Dragon at Midnight

Last real photoshop project from me for a while.  Then I’ll get back to harping on life, the universe, and other pertinent topics for the unemployed philosopher.

I found this old log during the past week while lumberjacking (more on that in my next post) and thought it could be an interesting project for my growing photo-manipulation skills.  Anyway, I’m quite happy with the results, regretting only one or two hundred details which considering past attempts serves as a good benchmark for success.  If I can reduce my dissatisfaction to below five-hundred mistakes and errors, then I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

Thus, here’s my ‘Dragon at Midnight’ . . . Any and all criticism is appreciated unless it’s negative and then you can kindly jump off a bridge.  Thank you.

My World

I’ve been playing around with Photoshop lately, in a modest effort to tease and annoy Katie’s boyfriend, currently stationed overseas.  With Mom and Katie’s help, we’ve concocted various comic strips based on the adventures of ‘Leo the Polish Pirate’ and the rest of the family, recently transmogrifying Sean into a cynical talking parrot.  It wasn’t much of a stretch.

Since then I’ve been practicing with other tools.  My drawing skills being what they are — in short  they suck — I’ve relied on photo-manipulation for my illustrations.  The following ‘world’ is one of my better creations (at least I think so).

What do you think?

Stamped Out

The concept of a coat of arms, consisting of a personal crest or mark,  has captivated me ever since creating this blog . . . no, that’s not right.  It was earlier then that, sometime around fourth grade, I think.  Beowulf, the adventures of Arthur and his knights, or some other tale of chivalry occupied the whole of our afternoon literature assignment.   After completing the unit, Mrs. Limmer had asked the class to construct a shield from the various flotsam scattered around the room: construction paper, assorted bunny stickers, and select clippings from discarded People.Wisely I discarded the Madonna splashed magazines and relied upon my Crayola markers and one or two angry(-ish) bunnies.  The result, an orange triangle adorned with clovers, a poorly drawn ant/horse, and one or two favorite quotes, time has since buried amid report cards and eighth grade book reports.  Still I took special pride in the project; after all, in the story, the brave knight’s coat of arms embodied his beliefs and values, a symbol — of sorts — for himself.

That was cool for me. Continue reading

Snow Apocalypse

Just when you thought it was safe to plow . . . the snow begins again.  Wave 2 of this winter storm, what the newscasters have brilliantly dubbed “Snow-apocalypse 2010,” is presently frosting the canals and alleyways we’ve constructed over the last few days for vehicles and emergency egress lest one of us accidentally swallow a Monopoly hotel or a bear attacks — it happens.

Thus,  I am forecasting a slow week here at Murphey’s Pub and a perfect opportunity for a little photojournalism to showcase the blizzard for those readers in Brazil, which I imagine doesn’t receive much of this stuff. Continue reading

Shhhhhh . . .

To Tiffany with many heartfelt apologies . . .

Don’t tell my sister-in-law, Tiff, about any of this.  Seriously, say nothing.  My brother Pat and I have just arrived home from Vegas and well . . . need I admit more?  Sin City offers a never-ending supply of mischief for two young men and being efficient travelers, we had to catch them all.  When we had finished, Pat even invented a few new ones (he IS an engineer).  But let’s keep that to ourselves.  Silence is particularly important when Tiff is nearby, say within several miles from your vocal chords, which she might snatch from your still-living body if she ever heard a syllable of the truth.  For the health of you, me, Pat, my larynx, and 6 billions of the world’s population, let’s keep this between ourselves.

If you happen to be walking down the road and perchance run into her, deny the whole incident with a laugh and a dirty joke.  That punch line might earn you a slap in the face, causing your cheeks to swell and puff like an allergic reaction to bees or peanut butter, but it’s better than inadvertently revealing the truth, the horrible despicable truth.  You might lose a lung then or a heart – if you happen to be an octopus and possess more than one – but it’s far preferable to giving Tiff any clues that might allow her to uncover this horrible insidious puzzle.  You can always grow more organs or borrow your neighbor’s, but these grotesque secrets, once revealed, will not disappear again from her memory much like the stains of crushed lung on a white dress shirt.

