Easter Eggs

Drove across the state over the weekend to see Mr. Shark’s family.  It’s mostly a country drive, rural US highway followed by state highway, and the good sightings tend toward fauna rather than cars.

In the case of this weekend, it was fowl all the way: saw many, many redtailed hawks, two red shouldered hawks, one of the little streaky ones that’s either a Cooper or a sharpshin, and five kestrels. 

There were a lot of buzzards (the Midwestern name for turkey vultures, if you speak a different dialect) flying around, as there always are this time of year.  My guess is that they are hunting for carcasses exposed by the melting snow cover, which is disgusting, but seems to suit them very well.  We were lucky enough to see one close up, as he or she was tearing up the remains of a skunk on the edge of a corn field.  It was good to see a buzzards ugly face again; they are some of my favorite birds.

And then to cap it off, at the edge of a field, on Sunday afternoon: wild turkeys, a big gobbler and one, possibly two hens.  What a trip.

So there were good birds, which is lucky but not surprising.  The big surprise was a car.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Smart.  In the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a brand new, temporary plated, Smart Fourtwo.  The replaceable body panels were a bright, beaten egg yellow and the fixed frame was shiny black.  This is a great color combination, and the result looks quite unlike any photographs, most of which seem to feature the car with a silver frame and red, blue or black panels.    Not that any Smart is a tough spot– it is completely unlike any other car licensed in the US or Europes, although there are some Japanese home market only cars that have similar configurations.  This little two place city car looks mighty strange among Indiana’s Easter morning fleet of pickups, utes, and American sedans, where a Lexus or Mitsubishi is a bit of an odd bird.  I have no idea of the heartland will take to this car, but it was quite the little Easter egg.

New Smart Fourtwo (first sighting of an innovative and signficant new car, plus one for the paint scheme), nine points.  There’s no way to predict the eventual point value of a Smart, but my guess will be it will settle at about six or seven.

Sharkipede

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Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 4:36 am  Comments (2)  
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Weird, weird, weird stuff

I’m almost 47 years old, and I’ve always collected weirdness.  I’ve seen lotsa crazy stuff, and I admit I go out looking for it.  But today was a positive bonanza.

I ventured into the next county with Mr. Shark on one of his occasional expeditions.  We were in the town of G, and I asked him what that shop was with the enormous sculpture of a deer standing on the roof.  I’d often been curious about that, but had never thought to ask for whatever reason.

He replied that it was “You know, that place, the one with all the taxidermy junk and bones and deer antler chandeliers.  You know, you’ve been there.”

Well, no, I have not.  I have not been in a store in G full of taxidermy junk and bones. I really like taxidermy junk and bones and I would have remembered it.  We debated this for a few minutes, then he pulled over and let me out to go look at it for myself.

I stepped through the door and was greeted by an enormous stuffed possum sitting up on its haunches, gazing up at me with a cheerful, insane expression on its dead face and holding a sign reading “Down South we say welcome, y’all”.  I was stunned by this. There was more to come.

This is a small store and it is just totally filled with dead things doing things. 

Row after row of beavers gnawing at logs.  A pair of otters standing on their hind legs. Squirrels climbing trees.  Bears climbing trees.  Wild boar standing on tables.  A pine martin leaping after a grouse.  Heads galore, mostly deer, but also elk, antelopes, and a moose and a Cape Buffalo. (I so want a Cape Buffalo …)  And that was just the normal stuff.

 How about a full sized coyote, meticulously taxidermied into the pose of a dog lying on a cushion, and placed on lodge style bed so it looks like there is an actual coyote lying on your actual bed in your actual bedroom??  This is an utterly amazing decorating idea and we should all try it.  Also, for those for whom a coyote is a little too much, there were also several badgers presented in a similar way.  I personally do not know which I would prefer.

Or how about a raccoon?  There were a wide variety of raccoons; the raccoon being by far the favorite dead decorating animal.  Or that is what one must assume from the stock of this store.  For the bar, the raccoon trying to open a can of beer. (At least two dozen of these, each with a different brand.) Or, for the alcohol free, a similar pose involving a box of Cracker Jack.  Or, for the outdoorsy,  a raccoon dressed as a fisherman, a hunter, a backpacker, with all the appropriate gear.

Or, if you are a big spender with lots of free space, how about an entire diorama, full sized, featuring four raccoons sitting around a little table in little chairs, playing poker?  I wish I could convey to you how strange this looked.  Especially in context, the players being watched over their shoulders by hartebeestes and foxes, and a coyote reclining on a bed nearby.

I will be going back there, with enough money to buy a fox’s skull for the studio. And maybe a business card holder made out of a coiled rattlesnake.  And I can tell you for sure, I’d never been there before.  I would have remembered.  I’m certainly never going to forget.

Or will I go back to G, next month when I have to go to the dentist, and find that the taxidermy junk and bones shop is gone, and no one remembers it but me?

