I watched a lot of cartoons and movies. I draw incessantly and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I work in animation and self-publish my books. There are monsters in the streets, don't wear red. Mad bulls and monsters hate that color. I still watch cartoons.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year: Philippine Style

A makeshift stand just two blocks from my in-laws' house in B.F. Homes, P'que. The vendor was a little wary that I wanted to take a photo since these are illegal (law enforcement response to this tradition has been to throw their hands up and hope for the best)

BOMBS! That's what they are. Little bombs. Sold on almost every major street corner around town it seems. Not much has changed from when I was a child in the Philippines on New Year's eve. Families have a stash of firecrackers in the house. I never gave actual danger much thought as I handled the simple paper bags they came in, dusty with gunpowder shaken from each triangle of paper bound explosive. Every kid (as young as five) walked with a bag, box of matches or candles to light these bombs and God help our eardrums.

The wood table (two-thirds the size of a ping pong table)was heavy with packages wrapped in colorful cellophane like they were gift baskets. I peer under the table and there were boxes stacked like bricks and packed solid of their supply. If a stray cigarette spark were to light that stash...And this was a tiny operation compared to the gaggle just around the commercial center of town.

"Triangulo," is what we called the small triangle the size of a regular guitar pic, but the larger variety are the "5 Star" kind, now those were serious. The small dynamite shaped ones (above photo) are of a higher order, likely able to blow chunks of asphalt as it goes off. There's more. Cinturon ni Judas (Judas Belt) is a long braid of explosives designed to explode in rapid continuous fire, machine gun like. It will, in a few short hours, sound a lot like an actual war zone here in Manila.

Just a few steps ahead on my walk to my morning coffee I found a lone 5-Star laying on its side, looking quite ready to be deployed. The city irrigation truck winded its way towards me as I took this photo and rather poetically drenched it into a benign pad of wet paper and powder.

When we were young we also made our own cannons. That's right, a real cannon made of bamboo. A fire slowly stoked under the lower chamber of the long bamboo cooks fuel to a boil, releasing it as vapor. When enough is in the chamber a stick lit with fire at the end is touched to the blow hole igniting the gas and...BOOOOM! Boys. It was a lot of fun. Really dangerous and toxic. Of course we didn't think of it that way back then. We even loaded the barrel with empty milk cans as projectiles, aimed at a competing bamboo cannons manned by other kids.

But that was years ago. Apparently a modern innovation came out of Cavite (where I was born and grew up).

Went to visit relatives in Cavite City. On the way back I made a point of stopping by this shop by the road where these very convincing weapons were hanging. That's my brother-in-law, Mano, asking about the price of these "Boga" guns. We weren't buying really but just a ruse so I can snap a pic. Those boys are just like what me and my brothers were with our bamboo cannon long ago. Ahhh, meh-moh-reeez!

LUCENA CITY--A retired band member in this city has fashioned a cannon out of a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, turning it into a hot-selling noisemaker to welcome the New Year.

John Almario, 37, got the idea from the "boga" cannon invented by the Caviteños.

He bought a red PVC "bazooka" in Cavite last year, tinkered with its parts and mechanisms, added some innovations and came up with his own design.

He now has a booming business selling the cannons in a makeshift stall along the main road of the Market View Village here.

"I knew I could make money from it," Almario told the Inquirer.

Two years ago, the "boga" cannon was very popular because it was a safe, cheaper and more effective noisemaker.

Like the cannon invented by the Caviteños, Almario uses PVC pipes and fittings as the main materials.

Have a safe New Year's eve celebration. I'll try to save my hearing by stuffing cotton in me ears. I'll also try not to have any part of me blown up. If I get any good pictures tonight I'll post them right quick.

Happy New Year!

Link to Inquirer.net
Link to Reuters India
Link to Manila Times short history of fireworks in the Philippines.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pinoy Eats

While having adobo and rice breakfast at Las Paellas in B.F. Homes, we spotted the taho vendor walking past. I gave chase and promptly procured two of these.

