A Can of Worms

Yesterday was the 500th of Martin Luther saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other unless convinced by Scripture and plain reason. God help me.”

To hear tell, social media was rife with Lutherans crowing and Romans, crowing in turn. Sculptures and woodcuts of sacred figures casting Luther out of Heaven or ushering him into Hell adorned my twitter feed.

I consider it a credit to my social media curating that I only saw a handful of the adornments, and almost none of the crowing.

Whenever my position, which is “Lutheran”, comes up, I get commentary from my Roman friends who either explain patiently why Luther was a terrible person, or else offer him as much grace as possible, but patiently explain why Luther was terribly wrong. In my youth, I frequently got into such arguments with atheists over the basic facts of history (namely that Christ arose), and I never demurred until I was content than an objective viewer would see I had clearly beaten the pants off my opposition. But I frequently demure when it comes to defending Luther and his ideas. There are two reasons for this: a greater, and a lesser. Today I would like to concern myself primarily with the lesser. But let us first briefly (ha!) address the greater reason.

I don’t actually give two figs what Luther said or did.

When reading through the Encyclopedia of Catholicism, one of their entries, I’m not sure if it was on some Lutheran thing, or on the Lord’s Supper, commented that Luther believed that the Sacrament of the Altar does not confer forgiveness of sins.

Now, I cannot with 100% confidence, tell you that this is false. I think it is false. I can assure you that if I go to my priest, he will tell me it is false. But even if it is true, it doesn’t matter.

The Scripture says “This is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”

I believe the sacrament forgives sins.

Every church with which I commune teaches that the sacrament forgives sins.

Now, I suspect that Luther also, at least at one point in his life, believed that the sacrament forgives sins, because Luther wrote two catechisms that teach this very thing. And the Lutheran churches preserve these two catechisms in our book of Concord, where we lay out our dogmas and our arguments for them.

But let us suppose Luther wrote these things by mistake and actually taught what the encyclopedia claims. Or perhaps he later changed his mind, and the teachings he finally settled upon are not the teachings the Lutheran church has preserved.

Luther is not now and was not then the Pope of Lutheranism.

The fundamental distinction between the Lutheran church and Rome is our views of authority. The Father has given all authority in Heaven and on Earth to the Son. On this, all the churches agree. The Son has given Magisterial Authority to His Apostles. On this, all the churches agree.

From here there are three positions. The Enthusiasts believe that Magisterial authority was passed on to their whims, the stirrings in their guts, and to divinatory arts. Rome and the East believe that Magisterial authority persists in the teaching office of the Church. And the Lutherans believe that it died with Apostles, making the record of their teachings the final authority. This position is called “Sola Scriptura,” and it boggles my mind that a Roman will one minute attack Sola Scriptura (fair enough, as this is actually our stance), and the next minute tell me that Luther was a bad faith actor.

We didn’t call ourselves Lutherans. That’s your term for us. We went with “Evangelical” (although, sadly, the term was already taken by the time we made it to America). Every church names itself with a name that means “We’re the True Church.” Rome calls themselves Catholic. The Greeks say they are Orthodox. And the Concordians claim to be Evangelical. Well, Christ’s church is Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical. If (as I suspect) the Lutherans are correct, it is because they are catholic. If, as my homies insist, Rome is correct, it is because they are evangelical.

The proper parallels to calling the church of the Book of Concord “Lutheran” is calling the church of Rome “Papist”. Which I hold to be true, but I do not actually use the term because I do not expect to win converts by needlessly pissing in the wheaties of my brethren. I favor the term “Roman” because it is not primarily an insult and yet neither does it concede the argument.

We are men, and not the children of antifa. We have better arguments than naming ourselves “the good guys” and insisting everyone else is the bad guys by virtue of our self-chosen name.

And the name “Lutheran” obscures the nature of the Lutheran churches, specifically, that they do not count themselves beholden to Luther’s words and actions any more than they count themselves beholden to the Bishop of Rome.

And now I turn to the point of this post. The lesser issue.

Do you actually think I believe that?

Here’s the thing. For every attack on Luther, there exists an answer. I presume, for every answer there is also a rebuttal, and a rebuttal to the rebuttal. This argument has been going on for half a millennium, after all.

Luther said “Sin boldly”? He was being bombastic and hyperbolic, and his instruction taken in context cannot be read as an endorsement of sin. Luther added the phrase “Apart from works” to a specific Bible passage in his translation? That translation was not unique or original to Luther; Aquinas had also used it. Luther was antisemitic? You do realize that On the Jews and their Lies was a tit for tat answer to On the Christians and their Lies, right?

500 or so years ago, when these arguments were first spun up, somebody was arguing in bad faith. Given human nature, there was likely multiple bad faith actors, even on whichever side was correct. These days, however, the stories are passed on in good faith. Your Roman priest is not lying when he says Luther said A, B, or C, and neither is my Lutheran priest lying when he rebuts by saying Luther actually said X, Y, or Z. They are both passing on to their sheep what they learned in good faith from their teachers.

