Three Neat Things on the Internet

For lack of anything finished or worthwhile of my own to put forth, I suppose I’ll just share three things I encountered making their rounds on the Internet this week that I thought were pretty swell.


1) Zodiac Monsters

I love creature design work, and always marvel at the creativity behind putting new life forms together. Artist Damon Hellandbrand turned the western astrological signs into monsters, and, well, they’re pretty darn cool.


2) Live Performance of “Il Dolce Suono” (The Fifth Element Remix)

You know that scene in The Fifth Element where the blue tentacle-headed alien diva does that crazy techno riff on “Il Dolce Suono”, but her voice changes into a painfully obvious MIDI flute part-way through?

Well, here’s a girl on what looks to be the Armenian version of The Voice singing it for real.  Holy crap.


3) Stoat in a Stump

Let’s end with some cute.  Ermines are ridiculously adorable, and here’s one who had nothing better to do than to remind everyone of that.


Bene scribete.

The Uncomfortable

Flat Key


There are few things I find as funny as the artfully wrong, so I can’t help but cringe with delight at Greek architect Katerina Kamprani’s ongoing art project, The Uncomfortable, in which she redesigns household objects to make them – shall we say – a little less useful.

Behold their terrible genius and weep.  And then check out her website and Facebook page for more.

Have a merry (and functional) Christmas, everyone!


One Christmas light


Bene scribete.

Artist-Signed Covers?

Signing things


A Facebook post I came across yesterday prompted an interesting discussion that I thought I’d entertain here.  An author had posted a photograph of a proof copy of his novel, and I happened to notice that the cover artist’s signature was on the cover itself.  I pointed out that such a thing is a bit tacky from a professional standpoint, and recommended asking the artist to provide a clean copy.  Other commenters, however, cast their voice in favor of the practice, asserting that the artist deserves credit.  Some went so far as to claim that it was normal (I assure you, it isn’t.  (>^-‘)> ).

Cover artists most certainly deserve recognition for their awesome work, and the appropriate place to ascribe credit is the colophon (i.e., copyright page), particularly when most artists’ imprints aren’t exactly the clearest way to read their name.  The artist has every right to sign display and standalone copies of the artwork in question, but the actual cover is production material, which is no place for embedded autographs.  Can you imagine, for instance, watching an animated film in which the contributing artists had overtly signed each cell they worked on in-frame?

It strikes me as an insecure and amateur move that needlessly diverts attention to the artist’s self, rather than letting the work stand as a representation of the story and author for which it was commissioned.  As an editor, I don’t require credit at all, let alone to sign the footers of every page I touch and point out which sentences are mine in the finished book.  As a composer, I don’t whisper my name at the end of tracks I provide for a film.  Even as an author, I don’t stamp my name within the narrative itself.  Again, as artists we are definitely entitled to credit for the work we do, but credit should go where credit goes, and art – particularly production art created for someone else – should be allowed to shine unblemished by our desire for recognition.

(As an aside, I should note that I’m excluding such instances where the artist seamlessly weaves his or her imprint into the image itself, at which point, as attention-seeking as it may still have the potential to be, it should be judged for its own artistic merit rather than at this external level.)

But this is just my take.  If you’re an author, how would you feel if your publisher or cover designer handed you a proof with the artist’s name on the cover alongside your own?  If you’re an artist, do you feel there’s a case to be made for autographing the work you provide for another’s project?


Bene scribete.

Meaty Strangers

In lieu of having time to finish the article I meant to post this week, I shall instead very belatedly insist upon the reading of the ever-hilarious Me Dangerbolt‘s harrowing adventures with a psychotic neighborhood dog who thinks its life is a video game:



And don’t forget to check out the DLC!  (>^-‘)>


Bene scribete.

That’s Crea-zy


A few days ago, I came across this blog post by Matthew Schuler, which quotes a passage from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People that discusses one often-encountered disposition of “creative people” that can make them seem a little nuts – i.e., the tendency to simultaneously exhibit contradictory traits.

Read the examples he gives, if you get a chance, and see how many of them apply to you.  Do you consider yourself a creative type, and do you identify with this prognosis?  Or are you not particularly imaginative, but still find yourself nodding along?  I’m curious as to what degree of this vacillating temperament can indeed be associated with creativity versus general human caprice.

