Quote of the Moment

Maybe you’re just imagining that you have a good imagination.
- from ConceptArt.Org forums

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Works every time...

1. Find a job nobody wants and apply.

2. Start a major project that requires most of your time and attention.

This morning, I got a phone call. Did I still want the job at the library shipping center? It took me all of 10 nanoseconds to answer that one...

So, anyway, the point of this (mercifully) brief post is:

I * H A V E * A * J O B ! ! !

I start on January 31, one week from today. This will probably affect the speed with which I can reconstruct Skyhaven and do other projects, but getting out of the house and earning some form of an income will actually be a good thing for my sites in the long run.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Operation Machete

I just backed up my websites in preparation for perhaps the biggest site overhaul I have ever attempted. Skyhaven Adoptions, online since 1999 in some form or another, has grown largely unchecked, each new addition piling onto the last, old templates lingering as new ones came online. Finally, I decided it was time to sharpen the virtual machete and wade in to the fray. And so I am faced with the daunting task of deconstructing and rebuilding a website with nearly 500 pages. (No, I'm not kidding. Even discounting filler pages that nobody sees, that's in excess of 450 pages. Now you see why Operation Machete's time has come...)

It's too soon to say what will stay and what will be spared. The more recent creatures and overhauled templates will probably be safe. I expect the Jewelwings to survive, and portions of the Hunt (including the Megahunt, though I may alter portions of it.) I would like to be able to keep the Official Hunt Guide in some more manageable form, as well as some background info on Tirialle (which, in addition to giving me some creative leeway, is a great way to hide potential clues for nasty puzzles now and again.) I also have a weakness for the original Skyhaven dragon and griffin, though that's not set in stone. Beyond that, anything and everything could be hitting the chopping block. If that means temporarily closing down the Hunt or halving the Main Adoption Lair offerings, so be it. It needs doing, more desperately than most visitors would probably realize.

This, of course, is the part where ambitious plans usually hit the wall. I'll go in there with an itchy Delete key finger, eyes wild, and then I'll hesitate. Can I really get rid of that after I took so long to get it going? Remember all the trouble I had cleaning up this template? This was a doozy of a puzzle - do I really want to reconstruct it from scratch? This isn't the first time I've stared Skyhaven in the eye and flinched when it came to overhauls. I'm hoping for the best this time. It is, after all, a new year, and I just ticked over 20,000 hits. If ever there was a time to redo the site, this is as good as it's going to get.

So, if some time over the next few months, you happen to swing by Skyhaven and find your favorite critters missing, or the puzzle in the Hunt that you've been working on for a year (and finally solved in the shower last night) gone, you'll know what's happening. Sometimes, like a phoenix, a thing must be broken down into ashes so it may rise again, more glorious than before. Speaking of phoenixes, that template's always bugged me... pardon me while I sharpen my machete...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Timeless Farewells

It's snowy outside, and has been for a few days. That's unusual around here, where we usually get a little snow which thaws over the next day or two. Back East they've been having summer weather. Those who say the climate isn't changing haven't looked out the window lately... but I digress, as usual. On such days, where getting outside isn't an option if one prefers one's ankles unturned or tailbones unbruised, the in-head chatter can build up to critical mass. Thus, the need to vent a few idle thoughts once in a while lest I go even more insane. I'd say I'm clearing my head to enable me to do something useful with the evening, but I suspect you wouldn't fall for that one. I'd also say I'm sparing the regulars on message boards where I lurk and ramble, but they seem to read this anyway. So I'll just say that if you're bored or confused or in any way dismayed about anything I post, it's your own fault for reading what I clearly state at the outset to be a pointless blog, and stop offering excuses.

Shortly into the new year, we bought the complete DVD box set of Monty Python's Flying Circus on DVD for half price (at Half Price Books - go figure...) We've been watching roughly one DVD per evening since then, until at last, tonight, we watched the last DVD with the last episode ever aired of that venerable show. Now, granted, their last year was only half a season and had a certain off-kilter feel to it (which seems hard to credit to just the absense of John Cleese; I have to wonder if simple series burnout had set in, because their movies - those I've seen, at least - were right back on par with the best of the show), and granted the show went off the air a year before I was born, but still there was a certain indefinable sadness in watching the end. It's nothing on the scale of the physical, day-long depression that set in after I read the final book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series, or the tinge of loss when I hear a John Denver tune, or the lingering bittersweet tang of the last moments of the last Sledge Hammer! episode (which I saw when it aired, but still has that feel on DVD.) But it's real, and not altogether different from when a modern show/series ends or jumps the shark (not necessarily in that order, more's the pity.)

