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Friday, October 31, 2008

Post 100: Allhallow's Eve, the best holiday ever...

Even if I'm absolutely unprepared for it. Again. Still. Did you know I used to write horrible rhyming poetry on Hallowe'en themes?

Yeah. And I'm not sharing a scrap of it, even if I could find it.

Instead, look at these from Golden Age Comic Book Stories: Weird Tales covers! And film posters including posters for some of my favorite films of all time, ever*!

(*Those would be the Val Lewton films.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I hope this is the last time I have to use the words "Sarah Palin" in a sentence...

PZ Myers is making Sarah Palin look bad.

Actually, it's Sarah Palin that's making Sarah Palin look bad, PZ is simply pointing out why she has made herself look bad, and how she has chosen to make herself look to people who actually do the research she paradoxically despises and insists we need more of.

I very much doubt, from her comments, that she knows what she's talking about. People who are unfamiliar with both how research and how science works often are. Ideally, this should recuse them from talking. It's a pity Palin didn't do that.

Now, I wouldn't expect a politician to necessarily know how science and research works. I do expect them to surround themselves with people who, ostensibly, do, or at least know enough to not make nakedly obvious gaffes like this.

But if this is how her campaign is being conducted, I have every reason to expect this will probably carry over into a presidency.

I might have expected better from McCain, but he picked her as his running mate. I worry four more years of darkness will be SOP.

I generally stay out of politics on this blaugh. But this is just pathetic.

(Update: comments here as well.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lauren's Unicorn

Private commission, sketch done yesterday evening:

She seemed to like it so I'm taking it to the next level: enlarging it and inking it. The final version will have some color in it.

(I tried to combine pictures I've seen of cheetah turning nearly on a dime, something not-quite-approaching horses, and a full gallop. Not certain it works 100%, though... Oh, and I made the "horn" part of a samurai sword, complete with a tsuba on the beast's forehead. I just had to do something different with it.)

UPDATE: Here's a revised version, based on some much-needed feedback:

Who Is Responsible for this Garbage?

Windows Vista, I mean. The byzantine interface (designed by spider monkeys on Red Bull) makes the political and bureaucratic infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire appear transparent, it helps by being helpy, instead of helpful.

I've just now gotten it to recognize or be recognized by the systems on the rest of the network. This took an hour and a half.

The experience leaves me with the conviction that Microsoft should go back to making program loaders (i.e. DOS). It was the only thing they were ever any good at. The rest of their products are worthless.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SVP Squared

It was lunch! (I'm in there somewhere. Unfortunately, not one of the handsome ones.)

There's only one person I didn't get to meet in this picture. That guy. Right there. I'm pointing at him. I almost didn't meet Thomas Holtz, but was lucky at the literal last minute (I was on my way out the door to the airport).

Well, it seems that talking about what we've seen at SVP is probably a bad idea--or at least, that's the position I'm taking on everything I saw there, in posters and the technical presentations. If I have questions, I'll be making them wait. I can live with that.

But there are other things to talk about, surely? Yes. Behold:

I do wonder if it might have been better if non-English speakers were able to deliver talks in their native languages, maybe with some sort of live translator present like they used to have in old movies at the UN. Some of the talks were difficult to understand, and I can't imagine it was any easier for Chinese or Japanese speakers to deliver a presentation in a second or third language.

Does that make sense?

Is there a mathematics primer for the stuff that gets used in paleo? Some of us would appreciate it if we knew some of what the heck was going on. Think "See Jane Run. Run Jane Run. See Jane Solve a Bunch of Calculus Problems That Suspiciously Resembles Greek without Grammar..." level. I'm serious, I've lost virtually all the math literacy I used to have, and that wasn't much. (Something about not having had to use it much.)

I picked up a copy of the 2nd edition of The Dinosauria for what I thought was cheap ($45, hardcover) until Nick Gardner pointed out an irritating reality (or maybe not--I can't find it anywhere online for $15 or so bucks). But now that I have it, I'm still compelled to keep the first edition. Is there a good reason to not do so?

I went to the dealer room a lot. There were a number of books I really wanted, but simply couldn't afford (like the great cats painting book--whoever wound up with that $130, gorgeous tome has my undying envy). But I also got a book filled with Zdenek Burian paintings of marine reptiles, a children's book on the sculptures of Waterhouse Hawkins, two Richard Ellis books on sharks (The Great White-hardcover, and just Sharks, filled with lots of his paintings in color).

I also purchased a nearly or exactly 1/18th-scale resin statue of Triceratops by Michael Trcic, and his Parasaurolophus in 1/35th. Those last will be mailed up to me, along with my leftover laundry and swag that wouldn't fit into my carryons (I checked no luggage this trip--it saved an indecent amount of time to not do so).

