Saturday, June 30, 2012


Jeannine and I attended the opening of the Ezra Jack Keats show at the Eric Carle Museum two nights ago. Keats is best known for the picture book "The Snowy Day" which he wrote and illustrated.

As part of the opening, there was a lecture about Keats by Claudia Nahson, the curator of the exhibit. My ears perked up and my brow furrowed (yes, simultaneously) when she spoke of how one of Keats'  early professional artistic endeavors was working on the original "Captain Marvel" comic books in the 1940's… but the slide she used to illustrate this point showed a Jim Starlin cover from the 1970's version of "Captain Marvel" -- completely different character published by a different company.

The artwork in the show itself was interesting, but it could hardly match the sight which greeted us as we began to drive home -- a gorgeous sunset. It was one of those sunsets which explodes into beauty and changes rapidly, but I did manage to get one or two photos of it when I found a spot where I could safely pull the truck over and get out with my camera.

Tasty! -- PL

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I generally like the writing of Lincoln Child, especially the stuff he's done with his writing partner Douglas Preston. So when I saw a new book of his at Barnes and Noble last week, I picked it up… even though, when I read the inside front jacket flap, I groaned in dismay.

I reacted this way because whoever wrote the jacket flap copy pushed one of my "pet peeve" buttons relating to use of the English language, and in this case, it was the misuse of the word "countless".

"Countless" is a great word -- it means, literally, "too numerous to count"...

… which is why when I read or hear it used to refer to something which is CLEARLY countable (as in something like "He knocked the bowl off his desk and countless M&M's spilled onto the floor"), its really bugs me. And that's been happening more these days as "countless" seems to be going down the same road as "awesome", another great word which has been so overused that it barely means anything now.

Here are the pertinent lines from the jacket flap:

"Deep within the Sudd -- a forsaken landscape that is neither land nor water, south of the Egyptian border -- Stone believes he has found the tomb of the god-king Narmer, the pharaoh who united upper and lover Egypt over five thousand years ago. Lost to history, Narmer's tomb is rumored to contain a prize that has been sought for countless centuries."

The way I read that, this pharaoh lived somewhere between five and six thousand years ago. At the outside, that is only sixty centuries. I can count that high in under a minute -- it's not even remotely "too numerous to count".

It's just another example of writers succumbing to the temptation to be bombastic and use words which over-exaggerate, for no good reason. Why mutilate the word "countless" when "many" would certainly suffice? -- PL

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shellback Artworks grand opening!

Well, I'm back home and recovering from a busy weekend  helping my buddy Steve Lavigne celebrate the grand opening of his new store, "Shellback Artworks", in Wells, ME yesterday. Jeannine and I went up for the private pre-opening party on Friday night, which was fun, but the real work (for me, anyway) started on Saturday at noon, when I got to the store and found about a dozen or more people waiting with stuff to be signed. 

Here's the banner which greeted us when we arrived.

I sat down at the table provided for me and for the next couple of hours didn't stop signing things ranging from comics to backing boards from blister-packed toys to t-shirts to plush TMNT dolls and a few things more. I only got a break around 2PM, and managed to snag a few pieces of the free pizza Steve and his wife Denise had provided for the people attending the opening.

I hadn't done a signing in quite a while, but it was a lot of fun, and I wish Steve the best of luck with this new venture. RIght now, the shelves are not completely full, but Steve has a lot more stuff on the way, and I don't doubt that in short order the place will be chock full of cool stuff -- art supplies, comics, and toys. Steve and Denise's lovely daughter Gracie has a display case in the store with some of her cool handmade jewelry, and I bought two matching necklaces for Jeannine and Emily.

It was pretty neat to see the way Steve arranged the big Turtle sculptures in the store -- now he just has to make sure people don't tug on them (they look solid, but they're actually pretty fragile).

I took some photos during the moments when I had a chance to get up and walk around. Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of some (well, most) of the folks in them -- sorry!

I think Denise took this photo of me with a young woman named Robin who was in the area working on a "Fight Cancer" event. I signed her poster as well as the sleeve of her t-shirt.

