Archive for the ‘Aimless Riffing’ category

My funny Valentine

February 9, 2012

For those of you who’ve expressed an interest in my burgeoning voice acting career, here’s a little something I voiced recently.

It’s a promotional video for a Bay Area men’s chorus that delivers Singing Valentines. NIA Creative, an awesome marketing and production company, produced the project.

Fun stuff…

…and if you decide to purchase a Singing Valentine for your beloved, please tell ’em your Uncle Swan sent you.

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: Eight Is Never Enough

November 24, 2011

Welcome to the eighth (count ’em, eight!) edition of my annual A-to-Z Thanksgiving post. After the darkness and loss that characterized much of 2010 — as most of the regulars here know, my wife KJ lost her decade-long battle with breast cancer in July of that year — 2011 has been another year of sweeping change. A brighter one in several ways, but again with more than its share of tragedy and challenge.

We lost my father-in-law, who had been in ill health for many years, in February. Shortly thereafter, we bid our last goodbyes to my dutiful personal assistant Abby. Add in a new life partnership, a career redirection, a new residence for the first time in nearly 20 years… well, you get the idea.

Enough recap, already. Let’s get on with the gratitude. On this fourth Thursday in November, I’m thankful for…

Audacity, the free audio recording and editing tool I use every day. One of these days, I’ll invest in some pricey software that does everything Audacity does, only for hundreds of dollars more. Yeah… in your dreams. Remember Uncle Swan’s motto: If it’s free, it’s for me.

Bravo, because who doesn’t love Top Chef? And Millionaire Matchmaker? And yes, even Project Runway? Okay, sure, they put on all that dreadful Real Housewives crap. That’s what the channel button on your remote is for. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

The City by the Bay — always my favorite city, once my alma mater, now my home. I’ve enjoyed a love affair with San Francisco for the better part of four decades, but I would never have envisioned living here. Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars. Where Mark Twain spent his coldest winter one summer. Home of the 2010 World Series Champion Giants; the Team of the ’80s, the 49ers; and naked dudes wandering the streets of the Castro. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

The Daughter, whom I love more than life itself. Smart, funny, perceptive, and the world’s greatest horsewoman. You should have a daughter so awesome. But you can’t. She’s the only one.

Eggs Benedict. How can you go wrong with eggs, pork, and hollandaise? Don’t believe the people at Denny’s when they tell you they can do it with melted Velveeta. They lie.

Facebook, which keeps me in constant touch with my voice actor colleagues, my chorus buddies, people I knew in high school, and friends, comrades, and associates of every stripe. If that brat Zuckerberg hadn’t stolen this gem from the Winklevii, Facebook would be the exclusive province of snooty preppies in cardigans and Top-Siders, and you and I would never know what the other is eating for breakfast.

Goorin Brothers, makers of stylish hats. I’m wearing my black Cash Canyon right now.

Hope, because if you don’t have that, you have nothing. Keep it alive, as Jesse used to say, back when people actually cared what Jesse said.

iTunes — without it, we’d still be stockpiling eight-tracks. Isn’t it wicked cool that I can punch up Meat Loaf, or the House Jacks, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, or Journey, anytime I want, with just a keystroke or two? Why, yes, it is.

Jim Harbaugh, the man who turned Alex “Sow’s Ear” Smith into a rayon purse overnight, thereby restoring the 49ers not merely to respectability, but to darn near invincibility. If you’d told me in August that the Niners would be 9-1 going into Thanksgiving, I’d have laughed in your face, and recommended a good therapist.

KJ… gone home, but never forgotten.

The Legion of Super-Heroes, or as we used to call them in my comics-reading youth, the Legion of Stupid Heroes. Where else could characters like Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad find stardom? It’s no surprise that many of the Legion’s best adventures sprang from the typewriter (go on, look it up… I’ll wait) of a brash kid named Jim Shooter, who began writing Legion stories when he was a mere stripling of 13. Nevertheless, the Legion always had the cutest girls in comics. Imra Ardeen… call me.

Maddie the German shorthaired pointer mix, who replaced our dear departed corgi Abby at The Daughter’s side, if not entirely in her heart. Maddie is in many ways the anti-Abby — long-legged, frenetic, and eager for affection to the point of clinginess, in contrast to her squat, chill, laissez-faire predecessor — but no less a character. I’m glad The Daughter found a new friend.

