idiotic sharkipedes here

Damn. 20th, not 29th.

That’s what I get for posting something interesting I found deep in my notebook without doing my factchecking.  Proves that a vivid memory for the big stuff like thoughts and feelings does not correlate with an aging memory for the piddly stuff like dates.

Redfaced here.


Published in: on July 31, 2008 at 3:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Armstrong Day!

It’s sad to admit, but I had to be reminded by Google’s banner, and by a quick look at the calendar, that today is Armstrong Day, the anniversary of the first Moon landing.

Those of us who remember watching the events of that July evening can go back in memory and touch it any time. We remember where we were, and who was in the room, and probably even the TV set itself, and those little black and white pictures, so crummy by modern video standards, that actually came from another world.

We thought it was only the beginning, the first step on the great journey to the planets and beyond, and to the future we thought was inevitable, with its flying cars and power to cheap to meter and a cure for cancer and, yes, cities on the Moon.

What it was, of course, was a high water mark, the peak of the postwar Great Good Years. Whatever genuine promise the events of July 29th, 1969 might have had (and that is debatable), it was lost in the static of history, or overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s real problems, or both. We still may achieve some of those dreams, but my hope of seeing it happen in my lifetime is rather less confident than it was the summer I turned eight, and sat up in the crickety darkness, watching television.

I’m glad we didn’t know then what we know now, and I’m glad I’m old enough to remember.

So many of you are out there are too young to remember the Moon Landing, and I don’t know how much the idea means to you. It’s like Pearl Harbor was to us, or the Kennedy assassination. It’s what 9/11 will be to those who’ve been born recently.  Just the past, which is all compacted into a solid mass: Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the Constitution, the Civil War, everything that happened before our living memory, all pressed into a single block.  But trust me,  it’s nice to have a milestone to remember that was, at least at the time, a happy one. Let’s hope there are more to come.

Happy Armstrong Day, everyone.


Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Dumbphones rule!

I think we’ve all been hearing a lot about the new Iphone and other smartphones that are the current hotness in the world of gadgets.  I was inspired by a smartphone thread on a message board I frequent to look a little more carefully at my own dumbphone- an ancient (late 90s tech) Kyocera that I got when I was signed up for Virgin Mobile in late 2002 as a Christmas present from Mr. Shark.

I was pleased to find this contemporary review at

“The Kyocera 2119b is the older of the two designs, in both size and display, and typical in design of many bar phones from the mid-90s. Despite it’s aged appearance, the 2119b is one of the most reliable, trouble-free phones ever made due to a solid construction that allows it to withstand much abuse, and has easy disassembly for repairs. It was introduced during 2001/2002 along with the new Virgin Mobile cell phone service as one of two phones you could then buy. ”

Yup– “aged” in 2003, who knows what you would call it in 2008. “Old School” is the polite term, and “coprolite” would be somewhat less polite.  But it is every bit as good a unit in use as the review states.  Makes and recieves calls, has caller ID and voicemail, and always works.  What more do I need?

Here is a nice pic of the big guy: … ZZZZZZ.jpg  Mine looks just like this except it has a funky red metallic faceplate, a little black leather case over that,  and a more creative name than “Virgin Mobile”. 

I’ve been thinking about replacing it with a more modern phone that’s smaller and lighter, but you know, I don’t think I’m going to.  It ain’t broke, so I’m not going to fix it, assuming I can get a new battery for it.   And I’m going to go top it up right now.

I wonder if anyone else is Old School enough to stand up for the dumbphone?


Published in: on July 15, 2008 at 2:13 am  Comments (5)  

New Sketchbook Day!

Yay, it’s New Sketchbook Day here at Sharkipede World HQ.  This is always a minor festival, with the closing of the old sketchbook by writing the closing date on the inside front cover, and the opening of the new with the ritual First Drawing. 

