Thursday, August 28, 2008

True Companion


I blame Dave.

Well, that's not entirely fair. I had seen about 10 minutes of "Doctor Who" (the current series, starting in 2005) at some distant point in the past, but couldn't make heads or tails of it. Weird British Sci-Fi, it just didn't seem for me. Not to mention how convoluted the backstory must've been. So, I changed the channel.

Cut to the then-present, when Then-Roommate Dave was describing to me the wonders and joys of watching "Doctor Who". He told me how much fun the show was, going back to his watching the original series on one of the local (or nearly-local) PBS channels when he was just a kid. He described for me some of the backstory- The Doctor (real name unknown) was a member of an alien race called the Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey. You knew they were alien because they had two hearts (easy on the special effects budget), and if they were near death, they could 'regenerate' into a new body (easy on the acting budget). The Doctor traveled through time and space, righting wrongs and getting into mischief, often with a traveling companion (most often a young human woman, I think). Dave described some of the aliens they encountered, such as the Daleks (rolling tanks who wanted to destroy everything) and the Cybermen (walking tanks who wanted to destroy everything). Sounded kinda fun, certainly appealing to a geek like me, who thrives on complex (some say convoluted) backstory. Of course, Dave also described the "special" effects and the scenery... how many times could they use the same corridor? And was this filmed in an airport? I thought about it a bit more and decided, mmmmnot so much. Glad he liked it, but I had no interest in watching something THAT convoluted based on something that old.

A little bit in the future from that point, I found myself home in front of the telly (how very British, no?) and happened to see that the Doctor was on. Being magnificently bored, I flipped to the channel, Dave's enthusiastic praise in the back of my mind. I'd see just how bad it was to get into. The episode was called "School Reunion", and the first thing I noticed was the production values. As in, they had them. It looked as good as any show I'd ever seen, and better than most. The effects were about as good as you'd hope for on TV. One point the Doctor. Next I saw it guest-starred Anthony Stewart Head, an actor from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", an old favorite of mine. Point Two. Almost reluctantly, the remote slipped from my fingers.

But wait, what's this? The big guest star is some woman who was on the ORIGINAL show, 20 some odd years ago. Jeez, how the hell will I follow that? That's going to annoy me... But you know, it's kinda fun to watch. The Doctor is friggin' insane, but crazy cool. I quickly realized one of the most unique things about him: there's tons of action, but he almost never resorts to violence. His "weapon" is a sonic screwdriver- a fancy ex machina to get him into and out of all kinds of trouble (unless it's deadlock sealed!). There's still action and violence in the series, but I always felt like, if you did see violence, you and the Doctor both knew it was because he'd failed otherwise. His "companion", Rose, is something- she's pretty, but in a 'real' way, not so much made up to look unrealistically beautiful like American TV stars, but just 'there' on screen (in the future, I'll revise my opinion upwards). And the banter between the Doctor and Rose is pretty funny. The verbal jousts between Rose and Sarah Jane, the guest star/previous companion, are just plain funny. The show's a touch predictable, but everyone is just having so much fun with it, I can't help but get wrapped up in it. Ideas come fast and furious, but I realize as I'm watching it, it gives out enough information to let you know what's gone before, without beating you over the head. And the actors give such turns to their characters, it's so easy to grasp the emotions of the backstory I don't know. So much so that by the end of the episode, when the Doctor says Goodbye to Sarah Jane, I'm finding myself incredibly moved by the whole story, and I want to know more.

Not too long after that, I've started reading up on the show, questioning Dave as much as I can (he patiently explains (and re-explains) some of the finer points), and hitting the internet for Who-related goodies. Of course this is where I discover that Doctor Who is about the biggest thing in the UK. EVERYONE knows the Doctor. So, Dave and I watch each episode zealously, talking about the show afterwards, picking out highlights, wondering what's coming up next. All the while, we talk about one of the best things about the series: the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. It's certainly not the typical romantic tension: think of 'Moonlighting', turn it sideways, dial it to shake and bake, and enjoy. What was so different about this dynamic, I would learn, is that in the past, they never really had any kind of romantic tension between the Doctor and a companion. It was usually buddies, or teacher/student, or something tame like that. Rose and the Doctor were different. But, they play it so close to the vest, and so subtly, if you were to only watch one episode, you'd never realize the whole show is a love story. I couldn't wait to see what would happen- would Rose tell the Doctor how she felt? Would the Doctor ever say those three words? For God's sake, would they ever kiss?

