Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, no particular theme

I tried to divide this into a theme where I could pick three again, but the most likely theme did not have an obvious name, and I realized that the ones I haven't read yet are probably ones that I will cover based more on their authors, so this is just throwing several things out there.

It is going up late, but there are really a lot of reading options for your long weekend.

by David Malki

Old-fashioned pictures are combined with rather current exposition. The jokes often have fairly long setups, where the result is more likely to be a smile of understanding than an loud guffaw, but I find that many of them are applicable, and I end up sharing them with others. The Terrible Sea Lion was exactly right, and the one about daycare being wasted on the young made me jealous.

by Randall Munroe

The jokes are generally centered around math, language, technology, and human relationships. The art itself is usually pretty simple, with stick figures, but then something of amazing and beautiful complexity will appear. The humor is sometimes weird, which works for me, and sometimes it is entirely above my head, however, there is a disclaimer right on the page:

"Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."

This double liberal arts major (Romance Languages and History) still enjoys it.

by David Willis

This one focuses on the lives of the mainly freshmen students living in the dorms. It would be really easy to make some of the characters unsympathetic stereotypes, but there is a nice humanity to the strip. Some aspects of college and dorm life feel very familiar. There is a fair amount of focus on sex, which I don't remember as much from my time in school, but it certainly seems plausible.

by Jen Wang

There is currently only one chapter up, but it is really intriguing. The story switches from a collection of snakes where several snakes are missing and a person is dead, to the therapy session of a seemingly open and rather unworldly girl. I do want to know what happens next.

by Kate Leth

This is often really cute, and then sometimes it kind of dragged for me. I can't write it off though, because it frequently touches on issues of depression and identity that are handled really sensitively, and I know there is a need for that. It is probably best to not expect too strong a theme. Sometimes it functions more like a journal, sometimes there is a story, and you take it as it comes.

by Kate Beaton

This is different in that it is not fully developed yet. The drawings are rough sketches, and at least for when I was trying to read it, the individual issues cut off, where there were parts and connections missing. It is more of an experiment in that way, checking to see if there is something there. And there is. I believe there are important themes there, and that it would pair well with Underground from yesterday - perhaps not quite as action-packed, but with the focus on environment, industry, and human cost.

I thought I was going to cover three more, but of those left, they are all taking long enough to get anywhere that I can't tell where they are going. That's not an automatic reason for dismissal, but it may be a good reason to come back in a few months and see what's happening.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, complete stories edition

These are three very diverse stories, all of which I have enjoyed, and which you may enjoy as well.

Adapted by Anna Sarhling-Hamm from a 1904 story by M. R. James, "Lost Hearts".

This is the shortest of the stories and it is safe to call it the eeriest. It is also helpful that it is not very long, because you will want to go back once you understand the resolution and see how it played out.

At least that is how it was for me being unfamiliar with the story. If you have already read "Lost Hearts" then there are no surprises, but I imagine that seeing it pictured would be rather satisfying.

While going over internet comics I have been considering things like layout and navigation, and I feel like the page setup here works well with the overall mood. Nicely done.

by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona was put out as an ongoing comic, but it always had a defined arc, and that arc having been completed, will be released in book form next year.

Nimona herself is a shape-shifter who volunteers as a sidekick to villain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Initially I kept reading because it was so fun. If you think a powerful shape-shifter with the attitude and attention span of a teenage girl would be frustrating for a villain with a pretty strict honor code, you would be right. That frustration also has a lot of comic potential, and the shape-shifting has some great artistic potential. There is also fun with science and especially one scientist who is the very definition of nonplussed (and probably nonplussable, if that were a word).

At the same time, there is a lot of heart to the comic, and there are times when it really gets you in the gut.

Written by Jeff Parker, art by Steve Lieber, and colors by Ron Chan

Here there are five books, which can be purchased via Paypal donation.

The story centers around a cave system that the protagonist is trying to protect while various other people are trying to make a profit from it, told over five books.

I appreciate the balance given to the various characters and points of view. I sympathize with preservation, but I sympathize with the need for economic stimulation too. I believe the multiple needs can be met, which the book seems to indicate as well, based on its resolution.

The most amazing thing about it is exploration of the cave system with everything that happens there. I will admit that there were a few places where the action got a little confusing to follow, which would probably happen if you were in the situation yourself. I just also have to say that there were moments when it left me breathless, like Dang! How do you get out of that? It's a lot of adrenaline for reading a comic, and I'm not sure that claustrophobics would be free from panic while reading it, because it gets to you.

