Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Comic Review: Koko Be Good

Abe and I found Koko Be Good by Jen Wang at Stumptown Comic Fest 2011. Jen was sharing a booth with the creator of Anya's Ghost, which also looks good but she didn't have it for sale yet. We also got the most beautiful blue poster of a couple wearing deer skin and mushrooms (not wearing the mushrooms). It is a lovely picture. Jen's art is really beautiful. The cover of Koko Be Good is what pulled us in. Jen even signed it for Abe. I read it while I was on vacation with my mom a few months ago. Oddly enough, there was a review in The Bloomsbury Review that week.

Art: 4 stars
Just as the art and the poster promised, the art is beautiful. It looks like she is inspired a bit by manga. While that is not always my cup of tea, I think she made use of some of the techniques like the small star people for the scenes of extreme or powerful emotion. I think it worked but if you are not used to that style, if can be off putting. She also has a tendency to color people with lightly red noses, which I find to be one of the most endearing things you can do in art.

Story: 4 stars
The story is a slice of life style. It follows a conservative follower guy who seems a bit lost with life and a weird girl who is bursting with so much confidence and bravado she doesn't know what to do with it all. She doesn't know what each day will bring and he is following his older girlfriend as she works towards her dreams. The two randomly meet and become friends. Over the course of their friendship together, they learn a lot about how to live life and temper each other's personalities so they are not debilitating single minded; he learns that he counts and she learns other people do, too. There is a really sad secondary story, too. Their speech flows naturally. Sometimes it is a bit over the top for Koko, but it seemed appropriate for her.

Overall: 4 stars
I would definitely recommend Koko Be Good. It is such a sweet story with sad tones and that really is one of my favorite types of story. However, Abe was not such a big fan because nothing really happens. I can understand why he felt that way, but I like stories like that. That might explain my fondness for mini comics, which also seem to go nowhere.  I think it is ripe for a sequel; I am not sure if one is intended. 

Superheroes and Cross stitch

Abe just called me a slacker for not coloring in Wellington's eyebrows very consistently. Well, I am also a slacker for not posting all the cross stitch I did a while ago. In no particular order we have:
  • Aw, Crap. This will surely go in our bathroom some day when I can frame it. I think this is the second one I did.

  •  Shut Your Piehole. I think this is the third one I did. I love it and it will go in the kitchen/dining room when it gets framed someday.

  •  Whatever. My first one. You can see all the threads in teh back through the weave, but it will look better once framed. This might go next to my computer so I can remember how to feel when I read stupid stuff online. All those idiots. Not you though.

  • Finally, this is the last one I did. It is a comic that I made up based on a bear pattern in a small 'how to' book be Red Heart that also includes knitting, crochet, and tatting. I hope you can tell what's going on. I would change the last panel a bit if I did it over.

There is always doodle time, so here are some doodles I did. I adore Kate Beaton's (of Hark! A Vagrant) hilarious parodies (especially her Wonder Woman) and I was thinking about those and how I would like to be able to draw a little more cartoony and so did these. I specifically did not pencil and then ink - just inked without taking too much time.
Upper left: Wonder Woman says: I'm not chasing no one in this get up! Risk breaking an ankle or getting on TMZ.

Upper right is a note that just says: Barry Manilow is the real life Doctor.

Very middle: Batman says: Harder to pull out of a dive than I thought.

Lower left: Wonder Woman is reading and resting a mug of to on her boob (which I ironically wrote as reasting) says: Finally, a night off.

Mid-lower right: Catwoman playing with ball of yarn forgetting her jewels; Batman says: Ha. And Alfred said bat yarn wasn't worth the cost.

Lower-lower right: Batman says: I see you.

Lower-lower right-right: just a note that says Cougar Town meats WW.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Soul Food Books poetry reading

Yesterday I got to see my mom, Anita K. Boyle, read at a poetry reading with Belle Randal. It was a really fun reading and I am glad Abe and I went. This is the second poetry reading of hers I have been to at Soul Food Books. Quite a drive (over in Redmond).
Here is what I doodled while I was listening to mom.

And here is what I doodled while listening to Belle. The right picture is my grandma, Grambie. Belle's eyes and the bridge of her nose really reminded me of Grambie - if a healthier version. The left is just some corgi.

Finally, this is a comic I drew on a scrap piece of mat board at my mom's when I was up there for Xmas. Those are supposed to be pillows at the end.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book review: Own the room

I wrote a review of Own the Room: Business presentations that persuade, engage & get results by David Booth, Deborah Shames, and Peter Desberg. The review was originally published in Technical Communication, Volume 58, Number 1, February 2011.


