Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Get Yer Tweets Here

I haven't done anything nerdy to shake up the site lately, so I decided to add the latest tweets from my webcomic twitter feed to the front page. I used the very nice python-twitter library, which made accessing the Twitter API a breeze for me in my favorite scripting language.

I'm not a huge Twitter user, but I do post comic updates and short news bits, as well as any cool comic-related links I come across. If you want to see a pretty comprehensive list of other webcomic authors to follow - some of whom post spectacularly funny tweets - check out The Webcomic List's Authors on Twitter directory.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In a Literary Mood

I realized that I subconsciously based the titles for my last couple of comics from literature; last week's from a David Eggers novel, and this week's from a story by the insufferably racist Lovecraft (whose collection of stories I'm still trying to slog through). Could I be any more pretentious?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Blame Rock and Roll

Hey everybody - Sorry, but the new comic will be out a little late. I just joined a new band (3 girls and me, rrriot rock!), and spent the weekend rocking my face off, when I wasn't watching football (go Broncos!). Not that that is a good excuse, but I didn't have time to finish this week's comic. Please check back in a day or so, and I promise it will be out there!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Blame Iceland

We just returned from our trip to Iceland - a gorgeous and magical country by the way - so I'm afraid this week's comic will be delayed. I'll post pictures soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What I'm Reading: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Dark Tales

I was browsing the local Barnes and Noble recently, when a compellingly evil cover illustration caught my eye - it turned out to be for an anthology of H.P. Lovecraft's horror stories. I had read and heard many references to Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos, and I was vaguely aware of his historical importance to the horror genre, but I hadn't yet read any of his fiction. On a whim, I decided to buy it and educate myself. I was soon to find that the true horror of Lovecraft isn't necessarily his stories, but rather his appalling racism.

Now, I realize that racial perceptions were different in the early 20th century. I realize that we should be lenient about non-P.C. language in well-intentioned works by the likes of Twain, Faulkner, and Dickens. But Lovecraft's racism exists deep in the fabric of his horror; stories detailing the abhorrence of degenerative miscegenation; a passage blaming "negro blood" for the horrifying countenance of characters; and perhaps most amusing (in a kind of nauseating way), a main character's cat inexplicably named N*** Man. What what what?

If one can ignore his rampant racism, one can see how his writing had such an influence on horror. While his writing can seem antiquarian and overly turgid, Lovecraft does tap into some creepy, nightmarish themes, which were probably original at the time. Raising partially sentient bodies from the dead; secrets of a noble bloodline steeped in cannibalism; and of course the monstrous, mythological horror of Cthulhu and its stable of enormous and ancient creatures - these are ideas which I have to admire for their audacity and inevitable literary influence.

But can one separate an author's distasteful and immoral beliefs from his art? I can listen to Richard Wagner while mostly ignoring his antisemitism, but that is probably because his abhorrent beliefs aren't on display in the music or libretto. It is much harder to ignore racism that loudly proclaims itself on almost every written page in a work of fiction.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Alien Hands?

The affliction in today's strip is apparently for real. How freaky is that? I found out about Alien Hand Syndrome from an Internet list of the 10 most disgusting diseases. Gross.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mary Worth Weirdness

I am always amazed at the amount of work people put into honoring / satirizing (the line can be very thin) their favorite serial comics, such as Apartment 3-G, Gil Thorpe, For Better or For Worse, and Mary Worth. This is great because these venerable comics have survived for decades, despite the fickle and unforgiving newspaper comics business, which has trended toward favoring gag-a-day strips (which I love too) to the detriment of serial dramas. These serial strips, which tend to be unintentionally hilarious and over-the-top outrageous, are definitely kept alive by their fans.

A case in point is a bizarre website installment I stumbled across while trying to search for a good Mary Worth RSS feed (still looking, by the way). I watched, in a state of unexplainable discomfort, these oddly hypnotizing movies: 3D Lego-styled characters acting out the geriatric, judgmental adventures of Charterstone's most meddlesome biddy. They speak in appropriately robotic tones and periodically pause to gesticulate and convulse with dead expressions on their smooth faces. What insane, dedicated fan spends the time to create this brilliant mess? I will certainly be following this site, which seems to contain a lot of other comic strip snarkiness and sublty funny strip modifications, in the future.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Congrats on 5 Years, Comics Curmudgeon

The Comics Curmudgeon, a blog that cleverly snarks on, lampoons, and lambastes the funny pages, had its 5 year anniversary this weekend. I wanted to give it a shout out because I truly think it is a gem that never fails to brighten my day.

