Archive for May, 2009

Friday Robots: Telescopic Robotropic

hubbleAs our friends over at West Lawn Park pointed out, a very special anniversary just passed. The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed on April 24, 1990.hubble-color

Possibly the most exciting and adventurous NASA mission since Apollo, Hubble continues to learn us good about the universe. In honor of the telescope furthest from the Earth, here is a Friday Robots salute to Hubble.hubble-yo-mama

Yes, the HST is not above telling a few off-color jokes in between snapping pictures of the universe in its infancy.

Interestingly, Hubble’s iconic shape was not conceived immediately. Below are a few of the alternates NASA considered before arriving at “tin can with wings”:hubble-alternates

Personally, I’m glad NASA stuck with science over giant art installation in space. Especially that bottom right one. Looks too much like a spider for this blogger’s taste.

Happy belated birthday, Hubble.

don’t vark too aard

When I was a kid my dad had a mug with a cartoon aardvark on it. The aardvark wore a shirt and tie (but no pants, in true cartoon-character fashion) and was himself holding a mug. Underneath was the motto “Don’t Vark Too Aard.” It was vaguely amusing, so I read it everytime my dad used the mug to drink coffee (or, in the evenings, a shot of Jose Cuervo).

The mug was one of those things that is just funny enough that someone will buy for their friend or relative, but never for themselves. I’m sure my dad received it as a gift one year. He must have liked it, because while some gifts my dad has received have quickly disappeared, Mr. Aardvark was in his weekly mug rotation for many years. I think I can see why. It is really weird. Who thinks of a saying like that, let alone realizes Don’t Vark too Aard would make a perfect mug?

As a cartoonist, a little game I play with every joke I like is “how did they get to that punchline?” Trying to figure out how someone arrives at a joke is about as impossible as looking at the answer to a math problem and then saying “what equation must have given this result?” There are thousands of answers to that question. But I play anyway, because it’s fun.

Suppose a mug-maker was at a zoo with his kids. I pictured a middle-aged guy with a family, perhaps not so different from my dad. He was at the zoo. The first animal exhibit at our city’s zoo was the aardvark. So he walks through the gates still fresh and excited to see the animals; this is before his kids start pestering him for toys and ice cream and the sun bakes his scalp and the glasses on his face keep slipping from sweat. He steps up to that first exhibit: Aardvark. As usual, it isn’t moving too much. It’s probably sitting in the shade. The guy thinks about his own hectic schedule and chuckles at the aardvark’s easy life.

“Don’t work too hard, aardvark,” he says to himself. Then: “Don’t vark too aard, aardvark.” Bingo!

Why, of all the mugs and shirts and hats and things with silly phrases printed on them, have I remembered my dad’s aardvark mug all these years? Perhaps I liked the sentiment. It’s true, I don’t want to work too hard. If the mug just had a picture of a businessman and said “Don’t work too hard,” I would have thought “duh” and forgotten all about it. But because there was a aardvark in a shirt and tie, I heeded those words.

When you’re a kid, you never think to ask your parents the important questions. Why is that? It’s the easiest way to find out the answer. Instead of asking my dad about the mug, I remembered it my whole life. Maybe if I had asked my dad about it, he would have answered and neither of us would remember it today. That would have been a shame, since that aardvark made a good point about vark.

└ Tags:

National Cartoonist Day

spiegleman-heteroOver at Richard Thompson‘s blog, the esteemed cartoonist reminds us that today is National Cartoonist Day. I, for one, intend to celebrate today by living up to all the cartoonist stereotypes. You know: waking up late, shooting my gun, drinking moonshine whiskey, getting into a property dispute with the neighbors, robbing a Circle K, going to jail, failing to post bail, wasting my potential, falling asleep beside a toilet.

If you should happen to see me on today’s steep downward spiral, give me a high five or at least wink in my general direction.

Thank you, dear readers, for continuing to follow one cartoonist’s journey on the path of enlightenment.

the latest trends

In the absence of any real news this week, I’m going to write about what I’ve been enjoying these last few days.  3382050733_453607c6a5_bAdventureland

There are movies in which plot is king. That’s probably the majority of movies, actually. Then there are movies in which a bunch of cool people hang out for a couple of hours. Adventureland is that kind of a movie.

