Sunday, January 31, 2016

BB8 In Frosting

This is the frosting that you are looking for...if you are a nine year old fan of Star Wars anyway.
February is a cruel month full of the squirting of frosting. Two kids' birthdays in one month, narrowly separated by Valentine's Day was definitely poor planning on my part. 
But as of today: one cake and a classroom full of birthday snack cupcakes "faculty appreciation valentine themed brunch" and another birthday cake and cupcakes left to frost before I can hang up my wax paper tubes and boxes of confectioners sugar for another year.

Below you can see the cake with its very much beloved toy brethren, the Sphero BB8.
(and from this view, you can tell that I ran out of dark blue frosting at 1 am in the morning and resorted to putting the date on the front of the cake instead)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Deadpool and Rocket Raccoon

They are touching each other.

My sons are about as enthusiastic about the upcoming Deadpool movie as they can be about something that they are not going to be able to see anytime in the near future. There has already been a good bit of bargaining..."Could we see the movie if..." Well, maybe they could see it if it turned out not to be R rated. But I have to say that the online trailer (which my sons have already viewed with delight) is enough to convince me that they definitely don't need to see the whole thing right now.

I will admit that when I caught a few minutes of Ann Hathaway sobbing her way through a scene of "The Intern" last night, (my husband was watching it, an inexplicable situation that I can only ascribe to the fact that he has not been allowed to eat any solid food for the past 2 days) I was thinking that perhaps I myself might prefer to be watching the Deadpool movie.

But I still don't need to see my sons sniffing the muzzles of their Nerf guns and declaring, "I'm definitely touching myself tonight!" I have already suffered enough abuse.

(If you don't know what I am referring to...well, you could watch the "mature audiences only" Deadpool trailer...or you could choose to remain happily ignorant.)

As for Rocket- he is one of my sons' favorites and seemed like an appropriate companion for Mr. Wilson. There is an actual Deadpool/Rocket crossover comic out there. While I ordered it, I have not seen it yet, so I don't know what the official Marvel line is on their present, or future, relationship. Despite their shared appreciation for destruction and irreverence, it seems likely that they might be slightly awkward in close proximity.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Day

Snow Goons visit our house...if only...

Our kids are big fans of Calvin and Hobbes.  They appreciate Calvin's imagination and constant attacks on parental authority.  While my sympathy now lies more with Calvin's parents, I do admire his incredible industriousness when it comes to building snowmen. (Take a look at "Attack of the Deranged Mutant Snow Goons" for the malicious two headed snowman.)

As you may have heard, we got a whole lot of snow in New York City yesterday.  This was initially not so inspiring to our in-house attackers of parental authority. They saw it as an opportunity for unimpeded screen time, officially condoned by the mayor of New York. (He told everyone to stay inside!)

It would have taken a visit from Calvin and Hobbes style Snow Goons to get them off the couch... maybe.

Blizzard over, we did insist that they play outside today. They built a snow fort and then collapsed it, spilling snow all over the sidewalk that their parents had just finished laboriously shoveling.

Calvin would have been proud.

After the collapse of the snow fort:
(Don't be too concerned,
there are two kids in this photo)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Howard the Duck with Balloon Shoulder Launcher

Fowl with Non-Lethal Weapon:

The kids found "Howard the Duck Vol 1: What the Duck?" by Chip Zdarsky, art by Joe Quinones, very amusing.

Their only significant previous exposure to the Howard character was the short post cameo in The Guardians of the Galaxy. They were mercifully unaware of the outstandingly horrible 1986 movie "Howard the Duck." (Arguably the first Marvel movie, it was produced by George Lucas, but reliably turns up on many lists of the worst movies of all time.)

 Zdarsky and Quinones's 2015 comic reboot, however, has just the right sort of snarky tone and dozens of jokes about other characters in the Marvel universe.

One of the kids' favorite moments in the comic involved a Punisher impersonator who uses a gun made out of twisty animal balloons to deadly effect. We've had several birthday parties over the last few years featuring balloon twisting.  Through the magic of Youtube videos, I learned how to make enough balloon things to keep a room full of 7 and/or 12 year olds entertained (and several adults very annoyed).  While I have fabricated an endless amount of balloon swords, I somehow resisted ever making any balloon guns.

Of course, what they really wanted all along was a balloon gun...or a shoulder mounted rocket launcher...

The kids were relatively satisfied with my balloon design on this napkin, but were not impressed with my interpretation of Howard with a slightly more realistic duck head.

