Monday, January 21, 2019

Squirrel (And Meme) Appreciation Day

January 21st is in fact “Squirrel Appreciation Day 2019”

But, why on earth Bob Ross? you are thinking.

Well, Mr Ross had a rather well documented pet squirrel named Peapod.
And Bob Ross is a meme unto himself...or maybe even a cavalcade of memes and merchandising.

At some point during the last year or so, I started to wonder why my kids knew who Boss Ross is. He was off the air years before I had even made the acquaintance of their father. 

Then we went to a couple comic cons...and by god, there was Bob Ross stuff at the cons...maybe not everywhere...but in several locations. It became clear to me later that Mr Ross became a sensation on Twitch- that’s a platform for streaming live video game play. His reruns were watched by millions. And he’s on Netflix. And you can buy a waffle iron that makes waffles in the shape of his head including his hair of course. 

I can’t claim to understand Bob Ross’s memeability (there’s a word autocorrect does not appreciate)

Squirrels do lend themselves to memes. I scrolled through a good many this morning g while thinking about “squirrel appreciation day.”

My favorite might have been a “squirrel feeder” in the shape of the Archie McFee wearable “creepy horse head,” that presents the opportunity for the eating squirrel to appear to be wearing the head. 

If only there were one in the shape of Bob Ross’s head.

It would be a “Happy Accident” for sure.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ten Year Challenge...Or Not.

#TenYearChallenge ...... Or Not.

(Continuing the “trying to appreciate memes” series)

The 10 Year Challenge is perhaps not one of my kids’ favorites within the meme topic, but we did have some conversation about what could we do for our version.

To be clear, this is not an “our” version. This is the embarrassing, “I have a weird mom” version.

The #10yearchallenge topic did prompt me to look back through my early 2009 photos. And I can’t actually believe that we all survived life with me as the caretaker of two little kids (there’s that super cute photo where the four year old is bashing the wall with homemade nunchucks, while simultaneously the baby is trying to throw himself off the bed headfirst....and....I was taking a picture?)

I also notice that the kids for the most part look so strangely happy. They are smiling unselfconsciously at the camera as often as not. And clearly, I was willing to take their picture when they were damaging property, trying to take a header off a high place, or just plain hysterical. 

I might have clearer memories of the straight 10 1/2 hours of screaming...or the afternoons of the repeated mantra: “Mommy I will poke you with a sharp stick!” 

But they appear sort of happy, those little kids.

Now that they are adolescents...the camera rarely captures unselfconscious joy. 

I can’t help but share the suspicion that the whole 10 year thing is a massive data mining for face recognition and age progression algorithms. And I generally try to avoid posting my kids’ faces now that they are older...

So the lack of adolescent full frontal happy face is perhaps fortuitous.

I considered drawing a joyful two year old beside a withdrawn twelve year old in standard 10 Year Challenge format, but in the end that was just too boring.

Here we have the angsty and hoodie-obscured elder toting the former happy toddler’s head in place of his heavy school satchel (the toddler face is surely beyond face recognition software’s domain of interest anyway)

As always, my apologies to all involved. 
But hey, you were a super cute kid (still are, but don’t believe me)

Is Big Chungus the Meme We Deserve?

Another misguided attempt at meme appreciation

During the winter break, the term “Big Chungus” crept uninvited into my consciousness. My sons were frequently joking about it while online. The younger son labeled one of his friends “Big Chungus” in the contacts list on his phone. I found the term somehow repellent, and my kids seemed to find it compelling, perhaps for the same reason.

When I asked what was a “Big Chungus,” I was directed to an online picture of a fat Bugs Bunny. This image, as it turns out, hails directly from a 1941 short involving Elmer Fudd, “Wabbit Trouble.”

My sons were unable to explain what was so particularly wonderful about this combination of image and name. 

And apparently it was not just popular at our house, but worldwide. Check out the entry if you doubt my report. Though that article traces the origin of the term on 4chan and its connection to the Bugs image on reddit, dankmemes and then spread into hundreds of iterations at the end of 2018, I remain unclear on the why of the story.

While the meme’s heyday has passed, I noticed Big Chungus was name-checked in an article in The NY Times magazine this weekend about Trump’s use of memes (“Brain Candy” by Willy Staley) 

I thought I should try to draw something about the Big Chungus meme since I had such an aversion to it. The Urban Dictionary reports: “it is said to mean anything and everything, including but not limited to a chunky anus.”  

Perhaps my aversion is not unjustified.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to (poorly) draw a fat rabbit? I put him on a Walmart style motorized scooter for the mobility-challenged for extra fun. As it turned out, I did not really want to draw a supermarket. All those boxes. Too much trouble to render on a napkin.

My younger son tells me that the rabbit doesn’t look like Bug Bunny, and that I have totally missed the whole point. 

But maybe, at this point, my missing of the point is the point.

Do Memes Stimulate Cortisol or Oxytocin?

