Behind the Firelines, Episode #3

MORNING UPDATE:

Went to sleep with notices from NIXLE that “Petaluma is under NO vuluntary or mandatory evacuation orders” (their caps).  Additionally further notices emphasize that “Petaluma is under no fire risk”, but that “because of changing weather conditions Petaluma can expect increased smoke over the course of the weekend”.

Great, just what I need, further reminders of my own mortality. It is safe to say that our consciousness gains knowledge as we grow but there is a certain time when we are who we are and no matter what we experience or how old we get THAT is who we will be for the rest of our lives. There are both good and bad aspects to that. Bad, in my current case, is when my mind still thinks I am 21 but it is pushing around a 60 year old body with a bad heart. Not a good match.

Not spared by the air

Yesterday at work I knew that the air outside the shop was worse than the air in Beijing but I wanted to see what was going on in the other shop where we are doing volunteer work for the fire victims. It was just across the parking lot so I didn’t take my breathing mask. Going over was OK but coming back I walked into a headwind and got a face full of whatever the hell this “smoke” is.  By the time I got into the main shop I was in misery.  When you have asthma from a bad heart it is easy to drop into a respiratory state that triggers a panic attack, which cause you to hyperventilate, which makes things worse.  The only thing that saved me from this was going into the  main shop and hanging on the giant air purifier for a couple of minutes.

Strike base

So far this morning there has been no evidence of it but starting later today the airfield here at Petaluma will be serving as a staging base for National Guard Helicopters serving as water bombers.  At the same time there are seven evacution centers spread across the town and we are all doing our best to make things easier on our neighbors who have lost so much.  Everyone I know who isn’t working has been doing some volunteer work and my company is dedicating at least one day a week going forward to do whatever we can to help out. The people of Sonoma have proven themselves to be amazing.

Frustration

My studio is in what other people might call a garage and as such the sir in there is not as good as it is inside the house. Later on I will probably try and do some work there but for the most part I am stuck inside the house. That’s OK though, at least I still have a house to be stuck inside of, and there is plenty of reading and drawing to be done on good-ole-analog-paper.

Damn I will be glad when I have a car again…

Ja ne! and be safe!

Behind the Firelines Ep#2

MORNING UPDATE: Despite rumors to the contrary Petaluma is quiet this morning.

After a surreal week I am looking up finally and today will attempt to get back on track with this whole “life” thing. I have still yet to replace my car and filing some other papers got delayed as well. This morning the skies appear clear and in growing dawn I hear neither helicopters for sirens. Glancing at the morning fire maps it appears te carnage has moved east, although in fact that is just an assumption as the maps themselves are confusing.  Yes they show shelters and fires as icons of the same size and any areas of…anything…is defined not so much by a legible color code but whatever seems to be on the google palette du jour.

The closest fire to Surf’s Up HQ is the PRESSLEY FIRE, about 12 miles North East of us. It is one of the smaller fires but is currently only 1% contained. Still, things are somewhat calmer.

Clarification

I caught some flak yesterday for what I said about the rumors that have been circulated around town.  There were a number of reports about rumors posted yesterday and how they ran rampant very quickly during the events of this week but at the same time I may have worded things a bit stronger than I needed to.  This was in response to my personal reactions to this particular news, amplified by al the hurley-burley that has surrounded me the last month, which was I freaked out.  Odd that bit as since I adopted my new policy about news I have had fewer incidents of said out-freaking.

My new policy

Given the current climate I have adopted a simple rule.  I don’t believe anything anyone says unless I get corroboration. This goes double for anything that I read on the net.  In the face of the growing picture of how certain groups are using the web to bend people to their will (an idea formed by aggregating information from APPARENTLY reliable sources) the words that flow across my CRT have all the veracity of a UFO website with an animated GIF background…meaning NONE.

So in this regard I based my opinion on the info I was given and the corroboration from additional sources, for which I found none.  It may be that I am TOTALLY off base with this and will suffer the firey consequences, so be it, but I spent too many years not writing here to be intimidated anymore.

