Archive for September, 2016

I got to see Othello for the first time at the CalShakes outdoor theater in Orinda. My third time out there–I saw Romeo and Juliet a few years back and King Lear last year (my first time for that play too–I know, I don’t keep up with the classics so well, but what can I say, my PhD is in Icelandic lit from 800+ years ago–no time for the newbies…). The aesthetic of the CalShakes productions seems to be a sort of deconstructed, industrial feel–or maybe that’s just what they do whenever they hear I’m coming I don’t know. In any case, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.


Did a pretty hasty sketch of Othello in a hoodie–alas, too hasty to end up being a reasonable likeness of Aldo Billingslea (who has a longer face and somewhat different hair), so, um, we’ll just say I’m illustrating the concept…

Their treatment of Othello was especially minimalist–everyone sat in a circle, and those not in the scene stayed seated, while those speaking would at times look at, or circle those they spoke of. I thought it was a neat way to visualize the network of relationships as they shifted with the progressing plot. Dress was contemporary, and Aldo Billingslea (professor at Santa Clara University), who played Othello, wore a hoodie–whether this had been done yet I don’t know, but it was only a matter of time, and I thought it fit well with CalShakes’ usual way of doing things. Some of the additional bits may grate some listeners–several spoken bits added (like wikipedia-style info re: one of the sites, other random bits), occasional use of live video projected above the stage, and, right at the climatic, final moment, they broke for audience discussion. The latter is the only bit that I was bothered by, but not because it was necessarily a bad idea, and it certainly fit with what they were trying to do with the play–I just hate giving random adults a chance to talk. Which sounds bad I guess, but, well, the teacher in me just prefers working with folks who understand themselves as students and don’t have an inflated sense of their own contribution… ah, well, more likely I think it’s just that I hate being in a classroom that I’m not running, haha.

In any case–I recommend this production, at least if you are someone who can handle stripped-down Shakespeare. The play itself is already so appropriate for the #BLM lens they were going for that some might feel some of the additions edged towards preachy, but I think they come off as valid dressing.

And it is such a beautiful theater–come early for the food and booze, both of which I recommend, and picnic underneath the eucalyptus before the play starts. And they often have talks beforehand as well, though I’ve never been to those. Probably great though, I’m sure.

Hm, it occurs to me I sometimes suggest parallels in Old Norse literature when I review books, movies, etc–like my discussion of valkyries and their lovers after watching Kubo. Shakespeare isn’t as far off from my field as one might think–Hamlet is after all based in part on Amleth in Saxo Grammaticus’ History of the Danes. The tragic love story of Othello, where (spoiler alert) the general is convinced that his wife has been cheating on him with, um, well, tragic results, could I guess be compared to Ermanaric’s execution of his son, and later his young wife Svanhildr, daughter of the famed Sigurðr of the Völsung cycle (Prose Edda has a version of this), after they were falsely accused of having an affair. Of course the romance in Othello seems legit, while Ermanaric is pretty much a dirty old man who screws everything up (OK, maybe I’m projecting modern sensibilities on the text a bit…), so I don’t recommend anyone push the parallel too far…

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I’ve had a science fiction idea for a novella or novel bumping around the back of my brain for about a decade now. It’s evolved a lot over the years, and about the time I started this blog and had a brief run of poem publications I started layering some inspirations from my academic life in Old Norse literature and Scandinavian Folklore into things. I’d been figuring I’d write it up eventually after finding some time to research the science-stuff (fantasy has always been more natural for me to write as a mythologist/folklorist, even if I love sci-fi). Never actually got around to developing it beyond some conceptual brainstorming, but about a couple weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that this could be a decent webcomic–and doing it as a webcomic would take some pressure off as far as getting all the science “right”, since the fictionality and spectacle of it all is given more reign in visual media. Since I’m behind on posting this month (I’ve got things I want to post about, just no time before leaving on a trip this weekend), I thought I’d put up the visual brainstorming I’ve been doing so far, then after that some other sketches from the last 5 years that I think fall into the genealogy of this project when it comes to my own work. I hope you enjoy!


A potential visualization of my key characters–just playing around though. Could be completely different. I do love drawing long black hair with my brush and calligraphy pens though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that stayed…


First attempt visualizing the spaceship–same design, for the most part, as what I draw in the first test page below. I think this design will change a lot. The ship is supposed to be traveling at relativistic speeds, so I’m obviously imagining some super-duper energy source and engines, but am otherwise trying to have a bit of a nod to realism, with a shield to protect from interstellar dust (which from what I understand would essentially be cosmic rays at this speed…), and am showing the ship entering a star system (or here a system of planet and moons) backwards as it decelerates. If you’ve been following my art, you know I have a thing for space scenes in my moleskines sketches–this is the first time I’ve tried to include secondary reflections (like “earth-shine” on the moon) in my art. Didn’t turn out quite as I’d like, but I’m still kinda proud. 🙂


Then I started sketching out some test pages–hadn’t really developed the story too far yet, but enjoyed myself so much that I went and inked the pages. General story line is about what I have planned, but details are mostly just spontaneous ideas and I don’t know whether they’ll survive. The full awkwardness of my current ship design shows here, I’m afraid–will definitely need to work on that. The whole thing is pretty rough, and if I ever get a chance to actually develop this it final drafts will be done digitally and will be more more detailed and cleaner.

Those are the project-sketches I have so far. Following are some other bits of art that in some way precede this:


When I first starting doing digital art on my iPad back in 2010 as a new PhD who felt like he’d been putting off his creative work for too long, I ended up with a few sketches (I believe the top one, the first, I did while watching Mulan) that I had a webcomic idea for–never ended up developing that, but I think it’s basically gotten folded into my current idea.


Like I say above, drawing long dark hair is such a pleasure with a pen brush or equivalent–though these sketches only apply to the current design of my heroine, and I can’t promise she’ll look the same in the end…


Speaking of adventuresome heroines with long dark hair…


Some of my Goblin Week sketches (started and run by Evan Dahm on tumblr) kinda fit the spirit of othwerworldly adventure that I’m going for here.



And then of course my valkyrie pics seem very relevant now, both for visual development and for thematic parallels. Not that my story is a “Valkyrie story”, but there are bits and pieces feeding my thoughts here…


So there we go! After doing my three test pages I have to say that this project is feeling very doable–not sure yet whether I’ll actually be able to fit it in, but it’s fun to think about! And if you think it looks interesting you should definitely speak up so I know there would be an audience! The closest I’ve gotten to a serial comic is my Grim Bunny series, but this project would be a thoroughly developed, “traditional” webcomic. Hope I will get to do this eventually!

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More on Dayanna’s coloring book project!!!

Viking Specialist at Large

Two months before the completed Viking Coloring Book heads to the printing facilities at ACMRS. Less than two months. Its going well- more than 200 motifs illustrating artifacts, landscapes, the flora and the fauna relating to the Viking world have been inked and scanned. More than 50 of the planned pages are plotted of the intended 75 and that is a pretty cool feeling.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA Some of the coloring book motifs on the desk.

I’ve been arranging event appearances for myself recently. Here’s the current schedule:

9/24/2016Viking Snack Fest hosted by Sons of Norway at Salida Public Library. I’ll have a table of books and art for this event.
10/1/2016Viking Nations signing at Barnes and Noble Weberstown in Stockton.
11/5/2016Speaking during a poster session at the California Librarian’s Association conference in Sacramento where I’ll talk about being a specialist doing public events at libraries.
5/2017Member of a…

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