2.24.2010

I Don't Get ChatRoulette.

If you don't know what ChatRoulette is by now, you're probably going to agree with me here, because you're probably the type of person who just couldn't imagine why the thing is even remotely fun or useful. What was once a Reddit mainstay has become a playground for the MySpace set, and I just plain don't get it.

Okay, I "get" it, in terms of how it works. It's intuitive, and it does what it does pretty well. And I also understand why certain people would want to use it, much the same way I understand why certain people like the Greatful Dead or tapioca.

But I don't get why the hell anyone actually wants to do this. It seems akin to the modern version of those 1-900 or 976 dial-up party lines, where you spend far too much time hoping you get a hot chick, but 99 times out of 100, it's just a hairy or very young dude with his penis out under the desk hoping YOU'RE a hot chick. And if you DO get a hot chick, she bounces within two seconds.

And now, it's all over the news. And the main point of most, if not all, of mainstream media's coverage of the site is essentially "THERE'S A NEW INTERNET WEBSITE ON THE INTERNET THAT COULD LEAD TO EXPOSURE TO A PENIS OR VAGINA. HOW THIS WILL AFFECT YOUR WEEKEND, AT 11."

This is what happens when normal people get ahold of special things like the internet. It turns stupid.

I will say that I found this video that Jeremy sent me highly amusing, and it sums up 99.9% of the reason I won't spend much more than a second on any service even remotely like ChatRoulette:


2.23.2010

Noise

A thousand different instruments play in my head.

Occasionally - actually, rarely - I can get them all to begin coordinating with one another, and the sound that is produced slowly begins to take form. As the pieces begin playing in unison, the symphony becomes harmonic and the music is beautiful. My soul sings.

Most of the time, though, it's just noise. And if you've ever had to work around noise, you know just how frustrating and awful it is. It's like perpetually having a report due in first period english class, and your homeroom is located directly across the hall from the first year symphonic band's practice room. Screeching where there should be smooth saxophone; clashing where there should be a light roll on the cymbals... Chaos.

This is what's in my brain, all day, every day.

I don't talk about it much, because it really makes no difference to talk about it. It's like complaining about the rain... It's still raining, and your pithy dismissal of it doesn't make it stop falling. But sometimes it's hell to even produce a quick 300 word piece for this journal. For those of you who've been reading my crap for a long time, this is pretty much the reason you may have gone as much as a month without reading a new story on Mentally Incontinent -- sometimes, trying to bang out 4,000+ words was tantamount to climbing Everest.

That's what's been going on lately. I don't quite know why I feel like you should know, aside from the fact that I feel like I should tell you. But that's what's up, yo.

2.18.2010

Why You Should Not Just Eat, But Cook, Breakfast

It started as a sweet gesture for my wife one morning a month and a half ago.

I woke up nearly two hours before we usually get up ... One of those sudden, startling straight-from-sleep-to-awake moments. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I figured I'd get up and get a few things done. While I was doing dishes, I saw a skillet I'd used a few days before, and a small happy glimmer of a thought entered my mind: the look on my wife's face when I woke her with breakfast in bed.

So I set upon the task of preparing breakfast. And yeah, I'd made breakfast before that day - about once a month or so, and whenever we were on trips with a kitchenette in the hotel room. But for some reason that particular morning, something incredible happened. Not all at once, mind you: there was no flash of brilliance or sudden awareness that I'd stumbled onto a pretty amazing thing. But I did decide to do it again the next day, and the day after... And that's where I discovered the secret to getting my head screwed on right each and every morning. I cook breakfast.

Now, I've had breakfast as a steady part of my diet for a few years now. But it's been things like balance bars, or cereal, or a bagel. It got food into me first thing in the morning, and that's great - miles ahead of where I was when I was overweight and unhealthy (for reasons I outline below).

But it's only after I started getting up and cooking breakfast that I stumbled upon a beautiful secret that's made my daily life better by an order of magnitude - and that's not hyperbole, my life is literally improved by ten times. I work harder every day. I get much more done. I smile more. I'm overall much happier -  and I was pretty happy before I started cooking breakfast.

So, why?

1) First and foremost: it's freakin' yummy. Breakfast kicks ass. It doesn't matter if you're a ham-n-egger, a potato person, a sweet-tooth fanatic... There's something for every pallete in the breakfast family. And if it's not a published fact, it should be: eating something utterly delicious first thing in the morning will make your entire day better. In fact, I now go to bed almost eager to get up, craving whatever I have on the menu for the next morning.

2) It forces your brain to engage. Recipies - whether you follow them rigidly or use them as guides for your own creations - are essentially math you do with your hands. They require measurement, motor skills, and situational awareness. Too much salt? Taste ick poo. Not paying attention to the skillet? Smoke alarm goes off. Not paying attention to your movements? You could burn your hand.

You are rewarded in so many ways as you procedurally increase your patience, attention to detail and knowledge. On the pretty basic end of the scale, food won't burn, your house won't burn, and you won't burn. And the more attention you pay and concern you put into it, the better the food tastes, the prettier it looks, and the overall level of satisfaction of doing a good job on something first thing in the morning goes up.

3) Work begets work. Ever notice how it takes you forever to begin cleaning the house, but once you get started, the momentum kicks in and you get remarkably productive, and the next thing you know, the place is spotless? No? Well, you're rich enough to afford a housekeeper... Or, your mom's nice enough to keep cleaning your room. But the rest of us know this feeling, and it has been hitting me every single morning.

