Sunday, February 22, 2009

Unfinished Business.

When I was in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago for Cripple Con, a couple of my friends told me that it was strange that I wrote more on this blog than I posted artwork, and that it was surprising that I don't draw all that much (presumably not because I'm all that talented, but because I regularly associate myself with people who are). While it is true that I don't draw nearly as much as I should, it's also true that there are very few sketches that I work on for fun that I ever think are finished. I always go back and mess with them, but I still save them and close them, always planning on finishing them later.

Anyway, I was sorting through my hard drive while trying to finish up the overhaul on the Over the Line Productions site, and I found some stuff that I thought I'd post, even if I'm not particularly proud of any of them. Yeah, I know that the whole "self-loathing artist who hates his own artwork" thing is super-cliché, and I should probably just stop whining. If anything, maybe posting this stuff will motivate me to spend my free time more wisely instead of drinking and playing video games. Probably not, though.

Here's a couple from last year: Daniel Craig...

...and Alan Tudyk.

I also found some sketches from four or five years ago that I had completely forgotten about; I especially don't think these are even close to feeling finished, but I still have an interest in them stylistically. I had remembered my Marimekko bedsheets from when I was little; they were mostly big primary-colored circles and rectangles in the shapes of cars and trucks on white sheets. I was thinking about Marimekko-type stuff while I was drawing these, using shapes in Illustrator. Here's Thom Yorke...


...Conan O'Brien...

...and myself. Note the awkward stage in hair growth. 

If anything, looking at this stuff is a pretty harsh reminder that I need to find out what I like to draw, from a stylistic standpoint, and stick with it, instead of drawing all over the board. Pun intended.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grocery Store Black Ops and How to Admit to Yourself that You're a Kleptomaniac.

I'm not sure if everyone has little moments where, like an out-of-body experience, you look at what you're doing at the time and realize that you're behaving in a disappointing way. I don't have these moments very often, but I think that when I do, it's basically my brain acting as an emergency failsafe and telling me to stop acting like a jackass. For example, this happened to me on an airplane last year:

"Hello, this is your brain speaking. We're currently traveling at an altitude of 30,000 feet, which doesn't matter to you because you can't see out the window, which would have probably taken some of your attention off of your knees digging into the seat in front of you; Northwest Airlines apparently designs the interiors of their planes assuming that everyone has the same body type as Danny DeVito.

I wanted to make the announcement that, while the guy sitting next to you is apparently totally cool with looking at porn on his laptop, the girl sitting on the other side of you is completely creeped out by it, and can tell when your eyes are wandering towards the screen. This announcement is to instruct you to keep your eyes on the book you're reading, because if there's one thing that's creepier than a guy checking out porn on a crowded airplane, it's two guys checking out porn on a crowded airplane. Thank you.

So, while these brain overrides don't happen on a regular basis, they do happen from time to time. Here's what I caught myself doing at the grocery store this week:

"Hello, this is your brain speaking. This announcement is to inform you that you've been standing at the olive bar for eleven minutes now, and, while the sample cups and tiny plastic spoons are there for a reason, that reason is not so you can eat as many olives as you want as long as you're staring at the price sign, pretending like you're interested in blowing seven bucks on olives. 

You're not fooling anyone, and you're only staring at that sign in case grocery store security catches you eating too many samples, and that's only in case grocery store security guards actually exist. Please dispose of the sample cup and spoon in the garbage can to your right immediately, vacate the area, and forget that this pathetic event ever happened. Don't pretend that you didn't notice the guy with the beardnet behind the deli counter make eye contact with you when you were taking seconds of the teriyaki mushrooms. You should be ashamed of yourself."

You know how you walk past grocery store sample trays, and they're empty, and you think, "I bet some jerk took four samples instead of one?" I'm that jerk. I don't know what it is about free food samples, but I pretty much lose my mind around them. I'm not kidding. I black out. I black out, and when I come to, my shirt is covered with pretzel chip crumbs and half of the Uncle Remy's Cajun Salmon Dip® container in front of me is empty. This brain intervention last week happened less than ten minutes after I ate three full servings of Jarlsberg cheese near the Organic section. You know how everyone says that you shouldn't go to the grocery store on an empty stomach? I think I'm pretty much the reason why they say that.

