The Next Thing Part 4: The Announcement

Lord Esmaya and her dark minions.

Lord Esmaya and her dark minions.

So, you know from Part 1 of this series that I’ve been dying to start a new creative project, but haven’t wanted to start anything new that would take me away from my daughter at this juncture in her life. Probably you can all see where this is going, but if you don’t, I’d love to help you out with an official announcement:

I’m helping my daughter start her own game company.

Is that cool or what? Well, we certainly think it is. And we’re betting that its going to be loads of fun. I mean, even the basic tasks of prototyping, product testing, and refining are made up of playing games.

How many games will she publish? How far will it go? Will she make any money? Will she keep it and grow it, or sell out to a larger company? I have NO idea, but we’re going to run with it, at least for a little while. At least for three or four games. Two will launch together out the gate. A third will follow almost immediately on its heels. There’s a fourth that we’d like to follow with, but there’s plenty of art that needs to be created for that one, so it might take a bit of production time. The fifth we have in development is our favorite, but it will require a lot of art. Oh, so much art. And with mostly just me working on the art in my free time… well… let’s just hope Game Four is ready by the 4th quarter of 2014. I’d be sweating the timeline for sure if it wasn’t for the resurrection of the Modbook this past fall. If I can swing things enough to get hold of one this year, perhaps I can speed things along. If all else fails, we have friends in dark places whom we can always call on. :)

Stick with us, because I’m planning to blog, and let’s be honest, its been almost a decade and a half since I’ve professionally ventured into gaming. We’ll be looking for help from those of you who have knowledge of the creative space in general and especially those in the gaming space who have gone before.

Thanks!

Kathryn Kalisz, Sci\ART Global, llc.: Settling a Matter (I Hope)

To my readers,

The following post is not part of my normal writings, and I feel that most of you will find it quite boring and not worth your time. This is more of a legal document that I am posting to deal with inquiries relating to copyrighted images and files that for some reason, I keep getting roped into, even though I have had nothing to do with it since before the client’s death.

Please feel free to skip the rest of this article.

Sci/ART Illustrations and Copyrights

While I was freelancing, primarily from 2000 to 2006, there were a number of common practices that I followed when dealing with clients and handling artwork created for them. Of these is the practice of maintaining digital backups of everything I’ve done (and oddly, I still receive the occasional request from these clients to resend ‘lost’ artwork, even though I haven’t freelanced in over 5 years). I also follow the standard format for rights ownership, which means that I retain all rights, domestic and international, to any piece of art I have created, except for the purpose for which I created the art, unless I specifically relinquished those rights in our contract. What this means is that, if I created a book cover, the client could use that art as a book cover, and that’s pretty much it. If they try to resell the artwork, turn it into a poster and sell it, make campaign buttons and give it away, or whatever, it would be illegal for them to do so. Most of you who are artists likely understand the way this works, but if you don’t, there’s a general explanation of the whole shebang in the book, Six Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger.

From about 2001 thru 2009, I did a large body of work for my mother-in-law, Kathryn (Kitty) Kalisz. During those years, I worked on illustrations for her book, Understanding Your Color, A Guide to Personal Color Analysis, on every version of her company’s website, on advertising materials, and on the original designs for one of her products, the Personal Books of Color (very nice, high-quality personal swatch books). While doing this work for her, I treated my work as I would with any other freelance client, which means that I have all of these files backed up and that I retain the copyright to all of these items for use in any way other than that for which they were initially commissioned.

Since then, I have been ignoring a very vocal critic who has accused me of everything from sabotage to fraud to sales of copyrighted materials. Generally, I would just ignore such claims (since they are all false) and in fact, I’ve tried SO VERY HARD to stay completely out of this industry, but this person has been at it so long, that her very claims keep dragging me back into it. The real problem is that she claims I’ve sold Kitty’s files, especially her book and swatch book designs, to one of this person’s competitors in Australia. Mostly she does this on her Facebook page, and I really couldn’t care less what she says there, except every time she starts, I find out about it from a number of sources.

I’m not entirely certain of her intent other than perhaps to besmirch my reputation, but the odd side effect of this is that some people who read these claims have believed her, and have been seeking to have me sell them the files, since they’ve been led to believe I’ve done so already, once. This does lead me to wonder if every time she goes on a rampage if perhaps she also sends a boat load of her potential clients to go and look for her competitors website and products as well? Anyway, even though I would never do such a thing (even though I believe I certainly would be completely within my rights to), it has become quite apparent that my silence has only helped her to damage my reputation in the eyes of at least some, and I’d like to set the matter straight; her latest verbal tirade and the ensuing influx of email over the matter prompting me to finally take the time to write this post. Otherwise, I would be blissfully ignorant of all goings-on in the world of Personal Color Analysis.

So, let’s hit these images one at a time, and I will direct any future inquiries into the matter to this post.

Swatchbooks

Please, once and for all, understand this:

I have not, nor will I ever, sell or give away the files to Kathryn’s Personal Books of Color to anyone. If you want to compete in this space, do what others have already done and figure it out yourselves. I know it can be done as it has already been done several times. In fact, the first set of fully color-accurate swatchbooks was produced the first year Sci\ART was in business by (we suspect) one of Kitty’s students from South America with only two days of training.