Logically, I know it's ridiculous, to mourn a fictional work on the same level as a human being. I know these things all really ended long, long before they entered my myopic field of vision. Even when today's shows or stories get the axe, I know it was all decided on some phone line or in somebody's office long before I, a member of the general uneducated public, get to see the results. I also know it's all, in its own way, a lie. Even so-called reality TV is a lie. You can't really know a person by their on-screen personality, any more than you can really know an author by the words they set down, or a singer by the songs they choose to record. You might know a part of them, the part they want the world to know, but nobody is just the part of them the world knows or history chooses to remember. Some of the world's most moving, hilarious, or beautiful works were enabled or created by people I would probably judge to be, had I met them, complete and utter jerks. But that's the trick of DVDs, or recorded media of any sort (VHS, print, cassettes, film, wax cylinders, 8-tracks.) They simultaneously suspend and distort time. They preserve whatever stories or people happen into them... or whatever pieces of themselves they presented. Cross that with a fannish ability to suspend disbelief to an almost insane degree, and those pieces cohese into something on par with a living thing, strong enough to raise the dead... or at least a version of the dead. Douglas Adams lives - he just told me a story. Graham Chapman isn't gone - I just saw him on my TV. Any show, any book, any movie, any song... exactly as it was, at that moment, at that time, that is all that remains. And it lives, in some way, whenever it is discovered anew.

The depression stems in part from this distortion. It seems, when you read a book or watch a TV show, as if, in some way, all of this was done inside your own home just for your pleasure. You choose to bring these people, these stories, these worlds and ideas into your life, and whenever you click on the player or open the covers, they obligingly perform as they have for countless others in countless corners of the world. Inside your own head these words or sounds or images string themselves together, coming to life again no matter how long it's been since they originally came to be set down on film or disc or paper. They make you laugh, or cry, or think, or not think. For a time, your reality slides away, and theirs takes over. And thus, when the story's over and they've nothing left to tell, and the blankness of the TV screen or speakers or back cover is all that remains, an awkward moment comes. They linger, fading, at the edge of your imagination, and you, their one-person audience, wonder how you offer your thanks to an inanimate device or intangible notion. You can't applaud a memory. You can't shake hands with a piece of plastic. You can't cheer a ghost. I suppose, at the very least, I ought to say goodbye, belated though it may be.

So goodbye, Monty Python, thirty-two years late. Until I reload the DVD player, at least...

[PS - For the curious, I did manage to get to my last job interview despite the snow and ice and generally scuzzy condition of local back roads... on worn-out snow tires with slow leaks. I thought it went okay, but then I thought my last interview went okay. So now I get to wait two to three (or more, to be realistic) weeks for the reply. Hence, my brain running in circles. Hence, these pointless posts about things that probably wouldn't seem half as interesting or important if I had some form of gainful employment. And hence, this long and rambling postscript after a long and rambling blog entry.]

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Quick Post on a Lucky Day

Perhaps my fortunes in 2007 are headed in a better direction already... Last week, I took my Xmas money down to a local art store, where I found a great book and something else I wanted (a sketchbook-sized tabletop sketching easel) for an exceptional price (roughly half off.) Okay, so technically that was still 2006, but only by a couple days. New Year's is an arbritrary date, anyway - many cultures would have us in the new year past the solstice, and others would wait for spring. But I digress (as usual)...

A few days later, in a paper store, I stumbled across a set of grayscale Pitt brush pens. I've only recently tried brush pens, and while I can't say I'm exceptionally proficient with them, I do like what they seem to be capable of. I'm also completely useless at color theory, to the point where I'm more than a little scared of using it. (Ever wonder why most Skyhaven critters are flat flood-fill or basic filter effects? Now you know...) I've read that it's a good idea to work up to color via developing an eye for values first via grayscale. So finding those pens at a good price counts as another encouraging mark in the "Lucky" category... or at least it does if your life is as starved for decent luck as mine tends to be.

