rydain: (Yes Man)
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy master post.

I'm a software engineer with a hyperactive right brain and a fondness for the butch, tough, gruff, and burly. Writing is my passion - drawing a secondary focus. I'm a tortoise at both, but I get to the finish line eventually.

The door is always open to new acquaintances and friends. If you like what you see, feel free to add me.

Fandoms, works, and other interests )
rydain: (Yes Man)
This year is primarily marked with work (which I'd prefer to leave summarized as A Lot But Satisfying and Relatively Non-Apeshit Compared to Past Deployments), fitness (highlights - getting a 4-pack for the first time in my life, biking around town a lot, getting back into powerlifting and finally squatting my own weight again without hurting myself), and stuff I made. It's been a pretty good one so far. So here's the stuff.

I broke my 2-year art hiatus with an '80s Miami gangster interpretation of Dynasty Warriors. Cao Cao - the boss. Xiahou Dun - the right hand man. Xiahou Yuan - the straight shooter. Cao Ren - the conflicted idealist. Or, what happens when I mainline New Wave for the 3 months it took to draw this. It was totally worth the effort, as I leveled up a buttload in the process. I'm happiest with my improved nuance in anatomy and clothing, and my new way of drawing hair.

Our Brotherhood )

Here's my con report from the 6th year of Intervention, a relaxed and down to earth convention for independent content creators, which also happens to be the brainchild of one of my best friends ever. This year I learned more about voice acting - and even got to act alongside Terry Molloy, a.k.a. Dr. Who's Davros. We also had breakfast together. Yeah, pretty awesomesauce.

My coworker Brian loves terribad movies. He insisted I watch R.O.T.O.R., a cheesetastic Robocop ripoff. It was so surprisingly hilarious, I had to write a review.
rydain: Vault Boy Winking (Vault Boy Winking)
Half a year between entries once again. Shock and awe for anyone who knows me.

Cliff's Notes of life in G-funk Land (and website updates) -

Dynasty Warriors 5 is still my favorite in the series. I wrote this retrospective love letter to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

Here's another fond look back on Milon's Secret Castle, a childhood favorite game that the internets love to hate. I may suck at most modern games because minimal depth perception and sense of direction and fast twitch aiming skills, but I beat this supposed impossibility when I was ten. It took me four months, but yay?

I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road because my friends were going, and it looked like reasonable fun. I ended up head over heels in love with its insane craft and adrenalin. Fury Road knows exactly what a straightforward action flick should be and blows it out of the water with surprising nuance and restraint - and also happens to be feminist. Review here.

I'm making arts again, woo hoo. I seem to have improved via osmosis of following pro illustrators while my visual brain was in torpor. I'm working on a 4-character piece and taking my time finishing it to the best of my ability, but it is entering the Zeno's Paradox of its final phase.

We entered the current console generation with a PS4. What finally kicked me over the edge? Fallout 4. Of course I had to get the Pip-Boy edition because I can use more crap in my house when it pertains to one of the very few game series that continues to build on its excellence. I must write my comprehensive review of Fallout: New Vegas - which is probably the best game I ever played, bugs notwithstanding - as I get hyped for the November release. I also foresee myself coming down with a convenient multi-day cold at that time - or just scheduling time off because work is awesome like that.

Speaking of work, the tl;dr version is that this year has focused on a career-defining system switchover and deployment, and I have built - and continue to build - some seriously beautiful, modular, and flexible shit in ColdFusion. I'm not terribly fond of the language - just let me at the underlying Java without all the quirks and "helpful" conveniences that don't do what I want half the time. But Coldbox is a wonderful framework, and I love that I had time to learn and apply it. I PUT ON MY ROBE AND WIZARD HAT
rydain: (Yes Man)
In my haste to prove my continued existence to friends who primarily communicate via DW and LJ, I forgot to feature one of my more ambitious projects of this past year - narrative video.

Specifically, retrospectives of my two favorite Dynasty Warriors characters - their history and lore, portrayals throughout the series, and my thoughts on how the best aspects thereof should be built on in the future. Each video is ~13 minutes long, which I considered a reasonable compromise between detail and length.

