Running. Bowing. Drawing.
It’s my christmas gift to myself… three and a half years in the making.
Readers may recall that in August 2014 we took a family vacation to Iceland and while there took about a million photos, ate a bunch of wonderful food and bought a bunch of Icelandic sheeps’ wool, commonly referred to as lopi.
In the post linked above, I wrote:
“I don’t tend to brag it up a lot because our culture has this thing about the masculinity of guys who can do arts-and-crafty things. But taking after my late grandfather, I learned to knit when I was a kid and can purl with the practised adequacy of a thirty-something middle-class dude who learned to knit when he was seven…. In other words, just so-so. But still, I can knit well enough for me to buy three skeins of orange-hued Icelandic wool, all of which I will be attempting (in the coming months) to craft into a very basic scarf. Very. Basic.”
Skills, guys. Don’t let anyone tell you that making anything yourself isn’t worthwhile. I built a deck. I did my own flooring. I’ve tweaked my home electrical. And I can also knit myself an epic scarf if I choose to…
But, I digress.
Months turned into a year. A year turned into multiple years. And while I would slowly pick away at the scarf project (usually in the winter when it was cold enough to want a partially knit heavy wool scarf on my lap) it was much slower going than I had originally anticipated. Sometimes it would just sit on a shelf for months and months, and I might unroll the progress and add a few iterations of the pattern before forgetting about it for a while. Other times I would devotedly add to the length a few rows each night for a week or two. Progress, but plodding.
Iceland, and the vacation of years past, faded into a memory.
Then about a week ago I decided that with only a few dozen repeats left on my pattern, I should probably finish the darn thing. No. In fact, I declared I would cross this project off my to do list before the year was through. I would wear my orange scarf to the annual new years fireworks, come hell or high water. So, in lieu of staring blankly at the television each night, I’ve been (ahem) knitting my scarf.
Alas, it is complete. Six feet of burnt orange, hand-knit, Icelandic wool warmth ready for a crisp Canadian winter.
Many of the people who read this blog also read my web comic, This is Pi Day.
With any project that starts to blossom into a life of it’s own, an a guy tends to spend a bit of time contemplating where you might take it to bring it up to a new level. Do you expand to reach for new audience? Or do you plug away at something that seems to be working and hope for incremental exposure? Do you hit deep for something completely left field? Or do you try for an easier on base run. (Sports metaphors have never really been my thing.)
Well, don’t quite set your PVRs quite yet, but I was inspired to try my hand at some basic animation:
Obviously, a running animation.
I think the next step might be to try creating a short video, say 10 seconds, using some very basic animation techniques. That sounds pretty pathetic, but 10 seconds of fully animated video would amount to 240 individual drawings… whereas this little running animation is 12 frames on a loop, and only the legs are animated.
So more. Lots more work.
There are shortcuts, of course, but that’s biting off a big chunk of work.
Or… this might just be a puff of smoke in the wind. Again… do you focus on the steady, incremental build, or do you aim for the stars?
It just so happens, if you haven’t been paying that close of attention, that I took November off from more than just my zealous podcast consumption. I also took a one-month planned hiatus from my little webcomic project, This is Pi Day.
Obviously, since November is now part of that ephemeral experience we collaboratively think of as “the past” I’m back to posting weekly dad comics. Like today. And definitely for three weeks following today… because I’ve already drawn, uploaded and scheduled those. After that…? Well, just hope I find back a bit more free time in my life.
Since I’ve taken my ball and gone home on the social media front, and SINCE I need to write a daily blog post here, I’ll be doing a lot cross-posting.
For example, Un-touchable is today’s comic and I wrote about this particular strip: I’ve been introducing the kid to my nostalgia. Old TV shows (she apparently loves Red Dwarf), classic music (which for me is Def Leppard and The Tragically Hip) and of course all my video gaming favourites… which apparently are not quite at the same standard and can’t quite compete with an iPad or the Nintendo Switcheroo. Who would have guessed?
Check out Un-touchable at www.piday.ca
I posted this on Facebook about a week ago. I didn’t want it to get slurped into the long-lost archives of that site, so I thought I would copy it over to here. Plus… some of you are still not on Facebook. Lucky you… stay strong.
I’ve now officially been asked “why” by three people, so I’m sure more of you are wondering but afraid to ask.
LONG read ahead…
Yeah, I’ve been posting comics online for the last couple months (and I’ve got new art in the hopper for at least the next two so hold on tight!) It’s me. I drew them. I wrote them. I’m doing my best to be a promoter for the work itself. It’s rough, sometimes stylistically, but I’m aiming for ‘modestly good’ … not amazing or publishable. If you know me, you also know I’ve always had a bit of a creative streak that has manifested itself in various forms over the last 40 years. So, drawing a comic is not entirely unusual I guess. But this time there was a couple motivating factors.
First, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the delicate balancing act between parental oversharing and the drive to post stuff about my kid. Claire is very much my unseen collaborator on all these comics (she “approves” them.) While they are quasi-anecdotal, they are just a cartoon, I think it’s letting me post about dad-stuff while keeping the real life family photos, stories, and drama hidden behind a layer of semi-anonymous artistic licence.
Second, you’ve probably not been paying attention to the philosophical changes happening in our local municipal government (even if you live in my city) but I’m smack dab in the middle of some very positive (if ploddingly slow) changes happening in how the City communicates with people who live and work here. Part of this has has taken the form of the filling of upper management with some different sorts of thinkers, people with creative and people-focused backgrounds, all around a strong community-building focus. These folks are my bosses and now, oddly enough, I’m finding myself a bit of an old-school little-fish in whole different ocean. Rather than bluff my way through it, this little web comic endeavor has been a bit of a evening-work, professional skills-honing project to legitimately round out the obvious gaps in my resume with some skills that include the appropriate buzzwords like “social marketing” and “interactive digital media” and “independently creative.” I don’t want to bunk my way through it, and with another solid 25 years left in my career (hopefully) part of me felt the need to do something that was both interesting to me and professionally useful for my job now and in the future. As unlikely as it seems from an outsider perspective, from my vantage drawing a web comic was a bit of a perfect fit. Thus… lots of comics, lots of shouting from the rafters, and lots of throwing stuff against the metaphorical wall to see what sticks.
Thanks for the awesome support so far, stay tuned, and I hope you’re enjoying it… because the third and BIGGEST reason I’ve been drawing this is that I wanted to make something fun, positive, and hopefully a little bit different … and then use it to fill up your feeds with something besides the angry, politicized, divisive drivel that seems to fill up mine. That is all I have to say about that.
Like. Share and enjoy! Peace and pie for everyone!
I’ll go a little more meta on this blog…
If you’ve been following my web comic effort over the last couple months you may have noticed I’ve been hitting the promotional effort quite strongly. Thing is, this little “goofing around on a boring weekend” project has escalated into something that has some leg. The legs are small and weak and barely pulling along the wee body mass of the corpus-proper, but there are legs.
So it now seems like I’ve jumped in with both my legs and decided to see how far I can push this thing until it runs out of steam. For example:
I’ve actually punched out a proper logo.
I’ve set up a few additional social media channels to cross-promote.
And since I had the art work sitting around in HiDef-ready format anyhow, I’ve been using the simple YouTube video online editor and some in-built audio clips to chop out very simple video versions of the comic strips.
You can check out the video version of one of my most popular strips (based on page views and retweets, etc)…
Or, number 007, which is one Claire simultaneously loves and hates because NOW… now… she says that they’re not called unicorn pancakes anymore, so… dad… WTF(udge)?
To top it all off, I’ve created enough strips and scheduled enough stuff that I could officially go on a vacation until October and this thing would just quietly post away until virtually Halloween. That’s a cozy place to be sitting… and it really only giving me more time to flex my promotional creativity.
Now I almost feel like the next milestone is to make it –actually, chronologically– until Pi Day 2018. Imagine that?
If you haven’t been paying attention, a lot of MY attention has been diverted into a new summer project.
(How long it lasts after that will depends on how much the equation of PUBLIC INTEREST over EXERTED EFFORT tallies to a number larger than zero, but I digress.)
I have officially created sixteen “This is Pi Day” comics and released seven — six full strips and one bonus panel. I’ve started a few social media feeds, the most successful by far being an Instagram account which spawned over a hundred followers inside of a week and is growing so quick I had to disable notifications because the random-but-frequent buzz on my smartwatch was starting to trigger a kind of subtle reverse shock therapy.
I have strips (current) scheduled all the way through mid-August on my central website www.piday.ca which you should totally visit frequently and bookmark so that you can view it as any loyal fan should.
Now I figure if I can crank out one post a week for the next few months I should be able to keep this thing alive for a good long while. So… stay tuned…?
I flatter myself whenever I say aloud or even write it down that I can program a computer. To a master chef I would be the home cook who makes terrific grilled cheese. To a race car mechanic I would be the guy who can swap out his own winter tires in the spring. And to an elite coder the quality of those comparisons also hold true. In particular to my benchmark of the greatness of skill and finesse of control over the manipulation of information, the elegance of well-implemented machine instruction to which I can only aspire, a benchmark that comes in the form of my long time acquaintance Pitter.