Ja ne and be safe!

New from behind the fire lines:

MORNING UPDATE
Awakened by a phone alert…that a family in Afghanistan had been rescued (thanks BBC). After my heart got back in place I stepped outside to find smoke a little thicker than yesterday but cool marine air and no wind to speak of for now.
REALLY VICIOUS RUMORS
Last night I got a taste of what “fake news” can do, in the form of a RUMOR (which is all that “fake News” is) when a friend who I like and trust texted me that my neighborhood was UNDER HIGH EVACUATION ALERT.  I didn’t know how tightly I have been wound until I got this text.  Since all of this started I have been maintaining an even strain, even in the face of an unending loop of disaster reports on KTVU, streaming aerial video of the remains of the Fountaingrove Neighborhood and such. When I got this news something sorta snapped.
I started sweating…
I got scared and paranoid…
I got al misty for all the memories that had happened in “this house”…
In short I became just the sort of American citizen that THE BOSSES want to cultivate, terrified and thus easily controlled. It took a lot of Pizza and Anime to get me over this, and back to human, but I am there…sitting in the dark…listening for sirens and waiting for sunrise.
Ja Ne
PS: IF YOU DO NOT KNOW IT TO BE A FACT DON’T PASS IT ON! ESPECIALLY OF THE PERSON YOU ARE PASSING IT ON!

Moving along…

So there I was! Writing out a stream of effervescent prose about the evils of Social Media and stuff and BOOM the world gets stopped in its track when some lost soul in Las Vegas decides to take a journey to hell and want to take along several hundred strangers. Even with the social rhino hide I have been cultivating crap like this kicks you in the soft bits, even if you don’t want to admit it.  I do have a follow up about Social Media but just don’t have the will to post it just now.

Right now, after a full day of overtime yesterday, it’s time to chill and watch new anime for the Fall Cour.

One show that caught my eye is called TWO CARS and when you wade through the tropes and silliness of a High School network of after School side hack racing clubs, all girl of course, you get down to a lot of cool drawings and animation of Sidecar Racers, or “kneelers”.  The art is nice and the characters on the grid silly so I am in for 12 episodes I think.

At the same time the show drudged up a story from my real life past, believe it or not. Even stranger it is a story I have never told anyone, including my ex wife and son. Still this morning, after the first episode of TWO CARS I felt compelled to sit down and write it out and send it to my Anime Pen Pal Monty. After I was done writing I thought I might paste it in here, but then Monty suggested another use for it, so I will tyr that out for a bit.

If that doesn’t fly then I will post it…later.

Ja ne

Hot Lapping Social Engineering

Just Because it says “Social” doesn’t mean it has anything to do with “Society”

In 1979 Jimmy Carter was President, the country was just coming to its senses about Disco and I was looking for a new path in life.  My attempt at climbing the ladder to success as a racing driver had fizzled out due to the usual shortage of money and sponsorship, Initially I went back to school to finish up my drafting degree but my heart wasn’t in it. I had a new girlfriend who was so much smarter than me I was in awe and that made me sign up to go back to college.  At the same time I had to work so I went looking for a job in the only place I knew, racing. What I found would not only effect the course of my life but also gave me a unique perspective on the world we are living in today.

I go to work

The job I found was through my friend Mac Law with whom I raced Formula Vees. It was working for a company called MORGAN MOTORSPORTS NETWORK which was run by Dave Morgan. Dave was a charming guy and a bit of a savant in the ways marketing and how it related to racing in the future.  The “Network” Dave envisioned had two parts.

Network before Networks

The first revolved around creating a group of professional racing vendors, builders, trainers and promoters who would work together directly towards a common goal of promoting racing as a sport. This would center on a series of Seminars where people would pay (large) sums of money to come hear professionals speak about how they got to where they are.