I don't know when the premise of free food began to have such a hypnotic effect on me, but I think I've been plagued by sample attacks for a while now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm inherently a big eater, and the fact that I have to control my portions because my metabolism has divebombed in the past five years or so. I think about it now, and I can't even imagine how much money my parents must have blown on food when I was in high school, when I was swimming two hours a day for almost half of the year.

"Hey, mom! I'm home!"

"Hi honey! How was practice?"

"Pretty good. What's for dinner?"

"I already ate, but for you, half of a Family Size-pan of Stouffer's lasagna. It's not quite out of the oven yet, but you can eat a can of Pringles while you're waiting for it to cool off, and then you should probably eat some salad." 

"Sweet! Do we have anything for dessert?"

"Well, you ate most of that carton of ice cream last night, so you should probably just have an entire sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies."

"Thanks Mommmph. Rmmm hmmph (crunch crunch)."

I didn't even notice that I was doing it at the time. Sure, I was always on cleanup duty for the family at restaurants, and sure, I beat my dad in a White Castle-eating contest when I was eleven (it was a tie-breaker for the previous Skyline Coney-eating contest), but it never really occurred to me that I was eating about twice the amount of what is usually accepted in society as a meal. 

I finally developed an understanding of how much food I had previously been able to put away when I was 25; I was staying at my grandparents' while waiting to move into my first apartment in Mt. Adams. I came downstairs for breakfast before work, and my grandfather had cooked the following:
  • 6 eggs (scrambled)
  • 2 pancakes
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 4 links of sausage
  • 1 English muffin
  • Coffee
  • Orange Juice
Understand that Papaw eats one bran muffin for breakfast. Mamaw has a cup of decaf and not much else. So it's not like they're actually going to help me eat any of this food that they had prepared for me to eat. So I ate it. All of it. Every morning for three weeks. There was, obviously, a huge part of me that was in absolute heaven; I love breakfast food. I'm not so sure about loving breakfast food when I have to lie down after I get to work in order to take a breather from digesting it.

Of course, after the first breakfast, I'm driving to work and thinking to myself, "What would ever possess Papaw to make such an insane amount of food for me?" This was immediately followed by a Usual Suspects-esque montage sequence that unfolded in my mind after asking myself this question; my brother and I yelling "Eat 'till it hurts" at each other during Christmas and Thanksgiving, my cousins Megan and Marnie watching in horror as I inhaled six Sloppy Joes in less than five minutes after we got out of Sunday School, me going up for fourths during my relatives' birthday dinners, etc. It almost made me feel guilty, because I, up to that point, couldn't remember thanking anyone for buying twice as much food as a normal person to feed me. I called my mom that day to do exactly that, and, while she did mention that it was pretty expensive, she didn't mind at all.

So, the next time you see some guy standing in front of a HoneyBaked Ham sample tray with his eyes completely glazed over, don't judge him. He probably used to be able to eat a lot more than he lets himself eat now, and this is just an unfortunate side effect. On the other hand, if it looks like grocery store security both exists and is on their way to eject him from the premises, make sure you wave your hand in front of his face and snap your fingers a couple of times.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tales of Blackjack Failure and Why No One Should Care about Steroids.

Here's a drawing I did at work today for an article in the Gaming Guide about gambling etiquette. Special thanks to Kevin Necessary for the texturing advice.

I would like gambling a lot more if 1) I had a lot of extra money lying around and 2) I was any good at it. I recently discovered that, while I'm good at blackjack in theory (thanks WiiWare Casino Blackjack), I'm worthless when it comes to clinical trials, to the point of officially declaring myself a financial liability. One year ago this weekend in Vegas, once I actually found a five-dollar table on the strip--which wasn't easy, by the way--I blew through $100 in about twenty minutes. It's not that I don't know how to play blackjack, I do. I just forget everything I know once I sit down at one of the tables. Maybe I'm intimidated by the prospect of gambling with real money. I had a pretty good streak going when I was in Niagara Falls* once, but I was playing with Canadian money, which is so many different colors that I can't help but think of it as Monopoly® money. Maybe I'm preoccupied with trying to act cool sitting next to the bikers and mafia underboss-types that typically haunt five-dollar tables in Vegas. Or maybe I just crack under pressure like balsa wood.

