Monday, June 30, 2008

I did see Wall-E yesterday, and I absolutely loved it. Just a really sweet movie, and you know a movie's got you when bits that blatantly defy logic, like suggesting someone can make a machine work harder by pressing a button really hard, aren't distracting. In fact, the tension keeps right along. And you could attribute this to characters who've fully engrossed you or direction that successfully lays down tracks in semblance of our common modes of processing thought, but it's probably something far less definable. It just worked, it was Disney magic, in a good way, thank the gods, for once.

Oh, I'm selling it short. How can I really tell you, though, about how this movie celebrates love and turns you into a goo monster that makes you want to envelope it and digest it forever? I couldn't really say it without cheapening it. I cried. Several times, plus times where I was repressing it for the kids around me, most of whom were mercifully quiet, except a little girl to my left who, at the beginning, insisted on asking her mother questions as though her mother had written the screenplay ("What's that?" "I don't know yet, Honey." "Why's he doing that?" "I don't know, Honey."). Most people, I think, acknowledge the wisdom of teaching a child not to interrupt while people are talking, but I think it might be just as valuable to teach them not to interrupt while movies are talking.

People started leaving the theatre as the end credits began, and I have no idea how. The credits sequence featured partially animated artwork suggesting the story of life following the movie's events, and even the normally plain scroll of white text with black background featured 8-bit sprite-looking versions of the film's characters re-enacting bits from the film, which was an important clue as to the reasons for the film's impact, particularly to people who were young nerds in the 1980s. I'd thought a few other people'd stayed with me, but when the lights came up, I saw that it was only theatre staff, waiting to clean. One bemused young lady among them wished me a good night.

Anyway, I left the theatre on shaky legs, but I had a lot of walking to do, and I did ruminate on some of the film's nuts and bolts. I saw from the credits that sound effects and the voices of the robots were the work of Ben Burtt, which didn't surprise me in the slightest. Best known for his work in the Star Wars movies, his stuff is distinctive and interesting even in the two prequels I didn't like. And Eve strongly reminded me of the midwife droid in the prequel I did like.

There's something Star Wars-sh about the appearance of much of the Wall-E robots, too. Though Wall-E himself, as I won't be the first to point out, actually somewhat resembles Number 5 from the 1986 movie Short Circuit, a resemblance Wall-E director Andrew Stanton puts down to subconscious influence. But I think it's more useful to see Wall-E not as a descendent of Number 5 so much as a sort of breed of 1980s robot, as his appearance also brings to mind R.O.B., an accessory for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and the "goose droids" from Star Tours. Wall-E is curiously associated with 1980s technology in other ways, too; his chest features big record and playback buttons resembling those on a tape recorder owned by many a child of the 1980s and his inspiration to love, the movie Hello Dolly, is viewed via a VHS tape.

Whether it was consciously intended to be or not, I think Wall-E could be seen as a hero from the 1980s come to save our souls in the 2000s. Or, more precisely, a hero from 1980s childhood, when love and life seemed simpler and friendlier, before the complex and dangerous implications of political and social trends became clear. Wall-E collects items that matter to him, and it's fine and innocent. But the latter portion of the movie sees him confronting humanity that has become gross and self-destructive with a lust for accumulation. I don't think Wall-E's message is that having things is bad. Rather, I think the message is, "pursue and keep only the things that matter." I've said before I think there's a bitter reaction in society lately against the inclination to act on emotion, and that I think this is understandable when we see the consequences of a president who makes decisions based on his "gut". Wall-E reminds us that it's not emotions that are good or bad, but how you use them. And that the heart is something to be valued, because it's the only reason anything has value.

The relationship between Wall-E and Eve is so wonderful and sweet. It's hard for me to not see the possibly unintentional symbolism, but it doesn't detract from their story in the slightest; Eve is an egg shaped robot to whom Wall-E, after baring his soul to her in the form of his prized possessions and favourite movie, lastly shows her a plant, which Eve takes into herself before going silent. Wall-E is inseminator and by sharing the things that are precious to him, the tone of intimacy is conveyed, and Eve's strange transformation afterwards feels sort of like the aftermath of an awkward but extremely affectionate sexual encounter. The miracle of Eve eventually valuing the affection as much as Wall-E does despite her well-portrayed extremely different perspective is exactly the best part of this movie. All the precarious antics of fragile robots and the slim hope of propagation of organic life are shades of this central, tenuous and sweet story of love.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I ended up downloading and watching Gunga Din yesterday. What a great movie. Well, mostly great. It could've used more Cary Grant and a lot more Joan Fontaine, but I do like Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I was amazed at how much Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom owes to the movie.

I think I may try and catch a showing of Wall-E to-day and finish colouring Chapter 3 of my comic. I'm really looking forward to working on Chapter 4.

The Code Geass to-day was one of the sillier episodes, but silly intentionally, at least. It's really amazing this show's any good. As I was said to Tim on Friday, at times it's like a screwball comedy about a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

Last night was a little clothes shopping in Second Life, and half a game of chess. A complete stranger offered to bite Toubanua's neck at one point. Tou looked like this at the time;

So I can see why someone might think she was game. But I think we all know what biting leads to.

It seems like there's an invisible presence behind Tou in the picture, doesn't it? I've decided it's Fred Astaire.

I bought a gingham top for Tou last night and I've been hungry for pizza ever since . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The person who uploaded this video says he, "never really understood what the lyrics meant". I'm guessing he drinks Kool-Aid.

Last night I dreamt I was hanging out with five cats in the backyard; the white cat I've seen around here lately, his grey girlfriend (who's been looking a bit worse for wear lately, and in my dream, too), a small black cat, an extremely fat black cat, and I can't remember what the fifth looked like. We were sitting in a circle like a council meeting and what we were discussing seemed to involve dire decisions, but the sorts of decisions we all seemed quite used to dealing with. The big black cat kept looking at the small black cat, who seemed uncomfortable with the attention.

