Joie de Vivre

The History of Micronauts

Thanks to following the #micronauts tag on Instagram, I have been able to learn even more about my favorite childhood toy. I still have a handful of the Micronauts I owned as a kid, which I’ve shared in a previous post. There were my absolute favorite toys, the heart of my imaginary universe play set.

Now, before we get too far into this, I’d like to say, upfront, that I can’t remember where I found a lot of these photos. Most are screen grabs from my phone, and I apologize to any of the original owners. I would have kept better track of them, but I only just now though of writing this post. I would love to correctly attribute them, happy to do it, etc. I think they are too good to keep to myself. Okay. Onward!

Here’s something new to me. You probably knew there was a Micronauts board game, but I didn’t! Look how much fun that kid on the box is having!

photo credit: someone of the internet

I’ve also found lots of variations that I didn’t know existed. Some things I’ve seen are 3D printed mods, and some were just never available where I grew up. We had Baron Karza and the Force Commander. But I never saw a Green Baron, King Atlas, or the Red Falcon.

The Mego corporation launched the Micronauts in the United States in 1977. Most of the figures were highly articulated and posable, which made them superior to the stuff, limited Star Wars figures. They were also “interchangeable,” where one could mix and match parts from different Micronaut toys, and effectively make new ones.

G.I. Joe was the first official action figure, released by Hasbro in 1964, inspired by the success of Mattel’s Barbie dolls. Hasbro then licensed their toys/ideas to companies in Palitoy in England and Takara in Japan. Regionalization, as it’s called, the where something successful is licensed and simply repackaged for a different market.

The Takara corporation had created The Micromen in Japan.

Here are some cool YouTubes on the Micronauts. I remember this commercial. AcroRay on YouTube write:

Mego invested substantial advertising dollars into the Micronauts, and had well over a dozen television commercials produced for the line by DuRona Productions…

AcroRay. See video below.

The Series 1 aliens:

Here are links to some of the folks I’ve learned from. ToyGalaxy at Patreon, and their Instagram account.


Jim Carrey’s Art

Jim Carrey, Painting

I read an article that claims “Jim Carrey’s art is yet more proof that Hollywood stars should avoid the canvas.”

You can read it yourself, if you like.  I found it to be unnecessarily nasty and bitter, written by a frustrated man named Jonathan Jones. Jones, of course, does not make art. How is it that non-artists and historians get to be art critics, when they have no particular talent for making new work?

Jones judges the work of people like Terry Pratchett before actually consuming their work:

Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius

If you’ve read Pratchett, you’ll understand. For me, this statement completely undermines Jones’ credibility as a critic (and it was a nasty thing to say after Pratchett’s death). Dismissing Carrey’s work without actually seeing it in person is ridiculous. I suspect Jones’ continuing value to The Guardian is his skill at writing click-bait. And, I suppose I’m contributing to that in my own small way by writing this. But, still, his article prompted me to pay attention to Mr. Carrey, and I’m glad for that.

A painting by Jim Carrey

I like Jim Carrey’s work, and think I’d like him as a person. He has range as an actor, and Dumb & Dumber was, to me, genuinely funny. I loved “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” But, I also love that Carrey is a practitioner of the Law of Attraction. He is sober. He practices Transcendental Meditation and, best of all, uses art making to combat depression. He shares these things with others, which is an act of generosity that our society needs.

A defense of Art-making

I’m about to think through my defense of Jim Carrey by working on the principle that there are two components to “art.”

First, there is a process by which the work is made. This is the artist’s side of the equation, and it’s mostly private. It is as important as the final work itself (and in performance, may actually BE the work itself). To the artist, this IS the important part. Then, there is the part that is consumed by the viewer. The viewer’s job is to find value in the work. This may come in the form of academic understanding – being able to trace a particular work back to references of preexisting work. It may come in the form of an emotional or aesthetic response. It may come in the form of commodification. This is the part where the non-art making critics and historians get their toehold. But both parts are important – not just critical opinions.

It may be that in the ~1% of the art world where art is valued primarily as a commodity, Carrey’s paintings aren’t sought after by certain collectors. That isn’t the point of good work, and, I think, it’s not the point of Carrey’s work. And Carrey may not fit neatly into an academic tradition of post-modernist art – who cares? That, also, is not the point.

The Guardian writer claims “The comic actor’s short film about his paintings is painful viewing, but he’s not the first star who has tried, and failed, to moonlight as an artist.”

For anyone that has experienced the healing power of creating something (and I hope that’s most of us), this video should be beautiful. Carrey talks about how he started painting amidst a broken heart, after his split from actress Jenny McCarthy in 2010 after five years of dating. This is the value of Jim Carrey’s art – he shows how we can all heal by creating something.

Carrey says “I think what makes someone an artist is they make models of their inner life. They make something physically come into being that is inspired by their emotions, or their needs, or what they feel the audience needs.” This speaks well to the artist side of the equation that I defined above. Carrey generously gives us a glimpse into his inner process (and an amazing studio) with this video – again, the artist side of the equation.

