09 June 2006


I work in what feels like an alien, transient city and my current occupation as a wandering, hired gun with a PowerBook turns consistency into novelty. The chances for meaningful connections with people are all too rare. Somehow, in DC, at work, I made a new friend. That in itself is pretty amazing. What's positively unimaginable is that she's become a kindred spirit.

My friend and I try to meet up at least once a week for lunch and conversation. Various celestial bodies aligned themselves the other day and I was allowed another noontime oasis with her. She trusts me enough now that she knows she doesn't need to wear a fake smile and lie about her day. Like any other recent lunch we've had, she brought me up to speed regarding the saga that is her love life. This time she shared more than I expected, and told me about a boy she fell for when she was young and very naive, and all the horrific things she went through while being used and manipulated by that heartless son of a bitch. I can now say this with authority: she's a survivor. She incredibly managed to live through him and college at the same time.

Later that day, the gravity of what I was told fully sank in when I recounted the tale to my wife, Beth. At that point, my heart became heavy and I was knee deep in a melancholy that showed no signs of letting up until an hour ago. My empathy woke up and caused much of the sadness. The rest came from my realization that conversations like these just don't come by all that often. As I get older I'm finding that sharing a friend's troubles isn't a burden; it's a privilege.

Modern, adult life revolves so much around doing things. We all enjoy our distracting little activities with our willing little activity partners. That's great. That can recharge us once in a while. But something gets lost as we mature and inherit responsibilities. We replace the people we need with the things we need to do. All my life I've had two families: my classic nuclear kin and my closest friends. And I needed both to get through it all. But here I am now in DC, and my blood is back in Franklin, MA. My closest friends from school are scattered around New England and around the country. Shelby, my closest friend from DC, is now in Sweden. I can assure you video/audio/IM/SMS/email/phone, none of it replaces having these people around to talk to in person, to do something, or to be bored together and do nothing. At this point in my life, I'm losing these people faster than I'm gaining them. Everyone has their own path they must take. People come and go. And it's positively exhausting.

Shelby always managed to inspire people with his spirit and ways of seeing, and had a way of bringing people together. I can only hope to recreate some of that in his absence. I'm not alone though. I do have Beth, who at only 5'0" always manages to stand tall beside me, even when I've given up on myself. I have my sister Sara, and while I may have gotten off to a late start with her, I appreciate what I have. I've been diligently working to meet new people, and I'm encouraged by my progress. I'm strengthening some existing friendships. I'm making new acquaintances. And I have a surprising, new friend who willingly confides in me, and that's a great gift. She says she's an orphan and this is her new home, and I understand where she's coming from. DC doesn't quite feel like my home yet, and maybe it never will, but I'm willing to put in the effort and willing to fail to find out. As I've grown I've learned to reach out my friends, and I cling to the hope that they will reach out to me.

30 May 2006

What's with your links and why the F should I care?

On the right side of this prefab template that encases my blog you will see my links. I present to you Team Linked Up:

First up is Frantic Mantis, a Data Punk band based out of Göteborg, Sweden. They're a fantastic and refreshingly raw mix of members of Division of Laura Lee, my good friend Shelby Cinca (of Frodus and Cassettes fame), and the potent vocal stylings of up and coming rapper Remy Stanton (based out of Manchester, England). I'm biased because I love these guys, they love me, and I created artwork for the last album. I'm stoked to be contributing, but I'm also frustrated that they have all the musical talent in the world and I can't express myself with noises in nearly the same way. Unless you count atonal flatulence. Which I don't.

