midnight in the moonlight in the basement of the library: part four

midnight4-mysteryOutside the library, in the smoky, cool, dead leafy, moon silver air, a mysterious creature is practicing aerobatics. Roughly the size and shape of a regular boring male human, it has the wings of a bat, the tail of a rat, and the horns and great glowing eyes of a gargoyle. midnight4-bat flying

The Small Feather Bat stretches his fingers and curls up his toes and flaps into the night to join the game: the man-shaped flyer does not fool him.

midnight4-rat flyingThe young rat spreads gossamer wings of ratty imagination and is, for tonight at least, an aviation pioneer: the first Flying Library Rat.

And the gargoyle follows, with a clutch of dried out rubber bands in one set of claws and a piece of stale candy corn in the other, and one of Iowa’s flash drives clutched in his prehensile toes. It’s just the one with the PDFs of the application forms for student jobs, so that’s OK.midnight4-gargoyleflying

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midnight in the moonlight in the basement of the library: part three

midnight-3-gargoyleIn Iowa’s office (Iowa is Professor Lykander’s student assistant), there is a fat little stone gargoyle sitting on the desk. He spends most of his time posing as a sculpture, perched on the edge of a lopsided black painted plaster ashtray, pretending he is plaster himself. Iowa doesn’t smoke, of course (she’s a very responsible young woman), so her ashtray is full of rubber bands, flash drives and candy. Right now it’s some rather stale candy corn, and she doesn’t seem to mind when it keeps disappearing. As the moonlight falls across Professor Lykander’s paperwork, the gargoyle flaps his little stone-feathered wings and thinks that he has been sitting there too long.


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midnight in the moonlight in the basement of the library: part two

midnight2-ratIn the Old Chinese Reading Room (so called because of the colorful silk tapestries of extra squirmy dragons hanging between the main shelving units and the smell of Six Treasures Fried Rice that lingers there on rainy afternoons) a young rat looks up from his studies as the moonlight glows on the page. Laboratory Rats with socially non conforming academic interests emigrated to Library from the Science Quad during the Second World War, and by now their arts and humanities programs are well established. But on nights like this, studious Library Rats will sometimes wish that they were Flying Junkyard Rats instead.

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midnight in the moonlight in the basement of the library: part one

Yes, the moonlight falls on the ancient, well polished, linoleum floors of the basement of the Noakes Library, in spite of the fact that it’s a basement and there are few, if any, true windows.  At least on Halloween it does. It’s always a full moon on Halloween in Kekionga, and on that night, at least, all the basement windows open.

The Archives are in the basement, and Archivist Lykander’s office mate, the Small Feather Bat (a former Halloween decoration himself) always celebrates the holiday with an all night marathon of Sudoku and small scale hauntings. midnight1-batBut when he looks up from his puzzles and chair movings (he always manages to get them right where those clumsy humans will trip over them), he sees the moon in the window, over the piles of books, and he thinks that later he might take a flap around the neighborhood.

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actual jazz in an actual basement

This weekend I went out to see some actual jazz in an actual basement.  How atmospheric!  Granted, traditional jazz basements are full of smoke, which current laws forbid, but the ceilings and the lights were low, the seating was eclectic and hard on the back) and the crowd sipped tea and coffee while waiting to listen to Laurence Juber play the guitar.  I shot around a bit with my Fuji X10.


This was the second time I have seen Mr. Juber perform, and once again he did not disappoint.  Far from it.  I don’t play the guitar myself and I’m sure a lot of the details of his style and technique go right over my head, but I know he is considered a master of the instrument.  The results were delightful to listen to and challenging enough to make you forget that you are sitting on a folding chair.  Mr. Juber is a gentle and compelling performer, intense behind the guitar but modest and low key as he shares a joke or an anecdote from his long career while he tunes his instrument.  The set (one long one with no break– an impressive accomplishment) was built of an intriguing combination of his own compositions, jazz standards and the Beatles/Wings songs from his years as the lead guitarist for the latter band.  You can guess which garnered the most applause if you know one of my personal true facts: “Old people like the Beatles”.  I myself am a big fan of his cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”.

I normally can’t stand it when people take cellphone pictures during a concert, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a couple shots (with my silenced phone!) at the very end of Mr. Juber’s last encore.

The simple mural of the moon and the little picket fence make very effective setting for acoustic jazz. I may go back to this basement to hear some more music sometime soon.

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the best character name ever

Election time is here, and even though it’s an off year, a few signs have cropped up here and there in the yards of the neighborhood.  And with those signs came the best character name ever– or so I thought.  What an incredibly awesome name:  Fray Cronk Cornett. IMG_20141026_170942 A politician, certainly, but also a lawyer, a rich guy, a small town mayor, the President of a University.   All of those at once, perhaps?  Or in one lifetime … In the Old West?  Or in Victorian times?

When I finally walked up to one of these signs I quickly discovered that Fray Cronk Cornett (Cronk-Cornett?) did not exist.  The spectacular sign is really a joint effort from the much more prosaically named Debbie Fray, Steve Cronk, and Kevin Cornett, who are apparently running as a bloc for the Center Township Board.  Please note that this blog takes no position on this or any other political race, and be reassured that I am not going to try to explain Indiana’s ancient, arcane and almost certainly  obsolete township structure.   You would never stay on this site long enough to read it.  Besides, I can’t.  Explain it, I mean.

So we’ll leave these three upright citizens to pursue their political ambitions in peace, and thank them for the serendipitous gift of a really great character name.

