Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Wallpaper Assignment

So the assignment was to design wallpaper for a boy's bedroom. I considered doing something along the lines of a train towing a zeppelin whose payload would be a giant salami smoking a cigar but I figured that might not be phallic enough...

And yet from a distance it's almost tasteful...

One of those rudimentary lessons in art that I have to keep learning over and over again is that when you try and take the easy way out it always winds up being more work than you thought it would.

I figured I'd just do a couple of quick scribbles, use the tracing function in Illustrator and slap some color on them. Of course by the time I got done editing the quick scribbles I'd spent so much time on them that I could have just as easily taken my time and done a really nice image.

One thing that I'm finding frustrating is that at the moment I haven't figured out a good method or location for doing pen and pencil work. I use a recliner with small tables on the side when I work on the computer, I do most of my editing in bed with a board and a red pen. I have a place where I can work standing up but I can't stand for extended periods of time and standing is better suited to large work. Maybe if I got a big foam-rubber wedge to balance a drawing board on I could work in my recliner -- but that would mean drawing with a big foam-rubber wedge in my lap. I really do need to solve this problem. Ponder ponder.

I will say that I would have killed for this wallpaper when I was eight.

As an aside, my run of good luck seems to be continuing. Among other things, it looks as if I've sold another story -- details to come when things look solid. And I got an unexpected check in the mail -- been a long time since I've been in a position to make a deposit.

The last few years I've been saying, "The bad luck can't continue indefinitely, something's gotta break sometime." This last week has been one of the most absurd runs of good fortune I've had in my life.

Frankly, it makes me a little nervous. I like it -- but I'm not sure I trust it. Just have to ride it as far as it takes me...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Uma Thurman: Living Weapon or Why I'm Sick Of Kick-Ass Babes

I've got a lot to do this morning and here I am making a blog post. Like I keep saying, blogcessive compulsive. Today's thoughts were sparked by a conversation I had with the missus a couple of hours ago. (Yeah, she gets the insomnia too. It's almost worth it for the sake of talking in the dark, he said sentimentally.)

So there's a common... archetype isn't the right word. Model? Stereotype? Anyway, the warrior woman has been making a serious comeback in popular culture over the past couple of decades. But I'm not talking about Anne Bonney or Boadicea. I am flat-out in favor of women being able to handle themselves in a combat situation. While I don't want my granddaughter and nieces to engage in combat, if they are unfortunate enough to face violence I want them to win.

I'm talking about the oo-la-la sexy babe with an oversize weapon and armor that's basically shiny lingerie. I'm talking about armed Japanese schoolgirls with their little plaid skirts. I'm talking about Uma Thurman: Living Weapon.

First off, it's fetish stuff. (Louis Royo, I'm looking at you!) Nothing wrong with that, live it up. Me, I dig fat chicks. Chacun a son gout, baby. These kinds of fiction are fantasies and other people's fantasies are always a little weird.

But there's a certain point where things start going bad. For me one of the breaking points was the promotional campaign they've got going for The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The perfectly lovely young actress Summer Glau plays a Terminator, in case you're lucky enough to be able to avoid the mass media.

There have been a number of images of her that I frankly find offensive. Anyone who's read much of my fiction might be startled to find out that I can be offended -- but yeah. This shit is degraded and degrading. I think it's bad for the culture.

I'm not going to put the images here. The one that I just spotted in a comic book was one that showed Ms. Glau with her shirt off, back to the audience, with a series of bloody wounds that has peeled her flesh off to reveal the metal underneath. The combination of raw meat and a shapely body is torture porn. Right now someone's stroking it to that image right now.

(As an aside, my favorite euphemism for masturbation is 'counting to one.')

But far worse was...

Okay, if you're not a comic book reader you aren't familiar with this form of promotion. From time to time when I buy my comics they come in a specially printed plastic bag bearing an advertisement for something related to genre culture. Just before The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which I watched for a couple of episodes before dropping out to to excruciating boredom -- I hear it's gotten better) started airing I got a bag with an image of Ms. Glau on it.

