REMARKS 06/01/02 - 06/30/02

Last modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2002 10:08 AM

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06/30/02- DAMN! PLAYING IS FUN! I'm sorry to say that the playing is still going on, and that's why I'm bringing you these lame updates instead of projects. That's not quite accurate though, since making the figures is play too... But what other craft-oriented site treats you to these occasional forays into dumb, offbeat territory? You do know that reading too much of that "Tab A" and "Slot A" stuff turns Johnny into a very boring party animal, right?

In the last update, I talked about the nerdly trance, a.k.a. "brainstorming" as a useful and necessary process for my version of customizing as a commie-like, not-for-profit endeavor. This time, I'm gonna extol the virtues of writing. Yep, the nerdly trance can only take you so far before the thoughts overflow and spill out of your brain. As an imaginary world gets overpopulated with main characters, you have a hard time keeping track of what's what. That's where the ancient and time-honored ritual of writing takes over. Writing lets you build on the basic ideas and general outline you've imagined, fleshing them out with details, which can in turn inspire more ideas. Writing makes it easier to identify inconsistencies and things which don't work out in the backstory. Writing can be a lot of fun too, as an activity by itself or as an adjunct to a hobby like making dollies.

Writing is just one of many ways you can bring life to ideas, thanks to the wonders of technology: Writing can be illustrated with photos or drawings, enhanced with hypertext links, turned into a comic book, rendered in animation or film, or turned into a game... and there are probably more ways I didn't think of. Looked at this way, making figures is really just another form of expression which draws from the same basic motivation: our need to play (some of us at least), and the way creative expression allows us to do that.

The wonderful thing about writing is that it's so accessible and powerful, and we constantly get free upgrades via our living language. Writing is an efficient way of conveying lots of information. It adeptly handles nuances, abstractions, and intangibles which are often difficult to handle in other media. Perhaps because of this power, writing can be a very personal and private expression. I find that to be true of my fictional writing (but obviously, not this kind of writing), perhaps because it taps directly into your private thoughts, like a diary. It's quite a different thing to post pictures which suggest lurid thoughts than it is to detail them in writing. You can see that in the picture which accompanies this update: The picture by itself may give you an unambiguous description of the physical scene, but it's up to you to imagine the rest. Without accompanying prose, you'd never know that she's not wearing underwear, or that she might be thinking about the fact that she's not wearing underwear, or that the Spinal Tap guy recently discovered that she's not wearing underwear... see? Betcha didn't know that she's actually blasting the silverwear clean and that the guy is laughing at a realllllly good joke. (alternate pic)

That actually cuts both ways. Writing makes our concepts and thoughts tangible and gives them form in our shared, material world. While in our brains, thoughts can be changed and reimagined, but once they're out there for public consumption, they achieve independence. That's one of the pitfalls of public storytelling: You only get to tell it once (unless it was all a dream, or you can go back in time, or it was a joke!), and writing encourages you to crystalize your imagination in perhaps too much detail and depth. Unless--like a tree falling in the woods -- you don't tell, then no one but you knows!

 

Unholy Incest, Batman! Do the figures inspire the story or does the story inspire the figures? This tragic mutation clearly shows that the DNA flows both ways!


06/24/02- DAMN! PLAYING IS HARD WORK! I can't believe that I spent most of Sunday in a nerdly trance staring at my groups of primeval dollies, imagining the relationships between the characters, the backstory, and trying to decide what I wanna make next. One amusing idea was to make an "artist's conception of the woman who inspired Venus of Willendorf". (Hmmmm... maybe I've already done something like that with "Green Demon Monkey Goddess"?) The sad truth is, Primeval World is top heavy with top heavy babes. So maybe I should make another apeman? The SAJOE body looks almost perfect for that with his broad chest, high waist and long arms. Maybe an intermediate form, halfway between ape and demon? To do a "clash of kingdoms" type of story, the bad guys need some kind of plentiful footsoldier. I've also been wanting to turn a Volks "Excellent Base" femfig into something resembling a faerie or elf. But would she fit in? I'm not doing J.R.R. Tolkien or "Willow". Maybe more demon races? But how are they related to the demons that I've already made? I guess I could make some regular human males since they seem to fit in just about anywhere, without all this agonizing (even though that would be even more boring than making demons!). Ya see, this is difficult stuff for me... I have too much of that adult quality which demands that everything fit in, have a history, a logic and be explainable... Kinda like the way George Lucas called upon tiny people from Florida (??? dem MicroFloridians, yuk yuk) to legitimize the formerly mysterious force known as The Force. Didn't everyone just groan when he did that? Bad idea, IMO... but I'm drawn to it and it seems like the kinda stuff an adult should worry about. Fantasy is a particularly bad genre to have this kind of mentality since so much of it rests on things which don't make sense. (Does conservation of matter apply to magic?) Rather than just accepting the mythology of demons and magic, I'm nerdishly trying to invent where they came from and how their society is structured. It's Darwin meets the Easter Bunny. I guess that's all part of the fun... but it's just not very productive. So dammit, I've been busy! Busy playing, that is. I've included the picture of the dysfunctional family (minus the really big QOTDMG and the 2 apemen) so you too can join in on the fun. The only thing that I ask that you respect is that the Troll Demon is left-handed, dammit.

