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September 2005 Archives

September 1, 2005

"Looting" vs "Finding"

Snopes gets to the bottom of the "Black people loot, white people find" controversy and explains how the disparity might have originated. Probably not the end of the story, but worth a read.

Webcomics Telethon benefiting New Orleans disaster relief

Brad Guigar writes:

Some of you might remember the Webcomics Telethon for MDA that I organized through AltBrand Comics. You can see the site here: http://mda.altbrand.com/01mda.shtml.

The site updated with new comics from participants throughout three days, so there were plenty of reasons for readers to keep tuning in to the Web site. Donations were accepted through PayPal and then donated on behalf of the Webcomics Telethon.

I'm thinking it might be time to dust off the Telethon and re-purpose it for the people devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Blank Label Comics is going to host a Webcomics Telethon for Hurricane Katrina Victims the week of Sept. 12. I have registered www.webcomictelethon.com for this purpose. I'm going to wait to see how many participants I get before I specify how many days it will go.
Depending on how many participants we get, we could make it a two- or even three-day gig.

ALL of the money collected, including donations and money generated from the ads on the site, will be donated to the Red Cross.

Interested parties should:

(1) E-mail me at bguigar@yahoo.com so I can start generating a head count.

(2) Prepare a special comic strip for the Telethon. We don't have much time, so please do it now, while you're thinking about it. It does not have to be about hurricanes or donating money unless you want it to be. Look through the AltBrand Telethon site... there was some fantastic comics generated out of that. Keep it under 600 pixels wide. Any depth.

(3) Spread the word.

September 2, 2005

Cost inefficiencies

The last thing I'd want to happen to any charitable donation for disaster relief is for it to go into funding terrorist fellow traveler Pat Robertson. He'll only use it to propagandise against western values and have foreign heads of state assassinated (via everyone, but let's credit Eric M this time).

Hear, hear

Matthew Shepherd got one of those "Gas strike" emails and wrote back:
Beating the Dead Gas Strike Horse

Continue reading "Hear, hear" »

New Orleans: A Dutch view (and an American one)

Not my view... I don't have the expertise, don't live in the area referred to, and am not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane (in my memory, the 1995 floods were merely a very local nuisance), but for what it's worth, Laura Rozen quotes a message from Dutch broadcaster and human rights activist Frank Tiggelaar:

Then, in just under two days authorities staged a forced evacuation of almost half a million people (total Dutch pop. is 16 million) and 2 million heads of cattle, pigs etc. It was the most orderly mass-operation I have ever seen.

I...witnessed how hundreds of ambulances, army trucks and dozens of medicopters (including German and Belgian air-borne operating theatres) brought in hospital patients, people from care homes and the disabled from the disaster areas. Roads were closed to all other traffic, in hospitals across the country an overwhelming – and fortunatly unnecessary – number of staff and volunteers were on stand-by.

The material damage was incredible, but there were no casualties, there were three meals every day for every temporarily displaced man, woman and child, all cows were fed and milked, there was no looting. National public TV within days set up a disaster charity show which raised over 60M guilders (EUR 30M) to pay for damages not covered by insurance.

What I'm seeing on TV now is a third-world country with a government unwilling or incompetent to fulfill its tasks. I feel very, very sorry for the residents of the area.


(Rosen:)What did it take? A plan and political will, both shockingly absent in this administration.

I'll keep an eye out for more views from the Netherlands.

Update, commenting on my own post: "not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane". But that's the point, isn't it? We will never know if the 1995 flood was comparable in effects to what the hurricane did, because by the time the floodwater hit, we'd got half a million people out of there with enough time to spare to go back and fetch the cows. That's how good we were at the time, and that's how good the American government ought to have been but wasn't.

This should have consequences. Like the guys at Something Awful wrote on the emergency version of their homepage:

I am ashamed of my country's government in a universal way right now. Republicans, democrats, opportunists, it doesn't matter; they're all guilty in this situation. In a magical world where justice is actually served most of these people would not have jobs in a month or two. Instead the people without jobs will be the millions who have lost everything and found their government with its back turned. Remember that people are still dying because of this incompetence. Remember that when each and every one of these fools appears on TV for a photo op or complains about "placing blame later," because placing blame now is the only hope America has to change the situation.

Submitted without pointless comment

I was checking out New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's biography on Wikipedia just now, and at the bottom it said:

On September 1, 2005, Nagin was interviewed on WWL-TV radio and made furious and open remarks about authorities not doing their duty in providing aid to the city of New_Orleans after Hurricane_Katrina devastated the city and the surrounding area.[1]

Ray Nagin was elected US president in November 2008.


(Emphasis mine) It's likely to disappear in the next half hour (the timestamp on this post is 22:57 CET). I'm not sure what this addition tells us, other than that Wikipedia still needs some improvement and that the New Orleans flood is... I don't know. I'm having to choose between hyperbole and platitude right now. It's getting into people's heads, for sure.
Update: in the time it took me to waffle over what I wanted to say, the prediction of a Nagin presidency has disappeared. Think of this as a note for future historians.

September 5, 2005

LONG LIVE THE SWING-ING SIX-TIES!

Last night I watched the first Peter Cushing Dr. Who movie. It's not very good; the main selling point of the movie was clearly "see Daleks in widescreen technicolor". That said, it's nice to see 1960s Who done with some production value. Some of the matte paintings let it down a bit, but gleaming colour Daleks with believable gun effects make up for a lot. The design of the Dalek Control Center with its rotating consoles is an especially nice touch. Did the set designers really have to spoil it by giving the Daleks faddish home decoration items though?

daleklavalamp.jpg

What I'll be doing for the Webcomic Telethon

My contribution to the Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon will be the closest thing I'm likely to do to a 24-hour comic; it will be a fully-scripted 16 page story but it will be an endurance test because it will be
1) good; and
2) made while also working on my other commitments, meaning I may have to work deep into the night.

