Saturday, June 30, 2012


My brother James was recently sworn in as a reserve police oficer in town. We were expecting some big ceremony, but it turned out to be completely informal.

There was one other reserve officer being sworn in that day as well.

 This was an officer who was present for the ceremony with his very bored son.

I expect that when James finishes school and becomes a full police officer they will make a much bigger deal out of it, and have a much more formal ceremony.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


In my last sketch post, I shared a sketch I did of one of the 4 hideous sculptures collectively entitled "Odyssey", that loom over the bridge in Council Bluffs, like Edward Scissorhands' hands if Edward were 500 feet tall, had 4 hands, let them get all rusty, got rabies and went feral.

What I didn't say was that I misunderstood the assignment at first and thought we were also to write some sort of a short essay on why we chose the art we did, and research our choice. It turned out that all we needed to do was write a brief explanation, but since I took the trouble to do all the research and write this thing, I thought I might as well share it with all of you. You wanted to read all about an ugly statue right?

Albert Paley's "Odyssey"

In case you didn't recognize it from my sketch, this is that massive sculpture that is on the bridge as you enter Council Bluffs from Omaha.

I picked this one because I thought it would be more interesting if I did a sketch of something I hated, rather than just do something I really liked.

This piece is just plain ugly. My best description for it is a "hideous eyesore." One good thing I can say for it is that it's fun to insult. For example: "It looks like a scrapyard threw up on the bridge and a half blind chimp welded it all together."

Aside from the pain it causes people's eyes, it has caused physical pain as well, as it was cited as the cause of a car crash about two years ago.

The reaction to it has been overwhelmingly negative from what I have seen on the internet. Comments I found, ranged from people saying it reminded them of a horror movie, to someone who said "It just doesn't look inviting here. 'Come on people, stop in, we're going to stab you.'"

The project was put forth by the Iowa West Foundation who say it is an Odyssey and a gateway to Council Bluffs. The CEO of the foundation, in trying to defend it from all the negative comments, had the gall to compare it to the Eiffel Tower saying that it also caused an outrage when it was built.

Personally I hope that someday Council Bluffs will come to its senses and tear it down.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Owl City = Depression Therapy

Psychiatrists everywhere should abandon the use of prescription drugs to treat there severe depression cases, and just prescribe round-the-clock 24/7 use of music by Adam Young.

Even on my lowest day, if I think about it, and turn on an Owl City song, It NEVER fails to lift my spirits. If music were drugs, I'd be addicted to Owl City. :D

This August Adam is releasing a new album, and I can't wait. To tide fans over he's been releasing singles. I haven't bought any because I'm trying to be patient and wait for the whole album, but it is hard. :)

I think that until today, my favorite of his pre-release songs was Shooting Star. Some people have accused it of being too "Pop", but I love it just the same. :) I may be waiting for the album, but thanks to YouTube I can still watch his lyric videos. :)

Today he just released a collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen, and it instantly became my new favorite. It was what inspired the thought of treating depression with Owl City music. This song just brought the biggest grin to my face and I couldn't stop smiling. :) I almost feel like buying the single so I can just put it on repeat and stay this happy all the time, but I must learn patience. August will be here before I know it. Until then, I have the lyric video. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

8 Sketches

In painting class we had a few side assignments where we were to sketch famous artworks. I tried to keep my selections very diverse, and I had a lot that probably no one had ever even thought to do.

My first one was part of the sculpture "Odyssey" Anyone from around Council Bluffs knows what this hideous eyesore is. I chose it because I wanted to be very different and sketch something I hated, rather that something I really liked.

The second one is Norman Rockwell's "The Connoisseur." At first I was looking for a Jackson Pollock painting, one, because it would be pretty easy to sketch what basically amounts to a scribble, and two, because at first my plan was to only sketch art that I didn't really like, or had some kind of a problem with. I don't dislike Pollock's work per se, I just have a problem with it being classified as fine art, and people shelling out massive amounts for it when they could do the same thing on their own. It just seems like a big scam or a joke to me. Anyway, I came across this Norman Rockwell painting of a man looking at a Pollock-like painting, and I decided to do that instead.

 Then since I deviated from my original plan to only do art I didn't like, I decided to just get different, and I decided to do a photo instead. This is one of my favorite photographs from the book, Creature, by Andrew Zuckerman.

The next sketch we were given a specific assignment for. We went on a field trip to the Josselyn art museum, and we were to do a sketch on one of the pieces of art. Again I went in my own direction, and I sketched a decaying relic from the ancient Egyptian wing. It is supposed to be a hippo, but you really can't tell very well.

