Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Videos in tribute to Rudy

video video

I'm Winning?

I dunno, I'm in the mood to listen to Santana, How 'bout you?


Some more Santana? Why not?


Can't get enough? Okay, here you go

Too much? How about a low tech graphic interpretation of JOHAN Sebastian Bach's most famous composition.


So why am I in the mood for JOHAN Sebastian Bach and Carlos SANTANA?

Because the Mets somehow pulled the trigger and got premiere pitcher Johan Santana from the Twins. I thought for sure that he was going to be a Yankee. The Yankees had better prospects and offered one of the best but the Twins wanted more, the Mets didn't have as much and seemed like they were never going to be a player.

The Twins coveted one player, Jose Reyes. That was not going to happen. The Mets would not be foolish enough to give up Reyes or David Wright anytime in the next decade. They are the Mets version of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams.

So, when the trade talks with the Yankees produced nothing, Omar Minaya stepped in offered some good, but not great prospects for Santana and now, barring any bizarre obstacles, Santana will be a Met next year and once again the Mets will be the team to beat in the National League and the bitterness of 2007's collapse will begin to fade away.

Ahhh, that's tasty!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

MicroBrew of The Week

I like trying new kinds of beer in the microbrew catagory.

Today I tried a new brand called

Cricket Hill East Coast Lager

It's a smooth smoky brew from a Fairfield New Jersey brewery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No More Mullet!

It was 1995 and I had settled with my Girlfriend At The Time (GATT), Sonya in Federal Way, WA, a suburb of Seattle. I had taken my first full time job since I moved to Seattle at a warehouse in Kent, WA. I hated the job but I liked the people I worked with, my supervisor was cool but I wasn't losing weight. So I was a bit depressed. I grew a beard and took on a red neck persona.

Then I got a call out of the blue from Humongous Entertainment, A computer gaming company for kids based in Woodenville, Washington.

I had an interview with them in May of 1994 which went well, but my inexperience with computers probably cost me an opportunity to work as an animator.

So now it was February 1995, I had worked at a warehouse for less than 6 months so the idea of working at Humongous Entertainment looked like a golden opportunity to move on up in the world and maybe move with or without Sonya to a better town.

Oh, it was good news.

At the same time my friend Sean called me with the opportunity to do caricatures for Guinness for bar clients in the Seattle area.

Kaloo, Kallay! Two jobs involving my skills at art that will get me out of the low wage jobs I had done since my move to Seattle. I was ecstatic, surely they would not call out of the blue to not offer me the job.

I was wrong. I got the call from Humongous stating I didn't get the job. I was devastated. I really wanted the job and if I had gotten it, my life would be so different, opportunities would have banged my door down. Instead I continued to toil in the warehouse, bitter and embarrassed by my excitement at telling my co-workers I was going to leave that miserable job.

Still, I had some compensation. I did get the gig with Guinness. I had an all expense orientation trip to Connecticut in which I showed my appreciation by getting drunk on beer that wasn't Guinness. My need to NOT kiss ass almost cost me the job. The job was good paying but it was a part time gig, so it was just extra money. Money enough to take a vacation finally with my GATT.

To this day it is the best vacation I took with anyone I have ever dated. We took a drive down the west coast, with stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Mexico. It was beautiful and a lot of fun. Boogie boarding at many of the places listed in the Beach Boys "Surfin' USA", visiting Richard Nixon's grave, and other fun activities.

I was amazed that I had time to work on Pipe Dreams. This set of strips I felt was the best constructed of the strips I had submitted at that point. I made one significant cosmetic strange in the look of the strip. I had gotten rid of Dirk's mullet. I don't know why I had it in the first place. Maybe the late 80's was a fine time to have a character with a mullet but by 1995, a mullet was way out of style, an object of ridicule. dirk was too well liked by those who read Pipe Dreams to accept a cheap shot so I cut the mullet.

These set of strips feature more of Julian and his rebel ways. I liked the character but I feel that in some ways , he was too radical to be accepted in the mainstream comic strip pages. Still I go for the joke.