Thus, try not talk at all.  Simply divert her attention by pointing over her shoulder, shout “Hey, is that Shia LaBeouf?” and then run like hell . . . but not in a serpentine pattern.  That only works with alligators, not with Tiffany, who is a doctor and thus above such reptile chicanery.

Running isn’t a good idea either though.  Tiff will track you down and lay your soul bare.  It’s best to hide, quivering in a dumpster when she mounts her horse, Bloodmane, and races through the streets summoning the legion of the undead.  The ground will shake and the earth will tremble.  Your only gambit is to whimper and cry: it won’t stop her from razing the secrets of your soul but the mass of accumulated tears might block her from sight for three additional seconds.

Never mention the turtle.  EVER.

You shouldn’t mention anything about money either, especially the large sums Pat lost at the slots.  Kindly do not mention the roulette wheel at all, an incident which may actually be worse than the turtles, those delicious . . . delicious turtles.

Don’t attempt to lie either.  My sister-in-law’s gaze can piece stone, steel and even flesh just like a magic eight ball.  I once saw her immobilize a T-rex with a single glace and decapitate a 40-year-old man in California (posing online as a ten-year old Asian girl) for revealing the season finale to Gray’s Anatomy.  The papers reported something about shark attack, but I know the truth, which by the way Tiff must never know about.

If you enjoy the idea of barbells flying across the room, feel free to mention the amount of money we spent on the buffet or the cost of the ‘clothing-optional’ party in Suite 3.  Just wait until I’ve left the room and/or border first please.   Thank you.

Cheating doesn’t help us in this conspiracy either.  So don’t try it.  I know you’re thinking about covering it all up with cement shoes and crop circles, but trust me it won’t work.  Last week, I stole an extra vowel in Scrabble and that night her scowling bloodshot eyes haunted my dreams and tormented my nightmares, like Freddy Kruger or that scene from The Ring (You know the one . . . When the girl with black hair climbs from the well and . . . Ahhhhhhh!)  Only Tiff’s eyes are like a million times worse.  My imaginary friends won’t allow me to cheat at Scrabble anymore for fear of reprisal.

Yeah, just go ahead and reveal our little dirty secret.  Go ahead.  I won’t stop you.  And when she explodes in rage and consumes all life on this planet in her most unholy fury, I won’t even say ‘I told you so.’  Indeed no one will be left on the planet to say much of anything.  Except cockroaches, and really, who understands them?

Sure, you might think those special ‘trading-cards’ they give out on Vegas streets hilarious, but if Tiff unearths our complete set of autographed cards, she’ll trade our entire collection for fracture and contusion, the names of her left and right fists.

And Tiff . . . if you somehow read this, it was Pat’s idea.  Every sordid bit, bet, and midnight whisper was devised in your husband’s corrupt mind.  I acted merely as an innocent bystander, a simple puppet to his puppet-controlling evil.  So don’t blame me or even think of me.  Let’s think of puppies instead, beautiful loveable puppies who never keep secrets from us about their vacation in Las Vegas.

My Brother Mike Is A Jackass

by Shannon Murphey

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but my brother, Mike, who styles himself here on this blog as Murph is really in truth a jackass.  It’s truly funny how nowadays essential information like this can be hidden or deleted among the wires and all the other ego-pandering junk on the internet.  By the end of the year, after reading this drivel, he might have you believing himself to be Mother Theresa or Spiderman, but trust me, in reality he wouldn’t stretch out a finger to help anyone, much less a half-dead Indian orphan or the even pope.  Nor can he shoot webs out his wrists.  He’s just a jackass.

