Archive for April, 2012

28/04/2012

Back Tuesday.

So after four migraine’s in four days I am one very tired puppygirl. Seriously tired. So tired I managed to fall asleep sitting on the toilet this morning, after a full nights sleep. So I decided to treat myself by taking a short break from writing for my blog, or novel, and instead working over the weekend on my upcoming webcomic (Yes Virginia, it really is happening this time.).

So that being the case I leave you all to have a wonderful weekend in the company of The Muppets.

(Don’t pretend you didn’t go “Mamma!!!!!” with Animal.”

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26/04/2012

ArtRage 3 – Finally a graphics program even the ham handed can use!

In my quest to become a better artist I have experimented with many different graphics programs. I’ve tried everything from MS_Paint to Paintshop Pro. But I’ve come away from every single attempt, not just disappointed but frustrated as hell. You see I have one near universal complaint to aim at most of them.

They’re too damned incomprehensible.

Seriously, with the exceptions of MS_Paint, and Paint.Net, I found myself again, and again wasting weeks trying to come to grips with programs that made virtually no sense to me. The two Paint’s are exceptions mostly because of their simplicity, being at heart a bitmap editor and a very simple striped down Raster graphics package.

Now I am quite sure that for some with the right training Paintshop Pro, or Photoshop, or any of the other high-end programs are superior products. Awesome in their abilities, and efficiencies. But to a poor uninitiated girl from Ireland they were as clear as muddy water. So I resigned myself to using Paint.Net for the ability to use layers, a more flexible palette than MS_Paint,  and the fact that it is all in all more powerful.

I resigned myself, and despite my first serious webcomic being 100% drawn in Paint.Net I wasn’t happy about it. A good program within its limitations, but for all that it’s simple to use, it doesn’t feel like drawing, it feels more like “creative” technical graphics, if that makes sense to you.

Then in a Skype conversation with a friend they suggested that I take a good look at ArtRage 3. Not being one to turn down free advice I did, and I am so glad that I listened.

ArtRage makes sense. The screen is taken up with a quarter circle color palette in the bottom right of the screen, a similar display of drawing tools on the bottom left, and a few other discreet interfaces around the edge. The vast bulk of the screen is taken up with your drawing surface.

To take those in order. The color palette unlike many others I’ve used is clear-cut, and simple to use. Click on the main palette and a band of different shades of that colour pops up. Much the same as any other system. But unlike many others you can see where the system is generating those colours from. There’s no moment of “Where the F**K did it pull that shade from?”.

The array of tools is astonishing. Flat brushes, pointed brushes, painting knives, pencils, markers, crayons, even a goo gun. The best part though is that when you use them the results look, and to a large degree act like the real thing. Pick “marker” and then adjust it to the setting “with top left off” and that’s precisely what you get. A few centimetres of dark solid colour before it starts to wash out. Overlap two oil colours, and you not only get a “mixed” third colour, but you get a slight randomizing of the pigments which give the result a very real feel.

Want to paint on canvas? There’s a setting for that, you can even apparently set how coarse, or fine the weave of the canvas is.

Want to paint with metallic paints? You can do that, and what’s more it looks genuinely metallic. (A setting I hope to make great use of in the near future.)

Want to use a layer for your roughing out, one for outlines, one for colouring? Yeah they’ve got you covered on that too.

Have a shape you’re going to use constantly? Why not make a stencil?

Want to use your graphics tablet? Work away darlin’ it even detects the lightness, or heaviness of your stylus strokes. And better yet the lines really do change in thickness, accurately and in a way that is truly repeatable.

After the endless frustrations of using “art” programs which are based more on autocad concepts than anything you might recognise as drawing ArtRage is an absolute breath of fresh air. It truly is the closest thing to drawing/painting the way you do in reality, on your PC.

After weeks, even months trying to get to grips with other programs, and never feeling I had gotten anywhere. It was such a relief to find myself comfortable with ArtRage after a mere 20 minutes. I think I’ve found my new favourite toy.

The following video is obviously not mine, but it shows wonderfully why I love this program so much. And even though it’s being demonstrated here on a Tablet PC, I’ve found it just as simple to use on a regular PC with a graphics tablet, and nearly as simple with a trackball.

