Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gwenforte from Adam Gidwitz's "The Inquisitor's Tale"

We've just finished reading  The Inquisitors Tale: Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog" during our commute to school. Adam Gidwitz's illuminated "Canterbury Tales" like story of three kids and a possibly ressurected greyhound who narrowly escape martyrdom in medieval France is a nice counterpoint for morning rush hour on the New York City subway.

It is a little passive aggressive to read out loud to your kid in a packed subway car. People who are reading their own books have huffily moved away from us on more than one occasion. But in the mornings, really, no one has anywhere to go if they don't appreciate my interpretation of the text. Most people are pretty tolerant, or at least do their best to ignore me. Or are wearing earbuds anyway.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Siborgi with Nerf Stampede

Nerf This:

We remain horribly dog deprived. The latest desirable combination is a Corgi Siberian Husky mix, known as a Siborgi, or less, creatively as a Horgi. The best I can do is draw dogs on napkins.  This particular dog would be too hairy and non hypoallergenic to contemplate, even if the boys' father were not allergic to furry pets, mentally and spiritually.

We seem to be Nerf deprived also...but this is a purely relative perspective as it seems impossible to own enough Nerf weaponry. Ever.

The gun this dog is wielding has been discontinued, but you could still buy one for a couple of hundred bucks.  Well worth it for the Nerf completist, I am sure.

The rectangularity of Nerf stuff is clearly not my drawing strong suit, but you would think I would be improving by now...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Troll in Chief

According to Wikipedia, Troll dolls were one of the biggest toy fads in the United States from 1963-65.  This was, remarkably enough, before my time. But these Trolls were around everywhere during my childhood... usually dirty and bedraggled and naked... They were all probably somewhere between 4 and 12 years old by then. I think it is safe to say that few  treat an old troll doll with care.

I did not like these dolls when I was a kid.  I found them disgusting and disturbing and did not understand why there were so many of them.

When you say "troll" now, most people do not think of ugly plastic dolls with excess hair.

My kids find the concept of online "trolling" to be very amusing. As does, apparently much of the population of the United States.

As a self-serious, so-called responsible adult, I find the idea of messing with things and people just for the joy of antagonism and disorder...well, annoying, if not downright dangerous.

Other people feel differently, of course. Perhaps they feel that disorder and conflict are an improvement.

My feelings about President Trump are not mild, and I find it extremely challenging to get my mind around why reasonable people would even want to watch him speak on TV, let alone elect him to be leader of the free world.

I am trying to understand, however. It is not useful...or reasonable...to dismiss a substantial part of the nation as stupid and/or crazy.

I found listening to the most recent episode of  This American Life, "The Revolution Starts at Noon" useful. The first segment was about "The Deploraball," a "party for trolls who say they memed Trump into the presidency." Self proclaimed trolls tried to explain what was positive about trolling and why it might be a compliment to call Donald Trump the "Troll in Chief."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nerf with Polar Bear

We have a birthday party coming up and it seems that spendy plastic devices that shoot foam darts are going to be the theme.

We once had a plastic bin in the living room that I labeled "weapons" to corral the Nerf collection. Now every container is full things with names like  "Elite Retaliator," "Rapidstrike," "Hailfire" or "Mega Rotofury." Ok, we don't have that last one, but I thought the name was especially nice. There really aren't other toys that require a bin.

Truly the proliferation and variation in the Nerf arsenal strikes admiration in a capitalist mind. There is always some new amazing variation that must be purchased! Actually, more like 14 variations. I imagine a warehouse full of busy designers cooking up new configurations.

Most birthday parties at our house evolve- or devolve, depending on your perspective- into an all out melee involving every foam weapon in the house. This particular party is distinctive only in that we are preparing for Nerf activities in advance. I have purchased a weapon that holds an astounding 144 darts at a time in preparation for a game of Nerf Marco Polo.

The mind boggles.

There was some sort of Pixel Gun related request for a picture of the soon to be birthday boy riding a polar bear.

Unfortunately, there will be no polar bears at the birthday party.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Giant Squid in Trump Lobby

Observing January 20th, 2017:
The Lobby of Trump Tower, New York. 
(Where global warming is definitely not real)

We've been busy with our own petty concerns today, so I have mostly observed a news blackout on national events. 

But we did notice that today was Inauguration Day.

While their take on presidential politics may not be very nuanced, global warming is definitely a political issue that motivates my kids. 

I am always happy to try to draw a giant squid. The lobby of Trump Tower was clearly too much for me. Not to mention trying to draw it under water.