Just last week he refused to help me clean out the kitty-litter, claiming he is allergic to the cats and ran from the room sneezing in that melodramatic way of his.  I was stuck with the job, while he snuck downstairs to play COD or Puzzle Quest.  Then for Christmas, while everyone else got cool T-shirts that read “Double Tap” or “Zombie Killer” with shotguns in place of the ‘L’s,’ that jackass got me an “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt with the arrow pointing up.  Hahaha.  Everyone got a big kick out of that one.  Just you wait Mike.  I’ll beat you down so hard, your legs will come shooting out your ears.  Who’ll look stupid then, huh?  I’ll give you hint: the correct answer lies between the letters ‘T’ and ‘V,’  you jackass.

Today was the final straw, that loser who never had a girlfriend, not even ONE while I’ve had at least a dozen (how does that make you feel, ya queer?), had the nerve to talk trash after I beat him in Mario Tennis on the Wii.  He won a single match and you would have thought he was Andre Agasi or something.  Hey, jackass, swinging the Wii-mote doesn’t make you an athlete.  If you work up a sweat from pulling your fat rear from the Lazy Boy and flapping your arms, then you should try walking up the stairs every once in a while.  When you get to the top, I’ll throw on my steel-toed boots and show you my impression of Gerard Butler in 300.

This is Sparta, ya Jackass!

Now some of you family counselors or psychiatrists might argue about family dynamics or some other hippie-shrink bullcrap that Oprah shovels out every afternoon. You want family dynamics?  Charley Keaton’s brother taught him how to skin deer when he was twelve.  Kevin Kramer’s bro taught him how to build a potato gun when he was six.  The guys would spend their summer nights laughing, driving around the neighborhood, skinning animals they’d hit while launching taters at tractor trailers.  Havin’ a frickin’ awesome time like brothers are supposed to do.  The only thing Mike taught me was growing up to be an outta-work bum blows chunks.  If he ever learned how to build a potato gun, he’d probably use it on himself.  Death by starchy french fry is more than you deserve, ya jackass.

Just last weekend, I was minding my own business, shooting Nerf arrows at my sister until she cried, when that hobbit-wannabe walked in barefoot and suggested I go read a book.  Yeah right, Frodo Gamgee, why don’t you go get yourself a real job like a construction worker or kickboxer instead of playing boy-toy and apple-polisher to old Will Shakespeare.  I may never bury Caeser or Horatio but I will bury you one day beneath your library.  As a kindness, I might open War and Peace to your favorite page before lighting it on fire and dropping it on your stupid face.  How’s that for sound and fury, ya jackass?

On second thought, maybe I’ve gone too far, said too much.  You’re not such a bad guy.  We’ve had lots of good times together, right?  Remember that time I brought my girlfriend home for dinner and you brought out those old photos of me as a kid, grinning in curls, bows, and blue skirts Mom made me wear for Halloween?  Hahaha . . . and then you posted them on Facebook for the world to see.  Ah, good times.  So many . . . good times.  You know, I think about her now and then as the pain wells in my chest, her laughter nearly ripping my heart in two, but family trumps girlfriends, right?  Of course.  And when I’m done with trumping you with this shovel, the only photogenic spot left on your body will be your pale hairy ass, ya jackass.

Because they’re smarter than us . . .

Pay attention to the type of RAM!

Pay attention to the type of RAM!

On Wednesday I fried my motherboard. ‘Fried’ today being more general term for ‘damaged’ or ‘drugged,’ one should note that as I pressed the power button a smoky semi-toxic odor of burning metal emanated from my computer case — strangely recalling to mind my brother Ryan’s last bout with the grill.

