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December 2004 Archives

December 1, 2004

Flu and possible deadline collision

I got my 'flu jab in October, but they've never actually stopped me from getting the 'flu. They only stop me from dropping dead from the 'flu. That's a crucial difference but doesn't make me feel any better right now. I'm sick as a dog.
Despite the sickness, I got some work done. I managed to finish coloring today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page, and will put the final touches on Friday's page today. Both pages were drawn late last week, fortunately, meaning that the hardest work was already done. I had a very clear picture of how they were going to be coloured, so I didn't need to think too hard about that either.
I don't think I'll be able to start a new page in the state I'm in right now, though, and that's a bit of a problem. I've already been hassled by Hello You! over the script for the 7th Floor comic, but I can only do those with a really clear head. I'm not worried, yet, but I've noticed that the window between the deadline for the script and that for the finished art is slightly smaller than usual (presumably to fit in the Christmas holidays of the editorial staff and the colorist), and I'll really need to draw it next week. In other words, I'll have no ROCR pages prepared in advance before next week, and will spend that period drawing something else if I'm at all capable of doing so.
Time to bring out the guest art! Are any of you reading this game? I'll have some fillers ready but I would rather have work by other people. It will be seen by the new readers flooding in from Clan of the Cats and The Webcomics List as well as the regular readers.

Rest in peace, you old rogue

Prince Bernhard zu Lippe-Biesterfeld was hospitalised earlier today, but refused further treatment and passed away this evening. He had lung cancer and tumors in the intestines.
I generally don't care much about royalty but I've always had a soft spot for the old man. In his long life, he did some good things, and some bad, opportunistic things, but he was never dull and nearly always came out on top. He last flew his airplane 10 years ago at age 83, and he just had to do a backwards looping because that's the sort of guy he was. I'll miss him.
Official memorial with a biography. Together, the sanitized version offered by the Royal House and the rather unkind spin on his life at Wikipedia offer a good overview of the Prince's life and acts.

December 2, 2004

GraphicSmash

I should start by mentioning I haven't read every comic on ModernTales and GraphicSmash, and probably won't until my next bout of mild depression (which usually causes me to seek out comics and read archives in a sitting to cheer meself up). That said...

I probably wouldn't have started reading GraphicSmash without a bit of a nudge. I just don't like violence much, particularly graphic violence, and was under the impression that GraphicSmash was rather violent.

...Except it's not, really. Between the bizarre comedy of Kilroy and Tina, the charm of Digger, the... I feel compelled to phrase it this way. Please forgive me.... the fun of More Fun, and even the very violent-sounding but actually highly intellectual Gun Street Girl, (Grr. I keep thinking of others I should list. Very well: Fans, Flex Time, The Replacements, and probably Jaded though I've only just started reading the archives of that one. And Mnemesis. And probably a couple others.) I've fallen in love with the site.

Which leads one to ask: Is GraphicSmash branded correctly? It's a very strong lineup of very good comics. But by concentrating on the Action-Adventure genre they all (supposedly) fit in, one rather wonders if we're missing out on a major block of the potential audience. I don't know.

Two Kinds

While staying at home, too sick to work but not too sick to get bored, I've been reading webcomics. One of them that caught my attention is the fantasy comic Two Kinds by Tom Fischbach. It's not that it's a perfect comic; far from it: the style is a little too generic and Tom seems unable to write characters as having any other perspective than that of a teenager. But it's entertaining from beginning to end despite these flaws, and even the flaws fall into place when the artist announces, nine months into the comic, that he has just turned seventeen! This comic is far too good to be made by someone that young. Tom's going to go places with his art and writing, mark my words.

December 3, 2004

Guest Art for Dangerous and Fluffy?

I'm very ill, and just can't get the scripts together for Dangerous and Fluffy this week. Please help. Address is farmer_giles@tiscali.co.uk

Thank you,
Adam

December 4, 2004

Scare story about testing on foster care children debunked

Respectful of Otters discusses a documentary shown recently by the BBC in which it was claimed that "that HIV+ children in foster care were used in horrific drug-testing experiments without the consent of their parents." The story as relayed to her set off all her bullshit detectors:


I read the BBC article a couple of days ago, and it didn't sound right to me. Too much is missing - including anything that could be used to check the veracity of the story, such as the names of the experimental drug compounds or the names of scientists running the trials. Another detail that didn't ring true: the drugs were "supplied by major drug manufacturers including Glaxo SmithKline." Glaxo SmithKline is a major manufacturer of HIV drugs - I have several of their pens - but why the lack of specificity?

The language used in the BBC piece also seemed familiar. A vocal contingent of people oppose HIV medications, and they favor certain turns of phrase. "Human guinea pigs." "Experimental." "Toxic." They focus on side effects and subjective sensations to the exclusion of clinical or lab data. It's hard to pin down exactly, but when you've read enough of their writings you begin to recognize the tone. I heard that tone in the BBC article.

The story also broke my plausibility meter. Severely. I do research with human subjects for a living, and I have an excellent sense of the regulatory tangles and layers of oversight surrounding any research with human beings. For "protected classes" of research subjects, including children and institutionalized people, the rules are even more stringent. What happens when research protections are violated? Banner headlines and regulatory Armageddon....

