Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I knew the great and the near great!"

A caricature of me by Bill Plympton. I'll never wash this cheek again...

I had an awesome time at the premiere of
Idiots and Angels. When I watched the film, I felt a rush of creative energy and a desire to finish my own languishing projects. After all, I'm currently a man of leisure. The problem is that I have this wonderful ability to work hard creating and planning things, and then give up on them before they're completed. I understand I'm not alone in this.

I talked to Mr. Plympton as he drew me. I told him that I've done some animations myself. He told me that was fantastic, and asked how I'm getting my work out there. I told him I do have some things on youtube. He said I should think about festivals. I think that's an excellent idea.

Some years ago I was working on an animation called
False Idols. I fell away from it for a number of reasons. I was almost done, and realized there were many shots I was unhappy with, either from the quality of the models or the changes in tone. Now I feel inspired to finish it. I've been working with 3dsMax for years, and I recently wanted to make the switch to Blender - a very advanced freeware CGI modeler / renderer. I think that would be the perfect project to get me started.

The only problem is that I have a 416 page novel that I'm editing, and I got up to page 226 of the second draft when I realized I want to make major changes to the second half. I'm determined to finish that first, but that's a post for another day. In the meantime, thank you, Mr. Plympton, for all the inspiring zaniness.

I will leave you with this quote from his autobiography, Independently Animated: Bill Plympton, the Life and Art of the King of Indie Animation: (pg 17)

"Whatever school was tries to prepare a person for, you can only become great at something by having a love and passion for it. Except for royalty, no one was born to be anything! Picasso wasn't born to be a great artist. He worked his butt off. I had a buddy in college who was a fantastic artist; he could draw rings around me (sometimes he'd use hula hoops to save time). People would say he's born to be a great artist. Today he's a check-out guy at Wal-Mart. 'Not that there's anything wrong with that,' as Jerry Seinfeld might add, but what my buddy lacked was passion for his art. I don't care how good you are - if you don't love what you do, you'll never be great at it."

Go forth and be passionate.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Idiots and Angels

Going to see a movie premiere tonight! And not just any movie - a Bill Plympton movie!

I'm meeting some old NJ friends - Heidi, Glen, and the indefatigable webtoonist, Kevin Pease. But wow... Bill Plympton! I hope to meet him, but what can I say? I love your work, Mutant Aliens is one of my favorite movies, Was all the gratuitous sex and violence in I Married a Strange Person in response to critics possibly saying The Tune was too cute and sweet? Your Face really freaked my son out when he was a baby, I like to make animations too, what made you settle on your sketchy style?

Also appearing will be Patrick McDonnell of MUTTS fame, who is, in fact, as nice a human being as his strips.

Well at any rate, I'm at my parents' house. I had an amazingly delicious lunch, and then played pinochle with my father. He beat me by ten points. Time to get revenge.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Android Fanboy's Unite!

I consider myself an interesting conundrum when it comes to ideologies. I try to keep away from them at all costs, and to balance my views and intakes - but is that in itself an ideology?

Like all Android fanboys, I take joy in poking fun when Apple smugly pats itself on the back for being "innovative" with features that other platforms have had for years. Mr. (or Mrs.) Wigley99, I salute you!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

I had a dream, I had an awesome dream...

Last night, I dreamt I was a kid at my parents' house, playing in the yard with my friends. Like all good Catholic kids, we played mass. We set up pews and everything. One of the neighborhood girls (ever notice how in dreams you have friends you don't know, but it just feels natural?) had a pet troll. He was 8' tall, fuzzy, fat, round and stupid, but funny. He lumbered around the yard, smashing the altar, pews, shrubs, and my mother's dogwood tree, much to my and the other kids' delight. He sat on the hood of my father's brown (black?) Buick (wow, this is way back) and squished it.

I was afraid my father would be furious. Instead he shrugged and said, "Not to worry." He then turned on a pump and re-inflated the car until it was it's original size, the dents popping back into place with audible pings. I went inside to help him put the groceries away, and he had replaced our refrigerator with a newer model. It had a rotisserie inside, but the contraption meant there was less room to store actual food.



