Monday, May 30, 2005

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ENVY.

I thought a lot about this one. What exactly, am I envious of? This is hard, actually. I have an angel for a wife, and two perfect children I wouldn't change for anything in the world. There's things I would like, of course, but they will come to me in time.

I suppose I could be envious of those with ambition (scroll down to a previous I.F. to see just how big my ambition level is.) I suppose then I could be a super-villain, bent on world domination. Not one of these "tortured soul" villains like (the new) Darth Vader or Doctor Octopus- a good old fashioned villain, like The Master, Davros, Lex Luthor, or The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, of course. I gots some class.)

Then, of course, comes the logical question- once you control the world, just what the hell are you supposed to do with it? Sigh. I guess I'll have to be satisfied with the handsome, talented, modest God that I am. Sigh.


Here's ANOTHER Word from Our Sponsor:

I finally got around to renting I, Robot. I knew that the movie was far from the classic sci-fi book by Isaac Asimov, (and to be fair, the book as-is could maybe be made into a special on the Disney Family Channel,) but I decided what the hell.

I'm not going to go into the rediculous plot that a three-year-old would be one step ahead of. No, I'm here to talk about PRODUCT PLACEMENT.

From the moment Will Smith puts on clothes, (why do we get a long full nude shot of him in the shower, but when Bridget Moynahan showers we only see her through a foggy window? That's sexual discrimination, Goddamn it, and I'm suing,) a FED-EX robot delivers him a pair of CONVERSE ALL-STAR SNEAKERS.

All right, you think, product placement over. But no, Mr. Smith goes on to lovingly caress his CONVERSE ALL-STAR SNEAKERS making sure that we see that they're CONVERSE ALL-STAR SNEAKERS before putting them on.

Enough, you say. But then, he visits his grandmother. "Hi honey- what's on your feet?" she askes. (I'm absolutely serious. That's the line.) He replies "CONVERSE ALL-STARS, Vintage 2004" (this is to inform everyone watching, that no- these are not futuristic CONVERSE ALL-STARS, you can buy them now!)

But wait! There's more! When Will Smith goes to work, one of the first things out of his boss's mouth is- you guessed it- "nice shoes!"

Now- isn't there some legal recourse I can take? I spent my hard-earned cash to rent A F**KING COMMERCIAL. (There are far more advertisements in the film- MV Augusta SPR, JVC, Audi, Dos Equis… they're just not as blatant.) Can't we get a class-action lawsuit started or something? IMHO these crybabies have no reason to whine about people downloading movies off the internet, (or buying them from the guy on the corner if you live in a big city,) if the movie we pay to see is just chock full of commercials. Not to mention that you have to sit through half an hour of commercials in the movie theater before you even get to the movie!

Sigh. Enough Tirades. Go back to bed. Sigh.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Tripping the Light Aquatic

The Illustration Friday word of the week is AQUATIC.

These are probably the ugliest creatures ever to infest the deep. Obviously, this has been layered in Photoshop. The background is from an Egyptian exhibit I sketched with my friend Iris at the Metropolitan Museum last year. I like underwater ruins. The creatures in the front are solely (get it? Sole-ly?) from my twisted brain. (My beloved wife finds the thing in the lower right hand corner positively obscene. I'll bet you didn't even think of it until I mentioned it.)

I took Joe to see Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith on opening night. We had a great time. Though he's seven, the burning-marshmallow-Darth-Vader-flesh bit didn't freak him out. What bothered him was D.V. hating and hurting the people who loved him. My Joe's such a sweet kid. Me, I loved it- except that I thought the Emperor looked so fake and cheesy when he became a Rubber-Face (and here I thought he was just supposed to be old in Return of the Jedi- and speaking of that movie, why didn't [SPOILER DELETED] Make Luke a Rubber Face too? Illogical, Captain!) I couldn't help but laugh. Palpatine becomes quite campy after that- especially the incessant cackling. They should have just left him the way he was. (In this geek's humble opinion.)

