Friday, August 28, 2009

He's also a character

Guy has been beavering away at the Something & Something strip characters. The bartender/new owner is the latest addition. Meanwhile I've been writing away, with varying success.

I've also be re-imagining a script I wrote a while back as full 28-page stories, into shorter 6-8 page episodic format. At first I was worried I'd struggle to change the script in a positive fashion, but once I got started it just flowed. I think the shorter format makes for a more interesting and action packed story, while still having the same basic plot.

Artwork by Guy Landry

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In a perfect world ...

When someone tells you they will be back presently ...

... it should mean that they will return soon with presents for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

He's a character

Here's the first character study of Reg, the pub regular, for the Something & Something strip.

They say write what you know, but it took me a while to think of writing about pub life. I grew up in the late 70s in a country pub. It was an interesting time. My parents worked long hours for little reward. I remember loving Sundays as then I had free run of the place. The pool table was mine.

I also worked for over eleven years at a bottlestore, which gave me more food (drink?) for thought. We had our regulars there too. The queues at opening on pension day. The fill-your-own flagon sherry mixers, who all had their own recipe for the perfect sherry.

Half sweet and half dry.
Two thirds medium and top it up with sweet.
Mostly dry, mate, but with a little medium at the end.

So this strip gives a chance to use my past life in comic strip form, as well as any other ideas that pop into my head.

Artwork by Guy Landry

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Good neighbours

Imagine your neighbour lends you some money, say $50,000. He does this for various reasons. He's known you for a long time, he's done some business with you in the past and hopes to again in the future, he likes you (to a degree). Mostly he doesn't want your house to look so decrepit, as it's bringing down property values. Or even worse, you might sell up and who knows who might move in next door to him. You are the devil he knows, and that's just fine with him.

Your gutters are blocked, your roof has a couple of leaks, and there's a broken window that you've boarded over with wood. The house could do with a paint job, and some gardening would help as well. On top of that, you've had some health problems which have set you back professionally, and have cost as bit as well (since you live in a country without a 'socialized' medical system).

So your neighbour lends you $50,000. He expects you to use it to pay some medical bills and get some repairs done to your house. Maybe you'll even be able to do some cosmetic things to the property, like getting a guy in to do the lawns.

Your neighbour tells you to pay the loan back whenever you can. No interest. No conditions. You even get the feeling that he might not expect you to pay it back at all, if the worse came to the worst. He may even be able to lend you more, if you really need that triple-bypass surgery.

So what do you do with the money?

Well, naturally you take the $50,000 and go to Vegas, where you put the money on black (always bet on black) at the roulette wheel. One spin ...

It doesn't matter whether you win or lose. If you lose, you just tell your neighbour the medical bills are still piling up. "You don't have a little bit more I could borrow, do you (cough, cough)."

If you win you double your money, and can pay back your neighbour. "Here you go, pal. You're the greatest."

Let's say you won. After all, there's a 47% chance of that playing a colour on roulette. You do the right thing and invite your neighbour and his wife around for dinner.

As they walk up the path to your house they can't help but notice the new car in the driveway. SUV. Fully loaded. You haven't had the grass cut, but at least your old car, now parked on the front lawn, is keep a patch of it down directly underneath it's rusting frame.

They knock on the door, and you welcome them in. "Mind the buckets in the hallway ... the roof still leaks a bit." You never got that window fixed either. It's still boarded up.

Dinner is BBQ ... you cook them up some juicy steaks, ribs, and hamburgers. There's even a salad, because you're trying to be heart-smart, since you never got around to that expensive surgery. After you show off your new home theatre system. Surround sound, and a deep bass that will rattle the windows in the neighbourhood (but you promise to keep the volume down).

As they leave you overhead your neighbours wife say something rather derogatory about you. The cheek of some people. After all your generous hospitality.

If all this sounds a little far-fetched ... well it shouldn't do. You, the annoying neighbour from hell, are actually the large US banks that were bailed out by your government (neighbour). While the bailout money (a bit more than fifty grand) was intended to be used in 'constructive' ways, such as canceling out the huge debts of the mortgage crisis and fixing the broken banking system, and while the public (the wife) assumed the banks would learn to be less risky in their behaviour (such as cutting out those fatty BBQ steaks) ... well, that's not what happened.

