Saturday, June 30, 2007

Book Review: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl


I can’t say that I was a gung ho Roald Dahl fan when I was a kid. I did enjoy Witches, Revolting Rhymes, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I barely got through The BFG and never touched the chocolate factory even though I enjoy the movie. I guess I liked a lot of his books, but I remember books like the Ramona series more fondly.

This collection of short stories is for adults. By far my favorite was the title story. One thing that Roald Dahl does tremendously well is create entire worlds in his stories. Suspension of disbelief isn’t a task at all—you just do it. At one point, I was believing that I, too, could see through cards if only I practiced long enough.

Dahl mostly wrote for kids and has only a few adult books. He mostly wrote fiction, but in this collection, you’ll find three non-fiction stories. My least favorite: “Lucky Break: How I Became a Writer,” because it makes me feel like my attempt to write is in vain. As if what I really need is to fall into writing, not jump. Dammit.

Read it if you’re over the age of 13 and enjoyed reading about foxes, chocolate factories, and boys living in giant peaches.

T. Budnik

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Amicalola Falls through a Spy Camera and a Pen

Because school hasn't started yet, I headed out to Amicalola Falls to climb the 604 stairs and to do a bit of drawing. Once again, I brought the spy camera.

Here's what I saw:






At the midpoint, I said to myself, "Theresa, you don't need another self portrait in front of the falls. You already have a bajillion." Who was I kidding?


From the visitor center to the base of the falls, there's a short trail that goes through the woods. I took this trail, like I usually do, but I kept feeling spider webs on my arms and face--as if I was walking through single strands. I was the crazy lady who kept brushing her arms and face and running her fingers through her hair to make sure there weren't any spiders on me. (Nothing ever was.)

I decided I wasn't going to take this way back. There's a road from the visitor center to the base of the falls (where the fishing hole is). I figured I'd take the road back. After climbing to the top, then back down, and drawing here and there, I saw a different trail that was signed as being a way back to the visitor center. I went for it.

Then, I saw this:


A bonafide wild snake! In this picture it's sneaking away to the bushes, but it was right in the middle of the trail when I encountered it. I got about 4-5 feet away from it before I saw it. Gene and Nikki, this is for you: I exclaimed, "Oh, Jesus!" when I saw it. I stepped back a couple of feet and realized I don't know a damn thing about snakes. My brain tried to remember what Bill Nye the Science Guy had said about snake colors and what was poisonous, but I saw that show about a million years ago.

So, I just watched it. Then, bing! I remembered I had my spy camera. I pulled out the spy camera and the damn thing started to move. "Hold on fella, I wanna get your picture!" I said as I walked closer to it. What you see above was the best picture I got. (My best guess is that it's a corn snake.)

There you have it Amicalola Falls through a spy camera and pen and my first wild snake experience.

T. Budnik

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fan Mail

Remember the book Moonlight Chronicles by Dan Price I reviewed? Well, I liked the drawing and writing so much, I decided to write Mr. Price a fan letter. In my short letter I basically told him that usually I'm a monogamous reader, but cheated on a collection of short stories to read his book. And that it was worth it. Then, I sent a lil' bitty story I had written. (Actually, the story was originally my datablitz, but I turned it into an illustrated story so I could include it in what I'm calling "The Portfolio Center Diaries.")

I mailed it the Monday I left for North Carolina thinking that one, maybe he won't care, and two, he probably won't respond because it's not like I asked for a response.

This past Monday, this flopped down from the mail slot onto my foyer floor:


A complimentary copy of his zine. (I read the entire thing and it's great.) He even wrote me a short note! Maybe he was being polite when he wrote that he "enjoyed" my story, but hot dog, I got Dan Price to read it!

T. Budnik

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Week #25


T. Budnik

PS. For those of you who were holding your breath, I have acquired a 2008 Moleskine Daily Planner. The planner scans shall continue for another year.
Week #24


T. Budnik

Monday, June 25, 2007

North Carolina Trip June 2007: Day 4

Thursday I woke up early enough to say goodbye to Gene before he left for work. Then, I packed my car, checked the oil and other fluids, and said goodbye to Nikki, Eugie, and Liam.