This cute couple posed for a photo op with Michelangelo and Donatello.

That's a happy Steve in the center right of this photo chatting with customers as Denise rings up their purchases.

Here Steve appears to be sketching a Turtle head for a couple of fans…

… one of whom also displayed some TMNT body art.

During a lull around 2PM, I tried to get some photos that I could put together into a panoramic view from where I was sitting during the signing, but I screwed it up, so the result is a little crude. 

But it does give a fairly good view of the lower level of Shellback Artworks. Behind that yellow/orange wall in the background are the stairs going up to the second floor, where Steve currently has the gallery space and the first exhibit, which is a group of pieces from my collection of work I've done by myself or in collaboration with other artists.

And if you go around to the right side of that yellow/orange wall, there is a set of stairs leading down to the basement, where Steve will be holding his various art classes.

So if you're in the area, check it out! -- PL

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Shellback Artworks" sign is up!

Steve Lavigne's wife Denise just sent me a photo of the newly-installed sign for the store...

... looks pretty cool! I'm looking forward to doing my signing there tomorrow (Saturday, June 16, noon until 3PM) at 1509 Post Road in Wells, ME. -- PL

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review of "Prometheus" movie

Bowing to my daughter's repeated requests, a few nights ago I went with her and my wife to see "Prometheus", the new movie from Ridley Scott which is a prequel of sorts to his great "Alien" from back in 1979.

However, anyone going to "Prometheus" expecting to find the same kind of intriguing characters and frightening scenarios with which "Alien" was rife will be sorely disappointed. There are some "jump" moments (when some weird thing suddenly leaps at the camera) and some "cringe" moments (when the director uses goopy, gory special effects, such as in the somewhat ludicrous*, albeit intriguing, scene where one of the crew uses an automated robot surgery pod to extract an unwanted alien parasite from her body), but nothing even close to the plethora of tense and scary moments in the original.

Part of the problem is in the casting (it's hard to beat an ensemble like the one "Alien" boasted, featuring Tom Skeritt, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Sigourney Weaver, and Harry Dan Stanton), but most of it comes down to the writing -- which is uniformly weak throughout "Prometheus", especially where it deals with establishing characters worth caring about. There are scenes where the viewer knows that he or she SHOULD care about this or that crew member being killed or tortured by some alien thing, but these characters are so flimsily, carelessly written that it is virtually impossible to muster more than an "Oh, that's too bad".

But that's not the worst part of the movie.

No, that honor belongs to the fact that the heart (if you can call it that) of the movie is based on the silly "ancient astronaut" idea first popularized years ago by the fantasies of Erich von Däniken. When I noticed the implication of this in one of the trailers for "Prometheus" a month or so ago, my heart sank -- THIS was the so-called "big, important idea" around which this movie would be structured?

And so it was. 

What a STUPID idea.

What an OVERUSED, stupid idea.

I had high hopes that in his voyage back to the sic-fi universe of "Aliens", with thirty-three years of maturing and thinking and imagining under his belt, Ridley Scott would craft a story which really would ask the big, profound questions that much of the pre-release hype had hinted at.

Instead, we get warmed-over "Chariots of the Gods" nonsense.

What an ENORMOUS disappointment.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the visuals are more than adequate to the task. (Of course, given how lightweight the story is, that's "damning with faint praise".) But the combination of models and CGI effects is impressive, and most of it fun to watch in a mindless kind of way, even if much of it is either stuff we've seen before or some slight variation of stuff we've seen before. 

But as my daughter Emily and I concluded this week in a highly-enjoyable marathon discussion of the current state of geek-friendly movies (highlighted most recently by "The Avengers"), it is no longer enough to just make great visuals. We all know it can be done. The incredibly talented artists and craftspeople who work on special effects and visual effects for movies have shown themselves to be capable of seamless realization of the most fantastic things, stuff which -- in the pre-CGI days -- would have been difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish.