Today, on a routine cat litter run to Target (they have the best price on the largest buckets of the stuff, which is a good thing when you have four cats), I wandered past the toy aisles. I do this on occasion, as I like to keep my eyes peeled for any decent dragon or griffinlike figures to add to my collection. It's often slim pickings, especially with my minimal budget and extremely picky tastes on fantastic creatures. Today, I hit the mother lode. I'd known that they were making all sorts of merchandising spin-offs of the popular Dragonology book, but for some reason I'd never encountered it... until today. There, proudly displayed on the end of the aisle, was a veritable cornucopia of dragons. I used a decent chunk of my remaining Xmas money stocking up, though I did restrain myself. I did not, as impulse first dictated, sweep the entire shelf into the cart and run madly for the checkout line. I only purchased one figurine, one wooden assemble-your-own-dragon kit (okay, they only had one kind left, so no points for restraint there), and one blatant marketing gimmick in the form of a precut-to-assemble cardboard dragon with a little booklet. Aside from the last one, a European dragon, the others were Asians. I seem to have good luck with Asian dragons, especially for the past few years. For some reason, I keep running across them in the strangest places: the toy bin, rock & gem shows, the ocean, even in my dreams. My books on animal guides would call this significant. Significant or not, I call it cool.

In any event, later on, I got a phone call. Remember that job I interviewed for almost two months ago? The one I never got the kiss-off note about? Well, there was a reason I never got that note. Somehow, after all this time and after seeing an ad for a very similar slot in the paper (after I interviewed... it doesn't do wonders for your confidence when the unadvertized job you interview for takes out an ad as soon as you walk out the door, I tell ya...), I'm still in the running. I go back in for another interview next week... almost two months to the day after I went out there the first time.

Did the dragons have anything to do with this breakthrough? Is my luck really changing in 2007? I can't say I have the answers to those questions, but I can say one thing. I really, really should've bought that Megamillions ticket today when I had the chance...

Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Post For The New Year

Well, 2006 is finally over and done with. 2007's too young to show its true colors yet, but I'm hoping its intentions are good. (No, this isn't too soon for a year to show you it's going to be cruddy. 2004 started with an ice storm that dropped a huge limb through my sister's car within a week of its arrival.)

With the new year comes New Year's Resolutions. I suppose it's as good a time as any to figure out what you need or don't need in your life and resolve to do something about it. I print out my resolutions and tape them above my computer, so every time I use it (which is more often than I ought to), I have my resolutions glaring at me from behind the monitor. In the final assessment, I hit three out of nine resolutions for 2006, up from about 2 1/2 hit in 2005. In the hopes of a similar ratio this year, I upped the ante to 12 resolutions. To give myself some accountability, and to waste more blog space, I'll list them here.

1. Attain a source of income. This one's a no-brainer, but it has, unfortunately, topped my resolution list for two years running...
2. Write, draw, and create more. Another no-brainer, and another carryover from last year. I actually succeeded to a degree last year, finishing one draft of a novel-sized story and filling almost three sketchbooks (up from one a year previously.)
3. Spend at least one hour daily creating. Okay, so it's a bit redundant after the previous one... I could use all the motivation I can get... this is at least a concrete goal.
4. Offer at least one item I have created for sale. People keep telling me I could take commissions to sell custom ornaments. If I can get myself to the point where I can produce a more consistent product, as opposed to a poorly-planned, half-improvised monstrosity, I was thinking of actually giving it a go. I also had vague plans of using Skyhaven critter templates to create marketable merchandise.
5. Submit at least one story for a publication or contest. A perennial favorite on my resolution lists... if I can stick to Resolutions 2 and 3, maybe I can get a small batch of market-worthy stories together.
6. Post at least one work (art or story) a month on the internet for public viewing. My blog doesn't count in this, unfortunately, as I don't think the public tends to view it.
7. Organize and clean my space. It's not much, but it's all I can control at this point, so I really ought to keep it tidy. The trick is keeping other people's junk from encroaching on mine.
8. Create and share at least one Flash game or animation. I have some decidedly dangerous ideas about this, but actually installing and using Flash would have to be the first step.
9. Update sites. I did the Realm overhaul last year, but I have a lot more I want to accomplish. Dreamspire Castle's exceedingly stagnant, for one thing. This includes the Skyhaven overhaul I've been wanting to do for some time, and adding better graphics to Brightdreamer Books. (Promoting Brightdreamer Books in some manner is a subset of this...)
10. Update or add at least five Skyhaven critters. Self-explanatory, especially if you've visited Skyhaven...
11. Walk at least three times a week. Because I'm a lazy lump, and I tend to think better when I get out and exercise more.
12. Restart my budget and learn about investing. I shuffled what remains of my Life Or Death fund (once laughably referred to as my college fund) at the tail end of 2006, but I need to make some of that minimal money work for me, especially if my first resolution's a no-go again this year.

I suppose I really ought to get to work on making some of these happen. Hopefully, 2007 will help me out, or at least not hinder me in any horrific manner.