Monday, June 29, 2009

Blast from the Past #200: "Stupid Heroes" poster art

I think I drew this art to be used as a promotional poster for the "Stupid Heroes" comic I did for Mirage's short-lived "Next" comic book imprint. This series was another of my attempts to emulate Jack Kirby's approach to comics. I'm not sure that it was really successful, but I did have fun with it. Here's the penciled version...

... and the final inked art. Actually, I'm not sure if this was ever used. -- PL

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blast from the Past #196: "Return of the Dragon" poster

Here's another one of my efforts at promoting the showing of Bruce Lee movies on the UMass campus back when I was a student -- in this case, "Return of the Dragon" (which is actually "Way of the Dragon", retitled, and coincidentally the first Bruce Lee movie I ever saw).

I'm not sure why I did this color version -- probably just for fun. -- PL

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blast from the Past #194: "The Chinese Connection" poster

This is an artifact from my student days in the mid-1970's at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. I had recently become a big Bruce Lee fan, and got very excited upon hearing that the Asian-American Student Association was going to be sponsoring a screening of one of his movies, "The Chinese Connection".

It's been a while (around thirty-five years... gack!), so I don't remember some of the details, such as whether or not I had already seen this movie (I think not). But what I do remember is that -- rightly or wrongly -- I felt there wasn't enough promotion on-campus for this showing, so I decided to make my own poster.

This was the result. I made a bunch of Xeroxed copies of the artwork and taped them up at strategic locations around campus. I'm not sure if it actually resulted in any more people coming to see the movie... but I tried.

One curious thing about this original that reminds me of how tight things were for me, money-wise, back then -- notice the curved corners on the right side? They remind me that I drew this thing on a piece of white posterboard-like paper which I salvaged from somewhere. I think it was some kind of packing material. As I recall, it wasn't the best drawing surface (too glossy), but it WAS free. -- PL

Friday, June 19, 2009

Eagle sighting

Yesterday, my friend Rick and I decided to ride on the bike path to Amherst from Northampton. As we started across the Connecticut River on the part of the path which goes over the old railroad bridge, we noticed a woman standing near the bridge railing and looking intently at something. Rick asked her what she was looking at, and she pointed out an eagle perched in a tree about forty feet away.

In this photo, the eagle is pretty much dead center.

And here's a closeup -- not a great one, but you can see some details more clearly.

The eagle didn't move much in the ten minutes we stood there watching it -- just turned its head a few times. -- PL

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blast from the Past #193: Bread Loaf Writers' Conference

Back in 1983, my writer wife had the opportunity to attend the renowned Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Around this time, Kevin and I had discovered the copy shop in Portsmouth, NH had that newfangled color copier which could print color artwork onto transfers which could then be ironed onto t-shirts. So I decided to make Jeannine a custom t-shirt for the conference.

Here's the black and white art...

... and here's the color, reversed so that when the iron-on was applied it would read in the right direction.

You might note some odd glare in this image -- that's because I had used a piece of clear acetate over the drawing on which I could apply the dot pattern screen used for the background. I did this because it allowed me to remove the pattern at will if desired, and also because it was easier cutting that stuff on acetate than on paper (paper would often tear in places when pulling up the excess adhesive-backed pattern film.

If memory serves, my wife got a kick out of the design and wore the t-shirt until the iron-on faded -- sadly, that didn't take too long (the quality and durability of those things was very variable). -- PL

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Mirage Moto Mania

I forgot to post these two photos in the "Rune has left the building" post of a few days ago. I took them while riding in Vermont.

Here's Eric putting the Triumph Scrambler 900 through its paces...

... and Steve cruising on the Rune. -- PL

P.S. If you click on each image to view a larger version, and look closely, you can see each of the dudes wearing big grins inside their helmets!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Rune has left the building...

Regular readers of this blog may recall a post or two in which I mentioned my Honda Valkyrie "Rune", an 1800cc, six-cylinder beast which used to be Steve Lavigne's favorite ride when he came down to visit us in Massachusetts.

Well, no longer. Now it's going to be Steve's favorite ride in Maine. Yes, Steve took the Rune off my hands and is going to give it all the love and attention that it deserves. Maybe he'll even ride it back down here to visit.

Today was a beautiful day, and it just so happened that Steve came down to visit a couple of days ago, with the main intent being a group motorcycle ride with me, Jim Lawson, and the newly-licensed Eric Talbot. Yes, you read that right -- Eric got his motorcycle license last week! Yahoo! So for today's ride, we incorporated something which would have been illegal for him not too long ago -- riding out of state.

