I failed at Math, but Mandelbrot still inspires me



From the Drawing Board


Saturday, December 1st, 2018


I failed at Math, but Mandelbrot still inspires me





For some reason, I started thinking about math a couple of days ago. I don’t know why exactly; I floundered around in math during my time at school until finally flunking out in grade 10. It wasn’t pretty.


I had no idea what was going on! I couldn’t understand how the other kids could listen to the gobbledegook language the teacher was speaking, (like the muffled wah-wah noises the off-panel teachers in the Peanuts cartoons spoke with), nod with bored expressions, -and write it down and understand it and pass tests and such! It was amazing! I’d just feel stunned and look around sometimes for the hidden camera. No way did any of that make sense..!


But it did, and I failed often and badly.


Still.., there’s always been something about numbers which appeals to me. I find the whole mystery fascinating. And, to be fair, I was very good at geometry. -In a balancing kind of way, I was very good at it when it served to confound the other students. That was my mystery language! -Once I could visualize things, there was no stopping me! However, that’s a rather limited super-power, because once I got beyond 3 dimensions, it became impossible to visualize the results, and I become lost and hopeless once more. I’m evidently a creature meant to function best in 3D.


Anyway…


I decided a couple of days ago to do some thinking about Fractals. -They’re nothing new, and everybody has seen the famous shapes on the covers of science magazines and nerdy posters, but I couldn’t remember how they worked or why, so I decided to figure it all out again. It didn’t take too long, because fractals are really quite simple, so that even a dunderhead like me can work it out.


And the Mandelbrot Set blows my mind!


Check it out:


Z = Z² + C


That’s it!


The idea is that you pick some arbitrary number for Z and for C, run the equation, and when you do, you get a new number out the other end. Then you take that new number and make it equal Z, and then you run the equation again. Rinse and repeat. You get a unique number every single time. Then you use a basic plotting scheme with simple rules. X, Y coordinates. -And you end up putting dots all over the chart. Those dots create fantastically complex shapes that never seem to repeat.


When you run the equation a HALF BILLION times, why, you get a shape which is super complex and deep. The authors of this little math experiment made a video (above) where they zoom into it, and it feels like you’re a parachute jumper falling endlessly into god’s eyeball or something


Anyway, I thought that was cool; how you can find an infinitely deep shape in such a simple equation!


Post Archive

Sneaky, Creepy Old People. WHY??



From the Drawing Board


Wednesday, November 21st, 2018


Sneaky, Creepy Old People. WHY??



Well.., I just watched the latest episode of The Flash. I don’t know why I do this to myself.

But in doing so, a question occurred to me…

Well, check out the episode trailer first to get up to speed…

Okay.

Just once

I’d like to see the sudden appearance of the Too Good To Be True, Wonderful Person (the long lost parent/scientist/captain/leader/king/compatriot/etc.), turn out to NOT be a shape-shifting, corrupted, demonic vampire creepazoid from another galaxy or whatever. To NOT be Too Good To Be True! To actually be true!

Just once!

I mean, we have been hit with it so many times in pop culture story that we inwardly cringe at the very first tell tale signs, at the immediate appearance of the smiling benefactor, the long lost father figure, the Good Captain To The Rescue, -or the marvelous restorative town discovered in the heart of the desert. Whether our heroes are armed with spears, super-suits or phasers, the instant they meet the Seemingly Good New People, we harrowed viewers hunker down and emotionally prepare ourselves for the inevitable betrayal. They’ll be cannibals or witches or something. Every time! We know this story, are intimate with it.

After seeing hundreds (it must be hundreds at this point), of depictions of this particular story twist, it is obvious that we are collectively obsessed with the idea that Newcomers Offering Wisdom and Gifts, are bad.

What’s up with that?

Is it based on some kind of deep truth we need to warn ourselves about on an almost genetically expressed myth level? Like, “Beware Snakes and Wolves” or “Stepmothers try to kill you”, or “Don’t take candy from Strangers”?

I can see the logic in that.

But I also wonder.., is it some kind of dark programming designed to separate us from people who might actually have something good to offer? Closing us off to help, opening us to attack and subversion from genuinely vile forces which pretend to be our peers? “Don’t trust those nasty rescuers, precious, stay here and listen to meeeee. hsss.”

Hmm.

The problem is that I can think of examples in real life of both situations being true.

Maybe discernment, its learning and application, should also be a part of the story universe. Hm. Maybe it already is.

What do you think?

Doctor Who ~ Getting Caught Up

From the Drawing Board


Monday, Nov 12, 2018
Getting caught up on Doctor Who.





Oh boy.

It’s been a long while. Capaldi’s series was too painful to watch, and I tuned out. A waste of an excellent actor!

But now it’s a woman! That seemed like a spectacularly foolish idea. I’ve always felt that if you wanted to have a cool time-hopping female adventure character that you should probably make your own rather than co-opt an existing one. -Unless, of course, your goal was not to make a good story, but to divide and conquer a target population. Either way, I had to see this for myself.