Oh well. Goodnight, all.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

One Geeks Plea for Sanity

Even as the biggest geek in the universe, I have to say ENOUGH WITH THE F**KING STAR WARS ALL READY! Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick- this is the ONLY prequel that people have been waiting for for twenty years. We didn't want to see cute little boy Vader in Episode I, we didn't want to see whiny-bitch teenage Vader in Episode II. We will come to Episode III because we want to see Anakin become D.V. Stop shoving it down our throats! Stop with the commercials every five minutes, the cereal/ soda/ m&m/ tie-ins (Though Darth Tater IS cute.) the oh-so-timely ending of this week's Family Guy, the sanitized interview questions on GIVE IT A REST!

Sigh. Time for my medication. Goodnight.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Food for Your Mind

Illustration Friday is once again upon us. The secret word is NOURISHMENT. I scribbled this on my palm, then colored it with Photoshop. It's a bit reminiscent of a sketch I've made called Hungry:

In other news, Jen has to get out and move the car early tomorrow morning, because they're filming Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on our block. I don't know why they need the whole block for 24 hours, but what the hell. Maybe they're secretly here to see me, as I would happily wear torn jeans and a t-shirt to a funeral. My wife is far too accepting and loving. I had prior girlfriends who always tried to buy me "something nice to wear for a change." Blech.

Then, of course, I am notorious for my Ralph Marlin fish ties. I know, I know- I'm such a trend setter.

On the False Idols front, this landing sequence is proving a doozy. The particles in the fire and smoke of the rocket were screwing up the motion blur, so I had to do it all in layers. (The back layer is the sky and the ground, the second layer is the fog, the third layer is the rocket, and the final layer is the fire and smoke.) All in all, it's going to probably take a week- all for twenty-four stinking seconds of footage. "The joy is in the work."


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blogging on the Bus

Hey there, hi there, ho there! Welcome to the start of my commute on the Q65a in Flushing. Sorry, there's no Illustration Friday this week, but I just couldn't think of anything good, & I didn't want to scribble some crap just to participate. However, Steve's Blog Poison Pencil is always great for brilliantly disturbed tallent.

(On the V train now.) Every day at Queens Plaza at 6:20am, a pretty mid-eastern woman gets on the V train and (as I obviously do) sits in the exact same place. She always sneaks look at the unshaven guy who looks like a bum scribbling in his T3 palm. Good morning! When I'm rich & famous she can tell her offspring that she used to watch me write, and always wondered how a homeless guy could afford such a nice trinket.

(Jump to Manhattan, the middle of my commute.) Dear MTA; For over a year now, the lower area between the E, V & 6 trains at the 53rd & Lex station has reeked of raw sewage. It didn't always smell like a baboon's ass, therefore, some recent event must have caused the area to smell like a baboon's ass. Taking this fact to its logical conclusion- Why the hell don't you fix the problem so the station no longer reeks like my daughter's diapers after she's been eating Gerbers Stage 3 Liver Chunks?

I can't think of anything else to complain about right now, so here are a few False Idols screenshots:

I'm working on the sequence where the rocket lands. This is going to take a very long time, because there are about 4k particles in the shot.

One of the things I'm having fun with in the short is trying to make it look like something out of a 40's sci-fi pulp. This means I can joyfully throw accuracy to the four winds and put in all kinds of crap that an Ed Wood-ish director would have in a sci-fi movie. The object here is to cheesily look "spacy." For example, there's a large dial on Capt. Wilder's (Bradbury allusion) suit. The fun of it is, it's an electric meter dial. You know- the kind in your garage that the meter-man checks.

Anyhoo, in the sequence I'm working on now, my art-deco rocket (the USR Bradbury, to beat an allusion to death) lands like an Apollo rocket launching in reverse. This involves great billowing clouds of smoke and rolling tongues of flame. The rocket fire is loosely based on the flamethrower tutorial in the fantastic book How to Render the Elements in 3dsMAX 6 Without Plugins by . I recommend it, as most plugins (which are pretty much scripted short-cuts of MAX's regular features anyway) cost $300 and up.

Did I mention that the rocket lands when Capt. Wilder presses the bright green "Landing Cycle" button? Its right there, amidst the other colored buttons- next to the bank of hi-tech toggle switches.

Another thing I've done to keep up with the pulp look is to fade my saturation 40%, add a little glow now and then, and a bit of grain. It used to be a larger bit. I liked the effect, but I was loosing too much detail.

