The Iron Giant

Helen has been watching “The Iron Giant” relatively constantly this weekend on Netflix Streaming. I hadn’t seen it in a long time

Then tonight, while digging around on the vast expanses of the Internets looking for something else, I found this.

A pencil sketch of The Iron Giant. Drawn by Tim Vigil. This is awesome on so many levels, particularly if you know the type of stuff Vigil has gained his notoriety for drawing.

Sweet score of ancient loot

I made a beeline for Kansas yesterday morning to spend some time with my dad while my grandma — his mom, and my last surviving grandparent — lies in a nursing home about two hours south of here watching the last few days of her life tick away. We’re going down to see her tomorrow; I had wanted to go today, but I chose to stay here with my dad instead. It’s been a good day.

Before my mom left this morning to go down and be with Grandma, we talked a lot about stuff of mine that was still left in the basement. I knew I had some random things down there, but the last room I occupied in this house suffered water damage a few years ago and I thought most of what I had left down there had been lost to the water. But, there were about six boxes of stuff down there – old comic books, papers I wrote in college, the notes from my Fundamentals of C class.

I loaded it all up in my car and will drive it home; it’ll be fun to go through that stuff, throw the vast majority of it away, and relive the “me” of the late 1980s and early 1990s for a few hours. I’ll post the really good stuff on here.

2,000 words or less: My day has been long

My Tuesday began with a hastily-stuffed overnight bag and a shoebox containing two apples, most of a box of pecan granola bars and a dizzying array of plastic tubes of various powder used to flavor bottled water. My Tuesday could easily have ended on a 60-something mile stretch of Interstate 35 in northern Iowa.

After a perfect six or so hours on the road to start my day, poor road conditions were honestly the last thing on my mind. The indicators that things were beginning to get worse were difficult to spot at first, with snow slowly building up on the edges of the roadway and the slushy patches in the middle of my lane becoming more frequent. The festivities began around mile marker 183 with an overturned minivan in the center median. A long, green plastic tape that I’m guessing indicated the car had been tagged and identified by the highway patrol streamed in the breeze from its home, tied to something on the car’s undercarriage.

That was the first of what were surely four or five dozen stranded vehicles I’d see over the next hour and a half. Winds out of the west had turned that stretch of I-35 into a set from a disaster movie. Snow was blowing across all four lanes of the highway, and in many places the left lane was completely covered. I couldn’t have gotten off of the road had I wanted to (and I did) because the rare offramps were drifted shut.

So for about the next 90 minutes, I drove white-knuckled through a deathtrap, often going as slowly as 30 miles an hour and wondering what the occasional idiot was thinking who blazed by me at twice that speed in that drifted-over left lane.

The cars strewn to the sides of the road were in a frightening array of conditions. Some had merely been embedded nose first into a drift in the ditch to the right. Many more had obviously come to a halt after spinning several times, left along the side of the road pointed in the opposite of their original direction. Several were upside down, and like the minivan were indicating their locations with neon-colored tape catching the wind.

At one point, there were six cars in the ditch in a space of maybe 20 feet. I saw a dark-colored mid-sized SUV – a Dodge, I think – with a crushed front fender in the right shoulder, facing back to the north. A few feet behind the Dodge sat the minivan it had obviously destroyed. The van’s driver’s side door was crushed in several feet, the front quarter of the van split open to expose the engine and wheel wells, and the windshield shattered from the impact. I wondered if the drivers had made it through the crash safely; the driver of the minivan almost certainly was injured, and likely in severe fashion.

There were comical things too. The boat that had skidded into the median and become enveloped in the twisted wreckage of its trailer. The oddly isolated ladder, twisted and broken but reaching straight up into afternoon sky as if asking for someone to help pull it out of the snow. The car off to the right that was by that point almost completely buried by a steadily advancing drift.

The worst of the journey ended around mile marker 124, just north of Ames, Iowa. From there, I encountered an occasional snow patch and another car either in the ditch or in the process of being yanked free by the end of a heavy chain every few miles, but nothing like the 60-mile stretch that was thankfully behind me.

