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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.)

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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

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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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.

(more…)

Monday Works Roundup, 12/11/17 December 11, 2017

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
Remembering those we’ve lost, 2017 (sketch | Henriette | worksafe)
Pillowed Patrick (sketch | Patrick | worksafe)
BICP Cover Tests (art | Patrick, Bianca, Sparrow | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Northern Lights (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
All Downhill From Here (art | Leif, Thorn | worksafe)

Big Hero 6
Hamadacest (sketch | Hiro/Tadashi | worksafe)

Fake News
Galactic Amity (fic! | “Stephen”/aliens, “Stephen”/Jon | NC-17)

Harry Potter
Talk Murder To Me (sketch | Bellatrix/Voldemort | worksafe)
Written? Smitten! (sketch | Ginny/Voldemort | worksafe)
Snarry (sketch | Harry/Snape | worksafe)

Precure(/other magical girl series)
Wild Card (art | Joker, Nanoha, Cure Black, Usagi, Madoka, Sakura | worksafe)

Seraph of the End
Feed me Yuu (sketch | Mikaela/Yuu | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Timothy picks up another ally for the quest of Team Not-Killing-Beings.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Leif is safely out of the way, and gets to enjoy a week of wrestling.

California is on fire, Puerto Rico still has no power, and also, this. December 8, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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Went to a tiny local pro-net-neutrality rally on Thursday. Spent most of it holding a sign with an older woman who was distinctly not tech-savvy — wasn’t on Facebook, didn’t have a smartphone, wasn’t sure how her service provider interacted with her search engine. She does online research at home, uses email, has sent donations to the Wikipedia Foundation…but wasn’t entirely sure what the rally was about. Just that it was important.

I explained the basics, she was immediately on board. “Corporations don’t need more power.” And what really got her fired up was when we made the connection that this could slow down school and library websites. Extra fees to load your public library, or an academic journal? “They can’t be the gatekeepers of knowledge.”

So that was nice.

____

A Russian singer is believed to have been detained as part of Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’. Zelimkhan Bakayev, 26, hasn’t been seen since August 8 and his friends now think he was captured by police in capital Grozny.”

“Rights groups and other experts say the video of the slave market — although no surprise to many journalists or relief workers — is an uncomfortable reminder for Europe that its policies risk trapping the migrants in slave-like conditions.”

For what percentage of your life has the US been at war? (It’s 58.1% for me. And, of course, climbing.)

“After Rapp’s public statement, a man who was friendly with a member of the New York staff approached the magazine to talk about Spacey. At the age of 14, he says, he began a sexual relationship with the actor, who was then 24, that ended with what he describes as an attempted rape. The man is now a 48-year-old artist living on the East Coast with a long-term partner, and he wishes to remain anonymous.”

One Million Moms attacks an ad that features a cis female boxer, calling her “a man in a dress”. (There’s also an actual trans woman in the ad. They didn’t notice.)

“He was the training director of one of St. Paul’s largest security companies — a man certified on when and how to use Mace. Which left police mystified as to why Timothy Knutsen would pepper spray an autistic man in the face for eating a cookie from a Cub Foods sampler tray.” (I’m not mystified.)

“Life-changing surgery is on hold for a 2-year-old boy. His mom says it’s because of red tape between the hospital and police.” Update: the child got a transplant from being on the donor list. But that was after 2 months and 1 rushed hospitalization, and is unlikely to be as close a genetic match as his own father.

The number of homeless people in the United States has increased for the first time since 2010.”

Monday Works Roundup, 12/4/17 December 4, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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Leif & Thorn
Flex, girl (sketch | Del | worksafe)
The Famitrine (art | Sigrún, the guards | worksafe)
Apartment Entrance (art | architecture | worksafe)

Attack on Titan
Eruri (sketch | Erwin/Levi | worksafe)

Dangan Ronpa
Servant and Mastermind (sketch | Komaeda/Monaka | worksafe)

Kingdom Hearts
Akuroku (sketch | Axel/Roxas | worksafe)

Marvel
Me Loki, You… (sketch | Loki/Jane | worksafe)

Undertale
Frisky Cuddling (sketch | Frisk/Sans | worksafe)
Skeleton Waltz (sketch | Sans/Toriel | worksafe)
Pop-Up Chara (sketch | Chara/Papyrus | worksafe)

Yuri!!! on Ice
First Place In My Heart (sketch | JJ/Phichit | worksafe)
One Shake, Two Straws (sketch | Phichit/Guanghong | worksafe)

Zelda
That tongue tho (sketch | Ghirahim/Link | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Miranda drops some backstory, and Sparrow definitely has questions.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Target practice! The local knights and the away team in a faceoff with arrows.

Multifandom Recommendations 12/4/17 December 4, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Recommendations.
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  • The Avengers | Bruce, Tony, Steve, Pepper, Natasha | T | The Kids Weren’t Alright
    Tony accidentally turns himself into a twelve-year-old using alien tech. Steve is stuck as bodyguard, Bruce is stuck trying to fix him, and Pepper is stuck trying to ward off a twelve-year old’s attempts at flirtation. And then things go from bad to worse.
    series:marvel comics,trope:hurt-comfort,fic:chaptered,trope:kidfic,genfic,trope:trauma

  • WebGL Water lll
    Water simulator. Click to make ripples, change the angle, and/or move the ball around.
    resources:drawing,resources:time wasters

  • Medieval Fantasy City Generator
    This application generates a random medieval city layout of a requested size. The generation method is rather arbitrary, the goal is to produce a nice looking map, not an accurate model of a city.
    resources:writing,resources:drawing

  • Alphas, Betas, Omegas: A Primer
    A brief primer on the concept of Alpha/Beta/Omega Universes: Also known as that trope suddenly showing up in your fandom that doesn’t make any sense.
    resources:writing,kink:omegaverse

  • Four memories returning
    The Good Place ficlet prompt: Everyone gets back ALL their memories from ALL the loops.
    fic:five times,series:the good place,pairing:eleanor_tahani,yuri