What I've been up to last week

Normally, I don't do this, but it's been kind of a busy week for me.

Firstly, after six months of downtime, The Nice's forums have been brought back and upgraded from UBB6 to phpBB3. There was a server crash in October that brought our old forums down, so we've moved to a more stable and maintainable system - and from a collection of thousands of text files to a real database. The old forum is available in read-only mode for private messages (which couldn't be migrated) and anything else we may have missed.

Secondly, the entire archives of Unlike Minerva are back online. For the last few years we only had an edited version up, which didn't include the original pre-restart beginning. Since we've got the tenth anniversary coming up on March 15th, it's only fair to show what it's the anniversary of. This also puts Unlike Minerva and its sequel, You Say it First at over 2000 comics, combined.

Thirdly, we're running Unlike Minerva with commentary, Monday through Friday at UnlikeMinerva.com. It'll be at quintuple-speed, with a new week of comics up every day.

Fourthly, to celebrate the fourth anniversary of NamirDeiter.net, our reward site for donors, we've got a special this month only - subscribe at $4/month for as long as you like, or, if you donate $10, get free online access to one of our past bonus books.

Fifthly, we've got a public tour of NamirDeiter.net. Because after four years, there's probably a lot of people curious as to what's inside.  I'm sure it's not the first bonus site, and it's probably not the biggest, but there's an awful lot there at the moment.

Sixthly, people keep asking us: "Isabel has drawn how many comics?". We've got a running total now. Currently it's 5713, or about 27 centiHolbrooks.

  • Current Music
    Julian Cope - Fried

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I've been busy. For one thing, I've got a big pile of audiotapes that I'm trying to digitize. A good chunk of them are 4-track recordings of my band. I don't have a tape deck. The only ones I see for sale are either cheap things that eat tapes or $200 home stereo systems. I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on speakers I'm not going to use, and some of these tapes can't be replaced (I really, really hope I've got another copy of The Modern Lizard Quartet - The Rough Mixes Years somewhere, or that I can splice it back together...).
Man, it makes me feel old to have a big pile of stuff that I can't use anymore because I can't find anything to play it on. Even the places I figured might sell them aren't in business anymore. So I think it's a pretty good metaphor. But seriously, if any of you know where I can get a decent tape deck for a decent price let me know.
  • Current Music
    The Modern Lizard Quartet, until my tape just broke

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You know how I mentioned projects last week? Firstly, I'm getting The Nice's forums up again. Secondly, I'm rehabilitating Unlike Minerva's archives. I'm going to be re-doing the main page real soon now. I've got commentary up for the first two weeks , and I'll probably add another two or three every week, time and memory permitting. I probably shouldn't have waited nine years, eleven months before starting this. Mind you, the first six months of Unlike Minerva don't count; I restarted the comic and most everything before isn't canon.
  • Current Music
    Robyn Hitchcock - Goodnight Oslo

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No blog post this week. I've got projects.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of Caravan performing "Golf Girl", one of their poppier and more popular songs. I had been looking for something like this for a while: the lead singer? Richard Sinclair.
  • Current Music
    Caravan - Golf GIrl

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Nothing seems to make a week go by faster than trying to write something about it.
What've I been up to?

Reading (books): Finished Coraline (which we also saw the movie of, and enjoyed). Isabel got me a very nice set of Terry Pratchett books for Christmas; I've gotten as far as Reaper Man so far. I had a smaller set when I was younger. It's funny; I remembered Carrot being the main character in Guards! Guards!. Re-reading it, the main conflict is Vimes vs. Wonse (and, to a lesser extend Vimes vs. Vimes), and Carrot is, like many others, an interesting secondary character but not the focal point that I thought he was.

Reading (manga): I was reading dozens of series at a time. I've put most of them down, so I can actually read something from start to finish. I recently finished Hiatari Ryoukou and Adventure Boys, both by Mitsuru Adachi. Currently reading Nine (which is his first solo series). I've mentioned Mitsuru Adachi before; he's done about a dozen sports romance series. I've read half of them They're about as different as You Say it First and Namir Deiter. So far, Nine is my second-favorite series of his after Rough. We've been reading Gokusen, as well, and picked up the anime. I recommend it, and wonder why the manga hasn't been licensed.

Playing (MMORPG): Trying Lord of the Rings Online. I need to get my thoughts on Asda Story and Final Fantasy XI written out.