Do Memes Stimulate Cortisol or Oxytocin?

The main point of the years of drawing on napkins has always been to give me an extra incentive to understand and appreciate my sons’ interests... particularly when my first (and second, and maybe third) impulse might be to dismiss a show, game or character as annoying and not worth my time. 

I have learned much over the last 15 years about things like comics, legos, superheroes, and video games. And there is always something new to push the taste envelope a little further.  

Here I am arriving belatedly at my point: I am going to try to improve my appreciation of memes.

Those idiotic videos and gifs with loads of sexually and politically incorrect tidbits that can be endlessly scrolled when one is supposed to be doing homework, wiping one’s backside, or listening to one’s mother lecture about how endless scrolling of Instagram is both counterproductive and, yes, unhealthy!

I am starting with “Relax by Petting Your Dog” a YouTube bit by Shawn Anderson.  Shawn casually talks about how petting a dog lowers one’s cortisol, raises oxytocin and increases human lifespan...while his unhinged chihuahua frantically gnaws on his fingers as he attempts to pet the yapping, clearly very high cortisol pet. 

This video is perhaps a bit “too on the nose” here. We often discuss the idea of getting a dog to decrease the stress of certain household members. (And increase that of others no doubt)

And because I have at least temporarily communicated my linguistic weirdness to my kids, we often use the word “oxytocin” (ie, instead of “I need a hug”- “I need oxytocin.”)

The word “meme” was originally coined by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist. He described a genetic model to explain how memes develop and are dispersed. In this scenario, humans are just carriers and transmitters. The “fittest” memes are the ones that last and proliferate. 

I’m afraid my selection of memes for napkins will definitely not be the fittest or most liked. I suppose they will have to possess some personal, or family, relevance...and be something that I want to draw.

But we welcome and encourage extra familial suggestions! 
I need all the help I can get.

Looking Belatedly Back at 2018

(Apparently it was a year of bright colors and clumsy drawing for me.)

Assembled here are four of the favorite characters of the past 12 months. 

In brief summary, from left to right: Cat Noir from “Miraculous,” the Plague Doctor skin from Fortnite, Jotaro Kujo and his strange side kick, or avatar, or something, Star Platinum, from “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.”

One of us has been on a many seasons long “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” binge.  I finally watched the first two episodes of the anime series after repeated requests...and well, I hear season three and four are wonderful, but I am not certain that I can motivate myself to watch the third episode of the first season, so I am not sure how I will make it there. Thus, I can’t really explain Jotaro’s relationship to the big purple guy. 

There’s definitely an aesthetic there for which I have not developed an appropriate appreciation as of yet.

And one of us might have watched some of “Miraculous” in 2018. Not naming names of course. 

And there was definitely a lot of Fortnite. I threatened to play, even created an account...but so far have been too busy doing stuff like knitting things no one will wear, and making bad drawings, to actually get started. 

My experiences in Minecraft....where I would just pathetically fall into a hole and then not be able to climb out- (and that was in a situation where no one was trying to kill me!)....indicate Fortnite would present a steep learning curve for me. 

But, even if I can’t play a game or learn to love anime,  I promise I will at least work on my drawing in 2019.

Two Very Good Boys

My attempt at a year-end portrait of the very important family members of some close friends. And these two boys are both, in fact, very pleasant individuals.

As always, high expectations and respectful renderings are not a recipe for better drawing on my part: that usually only happens occasionally, by accident, when I don’t care and/or am not paying attention.

But, despite an actual profession history as a sculptor of babies, I do always have better luck with drawing dogs. 

Does this reveal something? 
....Well, I can freely admit that any small person, particularly one of the infant variety, brings a whiff of PTSD to my subconscious. 

I was a member of the compulsive overachiever club until the birth of our first son, when I found it almost impossible to insure the basic mechanics of preserving life: eating and sleeping.  (My waste management skills were also subpar, but best not to dwell on that now) 

Our infant son appeared dangerously uninterested in nourishment, and was only compelled to sleep when he was supposed to be eating.  Whenever not sleep/not-eating, he resembled a human air raid alarm, going off at high volume for hours at a time. Some helpful medical professional told me that he was a “happy to starve baby” who would just waste to away to expiration unless extra measures were taken. In my previous life as an academic and professional overachiever, extra measures were my specialty. But parenting is a venue where -perhaps unsurprisingly to everyone who is not me- being extra well informed and trying extra hard are often very much not the solution. 

So perhaps every encounter with an infant reminds me of that low point in my early motherhood during which I actually paid a stranger a lot of money to write “I am doing a good job as a mom” on a scrap of paper for me to carry around. She also advised me in the workings of some tape, horrible rubber tubing and a pump, but again, that is best left undescribed here.

After this very maudlin tour through my parenting insecurities, I should conclude that the guardians of the two individuals pictured on this napkin are not in need of scraps of paper to tell them that they are doing a good job.