Cao Ren

Lu Meng

These. Took. Forever. The editing process takes some time to learn and maintains unavoidable bottlenecks, and of course there's the scripting challenge of distilling my points into an efficient combination of game footage and narration. I did the stills in Photoshop and the editing in Screenflow, an excellent middle ground between the very limited iMovie - which frustrated me by making a terrible mess of said stills - and the expensive and complex likes of Final Cut Pro. Screenflow also does low overhead full-screen capture with separate A/V (as in a mic or webcam), which will come in handy for any games I play on an emulator. I must get back to that Goonies II Let's Play.

I have a third video planned for Xiahou Yuan, but I've been dragging my feet on buying Dynasty Warriors 6: Special for high-resolution captures of his cut scenes. Ah, the sacrifices I make for shiny happy video quality.
rydain: Vault Boy Winking (Vault Boy Winking)
The last time I posted a journal entry, I was in the middle of recounting my November 2013 trip to China. Then came the polar vortex and a longstanding torpor through which I ground onward and eventually got reinspired.

I made a good amount of novel progress, partly fueled by some excellent critique from [livejournal.com profile] quufer. I got addicted to Instagram, bookmarked an absurd quantity of Nanjing photos, and picked up some mutual followers from around the world. I rebooted my personal website as a one-stop shop for the best of my artwork and article-suited ramblings. I reviewed a few local haunted attractions and conventions and brain dumped some advice on writing.

And I finally finished the writeup of China, which you can read here. Please do. It really was a great trip.
rydain: (Yes Man)
As I wrote about this summer, I revived my dinky little YouTube channel five years after the brief spate of Warriors Orochi videos that I created it for in the first place. With some commentary practice under my belt and an operational Super Nintendo, I decided to do a Halloween special for a game I loved enough to map in its 140+ room entirety.

Play time: 1 hour 10 minutes, one continuous take. Upload time over my tin can relay bandwidth: 7+ hours. And totally worth it for the overall effect of One True Video, especially because no one is using said bandwidth during the day.

The Addams Family (SNES) - full walkthrough with commentary

I am working on a similar nostalgia playthrough for The Goonies II, the first game I wrote a full FAQ for. "Work" involves emulator setup (done, courtesy of a button mapper for my PS3 controller hooked up via Bluetooth), gameplay practice (getting there), and commentary brainstorming (cross-productive for general writing creativity and seriously, y'all, I have been grinding forth on That Dangblasted Novel). I want to sound casual and off the cuff, but it helps to stock my mental library with information to relay and subjects to prattle on about while leaving room for reactive silliness. Such as getting on my own case for failing at the '80s by playing the game before I saw the movie. I probably also get doubleplusungood points for reading the MAD parody - The Goofies - before I saw the movie. Or maybe not. MAD owns.

It's been much harder to refamiliarize myself into some semblance of elegant gameplay, but I've made some nice progress - and have also improved on my original route through the game. Just slightly, but it should look good on video, inevitable failfest notwithstanding.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
14-hour budget flights are miserable. A googolplex more so with a sinus infection. Never again am I repeating this exercise without enough packed food and iDistraction battery power to last me through a nuclear apocalypse. I stumbled off the return flight like pasty death. Three days later, I'm almost recovered.

The rest was worth the ordeal. Especially as a springboard to Nanjing and its 2000-year-old urban landscape with the pervasive greenery and down to earth splendor that had drawn me there in the first place. And its connection to the Three Kingdoms era - it was the capital of Eastern Wu.

The King and I - Sun Quan Memorial )

We had a fun group of thirty, a Friends 'n Family subgroup of ten, upscale hotel accommodations, and an excellent guide. Eric kept us informed, entertained, hydrated, on schedule, and as happy as possible within the constraints of the tour - including the obligatory shopping showrooms relegating disinterested folk to a long game of Salesperson Avoidance Shuffle. They do keep the trip cost down, and enough people found them productive. Even so, [livejournal.com profile] fndragon wondered when we would get the time share pitch.