And this is why I demure. Because the argument proceeds at this point on a he-said/she-said basis. You tell me in good faith what your priest told you in good faith. I tell you, in good faith, what my priest told me in good faith.

The natural rebuttal from Rome is, “well, my priest is validly ordained, whereas yours was falsely appointed by a heretical sect.” But don’t you see? This is ultimately the very point under contention. We would not care about Luther’s teachings or character unless we were considering which church is, indeed, orthodox.

You will not convince me by loading your conclusion into your premises.

The proper step at this point, then, is to turn to the original source material. To read Luther and his foes in their context. Ideally, in the original German and Latin.

And this I will not do. Mostly, because I don’t have the time. Partly because I really, really dislike the German language. And partly because, as I wrote above, Luther is not the pope of me.

If ever I have time to do in-depth original source investigation, it seems to me far more profitable to learn Koine and read the New Testament as written rather than as translated, along with the LXX and the earliest Church Fathers. Indeed, it is my hope to eventually do so. If I am converted to Rome (or the East, which frankly I think is far more likely) or else confirmed in my current position, let it be at the feet of Peter, Paul, Irenaeus, and Clement, rather than Luther or Trent!

There is also the matter of vocation to consider. I am not a professional apologist. I do not wish to become one. It is incumbent on professional apologists to go the source and get his facts straight. It is not incumbent on all the flock to become professional apologists. Some of us have to be farmers or shopkeepers or construction workers.

If God permits, I should like to be an entertainer.

Captain’s Log 0210416.105: It Could Be a Bit More Awesome

Thanks to a retreat last weekend with my best friend, I realized that I’ve been focusing heavily on what is pragmatic in my constant quest for a golden workflow road.

No project is worth doing unless it’s full of awesome. Now, all of my projects have that potential, but I have not been specifically seeking that potential out. I’ve been looking for a way to do cheap and easy, instead of investing time.

I’m not sure how this revelation (which I need to rediscover from time to time) is going to shape projects in the immediate future. Awesome Moments itself may resume being my focus on the other side of the Weekend. However, we shall see.

In the mean time, here’s a workflow for making HD animations using Spriter & Krita:

Step 1: create prototype graphics at half size. Be careful about form and posture, and sloppy about everything else. The initial version of a character, especially if I intend to use character maps, should have out-jutty things designed to ensure each part takes up as much space as it ever likely will.

Here’s the Solar Guard, created for that exact purpose:

Step 2: Export at 4X size (that is, 2x the intended size; 4x the ‘sketch’ size) and animate in Spriter. Here, I am intending to shrink the graphic in Unity. By going to 4X size, I can allow for an amount of zooming without losing detail.

Step 3: Open the generated graphics in Krita and save them as *.kra files. Double the size once more, draw final quality art on new layers, then export it to a new skin folder at half size as png.

Apply skin in Spriter and see how it looks.

I may abandon shading on characters, in line with old cartoons where the backdrops were carefully painted and shaded, but the characters had flat coloring except in extreme situations. But I am content with this workflow and this art style.

I think after I’m done with Awesome Moments and in between books, I’m going to work on making a hand drawn game with Piqha. Maybe it’ll be an RPG. Maybe a platformer. Maybe I’ll work on both and see what happens. Maybe I’ll backburner Awesome Moments until my heart is in it again.

We’ll see what happens. But I need to feed my kid and the farm aminals.

Concept singularity

26 projects currently listed in Yet Another List of Projects.

John Michael Jones is on the verge of being added to the Alpha Test/Demake not as a skit playing out within the demake…

Which has been under consideration

..but as a focal point of the conceit.

So, we are taking Alpha Test, and merging it with AV@TAR, Crossover Arcade, Jump the Shark, Piqha, Stardogs, Star Knights, AND Theria… and we’re almost at a functioning gestalt.

I just need to cook this stone soup a few minutes longer.

What if

Cache Miss, the story about game sprites swapping between living in a ghost town and re-enacting stories…

Was also Piqha, the cast of colorful shelled bird-man gremlins and…

Was also Stardogs/Starlancer, my answer to the Berenstain Bears and Star Trek?

What if the handheld game console on which the sprites lived was a spaceship. Or more accurately, a ship designed to navigate the Dream, where stories have substance. And a piqha family uses that ship to rescue story characters who are being jettisoned by a mind virus that is ravaging the fictional worlds of the Dream.

It’s Wreck it Ralph meets Kingdom Hearts. Except politically too on the nose.

But the on-the-noseness will abate as the concept sees development. As I work out the rules of the reality and the motivations of the characters.

I think this is it. I think I’ve solved my story equation.

Only problem is this thing. This thing ain’t no spaceship.

Let me fix that for ya.

Now that’s a spaceship!

