Tuesday, January 25, 2011

While I Was Out Part 9: Greater Des Moines Habitat For Humanity

Hello Internet, it's been a while. Things have been a little hectic this last couple of weeks but I can now proudly say that I am an AmeriCorps Alumni and I'm back home in Cleveland. (WHOOOOH!) I'll get into the details about the closing week a little bit later but for now it's time to talk about Habitat. After our heroes of Maple One and Three were replace by Maple Two in Mississippi, the two teams returned to Vinton Iowa for a brief while and were then sent to separate locations to finish off the remainder of the second round. I can't honestly remember where Maple Three went, (it's really not keeping me up at night either.) but Maple One and myself were off to Des Moines Iowa to work with the Habitat for Humanity branch of the greater Des Moines area. Des Moines was surprisingly a very happening city. We were there during the late summer so we got to go to the local farmers market town which was amazing. We also checked out some stores and I got these really awesome jacket that makes me look bad ass. It's the most I've ever spent on a single article of clothing, (it costing $90.00 American) but Victoria and Andrea said that a jacket like that is an investment. One that I have yet to regret. Now, about the work.

and then we helped Habitat set up for their big event that year, The 2010 Blitz Build. The Blitz build was in 20 days building 10 houses, (2010 clever right?) and our job was doing all the prep work for it which included building and setting the frame work for the future homes and all sorts of cool things.It rained a lot when we were there which made our job hella hard moving those heavy mud frames and walls through the mud as we sank and almost fell every 5 or so minutes.
I got to use a jackhammer which as cool as it was, is actually a lot harder than it looks on television. We even got to see a couple of the houses that were finished being dedicated to the families which was pretty cool. Also one of the sponsors gave us all nicknames, mine was Magoo which, isn't terribly flattering, but it was cool that I got one never the less. When we got done with our time there it was already mid year. We'd get replaced by Maple 5 there after Midyear and they got to see the blitz build from start to finish and we got to go back for a day to see the final dedication of the ten houses.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Songs and Musicians That Got Me Through AmeriCorps