For the next one I went for something more normal, and tried to do one of the most famous paintings of all time. I don't think I did all that well...

For this one I also went for a more normal choice, Just because I felt like doing one of my all time favorite famous paintings. I love Van Gogh's "Starry Night". :)

Then it was back to being weird, and I chose to do Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Tomato Soup Can." I'll bet no one ever before or since, chose to sketch that as an assignment. :p

For the last sketch I wanted to do a sketch of a sketch, so I chose the Vitruvian Man. I decided to give it a censor bar just to be funny. :p I suppose I could have just drawn it correctly, but I'm pretty sure everyone already knows what's under there, and I was just in a goofy mood that day. :p

And with this post, I think that is the last of my artwork from my 4th semester. I did have one more assignment from Design 2, which I will post in a day or two, but I didn't make any new art for that project. Also, I will probably post more of my Beanie Baby pictures as well, since I still have a lot of them. Stay tuned! :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Epic Bravery

 Last night I finally saw Brave. After hours of getting lost in Omaha, we finally came to a theater with a late showing, and got there just as the previews were starting. It was worth the wait. :)

Brave was epic. I would have loved it even if it was just the music and the scenes of Scotland. It was so incredibly detailed, that it didn't even need the story to be a work of art all on its own. But it had the story, and it had the humor. Pixar has done it again, and it was amazing.

After Cars 2 came out, Pixar got a lot of flack. They were accused of hitting their high point with Toy Story 3, and that they were pretty much through. Some just flat out called it an awful movie. Where all that hate came from I don't know, I loved Cars 2. It was hilarious and exciting. I found it to be even better than the first Cars. Not every movie has to be a huge roller coaster of emotions to be a good movie. It wasn't supposed to be that kind of a movie. It was just plain fun, so to all those critics: Go soak your heads.

Hopefully with Brave, those critics will be appeased. It had the emotion, it had the drama, it had the humor. It had pretty much everything, and it was great. There are plenty of plot twists if you haven't over-analyzed the trailers and figured them out like I did, but even though I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen, there was still plenty of suspense, because it's impossible to figure everything out from a few two minute clips. My friends were very surprised by a few of the twists that I had already suspected were coming, so if you haven't been "Spoiled" you'll be pretty surprised by more than one turn of events.

Most people who know what I like in a sci-fi or fantasy movie, know that it's the creatures, and in this case the creatures were of the real variety, rather than the fantasy variety. Horses and bears being the two main animals featured. Merida's horse is a Clydesdale, Angus, and he is just gorgeous. I love horses to begin with, but I really love giant horses like that. :) The other creatures were the bears, and the design on the "Demon" bear was pretty horrific. I expected it to be ugly, but man did its face look hideous. All the better for it to be the "Bad Guy" of the film.
One last thing on creatures, I love a good creature brawl, and the bear fight near the end was just epic. :)

The character of the witch turned out to be an unexpected gem for me. Her role in the film was so small, probably 5 minutes max, but aside from Merida's 3 brothers, she was one of the funniest characters of all. When the witch put on her welding mask, I about died laughing, and her "Answering Machine" cauldron was a hilarious bit of genius. :D

I also loved how they crafted the tension between Merida and her mother. Too often a story will be geared towards one audience, and the stupid adult is proved to be wrong in the end, and the headstrong child is the hero for defying them. Or the disobedient child is completely in the wrong, and if they'd listened to their wise, all-knowing parents in the first place, nothing bad would have happened, proving that parents know everything and you should never question them. Neither one is a realistic scenario, and neither one was the case here.

Instead of making a film to empower rebellious children, or a film to preach to kids to always listen to their parents, the film told a much more realistic story, geared toward both kids and adults, where the parents try their best, but aren't perfect, and the child's disobedience is not praised, but causes multiple terrible things to happen. The trailer seemed to glorify how "Headstrong" Merida is, but by the end of the film, she realized that she had been in the wrong and her tearful apology was heart-wrenching, especially when you consider that it seemed that her actions had cost her her mother's life.

One of the key "Morals" to the story was the importance of communication. You can shout at each other all you want, but that is not communication. It takes listening on the count of BOTH parties involved, with BOTH parties willing to concede that they don't know everything. "Because I said so," arguments are pretty much the height of arrogance, and that never gets anyone anywhere. A response like that only fuels the flames of rebellion. In my opinion that's one reason our country is in such a mess. It's not just a problem with parents acting like they know everything and children are expected to unquestioningly obey, but it's also the government. Politicians act like they know everything and the people are supposed to unquestioningly obey. Neither situation ever ends very well.

