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1  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Discussion and Questions / SwapDoodlers on: December 04, 2018 12:47:27 PM
Do any of y'all SwapDoodle?  It's a free app in Nintendo's eShop (you gotta pay real money if you want to use more than black and red ink though, which is kind of lame) that lets you send handwritten messages and drawings to your friends.  The Nintendo 2DS/3DS' touch screen is pretty small (maybe half the size of an ATC), and the stylus only a so-so drawing implement, but, it's kind of fun.  I've been sending scribbles and messages to a woman in California for the last week or so after first learning about it from her in one of the two 3DS groups that I belong to on Facebook.

My understanding is that Nintendo used to have a SwapNote app too . . . but . . . um . . . adults in Japan were sending children naughty stuff (you could attach photos in that program, which you can't do in SwapDoodle), so they axed that one and replaced it with SwapDoodle.

So, if any of you have a 2DS/3DS, have downloaded the program, and wanna SwapDoodle with me, my friend code is:

0018 6684 9731

(You have to give me your friend code too for it to work, which you can do via PM if you don't want to post it publicly here).
2  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Cute and Cuter + Halloween Fun on: October 31, 2018 10:50:34 AM

This is an American Greetings card that I modified and gave to my Mother on her 69th birthday (the 27th). I made little hand-drawn charms of the dog, Jethro, and the cat, Princess Butter Crumb, to hang from the clothesline that runs between the two sides of the card. [Done in ink, graphite pencil, colored pencil and permanent marker, on white paper, glued to cardstock, and then hung from the line with red embroidery floss.] The clothesline should be taunt when you fully open up the card, not drooping like pictured, but, there was no good way for me to shoot a photo of that without somepony holding the card open for me, and Rainbow Dash refused to help, since there weren't any horses on the card, which was a travesty beyond description in her violet eyes. She has standards.

Here's a closer look at Jethro (Chiweenie, a Chihuahua and Dachsund mix) and Princess Butter Crumb (Pureblooded She-Devil). Her Highness does not approve of having to share the interior of the card with a mangy mutt. She simply doesn't understand how anyone could ruin an awesome feline-themed gift with a stupid dog. Inter-species relations in our house need some work.


Since, it's Halloween, I'll also share this.  I wasn't doing any crafting myself, but I was facilitating children doing so.  The head librarian needed an adult volunteer to supervise and help the younger tykes with the pumpkin carving/painting portion of Monday night's annual Halloween party at the local library, and, since I'm an arts & crafts kind of guy, and I had nothing better to do, I said I'd do it.

Here I am staring at a box of acrylic paint, like it has the secret of life printed on it, shortly before the guests started to arrive. The hair on the top of my head is getting even thinner than I thought . . .

And here are things in full swing.  A woman's head is partially blocking the view of me, but I was probably scooping pumpkin guts/seeds into a plastic bag.

Across from me, some tween/teen girls had a facepainting station.  You haven't lived until you've seen Princess Elsa with a skull face!

And next to that was a wand-making station.  They had a Harry Potter party earlier in the year, so, I'm guessing that the librarian just wanted to use up the leftover materials from that.

Since I had to keep an eye on the knives with small kids around, I didn't get to personally see any of the activities in other parts of the building, but here are photos of some of those:

Haunted "house" tour through the book stacks with spiderwebs and "bloody" footprints:


Crafting station:

Costume contest.  The boy in the taco costume won second place, but, I don't know who got first.  I liked the girl in the voodoo doll outfit the best (the librarian's photos aren't the best quality, but trust me when I say her makeup was pretty disturbing--the two boys dressed up as Darth Vader and the Emperor were both terrified of her and wouldn't enter the room I was in whenever she was in there!)

The event was pretty well attended and the kids all seemed to have fun, so, I'd say it was a success.  A few kids got paint on themselves at my pumpkin station, but, nobody got cut or hurt (some of the younger kids vigorously sawing away with those serrated pumpkin carving kit knives made me pretty nervous, but, nothing bad happened).

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3  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Girl's hair be perfect for mah nest! on: October 19, 2018 11:50:52 AM

A woman that belongs to the same Multiple Sclerosis Facebook support group, that I joined back at the end of June, asked all of us if we'd send her youngest daughter, who's turning seven on October 21st, a birthday card and tell her about what it's like having MS. Said girl knows that her mother is different from other mommies, but her mother wants to show her that a lot of other people have the same condition too.

 Now, that is a somewhat unusual thing to want to do on a young child's birthday, and some of the other women in the group gave the mother some crap about it ("You have MS, not her.", "Don't ruin your kid's birthday like that.", etc.), but, I figured that it was a relatively harmless thing to try, and processing that your mother has an incurable illness is probably a difficult thing for a young girl to come to terms with, so, it might help. Anyway, I decided I'd do it and told the mother to ignore the haters questioning her parenting and that I'd send her daughter a card.

