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Live My Words

Posted on January 18th, 2021

Dave!Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everybody!

I am fortunate enough to get the day off, but I still ended up working so I could get caught up while not having new work dropped on me. That's almost like a holiday right there!

As is my custom, I started my day by listening to his I Have A Dream speech in its entirety. I also pulled out my copy of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. which I haven't re-read in a while. Last year I re-read Where Do We Go from Here and the year before that Strength to Love, so it's time to be inspired.

A Doodle by Drea of Martin Luther King Jr. holding a sign that says DON'T JUST SHARE MY QUOTES, LIVE MY WORDS!
Illustration from Doodles by Drea

   
And now... I should probably clean my house or wash clothes or make dinner or do something productive. Though I've already performed a firmware update on my NAS and backed up my files, so maybe that counts as productivity?

Still need to make dinner and clean my kitchen though.

That's more than enough productivity.

   

TWICE the THRICE is NICE: Part Three

Posted on January 13th, 2021

Dave!This is part three of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here and Part Two right here.

With all 27 FREE issues of Volume 1 of Thrice Fiction, I had the luxury of color. It was designed from the very beginning with color in mind. The focus of each issue, the stories, were (out of necessity) black and white for readability. I carried this theme to the contributor photos, which were also black and white. Everything else (i.e. the art) would be in color.

The problem with color is that it's expensive. Very expensive. But you can justify it when you have a small number of pages because the cost doesn't have a chance to accumulate that much. Since the format for Volume 2 was over a hundred pages, it wasn't an option. All interior pages would be black and white so we wouldn't have to charge $50 a copy.

All our artists were in a pandemic for 2020, so I decided to just do all the interior art myself after a few false starts in rounding up contributors. This actually turned out for the best, because I had no idea how our publisher (Lulu) would reproduce greyscale art. Since it's just me, I made a list of different styles to experiment with... line art... photo art... vector art... and so on.

And here's how that went.

"Lincoln at 200" • Style: pen-and-ink

Ann Bogle is a remarkable writer and it's always been a thrill to see her work in our pages. Needless to say that when RW informed me that she would be the "featured contributor" for our debut issue, I was thrilled. I read through all her stories a couple times looking for an idea... but I kept coming back to the second paragraph of her very first story, Credenza, where it was Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday. It's just too dang good an image to ignore. So I didn't...

A drawing of Abe Lincoln's skeletal remains sitting in a chair holding a piece of birthday cake with a streamer in his mouth and a happy birthday sign in the background.

Originally there was no "happy birthday" banner in the background, as the idea was to put a party hat on top of Lincoln's famous stovepipe hat. It proved too clutzy, so I made the change. Also? Abraham Lincoln was originally drawn as a decomposing corpse, because that's the only way I could still have his beard on there. But that was pretty gruesome, so I went with a skeleton head, left the beard, and took all the rotting flesh off his hands. No, it doesn't make sense, but I actually think it's more humorous this way. This was knocked out on my iPad in ProCreate over a couple nights while watching Hallmark movies.
   

"Timmy in Paradise" • Style: block-cut

If you read yesterday's entry, you know that I was originally planning on the cover being a little boy looking up to the heavens as missiles stand ready to launch (for our relaunch, get it?). I thought this might be a little dark, but I liked the idea of the image so much that I decided to draw it up and slap it in the interior as a break-point...

A little boy looking up to the heavens as missiles stand ready to lauch.

I thought this actually turned out better than what was in my head. I also think it probably works better as a block-cut than a color painting. The palms are extracted from a photo I took on the Big Island of Hawaii. The boy, Saturn, and the missiles are stock photos I cut out. It was all assembled in Photoshop, had extraction filters and edge filters run on it, then I imported it to ProCreate on my iPad so I could add texture and linework.
   

"Empires of Toast" • Style: vector

Amantine Brodur's work was a tough challenge to typeset because half of what makes it work is the formatting. Translating the formatting of The Anaphora House from a MS Word document to book pages took a long, long time of goofing around until I was satisfied that I had done the best job I could. Then a couple days later I would look at it again and decide to change half of it. =sigh= There was an abundance of riches to be had when it came time to figuring out what I wanted to do for the art. But once I got to the section titled Empires of Toast I just knew that was going to be where my piece came from...

A toaster is popping out toast on a chessboard while a white pawn is also ejected, having been singed black.

This is just pure symbolism, "empires" being represented by a chess set. I knew I wanted a toaster ejecting "toast" on the board, but I took it a bit further than that. The "theme" of our "Subject Paper" this issue was discussing "cultural appropriation." I drew a white pawn also ejecting from the toaster, the idea being that it wants to appear black, but couldn't take the heat that comes from being black. Deep, I know.
   