It showed her fucking head and chest hanging from a rail, wires and mechanical connections dangling from the stumps of her arm and waist. She's nude; her nipples are covered by a couple of locks of her hair (man, that method of hiding nipples is old; next time why not try a couple of slices of pepperoni?) and she is gazing directly at the viewer.

This was fucking pornography. Not just pornography; it was robot amputee pornography. And my suspicion is that those bags were used for every purchase made in that comic store.

There is a sick part of me that thinks it's hilarious that children were given free robot amputee porn. But there's an even sicker part of me that thinks maybe we need to be paying attention to this stuff. At the very least parents should sit down and talk to their children about robot amputee porn openly and frankly.

This is an extreme example. But it is part of the whole hot chick kicks ass phenomenon.

I've talked to women who really enjoy seeing a female character kicking ass. I think this is part of something that doesn't get discussed very often -- one of the reasons why guy stuff is so predominant in a lot of cultural arenas is that a lot of women respond to it -- that by targeting guys you also target a lot of women. When I went to see Kill Bill I saw it with my buddy Megan. (It's more or less her fault that I'm writing -- I owe her a lot.)

She liked the movie a lot more than I did.

So why was Kill Bill an eh for me? Again, the woman warrior was part of it -- when I see an action scene in a movie I'm always thinking of how I'd fight if I were in that position. Now there are plenty of women in the world who can kick my ass. Some of them are, in fact, very attractive. I've got no more problem with that than I do with the fact that I can't go hand to hand with a grizzly or a bulldozer.

(What I mean here is that I've got a fucking huge problem with it. I won't be able to feel at ease until I'm cabable of rending humans limb from limb, tearing buildings apart, smashing holes in the crust of the Earth, crushing the universe in my hands. Anyone know a martial art that could teach me to do this?)

But watching Kill Bill I wound up instinctively imagining myself fighting Uma Thurman. That was grotesque. I mean, she weighs what, eight pounds? I don't want to think about fighting Uma Thurman!

(Who was it who said, "How can you fight a woman? There's no place on 'em you can hit!")

And of course that's my problem. Kill Bill was about someone else's fetishes. The thing is, is that no matter what I'm told I don't really see it as healthy.

That's because I don't see a capacity for violence as genuinely empowering.

I'm not arguing against the study of martial (Just misspelled that as marital -- thank you, Dr. Freud!) arts and I'm not saying that for some folks knowing that they have a capacity for violence is important to their sense of security.

But violence, as much a part of life as it is, is bad fucking news. It's not good for you. People who have been exposed to violence tend to get damaged by it both physically and emotionally. If you really do need to feel like a bad-ass it means that you have a wound. And there's something about combining it with sexy bodies that really bothers me.

It makes violence pretty and sex ugly. It takes things that have consequences in real life, things that we all have to deal with one way or another and it trivializes them.

If women find a sense of empowerment in images of dangerous females that's no worse than men finding a sense of empowerment in images of dangerous males. Hey, I read pulp fiction and comic books and I watch action movies and so on and so forth. I can understand the appeal. I get a serious charge out of extremely brutal depictions of violence.

But I'm nuts -- and I know that there's something degraded about my tastes. I do have a certain critical distance that lets me process this stuff and regulate my own exposure. (For instance, I've kicked my forensic textbook habit and my taste for true crime.)

I think what bothers me about the depictions of violent women in popular culture is that they almost always come from a male perspective -- and very often the sexy warrior babe is, in terms of character, more or less a dude. For example, Molly Millions/Kolodny/etc. from William Gibson's Sprawl stories is a dude. (Given the setting this may actually be the case.)

It is possible to handle this sterotype well, though. The missus got me hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it came out on DVD. One of the things that I really liked about it was that as the show went on, you could see Sarah Michelle Gellar's character grow more and more angry, alienated, and miserable as the show went on. For the last few seasons she was pretty damned unlikeable unless you understood what had driven her to that point.

That's what real fighting does to you. Not the controlled and consensual fighting of the dojo, of course. But when you are really fighting because someone really wants to hurt you and you really want to hurt them...

