Friday, March 30, 2012

Ready, Set, Alphabetize!

April is almost here!  I've been having a blast preparing my April A-Z posts on all manner of Signs, Symbols, Glyphs, Codes, and Sigils.  I can't guarantee that I won't run out of steam before the end of the month, but I can verify that I do have a rough outline for each day's post already "in the can."  So the posts may grow shorter as the month wears on, but hopefully not by too much.  :-)

For each day's post, I'll be presenting one specific symbol.  In addition to some fun facts about its origin, I'll try to find some kind of way to apply the central idea to old-school role-playing games.  Again, I make no guarantees... there will likely be a few that I throw in just because I thought they were cool.  And a few that I use merely as a jumping-off point for other musings...

As a teaser, here's a preview of all 26 symbols, in a Where's Waldo kind of jumbled format.  A mighty marvel no-prize to any reader who successfully predicts any day's letter-themed title from this!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Six Procrastinatory Links

Prepping for the April A-Z Challenge means that I'm not posting much this month, but I've been building up a list of interesting things to share.  So, it's time for another random table of links du jour...  Just roll your trusty d6 and click away...

1. In the "science imitates sci-fi" department, a physicist has discovered that it may really be possible for planets to have stable orbits around a black hole... inside the event horizon!  This paper discusses the details, and also speculates a bit about alien civilizations that may live on those planets.  Fans of David Zindell's Neverness novels may remember the Ieldra, an advanced alien race who "carked" themselves into the black hole at the center of the galaxy, but occasionally sent out messages...

2. Are you excited as I am about that new edition of a classic fantasy role-playing game that may be coming out later this year?  No no... not that one...  I'm talking about Dave Millward's 1979 game Heroes!  This is a link to a fellow blogger flying the flag for this effort, which I'm behind 100%.  It would be great to see a "lost classic" reborn.

3. Another cool scientific finding (that I was surprised not to see much mention of in the media) seems to be that the language of dolphins is being deciphered!  Those squeaks and clicks are encoded sonar "pictures" of things that one dolphin has sensed, and is communicating to another dolphin.  They tested this by showing a dolphin an object, like a bucket, and then unpacking the sonar sounds later made by that dolphin to show an image of that bucket.  (Skeptic alert: the web page linked to above is very pop-sci, PR-heavy... We should wait for actual, peer-reviewed scientific papers to be sure of any of this, of course.)

4. For maybe about 2 or 3 weeks in 1991, I was a fan of the extremely odd TV show Dark Shadows.  Although it's production values were low and it was probably fair to just call it a "re-skinned" soap opera, I still was fascinated that they built up a detailed 200+ year historical backstory for the characters.  Well... now it's a comedy starring Johnny Depp.  I'm sure the truefans are offended, but I think it looks kind of funny.

5. I never consider myself up-to-date on the rapidly moving world of online media and journalism until I go see what Jeff Jarvis has to say.  He's always interesting.

6. Last, a blind item.  Click here and scroll down to the picture.  Make your own caption.  Noting that it's 1st season, I think Stewart is saying "Oh, the writing's just so baaaaad..."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Moebius on the Virtues of Discomfort

Saddened by the loss of Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Mœbius, I went back to the December 1987 issue of The Comics Journal to reread an extensive interview with the famed French comic artist. There's naturally a lot about how he broke out of many molds in his long career, and let his creativity run wild. But it was interesting to see that he also acknowledged the limits of that wildness.

For example, after becoming known for drawing fantastical crystals in many stories in the 1970s, many "crystal people" contacted him with the desire to hire him for projects that he never would have come up with on his own.  He said:
I try to judge the proposals made to me with my heart, to see if they resonate. Sometimes they don't resonate but make me very uncomfortable, and sometimes that's almost a good sign. "This is taking me into an area I don't like, where I don't want to go. That's interesting, let's go see." I know that sometimes the areas you don't want to get into are the ones where there's the most work to be done. So sometimes I accept crazy jobs over which I sweat like crazy, taking an insane amount of time, not because I'm a masochist, but because I know it will do me good, bring in a new element.

...That's another piece of advice I'd give young cartoonists. Don't avoid trials; seek them out. Seek out uncomfortable situations. Now there's a really good piece of advice [laughter].
This is why I look forward to participating in things like the April A-Z Challenge, or last year's September of Short Adventures.  Not just for the specific topical constraints that can foster creativity, but also for the external "constraint" of accountability -- committing oneself publicly to accomplishing something. Like it or not, that can be a great prod to actually showing up and getting the job done.  (Which is why I never understood the psychological advice about keeping one's New Year's Resolutions to oneself, as a means of making sure you'll keep them. It's just all too easy to let yourself off the hook if there are no repercussions...)