Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Okay... Long Time No Post...

I need a solution. Right now I am too all over the place with the comic and this blog, and so on and so forth. I want it all "under one roof" so to say. Just to make it easier on me, I need to find a way to have the webcomic(s), this blog, art I produce, and my portfolio in one easy to access spot online. Right now I'm toying with the idea of looking into Drupal, but I'm not sure it will have an answer for me.


So here's an outline of what I need:



  1. A place for [nemesis] and my other projects that allows me to design custom navigation. Navigation for [nemesis] was better before I jumped to Webcomics Nation, and I'd like it to be that way again. It would also be nice to replace my WCN bill with a potentially smaller bill that comes with the capacity to run different kinds of sites.

  2. A place for my design portfolio, so I can start building up my own small stable of freelance clients. My job feels stable (today) but I'd still like to be able to hedge my bets by building up some freelance income.

  3. A place to post/share/sell original art that isn't a site like DeviantART or Portfolio.com. They're too big a pain in my ass to be worth the time. Fun, but not particularly useful. And in the case of Portfolio.com, expensive.

  4. This blog. I want to keep it updated, but with it being separate from the comics page, and separate from the comic site altogether, it's a bit of a pain to handle.

  5. I'd like to be able to start other projects too. I am not great fan of hucksters and conspiracy theorists. To that end I've had two different ideas that would be best executed using webspace of my own. (Specifically the Florida Hovercraft Initiative, and something called silver bands... ask me about them, I will go into the ideas inexcruciating detail)

  6. A place to track comments and sell goods(like the collected [nemesis]) online. This just seems easier than the current mishmash of crud that doesn't work very well.


After poking around Drupal, I've come to the conclusion that it might be what I need, but it also could be a glorious mess. I am totally open to suggestions.


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Okay... Long Time No Post...

I need a solution. Right now I am too all over the place with the comic and this blog, and so on and so forth. I want it all "under one roof" so to say. Just to make it easier on me, I need to find a way to have the webcomic(s), this blog, art I produce, and my portfolio in one easy to access spot online. Right now I'm toying with the idea of looking into Drupal, but I'm not sure it will have an answer for me.


So here's an outline of what I need:



  1. A place for [nemesis] and my other projects that allows me to design custom navigation. Navigation for [nemesis] was better before I jumped to Webcomics Nation, and I'd like it to be that way again. It would also be nice to replace my WCN bill with a potentially smaller bill that comes with the capacity to run different kinds of sites.

  2. A place for my design portfolio, so I can start building up my own small stable of freelance clients. My job feels stable (today) but I'd still like to be able to hedge my bets by building up some freelance income.

  3. A place to post/share/sell original art that isn't a site like DeviantART or Portfolio.com. They're too big a pain in my ass to be worth the time. Fun, but not particularly useful. And in the case of Portfolio.com, expensive.

  4. This blog. I want to keep it updated, but with it being separate from the comics page, and separate from the comic site altogether, it's a bit of a pain to handle.

  5. I'd like to be able to start other projects too. I am not great fan of hucksters and conspiracy theorists. To that end I've had two different ideas that would be best executed using webspace of my own. (Specifically the Florida Hovercraft Initiative, and something called silver bands... ask me about them, I will go into the ideas inexcruciating detail)

  6. A place to track comments and sell goods(like the collected [nemesis]) online. This just seems easier than the current mishmash of crud that doesn't work very well.


After poking around Drupal, I've come to the conclusion that it might be what I need, but it also could be a glorious mess. I am totally open to suggestions.


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Monday, June 12, 2006

Woo-hoo

So. I finally got the collected TPB of Chapters 1-4 of [nemesis] finished and uploaded to Lulu. I am waiting for it with explosive anticipation.


There is a bit of a problem though. The book as it stands now is about $22. Which, with shipping, means that a 108 page TPB costs almost $25. That's a lot of cash. I'm also thinking of breaking the chapters up into more regularly sized saddle stiched books, through a company like Comixpress or some such. I think I could get the price down around $7 or so, maybe. It remains to be seen how the Lulu book looks. If it's as good as I hope, there may be no need to worry about it. Although, $22 is still alot for what I'm offering.


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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Problem With Homeland Security

There are two things you should learn the first evening of a martial arts class: The best way to win a fight is to avoid it, and if someone doesn’t care what happens to them it is impossible to stop them from hurting you.


The first point is the very best case for Diplomacy that can be made, so much so that the very motivations of our leaders who are itching to fight  should be called  into question.


