Amber.

Recently I felt like it was time to re-read Zelazny’s “Amber”.

I got a copy of the giant, unwieldy omnibus, and put marks on the side of the pages so I could tell where the hell I was in the overall saga.

It took me about a half a month, but today I finished it. The Merlin books sure are the middle series; they barely finish themselves, and open up a huge window for the third series Zelazny never wrote before the end.

Maybe I’ll have to see if I can hunt down the short story collection with several short pieces Roger wrote as ways to explore where it would have gone. Maybe I won’t. It’s unfinished either way.

I can make guesses. It would probably be from the viewpoint of a third character who was on the periphery of the existing books. Maybe someone younger. Maybe not. Something in me whispers “Fiona” and I’m not really sure why. Perhaps some child of hers, coming out of an obscure Shadow. It would involve the conflict between the Pattern and the Logrus. It might end with the implosion of both of them and the Shadows between, and the creation of some new setup – possibly the same order/chaos balance, albeit an octave higher, possibly something new. But those are obvious guesses. And I am sure that Zelazny had these thoughts, and asked himself which of them were existing patterns (ahem) worth following, and which ones went somewhere far more interesting if he asked himself what the opposite of them was…

I think the biggest difference in tone between the Corwin and Merlin books is that, while Corwin starts out reacting to all the weird shit he stumbles into, he starts making his own plots and plans early on. Merlin never finds his footing, he’s always reacting to outside events. I suppose I can give him a pass for ending up being manipulated by the Serpent and the Unicorn themselves, but… he’s always someone’s pawn, from beginning to end.


Oh also: I would like to include this toot from a couple days ago…

Coincidence Watch:

This morning I put down the Amber omnibus to warm some bread to make a sandwich. Picked up the book again, read some more. Got up when the timer went off, made my sandwich.

When I picked up the book to continue reading while I ate, it was right at the beginning of the truce-and-dinner scene in chapters 1 and 2 of “Knight of Shadows”.

I did not alter the pace of my eating or my reading. But I ended up working on the last bite of my sandwich just as Merlin, Mandor, and Jasra finished their meal and got back to the plot.

Sky Radio

“hey peggy whatcha gonna do today”

“i dunno”

“how about you get excited about a new spiritual sequel to jet set radio, get stoned, and spend two hours drawing your fursona in that style while listening to an online radio station inspired by JSR’s soundtrack?”

“sounds good to me”


Illustrator, with a different flow to it than usual. Looping back to where I was when I was a fan of Mignola’s big solid blacks combined with constant-width lines, dropping my recent reliance on a whole lot of shading and highlighting to conceal color decisions that just don’t work from a value contrast level, leaving a few bits of rough work in the final piece, stepping back from my usual phobia of any obviously-linear elements. Kinda feels like Ronald Wimberley’s stuff more than anything else, to me.

Maybe I’ll draw the next chapter of Parallax like this instead of all that painting. I learnt a lot by doing all that painting but I miss high-contrast solid color stuff.

Themis

Over the past few months, one local sideline to all the craziness of 2020 has been the public disintegration of the Krewe of Nyx after its captain posted “All Lives Matter” on the krewe’s social media and refused to back down when a lot of people called her out on it being a racist dogwhistle phrase. Last week, multiple former members of Nyx announced the formation of the Krewe of Themis.

I’ve been intending to draw a series of images of various deities for a while. Welcoming Themis to New Orleans felt like a good reason to finally start on that. May the parade in her honor make this town a more just place.


And now some quick notes on exactly who this lady is:

Themis (THEE-mis) is the Greek Titan of Divine Law.

Not of human law. That’s the domain of her daughter, Dike. Divine law. She’s one of those little voices that tells you what’s wrong and needs to change, even if it’s enshrined in the laws of your country. It’s an important difference. Straight-Counselled Themis is not blind; she saw what you did.

The Titans came before Zeus and his familiar court. They don’t show up in mythology that much. Just a few cameos here and there, like a beloved actor of your grandparents’ generation who keeps getting bit parts in new shows. They’re the children of Gaia (the Earth) and either Aither (Light and the Sky) or Ouranos (the Sky), depending on who you listen to. They’re big and old and primal. To be quite honest there’s not much on her in the references I had available; a lot of elements of this piece come from flipping through Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables and picking associations that felt like the right ones to highlight.

She is cognate to Maat, one of the Egyptian deities who you will encounter shortly after death. You’re probably familiar with the image of Anubis weighing your heart against a feather? Maat is that feather. So’s Themis.

Themis was one of the first wives of her nephew Zeus and acted as his counsel for a time. She was in charge of group functions; she was the voice oracles spoke with at Dephi. But this image? This image is focused on her role as Divine Law.

shatter’d!

