Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crack Master (a.k.a. Crack Monster) turns Thirty Three

Sorry for the lack of posts- I've been working on different projects, but I couldn't let today go by without mentioning that, according to my sources...
..the elusive Crack Master and his crack friends debuted on television 33 years ago today.
I still don't know who made the cartoon or why it's kept under wraps. I found someone who has copy of it but they've been sworn to secrecy (and are too far away for me to swing by for a screening).
Who made it? What became of them? Did they do any other animations?
I have no idea if the legal owners are aware of its cult following or my blog posts about it. I don't even know the name of the cartoon, but I bet it's one of the following:
  • Crack Creatures
  • Into the Wall
  • Crack Friends
  • There Goes the Cleaning Deposit
  • Namowal, Get a Life You Freak

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lap Forty!

Guess who turns forty today?
That came rather fast. I want a recount.
Then again, there were signs. Fine print becoming illegible... Seeing older pictures of me and thinking I look so young!... Co workers half my age...
My inner whiner says No fair! I'm past my "sell by" date!
My inner thinker says Shut up, ya big baby. Not everyone lives to forty. _____ didn't. ____ didn't. You lucky $%^&**!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas Snake

When I was five, I couldn't understand why people didn't like snakes.
They came in different colors. They were funny. They could move without legs! What's not to like? Yet each time I asked for a "pet snake" I was told no.
Then Christmas came. I remember the odd, lumpy package and what was inside:
A plush toy snake! A big one! He was longer me! He was pink and wore a ribbon around his neck. A felt forked tongue stuck out at his mouth.
I was thrilled. I had no idea you could get a plush snake. I'd seen stuffed bears, ducks, bunnies and even elephants. I'd never seen a stuffed snake before. I loved him!
His name was Boa Constrictor, my parents said.
I slept with him each night like he was a teddy bear, making sure his tail was under the covers so he didn't get cold. I felt safer with him. Any ghost or monster would think twice once he saw Boa Constrictor guarding me!

Bonus pic:
After I drew the pictures I found a picture of me and my beloved boa.
Thanks, Mom & Dad! He was a hit!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cranky Creepy Christmas Past

Years ago, when I still lived with my parents, I was a block away from a neighborhood that went insane with Christmas decorations. Lights hung from every house, tree or shrub. Candy canes, snow men, Santas, reindeer and elves were everywhere. Many houses had animatronic decorations- a working train, a ferris wheel, caroling pigs, and even life size talking, gesturing Santa. People from all over the Los Angeles drove to see it.
One winter I had my eye on Jeff. He was in some of my classes. I didn't know him well and wanted to change that. When he mentioned he'd always wanted to see the lights, I told him I lived nearby and asked if he'd like to see them with me. He said yes. Not a date by any means, but at least a chance to get to know Jeff better!
When he called to confirm plans, he asked if he could bring some friends. I said sure.
(Why not? Maybe one of his friends would be even cuter!)
I asked who else would be swinging by.
"Oh, my friend Buzzy, maybe my brother, and that girl from The Crab Shack."
That girl from The Crab Shack.!? He'd mentioned her a few weeks ago- that he'd met her at a party but was turned off by her pierced tongue and smoker's breath. I'd assumed she was out of the picture.
Way to go, Namo! I thought. Not only is Jeff seeing someone else, but he's taking her to your home! And then you can watch them take a romantic stroll through the Christmas lights!

Jeff, Buzzy and The Girl from the Crab Shack showed up on time. I invited them in for eggnog but Jeff said he didn't like eggnog. I was secretly glad not to have them in the house.
We headed for the lights. Music played, carolers sang, lights twinkled, and I acted as festive as I could. Nothing's worse than being in a bad mood when you're surrounded by stuff telling you how wonderful everything is.
Buzzy cut the visit short. He'd wondered off, than jogged back.
"Where you been?" said Jeff.
"There's a school next door. I wanted to use the *&$@!! bathroom but the %^&#@!! doors were locked." he said.
"Use my place," I said. "It's just up the street."
"Nah that's okay," he said. "I already went."
Jeff howled with laughs and pressed him for details. He boasted he's left a "surprise" for the kids, then complained was cold and had seen enough of the stupid lights. If The Girl from the Crab Shack said anything, I don't remember.
Soon they piling into Jeff's car, off to some other adventure.
I was glad to see them go!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crack Master (Crack Monster) is Alive! Alive!