So While in NCCC I've heard a lot of new music and gained a new appreciation for some old favorites. These are some of the artists that really grew on me this last 10 months and their songs. (Also the in case you are wondering what is up with the picture it's a reference to a song by one of these artist/groups. 10 house points to the house who get it.)
Wilco: I was some what familiar with the band Wilco before AmeriCorps for the album they did with Billy Bragg of Woody Guthrie covers. (I mean I think they would be considered covers, none of the songs were recorded by Guthrie so...) I got a hold of their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and I really dug it. I like the mellow folky beats, my favorite song on the album would probably have to be Heavy Metal Drummer.
Liz Phair: People who are too good for popular music know her for the Album Exile In Guyville, and people who are good enough for Popular Music know her for the single "Why Can't I" and those same people who where too good for it labelled her a sell out for it but I say screw them. Liz Phair will always have a special place in my heart, (I'm a sucker for her lucky pretty eyes.) and sure "Why can't I" certainly wasn't one of her better tracks but even with that song it's still a pretty good album. Needing to make a living does not make you a sell out.
The Clash : I was introduced to the Clash by the other Avery but to me they were one of those bands who you always knew about but you didn't know you knew them. Train In Vain is a song I can always jam out to.
Of Montreal: This was a band I had heard about but never really looked into and I have just got to say, wow, simply wow. They've got a great use of instruments and clever lyrics, things I look for in a band (as should you.) Satanic Panic In The Attic has easily become one of my favorite albums and The Party's Crashing Me has become one of my favorite songs.
Rilo Kiley: This was a group that Thomas (see Pirate Party) introduced me to. I love the song "Ripcord" which my teammate Andrea does a beautiful version of on her ukulele. I also found their song "Breakin' Up" was just what I needed for my recent break up. I played the video for the song for Kamen while we were in MS and he fell in love with it. He then played it after he broke up with his boyfriend. (an unrelated incident)
The Kinks: I really dig the Album Aurthur especially the tracks "Victoria" and "Drivin" both remind me so much of my Corps Year.
Harvey Danger: Another band I came across with NCCC thanks to the famous Matt Rossi, simply wonderful, they did a brilliant cover of Bowie's "Oh you Pretty Things" and their album Little By Little is just as great.
Ok Go: Yes they do have songs other than the treadmill video and yes they also have videos even more awesome to match. My favorite song of there's, "This Too Shall Pass". My sister prefers the album version/ the one they use in the Rube Goldburg video but I prefer the marching band version, I like me some brass instruments. I listened to this song after a particularly bad day of work and I cried, it was good cry mind you, but I cried, I really got what the song meant that day.
The Avett Brothers: Another band introduced to me by Thomas (you'll notice this pattern, because if it wasn't something that I found through Thomas it came from the Famous Matt Rossi.) great group, the Album "Four Thieves Gone" is the album I listened to all through Toledo and then some in MS. There one song "Kick Drum Heart" has this line "It's not the chase that I love it's me following you" which I just think is one of the most beautiful things anyone could say to someone. (cause I'm weird like that.)
She And Him: Again a Thomas related discovery, I kinda have this obsession with Zooey Deschanel. (actress and the "she" half) She has just got this voice and musical style that sounds like it comes from the 50's and I love it, especially the songs "Black Hole" and "In the Sun"
Franz Ferdinand: An old love of mine, I've found the song "Micheal" to have been made for Kamen, for more than just a name's sake.
Camera Obscura: Once again I blame Thomas for this one, he included a song of theirs on a mix CD he made for me before I left. I love the songs "French Navy" and "If Looks Could Kill"
Metric: Not a huge fan of them as a whole but their song "Black Sheep" off the Scott PIlgrim Motion Picture Soundtrack is music to my ears. (I guess that saying isn't as powerful when you're literally talking about music, I mean it could be bad and still be music to your ears.) Anyway it's good.
The Rolling Stones: I sang "Satisfaction" at a Kareokee night which is something I had never done before so this song will forever have a special place in my heart.

There are plenty of other songs and artists I could name but this post is already mad long and other people need to use the computer so I'm gonna cut it off here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

While I Was Out Part 8: The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services/ BP Gulf Oil Spill Response

So the title for this one pretty much explains it all. Like I said earlier (see the ending of part 6) We left Toledo early to go directly to Mississippi to help in the relief efforts of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Our team, along with Maple 3, had the job of working with the Mississippi Commission of volunteer services which was trickier than it sounds. You see the thing that people who weren't there didn't really get to hear about was that volunteers weren't allowed anywhere near the oil. This was because the future health risks to being exposed to the oil were unkown at the time so to avoid issues of liability only trained BP hired workers in what can only be described as haz-mat suites were allowed to handle the oil. Most of these workers that BP hired and trained were workers from the fishing and tourism industries who were displaced by the Oil Spill, so yes BP did mess up monumentally with this but they were making some effort to correct the situation. (Not playing the devil's advocate here, there was still a lot more they could have done.)So it was up to AmeriCorps NCCC to answer the hotline of the Volunteer Response Center (VRC) and respond to the e-mails of all those nice people who wanted to help clean up oil and do all the sexy jobs, (as one of the MCVS workers called it) and kindly tell them they couldn't and then tried to get them to commit to other volunteer opportunities that related to the oil spill.
So it was more office work with lots of spread sheets than hard labor which we all knew was a possibility but I don't think anyone was quite expecting it so early in the corps year. When we got there, there was only one such opportunity that the NCCC team we were there to relieve had set up and that was the coast watchers program. The Coast watchers were a group of volunteers who would walk the beaches of the coast that hadn't yet been effected by the spill and patrol it looking for signs of oil. The coast watchers would then report their findings to us and we then sent in all the reports to the higher ups so that they could then act accordingly.We worked with some pretty interesting people while in MS. There was Susan who was an incredibly sweet lady who ended every sentence in "well bess your heart." There was Mary, who wasn't mean, but everytime she came into our cafeteria turned office it was with bad news that made our job that much harder. There was also Elise who was the eyes and ears for the powers at be in DC. She was fun, and was familiar with the greater Cleveland area so we talked about that. There were three VRCs total that covered three different counties; my team (Maple One) covered the VRCs in Harrison and Jackson County and Maple Three had Hancock county. Our team came up with some more opportunities for volunteers to do including working with local humane societies to transport pets across states to facilities with available space. Now something like that doesn't sound like it would relate to the oil spill but actually humane societies had a huge influx of animals once workers in the fishing in tourism industries lost work and could no longer afford to keep there pets.
Maple One stayed at Camp Victor in Oceansprings, which was cool when it was just us staying there, but man when the large groups of middle school/high school age of volunteers were there it was so loud and obnoxious, with there singing and dancing, I swear that guy was playing the accordion just to spite me. This was also about when Naima left the team because of the baby. We were eventually relieved by Maple 2 which was when Blaze and I really hit it off. There are so many things I could say about Mississippi, it was hot, the work was often frustrated and short in supplies, but it was definitely a game changer.
A lot about me changed after that project, and it was certainly eventful. The short list being:
*found out I had gone 400 plus dollars into over draft (A problem which has since been corrected)
*Had a bit of a nervous break down
*let the other Avery shave my head forever purging my head of the remnants of my bleached locks.
*broke up with my high school girl friend
*read the final volume in the Scott Pilgrim series and then saw the movie.
*discovered the band Of Montreal
*started working on my Cheerleader comic Immaculate
*got the nickname "Amazing Chocolate bomb".
*painted a mural of Maple One as the New Mutants at Camp Victor
*had the world's greatest potato salad at the Shed