Hotel breakfasts were excellent, as were our personalized meals in Nanjing - local specialties recommended for our tastes. Most everywhere else was a limited buffet able to efficiently handle large groups with nebulous time of arrival - and a crapshoot depending on the variety of non-meat available. I had tasty vegetables and bean curd dishes, some specially requested by Eric. I also had a Build Your Own Stir Fry inedibly strewn with meat nuggets by a grill from the innermost circle of cross-contamination hell. At least that place had good cookies.

I got many great pictures, a few small purchases, and a better understanding of China's industrialization and urban culture, including honest talk about its current challenges. I went through the Three Gorges Dam locks during a cruise ship beer bash. I learned to play mahjong with helpful onlookers backseating. I saw an acrobatics show with muscle men and motorbikes, a chamber performance of opera music, and a sex museum. I have a lot to write up and a fragmented dump of trip notes to sort out in the process. Until next time, yo.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like walking there, although it's officially too hot to do so in dress pants. This is why we have bathrooms and changes of clothing. My duties largely focus on cobbling together data from various sources into a useful form for department staff. This involves some interesting problems of database optimization and wrangling SQL Server to handle logic that I'm used to dealing with in separate code.

I also worked up the nerve to scratch a longstanding hobby itch. A while back, I got into watching commentated video gameplay. It was fun hearing people's reactions, fun seeing how differently they approached open-ended games that I'd already gone through myself, fun reexperiencing said games vicariously in the background as I poked at art or writing. It also seemed fun to do, but I had performance anxiety and no concept of personal style.

Commentary can't be all things to everyone, so you pick a niche and stick with it - minimalism, constant reactive blather, conversation with the game as backdrop, scripted and smoothly presented MST3K-style. I decided on separate game and microphone capture, with a combination of planned points to prattle about and spontaneous reactions to curate afterward. There's some desirable roughness and an overall casual feel, but I can leave out the more pointless brain farts and redo anything that totally fell flat on its face.

Speaking of niches, there isn't much casual YouTube gameplay of Dynasty Warriors 5, and I couldn't find any featuring my favorite characters. So my crash test subjects were as follows:

DW5:XL Destiny Mode - Featuring Roll and her big brother Mega Man Cao Ren. Includes tips and advice on how to be awesome at Destiny Mode in general.

Cao Ren's story - In which I make stupid references to metal underpants, dramatically recount the siege of Fancheng, and break into a rendition of Stout Hearted Men. This was a trip down nostalgia lane and a collection of the character defining material that made the Rockman an instant favorite with his unique emphasis on humbly waging war with the least harm possible. (Still uploading this. The playlist should be complete tomorrow.)

I surprised myself. Pleasantly. The good stuff to meh ratio was great for a first try, with a nice variety of informative chat and emergent lulz. I kept the vast majority of my rough material as is. I tend to go between Jaunty Teacher and Daria depending on how expository or snide I'm feeling, but it works. I think. I also sorted out my editing process, which is generally enjoyable and efficient. It's nice to relax, not expect perfection, and be happy with your voice instead of flinching at every perceived mistake. I did have some false starts to do over, but such is part of the learning process.

There's plenty of other amusement in DW5 - like Xiahou Yuan's story, which has some funny cut scenes and could also use the comprehensive treatment - but I may not get to that for a while. These comfortably familiar projects were a warm-up to The Big One.


It drops tomorrow. I have it pre-ordered. I'm planning to record and publish my first reactions to each kingdom's story, with all the enormous stages and nifty new characters and interactions that hopefully develop relations I'm dying to see fleshed out. This will also have the upside of preventing me from rushing through the game, as I can only handle so much improv in a day. And uploading, what with our whopping 1 megabit/second bandwidth and the need to share with [livejournal.com profile] fndragon and his Minecraft enthusiasm. I'll post the playlists here as they're complete, but you can always camp out on my channel for updates.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
I got the job. Not just a job. The job. The high end programming position I applied to at Penn State, whose listing sought a driven and creative problem solver. The one with an interview I prepared for by mainlining '80s tunes in the Kern Building lobby beforehand, and in which I shed my suit jacket and flexed for a room full of staffers in response to an inquiry about my hobbies. It's a position within a department seeking to grow and develop its information technology division. It's my closest approximation to tenure. Said department has lots of other women, who I had a blast interviewing with. You bet your ass I'm stoked.