I asked the woman what types of things/themes her daughter likes and she told me that she's a girly-girl that loves owls and rescuing animals. I tried to find an owl birthday card in the store, but, didn't have any luck. I found some other bird cards, but they were doves and stuff like that, and more for adults, not children. I also contemplated making a card for her from scratch, but, if, I'm being honest, I don't have a whole lot of interest or enthusiasm for making much of anything these days, so, I split the difference, picked out and bought a ballerina mouse card, and drew a portrait of the girl (using photos from Facebook as reference models), with an owl on her head, in the interior that I hope she'll like.

 Here's a closer look at said owl. The bow is a little off-center, but, otherwise, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Besides, it's not like birds have fingers or thumbs to tie bows with anyway, so, it's nothing short of miraculous that she managed to do it at all!

And this is the front of the card I bought for her. I liked the art, but, in retrospect, I kind of wasn't thinking--the copyright is dated 2006, and that's five years older than the birthday girl herself! I don't even even know if the Angelina Ballerina cartoon airs anymore. I didn't buy it, because the cover had some suspicious-looking stuff dried on it that I wasn't sure would come off, but I also found an Angelina Ballerina children's book in a thrift store the other week and the copyright date on that was 2002 or 2003. Dancing rodents never go out of style though, right?

This is what the signed interior of the card looked like. In addition to my letter to the girl about MS (which I intentionally did separately, so that her mother could still give her daughter the card if she happened to have a change of heart about sharing other people's MS stories with her child), I also put a folded sheet of tracing paper in the center, to prevent the artwork (done in ink and pencil) from smudging the opposite side of the card while the envelope was in transit. I thought about putting some fixative on it too, but, I was afraid that the resulting dampness would make the card warp before it dried, which I obviously didn't want to happen, so, I didn't.

 I don't think I captured the girl's likeness exactly and the spacing of her facial features, particularly the eyes, could be better, but, overall, I think the illustration works. I was going to post a photo of the real girl here, for comparison purposes, but, thinking about it, even though those Facebook images are public ones that anyone can look at, her mother might not like me doing that, so, I didn't. Likewise, when I originally typed this up, I used the girl's first name, but, when Rainbow Dash saw that, she beat me with a rolled-up newspaper and made me replace every instance with an anonymous "girl/she/her". My four-legged editor is helpful like that, violent, but helpful.

Writing a letter to a soon-to-be-seven-years-old girl about what's wrong with me was kind of a hard and awkward thing to do. I tend to be verbose [editor's note: "tend"?], but, as she's still learning how to read, at her mother's request, I had to keep it relatively simple and short for her to understand. On one hand, I didn't use a bunch of big medical terms that she probably wouldn't know, but, on the other, I don't like "talking down" to children either and didn't want to insult her intelligence with "baby speak" (in other words, I didn't want my letter to read like a Dick and Jane book), so, while I limited my word choices, I didn't make it super elementary either. It's hard to remember what my reading level was like at seven, that's for sure! I mean, I know I could read fairly well at that age, but, how well? And, of course, I was very careful not to be negative about having MS or what the future may hold for the health of her mother or myself. Physically, I'm not doing too bad right now, so, it's not like I had anything all that terrible to tell the girl anyway. I just wrote that I give myself shots three times a week, to try to keep myself from getting sick again, or, if I do get sick, so that it (hopefully) won't be as bad, and that sometimes my vision doubles or I get really tired. I don't feel that my letter would upset her in any way. I suppose it was even kind of therapeutic on my end as well.

4  CRAFTING FOR GOOD AND NOT EVIL / Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) and Art Abandonment / Stop to smell the rocks! on: August 07, 2018 01:13:36 PM

I selected my rock to paint from a trail by a creek on July 27th, but I didn't start painting it until August 5th. I suppose I probably should have spent a little more time trying to find a smoother/flatter one, but the one I picked, while a bit uneven and pockmarked, worked out alright. The stone looked like a dirty potato when I pocketed it, but it cleaned up into a lighter shade. I'm guessing it's granite, but I'm no expert on rocks.

I was going to do the base coat black, but I ended up doing gold instead. That way, I can pretend I'm a miner that struck it rich!

I decided to paint a woman smelling a flower. Why? I don't know, that's just what I felt like doing at the time. The art was done completely with acrylic paint and ink. I sealed the rock with spray & wipe furniture polish (orange oil, so, my rock even smells nice!), which worked out okay and gave a very glossy finish, but the paint tends to get damaged while you're rubbing the stone, due to its relatively rough texture, so, I wouldn't recommend it. The gloss also made the stone hard to photograph, and I even mentally told myself to shoot my photos before I sealed the rock to avoid that, but, when do I ever listen to sensible advice from anybody, especially myself?