The huge profits and executive bonuses that various bailed out banks have made and paid recently were because they went to Vegas ... or rather the stock market ... with the bailout money.

I'm sure the banks would argue that the risks they took were better that the 47% you get for betting black on roulette. Perhaps it was more like playing blackjack with a really good counting system while the pit bosses (government officials) were on a break. The banks basically bet that the stock market would fall. It was a fairly safe bet, since the banks had triggered the whole downturn in the global economy in the first place, and by being bailed out were only reinforcing the belief that the sky (and stocks) were falling.

The wife in my little tale represents the general public. Technically, she has all the power ... she could after all divorce the husband (at least once every four years). But even if she does, she'll discover that all men are basically the same.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Okay ... thanks for the ideas that have come from friends and family ... most of which have not been published as comments, and maybe that's just as well.

I've decided to keep the strip as The Something & Something and make the search for a name for the pub to be part of the strip itself. That way I can use all the ideas I have been given, and those to come.

There was one suggestion that has already inspired a strip, un-drawn as of yet, but this is a long term plan. Several other names are also sparking seeds of ideas inside my noggin. So keep 'em coming.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Finally ...

Guy and I finally had a cartoon published in the Popmundo online in-game weekly magazine. Hopefully, since it was the first one of twenty-four, there will be many others.

To celebrate, here's another cartoon from the series.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I see nothing!

For me, Hogan's Heroes will always be linked with Fish & Chips. Not the TV programs, Fish and Chips, but rather the meal. When I was a kid Hogan's Heroes was televised on a the same night of the week that my family ate Fish & Chips. So whenever I see Col. Klink, Sgt Schultz, or Hogan himself in reruns I can actually smell and taste greasy battered fish and steaming hot salty chips.

Hogan's Heroes was a very repetitive show. The plots tended to be very similar from episode to episode. But it was fun, well acted for a comedy show, and had lines you could recite in the schoolyard to your friends over and over.

It was a fantasy. Prisoners of war helping the Allied cause by spying and sabotaging the Germans. Far-fetched fun, that seemed to go on longer that the war itself. (There's a theme ... tv shows about wars that lasted longer than the actual war they were set in.)

Yet it turns out it wasn't a fantasy. There really were POWs who spied on their captors. There really were hidden transmitters and receivers (in baseballs, for example). There were even secret departments, MI-9 and MIS-X, dedicated to finding new ways of using POWs to aid the war effort; devising letter writing codes, smuggling in cameras, and so on. There were playing cards with secret maps, compasses inside hollow hairbrushes, magnetized razor blades that pointed north, hollow buttons, and much more.

The whole thing was kept very secret, even after the war, as using POWs in such ways was a direct breach of the Geneva Conventions. Even in 1990, when someone finally broke the silence the Pentagon wanted to suppress the story, because it endangered future POWs, and cast deep shadows on the past.

POWs are, under "the rules of war", considered safe, special, immune, and out of play. Spies, on the other hand can be shot out of hand. By confusing the two the Allies were risking the lives of thousands of their own men.

The POWs risked a firing squad if caught spying, the higher ups risked being war criminals, and they also risked upsetting the international agreements on how POWs were treated. If it had become common knowledge that the US and UK routinely operated POWs as spies then the whole raft of Geneva Conventions might have been ignored by all concerned, not just in World War Two, but in later conflicts.

Even basic humanitarian aid, such as the famous Red Cross parcels, was endangered by these departments, as the Allies set up dozens of fake Aid Agencies to ferry their illegal contraband to the prisoners. The Allies always made a big deal about the neutrality of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups, and publicly maintained that they never used them covertly. While the Red Cross may have been above board, many of the groups it turns out were not. In fact, their sole purpose was to ferry in contraband.

All this contrasts nicely with the recent controversy about labeling captured 'terrorists' as not POWs but 'enemy combatants'. Words are powerful. Now I'm going to associate fish and chips with the Geneva Conventions .... Mmmmmm, tasty, tasty articles.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rule #10827

A recent spate of adverts has led me to a new rule of life ...

Just because you can animate something doesn't mean you should.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Something & Something

Okay ... I need some help here people. I'm trying to write a strip about a country pub, but I need some inspiration for a name.

