Monday, September 22, 2014
Not Too Creepy for School... apparently.
Months ago, Ansel had insisted that I promise that we would see "The Maze Runner" as soon as it was released. Having slogged through the book in preparation, I was a bit concerned that seeing the movie in a theater would be too scary even for our "Sharknado" loving seven year old. His older brother, while of course already an authority on the plot of the story, opted out. Archer loves aliens and monsters, he prefers those with weapons and technical gear, or at least those who can be dispatched with a proton torpedo. While viewing "After Earth" a couple of years ago, we discovered that he is really very much not fond of watching multi-legged cgi monsters picking on unarmed protagonists. And I prefer that he be able to go to the bathroom at night without feeling that he has to run.
Any concerns I had about excessive scariness going in to "The Maze Runner" were reinforced during the previews which included a trailer for "Annabelle." This prequel to "The Conjuring" appears to be a shameless creep fest full of gotcha moments featuring the scary doll, an endangered baby, a running nightgown clad demon, and the horror standard of the screaming woman being jerked off screen by unseen forces. By the end of that preview, my child, who often thinks himself too mature to hold my hand in public, was out of his own seat and huddled in my lap.
The preview proved to be the more frightening moment of the afternoon, however. Ansel toughed out the many scary scenes with the spidery bio-mechanical Grievers without too much cowering. He was clearly pleased with himself afterwards, and went home to build Grievers out of LEGOs and cheerfully berate his brother for wimping out.
My rendition of the Griever is more silly than scary, which seemed fine given a classroom of seven year olds.
Friday, September 19, 2014
A happy and ever popular Pokemon... but of course it is the dark version.
There is no doubt that Ansel gains plenty of pop culture boy cred courtesy of his older brother. He's on top of all of the video game trends and is an early adopter of all sorts of age-inappropriate content and behavior. When all the parents in Kindergarten received an email that said something like, "Your child may have been exposed to some inappropriate language today at lunch time..." we did not have to ask which child was the source.
Archer is 4 years older, and he works hard researching the stuff that he is too young to access directly. As a result, much of the material that he shares with Ansel is way too far ahead. (I'll just offer two very disturbingly linked phrases: "Grand Theft Auto" and "lap dancing")
While I have my own concerns about the larger issues of the transmission of inappropriate content, on a lighter note, I think the situation makes Ansel's napkin pictures rather obscure for his second grade lunch friends. When Archer was seven, the napkins were all Pokemon, LEGO or Star Wars. Those topics were instantly recognizable and cool from his friends' perspective. I engaged in a lot of napkin compensation: When Archer felt deprived of the latest Pokemon card or Star Wars toy (something that happened pretty much on a daily basis) I could at least draw a nice picture of it on his napkin.
Ansel's napkins often feature whatever his 11-turning 25 year old brother has been yammering about the day before. Last night's topic was the horror video game "Five Nights at Freddies." At bedtime, Archer announced to me that Ansel was really interested in this game. This prompted the question, "I wonder who told your seven year old brother about this creepy game featuring killer animatronic creatures?" (parental disclaimer: Archer has not played this game...but he knows all the details anyway)
For today's napkin, I decided to forgo the homicidal robots and instead feature the more age appropriate Pokemon that Ansel and his classmates were arguing about at pickup yesterday.
Homicidal robots next week?
Below are Ansel's superior drawings of Pikachu, light and dark, bleeding through on opposite sides of one sheet of paper:
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Remember what the Dormouse said:
...was it, "They mostly come out at night, mostly"?...or "Get away from her, you bitch"?
Ansel's interest in things small, cute and furry was focused on the Dormouse this last week. He was reading "A Bed for the Winter," which according to Amazon is " the harrowing story of a little dormouse and his frantic search for a safe place to hibernate." He was also wondering if Dormice make good pets. (probably not)
Everyone in our household seems a bit under the weather lately. Today we were introduced to the nifty term "viral torticollis" to explain why one child's head is on sideways and he can't bear to go to school. I am definitely suffering from some back-to-school-virus related dementia myself, so this is probably not one of my better efforts in terms of concept or execution.