My impression? Jodi Whittiker is more of the same thing; a wasted talent like Capaldi and Smith before her. She does a passable David Tennant impression, which is high praise coming from me. I’ve measured every Doctor since Tennant on a scale of 1 to Tennant. (Get it?) So, I like her. She’s maybe a 6 or 7 that scale and seems earnest enough. I believe she’s the Doctor, though that’s where it ends. I don’t find her particularly special; All the doctors before her were stand out charismatics, engaging, each demanding attention so you could figure out what their deal was. Whittiker doesn’t leave me wondering, and she hasn’t grown on me over the course of several episodes. But whatever. She wasn’t horrible, and that’s something these days when I associate Horror with Doctor Who, (and not in the way a production team should take pride in).

I was surprised to discover that I could even go along with gender fluidity thing within the context of a cool sci-fi character, -if the whole production didn’t reek so highly of psychological manipulation and socio-political agenda. -As if this was always where the story would naturally go and the radical leftist PC movement had nothing to do with it. (What do they say in England? Bollocks!).

Because.., those scripts..! Wow. And I thought Moffat was bad as the previous show runner! (Well, he was bad, but only because he was a creepy over-sexualizing, psychopath-loving incompetent. In my humble opinion.). This new stuff however… Ick! -It’s preachy identity politicking, virtue signaling ‘progressive’ lecturing -where it isn’t Daleks or Cybermen who are the enemy, but Humanity itself! This is the kind of media squeezed into existence once it has passed through the gate-kept, racist, misanthropic anti-reality filter system typical of SJW nihilism.

-Pretending to be noble and good while, really, merely seeking an excuse to inflict shame as a weapon because, bottom line, they like to hurt people, they resent the Creation and see themselves as the perpetual victim of existence itself. The writing room team for this latest BBC offering is either made of up of such individuals (to make a very generous use of the term), or they are unwise or possibly just spineless folks who have been conned into believing/following the propaganda and now serve such masters. The result is the same: Bad stories with sound-bitten, ersatz “insight” in lieu of actual thought or anything approaching fun and adventurous narrative. A diet of over-simple memes on social media have spoiled the public appetite for actual political discourse. (And, it would seem, their ability to digest it.) And instead give us… this.

So.., gross.

If you want to dominate a species, the best way is to make it hate itself, voluntarily drug itself, eat the wrong things, think dissonant thoughts and unravel all its points of strength at every one of its most fundamental roots, even succeeding in turning the very sexes against each other! Who needs Yin and Yang when you can have all Yin all the time, baby! -Stir up class wars and race wars, turning the entire species against itself, (we’re hurting Mother Earth!), so that all the white knights are heralded into action, so that the punishment called down and delivered upon us is actually welcomed in the belief that we are deserving.

Divide and conquer via mind-games. Now THAT’s a fantastic con job!

But hey, what do I know? It’s just a TV show, after all. And what does Story have to do with the psychological health of Humanity?

Hard pass.


Previous Studio Updates

Moved House

Moved House

 


Thursday
May 11, 2018


Moved House


New Stardrop and New T&K!


Actually, these early May pages are both a bit overdue. I was.., distracted a touch by the process of moving house.


Interesting observation…


In the process of packing up, hauling and then unpacking everything to put away on new shelves and in new closet spaces and on new table surfaces etc…. Not counting all the many copies of same comics and graphic novels in their stock boxes, but definitely counting everything else… I realized that I had handled and considered the purpose, history and ultimate fate of every single object I own. Just think about that for a sec..!


-From knick-knacks and old photographs of me smiling with friends, a rubber-banded collection of Empire Strikes Back gum cards, pliers, screw drivers, solar panels, favorite spoons, paint brushes and.., well, just everything! I took a total inventory and now have fresh in mind thousands of objects large and small. I can’t recall ever having done this before, not ever so thoroughly. This move was different from other moves. It seemed to go on a lot longer, on both ends. I even at one point, found myself going through, sheet by sheet, every drawing and painting I’ve ever done. I’ve never done that before! It was quite mind and soul expanding, taking up the better part of a day, with many exclamations of, “Oh wow! I remember drawing this! I remember where I was when I drew this, the people who were near…”


Turns out I own a half-dozen little wooden six-sided dice and a collection of miniature rings you can make chain mail out of, but tiny. I also own a small bag of stick-on googley eyes. Or rather, I did. I tossed those. You just have to let some things go…


Owning stuff is a huge responsibility, a weight. I ditched (literally) few hundred items on the side of the road for the Spring Cleanup. It was both sad and liberating at the same time.


Do you own your stuff, or, as you strain and trudge for the hundredth time up and down stairs in the rain, is it the other way around?


Anyway.., I am now nearly all settled into my new place. I’ll have to take some photos and post those soon. It’s a very different environment! I’m surrounded by gardens and country side stillness with thick woods stretching back up a great hillside, up to a hidden and abandoned 100 year old fruit orchard which still, I am told, hangs with fruit and is protected by a wall of thorns.


Some exploring is in order, I think.


But there are comics still to make! And my new digital Dell Canvas ought to be arriving tomorrow morning to adorn my fresh studio. Keen!


Okay. Sleep soon…


Have a great Friday, everybody!



