Friday, November 21, 2014

Fyrnock from Star Wars Rebels



One of the "Angry Toothlesses."
These critters have appeared in a couple recent episodes of "Star Wars Rebels."

I will have to admit that I did not pay very close attention to those episodes.  While we watched the last one earlier this week, I was busy picking through Ansel's hair, trying to determine whether he really had lice again, or was just psychosomatically itchy.

Trying to figure out what the "Fyrnocks" were called and actually looked like presented an extra challenge last night that I did not appreciate. (I was still exhausted from washing or bagging everything that the kids' hair might have touched during the last couple of weeks.)  Usually it is quite easy to quickly find out the name and more than you possibly need to know about any creature in the Star Wars universe.  I speak from ample experience.  There was, however, a bit of a dearth of info and images on the topic of Fyrnocks.

Archer and Ansel had been calling them "Angry Toothlesses" for their resemblance to the Dreamworks dragon character. This seems to be an apt name as Ezra, the boy character in "Rebels," has some sort of control over them not entirely unlike Hiccup's relationship with Toothless.

I briefly considered drawing the two boys and the two dragonish creatures.... but after all the laundry, I felt fortunate to just draw some teeth and glowing eyes.

And, no, the kids don't have lice....any more....I hope....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Werewolf from "Jinx's Magic"


This line spoken by Malthus the werewolf is one of my favorites so far in Sage Blackwood's "Jinx's Magic."

We've been working our way through this sequel to "Jinx" at bedtime, on train rides, and during times when the electronic device privileges have been suspended due to crappy behavior.

The Jinx series is one of the few occasions when I feel like I am reading a book to my sons that I would have really enjoyed reading myself at their age.  My sons almost always prefer graphic novels and comic books, and mostly those featuring high tech weaponry.  While I have been happy to be immersed in graphic storytelling (and violence!) over the last few years, it was not something that I saw much of during my own childhood.  The graphic novel category didn't exist, and I don't think regularly reading comics even occurred to me as a possibility.

I was an extremely enthusiastic reader as a kid, and I'll admit to a little nagging disappointment that I have not been able to successfully share any of my early, admittedly girly, favorites with my sons.  Obviously the Laura Ingalls Wilder series was a non-starter destined for hysterical derision. The same goes for the likes of "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess."  And I couldn't even get traction with the Narnia Series, or "The Last of the Very Great Whangdoodles" (written by Julie Andrews herself, although no one has the slightest interest in Mary Poppins around here).

In lower school, I read as much as I could of anything by Roald Dahl... including a memorable encounter with "Switch Bitch," a definitely age-inappropriate volume of short stories originally published in Playboy that I found on my parents' bookshelf.  While I have not been able to get my sons to sit through much of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or "James and the Giant Peach," they would be intrigued by Dahl's story that includes a description of how the narrator might have become infected with sexually transmissible leprosy....but...no.

At any rate, I am enjoying Ms. Blackwood's books even now in my present geriatric condition, and have had to restrain myself on a couple occasions from reading ahead on my own.  It's not so much that I think that I am too mature to be reading a book theoretically aimed at children....(for more insightful thoughts on this topic, see Sarah Burnes' thoughtful essay on adults and YA literature in the Paris Review here)

I just don't have much time to be reading for pleasure when my sons aren't around... because, you know, I have to draw on these napkins..... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sear Otter with Sonic Screwdriver


I wonder how much overlap there is between the "fandoms" of Doctor Who and Sea Otters?

Eager to share his trove of Sea Otter knowledge, Ansel was telling us yesterday about how they use stones to  hammer shells off undersea rocks and open up oysters and abalones. They are some of the few tool using mammals, and the only marine mammals besides dolphins.

Since these Otters can use tools, I thought, why not provide the ultimate tool?  Maybe the problem was that Ansel did not give me a request last night, and I was deluding myself that the green glow of the sonic screwdriver reflected off the water was going to be fun to draw?

When I showed the napkin to Ansel this morning, he rolled his eyes and said, "That will do."
Not a very successful crossover, apparently.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sea Otter with Teddy Bear


Continuing to work on his 2nd grade research paper on Sea Otters, Ansel told me that people call them "The Teddy Bears of the sea."

In a sleep deprived haze last night, I debated the visual possibilities of that statement:  Teddy bears swimming in the ocean (surfing! scuba diving!) or Sea Otters reclining indoors on beds or having tea parties.  The options seemed mostly too insipid. 

