summon bird, Type I

I go outside and put peanuts on the stump outside my door. There are no crows or ravens in sight. I whistle the little tune I always whistle when I do this, and immediately I hear a far-off AWK. A couple seconds later I hear the same AWK much closer. And when I get inside and look back out, there’s a raven perched on the railing, eyeing the peanuts.

I’ve been seeing the ravens more than the crows lately. It’s been weeks since I last saw 5-7 crows clustering around the stump; I wonder if a couple of ravens have muscled in on their territory?

division of labor

Here are two drawings of Olivia and Baron K. Nick drew one of them. Can you tell which?

saturday morning story clinic time!

Saturday morning. Went to the farmer’s market with Nick. We talked about Parallax and how much it’s changed since the versions where it was a TV show pitch. Pondered if we still want it to lead to where we originally wanted it to lead, now that it’s so different. (It’s kind of fascinating; it feels like it’s undergoing a reverse form of adaptation decay, where we start with the “Magical Truth-Saying Bastard Spidey” version and make our best guess at what “Transmetropolitan” was like based on that.)

We came up with a very clever and kind of horrible way to collapse two slightly-similar characters from the TV show version into one, which fits into the themes of that character’s personal narrative pretty well.

also we decided that another character is going to speak entirely in lowercase

with as little punctuation as we can get away with

because her voice is very monotone and either droning or calming depending on how you feel at the moment

and maybe even some e e cummings concrete poetry kind of stuff in her word balloons

because she is just that cool

(and because hey, i’m both the artist and the letterer, i can do things that require strong integration of the text with the imagery in a way a production line’s crew can’t)

So it was a pretty good morning, and we got some steak for dinner somewhere in this upcoming week to boot.

A bullet I just realized I dodged a decade ago.

Damn. I suddenly feel like I dodged a serious bullet.

Back in the 2000s, I started working in the animation industry. Doing Flash stuff. It was a pain in the ass. I burnt out and left around ‘05, not liking the future I saw of endless Flash jobs.

Flash forward to now. Pringle, one of the people who worked under me when I was a Flash director has been at WB for a while. Foster’s, Teen Titans Go, stuff like that. He’s been posting some process videos on Twitter.

One of the things we always wished for was a way to bend stuff in Flash. On Foster’s, Pringle came up with some clever workarounds involving making an art brush in Illustrator. A hassle what with having to export to AI, then export back to Flash, but clever nonetheless, and less hassle than drawing stuff by hand or trying to control a shape tween.

He was still doing this, apparently, as late as LAST YEAR. Adobe added bones to Flash in ‘15 but he says they’re pretty useless (and I am inclined to believe his professional opinion on this), and in the past couple years they FINALLY added custom brushes in Flash to let him do this trick easily.

Pringle says they are, of course, buggy and unstable as of now. Because why would they be different from anything else in Flash?

There is an alternate universe where I found more Flash work for the past decade. I am pretty sure that I am much grumpier in it, despite still living in Los Angeles. Holy shit.


anyway I should have some breakfast

and holy crap I just wanna go move into a cave and delete all my social networks except for dreamwidth or something, yes even including this place, “microblogging considered harmful”

and it developed this culture of just reflexively *acting* without *thinking* because actually thinking about what you’re doing on twitter is *fucking hard* due to the inherent limitations of the system

because you can actually emit a coherent, nuanced fucking *thought* in one fucking *go* and you can even sit there and think for a moment and *edit* parts of a larger thought before you put it out in the world (and fix typos!)

And in that moment I found myself really appreciating Mastodon, and moreso really appreciating the generous character limit I’ve set in place on

and, well, dear reader, I just skimmed right over that. Maybe they had something worth saying, maybe they were just saying the same old same old, I’ll never know.

and a newest-on-top timeline (modulo all the Algorithmic Bullshit)

which of course you have to read backwards i chunks of about one or two sentences because Twitter has a stupidly harsh character limit

I was looking through Twitter just now and I came to that one person I follow who regularly posts long rambling Threads

stylized gradient trick #67

Here’s a little stylization trick.

It kinda falls apart on anything besides rectangles; here’s some extra magic to fix that. With slightly different colors because I closed the file and wanted to play with it a little more.

The tilted rectangle on the lower right lacks this extra magic.