Captain’s Log 0210326.071

Proof is in.

Blanket Octopus : pics

Oops. That’s not my proof. That’s a blanket octopus. The females fly through the sea with superhero capes. The males went undiscovered until very recently because they max out at an inch long.



Work on getting my paperwork squared away for the Kickstarter proceeds slowly. My first read through of the book as already identified multiple grievous errors.

And I feel this close to figuring out my ‘golden path’.

wait, what?


Evolving Piqha

Piqha started as digital creatures that live inside the computer who were characters for a game I made when I was a teenager.

I later decided they were not, in fact digital, but were some kind of psychic mollusk, and noted that they had many, many advantages as a creature design:

They are basically faces with feet and stylized shells. Easy to model in 3D, easy to get a wide range of character styles while keeping to the core concept.

Piqha are my creatures. Like the muppets of Jim Henson and the Whos of Seuss. In addition to being very marketable and very personable, they feature a lot of things I like. Basic shapes. Big, expressive faces, Marvin Martian style glowing eyes in an orb of darkness. Cool armor effects. And crystals. Gotta have glowing crystals everywhere.

Continue reading “Piqha”

Captain’s Log 0210312.064: A critical workflow lesson.

It’s Report Day. We got the cover art made:

Created puppets for the fallen serpent, and for the floating mountain/garden/ziggurat of Eden/New Jerusalem:

We also, in what is a super tedious process, made it through page 36 of transcribing the storyboards into Scribus. I’m becoming more and more familiar with the software, finding ways to make it behave. So that’s good. But this sucks and I never want to do it again.

This book is not the first book I’ve storyboarded, nor the last. Fortunately, most of the others are comic books, which wouldn’t use this process to begin with, and the exception is my Bestiary, which is still in tinker mode.

I settled on this method after my previous books.

Jump the Shark 1 was storyboarded on paper. Alphabeasts had no storyboard at all, just concept sketches for the characters. Death of Arthur was storyboarded on index cards. And Pirate Princess was written, with no illustrations, to test the Kids’ Pulp Formula.

The result was that for three books, I wrote to illustrations, and for the fourth, I illustrated to the writing. I was dissatisfied with both approaches. I felt I ought to write and illustrate at the same time, so that the words and pictures could be designed to support each other and edited at the same time. And thus I have done. In each case, I create a template with margin lines and some sample text at the target point size in Inkscape, then import this template into Krita:

Then I draw and write what I intend to draw and write in Krita. Krita’s text tools are not nearly so accurate or useful, though, so I do it with the knowledge that I’m just composing and positioning the text to get a rough idea of where it’s gonna go…

With the idea that for the first draft, I’ll import the storyboard image minus the text into Scribus, and type the text in. This is the step I’m on now in Awesome Moments 1.

Now, Scribus isn’t embedding the image data in the .sla document. It’s pulling it from disk. Which means when I finish the final quality image, I should be able to just save it over the storyboard image, and it will magically update in Scribus. Nice!

Problem is I can’t just copy and paste the text over from Krita to Scribus, and retyping everything is tedious as heck. I want to tear my hear out after two or three pages.

I think, henceforth, I shall be composing my storyboards IN Scribus. I’ll add the pages in the appropriate place, save a “storyboard image” that is nothing more or less than the template in the appropriate folder, then I’ll type the text into Scribus, and draw the art in Krita, saving over the template image as I go.

It is, alas, too late to do this for Awesome Moments 1. I am committed to see the drudgery through. But the pain will serve to strengthen the lesson.

Anyway, I become increasingly doubtful I’ll be ready to Kickstart even by the Equinox. I’m moving the target to April.

Tomorrow I have to do farmhand stuff during my normal creative block, and Sunday is for the Lord. I’ll try and make headway on the PDF draft today, and burn off my aggravation by sculpting things that will actually be useful for the campaign. But I have to allow that this may be the end of the progress for this week, and if I have more to show when I start up again on Monday, it’s a gift from God to me.

Frankly, the realization that I find this process tedious, and I could have composed the storyboards in Scribus from the very start is a gift.

Captain’s Log, 0210306.063

So here’s our test of the Seraph-serpent of Eden:

Fair enough.

One thing that’s worth noting is that while I am using 3D puppets to create 2D drawings, I am not exactly tracing. Anytime something doesn’t ‘look’ right, I fix it, even though the 3D even when it looks “wrong” is more accurate to how shapes would work in reality. And, of course, I put more detale and sculpting into my puppets than I convey with my art.

So while it looks pretty clear that I’m just tracing this image to make this image:

Directly layering one over the other will show I’m warping and changing stuff.

Anyway, that’s my sketch for the cover art. I’m going to ink it in 2+ layers so I can sandwich the title text between the seraph and the men.

Anyway, assembling this cover is my next big task in the process of making this book.

I do not think, at this rate, I’m going to be crowdfund ready by the ides. I’m still aiming solidly at that though.