As lame as it is to turn off the alarm and get out of bed, once I get that breakfast machine rolling, I'm a productive force. I move from cooking to processing email to writing what needs to be written, designing what needs to be designed, and otherwise getting crap done. My house is cleaner the past month and a half than it's been in years, because I now clean a little every day instead of waiting until things are so bad I have no choice but to carve a path to the front door with the vaccum.

4) It's a dedicated time for you to focus on something for yourself. Trust me - I am not and have never been a "morning person," and if you need proof, just go back and look at the timestamps on my journal entries, stories on Mentally Incontinent, posts on Facebook and Twitter, or simply ask my wife. I stay up all night, and I HATE MORNINGS. But once I made the committment to getting up an hour earlier (or, rather, resigned myself to losing an hour of sleep in the morning), I found it practically enjoyable to stand down in my kitchen, working with my tools, making something delicious for my wife and I (or, sometimes, just me) to eat. And starting the day that way... How can it NOT make the rest of the day great?

5) It leads to extra time together with someone you care about - even if it's yourself. Outside of the actual act of cooking, you have time you have to set aside to eat the meal. On the days my wife goes into work, I fix up her breakfast, kiss her goodbye, and sit down with my laptop and go through email and RSS feeds and take my time enjoying my breakfast. On her days off, we spend upwards of two hours just conversing. Sure, we talk all the time. We're remarkably in-tune with each others' days and projects. But now, we actually converse over our breakfasts. Politics, world events, the Olympics, suggestions of books to read... Just idle, fun conversation.

6) It's healthy. Believe it or not, if you are like I was a few years back - skipping breakfast, focusing on lunch and dinner with some snacks here and there - the simple act of eating breakfast first thing every morning will result in weight loss. Yes, all by itself.

Now, before you accuse me of saying that sausage and bacon will make you lose weight, hear me out.

Your metabolism is a tricky thing. When it's going and maintained regularly through proper diet (which, by the way, has just as much to do with WHEN you eat as WHAT you eat), you burn more fat on a 24 hour basis than when it's stagnated and processing in bursts. Assuming an 8 hour sleep cycle and a 6:00 PM dinner, if you skip breakfast and wait for lunch at noon... You're going 18 hours without food, then processing two large (800+ calorie) meals within 6 hours of each other. Your body goes "HOLY CRAP FOOD! Store as much of it as you can, cause who knows if we'll eat again anytime soon?"

Additionally, the second you begin putting food in for the day, the metabolism "furnace" fires up. Doing this within an hour of waking up means that you're now churning calories roughly 14 hours instead of just 6-8. Now, if you want to take this one step further, break up your daily caloric intake across 6 meals, so that your body is only processing small chucks at a time instead of trying to plow through large masses of calories per meal. But that's a whole other topic. The basic fact is eating breakfast = a more active metabolism.

7) It's a great challenge (if you want it to be). But you shouldn't make it easy. You can make breakfast as simple or as complicated if you want. If you're a little more crunched for time, throw a few slices of bread into some whipped eggs with a little cinnamon and a touch of cream (or 2% milk if you're being healthy) and eat some french toast. If you want to really push the envelope, make mini quiches or work on a layered breakfast casserole. But to reap the benefits I've found (greater mental clarity starting much earlier in the day), don't just pour some cereal in a bowl and wolf it down, or butter a bagel. Involve the stove in some way. Introduce the need to pay attention.


If you find yourself saying "Yeah, but I don't have time!": Just like the gym, this is one of those things that rewards you in two ways once you carve out the time and make it happen: first, the actual act is a reward, because, like, yummy breakfast and stuff. But a side benefit is that you discover that you actually DO have the time, and you've just filled it with other things that actually waste time. You'll be amazed just how much more you'll be inclinded to carve out of your life to make room for more rewarding things (I fully believe I wouldn't have committed to this if I hadn't already discovered how much better setting aside gym time for myself has made my life).

If you find yourself saying "Yeah, but I don't know how to cook!": AllRecipies.com, Alton Brown, Reluctant Gourmet

Give it a try. Let me know how it works.

2.15.2010

What I Did For Valentine's Day

This being my first ever celebrated V-day, I was nervous. I didn't want to be cheesy, so I specifically avoided chocolate, jewelry, stuffed bears and roses.

But flowers are a requsite, and Andrea's favorite so the first gift was enrolling her in the "Orchid of the Month" club. This was the first one:




I then prepared a dinner of butternut squash risotto, rare-greens salad with homemade balsalmic vinegarette, and pork tenderloin scaloppini with pesto-chevrie fillng.

I know, awesome right? Well, the kicker was dessert.

Back in November, Andrea had a business trip to Savannah, and at dinner one night, she called to tell me that she had the best dessert ever - a sweet potato creme brûlée.

I asked if it was better than my homemade cinnamon rolls, voted by just about everyone to be the best thing they've ever eaten. And she rulctantly said "yes."

Ouch.

The very next day, I began researching and learning everything one could possibly need or want to know about making creme brûlée. I worked my butt off, perfecting the custard and tweaking the sweet potato layer. I practiced torching the sugar multiple times yesterday afternoon on ramekins filled with vanilla pudding to get it right (and I swear, I will puke if j so much as look at vanilla pudding for the next month).