A few hours after watching Adventureland, my brain was still humming along to the rhythm of the movie. I wanted to hold that particular feeling. It wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen in my whole life, but it was pleasant, and fun, and funny. It gave me a good feeling and for that I have to share it with you, dear readers.

Jesse Eisenberg plays James, an overly-literate Jew who just graduated from Oberlin, drives an Aries K Car, and reminds me not at all of myself. James plans on moving to New York in the fall and attending Columbia’s school of journalism (because he admires Charles Dickens’ travel writing so much). These plans are thwarted when his father is “transferred” (we are not told why, although it might have something to do with the fact that he drinks nonstop everytime we see him) and his parents have no money to fund these extravagances. James finds gainful employment at the local theme park, Adventureland (what is the theme, you ask? ADVENTURE!).kristen_s-14

In spite of Eisenberg playing the lead, Kristen Stewart (playing Em) truly steals the show. She takes the thankless role of “love interest” and fills it with that indefinable quality that makes men trip all over themselves and act even goofier than usual.

Here, as in many movies unfortunately, the guys are defined by what they do (or want to do) and the girls are defined by what is done to them. In spite of this, Stewart makes her character deeper and more involving than the script provides. I was so interested in her, ah, acting that I checked to see what other movies she’s been in. Turns out she is best known for being in some teenage vampire movie. Crazy, right? I never would have guessed.

Throw in hilarious performances by Martin Starr, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and you’ve got a real winner. While not as hilarious as Superbad (the director’s previous film), Adventureland is extremely addictive in the same way the best TV shows tend to be. I only wish Adventureland was episodic; as it is, we only get 100 minutes with these characters.

kChroniclesThe Complete K Chronicles, by Keith Knight

I never got a newspaper that carried the K Chronicles when I was younger. That’s a shame, because it is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic strips. I can only wonder how obsessed I would have been if I started to read the K Chronicles when I was 12.

Better late than never; I’m about halfway through this impressive tome. At 500+ pages, it truly feels like a “complete” collection of work. Still, I have to wonder what Knight feels like when he sees years of his life condensed into a single book. I imagine it is the same as an editor at National Geographic must feel when he sees decades of the presented on a single hard drive. Information is getting more compressed, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. At least, I hope not.

Each episode of the K Chronicles is overstuffed with words, pictures, and jokes. Instead of the four-panel format, each K takes up a full page (usually 9 panels). Knight can tell whole stories in the space. Unlike some of the terrible comics that forever recycle the same lame jokes and stock characters, K deals in the real and the now. You won’t find any lasagna jokes (I haven’t yet at least), but you will see fresh takes on race, class, gender, from a black man living in San Francisco.

Also, he’s got a weird fixation on sheep. It gets funnier the more you read, trust me.

Adventureland and The Complete K Chronicles have absolutely nothing in common as far as I can tell. If I was writing reviews for a real newspaper I’d have to find something to close this post, shoehorn some weird “and so they both blah blah blah the end.” Fortunately I’m a hack blogger, so I’ll just say ROBERT PATTINSON IS TOTALLY HOTTTT!!!!!

today’s comic

img_20090507…is perhaps the closest I’ve come to transcribing a real conversation with my brother. I’m not going to reveal who is who in this dialog except to say that, whoever you think is better looking, is me.

Falling Rock is run mainly in college newspapers, so we take a summer holiday since nobody would be around to read it anyway. The last new strips of the 2008-2009 year are running now and will run through May 15th. I usually do summer repeats, but if you, dear readers, have a better idea I’d love to hear it. The blog will continue on through the summer, spreading rumor and scandal in its wake. Never fear! Friday Robots never rest.

It’s been a good year for Falling Rock. I’m comfortable writing the characters and I found a drawing pen that I’m happy with. My goal is to get this comic syndicated in the dailies; this year I felt Falling Rock could stand up beside the majors. If you want proof, check out my archive or buy my book. Either way, spread the good word. Good readers like you are hard to come by.