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Apr. 2nd, 2007

OMGWTFKeenspot!!!

Er... earlier today the Keenspot ad banner server was having problems.

Now I can't get anything to load. Nothing. Nothing at all. In the least bit. At all.

I mean, seriously. It's gone. Can't ping keenspot.com, ubersoft.net, gpf-comics.com, crfh.net...

I believe the proper phrase is "eep."

Nov. 22nd, 2006

When all is said and done...

... I want my database to work. I want my stupid mySQL database to WORK.

Its lack has completely thrown me off my game. No webcomics, no writing, just staring at my stupid, non-working, mySQL database.

Nov. 15th, 2006

A Note On Acting (Or "Why William Shatner was not a 'Bad Actor'")

This is a completely random and tangential topic that is attached to nothing of significance that I can think of.

Once upon a time in Greece, or so it was recorded, a staging of one of the Greek tragedies that featured an appearance by the Erynies was so effectively implemented, and so startling to the audience, that women in the audience actually miscarried due to fright.

Edmund Kean was said to be the greatest actor of his day, and according to another story, a colleague of his, after hearing him recite a three-word line, wept with despair at ever being able to play that particular role.

I suspect if a modern audience had ever seen the Greek staging they would be unimpressed. Similarly, I suspect that modern audiences would be unimpressed with Edmund Kean.

Once I heard a recording of a famous turn-of-the-century actor reciting a monologue from Oedipus Rex. This was considered one of the earliest recordings of a stage production, the actor was well-known and well-respected in his day. When I heard the monologue, I burst out laughing. I spent the rest of my time squirming in acute discomfort because all I could think of was "this is bad acting. This is terrible. How can anyone have appreciated this?"

The monologue was delivered almost, but not quite, as if it were a song. The range of speech went from a high baritone, soared up to a tenor/head voice kind of quality, and then settled back down again. It was a mix of sighs, and vocal quavers, and a lot of other things that sounded to me like needless vocal tricks.

Thing is, I'm a product, acting-wise, of the 80's and 90's. There's a world of difference between 1985 and 1900. Actors train themselves based on specific ideologies of what is important in theatre, and those ideologies change. And the tastes of audiences change, too.

Consider James Dean. He was considered an icon of Method Acting -- a real, honest-to-God genius of an actor who broke new ground in the field and whatnot. He and Brando were icons of the stage and film, heralding in a new age of "realistic" acting.

OK... now go watch "Rebel Without a Cause." Now try to picture a serious actor of the 21st century playing that character with the same range. Can you see it? Do you think perhaps we might consider it a little, ah, over-the-top?

If you're honest with yourself, I believe you'd say "yes."

Look at the acting in the West Wing -- what is considered "realistic acting" today -- and notice the market differences between the realism in that version of acting vs. the realism of Dean's acting. The striking thing about method acting when it first appeared was that the actors were actually showing emotion -- it seems over the top to us now, sometimes hilariously so, but it was something that wasn't seen a whole lot (at least in lead roles) in Hollywood before then.

In the West Wing? Everything is *very* low-key. The idea is to present complex, layered characters who are trying not to reveal too much, but who have things going on inside.

Someday, 20 or 30 years from now, people are going to look at episodes of the West Wing and criticise the acting as "just a bunch of people standing around saying their lines."

So now we consider William Shatner: I always thought he got a bum rap from the critics, especially the ones who were Star Trek fans, for being a "lousy actor." Certainly his performances are over the top -- by today's standards, certainly by my adult standards -- but consider that in his day, he was considered a "serious actor," mostly a stage actor, and landing him for Star Trek was considered quite a coup by everyone involved. Then go watch "Rebel Without a Cause" again. Then Watch "East of Eden." Pay attention to the things James Dean does when he's emoting.

Now put him in a polyester gold shirt and have an invisible alien force slowly take over his brain.

Twenty or thirty years from now, when the preferred style of acting changes in some kind of new, fundamental manner, people will look back on all our current "top-notch" actors and laugh and them... and it won't really be fair then, either. But that's the way it works. Actors are judged based on three things: what had been done before, what the actor is doing now, and how much discipline and commitment they bring to what they're doing now. Which means, essentially, that the worth of acting is judge by relative, rather than absolute, standards.
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Nov. 14th, 2006

Day 14.

32000+ words. This is good, as I am well ahead of the game.

I'm tempted to go for broke and try to break 90K like I did in 2003. It's possible, but it takes a lot of you, and I can't stay up late like I used to (I suppose I'm physically able, but I work much earlier hours than I did 3 years ago, so that makes doing so a lot more inconvenient.)

It would be cool if I could pull that off... it would compensate for my NaNo failures in the last two years...
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Nov. 2nd, 2006

So far so good.

I have around 1950 words for Day 1. Not shabby. Others are doing better, but I will have my vengeance.

What? No, not competitive at all.

But seriously, this is better than last year, when something happened (don't remember exactly) that set me behind on the first week. I was able to catch up, but was never able to progress beyond that.