Apparently despite a high similarity in spelling, DDR and DDR2 RAM cartridges are not interchangeable, and my attempts to replace the former with the latter . . . well, I won’t be using my computer anymore. In celebration I ordered a new processor and a new motherboard, toasting an early birthday with a bottle of wine and CSI: New York. Later quite drunk I emailed Dasad – the message that has little to do with this story, but which I will post nevertheless as I managed to allude to both Hemingway and Vesuvius in the same sentence:

It’s truly amazing what a few glasses of cabernet sauvignon can do to a writer. A carefree night, an open bottle of wine, and an empty glass of mine own, such opportunity need not knock twice. My tongue feels as loose as a goose in a noose. Like Hemingway, words flow forth from my soul lambasting a troubled world like fires from the pits of Vesuvius upon the walls of Pompey. The effects are marvelous. My head feels light and airy, spinning as I move my body from left to right, to right to left and back again, repeat until morning. Hopefully with sleep and kind dreams of beautiful places in between. Lands where true love and adventure find kinship and life; such is the land for me, inebriated as I am. Farewell kind sir! I will meet you again in the morning with troubled head and embarrassed blushes brought on by my current revelary . . . revalry . . . revelry. There, I got it. Whew . . . Sleep tight good friend. May the voyage of your dreams bring you round to lands as marvelous as mine own, full of good food, beautiful women, and kind song. Farewell and good night!

Anyway . . . waking sobered and focused, I passed the next two days traveling between Best Buy and home in search of the essential ingredients for a machine that does not require fifteen minutes and much keyboard smashing to open Firefox.

My parts:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
  • Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard
  • 1 TB hardrive
  • HP DVD writer/reader
  • Geoforce video card
Faster but more delicate . . .

Faster but more delicate . . .

Frankly the only thing that surprises me more than the fact that I got all the necessary pieces to fit together without a bedside holocaust is that we reached the point where we need one thousand gigabytes of space in our desktop for our various collections of music, games, and anime music videos. One would think that 300 GB is enough for anyone’s hoard of anime fansubs without debating which episodes should be sacrificed to the recycling bin. Sadly such is not the case.

All looked very good this morning up until we had began running our Half-Life game.  Chapter one had just ended violently.  Black Mesa had exploded into an alien realm. I sent Gordon Freeman to investigate when the screen went black. We had installed XP last night and the drivers the following morning when I woke.  Everything appeared in working order when the computer suddenly shut down. Poof!

“Huh? What the hell? Kevin . . .”

“I didn’t touch anything. I promise.”

“Son of a . . .”

The same scenario haunted my last PC, which routinely died sporadically clicking off into a black screen without the courtesy of announcing I had done something stupid. Half-way through an email, half-way through my homework, seven-eighth of the way through the final demon assault in Warcraft 3 with a legion of leopard-mounted night elves at my command, the siege ends, fading into endless night.

I never did discover the source of the problem and in the end attributed it to hardware failure: a faulty motherboard or corrupted CPU. Changing the power source failed to resuscitate; the strategic use of several floor fans against the open tower did nothing but whip up a torrent of dust, benefiting my vision little and the computer even less.  Now with similar symptoms using my old tower, I wonder if it was the culprit then and now.

Diagnosing the problem . . .

Diagnosing the problem . . .

Later in day Dasad arrived to examine my sick newborn. He exchanged the RAM cartridges, performed some diagnostics, sprinkled pixy dust and prayed in binary. The computer has functioned for the rest of the evening and all of Sunday.

“The Asian genes,” he remarked, blowing on his fingers. “Machines love me.”

Like a tower of cards I should have left well enough alone; instead I foolishly chose to reorient my case away from the middle of the floor – apart from being kicked every now and then it wasn’t that cumbersome. After fishing my wires through the desk, I activated the machine again but the prima donna proved obstinate for the evening’s performance. The diagnostics scrolled down the screen and shut itself off and left me irritated and fretful throughout our nightly somnolence.

The machine righted itself the next morning after Kevin turned the case on its side, arranged some wires, crossed his fingers, and stroked the RAM in the same gentle motion Dasad had taught him before. The computer started up immediately convincing me that some issue must exist within the case and that machines detest my presence. For the time being, my new computer sits awkwardly under my desk, absorbing our legroom but working. Kevin’s just downloaded Winamp. The Beach Boys play “Surfin’ Safari” and all is right with the world.