I am pleased to tell you that yesterday, my custards with sweet potato base layer came out perfectly:




And her verdict:

She moaned when she took the first bite, and said it was undoubtedly the best dessert she's ever had. She added that she knew, the night she told me I'd been beaten, that it was only a matter of time before I made this for her.

I'm not okay with being second best, not even with desserts. And if it means practicing for four month to win my crown back, so be it.

2.14.2010

In Defense of Valentine's Day

So, long time readers of this blog (or those who braved the depths of the archives down there at the bottom of the page) probably know that I hate Valentine's Day.

But we are celebrating it this year. And believe it or not, it was my idea.

The end of 2009 brought with it the end of a LOT of things in my life, not the least of which being Mentally Incontinent, an 8 year project that culminated in two books and a ton of stress. Around December, a calvacade of events all merged and basically insisted on forcing Andrea and I to begin anew in 2010. And with that, it has been an amazing year so far.

A tremendous number of new outlooks came to me. I see the world much differently than I did before. And  a small part of that is seeing that Valentine's Day - while abused by many, many people to make up for being an inattentive jerk 364 days a year to their loved ones - doesn't HAVE to be just a day to make up for being inattentive to your loved ones 364 days out of the year. It can also simply be an excuse to go all out and do something you don't normally do.

Now, Andrea reads my blog, so I don't want to give anything away - but being my first ever Valentine's Day, I think I have a pretty good handle on what needs to happen. There are no corporate-made cards, no chocolates in a heart-shaped box, no teddy bears and no messages on candies.

There are, however, several hand-made expressions of my affection, be they writings, food or other construction. And I really, really hope they'll knock her socks off. I'm actually very nervous about it. Because I've made such a big deal out of hating this day for so long, I'm facing the dual anxieties of a) having gone back on a previously-held notion, and b) having never done this before.

So we'll see. But I thought you guys might get a kick out of the fact that I've finally come around and started doing this day.

2.13.2010

The Student And The Master

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, surfing the net and enjoying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when my phone rang. It was a local number, 404 area code - which meant it was likely a business trying to reach me about an order, or someone who got the wrong number. Either way, worth answering.

"Hello?" I said.

"Uh... Hello..." a young, bright, probably female voice said. It could have been just a really young boy, but who knows. "May I speak to Pat Mihiney?"

...Sigh. Kids these days. No one excels anymore... Reaching for the low hanging fruit. It's so disappointing. Still, it'd been a long, long time since I was pranked, and I relished the opportunity to play back.

"Yeah, hold on one second," I replied to the immediate sound of stammering. I held the phone away from my ear and mouth and yelled "PAT!" a few times. After about 45 seconds, I went back to the phone and said "He's not answering... What's this in regard to?"

"Uh... Um..."

"Oh MAN," I said, "Is this about that order? Man... Thank God I was the one who answered - listen, please make sure that the strippergram is wearing a ball-gag when he arrives. I know it'll be hard to hear the song, but it'd really make Pat's day. He's been really blue lately, if you know what I mean..."

"Uh... Wait, what?"

"And if that donkey I asked for isn't a pureblood donkey, I'm not tipping. You understand me? You guys sent me a burro last time - I won't want a damn burro. If I wanted a burro, I'd order a burro. I want a donkey - got it?"

They hung up.

My wife looked at me, knowing what just happened. "Prank?"

"Yeah," I said, immediately calling the number back. "Didn't even block caller ID." It rang twice, then went to voicemail. Someone named Mary, and very obviously much older. I left the following message:

"Hi Mary, I'm assuming your kids or younger cousins got ahold of your phone. Let them know that if they want to prank a person properly, the very first thing they need to do from now on is block Caller ID. It's star-seven-one. Have a good day."

Immediately, the phone rang back. I let it go to voicemail. It rang back a few times after that, and I asked Andrea if she'd like to speak to them. She opted out, and we agreed - it was best to just let it roll over to voicemail. My assumption was dead on: they were busted, and calling to apologize. The very last call resulted in the following voicemail:

*in the background* "Go on..."
"Mister, we're really sorry, and we won't bother you again... Uh... We were just goofing... Uh... Okay thank you..."
*in the background* "Say you're sorry..."
*foreground, but away from the phone* "I just did!"
*in the background* "Say it again!"
"Uh... We're sorry. Again."  *CLICK*


Oh, the things I have to teach this generation...

2.12.2010

Our Own Little Snowpocalypse

Of course, the entire country is blanketed in snow. In fact, today it was reported that all 50 states have some form of standing snow.  Here in Georgia, that pretty much means that the entire state is shut down. 

But boy, is it pretty:














And midway through the afternoon, my wife had a crisis due to lack of ice cream. So I ventured out - and found that drivers were actually somewhat decent. 




2.10.2010

Jury Duty - Day 3

10:10 AM:








- This was sitting in front of the entrance to the courthouse when I arrived this morning... On time.

Which of course made me late. Which of course led to the Late Guy Walk Of Shame down the two rows of on-time jurors lining the hallway to the courtroom.

As I walked toward the baliff, some smartass said "Three times in a row, what an asshole..." just loud enough for his buddies he just made this week to hear.