I can still walk to work. My office space seems quiet and private. I get a deep tuition discount and a boatload of vacation - that trip to China is A-OK with the management and won't put me in time off debt for the next century or so. I do have to dress business casual - a culture shock to someone raised in the jeans and snarky T-shirt world of web development and research engineering - but I have plenty of comfortable options, and I can use a wardrobe refresh anyhow. It's a good reason to kick me back into the Cleaning Out Clothes for Goodwill Project I started a couple of weeks ago.

I've been a lazy vacation bum. I had a full week where my best defense against doldrums was room escape and tile swap puzzle games. I also had breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] penm_rx3, who has a creative writing minor and a planned cross-country move. Which gave me a nice novel-related goal of finishing my first act to send them for some hardcore critique. I do appreciate the honest feedback from my friends who share my tastes and understand what I'm going for, but I need that detailed impression of themes and threads and pacing and prose. I understand that such requires money for the hours of work and experience involved. So if I can help my friends build their bank account and shore up Act 1 as a solid prototype for the rest of my structure, style, and tone - ayyyyyyup. It's moving in steady steps, with previously yet undetermined character chemistry falling neatly into place. I had reached my limits for how much I could plan ahead, so focusing on early content is just what I need right now.

Dynasty Warriors costume DLC is at its best when it involves absurd and/or modern themes. The Wei jobs exemplify this. Zhang He is a literal assclown, and Cai Wenji and Jia Xu are also in the circus because they are a popular fandom ship because matchy matchy let's pair up the new characters together I understand why people like it but I don't feel it at all. There's a lot of assorted military business, Xiahou Yuan is a crime scene investigator (who would totally be eating on the job to prove he isn't disgusted by anything) and Cao Ren is one of those technical rescue team guys. I have a perfect reference photo for him going after someone's cat stuck on a roof, but I've been more about words words words and there goes that damn artistic performance anxiety again. Although for once I've drawn something I don't facepalm at the flaws in two months later. Go figure. I'll get over it. And I do have plenty of in person reference for felines.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
The involuntary sabbatical continues. My first job prospect went to someone else, but I had a fantastic interview for a different one. There's more out there, and I continue to seek. Something will eventually come up Milhouse. At least I'm happily entrenched in Hobby Land in the meantime.

I'm loving the start of Mad Men. Period-relevant conflicts! Retro-flavored production! Entertaining, believable dialog! Characters amusing me even when their knuckles are dragging a groove in the ash-strewn floor! Hopefully it holds up - unlike The Sopranos, which lost me in the morass of Season 4 by shoving major conflicts in the background in favor of wallowing in pettiness and secondhand embarrassment. Wire fans, imagine Season 2 revolving around Ziggy, Valchek, and that fucking window, and maybe bothering to mention a major drug investigation once or twice.

I finished a new illustration, a month-long culmination of last year's improvement and then some. I broke some serious mental blocks with regard to fabric and hair, those dreaded flowing surfaces that I struggled to understand. I tend to do well with solid geometric constructions like heads and armor pieces. In an illustrated style, fabric and hair have to be felt out based on some understanding of their flow. I started to get it last year, but I wanted to learn the nicely variegated locks I envied in other people's art. With this, I found a style of my own to refine.

Ah-Meng of Wu - Lu Meng and Lu Su's surly study hour )

Dynasty Warriors 8 came out last month, so I was camping the live streams from Japan. It looks a good step above the disappointment of 7, with better battlefields, a fully decloned cast, and something for every character entertainment value with some prayer of approaching my reigning personal Jesus of DW5. While waiting for the English localization, I've been making up my own stupid captions. As well as terrible submissions for Facebook Warriors - the ideal home for all my languishing jokes.

