Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Halfway through my Dana model sheet, I had the brakes temporarily put on my newfound enthusiasm by an erratic (and loooong) work schedule the last few days (including the weekend) but my enthusiasm remains. After all, I need something to take my mind off my new diet. I threw in the towel and am now trying to lose weight the old fashioned way. Exercise alone wasn't doing it and all the weight training is just putting on muscle but not taking off the other stuff. Two days in and I'm chewing off my fingers. It'll get better, though. It always does. I'm an old hand at this.

I did want to post, though, about my parents. A week ago, Suzanne and I met them down in Greenville, NC at the home of their lifelong friends Billy Wilson and his wife Betty. Both couples were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries and they wanted us to do it with them. Conveniently and happily, Suzanne's sister Jennifer and her family live nearby and we stayed with them. I'll be honest. I was sort of dreading the trip. For one thing, my back was finally starting to feel good again and I was afraid the drive down and a weekend in a strange bed would put me right back where I started. For another, I was also worried that another family milestone without Mike would put us all back into depression. The former turned out to not to be a problem at all. In fact, I came out feeling even better at the end of the weekend. The latter, while certainly on everyone's mind, didn't put a damper on anyone's spirits for long. Dad mentioned Mike's absence as one of his life's great regrets but quickly moved his speech to the group in a more upbeat direction. We all had a wonderful time, especially Mom, and it was great to get all the families together. And we're always glad to have a chance to see Suzanne's wonderful family.

The 10K came and went and we...well, we finished. I didn't want to risk messing up my back again by running. Frankly, I'm too damned heavy this year. I've put on a worrisome amount of weight since Mike died and it's taken its toll. Plus, I wanted to be with Suzanne. Usually we split up but this year we walked it together, often holding hands. My "chip time" took a beating (a half hour over my average time of an hour and ten minutes) but we had a blast.

Finally, check this out. As a child of the late '70s, this is quite possibly the most awesome thing I've seen all year.


Friday, March 27, 2009


The other night, I was waiting for Suzanne to finish working so we could leave. Things have evened out a bit at work and I've been able to get in some training time on the various software packages I need to know, albeit self-teaching through online resources. My head was swimming after staring at my monitor for so long so I decided to take a break and try to bust through that artist's block I've been suffering from. I tinkered with a few things, not really into it and then it dawned on me. Why am I wasting my time drawing my fourth ROM illustration when I have a project to work on?

Excited, I grabbed a fresh sheet of paper, sharpened my Col-Erase pencil and it just flowed out of me. This was what I needed! I started doing character sketches of one of the characters in my story. (The working title, which will most likely change for various reasons, is THE HAMNER'S MILL HORROR.) His name is Eamon Ferguson and I think he may be my favorite character in the story. Actually, his contribution to the plot is minor but, for some reason, I've taken a shine to him. He's the most fully realized character in my head and his arc is the one I have most figured out.

One of the problems I've noticed with most of the stories I've written (yes, I've actually finished some) — and this is a crutch and the sign of a crappy writer — is that my main characters are usually based, in large part, on me. Which unfortunately means they're effing boring! I'm working on giving Johnny some more interesting, plot-related character traits so he's not just a cypher. You can spot those a mile away. My one complaint about the Harry Potter novels (which I loved) is that Harry was hard to root for. J.K. Rowling populated her stories with so many interesting, unique characters that Harry was just blah by comparison. Maybe she intended him to be an "Everyman" that the reader could identify with but personally, I'm still trying to figure out if I even like Harry. I don't want that to be the case with Johnny.

Though you wouldn't know it from his expressions above, Eamon's not a bad kid. He's what Mike would have called "a little firecracker." He's just an earnest kid who was full of joy and enthusiasm and spirit who suddenly has his world turned upside down and has to find a new way of looking at things. The one thing he thinks will save him is denied him and he'll do anything it takes to get it, including...well, hopefully, I'll write the damn thing out and we can all find out together. Eamon's the kind of kid that just says what's on his mind without considering the consequences. There's no firewall between his brain and his mouth. His good friends realize this but for others...

Eamon is based on a couple of kids I knew growing up, one of whom was and is one of my very best friends and has posted here before. I took a little bit from both of them, threw in a new backstory and some red hair and got Eamon. I like his first name but though I wanted an Irish surname for him, Ferguson is just a little...obvious. So I'm going to rethink that. Any suggestions?

Tomorrow, we have the 10K race to run. Or, in my case, walk. This will be my first time not running. It's a disappointment but my back is feeling better than it has in months and I don't want to mess that up. I've got to work the rest of the weekend so there won't be any recuperating time. Still, with all that going on, I'm hoping to get in some more sketches or even some writing time. I'm pretty excited again and would hate to lose momentum.

Oh, be sure to check out Christian's blog. He's posted some character sketches of his own. It seems we both broke through our blocks at the same time (though I think he beat me by a day or so) and under similar circumstances. Christian's got his own project in mind and I have to say, I'm pretty excited to see what he does with it.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Odds and Ends

There's a bit of a new paradigm at work lately (departmental realignments, new responsibilities, longer hours) and it's starting to affect my life outside the workplace. I've been feeling really...disconnected in recent months. The economy has everyone on pins and needles and so I haven't dared to be seen surfing the net during work hours. It doesn't matter that I'm usually here quite late and fifteen minutes online will most certainly be made up later in the evening. Most of my time online is spent at home in the wee hours and, frankly, by then I'm not much in the mood. I have a huge backlog of emails to deal with. (I recently heard from a really good friend of Mike's...and mine...from college who just heard the news of his death and haven't had the time—or the heart—to respond yet.) And, worst of all, I don't think I've picked up a pencil to draw in two weeks. I've often referred to myself as a compulsive doodler (something my art teacher in high school called me) but lately...I got nuthin'. It's very disconcerting. Never in my life have I experienced this. There have been many times when I've hated what came out of my pencil and just wanted to give up. But I've never gone this long without the overwhelming urge to create something. Even just a head sketch on a post-it note.

Part of it is frustration at work. We're being expected to learn a lot of new software that I'm really excited about but we're not being given any training or even the time to learn it ourselves during work hours. Nobody has come out and said it but I assume they want us to stay after hours. Since Suze and I ride in together, on the occasions I don't have to work late, we usually run for our lives. And besides, there are so many other things I want (or need) to do on my own limited free time that the conflict is starting to drive me nuts. I think that, with all these demands on my time, I've gotten to the point where I don't want to face any of it and I'm just shutting down. Which is not good because now is the time I need to dig in my heels and start accomplishing as much as possible.

I keep hearing Mike in my head. Whenever I'd get like this and complain to him about it, he'd get frustrated with me and say, "You got a job? You got health benefits? And a retirement plan? Then what are you complaining about? Shut the *#@% up and do your job!" Then I'd realize he was right and laugh and take his advice. So I'll try that now.

A couple of bright spots. A new theater recently opened here in Richmond and they're trying something new. Since they're new, they installed digital projectors (something established theaters are reluctant to spend the money to do) and sound systems so the presentation is incredible. This is the theater at which we saw WATCHMEN. And, this past Sunday, THE MALTESE FALCON. I've always been a fairly big Bogie fan and FALCON and THE BIG SLEEP are my two favorites of his films. The Bow-Tie Cinema (as it's called) has something called "Movies and Mimosas" on Sunday mornings. As you can guess, mimosas are served in the lobby...no alcohol in the theaters...and then they show classic movies. This is my chance to see all the great old movies I've loved my whole life (like just about all of Hitchcock's films) but never got to see outside my living room. Not only that, but this sort of thing doesn't attract the element that ruins the movie-going experience for me. You know the type: people that don't want to see the movie but want to be seen at the movie, usually going to extreme measures to attract attention to themselves. None of that at M&M. Going to see FALCON with Suzanne and a theater full of people (It was a packed house!) who actually were there for the movie was nothing less than delightful. I hope they keep this going for a long time.

Also, Suzanne and I are nearing the end of our 10K training. I have to say that this year has been a bit of a waste for me. I haven't made any progress and have actually gotten in worse shape. Just walking six miles on Saturday laid me up for the rest of the weekend with aching hips and back. A bad cold and an endless series of back injuries really took their toll this year and I'm probably going to end up walking the race for the first time this year. That makes me sad but at least I'll get to hang with Suze this time. But one thing I have managed to keep up with is my weight training. I missed a couple of weeks because of the back problems but I've really made a point of keeping up with it. I feel like that's the one thing I can control these days. And though I'm not really in any better conditioning than I was in January, I'm a lot stronger. If I can keep my back healthy for a while, I may be able to accomplish something.

Okay, that's it for now. If you're a friend waiting to hear back from me, I'll do my best to do that this week. In the meantime, I'm going to make a deal with myself to not post until I have something to show. And hopefully that will be soon.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Watch the Watchmen

I'm nursing a bad back and a recuperating wife so I'll keep this short. We had a huge tree limb fall in our back yard during the recent snow storm. (14 degrees one day, 80 the next. That's Richmond for ya.) It fell in the exact same place as another limb about three weeks ago, which I'd just cleared. Seems ground zero in our back yard is somewhere between the posts of our clothesline. While I managed to cut the last one up with a handsaw, this one required the chainsaw as it was about the size of a small tree. In the process, I managed to aggravate my already-sore back. Suze and I went to see WATCHMEN at the midnight show on Thursday night and we got there early. Four hours in a theater seat and my back was crying in protest. Follow that with three hours in a chair in the E.R. and, well...

Why the E.R.? Well, Suzanne had a...thing. I won't go into detail because it's kind of her business but it's nothing life-threatening and it happens every few years so we're used to it. She's perfectly healthy and happy. Suffice it to say I feel a little guilty because the midnight movie I dragged her to was probably a contributing factor. I'll know better next time.

Was it worth it? No, but it was pretty darned good. I hear a lot of people complaining that they followed the book too closely and people who aren't fans of the book won't like it. But you know what? If you aren't making the movie for fans of the book, who are you making it for? Yes, there are problems and yes, there are some things missing I would have liked to have seen included. But mostly these were minor tweaks that I completely understand the need for. The movie is already nearly 3 hours long and I understand that a lot of footage will be added in the DVD release anyway.

One of the minor changes relates to the story Rorschach tells his prison therapist. (If you've read the book, it's the scene with the dogs.) This scene was probably changed to avoid comparisons to a similar scene at the end of MAD MAX and it's not a big deal. What is a big deal is the ending. If you care, you've heard by now that there is no squid. I assure you, it doesn't matter. I was initially disappointed but after having some time to think about it, I think it's a better ending. (Oh, blasphemy!) It works in the context of the story and, I think, isn't as contrived or hard to swallow. And that's all I'll say about it so I don't ruin it for anyone.

If I was going to sum it up, I'd have to say that this is the movie comic fans have been waiting for. A movie that is much better and much closer to the source material than we had any right to expect. I've read the Sam Hamm script that was written for Terry Gilliam and THAT movie would really have pissed off the fans. This movie won't make the splash that the graphic novel did because that was lightning in a bottle. What it did for comics has already been done for superhero movies by BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and, to a lesser extent, IRON MAN. It would have had to have been made ten or fifteen years ago. And I don't think they could have made this movie back then.

Anyway, I highly recommend you see this movie in the theater. It begs for that kind of presentation. Besides, I want it to make money so it validates the faith the studio had in making it. I want to see more movies like this. (But, please god, no sequels, prequels or spinoffs!) Do NOT wait for the DVD.

Unless you're my friend Paul, who actually lives in a theater.