Thursday, April 17, 2014

Joshua Tree

I could have done without the three-hour late flight from JFK to LAX. I could have done without the straggling out to the curb at 2:30 to wait for a SuperShuttle to Anaheim.

I was kind of charmed the 14-year-old sitting next to me. "Turn off your phone," said his dad. "Not until she asks me to," said the kid. "She just asked, didn't you hear the announcement?" "She didn't ask me personally yet."

Somehow it all worked out, and today I am in Joshua Tree.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Coloring Captain Pike

Back in the Stone Age, I colored a comic book series about Captain Pike's Enterprise, pre-Kirk. Star Trek aficionados before then knew Captain Pike then as the guy in a rolling box who blinked lights for yes or no.

(An aside: I ran into a neighbor of the penciler on a ferry to Gambia in 2011. "You make comics? Oh, do you know a guy named Patrick Zircher?")

When we made this comic, coloring was in a state of transition. It's painful sometimes to look back, because the colorist would paint guides, and the shading would be interpreted by a team of people, with varying results. Some of the people interpreting the guides and putting them into the digital files would be very, very good, and others you weren't quite sure why they had a job. Plus, due to the hectic pace, everyone (including the colorist) sometimes had to knock stuff out in a hurry.

We didn't do too badly with Early Voyages, and that's probably because it was never as late as the books down the hall. In my time as a Marvel (guide) colorist, I actually colored photocopies of faxes of pencils. I think it was on a book about Magneto. I remember puzzling over shapes and taking my best guess.

Eventually, everything went to one person doing the coloring on a single book, or a few people working together. I got pretty good results working just on guides with my friend Monica handling the digital end on an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man and on a Generation X issue, but that's because we knew each other, knew what the other expected, and both understood our roles. Back with Early Voyages, I have no idea who was doing the separations, as they were called then in a leftover term from pre-Photoshop. I imagine more than one person was doing them. (Actually, looking at the guides I just pulled out, they were going to Ireland to a house called Graphic Colorworks.) 

But really, whoever did these did a pretty good job. And then it looks like someone lost the film or the files to nine of the ten issues (and an eleventh colored by Matt Webb) that have just been reproduced in a beautifully designed hardcover from IDW. The first issue looks clean and then you see the screens.

I've tried scanning from comics too, and it's damn hard to get it to look right. I've gotten good results from duplicating layers, setting them to multiply, then using adjustment layers with eyedroppers to sample certain colors and bump them up a bit. But like the guys who did this hardcover I received from IDW today (thanks, IDW!), I can never quite get rid of the screens, or moire-looking patterns.

But I always liked Early Voyages. I'm glad it's back out there in the world, screens and all. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Balthazar the Donkey

I found this stuffed donkey squished in the bottom of a box of summer clothes. I was surprised, because I was sure I'd thrown him away in a fit of culling.

The donkey is called Balthazar the Donkey. He was won at skee-ball in Coney Island in 1988. Not by me...by my date that evening. I didn't know him too well at the time, but he was a film buff who had, in fact, taken me and Daniel Johnston to see Bunuel's Simon of the Desert on our first meeting in 1986, back in Austin. I knew the skee-ball winner for several more years after this night, until I didn't right around the time he become well-known for his films. But that's a long and complicated story, hard to tell without some philosophical discussions, without getting to the bottom of people's motivations and egos and insecurities. I'm including my own in that.

He'd told me then that Balthazar was in a Bresson film. And then he'd probably explained the rest to me, but we went on the Wonder Wheel with a Hi8 video camera, then back to JC where we ate a pint of Chunky Monkey on my Fifth Street stoop, and I'd forgotten the details of Balthazar's namesake.

I looked them up last night. Balthazar belonged to a girl named Marie.

Ah. I get it. Twenty-six year later.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

It's finally spring! I know this because the hippos have peeked out of their box. 


Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Movie Review I Never Need to Read Again

I've read this review so many times I can't believe major critics are still writing it. People are PAID to write this shit over and over again.

It's so tiresome and cliched. You'd think by the time a critic got to the level of a major newspaper or serious magazine, they'd remember to look back at what they and their colleagues have written previously, and at least try a new approach.

Or maybe, like I did here with their recycled super hero movie review, they just copy-paste, and change a few details.

"I hate super heroes and super hero movies and things with computer graphics, and pretty much anything that might be liked by the filthy mainstream public, and I lost the coin toss with A.O. Scott and he kept my quarter too, so now I'm really pissed, and I had to go see your wretched movie about things that I have disdained since I learned I was accepted at an Ivy. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

More Bed-Building

That really didn't go too poorly.

All the pieces of the bed came in three heavy packages, which since I live on the 4th floor, meant several trips up and down to get each piece into my spare room. I'd been a bit compulsive about finding the cheapest bed that wasn't particle board and laminate, so I'd actually gotten one made of wood. I found the one I wanted on Amazon, tracked it back to the manufacturer, then found the discounted frames on the manufacturer's eBay store. The frame is unfinished, so I have a day of shellacking ahead of me once the weather is warm enough to keep the windows open. And I'll have to decide how much effort to put into this frame. I'm thinking of reinforcing the joints. It may be that having taken that woodworking class a few years ago has all kinds of unexpected benefits.

All the parts showed up and I put the frame together. I need to get a separate post for the center rail. That's unlikely to survive over the years without a bit of sagging, and while I don't plan to keep this forever, I'd rather my hand wasn't forced in a few years.

But then...problem. I also bought two under-bed storage drawers. One slid together easily and I've put all the sheets in to it and put is under the bed. But the other one had two holes drilled at the wrong place, so the bottom board doesn't slip into the grooves on all four sides, just on three.

I'm tempted to send it back, but that's a hassle. so I've just filled the holes with wood putty and I'll drill new holes in a few days.

I'm unreasonably excited by having an actual bed. It's been a while and I've missed the storage space. And it looks so civilized after my college-dorm look of the mattress on the floor for so long.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Building a Bed

My bed frame arrived. I carried it up the stairs in pieces.

Now I have to do something with it.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Work Here is Done

Today I have achieved success in life.

How do I know this? The WSJ mentioned Bundt Day in Jersey City.


I'm a little embarrassed to have said "totally," but given my track record on saying things I shouldn't to major media outlets, this came out pretty well.

Read the whole article about writer Larry Hama—who used to help me with the NY Times crossword puzzle back in 1988 when I was an Epic Comics internet—here. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bed Head

I just bought a bed on eBay after weeks—no, years—of dawdling.

It's harder than it look, you know. At least it is when you're renting and not entirely sure you should be renting and keep trying to buy property and being thwarted by oil tanks or misleading short sales or being terrified of not being quite sure where you'll be in a year or two. 

Though I always come home after my forays into the world. We know that already.

I had a really nice Gothic Cabinet Craft storage bed when I lived on Avenue B. But there was no way I was getting it out of the room it was in without figuring out how to dismantle it (they'd brought it in in pieces) and I wasn't nearly as handy back then as I am now. So I left it for the guy who bought my place off me in 2001. 

I didn't need a bed for a while as I roamed around for MariesWorldTour 2001 and 2002, and then when I bought and sublet my Jersey City place in late 2002, I needed a bed. I got the cheapest IKEA bed in the Elizabeth IKEA and my friend Polly helped me put it together. Problem solved. 

But later after a few moves and time in storage, that bed was a bit saggy in the middle post. And during my last round-the-world trip, the newlyweds who sublet from me managed to break a leg off the bed. I shouldn't blame them. The bed frame was cheap and almost ten years old. But the fact that a floorboard under the leg also broke seems significant. Perhaps it is. I try not to give it too much thought, but I threw away the cheap particle-board bed frame when I got back from MariesWorldTour 2011. I could have made cutting boards from the slats, but this was before I'd bought wood glue and clamps and learned about IKEA hacking. 

I just put the mattress on the floor at that point, which was fine. And there it's been since January of 2012. Every morning I'd think for a second "Maybe I should get a bed." But then I'd wonder if I was going to stay renting where I am, where two sides of the bed are exposed, or if I'd buy a place and the bed would have to stay against a wall. I'd look at the Gothic Cabinet Craft beds and wonder if I should get drawers on two sides or one, and I'd go to IKEA and look at all the particle-board beds and add up the costs of the bed plus the slats and then get annoyed that the cheap beds really weren't all that cheap once you got into the minutiae of price-to-value. 

Finally, I looked on Amazon, eBay, and Economy Foam. The conclusion: You can get a simple wooden frame and drawers to go under it. 

Then I waffled over which one to get. There's the one everyone on Amazon likes, but you have to buy plywood too.

That seemed reasonable. But once I started digging, I found other similar ones, and there was even one on eBay that looked like it was made by a guy, and if I could have found a little proof that it was just some carpenter making beds, I'd have bought it, but I couldn't find out anything about the guy after a bit of digging, so I just went with the cheapest one with lots of feedback instead. 

I will probably build a few legs along the center post, just because it seems prudent. And I might shellac the bed, or maybe just put linseed oil on it. I might even add plywood to the mix. 

Next I get to think about the mattress. The one I have now seems fine to me, but given that I bought it in 1992, maybe I should try out new ones.

That might take a few more years.