Wednesday, November 26, 2014


That's Horn and Hardart's automat above, a noble restaurant that no longer exists now, but which is fondly remembered by everyone who took a meal there. What I remember best was their pumpkin pie. For kids its appearance in the Fall was a major event, eclipsed only by giant super holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

Like I said, Horn and Hardart's is closed for good now but I discovered that the recipe they used is available on the net now. That means this mouth-watering food of the gods is available to anyone who's willing to take the trouble to make it. Now THAT'S news! Imagine more plain brown pumpkin pie. The glorious original awaits...

...the glorious ORANGE original, just like the innards of a real pumpkin! And I dare to hope that the finished pie will have that slightly rough H&H texture, which is a nice reminder of the stringy pumpkin interior which gave it birth.

If you make it, don't buy the pumpkin mash in a can...what you want are real baking pumpkins (small), and real evaporated milk, not condensed milk, which is different.

Here's the recipe:

The recipe doesn't tell us how H&H made the pie crust. I seem to remember it tasting a bit like shortbread. And I can't tell from the wording if the pumpkin mash is pre-cooked before the other ingredients are put in. I don't think it is, but it would be nice to be certain. Also, I'll hazard a guess that H&H used a little more butter and spices than is allowed here. After all, people loved butter in those days! And where's the teaspoon full of orange peel scrapings!? You better add some.

Monday, November 24, 2014


"Hey, I was rummaging in some old boxes in the garage and 
dug up an adventure book I thought I'd lost . You want to hear a few paragraphs?  I gotta warn's not for the feint of heart.

"Yikes! A spider! I'll just shake it out."

"Okay, here goes: 'On a night when the moon is at the full and the taboo of the rice feast is forgotten, a live hamadryad..."

", that's a poisonous snake, I think..."

 "...a live hamadryad is thrown into a kettle of boiling blood, blood which is drained from the body of a young Dryad girl. Into the mixture are thrown the teeth of nine crocodiles and the skull of a female orangutan."

"The potion is stirred with a golden parang...slowly...and the scum spooned off and allowed to dry. It is ground to a powder then and blended with the thorn of the Klubi, the swamp plant..."

"Whew! This is pretty intense stuff!"

"See! I warned you! You didn't believe me, didja?"

"Maybe we'll skip ahead to another chapter. Something a little milder, something like...THIS."

Yikes! It's about snakes!

Good Lord! I HATE snakes!!!!!

"That background, that misty darkness, was an undulating blanket of horror. Out there, wriggling, crawling, crossed and interwoven like the design of some colossal tapestry, was a compact mass of snakes....they were watching him with a thousand pairs of eyes, and they were advancing slowly nearer."

"Then it happened. Before he could flail his arms forward, before he could throw his weight to the side, his legs buckled under him and he fell to the floor.

He screamed then shot a frantic glance over his shoulder."

"Like a man in an hypnotic trance he felt himself powerless to move. What he saw was the snakes.  With a slow and inexorable movement the snake mass crossed the intervening distance, and, cold and clinging, began to slide its coils over his body."

"That's it!!! I can't take any more!!!!!!!!!"

Holy Cow! 'Another spider! I gotta clean that garage!"

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Some of my animation friends have work spaces (above) that are dominated by a cacophony of action figures and toys. Since I like clutter you'd think I'd do the same, but I guess there's different kinds of clutter and that kind just isn't me. It's too distracting. Even so, I kinda like this room.

I like the explosion of color and I like the overall lighting. I also kinda like the idea of a flat paper man dangling from a thread.

I have a few figures hanging from the ceiling in my workroom; mostly puppets, mobiles and cartoony paper sculptures.

Oh, yes...and Halloween paraphernalia.

I might consider putting little shelf figures around if I could find more funny ones (above), but they're pricey and in short supply.

Haw! There's always off-model toys...

...and maquettes. I don't have any myself but animators' workspaces are often full of them. I got this picture (above) from the net.

Most of what I have in there are bulletin board pictures (above).

Just funny stuff that cheers me up.

And colorful stuff. Click to enlarge. You can see the texture better when the image fills the whole screen. Texture amplifies and activates color.

My own taste in working surfaces is for the kind of tabletop workspaces painters make for themselves. I'm a line artist who only occasionally paints so it doesn't make any sense but my intuition tells me that painters know something important that I don't so I surround myself with little things I painted that remind me of the mystery of color.

I like to see other artists workspaces. For a casual space this one (above) is fine. This artist has a nice feel for color and shapes. It wouldn't do for someone who has to turn out a high volume, though. There's no room to spread out and not much storage space.

Busy artists usually work in areas like this (above). There's not much time to pretty it up.

Every once in a while I yearn to go back to a simpler workspace. Maybe something like the room I had when I was a kid, where I did my first cartoons. But that's just a fantasy. Where would I put all my junk?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I'm not scheduled for a new post today but I just stumbled on this comic I made a while back and I couldn't resist putting it up again...right now.  Be warned: it's a little hard to follow, and there's some misspelled words (but the word "Commics" is deliberately misspelled). It's about what happens when a hard-core realist like Joan Crawford joins a group therapy session for poets. 



Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Well I guess everybody's already heard of the problems encountered by the Philae lander when it landed on the comet last week. It's in a shadow that prevents its batteries from charging up sufficiently. Things might improve when the comet veers closer to the sun in the months ahead but for now information gathering is minimal.

 Even so we're still getting good data from the parent ship, the Rosetta orbiter. So far the data seems to support the argument by some that the Earth's oceans did not come from collisions with icy comets. Our oceans seem to lack sufficient quantities of a trace element that's thought to be contained in cometary water.