So I'd rather be going it slow and steady and hitting my mark each day.

Still might post snippets here, if I feel like it.
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Oct. 31st, 2006

NaNoWriMo Soon.

Only 10 hours, 4 minutes away.

I may post snippets here.
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Oct. 27th, 2006

NaNoWriMo, Ubersoft Style

Looks like I will be featuring NaNoWriMo as the main storyline for Help Desk during the month of November.

I didn't plan it that way, it just sort of happened.

This is not, I'm thinking, the best way to attract new readers... NaNoWriMo is sort of a very focused interest group -- a lot more specific than *computers*, even -- and a month of comics on the topic is going to be a bit off-putting to people who just don't give a rat's ass about the topic.

That's too bad, though, because I'm doing it anyway. That's the beauty of being an independent creator: you get to shoot yourself in the foot because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to.
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Oct. 23rd, 2006

I'm pretty sure Ginsberg played a Controller

Over on the City of Heroes board there was a post called "Fear and Loathing in Paragon City," which had a bunch of miscreants doing spot-on impressions of Hunter S. Thompson. My addition to that thread was not a Thompson impersonation, but an homage to one of his close friends who was also fairly well known for this and that.

It was, for the most part, ignored -- I had entered the fray too late. So I post it here, because I'm rather fond of it, and I don't particularly relish the thought of it getting destroyed by NCSoft's forum purges:

A LESS THAN MIGHTY WHIMPER

I saw the best AT's of my generation destroyed by the nerf-bat, looking for respecs;
dragging themselves through bump-mapped streets looking for mobs,
horn-headed hipsters with forked tails and shoulder-cats, burning with
auras that cause fear not aggro,
who tired and debt-ridden climbed the tops of Kings Row tenements contemplating powerlevelling,
who dreamed and schemed of the distant, misty image of the optimum build

who were banned from the forums for calling the devs a pack of ruthless liars,
who lurked in dark corners with the hero builder, or dreamed of toggle-binds,
who got banned from the server for trying to create nude costumes,
who breathed fire at just the wrong time, causing the team to wipe

who dreamed of p-v-p, and kill-stealing, and training and gaming the game,
in hazard zones and timed missions, darkened streets or twisting forests, deep crevases in the dirt or broken buildings against the sky,
single origin enhancements, only three to max, tankers have an over-nerfed primary and blasters a crappy innate,
the devs screw doms, controllers taste good this month and trenchcoats are coming soon

the submarines will take you to Paragon City, cars to break and banks to rob in a flat-coke evening behind incandescent monitors, listening to the digital score in 24-bit surround,
who talked continuously on broadcast about mobs in Perez Park and stupid hero names,
forgotten armies of good-natured tankers jumping into the thick, forgetting the devs nerfed herding,
chatterchatter blargle yammer, oop sorry mt

every mind consumed for days and weeks with missions on invinc, turn down the particle count or crash to desk,
taking minutes to scan all files, team has dropped you when you log back in, alone in Striga and the werewolves catch your scent,
wandering around a town of bricks wondering where you are, should have set "team teleport" to "prompt,"
cigar face detail #2, smoking bad but Nick Fury cool, winter event is curiously lacking snow

study up on each player guide, from AT to bind to PvP, argue over issue 3 read each opinion on ED,
search the Hollows looking for Defenders, healer plz, kthxbye,
(kinetics ok too,)
tankers lonesome till you fight AVs, doms just lonesome, what's that language, hey they have european servers you know

disappear into the caves to fight the circle of thorns, or lava-men, trolls, the occasional hellions and skulls,
into the sewers in atlas, out of the sewers in kings row, investigating the devs with big anime eyes sexy in their asian togs and posting incomprehensible rants,
burning the retinas with disturbing avatars,
distributing the latest calculations of damage ratings and aggro measurements, weeping while devs ignore the facts and figures and only say "we think this class is balanced perfectly"

and I'd like to keep going but hey, Ginsberg wrote his on drugs, I'm sober and I just got off work,
so I'll have to leave it here and say "enough."

Jul. 17th, 2006

The Webcomic Manifesto

When I was at What-the-Hell?! Con in January I was asked, during the webcartoonist discussion panel, what my "webcomic manifesto" was. Or maybe it was my "webcomic creed." I can't remember which, but it was one of the two, and the meaning of the two words are close enough -- a "manifesto" being a public declaration of belief, whereas a creed is a system of belief that might be used as a basis for creating a manifesto -- to allow me to use the same answer for both.

The answer I gave went something like this: I remember looking at a photograph of a shop window in England during the early days of punk rock. Taped up in this window was a sheet of paper that displayed three chords scrawled in very crude tablature, and under that were the words "now start a band." That has always been how I've thought of webcomics: as the punk rock of the comics world. That was certainly how I thought of it when, ten years ago, I decided start a comic for OS/2 eZine despite having no drawing ability to speak of, and I've never had any occasion to think differently, despite the "scene" being flooded with people who could be described as being truly talented.

