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Link roundup about banned words & bad healthcare. January 16, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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Banned words at the CDC. I guess the hope is that if you don’t talk about trans people, vulnerabilities, and science, eventually they’ll stop existing?

More than a decade of heart problems left him with a fragile cardiovascular system, and the smoke from the grenade thrown into his home by police did not help. He would never recover after the September 2015 raid, which was carried out by 22nd Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force agents in the small South Alabama town of Andalusia. Coughing up blood, Wayne Bonam was hospitalized weeks later. He died the following November.” As if his family didn’t have enough to grieve at this point, the police also took his house.

Because we don’t have a functional healthcare system in this country, breast cancer patients are relying on a 10-year-old’s bake sale to pay for their treatment. (Major kudos to the 10-year-old, but this is still hella depressing overall.)

“What autistic children actually need are parents who focus on accepting their kids’ current realities as autistic individuals, so those kids are equipped not merely to cope, but to thrive. Since the rest of the world tends to be unforgiving to kids who fall outside standard social operating parameters, it’s important that autistic kids are treated like people rather than works-in-progress by their own families.”

Over the past two decades, the U.S. labor market has undergone a quiet transformation, as companies increasingly forgo full-time employees and fill positions with independent contractors, on-call workers or temps—what economists have called ‘alternative work arrangements’ or the ‘contingent workforce.'”

“The benefit also served as a modest incentive for people to take a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of travel to their jobs.” So, naturally, the Republican tax scam axed it. Because what we really need is more tax breaks to go to millionaires with private jets.

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Monday Works Roundup, 1/8/2018 January 8, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Winter Nights (art | Miranda, Jany, Bianca | worksafe)
Graveyard Stars (art | Miranda, Sparrow, Bianca, Patrick, Poe | worksafe)
Silhouetted Singers (art | Camellia, Bianca, Patrick | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
All Downhill From Here (fiction | Leif/Thorn, vampires | worksafe)
Oh, Bats (art | Leif, a harmless swarm of innocent bats | worksafe)
Window Seat (wallpaper | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)

Gravity Falls
Starry Pines (art | Mabel/Dipper | worksafe)

Homestuck
Fishy Boyfriend (sketch | Cronus/Mituna | worksafe)

Read or Die/Witch Hunter Robin/Little Orphan Annie/etc
The Allies (art | Yomiko, Nenene, Joker, Paper Sisters, Robin, Michael, Amon, Annie, Mickey, Kim | worksafe)

Sailor Moon
To Unite All Peoples (art | Usagi, Chibiusa, Luna | worksafe)

Wizard of Oz
The Nationwide Network of Oz (fic! | Dorothy/Ozma, Scarecrow/Scraps, ensemble | T)

General/Miscellaneous
Xmas Chibi (chibi commission, worksafe)
Chibi Ridley (reward, worksafe)

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Leif debates doing some possibly-seditious Googling.

Erin Watches: Scandal’s final season, episodes 1-7 January 7, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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I got caught up on the currently-airing Season 7 of Scandal while working on comics. (Previous reaction posts: on Dreamwidth, on WordPress.)

Everyone is still terrible. With the possible exception of…uh…I guess Marcus. (President Mellie’s ex-affair, currently Ex-President Fitz’s minder.)

High points of terribleness:

  • Cyrus is Mellie’s VP, because heaven forbid we have new characters be important on this show.
  • In the first episode, B613!Olivia is told she’ll need to have someone (a captured spy) murdered for the sake of national security, and her reaction is “hOW could you think I would DO such a thing??!?” At the start of the episode, we recap how she murdered Luna Vargas. Over the course of it, she sends a sniper to threaten a foreign leader’s elementary-age children. Yes, Olivia, how can we suggest murder to you, that’s such an insult to your stainless honor.
  • A couple episodes later, she firebombs a plane carrying a Muslim foreign leader and his teenage lesbian niece. That’s our Olivia!
  • Republicans are championing a free-college-for-all bill. Democrats are secretly scheming to block it, even though they like the idea, because they wouldn’t be able to claim the win. Because Scandal takes place in Bizarro America.
  • When an obnoxious billionaire businessman says he might “drop a couple mill” and run for President, Cyrus gives him an impassioned speech about how the office is sacred and belongs to the people. This is the same Cyrus who got the last POTUS into office by voter fraud, and the current POTUS (and himself) into office by double-murder. Much sacred, very respect.
  • Olivia keeps giving Mellie these intense, passionate speeches about “you are not alone, I always have your back, I am the only one who’s with you, I will make you a monument.” Why it doesn’t immediately segue into them making out, I do not know.
  • Quinn puts together the pieces about Olivia’s secret firebombing, then goes missing on her wedding day. Olivia assumes Quinn went into hiding to plot her downfall…and pretends to lead the team on a fast-paced search, while secretly waging an even faster-paced campaign to plant false leads and erase evidence before they get to it. Turns out Quinn was kidnapped! All Olivia’s machinations only slowed them down from rescuing her! Our hero.
  • One of those false leads prompts Quinn’s not-yet-husband to kidnap and torture an innocent man. Goody.
  • Jake (who is now B16’s #2, remember) insists that the only villains here are the kidnappers, and urges Olivia not to blame herself. Really? Because I will totally blame Olivia.
  • Oh, almost forgot to mention — Ex-President Fitz is moping around his mansion in Vermont (Marcus describes both the state and the guy as “Cold. White.”), wallowing in how lonely and powerless he is. Go join Habitat for Humanity and build some houses, you whiny moron.

Killed by police in 2017: 1,129 people January 2, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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Final report on 2017 police violence in the US, compiled by Campaign Zero. 1,129 people killed. 92% by shooting. Officers, even those with 1 or more prior shootings, were only charged with a crime 1% of the time.

A 6-year-old boy was fatally shot when Bexar County sheriff’s deputies opened fire on a woman at a Schertz mobile home park after a lengthy manhunt [December 21].”

Trooper Bessner unnecessarily deployed his Taser at Mr. Grimes without legal justification or excuse as Mr. Grimes was traveling at least 35 to 40 miles per hour.” (Note: “Mr. Grimes” was 15 years old.)

Hope Coleman called a local hospital to pick up her son; the police showed up before the EMTs, and ended up fatally shooting him. Oh, and then the police were hospitalized because this caused them so much “stress.” (The police commissioner is quoted as referring to the victim as “this poor kid.” The “kid” was 31.)

A 31-year-old man was shot twice by police in Texas after officers thought he was breaking into his own pickup truck because the alarm was going off.” Lyndo Jones survived the initial attack and was released from the hospital, but rushed back on November 25 for infected wounds.

[Iraq War veteran Denis] Reynoso was shot to death in his apartment by Lynn police officer Joshua Hilton in front of his five-year-old son on September 5, 2013.”

One of the officers on the scene went on to shoot unarmed Malden resident Michael McInnis — who was white, but don’t worry, the All Lives Matter crowd is ignoring it anyway.

“The Georgia police officer who was captured on camera telling a woman during a traffic stop that law enforcement personnel ‘only kill black people’ says he’ll retire amid the backlash.”

People killed by police in the US, 2018. Currently at 6.

For anyone who wants an AO3 invite… December 28, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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…comment with an email address and I’ll have one sent to you. All the wranglers got a stack of new invites for Christmas, so I have plenty to spare.

(I’d put them directly in this post, but it would suck if they got nabbed by spambots. So, emails it is.)

New Year’s Resolution: update ALL THE PAGES December 26, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person.
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I kept telling myself I could print the original BICP pages, readers liked the art well enough at the time, or at least the ones who didn’t like it didn’t stick around as readers, it would be fine….

Then, at last, I caved and started doing updates.


Full shading! Touched-up lineart! Slightly nicer textures and effects!

The new versions of chapter 1 and chapter 2 are now live. (The original versions are still available at the Smackjeeves mirror, and I’ll put some side-by-side comparisons on the BICP Tumblr.)

The cover images are completely new — that’s happening for every chapter, at least in the early volumes. (The first five chapters had simple splash images that involved less effort than a typical page, not more, which didn’t seem right.)

All the new ones are homages to cover art from other series, mostly anime and manga. Points to readers who can track down the references.


For the interior art, the total shading alone makes it a lot fresher. And I’m more willing to mess with lighting and adjust local color to make the focal points of panels stand out. Sometimes it’s as simple as fading the background so it’s easier to see where a character is actually standing.

