Dec 27 2011

#241 “Red Dawn”

From a stranger in an unknown location

A wolf pictured in his natural environment is always a breathtaking sight, but something about this particular illustration seems to deliver discomfort as opposed to tranquility. I don’t mean to say that this illustration is unattractive or is not artfully rendered. I believe just the opposite is true. Only an illustration that is drawn with great skill could induce an intense emotional reaction, whether it be negative or positive. But what is it that delivers to me feelings of discomfort? Let’s examine the physical environment first. While the landscape in the picture is beautiful, it is also barren and harsh. The craggy surfaces of a rocky mountain face rise up in opposition to the earth below and block out the final rays of the autumnal sun. A few sparse trees dot the landscape, offering little comfort or shade to a weary traveler seeking shelter. The river, the source of life, seems to be not only flowing but running away, fleeing from this land without promise. And then there is the wolf itself. The creature is majestic and dignified, but there’s something in the eyes that sends a message of pain and vexation, something in the ragged fur that speaks of hardship.

However, even though this picture suggests thoughts of adversity and austerity, there is also a memory of one of my favorite films that I have somehow tied to this illustration and that I just can’t seem to shake. The movie is called “Red Dawn,” and like the illustration above, the movie paints a picture of the hardships and trials that are faced when living in an unforgivable natural environment. But at the same time, the movie (like this picture again) delivers themes of perseverance, determination and the magnificent power of a strong will to survive. The obvious disconnect between the two is that there are no Russians taking over the United States in this stranger’s picture, but overall, I still thought the movie was applicable enough to warrant the connection. If you haven’t seen the movie, send it to the top of your Netflix queue today; it’s a true classic. Before you view, check out the trailer below.

Nov 17 2011

#201 “Wolf vs. Wolf”

From Andrew at the University of Missouri

The cyclical nature of interest in the wolf is a phenomenon that any true wolf enthusiast will find terribly fascinating. In many ways it seems that we are currently residing in a sort of “Wolf Renaissance” that is reminiscent of that of the early 1980s. I’m not sure about the rhyme or reason behind it, but the early 80s were a time when the wolf was center stage in a variety of media entertainment outlets. Taking just popular movies as an example, all of the following titles were all produced between the years 1980 and 1985: Teen Wolf, Silver Bullet, Wolfen, The Howling, Never Cry Wolf, The Night of the Werewolf, The Company of Wolves, and An American Werewolf in London. Now, in the last ten years, we haven’t necessarily had a full-blown resurgence of interest in the wolf, but there are signs that a fresh rebirth of lupine enthusiasm is rising like a full moon. Notice the following bits of wolf phenomena as examples: The striking success of the “3 Wolf Moon” t-shirt (seen here), the current obsession with the character of Jacob from theTwilight series, the creation of the Teen Wolf television show on MTV, the cultural phenomenon that is Shaun Ellis and the lifestyle he lives, as well as a variety of other pop culture references to wolves that are beginning to appear everywhere from The Hangover to songs by Let’s Buy Happiness, Bon Iver, The Good Natured, My Chemical Romance, and on and on. Also, going back to movies for a second, all of these titles were released in the last few several years: Dog Soldiers, The Ginger Snaps Series, Underworld, Big Bad Wolf, Blood and Chocolate, The Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta, Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound, A Mexican Werewolf in Texas, Rid Riding Hood, and the list could go on…

But all of this makes me wonder what might happen if some of these famous wolves and wolf warriors were to meet upon the field of battle. Andrew’s illustration also seems to bring this idea to mind and causes us to speculate would might happen if these characters were to face off. What could one expect from a battle between the preacher/werewolf from Silver Bullet and Selene from Underworld? Who would you place your bets on in a battle to the death between Marsha Quist from The Howling and Sgt. Harry Wells of Dog Soldiers?

But the pièce de résistance of any discussion of wolf battles throughout the ages would no doubt come down to Scott Howard from the original Teen Wolf and Jacob Black from the Twilight series. Andrew really nailed it with this epic match up, and in the end, I’m not sure if there is a clear victor in this battle of lobos. While Jacob may be downplayed by modern wolf enthusiasts for taking center stage in a series that commands mostly teenage girls as fans, no one can deny his physical prowess. Also, in reference to Scott Howard, he certainly has the cool factor in his back pocket, but is this alone enough for him to steal the victory? Who’s to say? Maybe no one could accurately predict what might happen if these two teenage werewolves were to ever cross paths, but one thing’s for sure: it would be a battle you wouldn’t want to miss.

Thanks, Andrew, this epic matchup has certainly given us some food for thought.

Nov 12 2011

#196 “Scarface”

From Linds in Chattanooga, Tennessee

“Say hello to my little friend!”

Regardless of the bright purple and yellow colors that make up this unique illustration, I still can’t help but to picture the disturbing scenes from the movie Scarface when I lay eyes upon this wolf. I remember that when I was in college, it was considered cool to have a special affinity for the movie Scarface. I, however, could never get to the point where I actually enjoyed watching the film. It’s not that I have an aversion to blood or violence; watching horror movies is actually one of my favorite ways to spend my free time. I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes me find the movie particularly disturbing (maybe it’s the initial scene that depicts a man being chopped up with a chainsaw), but whatever it is, it has stuck with me.

On a more symbolic note, when I consider the fact that Tony Montana had that telltale scar on his cheek, it causes me to think that the blemish must represent a previous life of pain and anguish that drove Tony to take drastic measures in his attempt to prove that he was someone who was worthy of respect. He simply couldn’t let go of the wrongs that had been done to him in the past, and as a result, his scars governed his focus in his present life and led him to a destructive future. Similarly, I’m not exactly sure how this particular wolf received this ghastly wound, but I can guess that the event was not a pretty one and that it has had a lasting impact on this beautiful creature. I do recognize that wolves live in a world in which violence is king and the law of predator/prey rules, but I also don’t think this should save us from pitying creatures that face adversity. While violence may sometimes be necessary, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be deemed as something pretty.