I would like to inform everyone who was made aware that Mom and I got lost leaving Goldsboro in September of 2005 that I DID NOT get lost this time. Yes.

The drive was pretty much what it was on Monday, but I decided to stop at South of the Border. This attraction has about a billboard every mile for thirty miles in both the southern and northern directions of I95. Let me tell you, every minute I spent there was worth it. That place is spectacularly cheesy and seedy. Seriously.



This one's for Birdie: check out the stunna shades I bought there for a mere $3.50!


Here are some friends I made.



What a great stop. It's the kind of place you know has a smooshed penny machine. So I asked the fellow at the gift shop if there was one nearby. That dude knew that there was one two doors down to the right and three doors down to the left. Of course I got a smooshed penny.

Just when you didn't think things could get more exciting than that. This is what I saw driving east on I20:


It's okay to be jealous. Unfortunately, this isn't my photo. It's hard to first recognize a Nut-Mobile when it's driving 70+mph in the opposite direction let alone fishing out a camera to snap a picture.

And, that's not all. At the Georgia Welcome Center there was a man selling peaches out of the back of his truck. Mom and I encountered this same man, or one very similar, when we first reached Georgia. Mom bought a small basket of peaches from this man and those peaches got us through many homeless meals when I was just finding an apartment. In honor my cross-country roadtrip with Mom and those homeless meals, I bought a bunch of peaches for $5. And they're delicious!

I arrived back in Atlanta safe and sound. Can you guess what time? That's right, rush hour. It seems I can't arrive in Atlanta at any other time.

This trip was great. I had so much fun and as far as I can tell, the Budnik 6 had just as much fun. Boy, have I been lucky. Since I've been in the states, I've been able to see a lot of family and territory.

T. Budnik

Sunday, June 24, 2007

North Carolina Trip June 2007: Day 3

Wednesday was rockin'. We woke up a bit earlier because we planned to hit Cliffs of the Neuse State Park for a little hiking and wanted to beat the heat. Before we took off to the state park, we stopped at Nikki's hippy garden--a plot in a community garden--so that she could turn the water on.

Here's Nikki's garden:


Here's some square's garden:


See, Nikki's belief of eating well goes beyond the process of cooking. She's all about organic foods. With her "grow and let grow" method of gardening, she doesn't use pesticides and lets the fruit of the earth bloom where they choose. She's already plucked a cayenne pepper and has several tomatoes growing alongside a green bell pepper.

After that quick stop, it was onward to the trail.




We made it to the river pretty quickly and without incident. It was your typical muddy-brown Southern river. You know what I like about that last photo the most? I'm pretty sure they didn't know I was taking it and they're all in their natural element.

Well, the hike past the river didn't go so great. There were more ants there than I've ever seen. Which would have been okay if they weren't vicious. Here's a video Gene took:

As you can see, I was bitten by an ant who crawled up my leg. After that one bite, I pulled out my bug spray and doused my legs. That didn't work. Those mofos kept crawling onto my shoes. I had to keep my eyes down and squish them often. I was the only one they seemed to want to crawl on. At one point, Nikki, who didn't even have any bug spray on, kneeled down on the ground to tie my shoe. The woman didn't have a single ant on her when she stood up.

From Cliffs of the Neuse, we went home. Gene freaked me out about ticks. Gene and Nikki checked the little ones for ticks while I frantically checked my skin for ticks. Then, we headed off to AppleBees for lunch--Aaaaaahhhhh! (That's what Eugie says when something pleasing is said.)

After lunch, we went to WalMart for supplies then went home to chillax. At home, I pulled out my sketchpad so that with Eugie I could draw the things we saw (she was upset we couldn't stop in front of the river to draw).

Liam wanted in on the action. Here's his contribution:


And, here's what Eugie and I came up with:



Once the rain stopped, we all headed out to an empty parking lot and Gene taught me how to drive a stick. I only stalled twice. I'd have to say that's pretty darn good for my first time driving a stick and in a car with the steering wheel on the right side.


For dinner, Nikki made carne asada. Translation: deliciousness wrapped in a tortilla. She also made margaritas. Yes, folks, I had two margaritas for two reasons: one, "margarita" is fun to say, and two, they were weak. I wouldn't have been able to drink them if they weren't.


