Free Lunch Studios

Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon's Blother

May 29, 2006

Abyssal Layer #002 (and counting)
Oh, the angst. NOW I fargin' remember precisely why I'd kept away from wielding colored pencils for so long. Because it would mean I'd have to examine -- close-up -- any older artwork I'd accomplished in the past with that particular method, in order to refresh the ol' deteriorating brainpan. And then (of course) their related sketchbooks, chock full of that reckless artistic experimentation so typical of youth. Scanners? We don't need no stinkin' scanners!

But noooo; that still isn't enough for you, art-twerp. Through an arcane process of subconscious association, for some imbecilic reason you also need to peruse THEIR accompanying notebooks, and inhale deeply -- yet again! -- the thick, heady vapors of micro-handwritten Byronic pining towards long-estranged let's-just-be-friends (but not really,)...

And then, the hole in the dike is unplugged. Everything comes back with near-photographic clarity. It's not just mere sensory data, though that stuff is surely powerful enough. Mundane household furnishings framing a transcendent smile upon a porcelain face. Winter's icy kiss, descending from a spiderweb of naked branches. The scent of hot glue and sandalwood, and the taste of scotch mingling with orange juice. But what is all that trifle, compared to the long-suppressed tsunami of emotion crashing down? Just memories --


And so it goes. But eventually, you find your way back from the tragic rage/love/hope of that... place. Pulled out of the sweet mire by a newfangled bit of music, or perhaps just the mere spectacle of a wondrous gadget sitting upon your desk; something that defied imagining in earlier times. And if you're really, really lucky, you even have the good sense to steal and carry forward a useful bright, fiery piece of that Lost World along with you, to illuminate and set ablaze its present-day, paler facsimile:

(Not colored pencil, obviously.)

Back to Mama Terra (and less pain-soiled concerns): I viddy'd "Spaceballs!" last week; the Mel Brooks controlled-demolition of George "Wattle Man" Lucas' seemingly endlessly repackagable space opera (along with a few other SF franchises for dessert). T'wasn't quite as spit-take-inducing as I'd originally remembered -- but please recall the audience back then was also an entirely different ball o'wax, and MUCH less versed in all the obscure PopCult minutia that gets regularly deconstructified liberal arts jargon made fun of by the likes of "South Park" and "The Simpsons" today. IAE, Rick Moranis' over-the-top antics as an uber-fanboi villain have aged very, very well. If I had a motto, it'd be "ah, buckle THIS!" (Or maybe even "keep firing, assholes!")

And lest y'all think I've been slipping in my post-graduate Advanced Dorkiness studies -- sneaking out at night to write tormented poetry at the nearby cemetary, etc. -- here's something else I immediately gleaned from the spoofy film:

Yes, yes, I know. Brown coats, floppy hairdos and somewhat blinkered rugg'individualism do not a shared genetic heritage make. But I venture they probably wouldn't beat each other entirely senseless at the nearest interdimensional-crossover saloon, there.

May 25, 2006

In The Abyss
Ah well. I suppose if there's an upside to these (apparently) weekly spasms of inexplicable physical agony, it's that I nevertheless still have enough control over my ever-diminishing faculties to lamely doodle away, while contemplating the usual relevant Nietzsche quotes and inspirational/overblown 80's power-ballads. Like the past Epyx-inspired abortion, this was yet another one of those 'oh please let me get this infernal notion out of my system already'-credo'd pics. Because Eldritch Subterranean Horrors™ really do need to be dug out of their slime-filled holes, and cast into the withering light of indifferent scrutiny, don'tchaknow:

I should say that I think this 'flayer is a considerable improvement over the last one I'd attempted, decades ago. Mostly because his tentacley-menacing presence isn't entirely belied by har-de-har "humorous" dipsomania (wouldn't alcoholic idiocy make 'em doubly dangerous?), or three coats of heavily applied kindergarten-surplus Magic Marker. Likewise, the Otusian-wannabe indigo-hued eeevil elven lass, where appropriate arachno-chaotic iconography was merrily indulged to full effect. But alas, beholding-balls will just never effing look right. Why, the durned beast is too outlandish/ludicrous to begin with; the human mind can't grasp an armored levitating over-oculared balloon as 'real', any more than it can accept the unlikely evolutionary processes that cause dungeons to be filled with giant, transparent flesh-dissolving cubes. Just not happenin'.

IAE, now back to my bed-ridden treadmill of pain/anxiety/fun. (And no, "Eye of the Tiger" is NOT the Quintessential Survivor Anthem, dammit. That honor most emphatically goes to "Man Against The World." Best Song EVAR -- and its appeal hasn't even been diluted by years of radio overplay!)

