shark week: that megalodon post

Shark Week is upon us, and I thought we would celebrate with some new Thresher the Pajama Shark cartoons.  But I have not drawn them yet, so let’s start with a classic post. 

Back in August of 2o13,  I was one of the many people who fell hard for the mockumentary  called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.  Yes, I am an idiot, and I wrote what I thought was a pretty funny little essay about it.  And here it is.   I feel obligated to point out that I spelled the word “Megalodon” incorrectly throughout the entire original post.  This has been corrected.

Megalodon: the Monster Shark Lives.  Might as well get the embarrassing admission out of the way first: I fell for it.  Like a bag of rocks.  It was late, and I was tired, but still …  This “documentary” ran last week as part of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  That alone should make a rational person suspicious,  Shark Week being the lowest common denominator of TV documentary festivals.  I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to it, not being terribly interested in sharks. (At the time I wrote this.  I am more interested now.)  But I am interested in “living fossils”, Lazarus taxa, survivals, and cryptids of all kinds.  So, yes, I would watch a show about surviving Megalodons.

To my credit, I missed the very beginning of the program, including any disclaimers that may have been offered when it first ran.  (The rerun I watched earlier today had several, all very carefully weasel worded to avoid saying “This is a big fake. You idiot.” in all capital letters in a bold face font while meaning exactly that.)  But there is still no excuse for my original reaction.

Reasons I, as a rational person, should have known that Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives was a work of fiction the first time I saw it:

  • The attack on a charter fishing boat off the coast of South Africa that begins the story is identified as taking place on April 5th, 2013.  There is no way a two hour documentary could be built around “real time hand held video” of the attack in time to be a featured attraction on Shark Week the first week of August of the same year.  Lead time, anyone?
  • And about that video footage–how ethical is it to show violent images of the bloody demise of actual people, as opposed to fictional characters, on prime time television? Might that be considered exploitative, or a gross violation of personal privacy?  Basic cable channels may not be a bastion of all that is great and good about the human experience, but even they have programming standards and practices.
  • The “lead scientist” is way too good looking. And a little too glib.
  • Also, the half a whale washed up on the Hawaiian beach is vividly bogus.
  • This.Megalodonuboat That’s a megalodon photographed off the coast of the Cape during World War II by the crew of a German U-Boat, with another U-Boat conveniently in frame to show scale.  It’s probably the same megalodon that ate those people last April.  Sure it is.

My only justification is that I really wanted it all to be true because it’s a good story: mysterious, bloody and deliciously creepy. The last minute of Megalodon is truly great television.  Not true, but great television.

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an actual memory of the moon landing, sort of

Yeah, I am old enough to Remember The Moon Landing.  I still get asked this occasionally although that’s thinned out a bit recently, as the anniversary approaches.  We all remember the Moon landing this week, even if we don’t.

An actual memory of the Moon landing, sort of:

We were staying in a tourist cabin camp on a lake near the Lake Huron coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  No TV in the cabin was part of the attraction to my parents, who probably feared their 1960s kids were already getting too much screen time.  But for that special occasion the owners dragged the Big TV out of their living room and set it out on the back porch so everyone could sit around and watch.

(I’m pretty sure that massive 1960s console set that inhabits my comics to this day is a memory of that TV.)

I remember a Midwestern night, cool breezes off the lake, cicadas and mosquitoes.  How late was it?  Probably not so late, but anything past bedtime was exciting.  The adults brought out chairs, and drank drinks with clinking ice cubes.  I think I sat on a boat cushion.  I think I drank a grape soda out of a bottle.  The other kids got up to run around, but I was transfixed.

Was it a color TV?  Maybe it was, but in my memory it was black and white.  I remember Walter Cronkite with his eyebrows and his deep voice, explaining things with diagrams and models.  Then, finally, after a lot of talk more explanations, the actual first step. Even then I remember thinking it the picture was pretty bad, but it was TV. From the Moon. Was that really TV from the Moon? I looked up and wasn’t able to see the Moon which I remember as sort of disappointing, but it was up there, and someone was there, walking around.

What’s funny is that even at the time it all was happening,  I was already thinking about this week.  I had a keen sense of history as a little kid, and liked to add dates together and try to imagine what I would be doing ten or twenty or thirty years from the present. I knew the 100th anniversary of the Moon landing would probably happen without me, but the 50th would find me (with luck that was luckier than any luck I could ever have imagined at the time) still around, even older than my parents were that day, living an amazing life in the incredible world of The Future.

