Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lying to Oneself

Well, that didn't last long. The thing I mentioned in the last post, the shocking-but-good thing I was being so coy about, I discovered to be nothing at all in the end. In a way I'm glad, because if it did happen it was going to be a lot of pressure, but it does also mean that I'm not going to say what it was. Sorry.

On an unrelated note, I didn't do much blogging in 2012, as you can tell from the archive over there on the right. I thought I should try to explain why.

2012 was difficult for me. I've lost contact with friends before, and I've met plenty of people who never liked me much in the first place, but I've never had a friend take active steps to cut me out of their life, as happened earlier in the year. I'm not blameless in what happened; I let my insecurity get the better of me and tricked myself into thinking my friend had lied to me over a minor, petty thing. Then I confronted them about it.


So I can see why they decided they'd had enough of me. I can see it now, at least, but back then it came as a huge surprise. Not only was the rejection a shock, but it also dragged some other stuff out into the light, stuff that with hindsight I realise I'd told myself I'd resolved but in fact I'd just hidden away.

It's a long story that I may well tell another time, involving my then wife and my stepmother, but the key point for our current purposes is that my father disowned me in 2000. I acted as if I'd accepted this and had moved on, that it was his loss, not mine, and perhaps that was true to a certain extent. Then again, I was married and we'd been through it together, so it was easier to accept or, as I discovered much later, hide.

Then in 2010, my wife left me. There had been trouble before then, but I'd made promises to be a better husband, to make things right, all the time ignoring the actual issue, which was that it was over and Meg just wanted a clean break. It was difficult -- I don't think a separation and eventual divorce can be anything but -- but it was necessary for both of us and we remain good friends. Once again, I thought that I had everything under control.

What I couldn't see was that it was all just being pushed to one side and stacked up, like when someone in a cartoon tidies up and stuffs everything into a cupboard, the door develops an ominous bulge and you just know it's going to burst open in the final act.

So it came to pass.

My friend dumped me, and everything came tumbling out of the cupboard. Things got bad then, but they would have been worse had it not been for an ironic twist. A couple of weeks before I blundered in and ruined everything, the same friend who would want nothing more to do with me suggested that I sign up for some free counselling sessions; I did, and ended up starting the sessions not long after I lost that friend.

I discovered a lot about myself during those sessions. I was convinced of my own complete lack of worth and it took a homework exercise -- in which I had to ask my friends to tell me what they liked and disliked about me -- to get me to realise that I wasn't worthless after all. The biggest shock came when my counsellor told me that I was talking in suicidal terms; I hadn't realised it, but I couldn't deny the truth of it. It was that realisation more than anything that made me step back and decide to make a change; I don't think I could ever kill myself, but the fact that I'd got to a point where I seemed to others that I could was enough of a scare.

Things turned around then. I was more positive about myself and tried harder to engage with the people around me. I even went on a couple of dates; no romance resulted, but I made new friends. I got involved in more art and writing projects, and somehow convinced a couple of hundred people to pay me to produce a book. My father turned up out of the blue and more or less apologised, or as close as he's ever going to get. It was all going so well, and I thought I was on the mend; I'm not so naïve to think that all that damage could be fixed in a couple of months of counselling, but I really did think that I was getting better.

Now I'm told I've had wobbles these past few weeks, and I admit that I'm disappointed, but I'm going to be positive and learn from that discovery. It was a lack of awareness that led to all the harmful baggage building up in the first place, so I have to take this as a warning to be more vigilant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Not Brian Cox

It has been a weird few days. I was told something earlier in the week that has shaken me up more than a little; it's not a bad thing -- far from it, in fact -- but it's given me a lot to think about. I'm being coy, but I'll talk about it more when I know more.

With most of the art and graphics done for Horror Among Thieves, I've been working on the text, something that I've been putting off as I was much less confident about the quality of my writing. It's all coming together quite well but what I've realised is that the final product isn't going to be quite what I want it to be; that might seem negative, but I see it in a more positive light. Through the production of the book, I've thought of better ways to do things and so while I think -- or hope -- that Horror Among Thieves will be good, I believe that whatever I do afterwards will be even better. As of right now, I'm aiming to have the art and the first draft of the text to Lamentations of the Flame Princess HQ by the end of February; before then if I can manage it.

As well as getting Horror Among Thieves finished, February will also see me doing the thing that I perhaps fear the most: public speaking. My boss turned on the charm today and convinced me to take part in an upcoming training day by giving a presentation on Technology; the agenda for the day spells it with a capital letter for no good reason at all. I wasn't keen at first but then I thought that I know enough stuff that I could at least prevaricate for the required two minutes, and it would be a small audience made up of people I know, so it wouldn't be too bad.

It turns out that I'm going to be talking in front of pretty much everyone at my place of work, and it's going to be recorded and streamed live to other colleges across Sussex. "Abject terror" would not be an understatement.

I wonder if I can just put this on and sit down for six minutes?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Roasted Beetroot Orzotto

I was given some pearl barley by a friend who can no longer eat it so I've been experimenting with recipes. I've made a roasted squash orzotto that worked well, but I thought I'd try a similar approach with beetroot, for the sole reason that I wanted to eat something that was a bright purple.

