28 August 2004

Alas (or At Last), More Fey

Once again, I cut it close, but this time it was because I was busy having roast beef dinner at Mum's. Mmm . . . cow . . . Oddly appropriate for the brand new page 15, actually. Lots of text on this one (less than was on the original, so I could make it fit in the balloons, though).

24 August 2004

Make Mine Manga (and one that isn't)

Standing in front of the huge display of manga at the comics shop the other week, I kept thinking "there's so many!" So many volumes of series I've started (32 volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub, I think; 17 and counting of InuYasha). But especially so many different series that sound good. And so many different genres. I remember a time before there was much manga in the shops, when I felt that same sense of being overwhelmed by choice. That was also before "mainstream" equaled "superhero" in comic shops. That would've been in the early 90s, probably. Sigh. It's not that there aren't any western comics that I want to read anymore, it's just that most of them don't shop up in the stores. Or it costs too much to buy individual issues, so I wait for collected editions. And then those don't show up in the stores. I gotta say, though, it's really nice to have girls in my way when I'm looking at comics, instead of middle-aged men (and yes, I am generalizing, but it wasn't so long ago that I got stared at for venturing into comic stores). 'Course, now I also have teenaged boys buying Magic cards in my way when I'm trying to pay.

  1. InuYasha volume 4 by Rumiko Takahashi. It's interesting how closely the anime follows the manga. And it's even more interesting to see what gets changed. But I'd better hurry up with this series--I just picked up volume 15 cheap on eBay.
  2. Nausicaa of the valley of the Wind volume 2 by Hayao Miyazaki. Just go read this.
  3. Planetes volume 1 by Makoto Yukimura. I decided to try a couple of new series recently, and this is one of them. It's got a science-fiction setting--the main characters are space-junk collectors (glorified garbage collectors, really), whose job it is to keep the spaceways clean of potentially dangerous bits of old satellites and such. The story (or stories; it's a little episodic, though with an underlying larger story) is about people, though, coping with the things people have always coped with (plus some new things introduced by space travel). The art's good, though there was one point where two of the characters suddenly switched haircolours. It threw me off, but the drawing was good enough that I noticed right away ("wait a minute, didn't he used to be blond? And didn't that guy have dark hair?").
  4. Bone: The Dragonslayer (Bone volume 4) by Jeff Smith. What? It's not manga? Nope, it's Bone, one of the best all-ages comics out there. Or one of the best fantasy comics. Take your pick. I'd only read volume one, but this one seems to be starting a new story arc (well, sort of, Bone is really one big story arc) so I wasn't too lost. I am getting the library to get me volumes 2 and 3 from other branches, though. There's comedy, human drama, scheming, love, evil, and stupid, stupid rat creatures. And the whole series has just come out in one giant volume (over 1000 pages, I hear). I'll be looking for that.
  5. Crescent Moon volume 1 by Haruko Iida. This is the second of the new manga series I decided to try recently. One reason it intrigued me was that there's a werewolf in it, and werewolves aren't very common in manga (as opposed to, say, demons or vampires or angels or fairies). I'm a sucker for werewolves anyway. The story was a bit, er, opaque to begin with, but as the story goes on, I've been sorting it out. There's a fair bit of standard fantasy fare here, but there's also an intriguing romance-from-long-ago that started many of the current events, and may have interesting effects in the future. I have to see if my hunch is right. The art in this book varies--occasionally it seems amateurish, occasionally too cute--but mostly it's very, very beautiful.
  6. InuYasha volume 5 by Rumiko Takahashi. Please more dog-boy demons. Especially ones with pretty big brothers (did I ever mention I have a weakness for pretty boys?).

So now it's back to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I've read the comics part of volume 2, but I've slowed down with the text-only part. It's great stuff, just very dense.

Strange Animals: Fiction

I've been meaning to read more Terry Pratchett since my friend-from-grad-school Julia first gave me copies of a few of his Discworld books. They're very funny.

  1. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. Intelligent rats. An intelligent cat. A stupid-looking boy. The niece of two famous storytellers. A pied-piper scheme. Something Very Wrong. Er . . . I think this was building up to something. Anyway, those are things that are in this book, plus lots of very funny writing. Everyone should read this. Even if they hate fantasy. Even if they think no fantasy can ever be better than Harry Potter (maybe especially then). I was going to tell my nephew to read it, but then I though my recommendation might make him NOT read it. You can never tell with teenagers.

