I just sold a subscription to Modern Tales on the strength of my forum avatar! That's... unusual to say the least, but now that I think about it, it's not so strange. People like avatars and will spend quite a bit of time making nice ones, as anyone using Livejournal knows. I've made new versions of the Brushhead graphic for people to use if they want. The one on the right is a 150x150 version which may be too large for most applications, but here's the original 80x80 version and a 100x100 version, suitable for Livejournal (I'd like credit if you use it there).
Archive for August, 2005
Potentially useful resource for future reference: International Standard Paper Sizes an overview of common paper formats with some info on the underlying maths and the history of paper standards. It may look dull, but this matter occasionally comes up especially when exchanging art material with people on the other side of the Atlantic, and it's important to be able to point somewhere and say "that's what A4 means, now explain American paper densities to me."
Doctor: Well, that was pointless. Jack, what are you doing?
Jack: I just need to kill Lynda for a moment.
Doctor: Sure, might as well go two for two.
Jack: Stand right there, okay? (ZAP!)
Lynda: But -- GAK!
and from The Parting of the Ways:
Jack: All right, cannon fodder! Who's ready to die a gruesome death buying a few extra seconds for the Doctor to fiddle with gadgets upstairs while waffling through his ethical dilemmas?
Programmer: You're new at this hero thing, aren't you?
I don't know why a page from the comic is suddenly showing up at the top of the Waffle home page... it certainly doesn't appear in the posting interface's entry listings, the miniature indexes or in the RSS feed. It links to a broken archive within Waffle's archive space, but the permalink for it is the correct one for the Movable Type-based version of the webcomic.
I think Movable Type got a few screws loose. It's even quite possible that posting this will un-scramble things to the point where the faulty posting disappears. Let's see...
Update: Nope. Mysterious...
In my last review of the then-newest batch of Fairport Convention reissues, I mentioned that by the time of Rosie, the band were stuck without any original members and putting together an album consisting in part of left-over Fotheringay tracks. The result was a directionless album, and one wonders why any band would bother to go on after that experience. But go on they did, and being hard workers, it took them less than a year to come up with a much stronger follow-up, Nine. By then the five-piece line-up of Donahue, Lucas, Mattacks, Pegg and Swarbrick had settled in quite nicely, with Donahue in particular contributing some great musical ideas. The record starts off with Swarbrick singing over a hand-held drum in "The Hexhamshire Lass" which gradually goes crazy in its 2 1/2 minutes. Contrasting very strongly with that at first is Trevor Lucas's croak in "Polly on the Shore", a traditional lyric set to new music by Dave Pegg, which is in turn followed by a fast Donahue instrumental and the gentle ballad "To Althea From Prison". But although the album is rich in contrasts, it's at all times recognisably the work of one band, recording mostly live in the studio. The strongest aspect of the album throughout is the unison playing between the guitar, fiddle and occasionally the bass guitar. In the album's other instrumental "Tokyo" Pegg's bass keeps up with the fast, long melody introduced by the lead guitar, picked up by an overdubbed guitar recorded at half speed, and taken over by the fiddle which is joined by Pegg's perfectly articulated rumble.
After that track, the album begins to flounder a little. "Bring'Em Down" by Lucas is a decent Dylanish protesty kind of thing, but with "Big William" and "Pleasure and Pain" the songwriting begins to lose me. The original album at least closes with a good, country-esque song, "Possibly Parson's Green" but by then it has forfeited its claim to being anywhere near as good as the earlier Fairport albums. It's still in my personal Fairport top ten though.
The new edition has four bonus tracks, one of which is actually interesting: a frenzied version of the instrumental "Fiddlestix" recorded live with an orchestra. The orchestral arrangement is a good one, adding to the dynamics of this fast, furious piece.
Now this is more like it! Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones was so compelling that I couldn't put it down, even when it was getting a bit late and I needed sleep. As a result, my reading of it towards the end became a bit sloppy and I had to stop myself a few times to go back a few pages to see what I missed. No matter: this is one novel I'll be sure to pick up again some time. Despite being written for a Grade 6 reading level, it's a layered story that rewards repeated reading.