Next we have Passkontroll Design, a collective started by Shelby Cinca (see above) and Håkan Johannson (Division of Laura Lee, Frantic Mantis) and joined by yours truly. Shelby and I collaborated on a lot of projects together as Passkontroll while he was in DC. I loved working with him, but I can't say I miss the client "interaction". There's little point in my busting my ass to create a carefully plotted interface design, complete with detailed explanations of my decisions affecting the most important people (you know, the users), only to have the recipient arbitrarily dismiss it due to, I suspect, internal politics. Eventually, my interactions felt a lot more like this: "Here's my latest revision, Mr. Client!" | "Thanks, Li'l Designer. Here's a metal rasp. Scrape this along your nether regions." Design and illustration is more personal to me than I had ever suspected. Now I don't design for pay. It's for the best. Maybe one day I'll be ready to try again, when my nether regions have fully recovered.

12th Gear is/was a lot of things. At one point it was my freelance presence. Later it became nothing. Later still, it stayed nothing. A web installation piece; a commentary about physical and temporal negative space amidst an ever changing sea of data designed to appeal to our ADHD lifestyle? Um, no. Lately it's been a repository for anything that hasn't completely bored me at the moment. For now it features sketches and character designs. I haven't touched it in a while, but if I can get my hands on a slide scanner I'll publish some of my older works. Expect this site to always change as I experiment, get about halfway through, get disgusted, and start over. Most people call this stuttering insanity. We artists call it "process".

Gimcrackery is all about stuff. My dear, mustachioed friend Stephen Guidry invited me to contribute, and I do on occasion. Poorly, I might add. But mercifully, infrequently. It's worse being a contributor, when you realize that in fact you are the worst player on the team and you really should just stay on the bench before you hurt or embarrass yourself. Or get hurt while embarrassing yourself. Despite my best attempts to lower the curve, you really should check it out. Everyone has too much stuff and must atone. Yes, even you.

Back when I had significant amounts of free time I created some artwork for the Blue Arizona game project, working with the aforementioned Stephen and his talented programmer friend Jon Toups. Exray Factory is the blog. Jon frequently posts code, and it's all over my head because he's excellent at math and I breathe through my mouth. When I wasn't mouth breathing, I was painstakingly crafting retro 16-bit artwork, pixel by pixel. I started creating artwork on computer back with an Atari 800 and a Koala Pad. Everything was done pixel by pixel. "Back then we didn't have Wacom technology built into newfangled LCD displays connected to Quad Power Mac G5s running Adobe Photoshop CS2. We had 8-bit Ataris hooked up to hand-me-down TVs via poorly shielded coaxial cables and our art programs came on cartridges, and we liked it, dammit! We liked it! Bea! That Cugini kid's on our lawn again!"

Nothing but Noise is my friend Ben's recording, mastering, and duplication business. He's disarming and approachable, so his passion and genius can sneak up on you. I'm proud to say I created Snodgrass the monkey and a bitchin' logo for him. I have him to thank for my love of audio finery. I've spent many evenings in his sound insulated basement hearing my albums again for the first time on his lovely studio monitors. If you ever see me in public rocking the jankiest looking (but sweetest sounding) pair of retro styled headphones, you'll know why.

Drawn! is a blog that combs the web for illustrators who are far more talented than I and presents them all in a concise, convenient, easy to digest form that fills me with self doubt in less time than it takes for Mr. Owl to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

Before Lazy Sunday put The Dudes on the map, before Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious was screen printed across the first hipster's t-shirt, there was The Lonely Island. Music, music videos, episodic satire of The OC, it doesn't matter. These guys are inspired. Stephen first exposed me to The Dudes when we worked construction together. He had his little Korean iRiver music player cued to Zanzabar.mp3 and the rest is history. I'll never look at clouds the same way again. Curious? Go. View. Listen. Laugh.

Time for a two-for-one: Do you rip your CDs to your iPod? That's illegal. Well, maybe. We're not sure. Neither is the RIAA for that matter. They're still trigger happy and itchin' for a lawsuit. Did you know that about one fifth of the human genome has been patented by various private firms and universities? With every technological evolution our humanity is being stripped. As the corporate/government hegemony continues to steamroll with startling efficiency, it's at least a teensy bit comforting to know the Intellectual Property Action Committee and Electronic Frontier Foundation are paying attention.