Now that copy of All Tomorrow's Parties waits.

Strange Animals: Non-Fiction

My non-comics reading really does seem to be slowing down now. I suspect it's because I haven't been getting such huge stacks from the library, so there's less pressure. But if I'm going to skip town in a year to go back to school, I'll need to start thinning out the books now, which means reading and reading and reading to figure out which of the as-yet-unread books are worth keeping (and I'm one of those people who likes to have a lot of as-yet-unread books around; I'll read them all eventually, by which time I'll have lots of new ones I haven't read yet . . .).

  1. Platypus by Ann Moyal. This was on the new acquisitions shelf in the library. It's just the sort of combination of science and history that I've really been enjoying lately (look back at earlier posts and you'll find quite a few of them). Plus, platypuses are just so bizarre. I learned a lot, too, which is always nice; not just about playpuses in particular, but also about mammals in general, and taxonomy, and the early history of evolutionary theory. The writing was not the sort that makes you think"wow, what an amazingly written book." Instead, it was the sort that is entirely unobtrusive and creates no barriers between the reader and the material.

I will get to those books on my shelves. I will. Just as soon as I finish the three--or is it four--most recent ones from the library.

22 August 2004

More Fun With Names

My japanese name is Yoshikuni (good fortune country) Emi (blessed with beauty).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Niko Makes Cool Stuff

I just finished my second customization project for 1/6 scale (12") action figures. I made a wee little hakama ("samurai pants") and gi/short komono for big martial arts action. Or something. It's the first project like this I'd actually want anyone to see (you can see pics here and here temporarily--I've listed them on eBay--but I'll make some sort of page on my website soon). Now I just need to figure out how to make a 1/6 scale shinai (bamboo practice sword) and yumi (Japanese asymmetrical longbow). Hmmm . . .

20 August 2004

Fey page 14

I'm not sure why the lettering looks slightly crappier than usual; I'm pretty sure I did it exactly the same way. Oh well. Here it is.

19 August 2004

New Name

So I finally changed the name of my blog. I've been meaning to do it for a while, and never really liked the old one (Niko Blathers On . . .) in the first place. I wanted something that better reflected by bizarre conviction that archaeology, folklore, writing and visual arts ("which one of these things is not like the others?") are all part of the same impulse. Well, they are for me, anyway. It's all about stories.


Some of the other possibilities I was considering were:

  • Breath, Blood, Ink
  • Old Ink, New Lines
  • Writing Pictures, Drawing Words
  • A Picture and a Thousand Words

It's probably apparent why some of them didn't make it. I was really trying to find something that somehow suggested all four of my storytelling aspects. Writing and drawing were the easiest. I thought perhaps folklore and archaeology could be suggested by age. I don't think the title I chose necessarily has all those things in it, but it's more personal. I don't expect I'll change it again. Not soon, anyway.

Categorizing Comics

It just occurred to me that eBay lists comics under "Collectibles" rather than under "Books." In fact, when I was first searching for graphic novels/collections, I kept wanting to search in "books." I mean, comics are things to read. Those people who seal them in mylar bags and never read them for fear of getting a fingerprint on the cover or a wrinkle in a page are just weird. Which isn't to say I treat my books badly. I'm actually known as being rather anal about books, and I don't let people borrow mine unless I know I'll get them back in the same condition they left the house. I chide people for putting paperbacks down pages-down and open (cracks the spine). I've been known to pointedly offer bookmarks. Sometimes I ask people if their hands are clean before handing them a volume (sometimes also pointedly). But comics aren't collectibles. Not in my house. They're books. (And that whole comics-as-collectibles mindset almost destroyed the industry not so long ago, anyway.)

18 August 2004

16 August 2004

What's Your Cyborg Name?