24/04/2012

Letting Go of Things.

Recently I was given the totally unexpected, but extremely welcome gift of a secondhand e-book reader. It’s a PanDigital 7″ Novel. Basically it amounts to a digitally castrated Android tablet PC. It’s a very, very welcome gift as my previous sort of e-book, a 5-6 year old Ipaq 1950rx, is starting to act like that really old grand-aunt who insists that someone has pee’d in her sherry.

It’s also very welcome because the move to my new home has shown me that I own too many books. That is a horrible admission for a true bibliophile. I love books. I adore books. I get such pleasure from the feel of a book in my hands, from the smell of the paper, and the glues that hold it together. I get such a thrill from opening a new, or secondhand book for the first time, as I wonder what adventures await me between its pages. With how my health so often restrains my lifestyle, books are how I travel to other countries, how I meet other cultures. They’re how I find heroines, even sometimes how I fall in love. They’re precious items to me, the single greatest human invention. So much more than mere collections of leafs of paper.

I have damaged two books ever in my life. And even though they were two goddess awful Summer holiday books, I did suffer guilt pangs for doing so. I used them to make a pair of secret books as parts of presents for two very precious people. I know both are treasured possessions now, as I hoped they would be. But I damaged two books to make them. And try as I might I’ve never been able to, and probably never will be able, explain why it feels so wrong to have done that. Destroy a book…it’s just not what you’re supposed to do.

I own around 600 honest to goodness paper books. They take up 5 bookshelves. To move them from house to house takes 3 car journeys, and a lot of sweat from humping them around. But despite how much I love them. Despite how emotionally important many of them are to me, I know I have to let at least some of them go. I physically can’t take the strain of moving that many books ever again.

It’s a hard thing to do though. They’re important to me. They all have memories associated with them. They’re all tied to some place I’ve been to, someone I knew, or know, serve as a reminder of something I did, or even someone I did once upon a time. They’re the containers of stories, and sometimes the least of those stories are the ones contained between their covers. So soon I’ll have to start looking for new, loving homes for my paper babies.

Someone for my omnibus copy of the Killashandra Trilogy by Anne MacCaffrey, which I read cover to cover the week my Nanny died, and was buried. Who I can smell in the air around me when I touch its cover.

A new owner for my, seriously don’t laugh, original series Star Trek novels. The books that bring me back to my apartment in Cork City, to the days when I would lie on my bed for hours, following Kirk, Spock and McCoy on their adventures as I listened to the city rumbling around me.

But no-one else is getting my copy of MacCaffrey’s Dragonsinger, because no-one can ever get me to give up my copy of the story that made me realise life might just be worth living after all. The story that helped me to realise that dreams can sometimes come true, even if the only way to reach them is to walk out of a nightmare.

21/04/2012

Webcomic One-Shot – Spider Holocaust.

As my regular readers know by now, I’m an aspiring webcomic artist. But because of a serious loss in my basic skills I ended up putting that particular dream on an indefinite hold. But I’ve worked pretty solidly on a lot of skills for almost a year, hours spent drawing anything I could think of, writing out dialogue, and then reducing it to its core minimum, practicing using my graphics tablet, and so on. There’s a surprising amount that goes in to producing web art, and a lot of it are things you’d never expect. For example, did you know that with some older graphics tablets you’re supposed to sort of sharpen the nibs on the pens? Neither did I.

One of my previous efforts.

Anyway while my drawing skills are still nowhere near where I ultimately want them to be, they have improved a great deal, and so today I show what a lot of hard work can achieve. I’m not completely happy with it, I am after all a perfectionist by nature, and “good enough” is never good enough for me. But I am delighted with my progress over the past few months.

Some improvement, not a long way to go yet.

And so with some small modicum of pride I present for your enjoyment, and potential ridicule.

Spider Holocaust!

19/04/2012

Websites you should read.

Okay well seeing as I’ve spent the whole week ’til now working on my post for Saturday, (seriously tune in Saturday, you probably won’t be disappointed) and I have a hospital appointment on Thursday (writing this Wednesday afternoon, and have SO much to do before the day ends), I decided on a small reviewish linkstorm for this post. This is a list of the blogs, and sites that I think you really should view, assuming you don’t already.