Most people can agree that today's newspaper funnies are generally pretty lame, but I nonetheless could never give up my Sunday morning routine of reading the big, colorful comics section while eating breakfast and drinking coffee. I always marveled at the audacity of cartoonists making a living off of such blatantly unfunny strips such as Family Circus and Marmaduke; the Comics Curmudgeon's Josh Fruhlinger reinforces my obsession with cartoon mediocrity, and employs observational snarks that are brilliant in their high-minded ludicrousness.

Where else on the Internet would you find someone making reference to an obscure 1930s German short story to describe a lame Family Circus "ants in the picnic" punchline, or bravely calling out irascible old Crankshaft for the bitter, lonely sex offender that he is? Just as entertaining are the numerous comments after each post from the CC's many dedicated readers. Bravo Josh, and congratulations.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My (Short So Far) Experience with Twitter

As a computer professional I try to keep myself curious about new technology, even technology that I don't at first appreciate or understand. A perfect case in point is Twitter. I read about how microblogging was changing media paradigms and how everyone was integrating Twitter into their communications arsenal, from journalists to celebrities to special-interest websites.

To an extent, I understood the advantages of broadcasting short pieces of information; for example I think it's great fun to see what your friends are doing on Facebook. But I never quite got why there was so much hype, nor was I convinced that Twitter was much more than a fad. It seemed to be a lazy way to exacerbate our society's already epidemic attention deficit disorder, as well as an unnecessary tool for further increasing the noise-to-information ratio on the Internet.

But like a good curiousity seeker, I decided to bite the bullet and give Twitter a try. I signed up for an account a few weeks ago and have been tweeting pretty moderately since. Not on my phone - that would drive me crazy - but just in quiet moments in front of the computer. I found that Twitter is a great medium for broadcasting rhetorical questions and observations, as well as posting interesting links and special interest news, that you might never feel was appropriate for an entire blog post or for sharing with all your friends and family on Facebook. It's kind of a low-barrier outlet in which to throw your musings and stream of consciousness thoughts.

Most people who don't like Twitter, including myself just months ago, argue that they have no interest in reading inanities, such as what someone "had for breakfast" this morning. I think that may be a misconception - what I have found is that good Twitterers don't usually post mundane breakfast menus (although I am not proud that I once tweeted on flossing my teeth, which promptly led to my wife dropping me from her follow list). When you tweet, you tend to post your thoughts on things of interest to you - and presumably to your followers.

To that end I decided to start focusing more on The Remonstrance in my tweets, which you are welcome to follow, though I will continue to post whatever of my interests (music, computer programming, politics, sports) comes into my head. It may be that I will eventually lose interest and decide that Twitter is not for me. Or maybe something better will come along and leave Twitter in that same shadowy and moribund realm shared by MySpace and (shudder) Friendster. But for now I like that I found something positive about a technology that I used to think epitomized frivolous technological douchebaggery. Remember: cynism is fun, but an open mind will ultimately make you much happier and wiser.

UPDATE 8/16/2009: I have since created a separate feed for The Remonstrance, to allow for a tighter focus on things related to the comic. You can follow it at http://twitter.com/theremonstrance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vigorish: Touche Dilbert!

I thought I was the only cartoonist who tried to educate his audience with GRE vocabulary lessons in my strips, but lo! Today's Dilbert impressed me with its rather improbable use of the word vigorish - a word I had to look up (something I haven't had to do since I stopped getting Zippy the Pinhead in my local paper). Bravo Scott Adams, bravo.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Groggy Brainstorming

I keep a pad of paper and a pen on my nightstand so that when I get a creative idea while lying in bed, I can write it down before I forget it. This has sometimes been useful in brainstorming gags for my web comic, but lately... I don't know.