We met in Easthampton around 9:45AM, and decided to alter our original plan, which was to ride out to a big vintage Japanese motorcycle show in Rhinebeck, NY. Several things factored into this change of plan -- the distance, the weather, and the fact the some of us weren't feeling completely well. So we settled on a blast up into Vermont, then over into New Hampshire, where we would say goodbye to Steve as he took off on the rest of his journey back to Maine.

We hit one of our favorite motorcycling roads, Rt. 112 and then Rt. 100 heading north into Vermont, where we picked up Rt. 9 east. I was leading at this time, and I figured it was probably time to take a break, so about five miles up the road, I pulled over at the Hogback Mountain rest stop, where you can observe quite a dramatic vista. Here's a photo of Steve, Jim and Eric with our bikes.

From left to right: I was on the Victory Vision Tour (Tenth Anniversary Model), Steve was riding the Rune, Eric had borrowed my Triumph Scrambler 900 for the day, and Jim had his Yamaha FJR1300 (or "Feejer" as he affectionately calls it),.

After this break, we started off down the mountain, and no more than a tenth of a mile down we were delighted to see a medium-sized black bear watching traffic from the side of the road.Hurriedly pulling over, I tried to get my camera out quickly, but I only managed to snap a photo of the bear once it had gotten off the road and back into the brush. Here's the photo...

... and a blowup of the part of the photo with the bear. Really, it's a bear.

We continued on down to Brattleboro, where we stopped to get sandwiches and sodas at the Vermont Deli. Our intent was to drive across the river into New Hampshire and stop at "Madame Sherri's Castle" (another thing I have blogged about before) to eat this lunch, and so we did. Here's a little panorama of the boys enjoying their food al fresco:

After this pleasant repast, we continued on to Keene, stopped at Borders Books for a bathroom break (and to buy a couple of magazines), said our farewells and good wishes to Steve, then headed back home. All in all, a great ride. I look forward to doing more of the same. And I have to say it's very nice having a new member of our "club" -- Eric -- joining us now. -- PL

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Star Drek 3: Further thoughts on the new "Star Trek" film

So, I did it -- I went to see the new "Star Trek" movie for a second time. I went by myself, so there would be no distractions. My hope was that a second viewing would allow me to appreciate different aspects of the movie more, and maybe I would see things that I hadn't seen in the first viewing which would make me revise my opinion of some of the movie's egregious flaws.

No such luck, sadly.

The Spock/Uhura canoodling stuff is still grotesquely out of place. The plot is still murky and muddled. The clunky factory sets redressed to look like 23rd century starship interiors are still painful to look at, and this time I realized it starts right at the beginning of the movie, with the ship -- the Kelvin? -- which Kirk's father heroically collides with Nero's ship. I swear there was a scene in which beer fermentation tanks were used as background elements. And what is up with those hanging plastic sheets in the shuttlecraft? You know, the kind you see in supermarkets today, separating loading dock areas from refrigerated zones or what have you. Could it BE any sillier?

Why, yes, it could.


I can't believe I missed this one on first viewing, but it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb when I saw the movie a second time -- the supernova which "could destroy the galaxy!!!" Did anyone working on the script for this thing have even the smallest scrap of knowledge about the nature of a supernova... or, even more to the point, how freakin' HUGE the galaxy is?! There's a lot of SPACE between them there stars, bucko.
That one is even dumber than the "transporter-can't-beam-up-fast-moving-objects" nonsense... and that's saying a LOT.


I realize it's a spiffy cool visual to have a big, spiky, gnarly-looking, miles-long chain dangling from your spaceship, at the end of which is your phaser or disruptor or blaster or whatever, but when you think about it -- what is the freakin' POINT? I mean, the chain doesn't do anything but dangle there and provide a platform for some cool fight scenes -- it's the phaser/dispruptor/blaster/whatever thing at the end of the chain that is phasering/disrupting/blasting a hole in Vulcan into which can be dropped the grape-sized blob of "red matter". Why not just fire this cutting beam from your ship? I mean, we've seen it many times it the various iterations of "Star Trek", going all the way back to the original show -- starships can fire on a planet surface from orbit.


Two words -- "folding katana". Yeah, I want to go into battle with A SWORD THAT FOLDS.


