Archive for August, 2004

Getting Away With It: Maritza Campos

August 31st, 2004 by Adam Cuerden

Maritza Campos of College Roommates From Hell!!! has recently begun a storyline involving Blue, in her school uniform, interacting with Dave. As Blue's school uniform is a Tartan skirt, she makes use of one of my personal pet peeves: Scanned tartans.

Scanned Tartans in comics can be incrediably hideous: They don't follow the curve of the kilt (or skirt), forcing the unforunate Scotsman or schoolgirl to have a two-dimensional groin region. In animation, it can be even worse, as the tartan often won't even move with the character wearing it, making it incrediably hideous.

Yet, by using the attention to detail which is one of the trademarks of all modern CRFH strips, Maritza makes it work. Let's look at a sample:

crfh20040830.jpg

Note how by shifting the tartan up and down the tartan seems to follow the folds of the skirt, instantly giving it a third dimension. Admittedly, it's not perfect: Some skew would be needed to slightly tilt the tartan's horizontal lines, and, particularly near the back of the skirt, gently curving the vertical lines to make them follow the skirt would be more ideal. Still, it takes close analysis to spot the minor flaws remaining, and, given it's the best use of a scanned fabric I have ever seen in my life, I can only approve of Maritza's successful use of an idea that i have only seen result in hideous failure before. Bravo!

I can run! Hallelujah! I can run!

August 31st, 2004 by Reinder

I just went on a 15-minute run through my neighbourhood. As you may know if you read this blog, I have a knee problem which has so far prevented me from doing any serious running, but today I tried a change of approach. For the past couple of years, I have always aborted any attempt at running the moment the knee started giving me any grief. It's not that I can't handle a bit of pain, it's just that I treated any pain as a sign that I was over-straining the knee and that a lot of pain would be forthcoming if I continued.
What caused me to reconsider this was my experience with the cycling trips. On those, my knee would occasionally act up, but the pain wouldn't get to any serious levels, and between trips, it wasn't getting any worse. The knee, evidently, can handle quite a bit more strain than I've put it through while trying to run.
So today, I just decided to accept the level of pain that I could normally tolerate, and see if it got any worse if I went on running. It didn't, so for the first time in years, I ran more than a kilometer (but don't ask me how far I ran - I just zipped through the streets of Groningen towards the Noorderplantsoen, then zig-zagged back over the canal, turning back home a few hundred meters from market square).
I even got a bit sweaty! It's great to be able to do this again. I'll build it up from here.

Henry the Human Fly

August 30th, 2004 by Reinder

Fledg'ling records have reissued Henry the Human Fly, which is great news. Richard Thompson's debut solo album from 1972 had been kinda-sorta available since 1991, but I for one had never seen it in the shops before. I had a copy burned for me from vinyl by an acquaintance, but it's just not the same. The remastered edition is a huge improvement on that copy, with Thompson's acoustic guitar and the other instruments coming through with great detail and presence.
It's one of the best Thompson has made in a long and illustrious career. In every decade since the 1960s, Thompson has come out with at least one album that ranks among the best made that decade, and occasionally with more. Henry the Human Fly is a bit difficult to get into but once you get past the sound of Thompson's voice on this first attempt, you will hear great songwriting with the deceptively simple tunes and gut-wrenching lyrics that have been his trademark ever since.
The guitar playing is also beautiful, effective and mature. Mojo listed the record as one of the 20 greatest guitar albums ever, but don't expect a record driven by guitar pyrotechnics. Thompson's guitar playing, even then, served the songs, and not the other way around.

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I can’t keep up!

August 30th, 2004 by Reinder

If you ever find yourselves thinking "Hmmm... Waffle is updating a bit sporadically lately", go to Websnark for ultra-fast blogging on comics and pop culture. It hasn't been around for long, but look at that post count! It's pretty readable as well, cramming substantial criticism into short, short posts.

