Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wiffle Ball is Life

You know what, I hate those stupid shirts with retarded sayings (like the title of this Blog entry) that a lot of people were wearing in the late 90s. Stuff like, “Football is Life … Nothing Else Matters!” or crap like that. It was just so obnoxious and was a completely transparent way to get people to ask if you play that sport. And if they did already know that you played that sport, then this shirt just emphasizes how EXTREME you were about your devotion to it.

Give me a break. And the worst part is that it wasn’t just aggressive sports, soon there were shirts trumpeting how nothing else mattered besides golf or tennis or track. Then it was even dumbed down even more to pseudo sports like pool and cheerleading and darts. As long as you put a wacky saying or a “phrase with attitude” on a white cotton t-shirt, people will buy millions of them.

Anyway, despite the lameness of the title, it does reflect the art in the strip. I wanted to juxtapose the realness of a seemingly light moment with how that moment ends for the defeated. This is especially true in a game like wiffle ball.

Get your head out of the 90s man, it’s time for a brand new century. You can start doing so here: www.room19comics.com

In my life, I’ve played close to one thousand wiffle ball games and I couldn’t tell you a damned thing about any of them. At the time of the game, it was very important to get a pitch to hit the chair, or slam a homer or squeak a run in. That is why the game wiffle ball works so well as a microcosm of life.

Ten years ago today, you were probably working on a very important project, whether at school or at work. Can you remember what it was? If it was me, I was finishing up my last year in college and working towards my minor in visual arts. My English classes were about done, so I had a photography class, a painting class an art history class, a modern Irish lit class and something else. (Shit, I can’t believe that I remember that.)

At the time all of those classes had an important project that was no doubt due either on this day or within a week and I was probably obsessing about it. Or maybe I was thinking about a chick or a party or getting more money. In any case, one of those thoughts was the most important thing in my life and now I couldn’t remember what it was if you had a gun to my head.

Thus it goes with this comic, that last was so important the characters were drawn with an amount of realism that I don’t normally use in this medium. After the moment passed, they were drawn as they usually are, in the cartoon style. That’s the basic message to this strip: for the most part, things are only important when you are in that moment, after the moment passes, the important becomes mundane.

There is an underlying message too and that is, if you lose the once important becomes trivial and when you win, the once important becomes legendary. We’ve all had games like Eddie has where you’re the goat, and the worst part isn’t giving up the homer or rimming out a shot, it’s the crap you get after the game. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known the guy for 20 minutes or he’s your life-long friend, it’s going to sting either way.

The idea for this strip has been percolating in my head for a couple of months, but I had been nervous to try and do it because I didn’t think that I could do it. I feel that I did a pretty good job of having the proper perspective of each of the “real” ball players, especially the pitcher. I didn’t use anything as a model for that panel. The second panel, I used a picture of Ted Williams, but the first panel I used my memory.

The one thing that I am unhappy with is the way I drew Eddie in the third panel. I wanted Kurt to be in the foreground and Eddie in the front glowering at him as he ran around the yard. I ended up making Eddie too big, and in my opinion, too menacing. He looks like a gorilla, which wasn’t my point at all. But as much as I dislike Eddie in the third panel, I think him slinking home, shoulders slumped, solemnly carrying his bat while Kurt loudly rags on him is one of my favorite panels.

By the way, in case you didn’t get the explanations, it’s supposed to be an announcer adding to the realism and drama of the situation by describing the play-by-play. I think that it works.

This is the big week for the Magrane family, tomorrow morning we go to the registry of deeds and we sign our closing papers for the new condo. I honestly can’t believe that I’m going to be a homeowner. It’s mind blowing to me. I’m nervous, excited, scared, pumped all at once.