And here we are.  The house I live in today (and have lived in for almost 30 years) was already standing in 1969.  I do not live on a space station. I don’t even have a flying car. And the problems of that day, the problems that the Future was supposed to fix, are still hanging over us. The only Future we really got is here in my hand, there in your pocket or in your bag or on your desk: the Internet and the devices we connect to it.  I don’t think anyone was predicting that one.

So how will I spend the actual 50th anniversary of the Moon landing?  I’ll probably watch a minute-by-minute documentary on the event, built out of digitally remastered period footage by our friends at the BBC.  It will be piped down from a satellite to a flat screen TV that, while lacking the porch filling gravitas of surrounding furniture, has a monitor as big and crisp as a small movie screen.  The air conditioning will burble and drip away, but outside, the Midwesten cicadas will be buzzing.

Only the details have changed.

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picture-poem chipmunk day with hulk

Took the Hulk with me (in my head, at least) when I went out with the camera on a sunny summer day, and ended up photographing (mostly) chipmunks.  Hulk made some poems that weren’t quite haiku.  First, his introduction:

  • Summer day.
  • Hulk see mostly chipmunk.
  • Book say “chipmunk small kind squirrel”.

  • Chipmunk run away from other chipmunk.
  • Go up tree,
  • All green leaves.
  • Cheeks full something,
  • Maybe seeds.
  •  Old sidewalk cracked
  • Deep enough for sunshine chipmunk sit in.
  • Hulk just saying.

  • Camera get too close,
  • Chipmunk run away.
  • (That chipmunk thing.)
  • Photographer warning:
  • Hulk not chipmunk.

 

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meet “the extras”

The bell rings, and it’s time for comics fun.

The Extras is a new weekly webcomic by Jeff Lilly, Katie Hodges, and yours truly, Pam Bliss!  This is a good time to announce it, I think, since it is well started, with several pages already up under this beautiful color cover by Katie.  A new page drops every Friday at 3 pm Eastern Time here.

And that makes sense, since it’s After School, and The Extras is a school story: a classic boarding school story with an urban fantasy twist. Or lots of twists.  There’s comedy, there’s drama, there’s a whole City to explore.

Jeff is the main writer for The Extras, and Katie provides the gorgeous manga style artwork.  I do a little bit of everything–I’m the co creator of the setting, and the everyday co-writer, and I’ll be writing some of the stories with Jeff in the co-writer’s seat. I’ll be doing some art for the series as well.

So consider yourself invited to hang out.  School is school no matter where you are, and friends are always friends.

 

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the possum test

A small possum sticks it nose out from under the ferns and wild grapes, sniffs the air and discovers that the internet connection is back at last.  It comes through the air somehow and lands on that dinner plate (mmm, dinner) that hangs on the fence.  Something made it stop, and now it has started up again

Perhaps it’s time to sneak into the house, climb up the desk chair and venture onto the desk to take a stroll across the keyboard.  Hello, blog.  Possum here.

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fude bud and josef (fude festival pt. 2)

My first finished drawing inked completely with the fude nib fountain pen turned out to be this drawing of Bud and Josef.  Bud has a cockeyed halo decorated with various forms, and Josef is in full on sandbag mode.  (Sometimes when I draw Josef he just seems to have no bones at all.  I have decided that this is a thing Josef does.)

I have no idea what that symbol on Bud’s jersey is.  It’s too regular to be a slice of Swiss cheese, and that was the only idea I was able to come up with.

All the lines, from thick to thin, on this page were put down with the fude, a Jinhao Shark with the larger of the two? nib sizes.  Looking back, I was still being a little timid here–I have learned since that you can get even more radical line forms out of this pen.

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fude festival! part 1

Back from a little break from the whole internet thing and ready to make June a pretty exciting month here on the old blog.  In addition to the festival that starts today, there will be a Really Big Event later in the month.

But first the festival.  It’s a Fude Festival!  That’s what I’ve mostly been doing for the last week or so– playing around with the whole fude thing.  So what is a fude, anyway?

Fude is the Japenese word for “brush”, and it also means “writing”. This word is also applied to fountain pen nibs that are optimized for writing Chinese and Japanese characters.  This is accomplished (as shown above in a pen that is not my own) by bending the tip of the nib upward at a 55 degree angle, which results in a pen that is capable of creating both very thick and very thin lines depending on how you hold it and the angle of the nib to the paper.  Once you really get one of these nibs going, you can even turn it upside down for a different kind of fine linework.

Sounds like a one stop shop for cartoonists, doesn’t it? I had been resisting the lure of the fude because everything you read about it is accompanied by a complicated chart showing exactly how to hold the pen to get different kinds of lines, making the fude nib look like a  precision tool for engineering minded people who enjoy working in a rigidly structured way.