And then Rose left.

That sucked. The next two years were spent with new companions, one of whom pined for the doctor, the other behaved by turns as the doctor's big sister or little sister. The shows were still very good (some of my favorite episodes were from these seasons), but they just weren't the same. There was no Rose.

And then Rose came back.

I won't spoil what happens, in case you missed the show in the past, or hope to catch it again in the future. All I'll say is "And Lo, There Shall Be an Ending!".

"Doctor Who" went from a "yuck get away" to a "must watch" series for me, entirely on the strength of the stories and the actors. It's a great show that I really can't get enough of. I think it has so many good things going for it, and it could appeal to so many people, it's one of those shows that everyone could enjoy, if given the chance. I'm really glad I turned on Sci Fi that day, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for "Doctor Who".

But mostly, I blame Dave.

---

The art originally started out as a head sketch of Rose. Then, at a drawing session, I ended up drawing the above picture of the Doctor. I was going to just post that, when the idea hit me to make a picture not unlike what's above. So, I set about drawing another picture of Rose... only to flub the face badly. I was going to just go with what I'd drawn (I was not feeling particularly artsy at the time), when I realized I had already drawn a decent picture of Rose. So, via the miracle of Photoshop, I did a head transplant. Thanks to some cutting, pasting, and resizing, I put them both together. The Tardis (the Doctor's means of transportation, also known as a police box) was rendered completely in PS, probably in the most roundabout fashion as possible. Then the whole thing was colored and tweaked. It was a lot of fun to put this together, though a fair bit of work. This is one of the few postings I've done that I've spent more than one night working on ('AND IT SHOWS!' I heard you in the back, very funny). I'm pretty pleased with it, though as always I wish I could do a better job with likenesses. And poses. And everything else ;)

Whew.

Okay, that's it for now. I'll hopefully have something again next Wednesday.

Brilliant!

Music: "Time After Time" - Eva Cassidy

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Ghost Behind the Curtain


The above is my blog... after a fashion. It's courtesy of a website called Wordle. Wordle trolls through your website (or any site, or any collection of words)and randomly generates a work of 'art' like the above. But not really random, as it consistently focused on certain words each time. But it has a number of settings to customize, so it makes for a fun few minutes of diversion.

And no, this wasn't my supposed post. See, I was working on my post when... my dog ate it, yeah that's the ticket... Actually, life once again intervened, and though I love my art, I love my friends more. (awww... yeah, shut up.) So, it'll get delayed until Friday (I HOPE). But, to tide you over, here's a small preview of what's coming up:

I know, try to contain your excitement. I figure this'll be recognizable to exactly two of you, one of whom was there at the drawing's creation...


In the meantime, take a few minutes to peruse some of the other sites/blogs shown to the right, particularly Joe's and Mark's. Who knows, if you're careful, you just might learn something...

And lastly-

It just looks so much better in black; you'd think these things would occur to me sooner... sigh...

Music: "I Love You Period" - Dan Baird


This has been a Syrinx Design/Works Diversionary Tactic

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From the Mouth of Madness


The Joker never scared me. To be honest, my first exposure to the character, as with most kids my age, was Caesar Romero's in the reruns of the old '60's TV show. Unless you're already scared of clowns, he's really not very scary. Except for the fact that they just painted over his mustache. That was scary.

Then 1989 rolls around, and we get to watch Jack Nicholson take on the role. Great idea, right? Well, at the time it seemed great- the guy's already nutty as a bag of nuts... except he acts like, well, Jack Nicholson. Scary in his own right, sure, but not as the Joker.