Diana Wynne Jones is the writer of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a catalogue of fantasy clichés, so it's no surprise that this novel starts out in a very familiar fantasy setting (a pre-modern, monarchical society with wizards and witches actually existing) and with a story cliché to turn on its head: the heroine, Sophie Hatter, is the oldest of three sisters, and therefore expects she will never amount to anything. Wynne Jones has been very succesful in fleshing out this idea with psychologically credible elder-sibling behaviours: Sophie accepts her lot in life, shows responsibility towards the younger sisters, trusts authority, believes what she is told and makes safe, respectable choices - or rather, lets her (on the whole benign) stepmother make those choices for her. Meanwhile, her sisters show talent, attractive personalities as well as physical beauty, and an ability to think outside the box. (Continues with minor spoilers)
... in the latest New Yorker online.
I spent last evening drawing angry art. I started out copying some LOTR movie orcs as a kind of study for a snarly, monstrous drawing I had in mind I had in my mind, inspired by a Szukalski piece and an unfinished drawing Yonaka showed me. Then I got sidetracked and drew angry self-portraits instead. The one on the right came out pretty close to the way I've been feeling lately - full of pent-up hatred. (Note: It's been a while since my head was last shaved, so I don't actually look like this right now. But the skinhead factor makes these portraits work better.)
This one didn't work quite as well, but is still interesting enough to show here. It's more contemptuous than angry, so it doesn't quite project my mood as well as the first.
I wonder how it would affect people's responses if I used one of these as a message board avatar. People's avatars tend to be either clear fantasies or cute, benign images. Would my postings on message boards be seen as more inflammatory if they were flanked by a portrait of the artist as a man seething with hate?
The pose implied in the first self-portrait, looking over one hunched shoulder, and the bald head, reminded me of the movie Nosferatu, so here's a not-very-good drawing of me as Count Nosfereinder, Eldritch Creature of the Night. While working on these drawings, something happened to my 5B pencil. The lead had got loose in the wooden shaft, causing it to shift inside. In the end, I pulled the lead out and used it like I would a graphite pencil. Without the ability to sharpen reliably, I couldn't get a fine line out of it anymore, which affected the Nosfereinder drawing. Not to blame my tools of course; I deliberately continued with this modified pencil, trying to see what I could do with it. Unfortunately the answer is "not much" especially because a very thin 5B lead is prone to snap.
With those and other drawings (which you won't get to see because they're pretty bad), I got my anger out of my system. Just prior to waking up this morning, I had an odd dream.
Fafblog interviews the Democratic Party:
FAFBLOG: So what's up, Democrats?
JOE BIDEN: What's up is the war in Iraq, which is terribly mismanaged, Fafnir.
FB: Oh wow! Are you guys against the war, too?
JOE LIEBERMAN: Oh no, we're not AGAINST the war!
HARRY REID: We're all FOR it!
BIDEN: It's the best worst idea in the world, and we're gonna run with it to victory!
HILLARY CLINTON: Watch me eat a bug!
FB: So we can actually win the war! That's great news!
REID: Sort of!
CLINTON: I can wrestle a buffalo!
FB: I'm confused.
REID: The problem is troop levels, Fafnir. The US invaded without enough boots on the ground!
LIEBERMAN: Just another couple hundred thousand soldiers on the ground and hey, we should have this thing wrapped up in no time!
BIDEN: Just like I told George Bush all along! I told him in the Oval Office, "You're gonna go in without enough troops and you're not gonna plan for the occupation and it's gonna be the biggest mistake of your presidency and I'm gonna vote for it!"
Confusingly, the rest of the blog appears to be satire.
Grunts by Mary Gentle is one of those books I've been meaning to read for a long time, but putting off. I wanted to read it because the cover and blurb suggested something very similar to Terry Pratchett's Guards novels: a humorous story about the people whose job in other, conventional, fantasy novels would be to get butchered by the truckload. I put it off for fear that it would be nothing more than that: a Pratchettesque concept only not as good. Fortunately, it keeps getting reprinted. Grunts, as it turns out, is a much better novel than I had any right to expect; nevertheless, it didn't quite click for me.