Yesterday I worked at a Summer Camp at the school I was teaching at last year. I was brought in to teach comic book and cartoon art for a special “Cartooning Day” they had. I taught 4 different periods, and all combined I ended up teaching the entire range of elementary school students, from grade 1 to grade 8. I must have seen over 70 of them in total. It was a busy day. Some of them really enjoyed it, and most everyone was able to take some artwork home that they were proud of. Not bad for a day’s work.

In my first class there was a little girl who was in my class over the past year, and when I was finished the lesson she came up to me and gave me a hug. I’m not really supposed to get hugs from students for various reasons, but she did this 4 or 5 times and she said she missed me. It was kinda cute. I have to take that as a sign that I’m a decent teacher.

The first graders were an interesting bunch. I’ve never taught anyone that young before, let alone a big group of them. You can’t really teach them the same way you teach older students, because they’d forget everything by the time they started. So I showed them how to draw a super hero one step at a time, and stopped after every step to let everyone catch up. So I first drew a circle, and then went around and helped everyone draw their own circle. It went slowly, and even the simplest things went slowly, but most of them were able to get through it and have a finished drawing by the end. They all weren’t angels through, and a few were really disruptive, but that’s pretty much always the case with any age group. There was this one creepy little squirt who was just vehemently opposed to the very concept of cartooning and was very destructive the entire time. This is ironic because this kid had these ridiculous looking glasses with perfectly round lenses that made him look just like a cartoon character. Somehow I imagine that he’s got an army of insects waiting for his commands. Far be it for me to make fun of a 6 year old, but still, this kid was something else. He could be a villain on Yu-Gi-Oh.

Anyway, me teaching at this camp was pretty much a one off, special occasion. There isn’t a “job” in it, so to speak, just a gig. But I’ll be doing the exact same thing again next month. So I’m not completely without anything to do this summer.


July 18, 2007

Al Pics!

A little late, but here as promised, pictures from the Weird Al Yankovic concert in Toronto last week. I didn’t take very many pictures because I didn’t think they would turn out very well with the way the lighting was set up on stage, but the few that I did take didn’t turn out too badly. I was too far away to get very much detail, but at least you can see what’s going on. Take a look, amigos.

Everybody Polka!

He opened with a Polka!

Pretty Fly for a Jedi

In his Jedi robes for his Star Wars songs. This part of the concert was just awesome.

White & Nerdy

“They see me roll on… my Segway…”

White & Nerdy

White & Nerdy.

Of course, these pictures don’t do the show justice. See him live if you can!


July 11, 2007


But Toronto loves Weird Al!

Weird Al Money

His concert was AWESOME. He puts on a very entertaining show with a lot of energy and dancing around. He went through most of the songs on his new album, plus several from prior albums. His Star Wars medley of “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda” had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and we were all singing along, but then towards the end it suddenly changed into this strange nonsense song and dance number. In between songs he would usually go back stage to change costumes, and in the meantime these hilarious video clips would play, including some of his infamous ALTV interviews like this one. He closed the show off with “FAT“, complete with fat suit, but then came back for an encore to perform “Albuquerque“, a song that I didn’t think he ever performed live. That song is over 10 minutes long, but he found a way to make it even longer. It was great! The concert lasted just over 2 hours, and to me that wasn’t nearly enough. I could have stayed there for twice as long. I didn’t want it to end.

If you ever get the chance to see Al live, you absolutely must go! It’s a total blast and something that every fan must experience.

I took a few pictures, but right now I have no way to get them into my computer. Come back later!


So, I am finally ready to talk about Transformers. I warn you, there may be spoilers. If you have not seen it yet, you should probably not read this.

Over the past week, I saw the film 3 times. It has taken me this long to come to any sort of conclusion in regards to how I feel about it. When I first saw it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at all. I wasn’t sure if I liked it. But now that I have 3 viewings behind me, each with a different audience, I am willing to say that, overall, I do like the movie. However, there are several aspects of the film that I really didn’t like, or thought could have been better. So, I’m going to cover the negative things before I talk about what I enjoyed the most.

Now, first of all, I’ll have to say that (unlike several other fans I know), I’m a realist. I understand that this movie is what it is. None of my points of contention with the film have anything to do with comparisons made to the original Transformers, or any other version for that matter. I don’t really care about that sort of thing very much. This movie has very little to do with the original Transformers cartoon, and thank goodness for that. Nor do my points of contention have to do with the human story, as I knew going into it what kind of movie this was going to be. There was no way that this could be a movie that focused mostly on the robots, because then the budget would have been astronomical. The human story of this movie helped to ground it all in reality and made the concept more accessible to a wider audience, and that’s a good thing.