Demographic Card Tricks

The second part of the network was the part that effected me most, which was developing effective ways to gather and compile demographics about the people who not only raced but ATTENDED races. In 1979 people were still leery of taking “surveys” so we Dave, Mac and I had long meetings about how was the best way to pry information out of people without them either being put off or indeed drive them away. Once we had a card in place we would put on out polo shirts and shades, go to the track, shake hands and hand out postage prepaid cards. Then we would wait.

The pot of information gold

Initially we were lucky for a f5% return. We would then calculate the data that we got into tabular pads (no computers, remember?) and do a postmortem on that card. We would tweak the questions and head out to another venue. After a year we were getting a return rate of around 30% which was pretty good. This was partially attributed to the questions on cards being tweaked and partially because people got used to our smiling faces and shaking our hands.  The former is refining our demographic model, the LATTER though is my first experience with SOCIAL ENGINEERING. As we became familiar faces people relaxed, when they relaxed they were much freer with the info they would pass on to us. It was exhausting but fascinating work, so much so that when I went back to university (right around the time MMN ran out of money) I changed my Major to Communications and media.

School was to give me a much finer focus on demographics and a deeper understanding of the dark path that Social engineering could take society down…

Cascade

The word of the day is cascade.

The way I visualize a cascade is like marbles on a shear cliff face with small ledges spaced evenly apart.  On each of those steps is a glass ball made of possibility as one rolls off it’s ledge it falls and strikes another ledge and another ball, knocking it off so it rolls off it’s ledge and falls…

…and so on.

That is what the last three weeks have been like with one new event happening in my life and that triggering another. The cause does not IMMEDIATELY precede the effect, but the effect is obvious at the time of the collision it is a forgone conclusion.  This happened = This is the result.

It all started when my former employers decided to get rid of me by cutting back my hours, like someone who wants to get rid of a fish does so by drilling a small hole in its tank.  When it became obvious that this was happening (meaning when the third person I knew told me that my former employers had TOLD them they were doing it) I found a cold resolve in me that had been missing,

Several friends told me that I should ask god for help.  My entire life the idea of formalized prayer and ritual were artifacts of a system that uses the blessing of a diety to control people.  At the same time I have never been comfortable with the idea that we understood everything and everything is only a matter of chance. So rather then praying I talk to either the universe as a whole or to my personal connection, Louie.

So I hadn’t been in touch with Louie for awhile so I guess it took awhile for him/her to pick up my voicemails but then I started to feel the motions.

It started with an 8AM set call in South San Francisco and currently is manifesting as me sorting through stack of paper to find the pink slip for a car I have used as both transportation and as a Cenotaph…and I sense it is not over yet.

So I hope your day is filled with happy cascades like I have been enjoying…if it hasn’t I will put a good word in for you with Louie.

Ja ne!

Millard Fillmore, MASTER OF STEAM Issue #2

La Momia is concerned or confused, hard to tell which...Yeah, yeah, yeah…so I am repeating myself but wadda ya gonna do?

Issue #2 of MILLARD FILLMORE, MASTER OF STEAM is on the stands and was a bit of a challenge to get out not so much because of the work but because of the weather.  Over the past weekend here in Sonoma it was “Record Setting” hot. When I came out of work my poor lil’ Toauareg’s dash thermometer registered 114 Degree. Yeah that is hot.  When I went to do my normal evening inking and I opened the sliding door on the shop I might as well have been walking into a bread oven.  At times I feared for the very plastic from which my machines are made.

So it is on to Issue #3, which features MILLARD’s stalker, Turlow Weed.  Friends keep telling me to “pace myslef” on the illustrations but I am having trouble doing that.  I will say though that I have gotten more into the people and less into the tech/mech…which goes against the very precepts of Steampunk.

So what next?

SO for the next few days I will be doing more mech….and some city stuff (Have I mentioned SCIENCE CITY, or NIKOLA TESLA? Apologies)…and some people too (skulking Thurlow need makes an appearance)…and not sleeping a whole lot.