Sunday Cycling and Walking: Friescheveen

August 29th, 2004 by Reinder

Today's cycling was going to be a brief outing, because we had Adam with us for the day. As he wrote below, Adam didn't have much cycling experience, so we wanted to pick a route that was short and safe, but still interesting. The more so after I saw exactly how wobbly he was on my bike. I had penciled in a few destinations, but Sidsel had a much better idea: going around the Paterswoldsemeer to the nature preserve at Friescheveen.

I don't give Sidsel enough credit for both her planning ability and her knowledge of the area. She's only lived here since 1996 whereas I've lived around these parts all my life, but she knew about this place and I didn't. Friescheveen is a recent piece of nature, but unlike many other such places, it's not artificial. It's land that was left over after all the turf had been dug out, which when left to itself became wet and marshy, attracting birds and marsh vegetation. It's not so marshy that you can't walk there though - if you don't mind getting mud on your shoes.
The other part of Sidsel's idea that made it so brilliant is just that - having the short cycling trip supplemented with a one-hour walk through the nature preserve, picking blackberries (as well as sampling an unripe, wild pear) and ending in a birdwatching shack. Walking is something that Adam is a lot more used to, whereas it was a bit more strenuous for me, so things were balanced out a bit more. Sidsel walked up front most of the time, leading us over the treacherous, muddy paths and to new foraging spots like an alpha primate.
We changed bikes after the first kilometer or so, finding that Adam was more stable on Sidsel's bike than either mine or Jeroen's spare bike. Since we started on our journey's, Sidsel has had her old bike tuned up, so it's now a better-balanced bike than mine.
Blackberries are at their best by now, depending on how much sunlight any location has got in the past few months. On our way back, I saw middle-aged a couple filling an old ice cream box with blackberries from a municipality-owned patch, and they were getting quite a few of them. My father's harvest from his secret spot has also been exceptional this year.

By the time we got back, Adam's bicycling skills had got considerably better. You do need practice to ride'em, but not that much of it. He's well-muscled, but we'll still see how his legs feel in the morning.

Next week, we'll probably compensate for the shortness of this trip by going to Emmen - 60 kilometers.

Ramblings in Groningen

August 29th, 2004 by Adam Cuerden

Arr! So, day three of my stay in Groningen, and we haven't killed each other yet, even after making Tuesday's Dangerous and Fluffy. Always a good sign for collaborations, that!

Perhaps a sample is in order, in a size suitable for an MSN messenger icon:
RussianArkinstallIcon.png

Further informtion about that when I get home, as I didn't bring the cable I need to download the pictures.

But I digress.

Friday, due to me having to stay up late, was spent mostly with a slow tour around Groningen (Which has a statue of a naked woman with a sheep, a theatre festival whose prgram has sheep on it, and several sheep pastures just outside of town.), followed by a party with the artistic types in Groningen that included me,Jeroen, and Reinder with a rendition of "Combine Harvester". Twas fun, but I fear having to wake up at 4am to catch my plane left me unable to do much more.

Saturday involved the creation of the Chapter 2 opening comic of Dangerous and Fluffy (A peek into one of Gregory's comics), a look around Jeroen and Reinder's studio, (Reinder was working on a comic for Courtly Manners that included, in the background, a painting of Fiefelsfalsfaffel lying naked with a sheep, and a painting with two suspiciously familiar women... but I mustn't say more.), a trip to the Comics Museum, in which I suddenly realised that far too many absolutely superb comics were only available in Dutch, and thus I will have to learn it. Damn. I discussed my plans for early Chapter 2 of D&F with Reinder, and he discussed the Tamlin story to follow the Rite of Serfdom with me. Following this, we went to the theatre festival (with the sheep advertising).

There was superb fire juggling, delicious poffertjes (something like a spherical pancake, with alcohol drizzled on top.), and the completely unexpected sight of the piss-cross.

plaskruisufo2.jpg

A piss cross is a way for men to urinate in public in a not-particularly private place. They stand just next to pedestrian paths, and block the view of the front three or four inches of the man from view when he stands at one of the four urinals

I didn't take the photo myself, they were in use and, frankly, the men using them were rather burly and bigger than me, and I didn't want to explain why I was photographing them urinating, so I found one online.

