Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Couldn't Resist


I was going to post only illustrations this week. However, this has been such a long Michigan winter I couldn't resist posting this photo instead. I took it the evening of 3/30 on Portage River near Y Ave. in Vicksburg. It's official, kayak season has begun. Finally.

Ironically, this photo looks really peacefull and serene. I gotta tell you it was crazy noisy paddling around. Grackles, Canada geese, red wing black birds, spring peepers and robins were all chirping, sqwaking, glurping and honking at once. I had to go home to get some peace and quiet.

Nature sure is tricky sometimes. It beckons you to partake in it's beauty. Then it sends the ants to ruin the picnics, bees to get in your pop cans, rednecks to shoot at your floatable intertubes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Product Illustration #3 - Ice Cream Bar


This is one of four Moose Tracks Ice Cream Bar varieties I illustrated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Product Illustration #2 - Ice Cream Cone


This illustration was used for a Pecan Deluxe custard ice cream product line.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Product Illustration #1 - Pop-Tart


I enjoy illustrating food and designing food packaging. So this week I decided to post some of those illustrations and designs.

This is an illustration requested by a client for a proposal to Kellogg's Pop-Tarts.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Stop the Buses!


I’m pretty fortunate to live 15 minutes from work. It’s a relaxing drive. At least it was a relaxing drive until the spring of 2000. Little did I know my outburst at the school board meeting would cling to me like St. Bernard saliva on a tennis ball. (The dog not the saint)

At the meeting, I merely mentioned paying the school bus drivers 15 cents more per hour was an extravagance. After all, the janitors’ budget was razor thin. Janitors get real cranky when there isn’t enough sawdust to absorb kids’ vomit. The janitors let me know, in no uncertain terms there was a sawdust crises that they hadn’t seen since the flu outbreak of 1977. I felt I had to take action.

Since I fancy myself a social equality advocate I felt good voicing my disapproval of school bus driver wage increases. Sure I met with quite a few boos and hisses from the school bus drivers. Most were ugly women so I didn’t much care. I had to remember to stay focused since I was giving a voice to the voiceless janitors. I vaguely remember saying “bring it on ladies!” Their boos and hisses were validations I was doing the right thing. The more the better.

It had been a few weeks since the board voted down the bus driver wage increase in favor of more absorbent sawdust. Although the board denied it was for sawdust. Stating it was increasing the overall budget for the school from which the janitors would benefit. Whatever. Social equality triumphs again!

This brings me to the spring of 2000. As we all know spring usually brings road repairs. That spring was no different. What was different however, was the repairs were going to be right outside my front door.

It was told to me by one of the road crews my street was going to be reduced to one lane throughout spring and summer. They were going to repair one side of the street in spring and the other during the summer. Also mentioned was the fact the main thoroughfare at the end of the street near the school would be blocked off. This basically meant there was going to be only one way in and one way out on my street. All the traffic both coming and going would run right past my house.

Before I go too far I Should clarify the location of my house. I live two houses down from the school and school bus parking lot and, my driveway lies parallel to a pair of train tracks that sneak their way through town.

Anyway, I thought the extra traffic would be irritating but, I took solace in the fact it was only going to be temporary. Life would go on as usual.

Not exactly.

I was startled awake by construction traffic that Monday morning. Construction began quicker than I anticipated. Despite that, I went about my normal morning schedule. I showered, ate and hopped in the car at 7:15am to get to work by 7:30am. As I prepared to back onto the street I noticed a long line of 24 yellow school buses beginning to convoy past my house. I knew I had precious seconds to slam my coffee in the cup holder and punch the accelerator to beat the first bus. Unfortunately, I missed the cup holder by inches as I strained my neck rearwards to accelerate the car into reverse. My precious seconds had evaporated quicker than the steam from my coffee soaked floor mats.

I was too late!!!!

Never in my life had I seen that many yellow school buses coming in my direction. On a normal school day I only had to wait for the three buses that would pass my house. Most of the time I left before they crossed my driveway anyway. So there I sat. 24 yellow school buses with flashing lights began their legally obligated duty to stop at the railroad tracks, open their doors and check the tracks for trains.

Ok I missed the first bus. Surely one of the other bus drivers will allow me to back onto the street and off to work I’d go. I t appeared that’s what was going to happen. The driver of the second bus motioned me to merge on to the street. Oh, how kind I thought. But then she, just as quickly, pulled forward almost bumper to bumper with the first bus. If that weren’t strange enough, as if choreographed by some tractor square dance caller all the other busses tightened their formations too. All 22 remaining school busses locked in bumper to bumper solidarity began inching forward. Let me tell you the Blue Angels Flight Team had nothing on these ladies.

It became real clear I wasn’t going to be allowed on the street until the last bus had crossed the tracks. I panicked and quickly did the math. 24 buses times 40 seconds each crossing….that’s 16 minutes!!!!! I was going to be late for work. I hadn’t been late for work in 10 years. I had perfect attendance in grammar and high school. What was with these ugly ladies! So in a moment of rage and panic I jumped out of my car and shouted “You’re allowed to vote, hold a job and get CDL licenses . That doesn’t give you the right to impede traffic!”