My next project: fixing old models

My next project: fixing (or frying) old models

The Art of Arting

Dasad informed me yesterday that he had begun drawing again after a six-month hiatus.  Much of the present art needs to be photoshopped for color and clarity.  I in turn offered to help, which led to the following conversation:

Murph: Can you scan your art and photoshop it?

Dasad: yeah i clean up a few things with photoshop

add some masks and stuff

Murph: Awesome!

Can I help?

Dasad: you can download the image and do what you want

Murph: I want to help you to . . . uh, art.

Dasad: i art all the time

Murph: Cool, I will try . . . Do you?

Dasad: damn straight

Murph: I thought you haven’t been arting for a while?

You’ve been holding the art in.

Dasad: well i’ve been eating the right things

so now the art is ok

Murph: That helps you to art?

Dasad: well it helps make good art

Murph: You eat, then art?

Dasad: i art because i eat

Murph: I see. So eating is the source of your arts.

Clever.

Dasad: you can say that certain types of foods is the cause of my arts

some arts are more pronounced

Murph: Really? Does it work like that?

Dasad: yes, you’d be amazed

Murph: What food helps you to art the best?

Dasad: well everyone says the same things for arting

but i’ve learned that dim sung makes me art the most

Murph: Spicy food? Do you produce more arts when you eat tex-mex?

I see.

Dasad: yes, tex-mex would be the obvoius one, but it doesn’t do it for me

Murph: When you release your art onto a canvas, do you feel relieved.

Dasad: i art the same with that

sometimes, only if there’s enough moisture in the art

Murph: Does releasing your art reduce the pressure of everyday life?

Dasad: and that only comes from the best sources of food

Murph: Interesting.

Dasad: well it’s a stress reliever definitely

and it’s healthy

Murph: I can understand that.

Dasad: everyone arts

Murph: Not in my family.

I’m the only one that arts in my clan.

Dasad: they just don’t admit they art

Murph: I art everywhere.

Dasad: do you?

Murph: On my computer, in my room, even at the dinner table.

No one else appreciates my arting.

Dasad: wow, that’s quite… something

can people tell it’s your art?

Murph: Yeah, there’s this aura . . . or aroma that circulates around my particular art.

Dasad: geez ok, how did this conversation go this way

Murph: They know I’ve been in a room when they sense my art.

Dasad: i think this is the most vulgar yet surprisingly clever conversation

Murph: hahahaha . . . this is brilliant

Yeah . . . like British comedy

In which Murph journeys into the Lost World while consuming cookies . . .

I ate a cookie the other day. It was delicious. Cookies being rare treats for me (I try not to gorge myself on sweets too often lest the sugar-high causes my head to explode), I offered a silent blessing on the Keebler elves that their nimble cookie-making fingers never strain and their fairie baking-powers never diminish or empties — in truth, I know little about fairie baking magic, whether it can run empty like gas in an automobile or simply needs recharging like an RC racer.

NOTE: hopefully elves garnered more efficiency at charging than the racers as a normal three-hour charge releases only about fifteen worthless minutes of actual driving time; if such was the case, EL Fudge would be as rare and extravagant as Lindt’s truffles.

 

Yet then I realized that Milano cookies were a product of Pepperidge Farms, not Keepler. Quickly I finished my blessing to the elves regardless (every day we should thank all cookie makers for their worthy craft), and considered who I should thank for the Milano. I seem to remember an old man, in years past, who advertised the delicious cookies, his voice sputtering out the name “Pepperidge” like an old car engine. However, blessings I seem to recall require a name and “old sputtering Pepperidge Farm guy” just sounded mocking and thus unsuitable for a blessing.

 

As I sat wondering, considering whether I should just eat another cookie and save the blessings for those better suited to the task – clearly I was not – my gaze fell upon my collection of dinosaur toys from ages past.