We have all heard the adage “show, don’t tell.” That is the basic premise of Own the Room. Instead of repeating the stodgy, conservative style of business presentations full of bland facts and figures, the authors recommend enlivening your presentations with stories and surprise. The authors are an actor, a director, and a psychologist, all of whom bring their expertise to their modern presentation style.

The book reads as if the authors were giving a presentation, switching speakers in each chapter. Although unclear at first, this method lets them deliver personal and entertaining anecdotes. To explain your movements during a presentation, says Booth the director, for example, “if I want to shake the actors out of complacency or flat line readings, I change the blocking” (p. 169).

Own the Room offers a lot of useful information and entertaining stories, including pointers for making each stage of your presentation more interesting: Grab your audience’s attention at the start, use appropriate anecdotes to maintain surprise and intrigue, and drive your point home at the end. The authors include many specific examples of speeches using both their method and the conservative style so you can compare and contrast. They also make many interesting similes, such as how picking a team to give a presentation is like constructing a string quartet: “As in music, we are attracted to counterpoint” (p. 151).

Although most of the book can help you gain confidence, the authors devote a chapter to overcoming stage fright. Part of overcoming stage fright is being well prepared. After explaining the four stages of stage fright, they suggest cures such as breathing exercises for managing your anxiety and “changing your behavior, which is directly under your control” (p. 133).

One improvement would be a recap at the end of each chapter. For example, it would be useful to have lists of the roles a presenter can take, with related page numbers. Although the headings are easy enough to find, quick reference lists would make navigation easier.

All in all, I find the suggestions workable. For example, anecdotes are better for explaining “why” because we “tend to believe anecdotal evidence over facts and figures” (p. 52). And surprise engages your audience because (as Steven Johnson says) “researchers now believe that there is an entire neurochemical system in the brain devoted to the pursuit and recognition of new experiences” (p. 48). I plan to apply the authors’ approach to creating more engaging tutorials and e-learning.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Herbert sketches

The next comic Abe and I are working on is about a dog named Herbert. The following are my prep sketches for the characters. So far, we don't have a title and have just been calling it Herbert.

First up is the dad character, who is a painter. These are the inks off a sketch I did. Upper left is using a size 1 brush. The bottom is the nib pen. On the left I tried a wiggly sketchy style and on the right is my usual hatched style. Abe didn't like his face so I tried to change it up a bit.
 Here are the original sketches of the Dad, info from Abe on what makes up painter pants, and some inked sketches of the daughter, Rose. For Rose, I just was sketching from some pictures of girls in t-shirts.
 Some sketches of the mom. She is a business lady. I am not really sure what a business lady wears so I did a google search and came up with that dress. The other image she is in her bathrobe.
 More sketches of Rose and some of Herbert. He looks fugly in the upper left version. These are just inks in different styles (brush and nib) of the same pencils using tracing paper. The nibs work very different over the tracing paper than on bristol.
 And the original sketches that I inked in the previous image. Rose, Herbert, and their kitchen. I need to practice drawing rooms and backgrounds in general. My skills are lacking.
I am currently in the process of penciling all the pages and am going to start on page 4 tonight. The story is only 11 pages total, so it shouldn't take long. Then all that remains is inking because I think this will be yet another black and white comic. I might try adding some monotone shading - perhaps blue - but I don't know how that will look, if my skills are good enough for that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book review: Origins of the Specious

I wrote a review of Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman. The review was originally published in Technical Communication, Volume 57, Number 3, August 2010. This has been my favorite book that I reviewed for them so far.

Who hasn’t had a vicious argument about the proper use of a word or whether English is a malleable language? Maybe that’s just me. But if language is your game, Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language is your book. It’s a blooper highlights reel of English, explaining fables from the myth about the number of Eskimo words for snow to the misconception that all double negatives are incorrect.

Origins of the Specious discusses these misuses and myths with a wry sense of humor. It even includes some lightly dirty humor, such as a bit of history on the Yiddish word putz. When discussing that newspapers were “abuzz” about two Oxford dictionaries giving the okay to willy-nilly split your infinitives, the authors comment, “It was a slow news week” (p. 17). In explanation for why the word ain’t is no longer considered acceptable language, they say, it “got too big for its britches” (p. 49). An entire chapter that had me snickering is “Lex education: Cleaning up dirty words.” If you want to bore the curse words out of unruly children (or inform it out of them, depending on their disposition), you might read them this chapter.

