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< Piro >

"Broken Limbo"

Monday - August 18, 2008

[Piro] - 10:33:57 - [link here]

I need to apologize for the very serious delay of the past week. Most of it stems from a very difficult problem i was having with the new t-shirt printing and production that took almost 4 entire days to resolve... a problem that needed to be fixed and at times i wondered if i was ever going to overcome. It has delayed not only this comic (since i have been spending most of my time on it) but has delayed production and shipment of all the shirts that you folks have ordered from the store. The good news is that last night i was finally able to resolve and fix the issue. Subsequent testing has confirmed that the issue is indeed fixed, and the print quality of the shirts is up to what i (and you) expect them to be.

The limbo i have felt like i have been living in for the past week is now broken.

Of course, the euphoria that came with finally resolving the problem (it had to do with being able to properly print in high speed (bi-directional) mode as opposed to normal speed (unidirectional) which was more than doubling the time it took to print shirts) has now passed and i'm having to face the big catch-up with not only orders but the comic as well.

This comic is actually not too far off from being done, but i still have a few more frames to finish before i can post. On top of this, now that the printer is working properly i have to actually be there to ramp up production so we can fill all the outstanding orders.

So, that said, I would first like to apologize for the delay in shipment of your shirt orders from the Megagear store, and let you know that we are now back online and orders will start being filled and shipped as soon as i can get them printed and out the door. Thank you for your patience. As for the comic, it's coming - and now that i am past this big hurdle with this new production method and i will be switching my priorities back to that thing that i would much rather be doing - drawing comics.

I also owe you folks a rant with more info on what exactly this all is. I'll do that too in the next few days.

Ah, the joy of learning the ins and outs of new production methods, new machines... Sometimes it's learning the technical bits and tricks and ins and outs of machines that always have their own personality and quirks. Sometimes it's a question of learning what voodoo or magical incantations to recite. Sometimes it's finding that hidden little hatch on the back marked with a squiggly looking cephalopod-like creature that pops out and reveals an intake where where you can pour appropriate measures of your own blood. Finally found that hatch last night. Hopefully it will stay satisfied for a while as i try to rebuild my red blood cell count with copious amounts of coffee and wheat thins.

It's a bit of a spoiler, so if you'd rather wait for the finished comic, don't look, but here's a rather nice frame from this upcoming comic. I'll be posting the finished comic as soon as i can finish up the remaining frames later this afternoon. Thank you again for your patience - time to get back to work.

< Dom >

"Human Traffic"

Sunday - August 17, 2008

[Dom] - 09:24:24 - [link here]

I like standing in lines. It's one of my weirdest hobbies out of a laundry list of weird hobbies. Thanks to Asmodeus, I dodged pretty much every line at C71 when I went at the end of 2003. Even though it was a terrible idea, I decided that at C74, I would experience Comic Market from the perspective of a regular attendee, lines and all.

Boy, was that a bad idea. The temperatures on Saturday, my first day on-site, were exactly what I expected out of a Tokyo summer. Even at 8 in the morning, it was around 32C and rising. Even so, I soldiered on, with the help of a backpack full of drinks and a fan I got from Koushien. These were lifesavers, and I mean that without much hyperbole. Asmodeus later told me that around 300 people were carted off to the nurse's station due to a cocktail of heat stroke, exhaustion, and dehydration. Given the permanent sheen of sweat on my face and legs, and the obsessive nature of fans, I had no problem believing him.

Since Comike officially opens at 10, and any kind of transaction before that time is strictly forbidden, I had a couple of hours to wander the floor. I spent most of my time in the West hall, after a quick glance at the Comiket catalog (don't leave home without it! I learned that the hard way by not having a catalog this year and being completely lost most of the time) revealed a whole lot of man-on-man action inhabiting the East halls. This wasn't a very accurate depiction of what was there, since the East hall in Tokyo Big Sight is something in excess of 12 soccer fields in area, but it was my first impression and it stuck. I didn't even sniff the east halls on Saturday.

