Archive for July, 2005

Where are you on the Global Rich List?

July 31st, 2005 by Reinder

One day, this will help me settle a political argument, I'm sure of it: You think you're poor? Really? Type in your annual income and find out how many people in the world are poorer than you.

I'm the 754,307,892 richest person on earth!


Discover how rich you are! >>


(Via comments on Websnark)

Granny Weatherwax could so totally own Harry Potter.

July 31st, 2005 by Reinder

Terry Pratchett's mad as hell and won't take it anymore, according to the BBC's website:

[Time] magazine also said Rowling reinvented fantasy fiction, which was previously stuck in "an idealised, romanticised, pseudofeudal world, where knights and ladies morris-dance to Greensleeves".

Pratchett, whose first fantasy novel was published 34 years ago, wrote to the Sunday Times saying the genre had always been "edgy and inventive".

"Ever since The Lord of the Rings revitalised the genre, writers have played with it, reinvented it, subverted it and bent it to their times," he wrote.

"It has also contained come of the very best, most accessible writing for children, by writers who seldom get the acknowledgement they deserve."

He also expressed surprise at Rowling's comments that she only realised Harry Potter was fantasy after the first book was published.

"I'm not the world's greatest expert," he wrote.
"But I would have thought that the wizards, witches, trolls, unicorns, hidden worlds, jumping chocolate frogs, owl mail, magic food, ghosts, broomsticks and spells would have given her a clue?"

Much as I'd like to see Pratchett and Rowling get in the ring to settle the matter, I can sort of see how Rowling could have failed to decide from those clues that she was writing fantasy. If she believed that fantasy literature was indeed, as she put it, "an idealised, romanticised, pseudofeudal world, where knights and ladies morris-dance to Greensleeves", which is not beyond the bounds of possibility, because to many, fantasy literature still has that reputation1), then I can't actually blame her for not wanting to read that stuff, or indeed for not classifying her own works as fantasy.
But she's had a few years to get caught up. There have been accusations of plagiarism from Neil Gaiman's work and other fantasy oeuvres. I don't think these accusations are justified but they should have piqued her curiosity somewhat.

By the way, in case anyone was interested, I quite liked The Half-Blood Prince although it's not my favorite of the series. Pratchet's last four or so novels have all disappointed me. Both authors need a kick in the arse, if you ask me. So fight! Fight!

Update/Addendum: Quoth Neil Gaiman:

Er, dunno. I read the Time article and thought it was astonishingly badly written and worse researched. The bit that puzzled me the most was that I remembered interviews with Ms. Rowling where she loved the Narnia books (it was a few seconds of Googling to find a 1998 Telegraph interview where, "Even now, if I was in a room with one of the Narnia books I would pick it up like a shot and re-read it."
as opposed to the Time version of Rowling has never finished The Lord of the Rings. She hasn't even read all of C.S. Lewis' Narnia novels, which her books get compared to a lot. There's something about Lewis' sentimentality about children that gets on her nerves.

The version of the history of "fantasy" that the article's writer paints is utter bollocks, and I assume Terry decided that needed to be said. I didn't see it as a swipe at Ms Rowling, though, but as a swipe against lazy journalists -- but "Pratchett Anger At Shoddy Journalism" is a much less exciting headline than the one the BBC came up with.

(I remember when Terry said some very sensible and good-natured things about the power of fantasy at the Carnegie Medals (in this speech, read it first), the headlines were all along the lines of "Pratchett takes swipe at Rowling, Tolkien"....)

Mostly what it makes me think of is the poem in Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest's NEW MAPS OF HELL, which went, from memory,

"SF's no good!" they bellow till we're deaf.
"But this is good." "Well, then it's not SF."

And it's an odd double-standard that applies to all genre work as much as to SF. It's always been easier for journalists to go for the black and white simplicities of beginning with the assumption that the entire body of SF (or Fantasy, or Comics, or Horror, or whatever the area is under discussion) is and always has been fundamentally without merit -- which means that if you like someone's work, whether it's J.G. Ballard or Bill Gibson or Peter Straub or Alan Moore or Susanna Clarke or J.K. Rowling -- or Terry Pratchett -- it's easier simply to depict them as not being part of that subset. I'm not sure that writing letters to the Times will ever fix that, though.

1)Indeed, from reading Limyaael's attempts at beating some sense into the thick heads of many fantasy writers (ranging from fanfic authors to big name bestseller writers), there's still far too much of that stuff about.

Wait wait wait

July 29th, 2005 by Reinder

Allergies are a cause of headaches? Why, in 25 years of having headaches (and 29 years since I was first diagnosed with asthma and allergies), didn't anyone tell me? I've blamed everything over the years, from cafeine and sleep deprivation (despite the fact that sleeping tends to provoke the headaches) to my glasses. But never allergies - that was always a problem with my lungs and my sinuses. If the problem was treatable with allergy medicines, then the year's worth of life that I've lost to this problem would have been spent doing productive and fun things (compared to lying in bed moaning and trying not to throw up, a low standard, but I'll accept it) instead.
It makes me want to go out and murder some doctors for being bloody useless, it does.

Webcomicsnation

July 29th, 2005 by Reinder

has launched.

