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by Valerie

(continued from previous page)

With pests and songs on my mind (see last month's graphic), I decided to carry the concept one step farther. Any University of Texas Longhorn fan will understand the references. Although I do not reproduce here the graphic letters I used on any particular month's newsletter, suffice to know they were burnt orange in color and had little pairs of eyes on each character. For those who know nothing of football, universities, or Texas, the Longhorn's mascot is Bevo and the song "Eyes of Texas" is sung to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Everyone knows why flies are attracted to cattle.

The next illustration has a curious story. Because of our "bug" theme, I often use puns on that idea. When "gold bug" came to mind, I wondered if I was remembering correctly that it was a term for a person who is bullish (yes, the cattle reference came from the last illustration - so much in life is intertwined...) on gold as an investment. Of course, I went to the omniscient Wizard of Google to see if I was accurate. I was, but I also discovered that Gold-Bug, with the hyphen, was a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. As a teenager, I discovered Poe's stories and poetry, and I really enjoyed the classic horror tales that I'd found in a couple of anthologies. I had not, however, heard of this particular story. That deficit was quickly remedied as I found the complete text online and read it anon. It turns out that it was the author's most commercially successful work and an early example of a detective story solved through a cryptogram that eventually leads to, of all things, a buried pirate's treasure. I absolutely LOVE learning new things and this was a classic case. The joy of discovery is but a mouse-click away.

The image is simply several clues and ideas from the story, including the raven reference to the author. For more information, I highly recommend reading the story, which is quite short, as the first half is the tale, and the second half, which you can either read or ignore, simply gives a step-by-step detailed description of how the characters solved the mystery.

By the time I did the next graphic, we were well into mosquito season, so "Mosquito's Dream" was a no-brainer. Again, the song on which it is based needs no audio because the words are so famous that just about everyone will hum the tune in their head. If not, look it up on YouTube. This is another composite of dingbat fonts and clip art.

There is a small book called Naming Nature by Yoon in which I read that, like a specific part of our brain which recognizes faces, there is also a part that names living things (plants and animals). In the distant past, this was important as all our food comes from organic organisms; knowing how to tell them apart was crucial to survival. Well, nowadays many people don't know the identities of hundreds of animals, so Yoon suggests that we now use that section of our brains to recognize commercial product brands. I'm not sure whether I agree or not, but it is quite logical to assume that the ability to remember all sorts of symbols is related to memorizing the look of a poisonous vs. an edible leaf or fruit. Anyway, I realized that we DO recognize many companies by a simple graphic instead of a spelled-out name. I also like the look of a "cabinet of curiosities" sort of collection, which is what "Brand Name Bugs" is based on.

The big news in August, 2017, was the total solar eclipse that occurred across the United States. As I would have had to drive several hundred miles, then battle the traffic within the path of totality, I decided to forego the spectacle this time and will instead plan on viewing the next opportunity: an even longer totality will be visible in April, 2024, right here in Texas. I can't wait!

For some reason, solar eclipse seemed to tie in with Selenops (slightly reminiscent of an anagram? sort of? well, not really...) , which is a genus of spiders commonly called Flatties. The nice, round shape of the spider's legs, as it rests on a wall or rock face, is also very slightly similar to a starburst pattern. Sort of. Perhaps. Okay, it's pretty much just a free-associative idea, much like a typical dream image. They're my graphics and I can make up anything I want.

Making dingbat font characters morph and shift is sort of fun and that's the whole premise of "Chitin Chorus Line." For those not versed in biology lingo, chitin is what the exoskeleton of any arthropod is made of. I don't think my title really fits this particular animation, but it's good enough for an amateur endeavor like this. Maybe I'll try again in the future.

Sometimes it's just fun to play around with PhotoShop. I use Elements 2, which, let's face it, does pretty much anything that I wish to do with these simple illustrations. I've been told the program won't work on later operating systems, but I am using it with Windows 10 now. It's fine. "Peri Meets Predator" was done for, you guessed it, the Halloween issue. Peri is short for Periwinkle, who is our beloved wire fox terrier. She really did react to the waves at Galveston with her typical hysterical intolerance for anything surprising or novel. There wasn't really a giant mantis emerging from the depths, though. I even tweaked the photo a bit more, removing the leash on which she is always restrained in public. Doesn't the red of her collar match that of the frame nicely?

The poem for "Bug Survival" is sung to that incredibly versatile tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Or it doesn't have to be. It works either way. The moving parts of the image are rather subtle, much as they would be in nature. My favorite part is when the bird shadow crosses over. I'm easily amused.

In another case of limited options due to my not using sound for my computer graphics, you have to mentally sound out the utterances of the creature in "Humbug." I considered pairing it with a sheep giving its usual vocalization, but that seemed too blatant. I'll leave that part to the viewer's imagination. I can't believe I never thought of this pun in association with any Christmas in the past 18 years or so. Thank goodness I've not run out of ideas yet. The bug is a clipart entity representing a ventral view of some sort of aphid or other plant-feeding homopteran.

Perusing pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope of galaxies, nebulae, and planets, I decided that a little PhotoShop detailing could create a nice image for which the name would be obvious. "Dragonfly Nebula" did not turn out as well as I'd imagined, but it's also not too bad. The colors matched the graphic letters that I had used for the Valentine's issue, sort of like buying a painting because the hues match your sofa. I think I like the ring of the name better than the finished product.

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