In the end, as usual, I took the path of least resistance and just put the two together. Speaking of insipidity, I feel like I have seen a lot of images online of animals snuggling with teddy bears.  "Rat with teddy bear" autofills on Google above even "rat with tumor." There are endless images of dogs and cats clutching plushes. We like our online animals cute, and even better, cuddling an unrealistic stuffed animal. 

And speaking of unrealistic, Ansel mentioned several times how great it would be to have a sea otter as a pet....If only we had  room for an animal that is 4 to 5 feet long and between 70 and 90 pounds, plus a large salt water pool well stocked with tasty benthic invertebrates.

The Sea Otter on today's napkin is definitely not snuggling his teddy, and seems mostly annoyed by the lack of realism in the situation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

C3PO Hails a Cyberman from "Doctor Who"


Which metal suited guy is more cool?
Ansel has recently been convinced of the appeal of both Star Wars and Doctor Who.

Now that "geek" culture has more or less completely triumphed over the mainstream, I find myself somewhat confused by just what is supposed to be cool...or perhaps I am uncertain if there is anything that is not supposed to be cool.

While I am well aware that the Doctor predates Star Wars by over a decade, from the perspective of my own adolescence and personal birth of the concept of the cool, they are about the same vintage. 

I was an early and avid reader of science fiction.  By high school, I had more or less exhausted the back catalog of the "Science Fiction Book of the Month Club." ( I remember my mother attempting to convince a telemarketer for the club to stop harassing me by telling him that I had died.)  I was also a moderate fan of the first two Star Wars movies, although teenaged authority that I was, I would have been pleased to inform you that I did not consider those movies  to be "real" science fiction.

Perhaps I might have had a tiny bit of geek cred back in the 1980's... If there had been such a thing at my high school at the time.  I  don't think, however, that my interest in science fiction had any remote relationship with coolness, and in fact I was rather circumspect about admitting my enthusiasm for Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

I was aware of Doctor Who back in the 1980's, but I don't think I considered the show to fall into the legitimate science fiction category either. And I don't remember ever watching an episode.

It was just too uncool even for teenaged me.

My apologies to Whovians everywhere... and to my sons, but I am pretty sure my kids would not make it through a "Classic" episode themselves.

I am not saying that I share the opinions of my younger self, on Doctor Who, or anything else...but...
when I was a kid, the Doctor looked like this:


and the Cybermen looked like this:


While they may be undecided on the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, my sons are pretty convinced of the coolness of Matt Smith.  His bow tie and ADD like arm flapping and hyperactivity just make him all the more compelling.

And the current Cybermen are definitely cool.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sea Otter with Crab for Lunch


Ansel is pretty excited about his research project on Sea Otters,  Thus, we have a rare napkin free of trademarked character infringement, featuring a real animal in a real environment without lasers or a jet pack.

Did you know that Sea Otters can weigh up to 90 lbs? And that they have something between 26,000 and 165,000 hairs per square centimeter of skin, yet they never have to comb it because it never gets tangled?

At least that is what Ansel tells me.

The crab is not particularly accurate.  Around midnight last night, I realized I was making it cooked crab color.  There are crabs with shells in that color range, but I cannot say if they are on the menu for this sort of sea otter.  I just thought it would be nice if the crab popped out from the background...or maybe I wasn't really thinking and was just drawing a cooked crab?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cardboard Friend Arrives for Lunch



 Because all the good stuff in life can now be delivered to your house in a cardboard box....right?

Yesterday morning, as I was pedaling them to school, the boys were discussing "Cardboard Friend" and how we should purchase one.

Cardboard in general has always been a popular yet problematic topic at our house.  During our early frugal and overachieving parenting days, (in other words, when we only had one child), we used to make out of cardboard whatever toy Archer thought he really needed to have.  We constructed a pirate ship, a castle, Star Wars vehicles, power tools, and my husband's special contribution, a rolling lawnmower. In the spirit of full disclosure, these items were most often made out of Fresh Direct Boxes, which were arriving at our house with alarming frequency, often containing only one loaf of bread, or two artisanal pickles. We did our best  to convince ourselves and anyone else who would listen that we were doing something positive with our first world problem of having too many boxes.

At the time, I fantasized that I was teaching Archer important values: "Why should we buy this cheap plastic toy that you think you want when we can work together to create a more interesting one for free?"  Those who have kids, or really anyone who can remember being a child, knows what the flaw in this edifying line of reasoning is.  Beyond that, what I was really doing was training a demanding junior art director: "No Mom, the castle should have three towers and a working drawbridge!" A child who who believed that his parents should spend huge amounts of time building things to his specifications.  And when you are talking to a three or four year old, and you say "Let's make a lawn mower!" what you really mean is "I will make this for you while you whine endlessly about how it is taking too long."

We have continued to try build things out of cardboard in my studio over the last few years, so Archer and Ansel decided that "we" should make a Cardboard Friend ourselves.

I did a little bit of research last night and, ugh, learned more than I care to detail here. To be brief: there was a kid character kid dressed as a cardboard robot called "Danbo" in a popular Japanese manga back in 2007.  This box robot was later reproduced as a toy and was disseminated to broad internet fame in the following years.  There are Amazon and 7-11 logo box versions and thousand upon thousands of "fan art" photographs of these cute boxbots in every possible locale engaged in every possible activity.  If you are interested in the details, or wish to become one of the over 144,000 fans of Danbo on facebook, "Know Your Meme" has an informative "danbo" page.  Or you can buy one at Amazon, with the amazon.com.jp logo on it for only $19.95.

Archer tells me that he likes the idea of Cardboard Friend as a "being invested with mystical power." Yes, those were his exact words.  I have some mixed feelings about the ubiquity of cardboard in our lives, and for the moment, I am going to try to resist buying a Cardboard Friend or even making one of our own.

But I did draw one popping out of Ansel's lunch bag.


Below some of the cardboard building at our house 2006-2013.  And no, I don't think I can find a picture of that spectacular lawnmower.


...But wait... several hours later, a photo of the famed lawn mower has been found:
And here's one of the castle  because I clearly cannot stop myself:



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The cast of Goat Simulator: Giraffe, Penguin & Goat



"You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat."

Like many other of my sons' interests, I am not sure that I understand Goat Simulator.
In addition to the tagline above, the official website offers the following disclaimer:


"Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat."

One can see how that sort of game would be irresistible.  You can play as the three above animals... or at least as their destructive, dysfunctional, pseudo-avatars.  I think it is safe to say that no virtual goats are harmed during the playing of the game.  I discovered this morning that there is also the option to play as a whale.

I definitely regret not including that on the napkin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Perry, Groot and Rocket:


Perry the Platypus from "Phineas and Ferb" usurps Rocket's shoulder spot.
Maybe this Disney corporate crossover thing might lead to some conflict?.

The Disney Infinity game got us talking about the potential for ridiculous team-ups from the greatly expanded Disney roster. (Or ridiculous death matches, if we are not thinking about a napkin for a Quaker student lunch...)  Ansel did not appreciate any of my suggestions along the lines of "Jiminy Cricket and Darth Vader" ("How do you expect to be a real boy if you don't listen to your conscience?") or "Bambi Meets the Hulk".... ("Hulk smash girly deer!")

He accepted the Perry, Groot and Rocket image this morning.  Perhaps he was just relieved that I had not drawn something like "Snow White visits Jabba the Hut."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rocket Raccoon Lifts the Winter Soldier


Last week Ansel finally redeemed multiple rewards that he had earned this fall (known as bribes in less indulgent circles) and picked out the Disney Infinity game.  He was relatively unenthusiastic about Skylanders, another console-plus-endlessly-expensive-figurines style game.  But Disney Infinity won him over with the possibility of playing as the Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel people as well as other Disney and Pixar characters.

Don't know about you, but the pop culture juggernaut of Disney/Marvel/Pixar/Star Wars is making the whole idea of crossovers oddly less interesting for me.  My sons claim to agree, but I am pretty sure that they do not have the same reservations about corporate monoliths that I do. Certainly the "Phineas and Ferb"and  "Star Wars" episode was nicely done.  Ansel was quite excited to see the "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Jessie" Halloween episode. (If you are unfamiliar with "Jessie," please don't ask) But once everything is possible and Sleeping Beauty can have a light saber battle with Darth Vader...Well, let's just say that just because it can happen, doesn't always mean that it should...Unless we are talking about drawings on napkins, of course.  Ha.

At any rate, We bought the Infinity Marvel starter set and a couple Guardians characters....because... how could we possibly not have Star Lord and Rocket?  I will admit that I don't really understand the logic of the game at the moment- i.e., which character can play in which world, and who else might appear in that world.

But the configuration of characters that we have somehow makes it possible for the person who is playing as Rocket to snatch up the Winter Soldier- a character we don't own, who just seems to wander aimlessly around the set- and carry him around like a piece of lumber...and then toss him off the edge of the world...again, and again, and again.

I am not sure why the Winter Soldier character seems OK with this, or what is gained by the operation, but my sons certainly seem to enjoy doing it.


Of course Rocket looks like the below in the actual game, so please forgive my...would we call it "artistic license?" and/or just sloppy rendering of his costume?


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Simon and Cats from "Jinx"


Ansel enjoyed reading Sage Blackwood's novel "Jinx," and particularly seemed to like the idea of living with a wizard and his 27 cats.

Ansel was concerned that the bottled wizard on this napkin would be mistaken for Jesus because he was robed and barefoot. I told him that I wasn't too worried as you don't see too many depictions of Jesus wearing purple and standing inside a bottle. Nonetheless, as the drawing progressed, I did feel the need to put a Lord of the Rings style hat on him to suggest something wizardly rather than biblical.  Ansel told me later that he was embarrassed by the drawing because Simon looked like "Jesus in a sunhat."

We have ordered the second and third books in the series. I am afraid that I will have to work on both my wizard and glass bottle drawing skills.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chopper and Echo


Cute sentient robots from "Star Wars Rebels" and "Earth to Echo" meet cute.

"Earth to Echo" was recently released to DVD and on demand, so Ansel insisted that we had to watch it again. 
Very reminiscent of "E.T.," the movie combines two of Ansel's favorite things, an insipidly cute alien, and kids acting on their own, completely free of adult supervision. 

Three boys discover "Echo" out in the scrub and spend an entire night helping the little extraterrestrial find the parts he needs to repair himself and reassemble his spaceship. They lie to their rather oblivious parents, ride their bicycles on highways in the dark, break into various commercial and residential locations to help Echo find parts, and tangle with a potentially evil adult wearing an orange safety vest who seems to know something about what is going on. As the kids and alien finally triumph in the morning and a huge spaceship assembles itself in the sky over their suburban subdivision, one of the kids exclaims proudly, "We did this!" 

Aside from the distractingly jittery hand-held camera work- supposedly one of the kids is shooting the night's events on video- "Earth to Echo" is a fairly entertaining, kid friendly story. I was able to sit through it two times without too much discomfort.

Given my role as the mother of two boys who would love to have a darling alien provide them with an excuse for subterfuge and misdemeanors, however, I view the ending with a somewhat jaundiced eye.  I have to wonder if after making his kid-enabled escape, Echo might be able to return with a fleet of space ships carrying alien overlords bent on enslaving the human race, or sucking all the salt out of the earth's oceans, or blowing up our solar system to make way for an intergalactic highway...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Selfie


I had to put Rocket in the front as  I've lately had much more practice drawing raccoons than people, (green skinned or otherwise) and I think it shows.

Ansel had requested that I include all members of the Guardians on this one, which really exceeded my powers of plausible character arrangement. Apparently Ansel wanted to ask a classmate whether she liked the movie or not, and wanted a visual aid to help prompt the conversation. This was a slightly unusual request as he is most often only interested in the Rocket or Star Lord characters.

When I asked Ansel what was so cool about Star Lord, he told me that he really liked the way that Star Lord's long coat flapped when he jumped. I certainly like that quality in a role model for my 7 year old son more than I like his unrealistic physique or his way with women.

I don't have to ask what he likes about the raccoon.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Raccoons Rocket and Rigby


What do talking raccoons do for fun?

Rocket Raccoon from "Guardians of the Galaxy" makes a proposal to Rigby from the "Regular Show."

Our sons enjoy these two characters far too much.

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Attack on Titan" Style Colossal Pumpkin Titan for Halloween


We've gone back to reading the "Attack on Titan" series again.  A couple of months ago, we had read all 13 books in the series, except Book 12 which was mysteriously missing.

Ansel and Archer had been waging a campaign for me to buy another copy of 12, because how could we go on without it?  I resisted, however, fairly certain that it was merely obscured by a pile of toys in their room and annoyed that they weren't actually making any attempt to look for it.

Perhaps you remember thinking that your mother always knew where to find missing objects during your childhood?  I am pretty lousy at keeping track of  my own stuff.  If my phone didn't ring, I would have had to give up long ago on having one at all.  However, the kids' missing things are usually easy to locate because not even the most minimal effort has been made to find them.

At any rate, Book 12 turned up pretty much where I thought it was, and now we are back to reading about teen drama and monstrous cannibalism by huge naked zombie like people.

I thought about drawing the kids in their Halloween costumes for today's napkin, but was overwhelmed by the task of reading Ansel's mind and portraying him in a way that would not mortify him.

So, giant pumpkin titan it is.



The kids' costumes are pictured below from a test drive last week.  Ansel is wearing a costume of his own design: an amalgam of Ezra Bridger from "Star Wars Rebels" (the helmet) and Star Lord from "Guardians of the Galaxy" (the coat) and an unnamed cool guy who would wear a Minecraft t-shirt and fingerless gloves.  Archer is Eren from "Attack on Titan" in his non titan, non pumpkin, form