And then there’s the lineart. The most persistent issue is this reoccuring face-skew — if a character is in 3/4 view, almost invariably the forehead is sticking out while the chin is kinda sunken in. Which makes it kinda fun to flip back and forth between original and updated art, and watch everyone’s heads change shape.

At this point most of the working files only have two layers. Speech bubbles get their own layer, but gradients, textures, lighting effects, they’re all flattened together. Aaaaawkward. If you look closely, you can see that I got more aggressive about redoing textures between chapter 1 and chapter 2, extra time investment and all.

So, yeah, it’s taking a while. I got through most of the audio version of Carpe Jugulum (Discworld) while updating chapter 1, and did a whole start-to-finish marathon of Sherlock working on chapter 2. (Rounded off by an episode of the Thinking Sideways podcast…by complete coincidence, #233, which references a Sherlock episode.)

For chapter 3, let’s find out what the library has in stock.


In between all this, I’ve been transcribing And Shine Heaven Now strips from 2005. That’s 6 years older than the BICP pages from 2011, which in turn are 6 years older than the present. Symmetry!

Trippiest moment: transcribing a Shine sketchbook page from 2005 that collects what I called “old, bad sketches” from 2004. To my 2017 eye, the 2005 art — which was shiny and new and hot-off-the-pages at the time — does not actually look any different.

It’s comforting to see that things are appreciably better by 2011. Back in 2005 you have to squint to pick out the wonky-face issue, because everything is so skewed and funny-looking that it doesn’t even stick out.

Progress!


New Year’s Resolution: to get more than half of BICP updated and available in print over the course of 2018. At the current pace, that’s more than doable.

…it would be nice to get the Josh/Marian/Saxon interlude published in time for Easter, but that’s probably a little optimistic.

Nice and hopeful links. (No, really.) December 21, 2017

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‘We are Muslims and we’d never had a Christmas tree in our home,’ says Riffat. ‘But these children were Christian and we wanted them to feel connected to their culture.’ So he bought a Christmas tree, decorations and presents. The couple worked until the early hours putting the tree up and wrapping presents. The first thing the children saw the next morning was the tree.”

“On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov received a message that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading to Moscow. He didn’t launch a retaliatory strike, believing correctly that it was a false alarm. And with that, he saved the world from nuclear war.

The 1928 international treaty that outlawed conquest . . . and worked. Nations still go to war for plenty of other reasons, but conquest has screeched almost to a halt.

Letting teens sleep in would save the country roughly $9 billion a year.” Partly because they’ll do better in school, partly because of fewer sleep-deprived adolescents crashing their cars.

First baby in the US born via uterus transplant!

World hunger can be eradicated. A price has been set and estimated by the United Nations to solve this crisis – $30 billion a year. It may seem like a large sum of money, but when compared to the U.S. defense budget – $737 billion in 2012 – $30 billion seems more attainable.”

Monday Works Roundup, 12/18/17 December 18, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Works Roundup.
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Yuletide deadline just whooshed by! I got my fic posted well ahead of time, then sat around waiting anxiously for my gift to show up. Good news is, it appeared within a few hours of the deadline.

I will not shake my present before reveals, I will not shake my present before reveals, I will not….

But I’m A Cat Person
Trim Up The Tree (art | Sparrow, ensemble | worksafe)
Deleted Scenes 2017 (sketches and panels | ensemble | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
All Downhill From Here (art | Leif, Thorn | worksafe)
Embassy Staff Gems (art | gem!Leif+Katya, Thorn, Elisa, Ludolf, Sigvard | worksafe)

Dangan Ronpa
Play Ball (sketch | Leon/Sayaka | worksafe)
Careful (sketch | Mikan/Hiyoko | worksafe)

Fullmetal Alchemist
Fire and Metal (sketch | Roy/Ed | worksafe)

Wizard of Oz
Princesses of Oz (dolls | Betsy, Ozma, Dorothy, Glinda | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Patrick made pie! All by himself. Delicious.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
The embassy guards scramble to save Szélanyanatt.

Review: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage December 18, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Finally got to La Belle Sauvage!

(Not to be confused with La Belle Sauvage, or a Progress Through the Beau-Monde, a pair of books published in 1803. Coincidence or inspiration?)

