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Late last week I finished my latest animation, which is based on the song “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” by The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. Here is the video. I’ll write more about how I made it below.

I’m pretty friendly with a few local musicians. (None of them are major stars and all of them have day jobs since they don’t make enough money from being musicians to pay the bills.) A few months ago I did a short animation to Phil Shapiro’s song “Open Source is Yours and Mine.

Among my musician friends are a husband and wife duo known as The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. (I even went to their wedding that was held during the Crazy Quilt Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland a couple of years ago.) At one point I was communicating with Joe the Bachelor on Facebook (yes, he’s married now but he’s still known as The Bachelor because, well, old habits die hard [LOL!]) and I linked to the “Open Source is Yours and Mine” and I joked about offering to trash one of his songs the way I “trashed” the “Open Source” song. He really liked the video and was open to the idea of an animated music video to one of The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ songs.

Meanwhile I’ve been going to the weekly animation meetup at Makerspace 125 and there is talk about all of us collaborating together on one animation but nothing has happened yet along those lines (as of this writing). When I mentioned this to Joe the Bachelor, he offered to let those of us in that meetup to each take one of their songs and animate it.

I brought it up with the meetup group but it was met with indifference. I decided to do one of their songs on my own and show it to the other meetup attendees just to show that it’s possible. I picked “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” because the lyrics were straightforward and I figured that I could do a comedic animation that’s reminiscent of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

I used Moho Anime Studio Debut for the bulk of the animation. There were a few times when I had to use Adobe Photoshop for some scenes where using Anime Studio would’ve been frustrating. (Like most graphics programs, Anime Studio Debut uses layers. Unlike the other graphics programs, you literally cannot control the opacity in those layers. So I switched to Photoshop for those times when I needed to control the opacity of certain layers, exported the graphics as a .jpeg, then imported it into Anime Studio Debut. I’m going to stop here on the technical stuff since not everyone is interested in such details.)

This animation was my first foray into actual lip-synching. Anime Studio Debut recommended this free open source software called Papagayo, which churns out lip movements based on both audio recordings and what you type into the application. If you want to know more about this, I suggest getting it yourself, since it is free to download.

I originally planned on doing the entire thing in Anime Studio Debut while I would use iMovie only to put in the opening title and closing credits. There was a snag when I discovered that Anime Studio Debut can’t go any further than 3,000 frames and the song lasts longer than that. I was basically using the app’s default at 24 frames per second. If you do the math, you’d know that the maximum run time that the software can handle is 125 seconds or two minutes and five seconds. The song runs for two minutes and 31 seconds.

I found a workaround when I brought the song into Audacity and broke it up in two. Then I created two separate animation files, exported them separately, then brought them into iMovie where I managed to patch everything together into one file.

While I was working on this, I found out that Moby had been releasing animated music videos. The first one is a statement about people being addicted to their smartphones. The second one has become controversial because it makes an unflattering statement about President Donald Trump but that’s another story altogether. I was influenced by the end titles in both videos and they were my inspiration for how I created the end title in my own animation where I showed people where they can download or stream The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ music.

Speaking of President Trump, I added some imagery of my own about The Donald along with a quote from George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. See if you can spot them while you’re watching my video.

I have to admit that this was my most ambitious animation to date and there were times when I was on the verge of burnout. And that’s because I was also doing some major job hunting using tips from a book that I had recently gotten a hold of.

I finally decided that doing two big things at once wasn’t good for my health. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, I decided that I would finish the animation first then resume reading the job hunting book after the holiday. (If this book works for me and I end up getting a new day job to pay the bills, I will write another post praising this book and urging all my readers of this blog to buy it.) With another finished animation under my belt, I now have something recent I can show to any potential employer interested in my animation skills.

I’m also toying with starting a Patreon page where I would make short animations (meaning less than five minutes) for anyone willing to give me some money. Working on this animation has shown me what I can realistically do for a potential patron while setting a price that’s reasonable for the patron while not pricing myself so low that I end up making $1 or $2 per hour (which is impossible to live on anywhere in the United States of America).

By the way, if you like the song, “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog),”  you can purchase it or stream it through The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ Bandcamp page.

Passover

There’s no glory in overworking. It’s just imminent burnout.

Tesla is now worth more than Ford and Elon Musk is already rubbing it in to everyone who ever doubted him.

14 stunning embroidery Instagrams.

Magic moments marking 170 years of British photography.

A Singapore man who lives with more than 9,000 Barbie dolls.

YouTube will now block ads on channels with under 10,000 views.

This robot will literally make you a salad.

A beginner’s guide to microblogging on Mastodon, the open source alternative to Twitter.

An interesting story on how writing on Medium each week has changed one woman’s life.

A 27-year-old entrepreneur talks about how he launched a seven-figure snack business in 18 months.

3D knitting brings tech to your sweaters—for a price.

There’s more to tech stock photography than hokey gold bitcoins.

3D printing in-store is very close and retailers need to address it.

A comparison of six free web-based SVG editors.

Nine anime things that Astro Boy did first.

Chinese man “marries” sex robot he built for himself after he failed to find a girlfriend.

Seven integral WordPress plug-ins.

White toddler girl defends her choice of a black doll to a cashier at Target.

Animated vloggers like Kizuna Ai could be the future of YouTube.

Chobani founder, who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, stands by hiring refugees.

