Archive for October, 2004

Political cartoons that don’t suck!

October 31st, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

October 31st, 2004 by Reinder

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

Dangerous and Fluffy Halloween comic

October 31st, 2004 by Adam Cuerden

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

Ten men survive the wreck of the Nancy Bell.

Then they started getting hungry...

Happily, everyone else was delicious.

Okay, I can take a hint

October 30th, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

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

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

50,000 is the magic number

October 30th, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

Al-Qaaqa looting still ongoing in November 2003.

October 30th, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

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

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

(Via Josh Marshall)

War on terrorism over: Homeland Security polices copyright instead

October 29th, 2004 by Reinder

From Yahoo news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently not. Clowns.

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

October 29th, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

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

The Apes, Weird War

October 29th, 2004 by Reinder

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

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

Hierarchy of blogs – who looks down on who?

October 28th, 2004 by Reinder

I know my place.