Thursday, June 30, 2011

397 - CFL Thoughts

Today begins the start of the CFL season - the great Canadian Football League.  Go Lions! 

But today, I also thought about the other CFL's, Compact Fluorescent Lamps.  On January 1, the British Columbia government frogstepped their constituents into accepting a program to phase out incandescent lightbulbs, arguably one of the most useful and elegant inventions of all time, in favour of CFL's.  Although it is not completely impossible to buy a normal incandescent light bulb here in BC, it is not easy either. 

The idea behind the CFL is that it is supposed to last longer and use less energy than an incandescent bulb.  However, whereas an incandescent bulb contains a bit of metal and some glass, the CFL requires electronic components and ballast made with toxic mercury to operate.  A CFL (as any other fluorescent fixture) needs to be disposed of safely in a controlled environment.  Typically, a negative-pressure chamber is used to prevent the escape of mercury fumes.
I've drawn a diagram of the type of safety equipment that should be worn when disposing of a light bulb.   The fellow on the left is working on recycling incandescent bulbs, while the worker on the right takes care of CFL's:

I've coloured the safety equipment in yellow.  When disposing of glass for recycling, thick protective gloves and eye goggles should be worn.  When disposing of mercury, you will need the full body protection of at least a Level C hazmat suit. I did not illustrate the negative-pressure chamber for the glass crusher that is supposed to prevent mercury from escaping into the environment.
The overwhelming majority of CFL's are produced in China and India, where workers are not necessarily required to wear protective clothing while either assembling or disassembling CFL's for our market.   They'd probably be lucky just to get the gloves and goggles.

For another of my rants against the CFL (the bulb, not the league), please check out JSVB Post #279 by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

396 - Thus I Refute Tony

My absent friend Tony, whom I have not heard from in a long time save for scraps on my wife's Facebook account, started a blog called "The Paltry Sapien".  It has much higher production values than JSVB, and it also has a lot of bite. 

In his blog on June 25, Tony suggests that the ultimate redoubt for surviving a worldwide plague of zombies would be the the Celestial Hotel at Pic Du Midi, in the Pyranees of France.  This is a real mountaintop scientific observatory coupled with a luxury hotel in the model of a James Bond villain's lair.  I've illustrated the Pic Du Midi above. Accessible by gondola, Tony believes that he has found an impregnable fortress against the hordes of zack. 

My simulations suggest otherwise.

First of all, in the event of a major zombie apocalypse, very few of us will have the wherewithal to jet off to luxury hotels in France.  Most of us will be lucky if we can get out of our own neighbourhood without being bitten.  For a zombie infection up to and including Level Three, I would suggest that your local Costco or Sam's Club would be your best choice: a local building with thick, windowless cement walls, a defensible gate, plenty of supplies, and if need be, the survivors can live on the roof or in the girders.  Make sure you keep your membership card up to date!  

Second, Tony has failed to complete a geophysical study of the Pic Du Midi region.  While there is a gondola that reaches to the hotel, the site is also accessible via the Pic du Midi de Bagnères, a switchback road that leads up the south face of the mountain.  The undead of Toulouse, the Pyrenees, and northern Spain, including Barcelona, would be certain to take advantage of this path.  If James Bond were to be zombified, he might even bring helicopters, against which Pic Du Midi has no appreciable defense. 

Third, and most damning of all, Tony has either through choice or omission completely avoided any mention of the Godzilla Factor.  What this means is that although any plans you have to defend yourself against zombies may prove to be completely fruitless if Godzilla happens to come along and open up your fortress like a can of tuna.  There's no point in creating a zed-proof domain if you're going to be blindsided by monstrous giant Japanese lizards that breathe fire. 

My simulations have proved this out.  You can clearly see in the illustration that the crowds of undead have no problem scaling the south face of the mountain, homing in on Tony's brain as if it were a beacon at darkest midnight.   Godzilla, on the other hand, can easily climb the trickier ascent of the north face, leaving Tony and the last remnants of humanity in a position an awful lot like the last olive at the bottom of the jar. 

As for me, I'm going to Costco to buy some plants... for zombies.