So I did some poking around, and instantly hit pay dirt. The documentary filmmakers state that:


We asked Dr David Rasnick, visiting scholar at the University of Berkeley, for his opinion on some of the experiments.

He said: "We're talking about serious, serious side-effects. These children are going to be absolutely miserable. They're going to have cramps, diarrhoea and their joints are going to swell up. They're going to roll around the ground and you can't touch them."

He went on to describe some of the drugs - supplied by major drug manufacturers including Glaxo SmithKline - as "lethal".


Dr. David Rasnick is an AIDS denialist. He doesn't believe that HIV causes AIDS. He doesn't believe that AIDS is contagious or sexually transmitted. He doesn't believe in protease inhibitors, the class of drugs which, since 1997, have caused a dramatic decline in AIDS diagnoses and deaths in the developed world. He thinks HIV drugs are the problem, not the solution.

Read the rest if you don't like being bamboozled.

Spawn of Mari

Another webcartoonist who's been feeling a bit under the weather lately is College Roomies From Hell!!! creator Maritza Campos. As it turns out, this is because a something's been growing inside her. Congratulations, Mari! I'm sure that with your kid's help you'll be able to deliver twice the insanity at the same low price!

Monday comic!

Contrary to my blog entry of last Wednesday, there will be a new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page on Monday. I've been able to smooth out the deadline difficulties with Hello You! and to do the actual work on the Monday page, so that one is ready to go. That's a good thing because this bout of 'flu came in the middle of a promotional campaign, and I am not looking forward to having to explain to new readers that the comic has been temporarily interrupted and here are some guest comics in stead.

Of course, that situation is still very likely to arise. I'm still sick, and I will have to catch up on the other work sooner rather than later. So I will still need guest art, just not as urgently as originally anticipated.

December 5, 2004

Because people asked...

I am now at the painful coughing bronchitis stage of the 'flu. Normally, that means I'm getting better and all I have to do is cough up phlegm and lung tissue. My mind is a bit clearer and I've been able to venture out of the house and do stuff. However, somewhat worryingly, my throat and ears are still hurting somewhat.

If I still have a sore throat and ears while entering into the green skin, glassy eyes, limbs dropping off at inconvenient moment stage of the 'flu, I will take that as my queue to visit a doctor.

December 6, 2004

Rescheduling

The update for Monday didn't appear on the Modern Tales front page because I had entered the wrong date in the control panel. When alerted to this, I changed the date to one in the year 2020, then didn't check that because my brain is barely functional enough to direct my laborious breathing. Then my internet connection blanked out, and I decided to bo back to bed. So it wasn't until well past noon that someone called me out of my fevered half-slumber to tell me that it was still broken.
I have now fixed it again, but because the comic has already been off the front page for most of the day, I have rescheduled it for tomorrow. If you must see it on Monday, come to the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan home page where, thank the stars, it updated normally.

I am a magnet for disaster. Every time I try to promote my comic, or take part in a cross-over event that should direct readers to my website, servers crash, the Internet gets eaten by a virus or images spontaneously corrupt or combust. This time, the first time in three years I'd actually spent money on promotion, it's my body and mind that seize up at the critical moment. My next money making scheme will be to have other artists hosting on servers that my comics are on pay me not to do any promotion — that should benefit my health as well.

How High is the Euro, papa?

$ 1.34 and rising.

I think the currency movements could end up becoming the most important story of the year, but I don't have any clear idea exactly what the consequences will be, and who will be affected most.
Actually, I have some idea, but this 'flu is playing hob with my willingness to shoot my mouth off, so I'll save it for a future update. And by now you should know what that means: I will forget about it completely.
Update: The Economist is making some sense of the matter.

December 7, 2004

Kiagi Swordscat

The_Note_2.pngThe one good thing about being sick is that I get to goof around and read. Unfortunately my brain has been so addled that reading novels or non-fiction is beyond my capacities right now, but I can still handle webcomics.

Kiagi Swordscat is a fun read for the addled brain. It piles on the Funny and in addition to the gags themselves it has some wonderfully absurd touches. Like the panel at left. The bananas add a touch of mystery and intrigue. Why is Kiagi carrying a banana in both hands? Which one will he eat first? It's never explained, flying in the face of Tolstoj's maxim that "if there's a banana over the mantleplace in the opening scene, it better be fired during the fourth act". I likes that.

Newsprintified!

serfdom316-50s.pngSo I was sick and asked for guest art. Adam and Jeroen signed up for some, but soon after finishing his script for Jeroen, he got sick himself, so he needed some guest art for Dangerous and Fluffy. I was in no state to promise him anything, but I was still working a few hours a day on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and sending the finished work to friends on MSN just to keep up morale. Adam liked the update for December 6 so much that he asked if it could be used in D&F as one of those "Gregory reads a comic book" episodes.
The only problem with that, of course, is that ROCR isn't exactly a 1950s comic (D&F is set, albeit loosely, in the '50s). The colors are unlike anything the pulps of the day ever printed, and what with the nudity, paganism, violence, extramarital cohabitation, moral ambivolence and general disrespect of all that is proper and good, it would never have got the Comics Code Authority Seal of approval.
One problem was solved by using the GIMP's newsprint filter go create a grimy, poorly-printed look. The other issue was resolved in the episode itself — Adam managed to come up with a gag and Timm got the Gregory art done in the nick of time. It's not quite a full collaboration but it got the filler episode out there.