The house of the Naked Fish-Tailed Lady, home of hot, caffeinated, life-sustaining squeezings of the noble bean. Get yourself an eggnog latte this holiday season. You know you want one.

My fellow comic art collector Damon Owens, with whom I’ve shared countless e-mail conversations about comics, art, and life over these many years. Damon’s theme galleries — The Brotherhood, an all-star team of black superheroes; Dead Universes Project, featuring heroes from publishers who’ve vanished into the ether; and Cage Matches, recalling the greatest adventures of Luke Cage, Power Man — are the envy of every other commission collector, yours truly included. Beyond that, Damon’s just a really cool guy. You rock, amigo.

The Pirate Queen, who restored light to a world that had become horrifyingly bleak. All it took was a visit to Starbucks and a midnight at the asylum. Thank you for making me First Mate, Captain. I love you… and happy birthday.

Quotations. Gifted wordsmith though I am, I can’t be expected to pump out all the pithy sayings all by my lonesome. “Because remember, no matter where you go… there you are.” Buckaroo Banzai said that. See what I mean?

Rocketfish, my new favorite sushi joint. Have a Rocketfish Roll, brother. They’re fresh.

Stars, The Agency, simply the best talent agents in the whole wide world. Thanks for believing in me, Nate and Kristin. One of these first days, I’m going to make you guys a fortune. Not that you need it, or anything.

Trader Joe’s. Okay, so it’s owned by this mysterious, creepy, reclusive German family who probably have Anne Frank locked up in their attic or something. But I get a giddy thrill every time their Fearless Flyer lands in my mailbox. How TJ’s crams so much exotic yet tasty stuff into one little grocery store is beyond me. Must be the Hawaiian shirts.

The United States of America. Yes, we’ve had our problems. Yes, we have more than our share of lunatics, lowlifes, miscreants, and Tea Partiers… but then, I repeat myself. Still, we’re the place everyone else wants to be. The big dog on the block. The coolest kid in class. The land of milk, honey, Barack Obama, and Filet-O-Fish. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. And I have, so I’d know.

Virgin America. We flew to Vegas with these folks in July, and I have to give them credit, they make flying about as much fun as an airline can in these post-9/11 times. Nice to see a company doing a serious business not taking itself entirely too seriously. Besides, you have to admire the chutzpah in the name alone. I’m not sure what they call it the second time you fly, though.

West Portal, our little neighborhood downtown. Feel like Mexican tonight? Check out El Toreador. Indian? Try Roti. Peruvian? Fresca will hook you up. Breakfast? There’s a branch of Squat and Gobble on the corner. Want to catch a movie? The CineArts at the Empire shows the latest blockbusters. Need hardware? Legal pharmaceuticals? A glass of fine wine? A crab melt? An ATM? It’s all here for you, in the space of three short blocks. And of course, there’s a Starbucks. Where isn’t there a Starbucks?

Xfinity from Comcast. A bazillion cable TV channels, lightning-fast Internet access, even land-line telephone service if you’re all old school like that.

Yin and yang. Because there are two sides to everything. Male and female. Light and dark. Bitter and sweet. Ebony and ivory, together in perfect harmony. Just like life.

Zazzle. You can create T-shirts, mugs, and every conceivable other kind of novelty item and sell them to people. Or buy the stuff other people came up with. I picked up a nifty pair of Bettie Page mugs there just recently.

Did I mention that I’m thankful for you, friend reader? I am. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad you’re you. Have a happy, thoughtful, and reflective Thanksgiving.

Abby turns 10

February 28, 2011

Happy First Decade to my personal assistant Abby.

Abby gets a 10th birthday low five from her new octopus toy

After wearing herself out mauling her new octopus toy — sent to her via Amazon by The Daughter — Abby is, at this writing, celebrating with a nap.

Because that’s how she rolls.

That’s no gorilla, that’s my wife!

January 31, 2011

Another January 31 has arrived, which signals yet another observance of my second-favorite holiday…

It's National Gorilla Suit Day!

It’s National Gorilla Suit Day.