So, I was listening to news radio on the way home yesterday, and one of the more prominent stories was Alex Rodriguez's admission that he had used steroids at one point in his career. While I was kind of glad to hear something that wasn't about our crumbling economy and how screwed we all are, I quickly decided that I didn't care whether or not Alex Rodriguez used steroids six years ago. I really, really don't care, to the point that I would say that I feel fiercely indifferent about it. It's not that I think that professional athletes should cheat; in fact I feel pretty strongly that they shouldn't. It's just that, in Alex Rodriguez's case, I don't care whether or not he doped himself up, because, comparatively, I'm far more concerned about the fact that, despite the fact that we're all doomed financially, people feel that it's perfectly justifiable to pay a guy a quarter of a billion dollars to throw a fucking ball around.

Oh, I know he hits the ball with a fucking stick too, and he's super good at it, but come on. Really? This story came on right after another news story about how Congress is jumping all over Wall Street CEOs for being irresponsible with money, and rightfully so, but we, as a society, feel okay about this? You know what? Maybe we all deserve to be punished for letting things get this unbalanced. How much are we paying the teachers that educate our children every year, or the scientists that are trying to cure deadly diseases? If it's less than a quarter billion dollars each, and it is, then obviously we can do better. It's not even about me hating the Yankees, as I've been brought up to do. Paying anybody that much to play a fucking game, yes, even in front of people, is so hilariously indicative of our social instability and stupidity that I feel dumber living in a world where that seems acceptable. I'm already pretty amazed at reports of the impressive avarice that has led the world to ruin lately; I'm sure that I'm not the only person astounded at the fact that we've been kept so preoccupied with the threat of terrorism for the last decade that we forgot how dangerous stupid people are with money, and how greedy people can be when they already have too much. I don't need to hear about some jackass earning more than the GDP of a third world country because he's good at baseball and we're idiots. Right now, everybody's asking where all the money went. Maybe we actually have to look at what we're spending it on.


Wow, that went from zero to bitter pretty quickly. My apologies; didn't even see that one coming. I'm going to go find a beer somewhere.

* - This streak ended soon after I was accepted by the cigar-chomping middle-aged men sitting in the other seats at the table, when my mom, who had been watching intently from ten yards away, came up to ask me if I was winning. After explaining to the rest of my inquisitive table that, yes, that was my mom, yes, I was 20, and no, I had never played blackjack before, I subsequently lost $120 in ten minutes. After walking away from the table, I left the casino, but not because I was embittered by my experience. I left because my brother, who was 19 at the time, became bored playing slots and decided to drink nothing but whiskey shots and Molson for two hours, resulting in, predictably, his forcible ejection from the casino after showing his ID to a bouncer that didn't ask for it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why the hell not?

Editor's Note: Since I already wrote this on Facebook, I figured that I'd post it here too, just because it's been almost exactly six months since I posted anything. Which is ridiculous, even by my standards of laziness and procrastination. So, being that this is a nice place to talk about myself, here's 25 things that I wrote about me that I think are pretty noteworthy, pertaining to the glory that is being me. I held a brief press conference with myself ten minutes ago and I agree with me, that this post relates to me in a way that only I can.

Me, me, me. I'm done now.

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1) My full name is James WIlliam Rockwell. If my middle name had been Edward, I would have been James Edward Rockwell III. So while my name racks up some serious WASP points, it could have been worse. I also come from at least three generations of Jims, which prompted my parents to give me the unisex nickname that I still go by today.

2) I have always had horrible eyesight. I started wearing contact lenses in 5th grade, which would have improved my confidence level as a kid if I could have avoided getting clocked in the face during 5th grade after-school Bombardment (Dodge Ball). When your whole grade has to stop doing something to crawl around on the floor looking for a tiny piece of transparent plastic you dropped, it's gonna be a little awkward.

3) Speaking of, when my friends are over and they put my glasses on, they say they can actually see through time.

4) My favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski.

5) My favorite album of all time is Radiohead's The Bends.

6) My favorite book is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

7) I once high-jumped over a bar at my actual height (6'1). I only did this once, but fortunately, it earned me second place at a conference meet, so I got to pretend to be really good in Track for a week or two. Which is ironic, because the primary reason that I did that event in the first place was so I could take a nap in the high jump pit after school instead of running.

8) I shaved off all of the body hair outside of my bathing suit area three times for swimming district meets in high school. I definitely don't recommend it. Inversely, I spent a lot of time in high school around girls who purposefully didn't shave their legs for months at a time for the same reason, one of whom was proud enough of her leg hair to keep me updated on a regular basis.