I also wrote a quote, from Carrie Fisher, along the top, that reads: "I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art."

I got said statement from my copy of 2001's Funny Ladies: The Best Humor from America's Funniest Women by Bill Adler.

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And here's the back with the #CraftsterRocks tag.

After voting in the Primary early this morning, I decided to leave the stone in a pocket park, situated between two businesses, off of one of the main streets in my town. I put her on the ground, next to the trellis. That area sees a fair amount of foot traffic throughout the day, so, I'm guessing that it won't take long for someone to find and claim my rock, as it's in plain sight.

Of course, some people just like to vandalize rocks . . .

5  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Molly on: July 10, 2018 12:40:02 PM

(No. 2 pencil, ink, and permanent marker--I messed up the fingers/hand holding the dog's head something terrible!)

Meet Molly Rae Hakkarinen (pronounced "Hack-ah-rye-nen"; I believe it's Finnish, many European immigrants, particularly Finns, Italians, and Swedes, came to my area of Michigan to work the iron and copper mines generations ago, thus, lots of people here have last names like that). Molly was one of my childhood classmates, but she's been dead for almost a quarter of a century now. About half-past-midnight, early on Friday, August 19th, 1994, she was out walking with another young woman when the pair decided to try crossing US Highway 41. Molly never made it to the other side. Donald Ranta, a 59-year-old man, hit her with his car, near the National Ski Hall of Fame, claiming that he didn't see her because she was wearing dark clothing (I wasn't there, but I've been down that stretch of highway many times in my life, so, I know that it's pretty well lit at night, and, I'm obviously prejudiced in her favor, so, you'll have to forgive me if I'm inclined to sympathize with the dead girl). Molly was badly injured by the impact, in critical condition, and, despite everyone's best efforts to save her life, she died two days later at the hospital on August 21st. Molly had only been fifteen for a little over a month. Today is also her birthday; she would have been thirty-nine this year.

If you have children, never feel foolish for warning them to watch out for traffic, no matter how old they get--tragedy is never more than a single step away.

After all this time, I'm not sure why I still care so much, but I do. Beyond seeing each other in the hallways, at recess, etc., Molly and I barely knew each other. I didn't have the hots for her or anything like that. The one time I can even remember her speaking to me, she was quite cruel. And yet, I couldn't even type this up without tears and snot running down my face. All I really know about Molly's interests in life are that she was a member of the local chapter of the Salvation Army, loved Dalmation dogs (although she never had one) and enjoyed the music of the bands Poison, Slaughter, and Skid Row.

This is Molly's last school year book photograph (top left), from 1994, when we were both freshmen--she didn't even live long enough to begin her sophomore year in September. Even so, I also looked at the 1995 year book, and it upset me that I couldn't find any dedication or mention of Molly whatsoever, like she never even existed, which is just wrong. When we were in elementary school, an entire family perished (mother, father, and young children) when their house burned down, as a result of leaving Christmas candles lit and unattended when they went to bed (please, never do that), and I distinctly remember that the next school year book was dedicated to their memory, so, I don't know who dropped the ball in 1995. Molly deserved better than that.

And this is Molly's oldest sister's (Brandi) senior yearbook photo, from the same volume, just so you can get an idea of what Molly might have looked like, sans glasses, had she lived three more years and become an adult:

On a lighter note, I'll also share with you my "picture" from that same 1994 year book, which, like Molly, also happens to be my final "appearance" in those annual tomes. To put it bluntly, I was a troublesome chronic truant (I only lasted about two weeks at my original high school, and, if you added up all of the time that I was physically there during those two weeks, it probably wouldn't have even totalled a single full day). If I'm not going to attend class, I'm sure as hell not going to show up to get my picture taken, right? In fact, my last memory of Molly is from the previous year, in eighth grade; I simply wasn't around often enough to even encounter her, or many of my other classmates, in ninth.

I should have this page blown up and framed. My younger brother once told me, "You used to play hooky from school, and, now, you play hooky from life.", which I'm afraid is a very accurate description of me indeed! In all honesty, the school should have just omitted me altogether, rather than messing up the page layout like that. I don't recall ever going fishing whilst I was ditching school, but, if I did, I hope I caught a big one!

All right, that's enough year book reunion nonsense.

On Friday, May 25th, I made the trip to visit Molly's grave for the first time in years. I'd thought of going to see her again many times, but, for one reason or another, I always put it off. Sadly, it looked like no one had been there to care for her marker for quite some time as her gravestone was pretty well colonized by lichens. I pass by that cemetery several times every year and, if I really care about her so much, I could have very easily made the short detour to see that Molly's final resting place was being kept tidy, right? Well, long story short, over two days, I spent a couple of hours cleaning it up, and, from now on, I'm going to make sure that Molly's grave doesn't fall into disrepair again.