When I was a little (1970s) a Sesame Street cartoon frightened, yet fascinated me.
A young girl who imagines cracks on her bedroom wall turning into animals. They befriend her. A scary crack appears. He calls himself "Crack Master*." He acts tough but falls apart.
I liked the idea of cracks coming to life, but the Crack Master freaked me. What if he showed up on my wall one night?
Flash Forward 35 years. Old Sesame Street clips appear on You-Tube. The Alligator King. The Typewriter Guy, That's About the Size, Lower Case N on the hill, etc...
But where are the Cracks?**
I try to find the cartoon but no leads. I grow more curious. What artist/studio was behind it? What became of them? Where'd they get the idea? And where is this cartoon? Does it even exist anymore?
I blog about it. I ask around. Almost everyone hasn't seen it or heard of it.
It drives me crazy.

I post a blog about my search. A few others write that they too have been looking for the clip, and finding nothing.
This includes Jon.
Like me, it freaked him as a kid but now he'd dying to see it again. Except he can't find it, nobody seems to remember it, there's little info on the internet and it's driving him nuts.
Then a miracle happens. The party who owns the rights to the cartoon contacts him. They're very private. Jon gets a copy of the clip on condition that he wasn't to copy or publish any of it. Anywhere. No exceptions.
He shared his story with me , he told me, because I seemed to be as obsessed with the cartoon as he was.
It was good news and bad news. The cartoon was still in existence! It wasn't lost in a landfill!
The bad news is that I'll probably never see it. Jon lives far away. Even if he lived next door he might not be legally allowed to show it to others.
Thus my only chance is that the cartoon's legal owner see this and are kind enough to send (or sell) me a copy.***

If that's you, all I can say is PLEASE!?

I'll be forever in your debt.
I'll keep it off the internet.
No ripping, nor sharing, this I swear,
To the cartoon maker (or the heir)
I'll turn down
any bootleg version
Of the crack cartoon excursion.
And should a bootleg come about
I'll report them. Rat 'em out.
An honest clip will only do,
If you decide (and if that's you).

If that's not you, you can still help.
If you can forward this post to anyone who might know (or know someone who knows) the legitimate owner of the clip, please do. Maybe they'll find me, maybe they won't. Maybe they'll sell me a copy, maybe not. Who knows?

*I'd remembered the scary crack as "Crack Monster," but he's actually, "Crack Master," says Jon.

**I have no clue what the actual title is.

***This sounds uncomfortably like "Hi stranger! Give me something!" Ugh. I'd be happy to give them (perhaps you?) some of my artwork as an offering of thanks, but it's not worth much dough. (Neither is my poetry.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Christmas Cookies (They're Man Made!)

When I taught preschool, Christmastime meant cookies. Parents brought them. Some were homemade: chocolate chip, oatmeal, maybe even peanut butter. Some were shortbread tins. Once in awhile we'd even get a tin of fancy cookies: the kind that came with embossed chocolate coating.
One year Otto's mom presented us with an Oreo holiday tin. Kids rode sleighs, built snowmen and ice skated on the lid. Mmmm I thought. Oreos! I cracked open the box.
These weren't Oreos.
A ramshakle pile of animal-like shapes nested inside: Red, blue, yellow, green and as bright as Play-Doh. The dye bled into the paper towel beneath them.
"We made them," Otto's mom said. "They're sugar cookies. Try one!"
I picked up a blue one. It was like picking up an ink pad. Blue oozed onto my fingers. Then I noticed the glitter. Not cake sprinkles, but metallic craft glitter! And it had a plastic googley eye!
"We spent all afternoon making them," she added. "They're really good!"
This reminded me of the scene from Eraserhead where the Henry's invited to dinner and served an oozing Cornish game hen with kicking legs. The host boasts "We got chicken tonight. Strangest damn things! They're man made! Little damn things. Smaller than my fist, but they're new!"
If she thinks plastic and glitter are edible, what else might be in them? I wondered.
"They look delicious," I lied, eying the mutant cookie like it was a rare gem. "I'll save them for after dinner."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We have Walkie Talkies