I really like Simon Pegg as an actor -- he was great in "Shaun of the Dead", and I loved his short-lived "Spaced" sitcom. But his version of Scotty is, to use the vernacular, WACK. His painfully silly/stupid line reading of a painfully silly/stupid line -- "I love this ship! So exciting!" -- was at least as gratingly annoying on second viewing as it was the first time.
And the less said about the slapstick nonsense of Scotty getting stuck in the giant water pipe (a water pipe that leads into what looks like a giant food processor, apparently!), the better.


Why does the barrel of a hand phaser have to flip around 180 degrees to change its power settings? Have they forgotten about power switches in the 23rd century? I mean, even in the original series the phasers had a conveniently placed button or dial which allowed the user to change the setting.


There was one thing that I thought worked better -- a TINY bit better -- on second viewing, and that was old Spock meeting young Spock at the end of the movie. This time, I caught the bit about old Spock lying -- or "implying" -- to Kirk about the dire consequences of such a meeting.
Of course, here's the question that this then raises... if such a meeting really WOULDN'T have had any such consequences, then why didn't old Spock go with Kirk and Scotty to begin with? Would not his presence have gone a long way to convince young Spock of what needed to be done?


One grape-sized blob of "red matter" is enough, when exploded, to create a singularity (black hole) with enough gravitational force to crush (implode?) the entire PLANET of Vulcan like an eggshell... but ALL of the beach ball-sized sphere of red matter exploding ALL AT ONCE can't even destroy two puny starships???!!!


There are some other small things that bugged me, but I'm tired of thinking about it. But I do feel it's only fair to reiterate what I said before -- while I was frequently appalled and/or saddened, I wasn't bored. It's a well-paced, exciting space-action movie. What's painful to me is that with a little bit more thought and care, it could have been a well-paced, exciting STAR TREK movie, as well.
I also want to commend the people who worked on the special effects and visuals -- they are extremely well-done. It's just too bad they were crafted in the service of such an inferior product. -- PL

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Go slowly you shall"

One of my favorite bicycle rides takes me from Mirage in Northampton up the bike path to Florence, then down Riverside Drive back to Northampton. And I always get a chuckle out of this sign admonishing drivers to watch their speed:

As it happens, it's right around the corner from the former Mirage Studios space in the old cutlery factory building. -- PL

Friday, June 5, 2009

David Carradine 1936-2009

Like many people, I have my browser of choice (Safari) set to use the CNN website as my home page, so that every time I boot up Safari, I see a dozen or so of the latest headlines. Sometimes -- as when Heath Ledger was found dead in his apartment last year -- the news is about someone famous shuffling off this mortal coil in a fashion which is seemingly so very random and unexpected.

So it was when I went online last night and found out that David Carradine had been found dead (from hanging) in a hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand. My first reaction was something along the lines of "What the -- ??!!" It just seemed so bizarre.

I was a big fan of David Carradine's portrayal of Caine, the Shaolin monk, in the TV series "Kung Fu". I think echoes of the influence of that show can be found in certain aspects of TMNT.

I offer my condolences to Mr. Carradine's surviving family and friends. -- PL

Star Drek 2: More musings on the new "Star Trek" movie

I intended to go to see the new "Star Trek" movie a second time, so that I could refresh my memory of some things and maybe see some things I hadn't the first time, before I made further comments on the "Star Trek" movie. However, I have not yet had the chance to do so, and I think seeing "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "Terminator Salvation" within about a week of each other pushed me over the edge. The dreadful "Terminator" actually surpassed "Wolverine" as the most pointless extension of a movie franchise yet... and that's not an easy thing to do.

It's quite possible that, having only seen the film once, I missed or misperceived some details. If so, I will be happy to admit I am wrong.

So here are some more critical thoughts on the new "Star Trek" movie. Before I get into it, I do want to say one positive thing about the movie -- I was never bored while watching it. I was frequently appalled and saddened, but not bored.