... it will make you a shittier human being. By showing that truth Buffy the Vampire Slayer managed to use the stereotype and subvert it at the same time. Buffy's being a bad-ass made her a worse person -- but she had no real choice.

As silly as the show was in many ways (Why did every single vampire know kung fu?), once you got past the obligatory thrilling action scenes it had a sense of the weight of violence.

If women want to kick ass, they are going to have to pay the price.

I grew up with powerful women. I like powerful women -- if I didn't, me and the missus wouldn't get along. My mom was a powerful woman. My grandmother was a powerful woman. My sister's like Molly Kolodny, though. She's a dude -- but still a powerful woman.

In my novel I am consciously trying to depict women that I would like in real life. Strong, purposeful, and effective when they're at their best.

But I'm not going to make them fight. And while violence is a subject -- and I do use it for adventure thrills here and there -- I'm trying to show how damaging it is. And I want the real turning points and climaxes to come from the rejection of violence rather than its expression.

At the end of the day I don't want it to seem as though kicking ass is cool or fun. Painful, stupid, or necessary -- yeah.

But kicking ass is not cool.

Now if you'll excuse me, for my homework I have to design some wallpaper for a boy's room. I'm going for a blood-spattered reptilian head with crossed chainswords motif.

At least there won't be any cleavage.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Walking to Work

This is another assignment for my Digital Illustration class. The teacher said we needed to take an image from a newspaper and turn it into an Illustrator piece.

As soon as I saw this photo I had a good idea of what my finished image was going to look like -- all those straight lines made it seem like this was going to be a natural for a vector program.

I assumed I was going to be able to get away with adjusting the contrast in Photoshop and then using the autotrace function or whatever they call it these days. No such luck -- the image was too grainy and indistinct.

So I went in and used the pen tool to trace the background. Simple labor and the kind I love to do while listening to music. (The missus gave me her old iPod and I like to listen to it on shuffle -- lots of jazz came up yesterday and I particularly enjoyed the bluegrass version of Dave Brubeck's Take Five -- fiddle and banjo suit that song well.)

Then I traced the figure. At first I really tried to make the outline as accurate as possible and it looked awful. So I decided to try and maintain visual consistency by tracing the figure the same way I did the background, just using straight lines. I copied the figure, pasted a white copy behind the black copy, and then used the direct selection tool to pull it out and form a white outline.

After that I made a set of white highlights to bring out the depth and detail of the figure. And then I masked what I did by using a white square to hide the image. With the pathfinder function I laid an oval frame down and cut that shape out of the white square.

And there you go, ready for T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Contributor's Notes

I've done a lot of babysitting for a printer/designer who's offered to print me some business cards for free. This has been sitting on my desktop for months now. The idea is that it folds in half and when you open it up there's art on the interior.

It's not finished because I haven't figured out what to put on the inside, which is another 'what the hell is wrong with me' thing. It's not like I don't have art. I should just pick something and get on with my fucking life.

I have a confession to make. For me the very best part of being published is getting to write my contributor's notes. They deal with my very favorite subject (me, if you haven't noticed -- I'm not only self-obsessed, I'm actually pretty interesting in a grisly way) and they give me a chance to parade my narcissism and self-loathing in a public venue.

Those close to me hate them.

My wife has on a number of occasions tried to lay down the law to me about self-deprecation. (You can see how well that worked.) When my best friend read the most recent example he said, "You do understand that you're not that much of a bad-ass, right?"

But I think they're nifty and editors seem to agree. The woman who took the notes that pissed my music buddy off told me, "All contributor's notes should be like this." Spitting and bragging are among the traditions of my people and I aim to keep those traditions alive.

From Monday Night number three:

A stinking, shambling monstrosity of the 'he was always good with children and animals' variety, Sean Craven specializes in squeam-inducing fiction in which the taut fast-paced minimalism of James Joyce, the lushly baroque exoticism of John Updike, the warm humanism of Franz Kafka, the relentless savagery of A.A. Milne, and the good old-fashioned slam-bang storytelling of Thomas Pynchon mingle in a rather disconcerting fashion. Whiskey straight, beer chaser.

