Monday, November 3, 2014

Sweet like potatoes and molasses - Thoughts on "Over the Garden Wall"

On Saturday night I dropped ten bucks on iTunes for a series I have never seen and that hasn't even technically aired yet.  I watched the first episode, briefly thought of saving the rest for the next morning to enjoy over a cup of Pumpkin Spice coffee, and by Midnight I'd already ditched that plan and watched the whole thing.  And wanted to watch it again immediately.  And write this review telling everyone I know (and whoever I don't know who stumbles upon this here blog of mine; welcome, please stand clear of the doors and enjoy the ride) about how awesome the series is and how they should watch it, even though I was rendered pretty speechless and had to sleep on it, with the incredible songs and dreamy Jack Jones narration running through my brain all night.

Quick tangent, but it's an important one: We live in an incredible time for fans of animation.  Thus far in 2014, three of the best television series I've been watching are all animated ("Adventure Time", "Steven Universe", and "Gravity Falls".)  Lest we forget, "Legend of Korra" makes a fourth television series - if it were on TV but let's not even go there.  So far "South Park" has been very good, and there has been a host of great shows from previous years I missed out on but have been able to catch up with on Netflix instant ("Young Justice"!!!)  And so now we live in a world where Cartoon Network can air a five-night animated miniseries.

If Patrick McHale's animated miniseries (and again, how awesome is it that I live in a world where I can type that!) "Over the Garden Wall" isn't the best animated series I'll see in 2014, it will at least have been one of the most fascinating.  And if you don't want to read me gush about how wonderful the series is and what it *feels* like, just know that "Over the Garden Wall" is awesome, and you need to DVR it immediately.

It's rare that we get to see anything that feels so much like a glimpse into it's creators' brains in live-action, never mind a well-promoted animated miniseries on a popular cable network directed primarily at young folks.  And yet here's a weird, slightly spooky fable about what it is to be lost children in an overwhelming world that looks like it was dug right out of Maurice Sendak and Max Fleischer's long lost files.  It's a strange, forgotten, but lavishly illustrated turn of the century storybook set to fantastic music.  I can see how this story could have been told as a feature film, but the miniseries format helps it tremendously.  It allows the writers the freedom to follow the rambling, surreal tangents of traditional folktales.  The characters really only have one goal: finding their way back home, so why not get lost in the weird corners of imagination along the way?

Addendum: A quick look around the Internet reveals a minor controversy about "Over the Garden Wall": is it "too scary"?  My feeling is, if your kid freaks out at the monsters in "My Little Pony", this is definitely a no-go.  If your kid coasted through the Lich episodes of "Adventure Time", they should be fine.  Honestly, the creepiest thing about "Over the Garden Wall" is (spoilertime) this is the one animated series I'm aware of where the crazy "Ash is in a coma!" "Finn is dying and dreaming this whole thing!" people are right!

So yeah, "Over the Garden Wall".  It's outstanding.  You should watch it.  Then download the soundtrack and join me in a rousing rendition of the Highwayman's Song.

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Sketch of the Day!

It's a small throw-away joke, but you have to love Greg's unique theory, RE: dinosaur soft tissue. (With apologies to Brian Engh.)

11.2.14 - "That's a Rock Fact!"

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November is Draw Dinovember!

11.1.14 - Albertonykus' Skull

I may have missed Inktober, but I'll be darned if I miss Dinovember; a plan that I just made up to draw a dinosaur every day in November (unrelated to this Dinovember).

Here's Skull from Albertonykus' "Raptormaniacs" as a sugar skull for Day of the Dead, rendered in ink, marker, and glitter pens.

Addendum: At the suggestion of the always-awesome Brynn Metheney, this will now be known as Draw Dinovember to relieve confusion with the original Dinovember. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tentative Studio Ghibli Marathon Schedule!

I say "hopefully" because of the following things:

1) It has been an incredibly busy year for me.  I'm trying to get back in the regular blogging saddle and I secretly hope that getting behind the wheel of a movie marathon will get me back in the habit.

2) It looks like every other Studio Ghibli fan has the same idea.  I'm acquiring the films I do not own via Netflix and they almost across the board have long waits.  The order of reviews may be based on when they arrive more than chronological order.

So with that in mind, let's make a list/tentative schedule!

* - "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" - 1984 (Technically from Topcraft, but I'd be remiss if I didn't revisit it here.)

* - "Laputa, Castle in the Sky" - 1986

* - "Grave of the Fireflies" and "My Neighbor Totoro" - 1988 (I plan on doing these as a double-feature. Oh boy...)

* - "Kiki's Delivery Service" - 1989

* - "Only Yesterday" - 1991 (Does not appear to be available but I have seen it and could do a short summary from memory if it comes to that.)

* - "Porco Rosso" - 1992

* - "Ocean Waves" - 1993 (Does not appear to be available in America.)