The Pic Du Midi illustration was adapted from a photograph by C. Etchelecou.  The Godzilla illustration was adapted from a photograph by b_casual.  Godzilla is the intellectual property of Toho Co. of Japan.  The name of this JSVB blog entry is a play on the name of the very creepy very short story by John Collier, "Thus I Refute Beelzy".  Zombies, bless them all, are public domain.  My thanks to Tony for inspiring today's JSVB entry. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

395 - Twilight Hunter

A lone eagle prowls the lake at sunset.  Although the fish are jumping, this predator won't catch any while I have my camera at hand. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

394 - My Secret Chinese Name

This year for my birthday, I got something I have wanted for a long time: a secret Chinese name.  For full disclosure, I'll be honest.  I am about as Chinese as a plate of pyrogies and cabbage rolls, and like many round-eyes, I am ignorant of Chinese culture and custom to the point of barbarism.  That did not stop me from wanting my own secret Chinese name.

As an artist, I have long been fascinated with Chinese calligraphy and their ideogrammatic expressions.  Chengyu is an Asian tradition that expresses an idiom in four characters whose meanings are normally taken from ancient texts.  The Chinese, however, seem to be reluctant to give out secret names on a whim.  The exception that proves the rule is the guy at the shopping mall who will carve your Chinese name into a rubber stamp for seventy-five bucks, but he's just spelling out your name phonetically.  I wanted a Chinese name that expresses my own particular self.  And now, I've earned from begged all of my Chinese friends and acquaintances for my Chinese name, and this is it.

The name comes from not one but two chengyu, and translates to "The much-appreciated artist who is as hot as a potato", or at least so I am told.  I am very inexperienced at producing Chinese calligraphy, but I hope I can rattle this off the next time someone wants me to sign an art piece.  I just hope I don't end up writing "Kick me, I'm Irish!", or something equally laughable.

My deep thanks to M. Choi, who came up with this translation. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

393 - In The Name Of The Canucks

Last night, a war zone erupted in downtown Vancouver after the Canucks lost Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final to the Bruins. 

For last year's picture of playoff loss, please see JSVB Post #119 by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

392 - Alternate Universe Canucks

Knowing that I wouldn't have a lot of time to post on JSVB, I created this image in advance for today:

Well, heck, it looks like I figured wrong.  We'll get 'em next year!

Monday, June 13, 2011

391 - Captain Sluggo

Welcome to the June installment of Ungood Art Day, traditionally the 13th of every month on JSVB.  I was hoping to postpone Ungood Art Day with some amazing Stanley Cup victory news, but the Bruins won Game Six, and so there will be a Game Seven as well as the usual Ungood Art Day.

Today's Ungood Art trangresses several boundaries of good taste at once.  First, it is based on Star Trek fan fiction.  I already have a few art pieces of that sort posted on JSVB, but this one actually attempts tp superimpose my own likeness into the Trek Universe.  This is arguably the most self-serving form of artwork, if not the geekiest. 

I now present Captain Sluggo:

I put this thing together with a very early version of Photoshop, one that did not support many of the advanced functions that today's version has.  I took a publicity shot from the Star Trek pilot episode and stuck my facial features on top.  Then, I hand painted the skin and hair to age the character and apparently added grain to match the look of the film.  I recall that it was quite a lot of work, for a really dubious result.

As they say in the late night television commercials: "But wait, there's more!".  At the time I was getting started with Photoshop, I also was doing a lot of creative writing.  My friends were Trekkies and we all wrote a lot, including some really turgid fan fiction.  As it happens, I have an astonishing piece where I unflinchingly inserted myself into the Star Trek canon (well, I flinch now, if that means anything to anybody).  I think I wrote the piece at the same time I made this picture.  I refer to myself as "Commander Shyluk" (gahhh!) , although "Commander Shyluk" eventually transforms into "Captain Sluggo" for reasons too trivial to share here.  Other Star Trek stereotypes appear with thinly disguided names.  Well, except for Chief Engineer Hitler.  I guess I thought that Scotty needed to be replaced with a name with greater shock value. 

In any case, here is a mercifully brief excerpt from the archives of The Sluggo Files:

Commander Shyluk stabbed at the communications button on the captain's chair. "Mr. Hitler, what is the status in Engineering?"

The Chief Engineer's strident voice piped up to the bridge in clipped, tinny tones: "We have not made much headway on the transporters, Commander. The scan wave plates have been completely ionized. It could be hours before we can get them back to operational."

