richardf8: (Default)
Character Meme

Ganked from [ profile] kevinjdog and others.

Choose twelve of your original characters in any particular order (NO PEEKING AT THE QUESTIONS AT THIS STAGE!). Then, answer the questions that follow.

1. Grendel
2. Willie
3. Cujo
4. Brian
5. Cleo
6. Sybil
7. Bartle
8. Scotus
9. Jack
10. Roger
11. Eartha
12. Monty

The questions. )
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Updating is still a bit irregular, but the story moves forward. I played with a different inking technique in this strip, mostly out of an envy of the variations in line thickness I see in [ profile] kevinjdog's and [ profile] rain_luong's work. I'm kinda pleased with it.
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For a while, I've been reading Jeff Darlington's General Protection Fault waiting for something to happen. Nothing has, for a while. However the current story, Providence, is irritating me immensely by reading rather like a Chick Tract. Ubervillainness Trudy has gotten severly injured in a fight with Law Enforcement, and an Indian Doctor who is an enthusiastic convert to Christianity found her and took her in. While in his care, she tried to kill herself, and he has been "witnessing" to her pretty much since then.

Now I would be content to say that this is a character acting according to his nature, and ride with it, except for this: Jeff has been providing notes on which Bible Verses are used (I suppose it's not a bad idea to cite your sources, especially since he use NIV and no one wants to be sued for plagiarism by Zondervan) and (what pushes me over the edge) critiques of his character's choice of verses for whatever challenge Trudy is presenting at the moment.

I suppose that if you have a wildly popular web-comic, it is your privilege to use it as a pulpit for evangelism. However, if you do so, you may find yourself in possession of a somewhat less wildly popular web-comic. Every web-cartoonist I know expresses their beliefs through their art. It's one of the POINTS of doing this sort of thing. But whereas, for the most part, we work in fable and parable, Jeff has chosen to make a bee-line for a tract format wherein the "hero" pummels the "poor lost soul" with bible verses, and then presents her a bible so that she can come around.

If it weren't for Jeff's running glosses, I would be waiting to see how this setup ends up being subverted (perhaps with a Future Trudy ruling over a Taliban-Like Christian Theocracy, and Akhilesh repenting ever bringing the Gospel to one who would abuse it so badly), but those glosses make it seem to me that Akhilesh's project in seeking new converts is Jeff's as well.
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Heavens! It's been a long time between updates. I apologize for that, but my hands have been full to the extreme, and I have not really had the mental space to live in the Cat-Tharsis universe as much as I would like.
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One of the things I've always found puzzling about Calvin and Hobbes is the exact nature of Hobbes. At first glance, he seems an A.A. Milne type stuffed animal whose life is led solely in the imagination of a child. In form and action he reminds one of no one so much as Milne's "Tigger," complete with overwhelming greeting habits. This theory of Hobbes is well supported by the "Yukon Expedition" storyline (Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, 64-70)in which Calvin decides to run away to the Yukon after being told to clean his room. In many ways, this storyline seems a tribute to Milne's "Expotition to the North Pole," but one of the important distinctions between the Milne play-world and the Watterson play-world is that while Christoper Robin is Lord and Master of the the 100-Acre wood, sought by all for wisdom and judgement, Calvin is very often the butt of some joke of Hobbes'. The Yukon expedition, however, appears to make it clear that Hobbes is a stuffed toy whose life is led entirely in Calvin's imagination, because after a tiff with Hobbes, Calvin leaves Hobbes and the Tobboggan outside. Hobbes must be sought for and returned to the house by Calvin's dad.

As if to drive the point home, the first strip after the resolution of the Yukon Expedition shows us Susie with a "Mr. Bun" complaining of Calvin and his inanimate Hobbes never playing with her and Mr. Bun. When Susie is safely away an animate Hobbes describes Mr. Bun as seeming comatose (Authoritative, 71). This leaves the reader to wonder what imaginary life Mr. Bun and Susie might share.

Well this is all well and good, but there is a problem with the simple-stuffed-toy theory, and that is that, on very rare occasions, actions undertaken by Hobbes have real-world consequences that cannot be explained by Calvin having taken those actions on Hobbes' behalf. This is glaringly apparent in the "Houdini" storyline, (Authoritative, 97-98) in which Calvin asks Hobbes to tie him into a chair so he can escape. When Calvin proves unable to, Hobbes renders only perfunctory and minimal assistance, appearing to amuse himself at Calvin's expense. We see Calvin bound in the chair in a manner that would be impossible if he had bound himself, since his arms are completely immobile. Only Calvin's Dad can rescue him at this point, and can only ask how Calvin got himself like that. He has no theory, only wonder. When Calvin explains (truthfully, near as the reader can tell) he is admonished by his father not to lie. His response to this is to lie about Hobbes' motivation, saying that Hobbes was going to hold him for ransom. As soon as Dad is away, an animate Hobbes calls Calvin a "big fibber."