Man, these Budnik 6ers make me look like a ghost!

Oh yes, we swung on the swings:




Whew! We did a lot Wednesday and I had tons o' fun.

Tomorrow: The drive home.



T. Budnik
Sundays I Write Letters

Dear Mom,
I'm glad that you, too, enjoy this drawing. I'm still eagerly waiting for the picture. And, I did have fun at my Bro's.

T. Budnik

Dear KBezzie,
I sure hope you're enjoying my pastiness. Shall we compare?

T. Budnik

Dear NikBudnik,
I'll have to disclose whether I went to the topless cafe in my final post about my trip. Don't be jealous, 'cause I know you are.

T. Budnik

Dear Birdie,
They were good times.

T. Budnik

Dear Mom,
Geez, I just got back. I think I waited one day to start blogging. A girl's gotta rest. I had a FANTASTIC time in North Carolina.

T. Budnik

Dear Birdie,
You did indeed introduce me to Tim Fite. You included a couple of his songs on a mix and I went and bought the whole damn CD. It really is a good CD.

T. Budnik

Dear KBezzie,
I completely forgot that your story was visual last year. I'm trying to make a mini-anthology of all of these verbisual stories I have written in the last two years.

T. Budnik

Dear Mom,
Yes, Happy Birthday, KBezzie.

T. Budnik

Dear Birdie,
Yes and yes.

T. Budnik

Dear NikBudnik,
I am making a conscious effort to include "jackhole" in my everday vocabulary. I suggest you do the same. Getting good pictures of your babies isn't very hard. They're so damn cute!

T. Budnik

Dear KBezzie,
Well! I sure hope you talk fondly of the dinner I cooked for you while you were here! Haha! I kid because I kare!

I've got quite a few squirrels in my vincinity. I do enjoy a good squirrel watch.

T. Budnik

Dear Gene,
I do believe your wife is correct.

T. Budnik

Saturday, June 23, 2007

North Carolina Trip June 2007: Day 2

Tuesday I woke up and witnessed the Disney Wonderland that is the Budnik 6's backyard.


No joke, people. In the morning there are squirrels and all kinds of birds in the backyard. You can't see them too well in this picture, but I took it from inside. I didn't want to scare any of the wildlife. The Budnik 6 are one with nature.

Check this out:


Once again, you can't see them too well, but there are baby birds in this nest that is right next to their front door.

In the late morning we piled into the van and headed to Raleigh. The ride wasn't too long. It reminded me of the Palmer to Anchorage trip. In Raleigh, we went to the mall where Eugie got her bear, June, an outfit from Build-A-Bear and we ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. From there it was a couple of stops to Barnes & Noble on Gene's search for his Mini magazines and a stop at Whole Foods. It was a nice little jaunt into the big city.

Here are the kids in the van.




Along the drive and at the restaurant, Eugie and I had a couple of staring contests. Although, after much consideration, I think she was calling them "serious" contests, which would explain the fierce look she got on her face. I should have gotten a picture of that.

Later in the day, after we got home, I gave them all the sketchpads, pens, pencils, and crayons I had brought. (I brought these along because I'm on a big drawing kick right now.) I think Eugie got the most into it. She went to town in her sketchpad. And, did you know she can write her name? Impressive.

We had tuna steaks, potato salad, and regular salad for dinner, which was preceded by sushi. I write this because Nikki has a reputation for making delish dinners and I know someone, if not everyone is going to ask. (It was delish.)

Oh, and how can I forget? At one point Gene was trying to merge and some chick wasn't paying attention and wouldn't move. In a burst of frustration, he called her a "jackhole" and made Nikki bust out laughing. I, too, was cracking up in the back at this, but only because laughter is contagious. Sorry, Gene.

That night we listened to Mitch Hedberg and watched a Jim Gaffigan DVD (Flush pockets!).

Tuesday was a funny day.

Next up: a hiking and driving adventure.

T. Budnik
Happy Birthday, KBezzie!

Today is my older sister's birthday. In her honor, here is the story I sent her.

This is not a great essay. It’s not even a good essay. It’s more like an essay I can’t even write. Inspired by Tim Fite’s song, “Not a Hit Song,” I figured I could write an essay that started out the same way. Nope. I can’t. I’ve had a file titled “notagreatessay” sitting in my “Written Pieces” folder on my computer since August 20, 2006. There are three sentences.

It wasn’t just left at that. No, I know I tried a few months after that or just a few months back to actually write it. Then, just a few weeks ago, after listening to the Tim Fite CD again, I figured I’d give it another go.

That file has a couple of paragraphs. But I don’t like them. Those few weeks ago, I started it, listening to the song, but stopped after a couple of lines. That night, right before I fell asleep, I was thinking about it, writing it in my head, and said to myself, “Yes! That’s it! Maybe I should get up and write this down. Nah, it’s such a great idea, I won’t forget.”

Wrong. The next day when I sat down again, I lost it. I don’t know what I was going to write. So I wrote a ramble about big business, the division of labor, the assembly lines of customer service. This was spawned by my recent computer problems and the inability of anyone at the computer company customer service or tech support to help me because they had all been given specific jobs and once my issue was passed on to someone else, that someone else had no idea what was going on. Ask a Ford assembly line worker what they do for a living. Build cars, they’ll say. Then ask them for a technical explanation of how cars run. Ten bucks they won’t know because that knowledge isn’t needed when all you’re doing is popping some chairs into a chassis.

But that’s all beside the point. The point is I can’t write this essay. I couldn’t write it in August. I couldn’t write it in February and I couldn’t write it two weeks ago.

This essay isn’t one I can write. It’s an essay I’ve tried multiple times to write. Write at the computer and in my head. One attempt was successful—but I didn’t have a pen and trusted my enthusiasm to cooperate with my memory. Without that damn pen and paper this essay can’t be a great essay. It can’t even be good.

T. Budnik

Friday, June 22, 2007

North Carolina Trip June 2007: Day 1
Hi-oh! I just got back from North Carolina yesterday evening. Now, if there's one lesson that I've learned in living essentially alone and without seeing family for over a year, it's that I NEED family and I NEED to see 'em. I saw KBezzie & Co. in February for a way-too-short visit. So with Gene & Co. (commonly referred to as the Budnik 6) being the closest, I decided to pay a visit.

This was one of those trips where each day feels better than the last (yah, even if I only spent 2 full days there). This was one of those trips where there are tons of stories to tell. The only disappointment was that I didn't get to see Paul and Liz!

Here's what happened:

Monday morning I woke up at a normal 7:30am and only hit snooze once. I ate some breakfast, checked my car, took out my trash (because I didn't want to come home to a stink), and packed my car. By 9:30am I was on the road.

There really wasn't anything of interest along the drive except that I saw a Lexus SUV with old school Alaska plates pass me. I was so excited! I wish that they had seen my bumper sticker, but as the person passed, I saw that they were on a cell phone. I would have honked at them, but between them talking on a cell phone and passing me who was already going 5-10 miles over the speed limit, I figured they didn't need another distraction. I also saw tons of billboards for the topless cafe. Nikki expressed wonder if the performers are indeed attractive since the cafe is essentially located in the middle of nowhere. On the way home, I studied these billboards and noticed pictures of chicks on them. So, if the chicks on the billboards are the performers, one only needs to evaluate the billboards and avoid a possibly embarassing visit to the topless cafe where I believe truckers are given discounts.

Anyway, upon arrival in Goldsboro at about 5:30pm, I called up Gene and he and Eugie came and got me at the base visitor center. Eugie was a bit shy at first and wouldn't even look at me. Haha! She sat in my car while Gene went into his work to drop something off on our way to their house and we had a nice little chat about the Chick Day she had with Nikki.

Nikki and Liam were at the house. Liam, is no longer the cute blob of dough I saw two years ago. Nope. He's still cute, but he's walking, talking, and identifying colors. When I got there, he was on the computer playing some kind of educational game. He'd stand up on the chair and raise his arms in triumph when he won a game.

We all chilled and relaxed--we chillaxed--the rest of the night. Nikki made some delish kabobs for dinner. was nice to eat a real meal and not one of my bachelorette sandwiches for dinner.