May 20, 2006

White Dwarf
I purely wish I could say I'd relied upon DVD freeze-frames, or consulted any other reference material for this dorky doodle. Unfortunately, Gary Gygax (or more precisely, his stable of deranged illustrators) beat out John Rhys-Davies by about three decades, in inculcating the economy-sized, quasi-Viking lumberjack archetype now echoed here. And The Fairest One Of Them All? Deep sigh. Let's just say if the hubbalicious raven-haired maiden had been a Real Wo-man and not a painted bit of Disney celluloid -- before too long she'd have to get herself a restraining order, to deflect the attentions of a certain hopelessly love-smitten five-year-old boy.

Also, let it be known throughout the land that JRD is Da Man. And I don't just mean for his portrayal of archeologist sidekicks, parallel-dimension hoppers, or throwable orc-clobbering midgets. From a couple years ago: read it and weep. I know I'm going to buy the man a Hollywood drink; as it's probable his oh-so-nuanced-and-right-thinking colleagues won't. But then, Davies didn't NEED a pretty face to land his part... which is far more than the guy who played Aragorn can say. And speaking of Mr. Incapable of Seeing Any Parallels Between Tolkien's Masterwork and Recent Current Events:

Oh, the irony (though not quite as ironic as if he'd been Svein the Fawstin-esque Pig Man)! Yes chillun, it's one of those lavish pulp-airbrushy character cards from "Shadowlord!" (exclamation point not optional). This was a somewhat obscure fantasy-themed (and "Krull" inspired? Prob'ly) boardgame yours truly played long, long ago with his brothers. As near as I can recollect, it involved your taking up the mantle as one of the masters of pre-periodic elements (fire, air, earth, water). Then you'd jump into your color-coded spaceship(?) and hop from planet to planet, enlisting worthy heroes, heroines and unlikely talking animal aliens to your noble cause: ridding the 'verse of a marauding gang of eeeeevil black-tokened Shadowlords.

For some reason, the other players also had the same exact objective, but the rules explicitly forbid them to do the obvious kick-butt coalition-forming thing. Presumably, endless debates still raged in the Galactic Union as to whether Fire Master was merely taking advantage of the so-called scare-quoted "threat" to unilaterally impose her arrogant pyrophiliac values and flame-broiled junk food upon the rest of the cosmology. Or whether the Shadowlords deserved strongly-worded written petitions (and revoked parking privileges) rather than military force in order to curtail their universal destruction ambitions.

IAE, I wonder who the card illustrator was? He/she sure did some damn fine work!

May 18, 2006

Dork Cred™ #2 -- Brickin' II: Electric Boogaloo
Lo, the indescribable joy of being rendered a quivering, invalid fetus for half a week, completely worthless to the world (or more so than usual) upon consumption of the wrongish foodstuff. Aging undependable meatware, as soon as the technology's commercially available, you're effin' history. For I anticipate the imminent bio/nano/cybernetic transcendence with all the sulky-faced eagerness of a nine-year-old waiting for Santa Claus to deliver plastic battery-powered swag on Christmas morn. (And what happens when Mom and Pop -- or the bleeding-edge scientists finally reaching immovable natural boundaries to god-level software design and geneering -- come clean with their spoiled-rotten kid? WAAAAH! It's not fair!)

First thing's first. Here's approximately fifty percent of a sketchbook doodle for an imagesmithing Internet forum of sorts (which shall remain nameless), under a discussion thread where the Deeeeep Artiste in question is asked to come up with two words to best describe his or her visual oeuvre, and then post a drawing utilizing such terms. The remaining half-- to be shoehorned later with blasphemous electronic witchery -- is in a Coop-ish, lapdance-smothery vein, and therefore much too embarassing for this site (which is really saying something). Suffice it to say, the first word was 'tech' -- and that I have a real knack for ribald alliteration:

Bonus round! Upon a typically corrupt Zip disk, I recovered a bit from my waning days of overly-greasy greyscale Photoshop colorizin'. Y'see, most of Limbo-dwelling "One Small Step" was accomplished with this (in retrospect, rather exhausting) technique, and while I think this particular piece also rates placement in the 'Artwork' section of Free Lunch, unfortunately the similarly epileptic ink wrangling belongs to somebody else. Ah well... see one Chinese dragon, ya pretty much seen 'em all, right?