Internet connectivity problems

I am getting more than a bit fed up with the crapitude of @home.nl, my home ISP' over the past couple of weeks. It's easily the worst since, well, since my previous ISP, bart.nl, except that this time it's exacerbated by the fact that I am feeling a lot more helpless than I used to with bArt. Back then, I had a dialup, and if I couldn't connect or the connection dropped out, I could just dial into a different number. That would work often enough, and be easy enough for me to feel like I had some control over it.
At my workplace, if there's something wrong with the connection, I can start up a wizard provided by the Internet service reseller and perform a brief ritual that will usually reconnect me. If that doesn't work, I can walk to a room two doors away from the studio and ask the reseller what's going on. That also makes me feel in control.
With @home, under my home machine setup, all I know how to do is reboot and pray, in the hope that the problem will have gone away on its own since the last time I rebooted. Well, I could start YaST and reconfigure my internet settings, but that doesn't seem to do much. DHCP is great and hassle-free when it works, but in combination with Linux, it's a black box that a non-techie user can't penetrate in case of trouble.
I'd call the helpdesk, if it wasn't for two factors: one is that the helpdesk has one of those 0900 numbers that come with the expectation of being put on hold for 10 minutes at € 0.10 a minute. The other is that I'm the disgruntled customer from hell, only slightly better from the point of view of the person at the other end than the guy who actually comes to the office with a machine gun and shoots up the place (I only fantasize about that). I will have loudly and confidently questioned the helpdesk person's knowledgeability, work ethic, respect for the customer, problem-solving skills, general level of education and intelligence, parentage and species before they get a single word in edgeways. In my defense, I wasn't born that way; I was trained to act like that by the helpdesk staff at bArt, who at one point could only be made to acknowledge your existence if you loudly and confidently questioned their knowledgeability, work ethic, respect for the customer, problem-solving skills, general level of education and intelligence, parentage and species. They got better later on, but I never lost the habit of expecting the worst from a helpdesk and tailoring my approach to that.
I expect the outages to go on for a little while until the good, kind, eminently skilled and perfectly human people at @home find their bearings. That will mean that if there's another screw-up with my web activities as there was today, I may not be able to read any email or forum messages people send me about it. Those readers who know my phone number are advised to call me if there are any problem. I may respond a little crankily but structurally, I'll be grateful.
Now let's see if I can post this.
(posted belatedly from the studio)

Probably the final 'flu post

I am now optimistic that today (Monday — I have no idea when my ISP will let me get online again) will have been the last day on which I will whine about a stupid little infection this year's 'flu has affected my life and work in a significant manner. I had a bit of a relapse into fever today, but that happens with these viruses. Since I corrected the broken Modern Tales update for the second time, this afternoon, my mood has altered dramatically. To be precise, I've been between angry and enraged for the rest of the day. I was fed up with being sick, pissed off at the addled state in which I did an important and easy part of my work so ineptly, screamingly furious at the crapitude of my ISP and generally livid with rage at having to sacrifice more productive time to defeating a bug that others shake off in a day and a half, and the chores that remained undone, and the rented DVD that needed returning, and the filthy beggar hitting me up in front of the library. That said, the cute library girl who took the DVD almost put a smile on my face — the male instinct of smiling at cleavage is strong indeed and would have done the trick if I hadn't been finding it so hard to operate my smiling muscles at the time (I hadn't used them much since last week's viewing of Shaun of the Dead viewing).
... aaaaanyway, as a wise man Johnny Rotten once wrote, "Anger is an energy", and from that rage did indeed come the energy required to get on my bike (with my eyes misting over at finding that my regular bike had a puncture, but clearing again as I realised that that meant I could take the Koga Miyata instead) and actually go to the studio to complete Wednesday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan update. And I did actually managed to put in a few hours of easy work without feeling like crap again at the end; I left only because I was getting peckish. So with a bit of luck, tomorrow I will have my head clear enough to do some serious writing instead. There's a lot to catch up with before Christmas. I don't expect a full recovery just yet, but I'll be happy with the ability to focus and think straight.
What made this 'flu extra nasty was that I had no early warning signs. Normally, the illness creeps up on me during the day, so I know that a sore throat in the late afternoon/early evening means I'd better slow down. On Sunday, November 28, I had gone cycling (I never got around to posting a report, but Sidsel and I went around Leek, Roden and Peize for a little jaunt, taking a look at the Nienoord estate and confronting ourselves with Scottish Highland cattle in a national park), then in the late afternoon and evening I did some work on my website, had dinner and went to a concert at Vera. I was feeling great! Had a few beers but not too many because there'd be a busy week ahead. At the concert, I met Ricky "Fearless Cartooneer" van Duuren and told him I'd finally got far enough ahead of my publication schedule to socialise again, and would he mind if I dropped by at his and Barbara's place to pick up some more of their fabulous exploding Witbier? I was really looking forward to the next week. And then on Monday I woke up with my throat and ears screaming at me, and a fevered, debilitated brain. Just like that. I was robbed.

