January media round-up

What my eyes saw Dec 2020/January 2021

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The Way of the House Husband 1-4 by Kousuke Oono (2019-ongoing)

This is a comic series about a legendary guy who quits yakuza to become a house husband. All the yakuza-adjacent men are very over the top and intense. Detailed well drawn funny comics...read extremely fast. It feels like a pity that it's so well drawn (nearly every panel has an amazingly detailed background that doesn't distract?!) but as a reader you move through the comedic panels so quickly that you don't really stop to appreciate the labour that goes into the visual part. The weird side cat comics were very amusing to me, haha. There's a part where there's a roach that climbs onto Miku's anime figure, and I felt that really hard.

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole (2020)

I watched the CBC gem, a while back. I wasn't sure if the book was going to overlap the CBC gem documentary (?), but it doesn't. The CBC gem feels like it's exploring blackness and vulnerability in a different structure/timeline. The book itself is paced across a year in Toronto, presenting life stories about specific black individuals or communities in Canada. I appreciated more knowledge about policing and incarceration in schools and immigration system. It was written in a way that felt more personal and human. A succinct read that can be done in a few hours, but probably longer if you wanted to take notes and process and along the way. Ultimately I think reading this will help me develop a stronger opinion on several racial and judicial topics at a government level.

Witch Hat Atelier 1-6 by Kamome Shirahama (2019-ongoing)

A comic series about a girl who wants to become a witch! Ummmmmmm so cute wholesome beautiful relatable even if they're all children...I appreciate that these kids are feeling all their feels in a vulnerable and raw way and are allowed to do that without any adults hushing them. Also ridiculously beautiful drawn! I'll be following the series because there are many mysteries to be uncovered! I think this series would be great for many ages...

Redline (2009)

What an interesting animation...? I wasn't really into the actual plot or characters at all (there isn't much plot or depth), but it did some very interesting and exaggerated animation shots and angles. I've read that it's a case of animation for the sake of animation (there's a lot of happening on screen, everything moves!) so it is impressive, from a technical point of view, how much effort and attention to detail was put into the movie. The character designs were really something else, as in, many of the non-human races weren't conventionally attractive and took a while for my eyeballs to get used to. Some of them reminded me of Macross' Zentradi. IMO the movie itself was squarely male-gazey, which is simply not my cup of tea, though it could be fine for others. I'm a bit shocked at how it ended (that font!) since I thought it was a ending that the in-movie broadcasting system made, but it was...not haha.

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (2018)

A memoir by Austin Channing Brown, a black woman who was given the name Austin for both familial reasons and broader systemic ones. I knew I was in for a good ride when the first chapter was titled "White people are exhausting" haha. Although the author calls out whiteness prominently in the book, I felt that it was also essential for non-black POC like myself to check on their own anti-black biases and behaviours. The book has many truth bombs that were familiar and validating to me (from my own observations and experiences with white people). There was an element of whiteness in faith and christian institutions that I didn't come across as prominently in some of my other readings, so it was interesting to learn about that perspective as. I have personally (but differently) felt oppression or injustice in organizations and have been "reprimanded" for speaking out about it. The tiredness and hopelessness is likely a universal feeling for many BIPOC, but I did find comfort in her description of living and loving in the shadow of hope—still engaging and showing up for justice, even when you have no idea if what you're doing is going to make a difference (i.e., keep working in the dark).

Doing nothing was no longer an option for me.

I finished reading the memoir in about 4 hours in one sitting, so topic aside, it was written very clearly and easy to move through the book at steady and interested pace!

Yakuza 3 and 4 (remastered, 2019-2020)

I blitzed through the plot in 4 days on easy mode. I only play easy mode. It was the first time I played with a gamepad (thanks Bea) so it took a lot of adjustment. I still can't click the right buttons to activate the correct moves because I don't have that muscle memory. I still play karaoke with keyboard because it's easier! I honestly don't know how people can play the series without starting from the beginning, since there is a lot of lore that you miss out on without the prior story (or substory) context.

There could be some vague spoilers below, so read at your own risk...

After playing more of these games I've come to notice the patterns in plot and fights, hahaha Naked men, rooftops, simultaneous matching punches/kicks/jumps, deception and betrayal, crying, conveniently timed yet selective gun shots, attempts to redeem bad guys, turning your back on the enemy and getting literally backstabbed, etc. All of these games need more MAJIMA GORO.

Yakuza 3

There was a literal and figurative "cop out" at the very beginning that was very disappointing, but I enjoyed the rest of the plot. I cried soooooo much, especially because of all the orphanage-related kid feelings (so raw!). The beginning is very much like a "dad" simulator, hehe. I spent a lot of time taking care of my kids. Tamashiro is the worst and I hate him!! I could've gotten more into Mine if he had more air time. The American's voice actor and pronunciation of "roof" as "ruff" was peculiar, as well as why anyone would tell a stranger that they have "beautiful eyes" when you just shot someone they knew?

