Archive for February, 2006

Bicycle repair question for readers in Groningen

February 27th, 2006 by Reinder

Question for my readers in Groningen (I know there are quite a few):
Given that bicycle repair shop Herman van der Meulen in the Oosterhamrikkade have failed three times in a row to fix my brake permanently, that the guys at Vincent van Ellen in the Oude Ebbingestraat are a little too concerned with keeping their precious shop floor squeaky clean and that the skilled craftsmen at the Ferwerda complex of bicycle shops covering half the Steentilstraat would rather laugh at my lack of mechanical savvy than take my money for goods provided or services rendered, where should I go if I want to have my bicycle repaired? I'd prefer shops that are open on Monday morning or at other times when I might actually need them, but proven ability to fix things so that they stay fixed has a higher priority than that. Let me know.

Speed-coloring update

February 26th, 2006 by Reinder

I've got a big list of recently-recoloured pages from 2001 up at my DeviantArt site. I must have driven my Watchers over there nuts with over a hundred updates in just two and a half weeks.

Like I wrote on February 9, I've been going through the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives for 2001 and cleaning up old episodes, looking especially for black and white pages in stories that also had colour pages. At the time, I'd started the project on a bit of a whim, because I was a bit ill and wanted something to do that was easy and free from pressure. The aims were two-fold: to make the archives for The Corby Clan, Dolphins and Dragons and Sauna Opera more consistent, and to become more comfortable with Photoshop.

Being comfortable working with something, of course, is very different from simply knowing how to do the work. It's an important difference: it's what keeps me going back to Paint Shop Pro even though that package's poor stability very nearly cancels out any productivity gains I make by being able to work the lettering tools, the vector drawing tools and the vector object organisation without having to slow down and think. I haven't done a whole lot of lettering as part of this coloring project, but I have been able to do a little bit, so I'm getting closer to that goal of being able to do the lettering and word balloons in Photoshop smoothly and efficiently.
Other things I've learned:
- I've memorised the most-used keyboard shortcuts to the point where I know them at least as well as in PSP;
- I've familiarised myself with how Photoshop handles input from the tablet. In other words, I've got a better 'feel' for drawing lines and shapes digitally. This 'feel' has eluded me for a long time while working with other programs.
- I've learned to use layer effects. They're a bit of a hidden feature inside the layer palette, but once you've found them they're easy enough to use.
- I've learned to use adjustment layers, particularly the Hue/Saturation/Brightness layer. I've colorised and decolorised pages with those. I'm not quite sure how to properly prevent parts of an image from being affected by the adjustment layer - simply cutting parts out of the adjustment layer mask doesn't quite work, and stacking the parts I want to exempt above the adjustment layer can become tedious if those parts themselves have pixels in multiple layers.
-I've learned to deal with PS's straight line tools, which at least in PS 7 are considerably more cumbersome than PSP's vector-based straight lines, but workable if you create new layers for them manually.

Of course, now that I've finished the colorings, I want to upload them to the ROCR site as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I can't do that just yet, because some of the functionality in WillowCMS isn't quite working for those sections of the archive that were imported as a batch, and tinkering with those parts of the archive could become a very tedious and error-prone process. So for now, that listing on DeviantArt is the place to go if you want to see the revamped images.

Orgasmatralalaika

February 17th, 2006 by Reinder

Post about classic rock tracks in Northern Asian ethnic style just once and people will start pestering you with more of that. Danny alerted me to a cover of Motörhead's Orgasmatron with Tuvan throat singing. One to download and keep.

A Bear called, er, Jeremy

February 16th, 2006 by Reinder

Another quick one from my childhood: Drawn's Jay Stephens reminisces on A Bear Called Jeremy. I recognised this guy at once... funny how all the media my brother and I consumed when we were little has stayed with me, when I can hardly remember anything I actually did myself.

Anyway. This fella was known to me as Beertje Colargol, het beertje dat kan zingen and seeing him again brought a little smile to my face. Maybe I should try writing and drawing for children's television, to brainwash a generation or two into loving my creations.

[cmkaapjes] Keep your cash in your pocket

February 16th, 2006 by cmkaapjes

The genre of biopics is not one that has given us many memorable titles, at least not many come to mind: Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, Bird seem to be happy exceptions. I always hope a picture will exceed my expectations, but in the case of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the line this sadly did not happen. Though Johnny Cash's life was interesting enough, the makers of the movie concentrated solely on the lovestory between him and June Carter. The result: a sappy run-of-the-mill love story with a great soundtrack.

Joaquin Phoenix tried hard to mimic Johnny Cash's voice and movements, and though he's not a great actor, succeeded well enough. The screenplay however, lacks in originality and nowhere in the story we get a clear picture of the man Johnny Cash. We only get clues in the form of the death of his brother and his relationship with his father. But American Christian morality is poured over it like a thick nauseating gravy, so that we're never sure about his true feelings. I suspect he hated the man that put him down like that, but honouring ones parents seems to be the prevailing sentiment. June Carter is portrayed as a prom-queen goody-two-shoes, and we get absolutely no idea why she puts up with the pill-popping rock star Cash.
The movie starts out promising with a glimpse of the famous Fulsom-prison show. Then we're treated to the obligatory flash-backs of his youth, the obligatory flash-backs of his early tours with the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. This part of the movie is quite enjoyable though, mainly because of the many musical scenes. These scenes seem to be for name-dropping purposes mainly and do little to speed the story forward. The name dropping reaches its height with Cash's friend Waylon Jennings being featured in two scenes, without the audience once being told who this long-haired guitar-toting guy is, or what his relationship with Johnny is. Cash's friendship with Bob Dylan is also hinted at, but never plays a role anywhere.
When due to his addiction to amphetamines the touring comes to an end, so does whatever momentum the movie had. I was very glad my friend had brought a small bottle of scotch to the theatre. It was the only thing keeping me going through the long and tedious scenes of Reese Whitherspoon (who could do with an extra couple of pounds in my book) getting Cash to give up his addiction. After a grueling half hour of family-oriented scenes he beats his addiction and we get on with the show. Thankfully the soundtrack picks up here to guide us through the last romantic scenes.