The Consumation – It’s a food blog, it’s hilariously written, it’s what Nigella would be doing if she had a better sense of humour, and far superior writing skills.

The Musings of a Lesbian Writer – A wonderful blog that is filled with delightful insights into the mind of an amazing lesbian.

Hot Nerd Girl – Well there isn’t a lot to say about this site, apart from saying that I always come away…inspired.

Ukulele Hunt – If you#re a uker, you need to read this blog. With great uke related videos, weekly tabulations, and reviews it really is the superior ukulele blog.

Anyway there are probably a couple of hundred more incredible blogs that I regularly read so I’ll save some for whenever I’m next completely, and utterly screwed for time. But I’ll leave you with a link to one of the best webcomics I’ve ever read, enjoy, and sorry for stealing the rest of the day from you. 😉

The Last Warring Angel.

17/04/2012

A short letter to Mom, (who thankfully doesn’t read my blog in part because she still thinks of the internet as magic.)

You rang yesterday mom. It was so great to hear from you. I miss you when I don’t see you for so long, but I will get down to see you soon I promise. I’m sorry your body is causing you so much grief at the moment, but maybe it’ll improve in time, and if not well you can always make a hobby out of seeing how miserable you can make the doctors who deal with you.

I’m writing because you laughed at me yesterday. I told you I was going on a date with a really special guy on Saturday evening, and you laughed. I told you he was handsome, charming, sweet, sexy, smart and that I’m excited about it, and you laughed.

I do get that almost everyone finds my discovery of my bisexuality amusing. But it’s becoming very old for me when people laugh at my sexuality, and I thought you at least would listen without laughing. I was wrong in that I guess. I know that in the past ten years I’ve gone from hating men, loathing them, to being indifferent, to now being open to the possibility that not all of them deserve to be dropped head first into the event horizon of a singularity. Worse that a few of them might even be worthy of trust, attraction…who knows maybe even love? I get that it’s a big change for you to take on board, but imagine what it’s like from my side? Just for a moment, please?

I’ve gone from decades of being absolutely certain of my sexuality, to not knowing what way is up, or down. I’ve gone from feeling safe in who I’m attracted to, to being attracted to a handful of members of a particular gender. You know the gender that my abusers were, that all of my bullies were…that gender. Yes, I know it’s unfair to tar all males with that brush, but you know that’s why it’s a phobia. It’s not rational, it’s not fair on them true, but it’s also not fair on me either.

But here I am all the same, excited to be going on a date with a handsome, charming, sweet, sexy, smart guy. And it’s so funny right? Amanda, the man-eating lesbian isn’t a dyke after all, get this she’s a bi-girl, and she’s interested in dating a guy, what a laugh. I needed support mom,

I’m excited yes, but I’m nervous. No scratch that, I’m scared.

This isn’t just a first date with a handsome, charming, sweet, sexy, smart guy. It’s my first date EVER with a guy, after 34 years of life on the planet. It’s the first time I’ve ever pursued something with a guy. It’s the first time I’ve ever wanted something to happen. But I’m so aware of how broken I am underneath all the mental armor I present to the world.

I’m scared of being hurt. I’m scared of him being hurt. Hell I’m scared of getting the bus home afterwards. After all, a gothic futagirl on Saturday night with Dublin Bus, what could go wrong there?

I didn’t need you to laugh at me. I’m fine with amusement. I’d be fine with teasing, I probably deserve a little. But this is my life, my sexuality, my excitement, my nerves, my fear. It’s not funny. It just isn’t.

Your loving and adoring daughter,
Amanda.

P.S. I’m not travelling to Cork to dog-sit for you when you get your new mutt. I don’t want my New Rocks puked into like last time.

14/04/2012

Relearning a Lost Skill

Last year I wrote about wanting to launch a webcomic. In the end I held off because I’d come to realise that my drawing skills were nowhere near where they had been in my late teens. More accurately, I could still sketch out anything that sits still for long enough in front of me trees, ornaments, corpses, but anything mobile…people, and their faces, hell no.

Anyway I’ve worked hard since then to regain those lost skills, and I’ve discovered that taking back control of some skills really is not like riding a bike.

