This is my new favorite thing in the whole world. If you have any interest in the world as it really is, right this second, then I think you will like it too. I’m no great fan of Google and its ever increasingly solid grip on most of our internet lives, but occasionally it get something so right you just have to surrender to it. This one, at least, is just interesting and you don’t have to give up any more of your privacy to enjoy it.
Go here, or Google “trends”, find Google Trends, and click on the colored rectangle in the left sidebar labeled “visualize hot searches in full screen”. Either way, you will find yourself in an up-to-the-second-current visual paradise of the information people are seeking right now. Use the grid icon at the upper right to select how many panels you want to see at once and how they are arranged on your screen, then just sit back and watch. It’s creepy and wonderful and hauntingly beautiful. And if you get curious about any topic, the panels are hot links– just click on the white text and you’ll go directly to the appropriate Google search.
This is elegant and clever and probably useful, but mostly it’s just so much fun. Put it in your bookmarks, keep it running in a tab, go to it any time you get curious or just need a break. Or, in today’s case, visit if you get worried that other people don’t care as much about the death of Ray Manzarek as you do. Google Trends Visualizer. Highly recommended. Thanks to Gizmodo for the tip.
Back in April, I let the first anniversary of “a cartoonist in Kekionga” slip by without notice in the wider pattern of cartooning, blogging, and everyday life. So when the software told me this week that we were sneaking up on the 500th post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate it– by thanking you, the readers, for all your support over the past year and a bit. You’re reading the blog, you’re commenting, and I hope very sincerely that you have all been entertained by at least some of these 500 semi-random bits of writing, art, photography, and other stuff. I’m not planning any profound changes, but I’m going to keep on keeping on. This blog will continue. Thanks again. Really.
In gratitude, please accept a teppik. I’m not sure what a teppik is, except that he’s a creature with four eyes and a heavy, bony face and matching bony crest, and also a lot of thick fur and fuzzy golden retriever ears. He must live somewhere in the Knotted Rope, although I know nothing about his nature or habits. Or perhaps he is a mythical being, or even some kind of spirit or godling. All I can tell you is he was my drawing of the day yesterday, and he’s one of the best images I’ve made so far in my other large scale ongoing daily creative project. I hope I can keep both of them up for a long time.
The Tesla, she is mine! Or so I thought. I’d been assuming that the beautiful dark colored Tesla Model S I’ve been seeing around town is the same car as the black one I saw for the first time on March 2nd. (Read about it here.) Seems logical, since how many $65 K (and up) state of the art, high tech, full sized luxury sport sedans with fully electric power trains are you likely to find in one middling prosperous place? We are not exactly on the Gold Coast here.
I finally got myself, my trusty iPod camera, and the elusive Tesla in one place yesterday and the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t black. In no way is this car black. It is a deep, glossy, very classy shade of ink blue. Either I got that first spot wrong or there are two Teslas. Actually, there may be three, as my car spotting pal (who so courteously parked her van around the corner so I could get these shots) reports that she saw one this past weekend that was definitely dark green. Granted, the black car and the green car could be visitors, but the blue car you see here is definitely a resident, since I have seen it parked in the same few places repeatedly for several weeks. Looks like I’m going on a Tesla hunt. I will post the results.
For now, have a very, very shiny ink blue Tesla Model S P85. That’s the top of the line model, with the largest electric motor available: fast, elegant, expensive, and (theoretically) better for the environment than, say, a boring, old fashioned Mercedes S Class. I don’t know about that, but it sure is pretty. And did I mention shiny? Look at all those reflections.
It’s been a while since we’ve dipped into the cartoonist’s notebook and seen some of the random stuff recorded there. For new readers, the notebook is not an artistic invention; it’s an actual little Moleskine with a black leatherette coverthat I carry around with me in my shirt pocket, and use to write things down. With a pen. I know. Radical.
My doctor’s practice recently moved into a set of offices in the new medical building and it’s quite a fancy setup. When I went there for the first time recently, I found this list posted at the front desk.
- Arabic Armenian Cantonese
- French German Hindi
- Hmong Italian Japanese
- Khmer Korean Laotian
- Mandarin Polish Portuguese
- Russian Spanish Tagalog
- Thai Vietnamese
“Point to your language. An interpreter will be called. The interpreter is provided at no cost to you.”
This list looked even better in person, since each language’s English name was accompanied by the appropriate word in the language in question, and the variety of alphabets was quite beautiful. (And I’m sure I don’t know half of what I have to know about computers to set the blog to match.) But it’s still a very interesting document, mostly for what it tells us about the place where I live. Northwest Indiana has become quite a crossroads, and our neighbors come from distant parts. I personally have heard a good half dozen of these languages spoken around town over the last few years.
Technical difficulties at the Cinemark delayed last Friday’s showing for ten or fifteen minutes. Modern audiences seem to be ill-equipped to deal with this kind of problem, sitting dumbly staring at their cellphones until someone of mature years, remembering the film breaks, focus failures and sound drop-outs of the past, goes and finds somebody to fix it. (It wasn’t me, but I was about 30 seconds away from going myself.)