* - "Pom Poko!" - 1994

* - "Whisper of the Heart" - 1995

* - "Princess Mononoke" - 1997

* - "My Neighbors the Yamadas" - 1999

* - "Spirited Away" - 2001

* - "The Cat Returns" - 2002

* - "Howl's Moving Castle" - 2004

* - "Tales from Earthsea" - 2006

* - "Ponyo On a Cliff By The Sea" - 2008

* - "The Borrower Arrietty" - 2010

* - "Ni no Kuni, Wrath of the White Witch" - 2011 (Review will be based on a Let's Play as we never got the Nintendo version in America.)

* - "From Up on Poppy Hill" - 2011

* -  "The Wind Rises" - 2013 (I confidently expect this to be released on DVD in America any decade now.)

* - "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" - 2013

* - "When Marnie Was There" - 2014

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More Animation Marathons

* - The Chronological Disney Animated Canon

* - Don Bluth Month

* - Dreamworks' "Tradigitals"

* - The Short Animation Blogathon

* - My Summer of Sequels

* - Random 90's Animation

* - The Princess Project

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Moderately-Sized Year

It was New Year's Day when it occurred to me, looking at my friend's bird feeder and the birds visiting it, that I'd never maintained a list of all the birds I've seen in one year.

And that, simply enough, is how I started what I came to half-jokingly refer to as my Moderately-Sized (as opposed to Big) Year.  I happened to have an App on my phone that allowed me to make a checklist of birds and I just started right there, over breakfast.  First bird of the year was a Song Sparrow.  I just recently hit bird number 151, an Eastern Wood-Peewee, so I feel like I ought to write something about all this.

First, here are my rules:

1) The bird must be listed in the Peterson Birds Pocket Edition iPhone App.

2) The bird must be alive. 

Corollary to Rule 2: If I check off the name of a stuffed specimen, it best be an extinct/nearly extinct species (some of which are listed in the PBPE because why not?  If you're wondering, this hasn't come up yet.)

3) I must either see the bird or hear it. 

Corollary to Rule 3:  The "Red-Eyed Vireo Corollary".  I am allowed to check an unseen-but-heard bird off my list as long as I or a companion can I.D. the call with reasonable accuracy.

I picked a heck of a year to start doing this.  I've been traveling quite a lot, mostly for family events.  This has, as you may have noticed, kept me off the Internet but has kept me in nature.  The world is more alive when you pay especial attention to the birds.

Now, a few thoughts on the Peterson Birds Pocket Edition App: It's... okay.  At this point I'm using it as a checklist mostly.  It's convenient more than anything else, and is not at all a replacement for a good dead tree edition field guide, especially if you're a beginner.  Being able to listen to recordings of the birds is kind of nice, but the Audubon Nature Guide apps are far better, as they have a wider variety of sounds.

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Sketch of the Unspecific Length of Time! I'm going to go ahead and say that this Bald Eagle was a highlight.

6.17.14 - Eagle!!!

6.17.14 - Eagle!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maine Wildlife Park Sketches

Took another trip to my favorite-ever place to sketch live animals.  This time, I seem to have focused on owls...


8.21.14 - Maine Wildlife Park Sketches

8.21.14 - Maine Wildlife Park Sketches

8.21.14 - Maine Wildlife Park Sketches

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Introducing the Total Media Bridge Podcast!

Great Scott, it's alarming how easy it is to get out of the blogging habit isn't it?  Let's not dwell on that (as much as my guilty conscience would like to) and instead focus on one of the most awesome things I got to do over this busy summer:

The Total Media Bridge Podcast's Awkward First Episode!

In which Kevin Johnson of the excellent Total Media Bridge and I battle audio problems while discussing the roots of the Disney Afternoon, the Nostalgia Filter is strong with this one "The Wuzzles" and the better than it has any right to be "The Gummi Bears".  We talk about what went right, what went wrong, the adorable reality subtext of "Little Bears Lost", the issue of Hoppopotamus fat-shaming, and I do my (awful) Michael Eisner impression!  Click the link above to enjoy, and head over to TMB for the show notes.

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Sketch of the Unspecific Length of Time!

1.23.14 - Dinosaur Wuzzles!?!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pemaquid Point and Eastern Egg Rock Studies

We spent a few days on the Maine Midcoast recently, and I carved out some time to do these landscapes and sketches. All of these are watercolor on recycled watercolor Sketchbook paper. Head over to Flickr to see the bigger versions.

6.25.14 Pemaquid Point

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

6.25.14 Pemaquid Point

I feel like, with it's lighthouse overlooking a sea as angry as an old man trying to send back soup in a diner, it's "locals only" art gallery and quirky-as-all-get-out gift shop, Pemaquid Point is Maine as imagined by people who do not live in it.

6.25.14 New Harbor

Still, I'm also a sucker for an iconic rocky coast dotted with little islands, like this one in nearby New Harbor.

6.25.14 New Harbor

I was also taken by the surreal world just underneath the piers.

But seabirds are what we came to see. So here are the residents of Eastern Egg Rock including the iconic Puffins and a swimming Bald Eagle:

6.25.14 Eastern Egg Rock

6.25.14 Eastern Egg Rock

I'd highly recommend Hardy Boat Cruises' Puffin Safari.  The sea is rough, but the journey to and from the island is quick and the field biologist hosts, many of whom were directly involved in the ongoing Puffin and Arctic Tern conservation project, are informative and entertaining.