Archive for November, 2005
CURSE my brother for showing up at our band rehearsal with a bad cold last Friday! CURSE him with HELLFIRE and DAMNATION!
I'm going back to bed now.
I had forgotten how much joy I used to get out of drawing that silly series I started nearly 15 years ago. These past days I've been on a roll. Work on the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story "Headsmen" is progressing slowly, but smoothly. I'm enjoying it immensely.
The new story brings back an old villain from the early days of the series: Barnardus Pothelmus, the annoyingly succesful bandit who used to make off with Tamlin's gang's loot on a regular basis. He's going to have a lot of screen time together with Kel, so I drew this as a rough guide to their relative heights.
Barnardus' first appearance in the story, with members of his gang. All of them have been slightly redesigned to make them a little more striking and to fit my current drawing style. The lady with the fan on a stick now has a name: Rose Potter, after the lead character in a particularly awful Harry Potter fanfic Adam demolished in Livejournal recently. The guy in the animal hides and the barbarian swordswoman don't have names yet, but I'm working on them. I am seriously considering writing more stories involving the rivalry between Barnardus' and Tamlin's gangs.
This one shows why the work is going slowly. In addition to working on larger sheets of paper (An A3 sheet for half a page, just like in the old days), I am working more systematically, so I put in backgrounds on pages that are already partly inked and even test-spot black areas in pencil. This is a lot of work, but very satisfying when it's done.
Buy me time to spend on this story! Read all about the sponsor program, or just donate whatever you'd like to.
Passwords are still the bane of my life *).
The last time I wrote about this, people recommended I used password management software. I downloaded one of the recommended apps, entered those passwords I could still remember, set a master password and promptly forgot it. Usually, I could remember the master password on the third or fourth try, so I got some use out of it, but nevertheless I can write off the "keep them in a local app" strategy as a failure. The password manager wasn't much use when I needed to type a password on one of my other machines, and because of my problem remembering the master password, it was as much of a hassle as guessing my passwords in the first place. Also, a few weeks ago when we reinstalled the studio PC I forgot to back up the program's files and lost all the passwords anyway. I don't even remember what the app is called.
The only thing that helps is good password retrieval functionality in online apps. I'd like to take this opportunity to boo and hiss at Skype which will not do anything for me other than send me a new, random, password. This stone-age solution would be usable if the software itself actually did what it promised and remembered its own passwords. In my bitter and recent experience since last weekend's internet outage at the studio, it does not, so in the past two days I've requested two new random passwords. The second time I remembered to forward the password to my gmail address so it won't vanish into thin air again.
iTunes, which I need to login to on two different machines to authorise the second machine to play the DRM'ed music I bought from them (I find the DRM just about acceptible at the prices they charge but may change my mind if it turns out that I can't easily un-authorise the old, erased Windows installation) does better; unfortunately their system is still defeated by users whose stupidity is as resourceful as mine, and when it is, it fights back using some stupidity of its own. To retrieve my password I have to enter my email address, my date of birth and the answer to a secret question I fed it when I signed up. Can you guess what happened when I did that? I got two out of three right.
Secret questions work when they're something dumb like your mother's maiden name or other things that you can easily remember and third parties can easily find out. Mine was too inventive (but secure). All right, that's my own fault. The correct answer is some variant of a word with one syllable missing or maybe some numbers tacked on, or some odd use of capitals. I don't know. What does irritate me is that having guessed wrong twice, I have to go back and enter my email address, and date of birth again! What's the point of that? Assuming that I'm not me, I have clearly got my hands on a correct combination of email address and DOB. iTunes confirmed to me that those data were correct by letting me go on to the secret question. So if I'm a fraud, I'm not going to enter a different combination. If I'm me, on the other hand, I'm going to get angry about having to jump through that hoop again. So "Yay!" to iTunes for getting the basics right, but "Boo!" to them for not thinking through all contingencies.
Addendum: There is an alternative. You can have them send an email with instructions to reset your password. Do I need to explain why I don't want this? I guess I'll just write it down and stick it to my monitor like everyone else, this time.