With one exception, I didn't go to any of the after-hours events. Just tired, I guess. I wish I could have stayed all day Saturday, though. Wednesday was awesome at the museum.

I learned it takes Michael Skrepnick about 60 days to complete a painting (dependent upon complexity). That still amazes me, especially after what I went through to get the Archosauria show finished. There simply is no parity in the level of detail I accomplished and what he can accomplish.

This suggests I need more practice. The man also claims he can get the same effects out of acrylics that he can get out of oils--looking at his work, I believe him.

I did feel some small vindication talking to William Stout; he uses oils. Acrylics and I--well, I'm just not competent with acrylics.

Still, it was really awesome talking with him. I almost felt I could be the Virgil Finlay of paleo-reconstruction afterwards (providing I worked a littlelot harder). (Or maybe the Hannes Bok of paleo-reconstruction.)

Speaking of awesome, I wonder if it makes sense to suggest an artist-meet-type event at SVP. Beyond just merely meeting some of the amazing artists running around at SVP, I'd love to hear what more experienced/less-tentative artists (including those much younger than myself) might have to say to the rest of us. Maybe just a lunch?

(David Krentz does have that Gnomon Workshops video. Hm. Soon as I have money, I'll get me that.)

SVP was good to me. Before going, I was burning out, a little, in part due to the show and all the haste necessary to scrape it together, but also in part due to the fact that I haven't been doing so well as the days get darker. I've always been sort of a solitary individual, largely of my own choosing, but sometimes not. The resultant isolation can be a downer as well as a major stressor. Last year (about September) I went through a particularly bad bout of depression which lasted for about six months. In that case, a spectacularly hateful job (a badly managed valley newspaper) combined with ... ah, well, let's just say other emotional issues made coping difficult, to say the least.

I think SVP gave me enough fuel to make it through the winter.

I'm glad I went. I'm hoping I can go again. I'd put off a visit to Japan to do it.

[UPDATE!] Oooh, and Jim Kondrat of Paleo-Tech Concepts allowed me to play with a $20,000 piece of laser-scanning hardware.

I'd like one of them for my living room (pretty badly, it turns out). If I can get the resultant geometry into Maya (4.0, Unlimited, Irix), it would be pretty darn sweet.

So. Will draw anything for $20,000.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back from the Land of Cleve!

And it was the greatest vacation ever!

I'm back from my first SVP, and I have to say, without equivocation, that I would so totally do that again.

Who did I meet? I met many many people, including Julia and Amanda and Matt Celeskey (who, impossibly, managed to recognise me--or is just very good at spotting names on nametags) and Andrew Farke and Niel Kelly and Patty Ralrick and Matt Wedel and Nick Gardner and Alton Dooley and Tom Holtz (whom I only just barely managed to meet on my way out--and I had to interrupt mid-conversation in order to do so, the only time I did so during the entire course of the meeting) and Jerry Harris (who dresses in a very dapper manner--I also liked his invisible wall).

Um, I'll get my own image of the lunch up at some point, but until I get those files e-mailed to me, here's a look.

Artists I met included:

William oh-my-god-I'm-having-an-actual-conversation-with-freakin'-William Stout. Whom I had no idea was even here, in spite of the foreknowledge of the fact that he designed the SVP logo. (Yes, bought a shirt. And a pin. And I will buy his new book when it comes out in January.)

[UPDATE: Ack! Forgot to include...]Michael Skrepnick, one of the nicest guys in the world. I guarantee, if you hang around me at all, then at one time or another, you have seen numerous paintings of his.

David Krentz, who I finally managed to meet on the way out of a particularly crowded room (that is, I was escaping the room--crowds and heat plus deep personal supidity on my part for wearing a wool coat meant I had to leave the Poster Session a little earlier than I would have liked).

Art-poster Judy Peterson doesn't have a website, but she probably ought to own one. I wish I could have talked to her at greater length (well, I guess that really applies to everybody).

Painter Takashi Oda, had a great poster--elegant, fabulous, and very informative in terms of process.

With him was an outstanding sculptor I can neither recall the website for nor remember the name of. When my swag gets mailed to me, I'll update this page, I promise!

I also met science illustrator Utako Kikutani, who combined pencil with Photoshop (or digital at any rate) to much more effective manner than my gavial for the show. Her work is outstanding.

The aforementioned Matt Celeskey (who will be hereafter referred to as ... The Aforementioned Matt Celeskey) also had a poster up--you can actually see a photo of it here.

In all honesty, I'm glad I didn't participate in the artist exhibition. Better to drink in (per the advice given to me by Mr. Stout) my first SVP meeting. Also, it would have broken me to finish up the art show and get in a poster in time for SVP. (Besides, now that I see firsthand how it's done, I know now what to do!)