The world ended at the edges of the backyard, and like in Oblivion or Morrowind, after the sharp edge where the land ends, there was a flat expanse of land below that went on forever. After a while, the cats retired to this area in pairs. The fifth cat I can't remember and I went into a small shed and were relaxing on some purple pillows when a grey and black, tusked piglet came in, frightening the cat terribly. Then I woke up.

I did walk to Tim's yesterday, which was exhausting, but I probably needed the exercise. The superstitious part of me thinks that my car is routinely incapacitated by faeries who are monitoring my health. To-day, though, I don't think I'll walk further than the store. I still have colouring to do on Chapter 3, but I think I'll make time for a movie. I've been in the mood to watch Yojimbo again for a while . . .

Friday, June 27, 2008

I've been listening to soundtracks from Quentin Tarantino movies while drawing lately. That man has a definite instinct for songs;

I walked to the store, a place called Henry's, yesterday and bought more cous cous, tofu, and apples. My hope is that one day I won't have to think about what I'm eating at all.

On my way back, I saw a girl I had a major thing for years ago walking into a restaurant. She saw me, seemed startled, and then pretended not to see me. Seven years ago, such an encounter would have made me feel miserable and ineffectual, but now I just found it mildly interesting, and my mind was quickly back on other things. This gives me hope for the future.

To-day, I think I'll draw a page of comic and then walk to Tim's. I'm doing the last page of Chapter 3 to-day, and it's looking like Chapter 5 is going to be the last chapter of the group of chapters I'd been writing and rewriting in my head while I was working on the history. I'm already getting ideas of where I want to go next, though.

Anyway, again, Venia's Travels, Chapter 2, is now online.
Chapter 2 of Venia's Travels is now online. Have a look.

I guess we can call it the Robyn Massachusetts birthday chapter, though it really has nothing to do with her. Since I'm doing this thing a chapter ahead, I finished drawing chapter 2 a day after uploaded chapter 1. But I officially invite Robyn to look for hidden birthday meanings. In any case, Happy Birthday, Robyn.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It was from my favourite Second Life fashion blog, Linden Lifestyles, of all places, that I learned of the replica of the labyrinth from Labyrinth last night;

"C'mon, feet."

This labyrinth is actually genuinely difficult--I didn't find my way through, yet, but the rules do say it's okay to landmark your place for later. Though the rules do forbid manipulating the camera as I've clearly done here, but I wanted the screenshot, and anyway, it didn't help much as the labyrinth itself cheats much like the one in the movie. I'm guessing that's the Bog of Eternal Stench in the lower left-hand corner.

A couple familiar faces. One of them leads to what essentially amounts to a dead end, the other leads to a pit like the one in the movie, but unfortunately there are no "helping hands", just . . .

this big face.

Toubanua tried to dress appropriately. The gesture she's making there was actually an accident--she was smoking a pipe and it was invisible at this point.

I didn't make much time for screenshots, as I was busy just trying to find my way through. Freebies scattered about helped keep things lively--I got a bed, which I really can't use, a bright blue dress (it's okay), some AOs I haven't tried yet, and a really cool goblin mask I need to get a screenshot of.

After the labyrinth, there were two very difficult chess games, the second of which I won very much to my surprise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Apparently I've allowed my car insurance to expire again. How do normal people keep such minutiae in their heads? Well, I guess I'll be spending a lot less money. My hope is that next year at this time, seeing a car on the road will be extraordinary.

I read the new Sirenia Digest this morning, which was very nice. The first story, "UNTER DEN AUGEN DES MONDES", felt sort of like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings versus a character from Sunshine, a movie I know Caitlin's fond of. Like Gollum, the werewolf protagonist has a hatred for the sun and uses a complicated web of self-deception as a defence mechanism. This plays well with the sun/villain character, who is both a puerile, abusive captor and seems to represent a fundamental, inexorable engine of destruction, shades of which seem often to appear in Caitlin's work. And the story could more simply be seen as being about the cycle of abuse.

The second story, "THE MELUSINE (1898)" begins with the atmosphere of antiquated carnival that seems to be present in several of the Sirenia Digest pieces and turns out to be about someone who's been betrayed by love and hope so many times that she can only bare her heart with great difficulty--and when she does, it's betrayed again. I was reminded of Morrissey's Suedehead, and it made sense for me why "You can't go home again" is written on a chalkboard in the video;

I won three games of chess last night. I seem to be getting a lot better at the game. Or maybe, as I told Dragoness, I was just "on" last night. Maybe it's the cous cous--I think cous cous is going to replace burritos and soy bologna sandwiches as my standard meal.

Walking to Michael's to-day, as I was crossing the bridge where I saw the girl with the dog, a beautiful white stork flew in front of me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I don't know about you, but to-day feels unaccountably gloomy to me. Here's a little pick-us-up;

One covers large distances in Second Life by teleporting. There's a "home" location one can set to which one may teleport at any time by clicking "teleport home". But last night, doing this put Toubanua in some defaultish area where other avatars were rapidly appearing next to her, some exclaiming, "This isn't my home!"

More and more people appeared and no one could teleport out. "I guess we're stuck here!" someone said. "If someone's killed," I said, "we'll all start pointing fingers and have a murder mystery!"

Someone else pointed out a little later that 8% of everyone currently in Second Life had now teleported in. Some of us were trying to get away, but progress was dreadfully slow. Toubanua was floating away like an escaped parade balloon. I think everyone got a nice view of her underwear as she was wearing this outfit;

Just another incredibly cheap, amazingly well made outfit from Bare Rose that also came in two variations. I'm more excited about the hair, which I got before I knew how to adjust clothes and other things on avatars and just remembered to work with it last night.

I'm out of oatmeal this morning. I'm making do with strawberries. At least the coffee pot's agreeable to-day.

Here's another sonnet;

Tetris Deathmatch

Pieces fall inevitably and she
Expected them, of course, she had a plan
Immediately in force that would be
Devious and pretty, making a man
From silly stones dropping in lines, but holes
Appeared between bulwarks, of course, but this
Meant greater gain when the right piece will close
The gap, though more gaps appear and a wish
Becomes a dumbly crooked stack, wicker
Now taken for man, torch fire for love
As she's saved from life at the bottom tier
And the stuff good lines are really made of
Shapes once elegant are now a jumble
And timidity sours to treacle

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin's dead. He was a good man.

