Sunday, February 09, 2014

Geek Speaking of Dragons and the Existential Conundrum

Geek Speak: One Should Not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons

Usually that sentence would conclude with, "for you are crunchy and good with ketchup." In this case the usual doesn't apply as one dragon eats semi-precious and precious stones and the other is exclusively a fish eater; a piscivore, if you will. 

In our household we watch a lot...let me rephrase that a shitload of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Dragons: Riders/Defenders of Berk (it's one or the other and depends on the season of the show). "Ponies" is probably something that just goes with having a daughter who is right in the target demographic. The latter is the result of showing her the first How to Train Your Dragon movie (the sequel is due later this year) in the hopes that she would latch onto something, anything, for the love of God anything that wasn't My Little Pony. This will probably become a recurring theme in my one-off jokes, especially as my son starts to get older and finds shows of his own to watch until it makes his parents' eyes bleed. 

Dragon characters are featured In both "Ponies" and "Dragons," as they're referred to by our adorable little tyrant. It occurred to me, and not for the first time, that not all dragons are made equal. Some are meant to be adorable comic relief which can then be turned into lucrative merchandise, and some fly into battle annihilating enemies with well placed plasma blasts...and can then be turned into lucrative merchandise. 

Which reminds me, I was at Target today and forgot to pick up a miniature plastic "Toothless" for my desk at work. 

From there it was a natural jump to asking the question, "what would happen if 'Spike' from 'Ponies' encountered 'Toothless' from 'Dragons?'" I think of this as the dragon equivalent of Toothless saying, "kids these days."

If I were to take this one step further they would both be obliterated by fire from above and we'd pull back to see Smaug on his mountain proclaiming, "I am fire! I am death!"

Two Basic Choices

No matter what happens in our lives how we react can be distilled down to a choice of two things; we can cry or we can laugh. I know which one I would rather do.  

The context of the situation helps to determine which way our emotions take us. You would laugh at a funeral, for instance. Unless the funeral is for a clown, then yuck it up, especially if they bury that clown in a tiny car. 

Except in those times when the situation truly calls for tears, it helps to find something funny. This isn't as hard as it might seem. Life is always trying to make us laugh, we just have to be open to seeing the joke. 

I'll give you an example. Last week was a tough one for me and my family. I'm still going through the growing pains of adjusting to a new job and a much increased level of responsibility that comes with a more senior position. On top of that everyone in my family has been sick. This means I didn't get much sleep and my schedule at work was pooched because I had to be able to run home to care for my family. That's fine, I want to be there for them, but by the end of the week I was feeling beat and numb from fatigue and sleep deprivation. 

One afternoon late in the week I left the office to run an envelope to a nearby mailbox. On the way back I had to wait for a stoplight to change and I glanced over at the vehicles and drivers who were being likewise patient. That's when I saw her, and she was glorious. One of the lunch commuters waiting for the light to change was a very overweight woman who had to be at least in her mid-seventies. She was wearing a black track suit with hot pink accents. Her ride was a Harley Davidson and she was wearing one of those motorcycle helmets made to look like it might have been issued to German soldiers in World War II. The overall effect was a giant black and pink bowling ball of death (I am fire!  I am death!). Then the light changed and everyone moved on, but in that moment life gave me something to laugh about. 

Being a parent with very young children has helped to shape it a working hypothesis that life is constantly trying to make us laugh. Babies cry because they need things, not just because they're sad or hurt. While crying might be the sound we come into the world making, think about this; long before they say their first words, the first expression babies learn to make is a smile and the first sound that babies learn to make on their own is laughter. 

Find the funny as much as you can, because it makes everything that much more bearable when the time comes for tears. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

Geek Speaking of Coffee for Cartoon Heroes

Geek Speak: Now That is COFFEE!

This strip isn't based on real-life experiences, yet, but it's probably just a matter of time. It's no secret that I have a deep and committed affinity for coffee. Coffee is something of a ritual in the morning. First I start twenty ounces of water heating in the microwave for five minutes, so that it's not boiling but still hot enough to brew. While the water is heating I measure and grind the beans. After the beans have been ground I add five slightly rounded scoops of fresh ground coffee to the bottom of my coffee press. By this time the water is hot so I pour it over the grounds in the bottom of the press, slowly so it evenly saturates all of the grounds. Then I put the lid on the press and set a timer for five minutes to let the grounds steep in the hot water. After five minutes I press down and the coffee is ready. It goes into a cup, no cream or sugar, just straight black nirvana. First I inhale the aroma, then I take a sip, then I sing "coffee" in a reasonable approximation of rich baritone. 

My not-quite-three-year-old daughter has started singing "coffee" back at me.

As young as she is she's picked up on my appreciation of all things coffee, and has started playing "coffee service" with a dining set she got for Christmas. She'll tip the pitcher over her little cups and hand them out saying "mommy coffee" then "daddy coffee." 

It's going to be a long time before she can drink any herself, but I take some pride in the knowledge that in at least this one small way I'm raising my daughter right. 

Heroes Taking Initiative

I discovered this group at Comic-Con this year, and have been meaning to write about them ever since. It's not the purpose of the blog to advocate for anything, per se, but when I find people doing worthy work I feel like it's worth sharing. The Hero Initiative is a 501 (c) (3) organization providing support to veteran comic book creators in the form of financial assistance and services. 

