Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coming Soon!

Whenever I begin apologizing for not posting more frequently by using the excuse that I have been busy, I can feel you rolling your eyes. Particularly those of you that know just how "action packed" my life really is. This time though, it's true. Both personally and professionally, I have a lot of stuff on my plate. 

For one thing, the kids are out of  school for the Summer. This really doesn't impact my time that much, as the kids are both teens and pretty self sufficient. Mostly all it involves is going into their rooms around noon or so, and checking their pulses to make sure they are just sleeping and haven't passed away during the night. They are underfoot though, which is a distraction.

Another iron on the fire is my NEW blog! Yes, even though I can barely keep up with this one, I will be launching a new site in the upcoming weeks. The new blog, though, will be more of a portfolio page. A site to send editors and art directors who are interested in seeing my work. (This will be cheaper than starting a website.) This site will be mostly free of my witty comments, but will be chock full of samples of my work for you to ogle. I am still trying to think of a clever name for this blog, so if anyone out there has a suggestion, please let me know in the comments section. If I use your idea, I'll even send you a drawing! Hint: "", ""and "" are already taken, I think.

As for the title of today's blog, next time, I will share with you wanna-be cartoonists out there some tips on how to draw that most difficult of subjects, Horses, courtesy of Walter Lantz & Co.

See you then...

UPDATE 7/2/09- Sorry I haven't posted the "How to Draw a Horse" from the Walter Lantz book yet. I have to make sure I don't violate any copyrights when I do it. I don't think there is a problem, but better safe than sorry. As soon as I get a thumbs up, I'll post the pages.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Tail Tingled!

When I was a  boy, one of my favorite series of books was the "Doctor Dolittle" books by Hugh Lofting. Yes, before the Rex Harrison/Eddie Murphy movie versions, there were a series of children's novels chronicling the adventures of a doctor in Victorian England who could talk to animals. He knew over 500 different animal languages (he would have been able to  speak more, but he claimed to have trouble learning goldfish because  their attention spans were too short), which came in handy on his many adventures. You can't find the books too easily nowadays, due to some politically incorrect characters and situations, which is too bad. I really loved these books.

In one of my favorites in the series, "The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle", the Doctor charters a boat, and sets sail with his animal homeys to find his friend Long Arrow. "The world's greatest naturalist", the Doctor calls him. He is also, unfortunately, a stereotypical "injun", which is one of the PC bugaboos I mentioned.

One night on the ship, one of the ship's rats comes to visit the Doctor. This surprises Dolittle, as he explains to his friends that rats usually avoid contact with human beings. The rat tells him he is correct, rats don't care for people, what with their affinity for cats and rat traps and the like. However, even the rats recognise that the Doctor isn't like other people, and over the course of  the voyage they have grown to admire him. This is high praise indeed, the rat informs him, as rats don't admire much.

The rat tells the doctor that whenever something bad is going to happen, a rat's tail tingles. He warns him that all the rats' tails on the ship are tingling now, and they are pretty sure that sometime during the night, the ship is going to sink. The rats are leaving the boat, and they advise the Doctor to do the same. The Doctor thanks the rat for the heads-up, but after the rodent departs, he dismisses the warning and goes to bed.

That night the ship sinks. 

I don't want to ruin the rest of  the story for you if you haven't read it, but don't worry, everyone survives the shipwreck. Even Chee-Chee.

Like the rat in the story, I too sometimes get a "tingly tail". A premonition that something bad is going to happen. A psychiatrist would probably call this a "panic attack", but, then again, a psychiatrist would  probably have a bunch of diagnoses for me. Of course, I don't literally have a tail, but sometimes, not often, I just get a feeling in my gut that there is some sort of unpleasantness ahead. In the past, I would get it before a test in school which I would later fail. If I felt it before  school lunch was about to be served, "Rice ala Scituate" was sure to be on the menu that day. In my adult life (and I use the term loosely), I have had it before businesses I worked for went belly up, or before disastrous blind dates, or before buying a ticket to an Adam Sandler movie. Sometimes my fears are groundless, but for the most part, this "tingly tail" feeling is pretty accurate.

Do any of you out there ever have this feeling, or should I stop taking life lessons from a rat in a children's book?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bus to Disneyland

As a lad of  about age 3 or 4, the highlight of my week was watching "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color". Each Sunday night at seven, my sisters and I would get in our jammies and gather in front of our TV set. Mom & Dad would make sure we had plenty of refreshments (Usually a glass of TANG® and some bacon and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread. This repast fortified us for the hour ahead, and I still carry on the healthy eating habits my parents established for us back then to this day.), and we'd sit back and enjoy the program.

