Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Karaoke selections

Last night was Karaoke night. I sang three songs all form the 70's to early 80's

The first song I sang was Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" I have been getting good reception on Elton John songs and I favor the rocking ones from the 70's, this song usually gets the crowd going. The video is from the 80's, I couldn't find a good one from the 70's.

The second song I sang was Squeeze's "Tempted" I love doing this song. Over the years my voice has gone from being like the vocalist, Paul Carrack to my own more rough hewn vocal styling. I got very good response from this, I guess there are enough twenty somethings that are familiar with the song. The video is one of those early 80's type which features a somewhat trampy blonde , who I can't help be attracted to.


The third song I did was Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" I love this song, I love singing it, it's a happy song with a nice groove, the video is from the Midnight Special show from the mid 70's. The bar was full, people were dancing, what more can you ask? Over all a good Tuesday night.

Survey Says...

George Bush's approval rating is down to 19%. That is the lowest approval rating of any American president ever. His approval is so low that if it was converted to a baseball batting average it would be below the Mendoza Line.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Five Year Plan Doesn't Go As Planned, Or Does It?

So, by the middle of 1996, I had worked on Pipe Dreams for nearly five years. I had submitted many comics to the syndicates only to be rejected time and time again. It had come to me that I may not make it as a cartoonist, so I got desperate to prove my fears wrong. I tried looking for work in the art field in the Seattle area. I gave up on any hope of having an acting career when I realized what was involved with how much effort it would take with no guaranteed payoff.

I had applied for a t-shirt graphic design company, but no go. After I had taken a job at a bicycle factory (To this day the worst job I had) I got even more desperate. I saw an ad for a cartoonist in one of the free weeklys that came out in Seattle. I knew it wouldn't be a career move but thought that if it led to the publication of my work it would lead to bigger and better things.

So, I met up with the editor/publisher of Seattle Scroll, Matt Asher. He was a young man, a libertarian Ayn Rand disciple who liked what he saw in my work. I had shown Pipe Dreams, and some single panel cartoons I had worked on. He gravitated towards the single panel ones and gave me Carte Blanche to do what I want on my cartoons. The only thing I was restricted on was proportion.

Anyway, Matt wanted to challenge the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger for readership in the Seattle area. He came up with the scroll format to generate interest. I thought it was interesting, however I thought it was too weird for it to grab everyone's attention.

He paid me though, so I was on my way.

Like I said, I had Carte Blanche, but I was a little timid at first and published this cartoon in the first issue.

Later on I started to give Matt Asher what he wanted. Like one of the cartoons I showed him at the interview.

I then attacked beloved cultural icons with my satire.

I then entered in even darker themes. Like suicide and lynchings.

So, with hanging on my mind I came up with this chestnut. It was my take on the absurdity of the idea that believers of Jesus Christ wear the object of his execution as a way of showing support. Years earlier, but years before I heard the routine, Bill Hicks did his take on the same subject.

I'm no Bill Hicks.

So now I was off to the races. I decided to do some increasingly blasphemous cartoons, from the mild dealing with consumerism.

To the outrageous, linking sacred worship with the celebrity worship.

So, of course that meant I was in with Satan by this time...

I then backed up a little, focused on less dark themes than Satan worship and suicide. Light hearted fare like murder...

and executions...

But like all good things it was soon to end. After getting away from the scroll format Matt Asher had a hard time keeping the Seattle Scroll afloat. He didn't have much money and was unable to sell enough ads to sustain the paper. It was a good run for me but unfortunately it did not lead to bigger and better things.

I liked the fact that I made weekly trips to Seattle to break up the monotony of living in Federal Way. I had a huge crush on this girl who contributed to the Seattle Scroll. I was still in a serious relationship but wanted to get out. The cancellation of the Seattle Scroll put an end to it. However, years later I ran into her and dated her for what was a passionate but volatile relationship.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And The Winner Is...

It's that time of year again.

Oscar Time. for the first time in several years I saw every movie nominated for best picture. I haven't seen many movies since I've been back in Jersey. New Jersey pales in comparison to the city of Seattle when it comes to venues to see good movies. The best theaters are in Manhattan but an hour and a half trip into the city to see a good movie when it comes out.

I have to wait awhile to see a good movie around here. It usually has to have a good word of mouth like "Juno" or mainstream fare.

So when the Oscar nominations came out I had only seen one film nominated, "Michael Clayton". I made it a point to see the others, one by one, two of them made it to my local theater and the other two I saw out of town.

My thoughts about the films? In no particular order...

Michael Clayton :

This was the only movie I saw the week it came out. I'm a George Clooney fan. He chooses good projects to work on. This film is no exception. It is a dramatic thriller that deals with the intrigues of the corporate world. It has a cool feel in tone and dialogue. George Clooney gives a solid performance as those the rest of the cast. It has a decent payoff in the end but the film is not quite up to Best Picture standards. It may get a nod for supporting acting and maybe cinematography but I don't see it getting much else.