The fill is offset by enough to hide the ugly white edges; the stroke is the same width as that offset, and is offset by half its width. Making the stroke 0% opaque and turning on ‘Knockout Group’ makes it work as a built-in opacity mask for this shape – an ugly, but very useful hack. You could also just have some really thick outlines instead, or build a lot of clipping masks; both of those feel like Work to me and I’m generally allergic to that.

The rasterize effect is set to add 0 points around the path, which varies from my usual Document Raster Effect settings of adding about 35 points to give me room for most blurs I’m likely to use. You can also change the resolution, the tilted rectangle’s at a lower resolution than the rest of the shapes.

I might have to try doing some art with this look.

Morsel: the beginning of an end of an era

So I went to Morsel for breakfast, as I often do. It’s a little local restaurant that mostly specializes in amazing biscuits with things on it; I’ve been a regular for the past few years. They know me by name.

The dude working the register is it to browse the web, turns out he’s buying plane tickets for his multi-stage plan to quit this gig, take a vow of silence for ten days, leave his other job, go spend a couple weeks being a tourist in Japan, then move to Australia. Which, damn, I envy that. I tell him thanks for all the wonderful breakfasts and wish him good luck.

This is on top of already having heard that one of the cooks is gonna be leaving for an R&D job. He’s there today too so I get to wish him well in his new gig and thank him for the many great breakfasts, too. Hopefully he passed on a lot of his biscuit wizardry to his replacements; they’ve been training a few new people anyway due to expanding the place. It’ll go on and I trust the owner to find people who’ll keep the same level of quality, but it’s definitely not the same little hole in the wall I started going to a few years ago.

Nothing is permanent. I’ll be leaving Seattle myself next spring if all goes well. I’d do it sooner but I couldn’t get the landlord to budge more than a couple months on the lease, so I get to grit my teeth and deal with one last Northern winter. The 2018/19 will be the fourteenth, between Boston and Seattle, and I am pretty sure a fifteenth would have a good chance of being my last winter ever, given how much seasonal depression I go through.

I realized this morning that I have spent slightly more than half my life in New Orleans, and slightly less than that away from it. If I put off moving back until I hit fifty it’d be exactly half. I dunno how long I’ll stay this time, me and Nick are kinda thinking maybe just a couple years while we get Parallax going before moving somewhere new to us both, but right now I don’t feel like I’d be too broken up if I end up spending the rest of my life there.  Moving away and coming back around the age of seventy-five would be pretty awesome, too, though!

Some thoughts on “The Book Of Three” and “The Black Cauldron”

So recently I picked up a used set of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain cycle. I’d loved them as a kid, and found them to still have something to say to me when I re-read them in my early twenties, unlike Narnia. I wanted to find out if they still worked at the age of forty-mumble.

I had to stop halfway through The Book Of Three (the first one) to marvel at how dense it was. In something like three pages, Alexander manages to establish that Taran is a young man of uncertain parentage, living a boring life and longing for Adventure; by the end of the first chapter a mere ten pages, we’ve gotten a brief lecture on the fantasy-Wales he lives in, been warned of the dark spectre of war looming over it, and seen him rudely kicked out of his boring, safe life to chase down an oracular pig in the middle of war. The whole thing moves at what feels like a breakneck pace compared to the adult fantasy and sf I’ve been reading lately and yet it never feels rushed; it just has absolutely no fat on its narrative bones. But it has a lot of muscle and sinew. I have this suspicion there may have been like a half dozen drafts of this that got shorter and shorter, resulting in this this astoundingly potent book. There’s not a single excess word.

Overall the theme I really resonated with in Three that I didn’t really notice beforehand was the longing for home. In the middle of his quest, Taran briefly grapples with starting to miss the safe, boring existence he had before the story started, and this comes up again when he returns home with a few new friends. I was still living with my mother when I last read these books; now, I’ve lived away from the city I grew up in for nearly half my life, both parents are gone, and I’m thinking of moving back there for a few years to sort some things out in my head, and to remind my body of the downsides of living in the tropics after fifteen years of living in places that have Actual Winter. I sighed at Taran’s youthful desire for Adventure! right alongside the older ex-warriors who shook their heads, and knew they could do as little to dissuade him from that path as their elders could in their youth.

Today I went to the park with my hammock and The Black Cauldron (the second book) and sat in one of them reading the other.

Cauldron not as amazingly lean as The Book Of Three; it kinda feels like it wanders here and there, though I’m not sure I could put my finger on where given how intricately each chapter dovetails into the overall structure of the book.