Regarding the subject header: when perusing the Internet, one of the depressing things you notice rather quickly is that there are communities of people who defiantly clung to ideas you yourself gave up long ago, for one specious reason or another. For example, yours truly just loved playing with Legos -- for the uninitiated cave-dwellers: plastic pegged bricks that you could snap together to form any number of shapes. The original generic five-colored ones were a ubiquitous part of early childhood; regularly I'd pool my (then) meager assortment with that of my neighbor's and we'd indulge our inner Robert Moses, improvising crude cityscapes with the stuff.

But the real fun/obsession began when the space-themed sets were introduced! With their complex specialized moving parts (such as gears, hinges, wheels and turntables) and accompanying cutesy little figurines (there were medieval ones too, which came in handy for all manner of role-playing silliness), no longer was one confined to piling up the same rainbow-hued ziggurat arcologies, over and over again. Now, I could engineer devilish machines and functional vehicles, while in the process inventing an entire narrative universe for the perpetually grinning astronauts to live in.

Within each of us, I think, there's a fundamental desire to be a worldbuilding 'god' -- it's the reason why the 'Sim' line of games and DIY software construction set deals such as Neverwinter Nights and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sell today. By the historical accident of my birth, I was merely stuck with little bits of plastic, instead of zeroes and ones. C'est la vie.

So by the time adolescence rolled around, a good-sized trunk in my room contained the component parts of at least two Galaxy Explorers, two Starfleet Voyagers, an Intergalactic Command Base, a Solar Power Transporter, a Robot Command Center, a Space Supply Station, an All-Terrain Vehicle, a Gamma-V Laser Craft, two Walking Astro Grapplers, several dozen smaller sets, and a small army of p-suited smilers. And all of these were mere fodder for plastic Frankensteinian monstrosities of my own creation -- I was certain before long that one of them would gain me eventual employment with the company; why, in a grand fit of delusional presumption, I'd even mailed them off a resume, complete with photographs and instruction booklets! Child labor laws? Whazzat?

At this point, it was gently impressed upon me by a friend that such activity, however pleasurable/insane, was unlikely to gain me any measure of future independence, access to higher strata of intellectual accomplishment, or curry favor with the (un)fairer sex. Well, okay, I believe his wake-up-call was more along the lines of "get a frickin' life, Tom!" But the end result was the same. Fearful for what lay ahead, I quickly abandoned that weirdly immature part of my life, and instead concentrated on refining drawing and computer skills -- two other interests of mine that were more likely to find gainful use in the much-vaunted Coming Global Economy.™

And that extra effort did pay off. Certainly my illustrative work improved dramatically once that chronovorous Lego monkey was off my back; within months I'd evolved from a crude, flatly amorphous proto-Japanime style to something that actually resembled the real world.

But... did I 'grow up' or just 'sell out?'

Twenty-something years on, it's difficult to say. An entire culture of adult Lego enthusiasts -- people much like myself back then, who nevertheless said "phuck off" to their practicalspeaking buddies -- has come into being and flourished since. Most notably this fellow, who'd built Malcolm Reynolds' Serenity to much fanfare last year (though IMHO, his rendition of Robert Heinlein's "Gay Deceiver" is a work of infinitely greater genius).

Armed with disposable income of their own, and 21st Century resources, these hobbyists have entire workshops of Lego parts in their cellars, and virtually plan projects on their computers (a la CAD) using open-source LDraw libraries -- which they then exchange and/or collaborate with like-minded others over the 'net. And of course, there's the well-documented influence in the physical sciences, with more than one hardware engineer admitting that tinkering with plastic bricks in his youth set him upon a path which eventually led to MIT, and his present position designing robots for the Pentagon. (Deep sigh. Naturally, those stories are particularly annoying.)

IAE, I seem to be fumbling here for one of those smug, easily-summarized 'morals' -- like what you'd hear tacked on to the conclusion of that afforementioned horribly lame 80's cartoon. Just this: don't be quite so hasty to excise things you care about completely from your life, because you'll probably regret it later, when the entire planet gets wrapped in an easily-accessible communications net -- and you discover you really weren't the lone freak after all.

Yes, that'll do nicely. And Knowing Is Half The Battle! Et cetera.

