Heavenly creatures: Cerebus and Bone

Salon (day-pass, or, better yet, subscription required) has a combined write-up of Cerebus and Bone, two long-running comics which both ended this year. It’s not very in-depth but for those of you who have sort of heard of these series and wonder what the fuss was about, it’s a good summary.

“Bone” and “Cerebus” share superficial similarities. They’re both drawn in black-and-white and self-published by their creators. In both, quirky, anthropomorphic beings shed light on mankind’s foibles and virtues. Both books extend their lives outside the comic shops through hefty, trade-paperback reprint volumes available at bookstore super chains. The 16th and last “Cerebus” collection, “The Last Day,” chronicles the aardvark’s final hours and publishes this month, while Smith will sandwich all 1,300 pages of “Bone” between two covers in a volume due to publish in July.

But beneath the surface, “Bone” and “Cerebus” prove to be so different, they’re almost like photographic negatives of each other. “Bone” celebrates optimism and narrative simplicity, while “Cerebus” embraces cynicism and experimentation worthy of a mad scientist. Sim and Smith started as comrades in arms, yet their relationship soured into one of the industry’s strangest feuds. “Bone” and “Cerebus” mark opposite ends of the comic-book spectrum in tone and complexity. Their heroes aren’t technically human, but you can place virtually all modern graphic novels somewhere between them.

There’s more. Read it. Don’t fear the Day Pass.

Feeling better

My three-paracetamol headache is over, I’m well-rested, fully functional and enthusiastic about my work. Let’s rock’n’roll.

Ignore the whinyness in that earlier post.

Changes to the blog

I’ve added the sidebar from the front page (this one, if you read the weblog through the inlined pages on the ROCR site) to the archive and category pages. Reasons:
1. I want to ease navigation from archived pages to the rest of the blog;
2. I like reading the blog better if the text is in a narrower column, and I expect that most of you feel the same.

The downside is that the archives are heavier now and will take a bit longer to load. When ROCR was still fully hosted at a free keespace site, I liked to keep the archive pages leaner than the front page, but in a weblog, people are much more likely to come in through other pages, and I’d like to give newcomers a full-featured webpage to explore. I’ll probably slim the sidebar on the archive pages down a bit in a few days though.

ShinyDisk watch: The Beastie Boys

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing reports that the new Beastie Boys record has copy protection, and responds to it in the same way that everyone else does when confronted with this technology:

… If the Beasties wanna treat me like a crook, I don’t want to be their customer.

Note that the only thing that this DRM is doing here is pissing off the honest fans who want open CDs; the DRM on the CD didn’t stop my source from making me a set of MP3s. In other words, if you plan on listening to the new disc on your iPod or laptop, you’re better off downloading a copy made by a cracker and posted on Kazaa — if you buy it in a shop, you’re going to have to go through the lawbreaking rigamarole of breaking the DRM yourself.

In an update, Cory passes along a comment:

Update: Ian sez, “Hi, I’m not sure who posted re: Beastie Boys copy protection, but I just spoke with Mike D and their management and they wanted me to pass along that a) This is all territories except the US and UK — US and UK discs do not have this protection on them; b) All EMI CDs are treated this way, theirs isn’t receiving special treatment; c) They would have preferred not to have the copy protection, but weren’t allowed to differ from EMI policy.”

I’m pretty sure that c) is bunk. The copy protection has been the norm for EMI since the second half of 2003, but I recently bought the European edition of the remastered version of Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut with a copyright date of 2004, and it’s unprotected. Apparently, the guys from Pink Floyd, even now that Roger Waters is no longer talking to the others, still have enough clout to prevent Copy Control technology that, in addition to the concerns Cory raises, also harms playability and degrade the sound. Over at Virgin records, Peter Gabriel also succesfully resisted the use of Copy Control on his remaster series, so it can be done.

Beastie Boys fans on the European continent are well advised to get the UK edition from a mail order supplier (so that if it turns out to be a ShinyDisk after all, they can return it as defective).

(Just by way of a reminder: the UK-based Campaign for Digital Rights have all the info on what Copy Control technologies actually do, and it’s from a reference in one of their articles (can’t remember which though) that I got the idea of calling CCT “CD”s ShinyDisks.)

Cluster headaches and pessimism

A nasty cluster headache ganged up on me today and I got little work done. This may or may not affect Friday’s update; there is still time to catch up. Still, it’s unwelcome at a time when I’m doing some really difficult writing.

Just as I was about to write about this, a reader asked me why there was an Iframe with this blog on it in an old ROCR archive page at Modern Tales. The answer is simple: because the current Modern Tales system does not allow artists to add a blog (or anything else) to the template for any page, the only way to add a blog is to peg it manually to an episode, at or near update time. If you forget to remove it from the old episode, you get it in the middle of an archive. It’s removed now.

Uhm, it’s been in that archive location for about three months. I’ve said this before: I make mistakes. That is annoying but I can live with it. I’ll even admit that I sometimes react crabbily when they’re pointed out. That depends partly on my mood and partly on the nature of the correction. “You substituted ‘different’ for ‘difficult’ in your latest blog entry” is more likely to be accepted with gratitude than “typo in your blog”. But even an unspecific heads-up is better than none at all, and if a large Iframe with text is interposed in a continuous archive for no apparent reason, and just sits there for three months like a big elephant in a small room without anyone saying “Hey, what’s this? Why is it there?”, then it gets unbelievably demotivating when it finally is pointed out. Right now, in my cluster-headache-induced mental haze, I’m wondering who even reads those archives and why I even bother to go on.