I had to shrug it off. Not only was I headed right for a baliff, and not only was the smartass half my size (meaning instant jail time if I so much as breathed on him, since no jury in the world - even one comprised of the morons surrounding me right now - would ever find in favor of the 6' 3", 260lb, heavily tattooed ex-football-playing MMA guy), but he did have a point.

I'd have probably said the same sort of thing... You know, if I was on time every day and actually made buddies while I was here.

That's really the most striking part of this experience for me. Usually, I'd make conversation with friendly people while waiting around as lawyers and judges jerk us around. But this week, I just want to keep to myself and GTFO.

Im a joy to experience right now.


11:37 AM:

So the smartass is all pissy with me for being 5 minutes late to the joy of sitting outside this goddamn courtroom for hours while jack shit takes place.

I do not understand how the lawyers couldn't just vet at least half of us based on the damn questionnaire, or why they couldn't call us to come in when it's our turn to talk to the lawyers about why we are awful at rendering judgement on this case. The inability to get anything done is the worst part. Being charged by a judge to sit idle is basically being imprisoned, as far as I'm concerned.

To top it off, I have the southern suburban version of The View sitting across from me:






Four older housewives jawing about how miserable life is every day... One woman seriously just confessed to faking depression with her doctor to get Zanax to spike her husband's food with so he isn't so grumpy.

Seriously. She said this aloud, in a damn courthouse. And the sad thing is, none of the other ladies were appalled - they actually laughed and said they should try it.


12:40PM:

They call all of us into the courtroom, announce that they've picked their 14 (12 + 2 alternates), and proceed to call out  names. Based on the things I heard out of the mouths of the people they picked, they couldn't have picked 14 dumber, more inept people if they actually did DNA testing for markers of stupidity and laziness.

They told those of us not selected that we're good for the next 3 years and bid us adieu. We went downstairs to the jury room to check ourselves out, and boom: lights off and a "back at 2:00pm" sign.

Could they possibly fuck with us any more?

I just took off. I'll call in my goodbyes. I can't be there anymore. This experience has been such a clusterfuck that I'm probably never going to watch another show depicting a courtroom ever again (I'll miss you, Dexter).

And just to clarify - I don't hate that I was called upon to fulfill a civic duty, or that I was called away from things I needed / wanted / would rather be doing. I hate that the system is so fucking stupid about how it manages everyone's time. I can't help but see the cracks in the foundation - they could easily have us fill out our questionnaires and check in online (or, even in person Monday morning and digitize the answers). Then, they could let us take off and just call us when they need us. The attorneys could read from the pool of jurors that week and make an open casting of 60 (or better, 30) and call those folks in - OR, create yet another online form for them to fill out, saving everyone in the world a ton of time and taxpayers a ton of money.

But no. It makes more sense to have 300 people congregate in a room with plastic chairs, watch Fox News, and wait to be called, only to be told to wait even more, only THEN to be told "thanks, but we don't need you - and since we never even questioned you, we probably knew that from day one. But fuck you, we're the court, and even though you pay our salaries, we can still put our gavel right up your butt anytime we want. Have a nice rest of your broken-ass week."

I'm just glad it's over.

2.09.2010

Jury Duty - Day 2

9:35 AM:

Rough morning. I had both a cat and a dog get sick on me this morning, both due to eating a new cat food this morning (only one of which was SUPPOSED to eat it).

The cat chose to eject the food out the front end all over my sink, which required cleaning before I could brush my teeth or shave. The dog, however, ejected out the back end on my shoes - a fact I didn't realize until I picked one up to put it on. And I know it was the dog because of the evidence trail leading to his doggie bed, where he was laying.

So I showed up late to the judge's courtroom, where we are all now waiting to go in and find out if the lawyers actually had time to photocopy and read the stupid questionnaires that SOME OF US spent two goddamn hours filling out over our lunch breaks.

And oh, the looks I got when I showed up. Let's just say the baliff made sure everyone knows my name.

And now, as I sit here tryin to write this on my phone, a lady in my left and a guy on my right are taking turns trying to get to know me.

I didn't come here to make friends... Especially with some guy who smells like construction and a lady who keeps calling this thing an "a-i-phone" like its operating system is a HAL-9000.

Not kidding. Every single time she addresses the device she says "a-i-phone."

You know how I talked about losing my interest in MMA, not having the fire to hurt people anymore? Yeah, I may have spoke too soon.


11:35 AM:

...And now that I know the mentality and opinions of 12 strangers, lunch. Only 48 more of us to vet when we get back.

I. Hate. This.


3:50 PM:

Nearing the end of day two. Out of 60 jurors, 24 have been questioned. This shit is going to take all fucking week, and will likely end with me having sat on hard wood benches for a week for no good reason.

Oh, and one of the lawyers totally looks like Halle Berry. So at least there's that.



2.08.2010

Jury Duty, Day 1

8:30 AM:

I'll be updating this post all day, because I'm sure that I'm going to have plenty of time to do so. And so far, today's been a real treat.

I discovered the hard way that Egg Beaters and half & half, while sharing similar carton shapes, taste radically different when added to coffee.

I left the house late.

My wife was in a fender bender (she and the car are mostly fine - one minor bruise on each), and neither of us have paid up our tags.

I arrive and am sent through the metal detectors and back to my car two separate times - once for a keychain multi-tool with no knife on it, and once for my actual multitool in my laptop bag.