From Monday Night number four:

In rural South America, mothers routinely frighten their children into obedience with tales of Sean Craven. In the Cameroon he is regarded as a "two-step" prose stylist, meaning that his bite is so venomous that his victims can only take two steps away from him before expiring. Inhabitants of the East Bay Area believe that he is a harbinger of a weak, underweight, or otherwise inadequate drug purchase. Official sources state clearly that he simply does not exist. Air Force Colonel Adrian Mitchell advises that, "Depending on the location of the siting, this writer is either swamp gas or a weather balloon."

From Swill number one.

Sean Craven is a typical creative type. The miserable childhood, the mental illness with lots of symptoms and no diagnosis, the half-assed set of skills spread across writing, music, and the visual arts, the life spent in poverty due to an inability to prioritize anything over 'art' and intoxication -- these guys come off an assembly line in a small village in rural China. They're made with molds, which are never broken.

From Swill number two.

Anyone remember the New Age? Crystals, candles, and Nag Champa? Affirmations, tarot decks, and Lemuria? Flying saucer abductions, breatharianism, and Carlos Castenada's books being labelled as non-fiction? When Sean Craven spent some time on the periphery of that addle-pated psuedo-subculture, they had a lable for him. They called him a walk-in. The claim was that walk-ins had extraterrestrial souls -- that they were essentially non-human. This was the New Age way of saying, "Hey, I may make my living teaching clairvoyance but I think we all know who the freak is."

From Monday Night number six.

Every couple of years a casual acquaintence of Sean Craven comes up and says, "I just read a book/saw a movie, and there was a character in it that really reminded me of you." This 'character' inevitably turns out to be a sadistic genius cannibal psycho-killer, and not just the one you're thinking of. At first this was cute -- almost a compliment. Then it was annoying. But now that this has been going on for almost twenty years, the author is beginning to wonder whether or not there might not be something to the notion. Maybe he should engage in an act of profound and spectacularly brutal inhumanity. He probably wouldn't like it, and that would be a good thing. Right?

From Swill number three.

"I hate your author notes," the missus said. "They're always so self-deprecating."


Sean Craven is, let's face it, a fucking monster. You stand him next to an ordinary guy, the ordinary guy looks like a poached smurf. People who are as far below average intelligence as Sean is above it sit very still and are wiped with a chamois two, three times a day. Imagine a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Conan the Barbarian. Then imagine that he can cook. Some people think of him as a rude boy; others see him as Mr. Nice. They're both right and that ain't the half of it.

Is that any better, sweetie?

And from Milvia Street 2008...

There are words for people like Sean Craven -- oaf, lug, galoot, golem, ogre, palooka -- words that hurt, that tear at the soul. The world could not function if everyone were lithe, spritely, charming, fabulous, elfish, full of fun and frolic -- someone has to loom. Someone has to lurk. Someone has to club down prey and rend flesh, someone has to shift boulders, open jars and get things down from the top shelf. Someone has to knock Philip Marlow out in Chapter Five. The occasional piece of broken furniture, trod-upon housepet, inadvertent act of cannibalism or devestated metropolis is simply the price we pay to coexist with these magnificent creatures.

Haw! Haw! Haw! I crack me up.

Swill Review!

Man, I wish I had an unflattened version of this image. I'd turn it into a print. It's all inkblots -- I want to do a show of this kind of imagery. I'm gonna call it Rorschach Dreams.

Amy F. Groggin published a pdf-format review of Swill on a site associated with Columbia University in Chicago. It's a collection of reviews of print-based literary magazines (the fact that I had to specify that gave me a little 'I'm living in the future' shiver -- scroll down a bit and you'll find her piece.

In my opinion she nailed it, aside from failing to notice that Delphine LeCompte is terrifyingly female. She really gets what we're trying to do. And she has an interview with Rob -- now I get to work for a celebrity!