He talks in this clip about being a sledge hammer, but one of the things that made him great is that he had a softness about him, too. Only someone that vulnerable could draw blood so nicely. He had the timing and skill to lacerate and the courage to imply things could be better.

I'm up much too early. I'm not even sure why I can't sleep to-day. I mean, I know I'm supposed to be getting up earlier, but I kind of decided to sleep in until at least noon to-day but I couldn't manage it for some reason.

Last night, I spent three hours in Second Life, a bit more than average. I played chess with Dragoness and went clothes shopping with Natalie. A good evening, and guilt free, since I'd finished the drawing I needed to do for the day. Chapter 3 was hard to write, but it's proving much easier to draw than Chapter 2.

In an effort to eat healthier, I toasted some tofu for lunch yesterday and poured some low sodium soy sauce on it. It came out really well. I also bought some cous cous at Dragoness's recommendation, and some quinoa at David Lynch's.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The coffee pot went haywire to-day. I feel like suddenly noticing coffee spilling everywhere and a sludge of grounds sloughing down the side of the pot ought to come as a surprise. But it really elicited no more from me than an, "Oh," before I started cleaning up.

I lost three games of chess last night to a guy named Phallus Skytower. Yes, that's what he calls himself. I think they're a number of people who'd feel like I deserved it, though unfortunately, I agree. As Morrissey put it, "See how your roast spoiled again?" Phallus claims to be number 2 chess champion in Minnesota, which reminds me of a quote from Merlin in the movie Excalibur; "There's always something cleverer than yourself."

It took a little while to download the new Code Geass to-day. Of the 102 available seeds, only two were allowing people to download from them. When I finished, I left it seeding for a little while, and I felt like a celebrity.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not much to say to-day. Drawing, drawing, drawing . . .

I failed miserably at my attempted day off on Thursday. I started watching The Red Shoes and found I couldn't sit still, even as I automatically loved each and every familiar moment. I finally stopped the movie just as Lermontov was saying, "But the red shoes were not tired . . ." It's so true.

Franklin and Dr. Clive Owen did this Star Wars crawl thing to nice effect so I thought I'd try one. It's here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kind of a domino effect of problems to-day. First I thought I'd download some Rolling Stones to listen to while I worked, but the torrent site my search took me to put a virus of some kind on my computer that immediately took me to the Blue Screen of Death--or so I thought. After several restarts, installations and complete scans of two antivirus programmes, none of which affected the thing, which would still randomly reappear, I discovered that it was in fact a screensaver made to look like the Blue Screen of Death followed by a 620x480 Windows XP startup screen. It had, the first time, managed to adjust my screen resolution to 620x480 as well as change the wallpaper to empty blue with an alarmed yellow box in the middle telling me I had a horrible virus. But after the virus scans, it was merely a screensaver.

Somehow, the ability to change the screen saver seems to have been removed from Display Settings, maybe a side effect of the virus or maybe it'd never been there--I'd never cared about the screen saver before. I eventually installed a very default looking XP screen saver from the Microsoft web site that came in an exe file that automatically installed it. I would have preferred a good Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei screen saver to go with my wallpaper--this one;

Normally I don't like quotes on my wallpaper, but that one was used in the series and I love the juxtaposition. It's useful, I think, to be reminded that a little hope, like love, can be a painful thing.

I read yesterday that there were more than 33,000 suicides in Japan in 2007, which is average for Japan. I was reminded of a quote from The Bell Jar; "They understood things of the spirit in Japan. They disembowelled themselves when anything went wrong."

David Sedaris mentioned on The Daily Show a couple weeks ago how everything was cute in Japan, and I suppose some might wonder how that can coexist with a high suicide rate. It seems perfectly natural to me; so much of the popular art in Japan seems designed to combat despair. It seems natural that the vast majority of art and decoration should be a little ham-handed and therefore probably a bit counterproductive.

There's ridiculous, enormous pressure on success in Japan, too. The manga Maison Ikkoku shows a college student, Godai, desperately trying to get through college in order to gain the slimmest of hopes of being hired for a decent job. He and Kyoko can't even acknowledge their affections for each other until Godai somehow maybe succeeds professionally and neither of them seem to fully understand the reason behind their own behaviours. The manga somewhat idealised the situation, and we never for a moment really think Godai will fail, but it's clear to see what would happen if he did; Kyoko would never acknowledge her affection for him, spared embarrassment by society's ingrained defence mechanism, and Godai would either kill himself or get lucky finding a far more humble line of work. I was disappointed when the anime version defused this tension a bit.

Yesterday I watched more xxxHolic, having downloaded first season episodes finally, and I'm enjoying it more and more. To-day I watched some Slayers because I had a dream about it last night and the first episode of a Magical Girl series called Princess Tutu, which is very nice, but you can clearly see the tense battle with despair here, too; ostensibly for children, the show's suggestive crotch shots and typical nude transformation scene have a vaguely paedophiliac quality, reminding one of the relationship between otaku and paedophiles. I'm not sure if this is an attempt to deal with the psychological need by confronting it, or exploiting it innocently. Either way, it seems strange in light of the fact that Princess Tutu is actually very good, with good characterisations and nice fantasy elements.

Waiting for one of the virus scans to complete, I decided to walk to the grocery store in order to save money on gas. Of course, to-day it would happen to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It's starting to feel a lot like Comic-Con--the time of year when more than a hundred thousand people in costumes shall need to wait outside for long periods in 100 degree weather. I don't mean to suggest all otaku are paedophiles; I won't be in costume, but I'm certainly a sort of American otaku myself.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I ended up going to Fry's and Barnes and Noble with Tim yesterday. I almost bought a copy of Silk Stockings because of Cyd Charisse and because I'd been wishing the Ninotchka story had been an influence on the new Indiana Jones film. But the DVD didn't have commentary and it looked like one of Warner Brothers' lower quality transfers, so I figured I'd be just as well off downloading it.