Brands see the future of fashion in customized 3D-knitted garments produced while you wait.

3D printing: Don’t believe all of the hype.

Five free graphic design tools.

Top 10 WordPress plugins for business sites in 2017.

Hollywood’s whitewashed version of anime never sells.

New robots just want to be your child’s best friend.

How to make a coin sorting machine from cardboard.

How Harvard Business School has advocated the propagation of immoral profit strategies.

Photos showing 100 years of people knitting.

Talking bendable Justin Trudeau doll for sale.

WordPress for Google Docs lets multiple users collaborate on content in real-time.

Six of the most innovative 3D printing companies.

GIMP is crowdfunding critical updates like high bit depth and layer effects.

This man makes amazing surreal animations from famous artwork.

Open Collective is a GoFundMe-like service for open source projects.

Philadelphia museum showing glass bongs as high art. The museum’s directors say that this exhibit is less about potheads and more about allowing an underground community of artists to showcase their work without fear of being stigmatized or prosecuted.

A look at one crafter who renders pop culture figures in embroidery.

Knitted knockers for breast cancer survivors.

A girl who lost her eye to cancer got the best lookalike doll.

Adobe is currently developing AI that turns selfies into self-portraits.

60 free and easy Easter crafts to make for this holiday weekend.

Improvisation is the heart of Cuban animation.

Researchers are working on robots that can monitor and care for the elderly, such as the animal-like MiRo.

As the ballerina moves, this robot paints the dance.

The Confederacy was a con job for whites. And still is.

This house was made on a 3D printer in just 24 hours for a little over $10,000.

New York art scene anxiously waits for decision on the fate of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Eight fun crafts to keep your kids buys this spring.

Illustrator and Inkscape has new competition. Vectr is a new vector graphics program that’s free to download.

U.S. psychologists claim that going on social media for more than two hours a day doubles the chances of experiencing social isolation.

The crafty story of embroidery in medieval manuscripts.

The new wave of European animated features: small budgets, big freedom.

A history of women in animation, including women who worked for such famous animation studios like Walt Disney and Fleischer Studios.

How girls are knitting their way to a math career.

Dad recreates Villanova’s 2016 March Madness win with Legos as a gift to his daughter.

After eighty years one of the first consumer publications for photography, Popular Photography, is ceasing both print and online operations.

The family of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock backs fight to save a 1926 Art-Deco movie theater in London from being demolished. The Odeon Kensington cinema had hosted Hitchcock’s early films.

Here are some helpful tips for those who are thinking about getting into 3D printing.

For the past few weeks I’ve been taking classes in Adobe AfterEffects through the Takoma Park Recreation Department that were held in the Takoma Park Public Library’s computer lab. I’ve done it before, which you can see in the posts I wrote on March 25, 2015; March 27, 2015; and December 7, 2015. So I decided to go through with the class again this time around mainly because I’ve gotten to know and like both the instructor and my fellow classmates. Plus one of my friends works at the library and his office is next to the room where I take the class so I can say “Hi” to him both before and after class.

So by this time I have gotten to know the software pretty much okay. (Although due to the months between each class I tend to forget what I’ve learned. The fact that I can’t afford to buy my own copy of Adobe AfterEffects nor pay that monthly software fee that Adobe now institutes on users of its products don’t help at all.) I had hit a snag on what final project I wanted to work on because I literally couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I thought about the Bernie Sanders campaign but I had already done that the last time I took the class. I wasn’t into going to that well again.

But then one night before class started I stopped by my friend’s office. He had been spending his spare time with helping a new organization that had just formed known as Takoma Radio. The group is currently trying to get a low powered radio station off of the ground that would be community based. What’s interesting is that this project was founded by a former producer at NPR.

Well, anyway, my friend suggested that I made a promo for this new radio station and he made a few suggestions as to how I could approach this. I took notes. One of his suggestions that resonated most with me was this suggested ad line: Ever dreamed of being a DJ at a radio station?

So I did some Google Image searches of DJ’s. As I was sifting through the images, I found this image of a kitten that was dressed as a DJ that came from this web page. I thought it was incredibly cute and I began to thought of doing a cute animation of a kitten dreaming of becoming a DJ.

But then I did a Google Image search of “Deejay Kitten” and I found literally a lot of images featuring kittens as DJs. But then I began to worry that my little promo would become a cliche so I began to think about other animals while doing Google Image searches on these animals acting as DJs. I finally settled on a fox because there were far fewer DJ fox images. Besides, I think foxes are very beautiful animals and the fact that they are close relatives of dogs didn’t hurt either.

So I spent the next few weeks coming up with the designs, doing the vector graphics at home using Inkscape (which is an open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator), then bringing the files into class. There were a few snags along the way, such as the one day last month when the entire Metro system decided to close down on a Wednesday and the instructor couldn’t make it because he relies exclusively on Metro to get around. (It was the first time in its history that the entire Metro system had shut down when there wasn’t a hurricane or major snowstorm.) I had attended the classes on Wednesday while I also tried to go to the Sunday afternoon lab sessions when I didn’t have anything conflicting at church. Last Sunday I was mostly done. I tried to render the file. While the file turned out okay on the library’s computers, for some weird reason it wasn’t playing on my own MacBook (which I’ve recently upgraded to El Capitan). Unfortunately the lab session ended so I took the file home with me. I tried uploading it on to YouTube and it refused to take it. (I was able to upload it fine but then it would balk during the processing phase by saying that it was in an unfamiliar format. This happened despite the fact that the file was in the .mov format.)