The comic I'm working on is a new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story that has been in my notebooks since December. I wasn't going to work on new material until after I was done processing the ancient comics, but that will be the "sacrifice" I'll be making for charity. I may make alternate (larger and/or colored) versions available to paying subscribers via the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site but I'll have to clear that with my co-creators there first. They have to agree to sharing the subscription money raised by the project, or else I won't be able to use that option. nothing like that at all. I've just drawn a test page and done the math, and there's no way I can draw that in a week without reneging on my other obligations. It will have to be something else. Mmmm crow. This idea was the third one that I had, and the third that turned out unworkable. So I'm getting a bit desperate for ideas that I'm able to carry out. Maybe stick figure gamer comics would work...


In addition: I am taking commissions to raise money for the telethon. If you are have a fantasy or RPG character that you want a character portrait, I will draw it. Rates: $25 for a penciled piece, $50 for an inked drawing, $75 for a colored work. You will get hi-res master files, as well as smaller versions prepared for the web at a size specified by you. Another $25 plus shipping and handling will get you the original art although I should warn you I'm a rather messy artist and the original may not look as good as you'd expect. See my DeviantArt site and the ROCR cast pages for examples of my character drawings.
I'm not including my Paypal link in this post because I'm not yet sure if I want to collect payments myself or direct people to the Webcomic Telethon. I'll know that in a few days. You can order drawings by emailing meSep.7 edit: use reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com instead. If you have tried to contact me, please resend. with a good description of the character you want portrayed.
Note that in case of deadline problems I may delay creation of the portraits until after the Telethon. This is still on, if people are interested.

A quick note to new readers

I see I'm getting a lot of visits from people searching for "Ray Nagin biography". I have very little to offer on that subject; in the post that causes Waffle to show up in those results, I merely linked to his bio on Wikipedia in which an oddity had just shown up.
Two things:
1) You might as well go directly to Wikipedia for this sort of thing; it's fast surpassing Google in usefulness even if there's the occasional bit of partisan graffiti in controversial or high-interest topics;
2) The prediction of a Nagin presidency showed up soon after the man's outburst at the Federal government. A cooler look at his actions will reveal that he's not all that hot. Indeed, via Patrick at Making Light, I read this post by China Mieville suggesting that Nagin has copious amounts of egg on his face. Now, if you follow American political life even as an outsider, you'll know to expect blame-shifting and mudslinging. Mieville is unusual and credible because his excoriation of Nagin is about as far removed from the expected spin as it could possibly be. Not that I believe everything Mieville has to say on the matter either - I think his interpretation of events begs a few questions. But read for yourself and make your own conclusions.

And that's all I'm going to say about New Orleans that isn't connected to the fundraising effort I'm part of. I'm still convinced that now is as good a time as any to criticise the American government – at all levels – for what went wrong in terms of disaster-preparedness and coordination, but it's not my place to do that. I'll leave that to those who have some actual knowledge to base their opinions on.

September 6, 2005

Webcomics hell

If this is true, then I'm in trouble too.

C.S.Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy"

Been having a bit of a week of nostalgia, rereading C.S.Lewis (who I haven't read since i was, oh, 15 or so. I was pleasantly surprised to find him an even better author than I remembered. Quick read, though - I've read two of his books already today and it's only 11am.


However, the reason I bring up The Horse and His Boy in particular is that it has huge numbers of what are now fantasy clichés: a runaway bride, fleeing an arranged marriage; a peasant who's really the heir to a kingdom; talking animal companions - and all of them work, and realising why they work, unlike the majority of books with those tropes made me realise why I hate them normally.

(Spoilers follow, I fear.)

Continue reading "C.S.Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy"" »

Well, this does bring it closer to home

Just heard on the radio: a group of Dutch tourists were shot at by the police or the military (this wasn't clear from the fragment) in New Orleans, in what they claim was an attempt to stop them from leaving. They're out now, alive and well, but not happy with how they've been treated. I missed this in the papers, and, as often with Dutch news, can't find references online, but it fits a pattern in which British visitors were discriminated against in the evacuation (Via). Why are Americans shooting at Dutch tourists? Is it true that foreigners in the US have no rights?

I said I'd shut up, but there's so much to be angry about.

New Opera portal

On the new Opera community portal, there's a post entitled Online party: You crashed the house!
Just like Opera itself does at my house, a dozen times a day.

Snark about the outrageously poor stability of the latest incarnation of the Opera browser aside (the instability on two out of the three platforms I use is bad enough to jeopardize my ability to get work done on the web, and is making my morning forum/blog trawl a big hassle as well. So I've switched to Safari on OSX and considering moving to Firefox on Windows and Linux. Only inertia is stopping me, really), the new community site is rather nice. The blogging tools are really nice with the post entry interface and the feature for adding RSS feeds to a blog's front page being especially nifty. My Opera Page is already a one-stop shop for all my blogging and webcomic stuff. And I haven't even tried the Photo album and Friends features...

September 7, 2005

Despammed down again

Effective immediately, my public email address is reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com. Despammed is down again, has been for days, and what with me needing to be able to take orders from people, I can no longer justify using their services. Gmail has pretty good built-in spam protection, and I should be able to prevent the address from getting too flooded.

I'll edit the message about my work for the Webcomics Hurricane Relief Telethon. Apologies if you've tried to contact me in the past few days; please resend your mail to the new address.

Those girlies, they're such teases!

Girlamatic is running "tease" posts to pre-announce the new cartoonist or cartoonists that will be added to their roster. I've already had one reader ask me if one of the people whose art was shown was me. Unfortunately (it was a very nice drawing) it wasn't. They look familiar, but I can't put my finger on any of them, yet.

Continue reading "Those girlies, they're such teases!" »

Stone me, it's a serious article about the Flat Tax!