(Author's note: another something I wrote in Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable Class. )
I'm at Frankie's house. So is my little brother. The T.V.'s on but it's a non-cartoon so nobody's watching.
We're on the floor, leaning against the blue floral couch. We have walkie talkies.
I'd concluded, recently, that since we could hear truckers on the walkie talkies that truckers could hear us,and wouldn't it be funny if we messed with them!
Franky puts his Smurf Singsong Record on his phonograph, sets the needle and cranks the volume. He shoves the walkie talkie up to the speaker as "Won't you come home, Smurf Baily?" blasts through.
Frankie's mom yells from the kitchen to turn it down. He ignores her. My brother and I tune in on the other walkie talkie. Above the hiss and static we hear a trucker blurt "Someone's playin' bull$#!*!"
This is funny because:
1. He heard us.
2. He said a bad word!
We crack up laughing. Frankie turns off the record and improvises into the speaker.
"Do your balls hang low/Do they dangle in the snow?" he sings, giggling at his bravado.
The trucker isn't amused. Soon he's threatening to find out where Frankie lives so he can "come over 'n' kick [his] ass."
This is really funny because:
1. He heard us
2. More bad words!
3. Frankie got a grownup really, really mad!
Foolishly, my brother and I boast of Frankie's antics to my mom and dad.
Our walkie talkies go away for awhile.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mr. Big Shot, Squisher of Dreams

I've been fascinated by animation since I was little. By my teens I decided I'd either become an animator or the person who did storyboards. But how would I get to be either of these? Sure, loved to draw and tell stories, but so did a lot of people, many more talented me. And it wasn't like there were animation studios on every corner. Did I have a chance? How could I increase my chances?
I read everything I could find. Information was limited. These were pre-internet times. The main library only offered a few outdated books. So did branch libraries. Bookstores at the time were modest barbershop sized places. I had some luck, but still wasn't sure what I should start doing now to increase my chances.
I wrote to the Disney studio to ask what to do. I figured I'd get a form letter that would set me on the right track.
The reply wasn't a form letter. It was from a higher up (not an animator or a story department person, I might add). We'll call him Mr. Big Shot. It opened like this:
"You sound confused. Do you want to be a writer or an artist?"
His answer to my questions?
"Why don't you take it upon yourself to do some research at the local library?"
I forget other details, but the gist of the letter seemed to to be that I either lazy or clueless, perhaps both-
"If you want to make money, go into law" he concluded (did he think I my main motive was getting rich?). Brief nebulous nonsense about magic and dreams followed.
Magic? I thought dreams!? It was like hearing "You can play with us if you become cool enough" on the playground.
My animation dreams died with that letter. I'd learned nothing. Mr. Big Shot at Disney seemed disgusted with me. Maybe I'd even blacklisted myself. Had I really sounded so stupid in my letter? Maybe I was stupid.
Well, it's just as well, I thought. I can't really draw that well anyway.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I saw Carmen at the Los Angeles Opera (Row X) on Sunday.
It's one of my favorites.
This picture is based on the final act . Her not-playing-with-a full-deck ex-boyfriend (Don Jose) begs, then threatens her to take him back. She refuses. He flips out and stabs her to death.
The music's great, contrasting festive, optimistic music from a nearby bullfight with the the the dramatic oh, now he's really lost it! music as Don Jose has a meltdown.
Here's a You-Tube of the same scene if you're interested.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shocks and Bonds

(Author's note: here's something I wrote in Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable Class. It's in the second person, but it happened to me in the 1980s)
Disneyland's Main Street Penny Arcade is full of early 20th century amusements. Most are in wood cases and cost a nickel. There's black and white slide shows, a wooden fortune teller, and a machine that will rate your kissing ability (with lightbulbs) when you squeeze the handle.
You're at the Electricity is Life shock machine. For a nickel you can test how tough you are: insert the coin, grab the two upright bars, and see how long you can hold on. An increasingly strong stream of electricity flows through your hands and arms. A dial measures progress.
Are you tough enough to take it?
You admire tough people in adventure stories. Do you have any trace of toughness? You've never taken a bullet or won a sword fight. Could you? Maybe the shock machine will tell.
The current starts as a faint buzz. It grows stronger as the dial rises, points up, than dips to the right. It hurts, slightly. Like a Novocain shot. Your arms grow stiff.
Don't wuss out! Hold on!

