Monday, October 30, 2006

More on LiwLi

So, with this latest post of my new Meditations story "Life is where Love is," I figured I should fill in a bit more info about it. The piece was the first of my more "conceptual" approaches to structuring comic stories. If you can even call it a story. Or a narrative. I've always thought of it more as an "artistic visual essay." You'll see why after a few more posts.

In any case, I drew it right at the end of high school in 1998, and to be honest, given the quality of my drawing back then, you can kinda tell that's when it was done. I do quite enjoy the heavy black/white contrast style still though.

A friend of mine from high school at the time was a director at Cal Arts and decided that he wanted to turn it into a ballet. This was just a couple months after I finished it actually. So, the school shelled out several thousand dollars, (he built a full cliffside among other sets), and they used the comic as the direct script for the show. The ballet was set to go on tour a year later, but complications lent it towards never making out and about. Nevertheless, it was essentially finished and ready to go from all I've heard.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

CCS trip

Today I made my trip up to Vermont to talk with the fine folks at the Center for Cartoon Studies. It was quite fun, and gave me a nice break from grad school as well as a little exploratory New England adventure.

I presented my talk on visual language grammar and I thought that the discussion with the students was particularly good. I’d planned on having a lecture, discussion, and then Q&A, but their observations in the lecture were so good it left hardly any time after for more focused discussion.

Showing their intuitive chops, they pitched in with great questions, observations, and insights as only full time students at a “comics college” would (or as I called it, a “visual language learning school”). I was quite impressed, though not surprised given their vocation. I also got to have a delightful post-talk tour from a student named John-Michael that extended the discussion of theory til I had to hop on my bus back to Boston (thanks again for the book John!).

From all indications, they seemed to have as good a time as I did. So, for any of you reading this, thanks for the fun day!

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Comic: Life is where Love is

At long last since the start of grad school, I've got a new (old) comic up at my Webcomicsnation Meditations series. Despite the somewhat corny title, this is actually the oldest piece I'm putting up there, originally drawn waaaay back in 1998 (hence the more "raw" look to it stylistically). This is actually the story that got me drawing artsy type works, which then led towards my work in theory. I'll try to talk more about it in a later post, but for now I'm too tired and too stressed to add more. Enjoy the start!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Links of note

Rob Vollmar has posted another installment of his "Rage of Angels" essays. This one examines some of Outcault's Hogan's Alley works. While I'm fairly ambivilent to historical-literary analyses of these types, I hit Rob with some pretty hard comments on his last essays, so I figured I should point out that this one reads pretty well. Nice to see him jumping straight into the material without the faux-neuroscience discussion; it gives a much cleaner read and analysis I think.

This webcomic is funny to no end: xkcd. Definitely worth strolling through the archives when you have some need of procrastination or manic laughter. And, to make this at least a somewhat theory related plug... After reading a bunch of them, the simiplicity of the stick figures really grows on me. It also lends towards an acceptance of the stick figure as a common conventional sign for person. I know this isn't "news" per se, but with so much variation due to iconicity in most of the Western tradition, I kind of like the consistency. (It also reminds me of the Australian systems I'm always talking about, which depict people as a "U" shape)

Oh, and if I remember to get back into the groove of uploading the files, my Meditations comics should return this Tuesday. Watch out!

Friday, October 20, 2006

New toy!

Despite being a vacuum of Free Time, Grad School does seem to have its perks. Take for instance the brand spankin' new Macbook that my (three!) advisors all pitched in to help me get. The lab I'm in runs on Windows, so we're going to turn this computer into a dual boot Mac... pretty cool if I do say so myself. Of course, this means I need to start working much harder on my ERP project...

This photo is from the built-in camera on the computer and the ever-fun program Photobooth. I've also tried out the video conferencing with friends and family in California. It's very very cool, especially with more than two computers. Hooray for new toys!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Talk at Center for Cartoon Studies Oct 26th

One of the great new things I'm discovering about living in New England is that lots of cool stuff is all close together (coming from California, nothing is close together). One of those cool things is the Center for Cartoon Studies up in Vermont. Since its so nearby, I've arranged to give a talk up there on October 26th. I'll be presenting about some of my favorite major themes: the distinction between comics and visual language, the Art vs. Language divide, and my ongoing work on how sequences of images communicate.

(Note to any CCS students who might be reading this: if you have any other topics of interest you'd like me to delve into, please shoot me a note!)

I'm greatly looking forward to the trip. It will be my first time up to Vermont and the more northern part of New England. I've also noticed that Scott McCloud is giving a lecture/booksigning there at Dartmouth the week before (hosted by CCS ), so I'd be curious to here students' takes on our different approaches afterwards.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

You can take the man out of Berkeley, but...

Sometimes I really miss my alma mater. Tonight our Golden Bear football team crushed Oregon as I watched with the New England Alums, and there was this great quote at the end of the AP article on it:
[Coach] Tedford has turned Cal into a football power - but it's still Cal. Cosmologist George F. Smoot, who won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday, was introduced before the game to the cheering student section, which chanted "Nobel Prize! Nobel Prize!"

Friday, October 06, 2006

Neil's Research: Year One Projected

Over the past few weeks my advisors and I have been planning out what my first year project is going to be. We've decided it would be easier for me to jump into a straight-up psycholinguistics study than deal with designing a "comic" based study right away. So, my project is going to be looking at ERPs and semantic coercion.

What, you ask, are ERPs? ERP stands for "Event Related Potential" and its a measurement of the electrical activity of the human brain. How it works, is the experimenter puts a cap on people that measures their EEG, or electroencephalogram, which is the ongoing electrical activity in the brain. This electrical activity is all abuzz in your noggin' all the time. So, while doing certain tasks, this cap measures these brainwaves, which are then time-locked to those events that coincide with the tasks. The waveforms are then averaged out to reduce "noise," resulting (hopefully) in a waveform that can be informative about whatever task was performed.

Or, at least, that's as far as I know so far. I technically start learning how to run subjects in our lab on Monday.

And so, I'm sure you're wondering, what is "semantic coercion"? Glad you asked... Semantic Coercion is a linguistic phenomena that occurs when certain lexical items are paired up to create a meaning that is not explicit in the sentence. For example:

Tymmi began a comic.

In this sentence, you understand that the action is beginning to read or write a comic, yet nothing in the sentence is provided that tells you that. The information is illicited out of the combination of the words. This effect is not found if that information is provided:

Alexander finished his coffee (with coercion)
Alexander finished drinking his coffee (without coercsion)

So, my question for the next year will be... is anything special going on in the brain during sentences like these?

Which brings us to a final question you might ask... does this have anything to do with comics? And the answer to that, I'm afraid, lies in a future post sometime soon...