Monday, March 29, 2010

Life Online

Someone once voiced concern to me that I told too much about my life on the Internet. Well, there have been a few hiccups along the way, but I came to the conclusion that as a cartoonist, and now almost primarily an online cartoonist, a lot of my life is out there. Not to mention that a great deal of my personal life goes into my comics, even if they're not autobiographical.

A good cartoonist puts themselves into their work. I did it in Factor of 01 on August 4, 2010 when Tom Winchester says "I've lost my family." Yeah, that panel was all me. I'm currently starting a new autobiographical comic, and the stories I've done in the past that were autobiographical have put me in a position where I have to be completely honest in my personal life. Do I share everything? No, but the stuff that I share I need to be honest about. I still stand by the opinion that I formed ten years ago. If I'm not being honest with my readers, then why in the world would they want to read more from me?

With other people, it's different. I wouldn't include anyone in a story without at least their knowledge. In the case of the current autobiographical project, someone else will probably have a very large role in it. In this case, approval is paramount, but would I compromise the story if they were to veto? I wouldn't compromise, but I would change the structure enough to meet their concerns.

That being said, I follow the rule of behaving as if you were were already at where you wanted to be. I am a cartoonist. Eventually, I would like Jet-Pack Jenny to be better known, and people coming here to read new content to feel included in the discussion around new comics and posts that have to do with the relationship between art and science, skepticism, atheism, and politics. I want people coming here to feel like part of the process, and just like what I did on August 4, 2010, I want people to know that part of me goes into these stories and I want to feel that from time to time, they'll be part of these stories. If things go as planned, the ending to Factor of 01 will actually incorporate an idea from someone else, who made a suggestion for incorporating themes from a sonata. I'm incorporating it not because of who they were, but because it was a great idea.

That's why I life my life online.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

There Is No Such Thing As Destiny

Those of you that come here for comics will be saying that I should just be drawing, but this has been sitting in my head for a few days, and this blog is also a home to skepticism, rationalism, and logic, so please bear with me. Those of you that here for skepticism, you're welcome.

James Burke used to host a program call Connections, which detailed how seemingly unrelated historic events of varying magnitude led to a major invention in use today. That's what astounds me, especially given some recent developments in my own life .

You'll hear people, especially people in love, talk about how their current position is destined to happen. Usually this is in relation to their relationships.  This is where the skepticism comes in. The natural exercise is that for two people to be destined to meet, fall in love, etc. then their parents had to be destined to meet, and their parents, and so on, until the beginning of time. See how I can have a problem with that?

If we look back at our own lives we see all of these seemingly random events and some of them quite tragic. I've had my share of tragic events - the death of a sibling, a divorce, bouts of financial hardship, pretty much the same things everyone goes through at one point or another. However, there have been really happy occurrences as well. Christians will say "whenever God closes a door, he opens a window." I find that extremely cruel. What higher purpose did the death of my brother serve? Even if it led to me winning a Pulitzer prize, it wouldn't be worth it. I still miss him, although the pain of that loss is greatly diminished today. For it to serve a vague purpose makes God a cruel deity in my opinion.

Even if we don't invoke the deity, calling it the universe instead, destiny, or whatever, you're not doing anything different. It's still invoking magic, and I think watching a few episodes of Connections will show you that there's no such thing as destiny, just a lot of stuff that leads to a series of decisions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And The Streak Falls at Nine Weeks

No new strip this Monday. It's been a busy week, and the weekend is even busier. It's not that I've been letting myself get distracted, I've just gotten too many balls up in the air creatively. You wanna know something, though? I'm happy with having the past two months having new content every week. However, I am going to make you a deal. I will post a redrawing of an older strip, and in exchange, you forgive me. Deal?

I said do we have a deal?

Okay, for Easter Monday, I'll post a new strip AND a redrawn one, as well. Now be happy, that's all you're getting.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Talk A Lot About The Future, But The Past Gets Darn Interesting, Too.

I came across this article in my daily news reading today, from the New York Times:
A previously unknown kind of human group vanished so completely that it has left behind the merest wisp of evidence that it ever existed — a single bone from the little finger of a child, buried in a cave in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia.

Researchers extracted DNA from the bone and reported Wednesday that it differed conspicuously from that of modern humans and of Neanderthals, the archaic human species that inhabited Europe until the arrival of modern humans on the continent about 44,000 years ago.

The child was probably 5 to 7 years old, but it is not yet known if it was a boy or a girl. The finger bone was excavated by Russian archaeologists in 2008 from a place known as the Denisova cave.