"A Slow Rescue" • Style: photo collage

Eckhard Gerdes packs a lot in the slightly more than four pages of The Babble-Ons. I went from worrying that there wouldn't be enough visual ideas to draw from... to being completely overwhelmed by how much there was to choose from. I abandoned the idea of pulling literal passages and instead combined a rowboat and snails because I thought it would make for a fun image...

A snail is floating on a life preserver while another snail is arriving in a rowboat to save him.

Don't ask me how that snail is rowing his boat. This is a half-dozen stock photos which have been reworked and combined into a single image in Adobe Photoshop... then outlined in Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to have an example for future artist contributors so they could see how photos reproduce at Lulu and how contrast has to be heightened to get something other than a mushy grey blob. It took a lot more effort than I was anticipating, and I'm pretty sure I put in just under three hours for an image that would have taken me 20 minutes if it were in color.
   

"Savior" • Style: block-cut collage

Art was never going to be the focus of Volume 2. It was always going to be the written word. But I still wanted some art in there to add breaks between sections and pieces. This was an idea I had years ago that I never did anything with, but kinda liked the thought of dusting it off and retooling it to be a collage overlaid by block-print. Something about the concept of aliens invading and not caring which god you worship reeeeeally stuck with me...

A statue of a monk holding baby Jesus (who is standing on his open hands) while an alilen invasion destroys a city in the background.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I took the photo of the monk with baby Jesus. I want to say Italy maybe? Columbia? I think it was in a courtyard somewhere. Could even be New Orleans. Since I pulled the photo out of my archives quite a long while ago, I can't remember. Everything else is composed of eight stock photos that I chopped up and combined. Before I started converting, painting, filtering, and drawing on top of it, this is what it looked like...

A statue of a monk holding baby Jesus (who is standing on his open hands) while an alilen invasion destroys a city in the background.

Had I done this in color, I would have painted over everything to make it "more my own" since all the pieces around the statue were created by somebody else. But it worked really well as a block-cut, so I spent considerable time massaging the pieces in Photoshop so it would work well. Minutes before publishing this issue, I went in and changed baby Jesus's eyes and the cross on the monk's robe to pure white and did a heavier outline around Jesus so they stood out better.
   

"Cheap Imitation" • Style: drawing on photo collage

Originally I had created this art for the subject essay Who Do You Think You Are? by Franny Forsman which discusses cultural appropriation. This is a subject which hits at me personally from a number of different directions, and almost everybody has an opinion... from weak ("I don't care and don't see anything wrong with it because it doesn't affect me") to very strong ("This is pillaging my people and my culture and using it in inappropriate ways which I find deeply insulting"). Despite being 100% white boy with a "cultural heritage" that consists of a hodgepodge of other cultures (AKA "no culture to speak of"), I am in the latter category. And it stems from the simple idea of just being fucking decent and kind to people. If somebody tells you that their culture is not a costume and they are offended when people treat it that way... just pick a different Halloween costume. If somebody tells you that your football team has a shitty name and mascot because it is taken from a painful slur celebrating genocide against their people... just pick a different name. This is not rocket science, and you have to be kinda awful to not want to change when it's pointed out to you. And that's what I was trying to say with this piece depicting a butterfly seeing a poster advertising a movie about a butterfly... starring a cockroach...

A butterfly lands on a movie called BUTTERFLY which shows a cockroack with imitation wings playing the butterfly.

This is a composite of a bunch of stock photos that I cut into Photoshop (though I think the butterfly image is mine, taken from a butterfly sanctuary in Australia). The butterfly wings on the cockroach were drawn on in Procreate because I wanted them to look like they were badly colored with a crayon. The credits for my fake movie Butterfly are actually taken from the movie poster for White Boy Rick, which seemed appropriate. Ultimately I worried that any art put in front of such a serious subject would be distracting and inappropriate and decided to go with no art at all. But I kinda liked what Cheap Imitation was saying, so I stuck it at the back of the book.
   

And there you have it... all the art I came up with for the first issue of Volume 2! You can see it all in print by buying a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop. A bargain at half the price with some cool stuff to be had!

   

TWICE the THRICE is NICE: Part Two

Posted on January 12th, 2021

Dave!This is part two of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here.

After the type had been selected and the logo had been designed, I moved to the cover. Our old magazine was graced with a variety of amazing artists contributing their talents but, just like with Volume One, I decided to do the first one myself.

I had many, many ideas.

