Monday, December 22, 2008

Computer meltdown!

This has been an unfortunate week for me computer-wise. At work, my machine would not start at all. I ended up having to replace the power supply and a fried stick of RAM. Later in the week, my screen froze up completely, and after rebooting I found the filesystem was corrupted. I spent the rest of the afternoon fscking my drive, which thankfully did the trick.

But to complete the trifecta, this weekend while we were in the mountains on a snowboarding trip, my laptop (which I use for cartooning) booted up to a big blank screen. After some fruitless troubleshooting, I could only restore the factory settings, wiping out all my data and installed programs. The good news is that I have most everything backed up on an external drive. However, I will be a little late with this weeks comic - hopefully I can put it up early this week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vacation Time

I apologize for the lack of updates for this and next week. Julia and I are visiting our good friends in Atlanta and then spending Thanksgiving with family in Florida.

I promise to continue with our regularly scheduled web comics family fun on December 1. Happy holidays all y'all!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hooray for America!

America made the right choice yesterday, and we made a definitive statement with a landslide victory for the good guys. I couldn't be more proud of our country and with the rising level of intelligence and awareness of today's voter. I wrote a post in our other blog detailing what Julia and I did on election night. It was a celebration and a night to remember.

I am not sure if Obama's presidency will make "Joe the Cartoonist" a priority in his first hundred days, but maybe once he solves our country's staggering deficit, two wars, recession, and housing crisis, he could turn some of his attention to America's struggling working cartoonists ;).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Slight Delay

I just bought a new laptop which is a huge improvement over my old cartooning machine. Unfortunately I have slacked a bit in setting it up to do all the things I need to create this comic (damn you, fantasy football!). I expect to have a new comic up early this week.

Incidentally, if you live in Colorado and want a good reference on how to vote on the staggering number of constitutional amendments on this year's ballot, I posted a blog that links to a good (progressive) source of information. Don't forget to vote in this most important election!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Change, For Better or For Worse

No, that's not a reference to Lynn Johnston's brilliant comic, but rather a mundane announcement regarding a software change to this site. All the comic pages used to be served dynamically, using Python CGI. Under the hood, this involved a fair amount of processing, including XML parsing of the ComicsML data for each cartoon. I have rewritten the site to generate static HTML pages for each comic - this only affects you, the reader, if you have previously linked to any of the archived comic pages. If you have linked to a comic image, not a page, this will not affect anything.

I am generally against the practice of changing URLs, but I was always bothered by the limited scalability of my dynamic pages - especially since even the index page was generated dynamically (and my web host's machine isn't exactly a powerhouse). So I decided to bite the bullet and take the plunge. For the one or two people this may inconvenience (it's likely that no more than that many people actually read this comic), I offer my sincere apologies.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Writing the Not-So-Great American Novel, Part 2

Happy Fourth of July! It is a day to remember and appreciate the freedom we enjoy in this great country, such as the freedom I have to produce my humble educational comic strip.

My birthday has come and gone, and I have to report that I have not completed my goal of creating the first draft of a novel. I have however breached the 10,000 word mark, which is further than I've ever gone before, and I fully intend to continue this endeavor.

Lessons learned so far: I have found that it is really easy to lose motivation. This is probably the worst enemy of completing the 50,000 word challenge. After a few days of frenzied writing, my day-to-day life catches up to me: going out with friends; work projects; social obligations; Battlestar Galactica; etc. I found myself putting off writing one day, then two days, then three days at a time. After a while my head was no longer in my book, and that is when my inner editor pounced with a litany of doubts and fears: my plot is dumb; my characters are flat; I don't know enough about my subject matters... why bother continuing?

I found the best way to combat this creeping despair is just to force yourself to write at least a sentence each day, even if you don't feel like it. No matter how tired or uninspired you feel, you can write a sentence. This forces you to keep your head in the story. You end up thinking about the plot, settings, and characters at least a little bit each day, and you avoid feelings of futility by knowing you can quit after one sentence.