It does make the caves look really cool, it just grabs you by the throat a little bit in the process.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, superhero edition

When I started looking at internet comics, it seemed that for every one I found and read, I kept finding more, and a list from five quickly grew to twenty-one, even with me stopping myself from noting others. It is probably better to look at it as something where the reading will not end, rather like non-internet comics. So, it is reasonable to review a few now, that I have read.

Agents of the Realm:

Artwork and content by Mildred Louis

"Shortly after beginning their first year of college at Silvermount University, Five young women discover that they’ve each been chosen to help protect not just our world, but a newly discovered sister dimension as well. As they venture forward through their college years their lives start to take on forms of their own, providing them with new opportunities to learn just how much power they have over them."

I like the artwork quite a bit, but I find the pace of the storytelling frustrating. Sometimes a long time will be taken on setup of a crisis, and then resolution is too quick. This is still fairly early in the run, though, and things may even out.

My So-Called Secret Identity:

Created by Suze Shore, Will Brooker, and Sarah Zaidan

" My So-Called Secret Identity is what happened when internationally-acclaimed Batman scholar and popular culture expert, Dr Will Brooker, decided to stop criticising mainstream comics for their representation of women, and show how it could be done differently; how it could be done better."

The name works on two levels. The similarity to "My So-Called Life" seems apt, as a precocious redhaired heroine deals with frustrations and personal growth, but also, the identity is not that secret. People know who she is, and in general the heroes and villains in Gloria City are pretty well-known. Even with the superhero pair that hires actors to portray their alter egos, there is no big surprise to that. Costumed heroes are so common here that it is easy to be cynical about them and their impact. That's the situation against which the story unfolds.

Reading four issues in succession I was very caught up in it. Issue 4 ended on a very dire note, and one common issue with web comics is that the schedule can be pretty irregular. Cliff hangers can last a while, is what I'm saying.

JL8: A Webcomic:

By Yale Stewart

"JL8" is a side project of "Gifted" creator Yale Stewart. A weekly webcomic, it follows the adventures of popular DC comic characters as children in elementary school. Mostly funny, with a dash of pathos, it should be an enjoyable read for any fans of DC Comics characters as well as people who enjoy the traditional syndicated comic strip."

I adore this one. It is adorable, while also feeling correct in that if you took these various characters and put them together into an elementary school, this is how they would be. Has really made me love Martian Manhunter.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Band Review: Busy Living

Busy Living is a pop punk band based in Central Wisconsin.

Although the pop punk designation feels very appropriate, I did hear other influences. At times the introspective sadness of the lyrics reminded me of some of the emo bands I have been listening to, but the music did not, feeling more determined and energetic. Some of the tunes verge into hardcore, but not consistently. At various times I thought of Touché Amoré and Science.

Their album How an Ending Feels was released on October 28th. While it is not a concept album, there is a strong theme. There is regret for the past relationship, and some self-recrimination for its loss, but part of that failure is also geographical. He could not make the West Coast work for him, and needed to return to his origins. There is a general understanding that this is how it needs to be, despite the pain involved with that.

I don't know how autobiographical it is for any of the band members, but if a return to Wisconsin was needed, and they are all there now, then it is logical that the things that need to happen can happen now. Maybe this is the right launching place and time for the band.

There is an ending, but it is not the ending. At least it shouldn't be.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Band Review: Professor Shyguy

Professor Shyguy creates music that you could classify as Chip Pop.

I have reviewed one Chip Tunes composer before (Ben Landis), and was completely unfamiliar with the genre previously, so this is still pretty new to me. There are two things that stood out.

One is that with Professor Shyguy there seem to be more non chip elements introduced - at least it does not sound all 8-bit. Because of the beats and melodic features there is more of a dance/electronica feel. This in no way detracts from the game influence, as various songs reference games like World of Warcraft or Minecraft. (Well, I think they do, but that is also unfamiliar ground for me.)

The other thing I noticed was that in club music there is often a lot of sampling which may not be the reason for the monotony, but I suspect it doesn't help. There is a note in his Facebook bio:  "Composing every note, no sampling, all original."  Perhaps that is why the music sounds fresh.

There is a fair amount of collaboration. If you click on the Facebook music link you will get an album that is not all Professor Shyguy. He is on many of the tracks, but often working with others. It is still a good introduction, so I recommend checking that out and also the video for "Guilded Love - A Song about The Guild and World of Warcraft", available on the main site.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And Phil

We love Phil. We love Ty Burrell too, but we love Phil.

