The Top 10 Big Movies I’m Looking Forward to this Summer

10. Fish Mouth

A gritty reboot of When Harry Met Sally, with Rooney Mara as Sally, Christian Bale as Harry, Channing Tatum as Bruno Kirby, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Carrie Fisher.

9. Narcoleptic, Parts 1 and 2

The uneventful journey of a sleepy young woman through the first few decades of her life, which she mostly spent in a comfy futon. Featuring Kirsten Dunst as “Jim” and Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Pillow, who is a really good and patient listener for six really long hours.

8. Arbor Day

A romantic comedy about star-crossed foresters, starring Olivia Wilde and Nick Nolte.

7. The Silly Putty Movie

Pixelshack’s long-awaited tentpole project about a wad of clay named Ruben and another wad of clay named Ruby, who assume various fun shapes during psychedelic adventures caused by newspaper ink.

6. Oedipus!: Vengeance of the Thebans

Starring former pro wrestler Steve The Shark Dallas as the accursed king and former pro wrestler Randy The Anvil Paxton as The Sphinx. With various monsters by Rick Baker and abs by Industrial Light and Magic.

5. X-Men Origins: Jackalope

Another brick in the gold brick road that Marvel’s paving all the way to the bank. Based on a fairly obscure Jack Kirby creation, Jackalope was directed by indie auteur Dax Boone and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Monty Marx, a mutant with various rabbit powers.

4. Urban Fury

A gritty reboot of Se7en starring Tyler Perry as Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling as Morgan Freeman, Dane Cook as Kevin Spacey, and Kevin Spacey as Gwyneth Paltrow.

3. Do the Math

A romantic comedy set in a Texas calculator factory in the 1970s, starring Dakota Fanning and Bruce Dern.

2. Beach Police

A gritty reboot of Point Break, starring Zac Efron as Keanu Reeves and Keanu Reeves as “Dunebuggy,” the leader of a gang of windsurfing jewel thieves.

1. Afternoon of the Planet of the Fauns

At long last, the movie of the dystopian YA classic by Annabelle Horst. With Andy Serkis as the bottom half of orphaned faun prince Octavius Quint and former Disney pop star Nebraska Skye as Quint’s human girlfriend Trixie Foxheart.

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No Spoilers

What I did in high school instead of reading all of the assigned books was, I read spy novels and mysteries and books about how to make different kinds of art. And then I wrote papers that contained almost entirely imaginary opinions and observations about the stuff I didn’t read. Which of course included Lord of the Flies, which I nonetheless had lots of deep thoughts about, such as, “the conch symbolizes man’s eternal quest for an efficient way to announce meetings,” and, “Golding’s classic novel demonstrates that coconuts are a delicious treat morning, noon, and night.” Note, by the way, that all of this happened about nine billion years ago and that if I had it all to do over again, I would totally read all of the assigned books as well as the spy novels. Because then I wouldn’t have written silly parody papers but instead real live papers that would’ve possibly resulted in a less angry English teacher, who I’m sure still has PTSD about me. Which I feel a very little bit bad about, nowadays.

Anyway, I took a break last week from the Sisyphus lifestyle and went to a semi-local thrift store for a little unfresh air and also because it’s the main place I can get a huge quick dose of mono no aware, which I need to get, from time to time. And I found a dollar copy of Lord of the Flies that looked, for once, like fewer than twenty people had read it already. So out of guilt, mostly, I bought it and immediately started reading it, even though I’m also reading pretty much literally twenty-seven other books at the moment (some of them not even spy novels, believe it or not).

It’s a ripping yarn so far, and if, like me, you’ve waited a while to read it, wait no longer. But no spoilers, please! Like, so far I’m feeling pretty optimistic that Piggy’s going to save the day with a brilliant rescue scheme, but when I mention this optimism to people, they kind of give me looks that hint my optimism might be misguided. But I don’t want to know that I’m wrong, or not yet, anyway. Let me think Ralph will help Piggy build a bamboo hovercraft and that they’ll escape to Narnia on the next tide. I’ll find out soon enough what really happens. It’s just that I’ve waited nine billion years to get to this point and in about fifty more pages the wait will be over for good, which is sad. Although, I still have Death Be Not Proud to look forward to. I assume that one has a mushy old happy ending, as usual, because that’s the American Way of stories, but let me savor not knowing for sure for just a tiny little while longer.