-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
October 11th, 2018

Thieves & Kings 2018 – New T&K

New Thieves & Kings 2018

 


Thursday
March 10th, 2018


New Thieves & Kings 2018


And here we go!


It has been a long (LONG!) wait, and I want to roundly thank everybody who has exercised such enormous patience over the years while I have rested and recharged the T&K batteries which ran dry a decade ago.


I found myself, after many years of singular focus, sitting at my drafting board at the end of a long night blinking at the realization that I was no longer in a Thieves & Kings mood. -An awkward and terrifying position for any creator to find himself in, but it was true! I no longer cared deeply about the characters. I no longer heard their voices or felt their emotions running through me.


Several upheavals arrived including the loss of some critical film storage leading to the inability to keep books in print. (I fixed that years later but.., dang!) And most pressing of all, new stories, new characters demanding to be paid their due attention.


I remember running into, on the streets of Toronto, a weird and edgy author, one Crad Kilodney, self professed Street Writer, and one of the undisputed kings of self-publishing. Crad had been among my early inspirations. He wrote, pressed and then stood on street corners selling his own books and stories. -He had no agent, no distributor or book store representation. It was just him and a box of books and his street corner, making a hard living as a self published author. His autobiographical work was amazing, in which he wrote about his experiences as a Street Writer. No insulation! -He waded directly into the middle of the stream of life and drank from it. If you were on the sidewalk as well, why, you could wade up to him and engage! That was his power and inspiration.


I might have been still in my teens at the time, and he gave me a piece of advice: “When it is time to stop, you must stop. When a writer continues to write after the inspiration has gone, the work turns into a disgusting parody of itself.”


That struck hard, and I carried it with me, promising myself to not create a disgusting parody. Thieves & Kings, right from the beginning had served as a distillation of my feelings for the world, a dense love for Reality and its inhabitants. It kept me awake in a daze through many nights.


The loss of the print film for the first two volumes was, I strongly believe, the Fourth Billboard.


The parable goes like this:


“As you are driving along the highway of life, the Universe will sometimes send you Important Messages about what you are supposed to do, where you are supposed to go. The first message will be a sign at the side of the road. If you ignore that, then there will be a second sign. The Universe will be heard. That second sign will be bigger, more insistent, directing you to change course from all your hectic focus. It is time to take an important turnoff into the unknown.


“If you ignore that sign and continue driving, the message will come again. This time a huge billboard!”


“If you ignore that, The Fourth Billboard will appear, and you will not be able to ignore it, because it will crash down on top of you.


“The Universe will not be ignored.”


There may be a Fifth Billboard for the truly focused, the stubborn and the terrified of failure, and it is probably on fire and has spikes. Fortunately, I didn’t need to run into that one. I can’t imagine what form it would have taken in my life. Lost film and the timely devastation of all my relationships and structures of stability was enough. I didn’t need an early heart attack or something!


Anyway, I took that turnoff, and while there have been regrets, there have also been many, many adventures, and some stories I am very proud to have been able to write and draw. And now, more than ten years later, after much living and learning, I found myself one day not too many months ago, realizing something quite startling and unexpected. I woke one morning dreaming and smiling and wondering about certain old friends I’d not properly thought about in ages.


I found myself once again in a Thieves & Kings mood.


These pages begin immediately after the closing panels of the Sixth Thieves & Kings volume, “Apprentices Part I”.


Jenny Mysterious and Stardrop will continue to move forward, (I am still in a Jenny and Ashelle mood), but they are going to be shuffled around in the schedule as I pull this multi-thousand page epic tale back to the front burner. At long last!


Thank-you all for waiting.


We open the first new pages of Thieves & Kings presented in over a decade with a Troll waking up (you see?) somewhere deep in the Sleeping Wood…



-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
October 11th, 2018

Blade Runner 2049

Mark at the Movies ~ Blade Runner 2049

 


Sunday
October 11th, 2017


Mark at the Movies ~ Blade Runner 2049





Hey, hey! I just got back from a theatrical presentation of “Bladerunner 2049”. In, WOW, 3D.


I think I might be able to make peace with 3D. It doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, so I guess I’ll have to. I find the pointless feature and extra expensive tickets and dopey glasses are only on my mind for the first three minutes, after which I am able to forget about them. And who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be one of those things where, after I complain about it enough and it miraculously goes away, I’ll think, “Huh. This 2D movie stuff seems kind of… flat somehow.”


ANYway… (I talk a bit about the meat of the film ahead, so proceed at your own risk.)


I really enjoyed this film! -Everything everybody has said in reviews and comments holds true. It looked great, maintained the esthetic and feel of the original, and it had a smart story which, yes, even made me tear up a couple of times.


The only thing I’ll add, -and this is not really a criticism.., more an observation…


It was very explicit. Very literal.


-By which I mean, it had a complex story which answered all its own questions and it all made solid sense. It was scripted, I think, by people with engineering backgrounds or something. That’s not a bad thing. You get a functional film out the other end. -Even one with a reasonable emotional range. And yet…


And yet…


This new film was missing the lyrical quality of the first. -Where a young Ridley Scott was unafraid to make bold moves on screen without feeling any need to explain the rationale behind them, -resulting in a beautiful ambiguity which, I thought, echoed the replicants’ very search for soul.