Yesterday when I mentioned Jay being unusually nice to Phil at Disneyland, I did not give the context. Phil, "the king of roller coasters" started feeling really ill after the Indiana Jones Ride. Jay told him that this was a result of aging, when the fluids in your ears thicken up, and you can't take the motion anymore. Jay said he needed to take a Dramamine to get on his swivel chair - doubtless an exaggeration, but a good explanation for why the only attraction we saw Jay participate in was Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

Phil tried to tough it out for the Matterhorn, but after Big Thunder Mountain Railroad he had to admit he was ailing to Luke, in a touching and funny scene that ended with Phil sending Luke off to Space Mountain, knowing that they could find other things to do together. It could have been bittersweet, but all was well when Claire realized that Phil had a fever. His nausea was the result of a flu bug going around the office, so roller coasters could still be okay in the future, and also, he and his coworkers should get cups instead of just drinking out of cartons.

There are two things that make that plot line resonate. One is that as we were on the hotel shuttle to the park one morning, an older (62?) gentleman was talking to someone else about how he used to like Space Mountain, but a few years ago he felt really sick on it. He went to his doctor and the doctor told him some people get calcium deposits in their ears when they get older, and it can result in vertigo symptoms.

My sisters and I looked at each other: it was true! Technically Jay's issues sounds more like Meniere's Disease, and the man on the bus more like Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo.

One of our greyhounds would sometimes have flare-ups with his vestibular apparatus, so I know the drill. But also, apparently it does not happen to everyone. That is good news for us. I love rides.

None of us appear to have age-related vertigo yet, but we have experienced illness in the park. Not flu; colds.

Julie started feeling it coming on toward the end of the trip. I felt it about two days later. We are both getting over it now, and Mom seems to have it, though she was not with us, and though it does make her feel dizzy (but she is older than us). The really weird thing about this is that Maria, as the kindergarten teacher, is usually patient zero whenever anything works its way through the house.

I suppose it raises a second question, of whether we are now too old to ride in airplanes without getting sick, because I got sick on our last trip to Disneyland. I thought it might have come from swimming in the pool. On Wednesday my throat started feeling scratchy, and on Thursday I had no voice.

I was really cranky that morning. Not being able to talk is no fun. I mean, you can write notes if it is really important, but usually for me it's just wanting to make jokes and smart remarks, and there is a pain in not being able to do it, but a lack of significance to them that makes trying too hard to get them out inappropriate.

However, it was not just being sick. We'd had a really late night Wednesday, which led to us oversleeping Thursday, which threw off our whole schedule. We were going to go to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, but we decided to start there for lunch. I didn't really want to go there at all, but my sisters did and it was their birthday.

When we finally got to the park, we went to Cars Land to ride the Radiator Springs Racers, and that was the longest line. (Still is.) So we waited and waited in the hot sun, and it was really annoying. Why couldn't we have gone in the single rider line? But they didn't want to get stuck with strangers.

Finally we got on the ride, and it was great, and then we went on other rides which had much shorter lines, and I felt a lot better. I still couldn't talk, but what I need was motion. The way the morning had gone gave me a pretty long delay before being flung or pulled or going zoom anywhere, but that's what I really needed.

This was a stressful trip for me financially. It was probably irresponsible to go, but a part of me wonders whether we will ever be able to afford another vacation again, in which case it is even more important that we went. (And yes, we are still trying for Italy in March. That is one reason I am writing up such a storm.)

For all the guilt and worry, there was so much joy and pleasure and exhilaration. Leisure is necessary. Work is important too, but without breaks, it's drudgery, and sometimes I forget how easily I turn to being a drudge. Which I suppose means that when my solution to escaping the drudgery is working even harder, that there is some irony there, but at least the writing harder part is something I like.

The networking part has been interesting. Some people have read the screenplay, or at least part of it. There have been a lot of favorites on the tweets, which I hope means they also click on the link, but it's at least supportive, and some very kind things have been said. (It does worry me that none of the five people who bought my book have said anything about liking it.)

I do feel some support, and also, it has still been really great remembering all of the bands and friendships, and the projects I was able to back when things were feeling financially better for me. So maybe I will do a round of asking comic book creators to check it out also. I don't know.