But the second point is one that should be considered regarding all the hoo-ha surrounding the “leaks” in our defense strategy. It is impossible to completely defend yourself against people who will die to hurt you. You might be able to stop them from killing you, but you can't stop them from hurting you. A country is made up of people, we are the corpus of our homeland. To destroy a country, the people must no longer act as though they are a country. This can be achieved either by killing enough of them that the remainder become absorbed elsewhere, or it can be achieved by convincing the people of a country to give it up.


It is with this in mind that I say this about the September 11 attacks of 2001: we were hurt, but we were not killed. Our government did do a pretty good job of limiting how we could be hurt, in spite of itself. It is not possible to create a vacuum-sealed border where we maintain a perfect homeostasis with the rest of the Earth. It won't work, because there will always be a way to hurt us, so long as there is a motivation to do so.


The best way to defend against Terrorism is to stop the fight before it happens, and it is in this area that our Government has become increasingly incompetent. Diplomacy is not just a lost art in the neocon world in which we now live, it is a despised tactic by the high and the low alike. That is to say that the Bush administration is not really concerned with our safety, with our well-being, nor is it particularly sophisticated in the way in which it prefers to deal with foreign policy matters. It would be unfair to leave the Clinton Administration out of this, since they controlled the Executive branch for 8 years before Bush and his cronies got elected.


I know this sounds terrible, but it's true. It will never be possible to completely stop terrorists from hurting us as a country. All we will be able to do is make it miserable for the law abiding citizens who live here. The erosion of civil liberties will not make us safer, it will make us less American. It is our Bill of Rights which really makes us who we are as a country, and if it is destroyed then Al Qaeda has succeeded in destroying America. Remember, to kill a country, you either kill enough people, or you convince them they aren't that country anymore.


It seems that we might be doing most of the Terrorists’ work for them.


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The Problem With Homeland Security

There are two things you should learn the first evening of a martial arts class: The best way to win a fight is to avoid it, and if someone doesn’t care what happens to them it is impossible to stop them from hurting you.


The first point is the very best case for Diplomacy that can be made, so much so that the very motivations of our leaders who are itching to fight  should be called  into question.


But the second point is one that should be considered regarding all the hoo-ha surrounding the “leaks” in our defense strategy. It is impossible to completely defend yourself against people who will die to hurt you. You might be able to stop them from killing you, but you can't stop them from hurting you. A country is made up of people, we are the corpus of our homeland. To destroy a country, the people must no longer act as though they are a country. This can be achieved either by killing enough of them that the remainder become absorbed elsewhere, or it can be achieved by convincing the people of a country to give it up.


It is with this in mind that I say this about the September 11 attacks of 2001: we were hurt, but we were not killed. Our government did do a pretty good job of limiting how we could be hurt, in spite of itself. It is not possible to create a vacuum-sealed border where we maintain a perfect homeostasis with the rest of the Earth. It won't work, because there will always be a way to hurt us, so long as there is a motivation to do so.


The best way to defend against Terrorism is to stop the fight before it happens, and it is in this area that our Government has become increasingly incompetent. Diplomacy is not just a lost art in the neocon world in which we now live, it is a despised tactic by the high and the low alike. That is to say that the Bush administration is not really concerned with our safety, with our well-being, nor is it particularly sophisticated in the way in which it prefers to deal with foreign policy matters. It would be unfair to leave the Clinton Administration out of this, since they controlled the Executive branch for 8 years before Bush and his cronies got elected.


I know this sounds terrible, but it's true. It will never be possible to completely stop terrorists from hurting us as a country. All we will be able to do is make it miserable for the law abiding citizens who live here. The erosion of civil liberties will not make us safer, it will make us less American. It is our Bill of Rights which really makes us who we are as a country, and if it is destroyed then Al Qaeda has succeeded in destroying America. Remember, to kill a country, you either kill enough people, or you convince them they aren't that country anymore.


It seems that we might be doing most of the Terrorists’ work for them.


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Friday, June 02, 2006

Upon Reflection: Why I No Longer Care For Star Wars

I was there at midnight, amongst the faithful, when George Lucas's long awaited first installment in his prequel trilogy made its bombastic appearance in theaters. I waited in line for a few hours that day for tickets, I cheered when the opening credits began to scroll upwards, familiar yellow on black.


I didn't hate Jarjar. Honestly. I understood his necessity, or at least his perceived necessity. He was there, background for me. The real treat of Episode I was getting to finally see Jedis in full glory. Fully trained, experienced, and scary. Unstoppable. I dug Jake Lloyd as Anakin, and I was disappointed that Lloyd wasn't old enough to play Anakin in Episode II. Really. I apologized a lot for Lucas then. A lot. It was often just me or my friend Ross in the room talking about how good it was. We just had to wait and see how it all fit together. You'd see.


