at the movies: big hero 6

Had a great time today at my free private showing of the new (and rather brilliant) animated superhero flick Big Hero 6.  Private, because there didn’t happen to be anyone else who wanted to see a kids’ movie at quarter to one on a Friday afternoon except me and my usual moviegoing companion, and free because the projector failed spectacularly during the previews.  “Number eight?”  said the manager.  “It does that.” And waiting six or seven minutes while they rebooted the system earned us a couple of guest passes to another show.  Not that the wait was that big a deal.

Is Big Hero 6 a kids’ movie?  Well, it’s a fairly lighthearted superhero story with a youthful but not juvenile cast (the hero is a 14 year old genius,; the other members of the team are his college-age classmates and a robot), and it’s animated, which to some people means it has to be intended primarily for children. But it’s really an all ages entertainment, of particular interest to anyone who is interested in superheroes (it’s full of superhero meta) or in worldbuilding.

Because the world is the real star here.  Big Hero 6 is set in the most impeccably designed and rendered alternate San Francisco: a spirited, optimistic, brightly colored Northern California-Blade Runner of a San Francisco, one that is mixed delightfully with a comic book Japan.   The characters (half manga, half modern Disney-Pixar) live there so believably that the illusion of reality is almost perfect, avoiding the uncanny valley by being just cartoonish enough.  It’s a beautiful movie to look at in the highest sense of the word beautiful.

The plot is a plot, thin but serviceable, plenty good enough to justify a visit to the setting.  The characters are better, appealing enough to make you care about the plot and the standard lessons of love, loyalty, hard work, and standing up for your beliefs.  The boy protagonist and the robot clearly received most of the effort, and the robot is is truly  remarkable.  His design is genuinely creative and his personality flows from it in a delightful organic way.  His name is Baymax, and you believe in him.  The rest of the characters are less well defined but skillfully outlined, and the superhero stuff is fresh and even enlightening.  Pay particular attention to Fred and Honey.  All the tropes of the modern superhero movie are here too, down to the standard advice to sit tight through the credits.  (And you should go early, too.)

I went to see this movie primarily to see the world in which it is set, but ended up watching it, and enjoying it, as a film.  Big Hero 6 was a very pleasant surprise, and let’s hope it’s a sign that this year’s big holiday flicks are going to be good ones.  We’ll be going to the movies at least once more before the year ends.freepasses-crop-blog

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is there any other kind?

Eagle eyed reader Meg sends this photograph of a classic toy for sale at a local emporium.  Funny, but I always thought the name of the thing was enough of a hint …MG_5391~2New vehicle prices have sure gone up, but at least the bell is included.

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to a cyclist on a winter evening

Hey, you, / you riding a bicycle in the dark and cold/ with a little yellow light on your helmet and a white one and a red one/ on your handlebars and the back of your seat respectively/ that alternately dim and flash as you pedal./  Yeah, you./

You are three floating lights, silent except for tire hiss on the wet sidewalk./  It’s really sort of creepy.

Be aware of this as you come up behind someone/ who is listening to “Welcome to Night Vale*” on headphones.

You should get a bell or something.

(*”The Shape in Grove Park.”)

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super flemish!

16thcenturywolvieNow that I have your attention, have you ever wondered how famous characters from popular culture would look if they had “lived”  in the 16th Century and posed for their portraits in Flemish costume?  It’s sort of an odd question, but this wonderful cosplay from Paris answers it beautifully.  The costumes, the makeup, the colors, the poses: the Flemish portrait illusion is complete and captivating.   I’ve been saying for a while that we are currently living in a golden age of cosplay as an art form, and this show and its accompanying photographs by Sacha Goldberger take the medium further than I have ever seen it go.

Had a hard time picking a cover image for this post, but since I am on a bit of a Wolverine kick recently, have brooding Flemish Wolvie on the house.  See all the rest of the photographs, and they are truly wonderful photographs, in the Super Flemish portfolio on Sacha Goldberger’s website here.

(image by Sacha Goldberger, from

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asking for some smartphone advice, android experts

A break from the usual to ask anyone out there who knows a bit about Android smartphones for some advice.  I have a Nexus 5, which I love, and now I bet you know what I am going to ask.