Furthermore, I only have the original files, which worked on a printer that isn’t made anymore, and using printer settings that I simply don’t have. My copies of these files would be practically worthless to you. Also, Kitty had them modified over the course of at least 5 years by at least 3 interns. Whatever I have is just version 1 of a system that she improved upon over the course of half a decade.

Website Designs

I honestly have no idea why anyone might want website art for someone else’s company, but again, I won’t sell or give these away. These were made to represent Kitty’s business, and I feel they should stay this way.

Book: Text Files

While I do have backup copies of the text files for the original book edition (the book was created in MS Word, and I had inserted some of the illustrations directly), these are not mine to sell. They are copyright Kathryn Kalisz, and someday, after the estate finally settles, these files and ownership of the book should belong to her daughters.

Book: Cover and Interior Illustrations

Understanding Your Color: A Guide to Personal Color Analysis

Understanding Your Color: A Guide to Personal Color Analysis

While I truly believe that Kitty would have followed the lead of those she admired, Albert Munsell, Johannes Itten, Walter Sargent, and others, and made these illustrations and diagrams available for everyone. In this day and age, this would be called Creative Commons, and while I had considered making these images available in that manner, I have decided against it. The reasons for these are many, but generally relate to the book itself. Half of the interior illustrations I did for Kitty are so common that variations can be found elsewhere or recreated cheaply by any half-decent artist with a copy of Photoshop or Illustrator within an hour, if not in mere minutes. In fact, the concepts for a number of these images were simple re-envisionings of illustrations that already exist (color wheels, color pyramids, electromagnetic spectrum, etc.). However, the ones I created for Kitty’s book all have a common look and theme to them, and I think it would do the book a great disservice if the images in the book become overused or common, rendering it nothing more than clip art in the book itself.

Other illustrations, such as the seasonal wheels, I believe were completely Kitty’s concepts, and I feel should live only in her book. If you wish to present any of the artistic concepts discussed in the book to others, please create your own takes on these diagrams rather than using the ones I created for Kitty.

Finally, the covers for both the Analyst and the Client editions, really don’t belong anywhere other than the cover of this book.

What this means: the illustrations in the book may not be used by ANYONE, for any purpose, including, but not limited to: classes, courses, ebooks, articles, posters, handbills, or ‘for sale’ products of any kind. The only place these may be used is in Kitty’s book, Understanding Your Color, A Guide to Personal Color Analysis, and only in the version originally published by Kitty, currently sitting in the Library of Congress, ISBN #s 0977633411 and 9780977633418. In exception, the cover may be used as a representation of the book itself, for instance, as a product shot for sales or reviews of the publication.

If the book is revised, ALL THREE of Kathryn’s daughters must agree to the revisions, otherwise all interior illustrations that I created and the cover must be omitted from the revised publication.

At some point in the future, I will put thumbnails of the illustrations I am referring to on this post for easy reference.

PLEASE NOTE: I am already tired of talking about this as it has been going on for over two years. I have no wish to discuss it further. Comments on this post will be closed from the outset. If anyone has any reason to talk to me about ANY of this, send me an email that I can forward to my lawyer and he and your lawyer can discuss it on your dime.

Joe Kubert, pioneering comics artist and mentor: Sept 18, 1926 – Aug 12, 2012

The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art

A quick sketch I drew of the front entrance while attending the Kubert School in 1992.

I am, and always will be at least in some part, a Kubie. Of all of the schools I have spent time in, I’ve only ever called myself a Kubie. There are far more of us than I think the world suspects. I run into them all the time, and its a certain sort of kinship born of the experience of drafty, wooden-floored classrooms, very small computer labs, and the stories, oh so many stories, of studying under some of the most talented names in comics and finding out just how human these people were. Judy Mates, Barry Bryant, Tex Blaisdell, Kevin O’Hara, Greg Webb, Doug Compton, C.J., Mike Chen and the many others I know I’ve missed, my thanks to you all. You were tough. Sometimes overly so. Still, I learned all I could from all of you and am better for it.

Mostly, thank you, Joe, for bringing such talent together to teach me, giving me a place to learn what I wanted to know and to explore my art with teachers and fellow students who were as excited as I was with the art and creation of comics. You started this all in an era when being a comic artist was looked down upon by the art world at large; when the work you created was considered immature by the world in general. Back before the X-Men were cool, back before comics were sold in mainstream book stores and made into blockbuster movie hits, back when comics were so ashamed of the name ‘comics’ that they called themselves ‘Graphic Novels’ to try and avoid the stigma, you saw that there were those of us who loved the art and built a place where we could find each other and learn.

Your work and effort has not only touched millions in the comics pages you created, but lives on every single day as the students who passed thru your school work, create, and share their art with those around them. Thank you for going the extra mile and giving us a place to call our own.

The Next Thing Part 1: A Fresh Start

Around the bendFor anyone who’s been keeping score, its been almost two and a half years since life around here got so heavy that I dropped almost completely from the web-o-sphere, and a year and a half since I wrote my blog post saying that it might be some time longer before I could start anything new.

