Saturday, February 28, 2009

A $1700 dollar error and the most beautiful music ever made

I'm an atheist, which means that I don't believe in any God or gods. Even so, this week's events provide a compelling case that at least the irony gods are alive and kicking! Apparently they operate on a hair trigger, too. Whence came this revelation, you might ask? I have a story for you all.

I am a senior in my last semester at Suffolk University. On Wednesday I came to the realization that I never took a second c1ass in science, which is required to graduate. We are of course now well beyond the add-drop deadline, so I was facing the prospect of having to take summer courses! This would be terrible, not only because I have to work, but because I am applying to graduate schools for the fall. They tend to like their applicants to, you know, actually have graduated from college.

To make a long story short, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is a queen among women. I came to her with my plight and immeadiately came to the rescue. Her solution? Bend the rules and allow me to enter the only not-yet-full-to-the-brim science course. "Great," say I. "What's the course?"

"Quantum mechanics," says she. "Specifically, Nanomaterials and Energy Problems."


I've been reading Steven Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time. Just the day before, I had mentioned this to my roomate and said something to the effect of, "Thank God I'll never need to understand Quantum Theory!" The Irony Gods must have overheard this, and, since like a fool I didn't knock on wood, swooped down to punish me. I am now well and truly theirs to do with as they will.

So, I am officially enrolled in a Quantum theory course, mid semester. I will need to catch up on six weeks of lectures this weekend to be prepared for our lecture on Monday. To top it off, taking the course has me overenrolled, so the cost will come out to $1734. I have taken a loan out from my parents and will pay it back gradually over the summer.

This easily could be very depressing, but I'm working to be content about it. All the eastern philosophy I've been studying recently counsels that it is a waste of time to devote energy to wishing things were other than they were. This seems very wise. Instead of moping I am focusing on making the choice of being happy, revelling in the positive aspects of the situation. My family loves me and will support me through my errors. I am going to graduate on time. I'm even somewhat interested in the subject - if I never got involved in politics, delving into the nature of the universe through science would be the next best thing.

One other thing to be happy about: MUSIC. I found this incredible artist Zoe Keating that you all absolutely must experience. She is a cellist who creates music through loop patterns, playing one track over another and another to compose incredibly moving, sweeping musical pieces. With the help of a loop pedal, one cello becomes sixteen! I highly recommend checking out Tetrishead, The Legions and Time is Running Out.

It's a simple premise taken to a wonderful level of complexity. I've purchased two of her CDs and have been listening to them all day!

In other news, I presented my Senior Thesis, the Nuclear Policy of a Rational Iran. It was accepted! I think that this means I can graduate summa cum laude, which would make me very happy indeed.

How is everyone else's week treating them? I your week has been as interesting as mine! Odd that "may you living in interesting times" is a curse in Japan.

Peace, all.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Comic Shadow of the Colossus Speed Run

A new strip went up today!

Full Size version heah.

I am really, truly starting to love illustrator - it's wonderful to have such clean, flowy lines! I'm also very happy about Jesse, who among other things enjoys the occasional game or two. When she suggested without my prompting that we play a round or two of Halo, my jaw literally dropped. To top it off, she even enjoys the West Wing! If I can just coax her into politics and get her to quit smoking (I know better than to actually push on either of those points) I am well on the way to be dating the perfect woman.

Take a look at some videos from the truly talented J. Mitchell, who is something of a legend on the Youtube Shadow of the Colossus Speedrun community. For any of you who have played SotC, you know that taking down a colossus for the first time can require a lengthy committment of time. I personally recall that my first attempt at the final boss, Malus, took almost two full hours! watch how fast Mitchell pulls it off.

So impressive! Don't bother trying to replicate this - it's nearly impossible. Instead, go check out some of the other videos I posted. Even someone who hasn't played the game can appreciate the skill with which these videos are executed.

Speaking of videos, Jesse is coming over tonight. We are getting drunk and watching either Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Pricess Mononke. Which would you prefer? (Last week we saw Casablanca, and it was fantastic! I reccomend it to anyone who hasn't tried it.)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Okami, Illustrator, Comic

Man, I'm tired. Last night I installed the Illustrator 10 CD that my father gave to me, and I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning drawing and tweaking the latest Repiphany strip. For those of you who don't know, Illustrator is an Adobe program that allows the user to draw in vectors, instead of pixels. That sometimes results in a few complications - in version 10 there's no eraser tool, for example - but the trade off is that all lines drawn, especially with a WACOM tablet, are smooth and crisp, and heavily customizable. I had no idea how some artists did their work until I sat down and played with this tool. Now I feel like a whole new realm of options is open to me.

Anywho, here's the comic.

As usual, the full scale comic is here!

I'm trying to improve my pacing in these strips. I'm trying to get across that the professor is taking a long, LONG, time to get everything written out, and that the course moves at a snail's pace. (This is definitely a case where art mimics reality, by the way. The Politics of Religion course will destroy me with boredom.) I'm considering editing the strip and changing the sound effects, but after all it may be best to be content and work on the next strip, which I think I'll enjoy.

But enough about boring webcomics! I've recently thrown myself back into the game of Okami and I am rediscovering what it is about the game that makes it so enjoyable. The sound track, first of all, is phenomenal. I've always been a big fan of Japanese movies, especially the old Samurai flicks and traditional themed stories. Okami's music, captures a lot of that old flute, drum, and shamisan vitality.