By contrast, the characters in this new film sure *talked* a big game about feelings and miracles, even revolved the entire script around an amazing birth, and yet.., somehow failed to convince me they were really existing in the thick of those emotions, in that search for the ephemeral. Oh, and there’s a difference, boy! Too much engineering and not enough poetry. There’s a saying in writing circles…


“Show me, don’t tell me.”


This film reminded me of that off-label Star Wars film from last year. “Rogue One”. -That was also scripted by engineers. A tight, smart clockwork where everything also made sense. (And don’t get me wrong; I like things to make sense). But the magic was made material, a talking point, reduced to a crystalline resource which could be mined, measured and controlled -with technology and force of arms.


-It’s like the authors were aware that magic and soul or something like it is important, -the driving force for everybody’s actions after all-, but they didn’t quite grasp the root of the concept, convinced that these wispy, intense emotions were the result of just the 3D containers they happened to ride in.


Like the mysterious infant in Blade Runner 2049, the movie chased after that object representation while failing to recognize that the truly lyrical isn’t the object itself.


But like I said.., this isn’t meant to be a criticism. Just an observation of craft. (The movie was scripted by replicants trying their best? Ha ha!) And they came close. I’m not sure I’d have been able to do anything any better. I tend to lean more heavily on the engineering end of things myself; my inner poet can be a bit unreliable.


Anyway…


It was still a fine film! -I think the thing I was most happily surprised by was how much screen time Harrison Ford was given, and how he didn’t disappoint in his delivery.


It’s funny how I tense up and really hope people shine. -Like watching balance beam gymnasts and figure skaters and hoping, hoping, they don’t fall.


Nobody fell in this film. Phew!


To bump it up from an 8 or 9 to a perfect 10, the flawless routine just needed to be a little less mechanical and a little more flowing. A little more spiritual.


After all…


If you recall…


In the original book, the question wasn’t just about independence from slavery, but of *dreams*.



-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
October 11th, 2017

Stardrop Pencils

Stardrop Pencils

 


Sunday
July 25, 2017


Stardrop Pencils






I thought it might be fun to make available for download the full-resolution (around 50 Mb) working file for the next episode of Stardrop. This includes the pencil and lettering layers. This is for anybody interested in trying their hand at inking my stuff… Give it a go!


I realize when looking at my pencils that I do a fair amount of detail work during the inking stage, so I tried to tighten them up a little more than usual this time for the benefit of anybody who might come across one of my scribbles and think, “Um, there’s a hand somewhere in that mess..?”


Please feel free to take liberties where you see fit. You’ll need to.


I’ve provided two file formats, both .tif and .psd which can be opened in your art program of choice. (ClipStudio doesn’t import layers from .tif very well, so if you stick with the .psd file, you should be okay.)

I’ll be posting my own finished version of this strip in a few days time, so you can compare! Feel free to send me a copy of your finished work if you feel like sharing!


stardrop289_pencils.psd


stardrop289_pencils.tif


 


-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
July 25th, 2017

The Pull – Looking For a New Place to Live

The Pull – Looking for a New Place to Live

 


Sunday
August 8th, 2017


A Loop Closed – Herge Exhibit






Here’s a neat story…


So, back when I was just 19 years old, I visited Europe. -I did the backpack thing for a couple of months. It was great!


Anyway, I visited Belgium and found myself one afternoon sitting on the steps of a big, important looking building in a majestic courtyard, sketching a church spire across the way. -The spire was all covered in scaffolding, undergoing repairs. It looked really neat, so I spent an hour or so trying to draw it. I still have that picture stashed away somewhere…


Anyway, after an hour of drawing, I packed up my things and left.


A week later, I was in Spain and a fellow hostel traveler was leafing through my sketchbook. He saw the scaffolding tower drawing I’d done, recognized it and reacted with delight. “Oh!” he said. “You were in Belgium at the Herge museum! Cool!”


I blinked. “I was..? Wait. Herge? The artist who drew Tin Tin? There’s a museum?”


“Yeah! Herge is a national treasure! That museum is famous. The tower you drew is right in front of it!”


“It IS??”


“-What? Didn’t you know? Did you not visit the museum?”


“Um… Er…”


He was astonished. So was I.


“But..,” he struggled to grasp the enormity of the thing, “you just spent the last fifteen minutes telling me how much you’re into comics. -How much you want to draw them for a living… Why would you fly all the way from Canada, go to Belgium, -and then not visit the Herge museum? He’s arguably the most popular cartoonist of all time!”


I’ve thought over that question often and have come to the conclusion that there’s really no good answer, and I’ve felt foolish about it pretty much ever since, (though I do somewhat enjoy the weird irony of having sat on Herge’s front steps to engage in cartooning without realizing where I was).


Anyway, the point of this story…


I found out this morning that a Herge exhibit was on loan from Belgium at one of Quebec city’s big cultural centers! I HAD to go.


So I did! It was amazing, like closing a big loop which had been left open since I was nineteen.


