“Your national anthem is beautiful,” Lore said after watching a country music trio do the honors before game four. “But it is very easy to fuck up when the wrong person sings it.” She expects everyone to sing it the way Whitney Houston did.
I don’t drink much and never played drinking games (except that one time we played a Star Wars drinking game— the “drink every time Luke whines” rule alone will quickly get you hammered).
But here’s a Tim McCarver drinking game. Drink each time McCarver:
Proclaims a Universal Law of Baseball (attempts to use an inconsequential play or minor occurrence to reveal some larger truth about cause and effect in the sport). Drink again if that Universal Law of Baseball conflicts with a previous Universal Law of Baseball.
After gushing about a hot player and making him seem infallible, finally notes that player’s faults or weakness once it becomes self-evident. I admit this is as much a Joe Buck defect as a McCarver one.
Speaks when the television screen depicts an action upon which no words could possibly improve.
Holy cow. What a crazy baseball game, with the winning run scoring on an interference call. I’ve decided I’m not nuts about either team’s manager. They made a lot of moves I didn’t like tonight, many of which worked out for them just fine anyway. Baseball, being a game of probabilities, has a way of occasionally validating dumb decisions.
The weather’s been unusual enough this year that fall colors and the actual fall of leaves from the trees is late. This morning, though, after last night’s hard frost, it was literally raining leaves, at least if you were standing under the ashes and walnuts and a gingko tree at the park.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a comic strip cartoonist. Some characters that I still doodle from time to time have been with me in one form or another since I was a child. I don’t know of any extant cartoons from my childhood. I know my earliest work was Superbird, a superhero comic from perhaps as early as my pre-school years (I remember dictating the text to my dad, which he wrote under the pictures). Superbird was a typical alpha-male protagonist with small assistant named Cuckoo, and an evil-genius arch-nemesis pig. He also had a girlfriend who was always being tied up by the pig-villain. I had such a good grasp of superhero clichés that I even knew enough to draw large breasts on Superbird’s oft-distressed sweetheart. I sometimes still draw breasts and birds, but never together.
Superbird was my last superhero comic. I moved on to newpaper-style comic strips. And by newspaper-style I mean panel-bound pencil sequences on the backs of the scrap papers my dad brought home from work. I think I first ripped off Garfield when I was around seven years old with a cat strip called Zig Zag. But then I created a character called Phil the Lizard. Phil was also heavily influenced by Garfield, of which I was quite a fan. The latter-day version of Phil is depicted here. Now he is more of a chameleon.
In sixth grade I compiled my most extensive opus of cartoon drawings: Chickenland. Chickenland was great. It was not a strip, but a full page (8.5 by 11 inches). It was always divided horizontally into three sections: Chicken Heaven, Chicken Earth, and Chicken Hell. It had a pretty rich cast of characters. My favorites were The Chicken Devil and His Son Junior. Junior was an absolute idiot who tormented his father physically and emotionally with his bumbling. I produced perhaps fifty Chickenland episodes, but threw them away when I was in high school. I still regret that. The modern incarnation of The Chicken Devil and His Son Junior are shown here.
By high school (where I wrote a paper on the history of comic strips), I had abandoned sequential comics in favor of random cartoon doodling. I also learned how to draw “for real.” But while researching college programs and careers, I discovered that cartooning was a pretty lousy way to make a living. I lasted about a year as a visual arts major before I switched to the liberal arts. I kept my sketchbook, though. Even as I pursued my career as park ranger, I’d sometimes jot down ideas or scratch out thumbnail sketches. About ten years ago I even went so far as to produce about a dozen strips, intending to create a portfolio to send to a comic strip syndicate. I posted them on another website and then here in the blog.
But I am not a very disciplined artist. I don’t like to paint and I have little patience with ink. My best and most expressive work comes from my hasty and infrequent thumbnail sketches. I also can’t draw people, hoofed animals, or buildings very well. My people look more like semi-morphous blobs— cartooning taken to the extreme, though I can do a fair job with body language. The guy who draws The Oatmeal draws this way pretty effectively.