"I'd like to see results rather than explainations, Chief. I'd like to avoid having any kind of situation up here, especially one where we might need the transporters. How are the sensors coming along?"

"The stasis wave knocked out most of the array. However, with some improvised cross-circuiting, I would say they are up to thirty percent efficiency."

Commander Shyluk scowled at the communicator grid in the arm of the chair. "A Federation starship is expected to run at one hundred percent efficiency or better, Chief. See to it we get that way."

"Yes, sir. Hitler out."

Commander Shyluk shifted in the chair, resting his lantern chin in one hand. In the blank glass of one of the inoperative sensor screens, he saw his own reflection. Years of deep space duty were beginning to wear hard upon him. He still kept in shape, his shoulders were as broad and his stomach as flat as ever, but time was becoming an increasingly difficult adversary to best. Already, he was beginning to grey at the temples of his wavy, jet black hair. Life on the USS Interdictor was aging him rapidly. The swashbuckling exploits of Captain Wolverine added to his collection of white hairs while taking years away from his life expectancy. With a sense of determination that he felt came from rote rather than duty, he tore himself away from the reflection on his life and turned to the matters at hand.

"Mr. Splag, at your convnience, I want you to increase the power of the sensor sweeps. Even at thirty percent effectiveness, we should be able to penetrate the stasis wave to see what's in the middle of it."

Wordlessly, the Vulcan got up from his controls and walked over to the sensor suite left vacant by the science officer who was, of course, on the shuttlecraft with the captain. Lieutanant Silo, the weapons officer, slid over one seat to cover the helm.

"The helm is responding, Commander. What are your orders?"

Again, my friend Earl gets credit for saving this stuff on his computer for decades, only to spring it upon me in time for Ungood Art Day.  The original promotional photograph must have come from Paramount Studios or a publication associated with them, although I don't remember for sure any more. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

390 - Early Earl Pose

A hasty midnight scramble after the end of a fine, busy Sunday to produce the best image possible for todays post ends up with this:

It's an old and not especially flattering gesture drawing that provided the foundation for my largest painting ever, A New Wedding Hope.  My friend Earl stands in for Luke Skywalker.  This sketch stands in for Earl, until I came up with a more detailed cartoon drawing.  Art trivia: the word "cartoon" comes from the medium of line art that painters use to draw their reference images before painting them. 

To see A New Wedding Hope, you can either visit Earl's house, or click here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

389 - Happy Birthday To Me (2)

Today's JSVB post features some mature(ish) science fiction content.  If you are fine with seeing that, then scroll down to find out more.

This day exactly one year ago, I published JSVB Post #143: the original Happy Birthday To Me message.  I've decided that every year that I run JSVB, I will give myself the gift of "Geekcake", which is some kind of geeky cheesecake girly extravaganza. 

I was working on another project when I decided that what I was working on could be adapted to fit my Happy Birthday To Me needs.  The origin was a discussion among my friends and I about women using blade weapons in popular culture.  My personal feeling is that most times giving a female character the ability to brandish a sword is a stereotype cop-out.  The author has taken an obviously male character and swapped it for a female one, usually without any more thought than adding boobs and a skirt.  This is not to say that women cannot be adept at swordplay, especially in the real world.  What I mean is that fictional characters become cheaper if they are given roles based on what the author thinks would titillate the audience.  Beyond that, I also feel that women with blades also tread on shaky ground with respect to Dr. Freud. 

It has been pointed out to me that there are exceptions that prove the rule.  Sexy exceptions!  I was going to call today's post "The Uhura Exception", since my friends were quick to point out the electrifying effect that Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura had on viewers when she wore a skimpy Mirror Starfleet uniform and thrust her dagger into Sulu's face.   I thought highly enough of my friends' collective opinion on the matter to make a painting of Ms. Mirror Uhura:

It took me considerably longer to paint this out than I thought it would.  At least I did not paint it from scratch, otherwise I would have missed my June 10th deadline.   In the time-honoured tradition of pin-ups, I took a pre-existing body and repainted it.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon a copyright-free nude with a figure similar enough to Uhura's, although she was white.  See "Reclining Woman" ("Femme Couchee") by Gustave Courbet (1866).  There are lots of photos from Paramount Pictures of actress Nichelle Nichols, so I painted the head and face using brute force.  I painted the costume, gold accents, and the dagger manually as well. Ms. Nichols uses some characteristic hand poses in her acting, but I ran out of time to make the adjustments I wanted to the hands. 

