Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of those days…


Ever have one of those days?

I wrote in a previous post about how I tried crow quill pens for drawing and absolutely loved them. Earlier this week I went back to my local Art store and bought another couple of nibs. They're absolutely awesome, but they tend to wear out fairly easily. I also read that about one in ten nibs are broken before they ever leave the factory.

So, after Sunny left for work, despite the fact that the nib I had in my pen still had plenty of life in it, I decided to replace it with one of my new ones…I told myself I just wanted to 'try out' the new ones.

I destroyed the perfectly good nib trying to get it out of the holder. Dried ink was acting like glue, holding it in the handle…and I crushed the very fragile nib trying to remove it. No problem, I thought, I have two brand spanking new ones.

So I draw something, and I really, really like it. This is extremely rare. Then a few very bad things happen.

Stupidly, I ink directly onto my original pencils. Even more stupidly, I go straight to inking without testing out the new nib.


The nib just shits the ink onto the page, leaving behind a massive inkblot. When I finally stop cursing and take a close look at the nib, I see the split is off center…apparently I have one of the 'one in ten' defective nibs. I swap it out for the other one.

About a half hour later and the new nib starts misbehaving. So I take it to the sink and to clean it off…then, using my thumb to scrub off a particularly stubborn bit of ink, the nib pings out of the holder, falls into the sink and drops down the plug hole.

I curse again.

In less than an hour I manage to destroy a perfectly good nib to replace it with a broken one, and then drop my one remaining working nib down the plughole.

'Luckily' I have other nibs. They're not the #102 crow quills that I really like, and most of them are just plain useless for drawing, but I have some #107's that, while being far stiffer than the #102's, I can still use.

At this point I'm working on my background and I grab my ruler because I need a long, straight line…

I have this trick. If you put your ruler up on a couple of pennies, you can draw a line with a crow quill pen and the ruler won't drag the ink across the page when you try to remove it.

Guess what I forgot to do!

I draw my line, move the ruler and drag ink all over my drawing, effectively ruining it. Did I mention that this was the first time
ever that I decided to draw directly onto (expensive) Bristol board instead of in my sketchbook or printer paper?

So I wrecked a nib, half ruined a drawing with a defective one, lost the one good one I had left, wrecked a drawing I'd spent four hours on and wasted a perfectly good sheet of Bristol.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Fat Bastard.

I was sitting at the computer today while Sunny was watching Oprah. Now Oprah usually gets my blood-pressure up anyway thanks to her Fox-News style approach to chat shows (forget the facts, go for the sensationalism), but what I saw today nearly had me screaming at the screen.

It was one of those shows about morbidly obese people.

There was a guy on there who was still in his teens who weighed over 800 pounds. Cue five minutes of the guy whining into a camera about how he couldn't sleep lying down, how he couldn't move and how awful his life is and how people just don't understand how hard it is to be obese.

Then, it cut to the guy's mother who cried into the camera about how hard it is to 'watch her son slowly die'…WHILE SHE FRIED A WHOLE FUCKING CHICKEN FOR HIM WITH A COUPLE OF GIGANTIC BURGERS TO CHASE THEM WITH.

The final straw was a fucking doctor going on about how obesity is a 'disease'.


Influenza is a disease, Aids is a disease. Eating 150,000 calories a day while watching TV is not a disease. It's a goddamn choice.

It honestly makes me sick to my stomach to watch this greedy asshole crying about how terrible his life is while he eats his fifteenth steak, or watch his mother claiming they've 'tried everything' while she deep-fries a whole turkey.

Here's something you haven't tried…SALAD! EXERCISE! For fuck's sake try half a fried chicken with just one burger and then walk to the mailbox and back to start.

The absolute worst thing, and the part that made me ask Sunny to change the channel before I threw the TV out of the window, was when the guy went to hospital, had his stomach stapled to make it impossible to eat…and when they interviewed him six months later and he'd lost some weight, Oprah talked to him like he was a hero and had achieved something.

You know what? Lance Armstrong achieved something. This guy just ate until he weighed well over a half-ton and was so lazy and greedy that the prospect of being dead before he turned twenty wasn't enough to motivate him to eat a few salads or go for a walk.


