Posts tagged “christmas

Do you think there’s really any treasure here?

So here I am yet again, sitting at my computer locked in an eternal battle between utter exhaustion and overactive brain activity. My body is telling me to go to sleep but the 8am-sky-at-3am is telling my mind we have to be up for some odd reason. So what does one do when they can’t put two thoughts together for more than five minutes?

Start blogging of course.

I didn’t want to write anything earlier. I was perfectly content with penning my late night business correspondences but that became incredibly tedious. Like a true professional I got distracted and somehow I found myself organizing some directories on one of my work drives. Since getting my rig back into working shape I hadn’t really organized any of my files and folders so of course it was prudent to start doing this at 2 in the morning. I didn’t have any specific goal in mind but I sifted through the clutter anyway. I was taken aback at how old some of the files on this computer were. It was at that point I unearthed a treasure trove of old artwork I had completely forgotten about. I sat there for a half hour reminiscing and revelling in how good (and bad) some of it was.

Since starting my whole crusade to get back to drawing I thought it would be fun to treat my faithful to a humorous and eye-opening trip back into my artistic past…

We travel back first to 1998. This was probably my most active time ever as an artist. It was a banner year for me because not only was it did I meet my beloved wife, but it was my first love affair with Adobe Photoshop. A good friend of mine introduced me to Photoshop 3. He was impressed with what I was doing with just pencil and ink and assured me that this program would revolutionize my entire concept of artwork.

No words have ever been truer.

I had zero knowledge about how to use the program nor did I even have a graphics tablet. That didn’t stop me from grabbing the mouse as soon as it was installed and drawing this little guy. You can see my utterly stylistic use of that rather funky bubble filter. I really don’t know what was on my mind at the time. Okay that’s not true. Obviously I had eggheads, christmas and cigarettes on the brain. I had some sick fascination with those bug-eyed aliens for some reason. It’s a good thing I don’t obsess about stuff like that anymore…

I’ve always loved this picture though. It’s significance is monumental to me. It’ll always remind me of the first time I played around with the program I now use practically every single day for the past decade.

Prior to my transition over to digital artwork, I used to work exclusively with markers, pencil and ink. One of the last things I did, fully inked on paper, was this little work titled Misguided Youth. I made a digital re-imagining of this (that I’ll show another time) a few years ago but it never really captured the feel of this picture.

It fascinates me that I drew this. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything (because believe me if I could do that I wouldn’t leave the house ever) but I just really admire the amount of time and effort I used to put into my artwork. I probably spent days working on this one. Sure it has its obvious technical flaws but it just boggles my mind how dedicated I was to the craft.

I think of how I work now and everything is rushed. I draw knowing it’ll go into Photoshop at some point and I can “touch it up”. Back then I didn’t know about digital illustration. I had to bang it out in one shot and try to make as few mistakes as possible. I wish I had that patience still. I guess I’ve just grown complacent and lazy thanks to the power of Ctrl+Z.

One day I’ll regain that level of commitment… but it’s gonna take a pretty big power outage for that to happen.

Go back a little further to 1997 and I was still toiling away with pencils and ink. I was never quite an art pencil type of guy. I had shelled out $125 (which was a lot at the time) for a Rapidograph graphic pen set that had 8 precision sizes and wasn’t about to waste anymore more money on pencils. I figured if I couldn’t sketch with a good ole’ No.2 then I shouldn’t be drawing at all.

Anyway I came across this piece and it shocked me. I studied it for a while and was in awe of how detailed it was. I can even dare say it’s far better than anything I do now. Some disagree but it motivates me nonetheless to get back on point.

I had totally forgotten about this character. Her name was Celeste and she was my vision of a lost Jedi knight. She wasn’t for a game or anything. I just liked Star Wars and was pissed that there weren’t any hot female Jedis so I made one. Although Leia had minor force powers she was in no way a Jedi. I wanted to see a kick ass, lightsaber wielding broad so thanks to having an incredible amount of time on my hands and a vivid imagination I created her.