I just went to pull said Nexus 5 off the charger, and I saw an unfamiliar icon where I normally find my notifications.  I pulled it down and …yes, that’s right: the long anticipated/dreaded Lollipop* upgrade awaits me.  I can have the new OS whenever I want it. I’ve been reading about it on the tech sites and I know that in addition to making boring but useful improvements in background functions, it is going to change a lot about the way my phone looks and feels and what I can do with it.  I’m especially excited about all the camera upgrades that are included– I’m going to be able to learn to process RAW files in my phone and it is going to be awesome.  Or so I hope.

I’ve known for a week or so that the rollout was actually starting, and having a Nexus phone that runs pure Android I was going to be near the front of the line for it.  But now that it’s actually here, I am feeling more than a little trepidation.  In my mental landscape it was something that was just going to happen–I’d wake up one morning, or hear a weird sound in the middle of the afternoon and my phone would suddenly be … different.  I didn’t realize I was going to have to pull the trigger myself.

So what do you think?  Have you upgraded to Lollipop?  How long did it take to download?  How much did you have to do to get the phone up and running again?  Are you happy or sad that you did it?  How much does it actually change about how you accomplish your day to day tasks?  Bonus points for anyone who knows how long you have to make up your mind before the Google pushes the upgrade on you whether you want it or not, as I’m sure it will do eventually.  Being the Google.

I’m waiting ’till my husband gets home from work, that’s for darn sure.  I am not doing this by myself.  In fact, he has a Nexus 5 himself.  He’s the IT guy.  He can go first.

(*For all you iPhone folks,  the Google names the various versions of the Android phone OS after sweet treats and desserts.  The present version is KitKat, the new one, version 5.0, is Lollipop.  Don’t ask me.)

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tumblr sunday: our neighbor to the north

Bonjour, Canada!/ Hi, Canada!   It would take a stronger blogger than I am to resist this oddly wonderful combination map and word search puzzle from Marvel Fun and Games #12 (1980).  Good luck to those who want to print it out and give it a try.tumblr_ncpxd1Su9k1shdts2o1_500

I did make a good faith attempt to find a Canadian history connection to hang this on, and in that attempt I found a  great internet resource: Today in Canadian History.  It was hard to choose from the many exciting events associated with November 16th, but on this day in 1970, Anne Murray received a gold record for her hit single “Snowbird”, becoming the first Canadian recording artist to earn that honor.  And the superheroine  Snowbird was one of the  original members of Alpha Flight! (That’s her in the pale blue and white.)Alpha_Flight_cast_picture_(John_Byrne_era) (Alpha Flight promotional art by John Byrne.)

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more of those extraordinary haitian sculptures

voudou3-red-blogI can’t get these guys out of my head.  Visits to the Field Museum are usually fairly rare life events., once every two or three years at best, if I’m lucky, but I’m already plotting to get back before the middle of April so I can not only actually read the informational material with the attention it deserves but take more, and more thorough, photographs of these figures . Who do I know who is going to the Field?  Who has an extra seat in the minivan?  I would sit in the back all the way to Chicago to see this exhibit again.

Until that day comes, if it ever does, here are a few more glimpses of the remarkable beings from “Voudou: Sacred Powers of Haiti”. Please click on the small version to see the full sized image for maximum impact.  (The header of this post is another version of the photograph in the first post header: this one is a half stop overexposed, which punches up the red in an oddly powerful way.  It’s a bad shot by technical standards, but it packs a wallop.)

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on the price of butter

The price of butter is relevant to many (if not most) cartoonists.  (Unless you don’t eat dairy, and even then, you may be shopping for those who do.)  It’s a fact of life that the “artistic” spouse/roommate/family member, particularly if he or she is not working full time, often shoulders a large share of the domestic responsibilities around the place.  This isn’t a bad thing– somebody has to do it, after all, and you can ink while the turkey’s roasting or the bread is rising.  If you take this responsibility seriously, you will find yourself developing a disturbingly housewifely concern with the High Cost of Staple Commodities.  What they charge for butter these days is appalling.