This Thursday, Friday and Saturday I’m going to be up to elbows in paint and primer. I don’t think it’s going to take that many days to get the whole place done (especially with the amount of help that we’re getting), but it’s still going to suck. Sunday, the guys are coming over and we’re going to move a bunch of things from the apartment over to the condo. It shouldn’t take as long as last year’s move did (that was a fucking nightmare), but there are better ways to spend a Sunday.

With all of this moving, I am going to have to put the strip on hold for next week. I may do a Blog entry or two, but there won’t be a new comic strip until February 8. So until then …

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Filet O’ Idiocy

Throughout my years of reading comics, I have found there are “haw-haw” strips and there are strips that sort of make you think, smile and move on a bit changed from the experience. This strip is not one of the latter. If I even got one person to pause and wonder if they’re going to get steak the next time they order a Filet O’Fish, then my job will be considered a success. I doubt that’s going to happen. Mainly for two reasons:

1. No one orders Filet O’Fishes from McDonalds anymore
2. The word “FISH” is in the name of the sandwich

But that’s not to say the opposite experience can’t occur.

Robble, robble. What are you talking about, Grimace? There won’t be anything about the McDonald Land Gang here, which was a complete rip off from Sidd and Marty Kroft BTW, but there will be a mildly amusing display of boxes arranged with drawings and words here: www.room19comics.com

Every so often, I bust out a particularly embarrassing moment in my life that I draw and write out and post for the world to see. Mostly, these comic strips are pretty tame and offer a peek into when I was younger and a bit more naïve as to the ways of the world. If you read them, you may even identify with one or two of them.

Not this week. This week, is probably one of the stupidest things that I have ever said to another person in my life. It is so stupid that I transferred idiocy ownership to a innocent character that has never hurt anyone in his life. So let me get this weight off of my chest, there was a time when I thought that filet mignon was a cut of fish. And this wasn’t because I went to a restaurant once and the menu was screwed up and they had filet mignon listed under the fish dishes.

It was because a Filet O’Fish sandwich at McDonalds is a fish sandwich. In my simple, primate mind I thought, “Well if the word ‘filet’ is used in the McDonald’s instance as a moniker for a fish sandwich, then it must be true that the word filet is a universal word meaning fish.”

And it’s not like I had this thought at nine and was told differently, I had this idea up until my 20s. When I would go out to eat with my parents, they would say, “Byron, why don’t you have the filet mignon tonight?” And each time I’d answer, “Because you know that I hate fish. Jesus. How many times do I have to tell you?”

They either thought that I was kidding or weird. But the truth is, not only was I stupid, but I was an asshole about it too. To add insult to injury, I’d probably said the same thing to a girl while on a date or two. And I wondered why I had troubles getting chicks.

That is the background of the story, and maybe it will make your enjoyment of the strip go up. I certainly hope so, because I enjoy writing these commentaries on the comics that I put up. I just hope you enjoy reading them.

As far as the actual artwork, I am going to have to ask for a mulligan on this one. Normally I do the pencils on Saturday morning, but with Jamie, Kim, their kids and Alessandra coming over to watch the Pats (what a disaster that game was, the less said, the better), Aly and I spent most of the morning cleaning, cooking and packing. Instead of Saturday, I did the preliminary pencils on Sunday and I was way to hung over to do much of anything.

And while they aren’t bad renditions of the characters, they’re not as challenging as I like them to be. What I mean is, everything is seen from basically the same angle: dead-straight-on. Last week, I mixed the points of view up a bit, the week before I put in a bit more detail. This was pretty bare-bones stuff. Besides my grogginess, I was hoping that the writing would more or less carry the joke.

Speaking of last week’s strip, “thanks for the words” (obligatory David Cross reference) about the Jeff Foxworthy strip. I went deeper into the philosophy behind the strip in my Blog, and it looks as if a lot of people actually read it … or at least skimmed it. Either way, thanks.

