. So I'm a bit surprised to see that it has a lowly Keenspace site! I'll have to give it the ole archive trawl treatment sometime.

(Found via an ad on Talkaboutcomics. Cartoonists: these ads work! The so-called ultra-cheap phase of the program may look a bit pricy, but if my own response is representative, people will click on those ads and find comics through them. Check out the rates.)

Wasting advertisers' money

Speaking of ads, this ad:
Change your sexual taste and scent, is what it says
belongs on Sexy Losers. It belongs on Ghastly's Ghastly Comics.
It does not belong on General Protection Fault or Schlock Mercenary. This isn't just because the owners of those last two sites would find those ads inappropriate or offensive, but also because the viewers of the former sites would click on the ad in droves, and the viewers of the latter would not. Some of them would, I'm sure, but not nearly as many. By not having a system in place to show ads on adult-oriented comics, Keenspot are throwing advertisers' money away. Admittedly, what with having to work with so many different networks, developing such a system is probably more difficult than it looks.

Me, I don't think ROCR would be a great match for the ads. But it'd be a better one than GPF and Schlock, and I'd take the advertiser's money with great enthusiasm.

Advertising on Keenspot does yield pretty good results for cartoonists, though. Really, there are a lot of gaps to be filled, and any cartoonist who has advertised on the Modern Tales network should also consider putting ads on the Keen network. I've done it in the past and I'm going to do it again in November.

If Kerry wins...

Abu Aardvark makes some predictions:


If Kerry wins, and Chalabi joins with Sadr to form an effective mass movement against the political regime which Kerry helps create in Iraq, I predict that certain elements of the current neo-conservative right will side with this Chalabist insurgency over the American-backed regime.
...
If Kerry wins, and there is a terrorist attack against the US homeland in the first year, conservatives will howl for blood, if not impeachment. There will be no rallying around the president...

... and more. I'll hang a scorecard over my monitor on November 3.

Double episode on Friday!

Kel Testifies
Yes! I've made it! Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episode will be a double. 14 panels in total. And I'll have time on Friday and over the weekend to make Monday's episode as well!

What struck me as I was putting the finishing touches to this installment was how much less cute Kel has become recently. It's not intentional; she just flows out of my pen that way. But I do think it's the right way for her to look. Working at the tempo that I've done recently means that I rely less on technique and more on what feels right at the time. I don't think the anatomy is up to the standard that I'm capable of, but the change in how I draw Kel in this sequence does reflect my changed attitude to the character - an awareness that she's not 20 anymore, and is feeling a bit put upon right now.

Or maybe it's just a subconscious attempt to lower the Mary Sue quotient.

October 22, 2004

Upgrading and backdating

I have two questions to other people who use Movable Type:

1. Is upgrading worth it? I may have use for two features that MT 3.* offers: the scheduled postings and the subcategories. But if there's a lot of hassle involved I can live without either of them.

2. I want to turn some of the reviews in my old spotlights page into backdated blog entries. Is this a good idea? I've noticed that sometimes changing the dates on an existing entry messes up the sequence of blog entries so that readers can't navigate through the archive. Will that sort of thing occur a lot, and how will it affect upgrading and archive migration?

Please let me know your experiences, either through the comments or in email.

Hey, how about another double next week?

This week's Sunday Cycling is canceled because Sidsel will be in Utrecht, so I have an extra day to work (I'll go on a short cycling trip on my own but won't spend a whole day in the saddle). This is a good thing, because Kangra's testimony, which I'm scripting now, will be a bit longer than Kel's. This sequence will fill in some gaps in Kangra's motivation for what she was doing early in the storyline, and it will also take us back to the Stone of Contention storyline, which I first put online 10 years ago and which I'll republish after the WebComicsNation launch. Drawing it will involve some interesting challenges. I'll need to design a war memorial, come up with some credible new characters (for bit parts - don't worry about me adding anyone major. However, this may be an opportunity to test the new, Movable Type-enabled system for adding cast pages) and revisit some old ones from Contention. I'm appalled at how badly drawn the second half of Contention is - it's actually worse than 1992's The Green Knight's Belt which at least was drawn with a lot of care. Re-drawing the bits that will appear in Kangra's testimony will highlight the difference between today's style and that of 1994-6. I'll need to come up with a slightly child-like style in which to render Kangra's flashbacks though. Something to fit her guileless personality.
I'll also have some tasty footnotes about the various tribes that appeared in Contention and the medals that the Resistance gave out at the time. It'll be fun, but it will go on for several pages, and now that I'm caught up I'd like to speed things up a little.
If I can get Wednesday's update in the can by Sunday night, a double update on Friday should be feasible.