Basically I had no other choice but to return yesterday for one final Sunday lab session. With the instructor’s help I changed some of the render criteria. It rendered the animation pretty quickly. I decided to upload it directly on to YouTube and it took over an hour for the whole thing to upload. I had planned on going to a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School session that was held in the late-afternoon, early-evening at the Bier Barron in Washington, DC but I ended up missing it because of the very long upload time. The instructor patiently waited with me as he did some reading and I did some web surfing using my own MacBook that I brought with me. Well, to make a long story short, the entire animation was uploaded and processed on to YouTube without a hitch and you can now view it below.

When I got home I sent e-mails to my friend as well as to some of the people at the radio station. So far the only feedback I got from the station was to make a minor edit to the promo but it was something I was able to do in iMovie without having it affect any of the animation at all. I re-uploaded it today and I found that the whole video uploaded online in a couple of minutes. As to why the same video took longer to upload the day before is something I can’t explain.

I don’t know if anything will come of this web promo but I can use it as part of my portfolio.

It was the summer of 2002. I had just finished the semester where I learned Flash in a computer animation class that I took at a local community college. I had gotten an “A” in the class and I was feeling good about that achievement. At that time I was also subscribed to a mailing list for local web designers in the Washington, DC area. From time to time that mailing list would include postings for jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities.

I saw a posting that a woman made on behalf of her uncle. He was running for Governor of Vermont as an independent and he was running his campaign on a very tight shoestring budget. Basically it would be a short Flash web ad. It would be an unpaid position since funds were very tight but it would be a one-time thing. I saw her uncle’s website and I found that I agreed with his position on most of the issues. I decided to go for it thinking that it would be a simple and quick job that would last no more than a day or two until I added it to my online portfolio and move on with my life. So I applied while providing a link to my now-defunct TwistedUnicorn.com site where I had my most recent Flash animations from that community college class posted. I got an immediate response and I got the volunteer position.

Basically I was working in Maryland doing a Flash animation for a campaign in Vermont, a state that, at the time, I had never visited. (Since then my then-husband and I made a brief rest stop in that state on our way back from a trip to Quebec in 2006. My dream is to one day make a longer trip to that state, as well as New Hampshire and Maine, but I digress.) Well, anyway, my contact in the campaign had given me a few pictures of the candidate, Con Hogan, along with some music that the campaign had wanted as the background music—which was an instrumental bluegrass song that Con Hogan had recorded himself with his own band. (I thought it was cool that Con Hogan was a musician on the side.)

I was also instructed not to make it look too cartoony, which was a challenge since Flash is a vector graphics package and, by its very nature, vector animation tends to look more cartoony than bitmap graphics.

So I assembled something together using both Con Hogan’s pictures along with some photos I had from a royalty-free photo package I owned at the time. I decided to avoid a negative campaign attack ad because they tend to be too prevalent. I thought a positive upbeat ad listing Hogan’s positions would be the way to go because it would make his campaign stand out.

A day or so later my contact from the campaign asked if I could make this Flash ad be convertible into a format that would be shown on television stations throughout Vermont. At that point I began to panic. When I signed up for this project, I was led to believe that it would be for a web-only ad. I was still new to Flash so I had no idea how it would be convertible for television broadcast. I began to post notices not only on the mailing list where I originally learned about this opportunity but other forums as well. I also did numerous Google searches. I found out that, yes, a Flash animation could be shown on television but it had to be converted into a .mov format first.

Basically, what I originally thought could be knocked off in a day or two turned out to take me a week as I waited for answers on how to make this Flash animation also be suited for television. I submitted it to the campaign just in time for the deadline. I got a response from my contact saying that the campaign was totally mind blown by what I had done.

Since I wasn’t anywhere near Vermont in 2002, I don’t know how well the television ad was received. All that I know is that Con Hogan lost the election that year, which was too bad but that’s life. I did a recent Google search and I found that Con Hogan has his own website and he remains a Vermont personality who’s big cause is providing affordable health care to everyone. There’s even a page devoted to his bluegrass band.

So, without further ado, here is the original 2002 Flash ad (which has been remastered in HD) for Con Hogan’s gubernatorial campaign.

I joined this local time bank a few months ago where the concept is that one gives an hour (in terms of goods and services) and gets an hour in return. The short explanation is that it’s an experiment in exchanging goods and services without using money. Here’s a link where you can learn more about the concept.

Through the time bank I gave someone an hour’s lesson in basic acrylic painting a few months ago followed by helping a woman with designing a brochure because she’s trying to jump-start her writing and editing business after having to take time off due to health reasons. So I requested some resume writing and career counseling for myself because I needed some advice on a few things. I met with a woman who’s normally a job and career coach but she’s putting that career on hold because she’s in the process of getting her Ph.D. We met for an hour a few months ago and she suggested a few things. It was a nice chat and everything. I really wanted to meet with her again because I still had a few questions that I thought she could help me answer. When I tried to schedule a follow-up, I had a hard time reaching her until I finally got an e-mail from her saying that she has gotten pretty busy with her schoolwork so she doesn’t know when she would be able to talk with me again.

