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Rise and Fall of the Mouse?

Arkhaven has a three-part series on the rise and fall of Disney (or more accurately, the rises and falls).

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I don’t 100% agree with all the assumptions or conclusions of the writer. I find myself more in agreement with Sam Lively’s Trojan Mouse assessment, though I have caveats even about that. But both Lively’s book and the article series can serve to give you a rounded gloss of Disney’s history both in terms of animation production, and ideology. On matters of inference, ideology, and artistic integrity there is room for some debate; on matters of fact, both resources are quite good.

Anyway, I’m not here to push my own quibbles with the assessments. Merely to note them as resources.

Perhaps I will write up my own thoughts at some future point.

Drams Æther

Æther is measured in drams, which are also the unit of currency in many lands where the substance is harvested and used in various machinations. The units are as follows. Four drams (4ᵭ) to the nip. 3 nips (3ꬻ) to the gil (1ꬶ). 1ꬶ of aether is about a teacupfull liquid radiant. Dram coins frequently (depending on the local culture) have an aether crystal set in the coin itself, whereas larger denominations of coins are theoretically exchangeable for aether. Seximal and duodecimal denominations are normal for other currencies.

Of course, a 1 gil aether stone may be worth considerably more or considerably less depending on the intensity and nature of the radiance stored therein and on market forces.

The Problem of Sasha

Sasha the cat is supposed to be a joke on fanservice in anime. She’s got the schoolgirl look, but there’s midriff, and her boobs are improbably large. It was meant, again, as a joke. But it’s also part of her character arc. She’s not a good person, and she starts out the story playing up her bad side.

You can’t really see that in this picture because these character proportions conceal or downplay those elements. And… I’m almost okay with this.

A part of me is like, “Look, dude, Hat Trick was concieved 15 years ago. At the time, you hand no audience in mind. You make books for 6 year olds now. You are making Hat Trick for 12 year olds. You don’t need a sexy character.”

And it’s not 100% of Sasha’s character or role in the story. If I snipped that bit out, nobody would notice its absence. But a part of me wants to leave it in to be true to the vision.

Continue reading “The Problem of Sasha”

Status Report 0210118.053

Vargenstone

Vargenstone remains where it was last time I last time I spoke…

…and while I am going to try and get some serious work on it done this week, I’m not going to stress over it while I’m the only guy changing anything.

Theria

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m done with the virtual pet for now. Not permanently, but I was doing it to scratch an itch and the itch is scratched. I will probably continue adding pages to the book storyboard at a rate of one or two per week so that I’ve have a huge head start when the project gets the limelight.

Hat Trick

Continue reading “Status Report 0210118.053”

Art Under the Shadow of the Gun

I have nothing new to say. Only a new audience and a new occasion. This essay is nothing more than my ripping off of C.S. Lewis’s Learning in War Time.

I have maintained for the last decade or so that I expect my country, the United States of America, to fall apart in the early 2030s. This belief is not due to my own expertise, and I am ill suited to defend it. It is the considered opinion of historians and philosophers I trust.

Of late, however, men are starting to take my premise seriously. Except they expect the collapse much sooner. Next week, perhaps. The foundations are shaking. The public mood is turning. And being ill-suited to the task of defending my 203X date, I’ve heard a question floating around my circles:

What role has an artist in all this? Should he set down his brush and take up a gun? Or, if he holds his brush, should he seek to use his art to aid his friends and defeat his enemies? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while Rome burns by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

The Christian has a more serious question. For of course, wars and rumors of wars are nothing but birth-pains to us. Every man who dies on the battlefield will rise again to live in eternal glory or eternal torment. But nations and political groups are mayflies, creatures whose lifespans are measured in mere centuries.

Should the Christian artist throw aside his brush, then, and spend all his effort tending his own soul in a monastery or nunnery, or seeking to save the souls of others as an evangelist or priest? Or if he holds on to his brush, should he seek by his art to aid the angels and defeat the demons? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while souls burn by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

Clearly, whatever answer suffices for eternal matters must also be strong enough for trifling matters like a world superpower at war with itself.