I had no problem with missing that part of the show, though - I was surrounded by Touhou fan work in the hall dedicated to doujin games, and I wandered the tables like a kid at a candy store. In many ways, I find Touhou fan work to be a lot more interesting than the source material. Zun makes great bullet patterns and his music is great, but line art is not his strong point. My weakness to trance remixes contributes a lot to this sub-fandom; Touhou remixes have grown into their own genre over the last few years, and from where I was standing, I couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone's remix CD. Still, there was something missing from my Comiket experience, and that was a line.

As opening time approached, I walked toward the loading docks of Big Sight, where the so-called "KabeSaku" (Wall Circles) with the greatest anticipated foot traffic are placed. Based on some eye-catching T-shirts and convenient proximity, I got in line for a circle I've never heard of named Yellow Zebra. I was pretty excited at the prospect of being in a Real Comike Line, but the brutal reality of Comike lines beat me out of these fanciful notions soon after I asked the last guy in line for the customary "I am the last person in line" sign.

Around a half hour before the doors opened, a Comike staffer came by to escort us outside, and my trial began. We lined up two by two and shuffled off to the service road. In my mind it was still early morning, but the sun beat down on me as hard as I've ever felt in a Bay Area afternoon. As the first line to be led outside, we had the dubious privilege of being front and center, with nary a shadow in sight. As we suffered, we looked enviously at the empty shadows by the building. As some wondered out loud why we weren't in the shade, a Comike traffic controller came by and cracked some jokes while reminding us to be patient. After a little while, I was ready to flee to the relative safety of the building, especially since lining up for Yellow Zebra had been a whim rather than any kind of actual urge to listen to their music. I held strong for around five minutes, which felt like an eternity.

Just as my resolve started to crack, a second line for emerged from the building and was led into the shade of the building. I cast a few guilty looks around at my comrades in line, but the end of the new line was tantalizingly close to the last bit of shade on the road. I couldn't resist its siren call, so after a lot of guilty bowing and backing away, I defected to the new line, which was apparently for the circle Cool and Create. I had no idea what their music sounded like, and I still don't know what they sound like, but let me tell you - for those last 10 minutes before the gate to the loading dock went up, I was their biggest fan in the world. It didn't even matter to me that their new CD was called "Bokura no Otinpo" (I will take a pass on translating this phrase - take it to the forums, where people can get a chuckle out of it). When the 10 AM announcement came, along with the traditional applause, I stepped out of the oven and treated those guys like rock stars as I asked for a copy of their latest work.

Unfortunately, stepping out of the sun didn't stave off the heat for very long. As hundreds of thousands of people made their way into the halls, I was stuck in the middle of what Asmodeus calls the "Otaku Sauna." I picked up some of the goods I'd earmarked for myself or friends, and left as quickly as I could. Everywhere I went, the heat followed me. The only relief I found was in a tiny hallway where the air conditioning could be felt, but dozens of traffic control staff and thousands of determined shoppers meant I couldn't stay in one place for very long. Not that I really could afford to - I still had to get a few more agenda items before I could consider myself done for the day.

My second stop was the commercial space, where a line had already formed for Iyasare Bar Wakamoto, Wakamoto Norio's web radio show. I was the 97th person in line, which meant that in theory I could sit and watch a recording in person, which I was hugely excited about. Ticket and CD in hand, I shambled to my last goal for the day: the cosplay space. Japanese cosplay deserves its own column, so I will continue this next time. For now, I sleep! I have a long flight to Singapore ahead of me.

< Dom >

"Tips for Eating Live Octopus"

Thursday - August 14, 2008

[Dom] - 07:17:25 - [link here]

You know, compared to melon pasta, live octopus was like 16 times tastier.  This is coming from a man who likes melon glaze more than he probably should, and hates the texture of cooked octopus.

Live octopus is a pretty simple meal, overall.  You take a young octopus, cut its tentacles off, throw some sesame oil on it and bring it out to your customer while the octopus' special nerve clusters continue to cause movement long after being severed.  The fun comes in trying to move the still-writhing, convulsing tentacles from the plate to your mouth. 

Here are some tips on snaring the slippery tendrils: first, don't let the tentacle go suckers down.  It will latch on to your plate and complicate matters greatly.  Second, it's hard to pick them up with chopsticks, so don't be afraid of looking silly (you're eating wiggly octopus tentacles, ferchrissake, there's no way to look dignified) and picking them up with a spoon.  Alternately, you can sort of nudge your chopsticks against the suckers, wait for your morsel to latch on, and then bring it into your mouth.  Try to chew a little bit - it's not a pleasant experience to have the suckers try to latch on to your throat, but it IS pretty fun to have them attach to your lips or the inside of your mouth.  Finally, make sure to get over your inevitable case of the giggles before you start eating.  It's no fun trying to chew and swallow while you're laughing, especially if the meal feels like it's resisting consumption.

And, for those of strong stomachs and curious minds, here's a video of what the plate looks like, via YouTube.  Thanks to old pal Kuonji for uploading it for me!  I think this makes us even for the time I shoved lettuce down your pants while you were hung over.  Wait, no, it doesn't.  But that's okay by me.

Further notes from Seoul:

- I went on a DMZ tour the other day, and it's hard for me to comprehend just how painful the mindset of a divided Korea is.  In spite of everything North Korea has done to violate its treaty, from axe murders to secret invasion tunnels and territorial intrusions, most Koreans I've talked to have been hopeful about unification, for nationalist and cultural reasons.  It's family to many, not politics.  You always have to watch out for your brother and help him out, even after that time he got drunk and tried to threaten you with a broken bottle.  Or something like that.  I'll have to keep thinking about it.

- I've figured out why I'm not a big fan of Olympic archery.  Most of the male participants look like they've either stepped out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or the World Series of Poker.  It's kind of confusing after staring at swimmers and wrestlers all day.

- Aside from impatient drivers and reckless motorcyclists, one of the biggest dangers when walking around Seoul is loose pavement.  I've tripped on loose bricks at least once, and stumbled on other loose cobblestones pretty regularly.

- If it weren't so damn hot around here, I would've loved to try more street food.  I love roasted sweet corn, but not when it's 90 outside and holding a hot cob of corn is the last thing on my mind.

- Hey, I'm in webcomics!  AND, in the bizarro Three Panel Soul universe, I can somehow muster up enough facial hair to have a soul patch.  I find that inexplicably awesome.

- Despite my excitement about the upcoming Warcraft expansion - or, perhaps, because of it - I'm completely uninterested in spoiling the first experience by joining the beta.  I'll play it when it's good and ready, dammit!

- I go to back to Tokyo on Friday morning, where I'll spend a few days bumming around with Asmodeus and putzing around at Summer Comiket.  Expect more updates then, since the last one was so fascinating to me.  Or, maybe I'll just sum it up like Mizuki of Comic Party did so long ago: "I hate doujinshi.  It's hot.  It's smelly.  It's noisy." (I find this outcome unlikely).

< Dom >

"Notes from Seoul"

Tuesday - August 12, 2008

[Dom] - 03:31:34 - [link here]

- Went to a former royal palace on Monday - the standard ending to every sentence was "But when the Japanese took over, this was torn down and replaced with [a garden/an art gallery/a zoo/flowers]". Good reminder of the Japan that Asia remembers, not the Japan that advertises itself.

- Interesting store names: "Fucking Lovely" "Sherbet Cool Party" "Richard Copycat's" "Porky Kids"

- Number of languages heard on the street today: 6 (can you tell I'm staying in the special tourist section of Seoul?)

- Seiya got a bottle of local favorite Chilsung ider on Monday. We've been unable over the two days we've been here, and our hands are raw and red with the effort. It's become like a puzzle box to us - it doesn't even matter what's inside, but we're gonna crack it by the time Friday comes and we flee the country.

- I'm writing this from the hotel business center - there's an internet jack in the room, but we don't have an Ethernet cable and the guy at the front desk says that the jack doesn't even work anyway. So... mostly offline while I'm here.

- Going to the DMZ tomorrow. The dress code for DMZ tours is: "No jeans, short pants, short skirts, T-shirts, sleeveless shirts, sandals, and military styled wear."

- Korean malls made no sense to me until I went to a Korean street market. Malls here really are just street markets withair conditioning.

- I'm probably breaking the promise I made last week. I have to eat live octopus, just once. Then it's back to Korean barbecue for life.

- Best thing about watching the Olympics overseas: No hint of gymnastics coverage anywhere, and no 10-minute human interest interludes. Just the sports, ma'am. I've seen more judo, fencing, and archery over the past 4 days than I've ever seen in my life.


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