In the original series, and in all of the other "Star Trek" series (even, I think, "Enterprise", which took place in an earlier time period when the technology was not as advanced) and "Star Trek" movies, the transporter was regularly used in concert with a starship's sensors to scan, "lock on", and beam people and/or things from one place to another. Those places were often in motion relative to each other. Some were traveling at very high speeds -- there was often beaming done between spaceships, between spaceships and planets, and so forth.
In this new movie, there is a whole scene devoted to setting up the goofy idea (to be used -- VERY lamely -- in a later scene) that for some reason, the transporter has a hard time locking onto and transporting two humanoids free-falling through Vulcan's atmosphere. Now, think about this... the Enterprise has computers that can simultaneously operate all the myriad functions of a gigantic starship, including the almost unimaginable complexity of keeping track of the mind-bogglingly gigantic number of bits as a person's body is converted into energy and reassembled into matter (correctly!) at a distant location... and yet we're expected to believe that this incredibly powerful computer can't calculate simple Newtonian-type physics? That is simply, to coin a phrase, highly illogical.
And it all seems to be just a set up for the incredibly silly scene later in the movie when Spock's mother perishes because, during the destruction of Vulcan, when the rest of her group (including Spock's father) is being beamed up to the Enterprise successfully, she is lost... BECAUSE SHE FALLS OFF A ROCK DURING BEAMING. I'm not kidding.
So we go from a scene where the Enterprise computer controlling the transporter can't handle transporting two guys falling miles through Vulcan's atmosphere, to another scene where the same computer can't even handle transporting someone who JUST FELL OFF A ROCK.
I can't stand it. Who vetted this stuff?


I'm not sure if the ship Kirk sees being constructed (or repaired, it's never quite clear... or at least it wasn't to me at the time) on the ground on Earth is Enterprise, or some other ship, or not even a real starship at all but some kind of full-size training environment. But unless I have missed something in the realm of theoretical starship construction, building your deep space vessel at the bottom of a gravity well on the surface of a planet is a VERY dopey idea. Again, highly illogical.


The scenes in this movie where Spock and Uhura kiss and embrace in a fashion clearly meant to indicate that they have some kind of romantic/sexual relationship are simply bizarre. Not only do they add nothing to the story, but they completely go against the nature of Spock (and Uhura, for that matter) as established over forty years of "Star Trek" history.


One of the most annoyingly overused cliches is "jaw dropping". Even so, there are times when it applies, and I had several "jaw-dropping" moments while watching this new "Star Trek" film. I think the first one may have been when there is a scene set (I think) in Enterprise's engineering section... and it's clearly been filmed in some lightly redressed 21st century factory, with clunky pipes and flanges and valves and wheels, looking for all the world like a scene in some cheap, cheesy Sci-Fi Channel movie, where an apartment boiler room can fill in for a nuclear power plant or something. I came into this movie having heard that this was the one which would FINALLY show the true grandeur of the "Star Trek" environments -- they had the budget, and they were going to do it RIGHT!
I expected that this would mean money being lavished on large, carefully detailed sets... or maybe some amazing CGI set extensions like George Lucas used to great effect in the "Star Wars" prequels. I was certainly not expecting this "amateur hour" approach. Literally, my jaw was hanging open when I saw this. I just couldn't believe my eyes.


People who have seen this new film and the second Star Trek film ("The Wrath of Khan") have pointed out that the villainous Nero's motivation is eerily similar to (the less charitable would say "ripped off from") that of the character of Khan in "Wrath of Khan" -- i.e., each one had lost a beloved spouse, and wanted revenge on one of our heroes for said loss.
There are two key differences which make -- in terms of drama and emotional content and believability -- "Wrath of Khan" seem like high art compared to this new "Star Trek."
The first thing has to do with the original series -- you know, the one the non-Trek fans who love this new glitzy new Trek movie deride for its primitive effects, cheap sets, and so forth. That series had an episode -- "Space Seed" -- which introduced the genetically-engineered Khan (played by Ricardo Montalban) and his group of fellow "supermen", and showed how they tried to take over the Enterprise. They failed, and Kirk exiled them on an uninhabited planet, where it was felt that they might be able to create a life for themselves. (Not necessarily the most logical choice for Kirk, but that was the story.) It was an excellent set up for the "Wrath of Khan" movie -- it gave emotional weight to the reappearance of the character of Khan (again played, brilliantly, by Ricardo Montalban), and his rage at Kirk for the death of his wife during their exile on this planet.
This new movie has nothing like that, though it TRIES to get mileage out of a very similar idea. It's just that Eric Bana (as much as I admire him as an actor) is no Ricardo Montalban, and Nero is no Khan. And DOING something to someone (Kirk deciding to strand Khan and his wife on that planet) is ALWAYS gong to be far more dramatic that simply LETTING something happen (old Spock somehow letting Nero's wife die by not doing something -- I can't even remember what it was, it was so poorly dramatized).