And here we can cheat on our impromptu philosophy exam. We already know what the Apostles told us to do in the light of eternity: To use our gifts for the glory of God. To do whatever lies before us with all our strength, as if God and not some man had set us the task. To be content in our station, whether master or slave, though to cast off the chains of slavery whenever peaceful means to do so present themselves. To be good fathers and good sons, good soldiers and good grocers. And good artists.

Neither religion nor war can stop men from drawing pictures, composing poems, or singing songs. Art is more endemic to humanity than war. We are born in the image of a gardener king, not a warrior king. We are made in the image of a gardener God who is a warrior God — but only because a serpent invaded His garden.

Moreover, we find men who are seriously at war writing books, singing songs, and celebrating Christmas. Even when the bullets fly, we will not give up culture. That is who we are.

To set aside the brush for the gun, then, is a foolish proposal. Even if it is a good idea, we could not do it except in the extreme moment of the emergency itself. Once we have taken up the gun and marched off into combat, our hand will itch until it seizes upon a new brush, or pencil or pen, and we shall find ourselves painting in the trenches.

So much for the question of whether we ought to set our art itself aside. Now for the question of whether we ought to prioritize the muse or the mission.

Let us stop thinking for a moment of books and games, and start thinking of houses. Let us pretend we are stonemasons and carpenters. What we are asking is whether we ought to stop building houses, and instead build barracks and chapels.

The answer is situational. A carpenter hired by the army ought to build barracks as the army directs. A carpenter hired by the church ought to build chapels as the church directs. But a carpenter hired by neither ought to go on building houses, to the glory of God. The best, most beautiful houses he may, given his talents and constraints.

A cobbler serves God best not by putting little crosses on his shoes, but by making good shoes. And a storyteller serves God best not by putting little crosses in his stories, but by telling good stories.

Now you may want to tell a story that makes a theological point. Very good. C.S. Lewis wanted to do so, and the Narnia books are great art. But perhaps you want to leave all moralizing and philosophizing out of the story, except as the tale itself demands. Very good. Tolkien hated allegory so much so that he openly disdained Narnia, and Lord of the Rings is great art.

If you are a musician in the army, and the army wishes you to write a march, then by all means write a march. If you are your own man, and you wish to write a march, then by all means write a march. But if you wish to write, instead, a sea shanty, do that. You are not fiddling while Rome burns. You are making a mark on immortal souls, while the mortal things crumble.

I make it sound very grand. I am not inviting you to put on airs. What deeper mark is made on a soul than the marks a mother and a father make? And yet our culture casts these aside as unworthy pursuits. The pictures I draw are nothing, in the end, next to the diapers I have changed. The pictures were as much a product of my vanity as any gifts and callings God has given me. But a dirty diaper is a clear and unquestionable sign from Heaven that there is work to be done, and work of an unambiguous sort.

A dirty diaper very cleanly cuts through the weight of emotion around all this talk of fiddling while Rome burns. Whether bullets fly through the air, or indeed, souls hang in the balance, the thing has got to be done.

But whatever pictures I feel a need to draw, let me draw them with all my might, as unto God and not men.

Progress Report 0210115.065

The plan has not been panning out at all. But I have not been without progress.

I’ve begun storyboards for a pocket bestiary that meshes with my virtual pet, and gone ahead and mocked up the title page.

It’s designed for Amazon’s tiny 5×8 format, and frankly, I’m half-inclined to make it black and white, even though I’ve gone and colored the title spread.

You can see designs changing in realtime across the pages, and that’s because I added a hatchling stage before my previously existing hatchling stage, because the Digimon virtual pet convinced me that was a good idea. Frankly, my plan for this book is to go one bestiary ahead before finalizing it. That is, book 1 will be the core monsters, mostly represented by this graphic:

This set hits all your fantasy creature needs. You got your basic dragon, your basic orc, your basic rock monster, your basic wizard. It could use some tweaking, but that’s the purpose.