Oh how I loved this show! I loved seeing Uncle Walt in his office, telling us what wonderful piece of entertainment we were about to watch. Was it going to be a Ludvig Von Drake cartoon? "Sammy the Way-Out Seal"?
Or were we going to have to sit through another "True Life Adventure"? I really didn't care for the TLA's, but I would gladly suffer through them, because maybe, next week, the show would feature one of my favorite segments, A VISIT TO DISNEYLAND!

I lived for these episodes! Disneyland looked to me like the most fantastic place on earth. I especially loved seeing the costumed characters walking around. As impressionable as I was, though, I never believed that that was Mickey. I knew it was a guy in a suit, but I thought that was the coolest  job in the world! THAT'S what I wanted to be when I grew up! I would actually spend hours drawing pictures of people dressed as the Disney characters. When an adult would say, "Oooh, Billy! What a good Goofy you drew!", I would have to patiently point out that I hadn't drawn Goofy, I had drawn a guy in a Goofy suit! Sheesh!

Disneyland was an obsession to me, so naturally I had to go there, but how? My parents wouldn't take me, citing the old, "it's too expensive" excuse. They would also remind me we had already visited Storybook Land, and wasn't that pretty much the same? No. It was not. It was Disneyland or nothing, but it seemed like a trip there was out of the question. Or was it?

One Summer day my older Sister ran excitedly into  the room. "Billy!", she cried, "Pack your suitcase! The Bus to Disneyland is coming!" There was a bus to Disneyland?! How come I hadn't heard of this? Why hadn't my parents? My sister was seven, though, so she must have known more than I, so I quickly ran and packed whatever I could find into my little Samsonite®. 

"Where is the bus stop?", I asked. "It's stopping right outside our front steps", Sis replied, "Hurry! Go out and sit on the front steps, or you'll miss it!" Out I went, and sat, my little heart racing. I was finally going to Disneyland! I sat there on the steps anticipating how wonderful this was going to be. Maybe they were even hiring four year olds to play Mickey Mouse! Once I was established there, maybe I would even send for my parents, to show them there were no hard feelings about not taking me before. So I sat. And sat. And sat.

The Bus to Disneyland never came.

The whole Bus to Disneyland thing was just my sister "joking me". There was no bus. She was bored, and nothing chases away  the boredom like getting your naive little brother to make a fool of himself, by sitting with a suitcase in the hot Sun waiting for an imaginary bus.

Eventually, my Mother discovered my Sister's prank, and came out to get me. She patiently explained that buses generally don't make 3,000 mile door-to-door trips, and besides, what was I going to pay for the trip with? I told her I had almost 48¢, which I was sure than more than enough. Deep down though, I realized that I had been had by my Sister. Again. I wasn't going to Disneyland anytime soon.

I was right. I didn't get to Disneyland for another 21 years. Ironically, it was my Sister who took me (Sis, if you are reading this, I forgive you!). Disneyland was well worth the wait. It was everything little 4 year old me could have wanted and more.

They didn't hire me to play Mickey Mouse, though.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

News Update!

As has become something of a tradition at this site, I am starting today's post with apologies to all of you Faithful Readers out there for the lack of entries here lately.

I have often made this apology to all of you out there before. No doubt you wonder, "What major events are going on that prevent this goofball from just doing a few scribbles and writing a few random blatherings each day?" An excellent question! Here are a few a the diversions that have kept me away from you for so long, as well as a few other points of interest:

• Perfect Wife and I began our now-annual tradition of working part time at a local outdoor concert venue. The money is laughable, but we get to enjoy the Summer nights and get to experience the shows for free. At least that's the theory. The reality is somewhat different.

Last year, we did parking detail, as well as general maintenance and security. This year, we decided to "upgrade" to the lofty position of USHER. Our job is to stand at attention, and guide patrons to their assigned seats. Sounds simple, right? Well, maybe for our high school co-workers, but PW and I are completely confused by the venue's  convoluted seat numbering. Several times, we led patrons on a happy traipse through the aisles searching for their seats, all the while quoting the immortal excuse of the truly incompetent, "Sorry, I'm new here". I'm sure that we'll figure it out by the end of the season. Well, at least PW will, and can cover for me.