There’s no real navel-gazing entry this week, still doing the packing thing, which sucks a lot. It’s a bigger pain in the ass that I thought it was going to be and next weekend, I will be painting the hell out of the new place, starting on Thursday. This could definitely mean no strip for the first week of February. BTW, why the fuck can’t I spell February correctly? I always spell it like this Feburary.

I was able to take a break from packing last week to meet with John Fine who is one of the senior members of the Boston Braves Historical Association. It was actually my second meeting with him about the web site that I’m doing for the Association. Before the holidays we went over what they wanted and what I should be doing, and Thursday we spent a good hour and a half scanning in old Braves shots. When this site is up (probably around Spring Training), it’s going to be awesome.

The cool thing is that it will be an ever-evolving site and one that I want to be the first a person thinks of when they Google Boston Braves. I really think that we can do some great stuff. Stay tuned.

That reminds me, the last four episodes of “Arrested Development” will be shown in a mini marathon on February 10 from 8-10:00 pm EST. Yup, FOX is doing the right thing … let’s see what else is on that day, Hmmm … no “Family Matters” or “Step by Step”, no “Dukes of Hazard” or “Dallas”. Oh, what’s this, the Opening Ceremonies to the 2006 Winter Olympic, live from Turin, Italy.

COME ON! Thanks for the death sentence, FOX.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You Might Be A Redneck If …

Yes, true believers. I did it. I went after America’s number one sacred cow in this week’s edition of Room 19 Comics. There is no celebrity, big or small, that can escape my poison pen as Jeff Foxworthy gets a direct hit to the breadbasket. Take that patron saint of redneck funny men! Ha!

Ok, the above paragraph is a little over done, but I figured that I should put something funny up here. All in all, this is a neat little strip and I think it makes my point about lowest common denominator humor. For the last three or four years, redneck humor has grown in popularity. From Foxworthy to Larry the Cable Guy, these jokers and their country-fried yokels have been making their humor known.

And you know what it, it sucks. The jokes are stupid, their points are border-line racist and it just divides America even more. I know that they’ll say it is in response to the explosion in popularity to the comedy flick, “The Original Kings of Comedy” with Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer, DL Hughley and Steve Harvey. All four guys got movie and TV deals out the flick, so it’s not surprising that other people tried to rip it off (The Original Queens of Comedy, The Latin Kings of Comedy, etc.). The main difference is that at least one of those guys (Mac) is really fucking funny, the others are ok. The imitators all sucked and eventually died out.

You’ll see what I’m talking about here: www.room19comics.com.

Not the hick bunch. These guys just keep going and going and going with the same jokes and the same observations. It sucks. David Cross got into a great pissing match with Larry the Cable Guy on his site www.bobanddavid.com and it was pretty interesting. And I’m not trying to pick on just one group of people, I hate how our country is just becoming too niche-orientated.

Every genre and subgenre has its own group of celebrities and those people have to shit on other people to get their props and it’s just boring. And yes, I realize the irony of me crying about ragging on another group of people when I just spent three paragraphs explaining that I hate redneck humor.

Back to the strip, this was actually going to be a two-paneled strip when Eddie asks Layne what he’s watching. I decided that there was no way that any college kid would be watching “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour” unless there was a good reason, so I had him sacked out on the couch trying to sleep off a hangover.

By the way, when I was in college I was real pumped to get drunk one night, only we didn’t have anything to drink, so I actually funneled what was left of the Goldschlager (which is cinnamon schnapps with flecks of gold in it). It hit me like a ton of bricks and I was able to get drunk on a shoe-string budget. So kids, let that be a lesson to you … you can get drunk if you use some ingenuity.

So the first two panels are used as a set up to the main joke. The perspective is a bit off in the second panel because I was attempting to do it as bird’s eye view of the living room, but it just wasn’t coming out right. That’s one of the things I am attempting to do in these strips, work on different perspectives and ways of viewing the action. With the second and third panels, I think I did a pretty good job. Hopefully this will mean better art in the upcoming strips.