I need a name for the pub. I want to use the rather English tradition of calling a pub The Something & Something, but with a New Zealand twist. So far all I've come up with is,

The Queen & Kina

Any suggestions would be welcomed. The winner gets a prize of my choosing, to be delivered when I get around to it, no cash equivalent, no refunds, no correspondence will be entered into, no shirt no service.

As you can see, I also need help with the names of the new 'city' owners. A young couple with dreams of financial independence, who will be slowly ground down by the reality of country publican life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Popmundo cartoon

Like in many 'role-playing' games, learning new skills is important in Popmundo. But as the game has a musical bent, so of the skills are a little odd. So we came up with a series of jokes about the education system in the virtual world of Popmundo. This is the first one.

Click on the cartoon to see it in enlarged format.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Miracle of Birth, pt. 2

For a while I had a pet pig.

Technically, she wasn't a pet ... she was a lone farm pig who was occasionally bred for little porkers. The farmer had named her Muldoon, after one of New Zealand's more colourful and pig-like Prime Ministers.

My parents rented an old farm house ... the farmers had built themselves a nice new place ... which was close to Muldoon's sty. Sometimes Muldoon would be let out to run around and get some exercise ... sometimes Muldoon would just escape. She had a taste for the rose bushes in the garden, and was persistent enough to get through the flimsy gate, even when I'd remembered to close it. She once wandered into the house, which I thought was great ... my mother was less enthusiastic.

I liked Muldoon, and would often feed her fruit and vegetable scraps, scratch her behind the ears, and even play with her on those occasions when she was out of the rather muddy pen. However, because she was called Muldoon, it never really occurred to me that she was a she. So when piglets started popping out of her one day I was taken by surprise.

It was quite a show. We all gathered around to gaze in awe as the little runts were literally fired out of Muldoon and skidded across the sty floor. She was like a slow-firing air-propelled piglet rifle. Just when you figured she was done ... Pop! ... out came another one.

I can't help but wonder if anyone has ever used a pig in labour as a weapon? Maybe there's a story in that?

Artwork by Guy Landry

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Miracle of Birth, pt. 1

I have been lucky enough to witness the birth of a few animals; kittens, puppies, lambs, calves, foals, piglets ... and now two human children.

Watching a foal stand up seconds after being born on shaky legs was very memorable. Our cat giving birth to two all-white kittens was magical, since it occurred on my mum's sweater and we kept them. Obviously, a predator like a cat can afford to give birth to blind and helpless offspring. The herbivores, on the other hand, had to hit the ground running, or at least wobbling.

Human babies are also rather helpless and hopeless when born. Even the cute factor doesn't really kick in for a while. My wife referred to our wee boy as an angry red potato when he was born. To be fair, after pushing him out like that she could call him whatever she wanted to. All I could think of after that was, "Ouch!"

Our first child was born by c-section, and I got to watch. It was surreal to see, and hard to even think of it as happening to my wife. They laid a surgical sheet over my wife's stomach which had a teletubby like gap in it; further removing it from reality. She was drugged up, but conscious, and kept asking for updates.... Informing someone as to what is happening to their insides is a very, very odd thing to do.

"What are they doing?"

"Um ... they've just cut you open ... can you feel that?"

"Nope, not a thing. Now what's going on?"

"They are using what looks like giant ice cream scoops to push your intestines out of the way."

"Cool, now what?"

If I could have channel surfed it would have been just like watching TV. I wonder what animals are giving birth on the other channels?

Artwork by Guy Landry

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicken Little of the Sea

The sea is rising! The sea rising! Twice in the last couple of months I've encountered people talking about a possible 100 (one hundred) metre (meter) sea level rise in the next one-hundred years. I've even seen one article that showed maps of Australia after a predicted 300m sea level rise. This seemed like a heck of a lot of water, so I wondered if anyone had done the math, volume calculations and so forth. It turns out a good number of people have done the math ...

So let's be boring and talk volumes. There is a lot of ice out there in the world. If all the ice in Greenland was to melt, for example, the global sea levels would rise by 6-7 metres. There's some wiggle room in the numbers because it is hard to accurately gauge the thickness of the ice, but the calculated volumes are all similar. That's quite a rise in sea levels from just one block of ice. It is a very large block of ice though ...

