Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Here's (above) the surface of Iapetus, a moon of Saturn. Those blistered lumps are mountains but they look like little details on the surface of a cracker.

Another aspect of Iapetus (above). This is turning out to be one of the most interesting of Saturn's moons, but we only have a few pictures and there's no plans to go back anytime soon.

Here's the "Eight" nebula. You see a lot of ring nebulas with a string across the middle but nobody knows what it's doing there.

Three nebulas (above) which appear to have some influence on each other. The colors and shapes look like oil paintings on a canvas.

Here's (above) a crater on Mars, seen from the point of view of a wandering robot rover. The crater is the size of a sports stadium. Like all the pictures here, you have to click to enlarge

A Pluto probe took this picture of Jupiter's weather. Lots of interesting close-up detail.

Here's (above) a nova remnant that appears like a rectangle when you squint. Actually it's probably a hollow cylinder and we're seeing it from the side.

Some dark shapes (above) within a nebula.

An Earth-based picture (above) of The Milky Way.

Another nova (above), no doubt with a flower name.

A nova remnant (above).

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I changed my mind! The San Diego Con has one more day to go (today) and I figure I can afford to indulge myself with just one more purely personal post, on a possibly unpopular subject. That subject is: "How many kids should I have, and when should I have them?"

My answer is: the ideal number of kids is three, the ideal time to start having them is twenty-three for the woman, and the ideal spacing between kids is four years.

My wife and I started when she was thirty-four and we figured we'd have just one kid, who would be a super kid that would have all the advantages that you could have from having the income and undivided attention of two parents directed at them. I thought the kid's early years would be the difficult ones where he cried all the time and was a real bother, then later he would evolve into a real human being and a pal and best friend. Boy, was I wrong.

The early years were unexpectedly great. I mean really, really great! I used to hate kids but you never feel that way about your own. Things I used to see in the street that bothered me about kids just never came up. And the crying? After the first six months the crying dropped off to a trickle. Anyway, it was so good that after five years we had another kid, also a ton of fun. My only regret is that we didn't have a third.

The reason for spacing the kids four years apart is so one is clearly older than the other and they're less likely to think of each other as rivals. The age difference means that the older kid is more inclined to protect the younger kid than bully him. The kids are more likely to grow up liking each other.

The reason for starting at age 23 (the girl's age) is that it gives the mother time to finish college and have some life experiences. If she has three kids, once every four years, that's twelve years. meaning she has her last baby at age thirty five, and the last one is almost as likely to be healthy as the first. As you know, after 35 that changes.

Another thing to consider is that all kids will snub their parents when they reach age 13 or so. After that they go directly to their room when they come home from school and they only want to hang out with their friends. That's catastrophic if you've become addicted to the kid's cuteness and affection for the previous twelve years, but what can you do? It's nature's way! Nothing much, except.....

...Except if you decide to start at woman's age twenty-three and have FOUR kids! Do that and you'll have a new baby just at the time your oldest kid is beginning to snub you! That's years and years of wall-to-wall cuteness, enough sugar for anyone! After that, get a dog!

This post will disgust readers who hate kids. I know how they feel. I used to hate the little rugrats myself. The thing is, you're hard-wired to have them. The day will come when you hesitantly test the water and then you'll be hooked. The first time you come home from a really hard day at work and your kid spontaneously runs into your arms, just delighted to see you...you'll be a changed man. All that adulation and cuteness and kid happiness is more addictive than heroin. You'll become an addict like so many people before you.

Many, many thanks to Fatbear who found an embarrassing math mistake in the previous incarnation of this post!


I know I said I wouldn't post anything til Monday but it occurred to me that since everybody's in San Diego at the Con I can do something completely stupid and self-indulgent and no one will ever know. OK...so here's a quick post about my daughter's bucket of filth. It's something so personal that it would interest only me but, hey... I'm the only one reading this!

Today I discovered a cardboard box in the garage that appeared to be full of knick-knacks that my kid owned when she was seven. I blew off the dust and there it was, a real time capsule from my daughter's youth. I waited for her to come home and we opened it together. There in the middle of the box, surrounded by old pens, sock puppets and diaries, was a real seven year-old's bucket of filth (John K's term) contained in an instant coffee jar.

With infinite caution my daughter opened the jar and smelled the brown liquid inside. No, no...I know what you're thinking, and it wasn't that. No, it was something weirder; you could tell what it was from the smell: ketchup, soy sauce, dirt, turpentine, chili powder, hot sauce, powdered toothpaste and English Leather cologne. SO THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED TO MY ENGLISH LEATHER!!!!!! I got that as a present and never got to try it out. It mysteriously disappeared!

I asked my kid what the concoction was for and she replied matter-of-factly that it was meant to resurrect witches. As witches are want to do, before they step into the fiery lava that will end their reign of evil, they turn to the nearest kid and describe the chemical that has the power to resurrect them. It's a heavy thing to be trusted with a formula like that, and she went through much soul-searching about the ethics of bringing witches back to life, but the lure of science proved irresistible.