The Sharpener: Tories and Lib Dems consider flat tax. Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope once called a Flat Tax "the stupidest idea to come down the pike since pet rocks." and I hope y'all won't mind if I treat the idea with a bit of skepticism if that's the undeniably bright Unca Cecil's opinion of it. But like pet rocks in their day, the Flat Tax is all the rage these days, so it's a good idea to learn a bit about it and form one's own opinion. But if serious discussion of the idea exists in the world of political/economic blogs, I haven't come across it. Then again, my lifeline to the world of economic weblogging consists of what Professor DeLong says about notable economics and public finance related posts on his own blog, so if he's not interested in flat-tax proposals either way, I don't get to hear of them.
Phil Hunt's post gives some idea of what a concrete scheme might look like in England and how it could amount to more than just everyone but a few rich people's taxes going up.

September 8, 2005

Ingrained habit and hanging on to software

On my Opera Community blog, I posted some words on what my problems with the latest Opera release are. Most of that is only interesting if you're an Opera user yourself, but the final paragraphs indicate a wider problem with software usability:

Still, I am very used to doing things the Opera way. On my other platforms (the Windows machine in my studio and the Linux machine at home), the idea of switching, moving over my bookmarks and my passwords, and getting used to doing things differently than I have been doing since 1998, makes me slightly queasy in the stomach.

Which is why I wrote this post in Opera. Uhm, better back it up in an editor window before hitting "Post"...


The same thing applies with Paint Shop Pro. I've been using it since version 4, when I found its very existence liberating. A full-featured image editing program that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and is easy to use? Fantastic! Now, with version 8, Paint Shop Pro has functionality that is even better than it was then, and the interface has continued to improve. But it also has the worst bug I've ever seen in commercially-released, non-beta software: the Intractable Undo Bug that can destroy hours of your work irretrievably. It even makes the sensible practice of saving regularly actively dangerous, because the only way to know if the Undo Bug has kicked in is to look at the whole image before you save, then to look at individual areas of the image in detail. The Undo Bug affect areas of the image other than the one you were working on.

This bug alone makes Paint Shop Pro a very dangerous program to work with, and I can tell you that not being able to trust software puts a crimp in my creativity. But it's still slightly less nerve-wracking than doing the same work in another program. At least the Undo system in PSP is functionally well-designed and works like it does in all other Windows programs. CTRL-Z causes an undo, pressing CTRL-Z again causes another undo. In Photoshop, CTRL-Z toggles between Undo and Redo, which is annoying and forces people to use its non-standard Undo History widget (other image editing apps now have that, but it's still non-standard within the larger body of GUI apps). Things like that interrupt my creative flow even more than the once-an-hour Undo Bug in PSP.

Basically, the software I am used to has me by the balls. I think that goes for a lot of people.

The stride

Thirty minutes into any strenuous exercise, time that had been passing slowly before starts passing quickly, the breathing becomes steady and tackling that next half hour becomes easy. It's the time when the body starts running on fat instead of calling for more sugar to be brought in to fuel all this busywork. What also happens is that the mind suddenly becomes clear and focused – not on keeping those feet moving or whatever it is you're doing, but on the things it wants to think about and now has energy available to do so. It's a great feeling, and it's enabled me to write both Telethon material and Gang of Four easily.

(By the way, the work I did on Monday to write and draw a longer story for the Telethon isn't completely wasted. There is now a finished test page in which I was able to try some new techniques, plus twelve pages of thumbnailed comics which will make a good second draft for the final version, plus some White House in Orbit material that I might want to do something with, plus character designs and better insight into my time budget than I had before I had a try at it. In the long run, these will all come in handy.)

My preferred sport is now swimming again. I use the pool below my workplace every other day. De Papiermolen is a city-owned outdoor pool that had very few visitors for much of the summer, because after an early heatwave it was mostly wet and chilly outside. But since the last week of August, the weather has improved a lot, and the authorities have decided to keep it open until September 31, instead of pumping it out on the fourth as originally planned. The last week of August was also when I decided to start using this facility instead of just spending hot afternoons at the lake as I'd been doing before.

I don't count laps – instead I just swim for an hour or so, putting some effort into it. Then I spend some time in the sun with my sketchbook until I get too hot and leave. It's working well: I get a bit tired in the hours after the swim but after that I become more focused again. More physically taut as well - it's too early to expect any visible changes in my muscle tone but I can feel more balanced, as if my stomach muscles are pushing me upright.

Only downside: I get tanlines from wearing a swimsuit regularly for the first time in a decade. The pool water reflects the sunlight causing people to tan twice as fast. One day I observed a gull flying over the pool, and the bird's belly looked sky blue from the light reflecting from the pool! So those tanlines appear quickly, faster than sunbathing unclothed at the lake can remove them again. But the lake environment doesn't encourage hour-long, high-energy swims, and I'm now at the point where the endorphin rush from that becomes addictive. I'm hitting my stride – now let's try very hard to keep up that momentum during the winter.

Dr. Technical Difficulties' Cabinet of Horrors.

Comicgenesis' auto-updater is stuck again, so people reading Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan on the website hosted there should go to the mirror site or Modern Tales instead. Especially if they want to take part in guessing which references are hidden in the dialogue and panels. There's more than what's already been guessed, but Dutch readers have the advantage here, I'm afraid...
I don't know when the updater will be back. Update: the site has updated but may well be late again tomorrow.
Update #2: What I learned today: The OSX text editor I used to edit today's HTML snippet will save the snippet as a full HTML 4.0 page, and entity-fy any tags that are typed into the editing space. It will wrap the resulting code in paragraph tags with class attributes that I don't get to see while they're being added. This is not what I want out of it.

Another webcomics telethon

White Lightning Productions is running an adult webcomics telethon in parallel with the Webcomics Telethon organised by Blank Label Comics. Could be useful for artists like Eric M who have been asked to keep the content of their comics for the Blank Label-organised Telethon family-friendly.
I wasn't explicitly asked to do that myself, by the way, but I figured that the event was going to be for a wide, general audience so both the false-start ideas I had and the script I eventually went with were kept within g-rated limits – just. But that may well have been the wrong idea – for all we know, White Lightning's porny offerings will bring in more money for the relief effort. That will be interesting to watch.