I almost bought some xxxHolic manga, but decided I'd download some of the anime instead, in case it ended up being like Chobits, where all I could see when I saw the anime were the bad additions the anime added to the original, superior manga. And, well, free is cheaper.

Apparently I accidentally downloaded the first four episodes of the second season, but I didn't realise this until after I'd watched three of them. I'd been interested in the series because it's CLAMP, and I love their style. And it is a thoroughly beautiful series, as well as well animated;

The first three episodes feature a story arc wherein a young man named Domeki incurs the wrath of a spider when he destroys its web after his friend, Watanuki, gets tangled in it. The spider exacts revenge by taking Domeki's eye, but Watanuki asks his witch friend, Yuko (pictured above), to offer his own eye to the spider in exchange for Domeki's. This upsets Domeki who begins researching ways of recovering Watanuki's eye.

Both a sort of juvenile love triangle story and a nicely resonant fairy tale, xxxHolic's not bad at all. I rather liked the demon spider lady in the third episode;

I've seen a lot of demon spider ladies in fantasy fiction. I don't know if this is the best I've seen, but it's certainly nice. There really does seem to be something spider-ish about her big lips. I don't know why.

To-day I finished rough drawings for the chapter 3 script I wrote yesterday (I'm keeping myself a chapter ahead, for those of you just joining me). To-morrow, it's back to the grindstone . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I don't feel like I have much to say to-day, though I have a lot more time than usual. I wrote a script for Venia's Travels earlier that kind of took a lot out of me. But otherwise, there's not much on my plate to-day. Maybe I'll finally get around to dusting and vacuuming my room. Maybe I'll finally watch the copy of Splash I bought months ago but haven't even opened yet. It was one of my favourite movies when I was a kid.

So many things I've seen to-day are making me feel sick. I guess that's pretty vague. I guess it just seems like piles of thorns conglomerating into pig houses. Well, that was even more vague. Maybe I'll go for a walk . . .

Fast Orbits

No good glimpse of grace was more real than light
Space floats from cigarettes grey and mouldy
Trees past your eyes in your unending flight
Fingers long, far feeling, and unwieldy
Shake and flutter round your sore, empty hand
Buttons on the straight jacket of the world
Are the people you thought that you loved and
People you thought you hated when they told
You they felt as though they loved you and took
You to a place where you could not be sure
Life's not more real than light you once mistook
For warmth, good gifts and an abiding cure
I will wait here since I cannot escape
While gravity curves your flight for earth's shape

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I just saw on Scar Baby's journal that now Cyd Charisse has died. It seemed like she was in 90 percent of 1950s musicals and she was always nice to see.

"The Supreme Court is supreme, isn't it?"
I found myself watching Hannah Montana a couple weeks ago at my parents' house. I was waiting for dinner and didn't have anything else to do and sometimes I like to see if I can gain insight into the collective psychology of the shallow masses.

Hannah Montana's not a good show, though I could imagine young girls enjoying a sort of feeling of camaraderie with the girl on screen. Miley Cyrus is an even less talented actress than I was expecting--I expected she'd have a little something of star quality, at least. You know--that inexplicable little sparkle that might make Louis B. Mayer willing to invest money into your coaching. What's interesting about her is that she is either unaware or completely doesn't care that she's not an effective performer. It seems like she shows up to set, reads her lines, and goes to the mall, at each step of the way absolutely confident that everyone loves her. She seems comfortable with herself, and I suspect that's what teenage girls respond to.

More interesting to me was the writing on the particular episode I was watching. Shallow, vaguely racist, and confused about whether it was screwball comedy or a moralistic tale, yes. But it seemed to me that there were not terribly subtle secret messages, and I was reminded of the movie Permanent Midnight, based on Jerry Stahl's autobiographical account of heroin addiction and writing for ALF. The scene that really sticks with me from that movie most is one wherein Stahl created dialogue for cheap sitcom laughs from his own heartfelt, grieving words at his grandmother's funeral. It seemed to me a perfect display of a soul truly confined in a hell and the quality of signal any transmission such a soul might be capable of sending to the outside world.

The Hannah Montana episode was about Cyrus and her friends' trouble with a bully at their school, a big girl nicknamed "Cracker", apparently so Cyrus' Gone with the Wind-ish stereotype black housekeeper/servant could fling the word around without it having the more obvious implication. Cyrus' reactions to Cracker's behaviour were over-the-top bug-eyes and Cracker's bullying involved shoving Cyrus and her friend into a bathroom stall together and fastening their hair together, actions described but not shown. The climax of the episode was a scene beginning with Cracker standing over Cyrus lying on a salad bar, covered with food and white salad dressing drizzled on her face. "It needs one more thing . . ." said Cracker. "Oh yeah--NUTS!" She held her hands over the whimpering Cyrus, apparently about to sprinkle nuts before the housekeeper/servant comes to the rescue.

Hannah Montana seemed to be a convergence of innocent girlhood on display and soulless, despairing men off-screen. It was one of the most sinister things I'd ever seen. It was like watching nymphs dance in a garden of puking goblins.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stan Winston has died at the age of 62. His effects work on Aliens, Terminator, and Edward Scissorhands were big components of my shaping personality, as I think is the case for just about every boy and girl my age, barring the Amish.

When an artist dies, he takes with him things that can't be replicated. The technical skill can be passed on, but not the shades of personality that invariably, and must, pervade an artist's work.

Thought I was going to post some tender Edward Scissorhands clip, didn't you? Well, there aren't any on YouTube. But I think some will take comfort in knowing that, though Stan Winston may be gone, thanks in large part to him, aliens shall again and again drag Hudsen down under the floor grates.

It hasn't been a month since Sydney Pollack died, and Tim Russert died on Friday. All these guys seemed much too young, but, regarding Tim Russert, who was 58, my grandmother reminded me that my grandfather died at 58 and, in fact, a lot of guys she'd known died at around that age.

