Thursday, November 12, 2015

Geek Speaking of Geres of Snore

Geek Speak: Nowhere to Go, Man!

It occurred to me as I was writing this joke that I was probably writing something that would be understandable to most people in my generation, and certainly to anyone reading this who comes from my parent's generation. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, there's this great scene in the where the drill instructor, played brilliantly by Louis Gossett Jr., is trying to force Richard Gere to quit, to wash out of Aviation Officer Candidate School. Gere is being put through a brutal series of physical exercises while Gossett berates and abuses him. The moment the strip refers to is the moment wherein Gere is doing a torturous number of sit ups while Gossett sprays him with a hose and tries to verbally abuse him into quitting. Gere's character breaks, and in a performance that can only be described as wrenching, he sobs, "I got nowhere else to go." When I think of great performances in film, my mind often goes to that moment. There is so much going on in that scene, that relationship is so complex, and the actors playing those parts are so amazing that I could watch it a dozen times and get something different from it each time.

Naturally my tribute to that moment of cinematic brilliance involves a talking dog a shirtless nerd.

Seriously, Louis Gossett, Jr. is something to behold in that film. He absolutely had earned it when the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor went to him, that and then some.

What Was I Planning to Do Later Again? 

All of us grew up listening to the adages and proverbs of our parents. One my parents were fond of was, "don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." As I was mulling over what to write in this blog post I had some fun flipping that around, "don't do today, what you can put off until tomorrow." 

Procrastinators of the world unite...eventually!

It sounded like a cute idea for a random thought, but then I examined it, which (by the way) is an exercise you should avoid at all costs. Examination is the death of humor. Anyway, there's a kernel of wisdom in there; a little nugget of truth. Most of us have deadlines of one kind or another. In our day to day working lives there is some objective, some end point we have to reach. It can be stressful, and the natural response to stay as long as it takes to get the job done. The thing is, in most cases, not everything absolutely has to be done right this damn minute. When you've done all you can for a day what you really need to do, and I'm sure somewhere my dad's ghost is shaking his head at me, but what you really need to do is just walk away. Leave it for another day. It's surprising really. No matter how critical something might seem at 5:30PM Tuesday night, leave it. Go home. Have dinner. Play with your kids and get a good night's rest. When you get back to work in the morning, it will still be there, and you'll have the whole day to work on it. 

No one said it better than Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Finish each day, and be done with it. You have done what you could."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Geek Speaking of Showering Hard Drive Failures

Geek Speak: Downton Puppy

I gave myself a bit of a break...not a break from drawing the comic, but we'll get to that, a break from having to draw that fucking tutu. The idea of a dog in a tutu who communicates with a human is still funny to me, but I am really looking forward to the day that Wuffles takes the thing off.

To the guys out there, have you ever gone to the bathroom at work and had someone you work with take the next spot and start talking to you? I hate that. It's a bit of a pet peeve, really. When I'm in the bathroom I'm there to do one thing. I'm on a mission. Get in. Get done. Get out. I'm not there to discuss a project, talk about your weekend, or chat about how fucking amazing your new car is. Every so often I'll hear a guy doing his business in a stall next to me while talking on the phone. Seriously? Whatever it is you're talking about can't wait five goddamn minutes? Pro tip: don't call me if you're using the bathroom at the same time. I will hang up on you.

I have to imagine it's similarly awkward when someone's trying to talk with you while you're in the shower .You're trying to enjoy one of life's greatest little pleasures and someone outside is trying to get you to make decisions about something. Here's a decision. I'm going to finish my shower. It will take five minutes, another five for me to be presentable again. Go outside and wait for me. Play Angry Birds, just leave me the hell alone when I'm doing something in the bathroom.

The shower rule doesn't apply to spouses. In most cases if my wife starts a conversation with me while I'm in the shower my thought process is something along the lines of, "how do I get her in here with me."

There are exceptions to everything.

Taking a Break, a Computer Break, 'Cause my Computer Broke

So I did end up taking a longer break from the strip than I would have liked. Sorry about that. I'll lay out the whole calamitous saga here. 

Microsoft recently did something with Windows that is unprecedented in its history. Truly, they arrived at a new milestone. They offered a free upgrade to Windows 10 to people already running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Awesome. That's how it should be. If you already have the operating system you should be able to upgrade to the latest operating system without paying some bullshit arbitrary premium (I'm looking at you, Apple). Under most circumstances I'm a Microsoft skeptic. They've had a couple of big winners like Windows 7. It's great. It's stable. It make sense, and it doesn't get in its own way trying to do everything for you. Microsoft has also had some serious turkeys like Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Microsoft Bob (which wasn't very useful, but was kind of cute). 

Windows 10 was different. It had undergone a rigorous beta period. It was built out of the mistakes of Windows 8 (what do you mean you're doing away with the "start" button?). It was taking design cues from other modern operating systems that were starting to steal its lunch money. I signed up to be one of the first in line to get the update, and installed it as soon as it was available for me. 

I made a huge mistake.

Windows 10 gave me nothing but trouble after it was installed. The first sign of trouble was it wouldn't let me use my usual Microsoft account credentials. It would only accept one of my other Microsoft accounts, which I entered without thinking anything of it and without trying to force it to take the one I actually use. Clearly I had not done enough homework. OneDrive is heavily integrated into the Windows 10 experience, and using the wrong credentials meant I had to figure out a way to force Microsoft to sync OneDrive, and everything else in Windows 10 that's driven by your Microsoft Account, with the account I actually use. 

That was child's play. It gets better.

The next bit of Microsoft fuckery was when I tried to open one of my files to edit the contents only to be told that I didn't have permission. To be clear. Microsoft was not letting me save a file I created because it was in read-only mode and I didn't have permission to make changes. Thus began a quest to recover my lost permissions and thereby save my computer from an abrupt end after a short but exciting trip off the top of a tall building. There was nothing, and I mean nothing, even remotely helpful on any of Microsoft's resources. I eventually found the answer on a CNET forum buried under a bunch of bloated, Cheetos-fingered assholes geek-shaming people coming to the forum for solutions.

It was a seriously arcane process of sharing it with myself and then applying permissions across the whole folder.

Now that I was able to actually open and save my files it was time to get down to work and start drawing some cartoons right? That's what I thought, too. 

When I powered up Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to start the rendering work on the comic strip you see above, I discovered Microsoft had given me yet another gift-wrapped package of dogshit. The cross-hairs used to guide the brush on screen were offset by three or four pixels. You'd think that would be something you could learn to compensate for, right. Again, that's what I thought! No! You can't compensate for that shit! It's not consistent. The cross-hairs would be offset by a pixel or three going top to bottom, almost completely aligned when drawing down and to the left, and way the fuck out of whack when drawing down and to the right. You would have to constantly be adjusting for an offset of between three and up to something like eight or ten pixels. There may be some mathematical genius freak of nature who can do that on the fly. I am not a freak of nature. 

So I started looking for alternatives. I found a good one in a piece of software I had tried so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it. The open source drawing and painting program, Gimp. It got me limping along and I was making some progress when I got yet another little turd flavored treat. One night, after wrestling with Gimp and making slow, but discernible progress I went to turn off my computer only to have it go "click" and then shut off. 