It’s been many years since that incident. I have to say my views that society has to be careful who they give power too has only deepened. I just want to scream “Wake up society! Don’t you get it!?” A big yellow school bus in the hands of an ugly woman shouldn’t be tolerated.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Beer Tower


I recently found out the water tower in Vicksburg isn’t a water tower at all. In fact, it’s actually a beer tower. Through a series of underground tunnels and fiber optics all the beer needs of the community are met. This especially goes for the Lion’s Club who hold their annual picnic during July. What really packs the people in is their beer tent. That truly is something to behold. So I’m told.

It’s usually the fire department’s job to make sure the beer pressure is at a high enough level to serve the multitudes that come to the picnic. Typically they test the night before. That to me is poor planning but I’m not the boss. A week before makes more sense. But, like I said I’m not the boss. Anyway the fire department routes the beer to all the fire hydrants then flushes them. They then measure the distance the beer travels to determine beer pressure. Pretty simple really.

One year myself and a couple others volunteered to clear the drunken squirrels from around the village’s “beer” hydrants. Since squirrels can’t hold their liquor most were passed out close to the hydrants. All we had to do was scoop them up and stack them in the nearest trees. I think, and others would agree, the village looked good that year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Just Checking

NC, originally uploaded by sammo371.

Here's a pleasant photo of my bank. But, don't let the pleasantness fool you. Since the day I switched from my former bank to this one i've regretted it. Behind these doors lay bank tellers whose sole purposes are to step on the necks of kittens, leave children at filling stations unattended and mess up my banking.

When I opened my new account I had some very common banking requests. Set-up a joint account and order new checks. Nothing to it right? After a 20 minute fill out the paper work, hoop jump I felt no worries. It wasn'tuntil a week later I noticed my checks hadn't arrived. So I called the bank, spoke with the teller who allegedly ordered them. No problem she assured me. They'd recently been having delays at the check fulfillment center. I just needed to be patient. Ok, no big deal I'll continue to use the temporary checks they issued.

If you haven't opened a new checking account in a while, the bank will give temporary checks showing the different styles you could order in the future. In my case I got stuck with Bugs Bunny, puppies, a dolphin cresting over a bald eagle while wrapped in an American flag temporary checks.

Anyway, little did I realize that previous 20 minute hoop jump would ignite into a flaming ring of fire that would burn white hot for 5 more weeks. Week after week went by and no sign of my checks. I continued to call, make personal visits. I even asked different tellers what the status of my checks were in an attempt to catch one of them in a lie. Unfortunately I couldn't. But they knew, I knew the checks had never been ordered.

All I can say is it was nice of them to issue me additional temporary checks when the first batch ran out. Finally, I could stop writing Bugs Bunny and puppies checks. So, I was hoping this new batch would be more "banky" looking. Something with some sophistication, seriousness and with any luck pillars. That's not exactly what I got. They were kind enough to issue the "REAR ENDS OF NORTH AMERICAN MAMMALS" series. Nothing says I'm in control of my finances like half a dozen curly tailed, bloated pig butts emblazoned on my checks.

Curiously absent was the hind end of the donkey. I suppose they felt that would be redundant since my name was already on the checks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Speak Before You Think

Here’s a collection of odd things people say. These are parts of real conversations I’ve had. For purposes of this blog I'll use their initials to protect the innocent. Publicly when the people said these things I immediately stopped the conversation, laughed and pointed at them.

Remember these are all true:
1) I asked “Was that your idea?” to which MO responded “Not originally”

2) I asked “It seems unending doesn’t it?” to which MO responded “So far”

3) DP nervously said “I’ve got this gut feeling, in my head.”

4) DP explaining characteristics of the moon flower “It’s the best smell you’ve ever seen”

5) AM on pencils “I refuse to use number 2 pencils. Do you know what those are made of? number 2!”

Here are a few things I’ve overheard people say:
1) My Dad died in a police shoot-out but, it was my Mom’s fault.

2) You don’t want to wear your fairy wings upside down. That would just look silly.

Just to round out this blog, here are some words I said with unwanted intentions/consequences. Yes, most people stopped the conversation, laughed and pointed at me too.

1) Sociopastor = associate pastor when said too quickly.

2) Skunk Kissed Fruit Candy = Sunkist Fruit Candy when said too quickly.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Musk Beaver


Some of you may be shouting aloud "Oh look a beaver!!!" Unfortunately your excitement will turn to disappointment very quickly when I tell you it's a muskrat. This animal is really part musk ox and part rat. I know this because the part that is rat, is the tail. Man, oh man, does it have a tail like a rat! I'm still not clear as to how it relates to a musk ox. I'm going to assume it's the smell.