2008. Heath Ledger scares the life out of me. THIS is what the Joker was meant to be. As I'd read in a review for The Dark Knight, they compared his take on the character to both Jaws, in that he's a force of nature, with no rhyme nor reason to his actions (that we can see, at least), and to Loki, the Norse God of Chaos (or evil, or Deception, but let's go with Chaos for now). I thought the character was brilliant, and Ledger's delivery was truly inspired. Not explaining the Joker's origin and motivation was one of the best ideas ever. It's not always what you put into the story that makes it. Anyway, great stuff.

The picture was done as a palate cleanser, after I'd spent a couple of hours busting my pencils on another drawing. As usual, I'm more pleased with this drawing than the one that preceded it. I'd originally been told to go at it and just color it crazy, and such had been my intention, but time makes a fool of us all, and so you get just the color... and the monochrome one below. Enough time to tinker, at least...

Speaking of jokes, and being made the fool, this wasn't meant to be the post I entered for today. It would've been Friday's post, but thanks to my leaving ALL of my drawing tools at my Mom's house, I was unable to finish the drawing I'd originally planned on putting up today. So, if you read the hint and this wasn't what you expected to see, sorry. But, it still kinda worked. As it was a 'joke' I posted last week... get it?

Okay, I'm rambling...

Um, maybe post Friday? No promises, though.

Go.

Music: "I Think I'm Going Slightly Mad" - Queen

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Mislaid Plans of Mice and Men

I was going to post something today, really.

Honestly, the plan was to come home and get to work in Photoshop, putting together a couple pictures and then coloring them, then posting the whole mess.

But, I opted instead to head up north a ways to search for furniture and visit with Joe. I had a few things on my mind (very few- it can't hold much) and felt like talking, so it was time well spent. Then, once home, I decided to instead do the social, human thing, and talk with some other folks via the phone. And I needed to eat, of course.

So, here I am, with nothing to show for the post. I was going to post another picture from one of the concerts, but that didn't work out (too blurry).

Well, then.

Any ideas what you'd like to see on here? I'm hurting a bit for direction and motivation (nothing new there) so any ideas you'd like to see, they'd be appreciated. No promises, mind, but if nothing else you might give me a good chuckle. And the world needs more good chuckles.

Come on back Wednesday if you like, and hopefully I'll have something to present. I'll even give you a clue:

Knock Knock

Who's there?

Music: "Lost!" - Coldplay

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Sound of Music

A) One of the biggest and most instrumental bands of the late 20th century

B) A well-known and well-loved band known to the east coast for number of years

C) A little-known band from Germany only just now getting airplay in the U.S.

If I asked you, "which of these bands drew the loudest crowd?", chances are you're wrong, unless you picked 'C'. I know, I can't believe it either... Over the past two weeks, I've been to three concerts.
video
First up, The Police- a concert I never thought would come to happen, let alone one I'd attend. It was essentially a greatest hits show, performed with zeal and skill by three men who, as a band, contributed immensely to the landscape of pop, rock, and alternative music. They sounded fantastic, like the intervening years had just served to help refine their talents. There were about 13,000 fans there, screaming and cheering and clapping for, literally, the show of a lifetime. Good stuff.

video
Second, this past Saturday, I finally had the chance to watch hometown heroes The Clarks perform live, after what felt like decades of hearing their homegrown rock on local stations like DVE (I remember being amazed when I found out the rest of the country didn't know who The Clarks were- losers). They played like they still had something to prove, though the (what seemed like) several thousands of fans were more than supportive of the band. They played plenty of well-known favorites, as well as a lot of brand new music (all of which sounded great). The crowd left satisfied, a show well-done.