Maintaining Molly's gravestone is the least I can do for her. Here's Molly's marker after I cleared off the lichen, carefully dug out all of the gunk that had filled up much of the carved lettering, and removed the dead leaves and other debris. I contemplated getting new flowers to replace these old synthetic ones, but then I reasoned that might be disrespectful to both Molly and her family, as they could have some special significance. It's not easy to make out in my photos, but, the bottom-most text reads, "She Gave The Gift of Life" and the animal in the right corner is her favorite, a Dalmation dog.

As anyone who really knows me can probably guess, I was delighted to find a doll on Molly's grave. This is a McDonald's Bratz Sasha from 2003, but Molly died before Bratz even existed (they debuted in 2001), so, it couldn't have possibly been hers. There's a chunk broken off the front of her sunhat, Sasha's hair has seen better days, and the color is wearing off her bellbottoms, but, all-in-all, considering that she's likely been exposed to the elements for a considerable amount of time, Sasha is in relatively decent shape. And, if you're wondering, no, I didn't take the doll--I'd never steal anything from anyone's grave, and most certainly never Molly's.

And then there's this cute plush Minnie Mouse. Like Sasha, she's probably been keeping silent vigil over Molly for years, as she's pretty sun-faded and moldy. Minnie's tag has been cut off (as parents often do), so, I can't tell you the plush toy's date or manufacturer, but, it doesn't really matter much in her case, because Minnie Mouse was around long before Molly or I were ever born anyway, so, unlike Sasha, Minnie is a character that Molly would have been familiar with. Besides, without the tag, even if it isn't true, I can still pretend that this particular Minnie Mouse did belong to Molly and maybe she even had it since she was a little girl (that said, Molly's cousin told me that Minnie and Sasha were most likely gifts from Molly's nieces or nephews).

My City annually warns us residents to remove objects like these from graves during the fall, before the snow flies, but, given their weathered condition, no one has disturbed this pair in some time. You'd have to be pretty heartless to take toys off a dead teenage girl's grave and throw them away. I sure couldn't do it. I get weepy just looking at Minnie.

When I returned on Monday, May 28th, Memorial Day morning, to finish cleaning Molly's grave, I suddenly spotted something beneath the flowers and dead leaves that I had missed on my previous visit: a Dalmation figurine wearing a fireman's hat and with a bucket stuck on its left front paw! On the bottom was written "To Molly" and "Bro" (Molly had two sisters and two brothers, but, as he didn't give his name, I don't know whether this was a gift from Shawn or Andrew). Investigating in the leaf litter further, I uncovered another two hidden firedog figurines, one with a firehose and the other with a fire extinguisher and wearing a fireman's coat. The pup with the hose was blank, but the other had a message on its bottom like the first one I found; however, it was too dirty and faded for me to make out what it said. I tried washing it, but I was unable to make it any clearer, so, I'll probably never know what it said, although the most logical explanation is that it's from the other brother. The dog with the firehose also had some structural damage; there are a couple of holes broken into the resin, revealing the hollow interior. I cleaned the trio off as best as I could with water and then lined them up together in front of the gravestone's left side, since Sasha and Minnie already had the right. Between the three canine figurines, and the Dalmation carved into the gravestone itself, Molly's favorite dog breed is very well represented!

Rooting around further, I didn't discover any other surprises (other than some lively spiders), so, I believe that I successfully found everything that Molly's family had decorated her grave with. While I was going to finish cleaning up her stone regardless, I'm really glad that I came back and found those three puppies as that told me a little more about Molly and her family's love for her.

And, yes, since today is her birthday, I went back to the cemetery to visit Molly again early this morning, before the heat got too unbearable. I promised her that I would, and under no circumstances can you ever break a promise to a dead girl. I didn't bring my camera, but Molly's grave was still looking good (summer sun and rain have doubtlessly helped), so, other than disposing of a rogue scrap of synthetic flower fabric, I didn't have to do anything but get comfortable and talk--Molly is a great listener, but she never answers. I don't believe in ghosts, but a part of me still hopes that Molly's shade will someday prove me wrong and make an appearance (even if she only does it to tell me that I'm an idiot).

Over the years, Molly Hakkarinen has become a defense/coping mechanism for me. Whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm reminded that I've gotten to live "x" number of years that she didn't and seen/experienced many things that Molly never got the chance to and that I should be grateful for it. From that perspective, most of life's difficulties are trivial and complaining about anything is like spitting in Molly's face. It doesn't matter how serious my gripes are, because Molly's death trumps anything I could ever bring to the table (and even if I died too, she could still put me in my place by asserting that she's been dead longer, so, I still wouldn't win). When things are really bad, sometimes I even wish that I could have died in her place, but, of course, one can't make deals of that sort, and certainly not after the fact.