This storyline leaves little doubt that Hobbes can act in the world in ways that leave empirical evidence of his action, even if his action is not accepted as an explanation of that evidence. From this, one is left to believe, perhaps, that Hobbes is a magical creature whose animate form is visible only to the child with whom he has bonded. He seems often to be a moral guide for Calvin, not in the sanctimonious "Jiminy Cricket" style, but rather as a trickster who ensures that Calvin gets to not only to act as he wishes, but to feel the full consequences of those actions.

So, anyone have any other thoughts, or has Watterson ever commented on the matter?

New Printer

Jan. 9th, 2005 08:29 pm
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[ profile] morgan1 and I replaced our dead and much maligned Inkjet today. We found a pretty cheap Laer Printer, A Konica/Minolta 3500W. My feelings about it are mixed - I totally shopped price on this one, because this was in many ways a needful purchase, and while I would have preferred the cheapest OKI PagePrinter, this was about 70 bucks cheaper.

It looks to be a good printer, with a small footprint, and setup was trivial, at least for WIN2K. It is, alas, a bit married to Windows, and although someone cared enough to develop a printer driver for it for Linux, it looks to be very raw, and I expect that getting CUPS printing working with it will be like pushing a dead elephant uphill with a teaspoon. Simplest solution might just be to save to PDF on the Linux box and then print on the Windows box from Acrobad Reader.

In the meantime, it's a relief to have a Laser again - the toner is both waterproof and Copic-proof, which is a very good thing for when I want to hand color scanned artwork. It also means that if I should be taken with a desire to do Gocco prints, I have something that will lay enough carbon down for that to work.

I tried printing some Cat-Tharsis strips from it, sized down to what they would be in a Plan9 book. The printer's 1200 X 1200 mode fared quite well with my line-art. Lines were crisp and all details present. I've heard that Grayscale presents challenges to this beastie, but I very rarely use grayscale, so that will mostly be a non-issue.

My strips, on the other hand, scaled down to Plan9 book size are very busy. I really need to learn to get control of my composition - I tend to include far too much non-essential stuff in my panels. Mostly I need to learn to crop more tightly.

Well, I suppose I should return to wresting some creativity from my muse. More Pencil to Paper combat.
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There are books out there called the figure; the figure in motion; the figure in deep perspective; the figure in 101 improbable-but-aesthetically-pleasing-in-a-euclidean-sense poses, etc. etc. etc. Where the hell is the book called "the figure doing ordinary things that everyday people do on a regular basis?" THAT's the book I want.

Ahoy Matey!

Nov. 6th, 2004 04:50 pm
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The veterinary clinic where we take our cats has been doing some absolutely wonderful stuff with murals. Here is a mural that they've comissioned for their parking lot:

Here is a detail of the Squirrel: )

Here is a detail of the Pirate: )

They were taken with a super-duper-cheapo-crappo digital camera I got for free. But I figure we could all use a little whimsy this weekend.
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A couple of people ([ profile] mud_in_your_eye and [ profile] c_eagle) have asked me about my avatar. When I tell them that I just drew it one day, and threw the Starfleet Insignia on his shirt to break up the monotony, and then colored it red 'just because,' they always seem unsatisfied. So, although you'll never find me in one of them "Multi User Hissy Fits," and I probably won't ever role play the character, because such is not my way, here is the backstory of Ensign Katz.

Stardate: Random(5000)+50000.4

Captain Prescott of the USS Articles Of Confederation (NCC-1777), had been going through "red-shirts" at an alarming rate. It seemed like he was losing two or three per away mission. The reports were thick upon the desk of Admiral Scott, who had worn a red shirt through his entire career, surviving only because of his command-level position. He sifted through them.

Ensign Karlsen: Shot with a Romulan phaser. Ensign Smith: Skewered by a battleth wielded by a friendly but clumsy Klingon. Ensign Schwartz: Crushed by an avalanche of sentient rocks. Ensign McClintock: Dissolved by an acid secreting alien that was just trying to say "hello." Ensign Al-Basri: Shagged to exhaustion by 72 alien nymphomaniacs chanting "brain and brain, what is brain?" in unison. And so it went, page after tragicomic page.

