Monthly Archives: April, 2008

Bypast

I can’t recall when I started reading Taking the Bi-Pass.

Now, to be fair, that is the case with the vast majority of comics I read – but usually, if I make the effort, I can track my path backwards and puzzle out what crossover led me there, or what other webcomic posted a link for me to follow. Or, occasionally, what random banner ad managed to actually succeed in snagging my attention and drawing me in.

If nothing else, I can usually recall the experience of reading through the archives, and then adding the comic to my daily list to be followed on a regular basis.

Yet with Taking the Bi-Pass… there is nothing. I know I must have encountered it in the same fashion as other comics. I know that I must have one day stumbled upon it, read through it, and added it to the list. But there is no memory of doing so. It simply became part of my routine, without my notice.

Which is why, perhaps, it has taken me this long to actually realize I don’t get anything out of reading it.

Now, in fairness, I certainly don’t have a wealth of terrible things to say about the comic. Indeed, if anything in it actively repelled me, I’m sure I would dropped it from the list long ago. But just as the comic isn’t actively bad in any real sense, it isn’t good, either. It is altogether harmless and plain… and so I read it for month after month almost without noticing it. It was one link among many, briefly clicked on and checked every few days, and the content behind the link vanished from my mind almost as soon as I looked upon it.

It’s not hard to find the reason: the strip is, at heart, a slice-of-life comic. Sure, it has plenty of gags about pop culture and geek lingo – especially in its early strips – but the driving force behind it is following “the lives and random adventures of a small group of friends.”

The thing is? Life is dull.

Some people might have crazy adventures 9 days out of 10 – but not most of us. Most people spend most days doing ordinary things and living ordinary lives. And even those times when life is good and fun and enjoying – it is largely because you are living in that moment. You are hanging out with friends and throwing around jokes and chatting about random things, and right then and there, it is a blast.

But go ahead, try and take a snapshot of that conversation, try and find a way to share those inside jokes and the hilarious banter with others… and it falls short. The jokes don’t work without the context of the moment and the atmosphere of the group.

The moment is lost.

Life is dull.

Life is also, admittedly, filled with vast excitements and moments of wonder, with incredible adventures around very corner, with a thousand shards of genius found in every second of the ordinary – but it takes a special talent to be able to notice and enjoy such things. And it takes an even greater skill to be able to share such sentiments with others – to paint a scene and realize the moment in all its raw glory. To convey why the evening with friends was filled with laughs, or why the drive to the airport was a nerve-wracking experience, or why a visit at the museum felt so genuinely enlightening.

Without that skill, you can still recount your experiences… but it ends up as a slideshow, a series of hollow moments and faded images, with the colors never quite as vibrant as they were in life. And you know, that’s fine – sharing your life with others, even the dull and boring parts of it, is a lot of what the internet is designed to do, and forming those connections is not a bad thing.

But it isn’t something I need to read a comic for.

HumilityThe art in Taking the Bi-Pass has come a long way from the beginning, but has never really pushed beyond its own limits. It is serviceable, and good at presenting a cartoony feel, but breaks down when it tries to depict an infant. Still, progress is progress, and “slow but steady” is a perfectly reasonable method of improvement.

The characters in the strip manage to fit the ‘everyman’ tone of it while still remaining relatively distinct. The storylines… less so, but they tend to be good while they are in motion. Seeing these characters slowly moving forward with their lives, going through marriage, having a child… there is a good feeling to it. There is no real sense of action or urgency as the strip essentially proceeds in real-time… but again, slowly but steadily, it moves forward much as life tends to do.

The website is reasonably well laid-out. It could use a cast page… but at the same time, the strip is often just as easy to read without having to know anything about who the characters are. That’s the benefit of being drawn from life – situations are easily identifiable and characters easy to empathize with. The layout of the site does a good job of balancing out the comic itself with the regular newsposts from the creator, and having that bit of personal connection to the author is likely more useful than anything else that could be presented to the reader.

It isn’t a bad comic. I read it faithfully, probably for years, without ever having a moment where it let me down, offended me, or drove me away. It has room for improvement, sure, but it doesn’t really try to go beyond what it is – there is no pretension to it, no posturing or arrogance. It’s just a strip by an ordinary guy about an ordinary life.