Juno had played in my theater for a few weeks. I set aside some time to see it because I wanted a good laugh. It's a cute movie dealing with teen pregnancy. It has a good solid cast including Superbad's Michael Cera, Spiderman's J.K. Simmons, and Jennifer Garner. Ellen Page gives a good performance as the title character and the witty banter between father and daughter was a pleasure. I was won over by Jennifer Garner's performance. I'm not a fan of hers and her character was at first unsympathetic and a caricature. Conversely, Jason Bateman's character was at first hip and seemingly a slave to his wife's whims but soon was revealed to be a cad and rather pathetic. Juno was cute but not funny enough to win best picture. It was actually quite obnoxious in the beginning, with its dialogue and music trying hard to be hip. Still the movie, like "Little Miss Sunshine" is the little engine that could, buzzing along, getting more notice as time goes on.

There Will Be Blood:

An excellent movie by the director who gave us "Boogie Nights". I waited a long time to see it because it was not playing anywhere near me. Finally, it played in my theater. It's a sprawling epic of a movie dealing with an oilman from early in the 20th century. Daniel Day Lewis was superb as the ruthless oilman who cons his way into grabbing oil rich land from local townspeople to obtain his riches. There is a great interaction between the oilman and a preacher played by Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano. The cinematography was splendid, the period detail felt spot on. I think it's the best movie of the year and will definitely win for Daniel Day Lewis.

This was a movie I wasn't really keen to see, It has Keira Knightly, who I feel is THE most annoying of the young actresses in movies today. I felt that I should give it a chance anyway. I was surprised. First, Keira Knightly was not annoying at all. Second, it's not her movie. It's really Saoirse Ronan's movie. She plays the young girl with the over active imagination who is a would be writer. She falsely accuses her older sister's boyfriend of raping their 15 year cousin. He goes to jail, and the rest of the movie deals with the atonement of the young girl when she gets older and played by a different actress. It shows different points of views of the same events. Atonement features an incredible scene involving a very long take on a war torn French beach. I was saddened by the revelations of the events of the movie and I don't think it has buzz enough to win any Oscars except for adapted screenplay. Still, I think it should win for best supporting actress for Miss Ronan. She was extraordinary.


No Country For Old Men:
I went all the way to south Brunswick to see this film. I needed to see it to complete the list. It's a Coen Brothers movie. I'm a huge fan of their films but this one is not really of their style. Or maybe it is, because they tend to emulate genres of the past and No Country For Old Men feels like a movie from the 70's. It should, because it takes place in 1980. Filmed in the same area as There Will Be Blood, it has a wide expansive feel outdoors and a claustrophobic feel indoors. Javier Barden gives a chilling performance, creating an iconic character, Anton Chigurh. Every scene he's in and many in which he's not there is a sense
of dread. His tool of choice, a cattle stunner is present throughout. The three main characters have almost no interaction. As a matter of fact, Tommy Lee Jones does not share any screen time with either Javier Barden or Josh Brolin as trailer park thief. The ending was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying. It may win best picture, I'm not sure.

I will make only one prediction for Oscar night is that Heath Ledger will win...for biggest applause for the roll call of the dead.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Replacement Video

Months back I had featured a series of videos. One featured Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street. Unfortunately, It was a weak copy because someone had removed the good ones but today, I came across a good copy, so enjoy!

Ya bastids!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Sideways Glance

Back in 1996, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my life. I had been barely employed as a movie extra. I didn't want to go through a temp agency to get a job but I was having a hard time getting work through the newspaper ads.

Of course, I was working on Pipe Dreams. However I took some time off to evaluate what I needed to do with the strip to make it more marketable. I tried to improve on my brushwork. I also felt that I needed to retcon the strip.

I decided to streamline the strip. I took the character Julian away and would only have the main characters, no incidental characters in this set of Pipe Dreams. One of my rejection letters, again from Jay Kennedy of King Features, said my characters were too de classe (Yeah, I had to look it up) He had stated he had no idea where the characters were from, how they knew each other and what they did for a living. It's true I was deliberately vague about what they did for a living but I thought I was clear how they knew each other.

Side note...

When I worked on my last set of strips I missed out on being one of of the many comic strips that would replace Calvin and Hobbes after its final strip appeared on December 31, 1995. The previous set to that wasn't good so I decided I needed to step up my work on this set of Pipe Dreams.

Anyway, the first thing I had wanted to do was to have all the main characters live in the same house. When I was in SVA, my PIC buddies would often talk about how if one of us were to win the lottery or come into lots of money, that person would buy a large house for all of us to live together. When I lived in Greenwood, I had four roommates sharing a large house. I used that house as a model for this set of Pipe Dreams. It would allow for plausible interactions for twenty somethings that had diverse backgrounds.

I changed the backgrounds of the characters a little to reintroduce the cast to prospective syndicators.

Gritzko was now a Gulf War veteran (Now known as Gulf War I), in my mind he was older than the rest of the characters, which was a little based on my Seattle friend Dan, who lived in the house in Greenwood.