Yesterday, I realised I hadn't listened to Peter Bogdanovich's commentary for Citizen Kane. Bogdanovich had apparently spent some time with Welles, and recalled how at one point Welles had said to him, "They'll love me when I'm dead." Which, Bogdanovich remarked, pretty much seemed to be the case. For most of his life, especially his later career, Welles certainly wasn't treated like someone who'd directed what is now widely considered the greatest American movie ever made. Bogdanovich said something like how Welles was too big to be acknowledged. Considering the network of egos that makes up Hollywood social circles, that makes a lot of sense, actually. Welles was 70 when he died. Another life too short, but maybe that's just always the case.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I caught a bit of the recent Robin Hood series on BBC America while eating dinner last night. Apparently, this was Maid Marian;

No, that's not the actress who played Marian in her street clothes. That's Marian in costume. And that's the hair and makeup we're supposed to swallow, too. The outfit she was wearing last night was even more boring. Now, the old Robin Hood legends are themselves chock full of anachronisms accumulated from generations of modifications, much like the King Arthur legends, the best of which feature 15th or 16th century armour and weapons in roughly the 11th or 12th century. But, jeez, that's not an excuse to be lazy or . . . unimaginative. Robin Hood himself was wearing a sweater, and everyone had modern hairstyles. It wasn't even the self-conscious camp of Xena: Warrior Princess. I kept wanting to yell, "It's the Middle Ages, folks! Get in the spirit, at least! This is like trick-or-treating in shorts and t-shirt!"

I barely got any sleep last night. I spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling, but I managed to get up at 10:30am. Staying awake seems to be a much easier trick than sleeping. Hopefully the extreme difficulty I'm having concentrating on anything more than three seconds bodes well for my chances of falling asleep properly to-night.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Last night I dreamt (I can say "Last night I dreamt" again!) I was seeing a meeting between five or six European gentlemen in the mid-eighteenth century. They were in a very dark room, but were well lit with ashy, gradient shadows like old oil paintings. They were arguing and seemed to be deciding something extremely important for the entire world. A man in a tomato red coat seemed to be the most influential person among them, bringing forth the big ideas and persuading everyone to go forward with them.

Afterwards, in my dream, I tried to look these men up on Wikipedia. The man in the tomato red coat had a very brief article with a small image of his portrait--a bad likeness in a white coat. I followed a link to an article on one of the other men at the meeting, who'd not spoken at all, and found he had an extremely long article and a large version of exactly the same portrait as on the tomato red coat man's page. The two men had looked similar enough that I really couldn't tell to which article the portrait properly belonged.

I cut my hair very short yesterday and it seems to have come out much better than last time, though it's given my head an amazingly square shape. Somehow the hair makes 90 degree angles on each side and I look a bit like a 1950s caricature. Which is fine by me.

Thank you, by the way, to everyone who's looked at Venia's Travels so far. I've gotten a few nice comments and I'm glad people seem to be enjoying it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I decided to take yesterday off in celebration of my comic's launch (though I ended up doing some compulsive colouring anyway). I went out in the middle of the day for the first time in ages. For the first time in ages, I got caught in rush hour traffic and I felt sort of a casual awe at the inexorable suicidal mechanisms of the species.

Then I watched Citizen Kane with my sister. I never fail to love that movie just a little bit more every time I watch it. It's tempting to call it timely because the reference to William Randolph Heart's use of his media to help instigate the Spanish American War resembles the drumbeat into Iraq shown on Fox News, but I think it's simply more that Citizen Kane so perfectly displays a fundamental dynamic in American culture; the drive of individuals to accrue as much power and therefore love as possible and the poor hearts crushed by generous people who're incapable of giving.

Finally I had a great martini and played four games of chess, winning all of them, which I think was for the good karma of avoiding the dog on the road. I slept until 1pm to-day, but it's still over a month until Comic-Con so I have plenty of time to nail down this day schedule thing . . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What kind of omen is it when dogs keep crossing your path? I was walking to the grocery store last night through the little sewage river area with trees and when I was going over the wood bridge I was startled by a big, dark shape suddenly in front of me. I walk fast, and my head's usually down, so I didn't see it until I was right in front of it. It was one of those lean but shaggy waist-high dogs and he was just standing there. "He doesn't bite," said a girl sitting on the bridge railing with a fishing pole. This was at ten o'clock at night and there are no streetlights down there so I didn't see either being until I was really close. A girl with a fishing pole and her big dog--it was like walking into, I don't know, a Stephen King novel or something.

When I came back carrying my groceries, the dog jumped up on me like an old friend. "He doesn't want you jumping on him," the girl said. "Hello," I managed to say; I was kind of overwhelmed by a feeling guilt that I was making her feel like she couldn't bring her dog into the "park", let's call it, when I really didn't mind his affection at all.

To-day, I was driving on a section of road with a 55 mile per hour speed limit and so, of course, most of the people around me were at around 60 miles per hour, a little faster when we were going downhill. I saw a dog out of the corner of my eye happily trotting across the road and somehow I knew he wasn't going to stop. I managed to break just gradually enough to prevent the guy tailgating me from slamming into me while the dog passed inches in front of my car and the cars in the two other lanes barely managed to stop as well. I hope someone in the rightmost lane parked and stopped the fellow before he got himself killed.

Anyway--just a reminder, my new comic's online now here. Please have a look, and comments would be enormously appreciated. You don't have to read the history; it really is a bonus feature.
My new comic is online now, a day early (because I'm getting up earlier, everything's shifted forward). It's called Venia's Travels. The history's on the site, too.

Here's our heroine now;

Isn't she pretty? And you may be asking yourself, "What is it her eyes seem to be promising me?" Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's a little thing called adventure!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I tried Johnnie Walker scotch for the first time last night, Red Label. The stuff tastes like burnt nose.

I woke up at noon to-day. Just four hours of sleep, and I'm pretty sure I could've gotten back to sleep except I decided now would be a good time to start changing my schedule for Comic-Con. I think I'll try to get to bed at 3am to-night.

