Dec 27, 2012

Gerry Anderson - A Look Back

April 14, 1929 - December 26, 2012

The day after Christmas this 2012, Gerry Anderson passed away, leaving a rich legacy of innovative television programs and film making techniques.

Gerry Anderson, along with his wife Sylvia, were responsible for some groundbreaking shows that employed fantastic miniature models and realistic sets for them. The shows they produced and created included, most famously, Space: 1999, as well as the cult program The Thunderbirds. They were also responsible for Stingray, Captain Scarlet and UFO as well.

(image courtesy

Anderson used modified marionettes in fabulously detailed models to create his shows, which have become pop culture icons and remembered fondly by many who watched them on Saturday mornings, both in Britain, and later in the United States.

Below is the opening of the TV show The Thunderbirds:

Stingray was another show that made Gerry Anderson famous, with its incredible miniature sets, detailed models and of course the marionettes. This is a fun show to watch if for no other reason than to admire the skill that went into making it. The opening sequence gives you an idea of the look of the show: 

This is a short video about the making of this innovative TV show:

Space: 1999 was a much more ambitious project, starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who both starred in an earlier TV series, Mission: Impossible in the 1960s.

Space: 1999 was about a cosmic disaster that sent the moon, and Moonbase Alpha, hurtling through the galaxy. The sets had a very 70s-future look to them, and can be called retro today. Most of the episodes are available on YouTube. Below is an intro from one of the episodes which, like Mission: Impossible, showed snippets of the forthcoming episode:

The writing on Space: 1999 was...unique (even trippy at times), and the styles look dated by today's standards. Polyester bell bottom pants were part of the uniform, for example.

But it has a cult following even today by people who grew up watching it on TV. One of the actors recreated her entire apartment to look like Moonbase Alpha, a 70s-era futurism motif consisting of clean, white plastic panels, molded furniture and indirect lighting. Check out her website with pictures of the apartment by clicking on the picture to the right or the link below. There are even instructions on how to build your own Moonbase Alpha wall panels!

UFO was a short-lived series that looks very dated by today's standards but is a blast to watch for precisely that reason. 

Men on submarines wore mesh shirts and wide belts, girls on the space station had purple hair and silver mini skirts and the soundtrack had an unmistakably groovy 1960s beat. Watching it is like going back in time!

The writing was hard to follow sometimes, and it was cancelled after only one season. Still, most episodes are available on YouTube and they are worth checking out. Below is the opening sequence that says it all:

...and lastly, this is an amusing homage called Space: 1899 that mimics the silent movies of that era, complete with piano accompaniment, uploaded by ilconprods. A fun tribute!

Dec 25, 2012

Disney Christmas Day Parade

My brothers and sisters march in Disney World's Magic Kingdom, down Main Street, in the fantastic Disney Christmas Day parade, filmed a couple of weeks ago, and broadcast today, December 25th, 2012.

This is what my Stormtrooper armor will look like when it is completed. My armor is not finished, so alas, I was unable to do this one as much as I really wanted, but I will be marching in the next one, and at other high profile events at Disney. They looked very impressive!

Enjoy the videos!

Jump to 9:30 on the video below to see our invasion of the Magic Kingdom!

Here's another one shot from the crowd; the actual footage, not what was shown on television:

Dec 23, 2012

Top Posts of 2012

Another end of the year is upon us, and from all of us here at Magnum Arts (meaning myself, since this is a one-man operation), we want to wish you and your loved ones a safe, enriching and fulfilling holiday season. Thank you for visiting my blog and hopefully you've enjoyed the content. It's been a fun year, and next year promises to be even better. There are big things planned, and you'll be able to stay on top of them through this blog.

To celebrate the end of the year, I've put together my list of top posts of 2012, so they won't be forgotten. Enjoy!

  • Fireworks In Paradise -  Fourth of July on the beach, with spectaucular fireworks pictures. Be sure to check this one out
  • A Tribute To Ernest Borgnine -  A legend of movies and TV passes away this year, and the world is a sadder, less fun place because of it. Rest in peace, Ernest. We miss you down here.
  • Saving A Sailor's Home -  Strangers come together to move a sailboat from the beach, and I was in the water with them, documenting the amazing event
  • Snake vs. Batman -  Dragoncon pictures of Snake Plissken fighting Batman courtesy of Atlas Photography, who staged the photo shoot
  • Christmas In Orlando - While not technically a 2012 post, this Christmas post from 2011 will hopefully put you in the Christmas spirit!

Dec 21, 2012

Graphic Novel Review

It's time to review some more fun and interesting graphic novels, as well as books. The Books category on the Magnum Arts blog contains posts about graphic novels, books, and issues surrounding books. Today I'm going to review some books from an earlier generation that should not be forgotten. 

The Henry Reed books bring back memories. I used to read these a lot when I was a kid, and out of a sense of nostalgia I checked them out of the library again.

Henry Harris Reed is an intelligent, insightful boy of thirteen or fourteen who goes to stay with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey while his parents are in Italy.