A bell goes off. The electricity stops. The relief is soothing, like you've dipped your arms in warm water.
You did it! You're tough! Okay, this isn't as tough as taking a bullet, but you didn't wuss out.

One day (you spent a lot of time at Disneyland) the machine is broken and gives shocks for free. Dozens line up for free shocks. Then everyone finds they can all get shocked together by holding hands, with members on each end of the chain touching the machine. It's an odd bonding experience.

Years later you question the saftey behind playing with a malfunctioning shock machine. And is it ethical to get shocks you didn't pay for? Or were you shocklifting?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Report

(This turkey is based on an internet photo. I drew it as a warm up for a more cartoony drawing, but ran out of time)
I learned some things I didn't know about turkeys this year. I knew the basics: They're dumb, they go "gobble gobble" and they come with bonus giblets. I also know that if you get a frozen one, don't forget about it until you start to wonder why your car smells. This happened, but not to me.
Here's some new facts I picked up:
  • Domestic turkeys eggs have two yolks.
  • The wild turkey has a tropical counterpart called the Ocellated Turkey. It's whimsical looking.
  • The lumps at the base of the wattle are called caruncles, and the thingy on top of the beak is called a snood. Nobody is sure what the snood is for, but when turkeys fight, the guy with the bigger snood usually wins.
To wrap up this fragmented post I'll add a jingle I made up when I taught preschool. It was a hit around Thanksgiving time. It's sung to the same tune as Pretty Little Dutch Girl*

I had a big fat turkey
His name was Gobbler Joe.
He ran off one Thanksgiving,
As fast as he could go!

I chased him forty miles!
I chased him for a week!
I found him in a haystack.
He bit me with his beak!

Not familiar with that one? It's the same tune as "Miss Suzy had a steamboat/the steamboat had a bell..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cheese and Coffee

Do you know anyone who drinks their coffee with a chunk of cheddar cheese floating on top?
I first heard of this years ago. Some online message board had a "weird stuff people eat" topic. People told of friends who enjoyed chocolate syrup on their hot dogs and hot sauce on watermelons. But the freakiest one by far was cheese in coffee.
"My friend always drinks her coffee with a piece of cheddar cheese in it." someone wrote. "It slowly melts as she drinks it, so when she gets to the bottom she slurps out the melted remains from the bottom."
I thought this was a one person phenomenon. Then I brought it up with some coworkers. Most were repulsed, but some said "My dad likes that" or "My grandma drinks it that way."
The thought gives me the shivers, particularly the part about slurping the melted goo from the bottom. I can imagine it. It festers in the back of my throat the way a bad song lurks in one's ears. Sometimes a good imagination is a bad thing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hi Ho Dumpr!

Sally C, Stray G and Linda have all been dabbling in dumpr, a website that puts your work in a museum. It also does the Polar Coordinate trick
It also does the ol' Polar Coordinates trick.

And the ol' change the color trick.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Here's Where the Treasure Is

Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable class emphasized how play and movement (and moving the pen!) are linked with creativity. Emphasis on structure, plot, characterization etc... can stop ideas cold. Not that stories shouldn't have them. Just that one should let the images of the story come first.
On of my favorite kid books is Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island It's exciting, scary and fun.
Where did this book come from?
Do you think Stevenson got the story like this:

Or was he entertaining his stepson with details of a pirate map they painted?

You can probably guess the answer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lynda Barry's Writer's Bootcamp

Stray G introduced me to cartoonist/author Lynda Barry awhile back. I liked what I saw!
When I heard Lynda was giving a two day 10 hour writing seminar in Los Angeles, I had to attend!

