Sunday, July 30, 2017

Aspen, where Gilmore Girls meets the Stepford Wives

I have seen the Stepford Wives movie. I am a self professed fan of Gilmore Girls.
Dashcam footage screenshot of driving through the center of Aspen.
I had never been to Aspen, Colorado, but a recent trip there put some perspective on a few things when being in that area. But like any destination, there's always something to see along the way. This time it was an abandoned theme park called "Frontier Land" out in Kansas.
Some people think abandoned malls are sad, but abandoned theme parks are like where happiness goes to die.
Since it was hot as hell, I didn't get out to explore much at all, just drove up and got a few photos. Normally, I would like to be a bit more adventurous, but the NO TRESSPASSING sign was enough to make me not want to venture further.

There is something fundamentally creepy about abandoned theme parks though right? It's not just me?
Look at this old hidden beauty!
Now in Hays, Kansas I noticed just after stopping for fuel, that there was a plane sitting behind a tree just off the highway. As a kid, not only was Top Gun one of the biggest movies out, but for any kids like me first getting introduced through anime with the animated series Robotech, the shape and look of the F-14 Tomcat is one burned into our minds.
Yes, for this, I got out and braved heatstroke.
Sure, Tom Cruise made these planes even more famous, but the Robotech Veritech Fighters that became giant transforming robots, were what I was hoping I'd be seeing by 2015.

Future, you have failed me so far. I need giant robots.

But, finally getting to see one of these planes in person..., just beautiful. I touched it, and the 12 year old kid in me smiled and for a second or so, it felt surreal. It was a welcome jolt of happiness that I needed.
10,000 feet elevation reading on the GPS.
After crossing Kansas the long way, or as some people call it, the "beat my forehead on a dashboard boring" highway drive, Colorado was already showing a shift in weather.
I'm noticing more and more rest stops are installing historical information for visitors.
Towards the end of the Flint Hills and into Colorado, the rains came across the wide flatlands and heralded the cooler air in the rising elevations. It had been a while since I had seen a massive storm come across the Kansas prairies.

A lot of times, the city skylines can make me forget how small we as humans are in the face of a storm, and how majestic even a thunderstorm can be, out in the unruly open spaces of Kansas.
The temperature dropped almost 25 degrees in just about 15 minutes.
Carbondale (about 40 minutes from Aspen) was where I stayed in a kick ass little Air B&B camper. Not unlike the areas of Carbondale and Aspen that had elements of individuality and quirk show up...
Loved this sign at the end of the street I was on in Carbondale. Aspen's mailboxes were all covered in menageries of stickers and sayings.
the camper itself was full of retro personality. In previous Air B&Bs, it was always a room of some sort in someone else's house. This was really cool, in that it was a camper in the front yard, but isolated with it's own yard that my dogs could run around in.
The name of the camper was "Charlie".
The weather was so nice at night that just sitting out underneath the stars and listening to the nearby neighbors and evening quiet, was utterly relaxing.

Aspen, as this blog entry is titled, is very much this picturesque sort of Gilmore Girls town, filled with fit people all living in Active Wear Yoga pants and biker shorts. Now, don't get me wrong, the town and the people of Aspen are nice enough. But many are very well off, and in a totally different income and daily existence level than I could ever be.

Storefronts are rustic in a Martha Stewart kind of way, small bookstores abound, many high end restaurants, and even a fossil/gemstones dealer.
Saw my first Mammoth skeleton. Not in a museum, but a fossil gift shop.
The town of Aspen is very much a tourist trap. It is made to the hilt to facilitate separating as much money from one's wallet as if the town were founded by pickpockets eager to prove their prowess at pilfering pockets.

BUT, there was a pleasant kindness that was genuine from many of the people that lived in the area. Clearly an appreciation for art, love of companion animals, and to a degree, a respect for nature, all were evident.

And like any grand social gathering destination spot, there is a melting pot of people from around the world that create this musical weave of vocal intonations. I heard French, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, German, what I think was Russian, Italian, and a few others unfamiliar to my ears, but no less wonderful to hear.
Penny and Kubo wondering why everyone else is wearing Active Wear, and I am not.
I used to think that Kansas City had a manicured and touristy aspect to the downtown Power and Light area, but this was artificial Colorado being sold to the hilt. Gallery wise, there were no less than 10 that I found selling art, with an every Saturday farmer's market/hand made show that happens downtown for people to attend.