Yakuza 4

I don't think I cried at all in Y4, but it felt like a longer game because of the rotation of playable characters. Akimiya's legs are so fast...I also feel like he is maybe the only one that really uses his brain, while Saejima and Kiryu have more bushido and gokudo-esque sense of "righteousness" which often results in brawn over brains. There was something about the distance between Tanimura's eyeballs that bothered me; he and Kiryu look more fake to me than Saejima and Akimiya! I wasn't convinced I could forgive Hamazaki after Y3 but he did the team a solid. I discovered that Katsuragi more or less is a Japanese-looking version of Lunge from Monster. Y4 resolves/brings together a lot of plot from Y0 and Kiwami 1-2. I thought Saejima's plot was the most interesting because of the historical nature of his story. I really despised the prison warden!

What's coming up next?

I have to slow down on reading/watching since I want to "finish" the HWAnimation snow scene in the next few months.

I began mirroring posts from this freetalk, onto Pillowfort, but Pillowfort is down for a while! Thank goodness I have my own space...

Today's music post: Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) by Flying Lotus.

Jake x Fountain pen

TA+d Fiber bamboo fountain pen

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Another edition of OC x Fountain pen HAHA. Previous one was Austin x Fountain pen...this time it's Jake!!

A photo of a fountain pen laying on top of an open cross grid notebook page full of character sketches

TA+D Fiber Bamboo Fountain Pen

The specific pen I paired with Jake is the TA+d (TreAsia-design, Taiwan) Fiber bamboo fountain pen with a Schmidt steel iridium point nib in F point.

I like the tag line on the box that says "Write like nobody's reading" which is precisely what I'm do for anything I make.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the nib, cap, and grip section. The pen is matte black aluminum

The pen comes with (I assume) a Schmidt converter and an international small cartridge. Looking at the interior barrel of the pen and size of the converter, I think it could fit a regular/long cartridge too.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the cap and back of the pen. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

Everything about the pen is pretty understated and minimal, which is very much Jake's aesthetic from an apperance POV. There are some subtle striations on the aluminum pen body, a magnetic cap, and a little bamboo stub on the back-end. These choices seem to be both practical and for design aesthetic. The cap can't be posted, but its magnetic powers do allow it to function as a pen rest.

Photo collage of a fountain pen on a white background. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

This is definitely a pen that has a risk of rolling away on your table...possibly plummeting to catastrophe (also very Jake-like HAHA). It is also quite weighted (~32g with ink + converter) compared to some of my other pens, so it feels durable from a functional POV. Jake is a sturdy seeming person, but also carries a lot of emotion weight inside of him (at this point, I'm making things up about how the pen pairs up with the OC).

I didn't have a Schmidt nib nor a minimal-leaning pen in my collection, so this pen is a fun addition to the roster. I stumbled onto this pen during excessive Pinkoi browsing. Compared to some of my other pens, this pen put down a FINE line and is on the dryer side. I'm actually able to get subtle hatching effects when doing fast strokes, like you would expect from a pigment/fineliner.

Photo collage of 2 closer-up shots of the nib and section of the pen, on a paper background with drawn patterns. The right photo shows the edge of the metal section where the black plating was worn off to reveal the original aluminum colour.

I have had ink drip/glob from the sides of the fin when uncapping quickly (sometimes flinging onto my paper), though it doesn't leak down via gravity when I'm writing. Maybe it's a cap suction/vacuum thing. Now I try to be slower with my uncapping to prevent this. After using it for a bit (~a month?) I also found some wear on the lip of the section that interfaces with the inner cap. I went through the stock cartridge. I usually clean out the stock cartridge and refill it with a syringe, but the holes on the cartridge seem to be extra small (compared to say, Pilot) so it is harder to clean out. Now I'm using Noodler's Ink eel cactus fruit loaded up in the Schmidt converter, which seems to perform similarly to the stock cartridge. Since this ink is lubricated and tends to write wet, I thought it could be a good pair with this dryer, finer, pen. Also, Jake is a Pinkey fan (haha).

The packaging was equally minimal, fully made of paper, and non-excessive, which I truly appreciate. I really don't like all the plastic and foam that comes with some of my other pen boxes...

Photo collage of the packaging box of a fountain pen. The box is entirely made of paper and is primarily textured matte black with some minimal golden foil accents and text. The box was designed to be slip case that reveals the bottom box that holds the pen.

Here's a comparison with Austin / FPR Himalayan v2 GT...very different vibes.

Photo of an orange and black swirled fountain pen on top (FPR Himayalan v2 GT), and a black matte fountain pen on the bottom (TA+d fiber).

Today's music post: Three Hour Drive by Alicia Keys feat. SiR (Colors Studios). A friend mentioned to me how Alicia sounds a bit like Utada Hikaru (and/or vice versa) in parts of this song.