Since then, I’ve knowingly taken note of other online presences who have disappeared from time to time due to family responsibilities. A couple of web cartoonists in particular disappeared for quite a while after their first children were born and I can only picture the slow realization they must have had (as I did nearly 12 years ago) of exactly how much your life changes after becoming a parent. Free time? What’s that?

When I was single, I had all the time in the world to accomplish just about anything I wanted. Even after I was married, I still seemed to have quite a bit of time at my disposal. Once my daughter was born, tho, it became almost impossible to find time for personal projects. Interestingly, tho, I didn’t recognize it at first. See, within two weeks of Esmaya being born, the company I was working for went under, and I had to start freelancing, so for the next 5 and a half years, it always SEEMED like I was working on this enormous personal project; I was building my business.

Once I took my current job at ESPN, however, I realized that I had no time to support my freelance clients. Even cutting back didn’t seem to help much. In fact, even just one client can feel like a terrible burden a lot of the time. And the reason is that, any work outside of my day job keeps me away from being a father and husband, which is already the minority of my day, and unless I REALLY want to do the project, it just never feels worth it.

Just to take a moment and put things in perspective. Its not like I don’t have opportunities. In fact, I’m in the enviable position to be working for a company that would pay for my continuing education. And I could probably nail down my next degree on the company dime attending school at night. After much soul searching about this, however, I made the decision to hold off, at least for a couple of years. My daughter is almost 12. Within the next couple of years, she’ll be starting high school, spending less time at home with family and more time out with friends. All sorts of stuff is coming up, and there will be boys, too, no doubt. The last thing I want is to be holed up in my office every night for the next few years after work trying to pass classes while she deals with life.

And this applies not just to clients or college courses, but to personal projects as well. Start a comic? I MIGHT be able to put out a 24 page issue every year. A podcast? Ack! I did that for a few years, and one thing I learned from it is that getting out even just one episode a month is enough work to keep you from starting ANY side projects if you’re already holding down a day job. Blogs are similar. So, what then? It would have to be something with my family, or at least with my daughter.

And wouldn’t you know it? Something has come up. A very interesting opportunity full of possibility for creative growth on my end, father/dauther time for sure, and possibly, just possibly, fun for everyone else as well. I’ll tell you more in a few weeks, so stay tuned. I’ve got a fresh start and am already underway with the Next Thing. Best of all, it fits in perfectly with the whole Creative Independence mindset. I’ll catch you in a week.

Side note: A few months ago I heard an artist I really like talking about getting a studio outside his home while his kid is still young enough not to care. He’d move the studio back into the house once schooling starts and his son is old enough to appreciate having dad at home. I don’t want to call him wrong, because I don’t rightly know if he is or not. But it stuck in my mind, because I did just the opposite.

Having worked from home the first 5 years and then going outside of the house only after school started, let me give you my take. For five years, I got to watch my daughter grow up in a manner than most fathers don’t. I got to be the one she came home to after running around with mom on shopping days. I got to eat lunch with my wife and child almost daily. I got to take a break at 2:30 or 3:00 on hot days and jump in the pool with her (mom’s not a fan of swimming pools) or go outside after it stopped snowing and build snow men and forts. We became really close. To this day, she still talks about those days with an incredible fondness and tells me often that she misses them. I didn’t do the other thing. I don’t have stats or studies. All I know is that, for me, it was worth the struggle to keep working from home for that part of her life and I’d recommend the effort to anyone who wants to give it a try.

Me and Mine

Me and Mine

I’m a 40 year old married father with a number of interests and hobbies and a bad habit of starting little side projects whether I have time for them or not. When push comes to shove however, spending time with my family and making sure they are taken care of is my number one concern. This responsibility is at the core of many decisions I’ve made thru the years and will continue to be for some time. I call this taking care of Me and Mine. While these decisions are usually straight forward, they are not always the best news for me, personally.

For instance, I can sit here and tell you that drawing every day is the key to continually getting better, yet my current job isn’t a ‘draw every day’ kind of job, and I’ve made the choice to give over my evenings to story time and other family activities.

I can tell you that it takes time, energy and focus to start a new venture, but any working parent will tell you that those qualities are not always the easiest to come by, especially in your off hours, and especially when it feels like everything is falling apart.

I can tell you that writing in your blog, updating your online profiles, and participating in your online communities is a great way to keep yourself top of mind to potential clients or employers, but finding the time to do that means that you are giving up something else. Ultimately, you have to decide how important all of that is to you.

For me, I work on it when I can, but ultimately it takes a back seat to taking care of Me and Mine.

A Year of Recovery

After the violent loss of her mother last year, my wife was understandably distraught, and even then had to contend with her concern over the health and well being of her youngest sister. She continued to ‘run’ her business, but her mind wasn’t in it and her heart followed closely behind. She simply needed more time for herself. Time to think. Time to pray. Time to cry. Time to take care of things that needed taking care of. This meant she needed more of my time as I’ve been doing more around the house and spending more time with our daughter so that mom could have a few more hours not being ‘mom’, because, let’s face it, mom’s don’t think about non-mom stuff very well when they are being mom.