BTW, why do so many comets contain surfaces that look like they were smoothed over with a palette knife?

Above, Mimas...a moon of Saturn. It's thought to consist mostly of water ice with a small amount of rock, making it a sort of huge, dirty snowball. A recently detected wobble is believed to indicate an internal sea of liquid water. Does this add another moon to the list of possible sites for life? Probably not. The moon just barely holds together.

Thinking about Mimas reminds me how much has changed in planetary science in the last few years. Do you remember all those TV documentaries about the so-called Goldilocks Zone?  Well, that may be an obsolete concept now. Liquid water is assumed to exist on certain internally heated moons of Saturn and Jupiter, which are way outside of our own Solar System's Goldilocks Zone. Even rogue gas giants that exist between stars might conceivably contain moons with liquid water.

Here's something I didn't know about til I just saw a TV documentary about it: our galaxy is in the final stages of a collision with a dwarf galaxy named "Sagittarius." As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're already slowly absorbing two dwarf galaxies called The Magellanic Clouds, but with few noticeable effects so far. Not so with Sagittarius. Sagittarius has had a big impact on us.

In 2011 astronomers announced that our galaxy may not always have been a pinwheel. Our spiral arms might have been created by brushes with Sagittarius, as shown in the simulation above. If so, that was good luck for us because it drew the material that made up our sun from the toxic radioactive environment closer to the galactic center.

Above is a nearby flat galaxy seen edgewise.  Our own galaxy is thought to be similarly flat, perhaps because of the influence of Sagittarius.

The collision is nothing to worry about. It's been going on for a long time and it's effects may have mostly played out. I say "may" because Sagittarius is thought to contain unusually large amounts of dark matter which have now been dumped into our galaxy with unknown results.

We continue to learn more about the super massive black hole (SMBH) in our galaxy's center. Here's (above) a computer generated picture showing the gravitational lensing effect of that black hole on the surrounding space.

Currently our SMBH is surrounded by a large spinning gas cloud. After a period of relative calm our central black hole is evidently feeding again, voraciously.

Our central black hole is amazingly powerful. Here we are, far out on a spur on a spiral arm and we're orbiting Sagittarius A Star...that's the name of our central black hole... at a speed of 500,000 miles per hour!

'Just one more picture and I'm out of here. Those tadpoles in the center of a nearby nebula (above) are thought to be new stars in the process of forming. That's a more rare event than I'd previously thought. Our galaxy is older than most and most of the star formation that's going to occur here has already been done. That's actually a good thing because a galaxy full of new stars would be intensely radioactive and hostile to life.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


 When family Christmas gifts come to mind my thoughts turn to the sculptor, Alexander Calder. I wonder what kind of gift would push our house farther in the direction of Calder's home in rural France. Don't get me wrong. I try to get something uniquely suited to the person I'm giving it to, but in some cases Calder influenced things fit the bill. 

I've never given anybody an interior door, but it would make a nice gift, don't you think?

Wow! What a clutter! I wonder if Calder actually cooked in his kitchen? Anyway, there's a few good ideas here. It looks like Calder bought pots and pottery for the way they'd look on his wall.

I like the way Calder hangs pots. A hanging iron pot rack (above) would be a nice gift. I also like the way he made lights out of pie plates and baking forms. 

Yikes! The man is even more messy than I am. He has good taste in some of the details, though.

The items above are all from Etsy, but Ikea has stuff like this too. I'd say some of these things are Calderesque.

Calder loved indoor plants. Plants make a great gift, especially if they're exotic and easy to take care of.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Roberto asked me to comment on the notion a friend of his has that cartoons are only for kids. The implication is that if you're an adult and still like animation then there must be something wrong with you. I want to be able to say that the very idea makes my blood boil but the truth is that I feel nothing but pity for the poor soul who said it.

It's as if he'd admitted to an impairment like having a club foot or an artificial limb. It's as if he confided that he doesn't see what others find appealing about fundamental things like art or music or comedy. You're filled with wonder that nature distributes its gifts so unevenly. You hear someone say a thing like that and you instantly want to find the poor invalid a comfortable chair and a bowl of soup.

For me animation is one of life's simple pleasures and its amazing that some people are so resistant to it. Some people don't like swimming or hiking or playing with a dog. Some people are absolutely mystified about why their friends like Shakespeare. All those beautiful thoughts about The Seven Ages of Man or going Once More Into the Breach leave them cold. I don't think you can argue someone into liking things like that. You just have to marvel at the incredible diversity that exists in the world.

Oh, and the other point about cartoons being for kids. Lots of cartoonists are going to disagree but...well, yes...they actually are for kids. What's wrong with that?

They're obviously for adults too...think of Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic... but unless someone acquired the taste when they were young, it's doubtful that they'd become enthusiasts later on. You had to have been exposed to exciting cartooning, in print or on film, when you were young and still had an imagination.

 For me the best audience for animation has always been kids. Kids are kinetic. They watch cartoons while jumping on the couch punching pillows. They guffaw when a gag is funny, they cry when the hero's in the little girl in the video above. Contrast that with adults whos reactions are so understated that you'd need a microscope to find them. Why would an animator waste his time on an audience so rigid and insensitive?

For me the best black and white Betty Boops were great cartoons for kids, the garter  gags not withstanding. Ditto the best Clampett cartoons. Ditto Space Madness and Stimpy's Invention. Ditto Tex Avery and the best Goofy sports cartoons. Ditto the best parts of Three Caballeros. They're for kids and adults as the Good Lord intended.

'Nuff said.

BTW: I stole the video from Cartoon Brew.