You know what? I read all these stories about people born into awful situations, where life is a constant struggle and they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go on to be world leaders in their fields. To see people like that, then see this greedy, selfish fucker cry into his cheeseburger because he was bullied at school and lays all the responsibility at someone else's feet because he's so misunderstood and badly done to…it honestly makes me sick.

Pretty soon we'll just stop accepting any responsibility for ourselves at all. It really pisses me off when these assholes act like they're victims when everything they're suffering is self inflicted.

I quit smoking. I haven't smoked in six months and I still have days where I want a cigarette so badly I'd be willing to saw my legs off to have someone just blow smoke in my face. However, I exercise a little self control and actually don't do something I really like for the good of my health. I chose to take responsibility for my own well-being and don't smoke even though I'd really, really like to. I'm not saying this to show how awesome I am…I'm pointing it out for the exact opposite reason…it's entirely normal. It's not a disease because you don't want to diet or exercise…and that's exactly what these fat bastards are saying.

The simple fact of the matter is that if you exercise and eat right, you'll never wake up one morning and find that you're 800lbs. You choose to eat too much and you choose not to exercise. The fact that you can choose means it's NOT A DISEASE.

So, if you're ridiculously overweight, don't sit there and cry about how unfair it is…put the burger down and go for a fucking walk.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photoshop Hero.

Sunny went and bought some photo frames today and asked me to pick out and print one of our wedding pictures to hang up in the hallway.

Given that we're living in the Internet Age and I just happen to be a Photoshop God, I decided to give the picture that I'd picked out a quick once over. Nothing major. Just a little color correction, maybe add a subtle vignette…and of course remove any little blemishes we may or may not have had. (I had wicked shaving rash on my wedding day and this pic highlighted it perfectly)

So, after I get the picture the way I like it, I save it and decide to have a little fun with it. Twenty minutes later and Sunny looks like she's on the cover of Vogue. I call her over and show her the before and after. She then spends ten minutes sitting next to me giving me her opinion on other 'improvements' I can make to the picture.

…That picture is now hanging in our hallway.

I get this feeling that in a hundred years from now people will be tracing their family trees and wondering why every one of their ancestors from the early 2000's all seemed to have perfect skin, hair and perfectly flat stomachs.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I've just realised that it's probably a good idea to post an example after raving about the crow-quill pen I reviewed in my last post.

Well, here's the thing, I'm going to use this opportunity to give out a piece of advice:

Don't judge your artwork by comparing it to the professionals. You're a student and chances are your favorite artist has been drawing or painting professionally for decades. Instead, judge your artwork by comparing it to your own, earlier work. Learning to draw is a journey and it's far more encouraging to see how far you've come rather than how much further you have to go (and the truth is, there is no 'destination', you never stop learning).

I realized this shortly after I finished this piece:

You see, I know that it's not very good. I look at this drawing and can see no less than fifteen mistakes and about thirty things I'm not 100% happy with. I know that I'm still light-years behind my favorite artists...but this is a sketch I rattled off in less than ten minutes in order to have something to ink with my new pen...and inking with a quill pen in itself is a brand new skill that I'd never tried before...and it's a notoriously tricky thing to do.

Long story short, this is a very quick sketch I put very little time or thought into. I don't particularly like it, but it's light years ahead of this:

Not good, right?

Two years ago this was an example of my absolute best work, and if I'm completely honest with myself a lot of this drawing was a fluke. This drawing was one of those 'happy accidents' where the talent monkey was feeling particularly generous and let me draw something that was beyond my normal talent range.

The point I'm trying to make is that when I hold my artwork up against the professional artists that I admire, I'm only going to get discouraged because next to Adam Hughes or Mark Bagley my work looks like the scribblings of a five year olds...however, I can look at my own stuff from even six months ago and see a significant improvement.

Speedball #102 Crow Quill Pen

It's time for another review, one that I know will be of little interest to my regular readers, but it's something I just have to write about.

Today I went to the local Hobby Lobby and bought myself a Speedball #102 crow-quill pen to try. Using a very traditional 'dip-pen' to ink my drawings with is something I've always been kinda curious about, but never tried because of how difficult it was supposed to be. To be honest, I didn't see much point in messing around with messy bottles of ink and a pen that requires a specific technique to use when I can buy a Faber-Castell or Pitt Pen that's as hard to use as a regular old felt-tip.

