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Downloading Optimism - Lucy Knisley [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lucy Knisley


Downloading Optimism [Nov. 16th, 2009|11:06 pm]

Oh man, eventually the words are going to completely take over my comics and I'll just be writing out essays by hand. And yet, I could have written so much more! Must... stop... and focus on... my actual scheduled work for today...

I drew this last night and tonight, and Linney helped. Cats are such jerks.

Atwood's new book (The Year of the Flood) is a follow-up to Oryx and Crake, which I read when I was eighteen or nineteen, and which made a profound impact. Nelly and I actually read it together while we were traveling by train, and had to read it aloud to one another in order not to fight over who's turn it was with our one copy. It gave me a serious fascination with genetic engineering, especially pertaining to the food and drugs we put in our bodies. I'm really loving The Year of the Flood, but I'm trying to read it as slowly as possible, to draw it out as long as I can (and because it tends to give me very strange dreams, so I try not to read it before bed). A warning; if you plan to pick up either of these books, you will never see scientific-breakthrough product commercials the same way, again.


I'll have a table at the Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair in about three weeks, with my crafty pals, Nelly and Nora. There will be so many comics and bags and neat stuff for sale! And I'm gonna sell little on-the-fly watercolors at the request of visitors-- so it's your chance to have me paint whatever your heart desires! Whee!

Come visit us, please? See you there!

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[User Picture]From: explosionforgov
2009-11-17 05:25 am (UTC)
I'm honestly torn about how to feel about digital books...I really, really like getting stuff signed, and you can't exactly do that with a Kindle. There's also no new book smell, or the weight on your lap as you drive it to your house to read. But digital things are far more convenient and less of a stress on the arms than "real" books are...

Unfortunately, I can't make it out to see yourself or any of the other artists I really like. I'm not allowed by my parents to go out of state, either with my friends or alone. I hope it goes well, though.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 05:28 am (UTC)
Yeah, if Nelly hadn't brought her book, I'd have bought one to have Margaret Atwood sign it. As it was, I felt happy enough to get to meet her, and the signing was the only excuse I would have had. I feel differently about comic books-- Like I prefer to have them in paper form and signed-- but it's all a very muddy subject, with a lot of twists and turns.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, she's small and focused and has eyes that see the future instead of your face. Nelly and I were actually a little scared, but we LOVED it.

So far, I don't love YOTF as much as Oryx and Crake, but it's growing on me.
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[User Picture]From: clownfishdesign
2009-11-17 05:29 am (UTC)
I've been predicting "book plaques" since I first read of the idea in Julian May's Many Coloured Land way back in the early 80s.

I seriously think that as soon as they have the screen-glare thing nailed - which I believe Kindle etc. are coming very close to - that will be the kicker.

As another bibliophile, I think there will always be a market for paper books, probably as collector's editions, etc. Just as there still is for vinyl. When CD replaced vinyl, I basically figured, cool, now my hundreds of vinyl singles and albums have become collectors' editions overnight. Plus I was able to buy heaps of cheap 2nd hand vinyl.

I for one won't mourn the death of the mass-market paperback - after all, do all those trees really need to die for The Da Vinci Code?

Books in the future will basically be digital downloads or beautiful, leatherbound, parchment-paper, hot metal type (please?!) set works of art.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:34 pm (UTC)
So these things have been on their way since before I was born. Yep.

I agree about the screen glare-- but also hope for some prettier design along those lines. The kindle page is so drab! I actually prefer my ipod, screen glare or no, because it seems like the page (smaller, so fewer words) is a little more thought-out. I don't know. I like it.

I like the comparison with books and records. It's awful to think that some books won't be made books, but considering the cost and poor quality of printing and the changing markets of self-publishing, I think it's high time some changes were made in that big business. Perhaps digital printing might actually make it faster and easier for people to take that from corporations and make it better for the artists... who knows? I prefer optimism, or I couldn't continue to do what I do.

I shudder to think of all the crappy paperbacks filling our landfills.
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[User Picture]From: frey_at_last
2009-11-17 05:39 am (UTC)
You can't smell a Kindle!

I'm not prepared to jettison form for content, since that has been the whole trail of modern life and it just makes things easy, not happy. I've never read (or listened to, or watched) something where the "way the words were delivered" didn't affect the way I received them.