Okay, well, that took a very strange political detour that I really didn't intend to make, but I guess it just goes to show that you can get a lot of things out of a good story, even if that wasn't what the author intended. :)

In conclusion, go see Brave. It hilarious, it's exciting, it's gorgeous. In short, it's Pixar. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Brief Guide to Shopper Types

Working in a grocery store, and especially on an express lane, you can see a lot of different types of people who come through the store. There are the really selfish kind, who are extremely impatient and act like everything in the world is only happening to them, and every other person ahead of them is an inconvenience, and the really selfless kind who will see someone with a smaller amount of groceries than they have, and let that person go before them.

There are the ones who play by the rules, who won't go through the express lane if they have 13 items, and the ones who could care less about the rules, and come through the express lane even though they have a cartload of 57 items, because the lines for the other checkout lanes are too long.

There are ones who understand that the sign that says 12 items or less, is not so much an absolute rule, as it is a guideline for how much stuff you can fit on the checkout counter, and there are ones who have a whole cartload of giant bulky items, that count how many things they have in their cart, and if it's around twelve, they'll pile them up there even though someone with the IQ of a cantaloupe can see that there is no way all that stuff will fit there.

This post was inspired by two people who came through my line right in a row tonight. The first was a woman I saw waiting in a long line in a regular checkout lane. She had a small, half-sized cart that was not nearly full. I had no customers at the moment and I called out to her and told her I could check her out at my counter. She looked at me hesitantly and looked up at the sign that said 12 items or less. "But I have at least 20 cups of yogurt!" I just laughed and told her that as long as I had room on my counter for her groceries she could come through with however much she had. So she came over and put her stuff on the counter and I checked her out with no problem.

The woman directly behind her was a different story. She may not have had more than 12 items, but she had many cases of pop, and when my counter can't hold too much more than a twenty four pack of bottled water, you can see why this might be a problem. She piled everything onto my counter except for one case and helpfully explained that I could scan the Cherry Cola twice since she had two of them. Wow. I mean, she was so thoughtful! She saved me so much trouble by only piling up my counter with eleven items. That twelfth one would have just been WAY too much. Anyway, sarcasm aside, I checked her out, and sent her on her way with a smile, but inside I commented to myself about her intelligence level. I guess I'm just a terrible person. Shame on me. :p

A Monstrous Movie

Friday night will finally be the night I've been waiting years for! Well, it's not really all that dramatic, it's just going to see Brave, but I have been waiting for this movie for literally years. I first heard about it when I was still going to ITT Tech, which was at least 5 years ago now. Back then it was called "The Bear and the Bow" and they announced it with another film called Newt, about the last two Blue footed Newts in the world. Sadly Dreamworks decided that that plot was too good so they stole it and made it about Macaws, Called it Rio, and released it before Pixar could finish Newt. Newt was then cancelled. I'm still quite sore about that one...

ANYway, as with the release of any new Pixar movie, there will also be the release of the newest short film, La Luna. So far I don't know too much about it except that it has critics raving about how good it is. Pixar has yet to disappoint me, so I am excited to see it.

Also debuting alongside Brave, is the teaser for the next Pixar movie, "Monsters University." It is Pixar's first prequel, telling the story of Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc. during their college years.

Today on Facebook, they are giving a sneak peek at 4 versions of the trailer, giving fans a chance to vote on the best one. The trailers are all hosted by different sites, and at least one I won't be able to embed here, so I'll just post the YouTube version, and tell you the differences. The versions are all exactly the same except for one line.

The line from this trailer was "My pony made the Dean's list."

The alternate versions from the other trailers are:

"Class president?! Hee, hee, hee!"

"I can't go to class. I'm not wearing any clothes."

And my favorite

"My homework ate my dog!"

This looks like it's going to be a laugh riot! :D Monsters Inc. was one of the very first movies my family ever went to see in the theater, so I am quite excited for this follow up film. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

4th Semester Paintings

I'm finally getting around to posting my paintings from last semester! I still have more art than this to post, but at least I'm getting it up, slowly but surely.

My first painting was for a grid assignment. We were to draw a grid on a picture and paint it. I chose the picture below.

I ended up with this painting after I was finished.

The second painting was supposed to be a science themed painting. We were to take any branch of science and illustrate a specific scientific principle. I chose refraction through a prism, but I put my own spin on it.