 

<--What happens when you place a VCR on top of unbaked clay: We learn by experimenting!

DVD WOES I've also been busy with a newly acquired DVD player (and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" DVDs). My wife ties up our home entertainment system nightly with Major League Baseball, so having my own would be indispensible for viewing all those hours of Buffy, besides allowing me to work without actually watching them (go figure...?). The DVD drive which came with my computer was driving me insane-- looking on the web for solutions to the jerky playback problem was the last straw since you get a pretty good idea by the evasive way the question is handled (without acknowledging that there's a problem)-- that there is no solution! If you've got a speedy modern 1 GHz+ CPU, it's probably not a problem, but if you don't... well, yes, you can turn off all those background programs which steal your CPU's clock cycles and maybe it will play smoothly (NOT). And download and install the latest version of DirectX. And get the latest drivers too, even though the manufacturer doesn't want to make it look like there's a problem by offering a solution. Since you can get a standalone unit with lights and lots of buttons, which doesn't depend on your CPU or software for only $70, why would you want one in your computer? And why did they sell me a computer with one before the were ready for prime time? Grrrrrr...

Of course, connecting a standalone can have its own problems. I just wanted something to play the media in my workroom, not give me surround sound and pristine HDTV video. I didn't want to invest in A/V amps, switchers or splitters either, since spending $30-$40 for a $70 DVD player (get 'em while you can, because someday the PRC manufacturers may have to pay those pesky DVD royalties!) seems fuckin' stupid. I spent an hour diagramming my current A/V & computer setup to figure out where I could slap the sucker in without losing some functionality. Since VCRs usually come with a couple of switchable line inputs, that would be an ideal and obvious place to daisychain a DVD player, you'd think? But noooooo... THEY don't want you to do it that way since then you could copy DVDs onto videotapes! So they degrade the daisy-chained signal on copy-protected DVDs with an irritating throbbing modulation, even if the signal is just passing through and not being recorded. I stuck an old copyguard stripper inbetween which seems to work, but I'm not sure whether it works for all DVDs. I really didn't have very many other options. The only other option I had was connecting it directly to the TV. Fortunately, my el cheapo TV has a composite and an RF input, switchable on its remote control. But then you can't send the video to your computer for digitizing. Anyway, I'm just telling you all this so that if you should run up against this problem, you'll know that you're screwed and need to go and buy home theater systems for your kitchen, garage and doghouse.

THE SCI-FI SURVEY Thanks for the feedback. When I feel long-winded enough ;^), I'll get it together and post some final thoughts to close out the Message Board's informal survey about Sci-Fi machinery: Since I got folks' hopes up, I figure that it demands some closure. I just wish I were wealthy enough to make it happen since I hate talking about stuff which would be neat (if somebody else did it).

MY CAT DRESSES BETTER THAN YOURS Hey, it's a "Best Of..." poll being conducted by Joe World Online! I'd like to thank those who nominated me! and me! for two categories... sniff, sniff... regardless of how it turns out, I appreciate the flattery. Really. I was surprised to see the site nominated since I thought that most of the hits the site gets were from folks searching for "She-Male sex" and things like that. Not your average Joe... or maybe so? I wish links had been provided for the customizer nominees since I hadn't heard of some of the nominees before; I like to see kewl stuff, even without the poll and the veins-between-the-teeth competition. ;^) There are some notable omissions in the nominee list IMO, but based on what I've seen on the net, that Japanese guy, Hayashi Hiroki, already won the title-- even if he hasn't been nominated. Heck, check out Bonzou's House too, while you're at it.


