My younger son was disappointed that my frosting application was, shall we say, a bit more "expressionistic" on his older brother's birthday cake. "I can hardly tell that is a knight!" he complained.
Dark frosting is not generally not a good thing. And even the "No taste" red frosting tastes pretty bad. Therefore, I was not optimistic about the "knight sitting by the Dark Souls bonfire" request for this cake which would necessitate both blackish and reddish frosting.
I compromised by "crumb coating" the cake in white and then skim coating a thin layer of lip-staining dark blue, brown and grey over the top. I used as little red as possible for the fire and sword.
I did not hear anyone at the party complain about the taste, but perhaps they were sparing my delicate feelings.
Both kids were home today so I was busy with feeding, cleaning and transporting activities, so this napkin suffered from lack of attention.
While I was drawing, I tried to sit down with my younger son and talk him through the various characters of the living former presidents and my memories and impressions of them, but we only made it to Bill Clinton before he completely lost patience with me.
Frustrated, I said something about how he always thwarted my attempts to teach him something and feel proud of myself for being educational. I was trying to be funny, but was simultaneously rather pathetic.
He said helpfully, "Oh, don't worry Mom, I am proud of you anyway."
If you asked either of our sons to do an impression of President Trump, he would squint, purse his mouth, and then say, "We have to build a wall!" They are aware of other Trumpisms and policies, but the wall concept seems to upstage everything else.
In the wildly popular (in Japan) manga and anime series, "Attack on Titan," humans live in small cities surrounded by huge walls, attempting to shelter from huge, apparently irrational and monstrous, naked humanoids or "Titans" who roam the countryside beyond the walls, attempting to eat any regular sized humans they can get their giant hands on. Most of the human protagonists of the series are members of the Survey Corps, an elite fighting unit trained in physics-defying tactics to try to protect humanity from the overwhelming Titan threat.
The iconic image for the series in its print, film and television formats, is that of the largest of the Titans- "the Colossal Titan" looking over the suddenly insufficient wall, with the hero of the survey corps standing in the foreground, facing him.
So what does this have to do with Presidents' Day and Donald Trump?
Well, perhaps the wall is enough?
There's been a good bit of Trump as Titan in Japan apparently. And some memes involving Trump, the Attack on Titan wall and Mexico.
We debated who should be facing off against the colossal Trump on our napkin. The kids suggested the president of Mexico, but this seemed like an obvious and an unfortunate solution to me....and hard for me to convey in a drawing.
I felt like the problem inside the wall might be related to the problem outside the wall.
In "Attack on Titan," the situation is revealed to be more and more complicated as the series progresses. It turns out the politics of the wall are not at all clear cut and that the Titans and the humans inside the walls have more in common than our heroes believed at the beginning. The Titans turn out to be more than just irrational inhuman monsters who lack external genitalia. And regular humans can be inflated to Titan proportions.
President Trump has definitely made it clear that the contemporary American political landscape is more complicated and fraught that many (myself included) previously would have thought, and that threats might come from inside as well as outside...or as in "Attack on Titan" even from within the walls themselves.
Snow Goon with Nerf "The Judge" blaster that shoots many, many darts. (30 in groups of 3)
...because snow goons appreciate excess.
When my son suggested that I draw this particular weapon, he directed me to a couple of YouTube videos in which vloggers discuss a "leaked" snapshot of this not yet produced gun with the intensity and detail with which some might parse the Zapruder film or a grainy snapshot of Bigfoot.
Foolish me. I have only recently become able to say, or type, the word "vlogger" with a straight face, and now I have to get my mind around the concept that there are adults who professionally discuss hypothetical Nerf merchandise at great length and in great detail. And there are tens of thousands of people who watch them.
Previously, I had difficultly understanding why my sons, and thousands, if not millions, of other people wanted to endlessly watch a stranger play Minecraft on YouTube.
My sons frequently expand my aging mind to accept new concepts.
Mostly against my will.
We survived the birthday party melee.
Although we will be retrieving foam darts from corners of our apartment, probably until we move or they take me away to the long term care facility.
The napkin does not at all capture the nature of the situation. Way too calm, organized and quiet.
My son was also disappointed that this napkin did not feature specific, identifiable kids.
The guns had to be specific and identifiable. I knew that, but I shirked on the kid part, I admit it.
I had previously set the bar too high by drawing his friends in the school cafeteria as specific recognizable dogs. This had resulted in endless bickering over who got to be which dog.
I'll admit, I was more distracted here by just getting several guns in the picture and not having my half-assed perspective be too distracting. And I did not want to fight over who got to be a pug again.
Links to some other kids-with-dog-heads napkins below, where I paid more attention to who was which canine... but there were no guns or living rooms to draw.
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.
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...
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."
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.
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.
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.