However, when I saw I could buy the set (The nib holder, nib and a small bottle of ink) for less than five bucks I figured I'd give it a try. To be completely honest I thought it would be something I'd try before it got relegated to the bottom drawer of my drawing desk.

…but after half an hour of experimenting with the pen I can honestly say that I never want to ink with anything else.

It is a little tough and I obviously haven't mastered it yet, but it's also a lot easier than I expected it to be. The hardest thing to get used to is the way you have to always draw the pen in one particular direction, especially after the 'freedom' of fine-liners or ball points. It's also a little difficult to get used to having to wait for the ink to dry, and a few times I found myself smearing the ink under my hand.

However, the line quality and variation you can get is amazing. After inking for so long with at least four or five different pens by my side, it's amazing to be able to go from a nice big fat line to hair-thin with the same pen. Also, having spent a year or so 'faking' line variation, being able to vary line thickness with pressure added a whole new dimension and sense of fluidity to my artwork that I just couldn't get with my Pitt pens.

Basically, I've spent the past two years looking at professionals' artwork and marveling at their line-quality and how some of their drawings seem to leap off the page…ten minutes with the crow-quill, while not instantly catapulting me to their level, let me understand exactly how they do what they do.

I can't recommend quill pens enough. While they'll probably take a serious investment of time to truly master, you can get the basic hang of them in a couple of hours, and the difference they make to your artwork is absolutely outstanding.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Again with this shit?

Last night Sunny and I were sitting in front of the TV when up came an advert for a new comedy series called 'Roommates'.

I sat and watched as a nervous, nerdy kid told a couple of 'hot chicks' in a very shaky voice that he thinks that 'The sexiest organ on a woman in her brain'. Two seconds later a bigger guy in sportswear muscled in and in a case of almost vaudevillian over-acting said "Nah, for me it'll always be the great big boobs!" Canned laughter… and we're out.

I looked at the screen for a moment and thought "Hmm, a show featuring a socially awkward nerd, a slightly stupid and totally inappropriate jock and a couple of attractive women…where have I seen something like this before?"


Has TV become so creatively bankrupt that they've become incapable of coming up with any new ideas? That a show that can't be summed up in less than thirty seconds with "It's just like (successful show) only with (paper-thin gimmick)" has almost zero chance of being made?

"It's 'Friends' but with students!", "It's 'According to Jim' with teens!"

When are these assholes going to realize that we don't want something like 'another Scrubs'…because there already IS a 'Scrubs'. It's like someone gave them a single script in the early 80's and they've just been playing mad-libs with it ever since. If you think about it, it's really difficult to think of a network TV sitcom that doesn't follow the "Hot girls, nerd and jock" formula.

While I'm on the subject, I'd also like to thank the sci-fi channel for becoming 'SyFy'. I look forward to watching your further decline into G4 territory as you move further away from the programming that attracted everyone to your channel in the first place. It's going to be awesome when you stop showing sci-fi content all together and we can have yet another Spike TV clone showing reality shows and lowest common denominator programming.

All I can say is thank god for the internet. We've finally got to the point where a podcast recorded by a bunch of guys gathered around a ten ten dollar microphone is a hundred times more entertaining than the shows on network and cable TV that cost a quarter million per episode.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Different Strokes

I love Walmart, but not for the same reason that most people do. The main reason I love Walmart is because you can entertain yourself all day just by walking around one and looking at all the people.

Take today, for example:

Sunny and I were looking for a parking space in the Walmart parking lot when we saw a woman in her forties reach into her shopping bag, pull out a package of raw hotdogs, tear it open with her teeth, hand one to who I can only assume was her husband…before the two of them started happily munching away on the raw wieners as they walked through the rain to their car.

Just how hungry do you have to be to eat raw hotdogs in a Walmart parking lot?

I don't know. Considering they just left a store where they could have bought all kinds of snacks, maybe they just really, really like hotdogs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deliciously Ironic

This morning I read a post that Wil Wheaton had written about the back story he had created for his character for the Penny Arcade/PvP Dungeons and Dragons podcast.

Wil had gone to the trouble of writing what amounted to a thousand word short story, briefly explaining who his character was, where he came from and what his motivation is. Personally, I loved it. It reminded me of one of the short stories that you'd sometimes get with a new videogame, back before games came in DVD cases with little more than a 'quick reference card' for the controls.

