Monthly Archives: October 2009

Victorian Adventure, wot wot.

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Filed under Gallery, Sketch

Got around to putting the ‘Ex Occultus” promo images into the “Digital” section. Go Czech them out.

And have a happy Halloween weekend, everyone!
ryucostume

The Two-Hour Witching Hour

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Filed under Fun, Idea, Link, News

For some reason I’m really excited for Halloween this year. Perhaps it’s because Madison’s famously over-the-top celebration, which I’m most familiar with, was starting to crumble under the weight of concerns such as “safety” and “preventing property damage” (Truly, once tear gas is taken out of the equation, a street party loses its magic), or perhaps its because I had to skip it last year because I was moving and missed the one little public party in Helena, MT, and perhaps its because my birthday comes up two days afterward and this is kind of serving as a party for both. But whatever the reason, I am jazzed. This year is gonna be fun.

So I’m going to work hard the rest of this week to finish the inks and especially that promo image so I can enjoy spending time with my friends without suffering the guilt of the procrastinator.

But to return to the idea of somewhat seedy fun, I have to say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is quickly becoming one of the best things on TV. I have watched this episode three times and could probably watch it three more:

(In case it doesn’t play on this site: http://www.hulu.com/watch/101903/its-always-sunny-in-philadelphia-the-gang-gives-frank-an-intervention#s-p1-so-i0 )
It got me thinking, though, about comedy and personality types: When I had hurt myself the other day and was lying around with an icepack in an embarrassing place, I decided to watch some TV comedies on Hulu that are not, shall we say, targeted to my demographic, for the purposes of both research and so I had something to grumble about besides how much pain I was in.

Now, this is just some inchoate theorizing, some off-the-cuff reasoning that’s definitely not ready for peer review, but it’s been turning over in my mind and I thought I’d expose it to the light of day and see if it rots or cowers back into the shadows. When I was doing sketch comedy, the other group members and I had a theory that people who decide to write comedy fall into essentially two types, which we termed “Theater Kids” and “Assholes.” Both those designations are a little mean, but I think they paint a richer picture of the kind of people I’m talking about. These two kinds of people have, of course, very different senses of humor and approaches to writing and performing it. I would use examples from stand-up, but I think this dichotomy is much clearer in “narrative” comedy like sketch or film.

When I was in Madison, our sketch group looked down its nose at another group composed of Theater Kids (though no doubt they decried us as terrible human beings) and we found their “constructive” approach to humor to be anathema to anything we considered funny or interesting, which lead me to think that this fundamental division in comedy writing, and perhaps ultimately in art in general, comes down to the idea of “positive and negative space” — When these Theater Kids wanted to make a point, they would have a character who explicitly represents that point make various “common sense” assertions, and try to derive humor from those being shot down by the old Screwed Up World – I would term this “positive space.” On the other hand we (And I use this term loosely because it was mostly me pushing for this, resulting in many arguments during writing meetings) would try to write a character that embodied whatever foolishness we wanted to mock, and would make them out to be someone contemptible and not to be emulated – What I would term “negative space.” I prefer this almost exclusively – Things going well, and people behaving well, are not, to my mind, funny. And often times not even interesting (This is why I have trouble enjoying film dramas – They’re rarely long or dense enough for me to become invested in the plight of the characters, while a good farce simply invites you to laugh at them, and by extension the world that causes them to behave that way).

The other notion that laid eggs in my brain was the idea of “backing down.” This is ultimately related to the “show, don’t tell” adage that every creative writing professor likely has tattooed somewhere on his or her body, with good reason: Action is what brings fiction to life – Talk on its own is an essay. This notion of “backing down” brings me again to the other shows I mentioned earlier, and why I like “Always Sunny.” One of the shows I looked at was “Glee,” a perfect example of, in this case literal, Theater Kid sensibility. The story was explicit in its moral intentions, using those “positive space” brushstrokes to convey a tale about a nice kid worrying he’ll be rejected by his peers, and then pulling through in the end. But what struck me even more was the way the comedy would often “back down” from an unpleasant idea, raising only the specter of it for laughs (“The teacher thinks we should cane students!”), as opposed to actually having the threatened event occur. I suppose this can be attributed to the “hardness” of a given story’s comedic universe, but there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about posing a “threat” to the audience or characters as a comedic end in itself, as opposed to actually having the thing in question happen. It’s already fictional, so this is like making it fiction twice over… On the other hand, a show like “Always Sunny” will delve into a comedic action immediately, with the words and explanation always playing catch-up. Obviously, since these examples are TV shows, budget, network standards, and the like are important factors, but it’s still possible to have something occur off-screen or otherwise be implied to have actually happened as opposed to merely rolling them out as concepts. Next time you’re watching a show or reading a book, take note of the times something occurs as an attempt at humor versus how many times it’s merely threatened in order to get a laugh. Ultimately, what I mean by “backing down” in comedy writing is best expressed by some cliched jokes: Think of characters making a dead baby joke versus actually having a baby die, or someone saying “I banged your mom” versus actually having the character do it. I guess it comes down to the old postmodern saw about the contents of a story being a commentary on the story itself. Or something…