Well, anyway, I finally got around to taking one of her suggestions of trying sites like Fiverr.com to advertise my services. The idea is to build up a work portfolio so I’ll have more contacts that would lead to more work, etc.

I delayed getting on Fiverr.com because I’ve seen people post very complicated jobs while charging $5 (which is why the site is called Fiverr in the first place) like building a full website. It’s just that I’ve done jobs like building websites in the first place and they are so time-consuming that paying someone just $5 is a bit of a rip-off. In fact, one would be better off working at McDonald’s than earning $5 building a website or programming an app. I mean, $5 might be a lot of money in a Third World country but here in the U.S. $5 is nothing.

But then I thought “Suppose that counselor wasn’t wrong?” and I decided to give it a shot. I decided to do vector tracing because that’s a relatively easy job that I can churn out pretty fast. Basically I’ll take your favorite photograph and trace over it using either Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape (depending on your personal preference). For $5 I’ll do it and send it out via e-mail within 10 days. For an extra $10, I’ll do it using one of the images provided by the Getty Library. For $20 I’ll get everything traced and e-mailed to you in 1 day. Here’s one sample of my previous work.

Petting Farm at Clark's Elioak Farm

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I know it sounds like I’m cheapening myself but I’m just giving it a try for a few weeks to see if this thing really works. Right now I’m sticking with only vector tracing because there’s no way in hell I’m going to do something time-consuming and complex like making animations for $5 (which is actually an option on that site).

For all I know that career coach could’ve been giving me bum advice but I think I should at least try it first before I start denouncing this option.

So if you ever want the privilege to get the person behind the Sagittarius Dolly blog to trace your favorite photograph into a vector graphic (in either .ai or .svg), order my services right here right now. I’m only trying this for a month so if I don’t get any responses, I’m going to quit this site. So order now and don’t delay!

Yesterday there was this horrible rainstorm that lasted all day and all night. I still went ahead with a few daytime activities that I had originally planned on attending with others despite the mess but I stayed indoors last night because the rain had really gotten very heavy. I was still reading all the Internet responses to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states on Friday as well as all the rainbow-graphics I’ve seen. Even major corporations were getting in on the act with the rainbows.

I decided to visit OpenClipArt.org to see if anyone had done a rainbow version of the Linux mascot, Tux the Penguin. When I saw that no one had done so, I decided to do it myself. It was basically a quick and dirty project where I imported the graphics into Photoshop, combined them, exported them as .png files, imported those files into Inkscape, exported as .svg files, then uploaded the .svg files on to OpenClipArt.org.

I came up with four different versions of a rainbow-altered Tux. I couldn’t decide which version to use so I decided to upload them all online. Here are the graphics along with the links where you can get them for free.

tuxflyingrainbowflag
Download this graphic here.

tuxonrainbowflag

Download this graphic here.

tuxwithrainbowbodyandwhitebelly

Download this graphic here.

tuxwithrainbowchest

Download this graphic here.

http://www.nablopomo.com

I know that this crazy Internet drama happened to me four months ago but it’s only now that I’ve gotten around to documenting it on this blog. At the time this happened I was a bit on the annoyed and upset side but now that time has passed, I can look at all the hate mail I received and laugh.

So what brought on the Drama Llama last November? Here’s some background, which has been documented in full detail on Know Your Meme. A teenage college cheerleader from Texas named Kendall Jones created a public Facebook page after she signed a contract with the Sportsman Channel for a reality show about her and her hunting exploits. She began posting pictures of herself with various animals that she killed during previous trips to Africa on her Facebook page, which led to people linking and re-posting all around Facebook and other social media sites. All this resulted in people being outraged over those photographs. In the meantime, Kendall Jones seemed to be basking in all the attention—both good and bad—being thrown her way.

I decided to do a series of parody artwork based not only on the Kendall Jones controversy but other wealthy people who have also posted photos of themselves with animals that they have killed for sport (such as Ted Nugent and Kid Rock). The series was to be called Revenge and it was based on t-shirts and sweatshirts that I used to see as a kid growing up in Maryland (which is noted for its blue crabs) which showed a giant blue crab about to use a mallet on a tiny human with the word “Revenge”.

Since I already wrote at length about the creation of Revenge Against Kendall Jones last summer, I’m just going to provide a brief recap. I drew this in ink and watercolor.

Revenge1(inkandwatercolororiginal)

I then scanned it into the computer then traced over it using Adobe Illustrator. I brought it into Adobe Photoshop where I did this effect where it looked like the lion posted his photo of his killing a young woman on Facebook and his friends posted back with their approval.

revenge1infacebookformat

Then I printed out the fake Facebook post and decoupaged it on a block of wood that was painted black. It was displayed for the first time at the Station North Art District Salon Show in Baltimore where I saw it displayed at the Station North Arts Cafe.

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The only negative responses I got came when I posted a photograph of my art on Instagram as part of an effort to promote my pieces in the Station North Art District Salon Show. You would not believe the comments I’ve gotten over the next few months, long after the art show ended. (So far I haven’t gotten any new comments on that photo in 2015. <KNOCK WOOD!>)

But that was nothing compared to what happened when I tried to sell this piece on Etsy during the holiday shopping season back in November. I’ll admit that in the past few months I’ve gotten more and more ambivalent about Etsy, especially since Etsy changed its policy from requiring that everything must be handmade to sellers being allowed to use outside manufacturers, which has resulted in a flood of cheap stuff from Third World countries that has totally undercut the genuine artisans. Yet Etsy is still the name that most people think of when they want to buy something handmade online.