 My dinosaur collection

When I was a kid, more than anything else I wanted to be a dinosaur. It is easy to conceive why as dinosaurs are vastly superior to any other living thing on this planet – except kangaroos, which due to their biological pouches and innate hopping do add something to the evolutionary gene pool. You may debate this point – unless you have a problem with kangaroos, in which case I do not want to hear it – but it would be folly. Seriously, from what other phylum past, present, and extinct could we choose? Dogs? Lions? Horses? Please. Evolution teaches us that most land-based mammals like horses, puppies, and cats grew from the sea; mammals were all once fish. Meanwhile fish represent the evolutionary achievement of all bacteria. Ad hoc we may categorize the majority of the animal population as either fish, bacteria, or platypus, the evolutionary equivalent to potpourri.

Ergo, everything started from the same stew of atoms, molecules, and bacteria, destined to develop into complex multi-cellular life, into either horses or dinosaurs. Now I ask you, which is more impressive? The answer should be clear. Even the platypus, as odd and jumbled as it is, cannot compete with the bony horns, cavernous mouths, and thick armor of the dinosaur. Like living tanks, knights with biological armor, or demons from the darkest corners of Tartarus. No child is immune to their seductive appeal, the marvelous beauty of living monsters unfettered by civilization.

 

“ ‘The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.’ ”

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

A Utahraptor enjoying a meal.

Yet dinosaurs achieve this distinction through three major factors:

  • They are giants.
  • They are monsters.
  • They were real.

These factors in themselves convinced me to spend a great deal of my childhood stomping, growling in mock imitation of my favorite dino, Tyrannosaurus Rex. For a boy of seven, anything monstrous compelled imitation. Stomped loudly on the floorboards and roared with piercing primal screams, I was quite proud of my future occupation. Years later my piano playing never fully recovered from years of holding my two fingers aloft in the semblance of tiny reptilian claws or – for those ignorant individuals we met in the street – a hippie child with a lazy arthritic peace sign.

My mother remained quite supportive of my behavior too even after that biting incident at school; although the neighbors never ceased staring at me like I was sucking on lead-based lollipops. Clearly they were envious of my lofty ambitions.

Allosaurus skeleton.

In time my dreams drifted – though not faded – as I sought out other monsters living today, now. Sacrificing truth for reality, I researched the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Goat Man (A mid-Atlantic legend, the creature possesses the head of a goat and the body of a man and wields a giant axe to attack parked cars, lovers on lonely roads, and other untrustworthy individuals.) and then, as my reading skills improved, mythology. Until one fine beautiful day, I found myself with a copy of Lewis Carol’s “Jabberwocky” in my hand reading aloud to the kids. Of all the poems memorized for school, Shakespearean soliloquies, and wise saws from – as Patrick once put it – “old dead guys,” I will remember the wonderful horrifying nonsense of this poem ‘til I too one day pass away, consumed again into the earth, extinct.

 

 

JabberwockyThe Jabberwock by John Tenniel

By Lewis Carol

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

In which Murph considers current events and polygamy . . .

This morning I had the opportunity to listen in on the news, having just finished visiting the Wednesday webcomics, anime reviews, and movie news and now absently searching Google for something . . . anything that could distract me for another five minutes. I overheard another interview with the mothers from the polygamist compound. I say “another” as just the night before the same interview had appeared on the late late news, and no doubt for the sake of morning people or people like me who try very hard not to watch much television, they re-aired the footage yet again for completeness sake.

It was the voices that startled me from my escapist romp through the internet, by all that is holy . . . those voices. The sounds of their pleas possessed the tones of disembodied voices, a forlorn spirit haunting an old abandon nursery. The high-pitched moans were denying something, refusing to answer questions about their own marriage, the age they were given over to men nearly three-times their age. Hearing their refusals and adamant demands for their children’s return baffled me. The pleas of the possessed. The arguments of the brainwashed cult. I did not know whether I should laugh or cry.