Once upon a time, way back in 1985, an artist named Mike Saenz thought he could use his shiny new Macintosh Plus to draw comics. In MacPaint, a simple B&W paint program that predated the concept of “layers”. With a mouse. These B&W images then had what looked like watercolors overlaid on them to print the final, full-color comic. It looked something like this:

(image swiped from Ben Towle’s tweet regarding Shatter that inspired me to do this)

Narratively, it was a bunch of cyberpunk stuff. Saenz left after three issues, other artists worked in more traditional methods before scanning it into the Mac, adding tones, and printing it out for the signature look, until another person crazy enough to actually do it in the Mac (now with a slightly more sophisticated paint program, though still not one much more powerful than MSPaint, and a drawing tablet) came on board for the rest of its run.

It was amazing at the time. Cyberpunk! Made on a computer! SO COOL! Now, of course, it looks insanely retro.

Today I was reminded it existed, and wondered if I could get Illustrator to reproduce its signature look. A half hour later, I had this:

It ain’t perfect but it’s a pretty good start.

Mostly it relies on two effects:

First off, I’ve got a couple of layers that I’m doing some simple B&W art on. One layer’s got the lines and textures, the other’s got a bunch of translucent shapes.

These two layers are crammed into a layer, which has the halftone effect from Astute’s Phantasm plugin applied to it. This gives it that distinctive one-bit MacPaint look.

Below this, there’s a couple of layers for the foreground and background colors, which are also crammed into a layer. This one’s got a Gaussian blur to muck it up. (The white shapes are part of the ‘ink’ layers, and vanish in the final art because I’m telling the halftone plugin to render all of this as an overprint for that extra bit of Four-Color Comics Process authenticity.)

And also here is a quick 15-minute drawing of the Baron from Parallax using these effects. With some slightly different settings on the halftone plugin – Bayer dithering instead of Floyd-Steinberg, which does a better job on large areas of tone.

Now I kinda want to draw a goofy short cyberpunk comic this way. Probably just B&W with a little spot color here and there.

My Star Wars pitch. Call me, Disney! (Don’t.)

So there is this meme I saw making the rounds.

I looked at this for a moment. And I sighed, and rolled my eyes. And I typed this. With some help from Wookiepedia because I sure did not know the names of the Cantina Band until ten minutes ago.

Man fuck all these guys, I want a film about Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes and their path through the world of Jizz music. Was their appearance in the Mos Eisly cantina in Star Wars part of their long coast into obscurity? Was it part of a point in their career where they honed their chops to monofilament-perfection like the Beatles in Hamburg? Was it the turning point where Nalan Cheel got her left thumb shot off in the fracas after one deadbeat shot another deadbeat, and put down the bandfill forever in favor of the hokotaur, developing a distinctive style that would go on to influence a generation? I want a musical biopic with all their greatest hits, all the tunes that left a solid mark on Jizz. I want to know about their pivotal role in the 300th annual Galactivision contest.

Also especially fuck Fett, he got like ten seconds in the original films, most of which were spent getting eaten, and his stupid figure didn’t shoot the little boffers out of its jetpack like it was supposed to. Though I guess if I gotta pick one then I want a comedy about Boba, The Most Hilariously Incompetent Bounty Hunter In The Galaxy.

Urmahlullu

The bathroom can be a dangerous place! The Urmahlullu is here to help.

Prints (and shower curtains and bath mats!) are available if you would like your own toilet guardian lioness: https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/50452006

(I need to get my own copy to replace the original quick drawing this is based on!)

casual household magic

Today I learnt about the Urmahlullu, a Mesopotamian spirit shaped like a lion-taur who guards toilets against Šulak, the demon who lurks in your bathroom and gives you a stroke when you strain too much while pooping.

So I drew one and put her in the bathroom, right above the toilet. Traditionally they wear a cap of divinity and hold a club; I took the slight liberty of modernizing this loadout with a pair of rubber gloves and a plunger. Which is surely a +6 Holy Avenger plunger given how it’s glowing.

Then two of the three cats who live under the house hopped in the window to investigate, and make sure they weren’t being replaced in their assorted guardian duties. They got petted, and on their way back out, one of them alerted me to the fact that I got both a cable I was waiting on for my new desk, and three unmarked envelopes containing my new credit and debit cards to replace the ones that got stolen a week ago.

Imminent kittens

Tonight I went outside to take out the recycling. I heard this piercing MEW from somewhere on the porch as I did so. I looked around, seeing nothing… until I looked up, and saw a small stripey kitten, clinging desperately to the transom window above the door to the other half of the shotgun double we live in.

Looks like the kittens our neighbor has been helping Shadow (the resident cat matriarch) with are starting to get adventurous. I climbed on one of the chairs we keep out on the porch and deftly plucked the little mewbeast, and Nick rang the doorbell. In a moment one of the neighbors came to the door and was, well, mostly glad to see the little lost kitty – taking care of a half dozen or so kittens has to be kind of wearying!

Soon they will be going outside on a more regular basis, and eventually start vanishing into the neighborhood. Maybe some will stick around, who knows. We have human neighbors, and we have cat neighbors, and we try to be good neighbors to both kinds. Except for that one big stripey orange cat who Shadow always hisses at when he sneaks up onto the porch to swipe the food we leave out. I stick my head out the door and hiss at him too.

a fun day of thieving

Well. That was fun.

