4 June, 2005

String Finger Theatre will hit its four hundredth comic on Monday. Well, it will if nothing goes wrong with the update script. If I can manage not to introduce any typos into the script or if I can manage not to screw up the arithmetic, then the four hundredth comic will post on Monday.

That will be cool. I mean it should be cool, but I don't know why I can't seem to get all worked up and excited about it. I guess it could have something to do with the fact that I actually did the pencil version of the comic several weeks ago and now it is just posting. It's the weird thing about how this here web comic thing works. I work on it, drawing and scribbling, a long time before I convert it into a computer file. It is usually another week after that before the comic is finally posted on the Internet.

So, yeah, I was happy about it at the time I drew it. I was even really happy that I managed to make it a special comic by making it kind of a reference to the fact that it was number four hundred. I just don't seem to be all excited about it now. Oh, well, it's just strange how this all works out, I suppose.

It also seems totally unreal that I have managed to produce more than four hundred of these here comics. I mean I know as I just said that four hundred have not actually made it as far as the Internet, but I have actually gotten four hundred and seventeen of them done at the pencil and paper stage. I've even finished off the Rumplestiltskin in Love storyline. At least I hope I have. It's reached some kind of conclusion, and I hope that is the end of it. The story has dragged on for longer than I thought it would. I just can't quite shake the feeling that I'm going to have to produce a couple more comics before the story really feels done. I don't want to do them. In fact, I've been avoiding the comic for days because I don't want to think about it, but we'll see what happens.

Anyway, I think I was talking about how I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of keeping this turkey going for as long as I have. I try to think about it, and I don't get anywhere. For one thing, I just keep reminding myself there was a break in the comic. After I finished the first storyline, I just let the comic go and didn't work on it for something like a year, which kind of makes it hard for me to work out exactly how much and how long I have been working on it.

If we're all inclusive of everything, then I've been working on String Finger Theatre for almost four years. Well, I guess it would be better to say that String Finger Theatre has been around for almost four years since the first comic was posted on November 14, 2001. I still remember when I decided to do it. I just wanted to do something silly. This was all shortly after the destruction of the World Trade Center, and I was unemployed so it really was just to have something fun and light and not very serious at all.

So, yeah, I think we are looking at a grand total of three and a half years. Now, we just have to consider the break in service, which lasted something like a year. I've actually just spent the last couple of minutes digging through the journal archive trying to figure out when episode one ended and when episode two finally began, but I couldn't get the dates quite right. I think it was about a year.

Which doesn't quite make sense since I'm pretty sure that I picked the comic up again in May 2003 and that was two years ago. If I took a year off, then how did I get to three and a half? Oh, wait, it does make sense. Episode one took a little under six months to produce. A year of ignoring the whole thing followed, and I picked it back up two years ago. Yeah, that all works out to around three and a half years.

Oh, well, I don't try to over think the whole thing. I've been working on this comic for much longer than I ever thought I would, which is cool. The thing continues to amuse me. I'm really not sure what I'm going to do next. I mean I've got an idea for the next storyline, but I really haven't given it any serious thought. I was thinking about having Lizzie McGuffin show up part way through the story, but I started to worry about bending back to include existing characters.

This may sound strange, but one of the things that worries me about the comic is relying too much on the existing material. I mean the first storyline just had to spring whole out of the ground, but the second story was really just an extension of the first. The fourth storyline also relied quite heavily on the first, and the fifth story has been built out of the second. So in a sense, the only original stories have been the first and the third. Everything else has just been kind of wrapping back upon what was already there, and there is just something about that fact that bothers me.

It should all be original. It should all be different. I mean I know it is good that things can have an inclusive feel to them what with characters and ideas returning, but you can go too far with this. For one thing, you have to read enough of the comic to understand what is going on as is. I do not really want to exasperate this trend any more by having characters, plots and events be dependent on old storylines. I want new, exciting and original things to happen.

So, yeah, I was thinking about Lizzie McGuffin putting in a return appearance, but I just don't really want to do it. So, we shall see.

And things have just been kind of dripping along with the music. It felt like it took forever, but I finally got something I was vaguely happy with for the slow movement of the sonatina. I can't say that I'm wild about it, but I am trying not to worry about it. The whole thing is really only meant as an exercise so I'm trying to remember that. I've also listened to my computer's attempt to perform the first movement, and I really must say that I'm really starting to like it. The first movement, I mean. I still can't stand my computer's dreadful performance skills.

So, the second movement bothers me because I have grown to like the first movement of this whole little exercise so much, and I've been really rather worried about what to do for a closing movement. I've gotten started on something, and I was really starting to think that it was just going to go swimmingly along. But, that hasn't quite happened.

So, I'm starring at the closing movement and listening to my computer try to play it back. I still sit with my piano, pencil and paper to try and pick out notes and scribble it down, but my piano skills have just faded to the point where I cannot rely on myself for the feel of it at all. I can't say I'm very happy about this, but there really isn't that much I can do. I decide what I want to do at the piano and then go plug it into the computer. I listen to the computer's attempt at a playback where I finally hear the thing at tempo and can finally get a sense of how it flows. This teaches me how much crap I had scribbled on the page, and I then go back downstairs to the piano.

I really like how the closing movement begins. There is just something about it that agrees with me. Of course, I got into immediate trouble as I tried to work out if there should be a little bit of an introduction before we strike melody, but it just never quite seemed to work. I finally decided the problem was that this was a closing movement. It needed to be finished things up, and having a little introductory measure was making the whole thing seem like a beginning rather than the beginning of the end.

Yeah, just try and make sense out of that last sentence.

Anyway, I've also been giving a lot of thought about what to do with this sonatina when it is finished. I had always been thinking that the whole thing is just ultimately so childish and bad that I would never want anybody to hear it. However, the longer I am with it the more I consider going ahead and putting a recording of it on my website. After all, I've spent so much time with it and talking about it that there just might be this insignificant little chance that somebody out there somewhere just might be interested in hearing what it sounds like.

So, we shall see. After I'm done with the closing movement and I'm vaguely satisfied with my computer's performance of the whole thing, I just might put the recording on the website.

We shall see.

12 June, 2005

Okay, I think I've finally figured out how to handle the bridge from theme one to theme two in the closing movement of the sonatina. It was just driving me insane because I really liked how the closing movement starts and I simply could not figure out how to get out of it. I couldn't figure out how to transition out and modulate into the dominant minor key, which is the key I want to use for the second theme. Drove me nuts, as I said. Everything I tried just wasn't working. Everything was just jarring. I would hit the end of the first theme and wham! It was a wall. Sounded like the poor pianist had simply lost his fingering. Notes crashing together. Everything smashing to a halt. The poor pianist sitting up there at the piano trying to untangle his knuckles like Bugs Bunny in that old cartoon.

So I tried this and I tried that. I would take it upstairs to my computer to play at tempo because I know I really can't get a good enough sense of how it is going while I am sitting at the piano. I would take whatever I had. Anything that sounded okay while I was sitting there at the piano. The notes themselves working. Making sense of themselves. Sounding cool. Until you took the whole thing to speed. Started at the beginning. Something I just don't have the chops for. I never did play the piano that good but it has been a long time since I've gotten any serious practice done. There simply hasn't been the time for it. So, yeah, I can't play like I should if I wanted to be able to handle this.

So I'm stuck there, trying to work things through, trying to get a sense of it, but I don't know if I can. So I take it to the computer. I know it still won't sound right, but at least it'll be more at tempo. I need to hear the playback because I simply don't trust my innate sense of the music enough. So I listen to the playback and I know it just doesn't work.

Took me forever to work through. I think I tried three different transitional ideas. Nothing working. The opening theme just wailing along and then the crash and burn of the transition sounding like we've stumbled upon a totally different piece.

Okay, if I couldn't find the bridge, then maybe the problem was in the theme, which is really short by the way. I knew it was short, but I also knew that I really couldn't extend it. I knew that the bridge was going to have to attempt to help shoulder the load, which was why I was getting the crashing and the burning. So if the transition wasn't working, I knew I had to look back at the theme. I had to try extending it and taking the pressure off of the transition. That must have wasted a week. Looking at the theme. Trying to find ways to stretch it. But it's like elastic. Stretch it and it grows week. It looses it rhythm. It could even snap.

So after much frustration and swearing at the piano, I knew I couldn't extend the theme, which meant I was back at the transition, and I still didn't know what to do. So I just had to keep looking at it and trying to feel it and tapping the piano keys until something just clicked. So I thought I finally had something. I wasn't wild about it because it was based too closely on the theme itself and I was really worried that it would just sound like an extension of the theme and ruin the whole end there.

So I tried something. Experimented with an accompaniment. Had something I thought might be okay. Finally trudged upstairs to the computer. Plugged in the notes and discovered something interesting. It was okay.

Hallelujah on the mountain!

It doesn't suck. It just might actually be okay. I haven't had enough of a chance to keep looking at it, but I really am hoping for the best. I'm starting to think I can actually start looking at the second theme again. See what I had kind of scribbled out before and hear if it still fits. The transition even gets around to the dominant minor by way of the Neapolitan chord, which I think is really kind of cool. So, yeah, we shall see how it goes from here.

I've also made a slight modification to the website. I took out my fancy little bit of PHP code that caused the comic to update at midnight Pacific Standard Time instead of Eastern Time. I know I liked the fact that the comic actually updated at midnight of the morning it was supposed to appear unlike just about every other comic out there which updates at 9 PM Pacific Time.

But what finally made me change my mind was the frustration I've been dealing with recently what with the screwing up of the update code I've really been into of late. I really don't like finding out that the comic didn't update when it was supposed to update. It went all day long screwed up. There was never anything I could do about it until I got home from work.

So I realized something. If I simply simplified the PHP code so that it was paying attention to the Eastern Time of the server, then I would know at 9 PM if the comic was going to update properly. I still think it is kind of funny that I'm here on the West Coast while the server that actually hosts my website is way across the country in New Jersey.

So, okay, String Finger Theatre still updates at midnight. It is just that it updates at midnight on the East Coast. So I can live with that. I can deal with being able to check the comic at 9 PM the night before it is supposed to post. Yeah, it works for me. Maybe, I'll be able to catch some of my update script goobers before too much time has passed.

Yeah, we'll just have to wait and see.

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