Friday, January 21, 2011

While I Was Out Part 7: Some Other Maples

Before I go further into my tale of excitement and adventure I'd like to introduce to you some more Corps members who I've been particularly close to and aren't on my team. First off there's Blaze Burton from Maple 2. Raised by hippies Blaze is 23 and one of a zillion children. He comes from Wausau, Wisconsin. Blaze is someone I always have a good time with, he's someone I don't think I would have made it through the Corps year without. Next is Autumn Last of Maple 3 who is one of the world's sweetest girls and incredibly affectionate. Autumn is one of the first people I met in the Crops, we both arrived late so the two of us as well as a third named Allie (also from Maple 3) went to the hospital for our routine physicals/drug screenings together. She and Blaze are pretty much best buddies
and on the dance floor those two are a sight to be seen. Autumn is 20 and from Beaverton Michigan. I absolutely love her name. Third is Gordo King age 21 of Maple 5 who is from Franklin Mass. Gordo is a real character with a story. Gordo isn't actually his real name, it's Nathan, I'm not sure why he goes by Gordo, I think his childhood friend came up with it, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact he shares an uncanny resemblance with the Gordo Character on the old Disney Channel show Lizzie Mcguire. (You should have seen him when he had his long curly hair he looks exactly like the TV Gordo.)
Gordo's got this very ambitious Bucket List that he's covering on a blog of his own, which is right here; gordoking.blogspot.com. So far his completed bucket list goals include, going to a roller derby game, getting tasered, eating at the Safe House, and walking backwards for a whole day. I wish him all the luck on completing it because it is long as Hell. Finally there is Mike Kamen age 23 of Maple 3 from Long Island New York. Kamen is the president of our corps class and probably one of the most active CMs you'll find. He's currently fronting this big event called Legendary Day that happening during our last week of service where we give back to the community and the braille school for having us. (I've done mural designs for the event.) We've pretty much adopted Kamen onto Maple One. Kamen is someone with a lot of confidence and very charismatic, he's the kind of person who doesn't seem to be afraid to do anything going to go places in life, he's taught me a thing or two about self esteem and confidence this year. He's also been known to give the girls on the unit massive hickey's despite being a homosexual but people love him for it.
(the hickeys that is, the whole love for his gayness goes without saying, so I'm not entirely sure as to why I'm saying it now.) Kamen's taking this particular pose because he does this in almost every picture, (I kid you not.) I'm grateful to call all these people my friends and everyone else in the Corps whom I haven't mentioned here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Today ended on a sour note for Me. The kids at crossroads were less than compliant. I'm so tired, today I feel like a Zombie, hence the picture of zombies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Free Shiny Pokemon Give-a-Way!