September 11, 2005

The Stupidity of The Sun

The Sun is a British tabloid written in an annoying, chatty style and only using easy words. It is, as you might imagine, not my preferred reading, but, finding myself with a long wait for my liver and onions in a cafe, I glanced through it.

And found something so offensive that it beggers belief. I quote.

The Sun, Saturday September 10, 2005 Page 21, "Clarkson"

In the last couple of weeks everyone has been asking how on earth the greatest and most powerful nation on earth could be o crippled by a bit of wind and rain

The rest of the world has disasters without the whole of society falling to pieces. So what is it different in America?

Well, if you stop and think about it, the answer is obvious

America may have given the world the space shuttle and, er, condensed milk, but behind the veneer of civilisation most Americans barely have the brains to walk on their back legs.

It's scientifically accepted that the stupidest creature on God's earth is alobster because it only knows to eat when presented with food and lash out when threatened.

Remind you of anything?

Even the President manages to get completely lost in his own sentences. "I love to bring people into the Oval Office and say, "This is where I office," he once said. Proving that, in fact, we never misunderestimated him at all.

More recently we got this little nugget. "Rarely is the question asked: 'Is our children learning?'"

Well, since most of them can't place their own country on a map, leave alone anyone else's, the answer is: No, not really. A few years ago I was told by a cheerily daft Forida policeman that you don't need common sense when you've got rules. And he absolutely could not see he got it the wrong way round.

Later on the same trip I was told on a plane in Dallas to uncross my legs during take-off. "It's a federal requirement," said the stewardess, who had plainly never thought what possible difference the position of a passenger's legs could make if the jet crossed into something solid at 520mph.

Then there was the time when, in a Reno shopping mall, I was told to put my shoes back on. "It's a state law," said the guard.

I see, so someone raised this at a meeting. It was discussed. There was a vote. And now it's on a statute book. That people must wear shes while shopping in Nevada. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.

[He gives further examples. By the end there's... maybe one, two that are genuinely stupid acts and about six that make it clear he's an arsehole and an idiot.]

This is the problem. These people are told rules exist and they should not use common sense to question them.

So, when the rules and everything else were washed out of New Orleans, everyone went to the default setting of the terminally stupid: Violence.

I'm not talking about the armed gangs now. I'm talking about the authorities who, rather than try and feed the poor and needy, summoned the Marines and started acting like they were in a Hollywood film.

"They've got M16s which are locked and loaded," said one official. And I bet she hadn't the first idea what "locked and loaded" meant. She'd just heard Bruce Willis said at at some point and thought it sounded good.2

Hollywood has taught America that the military can solve anything. It's full of chisel-jawed heroes who never leave a man on the field and never fail to get the job done. So they'd have New Orleans sorted out in a jiffy.

Unfortunately, on the streets you've got some poor, starving soul helping themselves to a packet of food from a ruined, deserted supermarket. And as a result, finding themselves being blown to pieces by a helicopter gunship. With the none-too-bright soldiers urged on by their illiterate political masters, the poor and needy never stood a chance. It's easier and much more fun to abhor someone than make them a cup of tea.

[He then concludes by describing all Americans as racist bigots. But that's quite enough, no?]

...I have no idea what should be done about this idiot, but something should. Anyone know any American newssources?

September 12, 2005

Pathetic but true: I wrote a Wiki piece on my own work

So the Comixpedia Webcomic Wiki has been going for almost ten days. Initially I was just going to sit it out - I was planning to wait until somebody else would put up something about Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and then put up corrections for those errors that only I was in any real position to correct. ROCR was not on the initial big list (which was mostly imported from Wikipedia), but that didn't bother me so much. After all, ROCR doesn't have the level of mass popularity where you'd expect it to be listed in a major webcomics encyclopedia immediately. If it had it in itself to get that level of mass popularity, it would have bloody well got it by 2001. No, make that 1994 - when it was a small-press comic and making its first steps on the web.

So I gave it some time. Even though the rules of the Webcomic Wiki allow it (unlike those of Wikipedia), writing an encyclopedia entry on your own work is a bit tacky, so I didn't want to do that.

But today, I saw that the list had grown to include what seemed to me like some pretty obscure webcomics (not naming names - this is not about envy). So I decided it was time I started looking after myself a little better, swallowed my pride, and wrote the entry. It's very basic - just an overview of the series' history, main cast, influences, that sort of thing. It does include something that is very important to me: the dates of the initial online publication. 1994-1996. I would really like to see that early entry into webcomics acknowledged some time. Doing it myself somehow isn't as satisfying.

Writing for that Wiki is interesting. I'll try and dig into my archives and look for some material on the very earliest webcomics, some of which are now gone and unacknowledged as well (Afterlife of Bob, anyone?)

They do make a cute couple

Another comics-based relationship: Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier just got engaged and made a comic about it. Congratulations! (Via)

September 13, 2005

Webcomic Telethons have started

The Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon has started. Every 20 minutes, there'll be a new comic added to the website. There will be four new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan strips scattered throughout the event! Go read it, and go donate money for the Red Cross.

The Adult Webcomics Telethon has also started.

They'll be missed

Via Crooked Timber, I hear that Shot By Both Sides is calling it a day (I would have found out anyway – SBBS is only a dozen places down on my blogroll). John B explains:

For those of you who lied, twisted, cheated and bullied until the least worst choice available to me was to close the site, congratulations. You've won. I hope it was worth it. It would be ungracious of me to hope that bad things happen to you in return, so I'll merely take solace in my knowledge that you have to go through life having a personality like that... Good work, fellas.

And not on my blogroll, but visited occasionally in the past few months, objectivist libertarian blogger Arthur Silber is giving up, citing health problems, poverty and public indifference to his writing as reasons. His story seems familiar somehow.

Some of my critics tell me (to quote one of them) that I should "grow the fuck up." What they mean by that is that, instead of offering what I'm able to do–my writing–in exchange for voluntary donations, I should turn myself over to the state. In that manner, all of you will have to support me indirectly whether you want to or not, and I won't have to do anything at all in return. Of course, the state may not treat me very well but, after all, beggars can't be choosers. Today, that's what it means to "grow up."