I loved drawing women. What dude wouldn’t? You ladies out there really don’t realize what remarkable pieces of art you are. No matter what shape or complexion the female form inspired me to draw literally hundreds of pieces of artwork.

Unfortunately for me I have no idea where the paper sketch of it is. The scanned copy is all that I have to remember how good I used to be without technology.

The greatest treasure though came in the form of this little sketch that dates all the way back to 1982. I had no idea I was drawing at that young age. A pretty toxic romp through the teenage years robbed me of a lot of childhood memories so this gem is priceless.

Apparently I was only 7 when I decided to bust out the drawing skills. If I remember anything I know I was all about GI Joe. I had dozens of the toys and would be latched to the television when the cartoon came on. My favorite character was always Stormshadow. If you don’t know your GI Joe, let me tell you that he put the cool in being a ninja. He wore white when every other ninja wore black and his whup ass switch was stuck in the ON position. He was awesome before I ever ascended to those heights so obviously I had to represent by making a rendition of him.

I’m impressed with his arsenal. My Stormshadow is packing tons of weapons on him. I’m not quite certain how effective some of them are. That arm knife looks kinda like a syringe but who cares? It can still take an eye out. He’s even got child-sized nunchucks in case he has to beat down some kids. Most of all you can’t beat the scowl on his face. He’s downright menacing. If you saw that coming you’d be frozen in fear.

I honestly thought I didn’t really start getting into drawing until I was about 10. Finding this has shed some light on a childhood I struggle to remember constantly.

I hope you enjoyed my little trek through Memory Lane. Not many artists are willing to show off their humble beginnings. I’m a firm believer in remembering what got you to where you are today. These, and so many other pictures, help me recall the days when I had absolute passion for the craft.

One day I hope to get that fire back.

If you were stranded on a desert island…

So I was watching an old episode of The Office with Suzanne the last week. I’m relatively new to the series because I purposefully never watched it when it first came out because of my extreme bias towards the Americanization of series adaptations the States tend to do. However after constantly hearing about how funny the show was (and knowing pretty much all the cast members from other works) we buckled down and started watching it vigilantly. Still not quite caught up yet fully but we’re getting there.

Anyway… this one episode in particular revolved around the employees hanging out in the parking lot during a fire drill (I believe). Jim decided to play a game called which was aptly titled “If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island What 5 Movies Would You Have”. Yeah I know, the semantics of it baffle even the greatest minds but it got me to thinking about the subject days later. What movies could you tolerate for potentially the rest of your adult life? I gave the topic an undeservedly long amount of thought and finally came up with the following list:

Aliens (1986) – I absolutely love this movie. Even as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year (wow…25th… holy crap I’m feeling pretty ancient now) I still rank this flick high in my all-time movie list. Hell I’ve dissected this movie so much that I can probably turn off the volume and give a voice-by-voice and sound-by-sound performance of epic geek proportions. Ask Suzanne. I’ve pissed her off more than once by reciting entire scenes under my breath. I don’t know what it is about Aliens though. Alien was (and still is) an awesome space horror movie but the sequel took the franchise in a whole new direction. The super macho attitude shown at the beginning of the movie quickly turns into stir fried panic by the end. Sigourney polarized everything with her iconic portrayal of Ellen Ripley. She became the poster child for girl power in the 80’s but her character was so much more than just that. It showed millions of movie fans that it’s just not wise to piss a lady off.

Se7en (1995) – Ahh… how can someone not like this movie? Whenever it comes on TV I find myself mindlessly watching it without realizing it. It’s by far one of the best horror movies to date. I can say that without hesitation. It’s one of those rare movies that understood what it takes to make a good suspense ridden thriller. Se7en showed just enough disturbing content to get its point across and nothing more. They left the brunt of it up to the audience to imagine and that’s what set it apart from the rest. An intelligent movie for an intelligent audience. Plus it had the magical black man Morgan Freeman, the super brooding Brad Pitt and the King of Creepy Kevin Spacey. What more could you ask for?

