Random Musings for May 28, 2010

Just realized I hadn’t managed to post anything so far this week, so I’m fixing that. It’s been a busy week and I just haven’t thought to pop in and post anything. So, in recap fashion:

• Helen’s done with soccer practice
Helen’s final soccer practice was last night; she’d been going Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last four weeks, and we missed two practices because it was pouring rain. Helen had fun with it, but I’m glad it’s over; Mel has been going to the gym, so my evenings were “come home from work, get dinner ready for Helen real quick, get both kids ready to leave, be at soccer practice by 6, get home by 7, eat late dinner with Mel, finally stop for the day around 8.” It was fun, but it got tiring in a hurry.

Still, Helen had fun with it. She had some typical 5-year-old issues with not paying attention and wanting to either do her own thing or join in with other kids who were goofing around, and she really wasn’t all that interested in playing hard or chasing after the ball, but she had fun and got to run around and sweat a little bit – which was really all I was hoping for.

• We started another PS3 game
On the recommendation of a friend, and through the fortuitous timing of the closure of the video store here in town that another of our friends manages, Mel and I have started playing “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” for our PS3.

• Megan arrives tomorrow
Tomorrow I get to make the trip to southern Minnesota to pick up Megan for her all-too-brief summer visit. She’ll be here through the end of July. Unfortunately, due to her little hacker actions on her mom’s iMac, my “welcome to Minnesota” duties will begin by confiscating her iPhone and Macbook for a month. Good times. She’ll survive. 🙂

Going to try and get an early start and do some shopping before I pick her up. Targets: Nordstrom Rack in Maple Grove; TJ Maxx Home Center right off 494; Dick Blick Art Supplies on France; lunch at Taste of India in St. Louis Park. Probably won’t get to do all that. Will buy some groceries at Curry Up! on the way home.

• LOST finale
Because I’m obligated somehow to post an opinion, I really enjoyed the LOST finale. I thought it was a solid conclusion to what was, all in all, a pretty amazing six years of television. No analysis, no hyberbole; just “I really enjoyed it.” That is all.

• iPad
Still isn’t freaking here yet. Ordered on April 14; most-recent estimate says it’s supposed to be here on Thursday. I’m a little miffed that foreign customers are getting them and Apple’s been sitting on my order for seven weeks.

• Fun new arrivals
I got two more G.I. Joe figures from China this week – Desert Battle Zartan and the Arctic Threat Destro. This brings my little sub-collection of cancelled or otherwise preproduction figures imported from China to five, with Arctic Threat Duke still a pending arrival. About the only one of these readily-available pre-production figures I think I’m going to miss out on is the Jungle-Strike Storm Shadow. Now that I’ve had such good experiences with the sellers from China and Singapore who deal in this type of thing, I won’t be so hesitant to jump on something the next time I see it.

Let’s see, what else… Nothing! That’s it. I’ll be in touch.

2,000 words or less: The Empire Strikes Back

This week is the 30th anniversary of “The Empire Strikes Back,” which seems patently ridiculous and makes me feel old. It also makes me remember one of the favorite events of my childhood — going to see this movie with my parents.

One afternoon on some weekend in El Paso, Texas, my parents rounded the three of us up and said that “we are going to do something that your father wants to do. Let’s get in the car.” This, of course, led us to fears of a famous “buggy ride,” where we just drove around and looked at stuff. My two brothers and I protested rather vehemently, particularly since my parents steadfastly refused to give up this “thing” that dad wanted to inflict upon us. Surely, it was going to be horrendous.

We stopped at a gas station or a 7/11 or something like that and got some drinks, and started driving. After a time, we went through an intersection and Dad proclaimed from the front seat “Shoot, I just missed my turn.” Dad decided to use the parking lot of a nearby mall to turn around, and said “well, since we’re here, why don’t we just stop here and walk around for a bit.” We thought it was great to have some freedom from the car, even though we’d probably been in there 10 minutes, so this seemed like a fine idea.

I don’t even remember what mall it was, just that by the time we paid it a visit that day it was struggling and mostly empty of shops. A few stores here and there, and at the end of a long corridor we could see there was a movie theater attached to the far end. Dad says “Hey, why don’t you guys run up there and see what’s playing?”

So, my brother Tom and I started walking toward the wall of movie posters. We got closer, and I noticed several posters on the wall were this. I stopped and looked, trying to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. When I was sure I was, I ran for the wall as fast as I could. It was the greatest news I could imagine; “Empire Strikes Back” was playing in some second-run dollar theater in *this* mall, and it was starting *soon*. I immediately pivoted and bolted, top speed and screaming, back to my parents. Tom and I assaulted them with shouts of “momanddad momanddad, Empire Strikes Back is here! It’s here, and it starts in a few minutes! momanddad momanddad momanddad canwegocanwegocanwegocanwego?”

They made us wait for a painful eternity of probably no more than a few seconds before relenting, and the five of us went to the movie.

Two amazing hours of AT-ATs, Wampas, Yoda and lightsaber fights later, my parents somehow herded three stupidly-happy children back into the car and we headed home. After a few blocks, we came to that intersection from earlier in the afternoon. We again drove right through the light.

“Dad, that’s where you said you were supposed to turn,” I said. “What about that thing you wanted to do?”

From the driver’s seat of our little station wagon, Dad just peeked back at us over his shoulder and grinned.

“We just did it.”

Drawin’ on Twitter

Last night, I tried a little experiment; I spent a couple of hours working on another drawing of Dagger from “Cloak and Dagger,” and every 15 minutes or so I posted an in-progress picture of how it was going on Twitter. You can see where I left the drawing for the night here, and can backtrack and see what all I posted on my Twitter feed.