But since this hasn't worked out and since there is no market for what I do, except one that is so negligible that it doesn't matter, I will now follow their advice. Next week, I'll turn myself over to the State of California. I'll let them figure out what's wrong with me physically, and decide whether and how they will deign to treat it. I'll let them decide where and how I should live, and how much money I should get, if any.


From what I've read of his writings, I'd say he deserves better.

Mahna mahna

Wikipedia really has the answers to all important questions.

September 14, 2005

Happy happy joy joy

Happy birthday to Waffler supreme: Reinder!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Telethon day 2, impressions so far

The Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon is in its second day. The second sponsor link showed up and the tally has grown to over $21,000. I am somewhat disappointed in the average quality of the work (I am also disappointed in the quality of my own contribution, which fell far short of what I had in mind initially, by the way). However, I believe that the fact that the producers let anyone in is a major contributing factor to the high level of donations so far. The inclusivity means people get involved and feel involved, so the event gets widely promoted and many people donate.
For the webcomic reader in a hurry, my own contribution is here. It's a bit in-jokey, referring to the events of not just one but two lost webcomics crossovers, and another one that isn't lost. Should be as comprehensible as many of the others though.

Diary of a Mac Man, er... 7

Photoshop CS for OSX is one of the less benightedly awful jumbles of useless bytecode that it's been my profound lack of pleasure to be unable to avoid having to use. In fact, coloring on the iBook using CS was almost pleasant. The interface, while still damnably inconsistent, is much improved compared to PS 6 which I've been using on the previous two Gang of Four comics and is also quite easy on the eyes. The program is stable, and unlike PS 6 on the studio PC is capable of such complex operations as opening a file in good time.
I'd have enjoyed the work more if it wasn't for the Wacom tablet sucking all the joy out of it by going berserk and generating random clicks all over my images. Together with one interface fault in PS CS, the fact that the pencil cursor is all but invisible, this meant that a lot of time was wasted Undoing things, checking that all the faulty clicks had in fact been undone, and having coronaries. If it isn't one thing, it's another. Computer systems hate me and I spend more and more energy on hating them back with each passing day.

As I've said before, laptop screens are less than ideal for this kind of work although a fresh laptop screen is probably better than a CRT that is on its deathbed. I've posted the images (de-texted) on my DeviantARt site for sanity-checking. Doesn't look too bad, methinks.

September 16, 2005

Adorable Laurel


redhead stroking pussy
Le site officiel de Laurel contient des dessins mignons, sexys et bien-faits. Ses BDs sont drôles aussi.
(Trouvé par Peter Breedveld)

(This is about all I have to show for the French I took for five years in secondary school. Sad how that gets rusty. But Laurel's drawings are quite lovely)

September 18, 2005

Pirates? Let'em walk the plank, I say.

Tomorrow, as Branko and others remind me, is Talk Like a Pirate Day. How fast a year rolls around! It seemed like only yesterday that people were going "Arr, matey" and "Shiver me timbers" randomly in online conversations and submitting sexy pirate drawings to DeviantArt.
Come to think of it, it was yesterday. And the day before, and the day before that, and generally every damned day since September 19, 2004. Every day is Talk Like a Pirate Day now.
It's been done, milked, sucked dry and then bled until it was just a hollow shell of what it was even two years ago (when I first heard of it). It's not funny anymore. So I propose that we just forget about the whole thing for a year or so, and pretend that all those people going "Arr" are all Devonshire farmers. Farmers. Yes, that will work. Farmers with eyepatches and parrotsducks. No pirates here, no sirree. And that's no sea shanty we be singin' but a traditional ploughin' song. Avast, bucko, sheep ahoy! Prepare to board!
By the way, if I never see a ninja, monkey or robot anymore it'll be too soon.

P.S. But that keyboard Branko linked to? That's still pretty funny.

(Late correction: that should be Devonshire, not Lancashire. The idea was that that area was where the pirate lingo came from)

September 19, 2005

Me-ow, meine Damen und Herren! Me-ow!

The best coverage I've seen of the German elections comes from Mrs. T at a A Fistful of Euros. If you're at all interested in the situation there, read her dozen or so most recent posts. Mrs. T covers all bases, and pays attention to the dark horse of the race: the Left Party, who polled 8%.

It's easy to fail to pay the 'Left Party' the attention they deserve, mostly because nobody is likely to form a coalition with them. But still it should be noted: they did very well in this election. They should receive the congratulations they deserve.

Congratulations, then, wendebeschädigte East German communists: you polled surprisingly well, once you put yourselves under a West German carpetbagger.

And congratulations, Oskar Lafontaine. Many years ago you were the only major German political leader willing to speak the truth about the cost of unification. What a way you've come since then, finishing your career by becoming the first West German head of the SED.


That's gotta hurt. Oskar Lafontaine is like the Ralph Nader of the 2005 German elections, only seedier: his split from the SPD is almost entirely ego-driven, and instead of with a bunch of ineffectual Greens (the German Greens were already in government with the SPD) he got himself in bed with the inheritors of the East German Parteiapparat.
Read the rest, I tells ya.

Cover art in progress, continued

Man, this cover art is giving me trouble:


the chop, again
Second version of the planned cover art for the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story "The Green Knight's Belt". I'm not sure this one is better overall... there was so much space wasted in the drawing that I had to crop it severely, to the point where it's no longer even a horizontal drawing as it was intended to be.

Continue reading "Cover art in progress, continued" »

Note on my door this morning

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I know Reinder wants to skip it this year, but I found it fun to notice more and more people in these here usually pirateless parts share in the fun of Arr! Yarr! and Shiver me timbers!