Waxed paper weave

Strange DIY from old prints

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I have these extremely old risograph prints from 2012 that have been sitting in a portfolio...so I decided to make abstract art out of it haha.

I cut the prints up in 1" x 17" stripes, then taped one end and wove them together.

Photo collage of making weaved paper (in yellow and red colour) out of interlaced strips of paper

After that I sacrificed this peeler to the craft spirts and shaved some candle wax onto the surface, and ironed the wax to melt it and have it penetrate the paper. I flipped it over to do the back-side as well. I ended up using a hair blow dryer as well to flatten down the uneven wax parts as much as I could.

Photo collage of melting wax onto weaved paper (in yellow and red colour)

I'm not sure what I'm going to do it this, but I do like it more than the original drawing...

Today's music post: Jumping Dance by Mario Mathy (1987). This is one of those times where the video is a must watch for the strange but extremely passionate and energetic vibe this person has for their keyboard playing. It's REALLY 80s...

HWA snow scene v3 animatic

V3 animatic of a scene from Here We Are, created in Clip Studio Paint.

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November 2020 was spent on HWA chapter 12, December 2020 was spent on roaches and Matchy Snatchy with Bea, so this entry mainly details the labour that I spent in January 2021 on the next pass of HWA snow scene (see V1 and V2). Everything is still quite janky, but it's starting to come together. I'm cartoon Grinch smirking...

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows some people in the foreground, wearing graduation garb. In the mid-ground, an original character is tugging on his graduation gown hood with his left arm, while looking towards the left of the screen. It is snowing.

IDK the formal term for these animation passes, but I call v3 "the more refined" pencil pass with details and whatnots:

  • solid bodies and key poses - mostly done
  • timing - had to space things out because some motions/actions were moving too fast/compressed
  • clothing - barely roughed in, needs refinement; I don't even know how to draw clothing in static, let alone in motion...
  • hair - didn't pay attention, needs refinement
  • inbetween frames - added a lot more, but still needs refinement
  • sound/music - just plunked in, not leveled at all

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a character walking towards the right-hand side of the screen, reaching his arm out to another character on the right-side. There are other people in graduation gowns in the background, as well as trees.

The bane of my existence is the graduation cap. All hats have mystery perspective and foreshortening that defies my logic and I can't visualize it in my head at all. Why Austin, do you have so many hats? I cut out a square piece of cardboard from a cereal box for reference, but it's something I have to revisit again in v4.

Animation seems like one of those things that you can endlessly futz with forever; the more you do it, the more you realize how much work is left to be done. For those who know how I draw (at least for my personal work), I'm not a person who tends to iterate very much at all, so drawing the same thing over and over again (animation) is counter to every fibre in my body. I believe myself to be quite silly for doing this project given how much work there is to be done, but now I'm committed...as to not let the contributors down, hahaha.

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a graduation gown-wearing character with black hair in a low bun, walking from right to left, across the screen.

Seeing my characters "come alive" is pretty interesting! There's another level of visual storytelling/communication around the nuances of how characters move. A while back, Bea told me about Laban movement analysis. She thought that Austin would move more steady and gracefully (like a bear), while Jake was a bit more jittery (like a squirrel), so I tried to incorporate those aspects into how they appear on screen. I will say that this scene requires everyone to be a bit awkward and lacking confidence, so nobody is moving quite like their normal selves here.

Another thing that was interesting was trying to time mouth movements to audio speech. At some point I drew the mouths in more visually obvious ways, but when it played in animation it looked like a joke HAHA...like weird unnatural mouth movements where you're trying to purse your lips too hard! It was hilariously BAD! I still have some more work to do here.

Screenshot of the Clip Studio Paint timeline window, which shows audio tracks with "labels" associated with them to help with timing along key frames

I'm grateful for some of these "labeling" features in the CSP timeline that roughly give me a sense of where words are landing. Geez, CSP is really incredible. I want to reiterate that I love Bradley and Eddy's voices for the characters! Bradley really nailed the warm and more mature sound for Austin. He did a different voice for Fung in my game, Come for a Drink, who was more arrogant and sarcastic (well, at least that's my perception), so it was neat to hear the differences. Eddy played the awkward vulnerability of Jake so well—I was feeling second hand embarrassment at how his lines were delivered (appropriately). The whispered curse at the end—!! Hearing their different takes was wonderful and they're both a pleasure to work with.

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a character with hi back facing the viewer, progressively turning towards his left side to face the camera. in the background, there are trees and snow.

After I blew the scope of this animation between V1 and V2, I realized I needed an entirely different piece of music than the one I originally commissioned from Nos (for a different scene). I asked some musical friends what kind of instruments reminded them of snow: plucked strings, Kalimba, wooden xylophones, etc.! Then PowersWithin took those as inspiration (as well as the previous piece by Nos) and composed a snowy song that is perfect!