"Huh," I thought tiredly, "that's weird." It had been a long day of pushing boulders up hills only to be nearly crushed as they overcame me and rolled downhill, forcing me to start all over again. As per my usual I probably already had a small glass of bourbon or two in me, and I was in no mood to be troubleshooting my home rig. 

The next day I got home and I went to power up my computer and it turned on, but loaded a black screen with white text bearing the words of my near-undoing "disc read error." That basically means your hard drive is in great shape to get you a few bucks at the nearest recycling center, and not much else. I tried a few different things but none of them worked. The hard drive was, as they say in the biz, kaput. 

To understand the true scope of what this means to me. Imagine you could turn your dreams and aspirations into a fluid; a pretty, pearlescent liquid substance that catches the light and throws the beauty of your best self in rainbows across the room. 

You put that in a glass pitcher so you can put it where it will catch the best light. 

Then you accidentally drop the pitcher. It breaks and you watch your dreams spread across the floor in an unrecoverable mess. 

That's kind of what it felt like.

At the top of the list of things at risk with a hard drive failure on this computer are thousands and thousands of photos of my kids taken by wife, pretty much starting with the day we brought our daughter home. 

Then there is every comic strip I have ever drawn, plus hundreds of other sketches and drawings. For the most part I have all of those in hard copy, so they're recoverable, even if it would be a huge undertaking. 

Then many, many things either I've written or my wife has written that we would never get back.

The story has a happy ending. After a few weeks I was able to buy a new hard drive and an adapter that would allow me to connect the old, defunct hard drive to the computer by USB. I installed the new hard drive and reinstalled good old, stable, dependable Windows 7. Then the moment of truth. I hooked up the adapter to the old hard drive and connected it by USB to the computer. I heard it spin, and Windows 7, good old Windows 7, picked it up as an external drive and I was able to find and recover everything. There was still some work to do to make sure I had permission to open the files, but once I'd given ownership to the new device everything was golden.

I even downloaded a trial version of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It will cost twenty five dollars a year to keep it, but it got me back to being productive again. 

Lesson learned. As soon as I get paid again I'm paying for to back up my files. 

I also discovered a couple of solid, free drawing programs, Gimp (technically I rediscovered Gimp, but whatever) and Krita. Both are seriously powerful with a wealth of features, and I'll continue to play around with them. 

So it hasn't all been bad. 

Oh and, hey, I'm back!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Geek Speaking of Upchucking Pink Ponies

Geek Speak: All Hail Upchuckus!

Ted probably would have been fine, but he stood up a little too fast striking that awesome big-damn-hero pose. Reality can be a harsh mistress. 

I promise this is the last strip that features Ted vomiting. In the next strip we get to see him in the shower! You think I'm kidding don't you? 

So the reason this didn't get posted for Friday the 7th is it was almost midnight on Thursday the 6th by the time that I finished the rendering work on the comic strip. By the time I'd started the post, added the text above, and started the review below it was well after midnight, and my ability to form sentences was in danger of being seriously compromised.

Webcomic Review: No Pink Ponies
Publisher: Appears on
Price:'s a webcomic
Recommendation: Highly recommended
Author: Remy "Eisu" Mokhtar

I am really, really pleased to be able to recommend No Pink Ponies as a webcomic that is absolutely worth checking out. The other day I was browsing around Comic Rocket, because I'd read my regular comics and was looking for something different. No Pink Ponies showed up in my recommendations and I distinctly remember thinking, "what the hell, it costs me nothing but a few minutes of my life I'll never get back." It's illustrated by the same person who draws another comic I like, so I clicked the link. The next thing I knew a half hour had slipped by while I was happily unaware of its passing. 

The basic idea of the strip is that it is a slice of life, geek culture comic strip with a female protagonist at its center. She opens a comic book shop so she can be closer to the cute guy she likes. Shenanigans ensue. The comic succeeds on several levels, but nowhere is that success more apparent than in crafting a female lead with an authentic voice. Jess is delightfully nerdy, adorably neurotic, and charmingly engaging. There are two weaknesses in the writing. Mokhtar is Malaysian, and English is not his first language, so his dialog sometimes comes out a little wonky because the structure isn't quite right. That's a minor thing. The bigger sin is that he will introduce new characters, or new information about characters in a way that feels like he's going back and adding continuity that didn't exist before.

The artwork is in a manga-style and nicely done. It's stylized without being completely over the top. The line work is precise and the characters don't ever feel stiff or rigid. The characters are well designed and expressive, which helps to make them identifiable. If there's a weakness in the artwork it's that Mokhtar tends to leave the illustration with ink outlines and and only the the occasional colored accent, like a tie or a hat. Without some level of color or shading it leaves the strip feeling a little flat. Overall, that's a minor technical note, and it only applies to the regular black and white strips, not the full-color "Sunday" strips. Another of my favorite cartoonists, Keith Knight, doesn't draw arms on his characters unless he absolutely has to. We all have our quirks.

Mokhtar does something really interesting in No Pink Ponies that I don't think I've seen anywhere else. None of the male character have names. Ever. The strip has been running since February 2006, and he has never revealed the names of the male characters. This has the effect of placing even more emphasis on the female characters, and fixing the male characters into supporting and background roles. Even Jess' love interest, the guy she opens a comic book store as a pretext to get close to, hasn't been given a name. It's effective. You'd think that you'd miss having names for all of the characters, but the way the strip is written it doesn't matter. The reader accepts that the characters all know each others' names, and they speak to one another in the way friends do, without having to announce the name of the person they're speaking with at the start of every sentence.

I could continue to gush about this comic for another paragraph or two. It's characters are charming, grounded, and well established. The overall story is well orchestrated and written in such a way that you find yourself rooting for the main characters. When there is a payoff in the story it delivers in a really satisfying way. I strongly recommend you check it out. This is great reading in the morning when you need a laugh to get your day started, when you need a fun diversion in the middle of a busy day, or just to read for fun when you have a minute to sit and relax.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Geek Speaking of Regurgitating Comics

Geek Speak: Super Spew!

This, my friends, is why I don't ever have more than two consecutive drinks, three tops. One too many and I end up getting a serious return on my investment, and ROI isn't what you're trying to achieve when you're at a party or out with friends. 

I'm trying something new with Wuffle's tutu, even though we're getting close to when he'll be able to take it off. I've never been completely happy with the way it looked. The other night I was reading my daughter her bedtime story and she'd picked out Ladybug Girl and the Dress-Up Dilemma. In the book the main character wears a tutu with her ladybug costume. The artist draws the tutu really simply with some bold slashing lines. I may go back to trying to painstakingly draw out all of those ruffles, but I'll probably ultimately end up somewhere in between. 

Comic Con a Story with Some Pictures

Rather than belabor the events of Comic Con as I have in past years I think I'll wrap up it up with this post as a kind of show-and-tell with pictures taken over the weekend. 