I’d go on, or at least re-re-rewrite until it’s clearer, but it’s only a foggy notion in my head as-is, and I don’t want to spend all my time writing and none of it drawing, so I’ll leave this off here. I don’t have any answers right now, but hopefully some lines of thought will take this post as a starting point.

Duct Tape and Ducts, lots of Ducts.

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Filed under Fun, News

I just finished my Halloween costume while watching the very seasonally-appropriate “Brazil,” which is still as amazing and disturbing as I remember it. Liberal Democracy always bills itself as rule by laws instead of men, but it’s nice to have a little piece of art like that to remind you that that can go too far and fall into tyranny as well – Gotta keep an element of humanism in there.

Now on to some more inking. Going to finish that promo image before this weekend, too – There’s a con it needs to be at, bein’ all promotional and such.

The lesson of Elvis

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Filed under Fun, Idea, Link, News, Sketch

If anyone ever tells you that you can’t painfully injure yourself while pooping, they’re mistaken. Sorely mistaken. (Wordplay!)

I brought up Elvis, however, to also serve as a segue into another, very different blast from the past:
I was organizing my art files earlier, and found this old, old, old drawing I did in perhaps 5th grade, showing my drawing fixation from around the ages of 9 to 12, which was centered around massive cartoon battles between Gary Larson-style lemmings and incompetent little robots with laser guns for hands:
lem

This was essentially all I drew between 3rd and 6th grades. I had an art teacher who loved the idea, though, calling me, in my report card, the “Heironymus Bosch of the 5th grade” and encouraged me do a massive poster in this style for the centerpiece of the Parents’ Night exhibit, which was a really great idea if you wanted my friends’ parents to forbid me to come over. Every once in a while, I look back fondly on these characters and think about using them again. There’s something refreshingly basic and silly and honest about them, a certain something that makes me think that Modern Me is occasionally trying too hard.

Then, a few months ago, I saw “Superjail!,” and it all came flooding back – This is exactly what my little friends and I used to sit around and draw on massive sheets of paper. We rarely achieved the levels of blood and gore that Superjail! casually enjoys, but the simple, zoomed-out “schematic” look full of incidental detail and improvisation hits all the same notes, and for me it was like hearing a once-favorite song I hadn’t thought about in years. As an example, here’s a compilation of the opening sequences, demonstrating that sensibility:

There is a certain type of kid who should see “Superjail!” Not that you should show it to them – you as a responsible adult would get in trouble – but they should find a way to watch it some late night after their parents have gone to bed and they’ve build a couch fort in the living room. There’s something childlike yet illicit about it: It’s the TV equivalent of the older boys asking you if you want to go see a dead body. It’s the kind of thing being talked about in this essay, or in this book.
Maybe that’s all self-justification for my liking something that’s ultimately frivolous, just because, somewhat worryingly, it makes me feel all nostalgic and gooey. But there’s something to be said for reconnecting with that little kid who was just drawing lemmings and robots without any thought of whether it was good or not – Just drawing for the sake of drawing – for “fun”, that unassailable fortress of sincerity – the very act lending it an authenticity that disintegrates into ash as soon as it becomes something calculated.

…The irony, of course, being that this entire post boils down to “don’t overthink things.” I’m going to take my own advice and get back to work, and draw with my gut instead of my head.

And I think my gut has recovered.

Dooooo you have the time / To read about my mind

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Filed under Fun, Link

Dookie was the first album anyone my age ever bought.

Anyway, this is a fascinating read: NewScientist on how the brain “does” time.

Got some stuff for my Halloween costume yesterday at a thrift place close to the grocery store: 1 flannel shirt, 1 orange hunter vest, 1 tennis racket, 1 NES light gun, 1 Chicago Bulls cap. Total: $12(!). Now I need another 2 liter bottle, tin foil, black spray paint, some cardboard, duct tape, and a bunch of little American flags…

Gotta say it was a good day.

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Filed under Fun, Link

Comedy went well last night – Nothing special, but the new material seemed to go over well enough. I should get a video or something up at some point; there was a guy there with a camera, and I’ll have to make friends with him somehow…

Today was mostly boring stuff – Inked a bit, went grocery shopping, cleaned my bathroom. Now I’m gonna watch 30 Rock and have some dinner and then get back to work.

In the mean time, have a charming little music video:

We can be Heroes?

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Filed under News, Sketch

Feeling a lot better today. I’d been taking over the counter sleeping pills to help normalize my schedule, but they just made me feel like a complete slug the next day so I quit, and now I have the energy to face whatever I need to do without making rude grumbling noises that I hope my neighbors can’t hear. I also watched some old-fashioned melodramatic giant robot action which, god help me, still fires me up far more than it reasonably should. …Super Lightning Kiiiiick! <-- Right, like that. Going to work more on the inks today, then head over and do some standup at a friend's comedy showcase. Need to go get some more fresh green food that came out of the dirt, too... All out of healthy stuff except for a few very disappointing apples. Well, I better stop padding out this post with nonsense about robots and apples, and instead show you something humanoid for your eyes to chew on:

promo3

It’s the in-progress version of the promotional image for the St. James episode I’m currently working on. More important to finish the actual content, I suppose, but I still gotta polish off this baby at some point – Something I can’t do while typing, so I’ll end here. Goodbye for now, I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Ow, my metabolism.

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Filed under Idea, Link

Trying to peel off the layers of fatigue and get back at those inks… Seriously, I drank four cups of coffee and still just want to go back to bed… I’ll go for a run and try to get the blood moving. It backfired yesterday and left me an inanimate lump in a chair for the rest of the afternoon, but maybe today, maybe today, things will be different and I’ll be able to go at it with no unseemly breaks. After all, every day is a new beginn… Argh, I can’t even finish. It’s too corny (Also, my wireless keyboard ran out of batteries and I had to change them).

I’ll leave you with this — I heard this track earlier this year on Pandora, and I have not been able to get enough of it. I’d like to say it could be my theme song, but I don’t want to give you the impression that I am a sentient planet or some kind of pan-dimensional being that eats time or some such, because I know that’s the impression I would get from this:

Try looking at Hubble Telescope photos while listening.

Back in The ‘Go, whaddya know.

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Filed under Idea, Link

Back in town, gonna work on the “Achilles” inks today and hopefully some more on an oil painting of a water tower…
Speaking of paintings, if anyone knows a good place in Chicago that doesn’t charge much to print a digital image onto canvas, shoot me an email and I’ll be your friend forever and ever, amen.

Incidentally, I’ve been on a bit of a stop-motion animation kick lately, and have even tried to make some during my downtime. While looking around for examples, I found this little video which takes the whole idea of stop-motion and hits it out of the park. Or should I say…pork? Tee hee hee:

Always on track, but perhaps not on the rails.

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Filed under News, Sketch

Trying to update more frequently like I was doing when I was living in Montana – It’s always tough to build a new daily or weekly schedule when you shift locations, especially if there are no “bones” to give it structure, like school or a Nine-to-Five. But I just got back from my daily run in the park, and am feeling that syrupy, chilled, numb-yet-satisfied feeling that comes with being proactive and responsible, and thought, “why not update now?” resulting in the sentence you are currently reading, as well as this one: It is time to work on the inks for the “Tomb of Achilles” comic for St. James, as well as work a little on another painting currently sitting wet and ready on my easel. I finished a small one the other day and am waiting for it to dry, and then I will have a scan up; I really need a new digital camera… In the mean time, here is a goofy little drawing based on a friend’s Facebook status:

ducksoverchicago

I don’t even know…

Going to Madison, WI on Saturday, will be back Monday with more drawn, painted, or otherwise created objects.