I understand that Molly's story is finished and has been for some time, but, on another level, I still don't accept that and I never will. Molly shouldn't be lying in a coffin six feet under the ground at the local cemetery, she should be working in a career that she enjoys, raising children of her own, or just pursuing her dreams, but, thanks to an inattentive driver and, perhaps, some poor judgement on her part, Molly is gone forever and there's nothing that I or anyone else can ever do about it.

Molly died before the internet really took off, so, until publishing this today, there really wasn't much to be found online about her (almost all of the data that you see here I had to research in person at two local libraries and the cemetery, but I also got a bit of information about Molly communicating with her cousin). Aside from thinking about her a lot, the main reason I wanted to do this was that I feel that there should be some kind of electronic memorial to her existence for other people to see/find. I hope that she's never far from her surviving family members thoughts, and I would like to believe that our other classmates think of her from time-to-time as well.

I have never forgotten you, Molly, and I never will. Even if you stop mattering to everyone else, you will always matter to me.

6  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Sylvie on: July 06, 2018 08:38:41 AM
This is a transgender woman I know that's a member on another online forum I belong to and goes by the name of Sylvie.  She saw the drawings I did of the young woman I used to go to school with and asked me if I'd do a portrait of her, so, I figured, why not?  I did this last night before I hit the sack with No. 2 pencil, ink, and permanent marker.

7  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Discussion and Questions / Some cool Japanese dolls and a dollhouse on display at one of my local libraries on: June 28, 2018 07:27:07 AM
This seemed like the best place to post this, and, some of these are hand-crafted items, just not crafted by me. Tongue  Here are the photos I took of the Japanese dolls/figurines and the American dollhouse at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, Michigan yesterday morning.  If I worked at this library, I would totally decorate the place the same way.  Grin

My photo angles on the dolls aren't the best, but, I'm only 5'9", and most of the dolls were up on the top of bookcases, so, short of lugging around a chair with me and standing on that, there wasn't much I could do but stand up on my tippy-toes.

A samurai armor display (not life-sized):

My mind is rusty about the myth, but I believe that this is the boat that the seven luck gods (only one of which is female) sail around in.

This is a Tanuki, mythical mischievous raccoon-dogs.   They're also known for their gigantic scrotums/testicles (which they sometimes paddle like drums!)

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The two smaller red figures are Darumas--you're supposed to make a wish, fill in the pupil of one of the eyes, and then, if your wish comes true, you fill in the other.  I saw a much larger one of those in a thrift store a few months ago, and almost bought it, but only one of its eyes was colored in, which told me that the previous owner's wish never came true, which was depressing to me.  

The wooden doll is a Kokeshi.  One of the stories about these is that they represent dead children--in olden times, when things were tough, proponents of this theory believe that parents would kill one of their children so that their other starving children would have more food, and they made the kokeshi to remind them of that lost child.  Personally, I don't believe that at all, as most parents would rather die themselves than sacrifice their child.  Speaking of which, one of my friends in college, Sarah, broke down into tears, during a creative writing class we were taking together, when another one of our female classmates was making some rather heartless comments/judgements about poor people.  Sarah told the class that she had been poor in her younger days, and even though she was working at the time, couldn't afford to feed herself and her children, so she starved herself, losing a dangerous amount of weight, so that they could eat, and eventually had to give them all up for adoption because she simply couldn't provide a quality life for them.  Anyway, my point is, that's what I believe most parents would do if they were in that situation, not sacrifice one to have more food for the others.  I don't have any children, but, if I did, I'd stop eating so that they could too.

The dollhouse had glass over all the rooms, so nobody (like me) can mess with the contents, thus, some glare from my camera's flash was unavoidable (it was kind of dim on that staircase landing too, and by its nature, unless it's internally lit, which this one wasn't, a dollhouse is always going to be full of shadows, so, turning the flash off wasn't really an option either).

The dollhouse had rooms in both the front and back, but, unfortunately, the structure was displayed right up against the 2nd floor stairway railing of the library, so, I couldn't really get any good shots of the other side of the house without risking falling and plummeting down to the floor below and breaking some bones (I had to lean way out, over the stairway railing, just to get this shot, which wasn't the safest thing to do either.)  I particularly wanted to get a better look at the third floor attic up there, which looks like it's probably a children's playroom/bedroom.

And these aren't really toys, but they were too cool not to photograph (and I can guarantee you children would try to ride the back of that life-size larger tortoise!)  These were located in the front yard of a acne-treatment business (probably a homeopathic affair) located on the street corner just down from the library.  I love the little hat on the head of the big one, but, it's sad that the turtles have to be chained to the ground to keep people from stealing them though . . .