Third, yesterday, I took my fifteen-year-old niece Emily to see a group she'd been telling me about for a while now, Tokio Hotel. They're from Germany (which I guess explains the spelling?), and seem to be representative of the new wave (as opposed to New Wave) of alt rockers, with a heavy dose of Emo (as opposed to Elmo) and light nu-metal. I've been listening to their stuff ever since Em let me have their CD to sample. I figure hey, she could be on to something. I like the music well enough- like I said, they're alt rockers, they hit the right notes (figuratively and literally) and I can see how younger folks could really get into their music. I mean, they're not Pearl Jam, but they're not bad. So, when the opportunity presented itself for Emily to go to the concert, and her mom couldn't take her, I did the good uncle thing and offer to take her. To Cleveland. No big deal- it's funny how, after all these years of driving in Maryland, where to do anything fun, you always had to drive an hour (not to mention just go to work), a 2.5 hour drive to Cleveland from Pittsburgh didn't seem like much. I had no idea what to expect once we got there (other than hey, it's Cleveland)- I didn't know what kind of crowd it would draw- would they be a bunch of dark goth teens, standing around with their greasy black hair covering their faces? Would it be a bunch of college age kids, standing around with their too-trendy clothes and mall-bought rebellion, looking for trouble?

We got there, and it was worse than I imagined, much worse... It was 500 15-year-old girls... and their parents. Holy shit, I was one of the adults.

Then it got worse.

We went inside of the House of Blues, and I was stuck inside a (very freaking small) room full of screaming teenage girls, all of them chanting "WE WANT TOKIO HOTEL! WE WANT TOKIO HOTEL!" I wondered if this was some kind of karmic payback for earlier transgressions. I looked around at the other adults there, and they all must've seen the panicky, deer-in-headlights look on my face, because they only smiled sadly and shook their heads, as though acknowledging what was about to happen to me. The band came out. The girls screamed. My ears bled. I mean, seriously? You know those stereotypes of the spoiled little girl who squeals when she gets a freakin' pony or whatever? Take that sound, multiply it by a billion, stick it into a tiny (what's the maximum capacity in this place? 12?) room, and you about approach what it sounded like. So this, THIS is truly what it means to be responsible for a child. The pain...

But, it was a pretty good show, surprisingly. What I could hear of the band, over the girls, was pretty tight- they were obviously more than capable of playing live, and playing well. The girls all sang along, to every song, and all seemed to know what appropriate moves to make for each song (as did some of the moms). It was kinda fun to stand back (I was at the edge of the mob) and watch them. For them, this was the biggest thing in the world. So, it was fun. Emily had an excellent time, So it was all well worth it. She got to meet and talk with a bunch of like-minded girls (not always an easy thing) and I got to talk with some fellow "suffering" parental units- though when I saw the one girl throw her arms around her mom and tell her she was the greatest mom EVER for having driven 14 hours to the show, I could tell the mom thought it was a trip well worth taking. And really, it wasn't bad. I even offered to take her to the next concert. Which probably is just what she, and her mother, wanted to hear.

So, those are my recent musical adventures. Next, I think it's time to find some live music in a bar somewhere. There's nothing like hearing a small band perform for a crowd of about 50 in a smoky, smelly dive somewhere, while you're drinking and talking with friends. That, folks, is what makes music great.

(As you've noticed, these are also my first video posts. Hope they work...)

Next time around (hey, maybe even this Friday!) an actual art post. Maybe.

Music: "Message in a Bottle" - The Police; "Lock and Key" - The Clarks; and "Rescue Me" - Tokio Hotel

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Prompt, One

The rider approached his mount, pale in the first rays of dawn. He slung the bag of bolts around the beast’s neck, resting it so his hand was only an instant’s reach away from his deadly cargo. He mounted the steed and drew a deep breath, tasting the morning mist, sweet with the promise of a good day’s battle. Turning the beast, he rocketed down the lane.

Rider and steed cut through the mist like a finely-honed knife through flesh. He spotted his first target, drew, and launched his missile in one fluid motion, the target destroyed before realization struck. Any sound the target made was swallowed by the fog. The rider never even looked around, his eyes not on the last victim, but the next target. He raced between his enemies, dealing death in a blur of motion, his aim unerring, his weapons devastating. They collapsed all around him, helpless to stop his onslaught. The rider laughed aloud, his blood warming to the carnage.

