Static two dimensional glimpses into the world as seen by Mark Newheiser

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Pictures from Oxford, England

This is a handful of some of the most interesting pictures from my trip to Oxford last September, if you really want more you can always ask.

A restaurant combination cemetery. Diners can sit and chat on actual tombstones. Makes a good conversation piece, and saves space at the school

We enjoyed a hearty lunch on this woman's grave

Pilgrim's Progress revisited

I really think this one speaks for itself

What the streets of Oxford look like at any given point. Note the quaint Englanders driving on the wrong side of the road.

Oxford, where every wall and every building is a showcase for intricate artwork and assertion of cultural superiority. Buildings are tall, gargoyles stare at you from the roofs, and vats of boiling oil are ready to be poured out at a moment's notice.

Giant domish building and lampost. You'll keep your neck permanently craned upward if you try to take in all the architecture at once.

Genuine nose flutes from Asia

Myself as a groundling at the old globe, shakepeare's original theater.

Architecture both classic and modern

Einstein describing the expansion rate, density, size, and age of the universe on a single blackboard. He had way better handwriting than yours truly, who can almost be seen in the reflection.

Hogwarts Hall, as seen in the Harry Potter movies. It's not quite as magical without the special effects. My brother ate a meal here once.

Modern artwork that's actually cool. The circular podium has a distorted picture on it, which becomes clear if you look at its reflection on the pillar in the center.

A shot from scenic Avebury. It's sort of a poor man's Stonehenge. Giant rocks were dragged here across miles and miles and arranged into vague circles for unknown ritualistic purposes. Further proof that people weren't making much use of their time before computers were invented either. These rocks have stood for thousands of years as testament to the power of really really bored people.

Ok, maybe I just have a thing for giant rocks associated with pagan cults and aligned with the sun at the spring equinox. Everyone needs a hobby.

The thing about England is that everything's been around for a really long time and there's a lot of history the cities are just built around. Like these trees for example. Way too many roots. Quite the tangle of agriculture.

A covered well sitting in the middle of a restaurant and advertising itself as a tomb to boot.

Since I needed a picture of my brother and sister in law somewhere. This is the best one I had where they're both in focus, and, well, what more can I say. This picture also illustrates another advantage to the English lifestyle. This is what's known is a kissing gate. It's a circular gate with a door that either has to block the entrance or the exit, meaning you have to walk in, close the gate behind you, then walk through the rest. The reason it's called a kissing gate is because a young scamp is likely to walk in first himself, have his girl walk behind him and close the gate on her so she's stuck, and make her give him a kiss before he lets her out. This barbaric practice continues to this very day, with generally successful results.

Comic Con 2006

Not as many pictures taken as I would have liked, but a lot of stories to tell. Ask me sometime.

My little brother with one of the authors of the Dragonlance series, Margaret Weis. Bit of a flashback to his adolescence, I think I was in to Lloyd Alexander at the time.

Tracy Hickman, the other half of the Dragonlance Dynamic Duo. Hard to imagine authoring a book with someone else for me, so much of writing is working through things in my head and reshaping phrases, it's hard to imagine doing that with another person.

The cool thing about Comic-Con is that any booth you go to and anything you do there, you'll see the genuine creators of a series promoting their stuff, and looking forward to chatting with their fans or recruiting some new ones. You can ask Stan Lee why he came up with the idea for the spidey suit, or catch up with an artist or writer after seeing their work for years.

A shot taken from a panel my brother and I went to, syndicated cartoonists discussing their field and how tough it is to get where they are. The web cartoonist's panel was funnier and way more off the wall, but these guys are a lot more established in what they do. From left to right, Brian Walker of Beetle Bailey, Vic Lee of Pardon My Planet  Michael Jantze of The Norm, Dan Piraro of Bizarro, Jeff Keane of Family Circus, and Andrew Feinstein of Girls & Sports.

The Bizarro guy was by far the funniest; Jeff Keane was interesting as well because he's not the kind of person you'd expect from someone drawing the strip. (or from his eternal incarnation as Jeffy in the comic)

Meanwhile, in the gaming side of the world, we have the highly prized autograph of Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario. Nice guy, white hair, and he's entirely comfortable with the fact that his fanbase is around forty years younger than he is.

My gag for the day was walking around with a giant pencil and getting people to sign or draw things depending upon whichever they were better at. This is Pete Abrams of the webcomic Sluggy Freelance flexing his artistic muscle.

On the bottom, we have Maddox drawing an alien from signs and the artist for his comic book drawing a pirate. On the top, we have the previously mentioned Pete Abrams drawing a girl with dancing snoopy feet and Jonathan Rosenberg from Goats drawing a chicken. A random security guy also signed somewhere up there for no reason.

This one's actually in decent shape through no fault of my own. On the bottom half we have Jeff Keane drawing Billy with the giant pencil, with an alien from Bizarro on the left. On the flip side Greg Evans sketched a Luann, and Joss Whedon scribbled out his name as best he could.


This is a geyser. A geyser is one of the natural wonders of the world, a hot spring which shoots up gallons of water hundreds of feet into the air at predictable intervals. This one is one of the coolest geysers we got to see since it went off for a long time in dramatic bursts like a fireworks show, you could see a cool rainbow from the right angle, and we were able to get up really close to it.

You can't really capture how impressive this thing is up close with just a static photograph--picture a hose being bent to one side, feeling the water slow to a stop and then start rushing out in giant bursts. It's a lot like that, only it's coming straight out of the ground and the water is boiling hot. This one's called "Castle Geyser", since its silhouette looks kind of like a castle.

 Proof that mud can boil, thanks to the cataclysmic geothermal forces ceaselessly simmering hundreds of feet below us. One cool thing we didn't get a good shot of were a bunch of lakes with big clouds of steam rising out of them. You just walk around them and see this misty fog start to fill the air and form a cloud all around you. The air smells like sulfur, but its pleasantly warm in the middle of a cold day.

This picture really captures the nobility and absolute obliviousness of the Yellowstone buffalo. It just kind of meanders around like it owns the place (which it probably does), and occasionally wanders into traffic, usually in the wrong lane. You can generally track them by the fleets of cars following them around.

 For those of you with vertical aspirations, this is not a tree you want to be climbing. It's anchored to the edge of the cliff by a few roots with a desperate grip on the edge, and it's grown to an impressive height. I'm not suggesting that Yellowstone put this thing on their brochures or that you drive for days to see it, but it's still pretty cool.

And finally, this is Old Faithful. It's not the largest or most regular geyser in the park, but it's easily accessible and puts on a pretty reliable show. Since the crowds are so big they keep people a good distance away. The geyser is also next to a lodge and a few buildings, so if you choose to get a cabin nearby you can peek your head out every ninety minutes and see it flaunt its stuff.

Comic-Con 2007

Aaah, and I return to the pop culture mecca of our times. If you don't/didn't go, shame on you for missing out, and thanks for saving more room for me.

My buddy Nate and I, in front of a compilation of classic LucasArts star wars/adventure games from our misspent youths.

The rather frightened looking man on the right is Mike Nelson, from a little show called Mystery Science Theater 3000 which made fun of terrible movies and shorts during its cult run. His ability to mock the most deserving targets, and make the most painful moments in cinema history endurable with his wit makes him the coolest person I got to see there.

Most of the fun at comic-con is seeing the crazy kinds of people who go there, a lot of them in some impressive costumes, and every one of them obsessed with some particular subculture or work of fiction. This bug-eyed alien on my right is Admiral Ackbar on Star Wars, most notable for frantically shouting "IT'S A TRAP" during a climactic scene. Our friend in a conductor's outfit here would throw his arms up unto the air and yell "TRAAAAAP" to warn our fellow nerds of possible danger.

It pains me to admit this, but I only had the second largest pencil on the convention floor. Despite all the pencil envy I basked in, I was eventually outclassed by this young artist, who still gave me props (and some beads) for having the largest functional novelty pencil she'd ever seen. I also got some drawings done with it from anyone who was willing, I may post some later.

Cruise 2008

Our ship, the Carnival Elation. Took a cruise with my family down to Cabo and Ensenada because there is just something really cool about being in a giant floating hotel that serves you food 24/7, takes you strange places, and gives you nothing better to do than relax.

 This gorgeous sunset here represents the last sliver of California our boat passed, until there was nothing but open water on all sides of us. You kind of get used to a ship rocking underneath you and making sudden lurches, and it excuses all kinds of natural clumsiness.

 Upon further reflection, I'm not entirely sure I needed to be in this picture, striking that pose, but here we are. I would have jumped ship and stowed away at a moment's notice if there was a chance to travel in a ship like that represented in icy form.

The shipyards and hills of Cabo San Lucas! I'm well aware that tourist brochures are filled with pictures like this but this one has the distinction of being taken by me, and if I'm really lucy someone will image search this page and steal it for something, and I can look on proudly.

