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autobiography Blog

Here Comes October

I always expect great things from October. It is my bar-none, hands down, all time favorite month. And I don’t just say that because it’s my birth month. I love the fall: the leaves changing colors, the long shadows in the afternoon, the light rain (here in Portland anyway). In college, it meant fall break was coming up. October is the gateway to the holiday season – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, which means time off work or school (or, for those of you in healthcare professions, sweet sweet overtime pay). Halloween is coming up, which means pumpkin carving and scary movie watching. Apple cider will flow like water! Baseball postseason begins! The best postseason of all the sports.

Break out your long sleeves (or if you’re in Arizona, a slightly heavier short-sleeved shirt) because October is rolling into town.

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Blog comic reviews

Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson

Here’s a great new comic that’s got a real edge to it. I love the sketchy style, and the way the children all look so hideous. This, I think, may pick up where Matt Groening’s Life in Hell comic strip left off when he started working on The Simpsons. (If that reference doesn’t make any sense, check out the Childhood is Hell collection, then look at the material he got into post-Simpsons. It’s still good, just different.) Anyway. Richard Thompson has apparently been around for a while, doing good work in the D.C. area. Now that he’s syndicated, those of us on the other side of the country get to read his comics, too. I will be looking forward to reading this comic strip.

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Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

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Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

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Blog fiction

Regular Scientist Vs. Mad Scientist

It’s happened to us all a thousand times. You’re at the grocery store, picking out a delicious, ripe peach, when you see a man in a white lab coat diligently taking notes on his clipboard. This man is a Mad Scientist. Or is he?

Truth be told, there is a lot of misperception when it comes to mad scientists. Not all scientists are mad, just like not every dog has rabies. But you do want to stay away from a rabid dog. Oh yes you do. So here is a primer on the differences between regular scientists and their mad cousins.

Does the scientist cackle? Mad scientists (MS) are known for their laughter. Laughing at inappropriate times is another indicator.

Does the scientist reanimate human or animal corpses? Normal, everyday scientists generally shy away from the term “playing God”, but MS relish it. In fact, if you accuse a scientist of playing God and s/he laughs maniacally, you have yourself a bona fide MS.
Does the scientist’s lab assistant have a hunchback and hang around graveyards at night? I think we all know what that means. Single and looking.
Does the scientist express fondness for the good old days when the insane could be experimented upon like lab animals?

Does the scientist have a lab filled with various sized brains in correctly-fitted jars? This is tough, as some everyday scientists study the brain. You’ll have to look for other clues, such as 1) Are the brains stored in Tupperware? 2) Does the scientist refer to the brains by the name of the person they once belonged to? 3) Is there an eye still attached to the brain, and the eye can follow your movements around the room?

Is the scientist’s laboratory located in an old, abandoned warehouse, or a building otherwise unsuited for scientific pursuits? One can deduce that, if you cannot sterilize the lab, you must not care about getting federal funding. Therefore: MS.

Does the scientist pronounce laboratory “la-BOR-a-TORY”? And does the scientist draw the word out with a long exhalation, as though wistfully describing one’s lover?

None of these are proof positive of MS, but they are helpful as guides. This is by no means an exhaustive checklist. Needless to say, many practices (animal hybrids, stem cell research, making food additives) are dead giveaways to MS-type behavior. Please be careful when dealing with ANY scientist, as prolonged contact may cause side-effects too numerous to mention.

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Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

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Blog comic

Comic Strips as Film

When I began this blog, I quickly wrote out a list of topics I might want to pursue in later posts. One of the items on my list was: live action movies made from comics. This is a topic that leaves me somewhat conflicted.

Live-action movies that use comics as their inspiration have been getting a lot better lately. This has a lot to do with special effects and trendy animation techniques. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who just hates the Spider-Man movies. They’re fun, and they retain some of the feeling of reading a comic book. Hellboy was also, in my opinion, very well conceived. I finally figured out that the directors of these movies actually grew up reading the comics, so they know how they should look. That is the second reason why the movies have gotten better.

Alternative, or underground, or small press, or whatever you want to call them, comics have also gotten some good movies made. Ghost World was good, and so was American Splendor. Those movies worked maybe even better as live action, because the stories involved real people in the real world – no special effects necessary. Although Harvey Pekar swinging through Cleveland in red tights would be entertaining.

But comic strips have gotten the raw end of this deal. I can’t think of a good movie adaptation of a comic strip. Popeye? Dick Tracy? Garfield? Dennis the Menace? Part of the reason I don’t particularly like actors portraying comic strip characters is that comic strip characters are rarely realistic. You have to go through great lengths to get a human being to resemble, say, Jason from FoxTrot, even though he is a cartoon of a human. When humans do goofy things that comic strip characters do, they don’t look funny. They look grotesque. I say this looking directly at Mike Myers, Mr. Cat in the Hat.

Could anyone really see Haley Joel Osment as Calvin? If you cringed as I did at that one, you’re getting my point. (To my knowledge, this was never considered, although I’m not sure whether it would be more or less profane than seeing Calvin pee on a Ford logo.)

Why not make an animated film, or an animated TV miniseries, of a comic strip? Traditional animation is not “in” right now, but it lends itself so nicely to the 2-D characters on the newspaper page. You get to keep the pacing, the look of the characters, and the overall tone of the comic. It’s a win-win-win. I’ll even throw one more win in there for good measure. The Far Side cartoon was a perfect example of this. How could you have real cows or CG cows to replace Larson’s drawings? It wouldn’t be The Far Side anymore. Larson’s drawing style was half the reason the strip worked so well. When they animated his drawings, it was still funny and it retained that lovely Far Side essence.

I’m no businessman (I say that a lot, because it is true). I’m just talking about the art of the thing. Moneywise, it probably makes more sense to get actors to play cartoon characters because you can say “See Brad Pitt as Dagwood” instead of “look at these fancy moving drawings.” To me, it makes sense that a two-dimensional animated film would recall the experience of reading a comic strip. But whoever looked to Hollywood for its good sense?

PS I have no idea who would play the Falling Rock crew in a movie. Who looks like Ernesto the giant lizard the most – Dustin Hoffman or Denzel Washington?

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Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park