Then Episode II came out and I began to feel vindicated. See? Jarjar is necessary because he explains how Naboo votes for giving the War powers to President Palpatine. See? We can see the responsibility of training Anakin beginning to weigh on Obi-Wan. See? Yoda goes apey and begins to fly all over the place fighting Dooku. See? Again, I played the apologist.


And then I stayed up late to see Episode III. I was at a midnight showing, although I had worked all day, and I would be due in the next day as usual. I came. I shelled out the cash. I spent the time. I dragged my poor, aged mother to the midnight screening.


To say I was disappointed is a bit inaccurate. I was irritated, more specifically. I had apologized, and argued, and disagreed, and discussed this with friend for the last several years. For years I had supported Lucas, and what we got was Episode III.


Was there enough action? Oh yes, plenty. No need to let that pesky storytelling get in the way of our action. No sir. What about Jedi? Plenty of that, right? Okay, sure. When they weren't getting shot in the back because the Force apparently stopped working, or when they weren't acting like a bunch of hypocrites, sure. How about lightsabers, you like lightsabers, right? Who cares about lightsabers? Yeah they're cool, but they don't make a story.


All of this has been examined by people far more interested in tearing the film apart than I am. I don't care. That's what Episode III did to me. It made a die-hard, lightsaber toy waving fan put down the toys forever. I have no desire to see the prequel trilogy again any time soon, nor do I have any desire to see the original trilogy. I don't care. I've got better stuff to do. Episode III was so bad it totally ruined the entire Star Wars experience for me. I can't look at any of it without that third film and the sheer senselessness of it corrupting my enjoyment of even the Empire Strikes Back. The bastard took Bespin from me. And that hurts.


Now he's selling the original trilogy unaltered. And I have trouble really generating any entusiasm for it. I will probably get it to make my DVD collection complete, but I won't watch it often. I have no desire to do so.


Basically one word sums up my feelings as the end credits rolled:
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!


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The Breakup

So. The Breakup is a wonderful couples movie. It is probably a lousy date movie, for reasons that become painfully obvious during the course of the film. However, all couples in long term relationships should watch this movie. And not just because I want Vince Vaughan and the crew he rolls with to keep making movies.  Although that is, if you ask me a very legitimate reason.


No, I will list a few of my personal reasons for finding the movie so darned good.


1) The Old 97'sThe Old 97's are a quasi-rockabilly, Eagles-esque, alt country, Rawk Band. For those of you out there asking why that's a selling point, let me put it to you this way: imagine all the things you hate about this kind of music, only make it good. The Old 97's are just awesome. And the songs picked for the movie are pitch perfect. Go. Listen. You'll be glad.


2) Neither Gary (Vaughan) nor Brooke (Aniston) are completely blameless in the script. I don't think it gives anything away to say that neither character is without blame. This isn't clearly cut, it's a muddle. You know, the way relationships really are. She means one thing, he hears another, they go separate ways and one of them does something. The offending party leaves the room, and the offended retaliates. Neither side expects what the other does, nor do they understand it at all. It's great.


3) Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Joey Lauren Adams, and Peter "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Billingsley.


4) A script that doesn't insult the audience. Seriously. This is a well written movie, with a well balanced script. Yes, there are funny lines, it is a romantic comedy. But there are also a lot of subtle structural elements that make sense upon reflection. It's a character piece, and the plot serves to illuminate the audience about the characters as it also frames moments when the characters have epiphanies about themselves. It's a pleasant change. This is a group of people that I trust to consistently produce good work. They're on a tear now like the original cast of SNL and the SCTV boys were in the 80's. I'm hooked.


In all, highly recommended. It's not likely to cause any intra-couple fights, but it might cause a few people to soften up a bit more towards each other.


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Strange Medicine

So, I recently ran into a period where my will to work on [nemesis] was completely sapped. I would look at my stack of thumbnails for future pages and I felt... empty and uninterested. I felt like there were a million other things I could do with my time that would yield me more satisfaction and a greater sense of accomplishment than to work for even five minutes on this project of mine. It sucked. I hated it, because I love the comic, and I dearly love cartooning.


I contacted the local members of the Green Party looking for some way to get involved in local politics. (I tried the Democrats in college, and I just don't have the stomach for that kind of political work.) I found a local group of atheists who meet up and socialize/organize.


And I felt better, but I still didn't feel like working on [nemesis].


That is until I made a few changes.


First, I completely stopped reading Webcomics criticism and Comics criticism in general. I stopped listening to Digital Strips podcast, Blank Label Comics podcast, and I stopped trying to listen to Joey Manley's podcast. The results stunning, and sudden. I didn't hate my work anymore. I stopped worrying about my audience size or the quality of my writing.