Also in the box was an old tee shirt, the one she was always putting on the dogs. If the dogs were nice guys and accepted the cumbersome tee shirt they were rewarded with having their back legs tied together with scarves.

There were also diaries full of misspelled complaints about friends who snubbed her and long multiplication problems like a hundred trillion times eleven. It also looked like she was at work on a personal written language that looked like what you see on Celtic rune stones.

OK, enough personal stuff! On Monday we'll return to solving the world's problems.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Michael Sporn has recently linked to a terrific map site that I never knew existed.


Maps are fascinating. At various times I've had ocean navigation and flight maps on the wall, and until recently I had a heraldic map of Scotland up. You can see it on a post I put up almost two years ago on the subject of ideal pictures to hang in a boys room.

I post this baseball map (above) not because the idea is so clever, but because the color is gorgeous. Notice how the lettering at the top pops out.

Wow! Is this (above) by Gilray? Wouldn't it be great to have a full-sized poster of this on the wall?

A map of Heaven (above) has been long over-due. I notice though, that the Garden of Cartoon-Infatuated Naked Women is missing. And where are the statues of Milt Gross and Don Martin?

Another long over-due map, the map of the center of the Earth (above). It correctly locates the underground city of Shamballan.

The world envisioned by Homer (above).

Here's a rendering of a city (above) which includes architectural highlights of the western world. They're not always the buildings I would have chosen, and the painter seems to favor long boulevards framed by wind traps, but the basic idea is terrific. I'm surprised that no city in the world (outside of Disneyland and The Tivoli) has chosen to make itself into an anthology of the best architectural ideas the world has to offer.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Al Capp may have been the greatest cartoonist-pitchman in the history of print media. You read his ads and you actually want to buy the product! How often does that happen? Just looking at these two pages (above and below, be sure to click to enlarge) makes me salivate for Cream of Wheat and Fruit of the Loom! How did he do it?

Well, right off the bat you can see that his ads used arresting fields of saturated color. I imagine that most of the rest of the pictures in the magazine, including the ads, were photos and would have used diluted, greyed-down color. Capp's stuff must have really popped out.

Capp wasn't above using stark primaries to get attention. That and thick, black lines certainly made the images jump from the page. Here (above) he fearlessly attempts to sell rutabagas (yellow turnips), surely the most difficult item of all to make ads for.

Notice the astonishingly bland and generic typeface on the Arrow Canning Company logo. That's obviously not Capp's work. You can tell that the client was a simple man who went along with the cartoon idea, but insisted that it be integrated with what he believed was the magical, charismatic quality of the original Arrowhead logo, so beloved by his aging grandmother. With clients like this Capp still managed to make art.

You have to enlarge this (above). Here Capp goes wild with expressionist graphics. It sells the product, though.

It helps to have a genius like Capp doing your ads, but even comic ads drawn by fairly normal artists (above) are effective. You have to wonder why magazines don't carry more of them. People like them so much that they'll even endure the tedious copy underneath the strip.

Well, maybe not in every case. I had no desire to read the boring copy below the Midol comic (above). Even so, I willingly read the drawn part of the ad and it succeeded in stamping the brand name on my brain.

Maybe this (above) is what killed comic strip ads.

Thanks to Mike Fontanelli who wrote the terrific article these Capp ads were swiped from. If you haven't read Mike's piece yet, then run don't walk to ASIFA-Hollywood's archive site and take a look. Steve Worth, who for my money is one of the best web designers in the business, did a great job of formatting it all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Old Lady: "Me? But I've never played poker before. I don't even know the rules!"

Ernesto: "It's simple. I'll teach you!"

He deals.

Old Lady: "Gee, the cards are so pretty."

Old Lady: "We're supposed to bet, aren't we? Will a quarter do?"

Ernesto: "Yes, a quarter!" 

Old Lady: "I guess I lose. I don't even know what the cards mean."

Ernesto: "No, you won! Say, you have a knack for this game! Are you sure you never played before?"

Old Lady: "But you lost your money. You might need it later on. You should take your quarter back."

Ernesto: "No, no. You won it fair and square. You keep it! Let's bet a little more. That'll be even more fun."

Old Lady: "Gee, I don't have any more money with me...er, would this deed to my house be OK?"

Ernesto: "(GULP OF DELIGHT) Why, um... yes! As it happens I have the deed to my own house with me."

Ernesto: "We'll just leave these in the middle. This is ever so much fun."

He deals.

Old Lady: "Well whaddaya waiting for? Let's see what you got!"

Ernesto: "Oh no! You first! I insist!"

Old Lady:  "Royal flush, king high, double hearts up using the Italian ranking system favored by Ken Pincus in his famous Cleveland game against Rudolf Lercher!"

Well, that's it! In the spirit of the new Batman movie I made the characters dark just to see what would happen. Boy, it's creepy isn't it?