-They even let me take photos, (so long as I didn’t use the flash on my dinky little camera. This was the first time I wished I’d had a proper camera with me!). I was a little disappointed that they hadn’t a display of his pens or other art tools. I would have loved to have seen his tool kit, but you know.., sometimes it’s good to retain a little mystery to keep you wondering.


In any case, I was pretty much blown away. There were over a hundred Herge originals! And boy, he worked BIG! Some of his original pages are nearly twice the size of the ones I did in T&K. -And wow; they had the original artwork for that famous rocket ship adventure! It looks SO cool. I wish I’d gotten a better shot of it, but whatever. It was so neat to see real ink on paper, with little spots of white-out and touch-ups. It makes it so real and human and humbling!


It was also SO cool to see that the way he captured vehicles and other detail shots is pretty much the same thing I do, using photo references with different backgrounds and characters added.


The other amazing thing…


His colourist team painted right on copies of the linework! I’ve always wondered at the beautiful colours and how they were done. Now I know!


So.., all in all, my last morning in Quebec was a total gift. -I’m in Fredericton now, spending the night before I complete my journey home, but already I miss the French language all around me and I can’t wait to go back for more!


Love you all!


G’night!


-Mark Oakley

Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 8th, 2017


Apartment Hunting – Ain’t Got Nothing to Complain About!


Oh boy…


I walked all over the place, taking pictures of “For Rent” ads in building windows, slowly pulverizing my feet and sort of maybe but possibly not really getting anywhere…


Apartment hunting is hard. Phoo.


-I do have a list of phone numbers now, and there’s this one place I saw listed which looks almost doable, pictures posted online, on the far edge of my price range but juuuust big enough I think for me and all my boxes. But it’s also a long way from the sorts of things I’d need to keep a life going. (Groceries and possible work opportunities not involving drawing…)


When I was finished with my lower city search route, I found a giant stairway which would bring me back up to the old city…


Man. I made it to the top -and felt pretty good about my state of cardiovascular health actually. -I was sharing the journey with a bunch of people in spandex and cross trainers, and I kept pace with them (more or less) in my jeans and heavy back pack.


If I end up living at the foot of the mountain, I’ll either be in damned good shape within a year, or will simply have resigned to living in the mountain’s shadow. Or knowing the bus schedule by heart.


In any case… It has been a long, hot day, -like every other day I’ve spent searching for apartments. I don’t think this ever changes. It’s always with a heavy heart and a heavy sigh that I sit down again and wonder at my fate. -Before looking around at the thousands of people around me and realizing that every last one of us must deal with these kinds of problems, and the fact that they’re here and walking around means that they’ve solved them to some degree… That’s encouraging.


So… List time. I currently have:


-A place to live which I can afford for the next half year or so.
-My health; All my teeth and enough energy to tramp up a thousand stairs.
-Good friends.
-A fairly solid skill set in the drawin’ and story-tellin’ department.
-Some savings and no debt.


When your feet are sore and you’re uncertain about the future, when you’ve got a whole new language to learn and too many boxes to cart around.., well, I find it’s easy to forget that the hand of cards I’m playing with is actually a really, really, (REALLY) good one to be holding on Planet Earth today.


So I got nuthin’ to complain about. (There… -breathe- Yes. That feels better.)


Anyway.., I leave tomorrow. I don’t know how I’d quantify the level of “fruitful” this trip has been exactly, but I do have a lot more hard knowledge of what I’m looking at getting into at least.


And a backpack of really awesome French comics.


Nothing feels quite so nice as having a big pile of fresh comics to read.


(Pictured above are a couple of Jenny pictures I did at a cafe yesterday. I notice she’s not in the best of moods… Hm. But this trip is nothing if not good for my drawing mojo.)


-Mark Oakley

Quebec City, Quebec,
August 7th, 2017


Artist’s Alley





Okay…


Reality time! -I spent the day hiking around, doing the tourist thing. And sketching tourists. And.., kind of scoping out the possibilities for self-employed street artists. (Man! I don’t know if I’d fit in all that well with that numerous bunch. Some of those artists are *really* good, -and I didn’t see a lot of sales happening…)


Though, the dopey caricature craft was going strong. People like that sort of thing, I suppose. Cheap and fun. I guess I could practice up with a big fat Sharpie for some part-time work. Hmm. I dunno.


Anyway..!


I had a long chat with Sam-in-the-comic-shop. Finding an apartment, even if it’s in a good price range, is still going to be a big freakin’ pain in the arse, all of which is compounded by my distance from Quebec. I may have to make more than one trip out here to get it done. -Though now that I’ve got a more precisely defined mission in mind other than “Somewhere on Planet Earth”, I can at least start taking some steps which are a little more concrete than renting a car and just sort of driving around with a vaguely perturbed look on my face.


So tomorrow, I’m walking down this big boulevard where one of the hostel clerks said he saw a good apartment up for grabs. -It’s about a half-hour walk from the center of all the really awesome castles and such, which (while I still need to check to make sure), my skeptical self is still betting are not in my price range by a fairly magnificent margin. -I just have that feeling, y’know?