One thing standing in my way is that I got so much done thanks to being up early that I have this vague feeling that I need to party all night. Or at least watch a movie. One of the things I did to-day was a final editing pass on the history, though, knowing me, there are probably still things I missed. After I've uploaded it, if any of you spot any inconsistencies or terrible wrongs, don't be afraid to tell me. I'm going to consider the history a living document anyway as I'll inevitably be thinking up new things as the comic goes. In fact, it's already been occurring with the first couple chapters. I won't contradict myself, mind you, or I'll try not to. As a Star Wars fan, I can understand frustration with too much revisionism.

Of course, you have no idea what I'm talking about. This history could be worthless drivel for all you know. But you don't know, do you? Just maybe it's the best thing ever--did you ever think of that? The frightening chasm of unknown is suddenly before you! Don't worry; it'll be filled with cement on Friday.

I guess I'll do some colouring now . . .

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I was amused yesterday when I heard Keith Olbermann mention that John McCain's attempt to use "Johnny B Goode" at his campaign rallies met with disapproval from Chuck Berry--as has been the case with every musician whose music McCain's tried to use. It's just impossible to find any angle where McCain doesn't look like a complete loser. Obama might as well be inaugurated to-day.

Yesterday's work on my comic was deeply satisfying. I drew what is so far the best page of the comic by far, and feeling good about myself, I started doing some new embellishments for the web site graphics. I also re-coloured page 1 of chapter 2--being a chapter ahead, I think, is already working out smashingly. There're fewer moments of, "Well, I'd like to do this but do I really have time?"

And I finally found the pens I needed. They're in a new package, but they look identical to my old tried-and-true model; this one, the 0.5 version, which turned out to be rollerball after all. And "grip" supposedly does refer to the casing, yet its lines are undeniably thinner than this version. I cannot explain. Perhaps no-one can.

I think I may be sick. I'm not sure with what, but I feel altogether soggy. It doesn't feel like anything that'll get in the way of my work, though. Certainly I don't have to worry about anything I need to upload on Friday, which is The Day, if you'll remember.

I spent a couple hours on Second Life last night and finished a bottle of Jameson (only two fingers, really). I played one game of chess and won. Always nice, though never a guarantee. One of the things I've noticed about chess is that it really forces people to confront and manage their pride.

And that reminds me--I watched the new Code Geass on Sunday, and the show seems to have gone well off the rails. There are so many plot threads that don't make sense now, but it is still kind of entertaining. The show's gotten to these absurd zones before, so I know it can pull out of it. Hopefully it shall. The most laughable moment came when a major plot point hinged on a chess game between two characters and it was very obvious the writers had no clue how to play chess. There's really no excuse for that--I mean, surely there must be chess players in Japan. Couldn't they have gotten assistance from one of them? Oh, well.

Monday, June 09, 2008

When I was taking out the trash a week ago, I opened the door to find two cats sitting close next to each other on the fence behind the trash cans. One of them was the white cat who only just recently let me pet him, the other was a striped grey I'd seen before. I immediately started petting the white, scratching her whiskers and chin, but the grey took a few steps away from me, I guess preferring to watch me and her boyfriend get it on. That was the night I saw The Cure and when the band played "Love Cats", I thought of them.

To-day, they remind me of a scene from Eat Drink Man Woman where some loud, lovemaking cats outside the Chu household prompts Jia-Chien to casually joke, "At least someone's having fun around here," and in the process deeply offend Jia-Jen, who's never had a boyfriend and is very defensive about it. It goes to show, I guess, no matter how innocent a remark seems to you, there's always a chance of hurting someone with it.

I didn't get the right pen yesterday. This is the second time now I've failed at pen buying in the past couple days. First I bought some 0.5mm rollerballs, but they proved wider than my normal 0.5s. I looked more closely at my old pen and saw what I needed was a uni-ball, which looks more like the company name than type of pen. Maybe it's both.

So yesterday, I bought some uni-balls with 0.5mm tip, only they bleed far too much. I looked again at my old pen, and saw that the only difference between the old and the new is that the new is waterproof and the old has the word "Grip" written on it, which I'd always assumed referred to the pen casing itself. Hopefully not. I always used to buy these pens by their familiar shape which seems to've been discontinued. I hope there's no conspiracy at play to prevent artists from achieving thin lines.

Lately while inking and colouring, I've been listening to the original Shadow radio serials, beginning with the 1937 shows. I'm enjoying it quite a bit; I'm finding the Shadow to be a remarkably sinister and sadistic--perhaps innocently sadistic would be the best way to describe it--superhero. Half the time it seems like he's only using crime-fighting as an excuse to manipulate people into bizarre and elaborate deaths, some of which are truly cruel. In one episode, the Shadow uses hypnotic suggestion from the backseat of a car to make the driver believe there's an oncoming truck, forcing him to swerve. The Shadow informs the driver of his trick, and then tells him there's a man in the road the driver needs to avoid. Of course, now the driver doesn't believe his own eyes and kills the man . . . And all this is followed by the Shadow's great, mean cackle. And this guy's a crime fighter! From the 1930s!

But what impressed me most about last night's episode was the perhaps more overt introduction of moral ambiguity as the Shadow is pitted against a shell shocked sniper. The episode explores the psychological destruction war can inflict on a soldier's mind and also asks us to see it as a tragedy when someone is on death row--previous episodes tended to portray villains as somewhat more two dimensional.

I've uploaded the episode, called "The Silent Avenger", here. It's from 1938 and features Orson Welles as the voice of the Shadow. There are more episodes for download here.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Her Majesty, Queen Toubanua of New Easter Island

I suppose I ought to've mentioned already that I got an A in my British Literature class. Pretty good considering I'm usually happy to settle for a passing grade. Of course, this only raises my overall GPA to 2.5. Maybe when I'm 90 . . .