Of course, this being the internet, someone had felt the need to post a derisory comment about Wil having 'Way too much time on his hands'.

Am I the only person who sees the sheer irony of this?

I'm not just talking about Wil here, because it happens all over. Someone goes to the trouble of actually creating something and posting it to the internet…then some asshole comes along posts a snide comment about how the creator of the thing he's commenting on has 'too much time on his hands' or he should 'get a life' etc.

What's the real waste of time here? Spending your time creating something, regardless of success… or spending your time belittling strangers over the internet for no reason?

I'll admit, there is some truly awful stuff out there on the internet, but in my opinion, the absolute ugliest drawing, the most poorly written short story or the most badly composed piece of music has a million times more value than every single snide comment on the internet put together.



Monday, March 09, 2009

My Two Cents

You know what? I'm really starting to get sick of all these blog posts, editorial cartoons and other things that any asshole with access to the internet is using to go on about how terrible this whole 'bailout' thing is. If you listen to these ridiculous, oversimplified and downright uninformed comments, the bailout is nothing more than the government giving our hard-earned taxes directly to big business 'fat cats'.

Yeah, that's what's happening. The government is stealing our hard-earned money so Mr. CEO can keep his mansion. That's exactly what's going on. It's all about the rich staying rich off the sweat of the average citizen's brow.

In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with the situation, and I think this whole thing has highlighted just how cut off from reality some of these CEOs are (such as the asshats who got their bailout money then immediately spent almost half a million on a 'retreat' for themselves), but here's the part everyone is missing…the alternative to this bailout is much, much worse.

The problem is that we're choosing to view these corporations as a handful of over-paid, selfish, greedy, mansion-dwelling fat-cats, when the reality is that these corporations are made up of millions of normal 'average joe' Americans. People talk about 'evil corporations' like Wal-Mart, but forget that the vast majority of the people who make up those those corporations are people working nine to five on eight dollars an hour.

The whole point of the bailout isn't so these fat-cats can buy a new Bentley, it's so these corporations stay in business and millions of Americans can keep their jobs. Think of it. How many people to Ford or Chrysler employ world-wide? Hell, if the car companies go out of business 99% of Detroit would be out of work overnight.

In simplest terms we 'bail out' these companies, they stay in business, continue to employ millions of people who spend their wages at other businesses and the economy chugs along.

If we 'teach the fat-cats a lesson' and watch as these businesses go under, suddenly there are millions of people out of work, the amount of disposable income plummets, driving other companies out of business, which puts more people out of work which sends us straight into another Great Depression…with the kicker being that it takes much more of our tax money to pay welfare to all the unemployed than it takes to 'bail out' the big corporations and keep those people in work in the first place.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Til death do us part.

My wife honestly worries me at times.

I wrote a post a while ago when I introduced her to GTA IV. Faced with all the possibilities in that awesome sandbox game, with all those awesome things that you can do, she chose to spend her time wandering around Liberty City punching hobos. Yeah, not flying helicopters, not jumping motorcycles off things…but punching hobos.

It becomes slightly scarier when you realize hobos in GTA IV aren't all that common. That scary, scary wife of mine would walk straight past every other citizen of liberty city without a second look…but God help any hobo that crossed her path. When she found one sleeping under a bridge and asked if there was a way to set him on fire without waking him first…I took the control from her and slept with one eye open for weeks.

Fast forward to today and Sunny's son Frank was over and the two of us were playing a few games on he 360. When we got bored of Call of Duty, I put in Halo 3, and we played for an hour listening to Sunny and Marie talking in loud pointed voices about how they just don't know how anyone could play videogames for so long. You know, subtle shit like that.

This went on for a while, but the two of them only really got interested in watching the game when we switched from Co-op to head to head.

Frank hasn't played much Halo, and to be completely honest I was at a huge advantage through sheer practice. Basically, I play a lot of videogames and Frank doesn't. I know the maps like the back of my hand…and Frank still wasn't even used to the controls. In other words, the game was an absolute slaughter…and because of that, we weren't taking it even slightly seriously.

At one point, after a particularly spectacular kill, Frank's body flew through the air and landed at my feet…I couldn't resist.

I said "Hey Frank, watch this!"…and did that most douchebaggiest of moves…I made my Character 'teabag' his.