The second thing is SCALE. In "Wrath of Khan", you could really buy Khan's anger at Kirk and his burning desire to hurt Kirk as deeply as he possibly could, including by killing him. It was personal. It was believable.
In the new "Star Trek", Nero doesn't just want to hurt Spock -- he wants to KILL THE ENTIRE PLANET OF VULCAN! And all because Spock failed to prevent Nero's wife's death. This is so over the top that it turns Nero into a true "cartoon villain", in the worst sense of that phrase. His plan is so extreme that it no longer means anything. It is, I think, one of the sad things about modern movies -- the idea that bigger is always better. Clearly, it's not.
(And I confess that, for some reason, I kept thinking of that scene in the movie "Diner", where some of the main characters are sharing a jail cell with some drunken bums, who keep harassing them... until one of those characters turns to one of the bums and says something to the effect that "I'm going to hit you so hard it'll kill your whole family!")


And that actually brings me to another point -- WHY DESTROY THE PLANET VULCAN???!!!??? This seemed to me to be such a ludicrously unnecessary bit of spectacle which pointlessly removed one of the coolest things in the "Star Trek" universe... and for WHAT?! So that Spock can say that dimwitted "I'm now an endangered species" line?


And don't even get me started on "red matter".


This one just occurred to me -- if Nero's ship has the ability to travel through time, why doesn't he use that ability to go back in time and SAVE HIS WIFE?!


On the original series, the Enterprise had a brig (essentially a group of jail cells). In fact, on all of the "Star Trek" series, Starfleet vessels all had brigs. Brigs are where you put troublemakers, if you have any on your starship. This is where young Spock should have -- LOGICALLY -- put young Kirk when Kirk starts making a pain in the ass of himself.
But no... for the sake of the shakily-constructed story, it is ESSENTIAL that Spock do something to Kirk which, in a way, is tantamount to attempted murder -- he has him put in some kind of "escape pod" (which appears to be not much larger than a coffin) and shot off into space. It's ESSENTIAL because Kirk has to -- in a coincidence so staggering that it beggars belief -- run into old Spock on the dangerous ice planet to which young Spock has condemned him for no apparent reason (at least, none that I can see).
Apparently old Spock has also been marooned here on this planet, by Nero, so that as Spock's punishment for not doing something that might have saved Nero's wife, Spock has a "front row seat" to the destruction of Vulcan. Old Spock is so marooned, in fact, that when Kirk arrives, old Spock says "There's a Starfleet installation on this planet", and the two of them apparently WALK to it in short order. There they find Montgomery Scott, who promptly (with old Spock's help) figures out a way to beam them off the planet and onto the Enterprise. Guess they weren't so marooned after all.
One wonders -- if old Spock knew about this Starfleet installation, WHY DIDN'T HE IMMEDIATELY GO THERE WHEN NERO PLUNKED HIM DOWN ON THE PLANET? Why did he wait until Kirk got there? Oh, that's right -- if he HADN'T waited, he wouldn't have been able to spew all that expository dialogue to explain the dopey plot of the movie to Kirk.


FInally (at least for this post), I have to mention the bit near the end of the movie where old Spock meets young Spock. Let's set aside the fact that, earlier in the movie, old Spock makes a big deal out of how Kirk can't tell young Spock that old Spock has imparted the key plot information to Kirk... it would mess up the timeline or something. Okay, fine... but then we're at the end of the move, and old Spock just casually walks up to young Spock and starts chatting with him. WTF??!!!
But the bit that I really wanted to mention is the line that, on first viewing, sounded kind of clever -- it's when old Spock takes his leave of young Spock and says something like "I would say goodbye with my usual salutation, but that would seem self-serving, so I will simply say... "Good luck"."
As we all know, Spock's "usual salutation" is "Live long and prosper." Okay... now will somebody explain to me how wishing yourself good luck is any less self-serving than wishing yourself long life and prosperity? Doesn't a wish for "good luck" INCLUDE things like long life and prosperity, if not more?


That's it for now. Hopefully, I have not remembered the pertinent details of the new "Trek" movie incorrectly in my comments here. But I'm sure that if I have, I will be informed. -- PL

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blast from the Past #187: Coupon

Here's an oddity from the archives -- I think I must have made this in my penurious pre-TMNT days.

I suspect that I would have used these to give to family and friends in lieu of gifts that cost actual money... because back then I had very little of it. These coupons would likely have been redeemable for services, i.e. custom artwork. -- PL