George is my good friend Marina's boyfriend. But he's so much more than that. He's also a voracious devourer of every form of sophisticated media known to man and somehow finds time to be a decent human being, host his own radio show, and post his blog.

We've gotten to the first (and only!) redhead on the list, and one of the newest additions, the beautiful and talented Courtney, and her first blog, Commentique. That's a new word. It belongs to her. Ask her what it means. It's Hybridiction™. Ask her what that means too! I'm sure she'll be more than happy to tell you. She's just starting out, but it's clear from talking to her that she's turgid with sublime ideas and no doubt commentique.blogspot.com will be quite the happening URL. She's also, to quote my wife, "the coolest Republican I've ever met." She's a reminder that good people are everywhere. There's hope for this town yet.

Last, but certainly not least, we have my lovely sister Sara's blog. Actually, she's my sister in law, but that phrase is disgusting. Like I need to describe her with some sort of qualifier because she's not my real sister. F that. She's VERY real. One of the great things about getting married is you don't just get a wife; you get all her cool family members too. I love her blog because it, like her, is full of surprises. Also she, like Courtney above, is a seriously talented writer. Any time I'm deluded into thinking I have a way with words, I visit Commentique or obtuse vita to redden my cheek with another reality slap.

This was an interesting post. Initially I thought I'd have very little to say, but that's clearly not the case. It's also clear I'm blessed with some damn cool friends and family.

16 May 2006

Before I die

I must do this: Targa Newfoundland.

Grand Touring seems like a good, safe place to start. But, oh, to be able to compete in the full Targa event! Someday...

So, who will be my co-driver?

05 May 2006

"Am I Growing Up? Crap." or "Anybody Wanna Buy Some Video Games?"

I have a PS2.
I have Guitar Hero and the Gibson SG controller for it.
I have Gran Turismo 4 and a $130 force feedback racing wheel.
I also have an Xbox.
I also have a GameCube.
I also have a DreamCast.
I also have a 320 disc CD/DVD binder for my games. It's practically full.
I also have more, but I'm embarrassed to elaborate.

It all began with a knight on an ostrich.

Back in 1983 my Dad bought a personal computer. Since he didn't love his family very much, he brought home an Atari 400 instead of a Commodore 64. It featured a lousy membrane keyboard and used those same painful, flimsy, downright medieval "joy"sticks made famous by the Atari 2600 Video Computer System. It did have one very important redeeming quality: it could play Joust.*

Joust was my first video game addiction, but it was far from the last. Between 1983 and 1994 I had saved many a princess, repelled countless alien invasions from the cockpit of a single spaceship, won Lord Stanley's Cup AND the Vince Lombardi trophy, turned the tide in historic battles, saved planets both real and imagined, built cities, destroyed cities, and even started a thermonuclear war.

Games resonated with me more than any other medium. Books and movies are great, obviously, but they don't offer the interactivity of video games. Everything you do seems to influence the story, the characters, and in some cases, even the world of the game itself. You shape the medium as you consume it.

My lifelong relationship with gaming is in a strange place right now. I'm excited by the youth of the medium. Books, music, and film are the establishment now. Video games are still in their relative infancy and it's exciting to see where this new art form will head. I would love to see gaming develop maturity and sophistication in my lifetime, and truly break free from its "kiddy fare" shackles, something animation still hasn't successfully done in this country. On the other hand I look at my current video game collection and am mildly horrified at how much money, time, and energy I've devoted to this hobby. Gaming at my experience level is hardly mainstream, and it's pointless and a little sad that I want to share my hobby with others (like my wife) and for the most part can't because they essentially lack the training to enjoy it on my level.

Perhaps in the future things will change, games will become fully mainstream, and we can all be on the same page. Right now, though, I need to pare my collection down to a balanced minimum. Gaming was an important part of my development, and a part of me feels like I'm auctioning off my childhood, but I need to resign myself to the fact that once in a while I'm supposed to act like an adult. It's ok though; I'm definitely keeping the guitar and the racing wheel.