We were living in my mother-in-law’s house, but the bank still owned the lion’s share of the mortgage, and we didn’t want to buy it, so we began planning our exit strategy. This meant many hours of my time over the summer looking for a new home, then once one was found, still more time from all of us in packing and then moving. Also, since this was her mother’s house, there was more work to do after we’d moved out than normal. I think we’re basically done over there for now. We’re still in the process of unpacking and settling in, though much of it is complete. We just finished setting my wife’s office up last weekend. The bathroom is next, and the living room is after that, maybe in March. Painting, staining, etc. There go the weekends.

Our new home is also 20 minutes farther from my work, so I’m losing an additional 40 minutes a day in commute time. On the one hand, that’s kind of laughable, since I was only 10-15 minutes away to begin with, and my 35 minute commute will seem miniscule to many road warriors. On the other hand, 40 additional lost minutes a day (and who wouldn’t hear the term ‘40 minutes’ and not think ‘an hour?) still adds up to more than 3 hours per week I’ve lost from my schedule. I try to make the best of that time, either in quiet contemplation when needed, or by listening to podcasts or Bible literature on my iPod, but still, its less time in my day for ‘doing’.

Water From a Stone…

Mostly I’m bringing this up, because those hours had to come from somewhere, and those of you who know me online might wonder where I’ve gone.

First I disappeared from my blog. Sure, I got a couple posts out, but let’s face it, you haven’t really heard from me in more than half a year other than a random post or two of some art I’ve done. Next I disappeared from our podcast. Bob did a stupendous job, but he carried the last several episodes without me. Finally, I pretty much disappeared from the social net as a whole. I’m not on Twitter, Facebook or even our Linked In group much these days. I keep thinking “I need to get to this”, but I haven’t really had time. In fact, I don’t even check my email every day anymore.

The only ‘personal’ activities I kept were running and reading. Everything else went out the window. I haven’t even found the time to go see Tron, and I’ve been looking forward to that for over a year. The bottom line is that as much as I enjoy these things, none of them stack up to Me and Mine.

Priorities vs. Goals

January is just coming to a close, and like you, I’ve heard a lot lately about New Year’s resolutions, setting goals and the like. I’ve also heard very little about considering priority. I’ve had lots of goals in my life. Some have gone away permanently. Some have been backburnered. Some have evolved along the way. Some still live at the forefront guiding daily decisions. However, no goal continues that doesn’t serve a priority, and for the past year, the only priorities I’ve had have been Me and Mine.

Looking Ahead

My family is my core, and I’m trying to stay healthy to take care of them. Me and Mine. These are my priorities. They are part of the foundation of my strength and what I strive to protect at every turn. The rest of this is all external. A home. A job. Business contacts. Recreation. Its outside of me. Its often fun. Much of it is useful. Some of it is even powerful. Its not core, though. They serve us, but they are not Me and Mine.

Things will likely turn around. In fact, its been said that the first year after a loss is the hardest as you work thru numerous annual events for the first time without you lost loved one. We’ve done them all at least once now, and I already see an easing in. This new home is cozier than the last one by far and carries far fewer memories and a potential for creating many new ones.

As time opens up, I will again decide where to put any extra time I may find. It may be back into this blog. It may be back into the podcast (there are several interviews I would still love to do). It may be back into something entirely new. I’ve recently discovered Mouse Guard, and after moving I’m rereading the many comic books I had stored away and remembering why I loved so many of them. Colleagues such as Chris Oatley and the crew from Art and Story keep me inspired on a regular basis. Something will happen soon, though I’m not sure yet what that will be.

 

What This Has to Do With You.

Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Many, smarter people have gone thru this before me. Many more will go thru it after me. This is nothing special, remarkable or unique. But, I guess that’s the point. Whether its a lost loved one, or an illness, accident, or setback, everyone at some time has to regroup. When that happens, break it down to the basics; to your core. Never lose sight of that. Sometimes people get so invested in their projects, goals or aspirations that they lose sight of their core, and their decisions become divided as they try to save both. So, here’s a reminder: Its OK to shut down an entire project, even close the doors on your own company if that’s what its going to take to get you and yours thru it, whatever ‘it’ is. I’m not saying you HAVE to. Often you don’t, and obviously I can’t make that call for you, but when you see it yourself, you’ll know.

I’ll take care of Me and Mine, and know that I’ll understand when you take care of You and Yours.

Perfect Playlist

This is a purely personal post. Nothing in here about business, marketing, branding, or anything else. If you really try to stretch it, you might get something about priorities, but I won’t ask you to. In 2007, one of my favorite magazines at the time, MacAddict, had just transformed itself into MacLife, and wanted to know what songs we had in our iTunes playlists. So, they ran a contest asking for our ‘Perfect Playlist’. I had been building one for about 7 years, and I chose to share it. I didn’t win, but the playlist is still there and exists and grows by a song every now and again. If you’re a dad, you might appreciate it. And maybe I’ll update this article later on with the newer additions.

—-

Hey, guys,

Here’s my Perfect Playlist.

