Archive for October, 2005

Is that a comic in my window?">
Is that a comic in my window?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Your eyes do not decieve you. Any sharp observers among you will surely notice that this is a repeat, and somehow has become more topical a year after I drew it. Just puts me one closer to Nostradamus. But, of course, this comic brings up the question, “why doesn’t this mildly interesting blog live up to its namesake more often and actually post COMICS!?!??” This certainly is a valid question.

I realized the other day that it’s been nearly a year since I stopped producing daily comics, and that only lasted three months in the first place. It’s not that I don’t want to be making comics, it’s just… well, there’s two reasons.

The first is that I can’t seem to get myself into a good working situation. When I started Debt On, I was completely penniless. I had crazily moved to South Carolina on a prayer and fled the state with my last 100 dollars. I wasn’t homeless, I did what most 22-year-old guys just out of college would do when they fall flat-on-their-face broke: I moved in with my parents.

But I didn’t have a bedroom anymore. My sister and brother had juggled things around so that my brother lived in a room too small to share, and I just couldn’t live with my sister. So I was stuck in the guest bedroom. Which my parents had renovated into a hallway.

Debt On was drawn on my parents’ kitchen table either before everyone came home from work, or after everyone went to bed. The other times were entirely too noisy to get any work done. The computer work was done on the family computer, in the aforementioned hallway, over a dial-up Internet connection, fighting with my sister for screen time. While it was theoretically possible to produce the strip that way, it was an unsustainable model, and my month buffer eventually dwindled to nothing. And I know Charles Schulz drew Peanuts for years on his parents’ kitchen table, and to that I say that Mr. Schulz was an only child and did not own four dogs.

Anyway, while I retouched and tweaked some of the dialog for this strip I realized how much fun I really did have making the strips. But that brings me to the other part of the problem. In all my moving I very infrequently have the room to set up any kind of inking workspace. Just three weeks ago I finally got a bedroom where I could set up a desk, chair and bookcase.

But these things take time, and money. So far my time has been been occupied with finding some kind of employement, and my mind has been keeping a lock on my money for fear of a repeat of my last moving disaster. Worse, my computer keeps going down, this last time it was completely useless for almost two days. So I don’t dare do any serious comics projects for fear that all my work will be suddenly lost.

But know that getting back to some serious production is in the back of my brain. And that I have worked on some strips but embarrassingly never finished. When I first started taking cartooning seriously, I read a column of advice by Matt Groening for aspiring cartoonists. FINISH YOUR WORK! he said, that cartoons were uselss if they’re half-cooked ideas or half-drawn conversations. When I look over any of that unfinished work, I know that he was soooo right. And it really kills me when I realize that stuff was some of my best work and nobody has seen it at all.

But in the meantime, I’ve been keeping up here so long as my computer’s holding up. You might have noticed a few cosmetic changes recently as well. I also changed the essays page a little, making it kind of a best-of-blog in addition to its usual functions. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Charlie Brown jazz, and you can be certain I’ll be coming back to that very shortly. Other than that, I’m playing the guitar, loading my iPod and starting my new job tomorrow. (what!)

Charlie Brown Jazz I

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

At the moment one of my favorite things in the world is jazz music. While I still consider myself a jazz novice, I’ve had a passing interest in it for a while now. But learning about something as enormous and diverse as jazz is challenging and progress takes time.

But I was delighted to learn early on in my search for jazz that several excellent jazz recordings were inspired by another great passion of mine: comic strips. From the moment they stepped into the animated realm, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts characters were captured in first-rate jazz tracks that showcased both their youthful energy and their somber meditation. Jazz themes completely dominated the musical landscape of the animated Peanuts, despite that the vast majority of musical references in the strip were classical.

I remember the moment it clicked for me – in mid-December several years ago. I was having breakfast in a bagel shop near my house in Massachusetts; things weren’t going great – I was moving out of my house because I couldn’t afford it any more, in fact I was planning on leaving town for good. The preceding months were full of financial setbacks, arguments and betrayals, and many of my remaining friends planned on moving shortly. So as I sat sipping my coffee and chewing my bagel, I listened to the Christmas Carols about how “comfort and joy” were supposed to be the only things I was feeling at that moment.