December 8, 2004

ROCR schedule for the rest of the month

Bizarrely, despite having relapsed into fever again and having my thoughts interrupted every five seconds by urgent demands from my autonomous nervous system that I sneeze, cough, sweat or zonk out immediately, I have managed to get ahead with work on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. Working only 5 hours a day on average, I've been nearly as productive as during the marathon work sessions of the past few months, with one exception: I've not been able to produce script work for Floor. I just can't do that until I'm fully fit - I find it a lot harder to do than anything about ROCR.
I will need to catch up, and catch up quickly, as soon as I'm really better. So here is my plan for the rest of the month:
ROCR will have two more regular updates in December, on Friday the 10th and Monday the 13th. These are in the can. On Wednesday the 15th, I will run a wallpaper filler based on the ad graphic used in the Clan of the Cats campaign. My search referrals are dominated by searches for wallpapers and while I prefer lighter designs myself, the Grimborg graphic will work well enough, especially with the new readers coming in from COTC.
Starting Friday the 17th, I will start running the guest comics that cartoonists have pledged, for as long as it takes until they run out. When they do, ROCR will go on hiatus until January 3, 2005. That's right, I'm sending the comic on vacation. I won't be on vacation myself (apart from a few days around Christmas spent in England with my brother, his family and my parents), but I need to take time off from the schedule to cover for the consequences of this damned illness, and Christmas is the time to do it, because the number of readers drops precipitously anyway.

December 9, 2004

Fascinating like a train wreck or like a fascinatingly beautiful thing? You decide

I keep going back to the comment threads in these two Websnark postings:
Also, they're good at banter. But then, they would be, wouldn't they?
When did we become the No Fat Chicks club? I think I need to see the bylaws.

In the first post, Eric compliments Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content on his rendering of the body types of the three female protagonists in the recent QC storyline, and a number of commenters disagree, a few of them quite vehemently. I'm slightly more with the disagreeers — I think the main reason we know that Dora is squishy is because it is mentioned often in the dialogue. However, I think Jeph is trying within his abilities to render different body types, and deserves kudos, praise, biscuits and free heroin for that. Also the hysterical tone of at least of the disagreeers turns me off in the same way that second amendment absolutists who bring up the holocaust turn me off, making an argument I'd be viscerally sympathetic to look silly.
The second thread is inspired by the fallout from the first, and deals with body type, especially female body type, in comics in more general terms. My own perspective on this is that artists have to constantly remind themselves to draw different body types, otherwise through a combination of lazyness, deadlines, forgetfulness and simple preference (the discussion on the thread emphasises preference only, but that's only part of the story), a single body type will dominate throughout. Typically, my characters, male or female, are more different from one another at the design stage than after they've been in a few dozen finished pages, and I've made a habit of referring back to the early sketches and early appearances to remind myself of the distinctive physical characteristics of the characters.
But the comment about balding, bearded, beer-bellied blokes in comics still hit home.

December 11, 2004

Hiccups

Via René van Densen: this animation (11 MB download) about hiccup demons(?) taking a class on how to survive in a hostile environment had me rolling on the floor laughing at the end. It had another effect as well: it made me want to animate! I have no skills whatsoever at that, and rarely miss having them, but this one did the trick of infecting me with the animation bug.

December 12, 2004

Numeric Test-code stupidity

I was trying to register over with Websnark, but was faced with this.
99dd52f00072d58428d133167131b8e4980e4fa5.1102853632.png

What the bugger was it? 35631w? 3563iw? 3563lw?

Finally, in despair I showed to to Timmerryn, who spotted that funny blob was the top of an f in the odd font they use.

It rather goes against the point of these passkeys if humans can't read 'em.

December 13, 2004

"Now with a Happier Ending...."

Pointed out on Deleterius

"Romeo and Juliet —the personalized romance novel!
Starring YOU and a special someone in the role of Romeo and Juliet
The ultimate romantic, wedding, or anniversary gift —now available in a personalized "happy ending" edition, with optionally your pictures on the cover! It's the way Romeo and Juliet should have been - true love with a personal twist!"

That's right, this site lets you change the names of characters in classic literature, from the Wizard of Oz to Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde to a Christmas Carol - and even give Romeo and Juliet a badly-written happy ending! Let's have a look!


Continue reading ""Now with a Happier Ending...."" »

Out of the shadows, into the light


After getting my very first paycheck ever for making comics last week, on friday there was another first: my very first review in a quality newspaper. Joost Pollmann, former conservator of the Dutch Comics Museum and comics journalist wrote a nice little piece about two comics set in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia. First about Rampokan by Peter van Dongen, the long awaited second part. It took him 13 (!) years to complete both books. The second part of the article is devoted to "Shadow" by l'il ol' me. Pollmann says little about why he likes my book, though he clearly does. He has rather a descriptive style of writing, which makes it hard to get a good quote. Thankfully Joe Zabel provided a nice one after reading "Shadow" as a Modern Tales longplay feature: "I really liked this piece. Beautifully illustrated, with a fascinating variation of approaches. It really develops a strong sense of atmosphere and realism."

We'll see where (if anywhere) this media coverage 'll lead: for now I'm happy for that half page of fame.

Memorable quote from "Ents and Trolls"

Henry of Crooked Timber writes:


As I’ve mentioned before, I much prefer it when the more ignorant members of the American right-wing commentariat limit themselves to attacks on European anti-semitism, even if they grossly exaggerate its extent and effects. It’s much more disturbing when they praise Europe than when they damn it - they invariably latch onto the nastiest and most atavistic aspects of European politics and policy.