The third painting was a mythological painting. I chose a phoenix. Because phoenixes are awesome. :p I used photos of peacocks for references.

The next painting was actually three paintings. We were supposed to paint either a triptych, or a diptych, and I went with a tryptich after I chose my subject, eyes.

When I remembered that the space between two eyes is about the same size as an eye, I thought it would be perfect to paint a pair of eyes as a triptych.

The last painting was a rather different sort of assignment. We were supposed to build a composite picture in Photoshop, and then after having it printed, glue it to a canvas and paint over it. I made a flying giraffe in Photoshop.

And then I painted over top of it. Apparently it turned out that my teacher meant that we were supposed to add to the Photoshopped picture with paint, but I must have missed that, because I just used the whole thing as a base for a painting.

My teacher didn't mind though and I still got an A.

Overall, this semester had some of my favorite paintings in it. The only two I wasn't too crazy about the end result were the giraffe paintings, but I loved how my other ones turned out. And all of these were a thousand times better than my self portrait two semesters ago. >Shivers<

I have loved these painting classes, and I'm kind of sad that there were only two classes available. I won't have a proper studio arts class in my final semester. Hopefully I will in the future though, we'll just have to see what happens. :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

I normally never like what is "Popular" in Tween culture. Twilight, Harry Potter, zombie anything, all of these have never appealed to me, yet they are inexplicably, wildly popular with Teens and tweens all over the country. I figured that the Hunger games was just another fad that I would ignore. And I did for awhile.

Thinking back, I actually remember when the first book came out. I found it at the library, picked it up and read the description. It did hold my interest, but I was getting to the point where work was taking over my life, and I had pretty much stopped reading, so I set it down. I found it a couple more times over the next couple of years and briefly considered it each time, because there was something about the story that was compelling, despite the horrific-seeming plot.
In the future, North America has fallen apart. There are no countries, only 12 districts, ruled by a totalitarian president, who forces 2 teenagers from each district to compete in "The Hunger Games" A gladiator-like fight to the death on live television for the entertainment of "The Capitol" the city in which the elite class and the president live in luxury. The games keep the population under his control, as the games serve as a reminder of what happens to those who rebel. There used to be 13 districts, but district 13 had been blown off the map after rebelling 74 years earlier.
This is not the sort of thing I like to read, yet something kept drawing me to it. Ultimately I never read them back then. Like I said, I pretty much stopped reading once I started working, which is really sad actually, because I used to be a voracious reader. I'd bring home stacks of books from the library and plow through them in a week, and then bring them back and restock. I am going to try to get back into that habit, albeit on a much more manageable scale. I can't imaging I'll ever have the time I used to have as a kid. I was sick a lot and I had PLENTY of time to read. These days I've outgrown the sickness, and I work way too much to go through a book a day.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, a few months ago I started hearing about the Hunger Games again. At first I didn't connect them to the books I'd found a few years ago. I only heard the "Fight to the death" stuff, and I was turned off instantly. I've been in a bit of a funk these last few years and I've tried to keep my entertainment much lighter. Then, thanks to Facebook, I found out that many of my friends and family were starting to read them, and I was hearing glowing reviews, so I started considering reading them myself. I'm not sure when I realized that this was the same series I'd seen at the library a few years before, but when I did I pretty much decided I needed to just read them already.

I have an Amazon Kindle, so after receiving a notification that the Hunger Games trilogy was available for borrowing through Amazon Prime, I decided to go for it. It was free, and if I hated it I wouldn't be out anything. I did not hate it. I loved the first book, and I loved the second, Catching Fire, even more than the first. And while I can't say that I loved Mockingjay, the final book, in the same way that I loved the other two, I can say that I don't think I'd want the story to have ended any other way.

The books center around a girl named Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her little sister's place in the Hunger Games. As most will guess since she is the main character, she wins the games, but by winning the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss unintentionally sparks a rebellion, out of which a war begins during the 75th annual Hunger Games. Katniss becomes the most important "Player" that the rebels have in their fight against The Capitol.

It could have been a very tragic end. Well, really it was tragic. So many characters died by the end of the series. So many changed for the worse, including the main character, though through the epilogue it becomes more bittersweet, showing that even though horrific things happen, it won't stay that way forever and time will heal all wounds; not completely heal them, as though they never happened, but at least ease the pain.

To me the story is not only about the dangers of "Big Government", but also about the evils of war, and what one has to become in order to win a war, even a war that is necessary for freedom. There could be no sunshine and lollipops end to a series like this. Had it been a "Happily-Ever-After" type story it would have completely dulled the point that the author was trying to make, and would have felt forced and fake. The end felt so much more real than an "Everybody lived and nothing bad ever happened again" end.

