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?