Archive for January 2011
Sorry about the gap in between posting. I was recovering from a cold over the weekend and didn’t feel much like posting until now. I’m rather surprised at the positive feedback I’ve been getting on The Ranting Gnome. I probably won’t have a head of steam like that built up again for awhile, but rest assured once I do, I will grace the internet with another dose of my righteous indignation.
For now what’s on my mind is a new trailer for an upcoming video game called Dead Space 2. The catchphrase that has been coined by the trailer is: “Dead Space 2, your mom will hate it.” That should pretty much sum up the contents right there.
As amusing as the whole thing is, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the old as dirt fussy, easily terrified, disapproving, hand -wringing mother stereotype that the trailer indulges in for the sake of its giggles. I’m very happy to say my own mother was never like that. Unfortunately, the stereotype exists for a reason. Some parents are very concerned and over protective when it comes to what type of media their kids are exposed to, especially video games since they are the new favorite punching bags of fear mongering news networks and various social commentators.
I’m not going to carefully lay out the “video games don’t cause violence” defense here because frankly, I’d like to think anyone with a sensible bone in their body can work it out for themselves. Here’s a rough summary. A video game cannot, on its own, drive someone to irrational or violent behavior. There are always other factors involved, such as lack of social stimulation, mental health issues, parental neglect, crippling stupidity, etc, that are present, and under these circumstances, a game could potentially serve as a trigger, as could any other form of media (T.V, movies, comic books, music, and so on). Children should not be allowed to play rated M games before they are emotionally ready to to understand that what they are being shown is a fantasy, and is not acceptable to repeat in real life; parents have the obligation to look at the ratings games are given to determine what is inside them and ensure that games are played in moderation. If for whatever reason a kid is showing troubling signs, you should be analyzing their livelihoods for the source and not their video game collection. There, summary over.
I’m not interested in talking about children or mentally unstable teens in regards to video games. The ones I’m interested in talking about are the ones who are like me, who play video games every day and still manage to live balanced and social lives. Why am I interested in talking about them when they aren’t the ones talked about in the news or cited in the studies about why video games are the devil? Because many of the well balanced gamers still suffer under the presumptions many have about games. Enter, the overprotective parent.
What I think a lot of parents fail to recognize is when it’s time to step back and stop worrying about what their kids see as they get older, and trust them to know fantasy from reality. I’ll use my own mother as an example. We got our first game console when I was 6 and I’ve been gaming ever since, but I cannot for the life of me remember my mother ever barging into my room and asking me what I was playing, acting all horrified at what she was seeing and talking in that “my poor baby,” voice. Most of the time if she ever acknowledged a game I was playing at all, she usually asked a question about what was going on, or would make some small joke about something in passing, and that was all.
Mind you, she wasn’t indifferent to what we played in terms of content, but by the time I was 13 and trying out my first mature rated titles, she never forbade me from playing them or blatantly told me that she hated it. She trusted my judgment and intelligence to know what I saw was fake, and to understand when I turned off the game, the real world was still there, and the two would never meet. Just about the only disparaging comment I can recall her making about a game I was playing was about Fallout 3, and what she was complaining about wasn’t the raiders swearing with ever alternate word or my character sniping someone from the shadows and watching their head explode like a watermelon full of c4, but the fact that the jaunty 50s music I had playing on the in-game radio in the background was getting on her nerves.
Speaking as someone whose life was actually very enriched by playing video games, I have this to say: some parents need to learn to chill out. The tagline of the trailer, “your mother will hate it,” works because it’s made with the assumption that a lot of fussy mothers will hate the game and not want their kids playing it, therefor the concept of playing it becomes appealingly rebellious. Though it plays off of the antagonistic rebellious teenager v. worrying parent relationship for laughs, it’s actually somewhat telling of where we seem to be when it comes to trust and confidence between the previous generation and the next.
There’s a period of time when the parent is essential in their child’s life. But that period starts waning as that child becomes an adult, and when it does, more control breeds resentment. A parent should remain watchful, but not overbearing as their teenager enters the world, ready to help, but not to smother. After all, you guys made it into the world okay. So ease up a little.
(!!!WARNING- The Gnome is angry. 1000+ word rant inbound-WARNING!!!)
I’ll be blunt about this. A lot of people my age hate to write. Many of them aren’t very good at it. In order to cure this, one needs to write regularly and cover a diverse range of styles and subject matter. English classes at school are supposed to teach us how to excel in our use of the English language through reading material, grammar instruction, and writing practice. When I got up to my senior level English class, I was all ready for a tough but satisfying year where we spent time reading novels, and writing a lot, which is basically what my English class last year consisted of. Instead, it has been almost non-stop hand holding and bullshit.
English classes for the past couple of months are what have been leaving me emotionally and creatively drained every time I walk out of the classroom. The entire curriculum seems to be centered around insulting our intelligence. We’re seniors, many of us are going to college next year, we’re going to have to write reports, term papers, some of us will even have to write a master’s thesis some day. So why aren’t we being taught the core details of college level writing? Because obviously making Hamlet a Facebook page is more important…I’m not joking.