Airplane! (1980) – If I had to be stuck with one comedy for the rest of my life, it’d have to be Airplane. I don’t know what it is about this movie but it’s got a direct line to my funny bone. Sure many of the jokes are outdated but it still slays me after all these years. I remember seeing this movie when I was as young as 7 or 8 and I got it then. While there are tons of comedies out there I can and have watched a dozen times over, this is one that I don’t think twice about watching. If it’s on I watch it. Surely I can’t be serious when I say I watch it every time, right? Of course I am… and don’t call me Shirley.

Scrooged (1988) – This is a surprise to me as well. It’s a Christmas movie. I generally can’t stand Christmas movies with their toothache sweet repetitive storylines told over and over again. However this is a Christmas movie with Bill Fucking Murray (Sorry for the profanity. I had a Tallahassee moment there). Bill has cracked me up for ages and while Ghostbusters could have easily fit in this spot I figured my beloved wife would have that on her list at #1 so if we’re stranded together I’m good to go. Anyways, this movie boggles me as much as the others with my mindless attraction to it. I start avoiding everything Christmas related the moment I walk into a store and start hearing the annoying jingles scratching at my ear drums. Somehow though I always manage to watch this movie. It’s never on purpose. It’s just on and I end up being sucked into it. I can honestly say I’ve watched this flick faithfully for the past 20 years straight every Christmas. I know… sad, right? But it’s BILL FUCKING MURRAY!

The Terminator (1984) – Why is it actors have their best roles when they play a bad guy? Sure the “terminator” character got miraculously transformed into a “good guy” in later movies but there was no denying that the Governator was an absolute bad ass in The Terminator. In fact he set the standard for bad ass in the first 20 minutes when he walked up butt-naked and put his fist through someone’s chest. Like all the others on this list I’ve seen this movie more times than I even care to admit and yet I never get tired of it. While there are times I’ll turn it off when it’s on TV in favor of something else there are still bizarre instances where I find myself watching the movie from beginning to end without realizing it.

You end up finding a lot about a person by the choices they make in this exercise. Me… I’m about as transparent as a Windexed window when it comes to mine. It’s no secret that 4 of my 5 choices are pre-1990. I’m a child of the 80’s and that’s where my heart lies. Even though I spent my tumultuous teens in the 90’s the Decade of Decadence left a lasting impression on my young mind.

I’m actually profoundly intrigued to find out the picks of the warped minds who actually come by and regularly visit my funky little blog so please, by all means, share your choices and be judged by your peers. >:D

It is only out of sheer morbid curiosity that I am allowing this freak show to continue

I hate myself.

Yet I’m so overwhelmingly proud of myself as well. Sounds like a paradox but here’s why. I’ve been a Professional Dumbass for a career amount of years now and in that time I’ve developed skills that have helped me ascend to the top of my field. One of those skills is the nefarious art of lying. It’s a skill I don’t employ too often but when I do I am a George Costanza caliber lie architect.

Yes a lie architect. A liar is just a fool looking to trick someone with a bad excuse. A lie architect is someone who can manipulate outcomes through careful scripting.

My services got called upon about a week ago. The husband of one of our friends up here (who shall remain nameless) wanted to surprise her with a visit. He wanted to keep the wool pulled over her eyes for as long as possible and looked to Suzanne to be the vehicle of deception to lure her to the airport when he arrived. Suzanne, being the sugary sweet cream puff she is, couldn’t formulate a viable lie if her life depended on it so she turned to The Architect. While not one of my grander concoctions, I did come up with a plan of action that was pretty well grounded. I gave her these instructions to run with…

You’ve secretly been in contact with my parents since my around my birthday (Dec. 6th). You felt bad about not being able to do much for my birthday or Christmas, considering the expenditures we had to make moving up here, but still wanted to try to do something special. You’ve been trying to work with them in arranging a secret visit. Nothing too long – maybe a weekend or so. However schedules and finances made it pretty much an impossibility December and January. Fortunately the planets aligned properly and what not and they were able to book a flight up for the 17th of February. They intend to stay for a couple of days and fly out on Sunday. The coup de grâce will be for them to “just show up” later that night and surprise the hell out of me. The whole trick of the matter is getting them to the Capitol Suites without me knowing.  My father has a bum leg and you can use all the help you can getting them from the airport to the hotel. Since you’re a n00b at lying you can cover up any nervousness about lying to her by claiming it’s nervousness about trying to pull off this grand deception on me.