The old sketchbook was #13 since I switched over to hardcovers, and it was open from October of 2007 through July 2008. (I prefer not to date them any more tightly.)  Nine or ten months is about average for the time it takes me to fill up a sketchbook– they can last as few as six months or as long as a year.  The new #14 has been my backup sketchbook for at least five years– it was damaged after I bought it when it got knocked off a shelf and has a big scuff along the edge of the spine.  I’d always had an extra spare with a clean cover to use instead, but this time I forgot to buy one so the reserve has finally come into play.  I hope it is a lucky move.

Sketchbook #13 was mostly devoted to work on the almost finished Secret Project,  and also contains a lot of design work for my main characters, including chibi versions of many of them and tons of alternate costume designs.  There also was a fair amount of experimental free drawing, much of it featuring a large soft pencil with a multicolored lead that I got as a Christmas present from my niece and nephews.

The last drawing in #13 was a pencil study for a display drawing– maybe a poster or a cover for a book or comic– featuring Iowa and Gideon cataloging a stack of four color Golden Age comics, with Josef lying in a great heap of even more of the same.

The first drawings in #14 are a further development of the “S-Curve” map of Kekionga, and some sketches of Foursquare in flight copied from Mac Raboy’s standard flight poses for Captain Marvel Jr. 

It’s only a swipe if you put it in a published comic!


Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 6:05 am  Comments (2)  
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tool or toy? A great *thing* for writers

My apologies to everyone out there who is one step ahead of me and has been playing with this for weeks, but I just discovered Wordle.

If you write at all, go there now and plug one of your pieces into the big window.  Play around with it a bit, then come back here. 

There.  Wasn’t that about the coolest damn thing you’ve seen in a month?  Anyone who reads this blog already knows my fondness for “clouds” as a method for navigating your way around a bunch of data– I have a tag cloud as my only real gadget on NSC.   But this is a whole step more.

I can’t decide if Wordle is a tool or a toy, but I’m leaning toward tool.  I’ve played with it using a selection of my fiction and my non fiction prose, and frankly, the nonfiction is on the crummy side.  The fiction has a larger vocabulary and a wider selection of words, including verbs and vivid adjectives, while the non fiction is full of yucky adverbs and weak and weaselly words like “may” and “can”.  I’m very glad the long sample I used is in line to be rewritten.  I intend to Wordle it at several stages during that rewrite and see if I can make it a little flashier.

So if anyone is still here, get back to making Wordles and sticking them up around the house.  Your prose has never looked so good.


Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 5:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Draw a fat werewolf.”

I got up this morning and looked over some notes I’d written late last night.  I actually did a lot of writing after supper yesterday: a new poem, a scribble outline for the first half of this month’s “Hopelessly Lost …”, some bits for the new shape of the novel I’m calling Kite Mountain.  But mixed in with the more understandable stuff was this cryptic instruction:

“Draw a fat werewolf.” 

So I drew a fat werewolf.  It was a lot of fun.  So I encourage all of you– pull out your sketchbook or a hunk of scrap paper, grab a pen or a pencil or a brush, and draw yourself a fat werewolf.

June 5th –It’s Draw a Fat Werewolf Day.



Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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stuff that’s happened since the last time I posted

Long time no blog, I know.  Could trot out the reasons; offline for a while, working my tail off for a while, getting a pal married for a while (whoo, it was a good time!), depressed for a while.  Feeling like nothing was happening that I was interested in writing about, much less that anyone would be interested in reading, a long while.

But hey, life goes on, the head comes up, and things start looking OK again.  So what’s happened since last we met on the Interwebs?

The brown dog Chester turned 13.  He is slowing down, but otherwise doing well.  We had him at the vet today and he will be getting more arthritis meds, which should make him happier and more comfortable.  Good boy, Chet!

I’ve been indulging my coelacanth obsession: designed and printed a new T-shirt, silk screened a coelacanth print, and made a coelacanth mini.  Also painted a huge coelacanth banner on a bedsheet which was very effective at the Motor City Con.  I feel like an arteest, oh yes I do.