If your goal at Comic Con is to take pictures of great costumes you could spend all day standing in one spot outside the doors to the exhibit floor and completely fill up the memory on whatever camera you're using. Instead of trying to take pictures of every cool costume I encountered I focused on getting fun moments.

Even Supergirl needs the occasional pick-me-up. I thought the idea of Supergirl sneaking a quick coffee break was too good to pass up. She seemed genuinely surprised when I told her I wanted a picture with the coffee. 

There's not really a particular moment I'm catching here. I had walked about ten steps past her when I realized she was dressed as Otto from The Simpsons, complete with bus. Props for creativity. This is a great example of what can be accomplished by thinking inside the box. 

There is a little story to go with this one. I had stopped by Nooligan's booth to chat and to see if he would give some feedback on my sketchbook. He did both, and then some. I really got more than I bargained for. He took a look at my sketchbook and just went off, which was great. He started out saying that he likes what I'm doing but I need to be way looser and less inhibited in my sketchbook. In a sense he was preaching to the converted. I've been thinking for a while now that my drawings need to be way more flowing and dynamic. Not satisfied with simply telling me to be looser and more scribbly he proceeded to open to the inside of the front cover of the sketchbook and show me what he meant. Then he asked what kind of pen I like and said, "here try this," and handed me one of his. I tried it, thought it was great, and told him as much. When I tried to hand it back he told me to keep it. He then did the same thing with another pen. I ended up buying a print of his I really like of Superboy playing fetch with Krypto, the Superdog, and walked away with the print and a lot to think about and to work on. 

Walked past a great, great Anna costume as I was on my way from one panel to another. I didn't ask her to pose at all, but I like what she did here. It's like "Anna, did you try to give the kingdom away to another princeling desperate for a throne of his own?" 

You have been a good boy...'nuff said. Also, my wedding ring is really shiny. 

At the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner Friday after the convention. All three of my dinner companions were checking the live feed from the Star Wars panel. While we were there someone sat down in the booth across from us and pulled out a sketchbook and started drawing while chatting with his friends. 

I was doing something not altogether different on the back of the placemat. 

After the Star Wars concert there was an EPIC fireworks show. Seriously, they did things with fireworks I thought could only be achieved with CGI animation and direction from Steven Spielberg. 

The problem with running into Harley is she's always trying to get you hammered. 

Waiting in line for the convention to open with literally thousands of my fellow geeks.

First stop, the pro lounge for a badly needed cup or two (or three) of free coffee. It wasn't outstanding coffee but, goddammit, it was free!

The new security company was really, really strict! Sadly, neither of these turned out to be Adam Savage. 

She knows her value. It's not well represented here, but every time I saw an Agent Carter costume I tried to get a picture to send my wife. On another note, I kind of love the lights in this one. 

In a stroke of pure dumb luck I happened to be the first person to the Baby Tattoo books booth on Friday morning. By first person to the booth of course I mean they were still setting up and were a little discombobulated when I walked up and started asking about a Brian Kesinger sketch cover on Darth Vader #1. He was only doing two books per day and I was the first person to ask for one that day. The only direction I gave was "I'd like a steampunk Vader." Beyond that I said Brian could go nuts. By the end of the day he wasn't quite done and asked if he could keep it until Saturday, which I was more than happy to let him do. He rewarded my patience with this. Brian really likes steampunk and I think he really likes drawing Vader, and it shows. When I picked it up he actually thanked me. Which was nice, but I'm pretty sure I got more out of the exchange. He produced one of those drawings where you get something new out of it every time you look at it. I couldn't be happier with it, and as soon as I can find some frames that fit it will be going up on my wall so I can look at it as I'm doing my own drawing. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Geek Speaking of Booze Hound Conventions

Geek Speak: Booze Hound

Sometimes I struggle with what to call a strip when it's posted. In this case the name kind of suggested itself. I suppose I could also have called this "Dog Breath vs. Morning Breath: Dawn of Halitosis," but DC Comics has a lock on the rights to shitty titles.

In a way this strip explains how I feel about drinking to forget your problems. When you wake up in the morning the problems are still going to be there. You still have to deal with them, only now you get to do it with a hangover and feeling like you might puke if someone so much as says the word...well...puke. Sometimes having a drink after a hard day is ok, but hard drinking at the end of the day is a problem.

You might wake up to find a talking dog in your house.

Comic Con 2015

It's not possible after last weekend for me to sit at my keyboard to write a post and not talk about the San Diego Comic Con. Every year, and every convention I go to, whether it's Wonder Con or Comic Con I think, "this is it. This is the year I become jaded, and the feeling of belonging goes away and this stops making me happy." I'm happy to report that so far I've been disappointed in that regard. The feeling of being able to shed the person that I present to others in my day-to-day life and really get to be authentically myself has changed somewhat. It has diminished to a degree, but at the end of each day of convention I went back to the hotel tired, happy, and little lighter in the general region of my wallet. 

This year I drove down with a friend of Tea Leaf who we'll call Master Turtle. I'd met him a few times before, and we generally get along. We killed the time in the car by talking about everything from what he does for a living, which is way, way more interesting than what I do for a living, to marriage, to kids, to what he does for a living which is way, WAY more interesting than my job. 

We arrived in San Diego around 8:30, which means we made pretty good time. Pro-tip: if you only make use of them occasionally, you can use toll roads in California without an electronic pass. After using the toll road you have a week or so to pay the toll on the website It's worth it to knock twenty to thirty minutes off of the trip. To be honest, though, I might try taking the train to San Diego the next time I go to the convention. 

Through the magic of Tea Leaf and the arcane influence he exerts on the world we were able to find parking at PetCo Park, and we made our way into the convention. I would like to pause (or "paws") for a moment here to say that a sports arena called "PetCo Park" should have puppies on-site at all times, and you should be able to spend five bucks to get fifteen minutes of play time with them. 

At some point Master Turtle let me in on a secret, or not so much a secret as something that Comic Con makes available, but doesn't generally advertise. On the second floor of the convention center they have a room set aside as a "Pro Lounge" for professional badge holders. The lounge is set up with chairs and tables, it has outlets for charging devices, it has wi-fi, they offer a coffee and tea service, and it's even staffed with people to help you out. It's magical, and whenever I needed a break and to get off of my feet (or a free cup of coffee) I went to the lounge. Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl, both hardcore con-goers, were also unaware of the lounge. This became the high point of my time at Comic Con as I had some great conversations, with some neat people. 

Master Turtle and I picked up our passes. One of the nice things about having a professional pass is there is almost never a line to pick up your pass, and you fly right through check in. From there we headed up to get in line with everyone else waiting to get into the convention. 

Here is an area where I think Comic-Con International fell a little short. The line to get into the convention was on the second floor and funneled everyone onto a single escalator. That's right, tens of thousands of people getting to the con floor by one escalator. I can understand why they did it. It means there isn't a crowd of people waiting at the doors to get in, so it eliminates that Black Friday crush of humanity surging toward a door and stomping anything, or anyone, in its path. It is a deliberate bottleneck. Still, the convention center is a huge place. It has a lot of ways to get down to the convention floor, and I feel like splitting things up would make for a smoother opening, better crowd control, and a safer situation overall. Lesson learned, next time I go to comic con I am getting my badge, then going out into the Gaslamp Quarter to find something to eat instead of waiting in line.