Let the feasting begin! Oh, what's the point of going home if you're not going to on a pound or ten, huh? Part of my childhood was about waking up after an afternoon siesta (imposed by adults on us overactive kids) to the lone sound of the Taho vendor. "Ta-hoooooo!" Made of bean curd, tapioca and caramelled sugar syrup it was a great reward for being such a good boy for taking the afternoon nap. Then, after being properly dosed with sugar, my brothers and I are off like a shot to the outdoors and boyhood shenanigans. Here's another look for those of you who've had the pleasure.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Holidays 'O6

Leaves from the trees in front of the house. Paper from my scraps to make artwork with. Nina and Peg appear courtesy of the world of our dreams. It snows there too it seems. Photoshop helped.

All the best to you all! We wish everyone a safe and wonderful holidays. Doesn't it make you wish we could always be in this glow of goodwill? There's a holiday wish for you. Another year older by the time I come back for the new year, I look forward to the year ahead with more hope.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Wendling at Stuart Ng's this weekend

What? Is it convention time already? Nope, it's a new thing at Stuart's. He used to invite a few people to come over to Torrance if you were around town and check out his entire book selection (I've never had the pleasure, though my brother Louie has and he raves about it). Now, Stuart's upped the ante by holding the first open house for the holidays. For you folks in L.A., the weekends of December 9-10 and 16-17, he's opened a new 1000 sq ft showroom for everybody to visit. That's a picture of it above. More info here.

Claire Wendling. DESK. 64 pages of pencil drawings and sketches of animals and imaginary creatures and monsters. Exclusive to this edition are three new drawings, a Foreword by Mike Mignola, and a new biography of the artist (her first published biography in English)

There's a new Claire Wendling book out. Their getting delivery at the showroom today and will be available this coming weekend. Everyone who comes by can pick up a copy. So, make plans, give yourself an early Christmas gift (I mean, really. Who else can give you the books you really want other than yourself, eh?).

Last weekend was a huge success. The place must have been mobbed. They got so busy they couldn't even run back to the house to grab the camera to take a snap. So,here's a photo from a few conventions ago of Stuart (left) and brother Steven (at right sporting a vintage Paper Biscuit shirt featuring dream girl Nina). They are good people. Oh, and them books are nice to have too.

Stuart Ng Books

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sketchcrawl 12

Driving the van and snapping a photo of the bay as I drove to the city. I'm late!

Weather Proof. That's what all the Sketchcrawls seem to be. Enrico and I don't have a crystal ball to check out the weather that far ahead. Come close to being rained out a couple of times. Come Saturday morning the low dark clouds weren't going away. But even with all the storm's hugger mugger the Sketchcrawler's luck held out, we didn't get rained on!

That is, not after all the Sketchcrawlers had done all the drawing to be had at the SF Zoo. Congratulations to all who made it! Everyone came bundled for the wind, rain and cold, clutching drawing books and drawing implements. I mean, a day like that is what sleeping in was invented for. But not us, really proud of everyone's drive to capture the day in drawing.

The highlight was the feeding of the big cats at 2 p.m. Man, those things are huge! The pictures don't communicate how massive these animals are. All that muscle and heft, scampering back and forth waiting for lunch and growling for seconds. This one was eyeing me as a snack as I drew him.

Look into my eyes. You are feeling very relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that you want to climb into my cage after that drawing. Bring a friend or two while you're at it.

I didn't get much drawing done myself (I was an hour late. Heh, sheepish). But I was so ready for it. After all the pressures of the last few weeks I needed to get out there. This is my first time at the SF Zoo, and I must say it's a great place to visit (I made a note to come back and get sketches of those I missed). Nancy Lorenz sent us this collage she shot of these impressive specimens (the lion pic was hers, too. Thanks, Nancy!). Really good shots, the zoo should use this for a brochure or sumpin'.

Here's a few of my offerings. But do visit the Sketchcrawl forums for an update on how the whole world (seriously, I kid you not) did on the same day. Very good work, everyone!