Sharkipede

Published in: on February 10, 2008 at 6:47 am  Comments (2)  
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Month’s end roundup, January 2008

It’s the last day of January already, and since one of the things I wanted to do with this new blog was sum up each month as it passes, it’s time to try it for the first time.  A month strikes me as the logical place to pause for an evaluation; not a short enough time that the thought is always breathing down one’s neck, but not long enough to forget all  about it and take one’s eye off the ball.

If one may be permitted to mix a metaphor.

This January has been a long month, and while I feel like I have been treading water, I’ve actually accomplished quite a lot.  I had my eyes examined, ordered new frames, had both pairs of my glasses made, and went through a particularly unpleasant Eyeball Twisting Week as my astigmatism was rather forcibly corrected by my own eye muscles.  It began a week ago yesterday and seems to be pretty much over.  My eyes haven’t watered at all today, and I’ve stopped having to blink to bring things into focus.  Very disconcerting, that.

I picked a new blogging site, and started this nifty new blog.  And, to my delight, a lot of you followed me here and have even posted comments.  Thank you muchly.

I’ve made surprising advances in my on-and-off interest in computers.  Most of this can be attributed to my growing affection for my new ASUS Eee PC,  which was a Christmas gift from Mr. Shark.  I’m using it a lot for writing and editing, and it has inspired in me a vague desire to learn something about Linux.   How weird is that?  I’ve acquired a couple of books and a disk with a core install of Fedora and some basic apps, and Mr. Shark says he will build me a Linux box to mess around with out of spare parts (apparently it doesn’t have to be particularly state of the art) as soon as he has finished building his own new PC.  In the interests of furthering my education he let me install the OS on his new system (under careful supervision, of course) and it was actually pretty cool.  More to come on this, I think.

But the Eee is proving practical right now, since I’m getting a lot of extra writing done in my spare time.  One of the projects that have moved to the new platform is writing “Hopelessly Lost, But Making Good Time”, my monthly column for Sequential Tart.  I’ve started a new series about superhero characters in comics, and the next few installments are already outlined.  Part one is finished and should be out on February first, at www.sequentialtart.com

I finished the script for my next minicomic, very moody and experimental, discovered the seed for an upcoming issue of Kekionga, and finished both covers for  Kekionga #2.  Random pages are partially pencilled, and the whole issue is thumbnailed.  This is where the month kind of fell down–I was hoping to be a little further along with that comic at this point, but part of that can be blamed on the damned Eyeball Twisting. 

Otherwise, it was a cold, snowy January.  I walked when I could, and will always remember Toby showing me the hawk.  Chester is doing well, in spite of the cold, which is hard on an old dog.  I worked well enough, making real progress every day, if not always on the “right” projects. 

My goal for next month is to work substantially, every day, on finished pages for Kekionga #2, and to get ready for SPACE,  my first con of the year, at the end of the month.  If I do anything new for the show, it will be produced in my spare time and will not interfere with the first goal. I hope.

And February is the month of the Auto Show, which means NSC will be returning, at long last, to its roots as an occasional car blog.  

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around for the second month of version 2.0.

Sharkipede 

Published in: on February 1, 2008 at 4:07 am  Comments (1)  
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Hawks on walks

We seem to be having a predatory bird extravaganza here at NSC this week.  But while the owls in question were art owls, seen only on the comic page, today we had a close encounter with a real raptor.

I was on my way back from a walk with the dog Toby, only one block from home.  I was listening to my favorite Warren Zevon song (“Searching for a Heart”, Zevon fans) and thinking about page 2 of Kekionga #2, when Toby alerted to something across the street.  He didn’t go into a full point, which he does do sometimes, but he stiffened and indicated a direction with his nose and tail.

I’ve come to trust Toby’s instincts; he’s pointed deer and pheasant for me, and something I’m 90% sure was a wild turkey, as well as many other types of birds, as well as beetles, dragonflies and plastic bags. And he was right on target again this time.  Across the street, in the tree lawn, by the base of the phone pole was a Red Shouldered Hawk. 

I’m pretty sure of the identification, and I’m thrilled, because this makes 4 species of raptor that I’ve seen within a block of the house.   In the yard, I’ve seen the small grey backed Sharpshinned Hawk several times and Sam, our neighborhood Redtail.  (And if you’ve never seen a full sized Redtail perched your backyard gate you are missing a vaguely terrifying wildlife moment.)  And I’ve seen Kestrels around the neighborhood several times.

The new hawk, who was picking at a bit of trash, looked like this.

 http://asnailpace.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/red-shouldered-hawk-3.jpg

http://steelhead.aecom.yu.edu/Florida2005/images/Red-shouldered%20hawk.jpg

Bigger and browner than the Sharpie, without the grey back and the markings on the face, but smaller than a Redtail and lacking the distinctive tail markings.  The plain reddish brown head, and the barred tail …It was a Red Shouldered, all right.

We sat down to watch her (him).  The hawk was completely calm, not afraid of Toby at all, and Toby, in turn, was perfectly good; he didn’t make a sound, not the tiniest “boof”.  This went on for several minutes until a contractor’s work truck went by and the hawk flew up into a tree. 

