Ever wonder how Santa’s reindeer can fly? I’m not sure I was expecting this answer.
Have a fantastic Christmas, everyone!
The fourth volume of Shauna Scheets‘s Steampunk Serials is now available for purchase!
You can pick up a digital copy of it and the three preceding issues for 99¢ each at Amazon and other eBook retailers.
*or maybe he doesn’t.
I don’t know. What?
Hope everyone is having a great Valentine’s day! Or is otherwise getting some some nice new furniture. (>^-‘)>
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not really a huge comic book person, but I have thus far enjoyed what Marvel Studios has done with its cinematic franchise, committing to a combined setting that links all the films together and gives them a larger feel than they would otherwise have alone. That said, although the tenth entry is the least connected to that shared universe yet, I think Guardians of the Galaxy is the first to live up to that sense of wit and charm set by the studio’s stellar initial outing of Iron Man.
It’s not perfect, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I don’t know that I can quantify precisely why I enjoyed it so much, but it’s just so delightful that you may as well call it a big, tasty – kind of sweet, kind of nutty – candy bar in movie form.
You’ve got the rich, chocolate coating of some fantastic visuals and CGI. Take a break from the dark and dour – this is comic-book colorful at its finest. Atop that, there’s a sprinkle of mixed nuts in the form of a catchy 1970s soundtrack. Not exactly what you’d expect with science fiction, but the songs are well-chosen, have a story-relevant presence, and add to the quirky vibe of the film. “Come and Get Your Love” is one of those songs that periodically seems to pop into my head at random, so there was a strange sort of pleasure in hearing it kick off the title sequence. And “Hooked on a Feeling” has been stuck in my head all week – thanks, Marvel.
Next, we have a layer of sea-salted caramel that provides the standout flavor of off-kilter fun and humor throughout. It’s a nice, consistent layer – this is a fabulously mirthful movie. The characters are all memorable and entertaining, pulling off a constant stream of smiles and a good spread of bust-out laughs from start to finish, which is a handy feat to accomplish (again, I’d say the original Iron Man is the only other Marvel flick to succeed there).
Then, at the center of our confection, we have a curious core of treacle named Rocket – an unconventional secret ingredient that complements the rest better than one might expect and really makes the whole thing pop. I guess there are two reactions you could have to the notion of a talking raccoon bounty hunter in a live-action space romp: you can throw up your hands and say “O.K., this is a bit too ridiculous,” or you can sit back, buy into the craziness, and marvel (…yeah, I said it) at just how realized the scene-stealing little furball is. Rocket could have easily been a one-note gimmick, and in the hands of most writer/directors probably would have been, but James Gunn (who admits to a little favoritism) instead gives this computer-animated unhuman character fully-fledged protagonist status, the like of which has only really been done (at least effectively) in District 9 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes – but unlike Christopher Johnson (and Guardians co-star Groot), Rocket has to avoid an uncanny valley in resembling an actual animal, and unlike Caesar (and Guardians co-star Groot), he has to speak a whole lot more than a three-word sentence containing his name. But chocolate and treacle can mix pretty well, as it turns out, and the CGI is at its most impressive with this raccoon; he’s wonderfully expressive, and the film isn’t shy about showing him off and getting up close, even giving him half of the movie’s more emotional moments and nearly as much screen time as lead real-world-occupying-object Chris Pratt. This scruffy, snarly, smartass little critter isn’t relegated to the role of cutesy sidekick, but is all the more adorable for it.
Of course, as with any big-name sweets there are chemical preservatives and empty calories to consider, like aliens that make Star Trek races look imaginative and a central conflict that can be politely described as stock. Compelling antagonists have never been a strong suit of Marvel films, though (perhaps with the exception of Loki, but only in the first Thor), and to be fair, the primary arc was really more about this group of characters coming to terms with each other than it was them actually guarding the galaxy. Lee Pace, at least, deserves credit for the effort he put into what little he was given to work with as bad guy Ronan, his excellent delivery providing his uninspired dialogue with more weight than it deserved. And I did appreciate the self-awareness of Quill’s quip that the MacGuffin had a “Maltese Falcon sort of vibe.” (>^-‘)>
Finally, we mustn’t forget the nougat – that mystery substance that holds everything together. Call it a Disney touch, comic book excitement, or Star Wars magic – hard to say exactly what this special stuff is, but I suppose you don’t need to know to enjoy it.
So, yes, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fresh, unique, satisfying cinematic candy bar. It makes me happy, and though it may not be the most nutritional thing ever, damnit if I don’t want another bite.
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?
My youngest brother (who’s barely a teenager and already in college) wrote and directed a short film for the RØDE Reel competition, which invited participants to make a sub-five-minute feature utilizing their on-camera microphone.
The film stars actor Austin McCarthy, American Idol-ist Jesaiah Baer, and late-night-talk host Motown Maurice.
Give the finished project a look below:
In contemplating a better way to show off music in the e-land, for some reason it only recently occurred to me to try out SoundCloud. Turns out it’s a fairly nifty little service.
The premise is simple – users upload sound and music, and others can then stream it to their computers and devices, more or less like a sans-video YouTube (strange that these two things didn’t happen the other way around, but…whatever). A free account will let you upload two hours’ worth of audio (assuming reasonable compression, that’s likely less than 200MB – small in comparison to most of today’s big free hosting services, but hey, free is still free, and there don’t appear to be any ads). You’re also capped at 100 downloads per track, assuming you enable direct downloads (which it’s cool that you can). There are also some arbitrary limitations, such as only being able to create three different sets/groups/organizational what-have-yous to put your tracks in, but overall, it’s plenty sufficient for sharing out a few dozen songs or so.
Perhaps handiest of all, you can neatly embed a player for a track or entire setlist just about anywhere, even here in WordPress!
These are some old synthesizer compositions I did ten or more years ago and figured I’d stick on there for fun. Now that I have much better equipment, I might see about redoing some of them…
So, am I late to the party? Do any of you out there use SoundCloud? Or have you found any other good audio sharing services?
Also, I just noticed that Dictionary.com‘s word of the day is empurple – to make or become purple. I…kind of find it fantastic that that’s a thing.