Fueled with anxiety and the thrill of having a solid lie, Suzanne put the plan into motion. It was at that moment I felt bad. I began to question whether what I did was right or not. It came back to one simple question – can lying ever be for the greater good? It seems impossible when you think about it immediately. The basis of a lie is to deceive someone, right? And deceiving someone is bad, right? Even if it is for a good reason. Ultimately does the deed justify the act?

I toiled with this concept while I waited with bated anticipation of his arrival. Suzanne and I coordinated throughout the target day, trading emails back and forth updating one another. Unfortunately Old Man Fate stepped in and caused a cancellation of his flight so he ended up getting held over till today. The plan was still a go, by his request, so we picked up where we left off on Friday.

In the end everything turned out perfectly. Our dear friend was properly duped and now blissfully in the embrace of her clever husband,  Suzanne is puffy-chested and proud having pulled of an Oscar worthy performance and me… well I’m left with mixed emotions. I’m happy for helping make someone happy but I still feel a little awful for writing the blueprint for the deception. Con jobs like that are usually reserved for friends you’ve known for a long time, not recently made ones. You run the risk of not having that friend anymore after a grand ole bushwackin’ like that. However it was an awesome lie indeed and for that I’m proud.

To all ye would-be liars out there, take some advice from a pro. A lie is a work of art. It takes skill. It takes patience. It takes planning but most of all it takes commitment. Simply coming up with something off the top of your head is insulting to us pros and does nothing but come back to haunt you in the end due to its poor conception. The devil is in the details. The more back story you have the more believable the lie. Unfortunately a lie is only as good as your commitment to it. If you or your subordinates can’t follow through to the end then there’s no point in lying in the first place. Just like being held in the interrogation room, someone always cracks.

So to the young lady that I helped mislead (and I know reads this blog on occasion) I wholeheartedly apologize for laying the groundwork. Ironically, the greatest secret to lying is not doing it that often. Everyone lies. If they claim they don’t you’ve just witnessed a prime example of a bad, unformatted lie. If you plot, plan and sculpt your lies and do them infrequently they blend into the fabric of the truth seamlessly.

Trust me. Would I lie to you about that? 😉

Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind… and that’s what’s been changing.

Ah Christmas. How I hate thee so.

Yes. Call me Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Grinch or a stupid poo poo-head meanie. I don’t mind. Before the self-righteous avengers out there  get their feathers all ruffled about someone bad-mouthing arguably the most popular holiday ever just days before it is celebrated let’s clarify exactly what I don’t like about Christmas. I don’t hate Christmas just to be an a douche nor does it stem from having a childhood wrought with personal letdowns. In fact my early years were fantastic. My parents, family and friends were awesome (and still are). I’m disgusted with the perversion that has adopted the name.  I pride myself in not buying into the corporate merchandising gimmick that has cleverly masked itself as Christmas. We’ve been manipulated over the past century into believing in this twisted concept that giving is something that is measured by quantity and cost.  This isn’t me channeling the power of the hippies. This is what’s going on. I’m not saying everyone has  bought into the madness. There are still many people out there who still remember what Christmas is all about. Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen victim to this though. There are many of us out there with pure intentions but get caught up in the media fueled consumer frenzy. How many times have you been strapped for cash and felt bad over the Christmas holiday because you couldn’t get everyone you love something deliciously dazzling. How is that even remotely right? Why should a person feel guilt, remorse, pressure or even sorrow because they can’t afford to purchase something for someone? Is this really what the concept of Christmas has devolved into? Stampedes and trample injuries on Black Friday? Peer pressure spending? Depression over the holidays? 5 year olds getting iPhones and laptops?