Below: Howard in four incarnations, from top to bottom, by Joe Quinones, in the 1986 movie (that's Tim Robbins there on the right), at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, and in an earlier, more Donald Duck-like comic version.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Nikola Tesla with Pikachu

Our older son is in the throes of researching a paper on Nikola Tesla.  As it turns out, the selection of this topic was a perhaps somewhat overly ambitious.

Tesla has enjoyed quite a bit of popularity on the world wide web over the last several years. If you waste any time online, you have probably encountered some sort of widely shared post about how Tesla was an unrecognized genius who was responsible for everything from basic electricity to cell phones and the internet.

One would think that with all this recent notoriety, that there would be some research materials out there appropriate for seventh graders... or more specifically, for seventh graders who would rather be playing video games than slogging through 500 page texts full of detailed history and scientific terminology.

The research problems caused by this lack of age-appropriate materials has resulted in me learning more about Tesla than I might have intended. This is not all bad of course. Tesla has a fascinating biography and reading about him has also revealed how much I need to learn about basic electrical principles. On the other hand, I do not need to repeat 7th grade, so the situation is not so very delightful.

But I have learned more that enough about the man to hypothesize that he would have been pretty enthusiastic about Pikachu:

Tesla really loved electricity... and not just as a topic of scientific research and commercial engineering.  He believed in both its philosophical power and potent health effects. He frequently treated himself and others with electric current for for mental heath and digestive function. (He also initially believed that X-rays had health benefits, but fortunately quickly discovered evidence to the contrary)

He had a powerful imagination and was an enthusiast for the fantastic.  Picking up a beeping sound of unknown origin on a receiver in his laboratory in Colorado Springs, he seems to have arrived at the conclusion that he was receiving messages from intelligent life on Mars.

And, last but not least, at the end of his life, he was an ardent fan of small creatures in the form of pigeons. He was, by many accounts, obsessed with the pigeons that he fed daily in Central Park. He himself wrote about one bird in particular, "I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life." As Tesla did not marry and seems to have never had a significant relationship with a woman other than his mother, maybe we should not read too much into that statement. Still, he cared very much about animals and their welfare, espousing vegetarianism to avoid cruelty. Despite his pigeon romance, by the end of his life, he did not seem to be having much success in his relationships with people or money.

But perhaps things would have worked out better for him if there had been an electric Pokemon for him to bond with.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bernie Sanders

Star Wars with Politicians #4

Old Ben and Bernie discuss the wretched hive of scum and villainy...or perhaps just which finger is best to use when gesticulating.

Nope, our kids didn't know who Mr. Sanders is. While I tried to explain, my older son kept circling back to talking about Trump. There is clearly something that really seizes the imagination of the 12 year old mind there. Bernie, not so much.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hybrid Unicorn Owl Pig Creature

Our kids really enjoyed "Kaptara Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien" by Chip Zdarsky, art by Kagan McLeod. The Image Comics blurb says that it is about "a world filled with danger and weird danger and dangerous weirdos!" It is definitely filled with extremely imaginative combinations of animals, monsters, pseudo-humans, etc. Our kids are always up for a universe where troop transport vehicles are made of giant pugs with tank treads.

We thought the comic was great, and look forward to the next installment. Nonetheless, I can't give it a ringing endorsement as a book for kids, because perhaps other parents wish to refrain from reading age-inappropriate materials to their offspring. I did do some editing during my reading, and the book is relatively inoffensive, but there is perhaps too much gleeful profanity for the average 8 year old....or for the parents of the average 8 year old.  It is already too late to completely avoid such language around here, I am afraid.

My younger son spotted a strange creature stuffed in the corner of one of the frames and exclaimed that he wanted a creature like that drawn on a napkin.  As near as he could tell, it was some amalgamation of owl, pig and unicorn parts.

While the creature was kinda cute in Kaptara, my son tells me that my rendition is definitely nightmare fuel.
I have to admit that I agree with his assessment.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Post by Bruce Kasanoff on Napkins

Bruce Kasanoff is a social media ghost writer and a coach. He writes under his own name for Forbes and publishes article under his Linkedin profile. He also writes books, including two with the winsome titles of "How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk" and "How to Grow Your Career by Helping Others."

Looking over Mr. Kasanoff's many articles makes me reflect on my mostly accidental relationship to social media. In the time of slow dial-up modems, before I had kids, I spent a significant portion of my time promoting my sculpture and photographs. I used to joke that self promotion was my only hobby. Before there was such a thing as Facebook, I worked hard on updating my website, producing mailings and checking the log files to see who was actually looking at the site.