Even though I almost never buy movies without watching them first, I pre-ordered The Hunger Games movie. From what I've read, the author was directly involved in the screenplay, and the movie was incredibly faithful to the book. Of course the violence had to be minimized to attain a PG-13 rating, but I am glad for that. Some of what happened during the books, I just do not want to see on screen, and I am still a bit skeptical of how they are going to continue to get PG-13 ratings for the rest of the films, especially on the final movie. If the movie is even half as good as the book, I will love it.

To sum up my review of the series: Read the Hunger Games. You won't regret it. You will be sucked in, and you won't be able to put them down. You might even shed a tear by the end. More than once. (I admit nothing.) :p

Friday, June 15, 2012

May 30th

On May 30th I turned 26. A quarter century is in the rear-view, and half a century is just ahead... I'd better start my hunching exercises so I can hold on to my walker properly.

Anyway, enough of the pity party. The week of my birthday some extended family members from Illinois were visiting and we had a barbeque. It wasn't for my birthday, but somewhere in the middle it became one for a few minutes when Sarah produced a cheesecake she had made for me, and Shaina and Joel each gave me a present.

Shaina's present was wrapped by Sasha, who had given me a gift a few days before, but I didn't even think to photograph it. Sasha's wrapping jobs are a works of art in themselves. You hate to rip the paper off them.

But in the end, that's the only way to get to the contents, so the ripping has to happen.

Shaina's gift to me was a notebook with a cool zebra print on it. The pages are blank with no lines. It's really nice.

Sasha's gift had been a DVD of the movie Candleshoe.

We have been in a classic Disney mood recently and watching a lot of 50's, 60's, and 70's era live action Disney films and this one of our favorites.

Joel's gift was not quite as expertly wrapped. But at least it was funny. :p

The inside was much better than the outside.

As you know, I can't wait for this movie! :D I decided to NOT look at this book until after I've seen the movie, as it is quite likely that I will spoil a lot of the plot for myself if I do. So until the 23rd. The book will sit untouched, where I won't see it and have it tempting me to look at it. :)

I wish I'd taken a few more pictures that day, but I didn't, so this one will have to do. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Trip to the Zoo

Monday I went to the zoo. Not that this is something new to me, but this time I went with my brother Joel, and my cousins Shaina and Sarah. We went in the morning and meet up in the afternoon with our friends Alex and Amanda, who are sisters, as well as Robert and Rachel, with their daughter Ariana.

Of course, among the first stops were the okapis and giraffes. :)

Shaina and I posed by the baby giraffe statue.

We rode the skyfari up to the top of the zoo and walked back down.

One of the sea lions had given birth just a week ago. Have you ever seen a sea lion nurse?

The baby is pretty much adorable beyond all reason. I want one. :p

After walking all the way back to the entrance we met our friends.

We had waited on the three most important exhibits so we could go through with them. First up was the completely renovated aquarium. I have more pictures from one of my solo trips that I will post in the future. The new Jellyfish room is amazing!

Next stop was the jungle, where we spent most of our time.

This happens to me a lot. :) This has to be the most interesting angle so far though. :)

We also went through the desert Dome and the Kingdoms of the Night. When we got out we found Rachel's parents sitting in the shade. We talked for awhile, and then most of us went on to see the cats and bears.

After the zoo we went to a Greek restaurant called King Kong. Most of us had gyros. They were so good!

After supper, most everyone wanted to do something else, so we went to the Old Market. Shaina and my feet were really hurting though, so we stayed behind and watched some shows on my computer. I'm sure there will be a next time though. We are already planning to go see Brave on opening night! I can't wait!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Little Bird

The other day I saw a little bird in a tree, and I quietly got close.

 I couldn't believe how close it was letting me get, so I tried getting closer, and it stayed right there.

 I moved in even closer, my camera was probably just a foot or two from it.

Then I made the mistake of trying to use my zoom. As soon as the lens started extending toward it, the bird took off. End of photo session. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Graduate

My mom has homeschooled me and all 4 of my brothers since I started kindergarten about 20 years ago. This year, it all comes to an end as my youngest brother Jacob graduates. We had his ceremony at the end of May.

Dad and Mom spoke, while our friends Morry and Dottie were on hand to help with music, and both Jacob and our cousin Sarah shared their musical talents as well.

Jared and Eva



The Graduate and Parents