I was reading the paper the other day and came across an article about some local Inuit children. The newspaper decided to get into the spirit of the holidays by printing their Christmas wish lists. One girl wanted a doll. One boy wanted skates. One after another there were simple and humble requests ranging from a puppy to a sled. Then along came the last little girl who literally turned my stomach when I read what she wanted…

“I would like an iPod or maybe an iPhone. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”


She couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. I’m a 35 year old man and don’t even have an iPhone and yet, sure as shit stinks, someone will get this for her. Why? Because she needs it? Because it’ll make her happy? You’ll win her approval by doing so? I’m not too hip with my elementary school politics but I’m quite certain there’s nothing that pressing or important going on in a child’s life at that age that would facilitate the need for an iPhone other than the desire to be cool. I highly doubt she’ll be paying for the plan needed for such a gadget so guess who has to foot the bill for that as well? It’s getting really expensive to buy people’s love nowadays.

I was brought up with the understanding that you had to earn everything you get. I wasn’t underprivileged by any means but my parents also didn’t simply give me anything I wanted , even being an only child. Everything seems to be handed to people, especially children, on a silver platter nowadays. Gifts are meaningless. It ends up becoming a sick game of one-upping with the next “gift” exceeding the last. How can anyone learn to genuinely appreciate anything if  the whole gift-giving process revolves around the predication of “who can get me the better item”? Let’s take it back a few centuries to the cat who this holiday is all about, Mr. Jesus himself. It’s his birthday. Why are people stressing over getting other people gifts or not getting what they want? Isn’t the birthday boy supposed to be the one getting the gifts? Heck, I’d be pissed if it were my birthday and people were giving each other gifts and not me.

Just kidding Big J. Don’t strike me down just yet. I got two ideas to save Christmas.

Blasphemy aside, I dig where you were going with the idea JC. You wanted selflessness and giving to one another from the heart to be your birthday gift. Although the Catholic faith and I are bitter enemies at this point in time, there are certain principles that we share. That is why The Way of Zen will actually keep the tradition of Christmas intact. However we’ll have rules about how to celebrate it. People seem to follow suit when given instructions kinda like how they do when it comes to recycling programs. If left to their own devices people think far too much for their own good and start marring even the simplest of notions. Therefore we at the Way of Zen will enforce one of the following two ideas:

  1. All Christmas gifts have to be created by the person giving the gift. Gone are the days of being lazy. You need to make gifts matter. Bake something. Stitch something. Craft something. Build something. Teach someone something. It doesn’t matter. Any parent in the world knows how precious it is to receive a gift from their child that the little bugger created with their own two hands. You’ll save it , cherish it , talk about it, show it to everyone, and use it thirty years down the road to embarrass them when they’re adults. That sense of pride should be universal. Don’t cop out and brainwash your loved ones into believing expensive, complicated or flashy is better. So what if it brings the economy crashing down. Which would you rather have, your values or your cash? It’s quite obvious we can’t have both.
  2. The older you are the more expensive the gift. For those of you who can’t seem to wrap your brains around the thought of not purchasing something, I have this brilliant idea. Gifts based on age. The longer you’ve been on this planet the more expensive and greater amount of gifts you receive. Talk about earning your way. If you’re like 90 years old you should be bathed in lavish gifts cuz dammit, you earned it for lasting this long. It’ll give you something to look forward to as you age. We’ll have no more of this getting babies and children tons of gifts. Why? They haven’t earned a thing yet. Besides their gift is that their bloody parents are taking care of them for 18 years. They shouldn’t even be asking for anything more than that.

As always, if you can’t take things lightly you really shouldn’t be floating around my blog. I poke fun at anything and everything. Nothing is off limits. I do that because people need to learn to lighten up. If your life revolves around being uptight about anything anyone says because it differs from what you think then I truly feel sorry for you. Loosen up, put a smile on your face and enjoy the holiday for what it’s supposed to be – not what it is.

This will probably be my last entry before the grand spectacle so I’ll leave you with this…

To my family and friends
Blikes and blends
Whether you agree with me
Or drown yourself in holiday glee
With everyone’s favorite holiday near
I wish you a very merry Christmas
And a safe New year

I know. My poetry rocks.


…if you can’t be good, be good at being bad. 😉

blends and blikes,