The Clock in the tree

“There’s a clock on that tree”.


“On that tree! Look!”

“You’re right. It’s … it’s a clock”

And it was. A little glowing neon blue set of digits stared back from the side of the tree, implacably fluorescing 9:24.

“I wonder what it’s doing there?”

“I dunno. It’s a clock. Who would want a tree with a clock in it? What good is the time out here, in the forest?”

“A good point, young one,” came a third voice, “A very good point indeed. Time, at-least out here, is rather meaningless, is it not?”

At this, the children were frightened. The source of the voice was not immediately obvious, and they looked around for several seconds before finally spotting it’s owner: A small green froggish thing, about a foot tall, stepping out from behind the aforementioned clock tree.

“Time is Relative. Or, rather, in my case, A Relative: He’s my great-great uncle, twice removed.”

“Who are you?” Said the little boy, Joey, who was not infact certain of what the little green thing was, or it’s intentions. He moved to shield his sister, Hazel, who had of course been the one to spot the clock in the first place, from whatever this little man (For it was man shaped, mostly) and his intentions may be.

“I,” said the frog/man/thing, “Am a Goblin.”

“A goblin?” questioned Joey, with distrust. “I’m fairly certain my mother wouldn’t want me talking to goblins, least of all ones that sneak up on us like that.”

“Truly, child, it was you who snuck up on us. We had, of course, seen you, but imagine our surprise when you could see us!”

“Us?” interjected Hazel

“Yes,” Boomed a deep voice, “Us.” And, before their very eyes, the tree moved. Carefully, and precisely, it shifted it’s limbs to resemble arms, and two rather large but rather disconcertingly uneven knotholes blinked open to form eyes. Roughly equally between them was the clock, now reading 9:28. A split in the wood below the eyes, they now saw, was it’s mouth.

“Who are you?” inquizited Joey, pushing Hazel further behind him even while she attempted to scramble in front to get a better look. “Why are you talking to us?”

“I am called… Well, most simply call me Tree.” Said the tree.

“And I,” said the frog/man/Goblin, “Am called Bartholomew. Might I inquire as to your names, young mister and miss?”

“I’m Hazel”, replied Hazel, “And this is my brother, Joey”

“Well met, Sir Joey and Miss Hazel, and welcome to my forest,” boomed Tree, as his gash of a mouth twisted into a crooked and sideways, yet very endearing, smile. Bartholomew smiled too, but with his crooked teeth and green pointed ears, it wasn’t quite so endearing.

“Would you,” Boomed tree, “Fine youngsters,” He withdrew a limb behind him, and brought back with it a kettle and several cups, “Care for some Tea?”

On Cerebus, Part 2

I finished the second volume of Cerebus today.

It’d been sitting on my desk, waiting to be read for a while. At first, it was waiting for me to finish the first part of my Cerebus essay. I wanted to write that without knowledge of what further would happen in the second volume. And then, when that was done, it was waiting simply for the right time for me to sit down and drink it in.

It was on a long plane ride that I finished it, a 5 hour affair from Cincinnati to Seattle. I’ll spare the details. But, with stoically silent people in the seats next to me, I read.

The first thing that strikes me is the art. The basic style is the same as it’s always been, and much the same as more mainstream comics. But the visual “flair”, as it were, is amazing. The use of grayscale text for echoes, heavy use of white on black to bring out text, or facial features. Most of the second half is drawn with the right side as the bottom, and over one set of pages the comic does a full corkscrew, as part of a sequence in which our favorite aardvark is rather inebriated.

Part of this essay is of course, comparing and contrasting such to sluggy. I’m not sure that sluggy has quite the same artistic nuance to it, but it certainly did and does push borders in how it’s story was presented. Perhaps the first thing to mention is that Sluggy is a webcomic: In 1997, there were perhaps a dozen comics on the internet, and only a handful that updated regularly. It was one of the first “three panel” comics to gain popularity on the internet.

Proposal for a semi-reliable, collaborative, encrypted anonymous network.

Part one, of perhaps Many.

Modern American culture is entirely dependent on a common disregard for copyright law. Proving the morality of such or the truth of such is far from the point of this article, however. This is about how to lock in such culture: to prevent society from being dragged back into the stone ages from before it was so.

What America, and the World, needs here is an easy to use, yet secure filesharing network. For that, you need a secure backbone. And that’s what this document intends to create.

First, some definitions. Easy means that it needs to be simple enough that anyone who could use previous filesharing networks can use this one. Secure means that it will be hard for the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, or any other organization that would prevent said sharing to discover who is talking to who, and what they are saying, or more importantly, make it hard to prove such.

Next, some limitations: This project cannot keep the such forces out. Part of the idea is to make the framework robust and resilient to such intrusion. However, we can make it hard to do something stupid and get yourself discovered.

Basic idea: The Network, codenamed for the moment DUMPNET (After Justin Frankel’s WASTE, Tag: The DUMP, where WASTE goes next), will be composed of several distinct parts.

1) The DUMPTRUNK. This is simply a darknet “Trunk” based upon the ideas of a web of trust with anonymity within. Each user will run a DUMPTRUNK node, which knows very little about it’s surroundings but has a lot of logic for the packets going through it. Unfortunately, despite it’s name, it’s not a big truck: It’s a series of tubes.

2) The DUMPSTER. Named for Napster, the start of the revolution, the DUMPSTER is a protocol for caching file lists and searching. Again, this is based on a web of trust, but still anonymous: The trusted server knows only the Public key of the users, not their actual identity. The Server also hosts no files itself, it simply tells people who to request from.