I don't think I have ever personally been to this lobby, but I read that there was some issue about a public bench which used to sit along the wall on the right side of this pass-through. The bench was mandated as public space in return for additional air rights.

At some point, the bench was replaced by a counter for "The Trump Shop" which sells merchandise like the "Make America Great Again" hats and Trump souvenir teddy bears. Perhaps one might view this instance as a microcosmic instance of petty private gain prevailing over public good. Or not.

One could imagine that hats and teddy bears could be appealing to giant squid.

As I know all my readers here (all four or five of you who remain besides my mom) don't necessarily share our perspective on recent events, I will just leave it there.

Giant Squid are cool: 
We can all agree on that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pixel Gun Pets

Pixel Gun 3D continues to be a compelling, if fraught game for our sons.

I don't know much about the game besides the fact that it drives the kids to intense conflict.
But I gather that you can have various pets, including a Polar Bear, Unicorn and a Phoenix.

My sons corrected me, pointing out that the Dragon is not actually a pet, and he is very small. One can google "pixel gun pet dragon" and get results that seem to indicate otherwise.

But I guess you can't believe everything you see online.

Laurence from Bloodborne

Laurence from Bloodborne

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Holiday Paddle Boarding in Color

Paddle Boarding to Cambodia: An attempt at a compilation of my kids' winter break this year.
(Or at least to Paddle Boarding to Florida, my husband was in Cambodia, but he was motorcycling rather than paddle boarding)

For those not interested in slogging through the blather below. Briefly, clockwise from top left: the possibly terrifying bee, the lead stork from "Storks," my older son's Bloodborne character, "The Messengers" from Bloodborne, an unhappy resort worker dressed as an elf, a character from the movie "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," The "Door to Hell," Peter Cushing as Gran Moff Tarkin from the original "Star Wars" and "Rogue One" riding Mike the Headless Chicken, an unidentifiable paddle boarder who might be a relative-or not, an Ewok from "Return of the Jedi" and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia from the original Star Wars movie.

And now in further detail with more blather:

This image is maybe trying to be the alternative/pop culture history of our two weeks off from school.

Perhaps I should begin with the obvious: the boys and I were fortunate enough to spend some of the break in Florida. Among the recreational options were parasailing, jet skiing and paddle boarding. Being afraid of the sails and the skis, I pushed hard for the boards. They seemed like a relatively safe option that might work for most of us.

Results were definitely mixed. But the good news is that we all survived the experience. And I had the important opportunity to teach my older son that it is not nice to laugh loudly within earshot of strangers who are falling off of their stand up paddle boards. One should only enjoy the misfortune of others silently.

While my sons are no longer overtly obsessed with Star Wars, the viewing of Rogue One at the beginning of their break and the announcement of Princess Leia's, sorry, Carrie Fisher's, death, were major events, and therefore there are Star Wars characters on the paddle boards.

The kids were fairly pleased with Rogue One overall, noting with delight the cool subvarieties of storm trooper outfits and weapons. They were not so pleased by the CGI reanimation of the youthful Princess Leia at the end, pronouncing her brief appearance as "creepy and weird."

The reanimation of Peter Cushing as Gran Moff Tarkin, the one of the primary Death Star baddies from the first Star Wars movie, seemed more successful. He was on screen several times, and I spent the movie vaguely troubled about him, as I was pretty sure Mr. Cushing was deceased. And if not, damn, he looked unbelievably good for someone who had not been a young man back in 1977.

Obviously, despite my unease, I was not paying close attention. On further reflection, of course Tarkin was a CGI product, although clearly he had much more successfully crossed the uncanny valley than the reanimation of the young Miss Fisher.

Seeing the digital recreation of characters that I first met when I was ten in the company of my sons who are close to the same age (well, 9 and 13, for a little while longer) made me both nostalgic and sad. Of course Cushing and Fisher are now both late. Cushing died back in 1994 and was not someone I thought about all that much. I found myself strangely affected by Carrie Fisher's death. I guess I had been continuing to pay attention to her, even if I wasn't following her on Twitter. And she seemed awfully young. The kids were relieved to discover that she had already filmed her scenes for the next movie. They predicted that Leia will die in some sort of spaceship explosion...but with CGI, who knows.

