All posts by Lucas

Cyclical/cynical

Behold, one of my earliest (and onliest) comic strips:

cynical cyclical

Stake your claim

The year 1996 was one of my most prolific, in terms of both songwriting and general creativity. The band I had co-founded the year before would soon add a drummer and move from a sparsely albeit inventively instrumentalized trio into a full-fledged rock ensemble. Desperate to have more songs on which I would sing, and thus not have to play any instruments, I spent the summer of ’96 in a songwriting tizzy.

My general style at the time was to think of a cool title first, and then come up with lyrics and a melody later. The lyrics would usually be strings of non sequiturs linked together only by an imagined relationship to the title of the song. The melody would often come out naturally as I was writing the words down. I was able to write many songs this way. I only had trouble finishing songs when I tried to make them about an actual subject.

(Nowadays when I write songs, which is rare, I usually think of a melody or riff first, then try to write words around it, and then spend a long time thinking about what it should be called. This is probably a more normal method of songwriting.)

I wrote Mr. Claim-the-Credit that summer. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of WHIO-TV, where I had an internship. I had just returned from my lunch break, but still had some time left, and I didn’t want to go back inside until I absolutely had to. It was that kind of internship. And as I sat there in my turned-off car in the summer heat, the song appeared fully-formed in my head.

Sometime after that, I recorded this demo. My brother Tim is on bass, trumpet, and baritone; Chuck Hague on guitar; Brian McKinney on drums. The arrangement you hear is their collective interpretation of my melody.

Ultimately, my band decided not to add it to our playlist. I seem to remember an outright rejection of any song whose title started with “Mister”. Unwilling to compromise my title (and thus my artistic principles also), I let it go.

Mr. Claim-the-Credit [MP3, 3.8MB]

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Calling all catharses

My U-Pass expires today. A U-Pass is a fare card for the CTA, Chicago’s train system. It is a special fare card that never runs out of money. It was given to me by people at my school so that I would ride the train for educational purposes. They gave it to me at the beginning of the semester. It expires at the end of the semester. It expires today.

Oops, I forgot to learn!

Let’s see here. Got page of comic art published in filthy anthology: check. Coped with sudden and terrible breakup: check. Found new apartment: check. Moved to new apartment: check. Watched every episode of “Lost”: check. Spent enough time reading about “Lost” on the web that I could have watched every episode of “Lost” three times over: check. Likewise, but less so, with “Desperate Housewives”, “Arrested Development”, “The Amazing Race 6″, “The O.C.”, and “Survivor: Vanuatu”: check. Got very sick because I am unable to take care of myself properly: check. Read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, mostly on the train to and from school: check. Started playing Heroclix with friends: check. Dealt with minor addiction to buying Heroclix figurines on eBay: check. Designed a holiday card for pay: check. Attended classes with an acceptable or better frequency: check. Struggled with firmly embedded procrastination habits: check. Completed a semester’s worth of assignments to acceptable or better standards of punctuality and quality: a hefty check.

Nope! No learning! After that list, I’m hardly surprised. It was a pretty full semester.

I know that I wrote some cool stuff down in a notebook at some point… something about a business framework? Although if it were really all that great, people would be dissecting it on message boards for my enrichment.

I have one more U-Pass left, though. They’re giving it to me in January and they take it away in May. It could be my last hope. For learning.

Spatial relationships

“Stop looking at me. I can’t work when you’re looking at me.”

“How do you know I’m looking at you?”

“What?”

“I said, how do you know I’m looking at you?”

“Because I looked up and saw you looking at me.”

“As I suspected. Could it not be the case, then, that your inability to do work is related not to my looking at you, but rather you looking at me?”

“Stop looking at me.”

A worthwhile pursuit

“I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit,” says Jennifer, leaning against the refrigerator. “I just wish more people cared about it.”

“You’re so right,” agrees the girl whose name Rich does not know. He nods his head in general agreement, but he has lost track of what they are talking about. They continue their conversation, somehow managing to understand each other despite the cacophony of the party, which is full of other people having other conversations and presumably also performing the remarkable cognitive feat of separating signal from less-relevant signal.

Rich is incapable of this, and so he stands in the kitchen staring in the general direction of the two girls as they continue to chat. He does not know why he came to the party. Well, he does know. But it was not a rational reason and there’s no reason for him to think about it.

Rich does not do well at parties. He turns his body ninety degrees and finds himself in another conversation altogether with two co-workers whom he barely knows. From the words he can pick out, it seems like they are talking about some kind of athletic equipment. Rich has nothing to add to this topic, but at least he knows what it is.