Dennis Roth sent me a paper he'd written about sharks.

Nick Gardner also allowed me to leaf through his sketchbook. In spite of his blog title, he did have a few finely rendered (and accurate) theropods. I don't think the man hates theropods, so much as he is a teensy bit sick of them--a position I readily identify with.

Spotted, but didn't talk to: Kevin Padian, Peter Dodson, Christopher Brochu, Gregory S. Paul, Michael Ryan, David Marjanovic and a few others I didn't really have the stones to either interrupt or just go up and introduce myself.

Things I've learned: how to finally pronounce acetabulum (assehTABooloom). I've been doing it wrong. William Stout is the nicest man on earth. Nick Gardner made the most compelling reason to use Flickr I've ever heard, and will work to implement it soon. Having business cards made was a good thing (Matt Celeskey's was the absolute best I collected; it made me ashamed of mine--to be honest, most of the artists at the show who gave me cards shamed mine).

Not spotted (but was hoping to meet): paleoartist Dan Varner, Ray Troll (does he go to SVP meets?), Mike Keesey, Carl Buell, John Sibbick... others.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goin' to the Land of Cleve...

I'm off for SVP and to visit friends I haven't seen in a millyon years. In spite of my intentionally awful spelling here, I intend to have a good time, or as good a time as is possible traveling to Texas before getting to Ohio on three planes can be.

See you next week! (Or earlier, if anyone reading this happens to be going to SVP!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Archosauria: _Euparkeria_!

Parker’s Good Animal: Euparkeria capensis

It may seem strange to admit an animal into an art show called The Archosauria that isn’t an archosaur, but under the definition chosen for the show (the Archosauria being comprised of the most recent common ancestor of birds and crocodiles and all of their descendants), Euparkeria is not actually a member of this group.

It is, however, very closely related to archosaurs -- belonging to a sister group to the Archosauria. Because it is so basal, Euparkeria can be regarded as a transitional form linking archosaurs to broader, more inclusive diapsid groups. In that sense, Euparkeria is so close to the genesis of a nearly quarter billion year long dynasty of reptiles that encompasses crocodiles and birds and everything else that evolved between them that it would seem foolish not to include it.

Those beginnings were certainly humble enough: Euparkeria is a small, lightly armored animal, no bigger than a housecat, which lived in Gondwanaland in the Early Triassic (about 248-245 million years ago, in what would become southern Africa). Euparkeria may have eaten insects or dined on smaller vertebrates while evading larger predators.

Media & Commentary:

Many, many pencil sketches went into this, and I think it's safe to say almost none of them are ever coming back out. Many ideas were thought of and then discarded, due to time constraints/difficulty. As such, I'm still sort of wistful whenever I think of it. Still, in spite of the disappointments, this is the strongest piece I produced for our little show.

Oils on canvas. Sorry some of the paint is still a bit shiny (possibly I could have photographed it a bit better as well). At one point I think I was working on three pieces (oils) at once, and things are still somewhat not-dry on any of them.

See also:
Raven's Triceratops, Tupandactylus, and Raven!
The Pterosauria!
The Dinosauria!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Archosauria: _Stomatosuchus_!

Stomatosuchus inermis: Unarmed Filter-Feeding Crocodile

What a pity Ernst Stromer’s poorly-known Eusuchian’s remains did not survive WWII, as it is one of the only known filter-feeding crocs. What material was known was a long skull, with a blunted snout (in a similar manner to alligator snouts), filled with hundreds of tiny teeth in the upper jaw and no teeth in the mandible. Assuming what is known about ratios between head length and body length for crocs is true for Stomatosuchus inermis, then Stomatosuchus grew to 12 meters (over 40 feet) in length.

The lower jaw suggests Stomatosuchus may have had a large throat pouch (perhaps like a pelican), useful for capturing, then filtering its prey from the water.

Stomatosuchus filters like an Egyptian: known from upper Cretaceous deposits in Egypt, this material was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in 1944.

Media & Commentary:

What a pain oils on canvas board turned out to be. The background consisted of layers and layers of pigment washed with linseed oil, and this caused the whole of it to curl aggressively. The deflection caused by the oils made working on it not only annoying, but it was exacerbated by the fact that I was trying to accelerate drying time by placing it into the oven for short periods of time.

This was a mistake. I had to take it to a framing shop to flatten it, and then frame it to prevent it from curling even more.

Two and a half weeks were spent in total on this. And this was one of the last essays written, so I was a mite punchy at that point.

See also:
Raven's Triceratops, Tupandactylus, and Raven!
The Pterosauria!
The Dinosauria!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Archosauria: _Simosuchus_!

Zach Miller's essay, commentary, and reconstruction on Simosuchus is now up. Check it out!