Anyone want to buy some video games?

*For the philistines reading this blog, Joust is easily the best game ever made about the epic battles of a lone knight astride a mighty, flying ostrich who defeated wave after wave of an evil lancer cavalry who rode giant buzzards.

23 April 2006


I performed my best George Oscar Bluth impression today. My boss, Jeff, has a Segway (two, actually) and he invited me out to ride, since every time I've seen him on his I've been curious about trying it. Within about 15 minutes I was comfortably navigating at brisk walking speeds. Within an hour I was speeding along at the maximum speed allowed by law (12.5MPH to keep the Segway classified as an assisted-mobility device). I had a lot of fun learning the ropes and pushing the Segway faster, constantly being amazed at how unflappable it was.

All that said, I couldn't help feeling like a bit of an ass on the Segway. Not as big a tool as Gob, but a tool nonetheless. Part of this stems from the fact that on a path littered with joggers, bikers, families, and children all enjoying the outdoors, we were the only people on motorized transport. Strange, geeky, expensive motorized transport. A Segway is probably a horrible tool for meeting women (plus puppies are cheaper and far more effective).

To the Segway's credit, it's clearly designed as an excellent pedestrian vehicle. You're upright, you don't take up too much room, the thing is quiet, and you're extremely mobile, so passing people or getting out of the way is incredibly easy. To the credit of everyone on the path, nobody gave us dirty looks, and several people were thrilled when Jeff offered rides to the curious.

I'm in no hurry to rush out and buy a Segway. On a bike path I prefer biking, and in the city I prefer walking. Now not everyone can bike, and not everyone can walk, and the Segway is certainly better than a wheelchair if you're capable of standing. However I do hope it does well enough for there to be a MKII that's smaller, lighter, cheaper, and therefore more relevant. As it stands, it's really cool, and it truly is useful, but it's still not for everyone. It's on the verge of being something great if it survives long enough for us to let it.

19 April 2006


Shelby is now on a winged capsule somewhere over the Atlantic. He'll be continuing his life in Sweden with his fiancé. As pained as I am over his departure, I'm really proud of him for taking this leap; he is a hero. Few people have the courage to live their lives their way, without comparing themselves to others. Even fewer have the stamina to keep doing it.

There are several positives to all of this. Shelby is marrying a wonderful girl. He's going to be closer to his family. He has a great shot at opening his cafe, Captain Espresso, with our friend Håkan. I've got friends in Sweden now. I've got new friends here too, as we all got together to say our goodbyes. I've also got some amazing art, an original painting Shelby made back in 98. It deserves a frame.

Sweden sounds like a wonderful place, and I plan to visit as soon as is feasible. Frankly, I can get behind a culture that has a specific word for taking a relaxing coffee break with your mates. Perhaps some day I'll be behind the bar of Captain Espresso with Shelby, crafting a salve for a weary traveler.

65MPH Meditation

If you're an auto weenie like me you know there's something about that perfect synergy between music and apex. Such a moment happened today. Weaving down Cabin John Parkway today, top down, sun up, and then suddenly Stately Homes by The Capes started blasting over XM. Zen is often smelly, loud, and visceral for me.

Peep the fantastic garage rock responsible for my rare splash of peace.

16 April 2006

Why I'm Doing This

I have a sister-in-law. She's a great girl; I've known this much. We catch each other now and then, mostly at family functions. We chat, we joke, we exchange pleasantries. We've been doing this for eight years.

I stumbled across her blog the other day and it knocked the wind out of me. It was like getting to know her all over again, but for real this time. Obviously it's being posted on the interwebs, so there's always a conscious (or subconscious) filter, but she was still willing to share her vulnerabilities in this public space. You can learn a little bit about someone from her taste in music or movies or books, but you learn so much more from her doubts, fears, and worries.


This is my first (well technically second) attempt at a blog, but I mean it this time. I can't promise I'll update it on a regular basis, but I will update it.