Primarily I took the class to help get myself in the right headspace for my new comic as well as getting in some peripheral research. Lately I've been watching Excalibur and The Adventures of Robin Hood to get in touch with the kid in me who likes the junk food side of medieval fantasy, which helps. I was big into Robin Hood when I was a kid, as well as many things middle ages. Plumbing the depths of my personality helps me feel intimate with the environment.

Last night was chess and rum, though lately I've been drinking gin martinis. I have a big jug of gin now . . . Anyone know how long vermouth keeps, by the way? And does refrigeration help?

I have to go by some pens now. I keep trying to stock up on art supplies and food so I won't have to leave the house for days but little things I need keep cropping up. I'll leave you with images of a place Dragoness and I were hanging out in last night;

Saturday, June 07, 2008

So I guess Barack Obama's going to be president. Sounds good to me, except I still feel like I don't know much about the guy. Or maybe it's just that I don't know anything strictly bad about him, which is pretty damn strange for a prominent political figure. I even like his wife; she seems more relaxed and organic than any other first lady lifeform in recent memory.

By now you've probably heard that Lynda Carter found a human corpse floating in the Potomac River.

This is the actual picture Huffington Post is using for the story;

"Ms. Carter! Ms. Carter! Can we have a comment about the body you found in the river?"

"Oh, Darling, it was just one of those things, tra la!"

"Do you have any plans now with respect to this development?"

"Now, now!" Chuckles, flashbulbs. "But really, I'm just going to curl up by the fire with some chocolates, my schnauzer, Scratchers, and a good book. Farewell!"

And this is the other photo Huffington Post is using for the story;

Er. Score?
A playlist of three videos;

Friday, June 06, 2008

I don't have much time to-day; I've given myself a particularly difficult first page for chapter 2. There're two things I wanted to mention.

I was looking at Caitlin's journal last night and saw that someone had commented with a dumb joke, which prompted Saint Sisyphus to ask, "Who the hell is this person?" to which Caitlin replied, "I think I know." And I thought, oh, fuck, what if she thinks it's me? Maybe I shouldn't even care since I'm banned from her journal anyway and it's not like I can stop people impersonating me if they choose (not that it was anything close to an impersonation in this case). But I'd like to state here and now for the record, regardless of whether or not you're a friend or someone I'm on the outs with, if I talk to you with a screen name you don't know, I will make damn sure you know it's me. I'm truly not a stalker (I don't consider reading public blogs to be stalking); I consider such behaviour silly and wasteful. I'm a big proponent of direct discourse. I don't like playing games with people. Sometimes people leave me with no alternative but to play along with them, but it's never my idea and I don't initiate games. Ever.

Okay. That's done.

In a much happier instance of impersonation, Robyn is doing an advice blog under the guise of Dr. Clive Owen. Why are you going there? To get some answers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I had time a couple days ago to watch the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie (which I talked about in this entry, in case you missed it). And wow, what a difference. The story's much tighter--everything that was trimmed was genuinely excess, and several of the characters, most notably Misato, come across much better. The series Misato, particularly early in the series, would shift between a bouncy cartoon lady to a woman with depths of psychological damage. This movie makes those two aspects of her personality seem more of piece. One particularly interesting scene, where Shinji spends some time wandering about the city, has been altered so that when he comes home, his remarks to Misato are slightly more insolent. Instead of hitting him as she did in series, he makes a remark that seems to effectively expose a piece of self-loathing in her, and when he leaves the room, she hits herself instead. It was a marvellously effective moment that did lot for establishing her character.

The music's been changed in places, too, but almost always it's an improvement. Shiro Sagisu wrote new music for a scene in the first episode where Shinji speaks to his father that had previously featured a tune that had awkwardly resembled "God Save the Queen". The only real complaint I have about this new movie is that some of the music features choir singing in English, extremely silly and simplistic lyrics that I'm sure must sound exotic and interesting to Japanese ears. But then, I wouldn't have been able to make out the words if the fansubbers hadn't thought to include subtitles for them.

Otherwise, You are (Not) Alone is an improvement on the first six episodes of the series in almost every way. The relationship between Shinji and Rei has a great deal more nuance, and there's something almost inexplicably tender about Rei now with a slightly different performance by the always brilliant Megumi Hayashibara (who was also Rei's original voice actress). I think some people might miss her almost blank slate quality early in the series, but I definitely think this is an improvement and does a lot for good continuity with Rei as she behaves later in the series. As with so many of the characters, it seems as though this new movie is filling spots in characterisation that had been left empty before because the creators hadn't yet learned the personalities of these people.

The sound is vastly improved and is of the same rather breathtaking quality as the beautifully inventive sound effects of Top o Nerae 2, another Gainax production. But more than anything, You are (Not) Alone is an improvement for the quality of its visuals. Colour is vastly superior, backgrounds are lush and Tokyo-3 feels much more like a city. The Evas and Angels feel much, much larger--as in, more like the size they're supposed to be--for subtle things like lighting them better at the bottom in night scenes and leaving their tops almost completely dark.

Here's a particularly good example of the improvements. This is from a scene originally part of episode 3 that had featured really awful, artificial blue shadows on the characters' features (original episode on top, movie on bottom);

And as you can see, it's not just new colouring. They're new, better, drawings of virtually the same things. I can't wait for the next movie to come out.

I'd better get to work now. Yesterday I wrote the script for chapter 2 and worked some more on the web site design. To-day I shall do rough sketches of chapter 2's pages and do more web site design. I already spent time converting the history into html while eating breakfast. It's gotten so I think about how I can make every part of my day useful . . .

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Cure played for four hours last night, in spite of the fact that seven hundred tickets remained unsold. Fans may have deserted The Cure, but The Cure, apparently, still has a lot of love to give. How perfectly Cure, really.

It was a really great show, too. My inner Cure fan had no trouble at all coming out. Much like the Morrissey concert I went to last year, there were plenty of cameras smuggled in--my leather jacket was big enough to house a Travis Bickle arsenal, but I wasn't even stopped. So there are already a bunch of clips from last night's show up on YouTube.