This recipe serves two, but can be doubled -- or halved, I suppose -- with ease.

Stuff to Buy, Steal or Grow:

250g beetroot, trimmed, peeled and cut into thumb-sized wedges. I realise that thumbs are different sizes, but it's close enough.
1 onion, sliced.
1 garlic clove, chopped into itty bitty bits.
125g pearl barley.
400ml hot vegetable stock.
2-4 tbsp strong grated cheese. I used a mature cheddar.
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried.

With beetroot, you buy 500g, but once you've done peeling it and taking the stalks off, you end up with about 250g of useful matter, so bear that in mind.

How to Make It:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Roast the beetroot in 1 to 2 tbsp of olive oil for about an hour or until soft.
About ten minutes before you take the roasted beetroot out of the oven, cook the onion in about 1 tbsp olive oil over a lowish mediumish heat until it's soft, then add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.
Add the pearl barley and mix well. Take about a third of the roasted beetroot and mash or blend into a rough mushy mess.
Mix the mushy and chopped beetroot in the pan with the onions, garlic and barley.
Add the stock, cover and simmer for between 15 and 30 minutes, until the stock is absorbed and the barley is soft. It is likely to be a bit chewier than risotto rice, so don't panic!
Stir in the thyme and a couple of tablespoons of the cheese, then serve.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Other As and Alternate Zs

My A to Z was not the best, nor was it the first. It's difficult to remember now, but I think Garen Ewing was the one who kicked it all off with his Facebook group, the A to Z of Comic Strip Characters:

Others followed, including Neill Cameron's A to Z of Awesomeness:

There was also an A to Z of monsters and an A to Z of robots, as I recall; I'll try to track those down and link to them too.

Whatever good work I created during my project was inspired by the great work that had come before from artists like Garen and Neill, so if you liked my A to Z, go and look at theirs!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

M versus N

Here we are at the end of my A to Z, but due to the odd format, also the beginning and the middle. I wanted to finish the project with a big picture stuffed with loads of characters, akin to E versus V, but something about this suggestion -- from my friend Liam as I recall -- grabbed me; perhaps I was drawn to the opportunity to have a go at some pixel art.

In this final A to Z image, Alan Moore's Nite Owl chases Nintendo's Mario for reasons unknown.

L versus O

This one looked much better in my head.

Furry boy king Lion-O takes on Optimus Prime and loses, because while he may have sight beyond sight, he does not have the touch.

K versus P

This is another of my favourites.

Here, Jason Cobley's Keiko Panda sees off the upstart Po.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

J versus Q

Judy Jetson breaks poor Quasimodo's heart.

This is one of my favourites, although I think it could be improved. Maybe I'll do that.

I versus R

Iron Man takes on Ralph Wiggum. You can see I was being quite lax with the naming conventions in this series.

If you think Iron Man wouldn't vaporise a child, even one such as Ralph, then I would guess you haven't read Marvel's Civil War. I wish I were so lucky.

Monday, January 07, 2013

H versus S

Here is the last of today's A to Z pictures.

Even Hellboy, with all his experience, is surprised to encounter a giant Sooty. My attempt here to capture Mike Mignola's distinctive style is not at all successful, but I'm still quite fond of this one.

G versus T

This is one of the more popular images in my A to Z series, and one of my own favourites.

Galactus may have met his match in Tank Girl.

F versus U

I have to admit, this is not one of my favourites.

That's The Fonz jumping over a shark on Uni. I am happy to say that the sequence of images did not jump the shark with this piece.

E versus V

Right then. Deep breath.

So, here in deadly battle we have the Elebits, the Ewoks, Eeyore, V, Venger, Ernie, Vectorman, Elektra, the Vision and the Vulture.

I think that's everyone.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

D versus W

Here's the last one for today.

I have met a couple of people who are much like Daria; I have yet to meet anyone quite like Winnie-the-Pooh.

Why I Love Comics, Reason #821931911

If you haven't read the Court of Owls storyline from Batman in 2011 and 2012, then the following image contains big, honking spoilers. Sort of. If you spot the clues.

You have been warned!

The page layout here is very clever indeed if you know -- or can guess -- how the story turns out; one might argue that in hindsight it's quite a cheesy move, but it's still good fun, and it's the kind of thing you can only do in comics.

C versus X

Let's have another.

That's Captain Caveman -- before my time -- and Charles Xavier.

B versus Y

This one has appeared at my website, but I'll include it for the sake of completeness.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes on a vampiric Yosemite Sam.

A versus Z

In October 2008, a number of artists on Facebook each produced a themed "A to Z", and I decided to join in with one of my own; I cheated a little by putting two characters in each image, so I only had to do thirteen rather than the full twenty-six. I've put my favourites on my website, but I've had requests for the others and they seem to have disappeared from Facebook, so I'm going to post them here over the next few days.

So this is Arnim Zola, Ash Williams, Luther Arkwright, Astro Boy, Animal Man, Zabu, Doctor Zaius, Zorro, Arnim Zola (again) and on the table, Atom Ant. I don't remember why they're playing Risk.