October 24, 2004

Bush's "Accomplishments"

Via Europhobia: The Nation lists a 100 undisputable instances of mendacity, malevolence, incompetence, corruption and simple disconnection from reality on the part of the Bush administration. Every one of them properly sourced, and divided into the categories "Iraq", "Terrorism", "National Security", "Cronyism and corruption", "The Economy", "Education", "Healthcare", "Environment", "Rights and Liberties" "Flip Flops", (Bush's) "Biography". Essential reading for those outside the reality-based community who still argue "but Bush has accomplished a lot, really".
It's hard to tell which of the 100 facts is the most damning, but try Nosemonkey's shortlist if you're in a hurry.

Wolves

Today's "Bwa ha ha" moment comes from The Poor Man, concerning the effectiveness of the Bush/Cheney campaign's new "wolves" ad. I haven't seen the ad itself, but I hear it's inspiring gales of Homeric laughter among viewers across the world. I'll have to make do with the Poor Man's parody, and the counter-punch from Wolf Packs for Truth.

Oh, and Slate's dissection of the ad. Surprise, surprise: It's a crock.

October 25, 2004

Add "Criminal negligence" to the list

"The list" of course, being "mendacity, malevolence, incompetence and simple disconnection from reality". I suppose "negligence" is technically covered under the "incompetence" rubric, but the recklessness of letting 350 tonnes of high explosives remain unguarded needs to be highlighted separately:

Some 350 tons of high explosives (RDX and HMX), which were under IAEA seal while Saddam was in power, were looted during the early days of the US occupation. Like so much else, it was just left unguarded.

Not only are these super-high-yield explosives probably being used in many, if not most, of the various suicide and car bombings in Iraq, but these particular explosives are ones used in the triggering process for nuclear weapons.

In other words, it's bad stuff.

What also emerges in the Nelson Report is that the Defense Department has been trying to keep this secret for some time. The DOD even went so far as to order the Iraqis not to inform the IAEA that the materials had gone missing. Informing the IAEA, of course, would lead to it becoming public knowledge in the United States.

.

Whether the coverup goes under the heading of "malevolence" or "mendacity" is a matter for debate.

Juan Cole:


So let me ask this again. Bush is making us safer? The American public trusts him to fight terror more effectively than Kerry? On what record? Bush appears to have all but just called up Usamah and Khamenei and told them where Saddam's old stuff was in case they needed it for their programs. And he politely made sure that no pesky US troops would be around to impede their access.

(see also: The New York Times: Tracking the Weapons: Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq, Michael Froomkin: Mistakes, Incompetence and Coverup Beyond Fevered Imaginings, Talking Points Memo's coverage, Obsidian Wings: This Defies Belief, etc, etc. etc. I have to agree with Brad of The Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill when he says: "Impeach the fuckers. Impeach them tomorrow")

Finntroll - Nattf�dd

Band picture, from the CD

A pleasant little soiree at Finntroll Manor, with chamber music and polite conversation.