Look at us! We're academically approved! If you read our magazine I bet you get credits.

Of course my art and writing get no mention whatsoever. I'm getting used to that, though, he said, and slunk off to drink a tall scotch-and-bitter-tears.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blogcessive Compulsive: The Thousandth Hit

Well, this is interesting. I'm writing this on my portable workstation (Don't know if I've mentioned this but I can't spend a lot of time standing up or sitting down so I've had to put together workstations that let me lay down. Right now I'm in bed with the little dog peacefully napping at my feet.) and I'm on Safari on this machine rather than Firefox and everything is different -- including the images, which in this mode are just big-ass chunks of HTML.

Anyway, let the pigeons fly! Let the bells ring out! Today Renaissance Oaf tops a thousand hits. Thank you, Brian Switek, Glendon Mellow (whose attitude in the face of controversy makes his last name descriptive), Zach Miller, and the mysterious figure behind Why I Hate Theropods. Didn't know anything about that last individual until I looked at my statistics and found that he/she/or whatever is polite (I'm guessing it's a guy because there is a girlfriend mentioned on the site but I come from the SF Bay Area and have found that presumption in these matters is extremely unwise) had posted a link to my site that a lot of people clicked on. I also have received a lot of hits from the post I made on the Jurassic Fight Club page on History Channel's site -- and I regret that so few of them read the post where I apologize for the flippant attitude with which I began my critique.

Reviewing Jurassic Fight Club got me a whole lot of attention, more than anything else I've done. It was Brian Switek's idea... I have mixed feelings about that. I adore attention, of course, but this blog is about my writing and art and my attempts to find a way of making a living from them. On the other hand, getting attention furthers that goal. Part of me thinks that I should cold-bloodedly get into the review/criticism thing but part of me is repulsed by calculated attempts to garner more hits. Why, my site should grow and flourish purely on the basis of my artistic ability!


So when I went into my hit counter and wandered among the statistics I noticed something interesting.

Lemme tell you a little story to put things into perspective.

I once had a pal of mine at work refer to me as the salt of the Earth. I said, "That's not it. Everybody loves salt. I'm more like blue cheese." She cracked up and agreed with me.

Blue cheese is an acquired taste. And not everybody acquires it.

So most people hit on my site and back off instantly. But what's weird is the percentage of folks who stay here for a while. According to the counters, at last estimate more than fifteen percent of the folks who click on this site stay for more than an hour. The number of pages accessed has always exceeded the number of initial viewings -- when people actually do look at the site they tend to look around for a while.


And people are downloading my images! What the fuck? I shouldn't be surprised that some of my fully rendered dinosaur stuff gets some interest but most of the assignments from my Digital Drawing class have been downloaded.

It's homework, people!

And every time I post a comment on another site a few people follow it back here... and some of them wind up poring through the archives.

So. Should I do more reviews? Should I deliberately troll for hits? Maybe so.

And it's interesting that most of my internet interactions are focused on paleontology rather than fine arts or fiction. It's my own damned fault. But it's also nice to be getting a positive result from folks in the science world.

A couple of months, sixty-five posts, a whole lot of images...

I can hardly wait to see what it's like in a year or so.

Thanks for reading. I hope I can keep y'all entertained.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yard Sale Booze

Does it feel strange to be drinking a dead lady's Christmas present?

Yes, it does. I highly recommend drinking booze that's older than you are. And check out the cap -- it has an ingenious mechanism that uses a tightening wire to keep the amber fluid in place.

This is really eerie. I've been in a good mood since Friday. And as is not infrequently the case my good mood seems to have brought good luck with it. The skeptical thinker now steps aside to reveal the superstitious heathen.

It's funny the way luck works. My old pal Angel used to say that shit comes in piles; true enough. But the corollary seems to be true as well -- a lot of the time good luck comes in waves where for a brief while everything seems to go well. My current wave of good fortune is still in motion.