The authors use humor to get a basic idea across: English is a liquid language (regardless of how thick we would like that liquid to be). Throughout the book, they say that English is changed by “the people who actually use the language day in and day out” (p. 43), that is, all of us. My favorite example is the hunt for a single “all-purpose pronoun for people that can be masculine or feminine” (p. 141). We all know how frustrating it is to write around “he/she” and “he or she.” But try as we might, no word has successfully taken hold of this empty space. Thon made a valiant effort in 1858 but fell by the wayside. Regardless, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Occasionally, their humor can get a bit harsh, but in a teasing way. With regard to the literal meaning of “beg the question,” which Aristotle originally used in 350 BC, they say, “It’s time for the purists to get a life—one in the twenty-first century” (p. 182). In another example of harsh but humorous reprimands, they say, “If you think ‘octopi’ is classier than ‘octopuses,’ go stand in the corner” (p. 184). Away I went.

At times, this book had me laughing out loud for the dorky language jokes. And if it doesn’t provide enough information for you, the bibliography in the back provides 30 other resources. I definitely recommend Origins of the Specious for language junkies with a good sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book review: Blogging for Fame and Fortune

I wrote a review of Blogging for Fame and Fortune by Jason R. Rich. The review was originally published in the Technical Communication magazine (for the Society for Technical Communication) Volume 57, Number 1, February 2010. I have a few more reviews already published that I will also post here.

Blogs are a popular, inexpensive form of entertainment. Blogging for Fame and Fortune addresses starting a blog with the intention of building a large audience, which can be a means to fame or fortune. For Jason Rich, “the term blog... includes traditional text-based blogs, photo blogs, audio podcasts, vlogs (videobased blogs), and webcasts” (p. 1). As a technical communicator, you probably know most of this information. But if you’re brand-new to blogs and are just looking for a starting point, this book could be your Blogging 101 textbook.

The information in the book divides into three major sections: starting a blog, achieving fame and fortune, and lessons learned. Each chapter contains an almost overwhelming amount of tips and warnings, some of which are useful. For example, the chapter about driving traffic to your blog includes how “to add functionality that allows your blog’s visitors to submit your blog entries to Digg” (p. 168). Digg is a Web site where users submit and vote on Web content.

Over half of the book is about starting a blog. You find a review of what you need before you start blogging: the format and the appearance. Rich explains the hardware, software, and blogging services needed to start your blog, as well as creating content, for example in vlogs.

Rich’s specific lessons on gaining fame and fortune really come down to marketing. His suggestions boil down to two actions: tell people about the blog, whether through e-mail or social networks or some other means; and use search engine optimization (SEO), including key words. To use SEO, Rich suggests using the online tutorials available through each search engine.

To show lessons learned, Rich first describes mistakes to avoid, such as “not taking into account how your blog will impact your personal and professional life outside of cyberspace” (p. 204). His final chapters offer interesting interviews with people in the blogging service industry and famous bloggers. The advice from famous bloggers is to work hard, be unique, and have good luck. Perez Hilton says he became famous partly because “I was one of the very first bloggers doing what I was doing” (p. 237).

The book is not perfect. I find the writing repetitive. For example, Chapter 7 includes “Nine Tips for Utilizing SEO to Generate Blog Traffic” (p. 121), and Rich covers SEO again in a later chapter. There are also a fair amount of typos. I recommend skipping directly to the information you want instead of reading the book over to cover.

As a current blogger (http://www.the-jerks.com), I find most important such marketing ideas as make friends on social networks, update your status when you post, and use SEO.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pregopotamus painting

Just a few days after I finished this painting of the pregopotamus, my friend had her baby!
This fall, Abe is taking the certification at Seattle Central Community college, so hopefully he will learn how to better scan watercolor paintings...Perhaps we will try photos.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


A pregnant friend on face book keeps saying she feels like a Pregopatomus and this is what I picture every time. 
 Here is a little drawing I did of a poor little scared rabbit.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Pile o' sketches. First up, some people from 5/29 - we've got the amazing Mila Jovavich as Alice in Resident Evil, and a couple sketches from The Sartorialist.
 Practice clouds. I absolutely adore how Skottie Young draws clouds so I gave it a go.
 Treant idea that may turn into a water color.
Lady treant.
As a note, have you checked out the Flying Dodo Publications website? It has a new favicon so there is a little feather when you put a link to it in your favorites. Its an awesome website with links for all our comics to all the places you can buy them.
And The Jerks comic now has links to the first comic in each story line. It is a little weird because The Jerks is not planned out in advance so it just kind of happens and sometimes there are breaks before it gets going again. Re-reading the whole thing, I think The Jerks is actually not a bad web comic. Yay us. :)