Update: Okay, so, that book didn’t end how I thought it would end, and now I feel about the way Ralph felt. But I’ll keep an eye out for the sequel, which I’m sure has a way happier ending, because that’s how these things usually work, right?

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ArtWalk T-shirt

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Okay, so, here it is all done after 47 hours of labor. The hair was the second-hardest part (the most hardest part I can’t talk about, due to the bad condition of the nerves that are waiting to get worked on in the M*A*S*H unit in my soul). Here’s the thing about drawing hair: it can take a few hours sometimes to get it right, and even then you hardly ever actually get it completely right, especially if you’re me, which I hope you’re not. But I guess I’d rather draw hair than cut hair, even if cutting hair’s a ton more lucrative. Or so it seems, anyhow, in this fictional town where we fictionally live, where celebrity barbers drive around in Silver Ghosts and artists run around in Flintstones cars.

Anyway, pardon the grumbling. Blame it on the neighbor’s grumbly old truck that keeps circling the block every six or seven minutes all day and all night long. Wonder if there’s any money in doing that? Hard to figure how there could be, but the way our world works, you never know. Maybe he’s being paid to help bring on Peak Oil (assuming we haven’t blown by it already). Maybe that’s a plan the multi-nationals have, kind of like a Goldfinger plan: make a valued thing scarce so the value goes way up. I need to get in on that action. I can drive around the block a billion times a week, no problem. I mean, we sort of get a scratchy echo of public radio way out here, plus I have plenty of audiobooks left over from my commute to school, so it could be a tolerable job. Just have to find the right size of Thermos to fit our weird-sized cup holders, then I’m good to go.

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10 Completely True Shocking Facts About ‘Star Wars’ That You Probably Didn’t Know Before the Internet

10. The famous friendship between Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart started when they crossed paths during the casting process for the voice of R2-D2, a role that eventually went to Zero Mostel.

9. The very first draft of the basic story of Star Wars, written in a motel in San Pedro in 1971, was entitled ‘Saga of a Sand Planet, Volume 9.’ It featured a roguish spice pirate named “Jo Jo Kawasaki,” who was destined to overthrow the evil Banking Guild through his skills at psychic wrestling.

8. It is commonly believed that the design for C-3P0 was based on the robot Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. This is an erroneous belief. Instead, C-3P0 was based on Jack Benny’s robot butler “Sparkington” in Fritz Lang’s The Big Broadcast of 1933.

7. The Death Star was originally called the Doom Sphere, but test marketing showed that almost no one in the anticipated demographic understood what a sphere was, even if they were shown a picture of a sphere along with a clear and easy definition.

6. All of the languages spoken by various aliens in the first movie were NASA recordings from various space probes that had picked up snippets of actual alien broadcasts here and there among the stars. Once NASA scientists translated these recordings, they discovered that they were mostly recitations of sports scores and talk radio callers who mostly disbelieved in the existence of humans.

5. At first, the big idea of Star Wars was that it was mainly supposed to be about this sort of Laurel and Hardy relationship between two accident-prone robots, with the human part of the story just a kind of sideline to the main robot story. But during the development process, it became clear that a better idea would be to make the whole thing a legendary story told by Whills to other Whills on camping trips, so that’s what they did instead of the robot-centered thing, because who doesn’t love Whills?

4. Due to the fact that the whole budget for the first Star Wars film was $47, George Lucas couldn’t afford to put in all the special effects he really wanted to do, such as giving Tatooine three suns and Biggs a much bushier mustache and Greedo a snout about twice as long. He also wanted Han to have bright red muttonchops and Chewbacca’s pelt to look more like Day-Glo Astroturf. In fact, even when he did the Special Editions, the technology to make these improvements still didn’t exist. The hope is that maybe by the dawn of the 22nd century, they’ll finally be able to release an Extra Special Edition, in which all of the haircuts might at long last live up to Lucas’s original vision.