Back in 2001, I reviewed Humppa-black-metallers Finntroll's second album, Jaktens Tid, giving it a big thumbs up. This year, the band released an acoustic album Visor om Slutet, and an electric album, Nattf�dd, both of which I snapped up when they came out. At the time, though, I wasn't too keen on either of them, but I've been listening to Nattf�dd while drawing lately, and it's actually almost as good as Jaktens Tid. That's quite an achievement if you realise that the band has had what amounted to a brain transplant between those two albums. First, vocalist Katla developed a viral tumor in his throat and had to stop singing or die. Visor om Slutet was recorded with Katla sharing the vocals with his hand-picked successor Wilska. Then, guitarist Teemu "Somnium" Raimoranta, while drunk, fell off a bridge and didn't get up. Katla and Somnium were the originators of Finntroll's combination of Black Metal, polka-like rhythms and ethnic Finnish instrumentation, so this was a bit like James and Lars dying in Metallica's 1986 bus accident, leaving Cliff and Kirk to soldier on as best they could.
Against the odds, Nattf�dd is a fine album, and every bit as good for drawing by as Jaktens Tid. The remaining original Trolls have stuck with the concept well, with keyboardist Trollhorn writing most of the music. What makes Finntroll so much more fun than other Black Metal bands I've heard (and thanks to my headbanging buddy Danny I get to hear a lot of them)?

Continue reading "Finntroll - Nattf�dd" »

October 26, 2004

Three cheers for Moe Lane

Moe of Obsidian Wings has got the blog blues and is quitting. Personally, I think blogging is a bit like being in Fairport Convention - you can join but you can never truely quit.
I want to thank Moe for setting up one of the best political group weblogs I know. For all my partisan venting over the past couple of weeks (which, by the way, will be toned down considerably after the US election), I admire him for the good-humored, temperate way in which he ran things, and the focused, honest way in which he stuck up for his conservative politics.
Gosh, this is beginning to sound like an obituary.
I hope the website will continue. It's really really good. Three cheers for Moe!

Cheapshottin' Gun's 'n'Roses

Playing at the studio now because Jeroen brought it: Appetite For Destruction by Guns'n'Roses. Fuck, they were a great band at that time. Must have taken them a lot of work to hush that up later on.

Broadcasting legend John Peel dies

A sad day for music: Discjockey, concert presenter and host of the Peel sessions John Peel has died aged 65. From the classic rock era to the heyday of The White Stripes, Peel's voice has graced hundreds of concert and radio session recordings. Peel was consistently on top of the latest developments in rock music, and remained committed to seeking out the best right until the end.

The Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt said: "John Peel was a broadcasting legend. I am deeply saddened by his death, as are all who work at Radio 1.

"John's influence has towered over the development of popular music for nearly four decades and his contribution to modern music and music culture is immeasurable.

"Hopeful bands all over the world sent their demo tapes to John knowing that he really cared. His commitment and passion for new music only grew stronger over the years.

"In fact, when I last saw him he was engaged in a lively debate with his fellow DJs over the state of new music today. He will be hugely missed."

Update: I've been looking at the tributes that have poured in just about everywhere remotely connected to Britain. I think Pete Ashton has one of the best, explaining why people took to him and going beyond the (true but not all-explaining) "he was like a friendly uncle who knew cool music" line:

Throughout the 90s I tended to be the only person in my immediate group of friends that listened to him. As time has progressed this has changed as when that identification is made one tends to have made a friend for life and this evening nearly every weblog I read has a post like this on it. I don't think he has fans as such or followers. Rather he made a certain frame of mind acceptable and this, I think, is his real legacy.

In fact I'll go out on a limb and say it's not really about the music. The music is a conduit for something else, something quite intangible which I think comes down to that fucked up sense of juxtaposition he imposed on us. He made having an open mind cool, which is saying something when you think about it. Once you'd accepted that you could listen to every form of every form of music and appreciate it on its own merits then you could apply this to everything else in life. Any form of creative endeavour is worthwhile. The fact that someone, anyone, is doing something different and interesting becomes vital.

On the whole fans (for want of a better word) of him tend to be sensitive folk who just want things to be nice, who feel beaten down by the relentless enforcement of mediocrity. He not only provided a place on the radio for us to retreat to, his spirit encouraged others to do the same. Every small club, fanzine, website, setup of any description that implicitly encourages people to just do stuff owes him a debt, and they know it. The generation, generations really, that grew up with him learned something important and it stuck with them. We're the ones who smile when we see enthusiasm, who know that there is so much more to life...