Since 2000, the most important and most rewarding part of my life has been my daughter, Esmaya. Several years back, I started to save songs that most strongly reminded me of being a father and husband, and I keep them in iTunes in a playlist I call the Dadlist. Since I only grab the ones that really touch me, its been growing slowly. A lot of fluff could have made it, but I didn’t want to go that route. These are the best of the best to me. The cream of the crop in emotional heart-string tugging.

I’m not sure what I’ll eventually do with the list. When I became a parent, the idea of death really became important to me. Before, dying just didn’t matter the way it does now that I have people depending on me. So, I wanted to make sure I left something for my daughter to remember the way I feel about her in case something happens. On the other hand, she might get a copy when she leaves home in a few, short, 10 years or so, and I’ll just keep adding to it as we both get older so I can give her an updated list later on.

So, here’s the list.

  1. George Strait – I Just Want to Dance with You.
  2. Creed – With Arms Wide Open
  3. Phil Collins – You’ll Be in My Heart
  4. Gary Allan – Tough Little Boys
  5. Randy Newman – You’ve Got a Friend in Me
  6. Bob Carlisle – Butterfly Kisses
  7. Lonestar – My Front Porch Looking In
  8. Phil Vassar – Just Another Day in Paradise
  9. Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance
  10. Heartland – I Loved Her First

And here are the explanations

  1. This is the odd one in the bunch. Technically, its a man singing to his woman, but my wife doesn’t dance. Long before my daughter was born, I had thought to myself… “If I ever have a daughter, I’m going to pick her up and dance with her to this song.” So, its looks strange in this list, but is very special to my relationship with my daughter.
  2. This is the way I felt when my wife told me she was pregnant. 8 months to think about things, and all I could do was be excited about the cool things I’d show her. In fact, I started reading MacAddict to her as a child. Showing her cool things and helping her experience new things is still a large part of our relationship.
  3. Watching her grow is an exciting thing. The more she does, though, the less it seems she needs me, it seems. So, its a bittersweet feeling, knowing that she has the strength inside to explore more and more of this world, but knowing that doing so will eventually take her away from me. But she’ll always be in my heart, no matter where she roams.
  4. This is me to a “t”. Want to scare the living daylights out of me? Tell me something is wrong with my girl. Want to see me struggle with meting out justice? Watch me have to discipline her. Want to watch me get really, uncharacteristically mad? Threaten her or treat her poorly, or even just influence her into doing something wrong.
  5. This one is pretty self-explanatory. When things get tough, she can always count on dad. Whether for some muscle, some wisdom, a shoulder to cry on, or just a listening ear. And no matter how much it hurts either of us, I always try to teach her the right thing.
  6. Growing up, you expect that your spouse will probably be your greatest love. Once you become a parent, though, you realize you were wrong. Everything from her is genuine and true. What have I done to deserve such a wonderful love in my life?
  7. The guys often ask me out for a few drinks after work. I usually decline, saying “Its story time. My kid is going to be waiting for me.” Once someone added, “Well, they won’t mind if you go out once in a while, will they?” To which I realized, and responded, “This is my favorite part of every day. Sitting around with my wife and kid and reading stories.”
  8. I don’t have to look all around the world for the most valuable things. I have them at home already.
    Life ain’t perfect, but with a happy home, it’s pretty good.
  9. She’s growing up. I’m putting as much into her as I can. Encouraging her to be curious, to explore, to push her limits and experience the world. I want her to dance when she wants to, and not dance, only when she doesn’t feel like it. I want her to make the most of what her life will offer.
  10. It seems silly, this song in the mix when my daughter is only 7, but it touched me from the first time I heard it. It resonates to me even now, though, every time she comes home enamored with a new teacher, or a new best friend. I’ll let them borrow her, but she’s my little girl, not theirs. That will always be true. Her husband had better remember that. (As a side note, 2 weeks ago, a friend of ours got married. She danced with her father to this song, and I almost – tho not quite – lost it. Just a bit misty, eyed is all.)

Yes, Dani Does Draw

I’m loving my recent care package from Dani.

So a couple of weeks ago, Dani Jones of DaniDraws.com, while on her uStream show, had her weekly friday drawing (that’s drawing as in “pulling a name out of a hat”) after she was done drawing (that’s drawing as in “pen and paint on paper”) and my name was drawn. From the hat. Well, there’s not really a hat either, but just go with it. My name was picked. OK?

What I won was this strange three-eyed octopus alien creature thingie from her new project, My Sister the Freak. Now, I’d had my eyes on another of her drawings for a little while now, this Klingon Bear that you see here. She’d apparently whipped it up in a pre-Star Trek the Reboot Movie craze, and I decided that since she was going out of her way to ship me a free octo-creature, that I would go ahead and purchase the Klingon Bear at the same time. To top it all off, THAT EXACT SAME WEEKEND, she moved her entire inventory into blow-out mode so that she could rebuild her online store. If you click this link before March 31st, 2010, then you too can purchase your own Dani Jones artwork for a great price. Or, if you’d like your own chance to win a free piece of original Dani Jones artwork, catch her show on Fridays. Details can be found at The Artcast Network, also built by Dani. You wonder where she finds the time!