Well, here we are, the 125th St. stop in Harlem. 'Till the next one, live long & perspire.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


My sister Elena (or as you Illustration Fridays know her, French Toast Girl) brought a great book to my attention: Father Joe, the Man who Saved My Soul by Tony Hendra. In addition to knowing him from National Lampoon and Spinal Tap, I have many of the albums mentioned in the book (the two Beyond the Fringe Albums, and National Lampoon's Radio Diner, which features Hendra's own pants-wetting screaming John Lennon satire, Magical Misery Tour.)

Anyway, one of the conversations between Hendra and his monkish mentor details the finer points of satire. Hendra explains that we break up into two groups, that there's always an "us" and "them."

I've always seen this as one of the major problems with human beings on this planet. The point was brought home to me this past weekend. I was flipping and I came across an interview with Jeanne Garofalo on PBS. Though she was preaching to the converted, she actually made many good points. However, these points were overshadowed by her obvious seething hatred of all conservatives, Republicans, the Christian Right (bum dum duuuuuummmm) and all those in the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (or VRWC).

As with most people who see everything in black and white (at least in politics,) she seemed oblivious to the fact that those in the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy (VLWC) do exactly the same things as those in the VRWC. I don't want to hear about how Fox News is manipulating news stories unless you want to also talk about how CBS spins its news stories and uses false evidence to support them- and vice versa. The problem here is media manipulation, and it crosses party lines- or should I say, the lines of the media conglomerates that support their particular party's agendas.

Another example: One of my friends and former coworkers is a staunch liberal. Once, we had a conversation about the 2000 election. My friend went on and on about how Bush stole the election, what a travesty it was, that it was the end of democracy, etc. I asked him to tell me honestly: if the exact opposite had happened- if Jeb Gore was governor of Florida, if Bush asked for recount after recount (aside here- was Gore hoping to win best two out of three?) If Bush won the popular vote but the courts decided that Gore won the electoral vote- would he feel the same way? Would he be lecturing about how Gore had caused the end of democracy? My friend thought for a moment, and being the honest guy he is, answered "probably not." QED.

Please do not write in and tell me that you hate Bush or Clinton and what this president did isn't any where as near as bad as what that president did, etc. etc. etc. The point here is how we're desperate to split up into two camps over issues. (Scan down to see my blog about Terry Schiavo.) It then no longer becomes about the issue, it becomes about being against those who have the opposite opinion. For example, Miss Garofalo went on and on about how the VRWC have turned "liberal" into such a dirty word- then she went on to talk about the evils of all "conservatives," completely oblivious to the fact that she was doing the same thing!

So what's the solution, I hear you cry. All I can suggest is try to keep in mind that there are people in this world who have other opinions than yours. If you have a problem with an issue, then keep it with the issue, and not with the people who feel differently about it. Have respect for them as human beings. Actually listen to what they're saying and try to understand their point while their talking, rather than thinking about your own comebacks. Perhaps then the issues will become resolved, rather then getting lost in the mire of us vs. them. Start small. Good luck.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Quality Control at the Ol' Game Factory

Last weekend I went to the homestead of my cousin Lisa, her hubby Bill, and their dog… um… I don't remember. Not important. Anyhoo, Bill had a copy of Star Wars Battlefront on his Playstation. It was a bit of fun, so I decided (Joe would like to interject here that the dog's name is Hailey. Thanks, Joe.) to purchase a copy. I found one cheap for about $35 (I refuse to pay over $35 for ANY video game.) Joe is p.o.'d at me because I won't let him play, but I don't think kiddies should play FPS. Even I have SOME scruples.

There were LOTS of problems installing it. Looking on the internet, I found that oodles of people are having problems (cd keys not working, Windows XP rejecting disks) with installing LucasArts games lately. Lucas' support site had my problem listed (XP rejecting disks in the middle of the install) and had a very long convoluted way of attempting to fix it- no guarantees. I finally got it up and running.

Sadly this is the state of software games today: Charge $55 for a game, and then have no quality control whatsoever before its released. (I could bitch here about how terrible Civilization 3 is compared to Civilization 2, how instead of linking videos they had onscreen text (!) and their quality control was so low that the first patch had to be to correct spelling errors in the text links! They didn't even bother to spellcheck!)