Set 2, and book 2, will fill out the ecosystem somewhat, with plants, bugs, birds, fish, and elementals. Each of the sets interacts with all the others — there will be common evolutions between later monsters and earlier ones. So my thought is: storyboard bestiary 1, storyboard bestiary 2, produce bestiary 1, storyboard bestiary 3, produce bestiary 2, and so forth, so that each bestiary gets a little bit of love from hindsight. And since I have Hat Trick 1 and Awesome Moments 1 storyboarded, that means I’ll likely not produce this book until next year at the earliest. But there you are.

I shall dedicate a future post to the bestiary. My thoughts on it as a product, and so on.

On Vargenstone… Eh.

I did do final quality work on the south-facing standing and walking torso and head.

I’ve discovered I need to double the size of the source graphic and use the GDQuest pencil to achieve the line quality I want. No big deal. And I can occupy myself for hours polishing the graphics up to this level if I choose. But I haven’t been able to get momentum going on it.

I haven’t followed the plan at all. I suppose I could still ‘redeem’ the plan by spending all day today and a hefty chunk of tomorrow solely on Vargenstone, but I’m not deeply interested in in trying to retrieve failed plans. I’m more interested in the question of “why did it fail, is there something I can do that wouldn’t fail, and am I willing to do that?”

Hymns and Hims

There’s a quote made the rounds of late. Something about singing hymns with the same gusto as marching songs and sea shanties — because that’s what they are.

Something like that.

Problem is most hymns are not fight songs and sea shanties. And for some, that’s fine. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is perfect as is. Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand needs no improvement. It is Well With My Soul would only be worsened if it were changed. Thy Strong Word is… well, it’s already a sea shanty.

Being a convert to the Lutheran tradition, however, I am confronted with a problem. Most of the hymns were clearly originally written in German. They don’t go well in English. The poetry of the translation is good enough, but the meter of the music was plainly meant for different words.

Sometimes a German Hymn does fine directly translated. Usually, if it is full of sturm and drang. The aforementioned Built on the Rock and Lutheran Theme Song A Mighty Fortress Is Our God are good examples.

On the flip side, nearly everyone who suggests changing up the music in the divine service is trying to sneak in a Baptist-style worship service long on blue jeans and guitars and emotional manipulation and short on anything that actually confesses the catholic faith. I have fended off a couple of attempts to recruit me for such campaigns, due to the fact I have a decent ear, and can thus sing slightly better than average.

I didn’t go to all the trouble of converting just to attend a second-rate version of the church I left.

Thing is, the church has been around since at least when Cain and Abel went to make sacrifices (I would say since Adam first heard God curse the serpent), and in those 6000+ years permeated every culture there is. We have no excuse for bad music. We ought be able to skim the best of tunes and the best of poetry off the top of that great cataract of culture. We ought to have a giant book chock full of verified bangers.

I lack the training to right this wrong. But there it is, and it pains me greatly.

Anyway, I’ll be listening to sea shanties for a while. Sea shanties are the anthem of the broken spirit discovering after the breaking that somehow it has won. That is a very Christian spirit, even if the shanties tend to be long on whores and rum. And I have added “Shanty Hymns” to the list of things I’m making, even though I’ve no skill for the task.

Whatta Monster Do

Pokémon is, in general a well-tuned game. It is about collecting. It’s second biggest feature was exploring, at least until the hallway simulators starting Gen 4/5ish, and this meshes extremely well with collecting. Find new places, add to your collection. The combat system is Ultimate Rock Paper Scissors, with a complex elemental strength/weakness graph — and this also tests your collecting skills. You want a team of monsters that has good coverage of elemental strengths and situations.

I have some serious disagreements with Mr. Masuda on what makes Pokémon work; Pokémon has been letting the difficulty of its combat and the richness of its exploration wither on the vine, and at the same time has been half-assing some virtual pet functionality in. And I feel this undercuts what made a Pokémon player feel connected to his monsters, even while slapping a hasty bandaid over it. But the core of collecting is still there, and the rest of the gameplay still orbits around that core.

Digimon, on the other hand, was a virtual pet. The point was not to catch them all, but to raise them well. I’ve been test driving a Digimon 20th Anniversary pet to see what I want to steal, ditch, or improve for my V Pet, and… hm.

Here’s some groob animations while I ponder.

Continue reading “Whatta Monster Do”