September 21, 2005

Jethro Tull: Aqualung Live

(Note: All album links in this post go to Amazon UK. )
I've got several albums in the review queue, but I'm going to do this one first, for two reasons:
1. My referrals indicate that there are a lot of people interested in reading about new Jethro Tull releases, possibly because the band's official website dropped the ball on Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. This album is still being announced as a future release even though I could buy it in July. It's a future release in the US but not in Europe.
2. This new live album is a limited edition in Europe, so for the benefit of the people searching for info on Orchestral Jethro Tull I want to mention it in case it sells out before they've heard of it. Fans in the US will be able to get it as a freebie if they buy tickets for concerts taking place this Fall.

Aqualung Live is a live recreation of Jethro Tull's best-known album Aqualung, recorded as part of XM Radio's "Then Again" series. Royalties from the European release go to various charities for the homeless.

Continue reading "Jethro Tull: Aqualung Live" »

September 23, 2005

I was going to raise him another pony but the commenters beat me to it

Dsquared at Crooked Timber:

No matter how ludicrous your predictions, if they are sufficiently wildly utopian, then your thinking has a greater expected value than anyone else’s (see here for the general idea). Thus, if Kurzweil reckons that we will upload our consciousness onto software and live for ever as pure energy on the internet, then I say all that and a pony too! Not just any old pony by the way, but a super technonanopony! Which eats racism and shits pure gasoline … on the internet! Oh yeh and we will constantly be having multiple orgasms … and not just the normal kind either (more details to come). You might say that it’s pretty unlikely and I’ve failed to spell out important details, but as long as there is at least some probability that I’m right, then I am more important than Ray Kurzweil to the tune nU^(-rT), where U is the utility of a magic pony, n is the probability I’m right, r is the discount rate and T is the time it will take to sort us all out with one. Keep reading CT folks, because in expected value terms, it is only going to become more important!!

Coverarting

chop, chop, again
Cover art for The Green Knight's Belt, nearly finished.

This is the third version, and I'm getting closer. I need to clean it up (working on it until 1:30 AM took its toll on my ability to spot faults) and some more shading is needed, but for the most part, this is it. I'll add lettering and maybe a little extra along the sides before publishing it to the main Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website.

I spend nearly as much time on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan as I did when I was still creating new pages and struggling to meet my deadlines. For a while, all the time went into getting ahead with translating and editing the old pages; lately I've been spending it on practising my drawing and colouring. In addition to the three versions of the Green Knight's Belt cover I did a simple thing called Mute Rage and a more involved piece called In the Bath House. That last one didn't turn out the way I had hoped, but that doesn't matter right now; what mattered was having something to practise Photoshop CS 2 on. I want to master as much of that program as possible before my free trial ends. I haven't even done any lettering in it, let alone used the vector shape tools. Also, I have to avoid getting out of practise. I noticed that it took me a long time to draw the latest Gang of Four comic, and that told me I was losing routine. Too much time spent fixing up the old stuff on the computer, and not enough at the drawing board.
Both drawings are based on sequences from the old Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan books, by the way. You'll find them on the main site some day.
While I'm overloading you with stuff I've posted on DeviantArt lately, look at this Trial page I did for the Webcomics Hurricane Relief Telethon. I'd thumbnailed out this script that I thought would be suitable, and decided to draw the first one, as quickly as I could, to get an estimate of how long it would take me to finish the story. This page was done in just over 2.45 hours from ruling up the panels to having it posted on DA. The first panel fell way short of what I had in mind for it, but even with that compromise, it was clear to me that I would not have been able to finish the story in time without cutting into my other work. And there were some more demanding pages ahead. So I nixed the idea and scrambled to do something else. The good news here is that a script that had been in my notebooks for a while is now much further ahead, and can probably be drawn properly at an average speed of five hours a page. I'll get this time management down to an art eventually!

But will he play that booger song at his inauguration? Is what I want to know.

This won't be news to many of my readers in the US, but I'm posting this for the benefit of Jeroen, who likes Kinky Friedman's old records: The Bull Moose reports that the Kinkster's gubernatorial bid, what there is of it, is doing well in the polls:

The spirit of Sam Houston independent style politics is alive and well! Kinky Friedman is well on his way to the Governor's mansion. The first Bill Hillsman commercial has been released - must see TV. A highly unscientific but encouraging San Antonio Express-News on-line poll shows the Kinkster in the lead -

"If the election were today, who would get your vote for Texas governor?Kinky Friedman 32.6% Chris Bell 24.8% Rick Perry 15.9% Carole Keeton Strayhorn 15.8%Someone else 10.9%"

And the mainstream press is increasingly taking Kinky's candidacy seriously (seriously!). From the Houston Chronicle,

"Republican activist Betty Sterquell, 77, of Amarillo, said there are Friedman bumper stickers across her city. Sterquell attended her first gubernatorial inauguration in 1939 for another singer-turned-politician, "Pappy" Lee O'Daniel.

"We all thought he was goofy with his 'Pass the biscuits, Pappy' and his Light Crust Doughboys, and he just walked away with it," Sterquell said.

Check out what is now Kinky's campaign site.

September 26, 2005

It's entirely possible that they do have headquarters like that

a glimpse at Foksuk headquarters From Poepoe. Click thumbnail for full-sized corporate comic policymaking.

Let me translate the dialogue for you:
Panel 1, Caption: Monday, April 22, 2002. Staff meeting of RGvT's executive management at their headquarters in the Fokke & Sukke Tower. On the agenda: InHolland's campaign request.
John Reid: Your reply to Janine was far too blunt, pal!
Jean-Marc van Tol: But John! All I said was "Thanks, but no thanks!"
Panel 2. Jean-Marc van Tol: I told Janine we only take on jobs like that anymore if they're either a lot of fun or very well-paid...
Panel 3. Bastiaan Geleijnse: ...whereupon you said that neither condition was met in this case and that she and her campaign could therefore go fuck themselves.
John Reid: That is a bit blunt, J.M.
Panel 4. Bastiaan Geleijse: They are still our one of our clients...
Jean-Marc van Tol: All right! I'll apologise for my rude answer and tell her we're simply too busy to take the job.
John Reid:: You are a gentleman.
The story will continue tomorrow...