So, with the holidays coming and many batches of Land-O-Lakes butter cookies needing to be baked, it’s time to start looking for bargains.  For many years, you tried to buy butter for less than two dollars US a pound, and more recently $2.50 was the jump-on-it point.  But with the current milk shortages, the usual price has risen to $4.19, and I was thinking that I would have to buy at $3, or even $3.25 this fall.  This doesn’t sound like a lot, but I use a metric ****load of butter in November, December, and early January and it adds up.  I buy it cheap at the pre Thanksgiving sales and freeze it ’till I need it.  If I’m still using it in June, that’s fine too.butter-4pounds-blog

And here’s today’s minor domestic triumph: four pounds of top grade butter for $2.68/pound.  Limit two, but a pal of mine was with me and kindly bought a couple of them. (She’d already stocked up.)  I feel awful for being pleased with myself over this, but hey, you take your thrills where you can get them.

Let’s just hope that this week’s Target flyer is a misprint.  Because anybody in town who’s paying $7 a pound for butter this week is out of his or her cotton-picking mind. (Meg points out that I missed that the $7 deal is a twofer– which is much more logical. Thanks for finding and reading the fine print!)

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best of the drawing of the day week 133– a bat man

drawingoftheday-week133-abatmanPlease note that the guy with the cape and the cave and the signal and the mobile is The Batman.  This is a bat man, so no harm no foul on the copyright front.  OK.  In terms of content, this drawing raises more questions than it answers.  If those are bat wings, why does he have feathers on his shoulders and the lower parts of his second arms?  And why are his ears shaped like bat wings? And if small scattered spirals in the sky are the sketchbook world code for snow flurries, then why the heck is the bat man not wearing a shirt, much less a jacket?  I don’t care how hard it is to get one to fit over the wings.

But this is actually today’s drawing of the day (the final corrections are still drying as I write this) so for once I remember enough to be able to tell you some technical secrets.

  • One, you can tell that I was feeling lazy when I started drawing it.  I have to sit up straight to work to my page, so when I’m feeling lazy and slouchy, I often start a drawing of the day with a figure in the lower left quadrant of the page.  The further down and to the left, the lazier I am feeling.  Very lazy today.
  • Two, you can tell I was watching something pretty interesting and fairly long on TV while I was working.  A dense drawing with ink on most of the page, drawn or inked with the scritchy-scratchy pen, is almost always the product of serious television time. (Masterpiece Mystery “Death Comes to Pemberley”, which I had been saving on the DVR until I finished rereading Pride and Prejudice. Quite good, but not fabulous.  Weird casting.)
  • Three, this is a “lucky drawing”, but not lucky enough.  It was drawn right on the page in pen, no blocking out and no underdrawing, and no planning.  But if you look closely you can see white out in several places.  This was not due to changing my mind so much as an excess of ink.  I cleared out spaces that had to be white but ended up smaller and narrower than they should be, and took out some stray lines where the shading trespassed over a white.
  • Four, the tree didn’t start out as a tree.  It’s actually the original second wing, which I thought would look good stretched out high.  It did not look good.  It looked like it had been forced into a weird shape to fit onto the page since I had started the figure in the wrong place.  (Which I did before I decided the guy had wings, so it was hardly my fault.)  I decided it would look better to put the second wing in a relaxed position that I hoped looked pretty “normal” (for a given value of normal as applied to a person with bat wings) even though it meant most if it ended up off the page.  The original linework for the wing is buried in the tree. This is called “drawing your way out of a corner”, and I suppose that wise people who plan every drawing never have to do it.  But it’s actually kind of fun, and doing it keeps you alert.

So there you go, a drawing where the snow falling on the page echoing the flurries in the air as winter falls on Kekionga.

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here we go again

We’ve had six months to forget about this. Quarter to six in the evening.  Pitch dark.  Below freezing.  Breath like smoke, glasses fogging up when you step into the house.  The little mile walk that’s nothing in the summer becomes an expedition.
Just for fun, I thought I’d wear my winter jacket and my grey Irish tweed hat I’ve had since I was in high school.  It wasn’t that much fun.wpid-wp-1415840368204.jpeg



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