A picture of Marlys greeted us on a white board.

Her writing class was very different than any I've taken before. None of the usual jazz about plot, story arc, setting, scene structure, characterization and so on. For each exercise she'd have us number our pages from one to ten and then toss a subject our way. The first ten cars you remember, for example. Then we'd pick one and picture it, writing answers to questions including "Where are you? Why are you here? What time of day is it? Who's with you? What's to your right?" I was amazed at the details that popped in my head- stuff that hadn't crossed my mind for decades.
Then came the writing. You had to keep the pen moving. Stumped? Write the alphabet or draw spiral until the words returned. And absolutely no re-reading while writing! The latter was very helpful, as I'm a sucker for getting hung up on what's "wrong" with something I'm working on.
Lynda was kind enough to spend her lunch hour autographing books. She took the time to chat with each fan and even pose for pictures. (That's a lot nicer than another well-known cartoonist who stopped autographing books because some of them ended up on Ebay.)
For a picture of Lynda and me (in my non-duck form) click here. (I almost Photoshopped the freaky red out of my eyes, but thought it looked kinda cool. To bad I can't make my eyes do that in real life.)
If you like Lynda Barry, you must take this class. You'll have fun. You'll have a pile of material. You'll never write the same way again.

p.s. I feel a bit guilty because when I met Animation Queen Sally C. last year I didn't have a camera and was too shy to write much about it in my blog (was afraid I'd write something dumb and offend her). So I feel a bit guilty with posting a " I met this artist and here's my picture!!!" about someone else. The next time I run into Sally C, there will be pictures! And words too!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Small Fry

Here's a cute Fleisher cartoon from 1939. I wonder if the Spongebob Squarepants people were influenced by the settings?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Report from Los Angeles

Not as smoky up in Los Angeles, but you can barely see the ocean this ship floats on.
I snapped this picture at the wheel. The unfocused foreground blobs are ashes on the window.

Faint amber tint to the lighting in the front yard, but not much ashes.

Thirty Miles Away From The Fires

Redondo Beach and Torrance are over thirty miles from the fires, but there's plenty of smoke to go around.

It's stinky.

More amber light.

Ashes drift down like dandruff.
What were they before the fire? A tree? Someone's roof? A favorite toy? A family album? A saved letter?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I could tell something was on fire yesterday morning. The faint orange of the sunlight tipped me off. It was in Santa Barbara then, way north of Los Angles.
Now there's a bunch of fires in Southern California.
They're far from my place (or my parent's place), but direct sunlight is amber. The wall above is a cool white on a normal day.
I hear fire is threatening Anaheim Hills. I lived there as a teen. One summer a wildfire took out blocks of houses and got close to mine. It was up against the wilderness would be the first on the block to go if said wilderness burned. My family sold the house over twenty years ago. Still, I wonder if it will be lucky this time?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dream Girl 2

Here's another goofy character that popped into my head while I was falling asleep.
I bet it was subconsciously inspired by Sally Cruikshank's character, Anita.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dream Girl and Writer's Block

Ever see anything weird when you're falling asleep? I sometimes do. I've seen patterns, fractal-like structures and, occasionally, very silly things, like the picture above.
It's odd. In they daytime I'm racking my brains trying to come up with a good premise for a short cartoon (and drawing blanks), yet when I tune out and fall asleep I get a sideshow of possibilities.
Too bad I forget most of these "visions."
I'd like my cartoon to take place somewhere unusual- an island, planet, alternate universe etc..
I haven't come up with a good plot yet, but at least I have one inhabitant.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Enchanted Overpass

Click picture for larger image.