Not only is my handwriting almost indecipherable after years of exclusively using a keyboard for written communication, but I'm usually in some half-asleep dream state when I write stuff down. Here are my latest two entries: "Domingo (our cat) why do you meow all the time?" and "Funny pie restaurant." What on earth was I thinking?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Late Comic Excuse Du Jour

Hey everybody - I'm sorry that the next comic is taking so long to publish. For this week's excuse I will throw our good friends Todd and Bethany under the bus :). They did us the great honor of visiting Julia and me here in Denver for the last few days, and we had a great time sampling microbrewed beers, watching endangered animals in captivity, and wandering through hoary government institutions. However, since I have the feeling that Todd is approximately 1/2 of my readership, I don't feel too bad...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Evil Video Game + Vieques!

My friend Kristian pointed me to a Dueling Analogs webcomic, which satirizes an article stating that the Animal Crossing video game is only useful to adults as a vehicle for child predation. I was confounded for two reasons: 1. I used to play Animal Crossing all the time on my Gamecube, and it is truly a fun, open-ended persistent world that has absolutely nothing to do with perversion. 2. Kristian asked rhetorically, "Why does this strip remind me of your sense of humor?" I don't understand where he's coming from, because as I told him, I am simply an author of an educational, family-themed webcomic.

At any rate, Julia and I are on a relaxing vacation on the idyllic Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Other than the disturbingly banshee-like wails of cockfight roosters in the morning, we are thoroughly enjoying the postcard-perfect beach, the warm and unrelenting tropical sun, and the endless rum cocktails in the beach house we are sharing with our friends here. Since we won't be back in Colorado this weekend, I regret to announce that the comic this week will be at least a day late.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gainesville Represent!

Whoa - it looks like achewood, one of my favorite comics, has started a story arc based in Gainesville, FL (thanks Todd for the heads up!). This is pretty exciting stuff to me because before moving to Denver, Julia and I hailed from the home of the Gators. And really, no one does a comic about that podunk town (unless you count The Remonstrance, where Mike and Lola very subtly live in Gainesville). Just when you thought Chris Onstad couldn't get any cooler - Bam! He even mentions Archer road on 75 ;).

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Living Social: Books

I previously wrote about LibraryThing, an online community for book lovers, where you can create a virtual library and share reviews, etc. While I really liked the idea of the site, I never fully integrated it into my online routine - perhaps because it stops being free after you add your 200th book.

That has changed with my discovery of Living Social: Books. Maybe it's because this site is free with no detectable strings attached, or maybe it's because of Living Social's seemingly more robust online community and modern user interface. However, I think the main reason I've been using it - religiously - to host my virtual bookshelf is its plug-in integration with Facebook. I really think the sites that will catch on in this era will be the ones, like Living Social, that allow you to use them as seamless parts of the "indispensable" sites into which you are already logged - or at the very least, ones that allow for the convenience of single sign on, such as Blogger's integration with Gmail.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cheetah Men?

The Cheetah Men referenced in this comic are perhaps not as popular as Probo thinks. They are mutant cheetah characters - obviously ripped off from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - from what is widely considered the worst video game ever, Action 52 for the NES. This was a bizarre collection of 52 buggy, unplayable, and unfinished games. Interestingly, while the Cheetah Men and its completely unnecessary sequel, Cheetah Men II, are considered awful, awful games, they are noted for having pretty spectacular music.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I Haven't Bought a Kindle 2

I read a very interesting article which lists and debunks the common reasons why people don't like e-books. I think the author is a bit cynical and judgmental (he thinks that the people who don't like e-books are basically wrong and that the industry will thrive once these dinosaurs die, along with their unfounded prejudices), but he gives an insider's perspective that I found quite thought-provoking.

I love to read - so much so that I write a comic with the pretentious aim of increasing your vocabulary. Furthermore I am somewhat of a geek, having been a computer programmer and UNIX administrator for most of my adult life. So, you might think I would be a prime candidate for the Kindle, the new Kindle 2, or for e-books in general.