Even sadder is that when you play the movie mode of the game, there is no derivation in the game storyline from the movie, no matter what happens. For example, you play the Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope. It's Star F**king Wars.) levels, you're playing as Storm Troopers. But when you win, the Death Star gets blown up anyway, and you have to go on to the Empire Strikes Back to continue as Rebels! Oh wait- I get it now! It's just a game where I run around shooting everything that's in front of me! It doesn't matter who's side I'm on- nothing interesting happens if I "win" or "lose." How silly of me, expecting some imagination in a game.

What leaves the realm of sadness and enters the level of freaking depressing is that LucasArts used to make the greatest games in the world, which read as follows:
1 Grim Fandango (you can still find out about this on LucasArt's site, in the Classics- that is- not a Star Wars game, which is all they want to plug these days.) This is the best game ever made. Period.
2. Day of the Tentacle. (This is a very close second with G.F. for the greatest game in the world. And it was made in what, 1992? Sad, isn't it?)
3. Sam & Max Hit the Road. (you're a sick little monkey, Max)
4. Dark Forces II- Jedi Knight. This far surpassed Jedi Knight II, because at least here you could choose about halfway through to be on the light or dark side- and the game levels / cutscenes changed accordingly! Gasp- gameplay affecting the storyline! What an innovative idea for a FPS! (Can you believe NO ONE has ever done this again since?)
5. Tie Fighter.

2 & 3 cannot even be found on Lucas's site anymore. What's more, Lucas has absolutely no support to get them running on today's machines. Fortunately, there's a free program you can find- SCUMMVM, that lets you play these old Lucas games on your modern OS- some of them EVEN ON YOUR PALM!

Anyway, enough bitching. Go play Hack. Why are the classics always the best?


Monday, May 02, 2005


The Illustration Friday word of the week is AMBITION. Sadly, my ambition can only be found with an electron microscope.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Enjoyment is a Frame of Mind

I took my son to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy today. Being a DNA geek from Dr Who on (a picture I made won fifth(?) place in the BBC Hitchhiker's game picture competition) I went with a mixture of expectation and anxiety. I took a few deep breaths before the movie started. I knew before hand that a lot of stuff would be changed from the original story. I just decided to enjoy myself, no matter how much it diverged.

Oh boy, did it diverge. There is a lot I could get really pissed about, if I was in a pure frame of mind. The sad thing is that the best parts of the movie are where they expanded the original story (the "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" production number, the Magrathean factory floor / Earth Mark II, for example.) The worst bits are the parts they changed (a fifteen minute subplot where Trillian is abducted to Vogsphere, & the whole John Malkovich bit) because they are utterly pointless, do nothing to the story, and are, respectively. resolved in fifteen minutes and never resolved. There's just so much new stuff that's thrown together hodgepodge that's not particularly funny. I was a bit depressed because they just as easily could have done an intelligent adaptation of the original first series. (Yes, yes, I know DNA wrote the script for the movie, but it's still a mess. Sorry.)

Oh yes, did I mention that Arthur Dent has a NOKIA phone? It's very important to the story that we have many close-ups of Arthur's NOKIA phone. Especially the gratuitous extreme close-up of the NOKIA logo on his phone when it goes spinning off into space. Ah, the joys of product placement: another reason to download pirated movies online instead of paying $10 a movie ticket. I gots no sympathy, kids.

Last but not least- why oh why didn't they get Stephen Moore to do Marvin's voice, as Alan Rickman just did a lame Stephen Moore impersonation? Are there that many Alan Rickman fans around who will just flock to a movie because Alan Rickman is in it? Are the Rickman groupies lined up on the street corner? At least they could have had Moore play Gag Halfrunt! Sigh.

But, being in the right frame of mind (om) I actually did enjoy it. Ommmmmmm

Anyway, still slowly but surely working on False Idols, getting the hardest bit done first, which is the astronaut himself. As I said before, I purchased a so-so astronaut model for about $35. I used bits of it, deleted and made better versions of other bits (I had to completely re-model the helmet) and detailed it for my purposes:

Pretty neat, eh? Now comes the fun part- rigging- or adding the bones inside. Otherwise known as "Goddamn it, why does the whole hand warp and twist when I move one finger! Mutherf$#king envelopes!" If you've done this before, you know what I mean.