But we’ll learn more tomorrow! I’m booked at the hostel for one more night after this, and then I gotta start driving back home, (and yes, Nova Scotia is still HOME! -I want comfortable Wolfville pavement under foot again, and my own bed beneath my back. And my nice little apartment walls around me. Though.., (sigh) I need to remember that my apartment exists on distinctly borrowed time at this point, -and with the new window fixtures and my furniture not yet moved back from the renovation turmoil, it doesn’t even *feel* like my place so much anymore. -Which is, of course, in a large part why I’m on this journey in the first place. Wolfville went and became too expensive for me, so.., I have to move to a big city? How the heck does *that* track?


Well, it tracks because the vast majority of working Canadians don’t speak French and prefer to live where there is no language barrier, (and thus the lower prices).


Fortunately for me, I’m somewhat naturally inclined toward doing things the hard way, -plus there’s lots of great comics published in French (you should SEE the little stack of books I’m bringing home!) -As well as a culture I’m rapidly becomming charmed by.


And castles…


I mustn’t forget the castles.


Okay. G’night everybody!


-Mark Oakley

Quebec City, Quebec,
August 6th, 2017


Old Quebec City





Huh.


Okay. So after driving through the belly of the beast, I emerged into what I was surprised to find was Old Quebec City.


The map I was following to the hostel neglected to mention that. Or rather, it probably didn’t but my poor map skills weren’t up to the task of determining that I’d be arriving in the heart of the real-world Highborn of Oceansend (from T&K). Built on a steep hill, covered in old stone buildings connected with those narrow, winding cobblestone streets so beloved by post-card publishers, Old Quebec City is a beautiful thing to behold and wander through.


The hostel website I’d checked before dejectedly setting out this afternoon informed me that they were full for the night, but I decided “What the heck? I might as well just show up and maybe there will have been a cancellation. What else am I gonna do at this point?”


-I’m discovering that my seat-of-my-pants complete lack of trip planning might not be the best way to navigate the world. Or maybe it’s the perfect way; when Quebec rose on the horizon, my heart swelled with joy, -just the opposite of the feelings of misgiving I’d experienced earlier today.


The entrance foyer of the hostel was thick with damp tourists; a family from India in all-the-same disposable plastic ponchos, a clutch of Germans with excellent mountaineering all-weather wear and various people from various countries with umbrellas of all different types and sizes. And me in my wet shirt and backpack.


The fellow at the desk blinked at me in awe and told me that, Oh yes, they were quite full.


Having been through this sort of thing before, (and having sent Ashelle and Jen through the same experience in Stardrop), I asked hopefully if he might contact some of the other hostels in the area. He did so and, the second place he called had a room remaining. He laughed in happiness for me as he held the phone receiver and told me I wasn’t going to be sleeping outdoors tonight. Cool! -And I’ll be blowed if the room wasn’t cheaper than the road side motel I’d left just this morning! A real bargain, in fact!


See the picture below. -I’m staying in a *beautiful* building, the interior seeping with history. I have a teeny little room to myself with a sink on one wall and a desk on the other, a full bed in between and balcony with a little set of chairs and a table beyond the window.


So that worked out well.


But that’s just the prelude.


Check this out: While walking through the old city, through crowds of colourful tourists and dozens of little shops and such, I wistfully thought aloud, “Well, darn it. I now know where I want to move to. -Too bad these apartments are all probably a million dollars each!”


Except…


I found myself at the doors of a tiny comic shop I never knew existed, where the fellow at the desk, an amiable guy named Sam, informed me that, “No, actually, the apartments in Quebec are quite affordable. Cheaper than Montreal. Even in the old city if you want.”


“Really?” (Skeptical). “But I have like 150 boxes of book stock. I need space.”


“Yes, I only work here part time. I run a record label. Vinyl. I have many heavy boxes as well. I pay $650. Internet and power included.”


I blinked at him in shock.


“If you’d come last month,” he continued, “I could have gotten you a place big enough for your needs for $550. You just have to know people. I know lots of people.”


I blinked again.


So yeah, I feel the universe laughing at me with twinkling eyes.


It’s not all booked yet, not all decided. There is much to do and many steps to take. Things to discuss and no doubt, many more problems to navigate, but…


It looks like I’ve just been tapped on the shoulder by the Great Cosmic Mind and had it strongly suggested to me that it might be a good time to start drawing Thieves & Kings again.


My friend, Melissa Kelly, is quite correct with regard to these curious impulses and random trials and directions bubbling up from the heart and soul. From the Pull of the Tummy:


“Trust it all”


Okay. Off to find some dinner. I’ll post some proper pics tomorrow. (The ones above aren’t mine; I just pulled them off the internet.)


Have a great night everybody!


-Mark Oakley

Quebec City, Quebec,
August 5th, 2017


No. Not Here.






Well…


I’m on the road again!


I made it into “Ground Zero” of Charlevoix. -And that’s not even hyperbole. -In another era or epoch or whenever, a massive impact event took place, leaving a 60km wide crater in the face of what is now Quebec!