My own personal memory of Peel, by the way, started with his radio show on Dutch VPRO, 20 years ago. I didn't always get the music, but I loved the sound of Peely's voice and his outspokenness about his likes and dislikes (he did have dislikes, Bruce Springsteen being one of them), the strange items such as reviews of mix tapes sent by him to critics in Senegal or what have you, and the fact that he hardly ever played anything twice on that show. What a guy.

I'm in

My head-banging buddy Danny pointed me to this: Information SuperhighwayStars II. I'd been playing with the idea of setting something like this up myself, because the first version of this project was so cool. The name is pretty quaint by now though. Who even remembers the phrase "Information Superhighway"?

Now, to think of a track to cover...

October 27, 2004

Zarqawi's legs

Dsquared is troubled by the ongoing bombing campaign in Fallujah. This doesn't stop him from channeling Monty Python:


I am, as a result haunted by a nightmare in which I am flying in a helicopter gunship above the town of Fallujah, looking down on the wrecked buildings and bodies below. I find myself having a conversation, through a megaphone, with one of the residents:

Me: Just hand over Zarqawi and we’ll let you live!
Resident: OK! OK! We’re having a bit of trouble finding him!
Me: A likely story! Bomb them again, Lurch!
Resident: Could you just give us a hand? Like maybe tell us where in Fallujah he’s staying?
Me: I don’t know. But we have excellent intelligence that tells us that you’re harbouring him! Bomb that coffee shop, Lurch, it looks like an ammo dump!
Resident: Well, what does he look like?
Me: Everyone knows what Zarqawi looks like! You’re just playing for time! Bomb him again!
Resident: Well, how many legs does he have? Give us something to work with here!

And at that point I wake up, screaming.

Kangra Flashback style, and no double episode on Friday

Time has run out for me to decide whether to run a double ROCR episode on Friday. I've decided not to. I've made some progress, but those Kangra flashbacks are turning out to be more time-consuming than expected. Today I had a setback when I realised that the pages I'd colored were scanned at the wrong resolution. A quick test scaling one of them down to the final size revealed that the line quality would suffer visibly, so I had to re-scan and re-color.
More importantly, though, I have spent several days working well into the night, and even that gets old after a while. So instead, I'll use the progress I made to increase the buffer so I will have time to work on other stuff next week... and have a life.
Look at me, making excuses for not giving you more art than the scheduled 3 pages a week! To think that other cartoonists regularly miss updates. But well, I'd all but promised something extra.
serfdom298-detail.png
Meanwhile, shrewd readers have picked up on the fact that the flashback style I've chosen for Kangra is based on that great, great comic El Goonish Shive.. I picked that one because it has a cute, friendly style that can still be used for serious story content. When I wrote that I was looking for a slightly childlike style, I was thinking of a children's book or kids' comic style, rather than something that looked like it was by a child. Kangra is a naif but she is not mentally retarded. Dan Shive's style seemed to fit the bill with its soft shapes and big eyes.
Dan Shive's style is actually harder to imitate than it looks. The problem is that a lot of it is generic, and that he's a young guy who is still learning. Shive is a talented and meticulous artist but there is a difference between the way he draws things that he's studied a lot and things that he doesn't have a clear idea how to draw. In a mature artist, that would be considered that artist's style; those artists can then be copied by impersonating their distinctive faults as well as their distinctive strong points. With Shive, it wouldn't be fair to do that, and the imitation would date as soon as Shive overcame those faults - which I'm sure he will.
serfdom300.png
In the end, I did the best I could with the most prominent signifiers of Shive's style: the eyes and faces, his limited palette (when he uses color at all) and his careful, regular line (the hardest part for me to follow). Oh, and his use of the Comic Sans font and rounded-corner rectangular word balloons. For all that many people loathe Comic Sans, I hadn't even noticed that that was what Shive was using!