I used Photoshop and Painter to create the red bedcloth texture using free high resolution texture samples from Hosking Industries Australia.

I also used Photoshop and Painter on the copyright free image of a beehive.  Originally, I was going to paint the hexes in by hand, but when I saw the photo (and that it was free!!), I grabbed it and monkeyed around with the pixels some.  The original image is Apis Florea Nest Closeup 2 by Sean Hoyland. 

Lieutenant Uhura (Mirror or otherwise) and related imagery are the property of Paramount Pictures. 

Please click here to see last year's Happy Birthday To Me gift to myself. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

388 - Wipeout: The Village

For fun, I've combined a couple of television shows I like a lot: Wipeout and The Prisoner.   The menacing Rovers from The Prisoner are a bit like the Big Balls from Wipeout. 

If you count the couple of episodes that featured the ultra-ridiculous iron-man sport of Kōshō, The Prisoner and Wipeout have involuntary trampoline gymnastics in common as well.   

For some high-end television trivia musings, please stay tuned to JSVB tomorrow, as I will unveil my Second Annual Jeff's Birthday Geekcake  Spectacular ("Geekcake" being my mash-up of "geek" and "cheesecake"). 

Be seeing you! 


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

387 - Sub Stance

This is an unfinished sketch of a scene in the control room of a sinking submarine.  Although I drew this maybe four years ago, I think I was doing this for some kind of contest I was trying to win.  On the top of the drawing are a few stylized three-dimensional stage lights.  I draw these in as ruffs when I want to render light sources into my artwork, either manually or by using a computer.  That way, I will understand where the specular highlights and thrown shadows will fall. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

386 - My Junebug

A fine day in late Spring, a long walk along the shore, and we have this lovely picture to remember by.

Monday, June 6, 2011

385 - A-One And A-Two...

Today's JSVB Post features the partially famous, partially nude Canucks Flasher Girl and her naked breasts.  If you are too young to see this content, or do not wish to see nudity, please do not scroll down.  All others proceed as you wish.

The Vancouver Canucks are so close to winning the Stanley Cup, even the Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl can count the wins we need until total victory.  All she has to do is count her piercings:

A-One...                                                                  &                                                           A-Two...   

For another peek at Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl and why I think she's better than The Green Men, please check out JSVB Post #372 by clicking here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

384 - Pup Runneth Over

I saw a cute puppy today.  His body looked like the size and colour of a good loaf of bread.  He was chasing after his owner with the tiniest of cute puppy leaps.  If I said that pup followed man doggedly, that would be cliché, but it would also be true. 

Here, I've cartooned the little beast into my sketchbook.  For another sketchbook puppy, please see JSVB Post #304 by clicking here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

383 - Tanager's Travels

A Western Tanager is a migratory bird roughly the size of a small robin, but with cadmium yellow plumage and a brilliant red cap.  The tanager winters as far south as central Mexico.  During the summer, they will fly as far as northern British Columbia.  They prefer the safety of high branches and  forested areas. 

We see them in our neighbourhood for two or three days out of the year, as our forest is in their migration path.  In spring, their colours are extremely vivid; they truly stand out.  During their fall migration their colours are muted, so they are harder to spot. 

Although they are not rare birds, their visit to our forest is brief as a sigh, so we have to be lucky to get a photograph of them.  Every year, I've tried to frame one in a snapshot only to be met with mixed success.  I decided to paint a picture based on one of my better photos:

Whatever the weatherman says to the contrary, one of the surest signs of Spring around here is the song of the travelling tanager!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

382 - Stanley's Clucks

Presenting the 2011 edition of Stanley Cup Jerseys For Chickens.  For the first time, I got to make a chicken-themed jersey for the home team, which is really exciting!  Well, the game is exciting, the chicken, ehhh, you decide.

Please click here to see last year's jerseys.  This year, the entire household is expecting the Canucks to win the Cup, although the BostHen chicken brother won't bet the farm on it.