Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sucko and the Salmon

I've been frying up trout and salmon for dinner lately.
My recipe is simple.
1. Coat the fillet with Cajun Seasoning.
2. Fry it in a cast iron skillet with melted butter.*
3. Open the kitchen door so the smoke alarm doesn't go off.
4. Fish is ready when the thickest part flakes and doesn't look like sashimi.

I never liked salmon until I started cooking it this way. I decided to expand to other fish. First up was catfish.
It lacked the meaty texture of salmon and trout. In fact, the meat seemed strangely familiar. Light and delicate like...
...every smelly decomposing fish I'd handled in my tropical fish shop days! This shouldn't be on my plate I thought, this is what I find when I lift up tank decorations and discover what's drifted underneath. Yecch!
Then I remembered Sucko. He was a suckermouth catfish I had about ten years ago. He had funny underslung lips so he could suction himself to rocks (or vegetables I provided) to slurp up food. There was something silly, almost cartoonlike about him: the goofy lips, the googly eyes...
He grew quite large over the years, and when he died he was too big to flush.
It's Sucko!I couldn't shake the thought. How can I eat a Sucko?
I won't be frying up catfish anytime soon.

*olive oil works too. Yes, it's fattening, but I just eat the fillet for dinner. No bread, no veggies, no salad or desert. The trade off is worth it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chronic Honkers

Ever ride with someone who hits the horn more than they hit the foot pedals?
Chrissie is a chronic honker. Woe to the cad in front of her who doesn't accelerate the millisecond the light turns green! Woe to the scoundrel who dares to pass in front of her!
The honk of wrath shall fall on their ears!
I'm not sure how to classify it. Paranoid? Childish?
Once a car in front of her stopped to drop someone off. There was nowhere to pull over so they had to stop in the street, slowing down Chrissie for several seconds.
She leaned into the horn like she was deploying a weapon.
"C'mon," I said. "They're dropping a guy off. It's not like traffic's backing up-"
"They're blocking my way!" she huffed, hitting the horn a few extra times. I was mortified.
Even those who don't block her way may still risk her honk. Once she gave a sound honking to some chump who turned into the wrong lane. I didn't think it was that big of a deal since
  1. It was very early and there was no other traffic.
  2. He was in the opposite lane and in no danger to us.
"Why'd you honk at him?" I said.
"He's not supposed to do that!" she said.

I avoid getting in Chrissie's car at all costs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Silverfish are creepy. They make slugs look cuddly.
Who hasn't opened an old book or magazine and had a mummified one drop in their lap?
Their silvery sheen and Art Nouveau curves can't override their powers to freak people out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Exclusive: Interview with my Cockatiel, Tosca!

Interviewer: Namowal says you're cranky and prone to biting. Is this true?

Tosca: So a bird can't bite someone once in awhile? What's the big deal?

Interviewer: Why do you bite? Does she scare you?

Tosca: Nah. I only bite her when she makes me mad.

Interviewer: She makes you mad?

Tosca: Oh yes. Mostly it's her hands. They're always trying to pat my head or make me perch on them. Who wants to perch on some stupid hand? So I tell her to quit it, and if she doesn't quit, I'll bite.

Interviewer: You talk to her?

Tosca: Sure. I talk to her in CL. Cockatiel Language. If I step back, flash my eyes and open my beak, that means stop that now or I'll bite. Namowal ignores the warning each time. So I show her some beak.

Interviewer: Namowal once had another cockatiel. Tell me about Quasi.

Tosca: I'm glad he's dead! I never liked him. He was a jerk. An ugly jerk with a jacked up lower bill. Always acting tough with me. And he'd totally kiss up to Namowal. He'd let her pet and cuddle him! It was disgraceful.

Interviewer: Is it true you once peeled a price tag off and glued your mouth shut? That Namowal had to take you to the vet to fix things?

Tosca: I suppose you never did anything stupid when you were young?

Interviewer: You realize that Namowal gives you food and water everyday?

Tosca: Big whup. Like I couldn't find food on my own! It's insulting!

Interviewer: Is there anything positive you can say about Namowal?

Tosca: Well, she plays a musical instrument I really like. Real loud and shrieky- I always sing along. A bagpipe like thing, except the air intake is by an internal fan instead a mouthpiece. She plays it by my cage each day. I think it's called "A Hoover".