Following that, we went to the much-vaunted (and very, very cheap) nightclub, Vera, and indeed it was very nice, and had very good and inexpensive alcohol. Sadly, though, it was also packed with new university students, limiting the fun. Arr, weel! Next time.

After a good sleep, it was time for a bike ride with Reinder and Sidsel. I havn't ridden a bike in ten years, ever since my parents took me to a lecture on bike safety that took pains to teach all the children that if you don't wear a helmet, you could be very badly hurt or die.

They then refused to buy me a helmet. Ah, well. Happily, after a couple bike exchanges to get me the only bike in good nick, I was able to do quite well and keep up. My arse is very, very sore, though. Hopefully, that'll die down in time.

Arr! And, besides me interviewing Reinder, that gets me up to date! Until next blog!

-Adam Cuerden

Groningen

August 28th, 2004 by Adam Cuerden

Arr, well, here I am in Groningen, the Dutch town famous for having every other person who blogs here living in it. 'Tis a pleasant, quaint city, full of wide streets and very steep staircases, interesting little shops full of interesting-looking comics that I cannot read, farmer's markets, and rather a lot of sheep, from the cover of the Groningen Festival guide - I think that's what it is, anyway - to an episode of Skippy involving bearded shepherds and sheep dogs.

I think we're being followed.

The Wotch

August 26th, 2004 by Reinder

Fans of El Goonish Shive will probably also enjoy The Wotch which has a similar style, setting and sense of humour. The Wotch is set at a high school and has cute characters, lycanthropy and transformations. It's derivative (and artist Anne gives credit to EGS for getting her to try her hand at cartooning in her links page), but it is also funny, lighthearted and not bad at all.

(Via Wapsi Square)

Earth-pig born reviewed again

August 25th, 2004 by Reinder

Adam White at Indy Magazine reviews the entire 300-issue run of Cerebus. The review is detailed and illustrated with full pages and cover art from all stages of the series, and is a must-read. I wonder how many people would agree with his high praise of the Going Home sequence over High Society or Church and State.

As an aside, I think there is a good essay waiting to be written about the failures of world-building in the sequence as a whole. Smith inadvertently points out one of them:

One of the most curious aspects of Cerebus becomes conspicuous in this book by its absence: music. Jaka is a dancer by trade, and we see her practice that trade here. Certainly, the inclusion of a band in the bar where she works would have been intrusive. The extra characters would have ruined the quiet, intimate tone of the story. However, the idea of a dancer who dances without music is bizarre. Comics do not have soundtracks other than the ones we conjure mentally, but it is strange that the mental soundtrack for this book is so very quiet. As a dancer, music must necessarily be important to Jaka. The fact that it is not so to Sim indicates perhaps a certain ignorance on the author's part of his own character. Throughout Cerebus, one senses that there is something about Jaka that one cannot know, possibly because the cartoonist does not know himself.

As an alternative explanation, Sim has written in the back pages of the comic that he fundamentally dislikes music. But a simpler explanation would surely be that Sim didn' t think about how music would work in a setting without electricity. In a modern bar, including one with, ahem, dancers, music would come from a PA system instead of live musicians with instruments and sweaty armpits. The scene really only works at all in a setting that has mechanically reproduced music. But because Sim chose a quasi-historical world to set his comic in, he couldn't have those. Either he didn't think about this problem at all, or he realised it too late and decided to brazen it out and do the scene without musicians hoping that the readers wouldn't mind.

Hook Fernando de Rojas up to a generator and watch him spin.

August 24th, 2004 by Adam Cuerden

(EDIT: added description of the most egregious fourth wall breaking, and a bit more detail on what went wrong)

The Edinburgh Festival is a collection of superb theatre and horribly bad. And, like all such mixtures, that which you have highest hopes for can be the thing that turns out to be by far the worst.

Tonight I have seen Celestina by Fernando de Rojas. I must believe I have, the ticket assures me. I have severe doubts. Particularly after they broke the fourth wall to state how the original is far too long and you wouldn't want to see it, so enjoy this simulated sex scene instead.

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