Luckily, the new Star Trek movie (subtitled “Into Darkness” for the purists; for the rest of us it’s just more Star Trek) was worth the effort, and the wait. It is significantly better than the last entry, not that that’s saying much. I really hated a lot of things about the first one; it took the combined attractions of Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg to get me into my seat, and even then I almost walked out when the Federation somehow forgot to defend its homeworlds. (I have two words for the Federation: “planetary defense”. Try it.) I am glad to report that while the Star Fleet Admiralty hasn’t gotten a whole lot smarter in this one, the populations of several important planets aren’t sacrificed to its stupidity. Plus Quinto and Pegg, along with Zoe Saldana, put in entertaining performances, there is a lot of zesty space opera action, and even some kind of a plot. It is not bad at all. Read more under the cut, where spoilers abound. Continue reading
Before we go any further, many thanks to the owner of this gorgeous 1957 Oldsmobile for putting “1957″ on a novelty plate and bolting it into place on her front bumper. Car spotters everywhere love you for it, as it saves us a quarter hour or so in front of either the Internet or The Monstrous American Car Spotters Guide to confirm the correct year. I knew this beauty was a late 50s GM product from across the parking lot at Menard’s,and a quick look at the badges and the taillight treatment told me right away that it was an Oldsmobile Super 88. But the exact year would have escaped me until I got to my references if the owner hadn’t helped me out. Please, if you have an interesting car and live in a state that doesn’t require you to display a front plate, help a spotter out and give us the crucial facts up front.
This Olds is a pure driver. It’s very well turned out, in a beautiful aqua two-tone with white interior piped in the darker shade,but the bugs on the front end a few other little details let you know that this car still works for a living, accompanying its lucky owner to the big box store for an ordinary errand. It’s reassuring to car lovers to see a great old car from the past that’s still being driven to something other than car club events and car shows. And dig those crazy fender skirts!
The flapping book as wings is a visual idiom that long ago passed through cliche status to become a classic. This determined-looking owl seems to bring something new to that old idea. It’s the work of Dutch illustrator Redmer Hoekstra, whose website is home to more interesting, technically brilliant drawings that mix animal anatomy with the human-made world.
This happy little guy is an octopod. Not an octopus, but a person with a very rare eight limbed body type. Ordinary people, of course, are almost always born as tetrapods, with four limbs. In the story world of the Knotted Rope, hexapods are also known, usually in the form of tetrapodal people with one set of extra upper limbs, usually either wings or a set of extra arms, or centaurlike persons with four lower limbs and a horizontal secondary torso. Other variations are also known. Octopods are usually combinations of the two types, in this case, a winged person with what looks like a strong suggestion of an centaur style lower body. I may have to make a second drawing that shows his full anatomy, which I bet is very strange. In spite of his fairly large wing surfaces, he is probably too heavy to fly.
Artistically, this drawing is a classic example of the cartoonist getting carried away and having way too much fun with a drawing of the day. The detailed patterns on his shirt and waistcoat meant that this crazy image took more than two hours to draw, and probably another 30 minutes or so of corrections to get exactly right. Click on the image to see the somewhat obsessive results. Oh, well, it was fun, and I was watching TV at the same time, so I wouldn’t have been able to work on anything serious in those hours anyway. And the drawing turned out fairly well.
In “Hero Boots”, Foursquare, Kekionga’s homegrown superhero, takes his girlfriend flying for the first time. Hey, it is a time honored tradition of super romance. As we all know, Superman carries Lois Lane in a bridal carry when he flies with her, but that doesn’t work for Foursquare, who is a lot less powerful and needs his arms to steer. Luckily he’s not the only one who prefers to fly with his arms free, and loyal reader Rick put me on the trail of this alternate method:When in doubt, go straight to the primary source. And Kekionga‘s primary source is always, always the great Fawcett Captain Marvels of the Golden Age. Of course, Santa is a braver passenger than Iowa. Heck, Santa can probably fly on his own if he has to; Santa can do anything. Iowa, not being as sturdy, holds on a lot more tightly. But, then, Foursquare is her boyfriend and holding on to him is no hardship whatsoever.
I think this gorgeous cover is by Mark Swayze, who created the character of Mary Marvel. Kekionga fans will notice another small tribute to the primary source– Iowa’s hair length, color and texture are based on Mary’s, and she wears a variation on one of Mary Marvel’s classic hairstyles.
(Cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #19. image from Heritage Auction Gallery via stargazer.vonallen.com.)
“Hero Boots” is one of what I hope will be two new Kekionga minicomics in Mammoth. The script is almost finished, and I’ve done two sketches for the cover, right on the yellow legal pad where I am making final notes for the script.I know this isn’t a lot to go on, but it’s almost certainly all I need. I doubt I will make a more detailed sketch for what is a basic “Josef cover” with a fairly simple layout. I may hand letter the title, but it’s also possible I’ll typset it, almost certainly in Cooper Black. Or I may compromise and copy Cooper Black by hand for a more organic and unified look. Regardless, I’ve always loved the design of Foursquare’s uniform boots and I’m enjoying writing a short story in which they are integral to what little plot there is. There is a longer story in the works that explores their origin; perhaps “Hero Boots” will whet your appetite for it.
I know at least some of my readers can read my notehand, if you can you can get a preview of what is almost certainly the last line of the script and an idea of one of the pages of the story itself. The note under the boots reads “need some kind of interesting background– as” . The question is, as what? Unfortunately I do not remember what I was going to write next. I can only hope it wasn’t a totally brilliant idea that is lost forever.