So I decided to re-open my Etsy shop for the first time in a while just for the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa shopping season. Each day in this blog—from November 14 to December 14—I highlighted a different item in my online shop while I also made similar postings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Revenge Against Kendall Jones was highlighted on the second day (November 15) of my 31 days of hyping my Etsy shop before the holidays. Things were pretty quiet for a while.

But then, on November 20, all of the hostile Etsy convos came. It was obviously something that was organized somewhere (probably on Facebook, some other social media outlet, or a forum) where someone posted a link to my online Etsy sale and urged others to start harassing me. Here are a few of them I received. I realized that these e-mails fell under a few categories. First there are the ones that basically said that my art sucked.

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I’ll admit that my art isn’t for everyone—especially those with no sense of humor. As for that man who claimed my art is in danger of affecting his 12-year-old daughter, all I can say is that if his daughter is really so freaking sensitive that just seeing an illustration (an illustration, mind you) can easily inflict psychological damage on her, then I say that he has sheltered her far too much. When I was his daughter’s age, I was reading Mad and Cracked magazines and the humor in those publications were way more blunt and, at times more graphic in its depictions of various gross stuff, than what’s even in my own art. I could go more into the long-term harm of extremely shielding his daughter like that, especially as she reaches adulthood but it would make this post extremely long.

Then there are those who claim that I was wrong when I mentioned Kendall Jones killing animals that were on the endangered species list.

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I just want to say that the charges that Kendall Jones killed animals that were on the endangered species list wasn’t something that I pulled directly from my ass. Just doing a Google search on “kendall jones kills endangered” pulls up all kinds of links on sites like the International Business Times, Hollywood Life, The Daily Mail, Perez Hilton, and Elite Daily. All of the aforementioned sites are a far cry from PETA and other radical animal rights organizations. Even this link on the Los Angeles Times site, In defense of Texas huntress and conservationist Kendall Jones, admitted this:

Yes, the African white rhino — Jones boasts of bagging one at age 13 — is an endangered species. There are only 20,000 of them left, mostly because of rampant illegal poaching (the rhino’s horn in powdered form is believed in China to have medicinal properties). But as a 2010 article in the Economist reported, 16,000 of those rhinos live in South Africa, where the government a few years back instituted a policy of allowing farmers to own wild animals on their property, with the right to sell them and their offspring. The policy — catering to wealthy trophy hunters, tourists and others — has resulted in a surge in the South African white rhino population, which had numbered only 20 individuals in 1900.

The article goes on to mention that even though Kendall Jones did kill animals on the endangered species list, it also tried to make a case that she did under certain circumstances that made such kills okay.

Then there are people who claimed that I somehow picked on a private citizen or did some copyright infringement or needed some kind of official authorization before I did Revenge Against Kendall Jones.

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First of all, as to the idea that Kendall Jones is a private citizen is laughable when you come across her Facebook page and, underneath her name, you’ll see the words “Public Figure.” In addition, she has a series on YouTube called “Game On” that’s sponsored by Remington. (Yes, that’s the rifle company.) Having seen a few minutes of the first episode, I can tell that this is not something that was shot on someone’s smartphone, tablet, or laptop then edited in iMovie. The production values along with the editing are just as high as a network TV show.

As for getting permission or how I have no right to criticize her whatsoever, these people don’t get that I was doing something called satire or parody. Some people need to do some remedial research on the definitions of satire and parody then watch actual examples of satire and parody. (Try The Onion or The Daily Currant for starters.)

Then these people may need to learn that what I did was perfectly legal because I was mocking only what she had posted online (mainly shots of her posing next to the dead animals that she killed). In addition, I had picked on a public figure who has become a celebrity among certain hunters, not a private citizen. She became a public figure through her own choice and not because she was some private citizen who somehow got caught up in some public controversy that escalated beyond her control or wishes. You can read more about what is a public figure right here.

The Supreme Court has ruled on parody being an example of legal fair use (where I don’t have to obtain permission before creating a parody) not once, but twice. Here’s an article on LegalZoom.com that explains everything.

Then there is this next Etsy message I got that I have to say it’s my favorite because of the sheer hilarity of it.

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To date, no police officer has shown up to my front door about this, I have not been arrested, and there are no criminal cases currently pending against me. If he honestly thought that I was going to cringe in fear, he totally failed. Oh, by the way, Adam Bortz, if you happened to be reading this, you need to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Constitution—especially the First Amendment.

I did get one positive post through Facebook from The Real Kendall Jones Exposed group, which was pretty cool.

lovemail

I even got a sale on the item, which is when another chapter of this drama started to emerge. So this Etsy user, duartejason, indicated that he wanted to order my piece but he didn’t pay me. So I held on to the piece and, following the typical protocol that Etsy and other online commerce sites have come up with regarding fulfilling orders, I held off on sending his order until he came through with the money.

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So I waited nine days and he didn’t send any money. So I sent this friendly reminder on November 29 to please send me the money so I can fulfill the order in time for the holidays.

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Two more days passed and I still didn’t hear back from him. So I sent a slightly more urgent message saying that I needed for him to send me the money soon so I can have the item delivered to his home in time for the holidays.

correspondencetoasshole2

I waited another week and that second message also went unanswered. I began to realize that he was one of these trolls who only pretended to order my item so it wouldn’t be visible in my Etsy shop but had no intention of ever paying. When I looked at his profile, I saw that he joined Etsy on November 20, 2014—the same day that I started getting all of those hostile message from Kendall Jones’ fans.

At that point, I reported him to Etsy for non-payment. I even clicked on the link where I can directly report this man. I never received any response from anyone even connected with Etsy. In addition, I don’t think they did anything about my complaint because I filed the complaint in December 2014, I’m typing this post in March, 2015, and not only have I not heard from duartejason but this guy still has an active profile, which means that he could do something similarly immature to other Etsy sellers based on his own personal whims.

asshole2

I really wished that someone at Etsy had taken my complaint seriously. But, in a way, I’m not surprised because, over the years, I’ve seen Etsy ignore the concerns of its sellers on a variety of other issues and Etsy can be inconsistent on enforcing its own rules. What’s even worse is that even though customers can rate and review sellers, sellers can’t rate and review customers so I can’t post anything about duartejason as a warning to other Etsy sellers, which is really frustrating.

So, taking inspiration from former Boston Red Sox baseball player Curt Schilling, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do some research on this guy. Thanks to that ill-fated sale, I know that he lives in San Diego, California. So I did a few Google searches under San Diego along with the names “Duarte Jason” and “Jason Duarte” and, lo and behold, I found his LinkedIn profile.

asshole3

And the photo on his LinkedIn profile matches the photo on his Etsy profile.

asshole4

His LinkedIn profile says that he’s the the CEO of two separate companies—Mass Tort Legal Group and J. Shafer Law—plus he’s the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Calliope Media, Inc. You’d think that someone who’s currently simultaneously working for three separate companies in high positions would be beyond such petty antics as pretending to buy something from an individual Etsy seller then not come through with the money.

I’m not going to bother with analyzing why someone like him would do something so childish and immature. All I can say is that from now on, whenever someone Googles the names Jason Duarte, Mass Tort Legal Group, Calliope Media, and/or J. Shafer Law, this blog post will come up. Anyone reading this post can decide for him/herself whether he/she wants to do business with someone who would go to great lengths to pretend to buy something from an individual Etsy seller, not bother with making a payment, then ignore all subsequent e-mails. He did this fake buying all on behalf of a woman who has become a celebrity in the hunting world and has her own YouTube series. (Chances are that he has never met Kendall Jones in real life and he’s just one of her biggest fans who somehow feels the need to defend her from the likes of me.) My contention is that what he did was unprofessional and immature.

I know that some of you would question whether I’m making too much over an item that I priced at $25. At this point, it’s not the money, it’s the principle of the matter. This man made a purchase on my Etsy shop, which automatically put my listing out of circulation. Because he didn’t answer my messages, I was unable to re-list the item because I feared that had I done so, he would’ve come through with the money and I would’ve had to scramble to finding the materials to create a second piece to satisfy the other customer. Because he dragged his feet, I wasn’t able to re-list the item so I was unable to sell it before the holiday season. Any other person who would’ve been interested in buying my item as a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gift for someone else and actually paying for it lost out as well.

Some of you would probably even question the professionalism of publicly outing a customer like that. Well, had Etsy done its job and banned that person after I reported him, I would not have gone through the effort of looking this person up and outing him like that. Since it’s obvious that Etsy doesn’t give a damn in my case, I feel that I need to speak up because as long as this person has an active Etsy account, he can go on to do something similar to other Etsy sellers and I find that unacceptable.

Jason Duarte, if you’re reading this, I have to say that there is a way that I can undo what I’ve written here—either you pay me what you promised to pay back in December or issue a heartfelt apology for what you’ve done. Do either one of those and I’ll edit this post to delete all references to you and you companies. Otherwise, this information will be part of your online record that is easily accessible by a quick Google search.

Update (April 6, 2015): I came across this video from Erin Janus, a self-described vegan who’s around the same age as Kendall Jones, who made this video questioning Jones’ hunting activities. She provides an alternate viewpoint and she even backs her points up with facts. It’s definitely worth watching.

Okay, once again I have something I created in a Spoonflower.com contest and voting has just begun today. Here is my entry, which I call Skunks Among the Flowers.

skunksamongtheflowers

The story behind this one is pretty interesting. I was looking at upcoming weekly contests where I found two that were scheduled close together that I found interesting. One was the Mythical Creature Plushies contest where I entered my Goat Man but he failed to make the Top Ten despite my lobbying of my friends and acquaintances on social media.

For my new Skunks Among the Flowers design, I entered it in the Coral, Mint, Black & White contest. I found this one very interesting because only designs that stuck to those four colors were accepted and all four colors must be used in some way. I’ve always loved creative challenges where you are under severe limitations like that because it really inspires you to work only with what you’re handed and I find that people tend to be more creative when there are limitations. Just compare the video games from the late 1970’s-1990’s (where programmers had to deal with graphic and memory limitations) compared to today, where computer power has gotten so strong that one has near infinite resources regarding colors, 3D graphics, stereo sound, etc. The former yielded such classics that are still beloved today like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dragon’s Lair, Q*bert, and Qix. The more recent video games may have better sound and graphics but the video game manufacturers seem to release either hastily programmed mediocre games based on upcoming Disney movies, war games featuring lots of blood and carnage (such as the numerous Call of Duty games), or sports like the annual updated Madden’s Football featuring the latest players and realistic sounds as football players smash into each other with such a hard ferocity. The technology may be better but the focus on extremely violent video games featuring war, crime, and very violent sports is the main reason why I haven’t bought a console game in years (other than the latest in the Dance Dance Revolution and Just Dance series).