We crossed the street then and stood under the tree to take a closer look.  We couldn’t find what the hawk had been eating; he (or she) must have finished it off.  Then the hawk watched us and we watched the hawk until everyone had enough.

Then, presumably, we both went home. 

Good boy, Toby, and thank you for finding me a hawk. 

Sharkipede 

Published in: on January 19, 2008 at 2:57 am  Comments (3)  
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It’s all about owls!

Today’s post is all about owls.  Specifically, owls in Indiana.  And owls in comics.  And owls in Indiana in comics …

I have written an owl into Kekionga #2 . Admittedly, it’s sort of at the last minute, but I haven’t pencilled any of the pages in which the owl now appears, except the back cover, where he or she should be quite easy to add.  I know, it’s dumb to still be fiddling with the script while actually pencilling the comic, but I say if the owl makes for a better story then I’m going with the owl.

Which leaves me nosing through bird books and trolling Google Images trying to figure out what kind of owl this owl might be.  I’ve narrowed it down to a Great Horned Owl,  an Eastern Screech Owl,  or a Barn Owl.  All three are common in this part of the country, and I’ve seen all three wild within 200 miles of Kekionga’s (imaginary) location, so I think any one can be justified.  Now I’m trying to figure out which owl is the right owl.

In case you are not an owl maven, here is a Great Horned Owl

http://wwwstatic.kern.org/images/calmzoo/greathornedowl001.jpg

An Eastern Screech

http://h1.ripway.com/Scouts463/Birds/screech-owl-1.jpg

and a Barn Owl

http://www.message-wildlife-art.co.uk/Images/Bird%20Pics/Barn%20Owl%20Large.jpg

The Great Horned Owl is the owliest owl,  perhaps even the default owl.  It’s the owl people think of when they hear the word.  As such, it is probably too obvious.

The Screech Owl is also very owly looking, but much smaller. I think it is big enough to do everything I need it to do in the story, though.

Then there is the Barn Owl.  I really like Barn Owls because they are so strange looking– they look like ghosts, or moths, and fly so silently. 

Using a Barn Owl would give my story a spooky, ethereal quality, while the other two owls are more woodsy, wild, and basically normal.  The Screech or Horned Owls will support the themes of the story, the Barn Owl would provide a counterpoint.

So, which owl? Anyone wanting to offer an opinion on the matter is welcome to post, or email the usual address.

Thanks for owling with me today.

Sharkipede

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 11:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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snakes and bats. also, work.

One of the better things that have happened recently is the return of the Letterman and Craig Ferguson shows to late night TV.  Letterman’s World Wide Pants production company, which makes both shows, made a separate deal with the writer’s union, so I do not have to  feel like a scab for watching.

And on Craig, last Friday, was the actor Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings).  Now, normally this would not be considered of general interest– celebrities go on late night talk shows, film at 11, blah blah blah.

But Mr. Monaghan brought in animals, and one of them was a lovely snake I’d never seen before– he said it was a rat snake called a Blue Beauty, and it came from Thailand, and it eats bats.

Seriously.  This snake climbs the rocks outside bat caves and nabs the flying mice as they enter or exit.  I’m assuming this is true– a little research seems to bear it out– and even if it wasn’t I would want it to be.  I want there to be snakes that eat bats.

Here are some images I found of Blue Beauty rat snakes.  Even if you don’t usually click on the links, I recommend you check these out.  The name is fully accurate– this long, lean, active serpent has gorgeous blue and grey patterns that change as they move down its body. It is one spectacular looking snake. 

http://www.bluegorgon.com/framedtail.png

http://www.bluegorgon.com/framedfullmatsu.png

http://art1.sheezyart.com/image/44/447860.jpg

 Also, the Australian carpet python– which is also quite a nice snake, but not as interesting.  But it eats bats, too!  Yay!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0b/Australian-Carpet-Python.jpg/555px-Australian-Carpet-Python.jpg

This got me thinking.  What eats bats?

Snakes, obviously. Birds of prey, especially owls.  Dogs, and presumably raccoons, cats and other hunters , will eat a bat that’s “down”, and will certainly try to catch a bat in flight.  (I’ve never seen a dog manage this feat, but I’ve seen Chester get a bird on the wing, so I suppose it’s possible.) 

But I was not expecting the answer “frogs”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/features/281feature1.shtml

This is good.  I want frogs that eat bats.  I want bats that eat frogs. (Which also happens.)

For those who are not interested in nature, or late night TV, I offer an update on Kekionga #2.   The new title block may be fixed in stone– I’m still waffling.  The back cover is designed, though I still don’t have a front cover that works.  Everything is thumbnailed except the opening sequence, and I am thinking of going ahead with pencils, starting with about page 5.

I’ve never done this before, but this project is already such a mess as regards process, I wonder how else I can mess it up???

I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Sharkipede

Published in: on January 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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