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Strip 153

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< Piro >

fredart...

"slack meter"

Tuesday - July 31, 2001

[Piro] - 05:21:00 - [link here]

There's an old saying, maybe not so old, but it's a saying that rings rather true. "You can only do what you can do." To me, i've always looked at it as a cop-out, just another excuse. When i set goals or targets, i always view any inability to reach them as some kind of personal fault. I really *am* a slacker of the worst order - i have been ever since i was a kid. I just don't want people to find out.

I know i can work harder than I do. I know that the 2 hrs i spent reading Maison Ikkoku manga last night when I first got home from work was bad. I should have been finishing the comic. I shouldn't have wasted two hours on Sunday watching 'Dual' (great anime, BTW). Goofing off is evil. TV is the devil. IRC is a highly populated plane of hell. ICQ is the evil spawn of a thousand hells. Or something like that.

One of my saving graces is that i have a 'reality chip' somewhere deep in this addled brain of mine. Its the part of me that i'm glad is there because it keeps seraphim from having to deal with a madman. It's biggest job tends to be convincing the rest of my Drama-driven brain that a little reality is ok and a good thing.

Slacking is an art for some people. In fact, it is a high art. I'm not really very good at it. The most i can slack off is about 2 or 3 hours in a row before i start to feel guilty. Don't think that this is something new with me - it's a behavior pattern that was part of me long before MT ever started. (to quote seraphim a while ago when i was thinking that MT was taking up too much time and i should stop: "you might as well keep doing it, you'd just start puttering around with something else anyway." - she so understands me :)

Have you ever sat down to draw something, or write something, and find that you just can't do it? One of the best illustrations of this you can find in the classic Ghilbi movie "Kiki's Delivery Service" (Mahou no Takkyubin)...

Oh, spoiler warning if you haven't seen it. Skip the next paragraph to avoid the spoiler...

When Kiki looses her ability to fly, she is faced with the horrible realization that her 'gift' has left her. Up to that point, she never questioned her ability - It just came naturally. The movie draws some direct comparisons between Kiki's abilities and those of Ursula and her art. She used to count on her ability to paint, it came natural enough that she never had to worry about it. When suddenly she had found that she couldn't draw anymore, she had to dig deep inside to find it again. The whole movie, to me, is as much about maturing with your 'art' as it is about witches and flying.

Ok, safe to start reading again. Spoiler is over. :)

Learning how to be creative on demand is about the hardest thing any person can learn to do. Fredart was fun because i just updated when i was able to produce a drawings that looked ok. If i went a week or month without any drawings, it was no big deal. The schedule here at Megatokyo, however, is like this never ending artistic boot camp - Doesn't matter how i feel, or how tired i am, I have to draw 6 to 10 drawings for each comic, three times a week, rain or shine, hell or high water. Thats like doing a 6 to 10 fredart sketches in one evening.

Learning to be creative on demand isn't something new to me. As an architect, you are paid to be creative every day - boss dun like it much when you say "i don't feel creative this week, i'm gonna play some Anarchy Online." ^^;; Creativity is like a muscle - you can work it into shape, and the only way to do that is to use it. That's why i try to keep this three-per-week comic schedule. It's a personal thing. It's good for me. It has its personal rewards.

When you suffer this kind of mindset, a little slacking is not a bad thing. It's like those times when you sleep thru your alarm clock in the morning because you have been staying up too late all week. Your body is telling you something - you're gonna get some sleep whether you like it or not. ^_^ Same thing for me with my slacking episodes. A little creative slacking is good for the brain, helps decrease potential burnout. And sometimes i don't really have a choice. :P

I'm rambling a bit here, so i suppose i should get to the point. As most of you have probably noticed, i haven't been very successful lately in having those MT comics up and ready to read by 1 am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In fact, if you look closely, i've had some real problems hitting that schedule ever since i changed format. Hmm... is there a connection here? :P

Without a doubt, the new format strips are more work. But to me, they are worth the extra effort. We can do more with them. The plot is actually moving now. For the most part, everyone seems pretty happy with the results. I can draw much faster and clearer than i used to. Layout is getting easier, and frankly, doing these is getting to be more fun. The problem is, they still TAKE longer. ^_^

So here's the deal. I've reached a compromise with my brain's 'reality chip' and have been thinking of the best way to deal with this shaky schedule. It's nothing really more than a formalization of what's been going on anyway:

I will continue to draw 3 comics a week, targeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday as days to post them - but this is not a guarantee. Only rarely will there be a week that has only 2 comics - and even then i will probably ask Dom to fill in or do a Piro Art Day. Comics might go up on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or perhaps Thursday, Friday and Sunday - regardless, I'll typically get them done.

To facilitate this, I am going to add something to the front page which will help inform you as to the status of the next strip. I am going to add a Status Meter - a small area that provides some information on the next comic, what percentage of it is done, when I predict i will be done, etc. This way you can know if you should bother coming back tonight, tomorrow or, like, next Thursday. :) I've been inserting little 'status' comments in the rants lately - but i think this might be more effective. I'm thinking of even making little piro-mood icons to illustrate my satisfaction or frustration with the current comic. :) It will be easy enough for me to update that i should be able to keep you folks generally informed if a comic is late.

What this eliminates is the pressure i sometimes feel at 1 or 2 am as i am about 90% done with the drawings, and still facing a good 2 hrs to finish and post the comic. Staying up till 3 am just knocks the hell outa me. This new flex schedule leaves me room to have a schedule, but the flexibility to finish it the next day if i have to. The stress reduction will be very welcome. I love to draw. It's the panic i get into when i realize i still have 2 hrs of work ahead of me that really sucks.

