Confession: Atari Keychain Games

I have a fascination with tiny computers; I had a pocketable Tandy PC-3 back in the ’80s, worked on games for PalmOS, and am still trying to make my Zaurus useful. And I’m a classic gaming fan, with a modest collection of a hundred-odd Atari VCS (a.k.a. 2600) games on cartridge. So, tiny game systems shaped like the original Atari controllers? For me, almost irresistible.
A company called “Basic Fun” recently released three different Atari-branded “keychain games.” They’re tiny, nearly perfect replicas of Atari controllers that plug into TV inputs and play actual video games. Despite having been warned about poor quality by this thread on AtariAge, and despite the personal attacks made by Basic Fun against an Atari Flashback engineer, I cautiously inquired about the store’s return policy, then bought both the Joystick and the Paddle versions, to see for myself.

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Flea Market Santa – Intercourse, Pennsylvania

Lancaster County Pennsylvania is an interesting place – definitely of two minds, on one hand very commercial with outlet malls, mini golf courses and motels with water parks while on the other hand the Amish struggle to maintain a simple life. It’s obvious to me that the Amish see the tourism and the money as a double-edged sword knowing full well that even though the money helps them maintain their lifestyle it also damages it.

Memorial Day Hike

One of the great things about living in Washington, DC is that there are many things to do beyond the National Mall that are not necessarily crawling with tourists. The Prince William Forest Park is one of those. Our hike took us along three well-marked trails through native Virginian forests with features such as clear running streams and astonishingly abundant flowering Azaleas. With all this scenery around me you could probably guess that I frequently felt inspired to stop hiking and do some drawing.


It’s true that architecture is one of my favorite things to draw and also true that I sometimes only have a few moments to get a basic sketch down on paper while waiting for my ride to show up. Here I’ve taken a couple pieces of the Natural History museum in D.C. starting with my basic on-site sketch and over the next few following days added some blocks of dark black ink brushed and cross-hatchy goodness.

Immigration Rally

I drew this man who was going to the immigration rallies on the Mall on the train yesterday. As a commuter and one who lives in Washington the place can get pretty crowded with all the people here for rallies, tourism, and various festivals, but as someone who once said that Washington wasn’t a real and alive city all this activity reminds me just how wrong I was.

At the Natural History Museum

The Smithsonian Natural History Museum has begun staying open later on Friday and Saturdays again so I spent an hour or so drawing animals in the mammal exhibit hall Friday.
One of the first animals I drew – still a little stiff.
Getting more relaxed for these final ones with a much nicer result.
I’m still a little bit nervous about these guys after seeing Grizzly Man.

Smithsonian Castle

The weather on Friday evening was so beautiful that I took the opportunity to sit on a park bench at the Mall in D.C. and drew this picture of the Smithsonian Castle which was directly across the Mall from me. It was so wonderfull and refreshing to be outside in the slowly fading sunlight and I continued to draw until the light was almost completely gone. I am so looking forward to getting out more in the spring and summer and now that my commute takes me directly through D.C. I can just hope off the train and get some drawing time anytime I want.

Friday Night Model

For the past three weeks my Friday nights have been occupied by live model sessions that take place at the Smithsonian Institution in D.C.
The class ends at 9:30 p.m. Friday night after the commuter buses have stopped running to our neighborhood and so we’ve been taking the car to work to allow me to get home (which I really appreciate!).
Before the class even started we had decided that since D.C. is the seat of government Friday would probably be an easy commute because people either take the day off or come into work late.
Every other day of the week we try to catch the morning bus and travel on the subway – first one way in the morning and then the other way in the evening. It doesn’t always work out especially if we watch a movie late or generally stay up past our bedtimes.
So, on Friday mornings we hop into the car for a big treat and drive through D.C. metro traffic first to Jake’s office and then I continue with the car to my office. Having the car can be a big boon out here in the end of the line Metro land; for instance I can drive into town for a good lunch or I don’t have to pretend to ignore the person staring at me in the seat across the aisle in the train.

Watching the Skating

On Friday night I joined a group of people from my former job at the National Gallery Skating Rink and while they skated I watched and drew the things around me. First off, let me tell you that drawing constantly moving objects is really difficult and secondly I began to wonder about watching instead of participating.
I often look at people who are so intent on filling the memory card of their digital cameras that they forget to experience what it is that they’re taking pictures of and that makes me sad. Drawing is somewhat different because you generally need to really ‘see’ what you’re drawing , but it is no less isolating and instead of trying to skate again (the last time I skated I was ten years old) I sat off to the sidelines and drew the people circling the rink and I felt like I was isolating myself.

From the Sketchbook

Lately, I’ve been working in purely black and white and only sometimes using color for emphasis. I’m especially liking dropping large amounts of black ink onto a drawing and especially the randomness of the shapes that come from that. I used a large Sumi brush here to place the ink.
I used a photograph I found on the web for the reference for this drawing. Jake told me that the man in the picture doesn’t look like the original and attributed that to fact that I’m working on a flat surface and that’s distorting how I’m seeing what I draw. I will probably look into getting some type of angled drawing board in the future to help against this.
The girl was a quick addition to the drawing, but I really like how her scarf shading and the folds in the fabric look.
This is a closeup of the edge of the large ink area. I really like that it is a very random pattern inset into a very controlled illustrative type of drawing. There is also a small sketch of a gnome and the name Rien Poortvliet because I was looking for information on the web yesterday about this artist.

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The Train Home

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my drawing time with my Kuretake Brush Pen using waterproof ink cartridges instead of the non-waterproof variety that come with the pen. Learning a new skill is pretty exciting for me; just getting to the point where I begin to like my drawings is a challenge. Sometimes the drawing comes from my hand with the pen just feels finished I have no desire to add anything more.

Woman on the Train

Finally, I’ve gotten back to posting a new entry here. A lot has kept me busy and unfortunately away from DK. As I explained in an earlier post I got laid off from my job in September and I immediately set to work to find a new full time gig. Fortunately, I got tons of interviews which took much of my time plus I had a couple other freelance projects to occupy the rest of my time. One project that Jake and I just launched and are very proud of is the redesign of Danny Gregory’s web site. It’s amazing to work with someone as creative as Danny and I hope we get more opportunities to work together.
For the new job I’ve got an one hour commute on the D.C. Metro and so far that’s not bothering me at all since I have time to do a lot of different things like draw the people on the train and listen to podcasts on my iPod. Generally the person sitting next to me notices my drawing and comments on the drawing which pleases me since I’m something of a narcistist. Not really, but it is nice to be recognized for something that you do.
Which brings me to the new job. There is a world of job satisfaction out there that I never experienced in my previous job. Nice people, management who care and being that I’m in D.C. a non-profit that all equate to feeling extremely happy and ready to get my mojo back.


iPod Shuffle lanyard shaped like a Christian cross

As seen in the Holiday Buyer’s Guide, this iPod Shuffle accessory from, whose website quotes from the Book of Jobs (the “s” is not a typo!), replaces the standard lanyard connector with one that integrates the iPod Shuffle into that ancient symbol of Christianity (and bling), the cross. Like the Star Trek: The Next Generation communicator-slash-insignia, it combines technology, fashion, and culture, but unlike Picard’s shiny brooch, it’s apparently non-fiction.

Aside from its purely aesthetic shape, I’m assuming that it has a built-in stateful inspection firewall that blocks audio files with a genre header field other than “Christian Contemporary.”