I've seen this myself as well. The only specific example that I can think of now —because seeing this phenomenon in action makes me reach for the brainbleach and the eyeforks— was an English Conservative Commentator (who will remain nameless and unlinked) claiming to be happy that the Netherlands had finally "woken up" just as the first mosques were going up in flames, but the phenomenon is real enough.

Update: Some good comments have been made to that post. In particular, read the reality checks provided by commenter Novakant, around 3 a.m on December 14.

December 14, 2004

You're a braver man than I am, John Band

John at Shot by Both Sides recently put up a post entitled "Ignorance Remedied in which he tries to clear up some misconceptiona about English laws, especially regarding free speech and self-defense in case of burglary. Crooked Timber's Daniel Davies calls John's attempts "a rather Sysyphean task" and that was what sprung to mind when I read the title as well. After all, The Straight Dope has been fighting ignorance since 1973, and made very little headway in those 31 years. And the good folk at The Straight Dope aimed their efforts at the general public, who on average are a whole lot less knee-jerk and closed-minded than the subsection of the population that blogs, so what John is trying to do is even harder.
Yes, I'm getting a bit disillusioned with this whole blogging thing, at least as far as political blogging is concerned. With few exceptions, I don't think a whole lot of communication goes on in political blogs. Community-building, yes, but if you look at the sort of community that results in places like the Blog that LGFWatch Watches, then that doesn't look like a great contribution to the common weal of mankind.
Nevertheless, I applaud John for trying, and I hope that his work will soon inspire me to do some Augian bullshit-removal myself. I have been looking at one life-and-death issue relating to my home town that received some coverage in the international press and in blogs, all of it that made it back to me appallingly uninformed, and have been meaning to put in a bit of work to correct the misinformation. The thing that's been stopping me so far is my own cowardice; I do not look forward to dealing with the fallout if that post gets widely distributed, which it should be if it's to be effective. However, I have not seen anyone else take up this gauntlet, so I just might end up writing it to get it out of my system. Just as soon as I work up the courage.
Meanwhile, go to John's site if you want to know what it takes for someone in Britain to get a conviction for "defending yourself" against a burglar inside your house (shooting a fleeing man or stabbing him twelve times in the back will do it) and why the new religious hate law there, while bad, will not cause Rowan Atkinson to go to jail.

December 15, 2004

No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO!

Absolutely not!
I just heard that Queen (meaning Brian May and Roger Taylor - the writer of "I Want to Break Free" has been written out of history) are going to tour with Paul Rodgers on vocals. Online news reports quote Brian May as saying


We were both so amazed at the chemistry that was going on in All Right Now, that suddenly it seems blindingly obvious that there was something happening here.

which is the same PR bollocks that rock stars always spout. It may be true this time, of course. Indeed, there are worse singers than Paul Rodgers (Imagine they'd gone on the road with Paul Carrack!). A partnership between May, Taylor and Rodgers may well be worth pursuing to them, if they form a new band, write new songs and generally look to the future. But the reports show them trading on the name Queen, announcing that they will play Queen and Free material, and generally digging up the corpses of the past. I don't see anything good coming out of that.

Expect a Nirvana reunion in 2009

After posting that last entry about the Queen "Reunion", I started wondering why I was so particularly hostile to this one when other band reunions either don't bother me at all or arouse my enthusiasm. I wasn't bothered by The Pixies' reunion, for the simple reason that they never did that much for me, and I was very keen, five years ago, to go and see the legendary Dutch pop group Doe Maar in concert when they reformed. And let's not even go into my abiding love for Deep Purple...

Continue reading "Expect a Nirvana reunion in 2009" »

December 16, 2004

I wonder...

... if the kind folks at Keenspot are throwing these ads on Quick Keen in for free with the ad impressions I bought on Clan of the Cats (if so, thanks!), or if there's some other reason the ads are showing up there now. I should ask Keenspot Gav, when I'm a bit more awake than I am now.

ROCR Grimborg ad on Quickkeen

December 17, 2004

Freefall

I just adore this comic! It's absolutely hilarious, whilst being Science fiction done more-or-less straight. Wonderful stuff! How have I missed it?
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Freefall is found at http://freefall.purrsia.com Read it now!

Add one to the ranks

I missed this because I don't check the comic regularly, but Anne Onymous (groan) of The Wotch has quit her job after a successful donation campaign, enabling her to resume regular work on her comic. Congratulations on reaching this milestone, Anne!
It's not quite a Randy Milholland level achievement because Anne is younger and has more modest needs than Randy (I can't tell how much she has raised but the job it replaces is part-time janitorial work), but it's still a cool thing for her to accomplish.
I took a look at Anne's art commission info page, and lemme tell ya, the girl knows how to find a niche and fill it! For only $ 70, you can buy a "Single-Character Four-Panel Transformation sequence, with bystander". Even Dan Shive hasn't thought of that, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Clan of the Cats is out of the woods for the foreseeable future.