There just isn’t any reason for me to keep reading it. I like the characters… but don’t feel any need to see their story unfold. Indeed, I can visualize it on my own, with ease – I doubt there are any great surprises down the road. And I don’t need to see the little details or the small jokes as they play out, or see more of the same riffs on geek culture that I’ve seen a hundred times before.

There might be those around who do, and that’s all to the good. The comic is certainly no worse than the majority still found in the newspaper – it is the same sort of peaceful and plain material that many find a comfort in having as part of their routine.

But I’ve already got plenty of other comics to take that role. A few seconds each day might not cost me much, but I’ve still got plenty of other uses to which I can put the time.

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It Isn’t That

It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, because I do.

I easily have other a dozen notes jotted down on topics to discuss, complain about, celebrate, etc.

(And by “jotted down,” I mean “typed up in Notepad,” as that is far more accessible than an actual notepad, and has benefits such as not being covered in incomprehensible scrawl.)

Every week a few more items creep on there… even as a few get taken off, now that their moment of relevance has already passed, relegated into history by the speed of the internet.

So I have things to write about, certainly.

And it isn’t that I don’t have time to write about them. I mean, I don’t, but only inasmuch as the time I would spend writing them is instead being spent on such worthwhile tasks as rereading Discworld novels, or playing Lost Oydssey, the only RPG I’ve come across in years that I’ve actually been impressed by.

Is it a matter of not having had the opportunity to post anything on this site?

I could potentially make an argument along those lines – for the last month, my internet service has been erratic and often inaccessible. Indeed, I have had a great deal of difficulty even keeping up most of my regular reading list, so I suppose I could use that as the reason why I’ve been silent for just under a month.

But that both is and is not the actual cause of my absence. I could have posted, certainly, and I had both the time to do so and topics on which to write. My internet difficulties didn’t prevent me from doing so directly. But indirectly? That’s a different story entirely.

As I said above, I found myself falling behind on many webcomics. With my internet time limited and unreliable, I had to restrain myself to reading only the cream of the crop, the best and the brightest of the world of online sequential art. The ones I was eager to read each morning, or caught up in the grip of a compelling storyline, or simply confident would present some small measure of enjoyment at the start of the day.

The rest were left to… summer, with Piperka faithfully recording their updates, ready to give me a treasure trove of comics to catch up on when I finally had the chance to do so.

And when I did finally find the time and opportunity to engage in said task… I realized, with many of these comics, that I hadn’t missed reading them in the slightest.

I’ve talked before of webcomics I read out of habit, even though enjoyment may have long since fallen away. Strips like Megatokyo, which I read almost for the thrill of disdaining it… or something like Ctrl+Alt+Del, which every so often I find enjoyable, and simply skim through the usual lackluster updates. Or even Sluggy Freelance, which I might have grown disappointed with, but retain hope of it picking up the pace and returning to a truly compelling storyline.

But there is another category of strips outside of that – ones that I don’t even notice, even as I read them from week to week, day to day. Ones that crept onto my list, and which were enjoyable enough when I read their archives… but that I didn’t even notice when I went without them. I could take or leave them, in other words, and only kept reading them because I’d fallen into the habit of doing so.

Because they only took a handful of seconds each day to keep occupied with, and it was easy to not think about that adding up until I was faced with weeks worth of unread strips… and felt no real desire to dive back into them.

Thus, in a similar circumstance, I found myself pondering this blog. I had stuff which I wanted to write… but where to start? How should I begin?

So, here I am, back to writing. With a plan. I aim to update twice a week – and on Mondays, I plan to focus on the strips that I’m purging from my list, and examine exactly why I’m doing so. I’ve done this sort of thing before – and it proved reasonably cathartic then.

Meanwhile, on Fridays, I’ll be posting some more upbeat reviews – the best moments in comics during the week, or simply a look at comics that are going strong and remaining in my reading pool. Potentially looking at any new strips that have made their way onto my list, or any current events worth noting among the webcomics crowd.

It’s a plan. We’ll see how long it remains a good one.