For the non-cognoscenti among us, National Gorilla Suit Day was founded by the late, great Don Martin, longtime cartoonist extraordinaire for MAD Magazine. Martin’s bizarre genius made him a beloved figure among humor aficionados and comic art buffs alike, as well as a corrupting influence on two generations of MAD readers.

Martin was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Comic Artists Hall of Fame in 2004, and deservedly so.

Just be careful if you wander past a Wal-Mart, a biker bar, or a trailer park today. Some of the people you think are wearing gorilla suits… might not be.

Of course, I’ve always been more of an orangutan man, myself.

SwanShadow Gives Thanks — Episode 7: A New Hope

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 marks the seventh consecutive year that I’ve written my annual A-to-Z list of people and things for which I’m giving thanks on this contemplative holiday.

As those of you who drop by here regularly know, 2010 has been a challenging year at Casa de Swan. KJ, my life partner of 29 years – my wife of 25 and a half years – passed away in July after a lengthy battle with breast cancer and degenerative liver disease. One might suppose that, in the wake of such a monumental tragedy, it would be more difficult than usual to find gratitude in my heart for the trivial accoutrements of life.

Truth to tell, however, I could write several dozen of these lists – the X’s, Q’s, and Z’s would get tough after a while – and not exhaust the limitless possibilities of thankfulness. If I’ve learned anything from recent experience, it’s not to take anything or anyone in my life for granted.

Before I delve into this year’s alphabetical progression, I’m going to take time for some special acknowledgments that belong on a list all to themselves.

I’m thankful for every moment of every day KJ and I were blessed to share together. Like all couples, we had glorious times and dark days, sunshine and struggle, soaring heights and devastating lows. Through it all, we never stopped loving each other. KJ’s quiet influence made me a better man, and a better human being. I would not be the me I am today without her. There’s a pretty fair argument to be made that I would not even be alive today without her. She has been the single most powerful presence in my life. She was my lover, my companion, my good right hand, and my very best and closest friend. I miss her terribly. I am grateful for all that she gave me, and I am especially grateful that she is now at peace.

I’m thankful for The Daughter, who, like her mother before her, makes me a better person just by being around me. KM has been a model of strength and perseverance throughout her mother’s illness, and in the aftermath of her death. She is everything any father could ask a daughter to be – kind, respectful, sweet, helpful, diligent in her studies, and quite often, wickedly funny. You would love her if you knew her, because everyone who knows her already does. She will graduate from university in May after just four years, even though her entire college career has been overshadowed by her mother’s failing health. You go, Supergirl — I am more proud of you than you will ever know.

I’m thankful for my parents-in-law, whose support and compassion has been invaluable in these haunted times. They have never stopped regarding me as their son, even though, technically speaking, the contractual connection between us no longer exists. This hard road would have been impassable without them sharing it with The Daughter and me. I will be forever grateful to them for all their help, encouragement, and love.

I’m thankful for the three communities of people whose fellowship has buoyed me over the tempest this year: my church family; my chorus family – the incomparable men of Voices in Harmony, and their significant others; and the family of Bay Area voice actors with whom I work and study at Voicetrax San Francisco. All of them have aided me in ways of which they are likely not even aware. I love them, every one.

And now, in keeping with our long-standing tradition, I’m also thankful for…

Abby, my personal assistant. Her typing is abysmal, her filing skills nonexistent, and she leaves her toys and chew bones strewn about the office, but she’s as warm and furry as any daily companion could ever be.

My BlackBerry Torch. It’s hard now to imagine how I functioned for so many years without a smartphone. It has made life easier and more organized in ways that I’d never have imagined – especially considering the fact that I rarely use the actual phone. The e-mail access, text messaging, GPS navigation, and instant updates from the Weather Channel and ESPN all pay for themselves ten times over.

Comic Art Fans, the home of my online art gallery and those of hundreds of other comic art collectors. The estimable Bill Cox has built, and continues to refine, an invaluable resource for participants in our hobby – and doesn’t even make us pay for the privilege of using it unless we choose to. (I do. Gladly.)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the nonpareil voice-recognition software by Nuance Communications. I’m now on my third iteration of Dragon, and the program just keeps getting better and better. It’s an incredible timesaver for clumsy typists like myself. In fact, I’m dictating this blog post with it.