Today I went to gamestop to get me a shiny Pokemon. With the upcoming release of the new Pokemon Versions, Black and White, Gamestops are currently hosting a download event that gives you shiny versions of the legendary beast trio from Gold and Silver version. And if you are like me and have four of the five DS versions of Pokemon than that means you get four times the nerdy goodness. A week or two ago they were giving away Raikou and yesterday they started giving out Entei. Suicune starts in a little more than a week. Anyone of these three Pokemon gives you special access to a Pokemon in the upcoming versions that you can't obtain any other way, (minus evolving it's pre-evolution but you can only obtain that pokemon by another download event that starts in early Feb. after the beasts event is done.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Tim Fish...

This is a picture of Tim Fish, a comic book writer/ Artist who I admire a great deal, and who's blog I follow pretty regularly. My first exposure to Mr. Fish was reading his Cannonball short in I Heart Marvel. During my junior/senior year of high school my art teacher had strongly urged me to make my art style less and less like the ever popular manga style and so I spent some time emulating different artists to try and mold my own unique style and Tim Fish happened to be one of those artists. So why am I drawing him now? Well, a little over a week ago, I noticed that I had an additional follower on my blog. I check to see who it was and there was Tim Fish's head, and I was like "HOLY @#$%!!! IT'S TIM FISH!!!" (My teammates can speak on my behalf of my reaction.) I even had a facebook status about it. (because in this day and age it didn't really happen until it's facebook official.) But it got better, I went through my posts and there was a comment. BY TIM FISH! ABOUT THE VAGINAL AVENGERS!!!(GASP!!!) (Mr. Fish if you're reading this I apologize for all the nerding out but this was pretty damn cool for me.) But it got even better, Tim Fish following my blog means that I now also have a person following my blog that I do not know personally! SUCCESS!!! I still haven't quite figured out the scanner at my current location so parts of the image got cut off but Mr. Fish is wearing one of the shirts he designed in his comics that are now for sale outside of his comics (and I have every intention of buying it as soon as I'm done hopping around the country.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

While I Was Out Part 6: TBG/Toledo Grows, Toledo Ohio

So three weeks away from home and our first assignment brings me right back to Ohio, awesome. Our first round project had us in Toledo working at the Toledo Botanical Gardens doing grounds keeping. Despite my tone in the first sentence I actually had a lot of fun there with the team, and some of the coolest people we've worked with were from TBG. There was also a comic book store fairly close to our housing so I got to catch up on my X-men during that whole Second Coming cross over and what not. The gardens were so beautiful, it was like a hidden gem lost in the city.

It was weird I actually met a person who had mutual friends with me. They had us staying at the intern house right outside the gardens (which was nice) where we also stayed with Ian, another AmeriCorps, who was cool. We bounded over comics, he introduced me to Grant Morrison's Animal Man (which I enjoyed) and I introduced him to X-Men: God Loves Man Kills (which he enjoyed.) I also found out that he went to Oberlin College which is like 10-15 minutes from where I went to High School and where I spent some time with friends so we had quite a few conversations about local attractions. Speaking of home I took the advantage of the close proximity and went home for a weekend to visit the folks, which is probably where the "famous Matt Rossi" reputation came from. We worked with Ian through out the week with the garden's partner organization Toledo Grows which is committed to encouraging better life style choices through creating community gardens. We often worked with local youth groups and volunteer groups in creating these community gardens, and engaging the kids in summer camp-esc activities.
A big part of our job in Toledo was helping prepare the Gardens for there annual Crosby Festival for the Arts, TBG's biggest fund raiser of the year. The Crosby festival has artists from all over come to the gardens and sell their work. They also had live performers and I saw some amazing art, it was an all around great time. We were invited by our main sponsor to his after party which in itself was a Hell of a time. Sadly we had to leave Toledo early because our team was one of the two teams that were pulled from their current assignments to go down to Mississippi in response the the Gulf Oil spill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Christmas 2010: Year of the Sketchbooks