I've essentially decided to focus on the writing for now through March. If at that point nothing has happened, then I need to start looking for a different day job. I hate the thought of it, but I need to occasionally be able to visit a theme park. I need to have things to look forward to. Everyone does.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Modern Family and Disneyland: Jay

Other than our great affinity for the park and the show, there is another reason I think about that episode a lot.

I generally watch shows that I am the only one at home who watches. We are all joined up on sitcoms now, and we all watch "Jeopardy!" together, but otherwise there is no one to discuss the shows with. Sometimes I would want to, and I would visit the forums at

The site is closed now, but honestly the forums were often disappointing depending on the show. Sometimes they would be cliquish, and if you weren't either a regular contributor or really apologetic about barging in on their party, they would shun you. Sometimes a forum would be mainly innuendos. Also, sometimes, the forum was mainly comprised of hate watchers, who really just watch so they can post about everything wrong with the show. "Modern Family" had a lot of hate watchers, and they hated the ending of the "Disneyland" episode.

There is a story that Jay is recounting through the episode of a time when he took Claire and Mitchell to Disneyland when they were kids. It was supposed to be a family trip, but he and his wife had a fight because he accidentally taped over an episode of "Dallas" so DeDe didn't go. While at Disneyland he decided to get a divorce, but the last thing they did was "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" and somehow it convinced him to stay. Also throughout the episode, Claire and Mitchell tease him for crying then, which he brushes off as it being the greatest president, and his first robot.

As he wraps up the story, Gloria calls him from off screen to come join her in the Jacuzzi, and Jay smiles and finishes by saying that the universe rewarded him, so the forum posters were disgusted by this dirty old man.

While it is clearly not all there is to their relationship, Jay does enjoy having a hot wife, and he enjoys having the money where they can have a Jacuzzi and things like that. It was still clearly not all that he meant. It was cute to see him once more in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", one child on either side, and in-laws and grand kids surrounding. It was even better to see him hold his children closer, and to see them think it was weird but then settle in and enjoy it.

More than that, and I probably wouldn't have even noticed if we hadn't watched the episode multiple times, it is cool to see how content Jay is in the park. You don't see him go on a single ride, but he steps in and grabs Lily when she is running, kissing her on the top of her head, and then he offers his help to Mitchell. He tries to make some points to Claire that she is not hearing, but he also throws in a silly joke, and is listening to her. He is also really nice to Phil, who is often seen to get on his nerves. And he finds a way to take care of Gloria's feet despite her best efforts. Jay loves and enjoys his family.

It is not hard to imagine that in the real world situation a divorce would have led to the kids being with the wife, and growing apart from their father. He might have remarried earlier, and gotten a similar relationship to the one with DeDe and ended up with at least one other ex, and a more fractured family.

He does say that staying might not be right for everyone, but that it was right for him. It is also widely acknowledged that Jay is not a perfect father, but you do see him often rising to the occasion. The family has its rough patches, which is normal, but they also love and enjoy each other. Maybe it would have gone over better if he had said, "and things worked out", or something like that, but ultimately I take it as that staying with DeDe was hard, but he felt he needed to so he did it, and it had been worth it. There was still going to be a happy marriage in his future, and his kids, and good family times.

I like the episode a lot. It's part of a show that I like in a place that I like, so there is good synergy there.  Hate watcher would probably be happier if they focused on something they liked instead.

However, if anyone wishes to talk about shows at any point, I am open to that. Current sitcoms we watch are "Modern Family" and "Big Bang Theory", as well as reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond", along with some "Golden Girls" and "Designing Women". We have a lot of love for "My Name Is Earl" too, but my sisters have only seen Season 1, and I have only seen through Season 2. For older sitcoms, I am on my own in my love for "Scrubs" and "News Radio".

I will not only discuss "Jeopardy!" episodes with you, but answer questions about my own appearance.

For current dramas, I am alone in my love for "Grimm", "Person of Interest", "Once Upon A Time", and "White Collar". We all loved "The A-Team" equally, and I would not mind reminiscing over "The Scarecrow And Mrs. King", "Going To Extremes", "Twin Peaks", or "The Young Riders". I can discuss my past love for "Law & Order: SVU", followed by my growing contempt for it, but then I gave up on it, rather than hate-watching, and I feel that was for the best.

And, as long as I'm putting it out there, in addition to quoting a lot from the three sitcoms we have in common and "The A-Team", we also tend to quote and reference the following movies frequently: Dodgeball, The Birdcage, Outrageous Fortune, Spaceballs, and As Good As It Gets.