This calls to mind a great blog post I read about the power of daily routine. Think about it: if you wrote just one sentence per day since that moment when you first thought, "I could write a book," you probably could have written a book by now (probably not a good one, but hey).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vacation Procrastination

I probably won't be able to get a comic out on the usual Monday date this week. Julia and I decided to take a vacation to New Mexico for Memorial Day weekend, which precluded my comic productivity. Hopefully I'll have something ready by early this week.

New Mexico, by the way, is beautiful. The weather is sunny and dry, and all the buildings look like adobe huts and forts. We had some great micro brewed beer in Santa Fe, and we learned a bit about the dinosaurs that roamed the New Mexico flood plains. Go New Mexico!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Writing the Not-So-Great American Novel

I will finally take the plunge. I intend to write a novel by my birthday, June 30.

This is something I've always wanted to do, but for various reasons, I could never get very far. The task is simply daunting, and when I read good literature, I despair at the chasm in ability between myself and say, a Faulkner or a Nabokov.

But then I started thinking about National Novel Writing Month, and its simple tenet that you just have to sit down and write, and who cares about quality - it's all about quantity! I decided that the only way that I will accomplish my goal is to adopt a deadline and keep writing each day until the job is done.

Armed with a copy of SuperNotecard (which I highly recommend for fiction writing) and NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty's motivational book, No Plot? No Problem!, I am setting out to create the mediocre American novel. Truly, I have found out two things about myself in the last couple days:
1. I am a very bad writer. I mean, bad.
2. The above doesn't matter, because I know I can do this thing. If I force myself to turn off my "inner editor" I can churn out the dreck, and it's actually pretty fun.

My friend Todd got excited about the idea too and decided he wanted to give this novel writing thing a try. In order to keep us motivated I made a mailing list for us to share advice and encouragement. If any of you want to join us in our quest, please contact me and I'll add you to the mailing list. Let's write!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Garfield, But Better

My friend Isaac sent me a link to Garfield Minus Garfield, which I thought was so funny I just had to share. I admit I grew up on Garfield, and as a child, Jim Davis's Garfield at Large, that unique horizontal-shaped collection of early fat cat cartoons, was one of my favorite books. Garfield was indeed one of the inspirations that led me to try my hand at cartooning.

Unfortunately over the years, the quality and humor level of Garfield has fallen to the point that it makes Ziggy greeting cards seem cutting edge. Who would have thought that the perfect way to revitalize Garfield is simply to remove the title character completely from each strip? Genius!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What I'm Reading: American Born Chinese

In one sitting I read the remarkable graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Wang, and I highly recommend it. The novel contains three stories that interweave and eventually come together in a surprising, satisfying resolution, showcasing in the process the author's unbounded creativity, humor, and sensitivity.

As an Asian-American I can relate to the theme that pervades each storyline; that growing up in a predominantly white culture can make it confusing, difficult, and sometimes embarrassing for a first generation kid to find his identity. The conflicted characters have demons to confront (figuratively and literally!), their cultural identities relentlessly dogging them and demanding to be faced.

As a cartoonist, I felt awed by the author's clean, expressive artwork. It is always refreshing for me to read comics of an Asian bent that do not follow a generic anime style. I also realize I have a lot more to learn as an artist, if I am ever to reach Wang's ability to so cleanly express emotions and actions.

Also, one of the stories centers on a monkey, and monkeys are extremely cool.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comic Delay... But Don't Forget to Vote!

Unfortunately this week's comic will be delayed due to an action-packed weekend (we went to Vail to celebrate a friend's birthday) and a busy work week so far.

However, I did want to remind everyone who doesn't live in one of the states that already held a presidential primary/caucus, to vote! We live in Colorado, and like over 20 other states, our caucus takes place February 5. If you also live in our great state, please take a moment to figure out how to caucus. It's a rather baroque process, and not as straightforward as a primary - as we found out, having just moved from Florida last year.

You can find out here the location of your caucus (yes, the link is through Barack Obama's site - we are unabashed supporters of Obama - but I would emphasize that I would rather you vote, even if it's for someone else, than not vote at all!).