The Eagles, one of my all-time favorite American rock bands. Do I ever get tired of listening to Hotel California? No, I do not. They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.

Faith. I always knew it was important. Until this year, I’m not sure I understood exactly how important.

My beloved San Francisco Giants, who this year won their first World Series championship in 52 seasons by the Bay. For diehard fans like The Daughter and myself, the joyous accomplishment of the Orange and Black couldn’t have come at a better time. Big-Time Timmy Jim, Shotgun, Buster, Huff Daddy, The Boss, BWeez, Pat the Bat, Magic Juan, J-Lo, Fast Freddy, Andres the Giant, MadBum, and the rest of the crew brought a ray of soul-cheering sunshine to a dismal summer.

The House Jacks, the original rock band without instruments. Their latest album, Level, flat-out kicks butt. (You can buy it on iTunes. And you should.) I’ll be seeing The Jacks live at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 11, as an early birthday present to myself.

“Indian Food,” our household nickname for Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors’ premier point guard. We like our Indian Food hot and spicy, dishing the rock, and bombing away from outside the arc.

Jury duty, which may, I know, seem like an odd thing for which to be thankful. I haven’t written much about it for reasons that will become immediately obvious, but I served on a jury this year that convicted a man of murder. It was a harrowing month-long experience, and yet one that I am glad I underwent — and which I will never forget.

KJ. As previously noted, I can’t say enough how thankful I am for her life.

Ladybugs, KJ’s personal totem. The Daughter and I refer to the mausoleum where KJ is encrypted as the Ladybug House. She would have liked that.

Memories – I have so many precious ones to treasure. With God’s blessings and a fair wind, perhaps I’ll make many more before this trip reaches its terminus.

Nigiri sushi. Man, that stuff is tasty. My favorite bites: tako, ebi, unagi, hamachi, and the ineffable toro.

Old school. That’s how I like my music. That’s how I live my life. Get off my lawn, you punk kids.

The Princess Bride, one of my best-loved motion pictures of all time. It has taken on a new meaning recently, ever since I came face to face with the real-life Dread Pirate Roberts. I’ll be your Westley any time, Buttercup. Just watch out for that six-fingered man. And, never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Quail. Cute little birds they are, and yet, they deserve to be persecuted. I’m just looking for a few good recipes.

Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill. Their Taco Tuesdays, when you can score all the fish tacos you can wolf down for $1.25 each, are among the greatest fast food bargains on the planet. Not to mention, delicious.

Supergirl – which, in addition to being my pet name for The Daughter, is also the nom de guerre of one of my favorite superheroines. I crossed an item off my bucket list this year by meeting Helen Slater, the actress who played Supergirl in the 1984 movie, and getting her autograph on the 50th issue of this current Supergirl run, to which she contributed a story. She’s every bit as lovely in person as she is on screen.

Throat Coat, the herbal tea from Traditional Medicinals that is the best friend of voice-using professionals everywhere.

The universe. Standing under a clear night sky never fails to remind me exactly how small and fragile I am. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, hat is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

Voice acting. It took me more than 45 years, but I am at long last becoming what I really want to be when I grow up.

Writing. Where would I be without the mystery and beauty of language? Words truly are my greatest passion. (Well, one of my greatest passions, anyway. Ahem…)

The X factor — that is to say, the unknown. I don’t know what the future holds for me. Whatever it is, I’ll face it head-on. And, knowing me, with a witty quip or three.

Yelp, the ultimate do-it-yourself review site. I’ve lost count of the number of great restaurants – not to mention other businesses – I’ve discovered using this helpful tool. As is the case with Wikipedia, one has to take what’s written on Yelp with a grain of salt, because anyone and his Dutch uncle can get on and write whatever they please. Still, used with discernment, it’s an incredible resource.

Andrew Zimmern, the globetrotting chef and culinary adventurer who hosts Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. You’d never catch me eating half the items that Andrew is called upon to sample, but I always enjoy journeying vicariously with him to the exotic places he goes, and seeing the amazing array of comestibles enjoyed by people of various cultures around the world.

Last, but by no means least, I am eternally grateful for you, friend reader. May you and the people you love experience the true joy of Thanksgiving this holiday. Please understand that no matter how challenging your life circumstances may seem, you have much for which to be thankful, if you just stop and look around.