Master Turtle and I did eventually make it to the floor, where we immediately went our separate ways so we could make it to our first panels of the convention. Most of the panels I attended were specifically geared for people who draw comics, so the first panel I attended was "Drawing with Ed McGuinness." He talked a lot about the craft of getting into comics, but not too much about actually drawing. I take that back, he talked a lot about how he didn't like how the drawing of Superman he was working on, which had been requested by people in the audience who, admittedly, knew his work better than me. It's understandable, he's used to working on an elevated, angled surface, and in order to draw and talk at the same time he had to perch awkwardly on the back of a chair and draw on a digital overhead projector whose lamp was directly in his field of vision. Even so, most of us looking at the illustration of Superman he was apologizing for even as he created had a single collective thought, "screw you dude. I draw maybe half that well on my best day."

From there it was off to a workshop with cover artist Michael Cho, and graphic designer Chip Kidd. At the start of that panel the moderator had the privilege of presenting Kidd with a Comic Con International Inkpot Award for his contributions to comics. This is the second time I've seen this award presented. The first was to Bruce Timm. In both cases it was nearly without ceremony and a complete surprise to the recipient, which gives the presentation of the award a kind of authenticity that is really charming.

After the workshop with Cho and Kidd it was off to lunch. I was straight starving and needed sustenance. I hit the food trucks where I met up with Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl for the first time at the convention. They spotted me because of the bright green Green Lantern shirt I was wearing, I spotted Celluloid Girl because of her awesome stripey hat.

After lunch it was off to more art instruction in the form of a painting and illustration panel with Jeffrey Watts and Erik Gist of the Watts Atelier. It was like a sixty minute infomercial for attending the Watts Atelier, interspersed with some really sound advice for improving figure illustration. I listened with half an ear and a bit while I drew the models. I'm linking to it here because, honestly, I like their approach and their philosophy on teaching art. Both of the panelists are the real deal. What they were able to do with paints in an hour represents a lifetime of learning, practice, teaching, and application.

From there I was off to the Terry Moore Panel. I could fill an entire blog post talking about Terry Moore. Instead I will just say this, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Moore as a person and a creator. Every time I'm lucky enough to hear him talk, or even to talk with him in person I feel like I leave with a lot of things to think about. He's also a very talented writer and illustrator whose books are worth picking up.

After that I ran to a panel on marker rendering presented by Mark Books. He and his wife were co-hosting the panel, which was good because he was invested in illustrating and rendering a drawing of Catwoman and Batman as he was talking. On that one I bailed early because it was six in the evening and time to go to dinner because, once again, I was straight starving. I'd also agreed to meet up with Master Turtle, Celluloid Girl, and Tea Leaf at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

We arrived at the Old Spaghetti Factory and were informed there was no soup available. Which seemed like an odd thing to take off the menu. The waiter then doubled down on the odd choices by offering Master Turtle a side salad to go with the chicken salad he'd ordered for dinner. Food ordered I dove into drawing a goofy little cartoon sketch while my companions dove into their phones to follow a live blog of the Star Wars panel that was going on at the same time. When J.J. Abrams announced that everyone attending the panel was going to be treated to a surprise concert featuring music from the Star Wars movies Tea Leaf all but wept. There were tears and consolation. Then we went for ice cream.

It is becoming something of a convention tradition to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory, and then go to Ghiardelli to get ice cream for dessert. They make a hot fudge sundae that can deservedly be called legendary, and is the thing I order whenever we go. In some ways I look forward to those two things as much as walking the floor, or learning how to draw from icons in the field of comic book illustration.

After ice cream I drove to the hotel, which wasn't really notable except for one thing. We could see Mexico from our room. That is not a Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house" kind of exaggeration. We could literally see Tijuana from our hotel. What did it look like? Honestly? It looked like any other big city at night, just a bunch of lights in the darkness. I have to imagine there were probably people looking back in our direction and thinking, "I can see America from here."

On a final note. I was a lot more selective with the pictures I took this year, and used the camera on my phone almost exclusively. Still, I got some fun images. I'll share those and my doodles in the next post. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Comic Con Meets Misfortune

Comic Con and the Adventures of those Less Fortunate

This weekend I was fortunate enough to spend two days at the San Diego Comic Con, but this isn't a story about the costumes I saw, the panels I sat in on, or the neat things I bought. That story is coming later, this is a story about someone I met who may have changed my life. 

The first day of Con I was walking with a friend to get lunch at some food trucks that had gathered in a parking lot set up like the world's nerdiest carnival. Call it Mardis Geek. Anyway, as we were walking over the bridge to get to the lot where the food trucks were set up we passed a woman pushing a stroller. Not in and of itself unique. Haggard looking parents pushing a stroller are legion at the convention. She was different from the rest for two reasons. She was dressed like a hippie, and the stroller clearly was packed with all her worldly possessions, including her young son. She has a sign, "Mom and super hippie dippy kid need help. Anything helps, god bless you."

In my cynicism I dismissed her. "I don't have anything to give right now. Even if I did I'm not giving her money so she can go put it up her arm." Thus satisfied with my superior station in life I kept walking. I was in for a rude awakening. 

I ran into her again the next day when I went to Ralph's in search of coffee and breakfast. She was in the baby food aisle buying applesauce packets for her kid, just like any mom. He was fussing, and she sounded desperate. I yanked my head out of my cynical orifice and opened my wallet and handed twenty dollars. She nearly broke down in tears, and I took my cynicism out and buried it alive. In addition to the twenty bucks I bought her a sippy cup so she could give her son water, a packet of Gerbert fortified baby yogurt, and wipes. She told me how she had come to be there and I realized something critical. She's not a "bum," or a drug addict, or a loser. She was bright, even articulate, and she had been dealt as raw a deal as anyone I've ever heard of. She could be me or anyone I know under the right, or more appropriately, the wrong circumstances.

When everything was bought and paid for she called me an angel, "a real angel," she said. Which was interesting because I was wearing my Doctor Who Weeping Angels t-shirt.

I played a little with the kid. Gave him a high five, and made funny faces that he giggled. They checked out and left the stored. I did too, and fought the urge to sob furiously. My heart was full of an anger so pure, so hot that I wanted to hit something. Not because someone had wronged them, which assuredly someone had, or because here was a small boy suffering in the midst of an orgy of consumer greed, but because it was infuriatingly unfair. He certainly hadn't had a choice in his circumstances, but there he was, an innocent victim caught in a whirlwind of misfortune.
So I'm writing to those of you still at the convention. If you see a mom pushing a little brown haired boy in a stroller packed with odds and ends, including a child sized guitar, help them out. Toss them whatever change you have from buying that con-exclusive lego set. Even if it's just a little bit, I guarantee you it's 500% more than they have already.