Technical Difficulties Part XIII: Payback time

July 28th, 2005 by Reinder

I don't know what it is but the KeenspaceComicGenesis server has been performing the way it did in 2002. Today, while I was away, it's been out for most of the day, meaning that all comics by Waffle-ites hosted on that server are unavailable.
Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is available on rocr.xepher.net and on Modern Tales. If this goes on, I'll move the ROCR.net domain name over to Xepher - that's part of my plans for intermediate future anyway. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Marten Toonder 1912-2005

July 27th, 2005 by Reinder

Cartoonist Marten Toonder died today aged 93. Toonder was arguably the greatest European cartoonist ever - his Heer Bommel series ran in newspapers across the continent for nearly 45 years, and were re-run in some Swedish and Dutch newspapers well into the 1990s - more than a decade after Toonder retired.

End feast

Toonder stuck to the traditional format of a two-tier strip in which the top row consisted of panels without dialogue, and the bottom row contained prose captions, in a flowery, witty style. Due to Toonder's influence, this way of presenting comics still had adepts in the Netherlands long after it died out in other countries. (As an aside, Toonder influenced my own attempts at working in this format, in the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story "The Corby Tribe".)

Heer Bommel acquired literary status in the Netherlands, with all stories being reprinted in a novel-like format with the drawings reduced in comparison to the words. This is unfortunate because the art, done with the assistence of artists who themselves would go on to count among the Netherlands' finest cartoonists, such as Piet Wijn, Dick Matena, and Fred Julsing, is among the best ever made in comics. Each panel excelled in composition, line quality, liveliness and atmosphere.

Through Heer Bommel, Toonder expanded the Dutch language with words such as "Minkukel" meaning a dimwit and "Denkraam" ("Thought-frame") which were used satirically in the strips but gained currency as real expressions, separate from their fictional context.

And Bommel was only one of Toonder's comics. He and his studio came up with dozens of others, such as Koning Hollewijn, Kappie (based largely on the personality of Toonder's father, a sea captain), and one series I used to cut out of the newspaper as a kid, Panda. Panda had word balloons and was easier to read; it also featured art by Piet Wijn and stories by script-writing genius Lo Hartog van Banda. Many of the comics showcased Toonder's philosophical concerns, such as the encroachment of technology-driven society on the natural world. These concerns came to the foreground even more after the mid-1960s when Toonder, by then a wealthy man, moved to a mansion in Ireland.

The Toonder studios had always been involved in animation, and had even done some innovative work in the field, but it wasn't until 1983 that an animated feature film was made based on two Heer Bommel stories. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as good as Toonder had hoped; the pacing and voice work wasn't up to the high standard of both the comic and earlier, shorter Bommel animations, and the foreground animation didn't always work with the backgrounds. (Toonder did approve of the realistic movement of the title character's checked coat, a feat that required attention to detail.)
Many in the audience, moreover, felt that the movie missed an edge. Over time, Mr. Bommel's facial expressions had got to resemble those of his creator more and more, and so viewers felt that the character could only have worked in animation if he'd also had Toonders voice, even though there was no reason to assume that Toonder could do voice work.

Toonder retired in 1986, but made several short-lived returns to the field as a writer. He wrote four volumes of memoirs before failing health and loneliness forced him to return to the Netherlands. Toonder was twice widowed; his first wife, cartoonist and children's book illustrator Phiny Dick, passed away in 1990, his second, composer Tera de Marez Oyens, in 1996. In recent years, Toonder, who was also pre-deceased by three of his four children, had got fed up with life. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Very little of Toonder's output can be seen online. In addition to the Lambiek biography, check out Pressibus.org for a rare online glimpse at Toonder's work.
Wikipedia entry on Marten Toonder, in Dutch.

Charts

July 27th, 2005 by Reinder

Webcomicsnation is now nearing its official launch, and in anticipation, the home page now shows a chart of the most visited comics. Two charts, actually: one for the day and one for the entire time the server has been live. Chronicles of the Witch Queen isn't on it, but who knows what will happen after that site has its official launch with The Double. On the other hand, the removal of the other series from the site won't help, initially.
Let's try to get it on that chart in the first week, eh?

Don’t make me regret paying you!

July 27th, 2005 by Reinder

First rule of ecommerce interfaces: After the customer has paid you, don't make him regret it, or he won't pay you again. I had a trial subscription to DeviantArt this week, and rather liked it. It runs out tomorrow.
Below is the page DeviantArt showed me today when I tried to log in:
Screenshot, click for enlargement

View image

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And another one in a series of mental notes…

July 27th, 2005 by Reinder

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is one of many public domain movies on the Internet Archive. Me want, so me will download when on the iBook. So should you. (Via)

Next litter of Fairport remasters

July 26th, 2005 by Reinder

Speaking of Amazon UK, they're listing reissues of Fairport Convention Nine, Live Convention and Rising for the Moon for August 1. I've been waiting for these records to arrive, going to the record store more often in the past few weeks. Nine in particular comes highly recommended, featuring some of Dave Pegg's finest bass work including some of the fast unison playing that was 1970s Fairport trademark style for instrumentals. Jerry Donahue plays guitar on all three records, and he's a fantastic musician as well. The latter two records feature Sandy Denny on vocals. I'm not all that familiar with Rising, but I'll review the remastered editions as soon as I can get my grubby little mitts on them.