And this is a geisha holding a samurai helmet from my doll collection, not the library, but it's the only one I have that's similar in style/design to the ones they have on display at the library:

8  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / A girl I used to know on: June 21, 2018 06:47:14 AM

This is a raven-haired former classmate of mine that I attended an alternative high school (for delinquents) with back in the mid 1990s. I managed to go an entire semester there (and probably only because they were much more tolerant of my rather sporadic attendance than my first high school), but, I don't remember her lasting very long before vanishing, a few weeks maybe (at a last-chance place like that, everyone, including myself, was a problem child to some degree, so classmates would get expelled, incarcerated, or just disappear off the face of the earth on a pretty regular basis.) While she looked the part of the "bad girl", she was really a nice/playful person when you got to know her better. I'd also say that she was more mature (emotionally, if not in years) and had things "together" better than a lot of us, particularly the boys, whose antics mostly just got a bemused smirk and a shake of the head from her--maybe she just left the school so she wouldn't have to suffer fools like us any longer. While we talked now-and-then, the only specific conversation between us that I can remember is her telling me, on a bus ride home after school was over, that I was probably going to end up as a hermit (not to be mean or anything, just an observation on her part about my reclusive tendencies), but, her prophecy hasn't come true yet (I just haven't been able to find an affordable, secluded cave that I like).

Sadly, I don't know her name anymore (women just love when men can't even remember who they are, right?) I hadn't thought of her in about twenty years, but, she appeared in a dream that I had yesterday morning, in which she lent me her yellow, long-sleeved shirt to wear, with the word "Lucky" printed on the front, since the only two T-shirts I had in the bookbag in the dream were dirty/stinky (professional hermits can't be bothered with doing laundry), so, that got me thinking about her again and I ended up drawing this picture of her last night (done in ink, graphite/colored pencil, & permanent marker). Like myself, she was Caucasian in real life, but, oddly, in my dream, she had golden brown skin, but I still knew it was her immediately.

Yesterday, I also made a half-arsed attempt to see if I could find her on Facebook, but, that's a rather tricky task when you have no idea who someone is to begin with. I did look up some of my other classmates at the time, whose names I do remember, in the hopes that I might find her face staring back at me from one of their friend lists, but, while some of the women I saw there looked sort of like her, I couldn't be certain, and often their personal details didn't jive with my history/location, and twenty-some years can do a lot to a person's appearance (not to mention haircuts and dye jobs). I've never been good with guessing anyone's age (and teens often look older in make-up), but I believe that she was more advanced in years than me at the time we were in school together, so, assuming that she's still alive, Miss Mystery is probably 40-ish now.

I don't know what became of her, but, wherever she is, I hope that she's doing well and was able to successfully work past whatever teenage difficulties she may have been experiencing at the time we were classmates.

9  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Not-So-Manly Manticore on: June 18, 2018 09:05:55 AM
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I "fake-joined" the "The Mermay, Unicorns, and Pals" Swap at Craftster, which simply means that, while you still have to follow the rules for said event, instead of actually exchanging the item(s) that you made with another member, you're creating them for yourself. The object of said swap was to craft one small item, focusing on mythological creatures/entities that incorporate/combine parts from multiple organisms, and to also include one inexpensive store-bought item that also follows that theme. At first, I was going to make another half-spider, half-woman Arachne, and even spent a fair amount of time capturing screenshots of her to use as a visual guide while I did the modeling, but, as I've already made three such spider women over the years, I reasoned that I'd drawn water from that well too often and decided that I should make a creature that I'd never done before instead and went with a Manticore.

The Manticore ("Mardyakhowr-", literally "man-eater" in early Middle Persian, and, later, "Mantikhoras" in Greek) is a mythological creature, similar to the Egyptian Sphinx, whose legend originated in ancient Persia. The Manticore was said to have the head of a man, three rows of teeth, the body of a lion, and a barbed tail (something like that of a porcupine or scorpion, depending on the source). Manticores were voracious predators of humankind and could also launch sharp spines from their deadly tails, much like arrows. As that wasn't nasty enough, nowadays, the Manticore is typically depicted as a bat-winged beast capable of flight as well (especially in tabletop and digital roleplaying games).

Even in ancient times, many were skeptical of the Manticore's existence and reasoned that it was likely just a mistaken interpretation of a tiger, lion, or other great cat. On that note, I like to imagine that someone observed a large feline get the tip of its tail covered in cockleburs, or a similar, sticky, spined plant, and whilst trying to remove the irritant, "launch" it through the air, giving rise to the myth. Speaking of which, when I was a tween, I stuck a single cocklebur on the tail of one of our cats to see what would happen. As I expected, the cat freaked out and soon dislodged the burr while it was running around like a lunatic. Unfortunately, our curious poodle found and devoured the dropped burr, which immediately made him sick, and he vomited it right back up again, leaving me a lovely mess to clean up (which served me right). I'd never do something like that to a cat as an adult, and I'm ashamed of it now, but at least no permanent harm was done to either animal.

