Playing with widgets

WordPress has a widget that lets you overlap two pictures of the same size to get a drag and drop before and after, and I’m making this blog post purely to play with it.

Allright, let’s do it again.

This page will be useful to my proofreaders. Guys: in the Hat Trick comic, I plan to have two types of speech bubble. If you see a double border, I mean the final bubble to be white text on a black bubble. I goofed and did a heavy border instead of a double border on this specific page.

Last, but not least, I want to say a quick word about lettering.

I got the idea of putting the text into my storyboards so I can test text and picture together, rather than trying to compose — and edit — them separately. When I converted the process over to comics, my plan was to continue in the same manner, but to merely draw in the speech bubbles, and letter the comic in the PDF editor. I bought a license for Spinner Rack to give Hat Trick a unique, but multifaceted font. But: my printed ‘pencils’ now had letters, and on a whim, I tried hand lettering over them.

I love how expressive they are. I love how the sloppyness/messiness of them matches the impatience in my inking. Even if I don’t love that impatience itself.

Just for the record, I am not trying to match the shapes of the letters in the Spinner Rack font. This is my natural comic lettering style, developed when I was learning to be a cartoonist, only instead of an Ames Guide I’m using Krita’s text tool and Blambot’s font to work out the spacing and position.

Captain’s Log 20092193 – Splashing in the Rain

3 pages so far today on the Hat Trick Storyboard.

I’m aiming for 4 a day, 6 days a week, but I’ll not complain so long as I move forward. Slow and Steady wins the race and all that.

I’m thinking of stopping and producing that page 40 splash. It’ll be good to add to my morning tweet rotation, and as an advertisement for the book.

We are now solidly within the overlap of the first Hat Trick Book and this comic, which is meant to take its place as the beginning of the series. I’m walking carefully, trying to retell the same story bit from a slightly different angle, trying to make sure everything needed to enjoy Hat Trick is present, but the people who own the first book don’t feel like it was redundant, or they aren’t getting anything new.

In the first book, this section takes place in rain. That was a considerable pain in the butt to draw, and I’m considering just quietly pretending that never happened in the comic.

I’m also minded to work on a new idea: St. Patrick’s Breastplate, illustrated by me. But we’re going back to the iron law: one project come hell or high water, all others only once I can report project on the one.

Pants on Fire

Or: the Advantage of Pantsing

In writing, it is generally thought there are two approaches, and a writer falls somewhere on a spectrum between the two:

Pantsing and Plotting.

A Pantser “writes by the seat of his pants”. He charges forward and sees what will come out of his pen. A plotter plans ahead, giving himself character sheets and a plot outline.

In general, I have a certain amount of contempt for pantsing. It strikes me as writing by accident. At the very least, a man ought to know how he intends his story to end. Otherwise, how does he know it’s any good? And indeed, the more I use formulas and structures and plots and principles, the better my stories tend to get.

However, there is a certain point where planning is stalling, and you just need to start executing.

I’ve been stalling on the second half of Hat Trick: Night Mare Night Mare for a couple of weeks now. Time to get back on those storyboards.

It is easier, after all, to fix a bad draft than to fix no draft.

Málycanis

Málycanis is an artlang that adopts some interlang sensibilities. Specifically, it is a hypothetical sci-fi descendant from English as spoken by non Anglos (as French, Spanish, and Portuguese are descendants from Latin as spoken by non-Romans.) It may or may not show up in my sci fi stories.

I derive it by taking English and slashing out sounds and concepts that aren’t widely found in other languages unless I fancy them so much I couldn’t bear to part with them.

To be quite clear, if English actually turns into Málycanis, that would be tragic. But, as a toy language, I quite enjoy it.

Phonology

Phonotactics

Syllables of Málycanis take the form [C][L]V[C][s] where…

  • C = any consonant
  • L = s, w, l, or y,
  • V = any vowel or the ai/ay diphthong.
  • s = s, and as a second consonant in the coda, only follows a nasal (m or n) or unvoiced stop (p, t, c).
  • Any syllable after the first must start with a consonant.

Consonants

Romanization, followed by (IPA). Multiple IPA symbols indicate dialectical alternatives that are also considered correct. A given dialect will only use one of these pronunciations per character, with certain exceptions listed below, so it’s not technically kosher to use both, but there should be no ambiguity so it doesn’t really matter.

I know that parenthesis are not the right way to indicate phonology, but I can’t be arsed to look it up just now.

m (m)n (n)
p (p)t (t)c (k)
v (b/β)d (d/ð)g (g/ɣ)
f (f)s (s/ʃ)h (χ/h/ʔ)
w (ɰᵝ)l (l/ɾ)y (j)
  • “ts” before a vowel is always pronounced “tʃ” (that is, like the English digraph “ch”).
  • “ds” before a vowel is always pronounced “dʒ” (that is, like the English letter j).
  • Yes, I do use ‘c’ instead of ‘k’ for the unvoiced velar stop. Because I like it better.
  • I also especially like voiced fricatives, despite the fact they are uncommon, and so have them as alternate pronunciations of the voiced stops. I am liable to always pronounce the voiced stops this way, and you can’t stop me.