(An interesting and sadly ironic aside: that in-your-face, defiant poster posted in the late 70's in England has now been turned into a t-shirt you can buy through Amazon.com.)

I tend to get frustrated and slightly annoyed when I hear some other webcartoonists give advice to people who are interested in doing their own webcomic but aren't quite sure how to start. The advice is almost always the same, and always involves doing a lot of work before they even get started. You know, practice drawing, create a buffer, make sure it's a solid story idea... I have even seen some suggest doing market research.

None of these suggestions are inherently bad... and if your plan is to do a commercially successful webcomic, then I'd wager that those suggestions are the bare minimum of what you need to do. But damn it all to hell, none of them are necessary.

There are only three things you absolutely need to do to do anything on the web:

1. Get a website
2. Do whatever the hell you want with it
3. Accept the consequences of step 2

That is it, and anyone who thinks that maybe there ought to be more to it than that is seriously missing the point. Step 1 requires steady employment or a benefactor. Step 2 will be as easy or as difficult as you make it. Step 3, on the other hand, is probably one of the hardest things you will ever have to do.

Accepting the consequences of doing whatever the hell you want to do with your webcomic can be a tough pill to swallow. The fact that you want to do something doesn't mean that anyone is going to particularly care that you do it. You can pour your heart and soul into a project, create a piece of art that challenges and moves you, and none of that obligates an audience to give a damn. And not everyone will. Inevitably, someone will hate everything you do and everything you stand for, because this is the Internet, and that's just the way things work out here. What's worse, there will be people who simply don't care about you at all, will look at your work and yawn, move on, and never think about it again.

The Internet is a big place, and it's easy to be just another faceless website in a sea of faceless websites. And that can be tough to take.

Step 3 requires a certain amount of self-awareness and honesty about what it is that you really want to do. If you really want to be rich, but you act like you want to be all about the art, you're going to be a miserable son of a bitch. And it's just as true the other way around. If you decide that what you really want to do with your webcomic is to make a lot of money, or be insanely popular, or even be an underground sensation... well, you'll have to make concessions in order to get there (and there are no guarantees, even then.) That said... if you really want to make money, or be popular, then you can't think of them as "concessions" -- you have to think of them as "steps toward a goal."

And if you go in one direction, the people who want to go in a different direction will most likely dislike you and feel threatened by you. You will not be able to make everyone like you, no matter how hard you try. Someone, somewhere is going to feel compelled to hate what you do on general principle alone. It doesn't matter what you're doing. You could be feeding starving children, and someone will invariably feel threatened by it, get worried that it will interfere with his "starve the children of the world" campaign, and spend a great deal of time trying to push your work into irrelevance, or browbeat you off the net, or something similarly stupid.

The good news is that this works both ways. Just because someone else doesn't like what you're doing doesn't mean you have to give a damn. And to help you keep that in mind, I'd like to teach all something I've found useful. It's a little something I call

THE WEBCOMICS SALUTE

1. Make a fist.

2. Raise the fist in front of your face, with your curled fingers and thumb pointing towards your face.

3. Slowly and deliberately raise your middle finger.*

There. You now have every tool you need to be web cartoonist. If anyone tells you different, think of it as a chance to practice the webcomics salute.

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* Internet users from Great Britain and many former colonies of the Empire may substitute this with raising the index and middle finger, then parting the two fingers into a "V" shape.

Jul. 11th, 2006

I have discovered a purpose for this page

Really the only reason I set up a LiveJournal account was so that I could post in snarkoleptics... I had no particular desire to start yet another goddamned blog, since I already have three (with two more possibly in development, because I am, apparently, fucking insane.)

But I finally found a purpose for this page: to talk about web comics.

Which is funny, see, because I never talk about web comics.

I don't want to talk about web comics over at ubersoft.net, because it's off message. Help Desk is a comic about the Computer Industry, and posts I make are generally about things that are going on that prevent me from updating, or glitches in the site I'mt rying to work out. I don't want to talk about web comics (specifically, at any rate) on Eviscerati.org, because Eviscerati.org -- which I'm starting up again at some point in the near or distant future -- is about the computer industry and the culture of technology, which web comics is a part of, but it's only a piece of a much larger picture, and the much larger picture is far more in need of evisceration. And I don't want to talk about web comics as my alter-ego because that's a completely different part of my life.

And really, why would anyone care in any of those circumstances? People who read Help Desk are interested in what I have to say about the computer industry, not about politics or art or any of the rest of that. I've been pretty careful, for the most part, to stay on message there. I pride myself on that and want to keep that going. If people come to a site expecting Coke and you say "before you can drink the Coke you have to drink a liter of Diet Rite first," well, that's sort of a breach of trust. In my opinion.

But here! Well, I never promised to shut up completely. So this is my "Wright rants about webcomics" page. Why not? Seems like everyone else in the wacky world of webcomics has one.

So if you happen to wander by and read this, well, hello there. I might post here tomorrow. I might not.

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