Boredom sets in quickly, though. He chances another ninety-degree turn and finds himself opposite the host of the party and several others preparing and enjoying shots of tequila. Rich looks down at his beer cup, which has been empty for at least the last half hour because the keg, out on the porch and surrounded by throngs of people, is effectively inaccessible. He considers doing a shot but decides against it. Sometimes his people drink to loosen up a little bit, but Rich embarrasses himself when he gets drunk at parties. He recalls the mooning episode from July 2002. This is the kind of crowd that would be surprised and delighted by such a thing, but it would be coming out of nowhere. The folks at Rich’s workplace don’t know him in that context and he doesn’t want to subject them to that kind of contrast.

He rouses himself from self-reflection to find that the kitchen has emptied out somewhat. He has come to understand that parties simply flow naturally from room to room and that he should not associate this migration with his own presence in either location. Jennifer and the other girl are still deeply engrossed in their conversation, their body language making them seem as comfortable together as best friends, although Rich is pretty sure they just met. Is it alcohol or natural chemistry? Probably both. Jennifer has knocked back several beers over the course of the evening, and Other Girl has been chugging red wine from a jelly jar. They don’t seem drunk, though, just friendly and talkative. Rich has no idea what that is like.

He approaches them, and Jennifer acknowledges him with a warm smile, the type of smile you can see in the eyes as well as in the mouth. It’s a type of smile Jennifer is particularly good at. Rich’s thoughts begin to creep back into irrational territory and he struggles to remain present in the moment. The girls are now talking about neighborhoods, which is a conversation Rich can relate to: he does live in a neighborhood, after all. In fact, he has lived in several.

Other Girl is wearing a top that goes off the shoulder. Her round, shiny brown shoulder emerges from the fabric and captures Rich’s attention. He would very much like to approach that shoulder and bite it as he would an apple. Not a complete bite, just the beginning of a bite where one’s teeth slowly press into the skin. Rich believes that if this partial bite is delivered skillfully, it could be a very pleasant experience for all parties involved.

He realizes what he is thinking about, and starts to feel guilty. Then he feels indignant about having felt guilty, and then he starts to feel bewilderment at his unpredictable non-stop thought parade. Is it the shoulder, or is it the girl? Is it a shoulder thing?

“So what do you do?” asks Other Girl. Rich slowly comes to realize that the question is directed at him.

“Well, I–”

“He works in my department. We work together sometimes. This guy,” Jennifer yells, “is awesome!”

“Yeah?” Other Girl asks.

“Totally!” replies Jennifer, giving Rich a smack on the behind. Rich’s brain short-circuits briefly as it catches up to the action and realizes it no longer needs to supply an answer to Other Girl’s question.

“It is true,” Rich responds in a confessional tone. “I am awesome.”

Let the eagle soar

So it looks like our long national nightmare is only half over. I’m not sure what to do about that. I briefly considered the possibility that I could try the whole Republican thing out for a while; since it’s so popular, there must be something to recommend it. I could go for a smaller government and some deregulated industries. Why not? I was always planning to be a millionaire anyway. Why shouldn’t I ride this Republican thing out?

It falls apart, though, because I am not nearly sickened enough at the thought of gay sex. Why, I’m hardly sickened at all. Just barely enough to keep me straight. Homosexuality is nature’s way of making population growth more incremental than exponential, and gay people should be welcomed into mainstream society with open arms. And/or flies. If you’re into that.

So now what? What happens for the next four years? Probably a continuation of the slow but steady transformation of the once-great American Republic into a passive-aggressive (but more aggressive than passive) global bully.

It’s probably true that, had John Kerry won the election, he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish much, what with Republicans controlling both Houses and the Supreme Court. He would have presided over more Iraq quagmire, impotent to extract our soldiers from the region. He may well have gone down in history as one of America’s most mediocre presidents.

But, you know, even so. Look what we’ve got now.

You know what you have to do

This is a Bush supporter:

lots of weapons

Or it could be an ironic “Bush supporter”. The answer cannot be determined from the evidence given.

It occurs to me that I first started writing in this blog four years ago, around the time of the last election. That’s a pretty long time. That’s an entire illegitimate presidency right there.

Tomorrow is Election Day. Go vote for John Kerry. Be sure to double-check your ballot, especially if you are using touch-screen voting machines. And if you’re in Illinois, vote for Barack Obama. (If you’re in Illinois, you were probably already planning to do that.)

Our long national nightmare is nearly over.

Publishment

I am now officially a published comics artist. I think.

hackett is me

My name’s there on the cover anyhow. When I get my copy I’ll verify that the page I drew is in there. Here’s a snippet of that page:

Bride of Frankenstein taking the wolfman for a walk

Sensible

Long before Kelis put out her chant-based shout-out to schoolyard prostitution, my brother Tim and I composed a tune with the same title which is just as chanty and twice as endearing. But only half as much about prostitution. Be sure to listen for Tim’s nosefart solo.

