Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Follow-up; Office Finished

OK, it's now done now that I put in the new sound system seen here (the big black cone). As they say, "Now we're cooking with gas."

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where the Magic Is Supposed To Happen: Great Workspaces

The Steampunk movement, a subgenre of cyberpunk using time-travel design, is finally getting it's due (recent Times article). Above is a workable PC, the handiwork of very talented tinkerer, Richard R. Nagy. The old book in the top photo is actually a scanner. Below is a computer refitted by steampunk artist and genius, Jake von Slatt.

A piece found on a Japanese blog.

Below are more pieces made by Richard R. Nagy a.k.a. Datamancer.net (and what the DIY show Junky to Funky should be like).

First up is a laptop, followed by the laptop opened. Then a desktop scanner disguised as an old book. That is followed by the custom keyboards Datamancer makes (and sells for in the ballpark of $800).

Note the laptop turns on with a turn key.

And here is my computer (below). The computer is an intel iMac hooked set-up as a double monitor and Wacom pad (which I draw on - I'm pretty much paperless). I pin-hole drilled in the casing for my video conferencing. Most of the items in the room were found or bought at local auction. The scanner/copier is on the left and hides behind old wood (hot-glued, of course. That's an Ivory whale box on top along with an old globe I found for a dime.). That's a tape-measure clock bottom right.

By no means does it compare with their stuff – it's oranges and rotten apples. I had done this before I realized this was a "movement" and as fancy as their work is, mine is the opposite aesthetically, theirs fancy and beautiful, mine, well, not – if their computers smelled like Victorian perfume, mine would smell like low–tide. If I had I seen their work first it would probably have discouraged my silly aspirations for revamping my office at all. That said, there is no place in the world I would rather work than my tiny converted attic-space office in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I was inspired to write about it because I had recently read that one of my all-time favorite cartoonists, Michael Maslin, works in a ridiculously small space that used to be a laundry closet or something. His surface workspace is like two feet wide. There's something very cool about that. I thought I was alone in working in what many would consider a closet (it was like learning there are also those trying to grow moss lawns like I am).

My workspace was designed to look like it does because my next book is a ship journal (about 19th century arctic exploration). (At National Lampoon, one of the editors turned his office into a jungle. Thomas "She Blinded Me With Science" Dolby just bought a leaky ship on ebay to prop on land and turn into a studio. I now see Dolby wasn't the only one transforming computers to refit hi-tech stuff (his onstage set includes music boards refitted into marine equipment) and I'm not the only person combing Brimfield for submarine gauges.)

My office requires you crouching, if you're taller than 5'8", through a trap door that springs open with a button to enter the upstairs and then through a door with a real porthole. The room is too small for air conditioning to work properly – a ceiling fan concealed behind a map and two USB computer fans keep me alive (a trap door behind the bed opens a storage space that stores a swamp-cooler if it still gets too hot. The computer also has an USB vacuum and cup warmer).

There is an incredible sound system in the room which is Airported to the rest of house so everyone is forced to listen to gay British '80s music much of the day. The floors have that oily finish of a ship by using oil varnish over a water base stain (rope fills the gaps between planks). I wainscoted the ceilings the painstaking old fashioned way, single pieces (otherwise it looks too new). We just put in a bathroom next door pictured here as it's unusual. The contractors hired to build it and a dormer walked off having had enough of our eccentric requests (in our defense, they were total dirtbags. Each was in trouble with the law and/or IRS in some way we learned). I finished the electrical and plumbing myself so I could put in things like a vintage sink and ceramic switch and lantern. They wanted to deal only with Home Depot products.

The day bed was made from an old bookcase and the rug in front was hooked by my wife (it's not too often you see bloody seascape in a hook rug!). Aside from that (in case she reads this blog), my prize procession in the room is a 1685 map engraving of a battle scene at Ascension Island and a Hudson River oil painting of what looks like penguins jumping into crashing waves, the most beautiful painting I've ever seen (and I'm a museum rat). Cost a quarter with it's gold-leaf frame – the painting had a rip lengthwise that I gessoed together from the back and painted in the missing strip. Sorry, I can bore people about the room for hours – there's the lawn bowls from Sidney...a 1893 print of Sherlock Holme's death in the "Final Solution"...blah, blah, blah...OK, thanks for getting this far.

The container on the left and the wall cup holder underneath the window on left are some of the items in room I made in wood-shop...over thirty years ago. See, I couldn't stop talking...

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More Legal Stuff

For those who can't get enough litigation, over at Today's Snowman, my other blog, I've posted someone's ridiculous patent for making a snowman.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Freelancers Unite, Again

All freelancers should be aware of a bill which was just approved by House Subcommittee called Orphan Works which will affect the ownership of our art. This includes filmmakers, photographers, musicians and graphic artists. Here's a link which discusses some of the more sensational opinions circulating the web. I have no personal connection with these people and please make your own conclusions.

I will say the bill worsens our position to protecting our work but to what extent is up to debate and the way things are now our work isn't fully protected (I'm currently paying lawyers now who explain being totally in the right cannot make people pay you what they owe and seems to happen to everyone – just reading how Devo is in the courts for all the commercials they lent their music to but never got paid.).

That said, I'm spreading the word on the subject and after learning the facts, if you wish, a friend emailed me a link which allows you to voice your opinion against the current Orphan Works. It took me only seconds to say I oppose this bill.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Freelancers of the World Unite

When one is a freelancer he or she will undoubtedly experience more than their share of career crossroads. I'm at one myself as the realities of making ends meet as a cartoonist are forcing me to explore some options, although I better do it quick. The past few weeks I've been busy 1) drafting a possible children's version of the snowman book. 2) working on a snowman calendar 3) starting up again a project I began 7 years, a graphic novel comedy on 19th arctic exploration and 4) working on a script for a film studio interested in pitching a snowman special to cable. It goes without saying, all of these ventures are on spec. Meantime, I'm illustrating (my work can be seen in this month's Consumer Reports, Money Adviser and this Monday's sports section in the NY Times) and trying, unsuccessfully, to sell cartoons to the New Yorker (I'm in this month's Prospect – the second cartoon on the site).

Special thanks to fellow freelancer and talented writer Mary "PaperGirl" Fons for writing up the snowman for a few publications and mentioning my book.

My brush with fame moment of the week; A couple of days ago I met renown chef Gordon Ramsay at his book signing in Manhattan. I'm a huge fan (of his BBC shows, not the cheesy American reality shows) and I gave him my book. The hothead TV star was extremely nice, taking the time to chat with me.

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