The third panel is Foxworthy’s joke. I was going to use saltier language, but I decided that it would probably best if I didn’t. Layne’s line in the fourth panel actually made me a laugh a bit, and I never laugh at my stuff (which is telling, I suppose). I am pretty sure that Foxworthy isn’t a racist by any means, and if truth be told, Larry the Cable Guy is more of the person I wanted to target in this strip, though he isn’t as well known.

So there you have it, my take on rural humor.

If there’s one thing that I want you to take away from this Blog is how much I love to use ellipses. As a punctuation, they are so underused it is almost criminal. Besides me, the only person who seems to use them at all is my dad and he goes buckwild with them in his emails.

Does that mean that I’m turning into my dad? Despite my protests, there are days when I definitely am. I can just see the way I’m acting, the way I laugh, what makes me laugh, etc and all of a sudden I’m Mike Magrane. Not that that is a bad thing. Actually, my father is a pretty great guy and if there is one man that I’d like to turn in to, I guess it would be him.

One of the reasons why I’m so hesitant to be him is because I think I may lose my identity. However, then I start thinking that maybe my identity was that of my dad and that his identity was of his father, and his father of his father and so on … (ellipses!) Maybe all of us interacting with each other every day are essentially reruns of interactions of a generation ago. If that is the case than nothing is really new and we’re just on a cycle going around and around and around.

Just what does form your personality?

Enough with the philosophy crap. The past week hasn’t been so bad, Aly and I started packing up the homestead and are looking forward to what the future brings us in Coolidge Corner. Friday night we signed the purchasing and sale agreement, I wrote the largest check that I probably ever will, then we ate Chinese food and watched a movie (“House of Sand and Fog” … meh, not that great). Not exactly the Hollywood ending of buying your first home, but that’s what we did.

Saturday, we went to Ryan’s house and watched the Pats kick ass. Great second half by the Patriots. I don’t know where they’re going in the playoffs, but if they play that well, it will be far. We also found out that the person we wanted to rent our apartment to was approved. That was a huge load off both of our backs.

We also went furniture shopping on Saturday and Sunday. That’s was as fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

If You Read One Blog Entry This Year, Make It This One!

Snappy title, eh? The reason why I went with a bit of hyperbole is because although there is a lot of text in the strip, there was a bunch of things that I wanted to write but space prohibited me from doing so.

For one thing, I am not exaggerating at how bad of a basketball player I used to be. When I got to college I played a lot and got much better, but mostly because I understood what my game should consist of: grab rebounds, play defense like crazy, box out and don’t shoot much. Once in awhile I could get on a pretty good shooting streak, but those days were few and far between.

It doesn’t matter if I became a better hoop player in the future (honestly, I couldn’t get much worse) but back in high school, I didn’t know my strengths and weaknesses as an athlete and oftentimes I tried to do too much. That is the basis for this week’s cartoon, and yes, it’s a Random Memories edition.

Want to see me in my full athletic glory? Check out this page and find out: www.room19comics.com

A bit of background on my basketball career; like I said earlier, I wasn’t particularly good, but I loved playing. Apparently so didn’t the rest of my school as our team was huge. Freshman year, we didn’t even have enough uniforms for the guys on the team. About 20 guys dressed for one game, and ten wore street clothes. Then those ten guys would get to dress for the next game and another ten guys wore street clothes. Our freshman coach thought he was coaching the Celts and would play the same seven guys over and over again. It got so bad that one of my buddies brought a newspaper to the game and would sit on the bench and read it.

By the time sophomore year hit, the team dwindled down some, but there were still 17-18 guys on the squad. And there was about the same amount my junior year too. We actually had a real good varsity team that year and the year before, so everyone wanted to be on a winning team. The problem was, the guy that they got to coach the JV team that year, Coach Conners, was a complete idiot. Actually, comparing him to an idiot is offensive to idiots, but you get the idea.