Henry decides to keep a journal (not a diary, diaries are for girls) and writes about the stray dog Agony he adopts and the business he sets up in his mother's barn, with Midge, a girl in the neighborhood. 

First published in 1958, the Henry Reed books are simple, entertaining reads, with illustrations by the great Robert McCloskey. McCloskey's illustrations have a fun, Norman Rockwell look and compliment the story very well. Click on each title to take you to the corresponding Amazon page.

Keith Robertson published several Henry Reed books after Henry Reed Inc, and all are worth reading:
The books take place in a much more simple time, but despite that the storytelling is timeless. There are no wizards, magic spells, zombies or monsters, and none are needed. 

The re-issues of the books have cheesy, updated covers that look worse than the original covers, obviously painted in the 80's to make the books hip to a new generation.

Robert McCloskey, besides being a talented illustrator, was a children's book author as well, having written eight books he illustrated, including another one of my favorites, Homer Price, first published in 1943.

Homer lives in Centerburg, a small town in Ohio, and is a mild-mannered boy who enjoys fixing radios, and who somehow gets involved in a series of outrageous incidents, such as tending an unstoppable doughnut-making machine in his uncle's diner. Shady merchants and larger-than-life paraphernalia appear in several stories.

McCloskey published an amusing sequel to Homer Price, Centerburg Tales that is a fine follow-up.

The Homer Price and Henry Reed books go well together as entertaining snapshots of small town America, from a age where there was no television, Internet, smart phones or video games. They don't deserve to be forgotten.

Update: A thorough review of the great Robert McCloskey located in a separate blog post. McCloskey is such a talented illustrator and writer, this brief mention does not do him adequate justice. 

Click on the picture on the right for a larger view, an illustration from Homer Price in the chapter called The Doughnuts.

This is a classic by Louise Fitzhugh, who also did all of the illustrations. Harriet considers herself a spy, and wants to be one more than anything when she grows up. She has a route that she patrols after school, spying on people in her neighborhood, and writing her observations in her notebook.

In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them, which turns her world upside down.

Harriet The Spy is an engaging read with a strong female protagonist, and Fitzhugh wrote a sequel staring one of the side characters, called Sport!

A sequel book was published called Harriet Spies Again, written by Helen Ericson, with the permission of the Fitzhugh estate. Judging by the reviews on Amazon, this is a pale and unsatisfying sequel that lacks the charm and spunk of the original book.

There was also a 1996 movie based on the book, which, according to Entertainment Weekly, updates Fitzhugh's deadpan commentary to a frenetic, 90s' pop vibe, to appeal to its target audience.

I'll take the book, thank you very much.

The Great Brain - John D. Fitzgerald

This is another great series of books I really enjoyed when I was a kid, and are still worth reading today. The Great Brain, first published in 1967, is loosely based on childhood memories of the author, set in the fictional town of Adenville, Utah between 1896 and 1898.

The narrator of the books is John D Fitzgerald, younger brother to The Great Brain, Tom, who is always concocting schemes to make money or con both kids and adults, such as the time when Tom charged kids a penny to see the first indoor bathroom ever installed in a house, or plotted a way to get back at a teacher who spanked him in front of the class.

The younger brother John D is in awe of his older brother's brain, and follows him around as Tom gets into one misadventure after another, all the while trying to outsmart those around him.

There were several Great Brain books written, all fun reads:

Like Harriet The Spy, The Great Brain was made into a movie in 1978 starring a young Jimmy Osmond that was mostly forgettable, with hammy, after-school-special acting and a syrupy voice over. If you want to see the first part of it, click HERE.

The Grain Brain books are illustrated by the great Mercer Mayer, who, like Robert McCloskey, has published a number of his own books. 

Mayer's illustration have an antique, Victorian look, and heavily utilize crosshatching to provide shade and depth to his work. He's the perfect choice to provide the illustrations for these books.

Mayer has a gallery on-line where you can view his other work as well; check it out HERE.

Mercer Mayer Amazon page

Best Graphic Novels of 2012
The sci-fi blog has a great post of the best comics and graphic novels of 2012. Check out this list HERE and discover some new stuff!

Best Web Comics
Readers of the website Ars Technica pick the best web comics out there. Take a look; you might get hooked! Check it out HERE.

Daybreak - Brian Ralph

Zombies are all the rage these days (there were LOTS of zombies at Dragoncon last year, this year, but I came back with all my brains intact). This graphic novel puts the reader in the story, with the protagonist who is missing part of an arm talking directly through the reader throughout the book.

The art is rather primitive, and looks as if the book was rushed in order to take advantage of the zombie craze, but the talking-to-the-reader gimmick is interesting.

Ghostopolis - Doug Tennapel

This is a very charming graphic novel about a boy named Garth who has a terminal illness who gets inadvertently pulled into the ghost world by a washed-up ghost wrangler (kind of like an afterlife version of the Men In Black).

In Ghostopolis, spirits live like the living and are ruled by an evil dictator who wants to use Garth for his own ends.

Ghostopolis has a Monsters, Inc/Tim Burton feel to it that makes for fun reading.