The prevalent sort of art that was selling in most galleries seemed to be post modern or pop art themed everyday objects. There was an artist that had four foot fiberglass outdoor lawn display fruits. Each retailing for a few thousand dollars, one, an apple, was bought while I was milling about nearby. I hung around long enough to see if the person who was interested was really going to buy it. From what I could hear, they already had a massive banana from this artist. It all makes sense now.
Note the tiny man made smurf sized stream in the center of the walk way.
The center of Aspen, has this large part area, where they held rugby games (that part was legit cool), but park rules were pretty strict, and not in a bad way. Pick up after your dog, zero tolerance on trash disposal (because of bears), but otherwise normal.
It didn't dawn on my how barky my dogs were until I went to Aspen, land of the much better behaved/trained dogs.
So although there were some cool things in Aspen to look at, it is consistently crowded, overpriced, and doesn't have a lot of free stuff to do. Carbondale, on the other hand, had a beautiful nature trail that one could take with pets.
Nearby bridge leading to the nature path.
Maybe I've just not noticed before, but I'm seeing more and more installations of information about landmarks and natural elements, that give visitors a bit of the local history.
This one was all about the rebuilding of the crossing bridge.
Overall the time in Aspen was not too bad, aside from one of my dogs getting motion sickness leading to an emergency vet visit the first day on the road. I also got to test out a very cool new back pack cooler, but I want to get better photos and see how it handles in a comic show environment.
Here, someone took the wheel, and it wasn't Jesus.
So on the way back, while winding up and down the mountains on the outskirts of Aspen, I had the terrifying moment of having my spare tire for the trailer (see earlier pintrest like photo of my truck in front of the mountains above for tire reference), get ripped off at 70 miles an hour.

Not only did it rip off of the front of the trailer, but it sailed a good 20 to 30 feet in the air. I managed to glimpse it in the rear view mirror when it happened, and watched helplessly as the tire bounced at incredible speed back down the mountain highway, and down into the opposing lane of dual traffic.

I was sure I would hear cars crashing, horns, SOMETHING...

I pulled over, and ran back down the highway (big mistake at the elevation I was at, about 11,000 feet) to look to see if it had hit anyone. I wasn't really thinking where I was, or even about my own personal safety as much as I should have been.
The small wooded river banks at the bottom of the valley.
I managed to locate my tire, just underneath the overpass above, as you see in the picture below. That's where it landed. I have a little footage of this, I'll probably add it on youtube later. What I do not have footage of, was after I had filmed where the tire fell, I heard a weird sniffing noise behind me.
Where my tire landed like a wayward UFO crash out of Area 51.
What looked like a young grizzly bear, just out of cub stage, was wandering down past me, maybe 30 or 40 feet from me. I have no footage of it for these reasons:

  1. I had an attack of common sense, I kept my eye on it, and did not want to make sudden movements.
  2. I knew that my luck, if I had filmed it, something would have gone wrong and in all seriousness, the bear might have felt like it needed to attack/defend itself.
Surprisingly, the bear just walked by on it's way down to the riverbank. It was magnificent in it's color, the stride it took through the tall grasses, it's massive breathing which I could hear even at a distance as it made it's way to the treeline.

I remember thinking, I really was not scared, and this was not my first bear encounter, but it was my closest one. I think I was so mesmerized by the incredible moment of seeing this bear walking in front of mountains, and down into the river. I mean, it sounds like something I would have imagined as a scene from a Benji movie. It was only a few seconds, but I'm still thinking about it.

It may have also been the fact that trailer tire didn't do any damage following it's unexpected flight, or the fact that I was feeling a bit lightheaded from the elevation.

Either way, after watching the bear walk down into the river, I tentatively made my way down to the treeline around the river to maybe get a photo of him. I know, I know, not smart, I agree. But I know that like mermaids for sailors, the natural world is almost an intoxicating draw for me to witness.

It's such a primal and raw maelstrom of elements and chance compared to the rigidity and composure of daily suburban or city life. 
I will be mounting this elsewhere on the trailer, and have a good weekend's worth of repair to do on the front of the trailer.
Like I mentioned in some of my last few vlogs, I have been feeling remiss in my creative efforts. A few things overcome, but many that are still on the project list to get done.

Not just actual artwork, but things like the unfinished state of the studio, and from financial aspects, figuring out how I will do the shows this next year, and finding out when they are scheduled.

Some of it has been that I've been in a swill of self deprecating efforts, I think because so much time passes that I forget to jump at chances to work on my art.

A large portion of it has been moments of self doubt and depression, rearing their heads again. Not as bad as they have been in the past, but they are there. One way I know, is that even now as I type, I listen to musical scores (anything by Howard Shore or John Williams), or my standard go to, any music by Helen Jane Long, because wordless music allows me to breath, to think, to solve, to remember, and to embrace challenges.  