Since my kids arrived 13 years ago and began monopolizing all of my free time, (and draining my life force) I've done very little promotion of my art work. In the meantime, however, social media has become a global and many platformed thing which is strangely receptive to images of our napkins. The napkins have received far more attention with little or no effort on my part than my sculpture ever did even when I was really trying hard.

Mr. Kasanoff looks at our napkins from his very positive viewpoint. I am pleased to think of the napkins as being motivated by pure love for my kids. I do suspect that there is also a bit of pathology, compulsion and self aggrandizement mixed in there with the love.

Now if I could just get that pathological compulsion and self aggrandizement to do some work for me on social media....

Click on the photo above to read Mr. Kasanoff's very kind article on the napkins.

Thanks again Bruce!

Clinton/ Organa 2016

Who would not enjoy seeing Han Solo as first spouse?
(of the Galactic Republic, of course)

Here I find myself risking antagonizing those whom I have not already annoyed with the Obama/Yoda or Trump/Binks napkins. Perhaps I should first issue the disclaimer that this napkin does not necessarily constitute an endorsement for Hillary Clinton for the presidential seat.

Nevertheless, whatever one thinks about Ms. Clinton, I feel confident that most people would join me in supporting the idea that my sons ought to know who she is. With some prodding, our 8 year old allowed that he was aware that "there is a girl who wants to be president." I hope we can do a little better than that.

And I think we might all agree that if we are looking at the Star Wars universe for Hillary analogues, she does have some things in common with General Organa (played by Carrie Fisher- formerly known as "Princess Leia" for those of you blissfully ignorant of the latest Star Wars movie)...

Leia and Hillary share a few attributes including gender, age, a charismatic, if morally problematic spouse, a position of power within a contentious struggle, and a large group of people within her universe who would really, really prefer that she not gain any more power.

There are so many incendiary possibilities here in the "Star Wars Meets American Politicians" topic":
Chris Christie and ?.... Bernie Sanders and ?..... With very little effort, I could probably manage to piss almost everyone off...including my sons.

My younger son requested a drawing of an animal that is a combination of an owl, pig and unicorn for the next napkin.

Sounds safer.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Obama and Yoda on the Late Night Jedi Temple Talk Show


After inciting some hostility with our "Trump/Binks 2016" napkin, where could we go from there?
I seriously considered pairing Bernie Sanders with Yoda, but my kids are not very familiar with Mr. Sanders, so I went for something more obvious.

But perhaps this is a way to get my kids more informed about various politicians. I just have to figure out which Star Wars character should be paired with each. One of the less pleased Facebook commentors on the Trump napkin suggested that the appropriate follow up would be Obama and Satan.

I think I might stick with Star Wars characters.

And before I inspire further fury, undeserved or not: I am not trying to suggest that President Obama is a candidate for 2016....nor that my kids would vote for him if he were running....and they could vote. At the moment, I am just campaigning for a bit more conversance with contemporary politics at our house.

President Obama has worked hard to appear in many televised contexts including hiking in "Running Wild" and submitting to a satirical interview on "Between Two Ferns."  So why not visit the Jedi Temple for a Late Night style chat with Yoda?

My kids were happy to watch Obama hike with Bear Grylls. I am sure they would watch almost any politician talk to Yoda.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Chipmunks and Xenomorph

As Dave would say, "ALVIN!!!! Stop playing with that Xenomorph!"

Our sons enjoy how the Chipmunks behave like exuberant wayward children.  And how Jason Lee's Dave is much like a beleaguered and ineffectual parent, hopelessly trying to rein in his "kids'" out of control behaviour.

Our kids would definitely want to slide down a Xenomorph's head if they had the chance.

(I have still managed to avoid seeing "The Road Chip," thus far, but unfortunately, that cannot last forever.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wicket the Ewok and Alvin the Chipmunk

Small, Furry and Cute, yet Potentially Deadly

Since its release on December 18th, I have been threatened repeatedly with the possible viewing of the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, "The Road Chip."

While thirteen years of parenthood has taught me that I can utterly debase myself and still live to see another day...or another insipid, grating movie... the Chipmunks movies- and yes- I have seen the first three multiple times each- truly strain my ability to cope. Excessive exposure to high pitched voices caused me to have some sort of a toxic physical reaction during the musical finale of the second movie. I made it through my theater viewing of the third film only through strategic napping.