-Apparently, biologists and geologists find the region interesting for study, because all the rocks and plant life were changed enough to warrant microscopes and such. How cool is that?? I thought if I move the Stardrop crew to another place to continue their story, that such a place lends itself perfectly to the narrative in some neat-o sci-fi ways!


Sadly, though… I don’t think that’s going to happen. My preference filters are on guard, you see…


The first town on my list of Charlevoix settlements is a place called “Malbaie”.


-Which translates roughly as, “Bad Bay” or “Bay of Sickness”. So… um, no thanks. I don’t know exactly what that kind of place name would do to the subconscious lives of the folks living in the region, but I figure it can’t be terribly healthy. Anyway, there’s plenty of other places to live. Though, granted, Malbaie is super-pretty. They have this cute little farm market and cafe scene, (but I mean LITTLE. Like 15 vendors. Wolfville’s farm market makes it look like a cardboard lemonade stand. Ah well…)


On to Baie-Saint-Paul!


Wow! It’s a bigger town, and it looks amazing from above!. But driving through made me feel a strong sense of, “Nope”. The vibe was all wrong. There seemed to be a lot of unhappy people shuffling around behind the flashy tourist front. The massive hospital complex seems to be the primary industry in town, aside from tourism. I just didn’t connect and my tummy said, “No. Wrong. Get out of here! You have somewhere else to be!”


So onward again, I guess.


And feeling a little sad and lost, to be honest. (Though, that might have been the crappy ice cream I found at a grocery store and ate too much of. Never eat foods which make you feel sad.)


I switched on the radio and the first thing which came across the speakers was a song about raining and feeling like crap, just at exactly the same moment the sky slapped my windshield with a rain squall. Heh.


Anyway, I’m now in a Tim Horton’s and feeling more positive. -Tim’s, corporate roots aside, is probably one of the top three blessings for the Canadian traveller. Open 24 hours, free internet, hot coffee and not-bad food. And they’re everywhere. Thank-you Tim!


So I’m sitting here and I just sent off a couchsurf request to a fellow in Quebec City. There are over a THOUSAND surfers there. I have good hopes of meeting somebody!


Cheers!


The pictures above are of the little Malbaie market and Baie-Saint-Paul from above. And the brooding mountain in the bay…


-Mark Oakley

Charlevoix, Quebec,
August 4th, 2017


The Ferry


I spent a good part of the morning driving too far. -I had the whole day all planned out nicely; drive down the coast of the St. Lawrence to the next big(ish) city, and catch the afternoon ferry at 3:00. I left early, (I wrote a note to my couchsurf hosts and left them a couple of those really nice chocolate bars to find when they got home from work), and I figured I’d have two or three hours to sight-see before the ferry check-in time.


-You have to book in advance and then check in 60 minutes before the ferry leaves or they mightily ding your credit card. But no problem, I arrived in great time and had a really nice and relaxed tour around the place. I ate some genuine Poutine. (I allow myself this a couple of times a year!).


Then…


I began to get a funny feeling. (Not fry and gravy related).


Turns out I’d overshot the ferry terminal by a whole freakin’ city, and had half an hour to back track all the way up the coast to where I was booked to cross. Wow! (To be fair, there are only a few ferry crossings indicated on the provincial road map, and the one I found myself at wasn’t on it. So it was a stupid, albeit, honest mistake.)


Okay. So then I’m cranking it up the highway to get to the real ferry dock on time, and pulled in just as they were starting to load cars on board.


But I had another funny feeling…


It was ANOTHER wrong ferry. -But the town name was the same as the street name I needed to find in the next town up the road… Whatever. Basically I suck at maps. There’s no excuse.


So then I was beginning to lose my Zen Calm, (as Jenny would say).


Long story short(ish).


I made it and crossed the sea way and it’s all good.


Pictured below is me with “A funny feeling”.


Ha ha!


The other is a lousy picture of the amazing view while crossing. Charlevoix is epic. I mean, we all *know* this stuff is in Canada, but until you’re there…


Wow.






-Mark Oakley

Charlevoix, Quebec,
August 3rd, 2017


The Motel Blues


So I just found a motel. It’s in a new building with a fresh sign on the road side. I blew past a camp ground before I realized what it was, and figured I’d turn back to check it out. I just wanted to find out the price for the motel.


A really excited couple came down to greet me. -I got the feeling that this was a new business venture for them, and there were hardly any cars in the parking lot so I don’t know how well it’s doing for them. They seemed very excited to have me show up, and they recited all the various details about their motel in imperfect English with a school project presentation-day kind of energy.


Anyway.., I reaaaaally need to learn my French numbers. I thought the desk clerk said $48. I thought, “What a deal!”


Heh.


$120 was the readout when the debit card machine was in my hands. I looked up and they were all eager smiles. Screw it. I’m spending the night. I’ve been sleeping for almost free for the past week. I’ll look for camp grounds tomorrow if I can’t find another couchsurf!


Buuuuut, it does mean I get to sleep in style! With internet access and a chance to get my future plans together in peace and compile some pictures and all that good stuff.