Playing (console): Trying to play all the console games we have before getting more. Finished Sly Cooper 2 - would post my thoughts on the ending if I thought it'd be of general interest. Thinking about playing Sly 3, but they changed one of the voice actors. If I wait a month, it'll sound less wrong. Finished Mega Man X, X2, and X3, so that I could unlock Battle & Chase for Isabel, because it's supposed to contain Roll's Theme. It doesn't. Finished Mega Man 9, despite the fact that I gave up on Mega Man 4 when I tried to play through all of them.

I was playing Animal Crossing: City Folk until I found out about Animal Tracks. The idea is that if you run on the same route every time, it'll wear down the grass and create a path. Unfortunately, the grass damage is applied every time the game is loaded and now 80% of our town looks like a desert. I'm playing a lot less now. The idea of a thin trail running from point A to point B is cute. A townful of bare dirt isn't.

Playing (handheld): Finished WarioWare: Touched (and by 'finished' I mean I unlocked most things and didn't care to grind for the other 10%). Playing Advance Wars 1, at least until I get a new game that can be played in 15-minute intervals.

  • Current Music
    Able Tasmans - Songs from the Departure Lounge

Superhero Comics

used to read comic books. DC exclusively. When I was young, I read an issue of Secret Wars II, got confused, and decided that Marvel wasn't worth bothering with. I mention this because last week we were at the Mattel Outlet and they had packs of Justice League figurines. That used to be my favorite series back during high school. I remember switching to it when Teen Titans tried to explain Donna Troy's origins.

I considered picking up a few of the toys. They had some decent characters. They didn't have my favorite characters, but they had some okay ones. Here's why they didn't have my favorite characters and why I don't read superhero comics anymore.

I remember the second-to-last issue of Justice League that I read. They had introduced a new supervillain.

It went like this:
The bad guy teleports the heros onto his space station. They're trapped in some kind of power-nullifying chairs.

Bad guy: I have a Space Chess set. You heroes are going to be my chess pieces or I'll kill one of you.

Hero: No, bad guy. We refuse to play your game.

Then the bad guy kills Ice, to show everyone that he's serious and for-real. Then the heroes play the game. It was one of the most anticlimactic, pointless deaths this side of Tasha Yar. It'd be as if the microwave really exploded, killing Brisbane and Kimberly, ending You Say it First. I got the next issue in the hopes that it would be a regular comic-book fake death. It wasn't. She is, as I understand it, still dead.

Every few years I get the urge to get back into comics. I poke around a bit on what's happened. Invariably "what's happened" means that a few more of my favorite characters died. It's not just that they died, but that they tended to die pointless deaths in arcs that got very bad reviews. The deaths weren't stories. They were punctuation in other peoples' stories, like putting an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence! in the hopes that it would make the paragraph containing it more exciting.

So right now, if they made a set with The Blue Beetle, Max Lord, The Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, Rocked Red, Ice, Crimson Fox, The Martian Manhunter, and Mr. Miracle and called it "We're sorry about killing these guys, honest", I'd still wait until it went on sale.

I understand that to establish dramatic tension, something needs to be at stake. I understand that superheroics is a dangerous job. I understand that DC isn't selling us a static, unchanging world - they put out hundreds of pages each month. It's just that being a former member of Justice League International puts you at the top of the hit list. I don't intend to start reading comic books again any time soon. If I found a series I liked, it'd end eventually. Then they'd start killing off the characters when other stories needed a bit more drama.

Fiesta Online

How can you tell it's anime-inspired? You get three choices of hair color: aqua, blue, and violet. The starting town included blades of grass hovering seven feet above the ground. The "tutorial quest" consists entirely of walking from one end of the town to the other. I spent most of the game with no idea what I was doing and what I was supposed to be doing.

There's a mini-map and a large map. If you click on a place on either, you don't move towards it. Quests only show on the large map. You buy your skills at a shop. This means you can't see the skill tree for your character unless you're at that shop.. There's nothing stopping you from buying skills you can't use because you're the wrong class.

Monsters talk to you. They say things like "What's one plus one? Wrong. It's three". Now, I think talking monsters are great. It let's you give them a bit of character and gives a bit of backstory to the ten palate-swapped guys you just made up. But don't make them painfully stupid. Why was I killing them? Because some guy promised me a pair of boots and there wasn't anything else to do. They probably deserved it, though.