Best I can tell, exactly zero people followed along. But it was fun. 🙂 I’m going to try and do the same thing again tonight; we’ll see how far I get with the drawing.

2,000 words or less: Oh, the Internet…

I’ve spent a lot of time today wondering whether the Internet is the most inspiring or most depressing thing ever devised. So far, it’s been a maddening combination of the two, and I’ve spent today waffling back and forth from one side of the fence to the other.

Some background on where I’m going with this; my memories involve comic books to some degree for essentially as long as I’ve had memories, starting with ten-cent issues of things like Shogun Warriors, Star Wars and Micronauts in the late 1970s. I had a three-ring binder full of Star Wars comics I used to regularly carry to school with me in the early ’80s. I frequently picked up random issues of comic books over the years – Spider-Man here, Batman there and, for a time, even Duck Tales every now and then. In high school, once I finally had a job and my own money, I began spending a lot of money on comics. Some for the story, almost all because I loved the art. I’ve drawn stuff and had people tell me I was good at it for almost as long as I can remember, as well. But I’m not, nor have I ever been, in the same area code as anyone who does this professionally.

Now, there’s the Internet. It used to be that my only exposure to comic artists was by driving downtown and dropping a pile of money on books at the Master Gamer every Tuesday. Today, I can find them everywhere. I follow them and, occasionally, try to engage some of them on Twitter; I friend them when I can find them on DeviantArt; I put their blogs in my RSS reader. I’ve done this with a broad range of people, from Jim Lee, whose work I’ve admired for almost 20 years now, to guys like Mark Brooks, who I first heard of at about 12:30 this afternoon. Today, just by chance, I happened to find an opportunity to get on UStream and watch a guy draw Superman, live in streaming video. He even said hi to me. All while I was sitting at my desk at work writing a story.

It was remarkable, and their work is *amazing*. When I collected comics in college, I got to see the finished product; covers, panels, prints, the final work. Now, the door is open to the *process*. The initial sketches, the guts, the nuts and bolts. Ryan Stegman’s perspective grids, that I almost find more beautiful than the finished product. Lee’s progress shots, posted on Twitter, start to finish of the painting he did of Wonder Woman on an iPad with his freaking fingers. Watching the guy on UStream erase Superman’s head, and later his entire upper torso, because he wasn’t happy with the way it was progressing and, in his words, was just having an off day. The kinds of things you have no inkling of when your only exposure to the material is the final four layers of Pantone inks on glossy 120-pound paper.

For the few of you who follow the things I do here, you know that I’ve been trying to draw more; things like this sketch from tonight, right over there to the right. That’s a ridiculous attempt to draw a figure without reference material on the left, and a comic-book character named “Dagger” from the cover of a March one-shot, “Cloak and Dagger.”

On one hand, maddening; I see plenty on that page that indicates I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m doing. On the other hand, encouraging; I see plenty of other things that indicate I may be able to get this.

Maddening tends to win out, because I can see the difference in the slop I’m producing and the work done by actual artists. But there’s enough “encouraging” in there that I’ll keep plugging away and, hopefully, over time work to close that gap (which is more of a chasm).

And I’ll keep spending time looking at the work of brilliant artists on the Internet – to remind me that I am horrible at this, and provide the inspiration to keep working and try not to be.

Random musings

First – AARRRRGGGGGHHHHH.

On April 14, I ordered an iPad through our computer store here on campus. It was supposed to be here on May 3. Then it was delayed until May 17. So yesterday, I checked to see if it was still on schedule. Nope. Delayed until June 3. Lame.

The timing of this was comical, as I also received an ad from Apple via e-mail today announcing the iPad as “the perfect graduation gift.” My personal iPad ordering saga, combined with snarkiness, made me wonder if they meant to buy it now for the Class of 2015.

Second – I stopped by Roy’s Comics and Games in between lunch and the gas station on my way back to work this afternoon, and discovered that they did, indeed, still have one copy of “Birds of Prey” #1 sitting on the shelf. It’s written by Gail Simone, who I’ve been following on Twitter, and seems like fun. I also left with “G.I. Joe: Origins” #15 (cover B), the first two issues of Marvel’s Black Widow series, and a “Cloak and Dagger” one-shot from March.

Still waiting on a bunch of crap to come from eBay, too – three G.I. Joe trade paperbacks, a Batman and Robin hardcover and a 26-issue-collectin’ beast of an Astonishing X-Men hardcover omnibus.

LOST tonight. I’m still disappointed in last week’s completely useless episode. I just fear this show is going to end in a huge fireball of suckfest. We’ll see, I guess.

Also curious to see if V ever starts to improve… That show’s maybe two bad episodes from me bailing on it.

“Day after” review – My Jill Valentine sketch turned out just OK; I’m not terribly happy with it. But it’s filed away in a binder now, next to Robin. Have a request in for my next project; not sure I’ll do it, but we’ll see. I’m going to do some more practice sketches and then start work on a larger, more involved project I think. I haven’t decided for sure yet; I may end up just breaking down and doing another Lego Gaga. Those are easy and super-fun.

I also need to get back to this programming project, but the delay in the arrival of my iPad, combined with the fun I’ve had drawing again, has made it tough for me to jump back into that.

Nothing else to report.

Conversations with a five-year-old

Tonight at bedtime:

I read Helen a story. I told her it was time for bed.

Helen: “Daddy, now can I read you the story?”
Me: “No kiddo, not tonight. You got one story; you can read me a story tomorrow night, OK?”
Helen: “OK. Can you stay with me? Do you want to have a sleepover?”
Me: “Not tonight, kiddo. Maybe some other night, like this weekend, OK?”
Helen: “You loser. I’m going to cut your head off.”