Decluttering the Internet

The idea of leaving facebook has bounced around in the back of my mind for a while. Then a blog post from my friend Rayne gave me the nudge to jump ship. And why not? It was fun for a while, but it just isn't anymore. It feels more like an overflowing garbage can that no one wants to dump. Does the internet really need hundreds of pictures of me, my friends and family? I deleted everything except a profile picture, past notes, and my artwork. This blog will still be imported, but I deleted all my apps and likes as well.

In my farewell note I mentioned Big-Brother concerns such as facebook's need to integrate everything I ever do on or offline, but it's not that so much as just a need to cut a huge chunk of clutter out of my life.

Now for the rest of it...


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Illustration Friday: Ferocious

Illustration Friday: Ferocious

(Drawn while waiting for the iTunes store to post the latest Dr. Who episode.)


Friday, September 23, 2011

It's All in the Mind, Y'know!

OK, so here's your bizarre for the day:

Scientists have been able to reconstruct thoughts into images. There is a full article explaining it in technical detail here. To sum up: researchers had subjects watch clips from film trailers while recording blood flow to their visual cortexes with an fMRI. They then used 18 million random seconds of youtube clips to reconstruct what the viewers were seeing:

(on the left are the trailers, on the right are brain images reconstructed with clips from youtube.)

Now this is fascinating, but also frightening. What people think and feel are private unless they feel like sharing them. But I think it would be a wonderful self analysis tool. I log my dreams, and I'm annoyed as hell when the alarm clock shreds all memory of them.

Unfortunately, the way all information today is head-rushing towards the arms of Big Brother, this is how I'm sure the technology will be handled: A requirement will be that your dreams and thoughts will be part of the online "cloud" Of course, your identity will be "random" and your "privacy will be respected." After a year, the makers of the dream-recorder will change their TOS that they can sell your information to 3rd parties - and by low the government can have access... randomly and privately, of course.

All pontificating aside, NOW the plot sickens. Apparently, we can also do this with cats:

The real freaky thing is at the end, they zoom in the still of the man's face - and in the cat's mind, it's a cat-person.

I know we're higher mammals and all, but I think cat's can discern from cats and other prey - for example, I don't think they see mice, birds and bugs as small cats, or they wouldn't eat them (would they?) So.... is it then possible that we see higher life forms as people?



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two Mornings After

(Me ten years ago, restoring power on the roof of the Trinity Building.)

Two Mornings After

The subway from Queens, unreliable at the best of times, crawled along at ten miles an hour. It grinded to a halt every few hundred yards. Some riders jerked their eyes back and forth. Others hung their heads, swaying with the movement of the tracks. One woman choked back sobs, wiping her eyes every few minutes with a mascara-stained tissue.

I worked at 23rd street, which is about a mile and a half north of “Ground Zero.” When the train from Queens entered Manhattan, a crackling loudspeaker informed me that my connecting train was out of service. I exited into the sunlight, passed a cordon of police and soldiers, and began my thirty-block trek downtown. Even from three miles away I could smell the burning. I tried to ignore the fact that what filled my nostrils included some 2600 people. I failed.

The city seemed deserted, empty. Anything south of West 4th Street had been blocked off with military checkpoints, so only a handful of cars were on the streets. Every few blocks, police and National Guardsmen carrying M16s stood ready, but for what I had no idea. To the south, towering above us all, a swirling pillar of smoke scorched the sky, a giant defacing the clouds with charcoal.

Along Lexington Avenue, bus shelter after bus shelter were wallpapered with photocopies and print outs. Black-ink faces smiled from white paper copies of wedding photos, family gatherings, and yearbook portraits. Each had a plea scrawled in block letters: “HAS ANYONE SEEN _____?” or, “PLEASE CALL IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION!” In time, as the elements eroded these appeals, it became clear that no one would ever call, that these tattered papers would be the victims’ only tombstones. Watching these desperate prayers disintegrate day after day made me feel sick to my stomach and helpless. This, more than anything, is what I think of when anyone asks what I remember.