Vowels

I tried to cut them down to the three vowels found in e.g. Arabic, but my aesthetic sense forced in an interloper. Good thing this is an artlang and not an interlang.

  • a (a)
  • i (i)
  • u (u)
  • y (ɪ/ɘ)
  • The diphthongs ‘ai’ or ‘ay’ (both cases pronounced ‘a͞i’) are also allowed.
  • Due to Málycanis phonology, it should never ambiguous whether ‘y’ is a consonant or a vowel. It would be better to use ‘j’ as the consonant, but I don’t like it, and I’m not gonna.
  • An acute accent can be placed above a vowel to indicate that syllable is stressed. This is only done in words with two or more syllables, not counting affixes.
  • Any non dipthong vowel may be doubled, which merely indicates you pronounce it for twice as long.
  • These vowels are not meant to be super precise, and vary wildly across dialects. Because there are so few, as long as you land closer to one corner than the others, it’s going to be considered correct.

Vocabulary

There is, at present, little defined vocab. A good first start would be to steal the lexicon of Toki Pona for the core, and then only add words as needed.

Each Málycanis word should be a more or less direct conversion of an English word, favoring synonyms that avoid homonyms as much as possible, or a compound of two Málycanis words.

Here are some examples, to be amended as an official lexicon is compiled.

  • fight: fait
  • art: aat
  • walk: wac
  • run: fáswac
  • Jack: Dsyc

Grammar

Again, not so well defined as phonology. Subject – Verb – Object, obviously, but to be worked out in detail as needed for stories or what have you.

Verbs do conjugate for past and future tense, but it’s just a prefix or postfix.

  • run: fáswac
  • ran: fáswacyd
  • will run: ylfáswac

The plural of every noun is a ‘ys’ postfix.

  • Artist: aátman
  • Artists: aátmanys

Ay ylfait da aátmanys.

Mind is too weak for Matter

Someone I respect, on Twitter, dropped a concept, with which I take issue.

I do not mean to demean his wisdom. Twitter is a format ill-suited to nuance. There is truth to what he says, and if it is not the whole truth, well… there’s not room enough in a tweet for the whole truth.

But let us nit pick because I sense the nit picking may be of use to me and perhaps you.

And the expansion in which I found it:

I responded with fragments from the Abolition of Man.

The Silver Fox, you will note, has accounted for what I wish to draw out in his expansion. He mentions the Will. Let it not be quite said that I am arguing against them. Rather, I am spinning out implications.

Here’s a bit more context from Lewis.

It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers. In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment. The crudest sentimentalism … about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use. We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’. The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. … A persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment… It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

The Abolition of Man. C.S. Lewis.
Emphasis mine

I grew up a fan of Spock from Star Trek, and my love of logic and reason has earned me the nickname “Logic Monkey.” I did not come up with that name by myself. It was given to me.

But I am a man without a chest. Indeed, thanks to isolation and old books, I am more a product of the Enlightenment than my peers, who are more products of the Counter Enlightenment. My head is swollen; my peers have swollen bellies, but in this I am not more virtuous than they. We both lack for chests.

I’ve said on many occasions that there is a conflict in the arts over whether art is a work of passion or merely diligence. And that I have spent most of my life thinking it was the latter, only to learn that the former is also needful. An artist must put in the work, but he cannot safely ignore the muse.

Lewis’s metaphors draw out what is wrong both with the argument and my current and former positions within it. To enslave oneself to the muse is to be an artist of the belly. To enslave oneself to a formula or a market is to be an artist of the head. What is needed is the chest. Trained emotions.

Like it or not, I have a Style..

So, I just made this post because I wanted to use WordPress’s gallery feature to stick these images side by side.

But I think it’s worth saying I feel like I am about to dive in and finish Hat Trick. No promises today. Gonna try and tinker with the plot, get the ending properly sorted. And I need to talk theology of vocation with my pastor tomorrow. But I feel like it’s about time.

Anyway, my preferred style would be somewhere between Bill Watterson and Johannes Helgeson (warning: Not Safe for Work)

What I do is clearly not that. It’s more like a cross between Mario Strikers and Robert Crumb. Try as I might, I can’t brink myself to ink a picture and not break out the hatching! Maybe after I’m done with my next book, I should take a month or two and just do studies…

Wheel Spinning

Theoretically, as I work, study, and brainstorm in my card box, clusters of cards will eventually grow to the point where I can just harvest one such cluster and produce a book.

As I’ve noted before, though, I feel less like I’m producing books and more like I’m spinning my wheels. Previously, my method was to pick a project, and come hell or high water, work until it was done, while allowing myself to be flakey and goofy about which projects come next. And I grow increasingly convinced this is the superior methodology in some ways.

Maybe not in all ways. Maybe the Zettelkasten concept is a piece of what I need to do rather than the whole. But my lack of apparent progress annoys me, and I think I need to buckle down and finish something.

Continue reading “Wheel Spinning”

Why I am a Surly Old Stick in the Mud

The internet is alight with the controversy over a Netflix movie, Cuties. Now, I’ve not seen it nor intend to see it. I’ve seen two reports from people who have claimed to watch it, but for all I know, they are lying.