Changes to the website

Today, for the first time in 2 years, "Previous comic" and "first comic" buttons appeared on the front page of the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website. In part, this is just a convenience allowing new readers to page through the guest fortnight comics and the chapter that I left up for the benefit of incoming readers from the Clan of the Cats campaign.
But it reflects a more structural change in how ROCR is going to be published in the next year. A few months ago, Joey Manley changed the terms for Modern Tales family cartoonists to allow them to make free up to 10% of their total archives, and giving them the tools to do so. Soon enough, many cartoonists started freeing up the latest chapter of their comics, making it easier for non-subscribing readers to catch up as well as giving new readers a larger sample. I was against this at first, because I thought it diluted and complicated the "last one free, subscribe for the rest" model, but since starting the COTC campaign, I've come to realise that it is possible to bring in many new readers and hook them with such a reasonably-sized sample, and that should benefit me in the long run. It will add a little bit to my workload, because I will have to maintain and prune the archives more actively, but it will improve the comic's accessibility out of proportion to that.
When I return from my break in January, "Rásdondr" will be removed from the free archives, and "Grimborg" will become the free chapter (a few episodes of "Grimborg" are available now, but this is very much unofficial).
This introduces one other change to how ROCR is made: what with the 70 pages of Dolphins and Dragons being already free, I am very close to the 10% norm, and I will have to script chapters from beginning to end before publication, to ensure that they don't exceed my margin, which is about 20 pages. So you'll get more tightly-scripted comics as a result of this change. That's a good thing, trust me.

Buggre alle thisse for a larke, I'm outta here

I just put the final touches to the seventh Floor episode of the season. Barring emergencies, this will have been the last bit of production work for the rest of the year. I'm taking a break from the long, hard days in the studio.
Oh, I will doodle, script, study, sketch, brainstorm and put commit some of the things haunting my head to paper. And I'll probably work on the website a bit. But for the next two weeks, I will not tear off another Bristol sheet or use the ruler.
This weekend, and Monday and Tuesday, I'll read, relax, go swimming, go skating, resume spring cleaning, sort my cupboards, prepare my accounts for the next round of taxy stuff and do Christmas shopping. Oh, and I'll catch up on sleep, blessed sleep.
Then at an ungodly early hour, I'll head for England with my parents to celebrate Christmas at my brother's new digs. Internet access during those days will be intermittent at best (which is why any guest artists must have their stuff in on the 20th). I'll be back on the 27th, and between then and the new year I do not intend to leave my bed for anything other than drinks. The update for January 3 is already in the can, so I will probably resume drawing comics again around that time.
A whole two weeks off. Wow.

December 19, 2004

If you have a hotmail address

... I can't send email to you for some reason. Mail sent to Hotmail addresses just bounces, either immediately or after a few days. If you must contact me, provide a real, ISP-based address, or one at despammed.com or gmail.

December 20, 2004

I suppose this is lucky, but it might be jinxed

The saga of my bizarre and unexpected utilities bills continues...
I just got my end-of-year statement from my electricity company, and it looks like, what with me being, apparently, the beneficiary of a "Heffingskorting" (i.e. a rebate on taxes on electricity consumed), my total electricity bill is negative.

You heard that right. I got electricity all year, and I'm getting some money to go with that. And no, it's not negative after factoring the monthly payments. It's negative before the monthly payments are subtracted, and after they're subtracted, the negative number just gets bigger.

So I'm getting a sizeable amount of money "back" from the electricity company. It's making me feel a bit rosier about the whole privatisation/market liberalisation dealie that's been pushed through in the past decade, but pardon me if I don't rush out to spend this little windfall. Nuh-uh, it's going into savings to cover for potential unexpected bills from, I don't know, the atomic binding company that's keeping my protons and neutrons together for me. Or the gravity board. Something like that.

Promotion, part 1.

For two years, I hardly promoted my webcomics at all. I had stopped sending out press releases, gradually taken down all of the link exchanges, button things, topsite lists and all those other page-fillers that individually all seem like a good idea but collectively clutter up the websites they're on. I also didn't advertise. I adopted an attitude of "wait and see what happens if I just draw the comic, updated and let the site speak for itself."
Of course, there was still the internal promotion at Modern Tales, plus my routine activities at comics forums everywhere, but I didn't make any special effort to promote. My reason for that was simple enough: I had no faith in the effectiveness of the promotional mechanisms I abandoned.

Continue reading "Promotion, part 1." »

Search terms

Sometimes it's just fun to look at your search referrals and click on the link to see what you get. I found that this Google search lead someone to this weblog. I repeated the search and was surprised to find that the top result was actually from a web page dedicated to transformations and were-ism in comics, listing among others The Wotch and El Goonish Shive.
I shouldn't have been too surprised. Interest in transformations is not nearly as specialised as it would seem at first glance. It's a natural offshoot of interest in furries, were-beasts and transgenderism, all of which appear copiously in the two comics mentioned. I could easily add a few well-known comics that the makers of that list missed out on.
In fact, I would hope that anyone finding the blog through a websearch for transformation-related comics would go on to take a look at Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. The comic has a leading character who shapeshifts; more importantly, the current chapter (link will expire when the chapter moves to the paid archives) of the ongoing, epic storyline is all about transformations. The whole idea of the Grimborg is that it's a place a person comes out of as something other than what they went in as. More literally, there will be some interesting transformations when regular updates resume in the new year, including one that, for people who have been following the story the past two years, will put a bit of a sting in the tail. I'd laugh maniacally if I didn't have a bit of a problem with my throat right now.
So if you came here looking for "Anne Onymous transformation", ROCR is the place to go even though Anne Onymous isn't in it.
(By the way, I'm not just saying this to shill for my comic. It ties in to what I just posted in Promotion, part 1. Watch this space.)