May 10, 2006

Dork Cred™
Sigh. One of the sad things I've come to realize lately is that whenever humanity finally pries its dirt-worshiping tuckus off this miserable mudball and takes to the stars in earnest, the odds that highly unlikely we'll all be doing it in the same beaten, futuristic-practical pressure suits that've been popularized by every skiffy visionary from H.G. Wells to Joss Whedon:

My own bet (as Eve McCracken once hinted at) is a magical vat of smart-yogurt that you dunk yourself in like a fleshy Frito, and come out sporting a second self-repairing, vacuum-proof organic 'skin' capable of processing waste, photosynthetically generating oxygen, and all the other tasks associated with living (as opposed to dying) out in The Black. Which I suppose has its own unique/kinky artistic appeal -- picture a naked person covered in a Michelin Man outfit comprised of color-shifting Jell-O! But that's an image that certainly wouldn't associated with the concept of 'space travel.' More like 'scary alternative lifestyles.'

(OTOH, the cover would sure sell lots of Popular Science issues.)

And -- oh, the ennui -- then there's the radical extropian/transhuman/severed-head-freezing-lunatic choice; saying "adios!" to the present unreliable hardware that's been shaped by millions of years of goofy evolutionary forces -- meat is murder, maaan! -- firing up a bunch of handy microscopic robots that've been lying around eating the linoleum, and becoming an intelligent gaseous entity, instead. Presumably this process would also give one the added 'bonus' ability to live forever -- which is something the advertising executives at Fog You! Inc. would quickly discover isn't an easily salable feature at all.

Yours truly certainly knows he's not cut out for immortality; while the first couple of centuries would undoubtedly be a hoot, somehow I suspect that creepy sense of 'deja vu' would become stronger and more pronounced, until finally I feel like a volitionless puppet-rat on a treadmill (or something), performing the same silly airplane jumps sans parachute and bedding the same large stadiums full of eager women over and over again.

Or perhaps I'd just whilst away eternity watching blandly moralistic 80's cartoons on my brand newly-purchased video iPod:

Presumptuous/Delusional Observation #1
Man. I'm beginning to think Coop is my long-lost Okie Satanist older brother, wild evil crazy prototype Lore to my boring wussy crippleware Data, or something.

First, note the obvious illustrationist-guy connection, in which he readily pounds the suck-tacular yours truly into a bloody smear (of course, a crayon-brandishing orangutan could do much the same). Scope his similarly held zaftig-unconventional notions of feminine beauty (Jeebus on a minibike, Ruth is too hubba-transcendent for words, she even wears green and purple combos, for cryin' out loud!) Check out his proud flaunting of the libertarian/Heinleiner/SF dork colors, last week.

And finally (today!) see how he holds his writing implements. Which, as anyone who knows me will attest, is also one of MY clear signs of mental illness long-held trademark eccentricities!

And hell, if I could ever grow a beard without involuntarily scratching my face off, we'd even kinda look the same, too! (Gotta get me to California!)

May 8, 2006

This Is Such A Pity
Back again. And you'll surely regret it.

For some reason, I'm disinclined towards this whole breezy school of three-sentence blogging about what I consumed for breakfast, the silly things my cats did today, and other incredibly mundane personal trivia. Yes, yes, you quickly finagle yourself more frequent updates that way. But in the process I'd venture you'll also drive away a good portion of the Real Content™-seeking audience before too long with breathless tales of toenail clippings -- leaving behind a sticky, geeky residue of obsessed fetishistic loons who'll then openly inquire how it was humanly possible for Kendra Wyatt to live through a two-kiloton nuclear explosion, expound upon scientifically rigorous organ-cloning techniques, etc.

On the other hand, virtually none of this same clique, upon viewing this sketch, would proclaim "hey, isn't that Vanessa Warfield's Manta in the background?" Because there are theoretical limits to dorkitude (and knowledge about old non-Hasbro toy cartoons easily surpasses them):

Speaking of total lifelessness, this week, on a whimsy-filled lark/nostalgic fit of despondency, I visited an old local role-playing supply store for the first time in something like two decades -- and wouldn't ya know it hasn't changed a single iota. Same shelves of luridly illustrated supplements, hostile painted-pewter infestations safely walled off behind glass... and dice. Lots of dice. That's the only gaming implement whose future is assured, methinks. The gamemaster's screen may've been replaced by a laptop's LCD, the rulebooks/modules now a folder full of easily-referenced PDF files... hell, even players themselves may be monitor/camera combos, teleconferencing their moves from some far-flung section of the globe. But when the game is afoot, every participant ultimately wants those polyhedronic shapers of fate in their hands. Relinquish that sacred right, and we all might as well be singing hymns to Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei in our People's Jumpsuits, dammit.

IAE, I'd been meaning to pick up the Serenity/Firefly (Serenifly? Gotta consolidate that franchise) themed game, not so much for its unique play value ("...I'll use my +6 Witty Rejoinder against the slavering Reaver horde!"), but personal interest in the RPG 'industry' side of things. Unfortunately, they were out of copies. Which, like my previous trips to Compleat Strategist, then meant I'd be indulging my inner hoardy nine-year-old, and buying ittle-bitty miniatures instead. And then -- har -- vainly attempting to paint them. Because, y'know, if there's ANY useless, unproductive activity out there guaranteed to foster eventual blindness, Tom Gordon just has to sign on as a lifetime member! Cthulhu help me when nanotech becomes the hobbyist's 21st Century equivalent of building model trains: "...tunneling electron microscopes? Who needs 'em? I'll just squint really, really hard!"

Incidentially, why doesn't Serenity (the ship, not the goofy transcendental state) have any weapons about her creaky flank? I mean, if you're alone out in The Black, hauling crates of undoubtedly valuable cargo, while roving bands of insane rapist-cannibals are on the loose, wouldn't investing in SOME measure of self-defense be a Darn Good Idea? Oh, who am I kidding? That question will be answered to exhaustion inside five years when convention halls are jam-packed with pimply young men sulking in brown coats and hawking poster-sized four-color-process cutaways of every square meter of Malcolm Reynolds' bucket o'bolts. Because Serenifly/Fireity really IS the new Trek now -- and that's not necessarily a good thing. And on the subject of Mal:

Yep. This is about as pathetically far as I've gotten (and likely to get) on the afforehyped pic, in case any of y'all were wondering. Caricaturing/portraiture has never been my strong suit (just ask an unfortunate lass I was gaga over in high school), and Nathan Fillion is one of those unique class of rugged heroic-archetype actors who NEVER looks the same twice. I mean, one picosecond he's the living embodiment of an Ayn Rand supercapitalisthero, the next he's a boyish Michael J. Fox, and the one following he's Huey maglefargin' Lewis. At this Zemeckisian rate, maybe he'll transmogrify into Crispin Glover or Flea next -- the important point is, as a pale imitation of an artist, I'm esthetically required to hate him. (Sorry, Nathan -- if it's any consolation, I still hope you'll inherit Indiana's whip.)

Embittered Snotty Rant time: a downside to being one of those Reich-Wing Apologists For Oily Imperialistic Genocidal American Hegemony (as my "friends" and "family" affectionately call me) is that every day, some seditious item or another still manages to pierce through my thick shell of fear/intolerance/ignorance/blind authority worship, and impart an oh-so-fleeting glimpse of True Political Enlightenment.

For instance, one of the above "others" recently described the September 11th massacre attack incident to me as a 'faith-based initiative.' If Karl Rove's mind-control beams had been working properly that day, undoubtedly I'd have just dismissed it as another bit of puerile hate-fueled posturing from an intellectual class wholly incapable of honestly confronting the death cult of Islamofascism, without the caveat that we also drop MOABs upon harmless Utah Mormons as well, in the name of secular consistency.

But alas, I got to think about it (always a bad thing for a redneck thug like yours truly) and the comparison actually began to make sense! Why, in one instance, we have a group of people lobbying to make charitable services less a province of distant alphabet soup government agencies, and more the responsibility of local community organizations -- thus leaving thousands of trapped unfortunates the choice between going on Food Stamps, or eating someplace where there's a non-urine-submerged crucifix in plain sight.

And in the other, we have a group of people hijacking a few jumbo jets, and crashing them into skyscrapers -- thus leaving thousands of trapped unfortunates the choice between being burned alive, or splattered against the pavement below.

Yes, the parallels were so plainly evident that before long, I started to question ALL my premises. Why, maybe an image of Mohammed really IS hate speech, deserving of censorship and/or death! Perhaps natural disasters CAN be miraculously turned away if the United States (but not China) signs the proper worthless transnational petition! And maybe humanity's irresponsible burning of hydrocarbons really IS contributing to the Martian polar ice cap's meltdown! (Darn you Pathfinder! Darn you to HECKFIRE!)

Yet before I could load up my web browser and join those all-knowing, obscenity-flinging ranks of Patriotic Dissenters that Thomas Jefferson always talked about, a song burst forth from a nearby radio. It was the triumphant strains of "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus! The timeless anthem of my people! And, thankfully, the spell was broken. Now I'm back in the fold again, safely comforted by all the Federally Centralized national news outlets running nothing but positive stories out from Iraq, ingratiating "Bush is the best President EVAR" puff pieces, and televised executions of leftist Hollywood celebrities. Yepperoonies. For Little Eichmanns like myself, life here in America is right jolly good!

(And so endeth my sarcasm-athon. "Don't push me, and I won't push you.")
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