I stopped in Ames to get gas and buy a Pepsi Max, not because I needed either of those things, but because I just needed to stop and get my bearings before traveling onward. An hour later, by the time I had moved south of Des Moines, the roads were perfect again and the final four and a half hours or so of my trip were largely uneventful. The most interesting thing I saw the rest of the night was the guy in Topeka, Kan., sitting on the side of the road, two open cases of beer sitting proudly on the roof of the car, while a Kansas highway patrolman had him illuminated with a flashlight.

I arrived at my destination after spending about 13 and a half hours on the road. I only hope that stretch of road is better before I turn around and retrace my journey on Friday.

“Star Wars: The Force Unleashed”

I finally picked up “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” for my Playstation 3 last week; it was on clearance at Target for $10 to make room for the new SKU with the Sith missions.

I hadn’t had much experience with the game beyond playing through the free downloadable demo available on the Playstation Network, but I thoroughly enjoyed that brief glimpse of the game and have been looking forward to the full game.

I’m only through the first two chapters so far; I finished the second mission this evening, and so far the game is pretty fun. Targeting can be pretty frustrating, and the game’s approach of making your character significantly more powerful than any single enemy means it’s a game of surviving despite being vastly outnumbered. And anything you’re supposed to “use the Force” on to manipulate is either targetable or glowing in this hideous blue; so there aren’t really environmental puzzles to solve (at least through the first two missions), but just a series of “push here, dummy” waypoints to fight your way to.

I like the role-playing aspect of the game, where you earn “orbs” by achieving various things in the game that you can spend to upgrade skills or abilities in three different categories, although this would be more interesting if it were set up in more of a traditional talent tree. Still, it’s an engaging process that gives you some connection to your character’s progression.

I’ve enjoyed being able to levitate a Jawa, hit it with Force lightning and turn it into a bomb, then hurl it into a group of enemies and watch it explode and kill them all. That’s the best part of the game so far. The environments are also incredibly detailed and very attractive; a lot of effort was put into recreating the visual atmosphere of the Star Wars movies.

It’s not a perfect game by any means, but I’m enjoying it so far.

“Gundam” bad-assery

For a few years, starting with my first purchase of a Master Grade RX-178 MkII at Epcot Center, I was into building plastic models of the gigantic mechanical battlesuits from the various Japanese “Gundam” animated TV series.

I watched a few of the series, and they were fun, but I really enjoyed the models. The models are made by Bandai of Japan (which also brings us Power Rangers…), are incredibly detailed and very fun to build. With the Master Grade line of models, you started by building the suit’s internal “skeleton,” then attached the suit’s armor and weapons to the skeleton.

The models were relatively expensive – I think of the eight or 10 that I bought over the years, the cheapest was about $35, and the most expensive was an enormous red $90 beast called a Sazabi that I, sadly, never even built. I even received a gigantic model of an RX-178MkII during what is now called The Great Pity Christmas of 2001 from Bandai’s Perfect Grade line; that model even had fully-articulated fingers. It was amazing, but as with the Sazabi I sold it before I ever even got a chance to build it.

Full-Armor Unicorn conversion kit

I haven’t bought a new Gundam model in years — probably since 2001 — but I still pay some attention to the new things Bandai releases in Japan and the add-on kits that are released to give the models new weapons or new armor or both. There are some pretty amazing things out there. I have subscribed to a newsletter from a company in California called HobbyFan for a few years now, and they’ll shoot me an e-mail every couple of weeks with samples of new product they’re receiving.

Today’s update had two Gundam items in it; an add-on kit for a suit called a Gundam Unicorn to convert it into a version called Full Armor, and a weapon addon kit for a suit called a Gundam Astray called a Lohengrin Launcher. Both are prime examples of why I loved building Gundam models.

The Lohengrin Launcher is a perfect “enormous, ridiculous and completely implausible weapon” that exists simply because it looks amazing and the animators can use it as a reason to draw gigantic laser beams and huge explosions.

The Unicorn is the same thing – a seemingly disorganized gigantic pile of cylinders and boxes smashed together and called a “backpack,” covered with thrusters, vents and cannons that would give the Death Star some gun envy. In each hand, double quad-barreled laser guns.

At it’s core, it’s just a silly game of mechanical one-uppery; two laser barrels isn’t enough to really kill the bad guys, so this guy will have 16. And I think it’s incredibly awesome. There’s no basis in reality; no concern for how it might actually work or fly; no thought given to realism whatsoever. Someone is just told, “Here’s a 60-foot-tall robot. Cover it with as much shit as you want. Your only goals is to make it look bad-ass.”