The first question i see coming is 'why don't you just get ahead a few comics?' -_-;; I've been trying to get a day or two ahead with MT since it started. I've managed to keep up, i've fallen about a day behind overall at this point, but i've never been able to 'get ahead' - i could have easily done that if i hadn't switched formats, but i'm an idiot and opted for more work instead. ^^;;

I'm hoping that the increased quality of the drawings, more rapid and complex storyline movement, and overall cohesiveness of the strips is ok compensation for these changes. Oddly enough, i haven't received one complaint about the schedule lately. I appreciate that.

< Dom >

the guy on the left is largo's new drinking buddy.

"akon-templations"

Tuesday - July 24, 2001

[Dom] - 04:34:00 - [link here]

One note before I switch from angry-rant mode toamused-rant mode: For the love of God, Outlook users,change your settings so your pain in the ass of a mailclient stops auto-opening anything. The rest of you, forcrying out loud, don't open e-mail attachments, even fromthose you trust, without first using an up-to-date virusscanner. I'm in the same boat as Piro, and I swear if I seeone more "Hi! How are you? I send you this file in orderto have your advice" I swear I'm going to track you downand tear out your larynx with a Chia pet... end rant.

Okay, it's been about a month and a half, I can now lookback at A-kon with a muddy memory and talk more about myoverall impression of the con and things that stick out inmy mind than about nitpicky details of the con.

The first thing I remember about the con is arriving at DFWairport and thinking "What the hell am I doing here?" A-kon was my third con in three months and my sixth in sixyears. The first was Origins '95 in San Jose, in caseyou're wondering--that's where I got most of my 1st editionD&D collection, including one of the few copies of OrientalAdventures that still has all the pages in it. But anyway,the point is that it was the third con in as many months,just as AX was the fourth con in as many months, and Otakonis my next con. Sometimes, I fear it will be my last,since the meeting of Piro and Largo is likely to cause fancritical mass. I can see the headlines now, "Comic stripcreators meet; Baltimore leveled in resulting crush offans."

Enough of that rambling, I'll get on to the meat of myrant. As I was waiting for Natsuki to pick me up, Ianother thought came to mind. I'd forgotten what Natsukilooks like. Thankfully, she picked me out easily, sinceaside from her boyfriend, I was about the only Asian inthat airport. The fact that I was carrying costumesupplies and looking about in the manner of an abandonedpup probably didn't hurt either.

>From there, I eventually ended up at the con. The secretsof how I made it out of Natsuki's clutches in one piece andstill in men's clothing still elude me. I'd pay good moneyto figure out how I kept her from tying me to the futon andslapping me in a skirt. Anyway, as I parked myself outsidea room and munched on my burger, I met the first MT fan ofthe con. I took a picture with him, talked a bit, and weboth left unfrightened. Thankfully, the encounters with MTfans I identified by their shirts generally followed thispattern, with me talking to someone as if I were anothercon-goer and not some sort of freak--which I am, but again,that's beside the point. That's a marked difference fromTanzy of OkashinaOkashi's experience, which involved unwanted contactand a healthy dose of fear. There was one uncomfortableexperience for me, but Largo was there to deflect some ofthe attention, and plus there was a table and expensiveequipment between us and them, saving us a great deal oftrouble.

And as a normal con-goer, I of course ran around in costumegetting pictures taken and taking pictures of othercostumes I was impressed by, such as Shiranui Mai, SolidSnake, Yun, Myotismon (the sheer amount of work thatmust've went into that costume boggles me), the cast ofCowboy Bebop--complete with stuffed dog and Red Dragongoons--and the lovable fool who had the balls to weartwenty pounds of chains and cosplay as KoF's Chang. Me, Iwent around as Kusanagi Kyo, and Wild Daigo. I had a lotof fun with Wild Daigo--only four people recognized me (thecostume wasn't exactly quality at that point, but itcertainly was FUN, which is all I care about) and two ofthem asked me for tips on Project Justice.

Another impressive effort award goes to the guys who madetheir own Boo consciences using the wings from a weddingcake (or something) and a stuffed hamster/gerbil/rat/trichobezoarand wore them around the con as a gigantic in-joke for allMT fans.

Actually, that's how I recognized Largo on Saturday night--he'd been given one of those Boos by a delightedfan, and was staring at it fascinatedly as the glitter fromthe wings slowly started migrating from Boo's wings to hishead. What followed was one of the highlights of the con,as Largo was handed a drink, and, still fiddling with theBoo to see if it exploded or had a hidden prize orsomething, some and promptly entered the nation of ReallyDamn Smashed. Right about when he was lying down mumblingabout panels and rooms and signs, Piro called. I onlycaught half of the conversation, but I felt a great deal ofsympathy for Piro for having to conduct daily dealings withLargo. I think I got fired and re-hired two or three timesduring that span of time, too.

Hmm. All in all, I liked A-kon for the sheer fact that Ihung out with so many great people--oh, and Largo, mustn'tforget him--and there was a Chang cosplayer. I didn'tcatch your name, O Crazy Chained One, but wherever you are,you made my con.

Now if you'll excuse me, I want to finish preparing forOtakon before I rant about AX. Let's see, fingerlessgloves, check. Spleen fork, check. Piano wire, check. Vibrating Sheep Mk IV, gotta buy that...

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