3. As everyone knows, the actor Anthony Daniels was actually totally inside a C-3P0 costume during the shooting of Star Wars. So C-3P0 wasn’t a puppet or a Claymation figure or anything like that. Less well known, however, is the fact that many of the other characters were costumes worn by actors inside actor costumes. For example, “Carrie Fisher” was performed by John Gielgud, “Harrison Ford” was performed by Estelle Getty, and “Mark Hamill” was performed by a young Andy Serkis. “Chewbacca”, of course, was performed by an actual Wookie actor named Dale Beaumont wearing a “Peter Mayhew” costume. This was just how they did things in old Hollywood, believe it or not.

2. Several of the cast and crew on ‘Episode IV’ developed a pretty serious Pez addiction and many to this day struggle with “staying off the brick,” as they say.

1. All of the opening crawls for all of the Star Wars films were written by the late Beat poet Gene Dutchman, who mostly made a living writing jingles for off-band soda drinks and instruction manuals for digital alarm clocks.

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ArtWalk Poster: Final

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So, after a billion bleary-eyed adjustments (and three days before the deadline), I think that’s it. For what it’s worth. I mean, I’m not entirely sure anymore why I keep at it. Used to be just because I liked the smell of ink and paint, but Wacom tablets don’t give off much scent. They probably need to add that feature, some little vent that emits various arty aromas, kind of like the vent they used to have at the nut store in the Arcade in my hometown, which blew a gentle roasted peanut breeze out into the sidewalk, around about average nose height.

Anyway, heard this gem while prepping via podcast for class tomorrow: “St. Francis was a saint, hence he was called ‘St. Francis’.” That kind of sentence completely makes my day. Usually, of course, Wikipedia is the best source of shallow thoughts in poor form. My favorite, for example, from last week: “Blixen however rendered herself ineligible by dying in September.” I think it’s been edited since, but not by me, because I think finding those kinds of sentences is like finding rubies and emeralds in a Cracker Jacks box. Or, you know, a shipping container full of Crackers Jacks boxes. Why do I think this? Who knows. I love reading good writing as much as anyone, but there’s just something weirdly awesome about writing that’s accidentally so wrong.

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ArtWalk Poster: Sleep On It

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And now I need to walk away from this thing and go read a book about non-work stuff and also maybe sleep for a while and then we’ll see how everything looks in the morning.

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ArtWalk Poster: Halfway Done

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. . . and this is where I’m at a couple of days later, after going away to do some other stuff for a while. Clearly, whatever drawing mojo I used to have is out of the office at the moment (which is what happens, kids, when you don’t draw every day like I say you ought to do). Plus, the Eye Trouble is interfering a little. And the Inner Critic trouble. And the drag racers drag racing up and down the street. But maybe once the lettering’s on it’ll hide the flaws. I hope.

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ArtWalk Poster: Rough Sketch

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So this is where I’m at a couple of hours later. Not 100% sure this is where I’m going to end up, but I’m 98% sure I don’t have any other ideas. Except for maybe some ideas that would take longer than I have for this free thing. Probably ought to save ‘em for later and go work on some brand new stuff after this instead. Dang, though, I need to leave room for the logo . . . a square half centimeter or so somewhere.