December 21, 2004

No2ID

I've been wondering for some time why opposition to the new ID card laws in England is so much stronger than that in the Netherlands, where for some time, there was talk of draconian punishment for not carrying ID when requested.

Via Nosemonkey, now I know. No2ID explains the political rationale (and it is all about politics, not policy — the value of the law, as with much of the unlamented mr. Blunkett's law and order policy is in outflanking the Tories on the right, not in delivering results), and explains what sort of data are to be held by the government and, one way or another, to be accessible through the ID cards.

Continue reading "No2ID" »

Christmas shopping = hell

I've never been too big on Christmas as a gift-giving feast. In my family, we used to get the gifts out of the way on St. Nicholas' Day, and as an adult, I realised that I'd just as soon stay away from that altogether and not get anything than spend my time shopping for gifts. The few times I've been at the sort of St. Nicholas parties where you draw lots to decide who to buy stuff for, I've been able to screw up the whole deal so thoroughly that I wasn't invited again, which suits me quite nicely even if I didn't do it on purpose. I'm just not good at imagining what other people might want or need.
This year, I'm spending Christmas in England with my parents, my brother, his girlfriend and her parents, and my nephew. The shopping, I'm afraid, is murder, and much as I try to remember what interests the other parents have, I haven't been able to think of anything that would give them any pleasure. I don't mean they're curmudgeonly — far from it. I just don't know them well enough.
As for my own parents, I know for a fact that they don't have any wants or needs except that my dad would like a new TV, which is outside of my budget range for now. And all I know from my nephew's mother is a list of things she doesn't want, which makes it easier to avoid the bigger screwups but doesn't actually get me anywhere with the job at hand.
We'll probably all be continuing our increasingly desperate efforts (my parents have no idea either, and I wouldn't be surprised if my brother and his GF were feeling the same) during our stay in England.
Update: Success! I've got something for all but one of the party, and that last gap will be filled in by me and my parents together while in England.

Message to readers and co-bloggers

In another 8 hours, I'll be dragged from my bed, given just enough time to put some clothes on, and shunted into the back of a car that will take me to Eindhoven airport, and from there into a Ryanair plane to Stanstead, UK, and finally into a train taking me to Peterborough where I'll celebrate Christmas with the extended family. I will probably have some internet access in Peterborough, but it will be more intermittant than normal.
Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is updated until the day of my return, the 27th (late. Very late). If anything goes wrong or looks strange, contact me through the usual channels. Jeroen may also be able to fix any error from the studio, using my FTP information in WSFTP, but if not, I will be able to do it eventually.
I wouldn't mind a few posts to the blog from Einar, cmkaapjes, Rahball or Geir, so that the page doesn't look empty when I come back. If there's another wave of comment spam, use the despamming links at the bottom of the transcripts you get of each comment to a post you've made, and take it from there.
Jeroen: if the studio monitor breaks down, as I expect it will, I'll take care of things when I return. I've put aside some money for just that sort of thing. Don't forget to water the big plant, OK?
And merry Christmas, every one of you!

December 23, 2004

Out of the Shadow part II

schaduw

After being featured in de Volkskrant just over a week ago, people are really starting to notice my book. So far there has been more interest by journalists then actual buyers, but even those are now starting to pop up. Biggest problem being I've run out of copies and have a distribution problem. Both I'll probably be able to fix in January. In the mean time, today there's an article on "Schaduw" in het Parool, an Amsterdam based newspaper targeting mostly inhabitants of said city. I'm hoping the right people will see it though. We'll see. Good thing my URL is mentioned. I'll be checking my stats regularly.

December 27, 2004

Comment Spam of the Conservatives.

Today's massive comment spam (I've been deleting posts for an hour) seems to have a strong conservative bias. Basically, it's a collection of random letters - a typical one might read something like

<A HREF="http://jghsdfjfh.com">iuewjhds ksdhjdsjj</A>:

But it's the fact that they seem to be targetting posts with a liberal slant. With few exceptions, they seem to concentrate on liberal topics such as Joey Manley on the election results and Conservative Civility Watch

Has anyone else noticed anything like this of late?

December 28, 2004

Spammers fined.

Some good news from the war against spam:


Dutch telecommunications watch-dog Opta has fined its first batch of spammers since the introduction of the anti-spam ammendements to the telecom law late last year that granted this power to Opta. (Links lead to Dutch pages.)

Fourteen other small-scale spammers received warnings.

It's not as good as having them hunted with dogs, but until that (and kicking them in the bollocks) becomes legal (uhm, I have some very imaginative ideas about what kind of treatment should be legal to hand out to spammers), it will have to do.

What to do about the comments?