I am really impressed with the dance Alexander had to do with regards to Prince Ellidir, so that the reader is okay with his noble self-sacrifice at the climax of the book. He’s got to make him distasteful enough that nobody’s really sad that he’s gone, but make it clear that he’s distasteful for pretty sad reasons.

I do find it interesting that his Noble Self-Sacrifice did not act on me like such a thing normally does; I’m usually a sucker for that, but I read it without any real emotion. I knew it was coming what with having read the book before, but I don’t think that was the whole of it – maybe this book could have done with something more to make Ellidir a little more sympathetic somewhere along the line? Or maybe it’s just a no-holds-barred tragedy. Behold, o faithful reader, the tragedy of Prince Ellidir, a man driven by envy, fear, and the need to live up to the expectations of his rich-ass parents. Watch what lows he will sink to for the satisfaction of those needs, cheer for his heel-face turn at the last possible moment but know that he wouldn’t have needed to perform his Heroic Ultimate Sacrifice if he hadn’t been such a jerk. Close with a happy ending for reader-standin Taran and his friends, with a reminder that this whole book is about how little honor and glory there is to be found in war – Taran seems to have learnt this lesson, have you, Dear Reader?

(Alexander set things up so that someone was going to have to climb into the Cauldron to destroy it [at the price of their life, and they have to know exactly what’s going to happen too] sooner or later. From a cold plot-weaving viewpoint this is the entire reason Ellidir exists in the narrative.)

Still, it’s impressive how few punches Alexander pulls in this series. In book 1 he is quite explicit that the dark lord Arawn is at *war*, we see people getting stuck in cages and burnt as soon as chapter 3 or 4 of that one. He doesn’t dwell on the horrors of war but every single adult is quite emphatic that there is little honor or glory to be found in it. This book carries that theme more strongly; multiple adults reiterate that, and Ellidir’s major obsession is Attaining Honor And Glory At Any Price. Even if he has to act extremely dishonorably to do so.

(According to Wikipedia, he served in WWII out of a desire for Adventure, but never saw any action – he ended up being a staff sergeant in the counterintelligence division.)

The one thing that keeps sticking in my craw about these books is how much of a cipher Princess Eilonwy is. There’s a moment in the beginning of Cauldron where Taran has received his first sword, and runs to her to ask her to ceremonially put it on her “because she’s the only girl in Caer Dallben”. Which she rightly takes offense at, because this is definitely a story about boys doing boy things and dreaming of doing man things. I am pretty sure Alexander realized this, though, because the next book focused on her as a main character…

(Also I cannot spell “Prydain” without checking on the books. I keep wanting to spell it “Prydian”. I am pretty sure this is due to the fact that my English-speaking brain has no earthly idea how to spell the pseudo-Welsh used for the names of everything rather than due to Them editing history.)

the dream of the battered magical library

Tonight’s dream involved being in some stacks looking at a section of bookshelves full of Magical Books. Some of them were very badly abused, one had the lower third of its spine sticking out at an angle that makes awake me wonder how the lower third of the pages weren’t completely detached from the upper third.

I pulled out a copy of the Illuminatus! Trilogy. Someone had grabbed it by the back cover and tried to rip the whole cover off, but it still barely clung on to the front edge of the spine. Written in pencil on the layer of white paper still clinging to the glue was the name of the book, and an eye-in-pyramid happy face.

I said something about how much I missed having my own copy with my own marginal notes, which I’m pretty sure is not a thing I did in the copy I had. And then I spent a while browsing through a book of Recent Important Pop Artists that ranged from comics to someone who did prose pieces in the shape of continents, mostly Africa.

There was a long stairway to climb down and then I was awake.

the dream of my father for the first time in quite a while

I do not have the data to back this up at all but it feels like I kinda stopped dreaming for most of the Trump presidency. And now I have started dreaming again.

It was one of those dreams where my father was back and we were just not talking about where he went during the time he’d been “dead”. I haven’t had one of those in a long time; this time he looked like someone else entirely and we weren’t talking about that yet either. Doing some rough calculations, this new person looked about as old as someone who’d been born around the time Russell died, so that’s kinda interesting.

Then I decided to go hunt for breakfast and wound up dodging the line into some kind of restaurant that took people and sat them together in groups wholly unrelated to any social units they may have been in when they got in line and I just slunk out of that and was suddenly outside a casino or something and I pulled out my phone to figure out where I was and it wasn’t very helpful and then I woke up.Maybe I should go back to sleep.