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dogwood: all in a row

Sorry, but it’s a riotous world of intense color out there and you just can’t keep me inside.  The way dogwood leaves and the buds of next year’s flowers arrange themselves is endlessly fascinating.  There are way too many images in my files of this particular branch of my favorite dogwood tree.dogwood2blog

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best of the drawing of the day, week 131: “inconspicuous” is in the eye of the beholder

drawingoftheday-week131-inconspicuousTime travelers and dimension walkers both agree– inconspicuous clothing and gear is the way to go if you don’t want to be discovered and condemned as a wizard or worse.  Usually this means a plain cotton shirt and canvas trousers, a loose, styleless canvas or leather jacket, boots or moccasins, and a plain satchel for that computer slate you are determined to smuggle in.  A felt slouch hat, a blanket/cloak, or maybe a hand knitted wool sweater might work as accessories if you are particularly bold or stylish.  In an outfit like that you can travel fairly safely in any timeline or dimension with a reasonable level of technology. All of the basics are freely available to ordinary workers and students just about everywhere– and everywhen.

This guy here is not quite with the program.  Or maybe he is– and he’s just from very, very far away, where his ensemble is the height of mild mannered anonymity. Even so, he’d probablybe  better off traveling with a familiar who is small enough to hide in his satchel.  Let’s hope that big felinoid has his own pocket dimension, and the common sense to hide in it when it’s wise to do so.

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a portrait of an old friend

While I was looking for something this afternoon, I had a surprise meeting with an old and very dear friend, one I miss very much these days.  No matter how much I like my digital cameras, their power and flexibility, the immediate results and the endless free film and second chances, there’s a big part of me that wishes I could turn back the technological clock a bit.  Maybe far enough to reach the days when  it was me and The Brick and this particular lens facing a world of possible subjects?  And are we really talking about only 7 or 8 years? IMG_20141023_204839

Elegant simplicity: Pentax K1000 SE “The Brick”/Pentax 85mm f/2 M.  Add a battery for the light meter and a roll of film and it’s ready to go.  There is no digital equivalent.

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new fountain pen first steps

People sometimes come to this blog to read about fountain pens and how to care for them and use them for drawing and hand lettering, so I thought I would share with you what I do to get started with a new pen.

First, of course, I do what I do with any new tool– unpack it carefully, make sure it actually is what I thought I was buying: in the case of a pen, that means that it is the the correct brand, model, body color and nib size and type.  (Always do this before you fill a pen with ink, since returning it after it has been filled can be difficult if not impossible. If you detect the voice of experience in this, you might be correct.)

Then I check to see if all the  accessories (if any) are included, and inspect it for any damage or obvious defects.  If I was sensible at the time I bought or ordered the pen, I made sure to get a converter at the same time, so the next step is to try to fit the converter and establish that it actually is the one designed to fit the pen.  If it is, I can go on to the next step.  If not, I can always go to the parts box and see if one of my spare converters happens to fit.  If so, next step, if not, the wrong converter goes into the parts box (it will be right for something sometime) and the pen goes in the drawer while I try to order the correct converter.

Once the converter is fitted, correctly I hope, I fill the pen with ink.  There are those who suggest a fill with distilled water first, to establish that everything flows properly and that there are no leaks or blockages.  This is probably wise advice when dealing with an old pen or one of unknown origins, but I have never had a problem with  a new pen from a reputable manufacturer, so I usually don’t bother.  Plus, I am eager to draw with my new pen.  So ink it is, always Aurora black, a high quality ink which seems to get along well with all pens.  If a pen won’t run Aurora … well, you probably have an issue to take up with somebody.  Fill, wipe, and then the moment of truth– those three hatched lines on the pad of scratch paper with the grocery list on it.   If the pen works at all, it’s on to the next step.  (If not, beat on it a bit ’till it does work.  Check the fit of the converter and make sure there is pressure and that it is pulling ink out of the bottle.  If you can’t get a seal after wiping and refitting, get another converter.  You are much, much more likely to get a dud converter than a dud pen.)

But let’s assume when you tried to make a line, you got a line.  Then it is on to the sketchbook. dod-new fountain pen I make a page like this for every new pen I get.  At the upper left hand corner are “chicken scratches” of various kinds– lines, hatching, spirals, squiggles, sometimes circles.  Those are to make sure the nib is wet and the pen is dropping ink from the reservoir through the nib and onto the paper– not too much ink and not too little.

If everything works, then I move on to lettering.  Lettering is a microcosm of everything that goes on in a drawing or on a page of comics: straight and curved lines, circles, diagonals.  If a pen will letter, it will draw.  Rather than starting with “the quick brown fox” or the Preamble to the Constitution or some other fixed text, I generally describe the pen, its nib and body, adding comments on its behavior as I go along.  I vary the size and style of the lettering as much as I can, trying to figure out the exact width of the lines the pen produces and how big and small I can go with it without getting either stringy or muddy.  Mistakes get covered up with a form that gets shaded in; that is a test in itself.

If I can get clean, blotless freehand lettering out of my new pen, I know I can draw with it, so I do.  The final piece of every test page (if there’s room) is a freehand drawing with no pencils underneath it.  If there’s a lot of room, as there was in this case, I can add further notes to the lettering section as I learn more about the pen.  As I did in the lettering I try to vary what I do with the linework in the drawing: different line weights, large and small scale motifs, different kinds of shading and hatching and fills, building up various levels of blacks and so on.

The advantage to using my drawing of the day sketchbook for this project is obvious.  The records for each pen are preserved safely and their dates of acquisition are easy to look up.  Plus the test drawing counts as the drawing of the day, thus hitting two artistic birds with one stone.   This is “The White Bat In Flight”, and I think he and his cat creature prove that the neon red Safari is going to be just fine.

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