N.I.K.O.: Networked Intelligent Killing Organism


N.I.C.O.: Networked Individual Calibrated for Observation


The Cyborg Name Generator (via Pen-Elayne)

14 August 2004

Nerdier Than Thou

Rowena figures she's a nerd for making plans with her sister to go out and watch the Perseid meteor shower Wednesday night. So how much nerdier am I for getting up at 2 am both Wednesday and Thursday to catch the shower at it's peak? (Actually, on Thursday night it was wake up at 2am, immediately fall back to sleep, and get up an hour and a quarter later and then forget my glasses so the stars are all slightly fuzzy.) Even without the meteors, it was glorious star watching from where I live out in the almost-boonies. The moon didn't come up until later in the morning, and even then it was a skinny little crescent. There were no clouds. It was daaark and the sky looked huge, even though we're surrounded by trees on the side of our mountain. I didn't used to be able to see the Milky Way when we lived in the suburbs. Now I see it every clear night. Yes, Rowena, meteors are cool (and so are stars, and planets, and satelites, and skinny little crescent moons cupping the dimly earth-lit dark moon next to an absurdly bright Venus at 5 in the morning when the dog really, really needs to poop).

Cutting It Close

Well, it's still Friday, if just barely. And here's page 13 of Fey (and I didn't forget the page number this time).

12 August 2004

(not much) Fiction Reading

Well, I didn't last long only reading books off my own shelves.

  1. Face Down Upon an Herbal by Kathy Lynn Emerson. This book I kept seeing every time I went looking for more Gideon Oliver books by Aaron Elkins. The title kept catching my eye, so I finally signed it out. It was okay. Pretty good, even. I liked that the author managed to create believable strong female characters in Elizabethan England. The herb detail was pretty cool, too. There was one thing that bothered me right in the early chapters though. The author made the first murder into a scene, in which the murderer is referred to as "the one he was waiting for" or "the one he'd come to meet" or something like that. Talk about witholding information. I hate that! Plus, I didn't think there was anything in that scene that couldn't have very easily been worked in elsewhere (except the author thumbing their nose at the reader and saying nyah nyah, I know who the culprit is an you only get to see a hazy silhouette and hear an electronically altered voice until the end). Um. Anyway, it was irritating and marred the story much more than one annoying scene should have. To be fair, the rest of the book was pretty good, and I'll probably read more about these characters if I happen across any books at the library.

One more library novel, then it'll probably be William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties. I'm in that sort of mood.

(a little) Non-fiction Reading

When I look at that long list of comics I just wrote, I'm kind of embarrassed that my other reading has become so sparse. Mind you, half of the books in that list were read while I was reading the fiction/non-fiction in my last updates, since I updated those lists much more recently.

  1. Anime by Susan J. Napier. Er, yes. When I'm not indulging in my obsessions, I like to read about them. Thus I read books about books, books about the various things I collect, and books about . . . anime. This is an interesting look at some of the aspects of anime, including the depiction of the body (both in pornographic anime and in horror and SF anime), the role of women, the "elegiac" mode, and a bunch of other stuff. Those who can't stand scholarly writing won't want to read this, as it's definitely scholarly (will you think I'm weird if I admit that I like reading academic books, so long as they're about topics I'm interested in?) Anyway, there's lots of material to make one's brain function in here, plus I discovered some new moives I'll have to look for (and some I'll definitely avoid).

So I did go to the library, but I only got one non-fiction this time. Then it's back to those books on my shelf. I've got a great-looking one on handlettering, one on the evolution of birds, one on spaceflight, one on invasive species . . .