I thought maybe since the Dormouse is always trying to avoid being another animal's dinner, perhaps he or she could use some technological assistance. I was originally planning to come up with some sort of Dormouse appropriate mech suit, but decided to take the easy way out and borrow Ripley's backlit power loader from "Aliens."
Just for the record, Ansel has not seen the movie, but he thought this was cool enough anyway.
(And this one prompted me to add a new label category "Small Furry Things with Weapons" as that does seems a rather popular category here.)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
A couple napkins experienced some mild notoriety over the weekend:
Archer's napkin was shown at the beginning of "Diamond Dimensions #138": Dan Middleton's latest minecraft mod video. As Dan is my kids' favorite minecraft youtuber, this was a really big deal for a few minutes at our house last night.
And the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, (home of Winter the inspiring dolphin and scene of the very recently released "Dolphin Tale 2") kindly posted Ansel's napkin featuring Rufus the pelican. Their timing was good, as we had just seen the movie during its opening weekend. I was touched that the aquarium referred to me as "one talented young woman."
I can't remember the last time I was described as a "young woman."
(You can click on the images to see the actual pages)
While my sons think themselves too old for Dav Pilkey's magnum opus, "Captain Underpants," they are always happy to revisit his "Dumb Bunnies" series. The Dumb Bunnies are, as you might imagine, a family of comically stupid anthropomorphic rabbits. Dad wears tightie whities, Mom's in a bra, the baby is either picking his nose, wearing his shoes on his head, or driving the family car off a cliff. Sublime stuff as far as Archer and Ansel are concerned. (Note to Mr. Pilkey: My children would force me to buy an infinite number of "Dumb Bunnies" books that should you deign to publish more.)
In "The Dumb Bunnies' Easter," the family performs a toxic mash-up of all the major holidays: nailing valentines to the window, painting fried "Easter" eggs with cans of black spray paint, and most relevantly, "carving" the turkey like a Halloween pumpkin. (You were perhaps wondering how the Dumb Bunnies could possibly be related to this image?)
Ansel really likes the creepy poultry jack o lantern, and suggested it should be yet another web comic character. In his scenario, the carcass is like the "headcrab" from the video game "Half-Life": a parasitic intelligence that affixes itself to a human host and then assumes control of the body.
I was thinking it could be a situation like that of the DC comics' character Doctor Fate, where putting on the helmet grants one super powers at the expense of independence. I hoped this might put a slightly more positive spin on the idea of possession by roast fowl.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Don't Even Blink:
After many attempts, Archer finally managed to infect his younger brother with the Doctor Who virus over last weekend.
He started by showing Ansel the episodes with Weeping Angels, appealing to Ansel's burgeoning interest in all things creepy. Archer is not all that much a fan of dialogue, romantic intrigue or humorous banter between the sexes, so his interest in the Whovian universe is mostly about the various powers and weapons of the aliens. Ansel is much more willing to sit through a TV series where people talk more than shoot, so perhaps he may end up more of a Doctor Who fan than his brother. He did ask me midway through the first episode why one of the actresses had such yellow teeth. Clearly we've have been watching too much Disney and not enough BBC.
As I mentioned below regarding the "Angel with a Squirt Gun," my attempts to draw a lovely, Baroque inflected stone angel were not a success. The Weeping Angels are supposed to be scary malevolent aliens anyway, but obviously that was not a good concept for lunch.
The angels can only move when they are not being watched, so one has to wonder what she is going to do with that strawberry when she gets a chance.
"Angel with a Shotgun": The Quaker school version.
Archer listened to The Cab's song "Angel with a Shotgun" on repeat for much of yesterday afternoon. He acquired the obsession with this song the same way that he has developed most of his preferences in music lately: from watching "Attack on Titan" videos. He particularly likes a version of the song where it is sped up- becoming something like "Angel with a Shotgun" performed by the Chipmunks. And whenever Archer is listening to something, so is his seven year old brother.
While I was cringing yesterday, I tried to remember what my favorite music was when I was eleven, or seven...back when dinosaurs walked the earth. I'm afraid I was on a pretty much all classical diet at the time. But I do remember that one of my best friends in sixth grade had an obsession with Styx and the song "Come Sail Away," I should not be too judgmental of my sons' music choices.
Of course, this song is not just about the aesthetics of music for them. When Archer and Ansel think of angels, they are thinking of the "Weeping Angels" in the Doctor Who series. The idea of a creepy all powerful alien who can impersonate a stone figure who is now also armed with a shotgun....well, how cool is that?
On a final unrelated note: I set out to draw the requested weaponized angel with the idea in mind that I was going to make it look like one of Bernini's lovely baroque stone angels. The angels in the TV show are of course clunky cludged together life casts as well as live actors.
Almost 30 years of sculpting has certainly taught me that I am no Bernini. A few minutes of sketching last night indicated that I am also not capable of drawing a Bernini-esque angel on a napkin. I ended up using some very different source material, which might have been titled something like a less polite version of "Cute Young Ladies with Squirt Guns" I don't think I am going to be any more specific than that as my older son often reads what I write here. Thus the "angel" on the napkin suffers from modern malnutrition and an awkward pose.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Ansel is developing a real taste for the macabre. He spent the hour before bedtime last night wearing a skull head pinata (from last year's birthday party) with various drapery, trying to transform himself into a "jump scare." When he finished wearing the head, he carefully composed it on the couch (note the placement of the tv remotes- even death's heads need their media) for maximum shock value for his brother in the early morning.
He decided that this skull guy really should be a character in our ever developing- yet still nonexistent- web comic. I really liked the idea of a creepy individual who wears an old pinata on his head, but I suspected that Ansel had a literal skull in mind. I tried to split the difference in the drawing. There is some suggestion that it's a pinata, but Ansel still thought it was cool and not silly.
The main horror of this skull guy's visit last night was that he left little scraps of white tissue paper strewn all over the apartment.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
A possible plot development for "Dolphin Tale 3"?
Ansel is very much looking forward to the next "Dolphin Tale" installment opening this weekend. His older brother, who is mostly interested in movies that feature murderous aliens, technologically advanced weapons or at least a high body count, could not be less sympathetic.
I thought perhaps if there were more conflict in the storyline, Archer might be willing to sit through a dolphin movie. However, I was rather traumatized by "The Day of the Dolphin" when I was around Ansel's age (a million years ago in the mid 70's).
I decided therefore to keep the dolphins out of any potential conflict and go for comic relief with the Rufus the pelican 'with issues."
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Too Weird for School:
The kids were pretty pleased with the Land Shark, so Ansel came up with another character for the yet to be drawn, or plotted for that matter, web comic. Both kids almost always prefer recognizable characters on their napkins to something homegrown, but the web comic idea sometimes encourages an occasional exception.
Every comic needs a muscular guy, right? I think Ansel was trying to make him funny by gifting him with the legs of an infant. But the guy had to be wearing jeans so that he would still be a cool. I had suggested something cute and short in order to show off his infant legs, but Ansel wasn't having any. (A side note: neither of my sons has worn a regular pair of jeans, ever. And not for lack of trying on their parents' part. Why wear jeans when you can wear pajamas, or at least sweatpants? Coolness only goes so far, apparently)
Both kids stared blankly at the napkin this morning, apparently dumbfounded by its weirdness.
Ansel took a "Attack on Titan" napkin from the summer instead.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Inspired by "Sharknado," "Axe Cop," "Chicken Little," SNL and a trip to Costco:
Archer and Ansel have talking a lot recently about a web comic that they would like to create...(to be specific: a web comic that they would like me to draw) Axe Cop, a very successful series written by a 5 year old boy and drawn and facilitated by his comics professional older brother is of course a great inspiration.
We often discuss potential characters for this hypothetical comic and the Land Shark was yesterday's topic. ("Sharknado" has a long tail, so to speak) Archer was primarily responsible for the description, including rocket boosters, laser weapons and a "chainsaw holster." Fish Out of Water, our favorite character from "Chicken Little" (originally one of our early favorite books by Helen Palmer) inspired the helmet.
I'll admit I was much more interested in the ridiculousness of the character than the kids were. The Saturday Night Live Land Shark sketches from the late 70's were in my mind. I recounted them to the kids, but they did not find my rendition as funny as I thought they should. And I liked the idea of the alpha predator riding around on the sort of motorized scooter that enables the morbidly obese to navigate around Costco. I am slightly sorry that I did not try to render the distortion of a water filled helmet in a realistic way... because, you know, the overall image is so very realistic.
And Archer pointed out that I had neglected to include the laser weapons.
Monday, September 8, 2014
The nice people at Tombow were kind enough to send me some of their beautiful markers to try out.
They come in an extensive palate and are excellent for details like monster teeth and centipedes...and I bet that they would work even better on a surface that is more cooperative than a napkin. The brush tips can be very precise and the holder for the set is definite bonus. My other markers lived in a beat up shoe box for several years and were perpetually disorganized.
My only complaint about the Tombow markers so far is that my kids love to handle them and keep messing up their arrangement in the stand.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Ansel and Archer were pretty excited to read Mark Tatulli's sequel "Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters." The grande finale of this book involves a particular make and model of Volvo bus and a bunch of animatronic monsters rescued from a condemned amusement park ride.
I was able to find an image of a 1953 Volvo 638 bus, but I ended up drawing it more as a school bus full of "real" monsters.
Friday, September 5, 2014
Through the magic of advertising, Ansel has been eagerly looking forward to the opening of "Dolphin Tale 2." He enjoyed the first movie, and recently subjected his much afflicted older brother to viewing it again on TV.
We and I did had a bit of an argument last week about Winter's gender. Ansel was convinced that the famous dolphin was a boy, because, well...in the minds of 7 year old boys, all meaningful protagonists are probably male. Cranky geriatric feminist that I am, I was determined to rain on his parade and went to the trouble of finding proof online that Winter definitely does not have a Y chromosome.
Rufus, the annoying pelican who is featured prominently as comic relief in the movie's trailers, however, is likely a boy.
I debated briefly about drawing Rufus in a more interesting way.... say, clutching a machine gun, or perched on top of a defeated foe (maybe a chainsaw shark?) In the end, I decided to just keep it simple, and made his bill big since he seems to be poking it places where it does not belong in the movie. Unfortunately, this perspective rendered him somewhat unrecognizable, and I used some girly colors. Ansel seemed less than impressed this morning.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Guys from "Star Wars Rebels" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" show off their headgear: It is so cool that they don't need peripheral vision.
Late August brings the first fall costume catalogs and the feverish planning of Halloween begins. Not that we haven't been discussing the Halloween costumes since last November 1st... But now I cannot get away with shrugging noncommittally and pointing out that the deadline is months away.
Ansel decided yesterday that he NEEDS both a Star Lord costume and an Ezra Bridger costume in order to combine them into one costume of "Absolute Awesomeness." My standard response to this sort of news is, "Start saving now," but again, time is growing short.
Ansel's interest in the Ezra character from the latest Star Wars TV show is the first break in a years long dislike of the entire franchise. His older brother experienced an intense obsession with everything in the "expanded universe" several years ago and Ansel had been holding a grudge ever since. But "Rebels" is a new show and has not been spoiled by being liked by his elder sibling.
While no one is our house has really focused on the Star Lord character, all acknowledged that he is cool and has some nice gear. Ansel is still particularly taken with his coat. There was also great interest in the Walkman that he carries in the movie. Amusingly enough to an elderly person like myself, our kids were not entirely clear on what this device was. They are surrounded by an appalling number of electronic devices, including an Ipod nano, but Ansel had the sense that the device he saw on screen was somehow much more cool. After seeing the movie, he spent an afternoon carrying around a Walkman sized block of wood and some outdated headphones.