**Bonus Pic**
Below is the original drawing I uploaded. Something's wrong. It's been fixed in the top picture. Can you spot the difference?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm not supposed to like starlings.
Most books will tell you what a wretched piece of crap this bird is. Usually something like:
"The European Starling is considered a pest, and included here only to help you repel it. One of the least loved backyard birds, these dumpy, screechy, greedy creatures ..."
The trouble started in the 1890s when Eugene Schieffelin introduced a few modest flocks (from England) in New York*. Now there's millions of them in North America. Their rap sheet includes:
  • raiding cattle feedlots (they eat the cow food, not the cows)
  • evicting bluebirds and woodpeckers from nesting cavities
  • smacking into airplanes
  • hogging all the food at the birdfeeder
  • making a mess
How hated are they? They're one of the few birds you can legally shoot, poison or beat to death. Even some people who consider themselves bird lovers have no problem killing this bird.
I enjoy starlings. I shouldn't, but I do. They're cute. I like their spots and iridescent feathers. I like their raspy voice and the way they flap their wings and puff out their neck feathers when they sing. I like how they collect shiny objects and get into mischief.
I like how I can watch them in so many places- parks, parking lots, or from my window.
I know they're bad, but I can't resist them.

*Popular lore says this was part of a plan to introduce all birds mentioned by Shakespeare to North America!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I rarely draw cartoons of humans, and when I do, I usually use a mirror or a reference.
I tried this one from without either.
I used an underdrawing to help place the features but they still seem a bit floaty.

Update (self-critique a day later):
Left eye too big, right too small and too high up,
Nose too big and turned too right,
Mouth should be more forward.
Shading incomplete, awkward.
Hair details a bit sloppy...
And as I observed yesterday, the features seem to float.

I'm not playing the I'm a baaaad artist! Please tell me I'm good! game here. It's tricky to draw human heads. At least with life drawing I can hold out a pencil and measure proportions. For Cartoon Girl I cobbled together what I remembered about eyes, skulls, noses.
When I look at a really good cartoon- even if it's very stylized- the features seem anchored and interconnected. How the heck do they DO this?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dance, Mary, Dance

Here's an experimental dance loop I pulled from my next cartoon*.

*In the animatic, she (and another character) are much smaller, and watching something else.
Originally they were just blinking and tilting their heads but I decided to make things more lively.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Horrifying and Delightful Scent of Chlorine

Scents trigger memories and feelings. It's weird.
I smell of rubbing alcohol and Warning! Needles! pops in my head. I sniff the old bottle of the floral room spray I used in college and I'm suddenly a freshman in 1987 (Will I like college? Will I make friends?)
Then there's the chlorinated pool.
I smelled my first one at swimming lessons when I was little. I was terrified. The pool was huge. And deep! I didn't trust the teachers. Who were they? How could they teach me to swim? What if my head went underwater and nobody pulled me up? I just knew I was in danger.
The smell of chlorine still triggers my Be nervous! reaction. Of course, more evolved parts of my brain follow up with Whoops, we don't seem to be at swimming lessons. No need to be nervous. Calamity closed..
That's my reaction to the scent in the daytime.
Years ago, on the way to a pool after sunset, I caught my first burst of chlorine and noticed it didn't hit the be nervous! nerve. Instead it was relaxing and nostalgic- like when you first smell the beach (or the hotel air freshener) on a trip. A complete opposite reaction.
I think I know what's going on.
My swimming lessons took place in bright daylight. Any after dark swimming was done on special occasions, either with friends or at a hotel pool on vacation.

Somehow, my brain does this math.

Chlorine scent + Daylight = Danger!

Chlorine scent + Night = Ah, it's great to be on vacation!

Brains work in weird ways.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


If my brain were an automobile, I thoughtit's driving with the parking break on.
I'd looked forward to having a morning off. I'd clean the kitchen! Get projects done! I'd be a productive morning! Yet I felt tired and dull. What was going on?
Then I remembered- I hadn't had any caffeine. Usually I start my day with a Diet Coke and a cup of coffee. No wonder I was so dopey.
I scrounged some coffee from the freezer, plugged in my old Mr. Coffee and hit the glowing red button. The machine clicked and sputtered. Soon the kitchen smelled like a Starbucks and I had a cup of it at my side.
Thank goodness for coffee! I thought, absorbed in my drawing. It's like a switch was thrown. I'm awake! Alive! My brain is a whirring blender of thoughts and ideas! Whoohoo! Better not have too much I'll have trouble holding the pen still...
Then I noticed I hadn't actually drank any.