Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tosca v.s. RoboFalcon

I was watching television when it happened. Tosca, my cockatiel, shrieked from the next room. This wasn't his usual "stop that" shriek. It was a piercing scream that would put a fire alarm to shame. What was wrong? I wondered, dashing to the next room. Was he hurt? I knew it was possible. The other cockatiel I owned managed to get tangled up in the chain of one of his toys once. ( He survived his injuries but lost part of his lower beak.) I flipped on an extra light and went to Tosca's cage.
He was fine. A bit agitated, but unhurt. What had set him off? Maybe an earthquake? I scanned the chain pulls for the lamps and blinds, but nothing was swinging. Then I looked beyond the doorway and figured it out.
I could see the television in the next room. The show was about runway safety at the airport and they'd just done a segment about birds striking planes. To scare them off, one airport hired someone to fly a realistic remote controlled falcon over fields adjacent to the runway. The falcon had been on screen when Tosca started screaming. Poor little guy. He thought it was coming to get him!
This was a good example of how his head is wired. In the wild, a cockatiel (or a buffalo or an antelope etc..) is food for preditors. The ones who live to pass on their genes are the ones who panic and bolt at the hint of danger. Tosca probably doesn't have direct ancestors who had thoughts like that shadow in the corner of my eye might be a falcon. I better get a closer look....

Friday, September 28, 2007

Martian Tools

Click cartoon for larger version.

Here's how I make these things. I use Painter 8 and a tablet p.c.
Once I have an idea, I type in the words (I have a typeface that looks like my writing) and roughly sketch them in. Sometimes I draw them separately and paste them in. This lets me fool with the composition.

Then I fade the rough sketch and sketch a tighter layer, with more details.
Note in these early versions that the punchline is different. The original joke was just showing Vespa snapping a picture. The problem was that I couldn't make it clear that this was a camera (and not a Martian ray gun or something). To bad, since just showing her taking the picture would be funnier).
I often force myself to write alternate punchlines anyway. Sometimes it leads to a better joke.

I zoom in for most of the "inking", using painter's Smooth Ink Pen. I'm not satisfied with my inking ability. It's something I need more practice at. Wally Wood I ain't.

That's it.
Also note that the scorpion actually looks like one this time. His earlier incarnations looked like a lobster Beanie Baby. I was trapped in jury duty when I started the scorpion gags and didn't have web access for a reference.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I had cartoons I wanted to finish and post, but Painter8 has corrupted again so I'll have to reinstall it when I get home*
Instead, I'll mooch off my older blog, where I chronicled my adventures in Second Life (an online virtual world, see below for details**) in 2005. In Second Life I'm Olympia Rebus, and have a home base in the P.G. rated sim of Green. I built goofy things. My favorite creation was Morris the Torusaurus (pictured above). He's comprised of toruses (actually toruses and slices of toruses). A copy of him is (or was) on display at the welcome area in Ahern. When slew of Second Life books were published I skimmed each one, hoping he'd be pictured, but poor Morris didn't make the cut.
I don't spend much time there anymore. Part of the problem is each time I log in I'm slammed with emails asking for free copies of things I've made. It crashes my laptop too. Maybe I'll return some day...
Here are some of the better posts from my old blog:
Building Bugs
The Aquagon
Space Warped
*this was written off the clock at work
**Second Life (as defined by Wikipedia) "is is an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003, developed by Linden Research, Inc (commonly referred to as Linden Lab), which came to international attention via mainstream news media in late 2006 and early 2007.[4][5] A downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network servicemetaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eleanor Rigby

The Eleanor Rigby segment* from "Yellow Submarine" is my favorite animation with a Beatles song. Here's why:

The Creators Went Beyond the Obvious

A lessor effort might follow they lyrics exactly- showing Miss Rigby picking up the rice as the wedding party departs. Instead we get a quirky series of gloomy, grimy city images.

Not Too Maudlin.

This isn't a happy song. Too much pathos would have made it a sapfest. Thus the whimsical touches. For example, while we see a tombstone, we also see the cute submarine chugging around behind it. Or the end when the camera pans to the top of a building and there's a guy on top. With butterfly wings.

Clever Use of Animation

The animation is limited. A leaf falls, smoke curls, the camera moves, the sub hovers. Yet it works. Most of the people are high contrast loops of film. This makes them seem distant and robot-like (strangers in a city?), but it's funny in places too, like the hapless ball players, lurching in the field.

Ending the song with a mad jumble of road signs was a good idea. They could have ended it with morbid imagery ("oh isn't this sad and hopeless") or some upbeat nonsense like a pretty sunset ("yes, it can be lonely out there but there's always hope"). Instead we get the road signs. "Where do [we] all belong?" it seems to suggest "Beats the heck outta me... ...but that doesn't mean we can't have fun."

*The clip is supposed to appear at with the post, but for some reason it's not always showing up, so I added the link.

Monday, September 17, 2007


My mom is back in the hospital. They think she had another seizure, but they're not sure what's going on. I'll add more when I know more.