When I was little I lead a double life: real life and fantasy life. I knew the later was pretend, but reality fueled it. A playground became a magic forest or strange planet. Mean teachers and bullies became villains. I was a socially inept klutz with plenty of solo time. Imagination time. As I got older I drew, then wrote stories about what I dreamed up.
I still "see" the fantasy world. I walk the drafty, pink walled path to my home and think This could be a cave in a story! With mother-of-pearl walls. And there's a secret passage [my front door] that leads to the character's hideout. It's full of treasure [My stuff] that's guarded by an iron beaked dragon[my cockatiel]...
The this could be a... ! notion pops up all the time. The sewage treatment plant could be an alien village. The power plant could be a castle. The nodding oil pump could be a robot mule who's secretly contemplating escaping his pen. The freeway overpass could be a.... ....well I'm not sure. What do you think it is?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Dragon Detail

Here's a detail from a picture I'm working on. Said picture has something to do with the freeway overpass I photographed...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted

This picture would have been more complete if I didn't have to park in the next time zone to cast my vote. Shesh. I spent half my morning finding a spot and walking to the poling place.
I took my camera, snapping textures and reference images.
Of course, most people don't take snapshots of walls, cracked asphalt and the underside of Interstate 10.
I wonder anyone noticed.
They'd think What's that lunatic doing? People like that really should be locked up... ...she's wearing an "I voted" sticker!? We're doomed.

p.s. I'll add a completed picture when I get more time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Riff Raff Halloween Candy.

The day after Halloween was great when I was a kid. My trick or treat bag was loaded with goods. There was always one or two houses that gave full sized candy bars. Those floated like treasures in a pile of Milky Ways, Snickers, Hershey Bars, Reese Peanut Butter cups, Starbursts, Skittles, Butterfingers, and Nestle Crunches and Peppermint Patties.
The chocolates would be gone within a week. The real chocolates, not those quasi-chocolates like Tootsie Rolls or Milk Duds. Next to go was the it's not my favorite but it's still free candy treats. Twizlers, Red Hots, Good 'n' Plentys, Dots, Tootsie Pops and the like.
By mid November, only the Riff Raff candy remained:
Mini TootsieRolls, candy corn, Bottle Caps, SweetTarts, Lemon Heads, Smarties ( it was fun to pretend they were pills), Circus Peanuts, stale hard candy, and the dreaded Neapolitan Coconut Sundae Squares. The latter might last through Easter.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Crack the Vote!

The search for the elusive Cracks-On-The-Wall cartoon from Sesame Street has gone cold.
A fellow searcher dug this from CTW vaults, so we know Crack Monster's birthday is Feb 10, 1977. Still, we don't know who created him or where he can be seen today.
In protest, I'm hijacking the character until someone claims him and releases his video. Stay tuned for future crackulosity!

Crack Monster, where ARE you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beaks 'n' Cheeks

Anthropomorphizing birds is tricky.
A bird face looks very different than a human one. Our eyes are right next to each other. Many birds have eyes on opposite sides of their heads. Think about it. A then there's the beak- sharp and stiff. A human face is flexible. A bird face is masklike. They can't smile, frown, sneer, etc... Maybe that's why people like them. They're so pretty, yet so weird... so unlike us.

I probably learned how to draw cartoon birds from the Preston Blair books.
To cartoonize a bird, the eyes get bigger, the face gets squishier and the bird gets eyebrows and cheeks- both vital to facial expressions.
Here's two ways to do the cheeks:

You can implant the cheek in the bird's bill. I call this the "beak cheek".
It's the more birdlike of the two.

The second method gives the bird the cheek that a cartoon rabbit, mouse or chipmunk has. I call it the "chip cheek." It's less realistic, but more versatile.
Now that I've written this I'm thinking three drawings about bird cheeks? Who the hell wants to read about bird cheeks!?

Monday, October 27, 2008

San Diego Comic Con

"This week's topic is Comic Con Geeks," our drawing board leader said. "I'll be expecting lots of self portraits."
The San Diego C0mic con is a big time comics/animation/sci-fi/fantasy convention*. Thus, many drawing board folks attend.
Some fans dress up as their favorite characters. One friend goes there to photograph all the crazy costumes. Superheros/villains are particularly popular. This year, they tell me, the place was awash with Jokers.
I've never been. Geek among Geeks. I'm hoping to go next year.

*where else would someone find Bob Clampett and Grim Natwick under the same roof as Ray Bradbury , Matt Groening and Douglass Adams? It happened in 1983!