I get to the check-in window, where I discovered, after arriving nearly 20 minutes late, that I left my picture ID in my wallet, which was left next to the coffee/egg dribble stain on my desk, which is where I was looking up all our information for Andrea to give the police dude on the scene of her fender bender.

And now I'm in the jury assembly room, where Fox News is blaring from four televisions at high volume, and headphones are forbidden (since they may have to call your name to go fulfill your civic duty to judge your fellow man). And this talking head on this stupid morning show is billowing all sorts of shit that sounds remarkably like "Everything in the world is Obama's fault, especially shit that happened before he took office - always remember that, since facts are merely what we've convinced you to remember."

I want to puke.


*****

8:55 AM:


The best part about being sworn in and told how jury duty works is that they have to turn off Fox News to do it.

I also love that they have wifi here, and that they've allowed just about every other instant messaging service except AIM. My guess is that whoever does IT support for the court system here is a big fan of Google Talk.

They're talking about lunch and breaks. I'm fortunate in that I live about 10 minutes from the courthouse, so I can get back to the house and let the dogs out and fix myself a delicious sandwich, because the food near here is complete garbage. Unless of course you LIKE Long John Silvers, in which case, let's never have lunch. Ever.


9:45 AM:

We just watched a video entitled "Jury Duty And You." Actually, that might not have been the title, but it might as well have been. It was very obviously produced in the 80's and contained all of the near-crayola-colored clothing and feathered hair that an 80's production requires to be held in good standing as a relic.

When I'm in my office working, I never really get the urge to goof around. I get stuff done, and I enjoy the pace I work at. But sitting here in this jury room, all I can think about is my Xbox 360.

I want very badly to be home on my couch playing my Xbox 360. I've been playing it a bit more in recent weeks, thanks to Mass Effect 2. Before Mass Effect 2, I played it probably twice in three months, both of those times to prove my superiority in Tekken 6 to idiots who think they could beat me in Tekken 6. But Mass Effect 2 has made me appreciate my Xbox 360 again.

And right now, I think it feels neglected being left there at home all alone. It thinks I hate it. And I don't; I love my Xbox 360 very very much. And I can't show it because I'm here sitting amongst the other residents of my county, listening to Fox News with one ear (because I need at least one hand to type, and my fingers on my left hand won't stretch far enough apart to plug both ears).

I love you, Xbox 360.


11:10 AM:

The first jury pool was called. The clerk actually called for someone named - and I'm not making this up - "Ghana Rhea." I know the spelling because she spelled the name aloud "so she wouldn't mispronounce it." I think she actually spelled it because she didn't want to pronounce it correctly.


11:30 AM:

I'm called into a jury pool of 60. I was only a minute away from going on an hour and a half lunch. Instead, I sit in a courtroom and listen to the basics of a case that requires a 25 page questionnaire to be filled out. Obviously I can't talk about the case, that's no good. But I can tell you that I was blown away at just how long it could take some people to fill out a damn questionnaire. I had mine done in about 20 minutes, and we were forced to sit there until every single person turn theirs in.

Jury duty is a frightening prospect, if only for the fact that I'm discovering who might be called upon to judge me one day.

Anyway, we get dismissed at 2:00 PM and are told to return at 2:30 PM - cutting my hour and a half break to a thirty minute dash to my house for a sandwich (because, as I told you before, I'm NOT eating Long John Silvers).

I end up returning late, along with two others who also apparently had issues parking due to the fact that there was no less than six cars taking up two to three spots each - YES, two to three spots. Each. You'd think that, since this is pretty much cop central, a few of them might see this shit going on in the parking lot and issue a citation or 30. Or better yet, enact a little bit of police brutality that I, for one, would turn a blind eye toward.

We all pile into the room to be told by the judge that, due to an oversight in something I'm not going to get into because it's borderline contempt of court to actually write the words I was thinking right then, the lawyers hadn't read the 60 twenty-five page questionnaires. We were free to go, and we have to return tomorrow morning.

THIS IS WHY CELL PHONES WERE INVENTED, for fuck's sake.

And just as I'm leaving, I'm asked to return to the jury room to show them the photo ID I didn't show them initially, which then resulted in a fifteen minute wait for someone to show the hell up so I could get the hell out.

Civic duty be damned. This is not even barely enjoyable, and I cannot wait until it's over.

2.07.2010

Same Blog, New Address

Due to the fact that Blogger is abandoning FTP-based hosting, we've moved my blog over to a new address, blog.joethepeacock.com. For those of you who have the old joethepeacock.com/journal.php link bookmarked, no fear - we've redirected it to the new address. RSS / Google Reader / Livejournal readers shouldn't feel a thing, as the RSS links are staying the same.

So essentially, the only thing that's changed is the address in the address bar, which no one ever pays attention to anymore thanks to Google and RSS.

Really, this is a contentless post. So here's a picture of Orrin Hatch playing the piano:


2.06.2010

My Days So Far

I just thought I'd let you all know that I ate cookies for lunch the past two days.

That's correct: for two days in a row, I've baked a sheet of cookies, and my wife and I ate them for lunch.

...Well she's sick, okay? And this is how you treat being sick. Cookies.

For lunch.



...Shut up. You're just jealous.