Anyway, while I was there looking, my kid decided she wanted one of Dani’s fairy drawings as well. An DM was sent via Twitter, Paypal was invoked, and the other day the whole lot arrived. Now all we have to do is run out and find a few photo frames and a special spot to display them. But, so as not to hog the creativity all to ourselves, click the bear head above and check out all 3 images.

Enjoy!

Avatar and the Ultimate Geek Death

This is totally a weekend post. There’s nothing at all here to do with business. Just enjoy it. If you haven’t seen Avatar yet, beware spoilers.

Its the ninth weekend for Avatar, and I just paid to go and see Avatar for a second time in the theater. It wasn’t sold out this weekend, but there was a good crowd. The official reason for this visit is that it turns out that my wife liked Avatar enough that she wanted to take her Grandfather to see it. The unofficial reason is that the first time we’d seen it, we’d gotten there so late that we ended up having to watch it from the third row, and I wanted to get a better angle on it before it left theaters, so I was probably going again anyhow, but it was nice to have a more noble excuse. Now, honestly, I can’t think of the last time I’d paid to go see a movie twice in the theater, but as most of you know, this experience is NOT going to repeat itself any time soon on DVD, so its certainly worth it.

Below are a bunch of random thoughts about this movie that I want to just push out there. Some of them came to me after the first viewing, but a number of items only came to me the second time around:

  • After seeing this movie the first time, for most of the next week, my brain ‘rendered’ the scenes in my head as 3-D animation. It was weird. I had a very difficult time trying to remember the actual color tones and mood of the film. I remember marveling that everything came out over-saturated and under-rendered in my head, and I’m blaming it squarely on my background in animation.
  • Dr. Grace Augustine says early on that she’d “die” to get a sample from the Tree of Souls.
  • When I found that linguists were hired to create the Na’vi language, I originally thought to myself, “those guys must have been ecstatic to finally be able to do something with their skills that isn’t boring.” Then I realized that to them, whatever it is linguists do when not creating new languages for movies must not be boring to them, or they wouldn’t do it. You see that? A perfect example of me imposing my own values on someone else.
  • I suspect many linguists create their own languages in their free time just for fun, possibly hoping a movie producer will come along and need one ready to go.
  • Based on the popularity of this movie, I wonder how long it will be until more people know how to speak Na’vi than Klingon, or even Quenya.
  • It isn’t until Jake starts to really transform his mind into an Omaticaya that we finally see his withered legs, to really feel the contrast between who he was and who he’s becoming.
  • At this same time, his human body is growing out his hair. When he finally shaves, he leaves his hair long, not high and tight.
  • After seeing it twice, I still wouldn’t take my 9 year old daughter to see it. I know she’d enjoy most of it, but I’ll give her a few more years before subjecting her to the kind of violence depicted during the battle. Also, there are a few scenes that are most likely too scary for her. This is, after all, the man who brought us The Terminator, Aliens and Predator.
  • While the picture was much too large to really see everything, from the third row I felt much more immersed. At times I truly wanted to use my hands to bat away bugs, debris and the like because they felt very ‘in my face’. From half way back, it was nice, but I felt somewhat removed.
  • I still find the name of the precious material being mined on Pandora, unobtainium, to be ridiculously self serving.
  • The storytelling is so good that even after I knew everything that was going to happen, I was still on the edge of my seat. Of course, James Cameron did this to me in Titanic as well. Remember the feeling of “maybe it WON’T sink this time”?
  • I had tears beginning to well up at certain points both times, but no, I didn’t cry either viewing; for two reasons. First, I’m a guy, and second, this isn’t a Pixar movie.
  • The very large man two seats to the left of me apparently felt it WAS a Pixar movie.
  • One of the best things about seeing it a second time is that you aren’t so surprised by all of the… surprises, so you get to enjoy the reactions of the people around you. I almost LOL’d at the girls who gasped loudly behind me when at the end, instead of attacking, the Thanator bends to allow Neytiri to ride him.
  • Can you buy more comfortable and stylish Real D 3D glasses than what they give you at the theater? If so, can I get a discount on the tickets? I guess I should just be grateful that these ones fit over my regular glasses, and I suppose Wayfarers are retro-trendy?
  • I wonder what Sigourney Weaver thinks when she sees herself on-screen, 20 years younger through the miracle of modern technology. Even blue, (especially blue?) she is absolutely stunning and full of vitality. Something about her smile as a Na’vi is captivating.
  • It takes 6 years to travel from Earth to Pandora. How long until the Na’vi have to deal with returning humans? 12 if they wait for this first crew to return before sending another ship. 6 if they send reinforcements the moment they realized they lost the planet. Less than six if a ship was on its way simply as a matter of course.
  • You’ve heard that they’re planning a sequel, haven’t you? The only reason this might not completely spoil the first movie is that I’ve yet to see James Cameron bomb on a sequel.
  • I don’t like that Trudy dies. I don’t like it at all.
  • Finally, it dawned on me that in this digital age, Dr. Grace Augustine experiences the ultimate geek death. Since the entire planet has apparently become Eywa, a large and most likely self-aware organic computer/network, Grace is literally uploaded into the web in her last minutes of life. This time Cameron’s Skynet is under the ground.