Continue reading "Kangra Flashback style, and no double episode on Friday" »

Quick stolen explosives update

My recent immersion in my work has also resulted in a slowdown of shrill partisan screeds from me, for which I'm sure many people are thankful.
On the issue of the stolen explosives, I want to mention quickly that I'm not buying the "they were gone when we got there" line, and that I follow it through Joshua Micah Marshall's summaries and commentary. He's on this like a terrier. Ed Brayton's ongoing commentary is worth a look too.
Update: As is Juan Cole's:

Despite the new attempt to defend Bush from charges of incompetence over the disappearance of 380 tons of dual-use explosives (which can be used to detonate nuclear bombs) from the al-Qaqaa facility in Iraq, there is really no excuse. The Pentagon's attempt to maintain that the facility was inspected in early April by US troops has fallen apart. It has 1000 buildings, and the troops had no orders to search them exhaustively. Thus, the statement that they did not see the stickers of the International Atomic Energy Commission does not in fact suggest that the explosives were already gone. It indicates that they didn't have time to see much of the facility.

The gravity of the disappearance of these explosives cannot be underscored enough. Not only can they help in the detonation of a nuclear bomb, they are deadly in their own right. A pound can bring down a jetliner. There are 2000 pounds in a ton. Bush let enough high-power explosives disappear to bring down (God forbid) 760,000 airliners! What if this stuff leaks from Iraq to al-Qaeda?

National Geographic Bait and Switch

Spike:

Yes, it can be observed in the laboratory. Shut up.

Yes, there is fossil evidence. Shut up.

No, no one claims we evolved from present-day apes. Shut up.

And yes, it's just a theory. And so is that whole "the Earth orbits the Sun" thing. Time out to look up the scientific definition of the word "theory," okay? Go on. I'll wait here.

Got it? All done?

Good. Shut up.

The article didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but I don't think it was written for me. It was written for the 44 percent of Americans who, through force of will, misinformation, or simple ignorance, don't actually understand evolution, or refuse to understand it. It's for the special class. This issue's for that kid who shit in the study hall garbage can. It's for the Young Earth Creationists among us going through their homeschooled kid's textbooks with black Sharpies, crossing out the blasphemy. This one's for the snake-handlers picketing the Harvey Milk school in New York, and the hysterical Baptists rolling around on the cement in front of courthouses while Ten Commandments monuments are jackhammered out of the lobby floor.

What's she referring to?

Continue reading "National Geographic Bait and Switch" »

October 28, 2004

Generic Freedom

I once read, somewhere, that during WWII codenames for military operations were randomly generated words. It makes sense. Easy to remember and with no possible connection to the subject matter - that's reasonable attributes for a codeword.

Now, selection needn't be completely random. Military planners have a natural affinity with martial and heroic sounding words. But that's ok, as long as the word give no clue as to what military action is being planned: "Archer". "Champion". "Jupiter". "Torch". "Overlord". "Iraqi Freedom".

The latter one is interesting, though. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" does indeed say something about what was being planned. Maybe that's why the name wasn't announced untill the operation was well underways.

There's been several operations Freedom in US history. There was, of course, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan just prior. But fossils like yours truly are probably more likely to remember Operation Freedom Train (Nixon's bombing campaign in North Vietnam, 1972), and Operation Freedom Deal (Nixon's bombing campaign in Cambodia, 1973). The analogy is there, all three operations focusing on destroying the bad guys infrastructure to degrade their offensive and defensive abilities.

Attacking infrastructure is sound strategy: The bad guys can't operate without infrastructure. Roads. Rails. Factories. Hospitals. Families, if you want to go right down to the basic element of infrastructure. Just ask the Mob. The Mafia has a very clear understanding of what attacking an enemy's basic infrastructure does to him.

So, Operation Iraqi Freedom is a logical moniker. But why just this moniker? There's been US codenames with equally long histories. "Liberty" was of course grabbed by Homeland Security at the same time - for the rather scary Operation Liberty Shield - but there were other possibilities. Why just "Freedom"?