2.04.2010

Art of Akira Exhibit Gets Some Great Attention

So, my announcement and video for the Art of Akira Exhibit at ToonSeum has been getting some great attention! It was posted to Fark, Neatorama, MetaFilter and Museyon, a Museum gazette. The focus of the write-ups seems to be split between the fact that it's an inside look at the art and technical genius of Akira, and the method of fundraising on the web.

Either way, I'll take it.

This project has gone from a simple idea to a dream over the past five or so years, and it's so close now I can taste it. I was overjoyed when Joe Wos from ToonSeum signed on last year, after nearly 2 years of working to find the appropriate venue - and now here we are, a few months from launch.

This is a very big thing. Not just for me, and not just for fans of Akira - this is an incredible opportunity for me to pay tribute to some astounding artists who worked at the peak of their artistic levels to create something we will never see again. Not just in our lifetime, but ever. No studio will put eight-figure budgets together to hand-paint animation ever again, especially not at 24 frames per second across two hours - and even if they did, I highly doubt we'd ever see the level of technical detail, research and talent that went into Akira.

When I consider the idea that a young art or animation student could walk into this exhibit and see how it used to be done, and marvel at the level of detail and focus that each and every frame of animation had, I'm overjoyed. Everything is so rushed these days... Corners are cut, and no one puts in the extra effort on anything - only what must be done to bring things to fruition.

Anyway, it's on its way - and thank you to all of you who have been spreading the word. Please help me spread it further by passing along the Art of Akira Exhibit site!

2.03.2010

The Top 1 Reason You Shouldn't Flush Kitty Litter

So, my parents' cat died a few weeks ago. Yes, sad, I know. But as much as I liked Ms. Kitty, that's not the tragedy here. It's merely the precursor to that which is.

My parents, not wanting anything to go to waste, decided I needed very much to take home the auto-scooping cat box they bought for Ms. Kitty. I protested and insisted that the box doesn't really fit into the current dichotomy in our home - we are perfectly fine replacing the litter every 3 days, and the auto catbox thing requires clumping litter to work right. But they insisted, invoking the memory of their dearly departed cat.

So, I caved, and made the best of it by installing this automatic scooping cat box - along with a fucking cat water fountain I was also forced to take, I shit you not - in my office for Mofo, my office cat. Mofo is a bit standoffish, hence her name - so she lives alone in my office, separate from the other cats. And some weeks, I might go four or five days without cleaning her box, because after all, she's just one cat and she doesn't really stink so bad.

The auto scooping cat box has been fine all week, doing it's little job with nary a concern - until today, when the little bucket that holds the poos and pees got full, and the auto scooping cat box began whirring and whining and crying because it couldn't fit any more offal into the container, causing it to jam. So I took the little bin out and considered it.

I've never used scoopable cat litter before. Thus, I've never really considered the proper disposal of individual poos and pees - I've always just hauled out a litterbox liner full of waste litter and filled the box back up. But that's not how this automatic scooping catbox thing works. It works with clumping litter. Says so right on the warning label.

Because I was in a bit of a hurry to return to my work, I did the first thing one does when one considers what to do with poos and pees as they sit festering in a small bin in your hands - I dumped the whole lot into the toilet and flushed it.

Big, big, BIG mistake. With a capital F-U-C-K-I-N-G. You see, clumping cat litter clumps when wet.

I think you know the rest of the story from here.

Needless to say, I spent the next two and a half hours learning the fine arts of using a plumber's snake and removing a commode, and the reason they make and sell latex gloves. I had to scrape and pry out what had essentially become concrete from the crooks in the flush tube of the commode, meanwhile snaking about 25 feet of drainage.

As an aside, if you've got a toilet in your home that hasn't been removed and cleaned in a while... Just leave it there. You do NOT want to see what happens to the back lip of the drain as all those years of Wendy's value meals brushed past the lip and left small amounts of themselves which built up over time.

Trust me on this.


2.02.2010

Announcing: The Art Of Akira Exhibit

(For all images in this post, click on them for ultra mega high resolution versions. You're welcome.)

Quick links: Art of Akira Exhibit blog and site, Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, KickStarter donation page, ToonSeum

Regular readers of this blog and my books know that I'm obessive about the things I love. I tend to get bored easily, so I find unique and interesting challenges to keep me busy. I like showing people how great awesome things can be.

With this new project, I believe I've found the exact right challenge to combine all of these character traits into one singular goal: To teach the entire world just why the movie Akira is a cinematic, artistic and technical masterpiece.

To give you a brief look at why I feel Akira is one of the most astounding accomplishments in filmmaking, animation and artistic history, I've created a quick two minute video which sums it up quite neatly, I think:


(Can't see the video above? Here's the direct link to YouTube)


If it weren't for the fact that I actually owned this original art, I'd have never known just how amazing that cityscape was, or how detailed the individual pieces that went into making that scene were. But because I do, and I have, I feel that the world - especially appreciators of animation, film and art, needs to see this material.


This is why I've partnered with ToonSeum to create the Art of Akira Exhibit.



About The Art of Akira Exhibit:

The Purpose:

In 2010, the historical and artistic significance of Akira cannot be understated. As the popularity and influence of animation continues to expand, the Akira Exhibit gives audiences the unique opportunity to take a deeper look into this unparalleled achievement in filmmaking.