This Christmas the popular gift for people to get me was sketch books, lots and lots of sketch books. (Mind you this is something I am more than happy to get in bulk because I'll certainly use them all, and it was something I asked for.) I think I got like 8 things of the sketching variety total. That's three sketch books (from my Dad & Stepmom, Grandma, and my team leader.) A sketch pad, also from my Dad and Step Mom, A pad of paper specifically designated for comics and sequential art from my Mother. I also got a pack of these blank artist's trading cards from my mom so I'm excited to work on those. I'm currently using one of the journals as a sketch journal (which I've been really bad about keeping up with.) I got other things for Christmas too, like Beer, Animal Crossing for the Wii, Inception on DVD, a couple volumes of Gin Tama and the entire series of American Virgin TPBs. Perhapse American Virgin was an awkward gift to recieve from my Dad and Stepmom but meh no regrets.

While I Was Out Part 5: End of CTI

After our project at the Nahant Marsh we returned to Vinton Iowa for one last week before we started a long term projects. There wasn't anything terribly significant going on, a few more trainings, some good times amongst the Corps members, and a talent show that I MC'd. In our final days there was an induction ceremony that I also MC'd, because that's just how cool I am. It looks like I've actually been MCing a lot of things in AmeriCorps, right now it looks like I'm also going to be MCing the Awards banquette and graduation.

Monday, January 10, 2011

In Loving Memory of A Great Poster...

One of the most heart wrenching things for any nerd happened to me this past Thanksgiving when I went home to visit my family. When I joined AmeriCorps my parents were in the process of moving so I couldn't be there to help them with that. But in my absence my Father threw away my 1980's Art Adams X-Men poster! I've had that thing since I was 7! (and let me tell you that poster was a good 10 years old before I got it.) This poster depicted some of my favorite mutants at the end of one of my favorite periods of X-men. (pre-Mutant Massacre) Now, in my Dad's defense, the poster had seen a lot of wear and tear over the years even after being mounted on foam core but even so, that was a piece of history there from one of my favorite artist at the high point of his career. This poster was the inspiration of many of my drawings as a kid. So in honner of this fallen piece of art I have drawn some pictures of some of my favorite characters from the poster. (Don't expect to see any Dazzler, Longshot, or Rogue, they looked awful with those mullets) This first picture is of Shadowcat, Psylocke (pre-asain), and Havok. Kitty is one of my all time favorite mutants and this poster was right before she left the X-Men and joined Excalibur until the late 90's. She and Psylocke both had these weird poofy sleeves that make no sense today but I remember being fascinated with them as a child. Psylocke being the former model that she was seems like the kind of person who Kitty would look to for style so here's Psylocke approving of Kitty's poofy sleeves. Then you've got Havok, another one of my favorites, but man, he has some of the weirdest costumes in all of comicdom. It's this all black costume with mask and then he's got that bizarre tiara on his head. (It actually means something, which they explained in an issue of Exiles once but I can't remember.) so basically he's going to Kitty "How should I know what's fashionable, clearly I can't dress myself."

The next picture is of the original five X-Men as X-Factor, a classic line-up that always has a place in my heart. This was before Angel became Apcolypse's Horseman death and then later Archangel. I never really liked the whole metal wings and blue skin thing and I was so glad when they changed him completely back to normal in like 2003. Now-a-days however he can change between the two forms which is okay with me. Something that was interesting about this poster was that for some reason Jean Grey's X-Factor costume was completely yellow where in the comic it was green and yellow and then later red and yellow.