More- 7:30 p.m. Sept 18
It's official, it's "only" a seizure and not another stroke, which means she'll recover much sooner, usually within a few days. She's a bit confused has trouble talking in the meantime (the wrong words came out), but made it very clear that she wanted out of that hospital a.s.a.p. This morning she insisted on changing back to her street clothes. No hospital gown for her! She was cooperative with the speech therapist at first, than got snippy- she decided the tests and exercises were a waste of time. She even kicked at me a few times when the nurse and the speech therapist questioned me about how she'd recovered when it happened before. I think she thought I sabotaging her escape from the hospital. Or maybe telling the nurses stuff that was none of their business. Other than that she was happy to have me around.
They sprung her from the hospital this afternoon so she's back home and I'm back at work. I offered to come by their place and help out but my dad insists they'll be okay.
11:45, Sept 19
I spoke to my mom on the phone today. She picked up the phone and sounded pretty normal. Hard to believe that 48 hours ago she could barely talk. I like it when things change for the better.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stupid Noises

Click the cartoon for a bigger version. :)

I named him Goro after a character from the opera Madama Butterfly. The latter Goro was a scheming troublemaker, and not the most sucessful trickster. In the show he actually gets his butt kicked by Madama Butterfly when she catches him spreading vicious rumors.
I toyed with naming him Thycho (after an astronomer), but "Goro" seemed to fit him the best.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Buoys fascinated me when I was little. Maybe because they were floating out of reach- like a toy on a high shelf. Maybe it was because I typically saw them on vacations or days at the beach and associated them with good times.
Each year my family would go on vacation at Mission Bay in San Diego. Four buoys were visible from the beach. I named them, gave them personalities and wrote stories about them.

Swim Area wore his name. He was the youngest, the cutest, and the shortest lived- he was replaced by a clunker called "No Boats".

Orangey floated further away. He was the friendliest. In my stories he was friends with the gulls, dolphins and seals, who often delivered him news.

Sailortilt lived near a bridge and floated to the side. He was the oldest and wisest.

Blockade floated furthest from shore. You could barely see him. He was the mysterious type, but he had an important job: he kept an eye out for the bad guys. Buoy security.
Back to the real world...
My brother liked them too. When I was seven we coaxed my dad to row us out so we could see the buoys up close. When the boat bumped into Orangey my brother and I shouted "Buoy!" and patted "him" as if "he" were a dog. My dad was horrified. "There's bird shit on that thing!" he said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

That Window is Looking at Me

I can see a face in nearly anything.
For example:
I can look at this

And it looks back at me like this:

Okay, I used some artistic license. If my imagination is wacky I might as well have fun with it.
It used to scare me. When I was five I quit ballet lessons because some tiny cracks in the studio wall frightened me- it looked like a monster! I lied and said I didn't want to be a ballerina anymore.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Neon Mother Goose

The next Drawing Board topic is "Neon Mother Goose."
Painter (my usual drawing toy) was down so I did this in Photoshop, which lacks Painter's neon pen. Getting the effect in Photoshop was a convoluted mess of layers and channels.* It probably would be easier to build a real sign and photograph it.
It's based on 1950's signage. Typically this meant a themed name in a cursive or cute typeface, plus what the business offered (bowling, laundry, apartment etc...) in block letters. Throw in yards of glowing, blinking neon and you're set.
Many people think these signs are tacky and garish, but I like them.

Bonus Pic:
Here's the dish and spoon before I installed the neon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Revenge of the Budgerigars

I read a news item about some creeps who did some cruel things to small animals, including a budgie (a.k.a. parakeet). The budgie part upset me the most. They're adorable. So playful, curious and colorful. Someone hurt one for fun? I don't get it.
I read about another budgie with a bad eye and a bad foot. He was found in a trash can. Tossed like living garbage. (The good news is this one now has a safe home.)
It's unfair that such small, good natured creatures are treated like that.

What would happen if budgies were big? The size of polar bears?

They'd still be playful, curious and colorful, but if I got too close, I'd be a chew toy.
Too bad they can't automatically resize when mistreated. That'd solve a lot of problems.

Monday, September 03, 2007


A few weeks back I mentioned how my college paper cartoon ran next to one done by someone who became a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. Me? I sold a cartoon to Bird Talk magazine once.

This weekend I was eating out with my folks when, up on the T.V. screen, I see an old childhood pal playing professional beach volleyboll. I look her up and sure enough, she's rolling in the dough, earning medals left and right, including an olympics medal. Me? I won a blue ribbon at the orange county fair when I was a kid. Some kind of drawing contest. I was the only one in my age group who entered.

The trick is who I compare myself too. When I compare myself to contemporaries who got famous I feel like a loser. When I compare myself to contemporaries who dropped out of school, live in their parents' garage and work the fry basket, I feel better

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Out of Order.

I had three work-in-progress pics that I planned to complete and post this weekend. Nothing like a long weekend to catch up on things, kick back and draw.
1. Corel Painter suddenly won't open.
2. I'm out of town so I can't reinstall it until later this week.
The only art software here is an ancient Photoshop hack. It's so old I'm surprised it's not on a wax cylinder (I have a spiffy up-to-date, authorized version at home). There's also these tools I vaguely remember called "a pencil" and "paper."
Minor problems like this tend to work out for the best. A few weeks back my original "Militant Slug" picture got corrupted and had to be redrawn. The new pic was much better than the original. Chaos is my friend.