To be fair, I know many people who program professionally. My circle of family, friends, and work connections is populated by a repertoire of social connections that could form a worthy foundation of a who’s who of the local digital services and business software scene. Many of them have found lucrative and successful careers in the digital salt mines of media design or enterprise software management or custom app development. They write their code, refine their user interfaces, submit their project reports and go home each night to play games or ride bikes or drink beers. Yet no one else I know but Pitter so thoroughly embraces the art of coding software on his own time after the business of the same is done each day.
The connection between Pitter and I would not be anything but a fragment of long lost memory if not for the conjunction of three otherwise random events.
In University, to fulfill a science credit requirement and despite having my first degree in that realm, I enrolled in a series of introductory programming courses. I learned the foundations of programming languages in a basement computer lab surrounded by future dot-com millionaires probing the nuances of ordered variable lists and matrix array manipulation with a Java compiler. The course instructor would never have deigned to show his face in that dimly lit lab, so instead he hired a small cadre of graduate students as teaching assistants. My first conjunction with Pitter was through his role supervising the computer lab during the hours when I found time to do my work there. In the beginning I was nothing more than another clueless introductory student struggling with foundational problems that Pitter had long since mastered. He would do his best to hide his contempt of the inequity of our skills as he walked me and others through a coding problem, walked us just far enough to see the solution on the far side of our efforts and then continue on alone while he went back to his own personal projects.
My second conjunction with Pitter occurred because –despite his genius– he was not immune from the academic bureaucracy that entangles the work of obtaining a Masters degree. He was required to complete a minimum quantity of credits fixed firmly within the realm of the arts faculty, and had chosen to take a course on children’s literature. By coincidence, it was in fact the same course in which I was enrolled.
For three hours per week we were peers studying the latent metaphors of classical fairy tales and unraveling the complex dynamics of the literary relationships between anthropomorphic animals.
Yet this would have still been insufficient for any meaningful connection, and I would not so much as remember Pitter to this day if it weren’t for my own vulnerability: money. I had little. And so it was that in my later University years I took a part time job on campus at the arts library, scuttling on my bum through the stacks three nights a week re-shelving books and scanning the spines for sorting errors for a few cents more than minimum wage.
On the third floor, among the thousands of indecipherable books on the topics of critical literary analysis was where I had happened to be work one quiet evening and where Pitter recognized me — from class, from lab, from around. He humbled himself, admitted with a reverent frustration that he was struggling with our mutual children’s literature class, and implied that he was desperately seeking a study partner.
Twenty years later Pitter would fairly and bluntly acknowledge that this faint connection tracing back to that one moment in the library and then the subsequent weeks of cooperative tutelage, that this connection is still strong, but that it is a relationship of little more than it has always been: one of managed, mutual utility. I am his wordsmith, the person to whom he will forever reach out and beg a paragraph of text or a grammatical spot check. In exchange Pitter is my coder, the trusted elite hacker who I happen to know, the master chef software developer, the race car mechanic programmer, the guy to whom I will send a bit of complex query string or twisted php to pass through his skilled filter, returned to me a few days later so vastly improved and yet with a lack of judgement reserved for virtually no one else.
Posting a graph like this probably puts me in the “asshole” zone.
But so be it…
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about politics lately — we all have, I think — and I’ve been trying to sort out in my own head what bugs me about the state of discourse online these days. And while I could write a whole rant about the bane of internet trolls and the various perceptions of what it means to be a good person in twenty-first century society, I’d rather just do it this way.
None of us are perfect. What makes us good is what we do, how we do it, and the degree to which it affects others. Which is worse: A bad parent or a corrupt politician? Who does more good in doing their job well: a civil servant or farmer? It’s a qualitative judgement with loosely quantifiable factors.
See, we all know what it means to be a good person, but sometimes how our behaviors rank doesn’t quite become clear until we map them out. For example, in Fig. 1 above note that my assholery in drawing and publishing this chart fits somewhere on the scale of taking a medium sized group (say, the readership of this blog) and pushing them down (say, by implying that our behaviors are not as perfect as we think they are!)
I should really know better.
What this all means is that while you can probably figure out if the things you say or do (or write) make you a good (or bad) person, and while you can probably do this on your own, it’s real simple to forget that all of this lays on a basic spectrum of behavior.
Question 1: Is your behaviour or interaction lifting someone up or pushing them down?
Question 2: How many people is your behaviour or interaction affecting?
Alternatively, figure out where you want to live on a chart like this one and behave the way that can make it happen. You can shout and scream all you want that life doesn’t treat you fairly, and you’re right: life isn’t. But you are and forever will be judged by how you treat life (and all the people in it) in return.