 

I was sitting in the park relaxing with a book. A couple of kids came up from behind me on their bikes; one distracted me by asking if I’d seen a lost… iPhone… anywhere around… a… black.. one (guess what was sitting next to me, guess what color my dress was) while his buddy lifted my purse out of my bike basket. And then they took off. A moment later I realized what had happened and gathered my stuff and hopped on my bike; amazingly, I found them a moment later, with my purse in the hands of a third, older person who was going through it. If I’d had the presence of mind to yell STOP THIEF then maybe the little crowd of people passing them when I came up might have stopped them from running; as is they dropped my bag and took off in separate directions. One of them with my wallet in hand.

At least I still had my phone. And my keys.

So after cycling around trying to get lucky again, I gave up and called the bank a couple of times to cancel the cards in there; the second time around I got told they’d tried to use the credit card for $200 at an address a short ride away. Which turned out to be a bank.

I went there, hoping to get lucky and get my ID and wallet, but they seem to have kept that, or just thrown it away. I found a bunch of other junk from my wallet in the parking lot – business cards, stickers, a couple of cards for Seattle’s transit system, shit like that, but no ID.

I am now very glad that I have a passport sitting around the house, because I haven’t gotten around to getting a Louisiana ID yet. I figure it’s a lot easier to get an ID with the proper gender on it with actual F documentation. And I am also very glad I don’t keep my social security card in my wallet, or have any PINs written down in it. I’m just out twenty or forty bucks and some stress. And a nifty leather wallet with the BPRD symbol on it.

Once more: DESK.

I used to have a pretty nice standing desk setup in Seattle but I left it behind; I just didn’t feel like shipping furniture cross-country was worth the hassle and expense. Ultimately I am not sure this was a wise decision as I ended up not having a desk here for most of a year.

For a while I had my monitor perched in some bookshelves at a standing height. It was okay but it was far from great; I couldn’t rotate it to portrait orientation any more, and more importantly, it was way too close to my eyes for real comfort. Sometimes I’d take the computer out and plop it on top of one of the big plastic bins we shipped some of our stuff in and use it that way; this was also not great but at least was far enough away to avoid eyestrain, especially after Cordite got me a little adjustable stand that let me raise the computer to a comfortable height.

Last month, when I made a surprising amount of money streaming commissions, I went to Ikea’s site and configured a desk. It took about a month to get here. But today was the day!

All the parts arrived around 1pm today – a couple hours sooner than the delivery window I’d been promised; I’m glad I made sure I was dressed in case they were early.

I knew exactly where I wanted it to go. After I got all the parts inside I started dragging stuff out of the way, so I’d have room to put the desk where I wanted it when I was done, as well as to actually build the thing. I still have all that stuff scattered around the living room, and should maybe deal with it before I go to bed tonight…

It took me about an hour to go from a pile of parts to the shelf unit that was going to hold up one side of the desk. I’ve always found putting Ikea stuff together pretty easy, and wonder if there is any correlation between this and the amount of time I spent carefully following long sequences of isometric drawings to put together Lego? I know a lot of people are all “omfg Ikea instructions are so confusing” but I just learnt to read that sort of visual language as a child, I guess? I also seem to have pretty strong spatial intelligence, I doubt that hurts either.

Another hour later, with a little help from Nick, I had the desktop hooked to the shelves. I need to visit the hardware store and find some better foot risers but this is good enough for now. It would have been a lot sooner but I ended up chatting with the neighbor’s kid about his new Youtube channel for his skating practice, and offering to use my AI skillz to throw together some fliers for him to post around instead of him trying to do it via mobile apps.

And then it was time to start putting stuff where it belonged. Find the monitor stand. Find the subwoofer and the speakers. Move all the cables over. Realize that the monitor has an audio out that I can use now that I connect to it with HDMI instead of DisplayPort, and make some new scripts for ControlPlane to automatically switch the audio output. Put Mr. Elephant (who was my mom’s when she was a kid) and The Duck Of My Mother on top of the shelves to watch over me as I work. Stuff like that, you know? Important details.

It ain’t perfect, I need to get some longer cables so I can hide the computer in one of the cubbies – most notably, the connection for the monitor’s USB hub functionality is a type-B (the big square one) and I only have like a 2′ cable for that – but holy crap it is so good to be able to work in portrait mode again!

Also it is a delight to have Katrina sitting atop her hoard of doubloons and Canadian money I never got around to exchanging again. Desk friends are important.

I may also end up with a cushion on here for when the local cats want to visit. Shemp just earned some pettings by pointing out to me that I already have a long type-B cable, even if this was because he tried to gnaw on a cable sitting next to it!

Anyway. AAAH I HAVE A HOME STUDIO AGAIN. Just in time for the city to start opening up, of course… but it’ll be useful for rainy days and what we laughingly call “winter” down here.