Jim Carrey molding a clay head on a wire armature.

What is “Success?”

I’m guessing that Carrey can sit in his studio and make work for the rest of his life, without ever having to concern himself with selling any of it. This obliterates Jones’ claim that he’s somehow a failure as an artist. Also, wasn’t he once one of the highest paid artists in Hollywood? Does that qualify as artistic failure? I can’t find his personal Website (if he has one), nor representation from any particular gallery. Carrey is free from constraints, and can pursue his visual work in a way few of us ever could. To express oneself entirely by one’s inner compass, with little to no accountability to the outside, is artistic freedom.

Carrey seems to be self taught (an added bonus), but he’s no Henry Darger. He has the resources to pursue his vocation, and it looks like he’s very disciplined in making the work.

Carrey also uses his drawing skill, and fame as a platform to stand up to the injustices of the Trump administration. Using one’s talents against bullies makes them a hero, period. Regardless of politics, one must admit he’s very proactive, productive and prolific. While we only see glimpses of a number of works, he clearly has skill and vision. I would like to see more of his work.

You know, the bottom line of all of this, whether it’s performance, or art, or sculpture, is love. We want to show ourselves, and have that be accepted.

This is true, in life, and in art. I’m grateful for this video, and the tiny glimpse into another artist’s studio life. A successful artist, at that.


Well, you asked…

Two more Spark responses, for Round 7. My partners were Melissa Pasanen, haiku master, and Cassie Premo Steele, who is just a creative master.

I came up with a whole series of things from Melissa’s haiku, and I’m still working on ’em. Here’s rabbit hole I ventured into:

My other response went like this, which is something I’ve been thinking about lately, in addition to skeletons.

Don’t eat acrylic paint – it’s isn’t good for you. Or your bum.



Joie de Vivre

At the End of the Universe

I was a basement dweller as a kid.   I was messy, asthmatic, introverted and not very good at sports. The basement was my fortress of solitude. It provided shelter from neighborhood bullies and the pressures of being a bright yet lousy student. It housed the metaphysical sword in the stone of my inner Once and Future Nerd.

My basement had an orange linoleum floor, brown wood paneling and very bright florescent office lighting.  It had ample bookshelves,  a filing cabinet for comic books and a long chemistry cabinet that Dad brought home from a job site. That Cabinet became the cornerstone of my Universe.

For Christmas one year, I received the Navarone play set.  For a birthday, I was given a pre-historic dinosaur play set (both by Marx toys). These were permanently stationed on top at either side of the cabinet. They were completely awesome.

I found the above picture on e-bay – I can’t seem to find an actual photo of the play set.

I had a handful of Star Wars figures – Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C3PO, R2D2 and a Storm Trooper. I eventually acquired a Jawa, a Tuskin Raider, the Death Star Droid and Boba Fett.

Chewy is still with me

Then, I discovered the Micronauts.

The Micronauts were my all-time absolute favorite toys. The Time Travelers were fully pose-able and made the Star Wars guys seem like ridiculous manikins. Needless to say, the Star Wars guys always lost in a fight (well, except Darth Vader because he could use the force – he was practically a wizard and wizards always win).  With the Micronauts, you could use parts from some toys and make new ones – they were “interchangeable.”  They also had a variety of architectures and styles for different ships, robots, aliens, good guys and villains.  The Micronauts were endlessly interesting.


The Astro Station – portable and clever

Acroyear was a villain, according to Mego, but a hero if you read the comics

Baron Karza, the Micronaut equivalent of Darth Vader, is held together with magnets and had fists that fire.




Membros (all of the above have glow in the dark brains – you can’t top that)

Marvel Comics produced a decent comic that had two successful runs – the stories captured my imagination (although I had my own story running in the basement).

I would spend hours on top of the cabinet at the end of the Universe planning ginormous battles between the Time Travelers and Baron Karza, who had often taken the Navarone by force.  My  usual soundtrack was  a cassette of Orson Wells’  War of the Worlds radio broadcast (played over and over and over).  I could write several posts on the Micronauts by themselves, so I’ll move on to the supporting cast of the cabinet wars.

There was a die-cast metal Raydeen from the Shogun Warriors. I still don’t know much about the Shoguns – but Raydeen was metal and could change into a bird (this is all pre-Transformers, by the way), so he was useful in a fight.

And there was giant Godzilla. He had flame on his tongue and could shoot his fist. He was the best. As tall as the mountains, he could upset any battle, provide the perfect chaos and destruction to BOTH sides at the most unlikely moment.

19 1/2 inches tall!

The second drawer in the cabinet held all my Lego, which came in handy for building stuff for the Mirconauts to destroy. I had pieces from an erector set, too, which made my hands smell like metal and made me wonder if I could get metal poisoning.

Less related to the Cabinet at the End of the Universe were other cool things I ran across in my childhood – some of which factored into my Cabinet adventures, and some that did not.