He turned a corner, and as the mist began to lift, he saw his targets appearing before him, lining the streets as though awaiting the kiss of his weapons. Tall guardsmen, stout clergymen, clusters of merchants, all fell before him, equals in death by his hands. He raced along, and death followed in his wake.

A rumbling growl drew the rider’s attention from his task. He turned and caught a glimpse of the source. A hellhound! One of his enemies must have let it loose for a dawn patrol. The rider drove his mount harder, hoping to evade the hellbeast. No good! The monster was closing on him, nipping at his mount’s well-shod heels. The rider sighed, not panicking, but knowing what must be done. He reached into his quiver and drew a bolt.

He could feel the beast’s breath at his feet…

The rider swung down with flat of the bolt, striking across the hellhound’s snout and in one smooth movement threw the bolt directly into the heart of the hellhound’s domain. The beast immediately lost interest in the rider and tore off after the bolt, in a futile attempt to stop the inevitable. The rider heard the bolt strike home as he forced his steed faster. A wicked grin grossed his face, as he knew the death would be blamed on the hellhound.

Looking down into the quiver, the rider saw only a few bolts remaining. With this realization, he suddenly felt tired. It was almost time to end his day’s run. It was a good run, with many foes struck down, and a hellbeast easily thwarted. He threw his remaining bolts, striking their targets with the casual arrogance only a true master could display. Finally he was down to one last bolt. And just in time. He approached his enemy’s stronghold warily, eyes roaming the defenses, ready to move instantly if he felt their weapons being brought to bear against him. Nothing. He sneered, slowing his mount, taking the time to savor this final throw. They would never see it strike. He hefted the bolt, drew back, and let fly.

And missed.

Astonished, the rider nearly fell off his mount. The bolt brushed by the intended target and shattered against the main gate, fragments blasting everywhere. And suddenly, the gate was thrown open and the lord of the fortress stormed out, still in his bedclothes. His clawed hand swept down and gathered the fragments of the missile, as though to throw them back at the rider. The rider tensed, knowing his very survival would depend on what happened in the next instant.

“Hey kid! Watch where you throw the damn newspaper! You almost smashed my flowerpot!”

“Sorry mister!” the rider shouted as he pedaled away. Not sorry at all. Tomorrow, he wouldn’t miss…
---

So yeah, I decided to try something a little different this time around. I had a picture or two almost worth posting, but I'd been kicking around the idea of putting up some writing, rather than just more pictures. My niece told me about this great concept for assisting in writing: Prompts. Essentially, they're nothing more than a word, or set of words, or sentences meant to spark your mind into a creative writing exercise. A prompt, if you will. I was doing a little bit of research, trying to find something that would give me a good start towards a fun story (Emily set the bar very high with the story she'd made from the prompts she was given). I'd been through about 10 or 15 sites, covering a range of words/sentences/topics, and I'd found a great line of poetry that was to be used to generate the story. I was working on that (it'll come along shortly, I hope) when my subconscious stepped forward with another item I'd seen early on: "Rider". While I was thinking on the poem, I ended up coming up with a completely different idea for the word "Rider". And as usual with my ideas, whichever one gets further along wins. This one was pretty much done by the time I started typing. If I wanted, I could tell you about the recurring ideas I've had in my writing, going back to grade school, of "the fantastic in the mundane", something along the lines of making the everyday extraordinary, or the juxtaposition of the two, but I won't. You probably already get the idea.

Anyway, hope you liked the story. With luck, this will be a semi-recurring feature of the blog.
Speaking of blogs, please check out, OddVoodoo,my friend Joe's blog. We've talked about putting up blogs for ages now, and he's FINALLY done it. Joe's work with Photoshop makes my scribblings look like the work of a monkey with a crayon, but without thumbs. Try it, you'll like it!

Also, Ivy was jealous of Scout, and so demanded equal time:


That's it. No more cat posts for a while. Honest.

Music: "Cemeteries of London" - Coldplay