Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Clarissa Manga - Sekai Oni

There was a comic that made strides on various comic boards about an emotionally stunted girl who has a deep dark secret.  When she looks at things that displeases her, they may find themselves becoming warped against their will.  Considering it's by Jason Yungbluth, the creator of Weapon Brown, a parodic tribute to Peanuts and the comics page, starring Charlie Brown as a Bruce Willis Action hero in a Mad Max world, Clarissa is a much more deeply unsettling work.

I recently thought about this comic while coming across another potentially compelling Manga that's just recently being scanlated, Sekai Oni.  Likewise, when the protagonist of Sekai Oni, Shinonome Azuma looks at objects in the mirror, things are reflected back in a warped manner.  This is a result of a symptom known as Alice Through the Looking Glass Syndrome.   (ATtLG Syndrome for short)

Despite this frightening ability reflective of a classic Twilight Zone episode, Clarissa doesn't seem particularly interested in inflicting this onto the outside world.  It seems to come and go against her will, such as in this instance where her stuffed animals come to life when no one's looking.

Faced with the reveal of an inanimate toy becoming the culmination of every childhood's dream, Clarissa is totally apathetic to this stunning revelation.

On the other side of the coin, Shinonome Azuma's best friend is a dead budgie that only lived for three days.  And that was only because she could talk to its mirror reflection.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ain't She a Stinker?

Originally shown on December 29 1985, this For Better or For Worse rerun was something of an oddity.   it had the following setup:

This was a severe departure from the actual husband figure, Rod, who actually enjoyed his profession as a flying dentist, and was persuaded by Lynn Johnson to quit out of fear of anything happening to him while he was gone (most likely paranoid fears of having affairs with his female working staff).  Figuring that her audience wouldn't find the prospect of a working man who was happy about his job believable, Lynn changed this to the more typical complainable aspect so commonly known elsewhere.  However, when it came to reprinting, this was one of the few strips that wasn't available in the cartoonist's archives.  As a result, she decided to make up for this oversight by redrawing it.

This was during the tail years where Lynn Johnson had the wise idea to have a circular plot and continue new storylines with her shaky old-style artstyle.   However, it'd been so long since she'd worked on those strips that long-time fans could tell the difference, while older fans couldn't.  This was further exacerbated by her inability to separate her personal agendas from the potential untold storylines that were happening offscreen.  There were realms of characters who fell out of favour, ranging from Greg's punk teenage daughters, to Annie's children who were discarded to focus more on the Pattersons and their inner circle.  Even Lawrence, Michael's best friend was phased out after his coming out of the closet to focus on Joseph Weeder, who was a closer expy of Aaron Patterson, the original avatar for Michael Patterson.

Having done a copy for the online archives, Lynn Johnson apparently wasn't completely satisfied with the results, and decided to draw it yet again for the newspapers.

They say that analyzing humour is like dissecting a frog - it's messy, and the patient dies in the process.  Since this joke has already been butchered, let's examine it in a panel-by-panel basis, shall we?

The throwaway panels are easy to analyze, since there's only two examples to work from.  The biggest obvious difference is the title font between the old and new style.  From my original Sunday comic, Elly's oven mitts are purple with yellow sunflower patterns, compared to the new strip's orange suns pattern.  Also, the pot Elly's carrying in the original is hanging in midair as a result of John's screaming, wheras in the latest redrawing, this scenario is completely misinterpreted by having the (now-green and different design) pot look completely safe and stationary between her hands.  One more minor nitpick - the scream has one "A" replaced with an "U", changing an "AAAAGH!" to an "AAAUGH!".

Moving onto the source of the scream, John's hair looks more haggard in his appearance, with his suit still buttoned up upon arrival, compared to his open-tie policy in the remake.  This clothing factor will become an ongoing issue of investigation for the remaining panels.  The following have mostly been heavily noticed by HowTheDuck's analytical detections with some of mine added into the mix.

The dimensions of this panel is slightly off with the second example, which could be why it was redrawn, since it wouldn't match the newspaper's strict space requirements, and was only for the online version.  Furthermore, the position of the door in the background keeps changing, being unable to decide whether it should be partially open or hidden from view.  Regarding Elly's face, upon seeing her husband coming home, her eyes are different in all three versions: Concerned, Wide-eyed, and Non-committal.  In example 3, John is taking off his coat himself, showing his striped tie in all its glory, where it would've been previously hidden.  The second version's text also has some ellipses after "El..." and also only has one! exclamation mark instead of two!! for emphasis.

If you look above, you'll notice that in example two, Elly has completely disappeared in putting away John's suit in the closet, which serves to further de-emphasize John's complaint by downgrading his exclamation to a simple period.  Also, in example 3, John is pulling off his tie.

This is easily the biggest discrepancy between all three examples.  In the first version, John feels trapped in a position he can't possible get out of.  The second version seems like the closest to an accurate metaphor for the daily Rat Race, whereas the third version tries too hard to extend its metaphor completely.  While using different words to explain things is a sign of writing creativity, using synonyms all the time where not applicable can only cause confusion.  Also, in version 3, John's eyes are drained of all life, his hand is no longer resting on his stomach, and the lamp on the table is missing.  Likewise, the armchair changes manufacturers three times, including having an expendable footrest.

While the monologue remains consistent for examples one and three, example two has the largest change, including removing Elly's poking head to make room for John's rambling and have John's polka-dot dandruff pattern above.  As long as we're analyzing the swearing (or lack of), it should be noted that there's an extra "spark" added after the planet symbol.  Whether this addition makes the swear more explicit or not is up to how large your imagination goes beyond adding a plural letter.

"Brace yourself".  Fitting words, since John's legs are at different angles, and can't stay still, going from lying flat out, to bending at an angle, to simply getting off the comfortable footrest for some reason.  Textually, the one version that seems improved on is ironically, the second version, where the ellipses are continued on to the last panel.  Also, the table end is gone from the other two, and a mysterious door has popped up in the third.  Furthermore, Elly's rumpled disheveled look of having her hands in her pockets is made more elaborate by having the wrist skin showing instead of sleeves.  In version 3, Elly's hands aren't in her pockets at all, much to John's blank gaze's dismay, which is a sight better than Elly's expressionless hair covering her features in version two.

All of which is basic setup for this unasked question on what's for supper.  The prospect of having a meal consisting solely of cheese isn't that unusual, given other main courses that focus solely on a single food group.  I suppose Kraft was too much of a brand name to allow the copyright of nationally Canadian Mac & Cheese.  In short, the revised punchline fails from an effort of trying too hard.  She could've said "The Cheese stands alone", and it would've made just as much sense.  Lastly, the lamp in version three has four asterisks in front of it, either from an attempt to give itself a 4-star rating, or to cover up another malicious swear.  Take your pick.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Times of Stress

Sorry for the lack of updates recently.  This is not how I wanted to spend my first two weeks of the New Year.

On the day of the New Year's party, I had something of a nervous breakdown before the guests even came.  While unloading the dishwasher, I accidentally dropped a single knife on the floor.  This single act allaying to the superstition that company's coming led to a series of sudden coughing and sneezing that had me sniffing like a meth addict.  Even though I'd gone through the trouble of preparing all week, I was overcome with a bout of cold condition that no amount of allergy medication could calm down.  This was further exacerbated by the hosts being reluctant to let me touch any appetizers on my own, and bring my favorite foodstuff to me.  Being catered to my every whim, but being unable to make my decisions myself just compounded to the stress.  It was only after lying down and everybody came and brought the food in that I allowed myself to leave the luxury of my room and join the party world.

If there's anything resembling an allergic reaction to social conditions, I haven't seen it in the DSM-IV.

Then, a few days after the clean-up and having composed myself, I was thinking of what my next post should be about, when we were hit by Version 2.0 of the infamous 1998 Ice Storm.  Fortunately, as will most second editions and sequels, this was a much weaker version compared to the first.  However, I was still struck with a sense of impending madness, since the blackout occurred just as the sun was beginning to set on the shortest days of the year, and I wasn't feeling tired yet.  In fact, I was in a state of heightened awareness, and in a state of survival mode.
An example of the damage inflicted by the storm.
What people forget despite the overwhelming beauty of ice-surrounded branches
is how 
heavy they can be.  To this day, these branches
are still cast in a perpetually bowing position.
I also wanted to explore the town, to get a general sense of just how bad everything was.  This desire for knowing the full extent of the power outage was borne from having no second-hand access to any information of my own.  I wasn't in contact with anybody who could tell me what was going on.  Anybody who could listen on the radio was asleep, and would remain so until the power came back on, or had a well-deserved nap.  Of the people who responded to my texts, only my sister replied, verifying that it affected the region she was living in.  While others could easily rely on word of mouth, I had no such option. With a lack of human contact, I'm in a state of constant craving for intellectual stimulation.  I was in a state of perpetual anxiety, and wanted to read some books I'd taken out of the library, but wasn't feeling up to reading them by candle or flashlight.  Even though he wrote his epic that way, I don't know how Leo Tolstoy could stand it.

By this time, the sun was already beginning to set, and I'd already abused my retinas trying to finish reading a book.  It was only 5:00 Sunday, and most places were just beginning to close, and I didn't want to waste the remaining hours of the weekend just sitting around.  I noticed a faint glow in the horizon, and was told that it was likely the mall and restaurants running on backup generators.  I decided to take a look for myself,and maybe bask in the relieving glow of electricity.

However, on my trek to the mall, I noticed a bus going the opposite direction, and decided to get in anyways.  Let me tell you that if you're caught in a blackout, and need some unnatural light to survive, the interior overhead light inside public transportation is a potential lifesaver.  I would've happily ridden around the bus with a handful of reading material, but chose to get off at a nearby mall where I could read to my heart's content.

That was, until I was kindly shooed off by someone who was locking the place up, and asked if I was waiting for anyone.  I replied honestly, saying I just wanted a place to read, and went back out to brave the elements.  While wandering the roadways looking for the next bus stop, I became aware of just how DARK it was without having helpful backup generators around.  Whole streets were littered with vast expanses of nothingness, save for what was illuminated by travelling headlights from passing cars.  After a brief foray in a wrong direction within the darker confines of town, I managed to hitch a ride back to my intended destination at the mall, where I took the opportunity to try a fast food restaurant that had suitable lighting while waiting for my next bus home.


It occurred to me that compared to my overreaction to the New Year's party, I was much more accepting of these conditions of this stressful situation than I should've been.  A possibility was that I'd already suffered the worst of what happened years ago, and this milder version simply wasn't as hard on the senses.  I have to be exposed to specific stressful situations before I can accept them.

The irony of it was, I'd just eaten an egg sandwich just before the power went out hours ago, yet I wasn't actually feeling that hungry.  I figured I might as well try the experience, since I'm usually averse to spending money whenever possible.   Most amazingly enough (at least to me), I wasn't feeling that hungry.  All I'd eaten that day before the power went off was an egg sandwich of my own making, which I'd made as a special occasion for New Year's, since my recipe was popular at potlucks, I figured the rest of the family should enjoy the experience.

This involves using 6-12 boiled eggs, cut using an egg slicer twice - vertically and horizontally.  Then in a bowl, I lay some mayonaise at the bottom for easier mixing.  The chopped eggs are added to the bowl, then mashed further with a fork, and added with a reasonable dose of Herbamare spice, which is a mixture of vegetables, herbs and sea salt.  Very tasty, but very potent.  After which, I add in some chopped up shalots or chives, depending on the season, and some extra mayo.  Don't use too much mayonaise, or you'll wind up smothering the batch in mush.  As an added incentive, due to some experimenting with rolled-up Naan, I found surprisingly enough that crab meat goes very well with eggs, and added some crab flakes to the mix as well.
While not the exact recipe explained above,
why can't other cookbooks be as descriptive as this?
After eating and reading to my fill, I decided to head back on home, even though it looked increasingly likely that this blackage would continue on for quite a while.  My hopes were briefly spurred on with the sound of sporadic "pop"s around outlets where I'd taken the opportunity to turn power switches to computers off so the sudden power surge wouldn't affect the hardware.  I was told that these "pop"s were attempts made to restore power, and that they were gradually getting closer to an answer.  In effect, it was the electric equivalent to the Chinese Water Torture, tempting us with hope spots one volt at a time.

Eventually, the ritual ended, and I could feel the welcome flow of electricity coursing throughout the abode. After this experience, I was confident that I would be able to fully accept more stressful conditions from now on.  That was, until I had another power failure the very next day.  In the afternoon.  Having power failures when there's nasty weather conditions is understandable, but is extremely annoying when weather conditions are nice.  I later found out that there were still power outages all over, and that Hydro Quebec was doing systematic checks to make sure everything was in working order.  The afterward explanation was helpful, but some prior warning would've been nice.  Just a few months ago, a decision was made to replace the oil heating system with electricity, and a man from Hydro Quebec came to do a quick exchange of the checking system, which resulted in a quick cuttage of power for two minutes.  Turns out this was something of a perfect storm - I was preoccupied with shoveling the backyard, and my Dad was in the bathroom, so neither of us were aware of his presence until he'd done his business.  It was only by the sheerest chance that I managed to catch the guy before he left, and verify exactly what happened.

By the time I had my third power failure, I was beginning to become annoyed.  This one more than the others, because this outtage only affected NINE houses on my street, while everybody else across the street had power.  I began to feel that the universe was conspiring against me again.  (To those people who're keeping close tabs on my life and devising clever ways to annoy me by adjusting the angle of stationary objects to reflect the sun into my eyes, I'm onto your little tricks)

On the plus side, while having some personal time in the bathroom, I noticed some flashlight activity by Hydro people who were inspecting the source, which turned out to be the generator in my back yard.  However, they couldn't reach it from my side, so they brought their truck around the block to get to the other side where they attempted to reattach the power line with an extra-long stick, knocking away a branch in the process.  Actually seeing the workers do their job from a distance helped make the waiting process that much more bearable.

Even so, the constant loss of power meant that I was having trouble keeping a consistent writing schedule, since my tabs and windows were constantly being closed without my permission, making me lose track of my trains of thoughts.  Now that I've finally posted this entry, future backdated posts should become more frequent.

An added bonus - while taking a look around town, I came across an unusual one-time bike lock.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Controversial Humour

By now, you've no doubt heard about the horrific shooting at the headquarters of the satirical comic magazine, Charlie Hebdo that brought echoes of the infamous Montreal Massacre.  That singular incident against women, spurred by a lone fanatic who felt victimized by females usurping his position in engineering (a section that remains male-heavy to this day) brought about a resolution for tougher gun laws
even with the unpopular abolition of the long-gun registry which Quebec alone decided to ignore (not unlike the personally appointed Judges who freely flout against Harper's tough-on-crime laws), and had a more beneficial improvement for quality of life.  By that same token, this attack done by fanatics who felt long persecuted and insulted against has brought about a Hydra-like growth of outpouring contributions from cartoonists all over who've identified with the victims, even if the cartoons from the magazine in question were of dubious quality and taste.  An explanation behind the text and history of some Charlie Hebdo covers can be found near the end of this post:

Among one of the numerous contributors was the retired artist for Asterix the Gaul.  While Uderzo's pen hasn't lost his touch, it's safe to say that his writing hasn't improved one iota, since he missed out on an excellent opportunity for Obelix to say the immortal words;

Especially since men like the Hezbollah chief are decrying against their actions.  When even Religious Extremists who think nothing about bombing Jewish citizens are speaking out against the actions of overzealous people, that's a sign they've gone too far.

The terrorist's actions from resorting to knee-jerk reaction to cartoons that are blasphemous at their least and unfunny at their worst, stems from their inability to find alternative ways of striking back that don't rely on outright violence and explosions.  If they really wanted to undermine the purpose of the controversial comic magazines, they could counter by producing comic parodies of their own.  Of course, the problem with that method is that very often, the results are less than inspiring.  Part of the reason Conservative Political comics have so much trouble gaining a respectable foothold compared to Liberal Comics is that very often, they're filled with one-sided tone-deaf arguments and political strawmen.  Any humour is made at the expense of others, and is very rarely self-reflective.  They spend more time on the message rather than the story, worried that any subtle layering would interfere with the point they're trying to make.  It's as if they don't trust their audience's intelligence.

The act of making a joke is not a difficult thing.  Making a good and funny joke however, is a much more difficult task.  That deceptive division marks the difference between someone using off-colour humour to shock the masses or to make a point.  Now that I've written it down, I begin to see the problem with my suggestion to fire back at nasty humour with humour.  If your basic worldview is narrow and limited, you're not going to be motivated to move into unfamiliar territory.  Sometimes all people want is a clear black-and-white view of the world where The Good Guys and The Bad Guys are obvious at first sight.

One Conservative Comic Book, Liberality for All wanted to take a serious look at what the world would look like if Al Gore won the election, and the results were akin to a Liberal dictatorship with Hillary Clinton as President, Micheal Moore as Veep, and Osama Bin Laden being a UN ambassador.  Because this scenario seemed nightmarishly plausible enough, there was a revolutionary plot involving two buffed-up Conservative talk show hosts (one with a robotic arm) running an organization to take America back at all means necessary.  It would be considered astoundingly over-the-top if it weren't so serious with its subject material.  We'll never know what their plan was, because the series was cancelled two issues in.

To be honest, when I heard about the business with Charlie Hebdo, it reminded me of a French comic magazine I saw on the racks a decade ago that devoted an entire issue to a satirical look at the 9-11 conspiracy, with caricatures of members of government.  (Especially considering Al-Qaeda was sponsored by Reagan as a potential ally against Communist Russia)  I couldn't really understand most of it, since it was in French, but the basic gist I got was that the war was mainly motivated by oil and money.  This wasn't much of an intellectual stretch, since that was pretty much what the motivation seemed to be when America went after Iraq shortly after invading Afghanistan.

I've been unable to find any information about that magazine since I saw it on the stands, but remember that the artwork was a mixture of cartoony and serious.  This sample above is perhaps the closest it comes to its art style.  There might've been an interlude from Tony Blair pointing out that if the attack worked well enough once, it should work well again.  The pentultimate page had a plane about to crash into the British House of Commons.

On the last page, which was in English, we had three tier panels of three people, starting with a woman from the Monarchy saying, "God Save the Queen", George Bush with an raised fist saying "God Bless America", and a smiling Bin Laden surrounded by piles of money, with a stack of dollar bills in his hand saying "In God we Trust."  If anybody has any idea about this, or if it sounds familiar, let me know.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Year later and a Sticker Short

Since there was such a lukewarm reception to my query about what I should do for the next year, I've decided to just go ahead with the remainder of my calendars, and save my other special project for next year.  To anybody disagreeing with my decision, you brought this upon yourselves.

As it turns out, there was one additional month added to the Kitty Calendar, just in case the owner forgot to get a replacement, and needed some extra time.  But don't get all excited.  It's just a stripped-down repeat of the first January logo.  To make up for that slight, here's some additional stickers sprinkled throughout.


That sticker above with the "no" in "no school!" crossed out, was to indicate when we were supposed to go back after Christmas Vacation, which always felt too soon.

We've also got some interesting results from some Transformers holographic stickers.  They wind up looking superimposed upon each other.  It's too bad the Bumblebee one isn't too clear.

I've deleted any reference to names where parties took place, as so not to disturb anybody's privacy.

These appointments should be considered vague enough to leave little to the imagination for where such events occurred.


While the Kitty Stickers were pretty sparse in finding, the Peanuts Calendar presented no such obstacle.

There were two sheets of stickers, and I was able to combine the two together, along with some missing images found throughout, and reproduced the results as best as I could.

The Peanuts Calendar also had some V-game characters for one month, which I'm including here just for completist's sake.

Moving on to old Calendars is the 1997 Mr. Bean Calendar, based off the Mr. Bean movie where he unintentionally wound up vandalizing the Mona Lisa.  So why stop at destroying one piece of art?  In this case, the result of improvement (Mr. Bean's words, not mine) is little more than random doodling on specific parts.

Actually, despite the amusing additions, this calendar was a pain the whole year.  Why?  Because the inside was the British calendar system, not the Western system.  What's the difference?  Well, the British calendar starts the week on Monday, not Sunday, so my usual date-keeping method of keeping track was thrown completely out of whack.  Days I thought would be Wednesdays would turn out to be Thursdays.  The joy of a side-by-side two-day weekend was nullified with the knowledge I wouldn't relax with the next week of confusion.
A Village in Mid-Winter
Johann Bertholomaus Duntze, 1823-1895
Like the Murphy's Law Calendar, this calendar also had scribbles from Mr. Bean included in the dates.  For the first month, there was just one, reproduced below:

Jan. 1 - New Year's Day - Off with the old socks, on with the new!

For the remaining two calendars, I`m refraining from showing you the covers, since they`re reused inside.  If you're utterly impatient to wait months for the results, you're free to search yourselves.  Here then, is the 1991 Ziggy Calendar.

Only the first month had had this little disclaimer before the dates:

Lastly, we've got the 1994 Mother Goose & Grimm Calendar, fittingly enough, subtitled, Year of the Dog.  Since this is the Year of the Sheep, consider this as somebody being a border collie, with all the competence the competition applies.

Like other cartoon calendars that go the extra mile for the distance, the Grimm Calendar also had extra illustrations added within the date crossword page.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Nature Abhors a...

I always face the upcoming end of the year with a sense of impending dread, since it not only means that time's gone by faster than I anticipated, it means that I have to start preparing the place for the annual New Year's gathering.  In addition to preparing food for the guests and rearranging the furniture to make room, there's one aspect of preparation I never quite look forward to - cleaning up.

I'm the kind of person who is best motivated by total deadline pressure, and am content to leave stuff lying around where I know exactly where everything is.  Any disruption to this chaotic natural order is an assault on my memory banks.  If it weren't for this annual ritual, I'd never bother cleaning up in the first place.  I also prefer to clean up when there's ample evidence of doing so.  Cleaning is much more motivating when you can clear away entire carpets of dust away, compared to compulsively brushing every day, and never seeing the difference.

Despite being somewhat lax in these chores, I'm not exactly someone who takes cleaning criticism lightly. When it was pointed out that I was just doing token cleaning off surface areas (which everybody sees) instead of going for the hidden underlying belly of surfaces (which everybody ignores), I got all agitated, and started doing a more exaggerated thorough job by going up the walls of furniture, sucking up every square inch available.  Shortly into my misguided zeal, I quickly noticed something missing - the knob off the halogen light switch.

I was later told that the lamp pole wasn't a surface normally vacuumed off.  I countered saying I was trying to be thorough.  In any case, while the switch was being fished out of the vacuum bag, I was given permission to take care of some personal time-sensitive material, which was why I was so harried.  When I had started this vacuuming business, my mother left, expecting the job to be done when she came back.  About an hour later, my business was concluded, the lightswitch handle was put back in its proper place, and I could continue with the delayed task.  At that very moment, guess who came through the door?  By all accounts, it looked like I'd been obsessively sucking up dirt from the same corner I was in upon her departure.  In her own words, it was as if she`d never left.