  • Current Music
    Los Shakers - The Secret Conference at Toto's Bar
  • Tags

Two videos for your pleasure

The Gist has an amazing music video for their song, Believe. I should mention that the drummer is my brother. Is that why I put the video up? No. It just means I can probably get in free to their shows.

Also, the multi-talented Wil Wheaton as The Blue Beetle.

I remember the Blue Beetle back when he was thin. And living. I was a huge fan of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold back in the Justice League International days. I haven't bought superhero comics in since then, but that's a whole 'nother post in itself (which I probably would've put up today if it weren't for all the cool videos). Anyhow, I'm a huge Wil Wheaton fan. To me this is like putting two awesome things together and coming up with something even more awesome. Like the opposite of pizza ice cream.

And Kevin & Kell has been reinstated in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution - in color! As the folks who color it, we're chuffed as chips. Thank you, everyone who voted!

E-Mail Loss

A little while back, I mentioned that we're both a few months behind on answering email. If we you wrote to us, we're not going to be able to reply. Why? My cats enjoy sitting on my keyboard. It's right by the window and gives them a nice view of the patio. The view, apparently, is best from on top of the delete key. I mention this because I left Thunderbird open and they deleted all the email I've been meaning to reply to for the last several months. Then the inbox got corrupted when I tried to restore the messages. This means that everything Isabel and I meant to reply to is gone.

If you said something nice, we read it and really appreciate it. I'm very glad you enjoy our work; if people didn't enjoy it, it wouldn't be worth doing. We meant to send you a reply that said something like this, but more personal, and hope you continue to enjoy the comics.

If you pointed out something that needed to be fixed, I probably fixed it. I usually do that when I'm on my way out the door and don't have time to send something better than "Thanks! Fixed!". If I didn't fix it, or if there's something else that got spelled wrong, please email me again so I can get it corrected.

If you sent us condolences on our niece's death, we appreciate your support in difficult times.

If you sent us fanart, please, please re-send it so we can put it up properly.

If you sent us anything else or would just like a more personal reply, please e-mail us again.

Also, on Monday, January 12th, the Atlanta Jounal-Constitution cut 13 comic strips. One of those strips is Kevin & Kell, which we color. They're having a poll to determine which two strips get brought back - the full details are available at kevinandkell.com. We ask that you please vote for Kevin & Kell, especially if you live in the Atlanta region.

Sorry about all the posts; it's been a busy day.

  • Current Music
    Mike Nesmith - Nevada Fighter

Monato Esprit

I tried playing Monato Esprit. Firstly, it looks beautiful. It's a new game, and is going to look better than something four years old. There are a few new games that look great, partially because they're giving up on the market segment with older hardware. I don't think Isabel's computer could run this one at any kind of speed.

It has a decent tutorial section. You start out on their equivalent of Noob Island and they send you on a lot of quests. If Alice sends you to find Bill, you need to talk to Bill once to finish the "Find Bill" quest, a second time when he asks you if you're ready for the next quest, and a third time when he actually gives you the quest. Just a minor issue, though.

There's a decent range of appearance customization when you start. You choose a horoscope sign and season, as well. I mention this only because it gives you various bonuses. I do not like it when a game has you make what might be major decisions then makes you wait an hour before telling you what the consequences of that may be.

The game has a non-navigable mini-map and a manually controlled camera. The graphics settings are not adjustable.

I died while exiting a dungeon. When I got out, I didn't see any NPCs. I logged off. When I logged back on, I was in a new city. My spawn point was in a woodpile. I couldn't move. I don't think there were any GMs on. I'm not sure there was anybody on, actually.

Reading about it online, I found that the game's currency is MetaTIX, which can only be bought with real cash money. It costs money to go into some (most?) dungeons. The game hints that you can just trade things to other players, to avoid paying. The player base doesn't seem big enough to realistically support this. The literature mentions these being accepted in many different games, but Monato Esprit is the only one they actually name.

The game's classes include Harlequin, Hwarang, and Sheriff. It sounds like the design concept was "Let's take the awesomest stuff we can find and toss it all in". The Templar and Hwarang seem similarly tankish and I'm not sure what the difference between the Sheriff and Mage are, much less what the Harlequin actually does in game terms. Again, stuck in a woodpile.

  • Current Music
    Sands - Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator