Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vinny the Elf - #7

Over the past few weeks, I made a few of these animation videos with my brother, Lenny. If you want to see the other 6, you can see them over at YouTube.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peroxide Proxy

Lately I’ve been spending a little more time than usual trying to convince people I’m not crazy.

You see, I'm a big fan of "Scriptnotes," which is this podcast where two Hollywood screenwriters, John August and Craig Mazin, talk about screenwriting and things surrounding showbiz. The men are both very affable and knowledgeable and there’s just something about it I like.

Back in August 2012, the guys read a list of movie clichés that are sometimes called “clams,” which I thought was very amusing. And for some reason, I thought it’d be fun to make a short animation out of it. I thought I would find pictures of John and Craig on the web, then draw them in different situations, using the soundtrack from the podcast where they recited the clichés.

I thought it would probably take about a week. Ha.

I ended up working on it here and there. Like when I was making dinner, I would put the fish into the broiler, set the microwave timer for 3:33 minutes, rush to the breakfast nook and draw until the buzzer went off, go flip the fish, then rush back to finish a detail. Or between emptying the dishwasher and setting the table for dinner, I would try to finish drawing another frame.

Soon I found myself obsessed with the smallest of details in the drawings, while my partner, Michael, kept implicitly asking me “why?” with concerned looks and questions like, “Do you think you could put that down for a moment and help me put out this fire on the stovetop?”

Still, it was a good question. Why was I doing this? It’s not like I’m pursuing a career in animation or screenwriting or even on YouTube. And if I were, this would certainly not be the path to it.

I couldn’t answer the question. I really just wanted to finish this animation video and post it.

And I did. And then I sent the link to the podcasters with a short note. Surprisingly, John August quickly replied with a very lovely email, basically saying, “Thank-you, crazy person! Please don’t write to me again.” Which was both appropriate and awesome and a lot more gracious than I’m making it sound.

But the best part of his short note was when he very kindly and humorously pointed out that he was not blond, even though I had drawn him as one in the video.

What? How did that happen? How in God’s name did I get the idea he was blond?

I remembered when I first started drawing the project that I could only find one photo of him on the web. I thought, “Even though his hair does looks dark, his eyebrows look light, so I bet he was a blond in his youth.” And so I drew him as a blond.

Which makes no sense.

Over the passing months, I found a few more pictures of him. One of the new ones was in profile, which was both great and terrible because I had imagined his profile wrongly. But now that I had seen what his nose looked like, I was able to somewhat correct it in the drawings.

It must be pointed out, however, that in none (zero) of these new photos did his short DARK hair appear to be anything but Not Blond. Oddly though, that just did not register with me.

Until John brought it up.

So I thought about it. And then it occurred to me. My partner, Michael is blond. And the nose I’d first drawn onto John’s caricature was Michael’s nose.

I then started thinking about the entire project: two guys – a brunet and a blond, just like me and Michael (well, after a little help from the bottle), in different situations, saying amusing things, doing fun things, talking about the things in our lives. That was it!

I was seeing my life with my life partner reflected back to me in this professional relationship between John and Craig. This also answered the question of: Why I kept working on this.

So here was John and Craig, expressing their POV of the world, and here I was saying, Yes, thank you! I agree.

Unfortunately, it still bugged me that I had made this hair color miscalculation. After all, I wanted the drawings to at least bear a little resemble to John and Craig. So I spent a few hours darkening John’s hair in the opening and closing scenes, then re-posted the video, which already had had a whopping 24 views.

But at least I feel better for now. And a little less crazy. I mean, I may not actually be any less crazy, but at least I feel that way.

And isn’t that what the internet is all about after all?

Friday, April 12, 2013


Display of my book in front of drawings by 1st graders

Look, I admit it. I have not done a ton to promote my children's book, Under The Covers, and-- okay, okay, fine --  I've done next to nothing to promote it.

In my defense, I did tell a few people about it. And my friend, Marinka, put an ad for it on her awesome blog, Motherhood In NYC, but that was mainly out of pity. And when I was at the Palm Springs Public Library last summer, I gave a copy to the children's librarian, who then sneered at me and threw it onto the floor atop a giant heap of books to be thrown out.

My brother, Lenny, is more of a go-getter. He's always sending me suggestions like: E-mail every library in the country! or Do an author's page on GoodReads! or Volunteer to read it at your local grammar schools! and so on and so on...

Ugh. Like I have time for that kind of nonsense with my busy schedule of gym-going, tv-watching, and nap-taking. No thank you.

So recently Lenny started teaching gym at a grammar school in Central California. And one day he emails me, saying, "Send me your book and I'll put it in the school library here!"

And I'm like, "Ugh, that sounds like an exercise in futility," but I do it, mainly to keep him quiet.

But then it turns out that the first grade teacher sees the book and she starts reading it to her kids and they seem to really like it. And I think another teacher reads it to her class and Lenny's principal says something nice about it, but honestly, it's hard for me to read anything about this book, because - and don't get me wrong, I think it's a great book with a great message and fun pictures, but I'm really not much good at the promotion or feedback portion of my projects (file under: Not Helpful To Career).

Then yesterday, Lenny emails me the picture above. He had previously told me about how the teacher was going to have the kids write about the book and draw pictures from it and how they would make a display of it, etc., but somehow that didn't seem to register with me -until I saw the picture of it. And then somehow, BAM! It made me feel really good.

I mean, this is why I wanted to write these kinds of fun books to begin with - to help kids enjoy reading. I feel so much is done to make kids hate reading, and I wanted to do something to make things better, blah, blah, blah... But then the inevitable road blocks spring up, and it all gets so tiresome, so then you stop writing and drawing and caring, and besides, there's all that television to watch and that internet isn't going to read itself, you know.

But then seeing this photo of some little display in the middle of California suddenly made me feel good again. Renewed. Refreshed, even. But only for a moment.

Because then, of course, BAM! it made me feel really bad - for not doing more writing, more drawing, more promoting, more trying, more etc., etc., etc...

So of course, like any good younger brother, I blame my older brother.

So thanks a lot, Lenny.