Pipe Dreams was starting to have the proper balance of good art and some increasingly good writing and dialogue. Some of the strips in this group I am particularly proud. By this time I had enough of a back catalog that if one of the syndicates were to come a calling, I would whip out my sketchbooks and previous submissions to prove I had what it takes to produce a daily comic strip.

Just give Pipe Dreams a chance.

Anyway, some new comic strips were being published by this time. Ones that were conceived around the time I conceived Pipe Dreams. Some were great like Mutts but others like Mallard Fillmore which is the biggest waste of space any newspaper could possibly give. Some of the others were niche and not very good. Still, I was starting to feel that Pipe Dreams would never be syndicated because I wasn't either bland, right wing or great. I felt Pipe Dreams was better than most of the new strips that were syndicated after 1992. Some went by the wayside but others are still published to this day.

I still had hope...but I was feeling trapped living in Federal Way unable to develop a career that would enable us to move up and start a family.

Heath Ledger

For the second week in a row I went out Tuesday night after work to learn of a young actor dying at a very young age. Last week it was former child star Brad Renfro. No surprise, he had a history of drug abuse and a problematic life style.

Heath Ledger on the other hand...

It seems unexpected. I never heard much about him in the tabloids other than the various women he dated over the years, particularly how much older they were than him.
but I never heard of any substance abuse problems.

The funny thing is that when I talked about his death with a few work colleagues they mentioned the fact that he was going to be the Joker in the new Batman movie "the Dark Knight" It's a movie that I thought only comic geeks like me and my friends Inkboy and Pro would talk about.

As a matter of fact my friend Pro had a bit part in that movie. His story can be read on Inkboy's blog.

I went to karaoke thinking maybe I'd sing "The Joker" tonight but I thought it would be in bad taste and besides someone else did sing it in tribute to him.

I thought that Heath Ledger was a good actor good enough in some ways to be another Brando. In some ways he was similar. Like Brando, he had a lot of sex appeal in his younger days and Heath like Brando, looked older than he was. He was only 28 when he died.

Anyway, I look forward to his performance in Batman. I thought it was inspired casting, not obvious but appropriate.

Anyway, I have a clip of him in his Joker guise. It's eerie how similar the look of the Joker mirrors that of Brandon Lee's Crow.

The Led Zeppelin song "I can't Quit You Babe" a nod to Brokeback Mountain.

And of course "The Joker" by the Steve Miller band. The song sang tonight during Karaoke.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday Fun

Tuesday night is the only night I have an opportunity to9 have fun. For me fun is Karaoke at Jack's in Long Branch. I had fun last night hanging out with the young folks and drinking good beer. But most of my fun is to sing the songs no one else would sing.

First up is "She's So Cold" a Rolling Stones song from "gasp" 28 years ago!

Second up is a favorite song from the 90's "Possum Kingdom" from the Toadies

And last I sang the Sweet song "Little Willy" I was surprised how many people knew this British gem from the early 70's.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

More Sad News

It seems that some sad news will continue for my friends. My friend Miggy had to put down his bulldog , Jupiter the other day. He wasn't that old. I think he was about 9 years old. I saw him at my Miggy's New Years Party and he was not the same ol' dog. He wasn't as frisky as I expect him, despite the fact that he was more than willing. I was sad that he wasn't able.

I liked Jupiter. I walked him a few times and had the "pleasure" of sleeping in the same room as him.

That dog snored worse than my most recent girlfriend, but maybe not as bad as my father.

I'll miss that dog. I know what it's like to make the decision to have to put down a loving pet.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Brush With Mediocroty

1994 was not a good year in my life. I had got fired from a job I didn't like, and moved to a house in a town I didn't like. So when I still didn't get a good job I liked that would have allowed me to
move out of the town I didn't like, Federal Way, Washington, I was starting to get doubts about my future.

Besides, The baseball strike canceled the World Series, The Republicans took over Congress in a meaningful way. I gained like twenty pounds, seeing for the first time, a 2 in front of my weight in pounds.