And also on Admiral Scott's desk was the inevitable corollary: a personnel requisition from Captain Prescott. Scotty picked up the personnel file of one Ensign Michael Katz. Ensign Katz was descended from Old Mr. Johnson's famous cat, one Maxwell Katz (who was also the owner of a quite famous silver hammer). Ensign Katz's remarkable resilience was legendary in Starfleet. He had already survived 5 away missions with Kirk, and by some miracle, whenever McCoy had pronounced the words "He's dead, Jim" over Ensign Katz, there Ensign Katz would be when they beamed back up, demanding of Dr. McCoy just what he had meant when he said "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a veterinarian!"

Admiral Scott pressed a button on his desk. "Lieutenant Anderson, send Ensign Katz in please."

The door slid open and a bipedal cat walked into Scott's office. He spurned the chair, leaping instead onto the old-style CRT that Scott, ever the antiquarian, used as a visual interface.

"Katz, how would you feel about an assignment to the USS Articles of Confederation?"

"You mean 'Ensign-Killer' Prescott's ship?"

"Yes, it would seem a good fit for your unique talents."

"You know my terms."

"Hazard pay for the duration, then. It's less expensive than paying a death benefit every time Prescott gets curious about some rock."

"And plenty of catnip in the hydroponic garden. From what I've heard about this guy, I'm gonna need it."

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Basically a piece of Zodiac fan art.

There's art behind this cut )

His name always intrigued me, so I've placed him in the center of a wheel bearing the glyphs for the signs of the Zodiac, because it seemed a fun visual pun to make. I decided to present this wheel as the Wheel of Fortune from the Rider-Waite tarot. Anubis has been replaced with Randy, because it felt right. Alistair is in the place of the Sphinx because, well, he's a cat. The sphinx's sword has been replaced with a flag topped by a cup, because Alistair seems more likely to belong to the suit of cups than swords. The flag itself is a horrible, horrible pun that [ profile] morgan1 makes whenever we listen to the Carmina Burana or when she wants Sushi. The Evangelists have all been replaced by Newshounds cast members who have met Zodiac. Like the evangelists, each is recording the scene. Della illuminates it with a Radio Shack flashlight so that Kevin can film it. Above, Renata writes copy while Rochelle reports.

What Waite might say it means
Chance favors the querant. You will break a major story, and possibly mediate peace between warring factions. At the very least, you can look forward to tuna sashimi.

Chance is aligned against the querant. You will be manacled by your followers, alpha-rolled by someone's pet, and banished to the wilderness where you will be intimidated by squirrels. At the very least, the tuna salad at your favorite sandwich shop has been sitting out too long; if you order it you will get botulism.

NOTE: I made that stuff up. Newshounds Fan Art should not be used for divination. In fact divination is a bad idea generally: just look at US Foreign Policy!

The line art is Technical Pen on Bristol. This was scanned and printed on to Copic Marker Paper and then colored with Copic markers.
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Staedtler is offering a technical pen set under their MARS brand which includes 1 pen Barrel and 4 nylon-tipped cartridges in different sizes: 0.25mm, 0.35mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm. I picked up a set at Wet Paint on my last visit to them, and used it to ink a comic.

The pens feel very nice as they make their marks--far smoother than the PITT Artist Pens. The nylon tips are more rigid than the PITTs' felt tips, giving better control over line width. Whereas the line widths on the Pitts vary as a function of writing pressure, the Mars pens retain their their width regardless of reasonable pressure applied.

The ink in the Staedtler cartridges is more durable than the ink in the PITT Pens, withstanding the erasure of pencil lines as well as the Higgins Eternal ink I use with my dip pens. The ink is also impervious to Copic's spirit markers, making it a suitable choice for the line work on a marker project.

The scheme of packaging the four cartridges with a single barrel has its ups and downs. The barrel is a significant ergonomic improvement over any of the stick-pens or tecnical pens out there (even Rapidograph). However, the task of swapping cartridges when one wants to change line-width is a bit cumbersome and can break one's stride while inking. At about $5.00 apiece, consumable costs are fairly high compared with Rapidographs or nibs. I do not know how long-lived these pens are compared with the PITTS, but both are easily more long lived than Zigs.