Then I was bored with all my drawing tools, and I saw a box of cheap fountain pens with fude nibs for about a buck apiece, converters included, and they had multicolored plastic caps that look like adorable cartoon sharks.  And I bought them because adorable cartoon sharks, and now I am so in love.

Because you do not have to have precision.  You do not have to look at a complicated chart.  You do not really have to think about it all.  If you know how to draw with a brush, you can learn to use a fude fountain pen in about a half an hour.  And it is so, so awesome.

Here are the two sample pages I made while learning. Every line on these pages with made with the Jinhao Shark pen with a fude nib. Finished fude drawings all this week as the fude festival continues!

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save the doodles! lacy placemat drawings

As part of our ongoing “save the doodles” project, here are three authentic placemat drawings.  These images are from the greatest modern tool for saving the doodles, the smartphone camera.  If you are out with a square crowd who will look at you funny if you carefully remove a paper placemat and carry it off uncreased so you can put it on the scanner when you get home, take a photograph with you instead.

A particularly square place will have placemats with a crunchy, lacy pattern that makes for an especially challenging drawing surface.  The standard placemat doodle drawing tool, the Pilot Better Retractable Ballpoint (Fine, Black) is particularly unsuited to this medium, so I feel pretty good that I got two interesting ones– and at breakfast, no less!

In the center medallion, a looming bat

And among the wreaths of leaves and grapes, a cool fat superhero.

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three hulk-ku/ hulk write this spring

Poem critic address Hulk. Hulk smash with poem.  Then Hulk turn around, write two Hulk-ku  for spring. Many pink flowers.  Hulk like pink flowers.

  • You say “Hulk make more
  • Hulk poem!”  You no like Hulk
  • When Hulk making poem!

 

  • Cherry tree, crab apple.
  • Hulk green, flower tree all pink:
  • Complementary colors.

 

  • Cherry tree, crab apple.
  • Pink snow drifting, parking lot
  • After windy night.

 

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the mcu movies: ranked

Now that Avengers: Endgame has closed the first cycle of the MCU, all over the internet reviewers, columnists, bloggers and other people equipped with keyboards, opinions and either assignments or spare time, are ranking the 22 films in the series.  My friend B has been making a spreadsheet out of a collection of lists he’s found in various places and curated according to standards of his own devising (I won’t spoil any more what is sure to be an epic essay of his own posted somewhere or another), and he challenged me to make my own.  It will be fun, he said, and also you will get a blog post out of it.  The last point, at least, is true.  Thanks. B.

So here it is: The Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ranked from Best To Worst, According to Me, Pam Bliss. With occasional commentary, though I think the list stands on its own, mostly.

  • 1-2 (tie): Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger (two classic origin stories, one a modern action adventure, steeped in sarcasm and cynicism, one a period piece set in a theoretically more innocent time.  both excellent in their own ways, take your choice. )
  • 3: The Avengers (a core text for understanding both the superhero team and the superhero film)
  • 4: Black Panther (arguably the best movie of the bunch as a movie)
  • 5: The Guardians of the Galaxy  (this movie surprised me like a cotton candy meteor)
  • 6: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • 7: Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • 8: Avengers: Endgame

(I don’t see the MCU as having a Top Ten, but it definitely has a Top Eight and these are the ones.)

(The next sections of the list are the Very Good MCU movies, all quite entertaining and more or less equal in quality.  I think the ones in the first group are all better than the ones in the second group, but within each group making a more defined ranking would be purely a matter of personal taste.)

  • 9-10-11: Ant Man and the Wasp, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Captain Marvel
  • 12-13-14: Ant Man, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok

(Then things start slipping.  Below this point, find some films with serious faults, but also plenty of the strengths weassociate with the MCU, including character stuff, punchy writing, good performances, and excellent design and special effects.  This group is still worth seeing, particularly for free.)

  • 15: Avengers: Civil War (the Airport Fight is an enduring classic of the genre.)
  • 16: Iron Man 3
  • 17-18 Iron Man 2, Avengers, Age of Ultron (one for Tony in general, the other for Tony and Bruce and for Tony and Cap chopping wood.)

(And now the clunkers)

  • 19: Avengers: Infinity War (Dark, dull, and depressing, valuable only as the first chapter of the excellent Endgame.)
  • 20-21 Thor, Thor The Dark World (no idea how to rank these as I have never managed to stay awake through either of them.)
  • 22: The Incredible Hulk (2008)  (Never seen it, not sure why it is included on the list; the MCU Hulk is Mark Ruffalo and that’s it.)

(* Or has it?  There is a strong possibility that the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home will act as a sort of coda or epilog to the story, if it does I will revisit this post.)

Feel free to discuss …

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