We hung out at a special effects studio around Ensenada, which alleged to have the largest water effects stage in the world, used for Titanic among other things. This is a set of boilers used in Titanic, they didn't want to bother building a full ship's worth of them, so they set up some mirrors to double them on all sides, and had our heroes run through the same corridor perpetually redressed, then patched it all together.

Giant Jesus wants to give you a hug

The mysterious late night shipyards of Ensanada, which looks like it had some boats a little bit tilted, just kind of hanging out in the water.

Comic Con 2008

Three years already? Yikes. I should break out a separate page for all the cool drawings I've gotten alone, but here's some cool stuff for now:

Holy giant pencils, Batman! I stand here next to giant lego representations of two long running comic-book veterans. For most people the amount of time and dedication it would take to build a life-size Batman out of legos would seem to teeter on the obsessive edge of madness, but at Comic-Con it's just par for the course.

This is me and my brother pictured with some of the gentlemen who have been so influential in developing my twisted style of humor. I just hope they got as much out of my oversized novelty writing implement as we did.

Half the fun at Comic-Con really is the people, of which I'm certainly representative. This is me with a Phoenix Wright impersonator, from a game that simulates courtroom drama with puzzle-solving. Phoenix here, being a pro, knows exactly how to dramatically point at the camera.

 This is me with some cows that were hanging out in a parking lot. If I haven't explained how cows relate to my life yet, settle in for a long story sometime.

Sadly however, not everyone you see at comic-con is an obsessed fan. This glamorous tomato costume you see here before you is actually filled by a professional model. As much as I love rotten tomatoes as a website, I just can't help but feel this goes against the spirit of all the people who actually dress up as tomatoes for their own purposes.

 These people however are fans, and waited in line with me for over an hour as we stood around for the honor of attending a panel on Battlestar Galactica. Nice folks all around, glad they didn't think any worse of me for acting like I was going to draw all over them.

 Disney World 2008

While it certainly lacks the spontaneity and freshness of Comic-Con, and Pixar's been a bigger creative force in my generation, Disney is still an impressive company. They were lauded as the Google of their day for all they were trying to accomplish, and they get poked fun at as much as they do because they're the mouse on top. And Disney World is an impressive social experiment in crowd control and making a whole fake world pop out of nowhere.

 The first of the four headliner parks we visited was Disney's Animal Kingdom, sort of like the Wild Animal Park in San Diego only run for the benefit of the humans rather than the animals. In addition to rhinos, lions, and elephants kept safe from humans by the magic of Disney, they had this lovely flock of flamingos.

All the Disney Parks are built around a central landmark: Sleeping Beauty's Castle for The Magic Kingdom, the Epcot Golf Ball for Epcot, the Sorcerer's Apprentice's Hat for Disney Studios, and The Tree of Life for the animal Kingdom. Out of all the landmarks, it's the most impressive, with animals carved into its wood all the way around.

The coolest part about Epcot was the World Showcase, with eleven countries represented with architecture, shops, and fine dining from each. We walked past St Mark's Campanile and enjoyed an excellent Italian meal, apparently served by authentic Italians, Disney is apparently in the business of recruiting people from around the world to stock their Pavilions for each country. You can go from Moroccan to French cuisine just by taking a short walk, and if you can't finish it all and someone complains about all the starving children in China who could use that food, you can just take it next door.

Getting from place to place in the parks can be accomplished by monorail, tram, train, or even by floating through a constantly running river in a waterpark. In this shot we approach The Magic Kingdom by way of a ferry, you can see parts of Liberty Square and Sleeping Beauty's castle in the background.

I'm a fan of The Haunted Mansion with all of its clever if not creepy chills. But before you get on the ride they usually try to stock the pre-waiting areas with some interesting things to stare at for hours on end, like this graveyard, filled with humorous headstones. It reminds me of an adventure gaming convention, whenever a game was obligated to include a graveyard each stone would have some humorous poem or limerick on it. One of the best not pictured: "Rest in peace, Cousin Huet. We all know you didn't do it."

 Back at Disney Hollywood Studios, we have the bone yard, where old props beyond all hope of being needed for a sequel go to die. These are a couple of boney cages used in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Our guide made a big deal out of this, supposedly this is a snow speeder from something called "Star Wars". I'm not sure what that is though, maybe one of you could fill me in.

Right before they dump you in a gift shop, the last thing they show you on the Disney Hollywood Studios tour is a set of costumes from Prince Caspian, Pirates, "Star Wars", and a set including this one from Enchanted. It's kind of neat to see, I suppose all these relics have to end up somewhere.

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