Kurt Cobain blew his brains out, which affected my desire to make Pipe Dreams the Doonesbury of the 90's. The Slacker/Grunge era was over. I loved my girlfriend but I was getting frustrated at the fact that I wasn't able to get Pipe Dreams syndicated and even more frustrated in not getting a decent job as an alternative. The OJ situation affected me in the sense that I realized that I was not in tune with the American Psyche. When my employment insurance was running low I went to a temp agency on the advice of someone I was working out with at a smelly gym.

I figured I could weasel my way into a filing office type job and develop marketable skills. when I walked in not knowing too many computer programs, they saw a strapping 27 year old man who was rapidly gaining weight and thought that hauling boxes at a import/export warehouse would be perfect.

This would be the start of my downward trend of my pride. In order to stop this trend I needed to get Pipe Dreams on track. It had been rejected a half dozen times already. I needed to change some things to change the minds of those who look at these things.

The most radical change I made to Pipe Dreams in the 7th set of strips was that I switched from a pen nib to a Windsor Newton Series 707 brush. I had practiced it in my sketch pads, and thought I was ready to work with it. The reason was that my favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes made use of brush and you are not going to find a better rendered comic strip to be inspired by.

I was pretty good using the brush on organic forms like people and foliage but when it came to man made objects it looked really bad and it was evident in this set of Pipe Dream strips. If I used a brush to do straight lines my hand would shake and look sloppy. If I used a pen nib, the contrasting appearances made Pipe Dreams look amateurish.

These set of Pipe Dreams strips featured some progress in the characters of Rachel and Anais. In dating Sonya, I was getting some insight on the female psyche, but she is a unique person so I shifted some of her personality traits to Anais, which made her a more fleshed out character. Rachel's personality took on the traits of a former room mate that Sonya couldn't stand.

Although I wasn't up to speed in my brushwork skills, I was proud of the way my characters were fleshed out. The baseball storyline with dirk and Skat is one I enjoyed and I look forward to re-working on it in the future, either on the blog or when I get syndicated.

The beach gags were okay, but I'm amazed at how true it rings to me these days, now that I live near beaches that have a view of the city. I was winging it at the time. It had been 7 years since I visited the Jersey shore, a decade since I went to Coney Island, and the beaches near Seattle had a totally different feel to it.

Anyway, I was able to establish some Pipe Dreams character cliches that are evident in the following cartoons.

Ha, Ha Gritzko is clumsy!!!

Ha! Ha! A Pun That Mocks Dirk's promiscuous ways.

Ha! Ha! Buck's So hungry that he eats crayons!

Ha! Ha! Skat inadvertently commits blasphemy!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Guitar Hero? More Like Guitar Zero

I had a fun but mellow time New Years Eve. Me and my moustache went to Jersey City to attend a party given by my friend Miggy and his girlfriend. I got there at 8:30, and was one of the last ones to arrive. A group of about twelve were there of which I only knew the hosts.

There was a fine spread set up and some decent beer for me to exchange with the Sam Adams I brought.

The focus of the party was the participation with the Wii video game system. Wii is the Twister of the video systems. It actually involves some exercise. I haven't had any video system since the Atari 2600. I'm just not into video games on home systems, So I didn't play Wii until there was a need for an opponent for another player. I was actually winning playing tennis when another old friend Sean arrived with his two young sons. He bragged about his sons' prowess at the system.

Well, I showed his younger son, Justin what I was made of when I beat him at tennis only to has his older brother Ian bring me back to my humble origins.

The rest of the night was spent talking to Miguel's apartment mates including an attractive woman who looked like Rosario Dawson. Miguel showed us his more up to date animation project that was coming along quite well.

I went back to Wii to fail miserably at Guitar Hero. I knew playing it that I would never have ever been able to guitar for real if I had ever taken it up seriously.

I got home at past 4 in the morning where I spent only the second day off I had since the day I got into my car accident, walking around the neighborhoods of Atlantic Highlands.