But this comic is great. :)

Edited at 2009-11-17 05:39 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 05:42 am (UTC)
I know what you mean about the smell! But I argue for both-- I don't need to smell the Twilight books, but I get a guilty pleasure from reading them (in secret, on the bus), while paying 20% less than were I to buy them in hardcover paper format.
I will always have books to smell when I need them. I just don't need to smell every book I read.
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[User Picture]From: michaelpatrick
2009-11-17 05:41 am (UTC)
I am trying to read your comic, but I am distracted by the beauty of your background pattern.

OK. The comic is good too.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 06:00 am (UTC)
Why thank you! I like it, too.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:39 pm (UTC)
I knowwww Lynda Barry is a geeeenius!

I buy books as much as I can afford/fit into my house. My parents are connected with the book world, and holidays are full of much book-giving and receiving. I wish there was some way to buy digital books from a mom-and-pop place, but I still give my business to good authors, I think. In cases where I love the book deeply and lastingly (Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy, which is also --technically-- a series I might not be keen on reading in public) are present in paperback and digital format in this house. Mostly because the paperbacks are falling apart from overuse, and so I can always keep them with me to read if I find myself pining for them all of a sudden and I'm on the bus.

Oh dinner parties, where wine breathes hot air into the cheeks of yaps, to be breathed out again into my face.
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[User Picture]From: callanhead
2009-11-17 06:22 am (UTC)
books can be destroyed and that's no good. digitally the information can be there forever and that is good.
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[User Picture]From: callanhead
2009-11-17 06:42 am (UTC)
also "antichrist"? whoa!
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[User Picture]From: morningapproach
2009-11-17 06:33 am (UTC)
I wish I could stop at the craft fair - we have no good craft fairs where I am (across the river from Detroit in Ontario) and are limited to church bazaars :p

Also, I think that I would read more digital books if I had an iPod to read them on, or a Kindle, or something. I am contemplating getting one, but I doubt that I will, unless someone buys me one. I am pretty good though with having books that are small enough to bring around in my purses (which are pretty big, one of them can fit a (small) laptop) and reading when I find time.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:44 pm (UTC)
YES. That's a big factor. After I'd whined for a full two years about how everyone had an iphone but me, my friend finally got tired of it and used his Mac connections to get me an ipod touch (which is all I wanted anyway, because I actually hate talking on the phone). They're getting cheaper, and I think that'll help, but it was a major factor in my purchasing more digital books. My stepdad has a kindle he rarely uses that I was creepily coveting for a while, though, so it was inevitable.

You're smart about keeping books in your purse, but I usually leave the house with just my pockets full, so the ipod is VITAL.
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[User Picture]From: godlessmachine
2009-11-17 06:38 am (UTC)
I agree. I don't think it's really bad that things are getting more digital and I don't think it'll ever be bad as long as we have the option to buy a physical copy of the book along with a digital copy.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think anything that allows us to own fewer physical objects is working towards a better world.
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[User Picture]From: madhatterpan
2009-11-17 06:59 am (UTC)
I'm too attached to books to give them up even if it means papercuts. I like the comfort of curling up with one, and the way they age too.

....I do suppose it would be nice for the cases where the books are put together shoddily and fall apart. (I'm looking at you, Harry Potter. Your binding sucks, and you should be ashamed of yourself.) Oh, and maybe they wouldn't be able to charge an arm and a foot for textbooks. At the very least, you wouldn't have to deal with shipping. So, yes, I can see the perks of digital books, and I don't mind if it becomes the norm, so long as they let me have print copies to love on.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:48 pm (UTC)
I could never give them up, either. But yeah, Harry Potter was similar to having a physical altercation, just trying to read the damn thing. The proportions were crazy, and the thing didn't stay upright, and there was just no way to read it with the book-jacket on without ruining the jacket from trying to balance the damn thing somehow. Plus, now it takes up like half of my bookshelves! AND John has his own copies, too, so there's like a complete shelf of Harry Potter books where we could have fit like twice as many books.
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[User Picture]From: wyrdness
2009-11-17 07:11 am (UTC)
My problem with digital books is that I find it strains my eyes in a way that paper books do not and I don't want to ruin my love of reading by associating it with pain :) Also I don't get on so well with scrolling (I think this is purely because I use the end of a page to briefly pause and digest what I've just read), but it'd be awesome if there was a kind of option to flip forward or back a 'page' at a time on the screen. :)
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 03:50 pm (UTC)
Too true. My need for glasses at the age of 23 was likely less of an indication of enfeebled age than it was due to prolonged eye-strain. BUT there's always laser eye surgery! Ah, the future we live in.