It would seem that these pens are designed to compete with the Rapidoliner cartridge based technical pen. The consumables cost is about half of Rapidoliner's and the pens feel better on paper. I liked inking with them well enough to continue using them, but I'm not completely sure I'll replace them as they become spent. That depends on whether I think the ink's durability is worth the inconvenience of swapping cartridges.
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First things first. The New York Times On The Web has dropped Ted Rall from its line up of political cartoons. Primarily because they were tired of dealing with flack from dittoheads, but I've also noticed a bit of a shift to the right in their editorial policy generally. It was apparent in the debate I excoriated in a previous post, Lisa Bumiller being one of theirs. It is apparent with the addition of David Brooks to the line up of commentators, and it is apparent with the move striking Rall (whose work they were able to present for free; they paid him nothing) from the lineup of cartoons on their web edition.

This is disturbing to me because Rall's voice is a voice from the left, from the far left, that has been one of the strongest voices of dissent under this administration. And I cannot help but think that that may be one of the reasons he is being struck. He says unpleasant things that a lot of Americans don't want to hear but need to. He asks us to entertain the possibility of the unthinkable, so that the fact that an action is unthinkable does not become a cloak behind which the person who takes that action can hide. His art sucks, but it's no less pleasant to look at than McCoy's, and he knows his art sucks. He also gave me a much needed belly laugh after the extended episode of hate speech that was the State of the Union address.

For that reason encourage you, all of you, yes, even the conservatives, libertarians, and libertines among you, to appeal to the New York Times to keep his feed on their website. Not because you agree with him, but because the moment we start silencing certain views while privileging others, democracy, which depends upon an informed electorate becomes a sham.

You can e-mail the New York Times ombudsman at
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Last August, in this strip I introduced "Cleo." Cleo's basically a nasty bitch, sort of a cross between The Facts of Life's Blair Warner and GPF's Trudy. I haven't used her in a while, but she will be making an appearance in the next story line, and will have a larger role down the road. She was based on someone I actually knew as an undergrad. Her usual garb consists of a turtle-neck with a heart on it and a mini-skirt. As for her markings -- she is solid white. Her profile was inspired by little Dolly of Family Circus, and her front-view was influenced by the Hello Kitty franchise. In short, my goal was to make her as sickening as I could.

Recently, at the food co-op, I bought a girl's magazine called New Moon. I was perusing it when I encountered a strip called "Cat-Tails" by Emily Kawachi. My jaw hit the floor when I laid eyes on Isme, an unmarked white cat in a polo shirt with a heart on it and a mini-skirt. Her function in the strip is to make cutting, superior remarks to the "everygirl" figure, a tabby named Tsivy.

Now I first became aware of Isme last week, and it's a safe bet that Kawachi is not aware of Cat-Tharsis at all (though I can't be certain -- but given the size of my readership, the numbers are against it). What this means is that Kawachi and I have, to all intents and purposes, developed the exact same character, right down to the details of dress.

Does this mean that a white cat in a heart-emblazoned shirt with a miniskirt is some kind of instinctual code for "superior, snarky bitch?" Or is it a manga convention of which I am unaware, since I don't read manga? In which case the question remains of why I came up with it.

New Icon

Feb. 24th, 2004 04:23 pm
richardf8: (Eating)
Probably going to use this for cuisine type stuff. The image is of my character, Grendel Armstrong, eating a "peep in a blanket," baisically a bird in a crepe.

It started out life as a concept sketch for peeps in blankets, a comfort food in the Cat-Tharsis universe (where "bubble and squeak" really does squeak, and "mouse dippers" fill the role occupied by chicken tenders in our world).

Last week it became a filler strip because I didn't have time to draw something new, coupled with a recipe. I made the recipe for dinner sunday night, using Turkey Andouille sausage instead of birds. It was quite good.

So today, it being a slow day, I cropped it in photoeditor, colored it in mspaint, resized it in msword, and exported it from photoeditor. I pined for Paint Shop Pro, but I remained amused.
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Not only can they be used for creating guidelines for lettering, they can also come in handy any time large numbers of parallel lines are needed. I just used mine to shingle the exterior of Grendel's back porch, and it was quicker and less painful than either my rolling straightedge or my drafting table's straightedge alone.

That also means that here it is, Sunday morning, and Tuesday's Cat-Tharsis is all ready to scan and post. This is probably the most "together" I've been with regard to the strip since it's inception. Of course, it helps that I have a bunch of scripts in the bag, and I'm not doing my writing on the fly.

2003 Redux.

Jan. 1st, 2004 09:16 pm
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Today as I was leaving work I cleared my desk of the papers and vessels that accumulated over the past three days, so that I would have a clean desk to come into come Monday. A year ago today I performed a similar task, but for a different reason: It was the last day of my assignment to a food processing company, and it was my final clearing out of my stuff. On December 31 2002 I donned my coat, shut the lights, and stepped off the precipice into an uncertain future. 2003 brought me another six months of unemployment, with a brief stint at a construction design company for flavor. Finally, in July, I landed where I am now - a health insurance loss control company. It's not my ideal place, but cleaning a desk I would be coming back to in 2004 was certainly an improvement over last year's leap at the abyss. So I am grateful to have four days off in which I can relax rather than too many days off filled with anxiety.