Milkshake [MP3, 3.4 MB]

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Passing the time

calendar girls

Wink

Earlier this week I finally went to the doctor about my right eye, which has been bothering me for the better part of this year. Each morning I would wake up to a new dry itchy crusty redness, and every evening I would experience droopy swollen lids that would not open all the way, as well as a sore feeling, as though something gritty was under my bottom lid.

My ophthalmologist gave me an initial diagnosis of blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelid. I am now on antibiotics and special drops. Previously I was unable to use drops, because I would freak out just as I was squeezing the bottle and would either slam my eyelid shut or actually physically jump out of the way with tigerlike agility. However, I am now a pro at the drops. I can get a drop in my eye from fitty feet. Without blinking. On a fast-moving train. Re-entering earth’s atmosphere. After drinking a lot of coffee.

As a result of my conquest of the eyedropper, the redness and itchiness have by and large disappeared. The droopy swollenness and discomfort remain, however… for now. More drops, then!

Get my learn on

My third and last year of school at the Institute of Design begins tomorrow morning. I am both sad and happy about this. Sad because my life of unemployed leisure will be disrupted, and happy because it’s my final year and because really I genuinely enjoy learning new things. I am not apt to retain much with my memory in the current sieve-like state that it’s in, but at least I kind of feel smart when I learn and understand things, however temporary the feeling lasts.

Here’s my class schedule. The semester is divided up into two seven-week sessions.

A–session schedule
  8am-noon 2pm-6pm 6:30pm-9:30pm
M Research and Demo Comm Des Workshop  
T      
W     Structured Planning
R Research and Demo   Business Frameworks
F      
B–session schedule
  8am-noon 2pm-6pm 6:30pm-9:30pm
M Research and Demo Comm Des Workshop  
T     New Product Definition
W      
R Research and Demo   Comm Planning
F      

It doesn’t really look like a heavy load, but I’m sure I’ll be tearing out my short stubbly hair by the end of week 3. The major question is what my demo project will end up being, as that is presumably what will be taking up most of my time. I will probably know more by the end of class tomorrow.

I intend to treat the rest of my classes like roller coaster rides; that is, relax and try to have fun. And try not to projectile vomit afterwards, but go ahead if it makes you feel better. That kind of thing.

Can’t stop the rock

I’ve just written the most offensive script I have ever written, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I have written this script with the intention of drawing it (it’s about four pages long) and submitting it to an anthology whose works are thematically linked by their questionable tastefulness. I have decided to challenge myself to meet these stringent admissions standards in order to accomplish the goals of

  1. getting my first comics work published, and more importantly
  2. drawing a complete story, which I have never done.

Naturally, it is an intimidating process. But after months of writer’s block I’ve banged out a story. It’s topical, it’s got some satirical zing, and various groups are likely to find it insulting. It may be too complicated for a novice like myself to draw, but I’m not too worried about that. The thing that I keep thinking about, which is keeping me awake, is what would happen if the thing got published. What if I got loads of hate mail from offended groups? Would any parodied celebrities come after me with lawyers? Would the subject matter turn off mainstream companies who might otherwise consider me as a writer? Would having such an object in my past affect relations with some future employer? For god’s sake, what would happen if I ran for President?

I’m jumping the gun here, thinking about this. For one, I still need to submit my script and have it be accepted. I need to successfully draw the thing by deadline, which would be a fancy trick considering school starts up in a day or two. And if my work is found publishable, I am free to use a pseudonym. And even if I don’t, hey, maybe people aren’t as easily offended as I think they are. It’s possible I’m vastly overestimating my capacity for tastelessness.

Nevertheless, all this keeps running through my head. Does this happen every time or just during the first one?

All-new, all-similar

At this writing I have gone live with The Lucubus Version 6.0. This revision entails a drastic change in layout philosophy (goodbye, nested tables; hello divs and CSS) as well as a change in engine (Blogger is out; WordPress is in). The site is still in a tweaking stage; the three-column layout breaks when one clicks on the comment link, to name one of many glitches in need of repair.

In addition, the transition from HTML 4.0 to XHTML has left my archives strewn with code that does not validate properly. I am gradually going to go back through my archives fixing code and categorizing posts (only about six hundred or so) . I will also gradually implement some neat PHP tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.

Why did I bother redesigning the site after two years of relative dormancy? One reason is optimism: if I’m not sick of looking at the site, maybe I’ll feel more inclined to post. The other major reason is I wanted to experiment with CSS as a layout strategy and not just a fancy way to mark up text. After all, that’s the way our founding fathers in the W3C envisioned the interweb.

Comments are open. Feedback is welcome. Not that I have any regular visitors at this point, but all you people doing a web search for “hentai” and coming here in droves only to find it is merely ALT text for an image which doesn’t even show tentacles, let alone tentacles raping anybody – well, maybe you’ll be interested in the new look.