Also, taking a second look at this scarred wolf makes me realize that while some of us possess scars that are glaringly visible, others bear their scars on the inside. And just because a scar is no longer visible doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain has faded away. Maybe today we can be mindful of the scars of others (both visible and invisible) and maybe we can begin to heal… together.

Aug 10 2011

#102 “Henrik de Wolf” (Frank)

From Olivier

28 days…6 hours…42 minutes…12 seconds…

That is when the world will end.

I’m not sure if there is any way to fully explain this, but as soon as I saw this illustration by Olivier (which he calls Henrik de Wolf), my mind was instantly drawn to remember the film Donnie Darko. I have not seen the movie in years, and in fact I have not thought about it months… and yet whenever I lay eyes on this picture, it’s all I can think about. I suppose it has something to do with the stoic nature of the wolf. Simply put, he reminds me of the character of Frank from the film. The eyes are cold and blank, but there is also a sinister knowledge behind them. There is a sense of danger associated with the picture, but at the same the wolf does not appear to pose and immediate threat. He is simply creepy…ominous. The news the creature delivers is certainly frightening and foreboding, but it is unclear if the animal is “warning” the recipient and is therefore a blessing, or if he is somehow connected to the message in a much more malicious manner.

I remember that the first time I watched the film, my brain had a difficult time understanding the nature of exactly what had happened during the final scenes. The time traveling, the alternate realities existing on various planes- it was all so surreal, but so believable as well. Ultimately, I chose to do away with trying to understand the logic of it. After all, that was not what had intrigued me most about the film. No, it was just the opposite that drew me in. It was the pathos, the emotion. I felt for Donnie. I really felt for him. So much so that when I watched that final scene, I was both saddened and relieved beyond words. In many ways that complex emotional soup of positives and negatives has never left me, and I suppose it never will. Sure, it’s just a movie. But if we don’t watch movies in hopes that they will impact our lives, why do we view them at all?

A picture of Frank from the film is provided below, along with Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” which appeared in the film and is included on its official soundtrack.

Jul 27 2011

#88 “Catchphrase!”


From Laura in Little Rock, Arkansas

“Stay cool, Bro…”  What a fantastic phrase. There is so much positivity contained within it. So much energy as well as an overt admonition to simply relax and take it easy. Also, there’s an implied sense of brotherhood. Ladies and gentlemen, I tell you: this phrase has it all: encouragement, love, support, and of course, a slight sense of nastalgia for the very recent past. This is one of those phrases that never really “went away,” but also, it seems that we probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that someone was “bringing it back.”

After pondering this wonderful wolf illustration and its eloquent catchphrase for a short while, my mind began to wander to some of the more popular phrases from pop culture that I remember from my youth. Then, another idea came upon me, and simply put, I have decided to bestow upon you a pop culture catchphrase game. Grab a friend or participate all by yourself; the choice is yours.

Here are the rules:
1. Examine the list of catchphrases below and then try to identify the character and the movie/television show that are most associated with the quote. Write down your answers separately; don’t shout them out. Also, make sure that you don’t sneak a peek at the answer key located below the phrases.
2. One point is awarded for the characer. Another point is awarded for the movie/show. Therefore, each quote is worth 2 points.
3. After all 25 phrases have been examined, the game is over. Check the answer key below and tally your scores.
4. The player with the most points is the winner and must treat the other players to ice cream immediately.

1. “Bam!”
2. “De plane! De plane!”
3. “Dynomite!”
4. “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
5. “I love it when a plan comes together.”
6. “Live long and prosper”
7. “Don’t have a cow, man.”
8. “No soup for you!”
9. “The tribe has spoken”
10. “The truth is out there.”
11. “You’re fired!”
12. “You eeeeeeediot!”
13. “Who loves you, baby?”
14. “Oh my God! They killed Kenny!”
15. “How you doin’?”
16. “Homey don’t play that!”
17. “Here’s Johnny!”
18. “Baby, you’re the greatest!”
19. “Space: The final frontier…”
20. “That’s hot…”
21. “Yabba dabba do!”
22. “Watchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
23. “You got it, dude!”
24. “Did I do that?”
25. “Good Grief!”


Answer Key:
1. Emeril Legasse, “Emeril Live”
2. Tattoo, “Fantasy Island”
3. J.J., “Good Times”
4. Fat Albert, “Fat Albert”
5. Hannibal, “The A-Team”
6. Spock, “Star Trek”
7. Bart Simpson, “The Simpsons”
8. The Soup Nazi, “Seinfeld”
9. Jeff Probst, “Survivor”
10. Fox Mulder, “The X-Files”
11. Donald Trump, “The Apprentice”
12. Ren, “Ren and Stimpy”
13. Kojac, “Kojac”
14. Kyle/Stan, “Southpark”
15. Joey, “Friends”
16. Homey the Clown, “In living Color”
17. Ed McMahon, “The Tonight Show”
18. Ralph Kramden, “The Honeymooners”
19. Capt. Kirk, “Star Trek”
20. Paris Hilton, “The Simple Life”
21. Fred Flintstone, “The Flintstones”
22. Arnold/Gary Coleman, “Diff’rent Strokes”
23. Michelle, “Full House”
24. Steve Urkel, “Family Matters”
25. Charlie Brown, “Peanuts”

Jun 25 2011

#56 “Winston Wolfe”

I made the video myself, but the illustration at the end was submitted by a stranger in Poway, California.

I believe that the last name is actually spelled without the “e” on the end, but ultimately I just chose to go with the illustrator’s spelling for the sake of unity.