While that can be considered a problem, it's not nearly as big a problem as being so flat out bummed about what the critics are lauding. See, it didn't really bother me that critics don't talk about me. It bothered me that they talked about the same few comics, or comics that I found to be not worth following at all. It bothered me that the comics that critics considered to be worthwhile were comics that I, as a dedicated cartoonist and writer, don't care about. At all. There are other gripes, but they're not worth going into, because the griping was the problem.


This was great, I felt less irritated all the time. Awesome.


But I still wasn't motivated. At least until I made another change.


I stopped checking my comics stats altogether. I know [nemesis] has readers, and I know I'm lucky to have as many faithful, interested bodies as I have now. I don't need to know how much the stats have jumped or dropped this week, this day, in the last five minutes. And it feels good to not care.


Maybe that's the trick. Since a person can't care about everything without going crazy, maybe we have to shift our bubble of apathy into area that isn't detrimental to our well being, or that allows us to get on reasonably.


Anywho, I still wasn't motivated to get started. Then I got a letter from someone asking if I was okay because [nemesis] hadn't updated. Someone I've never met in my life wrote me to ask if I was okay because he and his son liked [nemesis] and wondered where it went. Suddenly there was no inertia anymore. There was no energy to build, because it was suddenly just there. So, now I'm about a week ahead, and things are humming nicely.


Thanks to everyone who keeps reading [nemesis], despite my flaky update schedule lately.


Tis good.


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Thursday, May 04, 2006

About Time

Looks like the tireless lobbying of some folks at the Oklahoma State Capitol has finally paid off, because a bill is now before Governor Henry that will legalize Tattooing.


Oh, yeah, I should explain. Tattooing is still illegal in Oklahoma.


There are several problems with this, although probably the most distressing is the public health angle. Without state government oversight, Tattooing, just like drugs, prostitution, and alcohol under prohibition, is dangerous. Without the proper equipment or the proper oversight, Tattoo artists and jerks claiming to be legitimate tattoo artists could spread infectious diseases like Hepatitis. Yay. Now, however, if our dingleberry governor actually signs this bill into law, we can have some oversight, and this practice can come out into the open.


Because there's another problem with outlawing tattooing: it violates the first amendment free speech clause of the Constitution of the United States of America. Yep. Tattooing is a form of speech, and if it's outlawed, then that means that a very potent and personal form of speech is illegal.


This isn't to say that having a tattoo was illegal. Heck, no. But getting one in this state is. Phooey.


There are a few other things to consider regarding the legalization of Tattoos in Oklahoma. It serves the creative community by offering another point of revenue and by allowing another outlet for personal expression/recreation. And for those of you keeping up with what's been going on in the OKC Metro area, (Gosh, who doesn't) you'll know that one of the things city leaders have been sweating in the last few years has been how to keep creatives in Oklahoma City. (See, there's this big thing about how creatives are an indicator of a healthy economy...) And tattoos service that part of our economy. Groovy, huh?


Now there will be some restrictions, of course. No one under 18 will be able to get a tattoo, for example. If signed into law, the bill will take effect on November 1, 2006. About time, if you ask me.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Favorite Recent Kung Fu Movie

My favorite kung fu movie in recent years has to be The One Starring Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham, and Carla Gugino. I know a lot of people probably feel that the movie is a bit lackluster, and a bit rushed. And I'd say that I pretty much agree with you. I would have loved it if the pacing in the movie were more like a television series with teh same production values, but that's not very likely in the States any time soon. (Although, a quick aside, I bought Cindy a copy of the BBC Series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and crew last week. It's as good as you'd imagine.)


The reason I'm fond of The One is the final fight scene between good Jet Li and Evil Jet Li. I get the sense that in some ways, the whole movie was just an excuse to get to this scene. Now in terms of story structure, the scene itself is what you'd expect: Bad Jet Li is winning until good Jet Li remembers what his grandfather taught him and he commences to trashing the bad guy. But there's much more going on, although it takes some understanding of kung fu.


Here I go. Kung fu isn't a single discipline, in fact the phrase when translated back from the Chinese, simply means, "hard work." Kung fu as a martial art is used to describe a vast array of schools and distinct styles. I have personally studied some of these styles, and I was left with an interest in what is known as the Three Sisters: Tai Chi Chuan, Xinyi Chuan, and Bagua Zhang.


When people think of Tai Chi, they think of old people moving slowly in the park. However, it's a martial art that is over a thousand years old, the defining principle of which is the absorbtion and redirection of kinetic energy.