I ordinarily don't use this as a space for PSAs like some geek equivalent of Sally Struthers, but I feel safe putting it here because you're my people. Many of you, particularly the professionals, wouldn't be there if someone hadn't given you a hand up at some point, so we know the value of feeling that we're not going it alone.

If you see them, and you can toss them a few bucks, tell them the angel sent you. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Geek Speaking of Wayback Machine Wet Dreams

Geek Speak: Wet (Nose) Dreams

Panel one was fun to draw for obvious reasons. On a less obvious level, I think we all secretly dream of wearing a tux as well as, and being as seductive and dangerous as James Bond. Most men look killer in a tux, Bond actually is "killer in a tux." After a night of drinking as expression of denial I couldn't think of a worse way for Ted to wake up than nose to nose with the dog that drove him to buy the booze in the first place. 

Geek Speaking: The Wayback Machine Edition, or A Little Bit of Catching Up

I have a new cartoon for your viewing pleasure, but it does involve some characters from a previous story-arch in Geek Speak. To help you fill in the gaps I've posted links to the previous entries below. 

For the record, I would totally have used images instead of text links, but Blogger makes that as hard as fucking possible to do. It's way past time for Geek Speak to outgrow Blogger. It's just...overdue. I'm just going to say it here. I will now start looking for a way to move Geek Speak into its own official site. There I said it. Now I have to do it. Get a website that puts the comic front and center with a blog engine so I can write these posts for the five people who read them. It will have to have an actual archive as well so I don't have to go through this ridiculous exercise every time I pick a recurring character's story.

Ted and Wuffles

  1. I know I'm gorgeous in which I'm reminded that Ted's name was originally Brian.
  2. You can talk 
  3. Wuffles! Still in the top five of best comics I've done to date. 
  4. Don't let her take me! In which I talk about new art supplies that have really helped me take my artwork to the next level. 
  5. Power of booze In which I said this, which is worth repeating, "Hipster Charlie Brown says, "I liked the cute little red-haired girl before it was cool."
  6. Catch that bus In which I said something beautiful about my wife. Our anniversary is coming up again in a couple of weeks, and I don't know if I'm going to make it to a computer to write a post on that day (our lives have become far more busy and complicated in the last year), so I'll repeat the best thing I've ever said about being married to a wonderful woman, "Did I marry my best friend? No. I found a missing piece of my own being. One who was searching for a fragment of her own self. We held each other and didn't let go, and thus made ourselves whole. "
  7. Amazing save... 
  8. ...or not such a great save
  9. Medicinal uses
  10. Walk with the Animals
  11. Hobos In which I allude to starting a job with Disney, without actually using the name of the company. Now I don't know why I was being so circumspect. Turns out Disney was a great place to work with some seriously wonderful people. 
  12. Heroic Poser I still love Francis in the last panel, "...check out my sweet new heroic pose." 
  13. Home at last Obviously the strip is referring to the classic Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison and not the (admittedly pretty decent) remake with Eddie Murphy. 
As I was going through and building the list of links to previous strips I ran across an earlier post in which I did the same goddamn thing. I really need an archive. 

The other thing I noticed as I was going through this is the amazing transformation in the look of the strip. It starts with incredibly rough illustrations with dirty line work and colored/shaded with a black colored pencil from Prismacolor. The content is fine, but open a tab and compare the most recent strip to the first time we see Ted and Wuffles together. The differences is pretty incredible. Back then I don't think I'd have even attempted something like panel one in my most recent strip. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Geek Speaking of Loss

Geek Speak: The Lost and the Left Behind

This week I lost something special, unique, and irreplaceable. I lost a friend. Bill Otto was one of a kind. He was compassionately tough, seriously ornery, studiously geeky, and classically metal. A while back he was diagnosed with leukemia, and fought it. Over Memorial Day weekend he lost that battle. In the thick of the fight he reached out through his family and the power of social media to his extended network of friends and asked for pictures, music, comments, books, anything to help him fill the time, keep his spirits up, and take his mind from the pain. For a while I wasn't sure what to do. I sketched out some ideas for original art of Wolverine, by far his favorite of the X-Men, but those weren't turning out. One day at work I sketched out a long-haired, head-banging, metal dude holding a cup of coffee and yelling "FUCK YEAH!" I added a caption, "How Metal Guy drinks his coffee" and it stuck. I did several Metal Guy cartoons, and by all reports he loved them. I was working on this one when I got the news.

Bill was special for a lot of reasons, but three things really stick out in my mind. First was isn't the right word...not dedication...his reverence for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was looking at the books through his eyes helped me to read them in a new frame of mind. Particularly The Fellowship of the Ring. Let's be honest, at the end of the day it's a book about nine dudes on a (whoa! watch out for that orc) nature hike. It's a tough read. Looking at it through his eyes I was able not just to enjoy it, but to savor it. Bill was like that. He could make you look at the world through a different lens. He's one of the few people I'eve ever known who could help a person find perspective.

Another thing that sticks out in my memory of Bill is when I had decided I was going to enlist in the Air Force to be a combat photographer. I was, rightly, surrounded by family and friends who were skeptical and apprehensive about the decision. This was the end of 2001, and the United States was already in Afghanistan, and the writing was on the wall to take us into Iraq. To put it mildly, as a combat photographer I was not going to have a shortage of work. Bill never asked if I was sure. He'd already heard through the grapevine that I'd made a decision by the time saw him. The first words out of his mouth were, "So when are you going," and the look in his eyes said "hoo-rah!" When I was barred from entrance and handed a permanently disqualified status it rocked my world. I had to look at where I was and think seriously about the answer to the question, "well, shit. Now what?" He supported me then, too. 

It would be impossible to talk about Bill without also talking about gaming. When I met Bill I was still in college, dreaming of being successful and maybe a little famous, hopelessly smitten with Mildly Sensational, and desperately broke. When you've got your head in the clouds, and a bank ledger redder than Spider-Man's long johns, entertainment is where you can find it. My friends and I often found it in role playing games. Dungeons and Dragons was a perennial favorite, but we dabbled in just about anything that excited our imaginations. Bill was there for a lot of that. He played a long running Aeon Trinity game, which then became Aberrant, and many others. More weekends than I can count were spent starting a game Friday night, playing until Saturday morning, crashing for a few hours, getting up and maybe doing a few things around the house, then getting a game going sometime Saturday afternoon which would last until sometime Sunday morning. Then, exhausted to the point of deliriousness, we'd fall into our beds and sleep for a few hours, get up in time to get things ready for the rest of the week, then collapse, sleeping with the knowledge that we'd be gaming up again at the end of the week, and dreaming of the adventures we'd enjoy through the shared experience of collaborative story telling. Bill was right in there with us, often playing one variation on the soft-spoken tough guy or another. You know. Bill. We laughed, we played, we ate mountains of pizza, and built memories that all of us will carry of each other for the rest of our lives.