I think I know why: Dick Cheney is a closet SF fan.

Just resently I read a novel published in 1998, "Semper Mars" by Ian Douglas. It's not a bad book; a lightweight near-future space opera with US Marines in space. The dastardly United Nations is set on world dominion. US space installations are under attack from the French Foreign Legion (mainly concisting of uncouth Germans with thick accents and looks borrowed from Nazi posters - boo!). It's a rousing read, I rather liked it.

And it's just the kind of SF Dick Cheney would like: Under French leadership, the UN starts lobbing cruise missiles at the hapless USA, aiming for population centers and public symbols like Capitol Hill in an attempt to demoralize the citizens. Of course, it does not work. Although hard pressed, the Marines strike back. And the operation is named --- Operation Freedom.

I mean, how could they NOT use that name?

There's another interesting thing with the codename "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
It's generic. A plug-and-play operational concept. Just insert your target of coice: "Operation Iranian Freedom". "Operation Korean Freedom". "Operation Dutch Freedom"....

But it's comforting to know that Dick Cheney reads science fiction. He can't be all bad.

Homo hobbitus

homo floresiennsis Not exactly breaking news at this moment, but something I'd very much like to read more about - in print, say, a full National Geographic special - so I'll blog it for future reference:

Dwarf Human Ancestor Lived on Pacific Island. The fella shown at left, as imagined by Peter Schouten is one of them, a Homo florensiensis. They were only about 1 meter tall with a grapefruit-sized but apparently quite efficient brain. According to this Guardian article, they may have existed even later than the already staggeringly recent 18,000 years ago that the fossils have been dated at. That sounds more than a bit fanciful to me, but you never know.

Halloween

Just as the radio reported that Halloween was already on the way out in the Netherlands, I saw some kids out trick-or-treating in inner Groningen, for the first time, ever.

None of them was dressed up as Jenna Bush's liver, though.
(hat tip to Pete Ashton for the link to 2004's Scariest Halloween costumes)

Hierarchy of blogs - who looks down on who?

I know my place.

October 29, 2004

The Apes, Weird War

I'm really happy that bands like The Apes exist. They convincingly take you back in time all the way to 1971 or thereabouts, playing music that owes as much to Uriah Heep as the Doors, with a stage presentation to match. The main difference is that Apes keyboardist Amanda Kleinman is a lot cuter than Ray Manzarek or Ken Hensley were even when they were in their prime. Whenever singer Paul Weil, clad in ultratight, low-slung pants, showed a little too much bum cleavage, my eyes darted to the left side of the stage... but let's talk about how they sounded. I think they could have been a little more together as a band, but each of them individually had the 1970-era stylings down pat. The only thing that was missing was a Ritchie Blackmore-caliber guitarist.
I only saw part of The Apes' set at Vera tonight because I arrived late expecting them to be the main act when they were in fact opening for Weird War. Weird War didn't do that much for me. From a strictly musical viewpoint they were better than The Apes: tighter, more technically accomplished, more adventurous. Their white-boy funk was the the sound the Talking Heads would have made in their early days if the Talking Heads had been able to play their instruments properly. However, I couldn't get past their singer. He seemed to want to be Prince, and while he got pretty close with the sound of his voice, his stage presentation resembled Mick Jagger, circa 1988; in other words he looked a bit of a pillock. That spoiled matters for me a bit although closing my eyes helped. Weird War are a very good band indeed — just not for me.

I left Vera with a 10" by The Apes. Review to follow.

That's one more idea that I can scratch from the list

Pete Ashton (again!) linked to this Guardian article about Creative Commons UK. That's pretty interesting stuff, but what struck me was the introductory paragraph:

In the summer of 2002, Steven McDonald, the bass player with American punk-pop band Redd Kross, had an idea. Listening to White Stripes - the minimalist Detroit duo who produce their stripped-down garage sound with just a guitar and drums - he wondered what it would sound like with a bass track. So he downloaded a White Stripes tune and tried it out. He liked it so much that he did their whole album, eventually uploading the new bass-laden tracks to his website, complete with a Photoshopped cover featuring himself as third band member.