Sketchcrawl Forum
Sketchcrawl Blog
My photo collage here.
San Francisco Zoo

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Sunday, December 03, 2006


"Order doesn't come by itself."I read a few things trolling the net over the weekend and I kept coming back to these items. Maybe they have something to do with each other, or maybe not, but I string them together anyway. Most of these were stumbled upon at Metafilter.

"I don't seek power and do not run around". Fractals visualized is more than a florid riot of repeating structures but opens up logic systems of behavior on a whole gamut of things that include weather and the stock market. My pedestrian brain can skim and find the odd human angle. Mandelbrot's talk has a fringe of bitterness, he was an outsider it seems.

My ambition was not to create a new field, but I would have welcomed a permanent group of people having interests close to mine and therefore breaking the disastrous tendency towards increasingly well-defined fields. Unfortunately, I failed on this essential point, very badly. Order doesn't come by itself. In my youth I was a student at Caltech while molecular biology was being created by Max Delbrück, so I saw what it means to create a new field. But my work did not give rise to anything like that. One reason is my personality — I don't seek power and do not run around. A second is circumstances — I was in an industrial laboratory because academia found me unsuitable. Besides, creating close organized links between activities which otherwise are very separate might have been beyond any single person's ability.

A Talk with Benoit Mandelbrot

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Okay, to pursue fractals may really have to be a lonely vigil, but Mandelbrot's industry seems no different from others where the facile and those caught in the lucky flavor-of-the-moment spotlight will get the attention. Push what is popular. Below is a documentary that takes aim at the music industry.

Before the Music Dies' Diagnoses an Ailing Industry

The movie offers a roster of forces to blame for all this: The consolidation of power in a shrinking number of companies; the takeover of executive posts in those companies by bean counters who don't respect the artistic process; the rise of MTV and a visual orientation among young people; technology that makes it easy to cover up and correct lousy singing; the culture's growing emphasis on physical beauty; and a mysterious loss of humanity and heart, certainly in the music business and perhaps in the species.

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No news to see that what succeeds needs to be replicated. The Economist article excerpted below highlights that in 2007 "Hollywood studios have scheduled no fewer than a dozen sequels within 16 weeks." A move to convert theaters to digital is great news to both audience and studios. Though one wonders if the technology is being mistaken for content yet again.

Coming (again) to a theatre near you

The move will revolutionize distribution. The studios stand to save $1 billion a year on the costs of duplicating and shipping celluloid prints. For the audience, digital will enable more technical innovations, including a revised 3D—if the technique lured audiences in 1952 with “Bwana Devil”, why wouldn’t it work now? James Cameron, who has not made a fictional film since “Titanic” in 1997, is aiming for a 2007 start on a trilogy that he will shoot in new 3D technology. Currently, 150 auditoriums in America are equipped for 3D; this will climb to 500 in 2007.


We're in for a sensory assault. I'll find this novelty worth checking out when it's installed in the local multiplex. Though if it goes the way of the digital special effects extravaganza movies (Van Helsing, Underworld, Doom...you fill in your list, I don't have the energy) we'll be in for another re-learning of the simple lesson that we go to the movies for the stories.

That's no more obvious than in the business of books. We buy them because it takes no special effects or 3D delivery system to make the stories real. They just have to be told well. Since the emergence of the internet everyone's regarded as inevitable the end of the printed book, supplanted by its digital incarnation. Not so fast.


But surprise--the conventional wisdom is wrong. Our special report on books and the future of publishing is brim-full of reasons to be optimistic. People are reading more, not less. The Internet is fueling literacy. Giving books away online increases off-line readership. New forms of expression--wikis, networked books--are blossoming in a digital hothouse.


That's comforting. Readers speak with their dollars. Personally, I like to see the author in the work, the human being in there--which goes without saying in the case of books (though not always). Maybe that's why I like the Mandelbrot story, nice-guy-finishing-last but eeking out a meager, personal victory of having done it himself away from what's fashionable for his industry. Music? Movies? I can only watch and listen to what I want. That's how my sentiments, I guess, are best vented.