Saturday, February 28, 2009

Red Devil Rules

Red Devils are beautiful and mean.
For the unfamiliar, imagine a large, neon orange, doubledecker goldfish* with the personality of a pit bull. This their agenda:
  1. Uproot and destroy every plant.
  2. Topple any decorations.
  3. Rough up heaters, filter intakes, and airstones.
  4. Shove all the gravel into a corner to make a hideout.
  5. Any fish who swims near the hideout is the enemy and must die.**
  6. Any human who walks by the tank is an enemy and must die.
(Seriously, they charge at you like a bull. Stand your ground and so will they, in full I'm gonna pound you! fury.)
Rule six has some exceptions:
  1. If said human offers food, he is in fact your best friend.
  2. Train your new friend to give you food by splashing water to get his attention.
  3. Let him/her pet you and boast that you're "just like a dog."
  4. That being said, your friend's friends are the enemy and must die.

Now there's a fish with personality!

*actually they're not closely related to goldfish (not even in the same order).
Red Devils are from the same family as Angelfish (freshwater), Discus, Tilapia and Oscars.

** some people house them with other fish, especially when they're younger, but I think it's risky. If I were a fish, I would not want this guy to be my neighbor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flash 'Toon Screen Shot Preview

Here's a screen shot at the half way point of my cartoon effort.
It's getting easier each time I fight it work on it, as I've slowly learning what works and what doesn't.
I can never predict what parts will be easy or hard.
For example, I dreaded animating the phone cord to the point of leaving it out, but it wasn't as much trouble. But a scene where the purple guy gets shoved in the wall? It drove me crazy trying to get it right!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Unwanted Oscar

Oscars were popular when I worked at the tropical fish shop. They're cute, pugnacious, and intelligent. They have personality. Some even like to be petted. They have one serious drawback: they grew very large. Inch long youngsters become ten inch* bruisers. Unless your tank holds more water than your tub, you've got a problem. Owners sometimes returned the big guys in exchange for smaller fish.
This had its problems. While magnificent to look at, they cost more to feed, took up a lot of room, and were harder to sell.
Still, I didn't expect it to lead to the callous treatment one Oscar got.
He was almost a foot long. A scar over his eye resembled a disease called hole-in-the-head**. As you probably guessed, the super-sized, diseased-looking fish wasn't selling.
One day I took out the trash. Something in the dumpster moved. It was the foot-long! Someone had thrown him in the trash, alive! I couldn't believe anyone could be so mean. He lay gasping amongst the trash, in the hot sun.
I ran in, got the biggest, longest net, went to the rescue. I almost toppled into the dumpster to get him out. I splashed him back into his tank. He seemed okay.
"Someone put the big Oscar in the trash," I told my boss. He seemed surprised.
Was he? Or was he in on the plot?
A few days later, the fish was gone. Was he re-dumpestered when I wasn't there to save him? Released in a local pond? Or did he actually find a good home?

*Wild ones can be over a foot long.
**Really, that's the name of the disease.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Life's Been Good

Here's another draw-the-picture-before-the-song-stops-playing effort:
Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."
Had the song been longer I'd have included at trail of damage and excess behind the song's protagonist: a spoiled, egotistical wreaking ball.
I was little when the song first came out and didn't realize how funny/satirical it was until years later.
The lyrics still make me laugh:
  • "I own a mansion, [I] forget the price/ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice"
  • "I live in hotels, tear out the walls/I have accountants pay for it all"
  • "My Maserati does one-eighty five/I lost my license, now I don't drive.
  • [Call:]"Everybody say I'm cool!" [Response:]"He's cool!"
I cheated and added the frame after the picture was done.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lawyer Squirrel is Back!

Click the pictures for larger images.