The Vertibird – a simple yet really fun helicopter that could be made to go up, down, forward and backward in a loop.

Which Witch – a game was fun no matter HOW you played with it. Kinda like mouse trap – fun to look at, set up, and useful for holding the Micronauts as prisoners.

I had forgotten all about this Girder and Beam set (below) until recently  – perfect for constructing potential targets for asteroid collision damage or Godzilla attacks.

There were usually a handful of action figures around, too – they were useful meat puppets, if not actual super heroes.

This guy was on my 3rd or 4th birthday cake – he’s also still with me.

Marx castle – they made the best stuff.

I didn’t have these, but thought they were cool.

My youngest daughter reminds me of my Cabinet at the End of the Universe. She will sit on our steps in the house and play with whatever she happens to have in her hands – lost in an imaginary world. She doesn’t need TV – she could be holding a spoon,  a pony, a shoe box and a couple of  figures and she’s happy for hours.

Hat tip to Mr. Old-Toy-Blogger himself, Jim Groom, who wrote a series of posts just before Christmas  that brought me some nostalgia. I’d been wanting to write a post like this for a while, and I’m contemplating rebuilding that cabinet in my barn. Jim helped get my blogging gears going.


The Joy of Process

I began the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in October, knowing the deadline for the National Arts Program Exhibit was in early December.  I chose the title and started putting ideas down in a sketchbook.  I made a lot of sketches, did a lot of thinking and eventually settled on the idea of a triptych.  I’ve been experimenting with the old school nibs and India ink  which I loved as a kid. I find they are difficult to use, though, and tend to bleed big blobs of ink.

Nibs, ink bottle

Still, little that’s worth doing is easy, and I continue to practice with them. They offer great possibility.

In October and November (especially over Thanksgiving break), I had a lot of  ideas, and the piece kept shifting focus. But when the actual day started to approach, my thinking solidified and I was “forced” to make decisions about the piece and execute them. I realize that without the deadline, I would have continued to develop ideas…forever.

This is the joy of process – getting lost in exploration and discovery and practice. I am a master of  JOP. To a fault, perhaps.

Joy of process sketches

When I noticed the deadline approaching (it tried to sneak up on me, but thankfully I glanced up and saw it coming), I heard an audible “click” in my head. The pressure increased, decisions were made and the piece was assembled. Mr. JOP stepped aside and Mr. Assembly-line-worker took the plans got down to business.  This guy is the person who likes to make lists and accomplish things – a very good partner for Mr. JOP.


I used to do this with music – I’d write songs and record little  ideas and fill notebooks and tapes – I have gigs and gigs of this stuff – some of it is quite good, too. What was missing was a partner to work with, or a show to play or an album to finish.

Deadlines are good. Pressure is good. They add a dimension of purpose in what we do. They bring JOP together with Mr. Assembly-line-worker, the two halves of a whole.

Even more joy of process sketches

It’s very tempting to remain Mr. JOP. I think being him is more comfortable, and certainly more fun. He’s the mad scientist, loose on new frontier of possibility and wonder.  Do many other artists feel this way? I know a lot of my fellow developers do. And, I should add that these rough sketches in this post lead to other things – they all came from Mr. JOP’s efforts.

There are levels of deadline  pressure, too. A professional illustrator may be given guidelines, such as “Dead Fish Smoking a Pipe” or “Ruttabaggit” needed by next Tuesday. Open ended projects, on the other hand, may offer a little too much creative freedom, thus becoming a JOP trap. This can be especially daunting to non-professional creatives who are developing their own inspiration engines. Luckily, we live on a web with things like Illustration Friday, Spark and a bazillion other outlets to help us develop a JOP-creative output balance.

Alas, there’s work to do. Back to the drawing board.

Web Stuff

The Art of Inspiration

I have a very valuable folder on my computer called “Inspiration.” It contains years worth of images that I’ve collected from the web. It’s a digital scrapbook – a bin full of neat things and ideas for when I’m feeling stuck or need a reference for something like a water bug. Most of us have something like this, right?


There are two problems with this folder.

1) It’s an unorganized mess of thousands of pictures.
2) My Dell Vostro Laptop has died TWICE in the past year. While I’m compulsive about backing up my data, sometimes I go a couple of weeks between making a DVD. I may collect quite a few images in two weeks.

So, this weekend I took a few hours and I created an application called  Perspiration™.  [And, yes, I’m super busy with teaching, taking classes and all the other projects on my desk. I just needed to do something else for a bit. Savvy?]

persperation logo

Perspiration™ lets me  upload an image to a password protected website and apply tags to the image. I can then search on tags, image names or have it show me random images.    I wrote it  in PHP, and the cool thing is, there’s no database. It uses text files, so the whole thing is highly portable (or as highly portable as thousands of images can be).  I’m using jQuery to handle thumbnail and image previews.

I’m *almost* finished with it – I’ll post the source code when I’m done for any peeps who want something like this.

This guy has a folder, too.  Enjoy: