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Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon's Blother

March 20, 2007

Clockwork Express
Well, with less than a week to go, the I-CON committee still hasn't announced a winner to their schedule cover contest. So at this point, I'm just going to preemptively assume I've lost, and post these babies already. In case you're blinkered, the monochromatic version with the typography and quaint retro single-digit-LPI line screen was my original submission -- conveniently minimizes the conventioneers sporting black fingers all weekend, y'see:

Yeah, yeah, let's hear the collective groan. "Another fut'urban scene? Hasn't the well run dry yet?" But as other recent pieces demonstrated, I've returned to local-coloring land with a vengeance (or at least a mild hankering for revenge -- against what, who the smeg knows). Insofar as increasing productivity goes, this is a very good development. The next step is to try to take the technique (applicable to every artistic medium, really -- paints, colored pencils, what have you) and figure out how to strategically muck it up afterwards using computer-exclusive thaumaturgy. Best analogy I can think of is a now-common practice in Hollywood today, whenever footage goes to a post-production house. S'called 'digital grading' I believe, but it's largely just pulling out wild colors with the computer, replicating effects that, in the old days, would've required specialized camera filters or differing film stock.

And no, don't know why -- I just adore Wexford Oakley. It's a very 'steampunk' typeface, simultaneously evoking urchin-packed (hah!) Dickensian squalor and outlandish tech nearing critical mass (or self-realization). Had the coot been in the 'content-delivery' racket, Ebenezer Scrooge would've flaunted it upon every bit of marketing bric-a-brac available (all while screaming at Bob to get the lead out on this week's viral, natch).

Whoo-hoo! I just scanned/uploaded some more photos again! Really love this first, of my grandfather (apparently tinkering with a new Marx Magic Shot one Christmas morn). It's nearly thirty years old, but believe me, the guy could've just as easily enjoyed himself playing a first-person-shooter video game today -- blood mist, inner-city psychosis and all:

Old School Beta Testing

Recently I got a chance to read what amounts to his memoirs, describing a childhood in Liverpool, England -- and subsequent travels around the world, toiling in various capacities (porter, steward, chef) upon merchant and pleasure ships. Unfortunately, since he wasn't really a 'literary' type of writer (or more likely, there was just too much experience to distill) a lot of it reduces to a progression of ever-changing places and ship names.

Still, there are exceptions -- grim and cruel ones mostly, like one passage dating from 1914, where (as a boy) he'd stayed at a train station to see his older brother off to war (this'd be World War I, of course) -- an act of familial devotion which earned him a caning from the school headmaster the next day... frickin' bastard. Or another ordeal several years later -- one of the vessels he'd been serving on took on thousands of soldiers as part of a military convoy; influenza soon swept through these passengers like a scythe, and each day the ship decks filled up with bodies -- a veritable carpet of new dead, to be buried at sea.

Ye gods. Compared to that business, even the tacky Weebles-filled malaise of late-70's America must've felt like a warm blanket. Anyway, I hope to transcribe his remembrances as plain text in the future; right now it's still a humungoid 25-megabyte PDF of scanned handwritten notes. (Admittedly that's small potatoes to some of you out there, who can apparently download the entire Human Genome Project during a bathroom break. But not moi.)

Next up, we have the required exercise in self-embarrassment. My elementary school put on a circus. A HUGE one, encompassing almost all the kids from first to third grade. As near as I can remember (and perhaps schoolmate Scott can refresh my memory, here), there were 'main event' performances taking place on the gym/stage before a seated audience -- kids dressed as silly clowns, lion-tamers (and lions), trapeze artists, strong-men performing feats of superhuman strength, etc. While in the cafeteria, there was the 'side show' -- which hosted games of chance, crafts booths, bearded ladies and the like:

Duct Tape of Wizardry

Anyway, as you can plainly see, I was the sideshow's magician -- and not an especially good one. Spent several hours in a cold sweat before tolerant adults and skeptical children, nervously performing the worst acts of sleight-of-hand imaginable with a chunk of carrot, in a ludicrous attempt to make spectators believe a thumb could also dually function as a pincushion -- so long as it was safely concealed beneath a convenient draping of handkerchief, or course.

Oh well. At least I wasn't mangling Latin and waving a wand. And lastly, we have the latest exhibition of Advanced Feline Idiocy, with your vacuum-skulled hosts, Buster and Fang:

Kitty Indolence

(So now y'all know why I'm so woefully behind in my Bas-Lag readings...)

Ah, yes... what else? Well, after enduring a moonbat abortion last year that bore only a vague resemblance to Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta", I'd become quite cooled to receiving any comic book-adapted film whose promotional blurbage loudly exhorted 'FREEEEEDOM!' So it was with great reluctance (and a fully-charged Leftist Bullshit Deflection Shield) that I approached the theater to bear witness to "300".

<keanu> Whoa. </keanu>

How was such a movie even permitted to be released, so soon after the petty demagogues and ersatz pacifists of the Democratic Party achieved their ill-gained victory? As the air was still being fouled with recommendations that the President hold a summit with "Twelth Imam" Ahmadinejad, and other similar transcendent bits of advice? And especially this precise historical moment, when terms of America's capitulation to the same revolting totalitarianism that'd been exhibited on September 11, 2001 are now being hammered out? "300" defiantly, ferociously repudiates ALL of this mush, with all the subtle nuance of a Louisville Slugger. "Peace at any cost"? Never! Negotiation? Up yours! Surrender? Bite me!

Of course, the real controversy still stems from the Islamic Revolutionary Cesspool of Iran (yet again), whose deranged leadership somehow found time between Holocaust-denial workshops and nuke-Tel Aviv planning sessions to bellyache about the Persian Empire's rather unflattering portrayal in the epic. Such creative license, the mullahs shrieked, would soon provoke a jingoistic let's-crush-Iran frenzy among American audiences -- presumably where thirty years of hateful rhetoric about "the Great Satan", holding hostages, engaging in major naval battles, providing support to murdering terrorists, secretly building atomic weapons and openly declaring an intention to use them had failed, I guess.

The funniest home-grown defense I read stated that Americans would feel exactly the same way if some dusky towelheaded filmmaker beat our own domestic cinematic genii to the punch, and extruded a flick that featured, say, the Colonists as mindless slave-whipping, native-killing barbarians. Ahem... YEAH, RIGHT. About fifty-five percent of us kneejerking rednecks (myself included) would balk over that one. But ah, the Worldly and Enlightened remainder -- they'd exult in this New Brave Foreign Voice Speaking Truth To Power, smear their objecting fellow countrymen on the other side of the aisle as intolerant First Amendment-shredding brownshirts typically crushing dissent as usual -- and otherwise bury this same Persian camera-jock in Oscar gold.

(And meanwhile, the U.S. government wouldn't take any stand at all. Well, okay -- except maybe the President, who might issue a brief statement condemning the film. It'd be duly ignored, unless he was Republican -- in which case for the next two weeks every third-rate newspaper and television talk show would overflow with sneering editorial content about the disgraceful Commander-in-Chief's tenuous grasp on reality and criminally misplaced priorities. Yes, such is our Orwellian police state.)

At any rate, it speaks large, tragic volumes about how far we've fallen since a certain bright smoke and pulverized concrete-filled morning, when America's self-loathing intelligentsia now factor in the foamy esthetic proclamations of theocratic tyrants as being worthy of any consideration. Proudly, even.

We must listen to The Rest of the World, y'see. We need to embrace a New Global Sensibility in all our productive endeavors (but, y'know, not so much that we'd then do something silly and irresponsible like selling McDonald's hamburgers abroad. Now that's just baaaaad...)

Blogger Scott LeMien babbled...

Heh, seriously good entry on this blog. I love the story of your grandfather, very interesting.

The lineart treatment looks fantastic for the I-con cover, I also dig the type treatment. I was a bit surprised with some of the color, seems a bit bleaker to me than the lineart suggests on its own, and the woman's bags under her eyes kinda pop to me more than in the line version.

I LOVE the cats. Please find some way to push more cat stuff onto the internet. I loved your Clyde cartoon. Make that thing part of your resume!

RE: The show/thing. Let me add what I remember. There was a 'show' of sorts in the auditorium. I was part of a spaceship full of aliens that was wheeled up. I used to be head alien, til I cried during rehearsal, then was sent back to the middle. And my mother was miserably tormented by me to have a costume that rivaled some of the better aliens. I wound up just barely being able to fabricate the helmet in time. We originally had water guns we were going to shoot into the audience to a Close encounters theme, but we wound up chucking popcorn (space rocks?) instead. Of the rest of the show, all I remember is the strong man, who strained while lifting inflated weights, only to have the small cleanup guy easily heft them for clearing the stage.

Hope some of that fills in some gaps. I 'think' this is the same show, but I can't be certain.

Oh, and I can't imagine FM being anything but happy that the Iranians are POed on this. The 'free men' idea associated to a Spartan king is a bit of a stretch, but I liked it.

Be well, friend!


3/21/2007 11:31 AM  

Blogger Tom Gordon babbled...

Yup... lost the contest. Came in second place.

Thanks, Scott. Unfortunately, the woman's supposed to be wearing glasses -- which I probably should've accounted for with reflective highlights (or some indication of glass) in the colored version... I'll probably have to go back and fix that. And yeah, originally the colors were nice and cartoony Coruscant-bright -- but in the background a lot of that got killed off with a pain-in-the-neck colored ink layer (which got progressively lighter with distance) and the addition of murky fog/smoke plumes. (Evidently those New Crobuzon tales really got to me...)

Oh yeah! I remember that UFO, too -- so it's definitely the same show. Now that I recall the show's printed program (which I'm POSITIVE is sitting in a folder somewhere in Brookhaven) it was organized as a 'three ring' circus. See, you had the 'first ring' which was major onstage performances lorded over by the ringmaster (strong man lifting weights, lion tamers, trapeze acts). Then you had the 'second ring' which would've been groups of kids doing assorted nutty stuff in the hallways or auditorium aisles (you would've been part in that, along with the clowns). And then the 'third ring' would've been maybe the sideshow/freakshow in the cafeteria -- or something else entirely.

Dammit, I wish my parents had shot some other photographs of the event, besides those needless dozen of me hamming it up, sticking pins in a stupid carrot. The pic I posted yesterday's the only one that really gives any impression of how big the event was (and that no, I hadn't imagined it). Sigh. Yet another archive/museum project that desperately needs to thrown onto the web, with the help of other Brookhaven Elementary alumni...

3/21/2007 12:57 PM  

Blogger Scott LeMien babbled...

That sounds right to me, your recollection of the 'circus' event, I mean. I don't have any photos of my childhood to share, unfortunately.

I'm sorry to hear about you losing the contest, but it's still a great piece!

3/21/2007 1:41 PM  

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