For this challenge Spoonflower not only specify which colors must be used but I also noticed this in each color square.

spoonflowercontestrules

There’s a hexadecimal code in each square, which led me to believe that Spoonflower wanted the exact shade of each color based on that hexadecimal code. Since I decided to design the fabric in Inkscape once again, I had to look up how to specify the exact color by hexadecimal. I found this tutorial, which was a tremendous help to me so I was able to pick the exact colors down to Spoonflower’s specifications.

As for what to design, I initially thought about a fox hiding among the brush in the forest. I was inspired by the time I briefly spotted a fox while I was checking out the historic Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore last fall. Plus in the past few years I’ve seen fox designs in all sorts of crafts sold at street fairs and fox clothes that I’ve seen on sale in various stores. For added measure, I thought about even doing a Zentangle design for the leaves in black and mint.

I kept that fox in the brush idea strictly in my mind because I was busy working on the Goat Man for that other contest. Once that project was finished, I turned my attention back to the next contest. I began to do some initial research when I decided to do a search for foxes on Spoonflower and I found a very large array of fox fabrics available in all kinds of designs and colors.

I began to have second thoughts about making fox fabric for the contest because there were so many fox fabrics already available for sale plus the numerous fox products I’ve seen sold in various places. Then there’s that massive Ylvis hit “What the Fox Says,” which also seemed to inspire more fox-related merchandise in the marketplace.

I remembered a workshop I took at the 2012 Summit of Awesome in Washington, DC where one of the panelists warned about creating designs that were currently trendy and popular because what is currently hot one year could become passé the next and you’re stuck with last year’s trendy inventory that you can’t move. That panelist mentioned owls as an example because a few years ago many indie crafters had owl products for sale, which were well received, which inspired other indie crafters to create their own owl products, which inspired big box retailers to stock owl merchandise, which led to such a total saturation of the owl merchandise market that potential customers would get so sick of seeing owls that they passed them by.

So as I saw the numerous fox fabrics, I began to fear a similar over saturation of foxes that would lead to voters ignoring my own fox design. One night, while I was in bed undergoing a fitful sleep (I was going through some financial-related stress and paranoia at the time), my thoughts turned to my fox fabric idea and then the idea of a skunk went into my head. I woke up and I realized that my fox fabric would be more interesting if I added a skunk as well (not to mention that a skunk would still be in keeping with Spoonflower’s four-color limitation).

I originally thought about having a fox and a skunk. Then I thought having a fox with two smaller skunks standing in a sort of a triangular pattern would look more interesting. When it came time to work on the design, I decided to jettison the fox altogether and just do skunks instead. Besides, there aren’t as many skunk fabrics on Spoonflower as there are fox fabrics.

Even though skunks spray out incredibly foul odors that are difficult to get rid of, I’ve always thought that they were cute. One of my favorite cartoon characters from my childhood was Pepé Le Pew, the French skunk who thought that he was the world’s greatest lover even though others were repulsed by the odors that he emitted. Which reminds me of this very brief skunk story from my past.

As a child growing up in Glen Burine, Maryland, my family used to frequent the Harundale Mall (which is noted in the Wikipedia for being the first indoor enclosed shopping mall on the East Coast and has since been converted into an open-air shopping center known as Harundale Plaza). One of the stores in that mall was Doctors Pet Center which, as you can guess by the name, was a pet store. I used to love going by there because the front windows always had an animal or two on display to the mall shoppers. Usually the animal was either a puppy or kitten, except for Easter when bunnies would be displayed instead.

One summer the store got a shipment of pet skunks, which had their scent glands surgically removed so they wouldn’t be able to spray anybody with their strong scents, and they were displayed in the front windows. I remember the store had signs with terrible puns, such as “We Have a PHEW to Sell!” I wanted a pet skunk but my parents vetoed the idea so I had to content myself with seeing them in the windows until every one of them were eventually sold. The following year the pet store got another batch of pet skunks to sell off. I remember that batch had an albino skunk, which really made it stand out from the rest.

Those were the only times I recall seeing the pet store selling skunks. A few years ago the State of Maryland amended its laws regarding owning exotic pets and I was worried because I owned a pet hedgehog at the time and hedgehogs in the U.S. are lumped in the same exotic animals category as tigers and chimpanzees, which means that not only are they more stringently regulated than dogs or cats but the laws regarding owning them vary from state to state. I breathed a sign of relief when I saw that owning a hedgehog was still legal in Maryland but I noted with interests that the state had added skunks to the list of banned exotic pets.