This is not a blog post to denounce or affirm Cuties on the basis of itself. Rather, it is the reasoning I can do from the meta-data.

I have seen five-ish general categories of takes on the Twitters, which I can dub the Cuties spectrum:

  1. Cuties is straight up porn, all all adults involved should be immediately millstoned.
  2. Cuties is a coming-of-age film that does critique the sexualization of young girls, but does so by crossing the line and sexualizing the actresses involved.
  3. Cuties is a critique of the sexualization of young girls, and this justifies the depictions of the actresses.
  4. Cuties is a normal coming-of-age film, and if it depicts things that make you uncomfortable, that’s because that’s how society actually is and you need to grow up and deal with reality.
  5. Cuties sexualizes minor girls, and that’s a good thing.

I’m not going to pick one of these takes as my take, because I don’t need to.

If positions 1 or 2 are true, Cuties and the forces behind it are a demonic evil to be opposed. Position 3 is that position 2 is true, but the ends justify the means. I reject that. Position 5 is in and of itself a demonic evil to be opposed. And notably, it is the position taken by a lot of media.

The fact that the pro-pedo forces have taken up this film as their banner would make me loath to endorse it even if it were otherwise innocent.

So we are left with position 4.

Way back when I was in college, I returned home for a visit. Now, my siblings and I were homeschooled in different proportions. As the oldest, I went to Kindergarten through Third Grade, and that is when my mother started teaching me. My youngest sibling, on the other hand, was homeschooled at first, but sent to a public school for the last several years of his education.

As I visited from college, my brother’s school put on a talent show, and out of solidarity for my bro, I attended the talent show.

And it featured twelve-year old girls singing highly sexualized songs.

Some little girl, on the cusp of puberty, flirting with a crowd of adults, and neither her parents nor her teachers thought to object at any point. Probably because it was a pop song, acceptable to play on the radio. Or because they grew up swapping body fluids at a young age, and saw nothing wrong with it. Or maybe because they were Minnesotan, they were just too darn nice to protect the children they were charged by God to protect.

At that point I realized that whatever that girl’s parents and teachers were doing, I wanted to go the other direction. I wanted to fight it. And I wanted to help anyone who wanted to fight it.

So, let me be perfectly clear here:

I object to the culture as it is. I believe it harms children who ought to be protected. I take action to alter it. Educating my own children and advocating others do the same. And especially, attempting to create entertainment that is free of the propaganda of the spirit of the age, as much as any man can.

I do accept that the world out there is really like that, and this is how young girls are actually behaving. I just do not accept that this is a good thing to be embraced or even a neutral thing to be tolerated.

I am, and have ever been, a Christian. I am charged with upholding the Christian standard of morality regardless of how out of touch with the modern times it gets. Being a sinful son of Adam, I will fail.

But I will not pretend up is down just because everyone else does.

As to whether you should cancel your Netflix account over this, I have no reasoned position. Niemeier presents the pro-cancellation position in his book “Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You.” I have not read the book yet due to lack of funds, but I have found his reasoning is frequently sound.

A Brief(?) Write-Up of Re-Tail

Scott Adams posits six dimensions of humor. People find something humorous if it is:

  • Clever (e.g. a pun or wordplay)
  • Cute
  • Bizarre
  • Familiar
  • Naughty
  • Cruel

Not everyone finds all six dimensions funny. In fact, most people are only amused by one or two of the dimensions, and some people have no sense of humor at all, relying instead on social cues to know when to laugh (which is why laugh tracks on sitcoms are a thing).

A professional joke tries to hit at least two dimensions. To be cute and bizarre, or naughty and clever, or familiar and cruel. The more the better. A superb example:

Image may contain: text that says 'Death flashed before my eyes WTF CS'

Clever (a pun), Bizarre, and Naughty. Arguably, it is also Cruel.

A professional humorist tries to hit all six over the course of several jokes, and accepts that most of his jokes won’t hit with most of his audience, but everyone in the audience will remember one or two that cater to his tastes.

Naturally, a comic strip is well advised to bake in as many of these factors as possible.

I’m going to show you how the pros do it, and then you’ll be set to understand the concept of Re-Tail.

Continue reading “A Brief(?) Write-Up of Re-Tail”

Vocation Specific

God has graciously placed me in a position where I can focus on my art if I choose. It may be better for me to go get a job and help pay the bills, but if I want, I can work on and off as a farmhand, and try to make money as an artist in the mean time, and my family will live in relative poverty, but not badly for all that.

And yet, if I got a job, if I went through Lamda School, things could be so much better for my family. A little bit of that distress of decision making is showing through in my apathy towards 3D, my trying to pick a project, and so forth.

As I wrestle with the decision of what is the best thing I can do for those under me, it is good to remember a man’s vocation is not abstract. I am not a father, a husband, a farmhand, and an artist. I am a father to my specific kid, a husband to my specific wife, a farmhand to my brother, and so on.

It’s like my theory of creativity.

Continue reading “Vocation Specific”