After months of seeing absolutely no cars of any interest at all, I’ve collected tons of new and interesting sightings:

The new Dodge Challenger, a black one.  Taller and chunkier than expected, but very cool (in a musclecar kind of way) and very fast.  Looks less like the original in person.

A white Bentley Flying Spur with a white mesh grille.

A Ford GT, my first one ever.  Red with a white stripe.

An absolutely pristine first generation Datsun 240 Z, maroon over black vinyl.  Lovely car.

A 1990s Lotus Esprit, fly yellow.  Booming GT car on I-94 early on a Friday morning. Nice!

Smart cars, Smart cars, Smart cars.  Fourtwos all over the place, including several running at speed in heavy traffic on the freeway.  They look terribly, terribly funny mixed in with the rest of the fleet.  What goofy little cars, but they always make me smile.  Silver frames with red panels and black frames with silver panels are both frequently seen, but the overwhelming popular favorite color scheme seems to be a black frame and yellow panels.

And I learned that “patrijpoort” is the Dutch word for both a skylight and a porthole.

What a world.  More to come.



Published in: on May 23, 2008 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Welcome back to my blog, and to the introduction my new favorite word. 

“Belphegor” is a classic demon name, possibly based on the name of a Moabite god, Baal-Peor.  But don’t worry, there’s no demonology angle here.  The name seems to appeal to creative types across various cultures, and, of most interest here, to French pop culture creators, starting with the pulp writer Arthur Bernède  who in 1927 gave the name to a character he created to rival the success of the Phantom of the Opera and other classic French pulp characters. 

There were several Belphegor pulp novels, followed by silent and talkie films, and even some comics. And, most important to me, there was a black and white TV miniseries in 1965 that apparently was insanely popular, and which has become a long term cult classic. (At least to people who have a Region 3 DVD player and speak French– there doesn’t seem to be a subtitled version.)

(This site is a good place to start reading about Belphegor’s history in French pop culture: ) 

So Belphegor was very much on the minds of the people of France, when Citroen introduced their new line of trucks.  (You knew there had to be a car in here somewhere.)  In the Citroen catalog it was simply “Citroen 350”, but people immediately started calling it “Belphegor” after the ghostly TV character.

Imagine how I felt on Saturday afternoon, when I walked into a long, dark, half lit garage, and saw this:

It’s one of these: 

in rough-but-more or less complete condition, undoubtably waiting to be restored.  And it is absolutely the coolest, funkiest truck I had ever seen, and joins the IH Travellall and the Hudson Big Boy as “trucks I would buy if I could even though I cannot drive a stick shift”.   But more than that, it spoke to me artistically.  When I saw its silhouette from a distance, before I knew what it was, I knew it belonged in Kekionga.  And now there is a story where there was only a blank line and a question mark before, in the overall series plan.  Bud is going to acquire a mysterious Belphegor, and it’s going to be … haunted.

I’ve pretty much decided to make mine a flatbed like the one I saw, or this one from Danish TV: 

Or “Gaston” belonging to a man named Adam in Los Angeles, the lucky pup:

I’m very excited about this new character and its story, which is going to be quite long and as spooky as I can make it.

Before I go off and do more research,  I have to give a monster shout out to the owners of the wonderful Belphegor, the Lane Auto Museum in Nashville.  If you like cars at all, you owe it to yourself to go to this link and click on “our cars”.  I’d never seen half the cars there in the metal, only in photographs, and there were things in their collection I never even knew existed.  Only the one pic of the Belphegor, I’m sorry to say, (boo!), but you can’t really blame them.  There are many, many vehicles on display and even more in storage, and to put multiple views of each on a website would take up more bandwidth than any not for profit could afford.