My wife pointed out that Col. Quaritch seemed very stereotyped to her the second time through. I noticed it the second time around as well, but I pointed out that the first time through, it just worked. From the scars on his head, to his choice of words, down to his (Texas?) drawl, there is no question exactly who this character is. You simply know from the delivery that he is a military man through and through, and whatever part he plays in this movie, it will be handled accordingly. I don’t think she was sold until I reminded her of the opening scene in Star Wars. There is absolutely no doubt that Vader is the bad guy when he enters the scene. He’s the biggest, blackest, baddest dude, and you know he’s the one to beat. The movie is almost 3 hours long, let’s cut the character building and move on with the story, shall we? Sold. Actually, if you watch for it, you will find the same goes for most of the supporting characters. This is not the heaviest of character driven stories.

So, OK. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you get a chance to catch it before it leaves theaters. If you see in on DVD for the first time, while you might get the full story, I honestly feel you’ll only seen part of the movie.

Touched by Violence

This is a phrase I’ve heard used before to describe situations where a person or place has endured a violent episode. Right now the phrase feels inadequate. Dainty, even. It certainly doesn’t live up to the task at hand. This post is especially for those of you who have been with me for more than a couple of years. If that’s you, then you might remember that in December of 2007, Manessa, my then 16 year old sister-in-law had run away from her home, and many of you worked with me to help my family and I find her. What we didn’t know then is that she was actually running away from a man who was hurting her; a relative who wintered with the family, fooling everyone and hiding his activity with her from everyone including her mother. About a year later, Manessa found the courage to tell her mother what had happened. The police and courts got involved after that, and after pleading guilty to lesser charges, he was released on 6 years probation.

This past month has been a rough time for my family. My wife lost her mother, and her sister was put in the hospital when this man entered their Florida-based home office and shot all four people on the premises. My mother-in-law, Kathryn Kalisz (Kitty), was shot dead in front of Manessa, who in turn took what appears to have been 6 bullets herself. As the person who had gotten him in trouble, there seems little doubt that he never intended her to get up again, but she’s a tough kid and after 3 weeks in the hospital is recovering well, though she and her fiance have lost their unborn child.

Besides Kitty and her daughter, he also shot and killed the office manager, Deborah Tillotson, and injured a relatively new employee, Amy Wilson, (whom we are happy to have been told has been released from the hospital). He then fled down the highway where he was finally stopped in a shoot out with police that cost the life of Sheriff’s Captain, Chad Reed. Fortunately, Kitty’s middle daughter had left early for an appointment that day and escaped physically unharmed.

If you heard anything about this story, it was probably in relation to the slain police officer. With tens of thousands dead in Haiti, this event was a relatively minor story, and rightly so. What happened in Haiti is a tragedy on a scale I’m sure that I can’t quite imagine. Understand that I don’t want to take anything away from that, but you should know that in the life of my own family, Haiti was a distant cry compared to what was happening around us. In fact, when the news was first reported to us, we were told that Kitty and both sisters, my wife’s entire family, had been shot and killed. So in truth, as first the news that Manessa was alive but in critical condition in the hospital, and later that Suzie was safe, was revealed to us, it can honestly be said that news got better as the evening wore on.

Kathryn was my mother-in-law. She was an artist and an internationally acclaimed color expert. Color expert. What does that even mean? Its hard to explain in a sentence, but she knew all about color from an artistic and scientific point of view. I doubt there are more than a dozen people alive who could match her knowledge of color and how it worked. Only a small fraction of her knowledge is in her book, Understanding Your Color. I had always joked that she’d forgotten more about color than I would ever know. About 11 years ago Kitty started crafting the pieces for her own business based on color and its application to life and health. She worked it every day for about 2 years, self-publishing her own book, manufacturing her own products in her basement, developing her own curriculum and teaching her courses herself. Once everything was developed, she then launched her business in earnest under the name Sci\ART. Over time her business began growing. It has become one of the most respected names in its industry, and has the most color-accurate products offered in the field of color analysis. As of January this year, she still manufactured her own products in her home, but she had the help of 4 employees (two were her daughters) and has certified trainers on 4 continents teaching her curriculum to students all around the world.

In fact, Bob Ostrom and I were slated to travel to Florida this February to pick up some training from her on color mixing and matching, and we were going to start teaching classes for her ourselves. Its odd, but even though most of the illustrations in her book were mine, even though her websites have all been designed by me, even though much of her marketing materials were my design and I helped her put together her swatchbook designs, my schedule never allowed me to attend any of her classes. After 8 years of supporting her business and her teaching, I honestly can’t believe I had never made the time to actually sit through a weekend course, since I’d always wanted to. I’ve been told there are taped sessions. I hope I can get hold of a copy of them someday soon.