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ArtWalk Poster: No Ideas

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I’ve said about a hundred million times before that “this is the last free one,” but this really is officially the last free one. Because by now I’ve paid and paid and overpaid my dues so much that it’s way more than enough already. Plus, just in practical terms, at some point soon I have to start doing jobs that’ll help pay off the enormously expensive machine I’m doing this last free one on. And, you know, a vacation would be nice, especially after the winter I’ve been having (don’t ask). And you have to pay for vacations, apparently. Anyway, Real Life ought to always be about getting artwork done, so I’m finally at long last going to start doing that today. As soon as I have an idea for what to stick in this blank white box of nothing. Which I’m posting, by the way, because my students need to know that things tend to start like this, that you have to look at and see and imagine how to fill a space, and that you have to then go and do what it takes to fill it, and that art is actual hard work, and that you will often fail, and that not failing doesn’t mean you did something perfect, but that the little successes might have, for once, made a slightly larger pile than all the little shortcomings. Let’s see if that happens this time. It’s been about 90 billion years since I drew anything more than a few random doodles (mostly of cosmonauts and robots and weird animals). And this expensive machine is still kind of full of bells and whistles I’m not wholly up to speed on yet. But that won’t last . . . I hope.

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True Hairdo Sketch, 3.1.14

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And yet it moves . . .

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A quick and dirty animation for a presentation I have to give tomorrow, which isn’t about Galileo, except that I’ll mention him as one of my big heroes, because of how he looked at the sky and saw things there no one else had ever bothered to see. I especially like his scratchy little starfish stars, which aren’t really stars, of course, but are instead various moons of Jupiter, which I have seen myself through a sort of crooked old telescope I got from my late Uncle and also through one of the telescopes in Flagstaff. Plus a bunch of other times and places, whenever I wasn’t looking at our own Moon’s oceans and seas, or at the bloated orange mite of Mars.

I based the whole thing on the sketches in Galileo’s 1610 notebook, which I found an image of here. I just wanted to see the moons dance around for real, using his drawings of their motions. If and when there’s ever time, I ought practice doing this kind of thing a ton more. Maybe several tons more, actually. If and when.

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Galileo Galilei, Observations of Jupiter, 1610

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Hydrant Zine

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A doodle of an idea I had back when I started grad school, but which got shifted over to the back burner pretty early on, because that’s what happens. The official Side Project Number for this particular imaginary zine is #9, which puts it on the runway right behind a book about a game called “Landing Site” and just before a book & tabletop sculpture project about codes and ciphers and dead letter boxes.

Of course, there are days when we’re like, “Let’s start a cosplay supply business!” Which I guess would involve us making different kinds of hats and other accoutrements, such as complicated compasses and telescopes and multi-spectral eyeglasses. And lots of blank books, of course, because every heroine and hero and steampunk explorer needs to keep a journal. Otherwise how would graphic novelists know the whole story of the stories they want to tell? Meanwhile, on other days we’re like, “Let’s start a bakery!” Which I guess would involve us making banana bread and cookies all night while we listen to Mazzy Star (me) and Wilco (B.). Maybe we could specialize in those memory-provoking tea cakes that look like scallops. Either way, they both sound like good backup plans.

Until then, back to work on Plan A.

Oh, and Plan C, if you’re curious, is McWinkler’s Internet Activity, an online literary journal full of cartoons about animals with ennui and longish blog posts about barbershops and beauty salons. The first issue will feature metafiction by Beatrix Hummel, flash fiction by Lex Frobe, hint fiction by F.X. Ott, and an unsolvable puzzle from our puzzle editor, Pinto Queequeg. Plus the first chapter of Dexter Mingus’s new novel, Irksome Tuna. But only if Plans A and B1 and B2 don’t pan out.

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Web Fossil

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Had to comb through 10 old flash drives, 30 old CDs, and also the rickety old hard drives of a couple of ancient computers to find this thing, which is a picture of a long-gone website all about a wholly imaginary country. I’m posting it just to remind myself I need to add it to the rather lengthy side project list. But I won’t redo it like this early-aughts style of page. Instead I’ll do it in some wholly different way. If ever any of the other side projects get done first. Anyway, I still like the primitive lettering, so maybe I’ll keep that part. Except I’ll probably give it even more extreme regional funkiness.