The other down side to the gig is that standing for hours on hard concrete is really hard on the ol' back, even when I'm wearing my all- black Chuck-T's. It sounds like I'm whining (and I am, I suppose), but my back is KILLING me! We're talking "Now-I-know-why-old people-complain-so-much", pain. Is this Karma paying me back  for all the years I lied to my Mother about back trouble to avoid snow-shovel duty? I plan to invest in a pair of Dr. Scholl® inserts, and hopefully that will mitigate the problem. A bonus will be that I can proudly announce to one and all that I am indeed "gellin.'"

• On the Freelance Cartoonist front, I did not get a big book illustration job I was being considered for. I did  a bunch of samples gratis, and the editors said they really liked them, but they wanted someone with a "name". I always tell aspiring cartoonists to NEVER do any work on "spec", and yet I failed to follow my own advice some twenty plus years into my "career". So I repeat this advice to all aspiring cartoonists out there: NEVER DO WORK FOR FREE!!!

• On a tragic note, the birdhouse that sits on a pole in our yard suffered a late-night home invasion by a pack of raccoons. They trashed the joint, busting up the house and knocking it off it's base. We fear the bird family residing there suffered an unpleasant fate, but perhaps they escaped. Pretty to think so.
Happily PW's Perfect Dad is a whiz with tools, and was able to perform an "EXTREME MAKEOVER: BIRDHOUSE EDITION", restoring the house to its former glory. A new bird couple has already moved in, and we will keep an eye out for the raccoons. 

• In addition to raccoons, coyotes have been making appearances in our yard. Unlike their Warner Bros. cartoon counterpart, these critters do not delight us as they run about building elaborate traps they purchased from the ACME® company. Mostly, they lurk about looking creepy, and cause Rocco the Wonder Dog much distress.

• Speaking of Rocco, after a long, exhaustive research period, we have finally compiled a list of the foods Rocco will not eat. To no one's surprise, the list is rather short. In fact, it is non-existent. Rocco will eat anything, including vegetables, peanuts, Tootsie Rolls®, sugary breakfast cereals, and many other things both edible and inedible that he should not have, and that you would presume he'd steer away from. I know you are thinking, "You shouldn't be feeding him that stuff!", and you're right. We try not to. Rocco, however, has really nailed his "I-am-starving-to-death-and-these-hogs-are-stuffing-their-faces" look, all the while making eye contact at you with his sad brown eyes. It is difficult to resist.

• Finally, for those of you out there that are parents and are worried your kids may stumble across this page and find some objectionable material, not to worry! This blog has been rated "PG" by a  goofy website that rates blogs for content for some reason. I could have earned a wholesome "G" rating, but one of my posts had the word "crap" in it. Oh, no! I said "crap" again! There! I said "crap" again! Now I probably have a "XXX" rating!

 Oh crap.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Burning Question for the Day

I was feeling a bit grouchy today (No, it had nothing to do with you, Loyal Reader, don't worry). That got me thinking about everyone's favorite Grouch, Oscar the Grouch, from TV's "Sesame Street". Thinking back on all of the happy times I spent with this trashcan dweller raised a question that has always haunted me: 


Before you answer, "Because he is!", let me remind you that when "Sesame Street" made its debut 40 (!) years ago, Oscar was ORANGE! Before you stiffen in denial, I tell you it's true! You young 'uns or folks with faulty memories that doubt me can just hop on over to YouTube and see a clip of OtG performing his classic hit, "I Love Trash". You'll see him there, in all his orange glory.

I even "met" the orange Oscar once, when I was at a puppeteer convention, with his "friend" Carroll Spinney. (Why I was at a puppeteer convention is a question for some other day. For those of you that know me, the answer is fairly obvious).

So yes, Oscar was Orange. Then, one day, without warning, he was GREEN! How did this happen? Did the folks at Children's Television Workshop think an orange Grouch was too frightening? Or not frightening enough? Or was it simply a case of green fake fur being cheaper to buy than orange? Whatever the reason, I must know!

I thought about going to a Muppet chat room and asking some of the people there this question, but then I realized that I would actually be talking with people in a Muppet chat room.  So, I put it out there to anyone reading this who has the facts/rumor/half-baked theory about this important question, to leave your information in the comments section. Hopefully someone out there has the answer, and we can all sleep better at night.

Then on to the next burning question: What was up with Mr. Moose and ping-pong balls?

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