By-the-way, there are climate change deniers who point out that the Greenland ice sheet is actually thickening ... which they use as a 'counter-example' of warming. However, the truth is, as always, more interesting. As the Greenland ice melts around the edges, as ice tends to do, the increase precipitation (rain and snow fall) in Greenland due to the warmer average temperature deposits more ice on the top of the pile. So it is growing thicker, even as it loses mass to melting.

Back to sea level rise. So, all of Greenland equals a 6-7m rise ... this sounds bad. We can add in some more ice ... The Antarctica Peninsula ice would add in about half a metre, and this is about the same amount as all the world's glacier ice. If all the Antarctica ice were to turn to water, the whole continent becoming incontinent as it were, then you are looking at some serious changes ... about 60m in rising sea waters. However, even when you add in all the snow and ice from everywhere in the world, a melted earth, you still don't get to one hundred metres. In fact, you don't get to 90m even when you add in water expansion from temperate rise.

Seventy or so metres of sea rise sounds pretty bad, but remember the entire world has to melt to get this rise. Not a drop left in ice form. This would mean a change in temperature of plus 37oC in various places. As far as I'm aware no-one is suggesting a global temperature rise of 37oC by 2100. If that were to happen, sea level rises would not be our most compelling problem. Building extremely deep underground bunker complexes or leaving the planet would be much higher on our to do list than worrying about the lapping water around our necks.

The actual scientific figures out there estimate a global sea level rise of between 0.1mm (one tenth of a millimeter) to 0.95mm (just under 10 centimetres) a year until 2100 (By scientific I mean from places like the Max Plank Institute and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)). This means that we have a predicted average sea level rise of up-to-a-metre in the next century, but probably less, assuming change continues as predicted. This is 1% or less of the 100m 'prediction' I have been seeing splashed around lately. By the way, the key phrase there is 'average rise' ... individual results may vary.

The odd thing is, a 1m or even half metre sea-level change will have massive consequences ... higher waves, higher flood waters, costal erosion ... but for some reason no one wants to say 'one metre' or 'half-a-metre' or even 'up to a metre' ... it sounds too small. Too tiny to be frightening. So radio, web and TV experts just seem to make up numbers, scary numbers, as it sounds and looks better. Five meters, 10, 25, 50 100, and even 300m ... For example, there's a Google Earth add-on that allows you to change the sea level ... but adding 0.5m to the program changes nothing as the resolution is too small. Instead you are encouraged to enter 50m or 100m to simulate the sea level changes from global warming (indeed there is a popular website of showing generated world maps showing 100m sea level rise), and when you do massive changes occur, but the problem is these numbers are made up. The only basis for entering such large changes is to see large changes on the map ... there's no science behind those numbers, and there's just not enough water out there.

As a contrast, at the end of the last ice age the change is sea levels was about 120m. There was a lot more ice on the planet then (about three times as much as today) and while various kid's films may suggest the melting happened in a hurry, it was a slow change of several thousands of years. This means we currently have media climate 'experts' telling us to expect a change nearly as dramatic as the end of the last ice age to occur thirty times as fast as it did then.... And no-one questions these experts, because to do so is to be labeled a horrid denier of global warming and worse than (insert enemy of the month here). Once these exaggerated figures get out into the public domain they are slavishly copied and repeated without checking.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not a climate change denier. I'm not saying sea levels are not rising. I'm not saying that even a less-than-half-a-metre change isn't going to have terrible consequencess. I'm not saying something dramatic couldn't happen ... such as a large chunk of the Western Antarctic ice sliding into the water and raising sea levels several metres. I'm just saying that anyone who tells you that the sea level is going to rise 100m in the next century is talking bollocks ... complete and utter, unsubstantiated bollocks.

Artwork by Guy Landry

Sunday, August 9, 2009

You can call her Betsy

For some reason my wife and I were talking about milking cows. I cannot remember why. From my limited experience with herds of cows (Heard of cows? Of course I've heard of cows!) there is always at least one in every herd that has a peculiarity. There always seems to be one cow, let's call her Betsy or number 83, that just has to be hand-milked rather than machine suckled. Or maybe a cow that has a specific booth it must be milked in, no other spot will do.