I've had enough of having to clean up after new waves of comment spam on the blog, especially now that some bright spark has decided to spam random URL strings. I disagree with Einar's conclusion that this is a politically-motivated attack; I think the purpose is to defeat MT-blacklist by making the blacklist so long that it slows down the blog software.
For the time being, I've set Moveable Type to default to disallowing comments. What I might do is enable comments Joey Manley-style: referring people to the Reinder Dijkhuis Forum if they want to comment. But having to type that in all the time is a bit of a bother too. I am toying with the idea of changing the templates so that the link is automatically inserted where the link to the comments used to be, but to be totally fair towards my co-bloggers, I'd have to find a way of making it link to a different forum depending on who authored the blog entry. Are there any Movable Type wizards among you who know how to do that? Tell me in the forum!
Update: On second thought, this post should still be open to comments. Also, I forgot to apologise in advance for any serious comments that may have been deleted along with the hundreds of spams. I don't know if anything got lost in the sweep but it's possible.

December 30, 2004

ROCR website update

I've made some more changes to the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website and the ROCR archives at Modern Tales:
I have un-freed "Rásdondr's testimony" and folded it back into the chapter Trial, day 2" where, artistically speaking, it belonged. I have made the current chapter, Grimborg officially free. Later today, I will delete "Rásdondr's testimony" from the ROCR.net archives as well.
I have updated the ROCR.net front page to reflect these changes, re-written the ultra-short summary and put a prominent "Latest chapter" link above the fold. Let's hope I'll be able to discipline myself into changing that one as needed.
Finally, I have updated the About page to reflect the progression of the storyline up to the latest chapter, and link to the start of that latest chapter. That's another thing I'm going to have to do regularly.
The website has been doing very well indeed these past few weeks! Even though the number of visitors to the latest updates dropped somewhat over Christmas, more people have been finding their way to the free archives, and the total number of pageviews over the month of December will get very close to the magic number, 50,000. This is good. To stay in business after 2005, I will have to do a number of things, and rapidly expanding the readership, both paying and non-paying, is one of the most important of them. Let's aim for 100,000 as the new magic number! The prominent visual links to the "latest chapter" and "featured storyline" should help with this.

Kate Bush comeback announced, Greeks to switch to Turkish calendar

I will believe this when I hold the record in my sweaty hands, and not a second earlier. In fact, I'll hold off on believing it until I've listened to the record and it has provoked some other physiological reactions not suitable for mention in a family weblog.
Admittedly, by that standard, The Red Shoes must have been the work of a better-than-Toriaverage Kate-clone...
Seriously, I've learned not to get my, er, hopes up too much where rumoured new Kate Bush albums are concerned. In fact, I am getting fed up with those rumours altogether, because they always get in the way of Kate-related projects that are actually feasible. On the back of earlier "Kate returns" rumours, remasters of her back catalogue have been postponed and bands have been banned from putting out cover versions of her songs. The back catalogue issue is particularly harmful - it's about the only classic oeuvre published by EMI that is still only available on CD transfers from the 1980s, and most of her B-sides and remixes are only to be found on an overpriced boxed set duplicating the albums that Kate-worshippers already have. Also, and inexplicably, there is still no DVD of Live at Hammersmith.
Unless and until Kate comes up with the goods, I don't really want to hear about it. Let me just chance upon it unexpectedly and run to the store counter with my, er, heart throbbing, all a-flutter at having found a gift from the heavens.

December 31, 2004

Campbellization

I might as well announce it now: After The Rite of Serfdom finishes, I will make some drastic changes to the way Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan will be produced. I will follow that 2+-year storyline up with 12 shorter ones, hopefully very close to one month each. I'm writing these now, trying to get as many as possible scripted fully before February.
My intention is to Campbellize the comic for a while: that means that like T Campbell of Fans, I will (try to) get a roster of artists to draw some of those 12 stories for me, based on who I think would be best suited to what story. Of course, there is no guarantee that the artists will want to work with me, especially considering that I have very little money to offer to professional ones. We'll cross that bridge when we find it, I'm sure.
To facilitate the change, I've got an editor! Geir Strøm will help me beat the scripts into shape in record time. We're already working on the first few.

Comment in the Reinder Dijkhuis forum

History of 2005

Something tells me that this vaara character at Silt 3.0 doesn't like "leading bloggers" much:


January 20, 11:52 am – At Bush’s inauguration, a protester carrying a “Four More Wars” sign is shot dead by a Secret Service agent

January 20, 11:53 am – Leading bloggers run out of synonyms for “Yay!”

January 20, 11:54 am – Major networks cut away from footage of Bush’s motorcade to cover the shooting

January 20, 11:55 am – Leading bloggers run out of synonyms for “treason”

January 21 – The Secret Service officer is identified by his initials, P.H.

January 22 – A shadowy new group calling itself “Friends of P.H.” purchases ads on all leading blogs

January 24 – FOPH announces that its Legal Defense Fund has collected $12.4 million

January 25 – Atrios posts evidence that FOPH is funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and Paul Weyrich

January 26 – Leading bloggers shriek about “paranoid moonbat conspiracy theorists”

January 27 – Regnery Publishing gives P.H. a $4 million advance for his autobiography

January 31 – Someone on Daily Kos suggests that what P.H. did was wrong

February 1 – A DOS attack crashes the Daily Kos servers

February 2 – Leading bloggers celebrate, call the destruction of Daily Kos a “victory for democracy”


excetra,excetra. (via Atrios)

About December 2004

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

November 2004 is the previous archive.

January 2005 is the next archive.

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

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