Anyway. Wanna be richer than Bill Gates and maybe snap up a Nobel Prize or two? Invent something better than passwords and you'll deserve that and more.
*) Except of course for several hundred other things that are the bane of my life. My life has many a bane. Woe is me.
The group blog Crooked Timber is holding a seminar on Susanna Clarke and her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (which I have given to two people so far without having read it myself - looking forward to it though). They've done one on China Mieville before.
Here's the Introduction to the seminar. Susanna Clarke is taking part herself.
They've got off to a flying start. I don't have time to read everything that's already posted, but will get back to it once I've read the novel. In the meantime, I thought some of you might like to know.
I'm sitting on a longer post about literary criticism on the internet, but focused more on the low end of the field: the livejournalers writing essays about Harry Potter for fun. I think the fact that people are writing literary criticism for fun, even if it's not exactly at the academic level (not being at the academic level has its advantages, by the way: the material posted to HP_Essays will be accessible and immediately useful to aspiring writers) will change the field a few years down the line, probably for the better. But that's something for a later posting.
This seminar, on the other hand, is by academics and will almost certainly be the sort of stuff that academics like to write about, if made slightly more accessible to the general public because it goes on a blog. Good. Yesterday, ROCR reader Martin Diehl emailed me with a question about lit crit that I was going to mull over a bit; it'll be helpful to be able to point somewhere and say "This is what they actually do" and also to be able to remind myself of just that. It's been 10 years since I got my degree, so some of my impressions of what people studying literature actually do have become a bit hazy and are probably out of date anyway.
The ADSL at the studio has been down all weekend. This has its downsides: if it goes on I'll have trouble watching my websites and getting materials out to the world on time, and I can't quickly look up something I need a visual reference for. But it did mean I could spend two afternoons working undistracted. I'm actually half hoping it will take the building's Internet people a little longer to get things back online. Every day that I can spend working on my latest project before the busy busy month of December is a win.
What I'm working on is the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story Headsmen, which should fit neatly inbetween The Green Knight's Belt and the as yet-un-web-published 1992 story Alchemists. I want to run that in January, 2006.
It's not guaranteed that I will, though. Headsmen is the story referred to on the Fund Drive page. After a promising start, the fund drive has unfortunately fizzled and is falling well short of its goal for November.
What will I do if the targets aren't met for two months running? The targets represent the amount by which I've been coming up short financially this year (not counting some large purchases I've made which came out of savings). To prevent coming up short next year, I'm considering getting a part-time job that will still allow me time to work on my paid cartooning contracts, but will leave less time for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. Each update of the story that I'm working on now takes me a day to do from tearing a new sheet of paper out of the block to getting the finished update online, and that time needs to come in solid blocks if I'm to get anything done. I can't work in "stolen moments" as I've heard it called lately. So even a part time job will cut deeply into my ability to keep a regular update schedule.
If the donation campaign fails, I will probably finish the Headsmen story, but I will do so in my own sweet time, interrupting the update schedule even though I have other archival stories ready to go. The work on the website itself is still unfinished and just adding more material while expecting to insert another story into another gap later will only serve to make the archives more confusing than they already are. So I'll update things in the correct order, the one that will allow me to gradually fill the existing gaps without creating new ones, or not at all.
I would of course prefer to just work on ROCR. This last weekend was a good one, with just me, iTunes and a well-developed script. But after 5 1/2 years putting the series online including 2 1/2 years at Modern Tales, there comes a time when that becomes hard to do. I don't create this comic for the money but there has to be money coming in if I'm to be able to go on creating it. So if you want that daily ROCR fix to continue, please donate! The fund drive page has some more info about goodies for larger donors.
I'd show you another page-in-progress to help convince you further that I'm working on a level of quality that's worth paying for, but, er, the pages are on the studio PC. No internetty.
Daniel sent me so much stuff to run on the website, and the sculpture pics are so popular, that I've decided to post some extra updates this weekend. So today and tomorrow, there'll be new Odds and ends.