A lot of times, I look to my surroundings, away from the faces of the phones, computers, and other electronic devices, so as to rip my mind from the static it's encased in. It seems at times like I live less and less in the "real" world. Less time with rich black soil between my fingers in my garden, not enough time spent with my animals, or my family members, you name it.

I need to make every effort to spend just as much time for my own self as I would doing other things.

It's an interesting and challenging balance we have to overcome, not only as artists, but just as human beings in a world so quick in change and fluid in motion, we can drown in the mainstream.

Stay strong, and thanks for reading!

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Podcaster, Writer, Toy Collector, and Animal Rights Activist

Monday, July 17, 2017

The waiting game.

The hardest thing about motivation is that when you need it, it seems most fleeting.

I've had a fairly uneventful, dare I say it, fairly normal sort of last few months. The summer has been brutal in heat, and with that, I have felt a large amount of lethargy overcome me.

I'm not going to kid any of you, it's been pretty bad. Thankfully, I've got at the moment one project that is keeping me active, but a solution to how to fund shows that are rapidly approaching this next year (159 days till Christmas) will hopefully begin to show themselves as the more than welcome Autumn weather will usher in some cheer in my mood.

I've been updating my YouTube channel and have been pretty happy about that, as thanks to some great finds deal wise, and the small but growing Patron support I have, I have been able to upgrade my filming equipment with some much needed portable lights, extra camera mounts, and microphones.

The first video above is my casual vlog I update, the second is a series of art related time lapse videos (for those of you who've not yet checked out my youtube channel).

I'm going to make this quick, because I have to be at work in a few hours, and I'm not starting tomorrow in a bad mental place if I can help it.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Podcaster, Writer, Toy Collector, and Animal Rights Activist

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hey June

Royals Stadium about 6:50 am on a Tuesday.
I do some part time work at Royals stadium these days as a manager for Aramark, which has begun to help level out the financial burden of slow art sales, and no current art shows to attend. The plus to this has been as it always has been with a myriad amount of side jobs I have done over the years, experience to add to the resume, new experiences, and new research of sorts for future comic book character livelihoods.

Being freelance has it's ups and downs, as along with it, I've been now working two part time jobs, while still writing, recording, creating content for youtube, the podcast, and now more than ever KKFI, since it seems that very possibly, the radio show will be coming to fruition sooner than I had anticipated.

Along the way as I travel, I also like to find places of hapstance, and I happened across a mini museum and garden upon the site of the old Gerald Ford home. The garden wasn't yet in bloom, but the area was quite nice, with an interactive display in the center. It had pre-recorded audio of President Ford, and an assortment of cool things on display from his time as president, as well as a bit about his being an Eagle Scout, which, being one myself, is always cool to see what accomplishments other Eagles have contributed to history.

(Left) Ford folding the flag with fellow boy scouts. (Upper Right) A model of his birth home, which no longer stands. (Bottom Right) The entrance sign to the rose garden.
Anyone that works with video knows that it's a majorly time consuming prospect, the most of which is letting your machine render out and create videos. I have been enjoying creating newer ones as of late, and the project below was from the video I posted from my last update for my poetry group at KKFI, "Unpacking Poetry".

It used to be that I just carried around a camera for getting photo references, or for images to sell through Dreamstime, now I find myself with a checklist of B-roll shots that I try and get in, or the occasional vlog post that I will work on when I get spare time.
A lot of people ask what I use to edit. I work on a PC and use AVS software.
I've also got another review coming up for Tenacious Ninja this next Monday, of the Kubros series "Hellboy" kit. I had just been doing time lapses, but I decided to get more interactive with this new video and review.
It's actually hilariously cool looking in all the best ways.
Thanks to some recent freelance work and income from Patreon, I've been slowly upgrading my video equipment bit by bit. I managed to find this INSANELY bright cold shoe mount light on sale for $20, with all kinds of metal accessories, and two rechargeable batteries w/ charger.

It's the Bower VL8K. It's not quite prosumer level in build, but it is light, durable enough, and bright. If you look at the iphone screen below, the only two light sources were the flash on my camera to take the picture, and the light coming from the Bower, which fully illuminated the studio area behind me, which was showing up on the screen.
The size of it in my hand, and in a solid dark room, the light is mounted on the assembly I have on the wall used for my vlogs and other youtube content.
I've had a few people ask me if I am using tripods, and yes I do, but the lion's share of shots happen using mounted camera supports strategically placed in my studio, so I can run and shoot most everything solo with bluetooth controllers and wired/wireless audio. The light I picked up helped round out the lighting issues I'd been having during evening to night recording sessions.

I may start adding reviews of some of these things, because honestly, they are also counted alongside my other tools of my trade, and help chronicle and create my art.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Podcaster, Writer, Toy Collector, and Animal Rights Activist