Lawyer Squirrel has forgiven me for relocating mice and holding him prisoner. Actually it was a settlement. He'd drop charges if I bribed him with treats.
I've been scattering shelled peanuts for him and the birds. Usually he springs away when the back door opens, but today he came right up to me. After a few false starts, he was eating peanuts from my hand. Most squirrels will grab the nut and run off . Not him. He put his paws on my cupped hand and started munching away! Intellectually I know this isn't wise: he's a wild animal! my smarter side warned, He cracks walnuts with his jaws! If he bites you, you'll get laughed at in the E.R....! ,
... but the whoa! cool! part of my brain was running the show.
How'd he get so tame? This wasn't desperate action from a starving creature. I suspect he has other "friends" on the block who help keep him fed. Why forage for food when you can go door to door?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ghost Stories

I don't believe in ghosts now, but I did when I was little. I was a sucker for "true" ghost stories I read in books. By day I'd find them spooky and thrilling. At night I'd be petrified. What if, I wondered, just thinking about ghosts will summon one to my bedroom? When the sun rose, I was back to reading ghost stories.
Here's the scariest one I remember:
It took place in a junk shop in (or near) Brighton, England. A book lover hears there's lots of old books in the basement and goes down to check them out. He finds an old kitchen and a zillion books. He starts reading and loses track of time when...
"Suddenly he saw something move. He looked up. Across the room stood the back of a woman. She seemed to be working at the sink.
"Who are you?" he shouted. "Who are you? What do you want?"
She turned and looked at him. She looked like she'd been dead for years. Her eyes were empty sockets. Her cheeks were rotting holes. It was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen...*"

He throws his book. It goes through her. She vanishes. He dashes up the steps.
Upstairs he meets the land lady, who can't believe the shopkeeper let someone down there after dark. It's the ghost of a murdered woman, she explains. Her husband killed her...
"cut her up, and buried her under the sink... ...I met it once on the basement steps. It went right through me and left a chill that didn't go away for weeks!"

It was the grand slam of a ghost stories. A scary ghost! A murdered woman! A chopped up body! A chill that woudn't go away for weeks! Scary!

Two thoughts in retrospect:
  • The story is well told. The ghost doesn't just pop out and go "boo!" First we see a mysterious woman (Who's this?), then we discover she looks hideous (yikes!), then we discover stuff goes through her (!) and then she vanishes. Then we get a gruesome explanation (Her husband did what!?) plus the blow off detail of the landlady having the ghost walk through her.
  • This story was in a book aimed at school aged kids. How on earth did a story that included a guy chopping up his wife end up in a kids book?

*It's been almost 30 years since I've read it but I remember most of the words.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mouse Party V:New Guests

This one has three grams of protein, according to the label.

Best buddies.

The mouse supply was dwindling, but two more showed up last night. A grand total of seven.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mouse Party IV: Sabotage

By Friday I'd caught five mice. Each day showed less evidence of mice and longer hours between catches. I was going away for the weekend. I deactivated the traps. I figured that it'd be mean to trap them if I wasn't around to spring them after a few hours.
The exception was my Hav-a-Heart rodent trap. It was much larger. With extra bait, any mouse would have plenty of food and room.
Wait! I thought. The mouse, if you catch one, will make a mess. Why don't you put the trap outside? Between your back door and the bushes they hide out in? That way you can hose off anything left over.
Over the weekend I read the blog comments congratulating me for my kindness. Yes, I thought, the rodents of the world are lucky to have me. I'm a kind person. I'm a good person!
When I got home, I checked the Hav-a-Heart. Inside was a very freaked out squirrel! Had he been trapped all weekend? There was enough food (and room) for a mouse, but this guy was huge. Chihuahua sized! I'd let a cute furry animal be stuck in a tiny cage- perhaps over twenty four hours. So much for kindness. And no water! Mice get most of their liquid from their food- but maybe squirrels needed extra. He stared at me with big black eyes as if to say You! You did this to me! I apologized and and opened the door. Or tried to. Apparently the captive had broken at the mechanism that releases it. It wouldn't open. It took me ten minutes of prying with a big knitting needle to pop the door, which freaked the squirrel even further.
Finally the door sprung. The captive stuck his head out but just sat there.
I hope you're happy, I told myself. He's lost his will to live. Nice work! I put some peanut butter and crackers out for him, and a dish of water. Was it too late?
When i checked a few minutes later, the food had scattered, the dish was overturned and he was gone. I guess he changed his mind about the will to live.