When I went out yardsailing with the missus this weekend I'd decided that I needed to keep an eye out for a small working stereo that could play tapes and CDs. The missus gave me her old iPod and a dock for it for my last birthday. It's cool -- I like the shuffle play -- but I'm really getting sick of the sound quality of mp3s. Also, I don't pirate music due to the way my stupid parents raised me so my library has been limited to the music I own on disc anyway. And the missus found the old tapes of mine she'd told me she'd thrown out so I've been itching for a stroll down memory lane.

Well, I found exactly what I was looking for. A bookshelf stereo with tape and CD and loads of inputs and outputs. I asked; I received. Very pleasing.

Then two small miracles happened in conjunction. First, I was rummaging through a box of very old white wines just out of curiosity. The thing is that I made a pact with myself a long time ago that I wasn't going to buy yard sale booze. You know, two inches of Amaretto, a box with a cookbook and two bottles of cooking sherry, that kind of thing.

But when I saw the boxed bottle shown above I knew that I'd be more pissed at myself if I didn't get it than I would if I did. So I told the missus I was tempted. And she said I should go for it.

I really don't understand what that was about. My drinking is an occasional point of contention between us. (In brief; not an alchoholic, certainly could be if I wanted, drink a couple of times a week in moderation and a couple of times a year in excess.) If I'd picked up a fifth of whisky (or whiskey or bourbon) in the store she would have... Hell, I don't know what she'd do. It would be something the coroner would have to figure out afterwards.

But this time around she just smiled and appreciated my good luck. So I asked how much it would cost.

I paid five bucks for a pinch bottle of fifteen-year old Haig that's probably about fifty years old. (I know that sounds crazy but booze doesn't age in glass. So it's not sixty-five year old scotch, it's a fifty year old bottle of fifteen... you get the picture.)

When I got home I looked around on line to get an idea of how valuable it was; thankfully, it wasn't worth a hell of a lot. One person flat out said that if you have one of these you should just drink it.

You don't need to tell me twice.

Well, I have had better whisky.

But not often. This stuff is very nice. And while they claim it's 86.6 proof the stuff is flammable. Just barely but that means it's in the neighborhood of a hundred proof. Let's face it -- eighty proof booze sucks. That wasn't a distiller's idea, that's the work of some hideous Orwellian legislative body.

And I'm starting to suspect that one of the reasons I've preferred Irish whiskey to Scotch is because when I get Scotch I feel the need to sip it slowly, hold it in my mouth, get the full flavor experience.

I mean, this stuff ain't cheap. When I get a shot at a posh pleasure I like to really enjoy it. But Bushmills? Straight down.

I drank some of the Haig both ways. And I found that just drinking it instead of making out with it was pretty terrific. Don't know if I'll have the nerve to do that with the next single-malt that I run across. But I might.

I had some with band practice. Had a couple of shots last night. No more until the next band session...

But this is sweet. I sort of hate knowing how bad the rotgut I usually drink is. I could get used to this stuff really easily.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hanging With Cooper

Cooper was drawing so I grabbed my sketchbook and did this really fast with off-brand crayons -- six-year olds move around a lot so they're hard to draw.

"You're drawing! Stop looking up -- you're supposed to look at the paper!"

One of the reasons I've been riding the bummer train lately is that I haven't been getting enough socializing. I'm pretty anti-social but I've come to realize that company is something people just plain need and like it or not I'm an ape just the same as everyone else.

In particular I've been missing the kids in my life so it was really good to hear that the missus's grandson Cooper was spending the night with us. He and I have an interesting history. When he was an infant and toddler I really had no idea what to make of him -- I'd been dealing with girls for so long I'd forgotten how different boys are. He was like a little robot constructed for the express purpose of setting everything he could reach onto the floor -- none of the need for interaction that seemed to rule the girls.

Then when he was a bit older he was difficult to handle. I was always seeing him with the other kids around and he just didn't play well with them -- they had entirely different agendas and as a result the girls were pretty impatient with him and made it clear that they regarded him as a pain in the ass. Nobody shines under those conditions.

Two things happened. One was really kind of hard on me -- Cooper said a few things and did a few things that put me in the position of having to really play the authority card. No manhandling, no beatings -- I didn't tase him. But I did give him some stern talkings-to, the kind I knew would have freaked me out when I was his age.