Seeing this kind of stuff makes me miss building the models; I’ve got a couple of unfinished kits in the basement that I still want to give some attention once our renovations down there are complete, and every few months HobbyFan’s newsletter tempts to pick up a new one. Fun stuff.

2,000 words or less: “Never mind.”

So, I had these grand plans to write a “2,000 words or less” entry based on that article I posted yesterday about overcoming “creative block.”

I’m not going to do that.

The article still got me thinking quite a bit, but after I wrote a note to a friend of mine on Facebook yesterday that went someplace I didn’t really plan for it to go re: work, I decided that my initial plans for responding would likely go somewhere I don’t intend to go on this blog.

So, I’ll just leave it at this. Chad Hagen, Minneapolis-based artist and designer, had this to say…

…the one thing that kept me focused was my desire to be good. I wanted to be really good. I wanted to be as good as those people that WERE talented.

This resonates with me for a *lot* of reasons, and at this stage in my professional life not all of them are positive. It’s a powerful message; I know what it’s like to feel exactly like that, the way Chad did when he was in art school.

I wish every day I had that feeling back.

Overcoming Creative Block

I posted this on Twitter earlier; I want to do some things, hopefully later tonight, with the linked post, but I’m putting this up here for now to make sure I remember to do it. One comment from one of the creatives made a point that hit home with me to a significant degree, and I’ve found that I want to talk about it some more.

So, for now, here’s the original article. An accompanying “2,000 Words or Less” entry will be coming later, hopefully tonight or tomorrow.


I got word earlier this week that my new laptop for work has been ordered. I’m pumped; I’ve been basically without a laptop for over a year, since my previous work laptop finally decided to quit on me after I put it through absolute hell for four years.

Specs: 2.8 GHz MacBook Pro, four gigs of RAM, 500-gig 7200-RPM hard drive, 512 megs of sweet, sweet video RAM. Check it out here if you’re so inclined. And you should be, because it’s going to be a bitchin’ machine.

We just completed our office’s purchase order for Adobe Creative Suite CS4 as well, so it’s going to be a completely tricked-out machine.

Can. Not. Wait. And I cannot tell you how badly I want to buy one of these to put it in.

Recruiting Season

It’s spring signing season in college athletics; colleges all over the nation are gleefully announcing their incoming recruting classes for a variety of sports, selling fans and boosters on the idea that this group of kids will be the ones who make a difference for the program they love.

Notre Dame posted this on its official athletic media relations Twitter feed this afternoon:

@UND_com: ND women’s soccer coach Randy Waldrum announces signing of talented six-person class for next season:

And the ensuing story contains the following quote from head coach Randy Waldrum:

“I think we have a very solid class coming in for 2010,” Waldrum said. “We filled the needs that we had due to graduation. I love the personalities of the incoming class, as they are all creative, committed, talented, and are all very team-oriented. Chemistry is such a huge part of success, and this class will fit in nicely with a very talented group of returning players.”

Wouldn’t it be great if, just once, you’d see a recruiting release that said “Yeah, we’ve got six kids coming in. Four of them suck, but we didn’t try very hard at recruiting this year and they really were the best we could get to come here. Look, nobody expects much out of us anyway; we’ve won 30 percent of our games over the last decade so, really, just getting kids to agree to come here is a victory for us.”

That would be awesome.

Boba Fett

Boba Fett, originally uploaded by AndyBartlett.

Here’s an in-progress shot of my three-panel illustration of Boba Fett. I’ve completed inking work and am ready to begin coloring. I have a couple more in-progress shots of this piece that I took during the penciling phase; I’ll upload those later in a complete blog post on the finished piece.

I’m pretty happy with this; there are some significant flaws (one of which bugs me mightily), but even at this stage in the process I’m very pleased with how this is progressing. I’ve begun coloring, but don’t have any shots of that to show here yet.

The drawing is 12×27 (three 9×12 panels) and is attached to a custom-cut work board.

Medium: Prismacolor brush-tip black on Strathmore 300-series 100lb Bristol board (vellum surface).