06/13/02- I haven't gotten tired of looking at Jezebel yet, even if you have. So nyah, nyah... here she is again, along with Alor of the Littlecups. Placing these figures outside on rocks above water with a healthy breeze blowing while holding an expensive camera is a little nerve wracking, so you'll understand why I didn't bother taking the figures out of their last seen shelf poses. Since the Lindsey summer swimwear pics, the Koi have gotten big enough to swallow a figure's hand.

Normally, I might try to show pictures of the latest project or update the project article, but the Troll Demon project is slooooooow going. Of course, it would move a lot quicker if I could just bring myself to work on it. And naturally, it would be a lot easier to work on it if I were even mildly interested in it. (That's why I tend to make female figures, ya reckon?) I thought it would be a quickie, but to do it right, all the limbs needed to be thinned, which was a bunch of unfun work. So this may be my Waterloo project unless I can summon the energy to plow through it or get over my somewhat linear working habits.

Looking beyond that pothole, I've just received a couple more Dragon "Svetlana" figures to use as future fodder. Unfortunately, Dragon seems to have changed the neck design for the worse with their recent "Dangergal" (?...whatever) figure. I was happiest with the results I got from using the Svetlana platform ("Bunny"), so I'm sticking with it despite the higher cost; I don't have any expectation that they'll actually improve the figure should they decide to eventually release the fabled "Neo Eve 2" carded figure.

Playboy's effigy of 1998 Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal became available for order a little while back, following their first offering, Victoria Silvstedt (my review). I really didn't have issues with VS's lack of articulation since she's more realistically sculpted than articulated dolls, and exposure to that is better for a sculptor's critical eye. So I would have bought KM if they'd stuck with something resembling the aloof expressioned Toyfair 2001 prototype (right, pic from figure.com) instead of the blander smiley version which they released (left, pic from playboy.com). That's just my oddball idea of beauty though; neither astonishingly resembles the actual Karen McDougal, who can seem to look different from picture to picture (I had to do some research on this, but it wasn't too painful). Since they seem to be going backwards in time and releasing these at a slow pace, it may be several decades before they get to Janet Lupo, LOL.

Actually, all this is good news. Equillibrium and stasis saves money. There's very little recently released stuff which has triggered a "must buy" response in me, and the fence-straddling stuff hasn't stood up to my evaluation of whether it was worth the cost. It seems that we're on a plateau of sorts-- most of the stuff being released is just variation on what we've already seen (and bought), so unless you're on a completist's mission, see a variation that really turns you on, or need a particular piece from a set, it gets evaluated on the basis of whether you've got the space or the money, or whether you'd just enjoy working on customizing projects using what you've already got. I think the hobby needs relaxed breather space like this every so often, since the frenzied pace takes its toll on you and your pocketbook.

However, if you're one of the fortunate ones with plenty of space and money, let me help you out: Callanta Customizations at Greg Brown's Eklyps website. As you should know, Greg is one of the most scrupulously honest and honorable Joehead dealers who's been around since The Beginning. He's a fellow Texan too. Which is why I'm sure that he won't mind that I borrowed and resized this pic from his site to give you an idea of the quality and detailing of Mardon's work.

As you can see it's great stuff and even though I make girly dolls, I love the WWII stuff too, especially armor (and wish I could afford it). But why am I plugging this here? Mardon wrote me and thanked me for turning him on to the SF3D genre-- after exchanging mutual admiration society sentiments, I suggested that he might consider catering to that great unmet demand for the sci-fi stuff that the big companies will probably never produce. I'm convinced that there are folks out there aching for quality sci-fi themed pieces-- robots, hardsuits, Mars rover vehicles, future tanks, etc.-- comparable to what the WWII genre Joeheads enjoy. Because it doesn't have to accurately mimic anything real, the size is negotiable and can be designed to be practical for your display space. And because of this, I don't think the price range would be as wide either.

Soooo... I've gotta convince him, and this is where you come in: I want you to get your butt out of lurker mode and post your thoughts on my message board! (turn of Javascript before entering it, right?) Say whether/how much you're interested in this, and if so, what you would like to see made. Don't be afraid to use your imagination or voice "me too!" posts, since this is to get a broad snapshot of what folks are thinking. Also know that I'm doing this purely on my own initiative, sort of as a "matchmaker"-- Mardon hasn't requested it or committed to doing this. But if you want to influence the odds of this happening, speak up.