2003 was a strange year for that. When [ profile] morgan1 and I tilled the ground and planted our tomato seedlings, zucchini seedling and leek sprouts in the spring, we had no idea if we would still be on this land in the fall to taste those home-grown tomatoes, Zucchini and full grown leeks. She had been laid off two days before Christmas, 2002. After passing seven anxiety ridden months coming up with all sorts of contingency plans, though, we each stumbled into our current jobs; the home grown tomatoes found their way into salads, appetizers, and Morgan and I. (Mostly Morgan; her love of tomatoes is immoderate, perhaps even a little intemperate). The leeks were roasted, braised and stewed for many a Shabbat dinner, and even put in a curtain call in the stuffing at Thanksgiving. The zucchini met a similar fate, spending much of the summer being grilled and served with vinagrette alongside tuna steaks and cod fillets. It too made an appearance, as zucchini bread, on the Thanksgiving table, having been sliced and frozen expressly for the purpose. That's important to us, having produce from the garden on our table at Thanksgiving. Especially so since this year was so difficult that planting the garden was a tremendous leap of faith. But it doesn't end there, for tonight we will be sipping sparkling cider made from the pitted fruit of our senescent Bartlett pear tree. Our land has been kind to us, and we have escaped being cloven from it.

Cat-Tharsis went from concept to reality this year too. Much of my time unemployed was spent developing the concept, developing my artwork (which still bites, but has been improving) and developing the software that runs the site. I thank [ profile] kevinjdog and [ profile] rain_luong for the inspiration, [ profile] morgan1 for all the help with world building and artistic guidance, and Unit423 of If Then Else for the advice and encouragement. And I further thank [ profile] kevinjdog for a variety of opportunities to exercise my creative faculties. They've really kept the juices flowing.

What really got Cat-Tharsis out of development and onto the web was the need to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Morgan's cat Rodent Baby. When I drew this strip I knew I had to display it, so that was the impetus for going live. Rodent was a high strung little cat, bound to hiss, growl, and spit at every tomcat she's met, but very loving and even a bit needy. Morgan had Rodent longer than she's had any other creature currently living with her, myself included, so the loss was, indeed, profound. Rodent herself seemed content to go, and, we think, has even given her blessing to the kitten, Maeve, that came into our lives in October.

All in all this has been a year of want and of bounty, of death and of life, of turning corners, renegotiating old friendships and forging new ones. I can't really say I'm sorry to see it goes, but I'm curious what the new one will bring; I am greeting it with greater hope than I've had in a while.
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I tend to expect very little from Bil Keane. I certainly don't expect political commentary on issues like globalization, yet here it is:

richardf8: (Default)
Mantra and Regime Change were sitting in my mailbox upon my return home last night. Plowed through much of Mantra. It is like reading a graphic novel, and an ambitious one at that. Plot lines run in counterpoint, touching here and there.

I was most struck by Wolfram's strength of character in the bomb-sniffing dog story. He displayed incredible intestinal fortitude, especially when Bully Runyon went off the deep end.

In short, Newshound is even more powerful when you don't have to wait for your browser to time out connecting to between strips.
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Screened until you approve it for release. Feel free to put it on the NewsHounds site if you wish, but really its for you and the posters to your LJ who took issue when you said you'd never be a household name like . . . Davis.

So without further adieu, here is every Newshounds Fan's worst nightmare (yes, worse than Mark V):

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Every once in a while I find laughing out loud at a newspaper strip that normally sucks. Today that happened for my with the insufferable GB Trudeau's Doonesbury. Here is a link to the strip:

Rare funny Doonesbury

The setup runs in the well greased rails of every war movie cliche imaginable. Soldier wishes he could be there for his kid. But in all those war movie cliches, one gets a sense that this is somehow an abstract wish, a wish to be where he isn't. In the fourth panel, Trudeau stands that cliche on its head by jerking the rug of abstraction out from under it. Sam is posing one of those questions that every parent dreads. By having the mother offer to foist this one off on the father inverts another tired cliche, that of the father squirming and palming the kid off on the mother the moment the yicky topic is first raised. This strip had me laughing out loud because of the disconnect between the soldier's abstract wish and the concrete reality of the wish being granted.

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