Here's a bit from their opening song, "Plainsong";

You can't quite make it out, but there was a moving star field projected behind them as they played, and before they began, I almost thought they were going to open with a tribute to the composer of Star Trek's original theme, Alexander Courage, who died last month. How cool would that have been? Crossover!

There was a clear focus on Disintegration and Head on the Door, with seven songs from the former and six from the latter ("Plainsong", "Pictures of You", "Lovesong", "Lullaby", "Fascination Street", "Prayers for Rain", "Disintegration" from Disintegration and "In Between Days", "The Blood", "Push", "The Baby Screams", "Close to Me", and "A Night Like This" from Head on the Door).

For some reason, the crowd went nuts when they started playing "Pictures of You". Even "Lovesong", "Just Like Heaven", and "Boys Don't Cry", didn't seem to garner as strong a reaction, and "Pictures of You" is the only full length performance from the show I could find on YouTube;

And here are bits from "Lovesong" and "Fascination Street". The guitar on "Lovesong" was particularly nice;

My favourite performance of the whole show was "100 Years" from Pornography, which doesn't seem to be online. I wish they'd done more from Pornography--I still consider it one of the single most effective albums ever made by anyone.

Waiting for the show to start, I thought about possible reasons for a loss of interest in The Cure, even as Morrissey is thriving. True, the new Cure songs aren't nearly as impressive as the new Morrissey songs, but I think there may be more to it than that.

Comparing Morrissey and The Cure seems natural not only because of the infamous, longstanding feud between the two, but because they both are sort of ultimate artists for focusing on the inevitably sad inconvenience of human emotion. The fundamental difference between the two is that, while they both take the concept very seriously, Morrissey sees this human condition as sort of comically absurd while Robert Smith sees it as beautiful. Well, I suppose there are elements of both in each artist, but I think both own the respective perspectives a little more strongly than the other.

I wonder if people find Morrissey therefore easier to take because there is a contempt for emotions in popular culture right now. And I'm not just talking about homophobic machismo (which can rear its head just as badly in girls, by the way), but even among more progressive crowds. We've been living under a president who follows his "gut" on deeply important issues to monstrous ends. The bitter pill to swallow is that we all have guts. Hatred for Bush's M.O. is sort of a self hatred.

I was reminded of this when Stephen Colbert, a couple nights ago, had a professional surfer on his show to talk about how he'd grown up on beaches with his family, how they had lived by their "guts", and the crowd couldn't help giggling at this poor fellow, whose family really hadn't done anything wrong or ridiculous, yet that association automatically made it seem so. Colbert had to break character to tell him he admired him, which is one of the reasons Colbert's satire is so effective. He doesn't hug the destruction note.

But it seems to me that ten years ago, the surfer's story wouldn't have been laughed at by these people. We're moving slowly away from an artistic culture that valued explorations of personal feelings, even terribly irrational ones, to a culture that prefers to suppress, ignore, and to ridicule feelings. The irony, I think, is that this behaviour is provoked by irrational feelings, though I'd say the hurt is entirely valid.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I downloaded yesterday the new Neon Genesis Evangelion movie, Evangelion 1.0 You are (Not) Alone. Well, it's sort of new. It's actually an adaptation of the first six episodes of the television series into a two and a half hour movie. This is the first of a series of movies collectively known as Rebuild of Evangelion. New animation, alteration of scene sequence, and, in some places, drastic changes to the story, all under the direction of Evangelion's original director, Hideaki Anno. So it's not merely a collection of clips. It must seem a strange project to a lot of people who aren't familiar with anime, but you might have some idea as to why this first rebuild movie was so massively successful from something Anno said about his reasons for undertaking the project (paraphrasing); because there had been nothing truly new since Evangelion.

Indeed, it's hard to overstate the influence of Evangelion. I see shades of it in virtually every anime I've seen since*, to the point where some series creators, like Chiaki Konaka of Serial Experiments Lain, are embarrassed by it--according to Lain's Wikipedia entry, "The authors have been asked in interviews if they had been influenced by Neon Genesis Evangelion, in the themes and graphic design. This was strictly denied by writer Chiaki J. Konaka in an interview, arguing that he had not seen Evangelion until he finished the fourth episode of Lain." Then perhaps it was someone else on the staff who was responsible for scenes in the first episode that are carbon copies of Evangelion scenes, like the one of Lain staring at her hand on a trolley.

There's a Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei episode where characters are forced to admit developing interests in psychology, Christianity, and classical music because of Evangelion. To put it simply, Evangelion is a big deal.

So now a director returns to a Sci-Fi series he created that had enormous impact on entertainment and culture in order to do a special edition. Sound familiar? Hopefully the same imp that sits on George Lucas's shoulder isn't also whispering into Hideaki Anno's ear.

I haven't actually had time to watch the new movie yet--hopefully I will to-night, but there's still a little colouring I need to do on the last page of Chapter 1, and there are a number of things I want to do for the web site. To-morrow I'll have less time because I'm going to a Cure concert with my sister. I'm trying to get in the mood. I used to love the Cure obsessively, but now I've found they've been almost entirely usurped by my love for Morrissey. Inner Cure fan, please awaken . . .

*Except perhaps Inu-Yasha, which mostly resembles previous Rumiko Takahashi series..

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I did draw and ink the last page of chapter 1 yesterday. I still have two pages to colour--this thing'll be online on June 13.

Last night I dreamt my computer turned into the one I used when I was a kid, with a 286 processor and a vga monitor. I remembered how much fun I used to have editing character icons with the sixteen colour options in Death Knights of Krynn. I actually have that game somewhere on the hard drive, but it seems silly to play it now when I only just recently got bored with Baldur's Gate 2 . . .

Also in my dream, in my room, were a giant lizard, two kittens, and a mouse.

Had one of my regular nights of rum and chess last night. I won against Dragoness, then lost against some guy I'd just met. I blame it on his knight and his running commentary in the voice chat that went something like, "Oh that's what you're going I see if you ah, and then a check, but no, I go over do de do de do want to keep your castle I don't that's great but then oh that's a really bad move hmm check."