For people who liked HDM: would recommend.

It might or might not be a good jumping-in point for people who haven’t read any of the other books. Even though it’s the first in a series, it has a really hard case of “middle installment in the trilogy” syndrome — sets a bunch of things up, then abruptly stops. As a standalone work I’m sure the end would be pretty unsatisfying.

On the other hand…it does a lot of over-explaining. Every time there’s a new plot point (e.g. “the witches have some kind of prophecy about Lyra”), we get multiple scenes of it being repeated, in full, to characters who didn’t know it already. For me that was annoying, but now that I think about it, it’s a sharp contrast to the way The Golden Compass is pretty impenetrable on first go-through, and might make this book an easier way in.

So that’s the complaining out of the way. On to…

The Good Bits (spoiler-free summary)

The new characters are well-rounded and likeable. Mal in particular is a good combination of “impressive competence” and “eleven-year-old fancies.”

Hannah Relf is amazing in all ways and I would have read an entire book about just her.

Baby Lyra is precious and perfect. She and Pan are a nonverbal infant for the entire book, but she’s written with so much personality, and is so clearly the tiny version of the character we know and love in later books.

The prose in general is great. Not in the sense of Terry Pratchett, where you actively notice the cleverness, but great in the sense that it’s clear and fluid and gets everything across without getting in the way. (I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t read so many badly-written books lately.)

La Belle Sauvage is the name of Mal’s canoe. One of his friends pranked him by painting an “s” over the “v”.

New information about daemons!

New Daemon Lore (vaguely spoilery)

Unsettled daemons can take combination forms. When Mal is hanging out in a swamp, his Asta turns into an owl with duck feathers, so she can keep a distant lookout but still be waterproof.

Alice doesn’t seem stressed that her daemon Ben is unsettled at age 16, though she’s actively curious what he’ll settle as.

Daemons can be physically injured — there’s one that has a missing leg. (It’s implied that the injury was caused by its physically-abusive human, and that they are collectively pretty unhinged.)

Daemons can urinate. (It’s not described as a physical need, just an expression of contempt.)

There’s an ambiguously-magical woman whose daemon is a flock of butterflies. (!!)

Before they learn language, babies and their daemons will babble to each other. It’s suggested that this can turn into a rudimentary language of its own if you don’t teach them English (or whatever), similar to the way our-world infants will come up with proto-language if a group are neglected together.

At one point baby!Pan turns into a kitten and kneads Mal’s bare hand. He interprets it as “the taboo on daemon/human touching is learned,” but I think it’s more “Lyra really likes this kid.” Either way, it’s adorable.

A Proper Summary (here be spoilers)

Malcolm Polstead is a 10-11-year-old boy who works at his parents’ tavern/inn, where he hears all the local gossip. (One of his co-workers is 16-year-old Alice Parslow, a cousin of Roger.) He also helps out at the priory across the river. When the nuns take in baby Lyra, he gets completely starry-eyed.

Mal gets recruited by Hannah Relf as a junior informant, for a government anti-Magisterium spy organization code-named Oakley Street. (Coram van Texel, aka Farder Coram, is another of their informants.) They’re passing around secret messages about Lyra and alethiometers and the mysterious “Rusakov field.”

When they’re first introduced, Oakley Street is fascinating. The last trilogy was mostly through a kid’s POV — now here are the adults of the Resistance that had her back! Subterfuge, secret codes, undercover research, spying!

Hannah is doing research with the Oxford alethiometer, which means she gets short limited sessions with it, and uses some of that time for spy research. Later there’s a sequence where a branch of the Magisterium steals a different alethiometer, killing someone in the process, and Oakley Street retrieves it…but instead of returning it to its owners, they sneak it off and deliver it to Hannah, asking her to use it on their behalf full-time.

Did I mention I would read a whole book about her? Because I would.

But the group gets really worn-down by the book’s problem with over-explanation. For one thing, Mal gets let in on way more detail than he needs to know. (Seriously, why would you tell the kid you have a stolen alethiometer? His loyalty is still untested, not to mention, he’s a child.) On top of that, any time Oakley Street leaves top-secret information at dead-drops, that same info is also getting happily gossiped about at the tavern, and at the priory, and by random people in town.