The researchers were led by Johannes Krause and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They are careful not to call the Denisova child a new human species, though it may prove to be so, because the evidence is preliminary.

But they say the genetic material, an element called mitochondrial DNA, extracted from the bone belonged to a distinct human lineage that migrated out of Africa at a different time from the two known archaic human species. Homo erectus, found in East Asia, left Africa 2 million years ago, and the ancestor of Neanderthals emigrated about 500,000 years ago. The number of differences found in the child's DNA indicate that its ancestors left Africa about 1 million years ago, the researchers say. Their report is published online in the journal Nature.

Now, science learned some time ago that Neanderthals were not a precursor to modern humans, but a separate species that lived concurrent with homo sapiens, even competing in Europe. This isn't any definite proof that another hominid species tried to claw it's way up the evolutionary ladder yet, but if it is, then the past gets more interesting, and would mean that early hominids began to leave Africa long before we previously thought. This implies a lot about our ancestors and could give indications for behavior we've not credited to our ancestors. Early man becomes an explorer much sooner, and becomes much more interesting.

Keep in mind, this is data discovered just two years ago and to extrapolate knowledge without data is just foolish, so don't think I'm assuming blindly that this is a definite new species and despite many headlines around this story, the scientists that are studying this specimen are even more cautious in calling it a new species until they have more proof. The lessons of Piltdown Man still hang in the air.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Days, My Ass

It's really odd to have one of your awakening moments be  watching a television show. Maybe I'm being naive, and a lot of people my age have similar moments where a bit of television is important in setting who they are. I've gone through a lot of effort to locate this clip, and I can only find the episode with no sound, so you'll have to bear with me describing it.

In the first season of Happy Days, there were little segments that had nothing to do with the story. I don't know if the writers were trying to add bits to be reminiscent of American Graffiti or the perceived, romanticized view of the 1950s, but in this case, there was no point in it. Ralph Malph was being a douchebag. In the fourth episode, Almost all the kids that hang out down at Arnold's get grounded because of a drag race so the place gets deserted very early, except for two very typically nerdy kids, the guy known as Moose. They share a very touching dance as the credits roll. This makes the first scene from the fifth episode all the more disturbing.

Moose is getting his order and Ralph and three kids are eagerly watching on, Ralph assuring that they just need to wait for it. Moose goes to put salt on his food when the entire shaker empties on his food, ruining it. He's visibly mad, and Ralph and the kids laugh it up. Arnold's is not huge, so Moose has to know who did it to him, but it's left alone as Potsie comes in and we get the story started.

As a kid, I saw that and thought that it was just sad. I felt bad for Moose, and could never really like Ralph Malph, because he could f**king do that to someone. Over the years the two scenes grew linked in my head and that made it all the more upsetting. Ralph was doing that to someone in public because they didn't fit in with the rest of the crowd. To do that to one of your friends is one thing, but to someone because they're an easy target is just wrong.

Growing up later, I was picked on because I didn't fit in. I was smart, I liked comics, I didn't play sports. I was an easy target. Well, I didn't have the guts to say it then, so I'll say it now.

F**k you, Ralph Malph. F**k you, anyone who did that to other kids growing up, and f**k you, anyone who thought it was f**king funny, because it wasn't.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Too Much Time Online

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time online, and given that I'm currently working out of my home, it's probably only natural that I be online as much as I am. It seems that way because in my new apartment I'm within range of free WiFi, courtesy of Google. If you have unlimited access to the Internet, you tend to use it. Most likely, after next week, I won't be online as much. There's also a lot going on that I can't really talk about until after certain things happen. To someone using the social network part of the Internet as much as I am, keeping things secret get to be a problem, really nerve-racking.

I am starting a sequel to Too Scared to Die, which hopefully will have a good start, somewhere around my move back to North Carolina. I'm most likely not going to use the same storytelling method of Too Scared, and more likely, going for a detached, narrator style of storytelling. I may decide to go with straight storytelling, telling the autobiographical story as if the characters were nothing more than characters in a story. The trick with that is that autobiographical stories never really have a sense of closure.

I am also toying around with the idea of doing some t-shirt designs, but a lot depends on if I think that the designs can work or not. I'll post a link if I decide to go through with it or not.

In the meantime, feel free to hit me up for a chat if you see me on Facebook. One on one, I can divulge some of the things I can't discuss openly just yet.