If you don't know what this means, you basically stand over your fallen opponent and hit the crouch button over and over again…you know, like you're rubbing your balls on your opponent's face.

(Note: 'Teabagging' an opponent in Halo really is a massive douchebag move…and there's a massive difference between doing it to a friend 'ironically' because you know they'll laugh at it and doing it to a stranger to show how 'awesome' you are. Kids, just say no.)

Anyway, I was in full five year old mode, spouting awesome witticisms like "Hah ha! I'm rubbing my butt on your face!!! (fart noise) How's that smell? How does my butthole smell on your face? Ha ha! My butt's on your face!" You know, really well thought out, cutting jibes.

The two of us were cracking up when suddenly I hear Sunny's voice from behind me, sounding totally serious:

"Ah…" She said. "I think I finally get the appeal of this game."

Yeah, my wife, the virtual hobo-puncher, isn't impressed by Halo 3 at all…until she realizes it can be used to virtually rub your butthole on someone's face while gloating.

Oh, and this is a woman who swears that she isn't competitive.

A great idea, executed badly.

Yesterday, Sunny and I bought ourselves a copy of 'Trivial Pursuit – Electronic Edition'.

Trivial Pursuit is one of our favorite board games of all time. Unfortunately, general knowledge trivia games don't work very well when the players are from two different countries and cultures. We quickly realized that buying an American version of the game put me at a major disadvantage, and buying a British version did the same to Sunny.

Basically, I can name the last ten British Prime Ministers, but I'd have a problem with US Presidents.

Anyway, the electronic version seemed to answer all our prayers. Firstly, it only cost twenty-five bucks versus forty or fifty for the regular version. Secondly, you still get a board, dice and playing pieces, but instead of a big box of question cards, you get a gadget that displays questions on its screen

This was a big deal for us, because while the gadget comes with 600 pre-loaded questions, you hook it up to your PC, go to the Trivial Pursuit website and you can download another 1800 questions for free. The reason this was a big deal is that the questions are split into mini categories that fit into the main categories, meaning we could tailor the questions so neither one of us was at an advantage or disadvantage. Basically, we could pick 'world history', instead of American or British history…and if one of us picked a category that we would have an advantage in, the other could pick a category that they liked to balance things out.

Unfortunately, the game has such a blatant problem that for half an hour I was convinced I'd read the instructions wrong. You see, I'd downloaded a ton of mini-categories, which covered everything from Mythical Creatures to Marvel Comics, and when I turned on the gadget and selected 'new game', it picked six of these mini-categories to use for the whole game. While you can pick which six mini-categories to use manually, you're still stuck with them for the duration of the game.

What I don't understand is why there isn't a setting to pick a mini-category at random each time you pick a main category. For example, 'Horror and sci-fi movies', 'TV comedies' and 'popular fiction' all come under the 'entertainment' category…so why can't I have it set so that when I land on an Entertainment square, the gadget picks a question from one of those mini-categories at random like in the traditional card game? Why do I have to play the game so all the entertainment questions are about one particular thing?

It really sucks because it completely destroys the reason Sunny and I bought this version, and it doesn't make sense for the average player either.

Basically, imagine being in a room with a bunch of other people and all trying to agree on what six categories to use for the whole game. Sure, you can argue that letting the gadget pick categories at random makes things 'fair'…but let's just say that if Sunny and I are playing and 'Marvel Comics' comes up…those questions might as well be in Greek for Sunny.

The whole point to Trivial Pursuit is the variety of the questions, that's why the main categories have such broad names like 'People and Places'…when you're forced to throw away that variety for no reason, it just takes a lot of the fun out of the game.

Long story short, when there are only six categories to land on, I want to land on 'Entertainment' and have to answer a question on anything from classic literature to horror movies. What I don't want to do is replace that 'Entertainment' category with the 'Reality TV' category. Sure, give me that option, but don't force me to do it for no reason.

This honestly makes no sense to me. It feels like the creators of this version thought "How can we take an absolutely awesome game, introduce an awesome new feature, but still make the game much, much worse for no reason?"…and that's exactly what they've done.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I saw something online today that said Megan Fox is in 'final negotiations' to star in two comicbook movies, 'Fathom' and 'Jonah Hex'.

While I've nothing against Megan Fox or the above two properties, can we please slow down on the comic book movies?