Dirk and Anais
were now brother and sister, but only for this set of strips. I didn't think it was necessary, but I felt that there needed to a background to who owned the house they lived in, and felt there needed to be siblings in the strips and the two of them seemed logical.

was now named Rebecca. That was because of the success of the show "Friends". I had come up with Pipe Dreams before Friends came on air but felt that if I had a character named Rachel in a comic strip involving twenty somethings living in a big city, it would be considered a ripoff. That also became the reason I put them in a house, instead of apartments.

was introduced to most of the characters as though he were a new character. He had the same characteristics as before.

didn't change much. He did become more of a caricature. He had a standard outfit and was now walking around with a bass guitar as though he was an aspiring musician.

I also clearly indicated that Dirk and Rachel(Rebecca) had a relationship that was now newly over.

The house I lived in had a car port with a room behind it. No one lived back there but I thought it would be neat to make that a room for one of the Pipe Dreams cast. Ever the cheap slacker, Skat fit the bill.

One other change I made was that I was going to present the strip to the syndicates in larger format. Before, I presented it on an 8 1/2 by 11 paper four to a page vertically on one side of the paper. The Syndicate requires a package of 30 strips in black and white. I decided with this set of strips I would flip it to a horizontal format, two per page. I did this in a subtle nod to what the format of how the Calvin and Hobbes collection books were presented since 1994. Since I was cheap I put the cartoons on both sides of the paper. I also finally figured out how to do it on the copy machines at Kinkos. This actually got praise from my priviledged friends who got copies of Pipe Dreams.

Anyway, I felt that this set of Pipe Dreams were the best I sent in, very consistent in the artwork and more coherent than previous sets. Some good visual gags were present and Anais was starting to look more sexy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Roy Scheider

New Jersey born actor Roy Scheider passed away the other day. He is best known for being the police chief in the movie Jaws. He also is noted for his supporting actor Academy Award nomination in the French Connection.

But the movie I want to focus on is the movie 52 Pick-Up. It's a movie that came out after Roy had reached his peak. It's a thriller that features Ann Margret as his wife.

I have never seen the movie.

So, why am I talking about it?

Well, it was playing at the Gramercy movie theater on 23rd street NYC back in 1986. They had a large marquee that would have the movie's title done up in the style of the movie's logo. When the movie played its run, they would dispose of the sign outside the front of the theater.

When 52 Pick-Up ended its run its sign was outside in separate pieces. The 52 was in one piece and the PICK-UP sign was split in two. The PIC was one piece and the K-UP was the other. The typical college thing to do was to gather found items and put it in your room, I thought having a Movie marquee sign in my dorm room would be kinda neat. The problem was that I was on my way to class and I couldn't carry the whole sign to class. So I tried to figure out which part would be the best one. I felt the 52 was too dull and didn't like the font. K-Up was too vague, so I picked up the PIC and was on my way.

I took it back to my dorms, hung it up and was trying my best to come up with the appropriately witty words to fill out the acronym of PIC.

To this day I haven't done so.

I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday Is My Favorite Day of The Week?

I currently have no days off from work these days. My schedule is weird. I work Monday through Friday at UPS in the evenings from 5ish to 10ish. I then work at TSA Thursday through Monday form 5AM 'til noon or one depending on my mood.

This leaves me with Saturday and Sunday afternoons to enjoy football, food and family. Still I have a hard time getting to bed early to get enough sleep.

This leaves me Tuesdays and Wednesdays as having the most free time. For some reason, I don't go out on Monday nights after work. I guess I'm too tired from one of the three days a week I work both jobs.

So that leaves Tuesday. I get to sleep in, which is a luxury these days. I allow myself to wake up really late. I relax by listening to the Stephanie Miller Show on I-tunes internet radio, cuz daytime TV is insanity except for the movies on TCM. I recommend the show for people who are left wing but have a sense of humor. She's great.

I then, take long walks around the Atlantic Highlands which reminds me of the Queen Anne area of Seattle but with the New Jersey creepiness that seems to permeate almost every town on the coast. There's a good mixture of housing types from old style mansions to decent looking ranches and Sears houses. Yeah, that sounds dull but I like architecture and this town has a variety of styles and various renovation ideas throughout.

Anyway, I work on my blog drinking my coffee before I head to work.

Work sucks but it has been keeping me in shape and what little money I make goes into my savings account. Like I said, some financial setbacks is keeping me from moving ahead in my life while I convince myself I wasn't a total idiot for moving back to Jersey.

Anyhow, after work, if it's early enough I go to Windmill at Long Branch and have a double burger that is very tasty. the weather has been nice, so the atmosphere is nostalgic. I then go to Jack's to do my karaoke. I have been doing well in singing, recently and doing well by other means, wink wink. And the beer is good.

The best part of Tuesday nights is I don't have to worry about where I spend the night. I don't have to get up a 3:30 to go to work. Now I have to find a place near me that does Karaoke on Mondays....

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wow.... who'd thunk...

The Giants win the Super Bowl and I look at the sky and sure enough, the pigs are flying high tonight. I went to visit my friend Lucifer in Hell. Man was it cold!

Whoever predicted this after week two of the season needed to be sent into an insane insylum.

Well, folks

Release that man!!!

And a giant Fuck You to Tiki Barber