Even if I hadn't seen this animals "rat-like" tail I could tell it wasn't a beaver for two reasons. One, there isn't a single tree where I spotted this muskrat. Two, also tree related, a beaver needs to gnaw on trees to keep their teeth ground down or else their teeth would grow into their skulls. In a way it seems the beaver has much more in common with the musk ox. Because if it allows it's teeth to grow, they'll grow out the back of it's skull giving the appearance of having antlers just like the musk ox. The bottom line is I don't know how the musk ox and musk rat are related but the photo above is clearly not a beaver.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cup Watching


I admit to being in a small dedicated minority of cup watching enthusiasts. Granted we’re not as well known as our bird watching counterparts. None the less we’re just as committed to our hobby. That leads me to the photo above. While out for a walk I was startled to find the trail of this 20oz white lidded unidentified cup. Now, I’ve seen a wide assortment of cup varieties in this area. For instance the red lidded 64oz Speedway, the 16oz white lidded Hungry Howie and the 44oz clear lidded Qdoba. But, this one had me stumped. So I got out my cup identification book to see if I could identify the cup by its trail. After a good deal of looking I matched the trail to the Starbucks variety. This was odd since the nearest Starbuck’s habitat is nearly 30 miles away. This cup was clearly out of it’s migration territory.

Unfortunately all cup varieties have an average life span of about 2 hours. That’s usually if a person “babies” their cup consumption. However, we all know people who can down a 64oz cup in 15 minutes. That to me is irresponsible cup ownership. Anyway, I figure this cup got blown off course. I speculate it may have been rejected by it’s dispenser. Lacking the survival skills other 20oz cups have I’d say it drifted aimlessly for quite some time.

Because this was so rare a find in my area I decided to take it home and perform an autopsy on it. I wanted to know how strong it was before it’s untimely demise. So I added some ice cubes and a bit of 7-UP.(other carbonated sodas like Mountain Dew are just too strong for the test. It skews the results. Ref. Dec. 1993 Cuppers Newsletter.) This cup clearly couldn’t hold it’s ice and a beverage simultaneously. This was obvious when I very lightly squeezed the cup sides and the lid and straw popped off. It probably died a quick death due to a collapsed cup lining. As to how it got to my area, it’s probable the wind caressed its little cup carcass and swept it from the Starbucks parking to it’s final resting place. No reason to feel sad though. There are plenty of Starbucks species left all over the planet. It worked out well for me since I could add that variety to my cupper’s life list.

If anyone is interested in joining this growing hobby or are interested in back issues of our “CUPPERS” newsletter, email me.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fish Hunters

FishHunters, originally uploaded by sammo371.

Took this photo of ice fishermen on Sunset Lake. Apparantly fish can't see hunter orange either.

I've realized something lately. I typically think something is stupid and worthless only if I fail to understand it. I don't understand a lot of things. Consequently I think a lot of things are stupid and worthless. Astronomy, mathematics (beyond adding and subtracting), IRA accounts, hedge funds to name a few. In this case ice fishing is also one of those things. I don't understand why someone would willingly walk on unstable ice to sit in the middle of a cold lake and try to catch a fish whose winter metabolism probably equals that of a phone jack. This seems to be stupid and worthless to me.

I used to think that way about tennis until I figured out how the scoring works. (That whole deuce thing threw me for a long time.) Now I like tennis. Yes, I know a strong case can be made that tennis really is stupid and worthless too. But I feel a sense of accomplishement figuring out the scoring without someone explaining it to me. So I'll argue that it's not stupid and worthless...although it probably is.

Anyway, being a sensitive person I know it's not right to paint ice fishermen with such a broad narrow minded brush. Maybe I should try to understand ice fishing in order to appreciate it. Tonight I may eat my frozen Gorton Fish Sticks on the porch.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Harnessing the Sun

Phonepole-Glow, originally uploaded by sammo371.

I have this thing about shooting telephone poles. No clue as to why. I'm sure this will be one of many telephone pole images to follow.

People often ask me how I got the sun to pose behind the telephone pole. I tell them harnessing the power of the sun is a lot like harnessing the power of a 4 year old. I learned this valuable skill while working at the Sear’s Portrait Studio. Energetic 4 year olds need a way to channel their energy in order to have their likeness taken. The best way to do this is a romping game of hide and seek. This wears them down quickly while giving the photographer the opportunity to take photos when they become calm and submissive. Taking this photo worked in exactly the same way. The sun and I played a romping game of hide and seek. The sun enjoyed hiding behind clouds but, at one point it became submissive enough that it agreed to hide behind the telephone pole. Just like a 4 year old, shortly after I took this photo the sun got tired and went down.

I also often get asked why I choose hide and seek over peek-a-boo. To me peek-a-boo is a lazy man’s hide and seek. It requires little effort other then covering your face with a blanket or other foreign object. When I play hide and seek it shows that I’m physically committed to getting the shot and the subject respects this.

I think most people, at least on a subconscious level can spot photos where the photographer chose peek-a-boo over hide and seek. The subject just looks more detached. It’s a sad commentary on photography. Depressing really. So much so that sometimes I wonder if a career at Sear’s Portrait Studio was a good idea.

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