Enjoy what they can afford to share, and go there if you can.  I spent at least 4 hours staring, shooting and taking notes, and could easily have doubled that and not seen enough.  The building (a wonderful old mid-20th Century bread factory)  is well lit; the collection is barrier free so it’s a dream to photograph, and if you go around the back you can stand in the weeds and peek through the windows and see a storage area I would pay big bucks to tour. (Citroen DS 21 painted in an allover Stars and Stripes motif, anyone?  2CV rally car with 4 eyes? Something I’m pretty sure was a Goggomobile?) 

Anyway, wonderful old cars, and especially gorgeous French trucks with good backstories, make for a great weekend.  Long live Belphegor!


Bonus track:

Two Three other interesting things that are called “Belphegor”:

1) an Austrian death metal band.  Their latest album is called “Bondage Goat Zombie”.  They seem to be quite popular, with lots of reviews and fansites, but I do not think they are quite my sort of thing.

2) A scholarly journal of popular literature and media culture, published by Dalhousie University:  This is my sort of thing, and it looks very interesting– there have been two issues entirely about comics.  I will be reading more of this when I have some spare time.

3) The Mielec M-15 “Belphegor” jet agricultural aircraft, based (though you have to squint a bit) on the classic Antonov An-2 cabin biplane.  Wikipedia claims the aircraft earned the nickname by its “strange looks and noisy engine”.  I can’t comment on the engine noise, but twin boom jet biplanes with a single engine mounted in a strut above the crew cabin are not exactly thick in the ground, so its looks must qualify, at the very least, as unusual. 

The Wikipedia notes that the nickname surfaced after the aircraft was shown at the Paris Air Show, so it’s possible it’s a French nickname and related to that of the “camion Belphegor”. 

M-15 Belphegor fun fact: the aircraft uses the same engine as the Yak-40 mini-trijet , which many consider to be the first “regional jet”.

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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not an April Fool

Though it should probably count as one.  But then, sharkipedes are well known for occasional foolishness.

Everyone knows that the love of my computerized life (since I got it for Christmas) has been my little Eee PC ultracompact.   It’s small, it’s light, it has reasonably good battery life, and it does pretty everything I want right out of the box.  I can take it anywhere I can take a standard hardcover book, and for me that’s just about everywhere. 

This great little computer runs on Linux; a very odd, quirky proprietary version of Xandros.  A visit to the Eeeuser forums   will show that even Linux experts have to jump through hoops themselves to get the Eee to do any fancy tricks.   I’ve always been vaguely interested in Linux, and the Eee has made me want to do more with it. 

But I knew I had to start with an easier setup.  I asked around, did some research, and decided Ubuntu was the best distribution to get my feet wet.  Mr. Shark downloaded the ISO and burned me a disc, and I started looking for a cheap used laptop to put it on, since there is no available table space for another desktop here at Sharkipede HQ.

Then on Sunday morning Mr. Shark and I wandered into our local Best Buy for some pointless reason.  And I found this laptop … a discontinued Toshiba Satellite with 1 G of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive, looking oddly like what I’d specced out for a used laptop to play around with Linux on and also marked down from $499 to $285. 

I’m an idiot.  I bought it.  And yesterday we started it up, checked it out, admired the vast array of crapware that came preloaded with Vista, and shoved a Live CD of Gutsy Gibbon into the drive. 

I don’t know what I was expecting, but everything ran flawlessly, exactly as described in the pages of “Ubuntu for Non-Geeks”.  I looked at some of the sample files, ran the video and music clips, opened some of the software– it’s all there and looks fine.  Mr. Shark and I looked at each other.  Vista was poky and looked awful.  We have the recovery disks.  I closed up the example folder and hit “install”.

And a half hour and a few simple questions the dog could answer later,  I have an Ubuntu laptop.   I played some games, and made and colored a little scribble in the GIMP– nothing earth shattering but it all works. 