Dec 20, 2012

Sketches While Waiting

Man, I'm glad I had my travel sketchbook when I went to a follow-up appointment at the doctor's, because there were no magazines in that little exam room, and I waited a long time.

So I finished this sketch.

Here are some more pen sketches for you to check out. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Whether you feel you're an artist or not, keep a sketchbook. It's a healthy, fulfilling practice that opens up your creativity and lets your mind run free.

This sketch of a crowded street was starting to get boring so I threw in a crashed flying saucer and two arguing aliens, just to make it more interesting

Another practice page, drawing facial variations. Drawing faces is very good sketching practice.

Mazda Miata Meet & Greet

To see pics of the huge Miata meet in Lakeland, also known as Miatapalooza 2013, click HERE.

My wife Deb has a 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata she loves. It is a very fun car, with tight, confident handling and a lot of power for a four cylinder engine. It's also a nice looking car too, and nothing beats having a convertible in a tropical state like Florida.

She joined an on-line forum for other Tampa Bay Miata owners, who recently had a meet and greet in Tampa, where owners can compare each others rides, talk shop and swap ideas. It was a fun evening at a place called Rick's On The River.

The restaurant is on a quiet little river i Tampa with enough parking for a Miata rally.

The teeth in this Miata are made of plastic and give a really fun look to what is already a fun car. There are teeth kits for Miata owners that simulate shark, vampire and monster teeth.

I really like the fastback treatment of this Miata. It gives the car a whole new, European look. I don't know why  Mazda didn't explore fastback options with the Miatas.

Deb's car is the red one; the current  Miatas are bigger and wider than the earlier generations.

Dec 16, 2012

The TK Project - Part Three

Part Three

For Parts 1 & 2 click HERE

Progress on the TK project makes me hopeful that I will have the armor completed by the end of January, February at the latest. Today was an intensive trimming and bucket-building day.

Mark, a 501st Legion member, came over and helped me assemble the pieces of the helmet, or bucket. Mark has built several sets of TK armor and knows more about about armor than anyone else I know. Mark is also the person who helped me get into the 501st Legion as well.

Mark did most of the work assembling the bucket while I continued trimming, and it was done in a little less than three hours, much less time than it would have taken me.

Did I mention yet how much time and effort goes into putting together Stormtrooper armor?

Mark works on the bucket and Gary helps with the trimming. There is a LOT of trimming involved, and three Dremels are better than one.

The ears are attached to the outside of the bucket and are one of the trickiest parts to trim, as the curve must hug the side of the bucket to minimize unsightly gaps.

The ear on the left is untrimmed; at the right is a trimmed ear, ready to be attached.

Left: A completed ear attached to the bucket. I will be replacing the gold screws with the white screws used to fasten switch plate covers to wall  electrical outlets, as those screws are white.

Right: Mark has clamped the back of the bucket to the front in before using the screws to attach the ears, which will also attach all the pieces together.

Below: I work on trimming the excess ABS plastic away from each piece. When the parts are molded in the vacuum-molding machine, there is plastic around the edges of each part where it is attached to the frame of the machine. This plastic must be cut away, following the "seam" visible on the inside of each piece

Dremel cutting and sanding bits are invaluable in this process. By the end of the day it looks like there's been a snow storm, with all the white flakes of plastic that are flying

Trying out my bucket. The lenses still have to be added to the inside, and the black rubber gasket that rings the front seam put on, and the decals and paint after that.

There is just enough room inside to add the padding that will make the bucket sit firmly on my head so it won't move about while it's being worn.

Some members install small fans in their buckets to reduce the condensation that develops on the inside, making it hard to see; I will probably install at least two. 

Below: the inside of the assembled bucket

Dec 14, 2012

Toys For Tots Troop

Updated - news video added!

The 501st Legion came out and spent the entire day helping the United States Marines collect toys for disadvantaged children in the Marines' annual Toys For Tots program. 

With two Wookies, Darth Vader, Clone troopers and other Star Wars characters, there were a lot of happy, enthusiastic children and parents who wanted pictures and to meet their favorite characters. 

The festive mood of the event was tempered by the horrific, senseless shooting in Connecticut, a tragedy that defies comprehension or understanding, and provides another reminder (as if any were needed) that every day is a gift. 

Nevertheless, the Marines filled up their enormous truck five times with donated toys, unloading them into box trucks to be distributed. They also raised an amazing $3,600 for the cause! This is double what the Marines were expecting, and they told us they believe our presence helped make the drive so successful. It was a fun, rewarding event, one that I'm glad I could be a part of. Helping people is what makes life truly worth living. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Enjoy the pictures! The video news segment is at the bottom of this post. Here's a screen capture; I'm in the blue jacket:

Note: click on all pictures for a larger view. No pictures may be used for any commercial purposes whatsoever.

The DJs and staff of the radio station Magic 94.9 were broadcasting there all day and hung out with us; one of the DJs has a relative who is a member of the 501st legion!

The lovely Ann Kelly from Magic 94.9 FM expressing her gratitude to a TIE fighter pilot

The news video from Channel 10 news (I make a brief appearance at the 5:24 mark.)