Thursday, July 30, 2009

Soap Operas

I don't get these at all.
When I was little I figured it was one of those mysteries I'd understand once I was older.
I'm older.
I still don't understand their appeal.
They all look alike. Semi-glamorous setting, high end clothing, coiffed hair, and not much else. I feel like a space alien watching another species when I look at one:

If I were a space alien, here's the notes I would take:

Person X says something to person Y. Person Z says something. Closeup on person X. Ajax commercial.
Heck if I know. I can't figure these people out. That being said, I can safely conclude that Ajax is tough on grease.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"We Can Tell You're On Something!"

In 2000 worked night shifts.
I was driving home around four am and accidentally turned right on a red light (the sign was placed between two corners just meters apart. I thought it referred to the second corner, not the first) Red and blue lights cop lights flashed in my rear view mirror. I pulled over.
Officer Jerk asked for my license and registration, and turned his flashlight on my face. "She's blown," he observed, as partner Officer Jerkette looked on.
I wasn't sure what this meant, but they cleared up. My pupils were huge. Surely I'd been partying all night and was as coked out as a 1977s dance club.
I wasn't alarmed. For one thing, I'd never done coke (or meth, or crack) in my life. Secondly, my pupils are unusually large. ( I'd seen an eye doctor about it a few years earlier. He confirmed they were big but otherwise healthy). Surely the cops would realize this was a mistake.
Not so. They didn't buy my explanation, patted me down, and searched the car for my "stash".
They were convinced I was a drug fiend. Every thing I said was interpreted that way.

Me: I was coming from work! It's just up the street. Ask them yourself.

Officer Jerk: We don't need to get your work involved in this.

Me: Yes, ask them where I was and what I was doing. They're my alibi.

Officer Jerk: You came from the Alibi Room?*

The Advil and other over-the-counter items in my purse? Obviously these were to quell the side effects of my evil habit.

All they found in my car was a blister pack of some sort of herbal vitamin suppliant. It was obviously a legal, commercial product. Officer Jerk just knew it was something worse.
"What's this?" he demanded.
"It's yours if you want it," I said, knowing this "evidence" wouldn't get me in trouble.
"That's okay," he said. "I don't like to put things in my body." Jackass.
He thought he found the jackpot in the trunk. I kept a sketchpad with me, plus pencils, and a sharpener which I kept in a baggie to catch the shavings. Officer Jerk raised the shaving-filled baggie in triumph.
"And what might this be?" he asked, like he'd caught the naughty kid at the cookie jar.
When he put the flashlight on them he agreed that they were, in fact, pencil shavings.
They also found a true crime book. They thought that was funny. Har de har.
I thought them finding nothing would be the end of it. It wasn't.
"We can tell you're on something," Officer Jerkette kept saying. "Admit it! We can tell by the way you're acting**!"
"I'm not on anything!" I said. "Can't you just run a test or something?"
"We can arrest you and do a blood test," she said, gravely. "And when it comes out positive that's six months in jail. Is that what you want?"
By now I upset. Getting blamed for something I didn't do. Something I never did. Having everything I said twisted to support their stupid theory. The fact that I might be arrested for something I didn't do. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
"If you didn't do anything, why are you upset?" Officer Jerkette demanded. "This doesn't add up."
Next came roadside tests. Close your eyes, spread your arms, touch your nose etc.. By now the sun was rising and commuters could slow down and watch the show.
"Admit what you did," they said, at least five times, "And we'll let you go.***"
Then they stepped away to discuss whether or not to arrest me. I suspect at least one of them had reluctantly figured out that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't a coke-blowing, meth-smoking, crack fiend after all. After five or ten minutes of chatting, they said that they'd "give me a break" and "only" give me a ticket. That was nice of them.

*A nearby bar.

**Earlier that night I had worried that there was something "wrong" with me that made people think I was weird. (I was something of a black sheep at that job- not shunned, but defiantly not one of the gang.) And now professionals in uniform were telling me how odd I was acting...

***Have innocent people ever fallen for that line and confessed to something they didn't do? I'll bet it's happened.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Idiot's Delight Tuna Salad

My improvised recipes are usually bad news, but this week I hit the jackpot.

1 single serving pack of chunk light tuna (about 2.6 oz)
lemon juice (I use the plastic lemon)
Louisiana style hot sauce

Drain tuna (if it's from a can) or pat dry (if it's from an envelope) and dump it in a mixing bowl. Add several squirts of lemon juice and blend it in thoroughly with a fork. Repeat, if necessary, until fishy scent is neutralized. Add Louisiana hot sauce to taste (depending on how spicy you like things). Add mayonnaise to taste (I use a twelve gram packet of of it).
That's it. It's now ready for your sandwich or crackers.