Here's the deal. I loves me some comic books and on the whole I believe that comicbooks making it to the silver screen is a good thing. Not only do the fans get to see some amazing movies with the old favorites like Spider-Man, Batman and Superman, people who've never picked up a comic in their life are getting to see that comics aren't just 'silly little stories' designed for kids with movies like 'Sin City'.

However, the problem with comic book movies is that the people making these movies rarely give a shit about the source material. Studios are buying up comicbook properties left, right and center because the 'market' is showing that comic book movies are 'hot' right now.

The downside of this Comics = Cash mentality is that the focus is on quantity rather than quality. Right now, Hollywood believes a movie will make money simply because it's based on a comic book, regardless of quality... and once a few really bad movies get made and box office takings inevitably plummet, that's the end of comic book movies…not because the last comic movie was a total stinker, but just because 'People don't want comic movies anymore'.

If you think I'm exaggerating, I read an interview with Zack Snyder, the director of the new Watchmen movie where he said that when he was first approached about making the movie, the first draft of the script was about Rorshach going to Iraq to fight in the 'War on Terror'…which is the rough literary equivalent of buying the rights to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and turning it into 'Bring it on 3'.

So let's slow it down, shall we?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Seriously?... Seriously.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed into the below freezing temperatures we're currently suffering here in SC, shuffled to the bathroom, and after doing what most people do first thing in the morning, I regarded my beard in the mirror.

I've let it grow out recently, but as I looked at it (and it, in a way, looked back at me), I wished I could shave. Alas, it was not to be.

"Curse my choice of hobbies!" I exclaimed as I shook my fist skywards. "Why must I spend the bulk of my leisure time with a 360 controller in my hands?"

My eyes cast down to the myriad destroyed razors in the small trash can next to the sink. What had I been thinking? Trying to use a normal's razor on my gamer's beard? Preposterous! Everyone knows that someone who plays videogames has significantly different skin and beard-hair compared to people who don't game!

I dropped to my knees, cursing my gamer's beard. Why hasn't anyone filled this obvious glaring omission in the shaving tools industry? We gamers need razors designed specifically for us. Can't anyone see that? Can't anyone make a razor just for gamers?

Oh wait…they have

Yeah, I really wish I was joking about this. I can totally understand 'gamer branded' breakfast cereal, toys, candy…and while I'll openly laugh at anyone dumb enough to buy a particular brand of soda because they'll think it will make them better at Halo, I can at least understand the basic marketing idea. Caffeine = better twitch skills…but razors?

I mean, I can understand Gillette's thinking. The gamer demographic is that awfully lucrative male 18-30 bracket, so I understand them wanting our money, but surely there's a less transparent way to cash in?

I could understand them giving away Microsoft points or something with every blade purchase, or some tie-in ad showing Sam Fisher or Marcus Fenix shaving with said razor…but what they're saying is gamers need their own specific blade.

You know what, Gillette, we're letting you get by with an awful lot as it is. My missus has shaved her legs with my razor and I've shaved my face with her's…and I noticed absolutely no difference in shave comfort or quality. Most of your business revolves around your customer base believing that your five blade razor is advanced technology while your competition's four blade razor is like shaving with a block of wood…or that a tiny motor that makes the razor vibrate is really super-classified 'micro-pulse' technology.

Basically, Gillette, take your micro-fusion gamer and shove it up your backside.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Shoulda Known Better…

It got to the point today where Sunny and I both just had to get out of the house for a while to save us from going stir-crazy. So, totally ignoring previous experience, we decided to go on another of our little road-trips to nowhere in particular. You know…to relax.

The idea was that we'd just drive wherever the road took us for a couple of hours, and we'd take the GPS with us to find our way home.

At this point I really should explain our previous experience with these little trips:

The first one we ever went on we ended up with us at a national park, following a 'nature trail' on foot. This nature trail quickly turned into one of the most terrifying and exhausting experiences of my life when we found ourselves halfway up a mountain, alone, on a trail so steep that it would have taken a complete set of climbing gear and a team of highly trained Sherpas to make me feel safe.

During our most recent trip, we ended up lost in the middle of 'Bumfuck, Nowhere' in a rainstorm so bad that we literally couldn't see more than six feet ahead of us, with nowhere to pull off a road that seemed to be populated with suicidal semi-trucks

There have only been a few times in my life when I've thought that dying was a real possibility, and four of these times have happened during our last five 'trips to nowhere'.