Lu Meng's slacker pyromania backfires, pun naturally intended )

Xiahou Yuan demonstrates the hazards of borrowed leather )

With my art bender out of the way, I'm gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I like to line up a bunch of detailed scene concepts and get into prose mode to have at them, and Camp is nice for this because it allows user-specifiable goals. Word count is not an ideal metric for me, but I can deal by assigning reasonable targets to each scene and picking my total accordingly. At the very least, I hope to do 10,000 words. If I really go on a tear, I might finish Acts 1 and 2 - the first third of the novel. The rest of my outline is trickling in and not nearly as built out. But it has gone from a giant question mark to anticipation of developing conflicts, and the new material should give rise to more inspirational specifics.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
Let's get the worst out first. I got laid off. My reviews were stellar over four years of employment. I just happened to lose a game of Contract Musical Chairs during a time of uncertainty in the realm of government R&D funding. I have contacts, I have references, I have excellent prospects lined up - including an interview soon to come with a desirable employer - along with a high security clearance and the magical decade of experience required to bill myself as a senior software engineer. I'll be fine.

It's still a shock absorbed with its share of high octane beer. Spring House Big Gruesome Stout is a new favorite in the Strong 'n Flavorful lineup. It is peanut butter drunky time, and it is glorious. But consumed in measured quantities, all things considered. I continue to put in my quality time at the gym. I enjoyed a four-odd mile hike to get my just repaired car, which was backed into by a very nice and apologetic friend of a friend. I could have pinged the body shop's ride service, but where's the fun and celebratory pancakes in that? And mud-splashed pants, but they needed a wash anyhow.

I'm outlining. I'm pushing conflicts forward into the Great Unknown of my narrative's center. I'm researching soporific details required to contextualize and develop assorted business machinations. Readers will only see the tip of the iceberg, but it needs the apparent weight and fortitude to sink a ship.

I'm working up the nerve to draw again. I get art performance anxiety in ways that writing rarely pings. Oftentimes I'll make a godawful first sketch that needs to be thrown out. Then the next one starts to get it, and the connection clicks between brain and hand, and I surprise myself with some improvement or another, and I wonder why I ever feared the challenge to begin with.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
What I've been up to lately:

Noveling, which has been more about slow steady steps than a race worth describing in its entirety. Lots of outline shuffling, pacing grumbles, recontextualizing scenes so they fit within a timeline instead of floating in space. I need to jump off my cliff after the vague shapes within Act 3's fog, and I've just about shored up the foundation required to do so. I keep meaning to write up a master post explaining the project, my source list, and my progress metrics.

Enjoying a slow marathon of Deadwood. I expected realistic Wild West. I was pleasantly surprised to get realistic Wild West with heavy historical basis. I don't know much about the TRUFAX behind it, but I appreciate the research and focus on the unique conflicts of near-lawless gold rush frontier towns. And Calamity Jane is awesomesauce.

Finally excited about a new KOEI game. Dynasty Warriors 8 is nearing release, and a hell of a pleasant surprise after the disappointment of 7. Costume designs are back to that heavy Chinese aesthetic influence I love so much, and the stories seem to offer the something for everyone appeal that DW7 threw out the window to focus on its few anointed characters. I'm preemptively in love with the new Wu characters, Han Dang and Lu Su - historically nifty, known to interact with my other favorites in the same force, and drawn as unique, mature, down to earth men rather than cookie cutter avatars.

Han Dang )

Lu Su )

Rehabbing an owie in my sacroiliac joint, which led me to realize that my longstanding intermittent hip and back grumpiness was the result of undiagnosed glute weakness. Turns out that squats and deadlifts don't necessarily hit the posterior chain like you'd expect. Your hip and low back muscles can end up taking the brunt of the load, which leads to unpredictable strains and other fun bullshit. To get my butt back in order, I've switched over to one-legged exercises like Bulgarian squats and single leg squats and deadlifts. I also picked up a Rumble Roller to eradicate muscle knots that a regular foam roller can't quite hit - and oh does it ever work. OW OW OW. At least my upper body has been behaving itself.