Also paddle boarding is one of the young lovelies from "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which our younger son insisted that I watch with him on the flight down to Florida. While he was completely ignorant of the original Jane Austen novel, he was very taken with the idea of attractive young ladies in fancy dresses slicing up the undead. The reality is of course that the movie was a bit slow for those who missed all of the Austen references and jokes. It was herky-jerky: Masterpiece Theater interspersed with episodes of armed combat and ghoulish mayhem. But we couldn't follow much of the dialogue on the plane anyway. We had tried to get through watching it during our last airplane trip many months ago. But, much to my dismay, my son declared that it had been too long, and we had to start over again and watch the thing in its entirety. One viewing would have been more than enough for me.

On the plane ride home, we watched "Storks" which is uncreatively represented by the seagull-ressembling stork on the upper right of the drawing. As fast as I am concerned, the less said about that movie the better. But I notice that it ranks much higher on Rotten Tomatoes than "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," so perhaps I should not be too harsh.

The PS4 game "Bloodborne" dominated our trip, much as my son's avatar does the foreground of this image. His entire carry on bag was monopolized by the PS4 itself and related paraphernalia. I had originally floated the idea of traveling with the game platform back when I thought I might be taking the kids to California over the holidays to cool their heels at an alternative medical center for a couple of weeks while I tried to beat back my psoriasis through an extended of not eating.

Fortunately, that was not necessary as I had already done enough not eating at home, and we headed off for a much less alternative trip with grandparents and food. But the concept of bringing the kids' joint Christmas/Hanukkah present remained.

Once the hotel had kindly provided us with our very own supplemental hotspot, so their kids could bathe in extra electromagnetic in their bedroom, the elder boy was able to talk to and play with his New York friends online in Bloodborne.

Of course this made every other activity instantly uncompelling in comparison. Any outing, even to beach or pool, had to be forcefully parentally mandated. I was not surprised that, for my adolescent son, a dark room with virtual friends trumps outdoor sunshine and actual family every time, but it does make me tired.

I am not sure what function the toothy, top-hatted skeletal "Messengers" perform in Bloodborne, but here one of them is holding the one intact conch shell that we found on the beach.

As we were in Florida over Christmas, we were able to partake of the resort's holiday activities, which seemed to all include the wearing of red and green "elf hats." Everybody got one, or several, if necessary. And many of the resort employees were somewhat unfortunately dressed as elves from head to toe. The elf hat wearer in the drawing is only visible from the shoulders up, so we can't tell whether he is sweating in an ill fitting zip-up polyester elf costume or not.

I think we got into the topic of Mike, the very famous headless chicken because of a comment about someone running around like decapitated poultry. I suspect that the comment may have been made by an adult and aimed at a child, but I cannot remember for certain. We ended up talking for quite a while about how Mike lived without his head for almost two years. He earned his beheader a good bit of money on the sideshow circuit. It is an amusing story, if you have not already wasted enough time reading to this point.

Behind Mike is something known as "the door to hell."  I don't remember the original source of that conversation, although I do recall that we had also discussed long burning tire fires in general and the one on the Simpsons in particular. Our sons are veritable fonts of information courtesy of their YouTube viewing habits, they are well caught up on topics like "Amazing Things You Won't Believe." These videos cover topics ranging from people with bizarre medical conditions or talents, spectacular natural disasters, or people who have bathtubs or bunkbeds built to resemble famous movie characters or sets.  And an enormous flaming sinkhole in Turkmenistan that has been burning for over 40 years, apparently, as they were both quite well informed about it.

The bee is looming in the foreground because my sons have an intense irrational aversion to bees and wasps. (Sorry for outing you as bee phobes online, kids, but I am pretty sure no one but you and your grandmother has actually read this far). I am not sure how this happened. Neither of them has ever been stung. We came across a very wet and bedraggled bee on the beach in Florida. I offered the usual parental admonishment to leave it alone and it will not bother you....even more so in this case, and this particular bee was busy being soggy. I then walked away. Later, I began to suspect that something bad might have happened to this bee, perhaps involving my sons and some sand. They are not talking, particularly after I delivered a lecture about the importance of bees for pollination and the future survival of the human race.

I think that pretty much covers it.  I skipped the Ewok who is lurking on the paddle board behind Leia, but I don't thing anyone needs to read more.

Back to the napkins....

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Holiday Paddle Boarding

A compilation of our Winter Break... sort of.

I am going to work on explaining this tomorrow... or maybe even on finishing it.  That poor bee is missing a leg.  Although, that may well have been the case by the time my kids got done with him....

Holiday Card 2016

 I usually try obscure the kids' faces somehow to foil face recognition software...and to make them more willing to participate.

But never before have the results been so creepy.

The card's text said something about how "we see a sweet holiday ahead for you" 
But I don't think anyone was fooled.