I reached the New York University Dental School on the East Side, which was under renovation. The kiosk I bought my paper from was draped with American flags. The elderly Middle-Eastern man inside half cowered at the sight of me, a large, pleading smile on his face. He wore a bright, tacky t-shirt with the Statue of Liberty on it. What was his exact nationality? I had no clue. His pleading, darting eyes prayed that I didn’t think it mattered. I bought the Daily News and offered him the best smile I could muster. He bared his teeth in an empty grin, his head bouncing like a bobblehead.

A long line of construction workers waited for me at the gate. As was now the norm throughout the city, everyone had to be checked in with photo IDs. One electrician who had worked there for six months was not allowed to enter, because he did not have his driver’s license with him. “Everyone must have their papers,” he growled as he left. “It’s like fucking Russia.”

On the tenth floor, my coworkers stood at the windows in silence. I joined them, lost in the monstrosity that blotted out the sky to the south, occasional bursts of red and orange flaring up from its base. “How long ‘till they get that out?” I wondered.

“Who knows?” a fellow electrician named Tom said. He took a drag on his Marlboro. “That jet fuel can gel like napalm. It’s all packed in down there in the rubble. Don’t forget that there was the subway, the PATH station, and a little underground mall down there too. They’re all burning. Pockets of air come up and feed the fire, and the fuel seeps further and further down.” The cigarette was just about down to the filter. He tossed it on the floor, crushed it under his heel, and lit another. “Did you watch Dubya’s speech?”

“Yeah,” I said, remembering the standing ovation he had gotten from both sides of the aisle. “Hilary looked royally pissed he was getting so much love.”

“Mmm,” he said. “Bush. Asshole. Just let it happen.”

“How could he have stopped it?” I asked. “You can’t exactly shoot planes down over New York City.”

“How old are you?” he asked.


“You’re young,” Tom said. “Never trust the government- especially Republicans. They’ll fuck you any way they can.”

“Ok,” Jeff the foreman interrupted, clapping his hands. It was 7:30, half an hour after we were supposed to start. “I know it’s hard, but we have to get something done.”

Someone turned on the radio. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” blasted from Q104.3, although it couldn’t by any stretch of the imagination be called classic rock. Afterwards, Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” came on. Better, I thought. I strapped on my tool belt and tried to pretend it was a normal day.

“Listen to that song,” a carpenter said. “I love that song.”

“It’s a great version,” I said.

His face twisted. “We should just bomb them.”

“Who?” I asked.

“The whole Middle East,” he snapped, as if I was an idiot. “Just nuke them right off the map, that’ll teach them. It stopped World War Two, didn’t it?”

“You can’t do that anymore,” his co-worker piped up. “It’s not ‘politically correct.’”

“You know some kids are protesting us going into Afghanistan?” a fellow electrician named Barney joined in. He was a plump man in his mid-fifties. He lit a cigarette, sucking the smoke down like a man gasping for air. “It’s just like Vietnam again.”

“No, it’s like Desert Storm,” the carpenter corrected him. “Everyone has flags out along my block, all over their car radios, yellow ribbons around trees, the works. But in a year, everyone’s going to forget. Or they’ll just be sick of it. Right now, the Republicans are all saying ‘I told you so,’ and they’re having fun doing it. But in a year or two, the liberals will be back with a vengeance.”

“Yep,” I said. I reached into Barney’s pack and took out a cigarette. He held out his lighter to me and I took a long drag. It burned and tasted delicious. “People have short memories."

“You got that right,” Barney muttered.

How long would all this last, I wondered as I gathered up wire reels and arranged them on a pulling rack, this bizarre mixture of patriotism, anger, prayer, suspicion, love, fear, and camaraderie? How long could the government continue its tightrope act, claiming that America is in immediate danger, yet at the same time, implore us that it’s a safe place to “go out and shop?” How long were we going to pat ourselves on the back for our freedom and envious way of life, while at the same time presenting our papers at work while soldiers with automatic weapons patrolled the streets?

The first few lines of John Mellencamp’s “Ain’t that America” came on the radio, and someone cranked up the volume even louder. Across the floor, I could see Jeff raise an eyebrow at me: Was I was just going to stand around all day? I realized that however long it took for things to get back to normal, it would be a lot more than two days. I pushed my cart out onto the floor and went to work.