Indeed I have a lot of interest in the Kindle, but it took me a while to figure out exactly why I can't muster the enthusiasm to purchase and use one for my daily reading. It isn't really for the main reasons cited in the above article. I don't mind reading from a screen, and I have no problem with the type resolution or contrast, nor with the metaphysical implications of mistaking the media with the medium (e-book reader vs. e-book). Also as someone who cares about the environment, I am automatically attracted to the tree saving nature of e-books. After some consideration, I realized I am mostly turned off by the high price tag.

First of all, the Kindle 2 costs $359. That's a lot of money, and at this point, you don't have a single sentence from a book to read. You need to buy the books themselves, which seem typically to cost from $7 - $12 (New York Times Best Sellers and most new releases are $9.99). That is about as much, or more, than you would pay for a paperback copy of the book.

Now as much as I am open to the potential of e-books, I cannot truthfully say that e-reading is in any way a better experience than reading paper books. In order to get my business, Amazon would have to make me feel I was getting a decent bargain in return for the various minor inconveniences of reading a book on an electronic device. Additionally I - and I suspect many others - mainly get my books used. I read the entire Harry Potter series and paid no more than $5 (shipping included) for any one book, ordering them from half.com, finding them in a used book store, or simply borrowing them from a friend. Why would I want to buy a $359 device and pay $10 per e-book, for a decidedly sub par reading experience?

Ultimately, I want to join the next, exciting phase in literature. I want to be able to choose from a vast virtual library on a razor thin electronic tablet. But for the same reason I wouldn't buy MP3s if they cost twice as much as buying the CD, I just can't justify paying an arm and a leg for the electronic version of the same books I've been buying second hand for a pittance.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


This week's comic was inspired by an interesting phenomenon I recently read about. Apparently there are people who believe they cause street lamps to go out. I have the feeling that this is purely the result of confirmation bias, for haven't we all been surprised by a street light blinking off over our heads at one time or another? Most of us wouldn't attribute ourselves as the cause, but who knows, perhaps there are people to whom this happens all the time. In the world of the Remonstrance, Princess SLIder definitely possesses this mystical power.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mr. President

Today we usher in a new president for the United States of America, and Julia and I couldn't be more proud, not only of Barack Obama, but of our fellow Americans for making the improbable a reality. There are those who say that President Obama's speech isn't as sweeping or grand as they would have liked, but I beg to differ:

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

His speech emphasized his consistent message of peace in strength and diversity, of unity over divisiveness, and hope over fear and cynicism. Perhaps most important of all he never talked down to us. He never shirked from giving us his challenging and eloquent vision of dignity in hard work, in stead of an easier message of lazy nationalism or coded classism. He is the man Julia and I thought we voted for; he is the man who has helped us rediscover our pride in our country; and he is the man we hope and trust will lead our country into a new era of intelligence, reason, science, and compassion.

Also, my next comic isn't ready yet - I hope to get it out in the next few days.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everybody! Julia and I just returned from our Christmas and New Year's trip to Arizona, which was a rather random, but adventurous, way for us to spend the holidays.

We climbed the Grand Canyon, explored the eerily beautiful Mojave Desert, hiked along the beautiful trails in scenic Sedona, and witnessed some awesome animals in the Phoenix Zoo (you haven't lived until you've seen the multicolored splendor of a baboon's ass!). To top things off we spent New Year's eve in a festive block party on Tempe's Mill Avenue, meeting some cool new friends and seeing Styx (yes they are still alive, and their big 80s hair hasn't changed a bit) kick off 2009 in classic rock and roll fashion.

Julia has posted her photo album of our trip. I have posted my noticeably lower quality pictures too, grouped by days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. While the entire trip was a fun and new experience, as a cartoonist, I have to admit that one of the highlights for me was the opportunity to see Needles, CA, home of Snoopy's brother Spike. Although the town itself is no great shakes (just 3 miles of motels and a few restaurants and convenience stores), the local Denny's did honor Spike with a little doghouse in their parking lot. So, Denny's just got a little bit cooler in my book.

We hope you had a fun and safe New Year's, and let's all have a 2009 full of adventure, creativity, literacy, goodwill, and a sensible work/life balance!