But one song didn’t assume my mood. One song very literally broke with tradition, it lulled you in with a quite standard piano rendition of O Tannenbaum, suddenly adding the sharp syncopation of a snare drum and the snazzy rhythm of a walking bass. My mind filled with glittering Christmas trees, reaching twenty, thirty feet overhead, covered in baubles, shining, shimmering, maybe painted pink, as spotlights crisscrossed in front, and shone into the heavens. And in the center of it all stood a sad little boy and a tiny, dying tree.

I thought back to my childhood, when I spent many nights under my covers with a flashlight and a copy of an old and ragged Peanuts paperback. I’d developed such an obsessive fascination with the characters that they adorned most of my possessions: lunch boxes, blankets, backpack, sneakers. There was also a soundtrack cassette of the special I was certain to sit down for every Christmas: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This particular item never really held that much appeal for me – I couldn’t see the characters, couldn’t hear them, the album was almost completely unrelated. However it did quickly become my father’s favorite Christmas music, and while he seldom felt compelled to offer an opinion on many subjects, he was frequently vocal about his choice of Christmas carols, and so he kept the album alive in my mind for many years.

Until that day in the coffee shop, when I’d all but forgotten just how powerful some of those melodies were. I fled to the record store to try and find that album somehow, but I had no idea if it was hopelessly obscure or who the performers were. Lucky for me the clerk at a small hole-in-the-wall record store was not only aware of the album, he found it buried in a box of random insipid Christmas albums sung by everyone from Dolly Parton to Kenny G. The album was A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the composer was one Vince Guaraldi and his trio.

Part II | Part III

Jesus Was Black, Ronald Regan was the Devil, and the Government is Lying About 9/11

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Now here’s a good birthday present. Cartoon Network started running Boondocks promos yesterday.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

That’s right, today makes twenty-four years. It probably won’t be a particularly significant day, but with all the changes I’ve been making lately, it’s significant to start out my year like this.

Edit: I had to edit this because the weird non-sequiter I put here was driving me crazy. Anyway, if anyone’s interested in all this leak scandal and Judith Miller goodness, there’s a whole bunch of links to her story, the Times’ story, and some other stories, right here, clarifying that this investigation makes absolutely no sense. And I don’t really trust the Times anymore.

Diamonds are Forever

Friday, October 14th, 2005

I’d just like to go on record as saying just how much I’m enjoying Kanye West’s new album, Late Registration. In so many ways it’s better than his first. It’s more mature, more lyrically and musically sophisticated, and I thought his first album was great.

The thing is, this guy does hip-hop like nobody else seems to, and he’s astoundingly commercially successful. It finally seems that hip-hop with some emotion besides belligerence is hitting the mainstream.

This album is so refreshing in this age of over-produced club beats. Sometimes Kanye becomes minimalist in his production, even using nothing but a rolling bass line and a siren soul singer to complement his poems.

My favorite track on the piece may be Roses, a song in the vein of Family Business on his last record, a truly heartfelt poem about AIDS and death. Kanye lays his lyrics early on over a very simple bass line, letting the beats take over halfway through as he throws on layer upon layer of chorused samples. The underproduction of the rap sections and the over-produced crescendo of the hook work masterfully together.

My second favorite track is Drive Slow, a kind of down and dirty gangster track with just a touch of a jazz saxophone to give it a really retro-soul flavor. It’s a beat to bounce to in your car worthy of Dr. Dre at his peak.

And then there’s Diamonds From Sierra Leone, a track with such a strong message told with such ferocity it’s nearly impossible to ignore it while it’s on. Kanye throws out track after track on this record with a diverse set of influences and an all-star guest list. And unlike Mos Def who seemed to throw every musical style he liked into every track on The New Danger, Kanye decides on a sound before he opens his toolbox.

That’s not to say this album doesn’t have some missteps, I know “Crack Music” has no real appeal to me, but when it works it really works. To me, Kanye West is the best producer working in hip-hop today and a formidable rapper, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon.