No other film has ever looked like Akira, before or since. It’s stunningly fluid and detailed animation often required as many as nine separate cel layers. The 125 minute feature was comprised of over 160,000 cels and almost as many backgrounds, each one completely hand–drawn and hand-painted. Purists recognize Akira as the last completely hand-created animated feature, as cel animation quickly gave way to cheaper digital production and CGI technology.

Filmmakers, animators, art students and anime fans have largely missed out on in-depth looks at how original, cel-based animation was created - and what better example than the magnum opus that is Akira? No other animation in history - from Japan, the United States or otherwise - focused so much attention to detail in every single aspect, on every single frame and background. Each piece is a study in color theory, layout, motion dynamics and technical artistry. And it is my mission, along with ToonSeum, to expose as many people as possible to the brilliance inherient in this collection.





The Collection:

I own one of, if not the largest collection of original Akira production art, cels, backgrounds and layouts. I've been collecting them since I was about 14 years old. My first piece was, by some peoples' estimates, a non concequential piece. I got it free for pre-ordering the laserdisc of Akira at my local comic shop. It was of a crowd of people walking toward the upcoming demonstration against the government's declaration of martial law, and looked somewhat like this:

Click for high res version.


It wasn't this exact cel, however. This was a replacement, the closest I could find to my original. During the dot com crash of 2001, I had to liquidate the vast majority of my collection in order to keep from losing my house. I only kept a few cels. But as times got better, I was able to buy back a good bit of my collection, plus a good many more - some coming in larger collections as the owners no longer wanted or could afford to stay in the Akira cel market.

Sometime after I began re-buying my original cels, I lucked into a key setup - a background, all of the "book" (supporting background) cels, and individual character cels that made up a scene. It was accompanied by the layouts and pencils for that setup.

This is an example of a key setup - all layers of book and backgrounds, with a cel from the sequence. Click for high res version.

The second I laid eyes on the entire arrangement, something clicked inside of me. I realized that there was far, far more to the production art of Akira than cool cels featuring neat bikes and characters I recognized. I saw the beauty in the actual technical setup and creation of the sequences. I became obsessed. I began researching sequence numbers, framecounts, layouts and the cels that went with them. I went on a hunt for backgrounds and full scenes worth of cels.

It became my mission to unify and reunite as much of this films' building blocks as I possibly could. And as I amassed my collection, the sheer volume of hand-painted work that was used to create it astounded me. It was then that I realized that there will never, ever be another movie like Akira... And everyone with any interest in it at all, be they fans, film students, animation professionals or appreciators of art, deserved to see this material in its full, complete state.

Much if not all of the original cels for early animation - Hannah Barberra, Speed Racer, Astroboy, even some Disney - were either a) buried in a landfill, b) incenerated, or if the studio was really low on funds, c) washed clean and reused on another production. Most of the stuido employess - artists included - viewed production art the same way a carpenter views sawdust - a necessary byproduct of creating a finished work. And the materials were treated thusly.

Akira's original production art made its way to America in several shipping containers, with the purpose of being distributed as freebies and incentives to entice people to buy the VHS and LaserDisc of the film. When the initiatives backfired and the market wasn't receptive to collecting the material, most if not all of it was earmarked for inceneration.




The waters become quite murky at this point, and I've never gotten the full story the same way from anyone I've asked that was even remotely close to the situation. But the bottom line is that boxes upon boxes of cels, layouts, backgrounds and drawings ended up making their way to conventions and collectible shops where they were parted out, split up, and treated rather miserably.

Until a few dedicated collectors began a mission to safeguard what is left of the collections. Myself, James "Krafty" Krefta, Howard Penner and Nichibei Anime (to name a few) all seperately and without coordinating with one another began collecting up and unifying the material we could find. Over the years, I sought out full caches of cels and artwork and bought or traded for them on the spot. When I inherited Howard Penner's collection, a good bit of the Nechiebe collection and what was left of Krafty's pieces, I became the largest private owner of Akira production artwork in the world.


The Exhibit:

The exhibit is currently broken into two phases of development. The first will be the ToonSeum launch and display, starting in April of 2010. This will consist of 80 - 100 pieces of original Akira production art, consisting of cels, backgrounds, douga (sketches) and pencil layouts.

The exhibit will feature video displays accompaning key sequences to show visitors the original clips that the cels are from, along with detailed summaries of the production of each cel and/or background. We hope to supply iPhone / smartphone users with a handheld tour app to accompany the exhibit, to expand and display even more artwork for visitors to appreciate.

In addition to the production art, there will also be a display of original film release materials and collectables, including toys, video games, theater posters and other items.

The second phase will be a travelling exhibit, displaying at the major conventions throughout 2010 and 2011. We are currently in contact with DragonCon, San Diego ComicCon, HeroesCon and WonderCon to set up and exhibit the Art of Akira Exhibit. With enough support both communial and financial, we hope to travel the exhibit to host museums and exhibit halls in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin and Seattle, eventually taking the exhibit overseas.

The goal of the exhibit is to give the fans of Akira, students of art and film, and appreciators of quality an experience that will expand on and increase appreciation of Akira - however, this exhibit will be exciting and interesting for even the most casual visitor. Hardcore fans can bring their familes and count on their not being bored.

The Akira Exhibit promises to be an enthralling experience, sure to captivate any fan of animation and graphic storytelling, from anime enthusiast to those witnessing Otomo’s grand vision for the fist time.