Now that I've used Reuben Lara's CSP animation tutorial tips and shortcuts earnestly, I can say that they're all AMAZING for workflow efficiency. Programming my tablet's buttons to have back/forward movement between keyframes? YES! Auto-numerating keyframes? YES! AND there's so much more!!!

Hopefully I'll be able to make more progress before my life is consumed by playing Yakuza 3-6 on PC, starting January 28...

Today's music post: Susumu Yokota's - A1. Zenmai from the album Acid Mt. Fuji (remastered).

Planner and paper tasting kick-off for 2021

Midori MD planner and NTU notebook

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I talked about this in passing in my analogue daily journal post, but I added a few more things to round out the system, after using the other journal/planner combo for a few months.

Planner: Midori MD Notebook Light, A5, grid ruling

Midori MD Notebook light (grid) serves as the planner for the year, with monthly view spreads. I've put it inside an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket. There's 1 spread for the year, then 13 spreads for each month (Jan-Dec 2021 + Jan 2022). I drew a different little plant icon on the corner of every monthly spread.

Photo collage of 2 notebooks on a grey desk. The left-hand notebook is a Midori MD Light Note book in A5 size with grid ruling. It is slipped into an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket that has an integrated zipper pocket. The jacket is light tealed in colour, with dark brown cartoon animals printed on the front. Collage mainly shows the hand-drawn yearly and monthly calendar interiors of the Midori MD notebook, which I'm using as a planner. The right-hand notebook is a brown kraft covered one from NTU.

I added a few pages for projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

Photo collage showing the interior spreads of the Midori MD Notebook planner with grid ruling Spreads shown include- projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

I'm doing fountain pen "paper tasting" for 2021, meaning I'm going to journal in separate and different lower-page count notebooks, every 2 months or so. The first one to go is...

Journal: NTU Press Bookstore 臺大出版中心校史館書店 notebook, A5, no ruling

The National Taiwanese University Press Bookstore (Pinkoi storefront) has branded stationery, including fountain pens, notebooks, and more. This also includes the Taiwanese-designed Take a Note planner that uses Tomoe River 68gsm paper that I've only seen places like Shigure Inks stock in North America. The planner design won a Good Design award in 2017.

I got some of their basic sewn brown kraft notebooks that were marketed as being suitable for fountain pens.

Photo of 2 brown kraft paper notebooks with NTU (National Taiwan University) branding on the front cover. Covers are plain and minimal, other than the University's name printed in small font on the covers.

Pages are blank/unruled, 米道林(楓林紙) 100gsm paper, 64 pages total. The paper isn't white, more like a cream stock (comparable to the colour of midori MD, perhaps a tad lighter).

Photo collage of fountain pen ink tests on an interior page of the NTU cover. The left-image shows consecutive rows of handwriting, done in different coloured inks. The right-image shows the back-side of the page that was written to, to show that there is minmal ink bleedthrough (only when there was flex nib used, or certain inks used)

Most of my inks did fine on the paper. The ones that feathered and bled were Sailor Kobe Kounan Maroon, Platinum Carbon Black, and J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor. FPR Royal Flush Blue was also a bit more prone to feathering, but not in a significant way (to me).

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting, using flex nib/applying pressure on the nib.

Pushing down on the nib with "flex" also caused the ink to selectively feather and bleed through on some other inks.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Compared to Midori MD and Tomoe River, shading on this paper feels slightly flatter for some inks. There is practically no pink sheen in FPR Royal Flush Blue here, and Lamy Turmaline shows very minor pink/purple sheen. Overall I find that inks appear brighter/lighter in appearance, much like they would on regular printer paper.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Overall, I think it's a solid performer! Dry time seems good too, at least good enough that I don't even think about it.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

I bought some cute illustrated and perforated calendar sheets that I can paste into my journal. I might try to experiment with a bit more collage for this journal. Sometimes when the paper is expensive and optimized for FP ink I feel like I have to maximize all surface area for the ink, and not paste anything into it.

Photo collage of a dark brown leather traveler's style notebook in A5 size, which serves to hold the 2 notebooks mentioned in this post, together. The photo also shows a few fountain pens, a roll of dot-washi-tape stickers, and perforated date rectangles.

I also have this daily chinese calendar for FUN. I'm into this aesthetic sometimes; I was close to getting a chinese almanac, Tung Shing/通勝 for the year too. I wouldn't say that I'm particular about fengshui, astrology, or auspicious dates, but I wish I knew how to read the bottom part.

Photo of a traditional looking one-page-a-day chinese calendar, bound at the top with screws.

Today's music post: A compilation of Jane Zhang's (张靓颖) cover/rearrangement performances from the TV show Sound of my Dream (梦想的声音).