Good-bye, Bill. Rest in peace. You are missed. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Geek Speaking of Spiders in the Dad Zone

Geek Speaking of Getting on the Nope Train

On a personal note, I'm genuinely scared of spiders. Every so often I think that I'm going to be cool, I'm going to be tough, I'm going to act like a goddamn adult and get over my fear of tiny eight legged demon spawn. Without fail that's when a spider will catch me by surprise. The effect is...deeply un-fun. I can't get my breath, my heart pounds in my chest, and my vision starts to blur. It's very much like having a panic attack, or the reaction I have whenever someone says "President Sarah Palin" (pant, pant, wheeze, I'm clutching my chest here).

With that said, would I abandon my child in this situation? Would I leave my own beloved daughter covered in spiders to cope by herself? Goddamn right I would! When was the last time you saw a spider? They have eight legs.

Tales from the Dad Zone: Normal Guy and Mildly Sensational vs. Ikea
No it doesn't have anything to do with Spiders. Mildly Sensational and I went out and bought our daughter, Somewhat Wonderful, a new bed. Her toddler bed was starting to get too small, and we were going to need to get her a new, bigger bed soon anyway, so we used her birthday as an excuse to venture forth to Ikea and pick out her new big girl bed. We did it fast, we did it loud, and we did it as a family. Stupid us. The two of us, plus the two of them, plus the utter chaos that is Ikea anyway, and we were lucky to get out with our sanity intact.

We arrived and went straight upstairs to the kids' furniture section so Somewhat Wonderful could try the beds. She meandered through the kids beds for a moment, then we took her over to the regular beds section and she entertained herself on those until she had a minor meltdown over needing to go to the bathroom but not wanting to. Then when she came back she didn't want to look at beds, crossed her arms, sat on the floor, and told us she wanted to be alone, which any sane parents would take as a cue to pick up the little congressional hopeful before she can get her full obstructionist going and take her the hell home. We're sane (marginally, but stilling hanging in there) so we tried. She didn't want to go home, she wanted to go to the mountains, which turned out to be the tents in the area of Ikea set up for kids toys. All of this has taken an hour up to this point and our son, Moderately Amazing, is starting to lose his little eighteen month old mind in his stroller. He's squirming, and whining, and bucking his hips like he's hoping to break through the straps with one mighty hump. While his sister is busy making Mildly Sensational marginally furious I pause to take him out of the stroller and sit with him in a tiny, kid-sized rocking chair. At which point he promptly begins our two-man show called "Father and Son Demonstrate Alligator Wrestling." The tiny toe headed tornado in my arms manages to slip free, so I have no choice but to get up and walk around with him.

Around this time Mildly Sensational has turned to the only truly reliable weapon in any parent's arsenal to get their kid to do what they want. Bribery. This time it takes the form of a plush cupcake set. Somewhat Wonderful can have her cupcake set if she will pick a bed. Please. For the love of Christ on Sunday, pick a fucking bed so we can go home! We got looks that could freeze yogurt at twenty paces for that. But...hey...froyo. The bribe agreed upon we made our way back into the kids' furniture section and pointed Somewhat Wonderful at the bed we wanted to get her anyway and convinced her that she wanted it, and it was really her idea all along.

Then we made our way into the concrete bowel of Ikea. A place of meandering corridors where lost souls wander in search of bargain Swedish, ready-to-assemble furniture with instructions in all but incomprehensible hieroglyphs. My wife and I have been together for eighteen years. We've been through some really tough things together, so the foundation on which we've built our marriage is pretty strong. Newlyweds, if you really want to test the depth of your commitment to each other go to Ikea and buy some bullshit stuff like...I don't know...a new desk and a lamp. When you've picked out what you want go down into the cold, uncaring, concrete hell that is the Ikea warehouse. One of you push the cart while the other one navigates to the aisle and bin where you will allegedly find your purchases. Stronger marriages than yours have been crushed to powder by this very thing.

If you see a pale, wrinkly little guy with stringy hair lurking between the aisles and whining about a lost ring, run like hell. 

We survived. Our sanity and our marriage intact and made it home with a Kura reversible bed. Reversible because if you stand it on one end it's a loft bed, if you stand it on the other it's more or less a standard twin bed frame. I guess "reversible" tested better in focus groups than "turn-upside-down-able."

In the next edition Normal Guy and the Quest for a Second Wrench.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Randomly Jackson-ed Off

Random Thoughts

Recipe for happiness: have a root beer float at least once a week.

When your boss (who enjoys your artwork) accuses you of being a tease because you happened to bring the new, largely empty, sketchbook with you instead of the one containing pencils for upcoming comics, the appropriate response probably is not, "I'm not a tease, we both know I put out." 

Jackson-ed Off

For a long time now I've followed an artist by the name of Phillip M. Jackson, who goes by the nom de guerre of "Jolly Jack." I should start this by saying I love his work. He bridges between realistic and cartoonish, and his long running strip, Sequential Art, is consistently in the top five web strips I recommend that people read. He was one of the reasons that I signed up for a membership on Deviant Art, and one of the reasons I started posting anything over there. 

Recently he posted something that made me realize some things about art and artists. I'm not going to put the image in here, because it is not for the squeamish. If you would like to see it after reading what I have to say, I'll post the link at the end. 

One of his recent posts is a lengthy, vertically oriented comic strip featuring his avatar, a cartoon hamster, showing off the book-like cover for his iPad to Penny from Inspector Gadget. Those of us who watched the cartoon will remember lusting after her all-powerful computer book she used to actually get things done while Inspector Gadget was off impersonating the love child of all Three Stooges and Q from the James Bond movies. As the strip progresses the hamster gets more and more outraged at her apparent ambivalence to the awesomeness of his iPad book until he eventually hits her with it, knocking her down and out of frame.

Then he hits her again.
And again.
The iPad case becomes bloodier and bloodier.
He stops, considering what he's done, then wanders out of frame.
Then, and this is where it takes an extremely disquieting turn, he comes back into frame holding a knife.
He's seen carving on something, presumably Penny's corpse. Blood splatters and his expression is maniacally determined.
Over the next two panels he stands up into frame wearing a Penny-face-flesh-mask

Keep in mind, he's making light of brutally killing and mutilating a girl who's supposed to be ten years old. A fictional cartoon character, sure, but he also placed himself in that situation through the use of his avatar, which personalizes things to a degree. 

An understandably outraged someone left this comment in his feed: "This is NOT ok. I like your art. I try to ignore your smug sexism. But if you're gonna draw pictures of that thing killing children and ripping their faces off, you have officially crossed the line. I'm done following you. I'm blocking you, and I'm reporting this image. Fuck you. I hope you die like this." 

While this loses credibility by wishing such a gruesome fate on the artist, he does make a point. There is funny, then there's funny, but wrong; and finally there's just plain wrong. For me, this strip falls into that latter camp. It's definitely not my cup of tea. 

When I thought about it a little more it raised the question, do you judge an artist solely on the merits of a single piece of work? If this was the only thing you'd ever seen from Jolly Jack, you might not ever come back. No one would blame you, this is way over-the-top. Admittedly he does a lot of comics that can only be called pornography, but it's not all he does, and it's not the most significant work he does.  