And this is exactly what I've been suggesting to my friend Danny that he should do sometime. Lucky for us that neither of us had time to spend on that (I'd have helped him with the recording, and making tea).

War on terrorism over: Homeland Security polices copyright instead

From Yahoo news:

ST. HELENS, Ore. - So far as she knows, Pufferbelly Toys owner Stephanie Cox hasn't been passing any state secrets to sinister foreign governments, or violating obscure clauses in the Patriot Act.

So she was taken aback by a mysterious phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to her small store in this quiet Columbia River town just north of Portland.

"I was shaking in my shoes," Cox said of the September phone call. "My first thought was the government can shut your business down on a whim, in my opinion. If I'm closed even for a day that would cause undue stress."

When the two agents arrived at the store, the lead agent asked Cox whether she carried a toy called the Magic Cube, which he said was an illegal copy of the Rubik's Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time.

He told her to remove the Magic Cube from her shelves, and he watched to make sure she complied.
[...]
"One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications," [spokesclown Virginia Kice] said.

Six weeks after her brush with Homeland Security, Cox told The Oregonian she is still bewildered by the experience.

"Aren't there any terrorists out there?" she said.

Apparently not. Clowns.

October 30, 2004

Al-Qaaqa looting still ongoing in November 2003.

I know that the handful of readers who aren't already convinced that Bush needs to be fired won't read past the words "A French" before their eyes start glazing over, but:

A French journalist who visited the Qaqaa munitions depot south of Baghdad in November last year said she witnessed Islamic insurgents looting vast supplies of explosives more than six months after the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The account of Sara Daniel, which will be published Wednesday in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, lends further weight to allegations that American occupying forces in Iraq failed to protect hundreds of tons of munitions from extremists plotting attacks against their own troops.

Failed, over a six-month period. Their leadership hushed it up for eighteen months. Didn't get Bin Laden either because of their leadership's incompetent handling of the battle at Tora Bora and because they had to go after Saddam instead. For the love of God, fire the Bushies.

(Via Josh Marshall)

50,000 is the magic number

(warning: Long, rambling, work-related post, which is intended at least partly as a memo to self.)

Four years ago, when I moved the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives over to Keenspace's servers and got the rocr.net domain name, Keenspace still had a deal with the cartoonists hosted there that if a cartoonist had more than 50,000 pageviews in a month, the money people at Keen would send them a cheque, which the cartoonists could then frame and hang on the wall. The Dot-com boom was already over, but advertising revenue hadn't tanked completely yet, and popular cartoonists were eligible for a cut. By the time I qualified, though, the deal was off.
Between that time and Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan moving to Modern Tales, the comic actually became pretty popular. But after the move, only a handful of episodes remained on the Keenspace-hosted site: Some short archived stories, the latest episode, plus whatever recent episodes I haven't deleted from the archives yet. The Keenspace pageviews sunk to very low levels, as they should - the action is now at Modern Tales, where I actually get paid for my work through subscriptions.
But 50,000 pageviews a month has remained a bit of a magical number for me, and I'm very pleased that since the restoration of Dolphins and Dragons to the free archives, this number is once again in sight! I posted a message to the El Goonish Shive forum about the EGS-derived flashback sequence, and it did the job of alerting readers of that comic to the existence of mine. When I followed up with a link to the restored storyline, it caused my archive pageviews to surge to pre-Modern Tales levels: over 2000 a day. That's a modest number but the archive now has far fewer episodes in it than back in 2002. I expect that peak to end about now, but it shouldn't be impossible to sustain that level of interest and more.
I've already mentioned that I think ads for comics on other comics sites work. In a few weeks I'll advertise on Clan of the Cats with a specially-made campaign, and it shouldn't be too hard to come up with another campaign on El Goonish Shive advertising the restored storyline, which should appeal to many EGS readers.
The one good thing about the Bush administration's appallingly spendthrift fiscal policy is that it's made the US Dollar very cheap so this sort of promotion won't cost me much. Of course, any return on this investment won't occur until later, at which time the US Dollar will probably be worth even less. So I'll do this primarily to stroke my own ego, and to build and maintain my reputation in online comics circles, a task I've been neglecting for the past two years.
One thing I'll be asking more often in the next couple of years when I ask site owners about their demographics is "which percentage of your users is European?" I want to pursue publishing opportunities and freelance work in Europe again.