Listening to weird electronic music, from atmospheric to catchy. The awesome soundtrack to Sleeping Dogs made me itchy to assemble something similar for my own triad-related novel. I haven't made any real progress on that, but I did discover some new tunes thanks to label websites and related videos - including the current music selection, whose full album is excellent background for programming.

Trying not to do the year-long bathroom dance because


(The setting of my novel, for those unaware)

In November. With a group of family and friends. As part of a tour featuring cultural highlights in Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, and Hangzhou, plus a cruise down the Yangtze. The tour showcases important locales like Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum and the massacre memorial, and gives us a free day to explore the city. I hope to spend that free day with a local guide, going off the beaten path for a strong sense of Nanjing's character. There is that matter of a 13+ hour flight each way, but I have a known superpower for sleeping on airplanes.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
My final word tally: 17,000 and change. Which doesn't include the leaps I made in planning, both in substance (notes, detailed brainstorming) and getting the best ever handle on my writing process. As I mentioned, just forging onward doesn't work well for the narrative I'm going for. Instead I need a somewhat iterative combination of the following:

  • Decide on the overall development of a plot or character arc - main points, where it might lead afterward, implications, thematic aspects, etc.

  • Consider how to show it in scenes. Sketch scenes in as much detail as you need. If I'm lucky, they jump into my head all at once. Otherwise, I need to hammer at them by brainstorming about the intended feel, finer points of content, and dialog hooks - which help me conceptualize tone and character chemistry, even if I don't use them all as originally conceived. If I'm struggling with an opener or ending, I brainstorm it separately, and perhaps alter or redo the scene to fit.

  • Save every dialog snippet and scene idea that comes to mind, even if you don't have an intended home for it. If you're ever stuck, go through the list for inspiration.

  • Lay out your scenes and notes on events that haven't yet been sketched out thusly. Is the pacing too rushed? Think about what other conflicts are going on - whether strongly pertinent to a main plot thread, tangential, or worth including to reinforce a theme, add depth and nuance, etc. Is the pacing too bogged down? Think about what could be cut or compressed - for instance, development might be better incorporated as exposition instead of shown in a scene. (Though you might not want to get too cut-happy before your rough draft is even done. If in doubt, make a scene and deal with the streamlining afterward.)

  • When you have a compelling scene concept, write it out. This is where the Just Write Crap concept can help. Sometimes your first whack at prose will fall flat on its ass, but you can't improve it if you're afraid to try in the first place.

My outline has begun to split itself into acts separated by time, which is helping me organize those main points and build out the requisite subplots around them. There's the initial challenge, the delicious optimism, swimming in the proverbial money pit, and subsequent danger and resolution. Act 1 is mostly planned into scenes, Act 2 is getting there, the last act is vague but has a known general outcome, and the rest is main points that need to be nestled among that subplotty awesomesauce. And this provides some metric of rough draft progress far more meaningful than raw word count, even if I don't yet know how many scenes I'll need. At least I feel like I'm going somewhere substantial and sustainable.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
The word count of my NaNoWriMo revision is around 15,500. Today's goal is double that. I'm cruising toward a C-C-COMBO BREAKER of my past four wins - and enjoying my best NaNo experience to date.

I sketch scenes if I'm blanking on them. I reread previous sections to weave in development I'll need later. I took a day off to plan a strong foundation for a subplot that had remained vague. I'm putting out 500-1000 well-founded words a day on a draft that I can continue into December and beyond instead of gutting for revamp after the post-NaNo crash and burnout. I can dial back the writing emphasis while still making steady progress. I haven't touched art in a month, and damn do I miss it.

I still write the crap that NaNo encourages me to, as it's important to move forward instead of nitpicking over polish best saved for a future revision. Yet the crap in question is a reasonable first draft stepping stone - ineffective delivery of sound concepts, not concepts doomed to fail. Last year, I Leeroyed up a Jenga tower to fill in the outlining I had neither the time nor knowledge to develop properly. This produced a fair amount of repurposable good stuff on the fly, but plenty of structural garbage. I didn't see any sense in repeating the experience for the sake of a perfect NaNo record - infinitely less meaningful to me than writing the best novel I can and reinforcing the sustainable habits required to carry it through to completion.