3) The DUMPFTP. A simple file transfer protocol, based on the DUMPTRUNK. Routes using an ant-logic algorithm, built into the DUMPTRUNK, that sets up TCP-like connections.

Each user would have separate keysets for each app, “listening” for packets aimed at it’s public key.

Why 4chan is not 2chan

A treatise on culture, west and east.

Western culture is rooted in strife. Wars of territory, ideology, food, possession, and honor. The idea of war, of battle, is central to central to western thought. It is the strife that makes us strong, that supports our system of government and economy. Thus it is cleverness that wins when all else fails.

Eastern culture is rooted in cleverness. True, wars and feudal lords were just as common there as they were here, but wars were not won on the size of your army or their muscles and armor. Wars were won and lost on their commanders tactics, on traps, terrain, and flanking. There is a reason that China has the works of Sun Tsu and the great military epics while England, France and Germany have folktales of great warriors. In much the same way as cleverness can sweep up the victory in the west, a well orchestrated blunt move, a barbarian or a sudden coup by a displeased general, wins in the east.

This is the fundamental difference between the east and the west: While the “normal” is revered and responsible for daily life, it is the extraordinary that is responsible for changing society. This means that while western society is based on bloodshed, it’s laws and rules are based on cleverness. In much the same way, eastern (Buddhist, Confucianist, and even Maoist) societies are based on cleverness, but it is the bloody revolutions that form their laws and base.

This is why 2chan works, and is actually a somewhat intellectual discussion board, while 4chan is simply a collection of tards. In America and western countries, the base working of society is the battle. The imageboard is not a battlefield, and it’s very hard to win or lose, so assholes end up spamming each other forever.

On Cerebus

I’ve been reading Websnark for a while. It’s an excellent commentary on webcomics (when it updates), and the sporadic non-webcomic rants are rather good, too. Perhaps the best and most famous part of Websnark is the term it coined: Cerebus Syndrome. Cerebus Syndrome, for the uninitiated, is when a comic is created light and humory, but evolves into something deeper. Many of the best strips go through this transformation: Sluggy did, Narbonic did, to a certain extent you could even say more singular comics like “Mac Hall” did, with it’s gradual change from being a simple humor comic to being an art experiment (though never losing it’s humor roots)
So, looking at my bookshelf the other day, I found a couple Cerebus collections that my mother had purchased for my father, who had read Cerebus near its inception. I decided to investigate the origins of one of my favorite terms.

The first thing that has to be said about Cerebus is that it’s /good/. Really good. I had heard some funny bits about it, like the fact that it included a parody of Elric of Melnibon√ɬ© who talked like Foghorn Leghorn, but I’d not realized how truly hilarious the concept was till I started reading it. Dave Sims knew how to write a comic.

The second thing that needs to be said is that the roots run deep. It’s not clear how deep, though, and I wonder how much is planned out, and how much is simply well improvised. As I write this, I’m midway through High Society. I know that there is a book devoted to Jaka, and we briefly met the character in an early issue, and then she was namechecked again later. The final image of her first appearance seems to have unusual depth: Sims was still writing a humor comic at this point, and her final words and tears and promise to wait seem out of place. This leads me to believe the seeds were planted early, but it’s not clear if Sims knew what he was planting or even if he were to get back to it.

I’ve got to compare this to an apple plantation: A farmer can lay out neat rows, and have a plan for how his fruits will develop. Or, he can follow the Johnny Appleseed method, and simply plant seeds where he goes. My father suggests that it’s more the latter, that Sims manages to find a ripe apple in the character of Jaka later on is simply him stumbling into an area he had planted in his youth. The results are supposed to be impressive, however, so I’ll still give him credit.

Another comparison that has to be made is to Sluggy Freelance’s Oasis. Oasis is one of the deepest and most interesting Sluggy Characters. She’s been the subject of at least 5 major storylines, and still so much of her character is unknown, yet she remains oddly compelling. But, for her current importance to the greater Sluggy storyline, she was killed off at the end of her first storyline. She was confirmed dead in a later “Ask the Author” comic(LINK). It was only a huge popular demand that eventually brought her back.

I also have to compare sluggy to Cerebus in terms of how the two strips evolved. An obvious comparison, considering that Sluggy is the original Webcomic to undergo the change (Possibly beaten by Kevin and Kell, but I’ve not read enough to know). Reading it now, Cerebus seems to take a much faster change. The second half of the first book is significantly social commentary, with a Groucho marx like character ruling a nation with obvious abandon. Yet, that’s only a year in. Sluggy’s first “Serious” storyline was a year in, too. However, neither is really deep to the levels their comics will later become. Sluggy’s “Vampires” is mostly a silly action romp, and Cerebus’s stories in Palnu are mostly just an excuse to have a Groucho Marx imitation wax poetic.

When, then, does the serious start to outweigh the funny? I think, for sluggy, it’s the one comic in “The Stormbreaker Saga”, where Valerie, her kingdom on the verge of ruin, is approached by the Vampire Lysinda ( The moment had been built to, for a while, with good moments in previous Sundays (Torg and Zoe running for each other across battle lines, for a frame of a hug, before proceeding to shoot/stab demons, while still hugging.

For Cerebus, it’s probably around the 5th issue in High Society. Humor is forgotten, briefly, while Cerebus and his assistant plan their move to keep Cerebus’s position as the Diplomatic Envoy from Panlu to Iest. Rant is made about Foreign Debt, and despite the fact that his opponents are aforementioned Groucho Marx and Elric imitations, it feels /serious/.

And yet, it’s not even begun, says my father. It really gets serious in “Church and State”.

I’ve got to keep reading.

Ted's Excellent Adventure.