Things aren’t perfect– I’m going to have to download some “codecs” to get my DVD player to play, and there’s some other software I’m going to want.  This is going to be tough without a broadband connection at home, but I may be able to borrow one.   
I’m going to have a lot more questions, but it’s going excellently well so far.  This beast won’t replace my Eee, that’s for sure– it’s huge, heavy, noisy and eats batteries, so it’s been christened “Osborne”.

So now its time for anyone else out there who knows about Linux to come out of the wordwork to offer advice and suggestions.  Any beginner tips?  Software recommendations?  Books to read?  Websites and forums to check out?

And the most important question of all : am I becoming a late in life geek?


Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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many, many Malibus, and other stuff.

I ‘ve wondered for a while just what was going on with the new Chevy Malibu.  “Chevy Malibu” and “interesting car” are not thoughts that usually cross paths in the mind of even the most dedicated car person.  (I will admit to having vaguely fond memories of a ’75 ‘Bu, but those are personal in nature, if you know what I mean.)

But this new Malibu is somewhat different.  It’s either General Motors’ last chance or the first promising sprout of a new crop of modern American cars that will mark that company’s revival, depending on what you read and your own opinions.  The buff books and general media seem to be in agreement that it’s at least a fair competitor to Camry and Accord, and that’s a bare minimum standard that GM hasn’t seemed able to meet in a long, long time.

This is going to be Chevy’s new bread and butter car; the car Americans whove gotten used to the style, ergonomics, amenities and sturdy reliability of the classic Japanese midsize sedan will actually buy in large numbers.  The time may be right for it.  It’s true that the old time domestic loyalists (the people who would never, ever drive a Japanese car) are dying out or have shed their loyalty over the intervening years, but at the same time the Japanese loyalists, disturbed by the constantly increasing size, complexity and price of the Hondas and Toyotas and the growing evidence of dents in the Japanese quality armor, are starting to turn to alternatives.  Maybe the new Malibu doesn’t have to take everything from the big two.  Maybe being directly competative to Hyundai’s Sonata will be enough.  It certainly would be a great place to start.

The Malibu is a distinctive looking car.  Smooth and high waisted, with a strong, blunt , shape, it looks much bigger than it is.  It’s not quite like anything else on the road, and it certainly doesn’t look very Japanese, except in overall proportions of wheelbase to overhangs.  The basic platform is comes from Europe, where it underlies the midsize Opel, and it’s shared with the Saturn Aura (which is an ugly car that needs a powerful dechroming ASAP) so I suppose it’s a European look.  But that doesn’t seem right either. 

Perhaps this is a new American look, which is something we’ve needed for a long, long time.  If so, it’s kind of a nifty one, strong and plain and tough.  I can see more cars in this style, particularly a revival of the station wagon. 

More new ‘Bu pics.  The two tone interior of the LTZ models is awesome.

But it looks more distinctive in person than it does in photographs, with the dark colors, particularly the dark blue, giving the most dramatic effect.

I’ve been watching for this car for months.  Then its debut date came.  I didn’t see one.  Drove by the Chevy dealer.  Didn’t see one. (Admittedly didn’t go in to see if there was one in the showroom, not really being in the mood for the hard sell.) One week passed, then two, then three.  Saw other new cars debuting about the same time.  No Malibus.  WTF?  Does everyone hate them 

Then one, with a temporary plate, in traffic.  Then, a few days later, another in the parking lot at the grocery store.  Then two in one weekend. Then the local dealer sets one up at the flea market, and I got to sit in it …nice.  Maybe there isn’t one at the dealership because people are buying them and immediately going on long vacations? 

Then, over the last two weeks, they’ve  seemed to explode: blunt nosed, bluff flanked Chevies everywhere you looked like a pod of pilot whales. (That’s what they look like!) Now, they are literally everywhere in town.  I saw four on one trip on Saturday.  It’s the oddest debut into the fleet that I’ve seen for a long time.


Anyway, it’s the end of the month and the best thing I can say for it is I got through it with no major damage.  Better next time, I hope.


Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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