In my late teens I wrote constantly. I made both Airfix, and radio control models. And I drew reams ,and reams of pictures. In fact I became pretty good at all three (though I was not, and never will be very much of a grammarian). The first two skill sets never really went away, simply because I’ve never stopped writing, and 50% of my modelling skills are directly transferable to household DIY. But drawing it turns out is a very different story.

I can remember how to do most of the things involved. But my body is different these days. My limbs respond to my imaginations requests in unexpected ways, the smooth easily controlled movements I had as a youth now lost to the arrival of stiffening  joints, ligament and tendon damage, not to mention the levels of physical pain I cope with in day-to-day life. I have also realised that even my sight has changed in significant ways in those 16 years. I simply don’t see colours the same way that I used to, and while my eye sight was never good, it has degraded even more over the years. And let’s face it, not even the most perfectly produced spectacles ever completely, perfectly return our vision to what it should be.

But there’s more to it than that. I no longer look at objects, animals, or people in the way an artist needs to be able to see them. I’ve lost the ability to figure out the composition of a subject, the skill needed to break it down into simpler shapes, and objects. This in particular I am still struggling to relearn.

In essence teaching myself something again, which I used to do instinctively is turning into a huge pain in my butt. I’m not about to give up. I still have things I want to show the world. But It does mean I have had to accept that I may never be able to express those concepts the way I truly want to.

I’ve also realised that stopping drawing was a huge mistake. I stopped because what was coming out of my imagination had begun to scare me. I was in a terrifyingly dark place, and that darkness had started to pour out of my pencils, and pens on to the paper. But now I truly wish I had persevered, that I had simply faced that fear down, and not walked away from it, and in doing so lost so much of  what had once been an instinctive gift.

Just adding a small note reminding people again about the appeal for funds to help the talented, and gorgeous Dr. Carmilla get her EP recorded. Please click the link and help her if you can. Thank you.

12/04/2012

A Creative Soul Needs a Little Help.

Last weekend it was brought to my attention that a certain musician was in need of assistance. That musician being the genre defying Dr. Carmilla. I will however let her explain what it’s all about herself.

Funding Campaign

In over a year of writing for this blog I have never posted with regard to anything like this. But I truly believe that this artist is that talented, and deserving of any help my readers can lend her.

(Please reblog this everyone, let’s help this brilliant musician achieve her dream.)

10/04/2012

The Ten Most Awesome Things About – Owning Breasts

In the past I’ve written about the awesome things that go along with playing the ukulele, a writer, being lesbian (that one has led to a great deal of teasing by certain people), and being transgendertwice. So today, seeing as have a particularly nasty kidney infection, and so feel rotten, I am treating myself by writing a list of my favourite things about owning a pair of breasts.

And let’s face it boobs are awesome. Whether you own a set or not, odds are you do like them. Hell even most of the gay guys I’ve known like them, even if only as a potential self-warming pillow. Anyway, my reasons for loving breasts.

10. They really do make great pillows, and nothing beats having someone you love snuggled into your boobs. Looking all safe, and warm, and loved. Right up until your arm develops a cramp, and then you kick them off, roll over and go to sleep.

 9. They make even the dowdiest v-neck top look sexy. Think about them was the last time you saw a plunging neckline, that framed a well-shaped bust, and it wasn’t sexy? We’re obviously leaving John Goodman-esque individuals out of this conversation as there is nothing nice about moobs.

 8. They’re prime real-estate for tattooing. Not where they will stretch out over time, gravity is after all a bitch, who all breasts above a certain size eventually kneel before. But something well thought out, well positioned, and well inked. Yummy.

 7. They’re also prime real-estate for piercing, and other related adventures. I for one have always dreamt of a row of seven pearl implants across the tops of my breasts, in a sort of seagull shape. Think Luis Royo type implants, but without the tears made of blood. One of these days I might even get those implants.

 6. You can play games with them. And we’re not talking “fake juggling” type games here either. My personal favourite is what I call “Streetlights”. Dress in such a way that your breasts are all anyone will notice, obviously keep something handy to cover up if the situation warrants. Then do your best to steer guys in to streetlights, just with your breasts. This is obviously best done on a sunny day, and in a very, very public place for your own safety.

