Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Rules for Childhood (or life)

I have a new t-shirt design called “The Rules”:
The Rules

You can read about it here, and you can buy it here.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ten By Ten

Today, on Weekend America I heard about a website called TenByTen.org. Its function is to present the hour’s top 100 news items in a 10x10 grid of tiny photos, each of which corresponds to a single word that describes the story.

It's an interesting and artistic idea, from a guy who’s apparently full of interesting and artistic ideas.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Rhymes with “Jiminy Cricket”

I first noticed the poetically named Emily Browning in the movie “Ghost Ship” where she played an intriguingly spooky girl. Now the 16-year-old Australian is appearing in “Lemony Snicket.” In the space of two years, she has turned into a captivating beauty.

Because of her full lips, no doubt, some are comparing her to Angelina Jolie, although I see more of a resemblance with her fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett.

She’s definitely one to watch.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Niggling Point

Apropos of nothing, I was thinking about Michelle Malkin’s 12 August 2004 appearance on the Dennis Miller show. During one of her responses, Malkin used the word “niggling”, and an audible gasp erupted from some in the crowd. No doubt they thought they had just heard a racial slur.

I had thought that Miller’s audience might have been slightly more literate than the average group, but then again, it seems to have taken them a while to discover that Miller is a conservative Bush supporter. There’s no accounting for taste.

Anyway, neither that word, nor the word “niggardly” is a racial slur. They may sound a little like the word “nigger”, but they do not share a derivation with that particular epithet.

There are those in the Black community who refer to themselves and each other using the slur itself, or its cousin “nigga”, which is often used in the lyrics of rap songs. This is known as co-opting.

Co-opting presents a problem to non-racist people who aren’t black who want to sing along with one of these songs. I remember seeing some sappy teenage TV show about a white girl with many black friends who did just that. The black characters on the show stopped dead in their tracks, all solemn, and began to patiently lecture her about how what she had done was a Bad Thing.

Now I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this line of reasoning. The fact that the white character was well-known to the black characters as a true friend should have rendered her immune from charges of racism, however inadvertent. In the context of enjoying a song with her close friends, she suddenly found herself on the outside. When this is the biggest racial problem in America, it will be a great day. I don’t think the problem was how dark their skin was, but rather how thin it was.

No less a person than James Baldwin wrote, “You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger.”

Does co-opting the word give it any less power? Apparently not. And a studio audience that pricks up its ears at the sound of a word that rhymes with a racist insult is not politically correct; it is ignorant.

Racism is essentially self-loathing.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Mini DVD Review: Daredevil (Director’s Cut)

If you enjoyed the movie “Daredevil”, you may be tempted by the new DVD “Daredevil: A Daring New Vision (Director's Cut)”.

DaredevilDaredevil: A Daring New Vision (Director's Cut)

Don’t even think about it; it sucks. There’s a reason why those scenes were edited out: they bog the movie down. The theatrical release is a much tighter film.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

What Would Marcus Aurelius Do?

Today in New York City, there was a funeral for the first NYC firefighter to be killed in Iraq. It was a lavish affair. His flag-draped coffin was carried by a fire engine festooned in black and purple. Thousands of firefighters attended. As did the mayor. And the former mayor. And the governor. And the junior senator. Bagpipes played. Maudlin songs were sung.

Of course, it’s sad when anyone dies, especially when they leave behind a pregnant wife and two children. But I wonder if, when the second NYC firefighter is killed, will he or she be afforded an equally luxurious tribute?

Not long ago, the sight of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq was absent from our media outlets. Equally scarce, then as now, are stories of the wounded, and their treatment in VA hospitals.

A similar outpouring happened after 9-11. Tears were shed. Martyrs were eulogized. Heroes were sainted. Grounds were hallowed. Money was raised. Lots of money was raised.

And that seems to be the way we handle things in America. We’re ready at the drop of a hanky to make a tear-jerker movie out of our losses. “Thou shalt not have died in vain,” we cry. Suffering in quiet dignity isn't enough; we must be seen to suffer in quiet dignity. Our entertainment channels bring us the real world; our news media bring us an
imitation of life.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I just created a new t-shirt design called “Prometheus”:

You can read about it here, and you can buy it here.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Early Photography

Lately, I’ve been wondering (as is my custom): who is the earliest-born subject of a photograph?

The earliest-born American President who was photographed was Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Mathew Brady took his portrait in 1845, shortly before the seventh President’s death.

Andrew Jackson

Perhaps, since the French invented photography as we know it, there is a portrait of some person born before 1767.

Probably the first person photographed was someone in Louis Daguerre’s “Boulevard du Temple, Paris” (1838):

Boulevard du Temple

See him in the lower left corner, getting his boots polished?

Man getting his boots polished

But the first photograph ever taken that survived was “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826) by Joseph Niepce:

View from the Window at Le Gras

Edit: It appears that the same photographer recorded an image a year earlier of a print of a boy leading his horse:

"Boy Leading Horse", Joseph Niepce (1825)

I find it fascinating to think that, however unlikely, it is theoretically possible for someone to have photographed a person who was born in the 1600s. Granted, they would have had to be almost 130 years old, and would have had to sit very still (likely for someone of that age). But 1767 isn’t bad.

Edit: I found this image of Conrad Heyer on the Historic American Prints web site:

Conrad Heyer (1749-1856)

If you know of someone who was born earlier than March 15, 1767 1749, for whom there exists a photograph, let me know.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Please attack us; here’s how

Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson resigned, whining, “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.” Hey, Tommy, if you don’t think our food supply is already dangerous, I have just three words for you: “Super Size Me”.

Super Size Me DVD

Seriously, this is just another instance in a long line of politicos, pundits, and professors indulging in Monday-morning quarterbacking, with the result of telling the terrorists where they went wrong, and why X would have made a better target.

I know you’re smart. I know you know this country and its infrastructure better than foreign terrorists. Stop showing off. Stop whining about their failed tactics. And stop scaring everyone.

If you’re an expert, and you’re working to make this country safer, great. Do it quietly and get it done. The less time you’re in front of the camera, the more time you have to actually perform meaningful work.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Lesser Creatures

I live in a condo. About six weeks ago, I found two kittens and their mom on my doorstep. I took them in until I could find the owner. Then a fourth cat turned up. I worried that it might injure the kittens, so I didn’t let it inside. But the mom seemed to pine for it, meowing every five seconds, so I let her out to visit with it. This has been going on ever since.

One of my neighbors said the mom cat belonged to a renter who, a month prior, had been written up by the Homeowners’ Association for leaving food outside and attracting roaches and rats. He was told that Animal Control would get involved if he didn’t do something. He assured them that, as I understand it, he would take care of the situation immediately. It looks as though his method of “taking care of it” was to abandon the cats. No one has seen him in weeks.

Another neighbor saw both adult cats at this guy’s place. The guy who has a “return to sender” notice on his door. The guy who isn’t there.

In the meantime, I placed a “lost cats” ad in the paper. I called all the local animal shelters, starting with the “no-kill” rescue operations. I asked my friends. No one would take them. I decided I could take the two kittens, but I wasn’t prepared for the other two, and my place isn’t that big. And I didn’t really want any cats to begin with. I have leather furniture. I have artwork. I have stuff.

And now I have two lively little friends. The kittens have since weaned, of course, and are happy and healthy, and busy knocking over things that had been put on top of other things.

Tonight, Animal Control got involved and took away the two outdoor cats. If by magic the owner reappears, he has five days to speak up for them. Until then, they’re on Kitty Death Row. The situation makes me feel a bit guilty and sad, knowing the cats will almost surely die.

But I didn’t create this situation. I wasn’t the one who didn’t get his animals spayed or neutered. I’m not the one who put his cats outside with a big bowl of food and said, “See ya!” I'm not the one who abandoned his pets to the elements, one of whom has such a severe respiratory infection that it goes into some sort of fit or seizure.

So why do I feel like the lesser creature?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Neville and Gladys

One of the things I like to do is to make quirky art. Here’s the story behind my first piece:

Neville and Gladys
“Neville and Gladys”, 1997

“Neville and Gladys” is the first cartoon I did using the computer. I love the mischievous expression on Neville’s face. The bendy straw and legs are an attempt to account for refraction underwater (not that I changed their colors). Many people list “Neville and Gladys” as their favorite piece of mine, not least because of the vivid colors.

This piece is available as a large print, a small print, and a blank note card, from my art ordering page. It is also available as a t-shirt.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


With the holiday season upon us, I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce you to a cocktail I invented in June 2003. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...the Vagabond:

  1. Put some crushed ice into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add a couple of healthy shakes of Angostura Bitters.
  3. Add a splash of dry vermouth.
  4. Shake well, then strain off and discard the liquid.
  5. Add an ounce of good gin, straight from the freezer.
  6. Shake well, then strain the liquid into a frosted martini glass.
  7. Spear an olive and a cocktail onion with a toothpick and drop them into the glass.
  8. Top off the glass with very fresh (important!), very cold club soda.

angostura bittersvermouthginfrosted martini glassbase vagabond mixturewith olive and onionthe vagabond

Monday, November 29, 2004


Donald Trump is a billionaire real estate developer-cum-TV star, but he’s gone broke once or twice. He’s made some of that back by writing books about how to get rich; I don’t know that he’s written any on staying rich. I will say that, for a billionaire, the cover art on his books is uniformly terrible. They look like they were designed and executed in about ten minutes. I guess that’s one way to maximize profits.

Donald Trump book

I haven't read any of Trump’s books; I’m sure that’s why I’m not a billionaire yet. That and the fact that my father and grandfather didn’t start me off by amassing fortunes. Oh, and I’m fundamentally lazy.

I was watching Jamie Johnson’s revealing “Born Rich” again the other day. Trump’s 23-year-old daughter Ivanka has inherited her father’s chipmunk cheeks, but on her they look adorable. She has her father’s churlish pouty lips, but on her they look sexy.

Ivanka Trump

So Donald, I’m available to design the cover of your next book. My fee: a date with your daughter (you’re buying).

Sunday, November 28, 2004


In the recent Presidential election cycle, John Kerry was given a lot of grief for changing his mind on certain issues, and was labelled a flip-flopper. Rallies of the Republican faithful were occasions for jeering epithets of “FLIP-FLOP!” I thought I’d offer a few of my own.

In the 1980’s, we supported Saddam Hussein; now we don't.


George W. Bush used to drink like a fish; now he doesn't.


During the Cold War, the Russians were our enemies; now they're our friends.


Americans were for slavery; now we’re against it.


God never used to have a sense of humor; now he does.


Kerry/EdwardsBush/Cheney '04

Saturday, November 27, 2004

What’s with the whispering kids?

First, there was Skittles’ “taste the rainbow”. Next it was the Mazda “zoom-zoom” kid. Now we have EA Games’ “challenge everything.” What’s with the whispering kids? Do they see dead people, too?

Maybe the reasoning behind these ad campaigns goes something like this:

  • kids are cute
  • whispering kids are more tolerable than noisy kids
  • kids are smarter than adults, but to soften the blow, they’ll whisper their advice
  • kids are scary (q.v. “Children of the Corn”) and must be placated

Children of the Corn