The final picture is less of something I liked about the poster and more so something I never quite got about the poster, and that's Sunfire's presence. As far as Sunfire's career as an X-Men he was a member for about one issue, and after that made seldom few appearances. There were several characters who would have made more sence to put on the poster. Magneto (though he spent most of time with the New Mutants) Banshee, or the best arguement, Rachel Summers who spent the majority of the late 80's as part of the X-Men and over all more than Sunfire ever did. Naturally she's pissed about the whole thing and Sunfire feels akward.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

While I Was Out Part 4: Meet the Team.

So now that I'm done being on my holiday break, (I've actually been done for about two weeks now I just thought I lost my flash drive and became consumed by the world of Pokemon and I just found my flash drive yesterday.) just a few quick things, Happy new year, merry Christmas, cwazy Kwanzaa, and whatever else you maybe into. Now back to business. So before I go any further into my tale of Ameri-pilgrimage I figured I should probably introduce you guys to my supporting cast; my team Maple One. (Just a Quick F.Y.I they normally don't look like the New Mutants they just really wanted me to draw them as super heroes and I saw a lot of parallels between them and my favorite group of X-Teens.)So starting from Top left to Right then working down we've got My team leader Anya from Brooklyn NY, playing the role of Professor X. Anya is someone who is very professional which was a bit intimidating at first but we've come to the conclusion that we wouldn't have wanted any other team leader. She's also Russian so we make a lot of jokes about that. Directly under her playing the role of Magik is Kate of Orlando Florida. Kate left our team towards the end of our last project but we had a good time while she was with us. Playing Cannonball is Matt Rossi of Long Island NY. There are probably more similarities between Rossi and his character than anyone else on the team. He's the oldest aside from the Professor/Anya, he's often awkward, and, in the beginning of the year, he was someone paternal. (Not so much now.) He was the first person on my team to really introduce himself to me when I got there and I pretty much owe my current music collection and taste to him. My parents refer to him as "The Famous Matt Rossi" on account of when I first visited them I had a lot of Rossi related stories. It was kinda embarrassing when my parents met him and actually called him that. Under Kate/Magik is Andrea playing Karma. Andrea (who is not a Viennese lesbian) is from Muskegon Michigan, speaks fluent sarcasm, and is often mistaken for a bitch but is really a sweet girl and a great person to hang out with. She's a very talented musician who plays several instruments including but not limited to the ukulele. Recently the two of us have been playing a lot of Mario Kart together. Next to Andrea is Cheryl from the Bronx NY as Mirage because Cheryl is a beast of a warrior woman who is called an amazon by many. If there is a task that is too hard for one of us we can just yell the Xena Warrior cry and I swear to God she will come. Above Cheryl/ Mirage is Victoria of Reno Nevada (but she now lives in D.C) as Magma. Victoria is a funny, crude yet classy kind of girl, and is easly my best friend on the team, she's like a sister to me. It's sad because she's actually leaving our company a bit early because she got a very important internship. After Victoria is Mathew Bowman from Riverside California as Warlock the space alien. Bowman is very much like Warlock in that he's tall, kinda child like (in a good way), and has a very interesting way at viewing life. Behind Bowman/Warlock is Jordan Russo as Cypher who's very unique skill set has served us in key moments in our Corps year. Him and Bowman kinda form this weird duo too (just like Warlock and Cypher) At the very bottom is Avery Kufta also of Muskegon Michigan (I still can't believe there was another Avery in the Corps let alone on my same team.) as Sunspot. Kufta is cocky, but very smart and a vegetarian. We get along really well and he's like a brother to me. We also have our own thing like the Venture Brothers when they "Go Team Venture!" Only we do "Go team Avery" and we have our middle and index fingers make an A shape. (or just an upside-down V) Finally there is Naima from Los Angeles California as Wolfsbane who sadly left our team way too early. She was a quite girl but very sweet and pretty much nice to everyone. You would have never expected her to leave due to pregnancy. (It happened before the Corps year and she didn't even know about it. She recently had the baby and it's a beautiful baby girl.) There was another girl on the team before I drew this picture, Bailey, who we seldom speak of because we did not part on the best of terms.