Totally off topic... Beth Hart. Man, how I love a good rockin' & bluesy voice. I saw a 30-second TV commercial for Six Flags during which she's visible for a few seconds singing the chorus of "Delicious Surprise". Wow! That was enough to convince me to check her out on the web and buy her 1999 "Screaming for My Supper" CD. That's saying a lot because I don't buy music very often and I usually only buy nerdy Guitar Godz stuff. But maaaan, this gal's got it all-- tone, inflection, delivery... and that's just the audio side. Articles on the web confirm that she's got killer stage presence, which is apparent even in the few seconds of the commercial. If there were any justice, she'd be a huge star by now and I wouldn't have just heard of her in 2002 in a Six Flags TV commercial. I wqnna see her play live (in a small club preferably, with a good sound system... howzabout La Zona Rosa, Stubbs or Steamboat in Austin???)


06/02/02-- Sunday Morning Doodle Here's another prospective Demon Monkey, this one looking a little more monkey-ish and less monster-ish. In fact, this one is modelled after a reconstruction of one of Man's evolutionary ancestors, but with a few changes here & there, plus some horns and fangs. This may be a more appropriate look, being a corrupted version of the "Primal Man" figure. In the mess which I'm now calling "Primeval World", these evolutionary dead ends haven't been driven to extinction by modern man; it's a brutal world where science is countered by magic and the presence of the ancient demon race throws a monkey wrench into Man's ascendancy. Or at least that's the vague premise which I may or may not stick to... It's sufficient background for continuing to make ugly creatures, ladies with wire underwear, and large-breasted demonesses. (Hey! Doesn't pic 2 look kinda like the cigarette-smokin' man in "X-Files"?)


06/01/02-- Saturday Morning Doodles I've made several "Demon Monkey Goddesses", but have you ever wondered who the Demon Monkeys are or what they look like? Well, I did. Admittedly, it's all been kinda ambiguous. The DMGs could be demons, worshipped as goddesses by the primal ape men. Or they themselves could be demon monkeys, believing themselves to be goddesses. But what about the demonesses, Lilith and Livia? And the Demon Lord, Max? Where do they fit in? What are their astrological signs? What kind of cars do they drive? Or could it all be just a load of made-up BS...??? Inquiring minds demand to know!

Indeed. Just ask The Axis (he knows everything)... For the time being though, know that after a few quick scribbles, I came up with the exaggerated ape-ish looking head with horns, which could be some kind of Demon Monkey. This didn't look anything like the demon monkeys of the Thai Ramayana, but sorta reminded me of something I'd seen before-- not terribly surprising since how many ways can you draw creatures like this? Okay... I feel obligated to make something like this someday, just to give the DMGs some minions or worshippers or warriors... but I'm presently between projects and not too interested in diving back in yet. That's a tremendous committment. Fortunately, that's where clay shines: It's an excellent doodling medium for testing out and coming up with ideas. In less time than it's taken me to write these two paragraphs, I did the rough sculpt in pic #2. Yes, it's extremely rough and looks better in the photo than it does in person. But it was helpful to see the pencil doodle fleshed out like this-- it tells me that the head needs to be lower on the body (level with the shoulders). Doodling also led to the texturing detail of a bony jaw with the evil-looking teeth.

Unlike putty, clay gives you a lot of freedom to experiment because you're not fighting the clock. Even though you can always modify what you've sculpted in either medium, the ability to do it easily and at your leisure allows you to experiment freely, which assists the creative process. Actually, just sculpting without having to worry about articulation was kinda fun too: Looking at the pic, I can visualize how I'd continue this as a static sculpture without the Emperor Palpatine body underneath (and without his unpleasant banter, "With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant..." Scared the sheee-it out of me when I accidently pressed that button!)

What's Wrong With This Picture... Here's an alternate picture which I didn't use in the "Jezebel 2" project article: It seemed too violent & misogynistic (even if it is between two women), kinda like a sick "Snuff" fantasy pic. The violence in the "assassin" pic which I did use seemed less immediate and of less certain outcome. So why am I showing it here? I dunno... maybe to make this point? It took me by surprise: I wanted to use it in the article because it's an interesting picture, but something about it made me uncomfortable. Tucked away here with an explanation, it seems a little more palatable.


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