I discovered this by accident. I'd been making lazy tuna salad (albacore + mayo + relish) for lunch. Then I cheaped it out and bought the "premium chunk light" stuff...
...and found out why it cost less. It looked and smelled like cat food! I tried doctoring it with many a condiment (lemon pepper, chopped olives, even Caesar salad dressing), only to get cat food with a hint of lemon pepper, chopped olives, or Caesar salad. I wasn't expecting much with my lemon and Lousiana hot sauce, but it worked great. I felt like an alchemist. I'd turned cat food into gold.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hermit Crabs

When I was little we had pet hermit crabs: Edgar and Allan.
They were slow moving, mellow creatures. My brother and I spent hours building Lego houses and mazes for them to explore.
One day I made the mistake of holding Edgar in the palm of my hand. Guess what happened?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Beach Storms Me

In 1999, I took SCUBA lessons. It seemed like a good idea- I liked snorkeling. I lived near the ocean. Why hadn't I done this years ago?
The first lessons (in the same pool I'd learned to swim, decades earlier) were easy. Then the day came. The day we'd venture into the ocean!
I couldn't wait. There'd be fish! Marine wildlife! The Redondo Canyon (an offshore fault I'd heard of since childhood)!
Problems started on the beach. The water is cold, so you have to wear a wetsuit. This makes you buoyant, so you have to strap on weights. Add fins and SCUBA gear and you're more encumbered than someone in a Mickey Mouse costume.
"Okay guys, " the teacher said, "Wade in until it's deep enough to swim. The go to the buoy"
I started in. The water was up to my knees when a wave slapped me sideways.
"Pull her out! Pull her out," the teacher screamed. His thug helper yanked me into deeper waters. The carcass of a shovel fish smacked my face.
Somehow, I made it to the buoy.
The water was cold, brown and cloudy. Maybe it was runoff from the storm drains. Or leftovers from the nearby sewage treatment plant. No fish, no invertebrates, not even sea weed. Just the chain of the buoy snaking down into darkness.
When the teacher and his helper got the rest of us weenies out to the buoy it was time to visit the ocean floor. Fifteen feet under it was darker, colder and cloudier. I kept drifting upside down. A white flounder zipped by. The teacher gestured towards a dark hazy area- apparently the Redondo Canyon.
We returned to the surface. Another girl forgot to inflate her buoyancy bladder, grabbed me and pulled me under. I strangled her hit the button to inflate it for her. A guy was throwing up loudly. (He'd warned us earlier that even floating in water made him seasick. Why he was paying for the opportunity to puke through a SCUBA regulator escapes me.)
The instructions for leaving the ocean sounded simple:
Swim to shore until it's shallow enough to stand, then walk out. If a wave knocks you over, crawl out.
I almost made it: two feet of water, one foot... Wham! A wave slammed me down. Time to crawl out...
...but the weights and equipment were too heavy. I couldn't lift myself!
"C'mon!" the teacher hollered from the shore. "Crawl out! ^&*(*()!! Crawl out! Crawl out!"
Every few seconds a new wave smashed over my head, than pulled back and sucked me deeper into the sand. I was terrified that I'd drown or be buried. The teacher seemed to be under the if-she-really-tried-she-could-get-herself-out fantasy.
Nonsense. I wanted out of there more than anything. I was trying desperately to push myself up. It wasn't working!
Disgusted with my "laziness," the teacher finally dragged me beyond the waves and, without the current, I was able to stand. It was only then that I discovered that, while I didn't have the strength to lift myself when weighed down, I was strong enough to have chewed the nubs off the mouth piece.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cracker Jack!

My cartoon bird is named Cracker Jack, but picking the name wasn't easy.
So many good ones! Mervin, Merlin, Orville, Jenix, Fred, Quack, Mack, Norman, Mox...
Closest runner ups to Cracker Jack were Otto, Wally, Flippo, Preston and Spitball.
If you provided "Cracker Jack," please email me your address.
You'll soon be the owner of the goofiest, silliest prize I could find...

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Next Cartoon... ...and a Contest!

I've mentioned that I'm working on my next video
Above is a concept sketch of the female lead.
I like the look, but am concerned the hair will be hard to animate.

To make the animation work better, I'm blocking in the main moves first.
The result looks crude (especially with screen captures), but you may be able to guess that our hero (right) is unhappy to see this visitor. Details, better drawings and backgrounds come later.

Here's a better drawing of the hero.

...and here.
I need a name for him (The female bird is named Mary, and the maroon visitor pictured above is a bit character). His working name is "Pico" but it isn't sticking. A contest is in order!
I'm not sure what the prize is yet, but it will be something goofy...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?

I discovered the artwork/writing of Brian Fies* by accident years ago.
His latest graphic novel Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow.
It's delightful. It's about a boy and his dad. And science. And public optimism/cynicism towards the latter over the decades. Back in 1939 it was going to bring us wondrous things...!
The pictures are cute (and well staged!), the facts are interesting, and the attention to detail is astonishing. (There's even pulp comic book sections, each carefully crafted to look and read like comics from specific decades.)

Each time I look at it I find something new. Bravo, Brian!

*He's indirectly responsible for me illustrating this blog with cartoons. (My earliest posts are mostly photographs and/or snarky comments about stuff. Then, by chance, I caught some images from his blog where he'd drawn cartoons. I thought, I can sort of draw. Maybe I should try that...). So if you like Tail o' the Rat as it is today, thank Brian.