As a child, my first exposure to the legendary Manticore was in the pages of one of Mattel's
1980s Masters of the Universe mini comic books that came packaged with the action figures.

To me at least, the Manticore is something of a mythical creature even in the Japanese Princess Minerva 1995 Nintendo Super Famicom video game that I based my figure upon. Years ago, I played through the entire adventure and never encountered a single one! Like the Unicorn figurine I made back in 2015, the Manticore is a Princess Minerva enemy that I've only ever seen on a monster sprite sheet that someone else put together.

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Either the Manticore was cut from the final version of said game (but the sprite graphics for the creature were left in the software's code), or, I somehow missed them entirely while I was exploring that fictional world--which is certainly possible, as I'm not fluent in Japanese by any stretch of the imagination, so, I may have completely overlooked a villager or some other NPC (non-player character) mentioning where they could be found. I failed you, Minerva! I'll turn in my monster hunting license first thing tomorrow morning . . .

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She died when I was a child, and I never got to meet her because she was already in a nursing home and nobody ever took me to visit her, but I actually had a Great Aunt named Minerva, which is a name you seldom see anymore outside of mythology. Minerva was the Roman equivalent of Athena, my favorite Greek goddess, and, as luck would have it, I used to have a coworker named Athena too. The goddesses still walk amongst us!

When my Great Aunt Minerva was a young woman, she didn't dress like that and go around smiting evil with a giant sword . . . I think.

Here are some progress shots of my Manticore figure over the first two days of work (June 10th & 11th). As the anatomy developed, the arms ended up being too short, so, I sheared the side fingers off of those, extended the limbs' length, re-bent the elbows at lower points, and then made hands again at the new ends. That was annoying and time-consuming to do, but the proportions of the figure looked a lot better afterwards.

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And this is what I got done over the next two days (June 12th & 13th), namely the wings and developing the body some more. Looking at some photos of real scorpions, that I have saved on my computer, I also noticed that I had the stinger on my Manticore pointed the wrong way, so I cut around the base of that, down to the underlying wire, and spun it around so that it was facing in the right direction. Even though I wasn't done yet, I also applied the first coat of paint at this point to help me see problem areas better (the text/images on newsprint can make it difficult to see where things have gone awry).

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After tinkering with the body for a couple more days and applying additional coats of paint, I did up her facial features, sealed the figure with white glue (which is why she's so shiny), permanently attached the wings, and, finally, using some embroidery floss, played monster hair stylist. Because I couldn't find my Ziploc bag of floss, I stole some from my Mother's stash. My Mother doesn't craft anything, and never has, so, she could care less, as she's never going to use it for anything anyway. Why does she even have a giant tin full of embroidery floss then, you ask? Someone she knew, that didn't want it anymore, just gave it to her, and, like me, she likes to hoard junk that she has no earthly use for. I kind of liked the Manticore with long, straight tresses, but, a more mane-like affair is a better fit for a creature that's part lion. Speaking of which, I made her fur brown, instead of a more accurate tan/yellow, because I felt that darker hue would contrast better with her human skin tone. And Manticores totally wear dark gray eye shadow.

All finished! There are areas that I could have done a better job on (the face, front paws, and rear legs), but, overall, I'm fairly happy with how my Manticore turned out. Because one of her forelegs is raised off of the ground, she doesn't balance terribly well, so, it can be difficult to keep her standing, as such, I may end up mounting her on a base eventually for better stability, but, she's okay for now.

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 Newsprint, tissue paper, white paper, white glue, acrylic paint, wire twist ties, embroidery floss (hair), ink (eyes/mouth), and graphite pencil (eye shadow).

 6.0 cm (2.4") long x 6.4 cm (2.5") tall, with a 10.6 cm (4.2") wingspan.

 One Week: June 10th-16th, 2018.
 The year is almost half over and this is already my third art project for 2018, so, I obviously need to slow down, as I don't know how I can possibly continue to maintain such a high level of productivity!

And now, some store-bought mythical critter extra goodies:

"Don't you know how to take 'get lost' for an answer? Dash doesn't need to hang with a dweeb like you now that I'm around."