Cartoonists are undervalued. The story Jean-Marc is telling is one in which a prominent educational institution offered the makers of Fokke & Sukke, then as now one of the major names in Dutch cartooning, a mere € 2000 for five cartoons which were to be featured in a multimedia campaign involving posters, postcards, magazines, billboards, you name it. Now, I'm used to working for a pittance, but even I would have had the good sense to negotiate that amount upwards (considering the use to which it was to be put and my earlier experiences working with schools). Fokke & Sukke are worth a lot more. The person making the offer knew this, and tried to soften the trio up by mentioning that it would be good publicity for them as well. (This episode) This argument is often used on beginning cartoonists; to assume that the succesful Foksuk collective would buy it is to insult their intelligence.
We are undervalued. And to a large extent, that's our own fault. We tend to be bad at business skills like administration or putting a value on our time, we tend to forget about things like price indexing come contract renegotiation time, we put up with standard contracts even after we're in a position to negotiate better ones. Myself, I'm very bad at negotiation — this year I managed to turn a situation in which I had leverage to ask for an increase from my biggest client into one where I was put on the spot to make decisions or else lose the job. I hope I won't make that mistake again.
Jean-Marc has been working for years to enable cartoonists to do better: to stop putting up with low bids, not work for clients who are cheap or who try to screw you over (and to recognise when this is the case). With this new story on his stripblog Poepoe, he's showing a concrete, real-world example of the actions of a bad client. And while he's at it, he tackles another cause of the undervaluation of cartoonists: our own portrayal of ourselves.
Of course, Fokke & Sukke isn't produced from a Trump-style tower. Maybe it is these days, but it wasn't back then. Yes, they were raking in the cash, but they were only using conventional rakes, not the combine harvester they have to use now. But consider how he could also have portrayed the trio discussing the matter: he could have pretended the meeting was set in some seedy dive, with each of the three creators hunched over a bottle, drinking away their sorrows and angsting over how they are being exploited. And that, I'm afraid, is how many of us would have portrayed ourselves. I've seen plenty of examples in the past that were Portraits of the Cartoonist as a Drunken Hack.
Clients see those portrayals as well, as do other cartoonists. It feeds into our self-image as a group, and it feeds into the outside world's image of us. It's refreshing to see another image instead: that of cartoonists as hard-headed bastards who know what their work is worth. Jean-Marc has been kind enough to show the corporate headquarters of other cartoonists in the first panel: [Barbara] Stok Palace, the [Maaike Hartjes] building, Dirk-Jan Flats, Heinz-the-Movie Studios and the Sigmund Institute.
OK... not really all that hard-hearted. JM still allows for the possibility of doing jobs just for fun, and his co-creators want him to be more tactful. But it's still a refreshing change. Take it further, Jean-Marc!

September 27, 2005

Uderzo chez les Belges

One cartoonist who probably could have his own skyscraper to run operations from is Albert Uderzo. With a new Asterix book on the way, the 78-year-old artist is showing up in one or two places:
Four-page report of Uderzo being fêted in Brussels for four days.

It's a safe bet that the new Asterix will again be criticized for weak writing. It's likely, if the cover art is any indication, that the art will also fall short of the standards of earlier books:
German Asterix 33 cover
And it's a dead cert that the first-edition print run of the new book will once again exceed that of the last. The report cites a run of 8 million copies in 27 countries — if I remember correctly, the last one started with 6 million.
Many people with an above-average interest in comics resent this. They argue that Uderzo is pissing on René Goscinny's memory, that Asterix is only interesting anymore to collectors who want to keep their series complete, and that Uderzo should stop or that buyers would get more enjoyment out of buying some other comic instead. I've made all these arguments in the past. I will not make them anymore.
Uderzo still enjoys making Asterix. The public still enjoys buying it. The writing is only weak in comparison to Goscinny's – it's actually still written at a high, professional standard (likewise the cover art. It's a bit boring and the composition is off, but I've seen worse in the shops, oh yes). The difference between the new book's initial print run and the last one's isn't made up out of people who bought the entire series and became completists in the last two years; it's probably made up out of people who borrowed the other books and want to buy this one because it's more convenient.
Also Asterix is a major force in comics publishing. It's sold in supermarkets as well as bookstores; in spite of this, it will be sold in comics stores in large enough numbers to turn the year around for one or two retailers who might be in trouble right now. Even if I still believed that Asterix should stop for artistic reasons, I couldn't ignore that. That € 80 million turnover will be keeping people employed.
So let's have this new album, Albert! I for one won't buy it, but I can't fault ya for having another go.

September 28, 2005

Side-projects update

It's been a while since I wrote anything about the two side-projects I have going on, Chronicles of the Witch Queen and The Lives of X!Gloop. Both projects chug along so smoothly that they don't attract a lot of my attention.
The Lives of X!Gloop now has nearly all the previously-published material online. The latest comic on the site is from 1990 or 1991 and was published in an amateur zine called Furore shortly before it changed its name to Impuls. There's two more weekends' worth of material before I get to the point where I have to decide about scanning in the unfinished, unpublished stories from 1992-1994. I may even have a shot at finishing them! So far, the comic hasn't attracted more than a few dozen readers, which is more than they got at the time. Doesn't bother me – it's not like I'm doing a lot of work on the site now.
Chronicles of the Witch Queen isn't getting a whole lot of readers either, and that does bother me a bit. The Double, the first story to make its online debut on the site is a week away from being finished; it will be followed by a remastered version of The Eye of the Underworld which has been online for years in a different location. The Double was made by my friends Geir and Daniel, and like the print edition from 1996 it was made ready for publication by me. I did a better job on the web version than on the print version, but both have got a lower readership than they deserve, and I do feel I've let my friends down twice in that respect. Compared to five years ago, it's a lot harder to get a webcomic noticed. Or maybe I'm less willing to play the "join in a dozen scattered online communities and plug" game than I was five years ago. It does look as if, like publishing zines, that sort of thing is something one should only do for a limited period of time in one's life before moving on to something else.
Anyway, The Double is really good, right? Go read it.