 5. You can calm just about any panicking child by cuddling them to your breast. It’s basic organic programming, when we’re babies the safest place in the world for us is Mommies arms. For obvious reasons this should probably not be done with any child that you’re not related to in some way. And for equally obvious reasons there does come a cut off point where you definitely should not do this with older kids, especially older male kids (and not a few female ones).

 4. You simply can’t have too many erogenous zones. Bad urinary tract infection? No problem Mistress, please play with my breasts instead. Enough said.

3. They look great. There’s something about the shape of breasts, the way they’re both sloping, and curved, the shadows in the hollow between them, and beneath them. Not to mention the visual silkiness of the skin containing them that makes virtually anyones bust achingly beautiful to look at.

2. They look even better wet. Add soap, and you’ve hours of amusement for a lover.

 1. This one is a very personal thing. I spent the first 27 years of my life bustless. Obviously not an issue for probably the first 11ish years when no-one my age had them, or at least not in much of a noticeable way. But the following 16 years were unending torture. Walking down any street, and seeing other women in the fullness of their femininity, a key part of that being physically represented by their breasts.

The single best thing about owning a pair of breasts for me, is owning them. Being able to wake each morning, and run automatically my mental checklist.

  • Eyes – 2 there of – check
  • Nose – 1 not too big – check
  • Lips – extra kissable – check
  • Legs – almost endless – check
  • Genitalia – Clit oversized non-vagina adjacent – check
  • Genitalia – Kitty oversized clit adjacent – let’s ignore that for now
  • Breasts – Honkin’ Double D’s – Oh Yeah Check!

I finally have them. And they are a physical representation of everything that I love about openly, and loudly expressing my feminine side.

(Expect a video blog on the topic of transwomen and their breasts in the future. Assuming I ever get around to rebuilding my PC after the move, or getting a decent webcam, or getting some editting software…Well it’ll happen, eventually. *Sigh*)

07/04/2012

The Joy of Thrift.

So, riddle me this. Where, if you have a lucky day, can you pick up a piece of designer clothing for the price of a couple of pints? And the answer is not “Five-finger discount.”

The answer is of course your local thrift shop.

It will come as no surprise what-so-ever to those who know me that I own virtually no new clothes. Aside from my underwear, and a handful of new pieces that I simply couldn’t walk away from, if I can buy it in a thrift store I will. I’ve basically done this my entire adult life, after all how else can you gather a wardrobe of often at this stage almost unique pieces for next to nothing, and support charity at the same time?

Over the years I’ve gotten some amazing pieces of clothing in these shops. One glorious day I found a designer ankle length black leather gypsy skirt, a brand new denim basque which the manufacturers had stopped making three years previously, and a pair of gorgeous black leather Mary-Janes. The whole lot cost me less than 20 Euro’s. How can you beat that?

Well on Thursday I did. On Thursday in my local thrift shop I found these for 12 Euro’s…

Why am I suddenly humming "Put on your shit-kickers and kick some shit..."?

Seriously, an essentially new pair of New Rock Reactors, boots that retail for a minimum of 120 Euro for 12 Euro’s. If they’d walked five miles before I got them I’d be stunned. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them, and I simply could not pass them by. The same day I found a pair of stunning brass and colored glass lamp shades for my soon to be steampunked bedroom, 8 Euro’s for them both!

Just after Christmas I found a bowlback mandolin, which is currently under reconstruction as my (also soon to be steampunked) mandolele, for just 15 Euro’s. After research I found that my pretty bowlback instrument is at least 40 years old, was handmade, and is as beautiful today as it ever was.

And there you have in three items why I adore thrift stores. You can go into in to your local ones for week after week, and find nothing worth buying. But on those wonderful days when you do find something special, it’s generally going to be something which, at least to you, is extraordinary.

All this, and you find yourself helping a charitable organisation as well.

So in closing I feel it is now appropriate to introduce to you my delightful readers, one of my favourite songs by the delectable Bif Naked. I’ve been humming this to myself since I found my new New Rocks, though I’ve been replacing “My new tango shoes” with “My new kick-ass shoes”. Enjoy!

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