How You Can Help:

Absolutely first and foremost: share this announcement and all associated pictures and videos with your friends and family. Anyone you know who is a fan of Akira, let them know this is happening. The biggest priority right now is awareness and interest - we want to know how much you're looking forward to this!

Next, anyone with any contacts directly or indirectly relating to film studios, comic publishers, artists or other interested parties who can help us get awareness for this project, please get us in contact. I've made contact with several illustrators in the comic book world who will be contributing original pieces based on Akira for auction for this exhibit. The live action movie will be coming out through Warner Brothers in 2011 - we'd love to partner with them and help promote the movie's launch with this exhibit.

Finally, we are accepting direct financial contributions at the Art of Akira Exhibit KickStarter page. Pledges are 100% secure, using Amazon Payments, and 100% of funds collected go directly to the creation of this exhibit. There are nearly 100 installations to build, pieces to frame, programs and promotional materials to build and print... And that stuff isn't free. If you have a spare fiver and want to help bring the Art of Akira to the world at large, consider pledging. I'll love you forever.

Finally, I'll leave you with high res scans of the art featured in the YouTube video I posted above. Thank you SO much for reading this and helping me make this happen.













2.01.2010

Playing Catch-Up and New Projects and Whatnot

So, as a LOT of you have noticed and emailed and tweeted and IM'd about, I've been a bit absent this January. There's some good reasons for that, but they're boring, so I'll go ahead and make one up that's far more interesting: I caught a virus that made me very sick, but when I went to the doctor, they found that it was a strain of a particular virus that actively cures rickets. So I've been off donating quarts of plasma to rickets sufferers.

That said, here's what's really been going on all month, all in one tasty digest that is serving merely as a stopgap between my next post, which is an INCREDIBLE announcement of my brand newest project that's eating my life, and my last post, arguably the most depressing thing I've posted in a while. I hope this helps the segue.

In no particular order, my activities, thoughts and reactions to January:

  • I ran a marathon. That's pretty intense.
  • Shortly after running the marathon, I became incredibly lazy. I've worked out maybe 5 days in the past 3 weeks. It's pathetic. But last week, Andrea and I made a pact to get back on the training regimen, because we have another marathon March 27, and we gotta be ready for it.
  • I guest-hosted PixelatedLive last week, as I do sometimes. And I was actually serious this time. If you want practical advice on surviving corporate culture, want to know why I love Mass Effect 2, or want an opinion (which has changed) on the potential of the iPad, listen.
  • Speaking of the iPad, I find it utterly useless for my needs, despite my original hopes. I wanted something that actually blended a laptop and an iPhone, not something that blended an iPhone with "larger". I do not thin the iPad sucks - in fact, I think it'll dominate the market for media consumption devices like the Kindle or Nook or portable DVD players. It's not meant for me, and I get that. That said, it's highly unlikely I'll own one, since everything I actually love my iPhone for (mobile push email, quick web browsing, and the apps) are already on my iPhone in a format that makes it easy to use and carry... With a camera on it.
  • No, I still haven't seen Avatar. But I have seen The Best Avatar Review Ever about 200 times, and can tell you it's one of the most genius productions to end up on YouTube:



  • I'm actually on a normal sleep schedule for the first time in months, and it's been amazing. I'm also finally past the effects of coming off all my supplements from the football training years, a subject which I have purposely been very quiet about as I lived through it - but I did chronicle everything, and there'll be a pretty heavy-duty blog post about it in the next few weeks. The delay is for two reasons: first, there's a lot to cover and it'll take a while to write, and second, it's a pretty sensitive subject with me, and I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet. But I will. I think it's important that people understand what can happen when you start hacking your body. The short version: Exactly what you want to happen... At a pretty big cost.
  • I have jury duty next week. That'll be a real treat. Expect LOTS of writing to occur as I sit around and wait for something to happen.
  • I completely reorganized my office. I love it. Here's a few pics of the final arrangement:


  • I have started playing Mass Effect 2 . It is, without a doubt, the most engrossing and engaging video game I've ever played. It's safely in my top 5 of all time, and I'm not even halfway through it. It's also the first game I've played since Mass Effect 1 that has demanded I keep playing way past my bedtime, and actually let me get lost and engrossed in it.
  • A project I've worked for, oh, 20 years to create is finally beginning to gain steam. It's my Next Big Thing. And it'll be announced tomorrow. Those of you on my Twitter and Facebook feeds have seen a little preview of it. If you're not reading those... Be jealous. Or, just jump on them and catch up, you slacker... Eh, fuck it. Here.
  • Another project I've had in mind for about 8 years (it actually inspired the Mentally Incontinent social editing project) is changing and adapting, and in a month or two, I'll be ready to announce it to all of you. In the meantime - are you an illustrator? Do you love comic books? Would you be interested in helping out or finding out more? Hit me up.
  • Yes, there's more books coming. But I really think the Mentally Incontinent days are over for me. Even though there may be more collections of my hijinks and nonsense in short-story form, the days of posting and editing and voting are over for me. The reason isn't because I don't like it - in fact, I LOVED it, and if it weren't for everyone helping me, coaching me, and directing me, there'd be exactly zero books today. But there's two now. And it's because everyone helped and made it rock. That said... Each book requires nearly five books' worth of material. And I just don't have another five books in me to create a third.

...I think that's about it. I'll try to be better at posting daily again, so I don't have to do these lame-ass catchup posts anymore.