Many artists in the comic book industry may be recognizable names, and their work might be treasured, but many of them also worked for a paycheck from the publisher. Much like any job they were given assignments and deadlines, they had regular working hours and the occasional overtime, and they took home a paycheck. While many veteran artists and creators have fans, in most cases it's not the kind of celebrity that comes with fabulous wealth. In many cases appearing at conventions, while a fun part of the job, is still just that, part of the job. Like anyone else, when the job ends, so does the paycheck. 

When the money goes away, hard times follow. Comic book illustrators and other artists are especially vulnerable to this as many of them work on a freelance basis. Unfortunately life doesn't wait for you to find work to throw up obstacles in the form of health problems, overdue bills, or just buying food. This is the reason the Hero Initiative exists. 

The Hero Initiative is "the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need." To date they have allocated over $500k in financial aid and services to comic book creators in need. In addition to financial assistance the Hero Initiative also provides services in the form of financial advisers and assistance with finding a path back to paying work. 

From a fan perspective they also do some really cool promotional work. One such promotion was the "JLA 100 Project." When Justice League America reached its fiftieth issue D.C. published the book with a limited run of "blank covers." The Hero Initiative picked up 100 of these and commissioned artists to illustrate the covers. There's a lot of amazing work, and you can see all of them here. The commissioned books are then auctioned off and the proceeds go to the Hero Initiative to provide assistance for struggling comic book veterans. Very cool, highly collectible, and for a great cause. Everyone wins. 

It's more difficult for me to describe the work this group does than it is for the artists who've received their assistance, so I'll leave it with this: Hero Initiative's Success Stories.

As soon as I can work out how it's done I'll be placing a permanent link to the Hero Initiative on my blog. Take a moment to check out their website. They do great work for a community that created the characters and stories we all enjoy.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Mugging for a Gonzo Sketch Dump

Mugging for Gonzo

Where I am working now it is apparently a kind of tradition for managers to buy a company-branded mug for their new hires. In most cases the new employee doesn't get a say as to which mug they end up with. My manager, in her infinite graciousness, let me pick one for myself. When I selected a "Gonzo" from "The Muppets" she and my co-worker exchanged a look and said, "I knew that was the one he was going to get." I really wonder what that says about me.

Gonzo was always my favorite of the characters on The Muppet Show. He was always doing something interesting and crazy. Gonzo was always swinging on a trapeze, or riding a motorcycle through a burning hoop, or firing himself from a canon, and he was always surrounded by chickens...oh...the chickens. Gonzo was always doing something and it was usually something exciting. 

I liked the other muppets just fine, but they never really appealed to me in the same way. Kermit is the one designed to be everyone's favorite, the one you're supposed to like. I like Kermit just fine, but he's so gosh-darned straight-laced and likable that he bores me a little. Ms. Piggy, well, I just never warmed to her. I don't hate the character, but she just never grew on me. Maybe I just find her shrill. Fozzy is funny but kind of pathetic. It goes on like that. I just never felt like the other muppets had the same pizazz. 

Sketch Dump: The Final SADA Installment

As my time at SADA Systems wound to a close I found myself with extra time, and with a little bit of a "devil may care" attitude. It's understandable. In the last couple of weeks I basically had one foot out the door at all times. I took advantage of the extra time to do some extra doodling. Here is some of what I came up with while I was counting down the days to when I could punch out for the last time.

This is such a bad pun, even for me, that I am absolutely sure it was drawn to break a creative log-jam. Kind of like the cartooning equivalent of writer's block. I had a brand new notebook, and I'd already accepted the offer from what would become my new job, so the last thing I was going to do was use a notebook to take notes.

Banana Split

This may have been a little inappropriate, but it's hardly the most risque thing I've ever doodled at my desk. I liked the over-the-shoulder pose, but thought it would be fun to put a mischievous twist on it. 

I Make My Own Friends
In this case I don't have anything really funny or glib to say. It doesn't happen very much, but every so often I draw something sweet, or sentimental. In this case I think I wanted a sense of nostalgia for the simple joys of growing up, but also a kind of melancholy loneliness. The child is building the snowman alone. 

"Dur Sync"
That was depressing, I think it's time for another stupid pun.

Microsoft "Directory Sync" called "DirSync" for short is a tool that synchronizes data between an on-premise Active Directory system and a number of hosted systems. What it's used for aside, this is what goes through my head every time someone calls it "DirSync."

Said the Bugbear to the Beholder-Kin
This is where I fly my geek flag and make a reference to two classic monsters from Dungeons and Dragons. For those who may not know the game or its assorted ghouls and goblins (both of which are actual monsters with their own unique stats) a bugbear is related to goblins and orcs, but they tend to be bigger, tougher, and more savage. Beholders are, usually, giant floating eyeballs with teeth. Some have smaller eyes on stalks that protrude from their bodies, and each eye has its own excruciatingly painful way to kill an adventurer. 

In all likelihood that's the last thing the bugbear said before the beholder vaporized half his body with his eye-beam, then devoured the other half.