I don’t ask much from my readers. I don’t call on them to buy merchandise or donate anymore, not since I joined Modern Tales. I don’t ask readers to shill for the comic on their websites, and I’ve even given up on expecting feedback on the forum.

But just every once in a while I need some sign that people care. It doesn’t hurt my feelings when people point out a typo in the comic or take me to task for some other screwup on the website or in the archives – what hurts my feelings is that they don’t ever do. Even when I unexpectedly stopped updating for weeks because I couldn’t get into my ftp accounts, it took weeks for people to start asking me if I was still alive. I’m creating in a vacuum and I don’t like it a bit.

I’ll move the contact link on the front page up a bit so it’s more visible. But I think I moved it down in the fairly recent past precisely because no one used it anyway.

Drawing the Trial

cormorant I’m having fun with this. Lady Justice and her bird will be in bronze. The bronze looked the most convincing on the bird’s wings, for some reason.

Writing the Trial, part 4

Getting there now. I’ve got the order in which witnesses appear, I’ve got a good sense of the space in which things will take place, I’ve got tactics for the prosecution to follow with each witness, and I’ve sent copies of the draft scripts to trusted writers for criticism. Tomorrow I’ll start sketching out the first few pages, and drawing the first page of the trial. There are some gaps but they occur late in the sequence. I expect I’ll be able to fill these in while also working on the first couple of pages.

I’m still developing it at a visual level. I just took half an hour to design a fitting Statue of Justice. I toyed with the idea of using the Lady Justice at the US Department of Justice in her un-burqa’ed glory, but abandoned that when I realised that, judging from the pictures I could find online, it’s just not a great sculpture.

I did some very quick research into the origins of the iconography of Lady Justice (nothing deeper than just clicking on a few web links I had in front of me anyway), and then decided it might be more fun if I created my own iconography, unrelated to the Ancient Greek and Egyptian symbols that make up the image of justice in Euro-American culture. The Gnomian Lady Justice is a humanoid female brandishing a sieve and… one other attribute, and is accompanied by a cormorant. She is emphatically not blindfolded.

I won’t show a jury, but the lawyers will argue and object as if there was one, because it’s just too much fun that way. I’ll just have to highlight the fallibility of the panel of judges instead.

Whinging UKIP idiot makes reinder go librarian-poo!!!

Listening to news and current affairs radio is a bad habit that I should lose. A few minutes ago I heard a report by the station’s UK correspondent sampling opinions from voters for the UK Independence Party. Asked why they voted UKIP, one voter had the gall to reply “I don’t want to be in a totalitarian regime”!
Excuse me? Excuse me? Have you been arbitrarily arrested lately? Denied Habeas Corpus? Tortured, perhaps? Disenfranchised? Barred from travel, denied access to outside news sources?
A month ago, 10 countries that, less than two decades ago, had totalitarian regimes were finally allowed to be part of the EU, a prize that the democratic governments of these countries fought hard to qualify for. Several other countries including Turkey are still grasping for that brass ring, and one stumbling block for Turkey is its human rights record, which it is trying to improve just so it has better chance of joining. If any of these countries thought they were joining a totalitarian regime, would they bother?

There is a lot wrong with the EU. Improvements can certainly be made to the democratic representation and accountability. Some of the money that goes to the EU is very badly spent – the world would become a better place quickly if its agricultural subsidies were scrapped, for example. But anyone who seriously claims it’s a totalitarian regime has is something very badly wrong with them.

And if totalitarianism offends you at all, UKIP is about the last party you should vote for. Here’s what Johann Hari had to say about the UKIP:

Searchlight even alleges that UKIP’s current national chairman and one of its leading candidates, Mike Nattrass, has been a member of the extreme right, pro-Apartheid, pro-Rhodesia New Britain Party.

UKIP boasts that it now requires all candidates to declare they are not racists. Yet they don’t seem to try very hard to make sure these anti-racist declarations are accurate: Private Eye recently provided a summary of the public racism of UKIP’s new star recruit, Robert Kilroy-Silk. “Pakistanis want to generate hate … but then what else can we expect from Pakistan?” he asks. Iraqis are “not worth the life of one British soldier, not one. All they seem to do is moan, incessantly, about their lack of amenities”. He raves against “pushy blacks” and “talentless Asians”, and suggests that asylum- seekers should be “herded together” by the paras and “dumped on a secure slow boat to … wherever”.

Yup, liberal democracy is in great hands with these people.

Continue reading “Whinging UKIP idiot makes reinder go librarian-poo!!!”

I want my, I want my, I want my MRLP

In the UK, the Monster Raving Loony Party used to be a good lightning rod for the disaffected. They could vote for a party that consisted of harmless nutters who were in it for laughs (or maybe that should read “critics wishing to expose the inherent sillyness of the political process”), safe in the knowledge that if they had any sensible policy, it would be by accident (but it would become law in 20 years time).
Since the death of its charismatic and fearless leader, Screaming Lord Sutch (“His views on whether there should be more than one Monopolies Commission also gave many pause.”), the party has never been the same.

Without a leader who has Sutch’s charisma, vision and sheer barking madness, the MRLP is spent. So who should replace him? Post in the comments.

And be nice. Don’t say “Tony Blair”.