Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to All...

Hey folks! I'm sorry I haven't posted much in a while, but my computer has recently been stricken with a virus, so my computer at home is all kooky. I'm typing this post from a slower out-of-date model that I found in the basement of my house.

Now I know that it's a little late to do this, but here it goes anyway. Every year I go nuts finding the perfect gift(s) for family & friends. Over the past few years, I decided to compose a tip list for myself on how to shop for the holidays. I always add to the list every year, so I can refine my shopping skills when that certain season comes around. Although most of you have already had your shopping all taken care of by now, here's my list of Christmas shopping tips to get you ready for next year's rush. Besides, the Christmas season starts earlier & earlier each year, so you'll probably need to start thinking about shopping again next Labor Day. Here it goes:

1 - Never buy someone 1 huge expensive gift. Chances are they won't like it. You're better off buying a bunch of small ones. They'll at least like one of them.

2 - Here's a tip for the guys:

There are some things you should never buy a woman, & one of them is clothes. Unlike women, men have no taste in fashion (unless you're like those guys on those home-remodeling shows on TLC). Therefore, if you buy them something too small, they'll either get frustrated or think of it as an insult, & buying clothes too large will give them the assumption of calling them fat. Jewelry & perfume is also something to avoid. I've seen many tears due to this problem, so go out & buy them something they really need: a DVD of their favorite soap-opera or chick flick & a Costco-sized box of Kleenex.

3 - Save all receipts! If you DO buy clothes for anybody, keep the receipts, they'll come in handy after your loved one rejects it.

4 - Don't fuss around with loose change or bills in your pockets. It'll become a hassle when you take your money out of your pockets. Raining money! Take the bills & fold them up neatly in order or put them in your purse/wallet & take all your loose change & give it to those Salvation Army guys with the bells. They need it a lot more than you do.

5 - When buying gifts for friends, don't be biased. Don't buy one that very expensive glass crystal sculpture of a unicorn & the other just a candy cane. Buy all your friends the same kind of gift, yet have it differ in some way to distinguish who's it is. Candy is the best way to go. It tastes good & they don't need to make room for it on a shelf.

6 - Don't tell anyone what gift you're giving to somebody. Chances are they're in cahoots with the gift-receiver & it will spoil the surprise. If you do tell anyone, mislead them. Tell them it's a pair of socks or a chemistry set.

7 - Don't buy anyone Christmas-themed gifts. It'll be put in a box & stuffed in the closet before February.

8 - Don't buy anyone tacky-looking sweaters. A sweater of Rudolph with an actual light for the nose is definitely a fashion no-no. Unless they want to grow up looking like Bill Cosby, do them a favor & save them from tossing their Christmas cookies.

9 - If you're either paralyzed in both your arms or your mom doesn't allow you to use scissors or tape, then wrapping presents probably isn't your forte. For small gifts, you're better off wrapping them in tissue paper or putting them in a nice bag. For larger presents, like ones bigger than Della Reese, just wrap it in a large blanket or hide it in your room until you wish to give it to them.

10 - Luckily, we live in a time where you can access anything in the comfort of your own home by using a computer. If you can, do most of your shopping online. It might not save you a lot of money, but it makes it a lot easier on your ears, legs & brain.

& most importantly, think of yourself in front of others! Don't listen to any suggestions that other people make about what to buy for who. Always buy what YOU think is a great gift.


Anyways, Christmas is hours away. The day where you exploit the birth of the messiah by opening presents, eating & drinking things you normally wouldn't like roasted chestnuts, eggnog, candy canes & peppermint vodka, & watching countless TV specials like Rudolph, the Grinch, Charlie Brown & Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas.

Christmas always seems unwelcome to me. It's always here when I don't want it to. Christmas is too commercial these days, where you can't even walk out the door without seeing one of those stupid tacky inflatable things on someones lawn. The shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the eating, the singing, the dancing, the merry-making, the carols, the sales, the long lines, the in-laws & all the noise, noise, noise, noise... it's too much for me to handle.

& yet, Christmas does have it's redeemable qualities. It's that time of the year where you see things in a different perspective. The world seems beautiful & joyful now than it ever did. You acknowledge the ones you love & care for, you realize what you can do to make yourself a better person, you appreciate what you have done for yourself in the past year & look on into the future. Christmas makes you feel things that you don't usually feel any other time: good will, generosity, faith, peace on earth & goodwill towards men (& women & animals alike). Giving someone something special to let them know you do care & love them. Not only do we open presents, but we open our hearts as well. It's the thing that makes you get up in the morning each day, to work your hardest, to reach & achieve your goals & to reach out to others.

I think Garfield said it best: "It's not the giving... it's not the getting... it's the loving."

& so, on behalf of myself, Steve-O, Randy, Cannibal Chicken & the rest of us here at For the Birds, we'd like to wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

& yes, I do look like Scrooge in this picture. Bah Humbug!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Toon Platoon Entries

Since I haven't posted much lately, I decided to put up my Toon Platoon entries for those who haven't checked the site out yet.

Some of these entries I spent time on, & some I quickly sketched out. You'll see as you scroll down:

Week #1 - The first topic on Toon Platoon focused on the HALO video games. I decided to put a comic spin on the somewhat serious nature of the game by putting poor ol' Master Chief on a blind date with Samus from the Metroid games. Personally, I think Samus is WAY cooler than the Chief.

I inked this with a Size 1 Pigma Graphic Pen & colored it with Prismacolor pencils. It has that hand-drawn quality look that I like, but the coloring was a pain. I tried something way different the next week:

Week #2 - Mascots was the second topic, & I thought I'd put a little more effort into my submission. I drew & inked the sketch on paper, scanned it into the computer & colored it completely in Photoshop. This was my second attempt at coloring using the program, but I think I got the hang of it by then. I even put a gradient & shadows in the picture.

Although the picture went over big, I had two problems:

1) The whole Photoshop process was WAY to time consuming. I spent nearly two days coloring.

2) I got complaints that using Photoshop was cheating, since I was the only member who owned the program, which made me a few steps ahead of the others. I agreed, so I stopped using Photoshop for Toon Platoon submissions. Until the majority of members get their hands on Photoshop, I'll be hand coloring my entries.

Week #3 - The third week was Prehistoric Animals. Since I'm in college now, I have to balance work with pleasure, so by the time the week was nearly up, I had no time to draw out something for the Platoon. This was the beginning of a long line of near-late entries.

I lightly scribbled some rough construction work in pencil, but mostly I drew it with a Sharpie marker. It shows, don't it?

Week #4 - This week was a bit more fun. Even though this was another near-deadline entry, I put a little more effort & time into the drawing. Usually, I draw the sketch in pencil & ink/clean it up later with a pen. This week was the reverse. I drew it in pen, then shaded it in in pencil.

Week #5 - I drew this in literally one minute. The whole drawing is basically a shade job, shading everything in using the side of my pencil. It looks sloppy up close, but it looks decent from a considerable distance.

Week #6 - I planned on doing a colossal epic drawing for this week. It was originally going to be various Mario baddies (Bowser, Wario, Donkey Kong, etc.) on a bowling team. Donkey Kong was gonna throw barrels, Bowser was gonna shoot fire, & I think Wart was somewhere in the background. It was gonna be a great piece... but once again, I lost complete track of time & the week was near the end.

I quickly drew this with a marker & shoved it on the site. It's not what I wanted, but at least I submitted something.

Week #7 - This last piece was part of our just-finished Political Cartoons week. I decided to draw what Santa really did with Thanksgiving.

This is my first color submission since the Photoshop debacle. But instead of using a computer & mouse, I used some old markers I had stored away in my art drawer. Some of them are nearly dry (you can tell near the base of Santa's coat), but I think it came out fine.

I'll make sure to post new submissions up here as well as over at Toon Platoon. For a better description of each week's entry, click on the Toon Platoon link on the sidebar & scroll down 'til you find my posts. You can also click "Michael J. Ruocco" near the bottom of one of my entries & it'll take you directly to every submission I posted up.

Go check out Toon Platoon once in a while & see the other member's submissions as well. & don't forget to leave comments!