Okay, I can take a hint

None other than Abu Aardvark is telling me to cut it out with the partisan political screeds already. He's not naming me by name but I can tell that he means me. I'll spend the night of November 2 at some bar or other in Groningen wearing a black hoodie and getting shit-faced (regardless of the outcome). Or maybe I'll do something else. I haven't decided yet.
But no more riffing on the mendacity, malevolence, incompetence and simple disconnection from reality of the Bush administration. No, really. And starting Nov. 3, I'll only post political stuff here that actually has nuance and some insight that doesn't come from other people's commentary. Promise.

Update: Snoutboy has taken it all back. Flipflopper. But he's got good reason:

UPDATE: aaaargh!! A top Bush strategist has been quoted as saying that bin Laden's tape is a "gift." Bin Laden's being free to threaten Americans is a "gift" to Bush's campaign. So that's how it is. It's actually kind of... refreshing. Sorry everyone.. I take it all back. Ignore all the above advice, and get back to work. Full speed ahead, all hands to deck - no rest for the weary, and all that.

I suppose when you're up against an administration and a campaign so irredeemably dreadful, everything else takes second place.

October 31, 2004

Dangerous and Fluffy Halloween comic

Don't miss today's Dangerous and Fluffy Halloween comic!

Ten men survive the wreck of the Nancy Bell.

Then they started getting hungry...

Happily, everyone else was delicious.

Saturday Cycling: Groningen-Warffum-Noordpolder-muck-Uithuizen

Yesterday's cycling trip could have been a short, easy one, but Sidsel and I went out of our way to make it longer and more arduous. Our goal was the Menkemaborg, another castle in the province, located in the city of Uithuizen. To many people in the Netherlands, the name of that town is a byword for remoteness, but it's actually easy to reach. However, Sidsel suggested we took a more easterly course over Warffum and rode through the northern polders for a bit. We did, and took the idea even further: because we could see the sea dike from where we were riding, we decided to ride a little further north and follow the sea dike. Unfortunately, we couldn't use the northern, outer side of the dike and have the sea to our left, because the paths there were blocked by fences (even though it's technically legal to ride there! Bah!). The southern side of the dike was usable though, although there were two nuisances on our path. One was the tractors of the farmers harvesting winter carrots on the nearby field. Compared to their tamer inland brothers, these have evolved to a much greater size and speed, filling up the narrow path completely. The other was the sheep grazing on the dike. I have never seen as many sheep as I did yesterday. The animals themselves were kind enough to get out of our way, but unlike at Lauwersoog, they roam the paved as well as the grass-covered parts of the dike, and absolutely covered the path in dung. So for five kilometers, we rode through muck (actually for longer - all the roads above Warffum were pretty mucky) which got on our shoes, our pants, our bikes, until we went south again, found Uithuizen and the Menkemaborg and made our entrance looking like 17th century peasants seeking an audience with their Lord.
The Borg itself is excellent. If anything, it's even more opulent than the Fraeylemaborg which we visited two weeks ago. But what fascinates me most about places like that is the kitchens. It seemed the two castles evolved in the same way, with the oldest parts of the compound being converted into kitchens, and going there takes you right back into the late Middle Ages.
Finding the way out of Uithuizen took us some time, but once we did, getting back was easy. I was exhausted by the time I got home though - it would seem that it only takes one skipped week to lose shape.

Political cartoons that don't suck!

It's probably symbolic or other that this batch of political cartoons that are actually funny and hardly made me wince at all comes from a Swiss cartoonist.

About October 2004

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

September 2004 is the previous archive.

November 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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