Toward that end…


You gotta check out this crazy huge bay that Rimouski was built on. (That’s the town I left this morning.) It sort of reminds me of Wolfville with all the low-tide mud, but bigger. Population: 50,000 (or thereabouts).







-Mark Oakley

Rimouski, Quebec,
August 4th, 2017


Rock Climbing and Comics


Today was really cool!


I found a little comic/game/sword shop with a really friendly fellow at the cash who spent some time telling me all about the cool features of his town and why it is a great place to live.


I bought a couple of French comics, “Livre de bandes dessinées” and found that I was able to piece together fairly well what was going on. This is a great way to learn another language. In fact.., come to think of it, I learned how to read English from comics!


Then I was invited out by one of my host’s roommates to her rock-climbing gym. -I wasn’t allowed to try myself, (you need rented shoes, and they only rent to members after 8PM), but they let me sit and watch. -After I got bored reading a copy of Dragon Ball Z (in French) which happened to be sitting on the table, I pulled out my sketch stuff, and started trying to capture some of the Spiderman climbing poses of the gym members.


It was fun! Talk about gesture drawing! You don’t even get 10 or 20 seconds; you only get a moment before the pose changes. I used a thick brush to throw down fast inks. Some of them looked really cool, and by the end, I was able to turn several of the climbers into solid character designs!


They were all really fun people, and one guy was quite excited by it all. I let him keep one of the pages with a really nice sketch of him. -Heavy shadows and lines, it could with a little work be turned into a logo or a tee shirt design.


Anyway.., that was great! Such friendly people!


I also met several people who are clones of folks I know in Wolfville. That happens frequently while traveling, I find, but one woman in particular I could have literally mistaken for somebody I already know! Weeeeeeird. And really neat!


Anyway… I’m off to bed. Fingers crossed on a response from one of the several couchsurfer hosts across the sea way!


-Mark Oakley

Rimouski, Quebec,
August 4th, 2017



Couchsurfing 2







Have Pencil, Will Travel!



-Mark Oakley

Rimouski, Quebec,
August 2nd, 2017



Couchsurfing 1


Yesss! I’m off to my very first couchsurf experience, (as a guest rather than a host, that is).


This organic farm worker on just this side of the St. Lawrence sea way -with a ton of glowing references has invited me to stay at his place! -He sounds like many of the best of the best Wolfville dudes, into eco-friendly living and an active lifestyle. I can’t wait!


I was getting a bit worried as this day drew to a close and my plans were becoming increasingly, “Well, I could fold back the car seat and I have a blanket…”


-Mark Oakley

Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017



Strange Adventures, Fredericton


Well, I spent a nice (sleepy) afternoon at Strange Adventures. Jason (the manager) was like a New Brunswick Cal! What a nice guy! Very mellow and friendly! Thanks, Jason, for welcoming me on such short notice.


-They cleared off a table and I hauled in my box of tricks and set up a small book display.


Tuesdays are a slow browsing kind of day in the comics world, as things wind up for the Big Wednesday New Comics Day, but I nonetheless found myself chatting for three hours with a variety of folks. Fredericton would *definitely* make a great home base for a comics-driven lifestyle like mine!


Thanks again, guys!






-Mark Oakley

Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017



University of New Brunswick


Wow. I’m in Fredericton!


What a nice drive! Only cost $36 in gas. Compact cars are kind of amazing.


It’s been a long while since I’ve done a proper road trip, with a sleeping bag and supplies tucked in the trunk. I’m right now staying on the UNB campus in one of their dorms, which plays the part of youth hostel during the Summer months.


Man! UNB is a BEAUTIFUL university! It’s like a modern Hogwarts built on a hillside overlooking the river. Walking through it looking for the admin building made me want to go back to school! It’s so still and quiet with all the students gone, and it smells vaguely like the woods.


I’ll take some pictures and post them later.


The comic shop was closed by the time I rolled into town, so I’ll check that out tomorrow. Strange Adventures Fredericton!


-And what an odd hostel this is! I’m in a giant building with no front desk. Only a phone number, which I can’t even use since I live in a perpetual stubborn state of sans-cellphone. I was wandering around the dark maze of hallways and rooms, and only ran into one other person, another guest looking as puzzled as me. It’s a bit spooky…


Oh well. The key fits the room and there are clean sheets.


I might wander around town and come back for an early night and then be up and running tomorrow.


This is SO cool, btw! I’ve not had a proper adventure in ages! Things are waking up inside of me I’d forgotten were there.


Also, around 4 AM last night, I woke up with an intense desire to cut off the bulk of my giant mass of hair which has been following me around in pony-tail form for a couple of years now. So I did! The Box Cutter Special. (The result elicited noises of surprise from a couple of people on my way through Wolfville as I saw to the last couple of chores which needed doing before I could leave town). I *feel* different. I feel something changing…


Ain’t got no strings to hold me down…


-Mark Oakley

Fredericton, New Brunswick,
August 1st, 2017



Start Here… (The Great Apartment Hunt)


Posting a buncha page updates before I hit the road tomorrow!


(I’m going on an apartment hunting road trip through Quebec and New Brunswick. Woosh!)


-Mark Oakley

Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
July 27th, 2017