The main problem I had with the film was that the Transformers didn’t talk enough. Especially the Decepticons. It’s fine for this to be a movie that gives more screen time to the humans than the robots. I understand that. But if that’s going to be the case, then the times that we do see the robots should have maximized the potential to show them as characters. As I was watching the film for the 3rd time, I couldn’t help but to pick out spots where an extra line or two of robot dialogue would have really helped solidify the personalties of the characters and reinforce the fact that these machines are living beings. When the Autobots disarm the Sector 7 guys, Ironhide could have said something funny about how wimpy their guns are and how his are much bigger. When Starscream flew over the city at the end when Sam had the Allspark and the military guys were trying to use the short wave radios since they didn’t know that he was not a real jet, he could have taunted them over the radio and then laughed maniacally. When Bonecrusher and Optimus Prime fight, there could have been some great dialogue there. Barricade had such a cool voice. He should have had more to say. Jazz should have said something before he fought Megatron. A lot of missed potential as far as that goes. It could have made the movie, as it is, so much better without changing anything significant. That’s what makes Transformers cool. That should have been an important point to showcase in a movie like this.

Speaking of voices, I didn’t much care for how Megatron sounded. Hugo Weaving was a fine choice for Megatron. but when that was announced I kind of expected that cool, Agent Smith kind of voice. Instead he sounded like a very generic super villain. If that’s what the people in charge wanted, then why not just use Frank Welker or David Kaye? Either of them could have done just as good of a job, if not better.

My other main sticking points are that this movie seems to try too hard to be funny. Some of the humor was just too crude and lowbrow for my tastes, and I don’t think that was necessary for a movie like this. Now, granted, pretty much everything I thought was stupid got a laugh from the audience, so what do I know? Also, and this is related, I really, really didn’t like Frenzy. I thought he was obnoxious, and I didn’t like all those stupid chattering noises that he made all the time. It seemed like he would be more at home in a Star Wars movie than in Transformers. And again I seem to be in the minority because the rest of the fanbase seems to really love Frenzy. But I didn’t think he was funny and I didn’t think that he needed to try to be funny either.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the good stuff.

The story with Sam and Bumblebee was very well done. It was entertaining to see Bumblebee trying to help Sam out before he knows that his car is a robot. It was clever. By the end of the movie you can tell that these two really care about each other, and that after the Sector 7 guys capture Bumblebee and start experimenting on him, Sam and Mikaela are the only humans he’ll trust. Bumblebee had a lot of personality even though he didn’t really talk.

The scene when the rest of the Autobots appear is an incredible moment that gave me goosebumps. The music had a lot to do with that. You could tell that these guys were the heroes. That’s the part that turned the film around for me.

What can be said about Optimus Prime? He’s pretty much the best part of the whole movie. Peter Cullen’s vocal performance was absolutely phenomenal. And that’s not simply because he was Optimus Prime in the original series. His voice just has this heroic resonance and grandfatherly warmth to it. I just don’t think I’d feel the same way if anyone else had that part. I totally bought that he was the #1 good guy, and his bravery and willingness to sacrifice was spot on perfect.

One character who really surprised me was Ratchet. Ratchet is not a cool character. He’s boring. But in the movie, Ratchet was awesome! He had a great voice, showed a lot of personality, and when he was fighting, he had some wild moves! So it’s a very good thing that this movie wasn’t anything like the original show, because then Ratchet would suck.

Jazz was pretty cool for the little we got to see of him. Again, more dialogue would have established him more firmly, like why he talks that way, but all of his movements showed off his personality. The movie’s portrayal of Ironhide was an interesting take on the character. He was still gruff and serious, but there was also sort of a nobility to him in his voice.

Of course, there was plenty of action, and I never had any doubts about that. The camera work and direction made all of the vehicles look like they had personality, and I guess Michael Bay is the right guy for the job as far as that goes. The final battle was intense. I just wish that most of the Decepticons had more to do at the end than show up and die. And what happened to Barricade? He just kind of disappeared there.

So, despite all the flaws I found, and all the things I think could have been better, I did enjoy the film. It took me awhile, but in the end I’ve decided to look past what it’s not and concentrate on what it is. For a fan like me, there’s a lot that’s missing from this movie, but what is there is pretty good. And most of all, I’m so glad to hear that both the fans and the general audience are responding positively to this movie. When I was interviewed by the Associated Press, I said that this movie was going to justify why people are fans of this great franchise, and how it was going to show everyone that Transformers are cool and always have been. I think it did just that. And so now that the basic mythology has been established in this movie, I have some high hopes for the sequel to expand on that, raise the stakes, introduce some new characters, and hopefully add some characterization. Much like the first X-Men movie, it’s a good start, but I hope that the best is yet to come.

Autobots, roll out!