We r serious spy team, this iz super sekrit.

The book’s recurring villain isn’t a Magisterium agent anyway. It’s Gerard Bonneville, a creepy disgraced physicist with a hyena daemon who thinks kidnapping Lyra will give him leverage to get the Church to fund his research again.

Partway through the book (I want to say halfway?), everything gets derailed by a massive flood. Buildings are flooded to the second story, that level of massive. Mal has a canoe, which got souped-up earlier by Coram to be extra-seaworthy, so he, Lyra, and Alice end up using it to escape.

At first their vague plan is to get to Jordan College. When the racing water takes them well past it, Mal decides they’ll deliver Lyra to Lord Asriel in London. They know he’s her father, and they also happen to know Mrs. Coulter is her mother, because literally nothing is secret in this book.

Up to this point everything has been well-grounded in reality. The canoe repair and navigation is expertly described, the locations around Oxford are developed in rich detail, the characters talk about practical issues of supplies and weather.

Three-quarters of the way through the book, we do a sudden genre shift, and now it’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Our heroes have a stopover on an enchanted island, where we meet Diannia, the possibly-faerie and definitely-unstable woman whose daemon is a whole flock of butterflies. Then another with a grand mansion in the distance, surrounded by an Alice-in-Wonderland garden that won’t let them get any closer to it. The place is full of partygoers who can’t see the children, but whose food they can get away with stealing — and then eating, because that sure sounds like a safe idea. They sail through an enchanted river-gate after Mal bluffs its guardian with news that Lyra is a princess, and they’re delivering her on the orders of the King of Albion.

Bonneville chases them the whole time. He murders at least one person along the way, so they end up killing him in self-defense, but then on one of the enchanted islands he’s back? And it’s not like they sailed into the afterlife, because we know what the afterlife looks like in the HDM multiverse. Lyra hasn’t even fixed it yet.

This whole arc had a lot of cool imagery, but felt really disjointed from the rest of the book. It would’ve made more sense if the fairytale elements had been integrated earlier, maybe foreshadowed by Hannah’s research.

Or if it didn’t get so fantastical at all. When Diannia was introduced, with her creepy demeanor and impression of being older than her youthful appearance, my first assumption was that she was a witch, who had taken off from her clan in grief after losing a daughter and was now fixating on Lyra for the same reason. That would’ve made more sense than “by the way, in Lyra’s world, faeries are suddenly a thing maybe.”

Finally the kids make it back to reality, re-kill Bonneville, and manage to rendezvous with Lord Asriel. He takes them to Jordan College, where he leaves Lyra for safekeeping.

This is the sudden cutoff point. Asriel takes off to do research in the North, though it’s not clear why thinks Lyra is safer at Jordan than she was at the priory in the first place. We don’t see Mal and Alice return home. It’s not like Mal’s parents were much of a presence, but it would’ve been nice to see them find out their kid was okay.

And we don’t hear anything at all from the Oakley Street crew. They were mentioned a couple of times in the back half of the book — Hannah tries to help the others work out where Mal would be taking Lyra — but got no resolution. The book really needed a bonding/reconnecting/debriefing scene with Mal and Hannah, and we didn’t get it.

(We do get Asriel warning Mal and Alice to keep the whole thing hush-hush, for the sake of protecting Lyra. Which, okay, but Mal should be able to trust Hannah with at least as much top-secret information as she entrusted to him. And both kids deserve an adult to help them decompress.)

Hopefully some of that will get retroactively dealt with in books 2 and 3. We know Mal grows up to be a scholar, and he and Hannah both tutor Lyra at points, so they’re still going to be connected.

And I’m looking forward to the next books in general. This one could be exasperating, but it wasn’t actively upsetting, and there were more than enough good and fun parts to make up the difference. If the rest of the trilogy is at least this good, it’ll be a satisfying read.

Burns & Allen Transcript: Getting A Movie Contract (1950-01-11) December 17, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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It’s the first show of 1950. The country is well into recovery from World War II, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons are the queens of Hollywood gossip, Joe Pasternak is producing films for MGM, and the future looks bright.

So Gracie has plans to get a friend’s daughter into the movies, and she’s going to turn the rest of Hollywood upside-down to do it.

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the transcript below.

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