This is something I have had first-hand knowledge of on more than one occasion ... but it was the first time that always sticks in my memory. I was a wee lad when I first got to stay on a dairy farm for a day or so. I don't remember many specifics of that time, I was young, but I do have a crystal-clear recollection of my first cow-ride (something I am reminded of whenever I play the Wii Play made-of-wool cow-racing game).

The cow probably had a name, let's say it was Betsy or number 83, and was considered to be the tame one of the herd. It was milking time, and it had been going on for sometime. I probably looked bored, so to liven things up the farmer asked if I wanted a ride on Betsy (83). I'm sure I said, "No", but the "No" of a young kid never really counts for anything in these circumstances. I was duly picked up and plonked onto the back of Betsy.

There were right. Betsy was a very calm cud-chewer. I should probably mention that I seem to have bad luck when it comes to riding animals. I once rode a pony that would not stop chewing my toes. Even a moon-hopper got away from me once.

Betsy was one of those cows that just had to be milked in stall number 2. None of the other five stalls was good enough for Betsy. There I was, nervously perched on Betsy's back when stall number 2 became vacant. Like Moses, Betsy seemed to be able to part the sea of bovine backsides ahead of her, and she raced towards her favourite milking station ... with me on her back.

I ended up hanging from the bar above the stall entrance, knocking off the little reciprocating rod that was part of the suction machinery, bringing proceedings to a halt while they rescued me, and, more importantly, reset the milking system.

Needless to say ... I have never ridden a cow since.

Artwork by Guy Landry

Friday, August 7, 2009

Geek reference alert

For whatever reason, the Popmundo cartoons Guy has drawn for me have not been accepted by the game's magazine. We are still hopeful they will consider them in the near future. Not sure what reason they have for not using our strip. It looks far better than most of the ones they do take. It uses specific in-game situations (such as theft and police security tagging as in this one) and meets their size requirements. I'd post the one's they do accept just to show you the contrast ... but that would only be embarrassing for all. Being rejected is one thing ... being rejected when they seem to have accepted any old thing in the past (they have actually posted a broken link in a recent issue!) just makes me feel ... actually I don't know how that makes me feel ... confused I guess.

Anyway ... since I'd like someone to see the strips I'll post a few more here over the next week or so. This one requires obscure geek knowledge to make the most of the punchline ...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

A frantic week of child-rearing, working, writing, online shopping, and cooking. Which has seen me fail to find time to post anything.

Started my xmas shopping, which is always a bonus in August.

A children's story poured out of me over the last couple of days, but there'll be a lot of editing and tweaking to get it right.

I cooked cajun blackened fish last night (with assorted veges), and rogan josh for tonight (I can smell it slow-cooking as I type, and it's making me hungry).

I had some webpage work this week, which was a little frustrating, but I hope to finish it this weekend if I get some alone-time.

Our wee boy has decided that he's not going to sleep during the day anymore, which has made it much harder for me to get anything done. The good news is that he is sleeping through at night in longer stretches ... so I can now at least think clearly about all the stuff I don't have time to do.

Monday, August 3, 2009


One of the guilty thoughts that I had when my children were born was that they would help inspire me to write stories. So far there just hasn't been much time for inspiration, but our four-year old does enjoy the occasional made-up-on-the-spot tale.

A while ago I asked her if she'd like a story written for her. At first the idea didn't fly. But then one day she seemed to be keen on the idea. We got her to tell us the elements she wanted in the story: herself, her baby brother, three friends, some fairies with butterfly wings, a rainbow, crayons and colouring books, and a rock that turns out to be an egg. The rather wet story that followed was not my finest creation, but it did satisfy its patron.

Suddenly, however, the wee lass has become my muse. As the games we play together have become more imaginative, so the ideas for stories have started to flow. So this week I've started writing two of the better ideas in earnest.

They say children's stories are one of the hardest genres to write. To me, they seem like a large-panel format comic. I hope it can be thought of that way. Perhaps I'm just setting myself up for a fall? But as long as my muse is amused by the stories they will be a success.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Empirical Lass & Skepticman

Well ... it only took a day for one artist to draw the dynamic dowsers of determinism . Thank you Guy.

Apparently my superhero power is the ability to grow more hair!

My daughter thinks she makes a great superhero. But don't tell her she's the sidekick. I listed them in the correct order in the title of this blog.

Go Empirical Lass!!! and her sidekick, Skepticman.

Guy isn't planning to draw the strip, however.