Obviously the game has great artistic appeal as well - the watercolor themes are lovely to look at. But I don't want to be redundant and revisit all that has been said about the original Okami art sty1e so let me simply say that the detail work in Okami is half of what makes the game fantastic. The flowers that sprout up and die under Ameratsus feet as she runs, the facial expressions of the demon doors as you aproach with an exorcism key, the animations of the various gods as they greet you, the simple, abstract mountains off in the distant blue sky... It's art. It's art, and I defy Mr. Ebert to say otherwise.

That's mighty pretty.

The story strikes me as distinctly japanese as well. That makes up the other half. I enjoy it more that the typical JRPG - something about the translation into English, the semi-european protagonists and villians, and the steam punk knighthood settings of many of today's modern Eastern RPGs satisfies me less than Okami's legend-themed story. Of course it is not accurate to any particular japanese legend, and of course there are modern elements interwoven into the story. But at its heart the game is so distinctly a product of Nippon that I find myself enjoying it in the same way I enjoy the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

Oops, off to the Philosophy Society meeting. We're discussing Hegel today.

Happy... what is today, Tuesday? Happy Tuesday.

(PS: I've decided to ask Jesse to give things another try. Being the great girl that she is, she said yes. She asked me to make a webcomic with her in it as a symbolic gesture, so prepare yourselves!)

Friday, February 13, 2009

More webcomic hilarity!

Hey folks,

I'm currently working on a new strip that I hope you'll all enjoy. It has a different format and a different color scheme, and is a little more serious than my work so far. I plan to post it sometime this weekend, while I'm avoiding the presentation for my Politics and Relgion course. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd post one of the first strips I ever drew with a WACOM tablet. Here I explain (sort of) what Repiphany! would all be about. As you can see I like the idea of breaking down the 4th wall.

A full scale version may be found here.

I think this strip convinced me that I could produce something minimalist and still enjoyable. By the by, I'm contemplating picking up a copy of Adobe Illustrator. Add some vectors to this craziness. Does anyone know where I could find a cheap copy?

Happy Friday. Enjoy President's day. (Lincoln was teh hardcorez)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yarr! Anti-Piracy Webcomic

Don't worry, I'm not nagging. Today I'm showing off my most recent Repiphany! strip: Anti-Piracy. Its taking a topic that's near and dear to my heart and making it into a joke, which is very soothing.

A full-scale version is available here.

I'm really getting into drawing this webcomic. I get to throw down some ideas that interest me, and its very satisfying to see them coalesce into something funny. Or at least, somethingI think is funny.

Monday, February 9, 2009

This is how I would run an interview

I want to show a webcomic I'm working on. In my free time I work on a little thing called Repiphany! (name subject to change) which features little dudes talking about the things that are usually on my mind: Politics, games, philosophy, livin' life and being happy, etc. The art is nothing special, but I think I'm developing and I'm definitely having fun. You can visit the comic at its domain on, but I'll also be posting various strips on this blog as I progress.

Here's a strip I did in October, before the election. Enjoy!

Any feedback is of course welcome.

Best wishes to you all. I hope everyone had a great weekend. (Me personally, I'm coming to the point where I've got to figure out whether I still want to date the girl I met on my birthday. Good personality and fun, but I'm not sure we'd work out long term. Here's hoping I make a good decision and make sure nobody gets too unhappy as a consequence.)

Let's try that again: I hope everyone had a great weeked!


Friday, February 6, 2009

Piracy - Nag Your Friends!

On a personal note, I'd just like to say that I had a great night last night. Yesterday I handed in my undergraduate thesis - "The Foreign Policy of a Rational Iran," - I went on my first date in 9 months, and had a fantastic evening watching Cirque du Soleil and Pinky and the Brain with a pretty girl. Life, friends, is very good.

But let us now focus upon grimmer topics. Satisfied smiles are lame.

There's recently been quite a lot of contention over the subject of DRM. Folks are quite rightly getting angry by the fact that companies like Microsoft, EA, and Steam are limiting their use of games that they have legitimately purchased. Steam, for example, requires that a player be online in order to run some software. EA made retail-purchased Spore games very difficult to install on multiple machines. These and other instances illustrate a gaming environment that is increasingly limiting to the honest consumer. The honest consumer deserves to be upset.

Here's the caveat, though - we should be pissed off at our peers, not the companies. Let's not forget the purpose of DRM is not to screw over the consumers, but to defend against from piracy. It's a source of shame for me that my generation is so casual with theft - most of my friends pirate music, television programs, and games whenever they find a product that they want but don't wish to pay for. The old chestnut that piracy a "victimless crime" is as false as it is trite; according to Gamespot news, EA sold 700,000 copies of Spore while nearly 2 million copies of the game were torrented online. Every game pirated is quite literally taking money out of the pockets of the people who worked to create our entertainment.

I can't say that I'm entirely innocent of wrongdoing - I'll accept a music CD from a friend and watch the occasional episode of Scrubbs online. But I've recently made a conscious effort not to download expensive products to which I don't own the rights. I sleep better knowing that my dollars are going towards the inustries I want to support.

Voice your concerns to the game businesses. Urge them to create a copy protection system that doesn't harm the people actually supporting their industry. But then, please turn around and tell your friends to shut down the torrent client. Apart from being illegal, it hurts every one of us who are actually playing by the rules.

*end rant.