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Connections: Corcoran Print and Book Forum, 12.7.2013

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Dear fellow humans:

I’ve been invited by the Corcoran College of Art + Design to talk about being a newbie book artist at their 2013 Print and Book Forum, which will be held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on December 7th. Peter Koch is the keynote speaker and there will be a panel discussion about the past, present, and future of the book. Plus it’s happening at the same time as their holiday book arts sale, and given what I’ve seen of the excellent work they do at the Corcoran, there should be some pretty amazing art on offer. At some point in the afternoon, I’ll get up and say some stuff and show some slides and after that we can then all go have some snacks. The event is totally free and open to the public, so if you like free things and are a member of the public, come on over.

I’m putting together my slideshow now. It will feature lots of exciting, dynamic transitions between each slide and also a ton of swank tables and graphs.

Although . . . since you might not know me well enough to know how I say things, the slideshow will actually be a pretty normal kind of slideshow about where my work’s coming from and where I think it might be going. It’ll be chock full of a lot of images that have never made it onto this blog on account of the eternal shortness of time. But mostly it’ll be about what one particular recent MFA graduate is trying to figure out, practice-wise, in a sort of chaotic, changing landscape.

Here’s the flyer for the event: Print and Book Forum, 2013.

And here’s the Corcoran’s blog: Marginalia.

Anyhow, it’s a huge honor to be invited and I’m looking forward to it a lot. And my wife gets to go, too, which makes it even more better. She’ll help me not faint from being onstage by beaming me anti-fainting rays the whole time.

P.S. The typo in “homemade” is not a typo. Instead, it’s how it was spelled on a hand-lettered sign I saw once in my hometown.

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“It’s okay if every day is not the same way . . .”

So this is now a world that no longer contains Dorothea Tanning, Elmore Leonard, Iain Banks, Leonora Carrington, or Lou Reed. Or, for that matter, either one of my grandmothers, or my uncle, or Mrs. Krabappel, or dozens of other people who are totally (I hope) alive and well, but have wholly and forever gone away to various other distant universes. So it’s a very different kind of world from the half-imaginary world I lived in for most of the time I was thinking about becoming the thing I am now, which is some sort of an artist (what sort I haven’t quite figured out yet). Anyway, I have no words to say exactly just how different it seems. Or at least not words I can put together in a coherent way at the moment, what with paperwork piled up everyplace way higher than my head and dozens of unfinished projects waiting in a round-the-block line to get finished. Besides, my claim on the right to mourn is small. I wasn’t one of the hundred-thousand kids who heard the banana record and immediately went and started a band (instead I started a ton of imaginary bands, the way I still every week make up brand new imaginary writers and painters and sideshow performers). Even so, even if all I ever managed to learn was two of the three essential chords, the night I first heard The Velvet Underground, which was a night a lot longer ago than I want to say, was one of those rare before-and-after nights. Which was the sort of thing that could happen back then, when the radio was still a kind of magic vending machine, filled with prizes according to the whims of eccentric DJs. That night, having at last very carefully parked the needle on the right hairline on the dial, I finally heard “All Tomorrow’s Parties” all the way through and instantly went from having a wan old wren-sized soul to having a pretty busy collection of clockworks inside. The same as happened when I first heard the drumbeat at the beginning of X’s “Hungry Wolf” or the first half of the first bar of “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones. You forever after feel like you’re not remotely the same person at all, as if a Godard-style jump cut had just happened for real, maybe skipping over a wide enough slice of time for you and your stunt double to switch places. And now he is you, while the old you maybe just walked off the set of the film of your life and went to go do some different job than acting. Or something like that, at least a little. Anyhow, it’s an early day tomorrow, so enough for now. Plus, I always wish these posts were only ever drawings instead of words. It’s just that I was thinking about Lou Reed the other day is all and while I guess I can go on thinking about him, I liked thinking about him in the present tense the best.

Also, yes, for those of you who enjoy the game of who-influenced-who, which used to be one of my favorite games, the subject line is 100% pure Galaxie 500.

And, yeah, Mr. Reed was of course just part of the complex reason why VU songs sounded the way they did. But that voice is still pretty much forever my favorite rock voice. Next to, of course, Exene Cervenka and John Doe and Patti Smith.

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