Of course, this time it was going to be different. After all, what could go wrong? We weren't going all that far, we had the GPS in case we got lost, we'd had the car's tires rotated, aligned and balanced that morning, we had a full tank of gas…What could possibly go wrong?

It started to go bad after about two hours on the road when we crossed the Georgia state line and Sunny pointed out that we were about halfway to Gatlinburg, Tennesee.

I should point out here that she was dead wrong. We weren't halfway to Gatlinburg, we weren't even a quarter of the way there. Gatlinburg was to our north and we'd driven almost exactly due west.

Unfortunately, I didn't know this at the time and said "Hell, let's just drive the rest of the way." (Gatlinburg is one of Sunny's favorite places, somewhere she talks about a lot, and a place I've never been.) It was going to be an adventure.

It was only when I put it in the GPS that we realized just how big a trip it was. I pointed out that it was about four in the afternoon, and Gatlinburg and back was almost an eight hour round trip. So Sunny suggested Pidgeon Forge, a place that was closer than Gatlinburg that she said would knock about two hours off the trip. Taking her word for it, I changed our destination to Pidgeon Forge city center and pressed 'go' without checking the route or the distance.

Here's something I learned from this trip:

GPS units are stupid.

You see, while they can calculate the shortest route to your destination and routes that are, in theory, the fastest…they don't have the brains to think "Hey, maybe they'd like to go five miles out of their way to take the interstate all the way to their destination instead of taking a route through the mountains on the world's most remote and twisty roads."

They also don't realize that the rain that's currently a drizzle is getting heavier, and North Carolina's Smoky Mountains are called 'Smoky' Mountains for a reason.

It also turns out that Sunny and I are actually quite a bit dumber than the GPS. You see, while we were approaching the mountains, we were looking at the fog rising from them and lamenting the fact we didn't bring a camera. Words like 'stunning' and 'beautiful' were bandied about. However, among the many words that weren't bandied about where: "Hey, that's really thick fog up in the mountains, right? Aren't we heading directly towards them? Won't that be an absolute bitch to drive through?"

About forty-five minutes later the sun had set, the sky was rapidly darkening and we were up in the mountains. At this point, the fog was still barely a mist, and looking at it through the trees, it had stopped being stunning and beautiful and had instead gone deep into 'spooky' territory. I looked out at the trees and the twisting mountain roads and turned to Sunny:

"We're gonna get raped, you know." I said. "By those inbred mutants from 'Wrong Turn'."

Seriously, between the gnarled trees, the remote country road and the tendrils of fog pooling like dry ice around the bases of the trees, it really looked like the opening sequence to every horror movie ever…with a little 'Deliverance' thrown in for good measure.

Sunny took this moment to point out that while there probably weren't any bloodthirsty hillbillies in the woods, there were in fact, a shit-load of black bears.


A minute ago we were on a fun road trip. Suddenly we were just a slutty cheerleader and a smartass guy with a bad haircut, leather jacket and a cigarette hanging from his lips away from a Halloween blockbuster.

Then, we turned a corner and visibility instantly dropped almost to zero. We drove slap bang into a fog bank that was as thick as a submarine door.

We ended up driving for almost thirty miles at less than 10mph, Sunny with her forehead pressed against the windshield while I watched the GPS to give her a little advanced warning about what was coming up.

Remember how I said earlier that I honestly believed death was a possibility during four of our last five road-trips? Make that five for six.


After a terrifying couple of hours in the mountains, encountering almost as many suicidal drivers as we did on our North Carolina rainstorm road-trip, the fog finally lifted, the trees cleared and we found ourselves in…



No, I hadn't mis-programmed the GPS. The route had decided to take us to Pidgeon Forge via Gatlinburg for no apparent reason…adding about fifty miles to our journey.

I may post more about our little trip tomorrow, but I think this sums it up pretty well:

We set off from home at 4pm, originally planning on driving for a couple of hours for something to do. Instead, we ended up arriving home at 1am after covering over 300 miles, many of which where drizzle-soaked, fog covered backwoods, country mountain-miles, driven surrounded by suicidal rednecks.

But you know what?

It was fun as hell.