Also, as an artist who draws comic strips there are comics I've done, and some I will do at some point, that I would not want certain people to see. Sometimes you get an idea for something that crosses the line, but it won't leave you alone, and the only way to deal with it is to just go ahead and do it. I leave those in my sketchbook where they will probably never see the light of day. Jackson seems to have no qualms about putting his darkest ideas on display for the world. 

With all of that said, I don't think I can stop following Jackson for this one piece. I enjoy his other work too much to abandon it. Pieces like these:

After giving it some serious thought, I believe it's possible to continue to like, and follow, and be influenced by an artist, even if you don't like everything he does. 

The image in question can be found here:

Not for the squeamish, or those who loved cartoons in the '80s. You've been warned. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Geek Speaking of Feeling the Thunderer

Geek Speak: Classic Game Distraction Tactics

Some of my comics flirt with being autobiographical. This one doesn't so much flirt as buys it dinner, takes it out dancing, then home for a nightcap where they fall into bed and make passionate, floor shaking, wall thumping love. Which is really long and colorful way to say, "this be a true story, folks."

I was in the kitchen working on something, which is hardly unusual, the kitchen is kind of like my man-cave. Some days it's where I go to get away and unwind. I don't think Mildly Sensational minds so much because my unwinding in the kitchen usually produces things like dinner, or dairy free vanilla custard (made with coconut cream instead of whole milk, it's awesome!) Over the holidays I even experimented with baking my custard in pumpkins.

All of which sounds way more exciting than, "I was in the kitchen doing dishes," which was more likely the case. As it turns out, feeding a family of four means there's a steady stream of dishes needing to be washed. I turned around to grab another dish of the stove and Mildly Sensational was standing there holding out our son, Moderately Amazing. She looked me in the eye and said in a perfect deadpan, "It's dangerous to go alone. Take this."

Those who've grown up playing video games probably get the reference right away, for others it might take some explaining.

Yes, that is a Miskatonic University shirt Mildly Sensational is wearing.

My favorite of the alternate covers
Comic Book Review: THOR!

Publisher: Marvel
Issue: 1 through 5
Price: $3.99 (Yikes)
Recommendation: Recommended

I will confess that prior to the relaunch of Thor late last year I had never read the comic, nor had I really ever wanted to. Big muscled blond guy in tight pants who happens to be a god defends the earth, which he calls Midgaard, by beating things up with a magic hammer. To me that's what Thor's stories always boiled down to...yawn. In the hands of the right team I know that he's had some good story lines, but overall I feel that, as a character, Thor has typically gotten lost in a field that is full of muscle-bound white dudes beating stuff up.

Ok, the Hulk is technically green, but stay with me.

When it was announced that Marvel would be trading in Thor's mighty thews and passing the hammer to a female lead I took notice. I'll admit to wrestling with whether or not to pick up the book at the risk of buying into what might or might not be a marketing stunt intended to boost a title with flagging sales. I mean, come on. It's comic books. They do crazy stuff all the time to try to sell more books. Those of us who read books in the 90's will remember rushing out to buy holographic foil print covers of X-Men because "they'll be worth something someday." I'm glad I ultimately decided to ignore that instinct and pick up the book.

While the writing doesn't exactly blow me away it's solid, with a good hook in the form of not immediately revealing the identity of the new hand that grips the hammer. The writers are obviously enjoying the dual nature of the new Thor as her inner monologue is that of a modern woman, while her speech is that of the Norse god(dess) of Thunder. As the story unfolds we're given bits and pieces of information that are clearly intended to lead up to a much larger event, but right now work well as standalone adventures to introduce us to the new Thor. What I like best about the writing so far is that Jason Aaron accomplishes something really difficult. He crafts a story such that the reader is drawn into the character of Thor as she learns about what it means to wield the hammer. Aaron places the reader in the character's boots as she questions her powers, tests their limits, and discovers that, for all practical purposes, she really has none. As it should be for a goddess.

I look at this and it still gives me goosebumps
While it doesn't have the fun cartoony quality of Ms. Marvel or the gorgeous colors, line work, and lighting of Death Vigil, I am really enjoying the artwork in Thor, provided by Russel Dauterman with colors by Matthew Wilson. They bring us into the world of the new Thor with classic comic book bravado. Their compositions accurately pace the action with relatively quiet moments feeling relatively static and confined, while action sequences feel chaotic and larger than life. Key moments are pulled off brilliantly, such as the first appearance of the new Thor after she has just picked up Mjolnir from the surface of the moon.

If I have criticisms, they're nit picky at best. If the woman holding the hammer is mortal, how did she get to the moon? The hammer goes to those who are worthy to wield it, but she picked it up as though it were already hers. How did she know she would be worthy? I feel like we should have reached a point by now that we could all accept that boob armor is impractical and looks ridiculous.

Really that's about it.

It would be impossible to write about this comic book without touching on some of the social commentary that has come up around it. The same cynical, misogynistic, knuckle-dragger who brought us GamerGate wrote what I will only call vile opinion piece on this book for the online news-ish outlet, Breitbart. I won't link to it here. You can find it pretty easily in a Google Search. Take my word for it. You are a better person for not having read it.

The decision to pass the hammer from "he of the thundering pectorals" to a female lead would at first appear to be fairly bland marketing gimmick to boost sales. After reading the book and thinking about it I believe that Marvel's decision is not only bold, but important. What makes this important is the thing that surprises me most about some of the reactions from fans and critics alike. I'm shocked that today, in 2015, we still have to come out and say that yes, in fact, a woman can be worthy of the might of a god. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Geek Speaking of Cowboy Science

Geek Speak: Cowboy and Hipster

To be honest, I know next to nothing about Taylor Swift except she's tall, Kanye West was once rude and extremely condescending to her, and she tends to write songs about break ups. I only became aware of the song this strip is referencing through the excellent cover done by Postmodern Jukebox.  

I don't remember what the inspiration was for cowboy and hipster. It may be that I just started drawing Cowboy boasting that you can't take the country out of the cowboy, and I wanted a character who was as much the opposite of a cowboy as possible to take some of the wind out of his sails. Now that it's done I may have to explore this dynamic in some different settings. They might be be an especially good vehicle for exploring political humor. Cowboy's conservative politics and earnestness would clash nicely with Hipster's progressive world view and sarcasm. 

It'll probably be the subject of a future Geek Speak, but I really dislike these goofy, fancy, "old-fashioned" mustaches that have spread through hipster culture like a virulent scourge of mustache wax. I tolerate them on a very few people, and only because those very people wear the mustache really well, it fits their personality, and they're not doing it to make a fucking statement. On everyone else it just looks smug and pretentious. Unless you happen to be a turn of the century bartender or...I don't know...Jack Lemmon in The Great Race, then do us all a favor and, with apologies to Taylor Swift, shave it off, SHAVE IT OFF!

I hate panel three. It looks like someone found a nozzle on Cowboy and used it to inflate him. Even though Hipster still looks pretty good, the line between his jacket and pants is off from the other two panels. I guess this means I have some work to do in locking down the style for these two characters.

Next time: more semi-autobiographical content, because I'm interesting, dammit!