Either way, I can certainly relate to a propensity for considering, if not accepting, two opposing extremes.  It stems from an understanding that absolutes are virtually non-existent on the broad scale.  One way of thinking, one side of an issue, one solution for every problem, is never going to be 100% right.  Rules and customs, whether imposed by self or society, are comforting because they are pre-defined paths to follow, a relief to the burden of having to think, but the complexity and variability of the circumstances we apply them to frequently call for something more dynamic.  Perhaps, then, it is the creativity in us that is not afraid to step outside of those guidelines when we need to, to embrace the call for further contemplation, and tailor our responses to the situation at hand rather than expecting it to conform to a preconceived, oversimplified view of the world.


But, on the other hand, maybe there is a certain amount of craziness involved with being creative.  As (the coincidentally similarly named) Cristian Mihai pointed out on Are Writers Crazy? last week, one version of insanity (repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results) is not altogether different from the notion of perseverance, and what do we do as artists and thinkers but continuously put our work and ideas out there in the hope that one of those times, we’ll be recognized for it?  (>^-‘)>


Bene scribete.

The Dastardly Pumpkin

The Evil Pumpkin

There was once a pumpkin – an evil pumpkin.  It was so evil that, when passing it by, people would say, “Hey, look at that pumpkin, Jim; I bet it’s evil.  Rotten to the core.”

(Everyone who passed by it did so with a man – or, in one case, a woman – named Jim.)


The spider approaches

One day, a spider approached the pumpkin.  Apparently, it was an unreasonably enormous spider.

“Pardon me, Mr. Pumpkin,” the spider began, all politeness, “but I wonder if you might tell me why it is that you are such a dastardly fellow.  Do you resent that holes were carved into your face?  Or perhaps that your innards were torn away to make a pie?”

The pumpkin did not respond, for it was a pumpkin, and pumpkins cannot speak in the slightest.

(“Then why can the spider talk?” I hear you asking, but I shan’t be answering such silly questions.)

After a time, the spider said, “Oh, I see how it is.  You are not evil – simply rude,” and left the mannerless squash behind.


The mouse approaches

A day or two later, the pumpkin was paid a visit by a little mouse (that grey blob is a mouse – I promise).

“I bet you’re not so evil,” the mouse burbled in its squeaky little voice.  “I bet you’re just lonely, sitting here on your porch all day without anyone to keep you company.”

So the mouse curled up next to the pumpkin and remained with it all day (what a sweet little mouse).

Until, that is, a cat crept forth and snatched him up.


The cat approaches

“Thank you once again, Sir Pumpkin,” the cat purred around the mouse’s tail as he dangled from her jaw, crying for help.

The pumpkin might have shed a tear, were that something a pumpkin was wont to do, but alas, it could not move an inch to save its new friend.

The cat lay down before the pumpkin and ate what she would of her catch, then set his remains within the pumpkin’s jagged mouth.  “Were it not for you, I shouldn’t get away with nearly so much.”


Poor pumpkin

In the final hour of Halloween, when all the children had gone home and the streets were empty, the pumpkin so vile it would eat its only friend sat alone on its porch, beneath a doorbell unrung and candy untouched.

“But I am not evil…” the pumpkin finally murmured aloud, making a proper liar of me, but not a soul was around to hear it.

And it was absolutely right – for, you see, pumpkins, as it turns out, are secretly fruits, which on the whole tend to be much more magnanimous than their strictly vegetable brethren.  Unless, of course, we’re speaking of durians, which are little if not sin and corruption condensed into fruit form.

Cats, on the other hand, usually are evil, but I think that’s why we as a society appreciate them.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t be so quick to blame inanimate plant matter for acts of malice when there’s a cat in the vicinity.  What are you, a crazy person?


Have a happy Halloween, everyone.


Bene scribete.

Prisoner 721

Prisoner 721 by Aaron Lowry


I read this neat little novelette a few weeks back, and figured its merits deserve a shout-out.

Prisoner 721 is, simply put, about a restless inmate who takes it upon himself to teach his prison’s artificial intelligence system how to analyze and interpret visual art.

My favorite thing about this story – what I think makes it – is that it’s told in first-person from the perspective of the AI itself.  Exploring the internalization of a ‘mind’ like this is always a fascinating exercise in thought, and Lowry does a great job of conveying the machine point of view in a unique, believable manner (the “X% chance of Y” trope may be a bit overused, but it has its pulp charm).

The setting, primarily regarding the AI’s role and regulations, is well thought-out, so the scenario evolves in a natural way that doesn’t require sacrificing consistency or technical plausibility for the sake of the plot (a definite plus for any science fiction piece).

It’s a clever, quick, worthwhile read, and you can download it for free on Smashwords, as well as most major eBook retailers.  Check it out!

And take a closer look at that cover – how cool is that?


Bene scribete.