(a lot of) Sequential Art Reading

My graphic novel reading, on the other hand, has not slowed down at all. Woo hoo! Bring it on! More manga! More comics! More sequential art! ('kay, I need to make a trip to the comic shop.)
  1. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. A well-depicted story of teenage life, basically. Actually, the characters reminded me quite a lot of people I knew (and maybe myself, a little, if I'd been bolder). Solid art, solid story, though neither really blew me away (I think that's getting harder to do). Oh yeah, and it got made into a movie (which I have not seen).
  2. Neon Genesis Evangelion volume 3 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. I have the sneaking suspicion that this series is more than four volumes, and the library only has the first four. Grrr.
  3. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind volume 1 by Hayao Miyazaki. Holy crap! This is another one of those books I've been meaning to read for ages. And wow! There is good reason this is a well-loved classic. It's a gorgeous story with gorgeous art (both to be expected, I suppose, from the person who brought the world Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro (among other wonderful animated films). I already know this will be one of those books I'll treasure and re-read regularly (like a pilgimage, only without the long journey, deprivation and climbing mountains on one's knees). Erm. Anyway, it's fantasy at heart, I think, though it has a post-apocalyptic setting and science fiction elements. There are strong mythic undercurrents, too. It's been printed in sepia-coloured ink, rather than black, which really suits the feel of the book, and the publishers left in the Japanese sound effects--instead of translating them on the page, there's a glossary at the back. It makes for somewhat awkward reading, but it works really well visually (a lot of manga use sound effects that are as effective visually as the are "aurally"). Anyway, this is an absolute must read. So say I. Yup.
  4. Maison Ikkoku volume 1 by Rumiko Takahashi. Before she created the delightful InuYasha, Takahashi did a bunch of other stuff, including this story of the inhabitants of a boarding house. There's a lot of slapstick and other silly humour, but it's balanced with more serious relationship elements, making it a satisfying read. The art is a little cruder that Takahashi's more recent stuff, but still competent and occasionally very very good.
  5. Legend of Chun Hyang by CLAMP. More CLAMP! It seems like every time I do a run-down of my latest graphic novel reading, there's at least one title by CLAMP. Anyway, this is a fun re-write of a Chinese legend about a woman and her true love. CLAMP's version has lots of kick-ass martial arts and magic thrown in for a delicious blend of myth and make-believe. Plus, it's got a dragon. A really beautiful dragon.
  6. Parasyte volume 6 by Hitosi Iwaaki.
  7. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This was the book everyone (including non-comics people) was talking about . . . last year? The year before? Anyway, it created quite a stir, being the autobiographical story of a teenager growing up in Iran. The art is simple and elegant, and the characters are well-depicted. Lots of people compared this to Maus (inevitable given the subject matter). I have to admit that I was reminded of Maus, too. Both the art and the writing of the two books created a similar emotional response for me. Both books are excellent examples of the things comics can do with non-fiction and biography/autobiography. Read this if you're interested in world politics, even if you don't like comics.
  8. Palestine by Joe Sacco. More comics for the politically conscious (which I'm not, really, or not as much as I should be, but if I keep reading books like this maybe I soon will be). This one's also autobiographical, and is about Sacco's trip to the Gaza strip. The art is quite cartoony, but also very detailed, and really captured the character of the different people. Definitely something for those people who think comics must be kids' stories about overmuscled men in spandex to read (what a ghastly sentence!). And it's even got an introduction by Edward Said.
  9. xxxHolic volume 2 by CLAMP. More CLAMP! Ghost stories! Beautiful art! Yay!
  10. Lone Wolf & Cub volume 2 by Kazuo Koike. I like the way this series is structured as short stories. I do hope an underlying narrative thread will emerge, though. I think I may have detected one, but I'll have to read more volumes (and there are a lot more to go).
  11. Electric Girl volume 2 by Michael Brennan. Here's another case of reading volume 2 before volume 1. I'd have requested volume 1, but the library doesn't actually seem to own a copy. Luckily, this book is lots of short pieces, not necessarily in chronological order, so I didn't feel too adrift by starting partway through. I expect there may have been more depth to the stories if I had begun at the beginning, but oh well. This is the kind of book I'd give my niece to read (after enjoying a whole lot myself) (except I forgot to ask her if she wanted to read it before I took it back to the library). It's about a girl with some kind of electical powers and her meddling gremlin friend who only she can see. She gets into and out of trouble, saves a few lives and such. Nice, simple art and nice, simple stories make for a nice, enjoyable read. (Yes, I said "nice" way too many times. It's a character flaw.)
  12. Neon Genesis Evangelion volume 4 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. Well, I've read all the volumes the libary has, and the story shows no signs of having finished. In fact, a new character was introduced (wait, no, TWO new characters were introduced). I may actually have to track down my own copies of the rest of this series so I can find out what happens. eBay, here I come (eek! that can be dangerous).
  13. Parasyte volume 7 by Hitosi Iwaaki. I think someone else is requesting these from the library just before I do. Interesting . . .

Not exactly comics, but I recently watched the first five episodes of Witch Hunter Robin (anime, my other addiction). It didn't affect me as strongly as Wolf's Rain did, but it was still a really good story that seems to be hinting and deeper and darker things to come. Time to go search out volume two with the next five episodes . . .

Edit: Just noticed I reached exactly 50. So now lets see how many I can read by the end of the year (anyone wanna place bets?).

06 August 2004

Fey page 12

Get to know Megan a little better here on page 12.

Edit: Forgot the page number again!! Argh. I'll fix it later.