I also taught Eugie and Liam a new game completely by accident. At one point Eugie was running around and for some reason, I can't remember, I suggested to her that we sit quietly on the couch like proper ladies--this was all said in a proper voice. And, I said, "Let's drink our tea," because I don't know. I guess that's what proper ladies do? Little did I know that she wanted some sugar in her tea and she had some chocolates and crackers to share. Little did I know that Liam is an avid tea drinker and wanted in on some of this make-believe tea drinking. The rest of my visit, these two would occasionally start this tea-drinking game. Eugie even uses the funny proper voice.
This night Nikki and I stayed up late talking. I think we stayed up until 1am. We pretty much stayed up every night talking. It was nice to have girly talks. I haven't had one (in person) for such a long time.

There weren't any photo opportunities on the drive, but I got a couple once I arrived:


Liam and Eugie being Liam and Eugie


As you can see, Eugie's grown, but she's still a top model.


And so is Gene.


They say we look alike.

Next up: Our journey into Raleigh.

T. Budnik

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sundays I Write Letter

Dear Readers,
I'm sorry to say that I don't have enough time this evening to address all of your comments and concerns. Perhaps later in the week or next Sunday. I don't want to leave you without anything of substance to read, so I give you this post.

T. Budnik

Happy Father's Day!

I have to start this post with Mother's Day. For that day, I sent my mom two smooshed pennies. That's a total value of $1.02. (It costs 50cents to smoosh the penny, plus the penny.) One penny came from Amicalola Falls and the other from Stone Mountain.

This is what she did with them:


The two I just sent are on the far left and right. I was with her when she got the other two.

So, what to get my dear father for his day? I didn't want to spend more on him than I had my mom. I thought and thought.

I drew him this:


For those who don't know, this is the trailer we drove all over Alaska and finally to Canada (that trip pretty much killed it). It's not completely out of commission, though. When I last talked to Daddy he said there were about 20 winter tires in it.

The drawing was absolutely free! But I ended up paying about $5 between the matboard and the shipping. Oh well. It's not like my mom isn't going to appreciate my drawing, too.

To both Mom and Daddy, Happy Parents' Day!

T. Budnik

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fantastic Day

Last night was my last critique. We had critiques a little differently this quarter. Each individual instructor gave out numbers instead of strangers we stand in front of for 15 minutes. This made critique not so stressful, but it dragged on as the critiques were done during our regularly scheduled class times. With my 7th quarter all done and said for, I decided to head out to Stone Mountain.

Now, the last couple of weeks I haven't really been sleeping in--or crashing. We all know what this can lead to: waking up a 11:05am when I've got a morning meeting. But, I decided to suck it up, wake up at my usual time to hit the mountain. Because I'm slowly falling in love with drawing, I decided to take one of my handmade notepads and one of my favorite pens with me.

This made carrying it up easy:


Okay, maybe you can't see what that is. It's one of those cheapy drawstring bags where the drawstrings are the straps. After talking with a friend who has one and discovering that as long as you don't carry a heavy load, it's not uncomfortable, I got one. Today was my first day testing it out. It was nice to be able to carry my keys and cell phone in there instead of in my pockets and to be able to put my wallet in there instead of leaving it in the car, but as soon as I slung it over my shoulders, I realized I had an issue: my butt. I was getting major butt bumpage. But, (no pun intended) it was an easy fix, at the top of the mountain, I put a knot about 6" into the drawstring on both ends that are inside the bag. That may sound complicated, but it wasn't.

Once I made it up the mountain, I caught my breath and picked out a spot to sit down and draw.





I learned clouds are damn hard to draw. Probably because they're gaseous.

I didn't think it was too weird to be sitting atop a blob of granite and drawing. Come on, there's the Stone Mountain Guitar Man.


You can't really see him and you can see the chick in the red sports bra better, but he's there. What do you expect from a spy camera? (That's right, I took my spy camera.)

There were a couple of people who walked unnecessarily close to me. Really, it's a pretty flat, spacious mountain top. I couldn't help to think that they just wanted to see what I was up to. Here's one of the culprits.


(He's in the orange shirt.)

For the most part, though, I was oblivious to other people. It was so relaxing to climb the mountain and then just chill at the top and draw for 30-40 minutes. After spending the morning doing that there's really nothing that could have ruined the rest of my day.



T. Budnik