For the longest time I had it in my head that since this was a relaunch, I was going to have a young boy on a tropical island looking up to the heavens... while a bunch of missiles were ready to launch nearby. I liked that it was implying even paradise can be meanacing. I ultimately abandoned this idea for being too dark but, never fear, I repurposed the idea for a piece on the interior.

The next day I woke up and couldn't remember the name of my favorite restaurant in Prague (maybe I was dreaming about it?), so I went to my blog and searched for it (the name is Lehká Hlava, and it has my highest recommendation). Two images above where I was talking about the restaurant is one of my most favorite photos I've taken of all time...

Photos of my trip to Prague on my blog.

Now... you may be asking yourself... is that angel drowning a cupid baby angel in a bathtub? Or maybe a chicken? I honestly don't know, but it sure looks that way to me!

HDR Angel at Vyšehrad

Despite the horror element, I always thought she was gorgeous. And the fact that I was blessed with those stormy skies just makes the photo that much more beautiful to me.

And that's when I had a thought... if Thrice Fiction is undergoing a rebirth, of sorts, we're essentially drowning Volume 1 in a bathtub (even though you can still read all 27 issues for FREE on our site). Maybe this is the image I'm going for?

Except this is going to be sold in book stores, and I thought the angsty, brooding, dark imagery has been done to death. Such a cover would fade into the rest of the books. Soooo... what if the angel was drowning the cupid in broad daylight... under bright blue skies? How disturbing would that be? Very. And so... I went through my photo archives to find the original image and see if it was something I could work with.

Bad news. It was cropped too tight and there wasn't enough in the original image to create a cover out of. Oh well. Back to the drawing board. Except... I had visited that cemetery on the day prior when it wasn't rainy and dark. Maybe with better weather I stuck around longer to take more photos? Turns out I did!

Angel at Vyšehrad Statue and Monument

Angel at Vyšehrad Statue and Monument

The second photo had the same angle I liked from the original photo, but it wasn't the cover I wanted. Too dark. Cropped too tight. It would never work.

Except... maybe it would if I put some work into it? Let's take a look, shall we?

The layout of Thrice Fiction Vol. 2 No. 1 in Photoshop. An angel drowning a cupid in a bathtub as seen from below. There's not enough image, so it's floating in the layout.

Well, lightening it up a bit showed that there's enough pixel information in the shadows to work with... but how will I fill in the missing information at the bottom? Hmmm... remember that first photo that was kinda boring and flat? How about I cut out of that one and see if I can make use of it...

A panel from the base of a monument cut out of a photo.

Oh yeah. That's perfect. I can easily warp it into a base for my murdering angel...

The murderig angel is no longer floating, as I've warped the flat panel into angels so I can create a base for it.

Cool. But there's still a long ways to go before this is the cover I've got in my head. First of all I have to paint in the missing bits and paint out the panels with stock photos so the names of our contributing authors can be easily read. It also needs to be much, much brighter. And maybe I could place a building back behind it to add a little visual interest? I've got tons of photos of Prague, so I could probably find one that works. And, say, what if instead of a bright blue sky I tried a brilliant orange sky in an attempt to tie everything together into a cohesive image?

Orange sky added. Building added. Panels painted.

Blergh. That building is adding nothing but confusion. It needs to go. And while I like the idea of an orange sky, that's a color that doesn't reproduce well in CMYK printing, so I really think it needs to be blue like I originally envisioned...

Sky is now blue.

Now we're getting somewhere.

From here on out it's a lot of painting. There's a "watercolor" filter I use to speed up the process, but you can't just push a button and have all the work done for you. Well, actually you can do that, it's just that the results aren't that great. I go in and repaint features... do the watercolor filter... see what works and what needs to be worked on... undo the watercolor filter... then repeat. FOR HOURS! The face of the angel is practically untouched, and I went very light on the watercolor, because I wanted it to be easily "understood" by the reader. The further I got away from her face, the more radical the repainting becomes. I adjust contrast... add stock photo paint splotches for interest... simplify details to be more impressionistic for the watercolor filter... it's just refine... refine... refine...

Close up of the angel showing the painting work that's been done.

Eventually I get to a point where I've gone too far. So I step back to a previous version and I'm done. Thrice Fiction is reborn...

Thrice Fiction Vol 2., Issue No. 1.

You'll note that the black strip on the left side (a carryover from the original magazine design) was abandoned. There's precious little horizontal space on the smaller book size, and I wanted to devote as much cover area as possible so our artists can fill it up. I also zoomed in on the angel quite a lot because I thought it was more impactful and prettier to look at this way.