Big Changes in Scott World

Friday, October 14th, 2005

So I haven’t been posting in a while… since August, actually. There’s been a lot of big things happening since then that have kept me pretty busy, but not too busy where I should have neglected all 50 of you who apparently may have been reading this web site.

Most of those two months were spent staring at the TV in disbelief, as a major U.S. city was destroyed and George W. Bush just didn’t know what to do about it. The whole thing continues to be a complete disaster and a hideous tragedy. I’m just not sure how I feel that something positive can actually be gleamed from all the doom and death beamed into everyone’s living rooms for weeks: the walls just keep crashing down on the Republicans, and nobody seems to like them anymore. And props to Kanye West for saying it, and to these guys for writing a song about it, cuz George Bush just don’t like black people. (That’s an MP3)

On the topic of New Orleans, I’d just like to shout out to my boy Noah who is down there right now giving some much needed medical care to some of the unfortunate souls in that neck of the woods. Congratulations, Noah, we’re all damn proud of you out here in the Bay. I’ll try to hit you up real soon. Noah’s group is actually on the Internet, and they can take donations of money and supplies, check it out.

But as far as my life goes, I was living in Montana for sixth months, a very wide-open and empty place. I think I briefly mentioned that move but never really discussed enough of my road trip to get into details. Maybe I’ll do something about that. Anyway, Montana is beautiful countryside, but the outdoors can only do so much for you, so I’ve felt pretty out of touch these last few months. It didn’t help that there was no convenient way for me to jump on the Internet with my laptop, which was constantly on the fritz anyway.

Briefly, without too many details: I was working for my now brother-in-law as a bartender in his resort restaurant. It was a fun little gig, and I met some interesting customers, but it couldn’t have been long-term since the whole state seems to close down in the winter except for skiers. Montana is a huge place, with what seems to be a higher population of grizzly bears than people. The third largest state in the country, it has a population of less than 1 million. Which is an eighth of New York, or a seventh of the San Francisco Bay Area.

A lot of Canadians come in there, too. Canadians order the weirdest drinks I ever made. Take the Paralyzer. You make a white Russian in a big glass: vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream over ice, and splash some coke on top. The worst part is the acid of the coke will curdle the cream so it’s just raunchy, like an Irish car bomb left on the bar, or lemon and cream in your tea.

They also like clam juice in their bloody Marys, and tomato juice in their beer. Every once in a while they would try to put tomato in one of the good ales, and my brother-in-law, the other bartender, would absolutely refuse to make them. What a waste of good beer.

They have the strangest names for their drinks too: rocks glasses are “buckets”, and pitchers are “jugs”. The best Canadian story I ever heard was from this dirty old man from Calgary, Alberta. One night, completely loaded off paralyzers, he told me about a gorgeous bartender that used to work in Whitefish, Montana. She told a Canadian who ordered “two jugs”, “these are pitchers” and she held up two pitchers. Then she grabbed both of her breasts and said: “these are jugs.”

Anyway, the best part of the whole experience was at the end, when I got to perform the ceremony that joined my sister and her fiancÚ. That’s right, I’m an ordained minister in the Universal Church of Life. All you could be too, really. But how many weddings will you have done, hmm? Anyway, I’d just like to say if you’re reading, congrats to J & C, you guys are awesome together and I know you’ll do just fine.

So after all that was over, I moved to Oakland, CA, where I now sit anxiously hoping I get a call about a job any minute. I’ve got a pretty good thing going on here, I think, so long as I play it right. And I’d really like to get back to doing comics, but I’ve got a long way to go towards being really settled here. I will try to keep writing on the blog, maybe a little less politics and a little more straightforward shit. Straight from the heart, y’know? My computer’s lovin’ the wireless Internet for now, but it is pretty buggy. Hopefully I’ll start working with a little bread left over for a new one.

Oh, and the comments have been officially spammed. If you have been, don’t leave your e-mail addresses on the blog, use instead. And I’ll look into turning that off, but that may make the problem worse. I may have to move to a registration or invitation model, or lose ’em altogether. Nobody uses ’em anyway. We’ll see.