It is STORY which is of paramount importance, now that anything can be realized on screen with seemingly casual breathtaking verisimilitude. We are past the period when a weak story could be mostly forgiven because of a surfeit of wonderful effects and mind-boggling visuals. That's why a movie like "Avengers" is something that I have gone back to the theater to see four times so far (something I haven't done in many years)… and why I very likely won't be seeing "Prometheus" again. Ever.


Here's where I save you the money and time you would have wasted if you'd gone to see "Prometheus": You know the aliens, the "xenomorphs", from the original "Alien" movie and its sequels? According to the script of "Prometheus", they, along with a host of other weird and nasty critters, were created long ago by an alien race -- who, very imaginatively and creatively (yes, that IS sarcasm) look just about like us, only somewhat bigger and paler) as biological weapons. To what exact end, it is unclear… maybe that will be the BIG IMPORTANT IDEA revealed in a "Prometheus" sequel, if the world is unfortunate enough to suffer such an event. -- PL


*Ludicrous in this way -- the woman in question wants to use the automated robot surgery pod to extract the alien embryo inside her, but when she boots it up, she gets an error message telling her that this machine is only programmed to work on males. 

        This, on a trillion dollar spaceship where there are several -- I didn't do an exact count, and I very likely won't be torturing myself with a repeat viewing of "Prometheus" to find out for certain -- female crew members, including the freakin' LEADER of the expedition, who also happens to be the DAUGHTER of the man who organized and paid for the expedition! 

Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. 

It's just another poorly-contrived scenario shoehorned in to add more tension to the mix, so the afflicted crew member has to figure out how to jury-rig the machine to do what she wants it to. I suspect the writers may have been starting to realize how flat and uninteresting their script was and how much it might benefit from an injection of drama. 

Oh, and after the surgery -- in which the woman's abdomen is sliced open, a writhing tentacled thing is yanked out, and her wide and deep incision THROUGH HER ABDOMINAL MUSCLES is stapled back together -- this crew member spends much of the rest of the movie running about furiously, exerting herself strenuously. The actress playing her DOES make a few pained grunts and expressions of discomfort along the way, and she does keep injecting herself with something (never find out what -- painkillers? stimulants? both?), but I didn't buy for a moment that it was physically possible for someone to do what she did literally minutes after a major surgery involving core muscles. Silly, silly, silly. -- PL

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Le renard in the yard

I came downstairs for breakfast this morning and was almost immediately greeted by our dog Parker barking loudly at something outside the kitchen window. I thought it was just one of the many squirrels which seem to aggravate him on a daily basis, but then Jeannine urgently called my attention to the real culprit…

… a fox!

We've been seeing more and more of these sleek, reclusive creatures in recent years -- in fact, I think I've had more sightings of them this year than in my entire life. It makes me wonder if there is some fox population boom -- possibly coinciding with the huge chipmunk population we saw last year.

In any event, it was neat to see this beast paying us a visit. Unfortunately, I did not have my new Nikon with the great zoom lens at hand during the minute or so that the fox graced our lawn, so I was only able to get these slightly blurry shots with my pocket camera. -- PL

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Stopping at the local Post Office a few days ago, I was disappointed by the lack of interesting mail, but happy with what I saw as I walked up to the building -- a beautiful butterfly investigating the flowers planted in front of the Post Office.

Once again, I was grateful for the amazing zoom lens on my new Nikon. -- PL

Friday, June 1, 2012


It's been a good week for typos.

I bicycled to Easthampton a few days ago with my friend Rick, and when we got there I noticed a sign on a storefront announcing the upcoming opening of a new Indian restaurant. As I was taking a photo of the sign, Rick pointed out to me that he hoped their food would be better than their proofreading.

The extra-goofy part about this one is that the misspelled word "cuisine" is actually spelled correctly in the other sign at the top.

Then yesterday I got an email from the FIne Arts Center at my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, suggesting that I "Sneak a Peak at our 2012-2013 Season ".

But both of these things pale in comparison to the nadir of proofreading represented by the iPhone application put out by supporters of Mitt Romney which included a slogan reading "A Better Amercia".

-- PL

P.S. Yes, my misspelling of "typos" in the title of this post was deliberate.