I was very surprised to see that rottentomatoes gives it a fresh rating of 83%. Apart from it being about Johnny Cash, and thus having a good soundtrack, it really is a mediocre lovestory at best. No doubt it'll do great at the Oscars...

Banner and music memeage

February 14th, 2006 by Reinder

I've got a new 88 * 31 microbanner up in case you want to do exciting things! Like linking visually to Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan on your own website!
Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan
Feel free to deeplink; it's only a small file.

Since that's not enough to fill a post with, here's a music quiz. Random playlist, first 20 songs, first line or two of each (not counting spoken interjections, and I'll be skipping the Sigur Ros stuff because it doesn't come with lyric sheets. Also, I'll skip the instrumentals and any band or artist showing up twice). Guess! I'll update with the correct guesses and credit for them. It's a varied list and may be a bit more difficult than many other such quizzes, but quite a few of these tracks came from recent free CDs given away by record stores or coming with international music magazines so they shouldn't be completely unguessable. Others are from records mentioned on this very blog, so there's an opportunity for you to cheat.

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Hack attempt on server last night – tread carefully

February 11th, 2006 by Reinder

Last night, there was a hacking attempt on Xepher.net, the server that hosts this blog and rocr.net. From the Xepher.net homepage:

Server was down for about 3 hours today, as an attack secretly added a small bit of javascript to most webpages here. The script would open a small/unseen iframe that loaded another site with many, many viruses and other malware. At most, this code was in place for 4 hours, and it only affects internet explorer on windows. I've since patched the software that had the hole in it, as well as run a script to remove the exploit code from all the infected pages. There should be no remaining damage. Still, as always, let me know if something's broken or funky.

The hole allowing hackers to put malicious scripts on index pages was in OpenSSL, which ironically is server-side security software, Xepher explains in his forums. People running Opera or Firefox were safe from the malicious scripts, hint hint.

Revamping The Corby Clan

February 9th, 2006 by Reinder

Previously I wrote

I'm also playing with the thought of colouring some of the stories that are already online, because I've grown rather fond of colour, and some of the stories alternate between colour and black and white, which is distracting.

Well today I was a bit sick, but not sick enough to stay at home, so I dug up some high-res scans I had lying around and started colouring some of the pages of the The Corby Clan storyline in Photoshop. Artistically, it wasn't very challenging (if it was, I wouldn't have picked a semi-sick day to do it) but it was good practice at doing simple things quickly in Photoshop. While working on them, I realised that the pages as published were also a bit on the small side, so I gave the new versions a size upgrade to a width of 550 pixels with margins. I also dug out the first couple of pages that had already been published in colour and resized them. The revamped pages aren't yet on the website - they're awaiting your judgment at my DeviantArt gallery. Please take a look and tell me what you think. If people don't hate them, I'll put the entire storyline on the website in this revised form.

Alchemists and what happens next

February 8th, 2006 by Reinder

The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story Headsmen ended on Tuesday. I had a great time making it, and I consider it the best short ROCR story I've ever done. It helped rebuild my confidence that I can draw and write a bit, which had been fading in recent months.
It was, however, very exhausting and labour-intensive for me to create. So I've decided, subject to me suddenly and irrationally changing my mind, not to do any more short stories to insert between the older storylines to be run on the website in the near future. Instead, I'll just focus on projects that are already partly and wholly written: Feral, a ROCR story I wanted to use for the Hurricane Relief Webcomics Telethon but couldn't because it was too involved; Muscle, an adventure story featuring Tamlin written by Adam Cuerden; Yool, a Courtly Manners Christmas special, and Courtly Manners #3. All of these need revising, but none of these will be due any time soon, which suits me just fine.

In the meantime, I'll be publishing the remaining pre-web Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories. Alchemists from 1992 is first, followed by the much longer The Death Warrant. After that, some old short stories I still haven't published, then King's Drama. If all goes well, which it won't necessarily, that should keep me updating regularly until October or so.
I'm also playing with the thought of colouring some of the stories that are already online, because I've grown rather fond of colour, and some of the stories alternate between colour and black and white, which is distracting.
I'm also hoping to have time to do some spin-off stuff, develop some new comic concepts and stretch myself a little. But we'll see.

Meanwhile, Chronicles of the Witch Queen will remain on hold for a little longer. Geir is exhausted from the combination of work, commuting and raising a small child, and I'm not quite ready to resume my editing work. We'll do it in our own sweet time and aim to get the new material online in a few months; note the lack of a specific ETA.

Highway Star, Siberian-style.

February 7th, 2006 by Reinder

Here's a bit o'Siberian classic rock for ya: The Deep Purple track Highway Star performed with chinese bamboo flute, shaman drums, Siberian Top-Shur and throat-singing, by Father Gorry. The ogg file is the full version; for some reason it saved as text with a .txt extention on my computer, but once I'd changed the extention I could play it. The production is a bit amateurish with some not quite smooth cuts in the track, but it's still fun to listen to. The page also has tributes to Metallica and Roger Waters.
(via the Highway Star blog, which also showcases a live cover version of Burn in shred-metal style by Mr. Big. Not my cuppa tea but the musicianship is impressive.)