EDIT: I am starting the sequel to Too Scared to Die, the beginning is set, I believe. The real trick is to find as good a title for it as Too Scared To Die.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Because Embedding Video Makes It Look Like I'm Blogging

This is one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits ever. It was written by Tina Fey and is a great use of accents to make a joke. Seriously, If you just read this script with no accent at all, it doesn't work. It's slightly dirty... Okay, it's dirty, so don't play it at work or in front of your mom. Unless of course, you either work at or are the adult child of a really super cool person with a great sense of humor.

What I just typed also brings a question to mind. If you work in the porn industry at an office job, what's the company Internet policy? Once I worked for a company and Wicked Pictures ordered a piece of office furniture, which means that there's definitely jobs there, and it is a business, so there has to be policy and procedures, but I wonder what the policy is regarding the Internet?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Should Have Posted This Yesterday

I should have posted this yesterday but it was a busy day with meeting the Gastonia Society for Free Thought, and then doing laundry which turned into a major endeavor when the laundry room door got blocked by an unbalanced washer.

XKCD frustrates me terribly because I think that it's hilarious, but when it comes to comics, I'm a firm believer that the art is as integral as the words. XKCD uses iconic imagery to help illustrate the joke, but sometimes it gets in the way. This particular strip is one that I would love to redraw in a way that adds layer to the joke. The actors chosen for blockbuster bad science fiction action movies are always the best part of the joke as absolute nonsense dialogue is delivered with complete sincerity. A lot of times, the actors take the blame because they're the ones sent out to promote a horribly bad movie, when it's the writers that need to have their names and faces attached to absolute drivel. Mitchell and Webb did a nice little bit that illustrated this in a much more humorous way than I can manage.

Reminder About Comments

One of the reasons that I started using Wordpress was to get comments from readers. This is just a reminder that while I appreciate it when you post a reply to the link I cross post on Twitter or Facebook, I really love when you add a comment here. It doesn't take any more time, so please add a comment whenever you read a post. I do review all comments, but I don't delete any that are legitimately from readers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comic Shop Review: Docking Bay 94

I had the pleasure of living in a great town for comics shops, Orlando, Florida. Because I've always wanted to review comic shops, I'm starting as I prepare to leave town by starting with the one that's been so kind as to carry my comics.

Docking Bay 94 is run by Rich who genuinely has a love for comics and animation. He'll talk to you for an hour if you let him. His stock is predominately back issues that are priced very affordable, especially given the prices some of the other shops in town charge for back issues. He has some toys, too, but the shop doesn't have the space. The biggest drawback for the shop is its size, and the level of competition in the area for different facets of the market. For toys, there's a shop a short drive away in Lakewood, for new comics and collectibles, the leader is a shop with several stores spaced to maximize the customer base. Back issues are the one area where Docking Bay 94 really competes as the only serious competition is a shop that lost it's Diamond account, and now apparently subsists on eBay sales. Rich is really trying hard to compete here. The back issue selection is vast and consists primarily of 1980s and 1990s comics, which is an improvement over most shops whose back issue selection consist primarily of the age of the glut when the average print run was over 100,000 copies, which means that there's a lot left over. The 1980s has a lot of good comics in its history, but I could be biased there. Nevertheless, Rich prices his back issues to be very affordable, even to the point of having a small box near the register of comics in such bad condition that they can only be termed "reading copies" as "free comics."

Recently, Rich entered into a business relationship with A Comic Shop to carry new comics and trades, and to hear Rich talk, it's been a good arrangement. It gives Rich's customers a reason to visit week after week. Rich also has started carrying comics self-published by local cartoonists, which is something no other shop in Orlando does. Some will make note of comics from major publishers that have creators local to Central Florida, but they do so for comics that they get through Diamond. Rich gets his directly from the creators. The deal with A Comics Shop has also expanded his selection of trade paperbacks and looking at the wall and talking to Rich, he can tell you about each one, and why you should buy it. He's recommended books for customers based on what else they're buying.

Rich also carries some toys, and the last time I was there, he'd purchased a huge selection of loose DC Direct figures and his central display cases were full. His toy wall is a little limited by the size of his shop. Rich loves toys and if he had a larger shop, he'd definitely would sell more, but his ability is limited by the size of the shop. Chances are you will find something that you'll want, but if you're toy shopping is very specific, you may not find what you're looking for.

Overall, this a great shop. Rich loves comics, will talk at length with you about them, and most importantly, likes his regular customers. His resources are so much better than you'd expect, and if you're out for something specific, he  will do his best to help you. If you're in Central Florida, make this store one of your stops.

Directions: From I-4, take exit 85 then head east on Princeton Ave. Turn right onto Orange and then look for Docking Bay 94 on your left in less than a quarter of a mile. Parking is available on the street and there are a couple of small parking lots nearby.