Well, anyway, I began to look up photos of skunks on the Internet and I did some sketches. I decided on a side profile of the skunk. I had an idea of the skunk of being among coral-colored flowers against a mint green background. I admit that I was inspired by this famous scene in Bambi where the young fawn was learning the word “flower” and, at that moment, Bambi finds a skunk among the flowers. He called that skunk “Flower” and the name stuck for the rest of the movie.

bambiandflower

At that point, I decided to draw the skunk using colored pencils. I drew it on white paper (which made it easy for me to just not color in any designated white areas). Finding black pencil was no problem. For the coral and mint colors, I used the colored pencils that came the closest to Spoonflower’s designated colors (although it wasn’t a 100% match). I used stencils to draw flower shapes in coral and I kept the background in mint green. Here is the result.

roughdrawing1

I liked the results and, had it been a simple picture, I would’ve kept it as is. However, I was designing this as a fabric with repetition and I began to worry that a side view of skunks would be a little bit too dull. So I had an idea of drawing another skunk in a different pose or angle. I looked at skunk pictures online again until I found one that inspired me to make this quick sketch.

roughdrawing2

I even liked that second drawing better than the first (and I liked the first). So I had an idea of where I wanted to go with this design.

I pulled up Inkscape and entered the hexadecimal code for mint and made an all-mint background. Using layers, I created a flower in coral then I kept on duplicating that flower until I had a floral pattern that covered the screen area. I arranged the flowers in a regular pattern formation that was harmonious and straight to the point of being borderline dull. Then I scanned and imported both skunk drawings. I traced over the skunks, copied both of them, then flipped two of them so they would be posed in an opposite direction. I also did a more irregular arrangement of the skunks with the idea that the skunks provided a fun chaos to an otherwise regular straight pattern.

Then I uploaded the result on Spoonflower.com and I did the appropriate selection so the fabric looked like this.

skunkfabricasseenonspoonflower

Once I was finished, I entered it in the contest. Working on the skunk fabric was pretty relaxing and it helped me take my mind off of my worries, which I really appreciated. However, I worked on this new contest entry so close to the previous contest and I began to burn out on making deadlines. Even though I enjoyed the creation process and it helped me to relieve stress, I’ve decided that, going forward, I’m going to limit myself to participating in no more than one Spoonflower contest per month while vowing that I would enter a contest only if I have an idea. Of course, I’ll skip some months if I don’t have any ideas for a certain contest.

I ordered a $5 sample a few days ago to see how it looks in real life. I’m currently waiting for the sample to arrive as of this writing. If I like the results, I will put this fabric on sale. In any case, you can vote for Skunks Among the Flowers right here.

I’ve been so preoccupied with other things (like the ongoing cold weather where the sub-zero temperature that happened last night is breaking all kinds of records plus there’s more snow in the forecast starting tomorrow) that I haven’t even mentioned my latest project, which is now in a contest.

Here is some background. A few months ago I basically dissed Inkscape, the open source vector graphics software alternative to Adobe, because it wouldn’t run under Mac OS X Mavericks at the time. I tried the Linux version and I found that it had potential but I wrote that it wouldn’t be adopted by too many Mac users running Mavericks because of the software not running.

Well I upgraded to OS X Yosemite and I found that my CS 4 version of Adobe Illustrator is starting to act erratic (yet other Adobe apps in Creative Suite 4, such as Photoshop, work quite fine). I really didn’t want to start paying a monthly fee to that Adobe Creative Cloud so I can get a working version of Illustrator and I was too lazy to boot up the Linux laptop that a friend of mine gave me so I can use Inkscape. So I decided to give Inkscape for Mac another try. I found that there was a newer version of both Inkscape and X11 (the latter of which is needed in order to run Inkscape on the Mac) so I downloaded and installed them both. And wouldn’t you know it, Inkscape now runs perfectly under Mac OS X Yosemite.

So I now take back what I wrote last fall about how Inkscape won’t be adopted by too many Mac users because of how the previous version ran under Mavericks. Apparently someone had fixed the problem with Inkscape and it now runs fine under OS X Yosemite. So go ahead and download Inkscape for free right here.

Getting back to the main part of my story, I saw a notice on Spoonflower.com that there is an upcoming contest where the theme is designing a plushie version of a mythical creature that is large enough to fit on a Fat Quarter. For the past year or so I’ve been playing around with making new products to sell at future craft shows based on the legendary Goat Man so I began to toy around with making a plushie based on some Goat Man drawings I did in my sketchbook. I scanned them in, imported them into Inkscape, then made a vector graphic version. Once I was done I exported it out as a bitmap graphic, imported it into Photoshop so I could make a few minor edits, then exported it out as a .jpeg and uploaded it on to Spoonflower’s site. Here is what it looks like.

1-SpoonflowerFatQuarter

I ordered a Fat Quilt of the Goat Man and it finally arrived yesterday. It looks really good. I’m happy with the results.

2-PrintedFabricAfterMailArrival

My next step is to begin putting it together. If it works out, then I will put this plushie on sale in my Spoonflower shop. (I will let you know if and when this happens.)

Spoonflower’s Mythical Creature Plushie contest has just started today and voting will continue until Wednesday, February 25, 2015. You’re only allowed one vote per contest and Spoonflower will remove any duplicate votes. So vote for the Goat Man right here. According to the Asian Zodiac, this year, which began yesterday, is known as the Year of the Goat (also known as the Year of the Sheep and the Year of the Ram). What’s more appropriate for the Year of the Goat than to vote for the Goat Man right here.

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