Not exactly what I had in my head, but pretty close... murdered cupid and all. You can buy a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at the interior of the book and go through all that drama for you. Sounds like fun, no?

   

TWICE the THRICE is NICE: Part One

Posted on January 11th, 2021

Dave!After nine years, Thrice Fiction magazine (the amazing venue for short-form fiction that I created with RW Spryszak), came to an end with our December 2019 issue (You can still read all 27 issues absolutely FREE on our website).

But we're not dead yet.

RW and I just wanted to be freed from the thrice-yearly schedule that was becoming more and more difficult to keep. We don't get paid, we just do this for the love of it all, so the magazine always has to take a back-seat to Real Life. This kind of scenario is not conducive to a deadline.

And so we've relaunched with Volume 2, which no longer has a schedule. It's also no longer free, but it's as cheap as we can possibly make it (neither of us is getting rich here, we just need something to help cover our costs, which are more than you might think).

Here's our fist issue of the new Thrice Fiction...

Thrice Fiction Vol 2., Issue No. 1.

You can buy a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop.

For the next two or three entries here at Blogography, I thought I'd go over the design process that went into it.

Starting with the new logo.

My goal with the original Thrice Fiction was to have the design fade away. Elements were intentionally stark, plain, and forgettable. The logo I came up with wasn't so much a "logo" as some of the plainest type I had available stacked up and centered...

Thrice Fiction Vol 1. Logo

I actually had people comment about how "Thrice is pretty in execution, but plain in presentation." And I was like "Well, yeah, that's what it was designed to be!" We had some amazing artists contribute to our covers, and making sure a fancy logo didn't detract from their generously-donated work was all part of the plan.

But since Volume 2 was going to be sold in book stores and such, a different approach needed to be had. Slapping some plain type on it was not going to work, so I made a list of objectives...

  • Uniquely our own. Custom.
  • Established aesthetic. Looks like we've existed for 100 years.
  • Victorian to Edwardian era sensibility.
  • Memorable and focused for branding across all media types.
  • Quality. Looks like the contents are worth paying for.
  • Cheap. Minimal dollar investment for the overhaul.

The last one, cheap was probably the biggest part of the puzzle. And so when I designed the interior I picked from typefaces which I already owned licenses for. The main typeface then became the base for the logo upon which I could build. The only "design" thing I did here was to rough in an extension for the leg of the "R" so I'd know to leave space for it...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

Now comes the part where my ADHD kicks in. I am obsessive about spacing consistency and working to make sure that elements are lined up as much as possible. It just makes for a cleaner logo that way. A lot of work goes into a project like this before I even get to a starting place...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

It's not uncommon for me to use dozens... or even hundreds of guides as I am figuring out the placement of all the pieces...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

The "T" at the beginning of "Thrice" is problematic, because its width is defined at the very top by the crossbar. This leaves the "F" in "Fiction" looking off-center. I wanted to address this in case the logo ends up in a place where it would be helpful to look more balanced, so I roughed in a swash there so it would add visual width...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

Note that at this point I planned on putting the "3" endmark (which signifies the end of each story of the interior) within the "C" because I thought it would look cool. It did look very cool. But it also added clutter and distraction, so it was dropped. Also note that I was planning on hiding a backwards "3" in the swash to be clever. This would also be dropped for clutter.

And here you can see me once again going crazy with the guides so I can line everything up in a mathematically-pleasing manner...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

From there it's just endless futzing around.

Making the leg of the R be swoopy and pretty. Adding curls on the R, C, and E to tie them to the curls on the swash across the T and H. Cleaning up the letterforms by narrowing or widening the space they occupy to better line things up. That kind of thing...

Thrice Fiction Logo Start on my Adobe Illustrator Drawing Board

This is what I went to print with because I ran out of futzing time. There are still some minor tweaks I need to take care of until I'm happy with our new logo (starting with the swash going too narrow too quickly and looking jerky as it crosses the "T", which really, really bugs me). The work is never truly done until the deadline arrives, and even then it doesn't stop.

That's "design" in a nutshell.

Overall I'm quite happy with the logo because I think it fits my objectives well and looks nice on the shelf. So way to go, me!

If this kind of stuff interests you, tune in tomorrow when I discuss the cover art... then again on Wednesday when I discuss the interior art. Big fun awaits.

   

Travel Journaling Vacation

Posted on January 7th, 2020

Dave!I really need a vacation.

Not a work trip. Not a staycation. Not a trip for a party or wedding or any other occasion. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation where I can go somewhere new, do interesting stuff, and just relax. Since the days have been cold, dreary, wet, and largely dark (given the early sunsets), I'd prefer going somewhere that's the opposite of all that.

Also adding to my desire to get the fuck out of dodge? These amazing, amazing travel journals by José Naranja. He sells reproductions that are impeccably crafted which I would love to own, but the two volumes cost $320 and $360 each...

A photo of José Naranja journals with thick black covers and beautiful packaging.

A photo of José Naranja journal interior with gorgeous hand-lettering and wonderful hand-drawn color illustrations.

A photo of José Naranja journal interior with gorgeous hand-lettering and wonderful hand-drawn color illustrations.

He also sells posters of some of his most popular interior page spreads, but they ain't cheap either. A single print costs $45...

A photo of José Naranja journal interior with gorgeous hand-lettering and wonderful hand-drawn color illustrations.

A photo of José Naranja journal interior with gorgeous hand-lettering and wonderful hand-drawn color illustrations.

A photo of José Naranja journal interior with gorgeous hand-lettering and wonderful hand-drawn color illustrations.

Gorgeous. Every page is a work of art.

It makes me want to drag out my hand-drawn travel maps. When I first started traveling, I drew them for each of the places I went. My favorite was a map of Japan with all the sights I saw plus all the Hard Rock Cafes I visited marked on it. It's pretty good size... probably 12 x 20... on Bristol board rendered in colored pencil, inks, and watercolor. Took me a month of most nights and some weekends to complete. No idea where it is, but it's likely rolled up with old posters somewhere.

Assuming that I could come up with the money or time to go on a vacation, I'm note sure where I would go. I still want to get to India and Peru one of these days, so maybe one of those.

But since I don't have the money or time, I guess I'll just go to work tomorrow.

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Bullet Sunday 639

Posted on November 24th, 2019

Dave!I see you've tuned in to the same Bat-Channel at the same Bat-Time, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Printing Errors. I've designed nearly a dozen books and I've made my share of mistakes along the way. But one thing I've never done is run text into the gutter. And yet Marvel's "The Art of the Movie" books excel at it. Including Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, The Art of the Movie which was released last week...

It shocks me every damn time. How are you supposed to read this shit? Even if you tip up the opposite side at a 90° angle, it's tough...

I guess you're supposed to break the binding and pound it flat? This is infuriating. These are not cheap books.

   
• Thanksgiving Art. Artist Hannah Rothstein created Thanksgiving dinner plates as imagined by various artists in 2014 (and a second helping in 2015). The results are pretty great...

To see all of her photos, be sure to check out her website.

   
• Nippon Bunka. When I saw that the latest season of Queer Eye was in Japan, I was curious to see how it was going to work... but didn't tune in right away. And when I finally decided to take a look, I was surprised at how some of the language came rushing back to me. Then mortified because there were a lot of cringeworthy moments. They obviously didn’t take the time to learn anything about Japanese culture, and I finally had to stop watching half-way through the third episode. I just couldn’t take it any more. The show was highly disrespectful of how Japanese culture works, and how people there have a mindset to fit into society for the benefit of the greater harmony. It is essentially Americans invading these people’s homes, trouncing over everything they believe, and telling them how much better there lives would be if they were more American. Then likely not realizing that politeness would preclude the Fab-Five being told if the Japanese person in question was uncomfortable or didn't want to go along with what was being dumped on them. It was just too awful. Then I read this article and see it went even deeper than I realized. Quite a step backwards from the shows that came before.

   
• Not Cats. There is absolutely NO condition under which I want to see this movie. If I am in a coma... and you visit me... and this is playing on the television... CHANGE THE CHANNEL! Good Lord what a heinous CGI abomination. I mean, yeah, I wasn't interested in the Broadway musical either... but at least THAT I understood. This CGI weirdness is absurd, and I would have rather they had this amazing cast just dress up like they did at the theater performances. THAT I would have probably watched. When it came to HBO or Netflix or whatever. But this?!?

No thanks.

   
• Whoa. Well these natural works of art by Andy Goldsworthy are amazing...

Stones converging in a circle from black to gray to white.

Brilliant yellow leaves fading from the base of a tree.

Leaves spiraling in a circle from brown to red to orange to yello.

I found out about them over here.

   
• Awww. Melts.

The entire channel is gold, and you can visit it here.

   
Until next time, Bat-Fans.

   

Thrice Fiction No. 26

Posted on September 3rd, 2019

Dave!The penultimate issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine has just been released. You can check it out on our website absolutely FREE! Our next issue... No. 27, coming in December... will be our last.

I'll be talking about all that later though. Right now I want to talk about the current issue, which is pretty darn cool if we do say so ourselves!

The cover image is something I originally created for the story Ode to Oceans in the interior. I really liked the story, and the minute I read about a cat being "a gingery thing" and belonging to the ruler of the universe who lives by the sea I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Take one of my photos of water, flip it so the sea was the sky and the sky was the sea, then have Jenny sitting on the sky as if it were ground. Because the ruler of the universe can do that. Problem was... it didn't end up fitting the story well. So I took the cat out, put the image right-side up, then used that instead. It was better for the story and had really good impact.

But I couldn't let go of the original image. It was just so cool. Cool enough for the cover...

The cover of Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 26 showing a ginger orange cat sitting on the sky while the ocean floats abover her as a new sky.

The cat is my sweet Jenny. So that means both my cats have now appeared in the magazine (Jake appeared in Issue No. 22). And here's the image for the story Ode to Oceans by Elena Botts...

That's a real photo I took. I just cut out the middle section which had a shore and some trees... then glued the sky and sea together to create a kind of weird mirror.

   
The next piece I created was for the story Way Cross, Georgia, 1937 by James Lloyd Davis...

A bottle which says Saint Godfrey's and is glowing with a bright golden light.

The story is one which has an emotional gut-punch and I wanted to have artwork to reflect that. But what I came up with originally didn't work for two reasons...

A bottle which says Saint Godfrey's and is glowing with a bright golden light and a noose is hanging over the top of the bottle.

First of all... I had second thoughts on using a noose. It's a symbol of fear and hate and just seeing it can be hurtful to many people. I justified it because it's reflective of the story, yet I was still uneasy. But the reason I ultimately took the noose out was because it was a spoiler. The story has two distinct parts, and I was very careful to have a page break occur before the first section was over so the second part would be more impactful to the reader. But what good does that do if I give away the second part in the image?

And speaking of the image (a composite of four stock photos run through a paint filter)... the characters in the story are selling fake holy oil. I wanted to make it appear authentically holy by having a golden glow emanate from behind. It sure turned out pretty.

   
The last story I worked on was called Her Climb by George Hook...

The story is the lament of a man pining after a Dutch girl who was climbing ahead of him. But, alas, the Dutch girl ended up with a French boy, and the man was left alone. He envisions the girl and boy from the climb in the room next to his being together (a climb of a different kind), which is even more painful to him.

I knew immediately what I wanted for the image. Since they were in the same building but different rooms, I imagined a hotel. And I imagined a pair of women's climbing boots handing off the door handle like a "Do Not Disturb" sign. My mom had a very nice pair of boots I bought her for our trip to Africa, but I couldn't find them to photograph them. I probably gave them to Goodwill or the Veteran's Exchange. So I ended up having to cut apart a bunch of stock images to create what I wanted... then drew around them with a heavy black outline. The resulting image was then run through a watercolor filter. I did several versions before I found one that would "read" for a small 2-1/4" square image.

   
The final two images I created for the magazine were a flower from the side of my house on the inside-front cover... and a shot of a toy riding horse I photographed in Malaga, Spain...

A beautiful maroon-colored flower against a pretty greenery background.

A colorful toy horse with a coin slot you can ride which is next to a bright green door cover sitting on a stone street.

   
And that was the end of that issue! One more to go...

   

Bullet Sunday 624

Posted on August 11th, 2019

Dave!You are not ready... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." I was sad to learn that Toni Morrison has passed away. I read her first novel, The Bluest Eye, after graduating high school. I was looking for new voices to expand my thinking and Morrison absolutely fit that bill. She was a master of the written word, able to construct beautiful prose which can inspire you one minute then destroy you the next. Beloved, her gut-wrenching fictional account of an escaped slave who is haunted by her past, won a slew of awards (including a Pulitzer), and is essential reading. When it comes to voices defining this country, Toni Morrison will definitely be missed.

   
• Alien! If you love the movie "Alien," you should know that J.W. Rinzler's massive The Making of Alien book is on sale at Amazon for $33... regular $60. It is incredible. Easily on-par with Rinzler's other "Making of" books (like Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back). Absolutely everything that went into making the film is thoroughly covered. So many amazing pre-production design drawings by H.R. Giger and many others... tons of behind-the-scenes photos... all kinds of insights into the production from people who were there... it's all so well done...

The book cover to The Making of Alien with the DAVE APPROVED sticker on it.

Seriously, this book is easily worth $60. It's a downright steal at $33. Love love love it.

   
• Epidemic Scary as hell... and getting scarier. Big Pharma is destroying us, and politicians sucking Big Pharma lobbyist cock are looking the other way...

Lobbyist payola should be banned. Any politician accepting lobbyist payola should be shot for treason.

   
• Rookie. Well this fucking sucks. Afton Williamson is a huge reason I love The Rookie so much. This past week she quit the show, alleging that she endured sexual assault and racism while working on it...

Afton Williamson as police officer Talia Bishop on The Rookie holding a gun and about to kick ass.

WTF is wrong with people? And WTF is wrong with ABC for not creating a safe environment for their employees? This is such a great show and, to be honest, I can't really picture how it can continue without Talia Bishop. It probably can't. At least not for me.

   
• The Truth is Out There. While I would have preferred to get a sequel to Paul, I will absolutely take Truth Seekers, a new ghost-hunting show from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Amazon Prime seems to be serious about investing real money into some top=shelf talent for their streaming programs, and this should definitely (hopefully) be a feather in their cap.

   
• Bro! I have been far from a fan of Bernie Sanders. While some of his ideas make sense, he's always been past the "tipping point" on the Democrat scale for me. Then I saw this interview by Joe Rogan where he was given time to actually explain his positions and... I have to say... I'm warming up to him as a candidate. No, he likely won't get to do all the things he wants to do because he has Congressional approval to deal with, but I do think he would move this country in a more healthy direction. He certainly couldn't be worse than what we have now...

In other news? Please let Joe Rogan interview all the candidates. These idiotic "debates" that keep happening are less than useless.

   
Bye bye bye, Bullet Sunday.

   

Bullet Sunday 620

Posted on July 14th, 2019

Dave!I'd rather be anywhere else today, but escape is not in the cards... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• MADness! It was announced this past week that MAD magazine will end its original-content run with the August 2019 issue. After that, it's all reprints with new covers that will only be available by subscription or in comic shops. Despite not having picked up an issue in years, this is more than a little sad to me, because MAD was a huge part of my past. I bought occasional issues in the latter-half of the 1970's, but became a MAD addict after the December 1978 issue (the Star Wars musical parody issue)...

I purchased every single issue from No. 203 through No. 250, at which time I went back to only buying issues that had material I was interested in. I also purchased every reprint book I could get my hands on, scouring the local News Agency to obtain as many as I could find by my favorite MAD contributors... like Al Jaffe, Sergio Aragonés, Don Martin, and Dave Berg... and, of course, Antonio Prohías, who was the guy behind Spy vs. Spy. It's not just my favorites that are burned into my brain... contributors like Mort Drucker, Dick DeBartolo, and Jack Davis did a huge amount of work for the magazine and were a big influence on how I saw the world.

   
• Mushu? A gorgeous trailer dropped for the live-action version of Mulan...

It looks like Disney put some serious money into this remake! But where's Mushu? Is Eddie Murphy coming back to voice Mulan's dragon? Is Mushu even going to BE in the film? I will be sorely disappointed if he is not. Characters like that are what make it a Disney movie.

   
• Blown Away! I've never blown glass myself, but I love the art of it and I've been to many, many glassblowing shops. Including my idol Dale Chihuly's shop in Tacoma (and many of his installations) plus I've traveled to the "glassblowing island" of Murano in Venice so I could see the famous shops there as well. I love glass and have circled the globe to see the best of it. So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that Netflix was developing a show called Blown Away...

Fortunately it's a show like Forged in Fire where the focus of the series is on the artistry rather than the shitty manufactured personal drama (ala Ink Master), which makes it fun to watch. The contestants are pretty great... the massive 10-furnace facility they built to host the show is amazing... some of the pieces are truly remarkable.... and the tension and drama from breakage is high. I do have some problems, however... A) Why aren't there enough tools for everybody that they have to wait for somebody to finish at a critical juncture? Also find it strange that they have to share hot-boxes. B) I don't get how the host got this gig. What experience does he have in order to be qualified to weigh in on the judging? According to his site, he's a professional rollerblader and organic chemist? WTF? C) Why can't we hear the judges deliberate? This would go a long way towards understanding their decisions. D) Why the time limit for a GLASS art competition? I'd much rather give them enough time that they can take risks and not be finished if they break late in the game.

Despite all that, Blown Away is still a great show if you love glass... or art... or demonstrations of skill.

   
• Blank! Netflix keeps blowing up their original entertainment, and Blown Away is not the only thing that's new this week... we also got a movie called Point Blank, a remake of a French film starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo...

The concept is good. Mackie and Grillo are good. And money was spent on getting the action scenes right. Which is why I'm kinda puzzled as to why I feel so "meh" about the film. Perhaps because the most memorable thing about it was some truly bizarre 80's music choices. I guess I'm glad I watched it, but it didn't really grab me as I would have expected.

   
• Aziz! And Netflix isn't done there! They also released a new stand-up special by one of my favorite comedians, Aziz Ansari...

Aziz Ansari on Netflix

I'm not going to lie, it was an awkward show to watch. Aziz addressed the sexual misconduct allegations which were brought against him at the very beginning. But not really. He more "acknowledged" it than really "addressed" it. But he does seem sincere about having regrets and having learned something, so I guess that's better than nothing. From there Aziz goes on to deliver a varied set covering a range of topics, and most of it is pretty funny. What's not so funny is his delivery, which is subdued and kinda sad as he sits on a stool and sometimes speaks so quietly you can barely hear him. This is a wild departure from his previous stand-up specials which were crackling with energy... but he has moments of poignancy which wouldn't have worked otherwise, so I guess it was necessary. If you're a fan, Aziz Ansari: Right Now is worth a look. But don't expect what you've been conditioned to expect from him.

   
• Tacumentary! Last up on my parade of new Netflix shows? Las Crónicas del Taco. A documentary film on one of my favorite dishes... tacos! This trailer is in Spanish, but the documentary series has subtitles in English and French available...

Even though I'm a vegetarian, I still found this meat-based-documentary series to be fascinating. And depressing at times when brief glimpses of the animals are shown, because the conditions they are kept is not ideal. And with six different episodes exploring the history and preparation of six different style of tacos... Pastor (shepherd-style pork), Carnitas (slow-cooked pork), Canasta (basket-stacked tacos), Asada (grilled beef), Barbacoa (barbecue pit-style), and Guisado (stew)... there's more than enough taco here for your viewing pleasure. Worth a look if you're a foodie... or even if you're not, really.

   
• IN THE NEWS: TRUMP TAX PLAN LEADS TO $54 BILLION DECLINE IN CHARITABLE GIVING. "Many Americans want to give generously to charities, but they may not be able to afford to do so now with the changes implemented in the 2018 tax law." — The charity I work with knew that there would be a hit. Nobody had any idea it would be this bad. What's so horrible is that many charities fill in the gaps for people who are just trying to survive. As more and more people lose government assistance thanks to Trump Administration cuts, the number of people who will rely on charities increases... all while donations to these charities decreases. It's a recipe for disaster. But, hey... billionaires got tax cuts so they could gold-plate the toilets on their private jets, and that's what's important, right?

   
• Boys from the Dwarf! If the truth be told, Red Dwarf went on longer than it should have. Things started to go downhill with Series VI, and everything that came after that was really hit or miss. But, man, those early seasons are some of my most favorite television ever, so I'm always glad to see "The Boys from the Dwarf" again... even if it's just in a commercial...

And now I want to go back and watch the show all over again.

   
Bon Voyage, my Sunday bullets.

   

The Best Ending

Posted on June 20th, 2019

Dave!My morning walks to work are starting to become the best part of my day. When I'm not nearly getting run down in the sidewalks, I'm discovering all kinds of things that make life interesting.

Far and away my most favorite thing each morning is looking to see if the family of cats that live on my route is out. The kittens spark joy in my cold, dead heart, so it's always a good day when I can start it out with kittens. Today they were indeed lounging in the front yard, watching me warily as I approached like they always do...

Jake and Jenny Waiting at the Bottom of the Stairs

Much to my dismay, the little puffball cat was not there again. That's the third time in a row, and I'm heartbroken at the thought that he was attacked or got run over or something...

Jake and Jenny Waiting at the Bottom of the Stairs

The only thing keeping me from going crazy and adopting every kitten I see is space and money. I had better never win the lottery or else I will end up buying a big house and filling it with homeless cats. I think we all know that this never ends well.

UPDATE: Well would you look at that! The kitten is back! All three accounted for...

Interesting how the puffball sibling is always alone or hanging out with mom. It's never playing with the other two (who are forever wrestling around).

   
In other news... inside the "Little Library Box" this morning was a new book. A children's book made famous because it was written by Madonna. This one from her The English Roses series is called A Rose by Any Other Name...

Madonna's The English Roses Book

I remember when Madonna released her first English Roses book and went on MTV(?) to read it to a group of kids. She was trying to read with an English accent but it wasn't working out so well.

I thought I might grab the book because I was intrigued about the offer for a free MyEnglishRoses.net access card... but the domain is dead now, so I guess it's not quite the bonus I was lead to believe.

   
Guess I'll spend the rest of my day wondering where that kitten ended up. I think I might choose to believe that he was adopted and is now living happily in a new forever home.

Sometimes the best ending we can hope for is the one we make up for ourselves.

   

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