What kind of tech you ask?  Well I expect Airships of some order will be involved, along with a lot of pipes, valves and boilers (who doesn’t love a good boiler on an airship suspended from a bag of flammable gas? EXCITING!). In terms of people there will be corsets and lace, a lot of straps and lace (the kids LOVE that stuff! Oh, and it is fun to draw). The thing about designing for STEAMPUNK is that the sky is the limit!

…I cannot beleive I sank that low, apologies.

Millard Fillmore, Issue #1

On Friday of Last week Bob Vardeman and I launched the first issue of our new Steampunk Penny Dreadful Series, “MILLARD FILLMORE, MASTER OF STEAM”.  The first issue is now available at the link above and best of all IT’S FREE! Please drop over to our PATREON page, download it and give it a look!

As for me, I am working on illustrations for the next two issues so for the next couple of days I will be Elbow deep in MODO, CLIP STUDIO, PHOTOSHOP and a lot of other stuff that I use to make the pretty pictures that float my boat. Check back later as I will drop some art love on here as I go.

Morning After

When has a terrorist been so damn adorable?

Hey there, did you miss me oh my invisible pals?  Yeah, I know…

So sorry I haven’t been around but July has been a busy month.  On a mundane level there have been dramatic tribulations at the day jobbe (isn’t that what day jobbes are for?) and the heat here in Sonoma County has been pretty intense.  Somedays it reminded me of why I left Sacramento…just a bit though.

Mostly though I have been working with Jesse Bloch over at Crissy Field Media on an animated segment for the KSAN documentary.  I have already done some work for the film but this time Jesse wanted a completed piece to cut in for the submission to the Mill Valley Film Festival.  He also had specific parameters that he wanted in terms of look and feel.  In the past the work I have done has been, well, like my nature ANAL RETENTIVE. Jesse wanted something looser, more like an animatic with jarring cuts and loose line work.

At time the latter bit was like chewing on aluminum foil.  I now realize that I am the Adrian Monk of garage animators.

At the same time I had certain things I wanted to play with. Ever since the election of…that THING…I have done a pretty good job of hiding from the work on CRUNCHYROLL, which is an anime site on the net.  With aid of an old pal from when I was working at NAMCO I have explored aspects of anime that I had never seen.  In the past it was all tech and mech and Miyazaki.  Now I started looking at the broader picture, everything from Rom Coms to Surreal fantasy.  In the latter I found something that has inspired me, Shows like MONOGATARI and FLCL made me look at animation in ways I have not looked at it in a very long time.  Animation not as product but as art.

In addition as I scanned the works of all the studios I also began to appreciate the visual language, elegant at times, decending into tropes at others.

Hell I hadn’t even known what a TROPE was in this sense, that is how out of touch I was.

In a world where “cultural appropriation” is often taken up as a battle hymn ,with internet villagers picking up virtual torches and pitchforks. I began to toy with the idea of adapting some of this language into my work.  As I did this work became play and I found myself doing long hours and not really caring. As my old pal, Ken Macklin, used to say I “went into the STATE”. To us “the State” was that place an artist goes to when the world around her/him closes in a grey mist and all that is left is you and what you are working on. It is a STATE where you create.

So I cannot post what I did just now, except over on PATREON (yes, that is a shameless plug), until after the Festival.  I will post some of the new stuff I will be doing going forward though as I have some ideas about what I want to do next.  I want to add a third dimension to a similar work while making the audience think it is still 2D.  This is something that has fascinated me for years but I got caught up in supplying clients rather than doing my own work.

Yeah, I’ve had enough of that…

The morning after

…harkening back to working on C128 games. Pixel size is to scale

I was amazed last night at how quickly the block got quiet.  In years past it was gunpowder fueled chaos until all hours, last night not so much.  In fact the whole day today has been very quiet leading me to believe people bought less boom stuff and used it all up when they were suppose to.

For me though there were firework of another kind as I discovered a veritable treasure trove of tools and tutorial on a site recommended to me by an illustrator pal. Just now I am too tired to go into it but I;ll touch on it more tomorrow.