Continue reading "Side-projects update" »

Pictures and Words reviewed

Pete Ashton reviews Pictures and Words by Roanne Bell and Mark Sinclair.


[...Pictures and Words] is an interesting book because it attempts to tackle the thorny issue of narrative head on yet still come at things from at Art perspective. To this end the focus is on emerging and cutting edge cartoonists with a smattering of non-comics artists whose work could be considered to be if not comics then narrative. The authors also give a good third of the book over to single-panel illustration, in other words gallery-friendly comics, which rather that be a cop out is actually quite revolutionary for this kind of criticism as they look at narrative flow within the illustration or across physically disconnected pieces.

and

It's always been the view of this aficionado that comics are everywhere, that almost everything can be viewed as a comic in some form of other. The landscape that surrounds us, man made or natural, is a tapestry of comic art and can be read sequentially as a narrative, from a countryside panorama to a collage of photographs on a teenager's wall. Everything is interconnected, discrete objects that when considered in connection to their neighbours taken on a deeper, richer meaning, a narrative told by the mind of the viewer as the gaps are filled by the imagination and we experience the world as poetry.

And yes, I accept I'm an extremist in this respect, but I think it's a valid point of view, that an understanding of how comics work can give a fresh and useful perspective on other forms of art. With Pictures and Words, Bell and Sinclair appear to be doing just this. It would be easy to show how comics work using "normal" comics (as Scott McCloud did over a decade ago in Understanding Comics) but to apply this understanding not just to emerging cartoonists but to the work of art school graduates is actually quite daring....

Read the rest.

Whores!

Speaking of reputation, that series Poepoe I mentioned a few days ago now has got to where the artists suffer the backlash from InHolland's publicity campaign, which they weren't involved in but which allegedly looked like they were involved in it.

This series may well turn out to be a classic.

Buh, bye, Webstats4u

Webstats4u, the company that used to be known as Nedstat Basic and which has been providing basic user statistics for many Reinder Dijkhuis websites, has confirmed that it is using its Javascript to put pop-up and slide-under ads on the websites of their users. Their message tries to justify this by bringing up the cost of the service, but cost is irrelevant. I can just about accept the occasional pop-up slipping through Keenspace/ComicGenesis's net because they provide a vital hosting service and are generally very good about blocking pop-ups when they're spotted. For a counting service, "Free plus intractable pop-ups" is not the right price. Not knowing how many people visit my sites will be a bit of a drag, but there are alternative services out there. The Webstats4u counters will be removed at the earliest opportunity.

Terrible art or not...

You know? Unfettered By Talent is oddly compelling, in a Pokey the Penguin-like way.
(Nyer!)
Update: This is now a meme!

The most awesome public intellectuals ever

Remember this? I went back to the post at Crooked Timber to make my final offer consisting of all of Ray Kurzweil's predictions, two ponies and the confident prediction that I'd be an even more awesome thinker in the future than I am now. What I should have tossed in the mix was the prediction that Fafnir and Giblets would win. In addition to predicting that the speed of thought will exceed the speed of speed, Fafnir offers:

In the Future, man will be able to predict the future so effortlessly he will know what he is going to predict before he predicts it. Most of his predictions will involve predicting the predictions he is about to predict. Occasionally he will attempt to predict if women will have sex with him; they will not.

which is game, set and match unless the Medium Lobster can come up with something better.

September 29, 2005

Timelines

Many years ago, I sent Geir a message including a timeline of the world of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan from the earliest time period refered to in the story (Conquest of something or other by Blodwynpiggi the Dentedheaded) to what was then the near future of that world. I have long since lost my copy of that message (Er... it may still be on my home computer if I composed it on that machine, but I'll be damned if I can find it anywhere) and in any case the timeline has become vastly more complicated since then.
A recent post on Websnark rekindled my interest in sorting out a definitive timeline for the comic. It'd be useful for a number of things - finding story opportunities, figuring out what year the story is currently set in, how long the King has been sick, how old some characters are, etc...
The software Eric Burns recommends, Bee Docs' Timeline may be as good as he says it is, and may be worth the $50. However, the terms under which the trial version is offered do not allow me to test it under real-world conditions. I accept time-limited trials (but time my downloads of such trial versions so that I can get a decent amount of actual productivity out of them before I decide whether or not to pony up) but not ones that won't allow me to do anything useful while trying. Setting up a timeline with up to ten events doesn't qualify as anything useful.
So I have to look for alternatives. Maybe there are some good Unix timeline programs out there that have been ported to Mac OSX (I very much want to keep this information on the iBook)? Maybe something I already have installed has good timeline functionality?
Or maybe someone out there has some server space I could set up a Wiki on? I don't know enough about Wikis yet to know whether they support timeline projects well, but I do know that I have readers who can figure out, based on textual evidence, what grades Ron Weasley got on his O.W.L.s and it would be great if I could harness that power somehow.
If you've got tips or can otherwise help out, please contact me through the forum or via email to reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com. Thanks!

September 30, 2005

Timelines, continued

Click to see the full timeline
Co-blogger and reader Adam Cuerden has started sending me his estimates of the timeline of the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan series, based on the episodes already online and the Green Knight's Belt storyline which I sent him a translated version of. I broke down and downloaded a copy of Bee Doc's Timeline and entered some of the dates into the crippled trial version, just to see what it could do for me. I added some outlying dates to get a feel of how complex this thing could become, starting with a date referenced in King's Drama (scheduled to go online in 2006) and ending with Fay juggling flaming torches as seen in a "from the future" panel in The Corby Tribe. I like what I see and may well decide to pay for the full version after all. The idea of tinkering with timelines has me in its grip.
See the full timeline so far in a new window. All dates are approximate, but we will try to narrow them down further.

About September 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in September 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2005 is the previous archive.

October 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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