Seven years ago, NaNo gave me a fun and frenetic kick out of a lengthy writing torpor. I loved the thrill of going from a bare story concept to Holy Shit, I Wrote All That? "That" ended up like watching someone else play an adverb-heavy video game, but it was an enjoyable idea farm to inspire a better story and a start on getting back into a once beloved hobby. The breakneck pace has lost its luster, but the joy of November remains. NaNo is still an encouraging communal time to write, regardless of personal goals and working style.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
Sandy came. Sandy went. Sandy largely passed us over. The spousal unit went out in the gusting wind to redirect our rather ineffective downspout away from the house, then resumed playing video games. I spent most of yesterday with the Suspended Piano of Dreaded Impending Power Outage hanging over my head, and I was convinced I would jinx it by going out to the gym, microwaving food, and taking a shower. Turns out the storm blew a bunch of energy elsewhere and veered below us instead of hammering Happy Valley as we had expected. We were damn lucky, and I feel for those that weren't.

My art inspiration has gone on hiatus, and creativity has been slow this month in general. It seems that my brain wants to wipe its slate clean for That Very Special Time of Year.


My months of planning have given me a much stronger footing. But I still have outlining left to do, a subplot whose details remain frustratingly out of reach. I can't finish that to my ideal standards in two days. There's a certain amount of process that can't be rushed, and that needs to percolate and iteratively refine itself over time. But I do have enough solidified to bang out plenty of useful scenes and perhaps extrapolate some reasonable ideas for the rest. This year, I should make my word count with structurally sound material, a much better wheat-to-chaff ratio, and no emergency Russian gangster crossover antics - although I haven't ruled out the possibility of another such outtake for the lulz. I haven't done squat for [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo either, so perhaps there's some double duty writing to be had there.

I'm trying to make myself brainstorm, or at least pick up the reference books I had been saving for a power outage. My brain is pulling a Hoagie and giving me a major case of the Don't Wannas. It will come around. It always does.
rydain: (Yes Man)
Pick three of your favorite ships without looking at the questions.

- Carver/Herc (The Wire)
- Cai Wenji/Cao Ren (Dynasty Warriors)
- Cao Ren/Lu Meng (Dynasty Warriors)

Or, if you're like me, rearrange them after the fact because the answers would have otherwise sucked. To experience the intended randomness, pick pairings based on canon material.

Question time )
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
My focus on drawing has slid me down into the asscrack of the Dunning-Kruger curve. I can see knock-kneed hints of professionalism, see how far they fall behind the superb form and gesture and composition and volume in the works I admire. Art is hard, for reals. You read the classic references, like the amazing Andrew Loomis. You study pro illustrators and browse critique threads on Concept Art until you feel unqualified to pick up a box of Crayolas. You gnash and sweat over your own work, wrest life into your flat lines through countless do-overs, feel the lightbulb flick on, still know there's Something Missing but can't tell exactly what. Then you get a fresh look at your finished piece and wonder why you never noticed its shortcomings to begin with.

And at some point, you remember how to give yourself a hand for progress well earned.

Cao Ren, booty shorts )

Yes, it's cheesy fan service. It's also an exercise in constructing anatomy. The original pose came from a badly lit snapshot. I reposed and rendered it with help from Loomis textbooks and muscle photography. My goal was to capture weight and volume while learning about the underlying structure and developing my own style for representing landmarks of the human body. For a first attempt at such an exercise, I'm proud.

Just a Dance - Cai Wenji x Cao Ren, colored )

I finally figured out this coloring business well enough for a start. I tried a couple of years back, but the piece fell flat and weird because the underlying structure just wasn't there. Simple as this style is, it was a pleasant and fun surprise. And I can build on it in the future.