Confronted with several requests from my sons to see "The Road Chip," I gave some serious consideration to hiring a sitter to go with them. But sadly, when I factor in the cost of tickets and popcorn, in addition to paying a sitter, the economics of the situation just didn't seem viable.  Mostly, I have just been employing evasion and distraction, hoping that the movie will have left the theaters before we manage to see it. Then we will have to watch it later at home, but at least I can flee the room when it becomes too much.

Over this last weekend, we managed to deflect the boys onto watching Star Wars movies at home instead. (Not that their father would ever see a Chipmunk movie in a Music Together classes, that is truly a bridge too far for him)

Nonetheless, while I would rather watch "Return of the Jedi" several times in place of surviving any single Chipmunk movie, I cannot say that I regard the Ewok portions of "Jedi" with anything approaching enthusiasm.  I appreciate my sons'  affection for Ewoks, and I do not mind drawing "Endorians," but for me, Ewoks are merely further along on the spectrum of insipid furry annoyance that includes Alvin, Simon and Theo.

This image probably documents my barely veiled hostility. Since Star Wars cognoscenti know that Ewoks are potentially deadly carnivores, I'm thinking that things might not look so good for tasty little morsel Alvin.  Size matters not, unless you are a much smaller furry thing.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What do Jar Jar Binks and Donald Trump Have in Common?

Could idiocy mask an evil master plan?

Our kids are sadly not particularly politically informed. (I will admit my guilt here, although I am still working on conveying some basic concepts like their excruciatingly over privileged status as well fed and educated, white male Americans)

But despite their lack of interest in politics, they have somehow acquired a violent dislike of Donald Trump. While my feelings about the man who I still think of as "The Donald" are definitely not positive, we have done our best to ignore his recent ridiculous antics, so my sons' loathing of the man did not come from anything I or their father have said. Their hatred of Trump is total and visceral, yet does not seem tied to any political positions he holds, anything specific that he has done, or statements that he has made.

The only other individual who might be equally reviled by my sons is, of course, Jar Jar Binks.

We watched "Revenge of the Sith" last night. And while it was more tiresome than I remembered, the movie reminded me of the fanboy theory that Lucas had originally intended for Jar Jar to be revealed at the end as the top Sith Lord- the ultimate bad guy. Some hypothesized that Jar Jar's dimwitted behavior in the first two prequels was supposed to be a diversion from his evil machinations, but that the fans' violent hatred of the character prompted Lucas to lose his nerve and change the ending.

It is appealing to think that there was a reason for the Jar Jar character to be so very annoying, but I fear the theory does not seem very likely to me.

It is not so appealing to consider that Mr. Trump is intentionally deflecting our attention from serious issues with his annoying and idiotic statements...and it seems extremely likely that is an accurate description of the situation.

My younger son was frantically concerned that I not post this image because someone might mistake it for support of Mr. Trump's campaign. He made me pledge that I would add: "Jar Jar and Donald Trump: Separated at Birth?" just in case anyone might be confused.

Or perhaps "Trump/Binks 2016" ?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Han Solo and Palpatine's Boots

"....And I thought they smelled bad on the outside"

The recent Star Wars movie prompted the kids to get out the bin full of their old Star Wars toys.  We somehow acquired a great many action figures, way back, seven, eight, or even nine years ago, when we had the first intense infection of enthusiasm for the Expanded Universe.

In those former days of parental optimism, we were withholding the movies because they were too violent, (swords and guns!) This all makes me laugh now. We waited until the older kid was 5 1/2 before we let them see the original movie. Of course, the younger kid was 1 1/2 at the time, and was not excluded from the viewing, so you can see how patently ridiculous the situation was.

But looking at the large collection of Star Wars toys now, I can only conjecture that they were purchased in compensation for the absence of the movies. I am guessing, however, as I don't actually remember buying any of them. I'm afraid that I was not getting enough sleep back then to form permanent memories. They can't all have been delivered as gifts.

But we seem to have an astonishing amount of action figures and a good many are headless, legless, or naked. (Poor Leila and Luke)

And some are in bizarre configurations. Like the 5" Han Solo stuffed into one of the 12" Palpatine boots. I discovered later that Han is missing his head and forearms- thus his uncanny ability to fit inside footwear.

I'm not sure why this seemed like a good idea for a napkin. My younger son tells me that it would be funnier if Palpatine were  yelling, "Get out of my boot!"

Our collection of Star Wars debris