Xinyi Chuan was invented around 500 years ago as a specific answer to Tai Chi. How does Xinyi defeat Tai Chi? By delivering a series of strikes so powerful that the human body cannot absorb the energy. The strikes are so powerful and fast that a Tai Chi practitioner's body is broken if they try to absorb the kinetic energy from a Xinyi punch. Xinyi does this by focusing all the force of a blow into the point of contact.


So, much more recently, (150 years by the last account I checked) Bagua Zhang was invented to overcome Xinyi. A Xinyi punch can pulverize bone when it makes contact, which is exactly how Bagua practitioners got around Xinyi. Xinyi moves down a line, and along that line, the blows delivered are irresistible. However, if the person being attacked moves to the side, sidesteps the punch/kick, then not only do they avoid getting hurt, but they are in a perfect position to strike the Xinyi practitioner. While Xinyi is the fastest of the Three Sisters, and Bagua is the slowest, bagua only has to move a few inches to the side to avoid a Xinyi attack. Then, with all their energy and focus directed at attacking on the body line, the Xinyi practitioner is completely vulnerable on the sides, which is where the Bagua practitioner attacks.


Of course, when a Tai Chi practitioner and a Bagua practitioner face off, the Tai Chi practitioner mops the floor with the Bagua guy. That's why these three are so often taught as an inter-related system. It's like rock-paper-scissors, but with kung-fu. (Note: I would feel irresponsible if I did not mention that our hypothetical practitioners are all masters of their respective arts. With two masters of comparable level, fighting each using one of the aforementioned styles, the results will shake out as described. A beginning Xinyi practitioner attacking a Tai Chi master gets what he/she deserves.)


So, back to The One. The big final fight between Evil Jet Li and Good Jet Li features Xinyi versus Bagua. After Good Jet Li is almost trounced, he gets back up and begins to walk the circle. (Another phrase describing Bagua. It is practiced by following an imaginary circle on the ground.) From there on out, Bad Jet Li cannot touch our Good Guy. I totally geeked out when I saw this. Totally.


I had never seen the two styles in action against each other before. It was and is beautiful. Tasty, tasty accuracy. Mm.


PS: The time spans I've listed here in relation to each style are from memory, and are not guaranteed to be accurate. But you can easily research them online if you are interested in more information.


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Silliness on my Behalf

So, my first post in this "reboot" was intended to let people know how I felt about certain broad concepts, but it was pointed out to me that I probably achieved nothing except providing zero incentive for people to comment on my posts. Hm.


The dude's right.


But I posted what I did feeling the likelihood of people actually bothering to read my blog was pretty low. What actually surprised me more than anything else about the comment was that someone not only read the blog, but was thoughtful enough to leave a comment that gently pointed out the flaw in my thinking.


So I kind of feel like an ass. No, not in any sort of glowing, look the spotlight's on me sort of way. More in the quiet, it will go away in a while but I won't forget it sort of way.


So onto updates. I am now teaching at Oklahoma City Community College again, this time as a Photoshop instructor as well as an introductory Cartooning instructor. It sounds like fun, even though Lyn McDonald is retiring at the end of this semester. Lyn was the head of the department and ran the Graphic Communications department for 22 years. She has a reputation as being really harsh and really tough, which she totally earned. See, Lyn has a big heart, which she needed to do what she did (does, till May): she had to honestly appraise students so that they could compete in the job market. She was harsh, but it was always constructive. She wouldn't rip into someone just to make them cry, although she seems to have made plenty of people wail. She will be missed.


I recently hooked up with two new organizations in OKC that are alleviating some of the gross frustration I was feeling. I attended the Oklahoma County Green Party meeting last week where I met about 7 other people who jokingly refer to themselves as "The Green Party Club." since they are too small to be a recognized political party in this state. There's a lot of interesting stuff they do each year, and the members seem genuinely open and inviting. ( I was invited to a potluck dinner on the spot.)


The other organization I hooked up with is called Oklahoma Atheists, (watch out for the animated .gif file... not for those without a sense of humor) which I doubted could exist until I went looking for them. I have to say, I haven't found anything else in the last several years that elicited as much relief on my part as finding these guys did. I attended their last meeting and had a fun time with them yacking about different topics of interest. I was afraid such an event could easily become "why I hate religion," but it was really just a group that seemed intent on allowing everyone to openly express their beliefs. It was comforting. Too often around here I can't open my mouth to disagree or register my discomfort with attending a group prayer or the like.


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Monday, April 24, 2006

New Toy...

I'm trying a new blogging tool, thought I'd see if it works. If so, this makes posting ridiculously easy now. Mwahahaha.


Ha.


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