This is Gilda, a half-lion, half-eagle (and 100% awesome) griffon, who was Rainbow Dash's best friend when they were younger and both members of the Junior Speedsters group. Gilda is nice to her pal, Rainbow, but, when the pegasus isn't around to see it, Gilda is very arrogant and bullies everypony else (especially Pinkie Pie) whom she doesn't consider "cool enough" to hang with her and Rainbow. Much to Gilda's dismay, at a party, when Rainbow Dash finally sees the griffon for what she really is, and Gilda demands that Rainbow make a choice, the pegasus rejects her old pal and stands by her horse friends instead, which Gilda doesn't take very well at all, leaving in a huff.

Some months later, Gilda and Rainbow Dash, still resentful towards one another, meet again in the kingdom of Griffonstone. Despite her past cruelty towards her, ever-cheerful Pinkie Pie helps Gilda bake better griffon scones and gets Gilda to appreciate how important her relationship with Rainbow Dash really is. Shortly thereafter, Gilda chooses to save the lives of the endangered pony pair, instead of acquiring a valuable idol, and, finally, seeing the error of her ways, apologizes for her past misdeeds and becomes a better person, er, griffon.

Everypony lived happily ever after!

Gilda knows how to get a point across.

This My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Gilda the Griffon miniature figurine was first available in the 2012 Cloudsdale Set [along with Rainbow Dash (besties forever!) and a nameless Thunderbolts pegasus pony]; translucent/glittery versions of Gilda were also later available in Series VIII (2013) and X (2014) of the individually blind-bagged mystery pony assortments. I like griffons to begin with, but being Rainbow Dash's childhood chum sealed the deal for me!

Next, we have the Fandex - Mythology: Tales & Legends of the Gods, written by Kathryn & Ross Petras, and published by Workman Publishing in 1998.

Rather than the paper pages found in a typical book, these ones are cardstock that spread out like a fan (due to the irregularly cut shapes at their tops, they do tend to get caught and snagged on each other though, which gets annoying when you're trying to close everything up again when you're done looking at it--while it wouldn't have looked as cool, it really would have been better if they had kept the pages squared/rounded instead). It's also relatively thick/heavy, so, this volume would probably tire out your wrist pretty quickly if you tried to use it as an actual fan on a hot day. Speaking of which, Rainbow Dash is adamant that nobody has to actually read this thing, they can just, "Gently fan the wisdom towards their ears and straight into their brain--everypony knows that!"

As you'd expect, most of the pages are for the gods/goddesses and heroes of Greek mythology, but several creatures are also accounted for, including Cerberus, Medusa, and Pegasus. It's a good quick reference source, but, fair warning, if you're considering getting a copy of this for a child, there are a lot of uncensored photos of paintings/sculptures depicting nudity (of course, that's nothing different than you'd find in an encyclopedia or on Wikipedia when it comes to Greco-Roman mythology).

And, lastly, this is Island of the Aunts, written by Eva Ibbotson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. The book was originally published in Great Britain in 1999 by MacMillan and then made its way to the states in 2000/2001 courtesy of Puffin (Penguin Books). It's about a trio of aging sisters who look after a forgotten island where they tend to a variety of fantastic creatures like mermaids and selkies. Realizing that they're not getting any younger, and, being spinsters, needing to find some people to replace themselves when they're gone, they decide to kidnap some children from the mainland to train as their heirs and, naturally, trouble ensues.

Here's one of Hawkes' illustrations depicting the members of the mermaid family (grandmother Ursula, mother Loreen, her two twin daughters, Oona and Queenie, and baby son, Walter) that live on the island with the Aunts (they got caught in an oil spill, which is why they're so dirty, plus Loreen's husband used to hit her). Aunt Myrtle knitted the fish ladies tops for modesty purposes, so, she probably wouldn't tolerate Miss Manticore going around au natural either. On the other hand, Manticores find Aunts incredibly tasty, so, it wouldn't be wise for them to press the issue.

The book is for tweens/teens but pretty long (close to 300 pages) and similar to the works of Roald Dahl in tone/style, so, if you like his stuff (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, etc.), and fantasy in general, you'd probably enjoy this. I'd give it an 8 out of 10 stars. I was disappointed that the Aunts didn't have a larger selection of mythical creatures on their island though; I expected a much more diverse menagerie of critters. The Aunts don't have a single unicorn or pegasus, so, Rainbow Dash won't touch this book with a ten-foot pole.

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10  NEWS AND DISCUSSION ABOUT CRAFTSTER / Suggest New Boards and New Features / Expand the number of "most recent posts" pages displayed? on: May 08, 2018 09:17:14 AM
Would it be possible to expand the number of pages that appear in "most recent posts"?  Say, 15-20 instead of  the current 10?  Ten pages is okay some of the time, but, even after only 24 hours, if things are busy, I often find that the number of new posts exceeds what those ten pages can display and then I need to look through the individual sub-forums to see what other recent comments may have been made (I know that I can bookmark individual threads that may interest me, I'm just talking about new discussion in general).  Thanks!
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