I recent years I’ve abandoned drawing in favor of writing, with some regrets. Below is a crude attempt at reproducing the spirit of Chickenland, using my wife’s Wacom tablet. The sixth grade version was never quite so gruesome or ironic. As you can see, I need practice with the tablet. I can control a pencil much, much better, but pencil drawings don’t lend themselves to digital scanning.
Here’s a fun book that may not be in your library, since it seems hard to get a hold of: All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals by John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, and Darren Naish.
In the brief introduction, the authors argue that the lack of soft tissue found along with skeletal fossils leads illustrators to depict the exteriors of animals as following closely along the bone structure. But, they note, the skeletons of living animals are “effectively invisible” because they are thickly surrounded by muscle, fat, hides, and hair or feathers.
The skeletons of modern birds– owls and parrots, for example– have long, slender neck skeletons, but overlying skin and thick feather coverings obscure these entirely.
So they present their artwork that follows anatomically faithful to the skeleton and then overlaid with speculation about the soft tissues and behavior (just how did male stegosaurus mount females for mating with all the back armor?). And, in a bit of professional self-criticism, the last section of the book includes drawings of living animals as if only partial skeleton fossils were known, showing just how far off our speculation about dinosaurs might be, illustrating two menacing dragon-like swans with their impossibly long necks spearing fish prey “with their long, scythe-like forelimbs.”
The light touch is what makes it an enjoyable, short book to peruse.
The World Series starts tomorrow. The American League Championship Series put me in the unwanted position of rooting for the Detroit Tigers, simply because they were playing the Boston Red Sox. I don’t care for these Tigers, they are out of shape and not athletic. One guy is actually obese. A lot those fat guys can hit, though. I watched Miguel Cabrera jog around third base in one game, ignore his third base coach’s signal to stop, and then get thrown out by ten feet at home plate. He didn’t even slide. But he’s a great hitter, so he’s basically a golfer.
With the Red Sox in the World Series, though, I’ll have no problem rooting for the Saint Louis Cardinals.
If I might engage in a little second-guessing of Jim Leyland…
In the eighth inning Leyland practically emptied the Tigers’ bullpen before bringing in his “closer,” Joaquin Benoit. I don’t quite understand his need to work his way through the pitching staff up to his to best reliever. In the playoffs, unlike in the regular season, you don’t need to save your pitchers. If Benoit can come in for a four-out save, why not a six out save? They have the day off tomorrow and they could be done for good very soon. I realize Benoit gave up the game tying run but a series of failures put him in a position where one bad pitch to the Red Sox’s best hitter would lose the lead. Why not just go to your best pitcher first?
Among its other ailments, Major League Baseball suffers from a preoccupation with roles rather than results. But the results are unavoidable.
I was in West Branch this morning to meet friends from work for lunch. It was a nice day so before I went home I walked up to the West Branch Municipal Cemetery, where President Hoover’s parents and other relatives are buried. I don’t think I had ever visited there before.
The Hoovers are in a little Hoover section where about a dozen family members are buried. They had never lived in Engraved in stone all around the cemetery are other familiar names from my reading of the town’s and the historic site’s history: Leech, Stratton, Fawcett, Rummells, Enlow. I don’t know why I was so surprised to see them there.
My crusty retired neighbor caught me on the way home. “I assume you are not working,” he said. When I confirmed he was sympathetic and went on a tirade about his disapproval of Congress and politics in general, adding, “Twenty-four years as a federal employee and thirteen as a state employee. I can take it without K-Y now.”
The shutdown is more like a conservative fantasy: environmental regulars and tax auditors are sent home while border guards and the people who spy on us are not. It amounts to an evasion of laws Congresses have already passed and the usual procedure of repealing unwanted laws. In other words, nothing more than a subversion of our democracy.