He was the JV football coach and that’s what he lived for. The first two practices, we did football drills, you know, running in place and then dropping to the floor to do some pushups. We also did handoff drills for some reason. Everyone knew that he wasn’t a hoops coach, which is where my brilliant idea to play basketball as if it were football took off.

I threw myself around the gym like I was a rag doll. I just went crazy, diving for every lose ball, fought for every rebound, set hard picks. Coach Conners and his lisp (he had the worst lisp I ever heard) was ecstatic. He bumped me from bench warmer to starting point guard on the first team. I was psyched, but at the same time I had this nagging thought in the back of my head that I was a complete fraud and that sooner or later they were going to find out that I wasn’t a point guard. So filled with confidence, I went to Conners (who was also my gym teacher and I am convinced that he didn’t like me) and talked to him about me playing point guard.

I thought that we had a bit of an understanding now (I had impressed him remember?) and that now we can see eye-to-eye on stuff. I explained that I wasn’t a point guard because I was too tall (I was about 5’10”) and most importantly, I could barely dribble with my left hand. He looked at me for a second with a face that I will never forget. Basically he was trying to rationalize how someone could be given a starting position and then piss it away.

If we switched positions, I’m sure that I would’ve reacted the same way. So after my words ran through and was processed by his ape-like brain, he said, “If you ain’t gonna play the point, that you ain’t gonna play.” I figured that he’d at least allow me to move over to small forward or shooting guard, but his mind was made up … and worst of all, I made it up for him.

In retrospect, Coach Conners wasn’t a cool guy like my freshman baseball coach, Buck. Over the course of the season, he did a lot of stupid things: he was kicked out of a game for flipping out over a call, after a tough loss to Masconomet Regional High School he flung his clipboard across a packed gym and wouldn’t shake the other coach’s hand, as the season wore on, his interest waned incredibly. He just didn’t give a shit and the team was out of control, we may as well have been playing intramurals.

On the list of dumb things I’ve done in my life, this wasn’t a top tenner, hell, it probably wouldn’t make the top twenty, but it was a shining example of how little self confidence I had in myself. And that’s what I wish I could change about this episode. I’m pissed that I didn’t even give it a shot (no pun) and see what happened. Maybe I would’ve been a crappy point guard, maybe I would’ve been decent. Who knows? All I know is that I was handed an opportunity and I didn’t take it because I was scared.

Oh yeah, about the strip, I think most of it is pretty self-explanatory though the one thing that I would have you look at is what I’m wearing in the third panel. Champion sweatshirt tucked into a pair of Z. Cavariccis with a gold chain hanging out. If that isn’t 1990, I don’t know what the hell is. And yes, Coach Conners did wear those disgusting short shorts. He reminded me a lot of the assistant football coach in “Dazed and Confused”. You know the one who talks about “chasing the muff around” and yells “BREAKDOWN!”

This past weekend was New Year’s Eve, and like every NYE, Aly and I went to visit Danna and Rick in White Plains. This year was different because I was dying. Or at least I felt like I was dying. I had a real crappy cold that was kicking my ass from Friday until Monday. The worst part came on Saturday and Sunday, which is when we spent the bulk of our time in New York.

We didn’t do much, another couple came over (he was a sugar commodities trader) and we just got some take out and drank a bit. It was ok, I guess … nothing crazy, but I wasn’t in the mood for wild and crazy because I was so sick. The next day we celebrated Hanukkah with them and Rick’s family, which was pretty nice.

I forgot to tell you, I bought a PS2 game the other day (the first one in at least two years). It was FIFA 06. Ryan was telling me that Aidan got it for Christmas and that it’s really awesome. And he’s right, it is really cool. I decided to play the manager mode and take my team (Bologna) from the second division in Italy up to the first division. I made it through six games (0-5-1) before they fired me. Yes. A video game fired my ass. That was not fun. At all. I’ll be back tonight and see if I can change my luck.