But it really had to be done. I wasn't hurtful or blameful and I made a point of making sure that I didn't put him down or say that he was a bad person and I also made sure he knew that I thought it was a good idea for him to talk to his parents about what I said to him. But let me tell you, I've never been so authoritarian in my life. I did not shy away from what I had to say. I was pretty harsh. It's funny -- having to deal with a boy put me in the position of having to act like a man.

The result was that he bonded with me -- he started calling me 'grampa'. He really liked me. And of course that made me really like him. I always loved him but you know the difference between loving someone and honestly wanting to spend time with them.

And I showed him Star Wars. I'm still trying to figure out whether or not that was a good thing but he's totally fixated on it. And his dad digs it too -- it's wound up giving them a lot of activites they do together. But still. I passed the nerd meme on to the next generation and it makes me feel kinda dirty. Star Wars has become one of the poles their household revolves around.

Anyway, he spent the night last night. The kid is hilarious. It was all I could do not to take notes the whole time we were hanging out. He's also extremely conscious of his own dignity -- one of those people for whom being laughed at is worse than being hit. I'm a bit of a teaser so I have to watch myself...

So. A few Cooper nuggets.

He's hanging out while my music buddy and I play Pictures of Matchstick Men, watching us intently. When the song is over he puts his hand on my arm and very seriously asks me, "Why are you still a teenager?"

(I told him my mother always said I was like Merlin, I was born a little old man and had been growing younger ever since. It ain't far from the truth, I'm here to say...)

In the car he proved my contention that children are all pathological liars with heads just crammed full of powerful acid -- "Everybody knows who I am. I was in the paper with Mitch and there was all bloody and a fight so now I'm famous."

There was a little girl about his age at one of the yard sales we went to and when she laid eyes on him you could see cartoon birds and flowers squirt out of her ears and fly around her head. She was on him like white on rice. Driving home there was the following conversation:

The Missus: So do little girls like you?
Cooper, in the most been-there-done-that-and-all-life-is-vanity kinda voice I've heard up until this moment: Yeah, they do.
The Missus: And do they say, 'Oh, Cooper!'?
Cooper, still jaded: No. They say 'What's your name?'.
The Missus: And do you like girls?
Cooper, incredibly in a voice even more world-weary and utterly hopeless: I love 'em.

Of course there was the inevitable 'Jesus Christ, this is so wrong I can't believe this is happening' moment that you get when dealing with small primates who still haven't figured out the local taboos. Let me make my policy clear -- I try and be honest, but I ain't gonna grapple with that stuff unless the parents expressly ask me to. Life is too fucking short.

We were watching The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (I know -- more geek fodder) when we fell into a conversation that had me thinking I might just dive out the window into the blackberry bushes rather than let it continue. For extra points find the phrase I could not believe came out of my mouth.

Cooper: Can I lay down on you?
Oaf, who is accustomed to children treating him as furniture: Sure.
Child squinches around and makes himself comfortable.
Cooper: Hey! Are those balls back there?
Oaf, appalled and uncertain: Yeah.
Cooper: EEEEEEEEEEEW! (cackles) Do you have four balls?
Turns around, begins to prod with an extended forefinger.
Cooper: One, two, three--
Oaf: Cut it out! You don't get to count my balls. Anyway, there's only two of 'em.
Cooper: How come?
Oaf: How many legs do you have?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: How many eyes?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: How many ears do you have?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: Well, it's the same deal.
Cooper: Why are there balls? They hurt a lot.
As the terrified Oaf tries to figure a way out of this one there is, horribly, another prod.
Cooper: Only one weenus!
Oaf: Cut it out!
Cooper: How come only one?
Oaf: How many noses do you have?
Cooper: One.
Oaf: How many mouths do you have?
Cooper, with a gleam in his eye that shows he has caught on: I have five mouths!

Man, I love that kid. But if he ever finds out how funny I think he is he's gonna kill me.