Starting today at Chronicles of the Witch Queen, we'll be showing some of Daniel's sculptures based on the comics. These were exhibited in Oslo in the mid-to-late 1990s, mostly as part as installations.
In his day job as a fine artist, Daniel is, I guess, a modern surrealist or magic realist. He works in a variety of media: painting, music and sculpture. His paintings tend to be large and use pale, translucent colours. His sculpture, on the other hand, is made at a small scale using paper pulp. Daniel's arthritis caused him to lose strength in his hands, so he can't work with tough, heavy materials. Paper pulp, while not durable, is lightweight and easy to move, so it's served him well in his temporary installations at galleries. Daniel reuses the individual pieces in different installations; especially his renditions of the Baron von Fieffelfalsfaffel (to be shown on the site later in the week) have shown up in different places over the years. Characters from the comics used in the sculpture groups also show up again in the paintings, on record covers and in animations.
When I visited Oslo in 1996, I saw both Daniel's work room and one small exhibit in a gallery there. The small scale, simple colors and materials make the installations look like worlds built with toys, like you used to do as a kid. Childhood nostalgia is a big theme in Daniel's work.
A quick reminder and explanation for new readers:
Chronicles of the Witch Queen is a collection of comics by Geir Strøm, Daniel Østvold and me, set in the same universe. They're humorous fantasy comics about the Undercity ruled by Queen Elspeth, the Witch Queen. Currently finished stories are:
The Double by Geir and Daniel. Servants Prudi and Tapper become embroiled in a Countess's plot to become Witch Queen instead of the Witch Queen.
The Eye of the Underworld by Geir and me. Queen Elspeth sends the alchemist Ioannes von Kildenbusch out to retrieve a magic jewel from the palace of Caliph Iznobezzer.
Thousandstab by Geir and Daniel. A short tale of enchanted household objects.
Staff Cutbacks by Geir and Daniel. Countess Alcydia can't get good staff, or get rid of the staff she doesn't need.
Courtly Manners by me. Duchess Guðrún introduces two debutants at Queen Elspeth's semi-annual ball. Paying subscribers only, for the time being.
Courtly Manners 2: The Unicorn Race by Geir and me. Against all expectations, Kel and Krakatoa are reinvited to Queen Elspeth's little do. Little do they know they're being used as part of a dastardly plot against the Queen. Paying subscribers only, for the time being.
The current series of Odds and Ends is an extended filler before our Christmas story starts running in December. It contains sketches, alternate pages and artworks derived from the Chronicles of the Witch Queen comics.
On a more positive note, here's something I've been working on: the first page of the sponsored Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic. We're not even near the fundraising target for November, but that's probably my own fault as I haven't been keeping you up to date on the project.
The 20-installment comic is 90% written and storyboarded. The way it looks now is that I will draw the whole thing in December, leaving no time to colour it before its scheduled run in January, 2006. However, judging from this snapshot of the penciled art for the first installment, taken last Wednesday, it looks like it will look pretty good in black and white. This half-page (it will be half a vertical page in print, anyway) is already mostly inked and it looks like I'll be able to draw one of those each day. If I can keep up that level of quality, I'll be very pleased.
Remember, your donations buy me time to work on the project, and there is something in it for you as well! Go to the fundraiser page for details.
Sigh... once again, there was a problem with the permissions for an archived ROCR page. I'd have sworn it was all right earlier this morning, but that must have been before the update rolled over as I was up pretty early by my own standards.
It is now fixed - the underlying problem has been fixed for a week, but there are still some updates left that have the incorrect permissions. Mithandir offered to run a script to reset those, but I declined, fearing that that would have unintended consequences elsewhere. Maybe that was a bad decision. Instead, I just correct those stragglers whenever I find them or someone tells me about them. And that is a real problem. Excuse me while I whine, beg, whimper, wheedle, get down on bended knees and otherwise act in an indignified manner below the cut: