Scott Meyerhas quite the track record. From a stand up comedy career to meeting almost everyone worth knowing back in the day. Scott now produces Basic Instructions, a webcomic that describes how to handle almost every possible instance a person could think of. Scott was kind enough to sit down for an interview a short time ago:
Do A Barrel Roll Blog: First off, why do you tell us a bit about yourself. You have quite the track record for a Web Cartoonist.
Scott Meyer: Well, where to begin...
DABRB: The beginning usually.
Scott Meyer: I was born and raised in a little town in the middle of the scab-land deserts of Eastern Washington state. I usually give my hometown as Sunnyside, but really I started out in a positively minuscule town next to Sunnyside called "Outlook, WA." Sunnyside made national news several times in the 80's for being a small town with a big city style gang and drug problem. Also 1000's of people made a religious pilgrimage there in the early 90's to see an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the back of a highway sign. So, I fled from Sunnyside and went to Broadcasting school. I loved comics at the time, but never felt my artistic abilities were up to the standards they'd need to be. This was the era of Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes, mind you. I knew I wanted to be a comedian, and since the liquor laws wouldn't allow me anywhere near a comedy club, I went for radio.
I met Gary Larson once. When I was a comic I auditioned to do a voice on the Far Side Halloween Special. I had this dufus who was calling himself my agent. He calls me one day and says they're doing a recording session for the Far Side Halloween special, and there's a part that's perfect for me. I get the script and he's highlighted the part "elderly headhunter." I did not get the part, but I got to shake Gary Larson's hand, which was great.
DABRB: That's not something many can claim. You've met quite a few notable figures in the comedy world.
Scott Meyer: Yeah, most of them weren't famous at the time. I spent a week palling around with Chris Titus when we were working a club in Green Bay. He was a great guy, but really intense. Patton Oswalt took me and another comic to a piano bar in Seattle that was rumored to be the last place Cobain was seen alive. He was very patient with the two of us. He was just on a different level.
I worked with Mitch Hedberg. He was a genius, but when he started talking about doing heroin I suspected he wouldn't be around long. I did a comedy contest with Aisha Tyler. She trounced me. Bare in mind, few of these people could pick me out of a lineup now. Doug Stanhope would probably know who I was if you asked him, but that's about it.
Oh, and I toured with Weird Al, who is the most underrated comedy writer of our time. He's just tremendous and he never gets the credit he deserves. The thing that sets him apart is that there's no filler. Every other person who writes funny songs occasionally has a line or two that are just there to fill space until the next joke. With Al, everything is either set-up or punchline.
So, anyway. I got fired from my first radio job and couldn't land another, but by then I was twenty one. I moved to Seattle and tried my hand at both Stand-up and comics. I got a raft of rejection letters. The gist was that my writing was good but my art wasn't. It came down to a three day period where I had to decide whether to do art school in the day and work nights, or work days and do stand-up nights.
I chose stand-up.
That lasted 12 or so years until I burned out. Toward the end I was trying to come up with something to draw people to my website, and Basic Instructions was born. I did a few, and enjoyed them, but they didn't really generate any real buzz or traffic, and by then I was fed up with comedy, so I took a day job. After a while I started missing one aspect of stand-up. My friend Ric used to call it the "bully-pulpit." Which he got from Teddy Roosevelt. When you do stand up, if you get a funny idea, you have something to do with it. You can share it with people and see if they agree, which you hope they will. I missed having that, and realized Basic Instructions could serve that purpose.
DABRB: I'm sure that this has been asked of you many times, but where do you draw your inspiration for your material?
Scott Meyer: The easy answer is "from my life." Sometimes I'll get an idea that I think is funny and I'll have to construct a subject and a set of instructions around it. (Ghandi's Gun is an example.) Other times I'll find myself in a situation I think has potential and I'll have to come up with a strip to fit the situation ("How to Explain Something to Someone who Doesn't Get it."). Other times a strip will just come almost fully formed out of a conversation I'm having with someone. Usually my wife, or my friend Ric. That's why he's in the strip. It's a form of credit where it's due. Also, if I can't figure out how to make a joke work, usually I can just phrase it in the form of an insult to Ric and it'll work.
DABRB: Now about Ric; there are some reoccurring characters in the strip. Is it safe to assume that they are all based on people you know?
Scott Meyer: Many are. My wife is an exaggerated version of my wife. Rick is pretty much Ric. I digitized him by adding a k to his name. Brilliant, I know. Mullet Boss is based on several people I've worked for. He's partially a great guy I worked for who wore suit jackets without ties and used to be a musician, a really personable guy. He's also partially this miserable, mullet wearing racist I worked for. There's also part of the guy I worked for in radio, who only had his job because his parents owned the station.
Many of the more occasional characters are members of my wife's old improv troupe in Seattle. I work from photographs, and they were really good at giving me poses that conveyed the emotions I needed. Those emotions are usually irritation, disgust and confusion.
DABRB: So what is your day to day drawing process like?
Scott Meyer: Interesting you should ask right now. I'm in the process of changing things a little.
DABRB: Do tell.
Scott Meyer: My art abilities have never quite been what I want them to be. I use computers to prop myself up in that regard. When I need a fresh piece of art, I start with a photo. Many of the characters are based on people I know, but a few of them are me disguised. I take the photo I need, then I drop it into the computer and draw over the top of it. I've been asked if I feel like this is cheating, but I never claimed to be doing anything else. If I'm not hiding it, how can it really be dishonest?
Anyway, I work in Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector graphics program. The advantage of that is that I can take a drawing and display it as a full body shot, or I can zoom all the way into one eyeball and it'll still look smooth. I've always repeated artwork. Lately I'm getting a little self conscious about it though. I set out to do more fresh artwork, but there was a snag. My wife and I still look pretty much the same, but Ric has totally changed his look. I'm going to be unveiling the "New Rick" tonight, and am bracing for the reaction.
As for putting the strip together, I have a library of existing poses for all of the major characters. I write the strip, get the words to where I'm happy with them, then I plug in and arrange the artwork.
DABRB: So it's more about the writing than the art.
Scott Meyer: Yes. I'd love to be a great artist, but sadly I just don't see it happening. Good writing can prop up bad art much better than great art can support terrible writing.
DABRB: You have to stick to what you know.
Scott Meyer: Indeed.
DABRB: You've had the same premise from some time now. How do you find new ways to keep things fresh?
Scott Meyer: That's a challenge. I've done something like four variations on pointing out the flaws in someone's plan. There are several ways to change it up. You've done one where it's someone elses plan and you're correcting it (How to correct someone), so have it be your plan and someone else is correcting it (how to take a note). Or you're correcting correcting it super-politely (how to offer constructive criticism) or you're being rude (How to shut down a moron before he does real damage). There's always a way. It's just a matter of finding it. Scott Meyer: I also have several relationships in the strip that I use often. Me and my wife. Me and my boss. Me and the client who hates me. Me and Ric. Rocket-Hat vs. the Moon Men. If I'm using one of those too heavily I'll try to steer for to one of the others.
DABRB: I was browsing through your info page and I couldn't help but notice that one of your cats is supposedly a communist. What's the story behind that?
Scott Meyer: Back when we lived in Seattle, my wife and I decided to get a cat or two. We go to the humane society a little kitten that got out attention. We take it into the little room where you can play with the cat and get to know it. I think it's called the champagne room. It immediately walks up into my lap and falls asleep. Clearly, we had to have this cat. We adopt it and get some extra paperwork from the state department. Turns out that there was a Russian fishing trawler that was sized in the north Pacific for some reason. The crew was deported. The ship was sold off. There were several animals on board, including a cat that was the ship's pet and her litter of newborn kittens. Our cat was one of the kittens. We named him Comrade. Commie for short.
DABRB: Now something I like to do is to find out what webcomics that the various figures that I interview read. Do you have any favorites floating about in the interwebs?
DABRB: Now I understand that you have an interesting story about getting started in by the one and only Scott Adams of Dilbert. What's going on with that?
Scott Meyer: Scott Adams contacted me out of the blue and promoted my comic on his website for no reason other than because he could. My daily traffic skyrocketed overnight. I have no idea how much traffic I'd be getting right now if he hadn't stepped in, but it'd be a lot less.
DABRB: Yeah, if would be great if someone did something like that here. *Hint Hint*
DABRB: Well Scott, I must say it has been a pleasure.
Scott Meyer: Same here.
Got questions, death threats, or suggestions for further interviews? Then drop a line to email@example.com or follow "DABRB" on Twitter. Stumblers don't forget to rate this sucker a thumbs up.
This afternoon the many players of Valve's Team Fortress 2 were delighted to find that Valve had accidentally leaked a long awaited promo for the Spy class. Valve quickly removed the video from their Youtube account, but the video was allegedly viewable to users on the Apple iPod touch/Phone due to a speed issue and was quickly reuploaded via a conviently available app. In no time the video found its way onto Youtube and various other video sites. This most recent incarnation of the "Meet the ___" videos features impressive visuals, numerous hints to future updates, and by far the most entertaining script. Earliest known upload credit goes to Zephyrak of GFAQs.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Dave and Psy of GG-Guys. What followed was extremely entertaining and likely illegal in 13 states.
DABRB: Why don’t you each tell me a bit about yourselves.
Dave: Well, I'm a nice Australian guy, who aspires to become a full-time animator. I've wanted to draw/animate since I was wee little boy, watching cartoons and movies, inspired to make my own stories and characters. My dream goal is to one day be the creator of kids animated program. In the mean time, I'm a freelance Adobe Flash animator and artist for GG-Guys, written by my lovely colleague, Psy.
Psyguy: I work for a company called Momentum Transport - I'm in charge of their website. Making the server work. Making sure the site works. Other tech junk. I've been working on webpages since '96 and I've been doing various comics of all shapes and sizes. I always been a fan of comics and when webcomics started to pop up - I had to throw my hat into the ring. But it started off with a Sonic sprite comic - that is to say I would take the individual frames of animation from the game and actually use that for the main actions of the comic. I've been looking at the "web-comic" formula for a long time and I've been trying to get something to "stick" for awhile now.
DABRB: For 35 comics, I'd say that your current format is sticking.
Psyguy: Well it's really all about the art. You can write better than Charles Dickenson for webcomics, not that I'm sure he would understand gamer-humor, but if the art doesn't sell - the whole comic ship sinks.
DABRB: True, very true. Now I understand that Dave's an Aussie, but where exactly are you from Psy?
Psyguy: I was born in Anchorage, Alaska. And no, I don't know Sarah Palin. But I moved to Texas because my mother is in the oil industry.
DABRB: A Texan eh? Longhorns or A&M?
Psyguy: UoH [University of Houston]
DABRB: Fair enough. So how did you two get together to make this comic? I'm pretty sure you didn't exactly knock on each others door and plan this out.
Dave: Well, I've been following Psy's website adventures since he started his Sonic sprite comic. I had this strange vision like he was some grand-web-figure of immense power, and got it into my head that one day I would be a part of his site. Last year, a friend of his, Chris Niosi, was making a call out for his project Nin10Doh!, and I decided to become a part of that. After I'd worked with him, I decided it was time I made the leap and asked Psy if I could join. So, I wrote up an email, sent it to him, showed him some of my work and he said yes.
DABRB: "Nin10Doh!"? Wasn't that a Youtube series?
Dave: It's am Adobe Flash collaboration hosted on Newgrounds.com, that also got loaded onto YouTube. I was responsible for the Captan Falcon segments, with him singing "I Can't Drive Fifty-Five", which was really fun to do.
DABRB: I'm actually quite fond of those segments. Needed more PAUNCH! though. Any chance of another installment?
Dave: Indeed there was. End of last year, Chris hired me and the other collaborators to make a sequel, $oopah Nin10doh!, in which I animated the Starfox segments. That was really fun.
DABRB: So tell me about the comic. As far as I can tell it’s autobiographical, but I could be wrong. Psyguy: Dave asked me out of the blue - which was a total shock. Because I just get this random note on my Deviant Art that this guy with incredible talent wants to draw for me. Kind of put me on the spot. I, being a giant fan of penny-arcade, always wanted to be the writer of a gamer comic. I bounced a couple ideas off Dave - use Megaman? Maybe Sonic? How about our own gaming characters? I'm sick of 2 guys on a couch so maybe we should just use ourselves so if we fall into any clichés it's purely a coincidence. I try to give something real and not just 2 wacky guys on a couch and one guy is less wacky with an attractive girlfriend and blah blah blah. I told my girlfriend about this at the time, Liz, who wanted to be part of it. It fell into the 2 guys 1 girl thing on its own. I have random ideas here and there and I try to bounce them off Dave so we can make them as "good" as possible. Sometimes I try to keep to gamer comics because, well, they get attention. It's more or less our ideas we bounce off each other.
Psyguy: I'm, Psy. The guy with the hat in the green. Dave is the boy in blue. Amber, my main website's mascot (fireball20xl.com) - who actually had to replace Liz because her and I stopped talking - is the pink haired eye-candy who has yet to have a line.
DABRB: I'd hate to ask, but does that have anything to do with the female character not having any lines?
Psyguy: It was actually my poor writing abilities. The jokes were about Dave and I so I just kind of had Amber sit in the background. It started to be a running gag - we have a comic planned where she's actually going to start to speak - but gets cut off.
Dave: People have often asked if it was because she was mute, but yea, it's mainly just in the writing. We'd like to think she hasn't said anything because, well, nobody's asked her anything.
DABRB: So we can plan to see her speak in the future?
Psyguy: As a matter of fact - yes! We want Dave and Psy to be stuck thinking of something and Amber comes over and suggests something. Psy would freak out, "HOLY CRAP, YOU CAN TALK!". Amber, "Well yeah...no one's ever asked me..." Dave and Psy, "Ooooooh...."
DABRB: I'm looking forward to it. I noticed in your latest comic that a few figures from the webcomic community make cameos. Do you actually know any of them?
Dave: I'm more familiar with these webcomic figures mostly. VGCats I've been watching for years now.
Psyguy: I know Scott Ramsoomair (VgCats) personally from conventions and what not. I've been talking with Scott Smith and Scott Hepting (Slackerz) mostly on twitter. Scott DeWitt (Fanboys) I've talked to off and on but I don't know as well as the other 3.
DABRB: While on the subject of your last comic, did you guys actually get a Joystiq or were you mocking those who have?
Dave: Nope, it be very true. Joystiq.com held a competition the week before we made the comic, where our Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks story made it into the lineup. Though we didn't win, we did very well, coming second in the overall line up. It was quite an awesome experience.
DABRB: Well congratulations.
Dave: Thank you, sir.
Psyguy: Much thanks.
DABRB: Tell me about the work that goes into each installment of GG-Guys. Dave: Well, it's a long drawn out process, where Psy involves himself for about a few minutes writing a story, usually through us throwing around ideas, then I spend a week drawing it!
Psyguy: Those are a very intense few minutes!
Dave: Once I get the script, I start roughing it out in Adobe Photoshop, creating the comic frames, roughly drawing the character poses, backgrounds, and anything I feel important to add, and then create text and text bubbles on top. From there, I outline the rough drawings, then color them in, add backgrounds which are either painted or become gradients if I'm strapped for time, and then finish by adding any little details, like lens flare or glowing effects. Once I flatten it into an image, I wait till Saturday to post it....or in most cases, end up posting it the exact same time I finish it on Saturday night (Saturday morning in America).
DABRB: I noticed that the art and writing are unusually advanced for such a "young" webcomic. Is there somewhere where we can see your earlier work? Psyguy: Oh lord, my early writing. Sure you can have that. Be warned it may cause cancer. You have been warned.
Dave: Well, art wise, I've been developing since I was a wee-boy. I've been doing comics since then, mainly for myself, and not doing very well I might add. It just seemed to click well when I combined my art style with Psy's awesome writing - examples of my work you can find here.
Psyguy: In closing that is how I spent my summer vacation.
Dave: And it was the best vacation ever.
Psyguy: Except for the syphilis. DABRB: ..........
Psyguy: Ba dum tish. I'm the writer.
Dave: That's our Psy!
DABRB: Well it's been a pleasure, but I have one last question for the both of you.
Psyguy: We're not gay. DABRB: Are you ga-.......... Psyguy: HO HOOOO
Dave: Ooooo snap.
Psyguy: The more you know and starwipe! And we're out
I decided to take a break from my rigorous weekend schedule (read: sitting at the dorm and thinking of reasons not to write my paper) and took a stroll down to the Ferg to check out Bamacon. Now I'm all for Nerd culture (I do a blog on it after all), but this was beyond me. You'd think considering the extent I will go to for a good Halloween costume that I would enjoy a mass of people dressed up as everything from Naurto characters to Haruhi Suzumiya, but this crossed the line somewhere. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cosplay, but I draw the line at jail bait demons from Japanese strategy videogames. For bandwith's sake, I'm only going to link the photobucket album, but have at it. I have to apologize for the poor quality though, I was stuck with the "bad" camera for this outing.
Dreamworks has had a "long" history of making successful films. Shrek made history and they haven't looked back since. With the release of MvA today, I like to think that the company has reached a new standard in their movies.
First and foremost, the movie looks A-MAZ-ING. The 3D is crisp and makes everything look "real" without sacrificing the cartoon look. For the vainer among you, the 3D glasses are actually nice looking (at least at the Cobb theatre) and are pretty comfortable. The movie also refrains from abusing the medium and only pulls a T2 on a few occasions just to remind you that's you're not watching a normal film. The effects are so well done that you actually stop registering that they're even present after a bit (that's a good thing).
Now a movie can look great, but still manage to suck it up (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within anyone?). I won't lie, I doubt that this will be receiving any awards for writing. There are a smattering of scene with "good" writing, but the true draw of this film is the part that never gets any awards.
This movie is peppered (and by peppered I mean chock full of) with nerd culture references. UFO identified as a "Code Nimoy"? Check. Stephan Colbert as the President? Big check. The Golden Gate bridge getting trashed? Checkorooney B Movie references? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. and Check. Mr. Colbert communicating with the Aliens via an iconic 80's pop tune? Che- Actually, I nearly lost bladder control from the laughing.
If you like Pixar, 3D, Monsters, Aliens, Nerd humor, Geek humor, Cliches, Stephan Colbert, or are a child then go see the movie right now. If not, go see it anyway. I'm getting this on DVD and I'm heavily debating going to see it again.
Once again I must deviate from my normal subject matter and address something a bit more pertinent than the "lieking of teh mudkipz". Bama Dining has always been good to me and the student body as a whole, but a recent observation has changed my views on our collective provider of all things food. Allow me to spin a little story.
Twice a week I take part in a bit of self inflicted sadism better known as an eight AM class. On these wonderful mornings my daily ritual is as follows:
6:30- Wake up to Aces High set around max volume. (I may be going deaf, but I'm up) 6:33- Stumble into shower and proceed to scald myself in a further attempt to wake up. 6:45ish- More self grooming and dressing with the most readily available clean clothes. 7:00- Watch Robin Meade (Oh baby) while eating "breakfast". (Usually a granola bar and OJ) 7:20- Brush my teeth and head down to the bus stop to catch a ride to BB Comer.
Bear with me here.
On this morning I awoke to discover that I had neglected to restock on supplies over the break and had to make due with a liquid breakfast. As I nursed my 1.5 Liter Green Tea like a $12 drink I thought to myself: "Well, I may as well head to Lakeside after class and get a hot breakfast." Fast forward to about 9:15 and I find myself in front of the aforementioned dining hall. I go in and look down the stairs to the promised land of foodstuffs. Empty and closed off.
"Oh Kaaaaayyyy. I think I'll just head over to our lovely diner which is conveniently located about 30 feet from where I am standing, and prides themselves on offering breakfast up until 3 in the bloody morning."
While buying a instant oatmeal from the store (which may I add led to some lovely burns and an impressive stream of swearing about 10 minutes later) I learned that the diner used to have a good deal of business in the mornings. Which leads me to this:
WHY IN GOD'S GREEN HELL CAN I GET WAFFLES AND BACON AT 3AM AND NOT IN THE MORNING WHEN THE SODDING THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SERVED?!
Now don't get me wrong, I use the Diner all the time (Where else are you going to get chicken fingers a 1 in the morning?) and I think they've got a number of things right (eg- having a semi streamlined process, pretty good food, and late hours). But come on now, do you expect me to haul my sorry butt up to the Ferg to eat at Fresh Foods (where I eat lunch anyway) just to get a meal that I should be able to get anywhere?
Now if this is fixed I can't claim that I would eat at the Diner every day or even once in a while, but if I can get a hot cheap meal fast like I can at night then I might change my mind. Do the right Bama Dining, give us breakfast back. After all as much as you guys have been pushing proper nutrition, shouldn't you be providing us with the most important meal of the day?
Seeing as I have nothing else to watch at 11:30 I figure that I might as well make this a more or less regular thing now. I'm sure that I could tie this into tech somehow, but (let's face it) it would be a stretch at best.
Opening and Monologue
All thing considered this was a pretty good opening for ol'Jimmmy. The jokes funny as a whole and the crowd seemed to enjoy them. There was one awkward pause or two, but that's forgivable. Things seem to be looking up. Rating: B-
Facebook Updates- Fallon started out with a parody of Facebook statuses. The bit wasn't especially interesting or funny at first, but got a bit better towards the end with audience members being "drunk" and "wearing their thongs backward. I couldn't help but notice that the transitioning between audience members was rough, but this is something that can be fixed with experience.
The crem de la crem of the segment (and possibly the show) was the final status update, featuring one Michael Bloomberg came up. Bloomberg cracked some jokes about the prior show and posed with Jimmy in front of such scenic locals as City Hall (meh), Castle Greyskull (Woot!), and Max Headroom (OMGWTFBBQ). Fallon may not be as "childish" as Conan, but if he sticks to 80's pop culture, we may have a winner.
Internet Video of the Day- In a word, bah. For starters, a good video needs no commentary. Next, Fallon's commentary only made it worse and the dancer wasn't terribly funny. Lastly, it wasn't that good of a video to begin with.
Once again, I don't do celebrities. Fey was funny and had good chemistry with Fallon (Lord knows they should) and Bon Jovi talked a bit and sang. The Roots showed their sheer awesomeness once again by staying on top of Bon Jovi's spontaneous singing and sounding great doing it.
As for Santigold-
Well all in all, this was a huge improvement for Fallon. It's still rough and awkward at times, but Jimmy seems to be settling in.
Fallon appears to be taking a milder approach to comedy than Conan did. If I had to guess, I'd say that he ends up being popular with the current high school crowd while the rest of the population shifts their attention forward a hour. I've got to say though, it must suck to be Carson Daily.
Well last week we lost a great American hero, Conan O'Brian. America's favorite redhead handed in the reigns to what has become a comedic necessity for America's late night (read: college) television viewers. O'Brian leaves behind a specialized sort of comedy tooled for the "lol masturbating bear" crowd and up. The mantel of Late Night has been placed on SNL and weekend update regular, Jimmy Fallon. Fallon's opening show was last night and proved quite interesting. Since I'm still waiting for my service award to show up my TiVo is currently out of service. So if I missed a detail, bite me. Opening
Conan makes a cameo in Jimmy's dressing room preshow and has a brief interchange with the new host. Fallon plays the straight man while Conan is his usual self. Apart from O'Brian's remark "Leno's not going anywhere," the skit is ultimately forgettable.
Monologue and associated skits
Fallon opens the show with a solid monologue that turned out better than I expected. It's a bit early in the game to determine how Fallon's jokes will pan out in the future, but a few of his jokes show promise. One noteworthy element was Fallon "slow jamming" the news with house band "The Roots" backing him up (more on them later). I enjoyed this quite a bit. The bit was on the rough side, but with more practice and fine tuning I think that this will be a show staple.
As with Conan and Leno before him, Fallon opted for the Jokes-Skits-Guests-Music format. The two skits, "Target Demographic" and "Lick if for 10" both were fairly weak, but have room for potential. When the demographic is "Tuba players from West Blockton" I think we will have a winner. "Lick it for 10" had a few laughs but wasn't anything special.
Wow, this wasn't pretty. Fallon spent the majority of this segment stumbling across lines and making everyone uncomfortable. I let Adrian handle the world of celebrities so I'll keep this short. Robert De Niro was uninteresting and unimpressive apart from the "Space Train" bit.
I hope this was intentionally bad because it was laughably so. Otherwise......
Timberlake on the other hand stole the show. I've never cared for anyone or anything associated with 90's pop music, but J's parody of The Beegees and improvised Budweiser jingles were hilarious and nearly made up for Fallon's frequent fumbles.
This was one of the few high points of the show. Jimmy's house band, "The Roots" were a breath of fresh air and better than any other house band I've seen (Carson era on) and considerably better that a good number of musical guests. They kept quiet for the most part, but when they played........man. They're keepers. I can't say the same about Van Morrison. From what I could tell it was a good performance, but he dosen't fall within my preferred musical style so I'm not a liberty to pass judgment. Rating: A+
Fallon had a rocky start but that is to be expected. Just try and tell me you could pull off something like that without a hitch. The main problem that Fallon faces with critics is that he is filling in the 6 foot 4 pompadour sporting hole left by Conan. Jimmy is not Conan and never will be, as soon as he and his critics accept this things will go along swimmingly. Stay tuned and give him some time, Conan started out pretty rough too but look how he turned out.
As some of my 5 odd readers know, Tuscaloosa will be hosting some of the most advanced pieces of technology in the nation. I'm talking, of course, about The Blue Angels. On April 4th and 5th, 6 F/A-18s will take to the skies of Tuscaloosa and proceed to perform precision maneuvers that one usually does not usually associate with a 56 foot long piece of metal flying through the air.
A Very Brief History of the Group
- Formed on April 24, 1946
- First show in May 1946. F6F-5 "Hellcats" were used. This is the first appearance of the trademark Blue with Gold Trim paint scheme.
- Briefly disbanded for combat duty in Kora and reformed on October 25, 1951.
- Moved to their current home of Pensacola in late 1954.
- Changed to flying the F-4J Phantom II in 1969
- On November 8, 1986, (Their 40th anniversary) the group presents the F/A-18 Hornet as the group's new plane of choice. The 18's are still being used today.
- Each engine on a F/A-18 is capable of producing up to 18,000 pounds of thrust. With two engines on a plane and six Angels, that's over 200,000 pounds of raw power altogether.
- The C-130 Hercules, better known as "Fat Albert"*, is fitted with 8 JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) rockets and often performs a VERY short take off with the assistance of the aforementioned rockets that never fails to impress.
* Not to be confused with one, "Big" Al.
- Contrary to what most people think, the maneuvers performed are implemented by all members of the Naval and Marine Air Corps.
- The group is rumored to be transitioning into the C and D variants of the F/A-18.
Here's a little sample of things to come:
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some tickets to secure.
Do a Barrel Roll Blog: Today I have a real treat for you. Howard Tayler, a "rising figure in the webcomics world", has been drawing Schlock Mercenary for the better part of 9 years. He has been kind enough to "sit down" to do an interview with me. How are you Howard?
Howard: I'm fine.
DABRB: So, tell us about the man behind the mercenaries. Who are you exactly?
Howard: I'm a 40-year old father of four with a penchant for fantastic stories and twisted laughter. Fortunately the mother of those four shares most of my tastes.
DABRB: Spoken for eh? I'm sure your female fans are devastated.
Howard: Crushed to the last woman and girl. So sad.
DABRB: You’ve been drawing Schlock Mercenary for 9 years. That's quite the haul, and with no missed days to boot. Two words come to mind: “Why?” and “How?”
Howard: Why? Because it seemed like a fun way to tell a story, and because once I started I realized I needed to set high standards for myself. How? By working ahead, and doing careful failure analysis of the process.
DABRB: A webcomic artist that plans ahead and doesn't procrastinate? That's a first.
Howard: Bear in mind I started this job when I was 31 years old, and had a failed record production company under my belt. Most webcomics are started by teenagers who have no idea what a "decade" looks like. Most successful webcomics are not, however. Or at least that's my read on it. Somebody needs to go check birthdates now, I guess.
DABRB: Speaking of jobs, do you make a living off of Schlock and the gang or do you moonlight as something else?
Howard: 100% of our family income is derived from the Schlock Mercenary business. DABRB: That's quite the accomplishment.
Howard: Well... 99.9%. Sandra sold a couple of short stories last year.
DABRB: I seem to recall that she is a children's author, correct?
Howard: She's a lot of things. She's written and self-published a children's book, illustrated by Angela Call. She's also written numerous short stories in a couple of genres, and she's an extraordinary blogger, focusing mostly on issues specific to being a Mom.
DABRB: Well back to the comic. How does your day to day comic making process go?
Howard: Monday -- script in the morning, pencil in the afternoon. Tuesday, color last week, pencil and ink in the afternoon. Wednesday. Business tasks, maybe coloring, maybe book tasks. Thursday, ink the whole week of comics. Friday and Saturday, business stuff. Conventions. Work on books. Whatever. The strip itself takes three days out of a six-day work week.
DABRB: fatum asks- How do you find time for the daily updates and other aspects of your life like your family?
Howard: Ummm... I work about 60 hours per week, and make time for family with the rest of it. It's not hard now that I don't have a day job.
DABRB: What did you do before Schlock? Draw other comics?
Howard: Nope. Schlock Mercenary was my very first comic strip. I majored in music composition and sound recording, I started a record production company with a friend, I spent a decade-point-one at Novell doing tech support, then consulting, then product management and marketing. I've done lots of stuff. But not much drawing before March of 2000. I was a SF reviewer for The Internet Mining Company, which became "About.com" sometime after they decided I was too whiney.
DABRB: About.com? That's quite the resume.
Howard: Well... they replaced me, combining the Fantasy and Sci-Fi domains. Nothing impressive there. Bear in mind this was 1996 or thereabouts.
DABRB: When the boy bands roamed wild and free.....
Howard: I considered starting a webcomic in 1995, but I thought I'd need to hire an artist, and I had no idea how images could be made small enough to work over dial-up.
DABRB: Thank God for high speed connections. So how exactly did Schlock start and how would you recommend that aspiring WCAs (Webcomic artists) get their start?
Howard: It started with me thinking that a webcomic looked like a fun way to tell a story. I picked "mercenaries" because that allowed for rapid movement between disparate plot devices. Recommendations? Plan to work really, really hard, and fail a LOT. I've got close to $200,000 in "failures" under my belt. I still owe money on some of that, too. Rolled into the mortgage, though. WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
DABRB: In this economy? Nothing comes to mind. I've noticed you publish under Blank Label Comics. What can you tell us about that?
Howard: Blank Label Comics is a collective, incorporated as an LLC, that allows several of us like-minded cartoonists to streamline some of our business operations and do things we wouldn't be able to do individually. These people are all friends of mine. That's how it got its start.
Howard: Limited Liability Corporation.
DABRB: Sort of a web equivalent of a comics syndicate?
Howard: It's not really a syndicate. We don't do the distribution thing as a group. We've considered it, but the model doesn't seem to fit.
DABRB: Would you recommend this sort of thing to others?
Howard: Yes and no.
DABRB: Do tell.
Howard: I do recommend that cartoonists (and artists of ANY ilk) get together with like-minded artists, including some more senior folks in their field. Learn from each other. Learn at the feet of your betters. Practice what you're bad at, and let them tell you what you're worst at.
DABRB: Speaking of distribution, have you ever fantasized about SM going into the printed [newspaper] format.
Howard: Yes. Like most fantasies of mine, once I start contemplating the details required to make it a profitable reality I discovered some gaping problems with it. First: I don't want to work in b/w or greyscale. Second: I don't want an editor. Third: Peers of mine have done it, and the newspaper business was not good for their bottom line.
DABRB: I suppose we should talk about the actual comic at some point. In the latest/current story arc, politics play an important role in the story. Is this commentary on the Obama or Bush administrations?
Howard: HAH. No. My satire is a bit broader than that. I strongly disapprove of "entitlement," the thought that somehow the world (or the gummint) "owes" you something. But that sentiment is going to get exactly ONE strip of screaming theming, and then we'll move on. Mostly I'm just in it to tell a good story, and conflicts of political ideal make for especially good ones.
DABRB: In the past you have had a tendency to kill off characters. Aside from some convent time travel and a certain bear, these characters have remained dead. Does this present any obstacles in writing?
Howard: No. It presents obstacles in franchising. "Superman" is a franchise. So is "Tony the Tiger." They'll never die, and the comic book companies will continue to milk them. My characters have life-spans, though. It makes them more interesting. It makes them EASIER to write.
DABRB: It makes the fans rage.
Howard: Meh. They're in this for the story, too. I got nothing but positive email when Tagon died. I saved all of it just to be sure. There was some negative commentary when I brought him back, but since I knew I'd always planned to bring him back the "you chickened out" criticism fell kind of flat on me.
DABRB: You don't mean to say that everyone's favorite carbosilicate amorph (Schlock for my readers) might bite the big one?
Howard: Probably not. But he'll have character development. You've seen some of it in the current story.
DABRB: It has been noted that all your characters are dynamic rather than the standard static comic character. No wonder that you have as many readers as you do. How many do you have exactly?
Howard: 200,000 monthly uniques, maybe 40,000 daily readers. Not sure how many loyal irregulars there are.
DABRB: That's astounding. I have somewhere around....... 5, and I’m one of them.
Howard: You're probably off by at least two orders of magnitude for this interview.
DABRB: We can only hope. 40,000 a day, geez. How do you rely on "getting the word out" and buffing reader numbers?
Howard: Word of mouth. It's the most powerful form of marketing, and for my work it's also the most effective.
DABRB: The viral method. A tried and true means of advertising on the internet.
Howard: My loyal, zealous readers are my greatest asset. I worship them. (From afar.)
DABRB: I saw some fans discussing their favorite lines from the comic on the Schlock Facebook group. What are your favorite lines?
Howard: Any time I can work the title of the book or a Pirate Rule into a punchline I'm particularly pleased with myself. Those may not be fan favorites, but I sure like 'em.
DABRB: I'm glad you mentioned that. Amanda Doerr wants to know if you ever intend to make an actual book of rules.
Howard: Yup. Not before Spring of 2010, though.
DABRB: You heard it here first folks, a Do A Barrel Roll Blog exclusive! You can expect The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates around 2010!
DABRB: So, what webcomics do you like? Other than Schlock that is.
Howard: I don't read all that many anymore. I read all the BLC titles, The Whiteboard, Order of the Stick, Atland... several others. Mostly I've run out of time to sit in front of the computer and trawl entertainment. And now you know WTASF.
DABRB: Alright, just a few more. Amanda would also like to know if you intend to release a Box Set of your work for Schlock's 10th anniversary.
Howard: You won't have to wait that long.
DABRB: So is that a yes?
Howard: There will be a five-book box-set available with the release of book five, "The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance." The slipcase box will also be available separately, for those who already have the books.
DABRB: And you will naturally be giving signed copies to your friendly neighborhood bloggers I assume.
Howard: There are a few gift copies set aside with each release. I'm not completely sure who Sandra has on the list. She maintains it. Not me.
DABRB: Have I told you how much I love her work?
Howard: Your butter needs more butter. Maybe with a side of butter. We'll see.
DABRB: You can’t blame me for trying. Amanda would also (also) like to know where you get your sources for the science implemented in your comic.
Howard: Science journalism, and of course I raid the vast piles of science fiction books in my own home. As John Cage said, "Well stolen is half-composed."
DABRB: The motto of the national media from what I understand.
Howard: No, theirs is more like "Well stolen is 90% composed. 95% if you have stock photos to add."
DABRB: I expect to see a bastardized version of this on CNN tomorrow morning. Cynicism aside, I have just a couple of questions left.
DABRB: Amanda would also (she's persistent) like to know who you would like to act in the Schlock Mercenary movie.
Howard: I want a walk-on part. It's okay if my character dies. Tagon would be best played by a Stargate (the motion picture)-era Kurt Russell. Kevyn would be well served by a young, Jaws-era Richard Dreyfuss. Ennesby could be played by a just-finished Anne Boleyn.
DABRB: And Schlock?
Howard: Roseanne Barr. No, wait. John Goodman. Hang on... Oprah Winfrey.
Howard: Rosie O'Donnell. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
DABRB: With plasma.
Howard: Seriously? The guy who voiced Skull the Troll for the PvP animations... Dino Andrade. He'd do a great job. There are lots of really, really talented voice actors out there who could probably pull it off. Or maybe the guy who voiced Gollum. Andy Serkis.
DABRB: That would make for an interesting movie.
Howard: That's just actors, and one gorey dead ex-royal. An interesting movie would require a good writer. And a good director, who shares the vision of the writer. And a good producer, willing to fund that vision appropriately, without excess or cutting corners.
DABRB: I'd pay to see that. (Remember kids, illegally downloading movies is bad.) fatum would like to know- Do you feel like you need to improve the world (or your readers) or do you just go along with the ride?
Howard: Like any self-respecting person I try to improve the world around me. I'm not an activist, though. That's too much work. Also, annoying.
DABRB: A good philosophy if I ever heard one. And one more question from fatum. Did you ever fell (or almost) in the soap trap ? With soap I mean when you deviate from the origin of the strip to solely focus on character development and human interactions (as in: no more thooomp in the strip).
Howard: Discovering that character development is interesting is not a trap. Doing it wrong, or at the exclusion of other, equally interesting things might be. I think World-Builder's Disease is much more dangerous in my line of work. I think I've struck the right balance by creating the strip I want to read. Check out www.writingexcuses.com for hours upon hours of discussion with me and others on this subject.
DABRB: Well Howard, it's been great having you (and your 200,000 fans) here. I hope we can do it again sometime. There is one last question though.
DABRB: do you leik mudkipz?
Howard: Love 'em. But only if they're on fire, thanks.
DABRB: Talented and a sense of humor. How about that?
Sorry for the lack of proper posting, buy some of us have midterms to study for. If you have questions for Howard, drop me a line at Doabarrelrollblog@gmail.com. Be sure to include Q&A in the subject line and your name if you would like to be credited for the question.
(Thanks to Brian Ballsun for having readily available Schlock pictures)
This isn't exactly new, but I haven't really found anything about it for some reason.
On January 20th, Wired Magazine put out an article about NASA renaming the rover Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). According to the article, NASA decided that they would have a contest open to children under the age of 9 to name MSL; due to be launched in 2011.
You're probably asking yourself why this is relevant (other than my desperate bid for content)? Well, Wired's blog post about the renaming also requested that its readers submit their own ideas for an name. A certain Random board of a certain website* got wind of this and took it upon themselves to put one Rick Astley (and a few other chan icons) on Mars. Here's a view of the aftermath.
It just goes to show, the internet is a drastically underestimated source of power.
Like I promised, I actually have something bodering on orginial content this week. As the two of you that actually read this know, I am a big fan of the webcomic medium. Since I actually need to update this on a semi regular basis I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone.
Today I'm talking with Jonathan Estis and Kitty Dalziel, better known as "Moose" and "Kitty", the team behind the comedic film noir webcomic "Cylde Winters: Internet Detective." Why don't you two tell me a bit about yourselves?
Moose: Hi! Thank you for letting us be here! I'm Jonathan, and I do the writing for Clyde Winters. I'm a freshman in college, I live in New Jersey... My interests include the Internet, video games, and nerdy things like that...
Kitty: I'm Kitty, and I do the page layouts and drawings for Clyde Winters. I'm also a college freshman and live less than a mile away from Jonathan. I like manga, cooking, and video games.
DABRB: Fellow scholars eh? Why don't you tell my readers down here at UA where you are attending?
Kitty: We both go to Drew University. Go Rangers!
Moose: We don't really have school spirit, but we try.
DABRB: Heh, I see. Well, let's get down to business. Where did you come up with the idea for Clyde Winters?
Moose: Okay, let's see. I've always loved the Internet (Wow, that sounds sad.), and kind of had this idea for a while about a story in which somebody somehow gets trapped inside of it. (Probably also influenced by similar ideas in shows like Futurama and Chapelle's Show.) And I guess a year or two ago, the idea of a detective just seemed to fit in with the idea. It also helped that I knew Kitty at this point, because it meant I had somebody who could really draw it for me, and get it to look the way I wanted it to! That's it in a nutshell.
DABRB: I can see the whole trapped in the Internet concept, but why use a noir style?
Moose: Excellent question, compadre. I guess what can you do with a detective besides have it be noir style? (Nothing.) Then I'd have to take into account other influences: Movies like Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Then there's Sin City, even things like the DS game 'Hotel Dusk.' It all just seemed to fit together.
Kitty: I pretty much go with any excuse I can get to draw old-fashioned stuff like cigarette holders and backseam stockings. The idea of a noir theme was also interesting to me because it's something I've never really tried to do before. DABRB: Well how about that, I happen to have Hotel Dusk myself. I take it that's where you got Clyde's character from?
Moose: There's definitely a lot of Kyle Hyde's character in Clyde Winters.
DABRB: I know we've got a good number of art majors here. Why don't you enlighten us on the drawing process Kitty?
Kitty: Well, I have yet to take a college art class, so my method is pretty rudimentary. I use a ballpoint pen, a straight edge for the panels, and printer paper. Sometimes Jonathan has a layout in mind. When he doesn't, I just go on what I know from the layouts in manga and graphic novels.
DABRB: So how did Clyde Winters start exactly? I know I came across it early on, but it wasn't exactly the beginning. Give us an origin story.
Moose: I guess the first thing that I did was jot down in a notebook a bunch of ideas for names. I think some of the runners up were Clyde Hudson, Lemon... Yeah, it was bad. Having no experience with story based comics, I kinda just jumped right in and hoped for the best.
Kitty: Once Jonathan (Moose) had the basic idea, I did some character sketches for Clyde. At first I was drawing someone much more sophisticated-looking.. I think the influences for those early drawings were Kaori Yuki's "Cain Saga" and Zidane from Final Fantasy IX. There were vests, and puffy shirts, and blond hair. When I realized we needed someone more "manly", I thought of Dick Gumshoe from the Phoenix Wright series and Marlin Brando in "Guys And Dolls".
Moose: Ah, yes. Guys and Dolls. The epitome of manliness.
DABRB: You said you had no experience in "story" webcomics. Are there other projects each of you have worked on?
Kitty: I've drawn short (say, 8 page) comics for fun since I was in middle school, but none of them were ever on the internet. The only comic strip I ever did, "Faux Fur" was on the web for almost one hundred pages (with about another hundred drawn), but I basically abandoned it when it came time to start applying for colleges. It's still out there, somewhere.
DABRB: So tell me about Moose.tv.
Moose: I did one web comic a while ago called 'Action Tuna,' which was really a gag-based strip, with limited plots. It was... not destined for popularity. Much of it makes me cringe. This was all for another web site that I do with Ivan Hahn, a friend of mine, called MooseTV. MooseTV was (is) sort of our outlet to make funny videos and share them with the world. Some of them are quite good. Many are painful to watch.
DABRB: It seems thath you two have had a fairly easy time of getting started. Any tips for those out there that are thinking of starting their own comic?
Moose: It's funny because I did Action Tuna for so long with virtually no feedback from anybody, and it was often really hard to stay motivated. With Clyde Winters I knew we had a much better concept on our hands, so it was a little easier to feel good about it. The best thing I can suggest is to just keep at it. Always try to update on time, spread your comic through word of mouth (There's plenty of good promotion tools out there)... And don't expect it to be a hit right away. Our comic still isn't a hit, but we're getting there. Don't be discouraged by negative feedback, but don't ignore it either. Always contradict yourself. Eat your greens.
Kitty: I just try to give the web address to any friends I think might be interested.. Often it's an exchange, like, "I'll watch your stupid YouTube video if you promise to check out my comic". I've gotten a few people to link that way.
DABRB: I know some artists like to keep a backlog of comics so that they can update on time. Do you guys keep some in reserve or do you do one especially for each update?
Kitty: We only plan more than one comic in advance if we know we're going to be too busy the night before the next update.
Moose: It's all written in advance, but yeah, the pages are usually drawn and edited the night before. Is this the best way to go about doing things? ....Eh.
DABRB: Now for something along the same lines. How far do you have the story thought out? Do you have an ending picked out, or are you making it up as you go along?
Moose: I generally have an episode or two in advance laid out in my head, and there's specific ideas or story arcs that I know I want to do in the future. As for big things like an ending, that's a little more open at this point. Nothing's set in stone.
DABRB: I see. While we're still talking about the story, Yahoo, AIM, 4Chan, Myspace, Facebook, and Homestar Runner have all seen appearances in the comic so far. Do you have other memes or aspects of Internet culture lined up that you can tell us about?
Moose: I can say for certain that future episodes involve visits to YouTube, and Google. (or whatever dumb parody name we decide to give them). Others shall remain... a mystery.
DABRB: Oh you.
Kitty: I like to think that someday Clyde will be sucked into a vortex of self-pitying mall-goth blogs. Or maybe be stalked by someone who has used GoogleMaps for evil, evil purposes.
DABRB: I've got to know, what webcomics do webcomicists such as yourselves like to frequent?
Moose: Pretty much all the ones linked to on our site are the ones I check frequently. Highlights in my mind would be Dinosaur Comics, Penny Arcade and Wigu. I should also mention MegaTokyo as being the first to get me hooked on web comics.
DABRB: And you Kitty?
Kitty: Men In Hats is one of my all-time favorites. Perry Bible Fellowship makes me laugh so hard I cry. Fur Will Fly was probably the first webcomic that I read regularly. Also, Our Home Planet often overlooked, but has great, unique art.
Moose: Of course, we're huge fans of Family Circus.
Kitty: And Garfield. He's a cat! He's fat, and he hates Mondays! I cannot fathom that anything could possibly be more entertaining than that. And neither can Jim Davis. DABRB: I just lost all respect I had for you two.
Moose: We're being facetious... Or are we...?
Kitty: No, we ARE. I will die before I allow people to think that I tolerate anything remotely similar to Family Circus.
DABRB: OK, one last question and it's crucial that you answer truthfully.
Got questions for Moose and Kitty? Suggestions for other interviews? Desperate for any form of human interaction? Then post here or send one of those "e mails" I keep hearing about to firstname.lastname@example.org
Grim news for the Internet. Virgin's Europe division has announced that it will start limiting their users Internet to non Virgin regestered sights. This means that users that try to access sites like Youtube, Facebook, ect. will be faced with service that is intentionally slowed down in order to discourage usage. This is an ovious breach of "Net Nutrality" and is a huge step backwards in everything net wise.
That is not to say that this has gone unnoticed. This video was posted on Youtube shortly after the announcement and summerises things better than I can.
Note: I'd recommend turning off the annotations.
You may be asking yourself, "What can I do about this? Well for one you can bycott Virgin products and services. The ISP lost over 100,000 customers within 24 hours of the announcement, both here and in Europe. Another option is the old standby of writing letters to Virgin and your Senator explaining the importance of the freedom of information and Net Nutrality. Then there's always the more "active" way of handleing things.....
This brings us to my title. My sources tell me that Anonymous (best know for their "war" on the Church of Scientology) has declared a similar war on Virgin and has a number of net based attackes planned out against the company. While neither I nor the University (well duh) condone attacking the company, you can still excercise your freedoms. (see the 1st amendment for speech and assembleing) Protest the comprmise of net nutrality. Spread the word!
Nathan Gibson is a freshman majoring in electrical engineering. He enjoys candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and other cliches. He works on his blog when he isn't busy being broke, unemployed and single.