By the way, when I talked to my mom it turns out she too played Wii at a New Year's gathering. This is a woman who just turned 70.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pipe Dreams Writes Itself. Part 9

When 1993 turned to 1994 , I was dating someone I loved who believed in my work. I was living in a house that had many roommate types and yet I was not coming up with great new ideas that would move Pipe Dreams forward. I was on cruise control.

I had lived in Seattle long enough to develop ideas inspired by the city. Instead I started to get plagued with self doubt. I spent most of the second half of 1993, looking for jobs, mostly as a bartender.

I needed at this point to make decent money. I had not made it as a cartoonist and any job I had would have to pay comfortably enough so I wouldn't have to work full time. A bartender job seemed ideal. My friend Pro was a bartender in NYC and I felt that the experience would inspire some great work. Instead, I failed in that pursuit. I had to compete with a lot of people with better experience.

I thought it would be a no-brainer. The state of Washington had weird laws involving hard liquor and food sales, so that many places only served beer and wine. Since I didn't have to worry about mixed drinks, I felt I could do the job.

Instead I had to settle for a job at a bakery in Ballard. It was part time, didn't pay much, but it allowed me to indulge in my new favorite past time, making and drinking mochas. The job was dull, but not bad. Still, the owner, Mark seemed to have it in for me. My primary responsibility was to make soup. He had recipes, but allowed me the freedom to improvise. At the time I didn't have the confidence to do my own thing, but I did my best. My customers praised the soup I made without knowing I made it but Mark said the people in the sister bakery stated it wasn't salty enough.

Hmmm, what could these people do to fix that problem?

Anyway, there was a last straw that led to my firing.

One Sunday, I was cleaning up after 5 (closing time) when a woman came in wanting service. I told her we were closed, it was 5:30 after all. She said the door was opened and that the sign hadn't been turned around. Of course she chose to ignore the sign that said our hours were 8-5 on Sundays but whatever.

Anyway, she complained the floors were wet. I was mopping when she walked in.

She complained about the music. The jazz we normally played was replaced by Pearl Jam.

She complained it took too long to get her latte. I had already put all the equipment in the sink.

She complained about the selection of bread left over. We didn't keep bread for a second day, so at closing the selection is limited.

She wanted to eat in and complained that all the chairs were on top of the table.

So I did my best to please her by running around to fulfill all her requests. Most people would appreciate that effort. Most people would make it a point to make the requests easy, knowing that the place was closed . The Jazz was put back on to boot.

Did she appreciate it? Oh no, don't be silly. She actually threatened me that she knew my boss Mark and that she had some influence.

A few days later I go fired. And when I heard the list of the reasons why I go fired, most of them involved this one incident.

So now once again I stressed on trying to get another job. It would take a few more months and a move to the suburb town of Federal Way, WA.

Before I moved down to Federal Way, I sent out another set of Pipe Dream strips. I was more vague in where the gang lived for the most part.

I was trying to create a fictional city, so it could be an "everyman" strip. The boots were made smaller and Bucky was more refined as a short-haired character. I was starting to get away from dialogue heavy four or more panel strips, mainly because the average comic strip is printed so small that it would not be seen properly. I widened the lettering and improved the word balloons.

Looking back, I see I was still trying to keep a sense of continuity with the previous entries and also my pop culture references were a little less dated but I needed to focus more on character development. Other than Skat's dad, I didn't succeed.

I was cribbing from previous sets of strips, trying to see if I improved on my skills. I did, but I was worried that my ability to come up with funny ideas was starting to wane. I put as more thinking into Pipe Dreams as much as possible. Some times this would put a dent in my relationship with my girlfriend.

We almost broke up before I moved in with her, and when I did move to Federal Way, I was hostile to my new environment of suburban dullness and its in ability to inspire good work.

Still, she believed in me, so I worked on Pipe Dreams in my own room as much as I could take, and the fact that I had yet more rejections was starting to take its toll, especially when I was out of work. This time though I got my first rejections with a personal notes. It was by Jay Kennedy of King Features. He said my characters were too foul tempered to succeed.

King Features, the distributor of Beetle Bailey