Peace to you. And pass the mashed potatoes.

I have a power ring; I’m just wearing it as a belt

November 17, 2010

Once again, I get robbed.

This year, People Magazine passes me over for its annual Sexiest Man Alive honor in favor of Ryan Reynolds, whose chief claims to fame include (a) portraying comic book superhero Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, for those of you sufficiently comics-savvy to know that the title of Green Lantern applies to literally dozens of characters in the DC Comics universe) in the upcoming motion picture; and (b) being Mr. Scarlett Johansson.

Okay, so I’m not an alien-tech-equipped superhero, and frankly, I don’t think Ms. Johansson is my type. (Nor, doubtless, I hers.) But just once, you’d think People Magazine could show a little love to those millions of portly middle-aged gentlemen whose sexiness derives, not from matinee-idol looks which, let’s be honest, will need to be propped up with surgery and Botox in a decade or so, but from that most potent of sexual engines: the brain.

Experience and cunning trump chiseled cheekbones and washboard abdominals any time, ladies. Just sayin’.

Can I get a witness?

What’s Up With That? #86: The Cocaine Fairy delivers to the back door

October 6, 2010

I’ve heard some lame excuses in my time, but this one touches bottom.


In Manatee County, Florida, 25-year-old Raymond Stanley Roberts was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies in a routine traffic stop. When the officers smelled the familiar aroma of marijuana, they conducted a search of Roberts’s person. During the search, deputies discovered what appeared to be a small, soft package firmly ensconced between Roberts’s buttocks. This object proved to be a baggie filled with 4.5 ounces of cannabis.

Additional manual inspection of the suspect’s nether regions turned up yet another bag, this one containing 27 chunks of rock cocaine, weighing a total of 3.5 grams.

Confronted with the evidence, Roberts told the police:

“The white stuff is not mine, but the weed is.”

What say, Ray? Only some of the junk in your trunk is yours?

With this simple yet eloquent sentence, Roberts easily outstripped previous Lamest Excuse Ever recordholder Lindsay Lohan, who once famously denied that the cocaine that police found in her pants was hers, given that she was wearing someone else’s pants. I’m not sure how one would go about convincing the authorities that the buttocks upon which one was seated were someone else’s buttocks, but if it works, it works.

Apparently, it didn’t work for Mr. Roberts. He was charged with possession and is presently free on bail.

A word of advice, Ray…

Watch your (lower) back.

Just a reminder

September 29, 2010

For those of you keeping score, I’m still on jury service through next week. Hence, the paucity of posts.

That’s all that’s going on. I’m perfectly fine. And it’s not that I don’t love you, honest. (Well, perhaps one or two of you. You know who you are.) So, please don’t worry.

I’ll get back to a more regular update schedule once the trial is over.

In the meantime…

…how about those Giants?

Aye, there be pirates here!

September 19, 2010

Avast there, ye son of a bilge-rat!

Ol’ Cap’n Swan ain’t here today. Out celebratin’ his favorite holiday, he be.

Aye, that’s right, me bucko — it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

September 19 be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

So the good Cap’n says to raise a flagon o’ grog — preferably of the nonalcoholic variety, especially if ye be plannin’ to sail anytime today — and plant a smooch and a squeeze on the willing wench or sturdy swabbie (whatever be yer preference — Cap’n Swan don’t judge) o’ yer choosin’.

And stay off the poopdeck, ye slitherin’ sea snake, or the Cap’n’ll hoist ye up the nearest yardarm!

Sometimes, I feel like the Morton Salt girl

September 9, 2010

When it rains, it pours.

Oh, don’t cry for me, Argentina. My problems — at least those of which I’m speaking here — are strictly of the First World variety.

For most of this week, I’ve been without Internet access here at Casa de Swan. After a few pointless calls to AT&T DSL tech support, I figured out a workaround that has restored my connection. I still am without wireless hookup, so I’ve resigned myself to being chained to my office for the nonce, but at least I can communicate with the universe.

I also had jury duty this week. A duty which resulted in my being selected to serve in a trial that begins next week. So if postings are sparse here for the next little while, I know you’ll understand.

And… boom goes the dynamite.