And the thing I use to read on my ipod actually flips pages left to right with a little swipe of my thumb. It's designed remarkably well, with a small page and readable text, and the action in the flip is quite nice. AND you can NEVER LOSE YOUR PLACE. So nice.
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[User Picture]From: bsting
2009-11-17 08:24 am (UTC)
I actually read very little books period. I 'read' more comics than I do 'normal' books. And I notice that most of those comics I read online. Still, I buy quite a few comic books, but the irony is that it's usually a paper 'backup' of online comics I've already read. I'll re-read them, cause usually that's the first time I'll read them back-to-back instead of daily/weekly.

And there's a few comic books I'll buy without ever having seen a digital copy of it (Marjane Satrapi, Maaike Hartjes).

Alright, in all fairness, I do read a great deal of Livejournals and other weblogs. So in that sense I'm much more accustomed to screen-reading. I read a paper daily and an occasional printed report for work. But now that you mention it, I am actually studying for an exam now, using a digital copy of the book. Hmmm.
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[User Picture]From: jinty
2009-11-17 03:32 pm (UTC)

Thanks so much for the Maaike reference!

She came to our comics convention in Oxford back in 1997 and I haven't caught up with her stuff for a long time - but always loved it. I've looked her up now and yay! of course she has a blog.
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[User Picture]From: pinkyxxswear
2009-11-17 08:37 am (UTC)
I love the physicality of books. I tend to develop a great deal of sentimentality toward (some of) them. Though I really like the idea of a kindle, I just can't do it.

Probably totally bias as an ex-Borders employee.
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[User Picture]From: rin_666
2009-11-17 09:42 am (UTC)
Hi I started watching your journal a while ago and it just inspires me all the time, every tiem I read your stuff I just want to go and draw my life. I totally agree with you about the digital books! I love reading and to me so long as I can read the story it doesn't matter how it's delivered to me (to be honest the reason I love owning books is so people can be astounded by how many I've read :P). Keep up the good work!
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[User Picture]From: jabberworks
2009-11-17 10:02 am (UTC)
Great comics essay! :-D Sad that the guys on the panel were so down about things, though. From what I've seen, comics really seem to be taking off, and with cheaper printing, there have been innovations both digitally and in affordable beautiful physical books. I mean, I love the deckled edges of Pedrosa's 'Three Shadows' and the simple but beautiful paper engineering of my studiomate Viv's book, 'There are Cats in this Book'. The physicality of those couldn't be supplanted by a Kindle.

But I buy a lot of rubbishy cheap-and-cheerful books (like Wordsworth classics) and they're full of typos and too-small print and I have no affection at all for their production value. No reason I couldn't read those digitally.

I think digital just gives us more options, and two routes to go, so more chances to play with format. I think people possibly appreciate the physicality of books more when they're reading a lot of digital things, (like the way I started almost killing for bread when I was on a no-carb diet). So maybe there will be less chance for rubbishy, badly printed books to do well but it will actually give beautiful books a boost. I think the future's bright! :-)
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[User Picture]From: bougieman
2009-11-17 11:18 am (UTC)
I guess you have to look at it from their perspective to understand the pessimisim. These are highly skilled commercial artists who have been making a respectable living from their art for multiple decades, and they are facing an uncertain future for their craft that, at the moment, is finding most of their peers forced to get a day job in order to pay the bills.

For instance, someone like Jim Woodring unable to make a living off his comics and art is, to me, the equivalent of Jimi Hendrix forced to become a shoe salesman because no one will pay to hear him play guitar. It is fucking madness.

I understand their bitterness very well.
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[User Picture]From: eponymousarchon
2009-11-17 10:10 am (UTC)
I feel much better about geeking-out at Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm in the post-concert line last weekend. :)
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[User Picture]From: ohh_anxiety
2009-11-17 10:21 am (UTC)
i really really REALLY love your text-heavy comics
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[User Picture]From: sandor_baci
2009-11-17 09:16 pm (UTC)

Non-graphic comix

It's an approach.

Alison Bechdel manages it.

Lucy's last post, last frame -- the bottlebottom sidewalk seen from both sides, both times -- was marvellous. And the text set-up helped... artfully.
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[User Picture]From: bougieman
2009-11-17 11:05 am (UTC)
Great comic, Lucy. Today I posted on my lj about my printed work appearing without my consent in the world of torrents, and so what you're writing about here is very much on my mind at this moment.

I know there are a lot of comments and stuff to wade through and you don't have all day for this kinda shit, but if you could have a look at it and give me your opinion/feedback on this situation, I'd be pleased:

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[User Picture]From: davef85
2009-11-17 12:00 pm (UTC)
I don't know... I'm not a huge fan of e-readers for books. I stare at a computer screen for 8 and 1/2 hours a day and just can't bring my self to look at a smaller screen after that.

There is just something about books... I want to say "timeless" but they seem to be phasing out.

I like that new book smell, and I love the smell of libraries, and lets not get into the coutless hours I can spend in a book store.

Eventually do you think that these e readers are going to get a full color screen and that art books, photo reference books etc are going to be put on them?
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[User Picture]From: ztoical
2009-11-17 12:11 pm (UTC)
Great comic and interesting discussion sparked in the comments. Guess I haven't paid much attention to the whole digital vs hand drawn comics talk as it's been going on in animation for years. I've been told since I was a first year animation student that hand drawn animation is dead and I should only focus on learning computer animation. 10+ years on and not only is there still hand drawn animation out there, there is some damn good stuff being produced. The last feature film I worked on was hand drawn but they used some new tech on it for the colour and some effects and they blend together wonderfully...can't understand why everything can't be the best of both worlds.
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[User Picture]From: clownfishdesign
2009-11-17 12:33 pm (UTC)
As a designer, the best thing I was ever told was Michael Vanderbyl telling me, "don't ever design on the computer. A pencil and paper should always be your starting point."

The main thing was, intuitively I knew that already, and when he said that, y'know how it is, the little light bulb goes "ping!" Or, as Tom Ellard said to me, "there's a hole in your head shaped thus, and something comes along and just fits right in there."
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[User Picture]From: _w_o_o_d_
2009-11-17 12:20 pm (UTC)
Douglas Adams once said, on the subject of technology :

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn 35 is incredibly exciting and creative and, given opportunity, you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
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[User Picture]From: clownfishdesign
2009-11-17 12:30 pm (UTC)
Douglas Adams again: "Generally, old media don't die. They just have to grow old gracefully. Guess what, we still have stone masons. They haven't been the primary purveyors of the written word for a while now of course, but they still have a role because you wouldn't want a TV screen on your headstone."
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[User Picture]From: clownfishdesign
2009-11-17 12:39 pm (UTC)
Something else about (paper) books that sends a thrill of delight up my spine, is buying a secondhand book and finding an inscription on the flyleaf. Most of them are fairly prosaic, but even a simple "To John, from Jane" can set me wondering about the giver and the gift.

Then there are moments of pure poetry, like my copy of Selected Works of James Joyce that has four lines of the most beautiful poetry written inside it. Or my copy of Mr. Britling sees it through from the early '20s that has a dedication from some boys to their father, in perfect copy-book script (was Daddy a returned soldier, I can't help wondering?).

I also like reading people's notes in old English Literature school textbooks.
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[User Picture]From: art_lurker
2009-11-18 05:19 am (UTC)
exactly! i've bought several books just because of the inscriptions.
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[User Picture]From: ramseysux
2009-11-17 12:55 pm (UTC)
wait. i'm having a serious mind implosion right now. did you go to mica? you live in chicago? do nelly and nora live in chicago??

my friend randomly recommended your livejournal a few months ago because she knew i liked comics. i didn't know there was any connection there.
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[User Picture]From: lucylou
2009-11-17 04:09 pm (UTC)
I didn't go to MICA, but Nelly and I have been BFFs since we were 16 or 17, and attended the RISD pre-college program, so that's how I know Nora. Nelly lives here, and Nora is hoping to move here soon!
How funny that the digital world bleeds so freely like that! Not long ago, I was helping Nelly move into her new apartment, when her roommate's sister recognized me from my website and told me so. I love it when connections like that are made!
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[User Picture]From: mattious
2009-11-17 02:30 pm (UTC)
Isn't it sad when artists you love "get old", by which I mean they finally stop being excited by change? The world around them finally hits this point where they're like "You know what, I have to re-learn everything now and I don't want to. I'd rather haunt my profession as a ghost of the old world instead of learning to live in this new one."
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From: ext_193467
2009-11-17 02:49 pm (UTC)

For me, it's about size

I love paper, and have a lot of books. Some of them smell very good (it's the aroma of paper degradation) some others are more like cat's smell, but I love all. But they need a place to be, and my house is very little... Last week I bought a 5-DVD set filled with e-books and pdfs ans scans of ancient grimoires, occultism and qabbalah texts. ¿How much space need this stuff in physical support? (Obviously, they'll look pretty impressive too)
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[User Picture]From: clownfishdesign
2009-11-18 10:27 am (UTC)

Re: For me, it's about size

I have an second-hand astrology book that reeks of patchouli.
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