As a side note, it was relatively easy to find a well written article making the case that the GOP is the party of "stupid" (an assertion I don't hold wholeheartedly, but works for the sake of hyperbole) that is supported with examples and facts, but really difficult to do it the other way around. In fact one of the search terms I  tried, "liberal fruitcake" came back with results including facebook pages and a white supremacist website! yikes. Ultimately I settled on an extremely boring rant about the stupidity of liberals that spends the first several, meandering paragraphs in defense of calling liberals "stupid." Again, it works for hyperbole.

Tales from the Dad Zone

Over the weekend of January 31st many of the museums in Los Angeles opened their doors for the public to come and enjoy their exhibits and displays for free. We don't get out into the city much, and this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so we jumped at the chance to give our children some exposure to what the museum community in Los Angeles has to offer. After looking at the list of museums that were opening their doors we decided to go to the California Science Center. It had the double benefit of being somewhere we hadn't been before, and being much more family friendly than, say, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). We were not at all disappointed.

Among the best methods to incite frenzied outings among Los Angeles parents is for someplace like a museum or a zoo to announce they are offering free admission "for a limited time only." Knowing this, we planned to arrive as early as possible. Los Angeles is famous for its terrible traffic, and it doesn't take long after arriving here to realize this is not hyperbole. The highways are packed, and about every third car is being driven by some deluded maniac who believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that he (or she) is going to beat the traffic, goddammit. That's not such absolute truth that it might have been brought down from the top of a mountain on a stone tablet, but it applies often enough to be considered a guiding principle. We've lived here long enough that we avoid the highways where it's reasonable to do so, specifically because of this guiding principle. On this day we did not, however, have a choice, so I steeled myself for what was sure to be a terrifying experience playing "dodge the deluded maniac who thinks his Mercedes (BMW/Maserati/Lexus) makes him invincible." Imagine my surprise when we did not have to. The drive there was uneventful, even (dare I say it) pleasant. 

We arrived at the Science Center, paid for parking (which was, sadly, not included in the "it's totally
free today, come check us out" deal), and made our way to the main building. Before we could get there we were greeted by an A-12 Blackbird on display outside the Science Center. My reaction was the composed, mature sort of thing you would expect from an adult nearing his forties..."OMG A BLACKBIRD! TAKE MY PICTURE WITH IT!" My dad was an aviation enthusiast, and he passed some of that appreciation along to me, enough that I've always had a fascination for planes. In the world of military aircraft the Blackbird fleets are the next best thing to legendary. Eventually my family was able to peel me away from the majesty of that beautiful, beautiful aircraft, and we made our way to the Science Center itself.

Once inside we made our way to the second level and from there to one of the kids' "Discovery Zones" the museum has set up. Then Mildly Sensational and I relaxed while the offspring lost their little minds because of all the SCIENCE! The first stop was an exploration of different animals, and the displays had a number of different snakes, including a gorgeous five-foot-long boa constrictor (I don't think I've ever mentioned this, but I like snakes, I think they're neat). 

From there we moved on to an exploration of transportation and what makes machines go. That exhibit includes an interactive display for what gives wings the lift that lets planes fly, and a working model of a V8 engine (apparently provided by Lexus, maker of fine cars for deluded maniacs on highways all over the world). 

After that was a brief exploration of their air and space exhibits that included a Gemini space capsule. Mildly Sensational wanted to see those exhibits more than anything, but about that time both kids were getting to where they were all "science-d out." Girlchild was melting down, and boychild was trying to go to sleep in his stroller, a fact that earned us an odd mix of looks. They ranged from awww how sweet to, "OMG I would so never let MY kids act like THAT." I know for a fact that only people without kids indulge in the latter. We decided it was time to go home, but not before a stop in the gift store where we bought girlchild a weird toy ball that looks like a balloon sprouted tentacles, and I picked up a package of freeze dried "ice cream." I'd never had it before. It was like an extra-thick cookies-and-cream flavored cracker. 

I took several things away from that morning adventure to the museum. The two big things are;

1.) The menu in the museum cafe is surprisingly good, even though the lines were too long for us to actually try anything, and, perhaps more importantly,
2.) It was amazing to see my daughter getting excited about science.

There is a big push in education reform to produce more scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and the big thinkers for what everyone believes will be the in-demand jobs of the future (I have a different opinion about this, but I'll save that for a different post). While I am staunch and vocal supporter of arts education, I can see the value in encouraging kids to be excited by science, but that has to be tempered with something equally important. It's not enough to make sure kids are getting the best education in science and math possible. They have to be taught that it can be fun! They should learn there is joy in discovery! Without that, without the passion to propel them to careers in these fields, what will we really produce but a generation of well educated, maybe even skilled, but ultimately uninspired science and technology laborers?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Geek Speaking of Random Boobies

Geek Speak

Ok. So it's been a long (June), long (July), long (August), Long (September), Long (November), LONG (December) time since I posted an update. Sorry about that. Daughter starting pre-school, coming home to two kids, working extra hours so I can take off a little early on Fridays; it all catches up with a guy sooner or later. I didn't mean to take such a long absence, but I also barely noticed it passing. I'm back now, and for the moment ready to get started with drawing the comics, making with the funny pages, and doodling myself silly...don't read too much into that last one.

I've been working on today's comic since July. I'll explain that in a bit, but it's fair to say I didn't expect it to take so long. This one takes a little building up to, so I've included the comics that lead up to it, since it's been a while and (sigh) I've changed the site since then, so it's not super-easy to go back and read the ones that came before. 



Look no further than the backgrounds to understand why it took me from July until now to finish this comic. The posters, the statuettes, the covers, all of it was drawn, inked, and colored in painstaking detail...then reduced to fit on your screen so they're all blobs of pixels roughly distinguishable as what they're supposed to be. 

Don't misunderstand me, the background elements and props were a lot of fun to draw. The comic book covers especially. The basic premise is there are three comic books on the market right now: Batman, Wolverine, and everything else. Most of everything else is made up of scantily clad women in a series of provocative poses around whom a barely plausible narrative has been loosely assembled. 

I know I just said "loose" and "women" in the same sentence. If you're here because a your Google search included those terms...I don't know what to tell you...I draw comics.

For all that you can't really tell what they're supposed to be I'm really happy with the way the covers turned out. Below are the full-sized background elements so you can actually see what everything is supposed to look like. 

Random Thoughts

Happiness is made of the moments when you can stop and listen for the sound the clouds make as they move across the sky.

...and everyone who knows me well is laughing at how deeply ironic that statement is coming from me...

When did buying lunch start to cost anywhere from $7 to $20 for a meal? I seem to remember being able to go out and get a halfway decent meal at lunchtime for no more than $5 to $10. At most I'd pay $15, but that was only at a nicer sit-down type restaurant and ordering a beer or something with my food. What the hell has happened that we've come to accept rising food costs without questioning where it's coming from or fighting against it?

I can't take credit for drawing this, but it is pretty much how I feel before getting out of bed every morning. I tell myself this is a good thing because it keeps me from becoming complacent. It's MY crutch and I LIKE it.

Look! It's a picture of boobies!

I love boobies.