As great a loss to our family as she was, it just doesn’t stop there. The business was the sole source of income for both of my wife’s sisters. When you stop to think about it, you realize that a sizable portion of company was put out of commission that day. Scores, if not hundreds, of businesses depend on the products that Sci\ART manufactures so that they can do business, and the one person who knew every detail of the business is gone. Suzanna Grief, the middle daughter, is working hard to keep Sci\ART going and to completely wrap her head around the intricacies of the business. Even so, with all of the accounts and records in Kitty’s name and the legal red tape Suzie is dealing with right now, it will be a while before things will be completely back ‘on track’. We have full faith that she can do it, but to her credit, she’s doing it without having had a pay-day in over 3 weeks.

Even if Manessa could get paid to work right now, she still couldn’t work, and most likely won’t be able to for a while longer. She’ll be held up in the hospital for several more weeks, recovering for a time, and then will still face at least one more very serious surgery in late spring with another few months of recovery after that. True enough, while in the hospital her own needs are more or less being met, but she has a horse, which is apparently a bit more expensive to keep than my cat, and other expenses that need to be met. We are praying for a full recovery for Manessa in time. Also, we hope that since he’s facing 3 murder charges in a state with the death penalty, Manessa will never have to fear her attacker again. Through it all, its possible that the darkest chapter of this ordeal is actually behind her.

As for me, my wife has been gone 3 weeks now, tending to her sister in the hospital. Now that Manessa has been moved to rehab, which is apparently hospital code for ‘its time for the patient to learn to take care of herself’, my wife will be returning home to my daughter and I this weekend. We can’t wait to see her.

A few donations from other family members that have come in have helped to offset the costs these two are facing for now, but will most likely not be enough to get them through to the end. They are accepting donations at their mother’s memorial site (link at the bottom).

Bob would tell me that I don’t need to apologize to anyone, and I suppose that really I don’t, but I certainly want to, especially those of you who have stuck with me over the years. I know you haven’t heard from me in almost a month, and certainly not regularly. I had just started to blog regularly and Bob and I had just gotten our podcast back onto a somewhat regular twice-monthly schedule. Now, not only have those been affected, but you probably haven’t seen me much, if at all on Twitter, Facebook or any other sites lately. With all that has happened, and with my wife across the country tending to her sister, I’ve been holding down the day job, running my wife’s business when needed, doing all of the ‘at home’ stuff (shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and devoting the rest of my free time to taking care of my little girl who has cried herself to sleep the majority of the evenings; I’ve just been trying to be there for her while keeping her routine going. She grew up in Grandma’s house, her aunt Nessa is really more of a big sister to her, and mom isn’t here. And she got a cold the first week out (refer to the ‘mom isn’t here’ part for impact on that news).

I’d like to take a moment to praise my team at ESPN as well. I don’t know if this applies to the entire company, or even to the entire Disney family of companies, but MY TEAM at ESPN has been very supportive and helpful. Even to the point of my working slightly shortened but very focused days so that I didn’t have to hire a sitter to stay with my girl after school let out. These guys rock. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I couldn’t ask to work with a better group of folks.

So, again, for basically disappearing on you guys, I’d like to apologize. I know with certainty that you will understand, but really, I should have at least given you a reason. Anyway, my schedule has been so tight that not even Bob has been able to really get any of my attention, so if that’s any indication, you know I’ve just dropped off the face of the earth. I wish I could say it was over, but chances are Louanna and I will be distracted for a little while to come between probate, helping Suzie where we can, and when Manessa gets out of the hospital, we’ll be scraping up funds for tickets and flying down for funeral services. However, Bob and I have lined up interviews with the ever-determined Dani Jones and an old buddy of our, Dan Thompson, so even if our Twitter episode gets put off a few weeks, we won’t be leaving you completely hanging.

One more thing I feel really bad about is my preview copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I had received it early with the stipulation with my own hope that I would blog about it, good or bad, before the launch date (Seth wrote to me and corrected my thinking that blogging about it was not part of the agreement, only that I read it). As you probably read from my previous article which was actually posted the day all of this happened, I was well underway with the book. Since then, I’ve continued to pick at it, and I can tell you its really good so far, but I have yet to finish it. Go pick it up. Read it. If you’re the kind of person who finds our podcast useful, then this book was written just for you. I’ll publish my final review of it soon, and I hope that Seth is OK with the fact that I dropped the ball on this entirely.

If you’re interested in reading some of Kitty’s writing, you can find her blog here:
http://blog.coloranalysis.com/

or her book (highly recommended for any artist, but I’m not sure how quickly copies are shipping at this time) here:
http://www.coloranalysis.com/category_s/114.htm
If you’re an artist, skip the client edition and go for the full version. Its written with color analysts in mind, but really, isn’t ever artist a ‘color analyst’ in one form or another?

A small memorial site has been put up here:
http://kathrynleekalisz.com/
and if you’re in a position to help the sisters out a bit, you can make a small online donation as well.

and a tribute from her first student, Maytee Garza:
http://www.revealstyleconsultancy.com/2010/01/kathryn-kalisz-donovanpublished-by-mayte-garza/

There are stories all over the web, but one that has done a decent job of putting together the information without massacring too many of the facts or dwelling too heavily on sensationalism is here:
http://bristolpress.com/articles/2010/01/16/news/doc4b527e48b0429850310794.txt