9) Some people have irrational fears of things that probably don't exist, like vampires or zombies. I have an irrational fear of aliens. I think it's because of too much research for a book report I did in middle school about alien abduction, and the movie Fire in the Sky, which reminded me of said book report. There's probably also a hint of The Last Starfighter in there, which bothered me because if I do get called upon to save the universe, apparently they would replace me with someone who has even more potential for social awkwardness than I already have. Get it right, alien android science.

10) I don't like clowns for similar reasons, mostly the movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I told this to a friend of mine in Colorado once, and she responded indignantly by saying that not all clowns are creepy, and that she had gone to clown school. I felt bad at the time, but now that I think about it, she was probably lying.

11) Apparently, I'm pretty gullible.

12) Speaking of, for some reason, there is such a thing as clown porn. Thanks, college roommates/the internet. Oh, wait...this is supposed to be about me.

Uh...when I was in college, I lived with the type of people who laughed hysterically at clown porn for at least the better part of an afternoon. Hey, it wasn't little people or farm animals. Well, that time, anyway.

13) It affects me emotionally when comic book superheroes die.

14) I keep wishing for superpowers, and I keep getting continuously disappointed when I wake up without the power to fly unaided or the ability to shoot concussive force blasts out of my eyes.

15) My brother and I drove an '87 Pontiac 6000 in high school named the Gray Ghost. The Ghost had all sorts of special features, such as stapled ceiling upholstery, a hilariously inaccurate fuel gauge, perpetually cross-eyed headlights, and one of the first, and certainly the most literal, prototypes for keyless ignition.

Since there was a snowball's chance in hell of getting the car all the way down to Oxford from Cleveland in one piece, my brother drove it in college at Muskingum, where it was more of a community car than anything else. When he was about to graduate, he sold it at a graduation party to one of his buddies for $27.61, which was the exact amount the kid had in his wallet at the time. The Ghost's new master had intended to paint the number on the side of her and put her in a demolition derby, but since she was too much of a rolling firebomb to make specs, the kid, s#!#canned out of his mind, put a brick on the pedal and drove her into a lake. So, the Ghost's final resting place is completely submerged underwater somewhere in eastern Ohio.

16) The Ghost wasn't the only car I've had a part in naming. There was also the Green Machine, the Red Baron, Black Magic, Black Beauty, the Toy Car, the Party Wagon, and my personal favorite, the Flying Swede, which was Mike Eshelman's grandma's Volvo.

17) I was an amusement park caricature artist in various levels of management for 14 consecutive seasons since I was 15. I'm still on the payroll, even if I only really go in to help out the rookies every once in a while. I can say that the customer service aspect of the job really showed me the best and worst that people have to offer. I still draw on the side at festivals, birthday parties, corporate events, wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, etc. through a few different booking agents. While I'm pretty proud of my quick sketch, I feel like I've been standing on the same artistic plateau for years now, and the fact that I rarely make any art for myself these days doesn't help.

18) Because of my working experience with Kaman's Art Shoppes, working in climate controlled environments is still a pretty new thing to me.

19) Even though I like drawing them and it's a nice source of incremental income for me, I believe that caricatures are pretty much the closest that the visual arts can get to prostitution. The fact that I'm good at it only makes me a better whore.

20) My first concert ever was Nine Inch Nails at the CSU Convocation Center.

21) The last concert I went to was Ra Ra Riot at the Southgate House.

22) I regret that, even though I graduated with decent grades, I didn't apply myself to academics as much as I should have in college.

22) I've lived in ten different places in three different cities in 2 different time zones over the last ten years. Ironically, I hate moving.

23) I drank more malt liquor in college than you did. I didn't say that I'm proud of it.

24) The most important thing I've ever done was giving a eulogy for one of my best friends at his memorial service, written by his mother.

25) I can't do simple math in my head to save my life. When I was a senior in high school, my only non-AP class, besides gym, was Trig, which I took with mostly freshman. At the end of the first semester, when I found out that I didn't need to take the second semester to graduate, I told Lonchar that I was quitting. I was kind of expecting him to put up a fight and tell me to stick with it, but he said, "Yeah. That would probably be best." Trig and SAN 163 (the only class involving math that I took in college for a requirement) were the only Ds I ever got in school.