The Scars of War - Cao Ren portrait, 2 years better )

Say hello to the best damn lines I've done. Ever. The original took me weeks of on and off poking while I was still shaking off a load of rust from my post-high-school art inactivity. The redraw took 10 days - including the challenges of learning proper facial construction, further loosening up my style, and starting to comprehend hair in locks. Still, I have to give the original fair credit. It shows the symmetry and parallel line measurement I brought over from my cosplay drafting experience, and the tassel has reasonable volume. And I would have never improved if I had been afraid to try.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
The annual Grange Fair rolled around last week. It's no ordinary rural gathering of livestock, crafts, and any food that will maintain its constitution in a deep fryer. It's a settlement - literally. Families pass down their tents for generations, and every year is a reunion as neighbors watch each others' kids grow up to take on the tradition themselves. Pittsburgh transplant that I am, I don't exactly have a stake in these long-term local fuzzies.

But I sure as hell love the bungie trampoline.

Length of line: half an hour. Price of admission: $6. Time permitted: a good five minutes, which is plenty - I got loopy and had to pace myself. Best fair ride ever? My audible WHOOOO! says it all.

Back in the tail end of elementary school, my cousin and I used to watch wrestling. He was all about the Ultimate Warrior. For whatever reason, I had a crush on this guy.

So what if he was Bad, whatever that meant in the utterly serious world of 1990 kayfabe. DAT MULLET!

(In other words - I was 11. Shut up.)

I caught a match some years back when our cable was out and I had nothing else to watch. Oh, the hilarity. Betrayal commented about ad nauseam for those who managed to miss the other 409812 expressions of shock that Rhyno just came out of nowhere and gored Kurt Angle! Breaking out of pins at the last microsecond! Apparent exhaustion followed by inexplicable bursts of strength! Chants of USA for two guys from the same country! Botching the big bang signature move, followed by hard-fought victory!

I was recently directed to this over a friend's amusement at some random Japanese wrestler who could have been Cao Ren and Xiahou Yuan's long lost angry cousin. And there went that glee again. The stage mannerisms are more animated, more scrappy, more cartoonish. The moves are sold awkwardly at times, which somehow makes it even more amusing. Too bad for the language barrier. I'll just have to tolerate the pain of never knowing the deep and nuanced reason why Abbad got whacked with a crutch.

rydain: (Yes Man)
Back in the day, I tried out various Grand Theft Auto games for the ridiculous gangster antics. I never got very far. I had to get through too many story missions to unlock any suitable playground, and the difficulty ramped up too fast to be any fun for someone with minimal skills at fast twitch aiming with a controller.

During our traditional August Week of Nothing, the spousal unit convinced me to try out Saints Row the Third. It totally was the glorious asshole game I'd always wanted.

Saints Row the Third is an action movie playground that keeps on handing out the toys. You get confronted with some giant overpowered pain in the ass, and then score it as a mission reward a short while later. You accrue more and more cash to go after that next weapon upgrade or power-up dangling just out of your reach - and at max level, you can eliminate those pesky concerns about your health and ammo supply. Experience is constantly handed out for driving on the wrong side of the road, near misses, wheelies, and other typical sandbox antics. There are minigames involving mass destruction and essentially reenacting Ow, My Balls. Checkpoints are generous, and death only costs a pittance of cash. Apart from a couple of early rough spots where the need to KILL FAST KILL MORE is hammered home, the learning curve is encouraging and friendly. The game is well on the easy side, but I like that.

Plot? Who cares? It's enough to facilitate more and more great set pieces to race and annihilate your way through - including some welcome surprises, like a particular computer simulation - and it involves characters with entertaining quirks and interactions. And it starts with you airlifting a bank safe, hanging off said safe to shoot more bad guys, skydiving out of an airplane, then jumping back into the same airplane because there's yet more asskicking to be had. You can redo your character's appearance - gender, voice, and all - at any plastic surgery center, which plays a fittingly absurd role as well. Games with serious intent tend to fail it for me in myriad ways. It's refreshing to play one that only cares about bringing the ludicrosity.

I also finished another awesome awful fan project - Cao Ren and Xiahou Yuan's Alphabet of Manliness. Because the world totally needed a set of testosterone-soaked Dynasty Warriors alphabet cards, and of course I had to step up to the task.

August 2015

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