04 August 2004

A Disease of My Own

Doctor Unheimlich has diagnosed me with
Niko Silvester's Disorder
Cause:thinking too hard
Symptoms:red ears, hot flushes, occasional froglike eyes
Cure:psychiatry
Enter your name, for your own diagnosis:

Non-Fiction Reading

While I've slowed a little with fiction, I seem to have slowed even more with non-fiction But that's okay; I was pushing pretty hard. But, hey, reading is one of the things I'm really good at.
  1. The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. I've been meaning to read this for ages. Its thesis is that writing, and alphabetic writing in particular, gradually lead to the separation of the human and natural worlds. We are somehow fundamentally disconnected from nature because of spelling. I don't know enough about the development of writing or of phenomenology (on which this book is grounded) to say whether or not Abram's arguments work. I did run into the odd thing I disagreed with, but they were mostly minor. Regardless of whether or not I was convinced (I reserve judgement), this was a beautifully-written book despite being very academic in places (many places). It also makes an interesting companion read to The Alphabet Effect. Though the two books don't really say the same thing, and they definitely don't use the same sort of reasoning, they do have a certain amount of overlap.

As with fiction, I'll be turning to my own shelves for reading for a while (not that I'm abandoning the library -- they still have quite a few graphic novels, and even some interesting DVDs).

Fiction Reading

It looks like my reading has finally slowed down a bit. Probably because I've finished all my library books (except one graphic novel I just got recently). Course there are all those books I own waiting to be read. Those will be next, if I can only decide where to start.
  1. The Samurai by Shusaku Endo. Now what had I written about this? It's one I found while wandering the stacks pulling interesting-looking volumes off the shelf. It's a loosely-based-on-a-true-story tale of a samurai sent as an envoy to South America and Spain to arrange possible trade during the early years of Christian missionary work in Japan. It has all kinds of interesting cultural detail about Japan and Spain, and it was fascinating to see the west through the eyes of a complete outsider. It seemed rather like Lone Wolf and Cub in some ways, and not just because they both have samurai, and even though the latter is manga and therefore mostly visual. They both seemed to evoke the same emotional responses (in some parts).
  2. Fables of the Irish Intelligentsia by Nina FitzPatrick. Another randomly browsing the stacks pick. About all I can say is that it was supposed to be contemporary Irish fiction, and it was. In other words, it was good enough, but not particularly memorable. There were interesting characters, but none that really grabbed me. Good cover, though.
  3. Sherwood edited by Jane Yolen. This is an anthology of YA stories about Robin Hood (betcha never would have guessed from the title). As I'd expect from any Jane Yolen-edited book -- (oops, there goes Netscape again; good thing I decided to type this in NotePad first -- it's a lovely bunch of stories. They range from pretty good to really, really good, and from funny to serious. I do like YA fiction. More grown-ups should read it. I think many would enjoy it.
  4. City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer. This is the other book I was reading at the same time (not exactly, but sort of) as Rats and Gargoyles. Basically, I had to start a new book for basic reading pleasure while working on decrypting one of the stories in City. Yes, decrypting. It totally suited the story, too. And, even though I had to resort to the Internet to get the last few words (five or six, I think), it was much more satisfying a story when forced to turn it from strings of numbers into words that made sense before really reading it. The rest of the book is a collection of faux travel guides, glossaries and stories dealing with VanderMeer's fictional city of Ambergris and its environs. It makes for a rich, baroque read that is not to be taken lightly, but which is all the more satisfying for it. Perhaps it wasn't so wise to pair it with Rats and Gargoyles, which was itself rather lush and dense, but in the end I think they complemented one another interestingly. If you're at all jaded with the fantasy genre (and even if you're not), this is something to have a look at. I'll be searching out more of VanderMeer's stuff for sure.
  5. A Death in the Venetian Quarter by Alan Gordon. Ah, and after a heavy meal, something light and fluffy. If a murder mystery set during the fourth crusade can be called either light or fluffy . . . But the main characters are Fools. Jesters (plus a few troubadours). Still, Gordon's fiction is quick to read and not too taxing on the brain. Just the thing.
Okay, I was wrong in my last post, I had five books to write about, not three. Oh well.

Stupid, Stupid Technology

I don't know if it's Netscape or Windows, but several times today, Netscape has suddenly shut down for no apparent reason, and with no warning. Most recently was a moment ago, just as I was started my blurb about the second of three books I was going to post about. Urg. It's done this before, but not usually multiple times on the same day. So I will try again . . .