I’d like to take time out to draw attention to one assignment that has been grating on my nerves for the past month. We were given an assignment to write a memoir. At first I was rolling my eyes, but committed nonetheless since this was about the third major writing assignment we’d been given, and it didn’t sound that hard. But what I originally thought would just be a single paper to turn in was actually a bloated cancerous behemoth of an assignment that sent my bullshit meter through the fucking roof.
We had to compile an entire portfolio of stuff about ourselves, but not just any stuff. Each assignment was geared towards having us whimsically reminisce about our childhoods, state our regrets, plan our our futures, and basically pour our souls out onto the paper telling about our minds, our experiences, and so on. I’m making myself feel sick just writing this, we’re literally being told to be introspective and self reflecting about our lives. It’s so moralistic, superficially wholesome, condescending, and completely missing the point.
The language of the assignments we were given made me constantly feel like I was being talked down to by some head shaking disappointed nanny, and while there was a good deal of writing involved, I kept coming back to one question. How the hell will writing a bloody letter giving my past self advice about how not to be a fuck up, going to help me in a college English class, which is what I assume a senior English class should be preparing me for?
Even the assignments that did have you write a lot where still very poor in my mind because they were carbon copies of assignments I’ve been receiving for the past seven years. At one point we were told to write a poem about ourselves, but we were required, required no less, to copy the format from an example poem we where shown. How the hell are you going to learn how to write poetry from that? That’s not writing poetry, that’s just taking words someone else wrote and filling in the blanks with stuff about yourself instead of them.
Not to mention this whole thing is totally misguided. It sounds like a good idea in one’s head, but think about it in execution. We’re teenagers. Most of us are 18. That feels like a long time, but it isn’t. Most of us haven’t seen very much of life. Most of us haven’t even got our own lives figured out. So why are you giving us an assignment asking us to basically make a synopsis of our lives when most of us don’t even know when or where the second act begins? With the exception of a few, there isn’t going to be a lot of heavy stuff to regret or reminisce on. A lot of it will be trivial, boring, and meaningless.
Past a certain point I wasn’t even trying to do this stuff seriously anymore, and instead began searching for ways to make a mockery of the entire project, such as making my letter to myself and descriptive essays downright parodies and lacing the language of my self reflections with cynical observations and backhanded insults that were buried deeply in the rhetoric so not to be instantly detectable. What drives me insane though is that we’re expected to do this again with another person at least over 60 years old (or if they’re over 55 we can round up). I’m doing the project on my dad (he’s not 55 or older, but I lied and said he was), and we’re both going to do what we can to take the piss out of this assignment.
I knew I’d be disappointed with my English class at the very beginning of the year with our first big project to write a persuasive essay on the upsides and downsides of social media, and whether or not more control was required. Not my preferred subject, but I was still pretty open to arguing my case. That was, until I was told we weren’t actually going to write the paper. We were instead required to team up with 2-3 other people and break the paper up into paragraphs, with each person assigned one or two paragraphs of it. That doesn’t just make me mad because it’s a belittling of my intelligence and competence, but because it makes for a piss poor paper because the writing styles and word choice fluctuate radically between paragraphs and the transitions are about at subtle as a shotgun going off next to your ear.
A counterargument that comes to mind when I reread this, is the argument that from a certain perspective, stuff like doing the memoir project and making a Facebook page for a fictional character are fairly low stress and funner than writing a research paper. You are writing about something you know about and it’s more interactive and engaging that just being told to write a paper. But you know what I say to that. Your English professor at the university isn’t going to care if what he/she gives you is fulfilling or engaging. You are there to learn, you do what they tell you, you write the damn paper, and if you think it’s boring, you can fucking leave. Why in the hell are we doing this kind of shit at the senior level? We should be getting ready for what we’re going to have to write in college, and for whatever jobs we may have. It’s inescapable nowadays that you are going to have to do some professional writing at some point in your life, and whatever technical firm or corporation you work for isn’t going to care that you can write a narrative about your trip to the beach.
Person : “Ah I see your picture is a dragon. Why?”
Artist: “Um…because I like dragons.”
Person: “So what does it say about your love of dragons? Or what does it say about dragons in general?”
Artist: “Nothing really. I just wanted to draw a dragon.”
Person: “I notice your dragon is breathing fire. You conveyed the sense of rage and emotion very well through the color choice and composition of the flames. Were you feeling likewise when you painted that?”
Artist: “No…dragons breathe fire. So I made it breathe fire.”
Person: “I see the knight at the bottom of the hill representing the struggle of humanity against impossible odds.”
Artist: “Okay seriously, you’re just fucking with me now aren’t you?”
Alright, so that conversation was mostly invented, but it’s a pretty good example of a very real type of person in the art world that galls me. These people who seem to believe that everything is a symbol, everything has purpose, everything is more than what it is, and says something deep and meaningful about the creator’s emotional state or the world in general. Here’s the thing, art is always saying something, but that something doesn’t necessarily need to be deep, or complicated, sometimes it really is just what it is.
It’s this type of pseudo-intellectual crowd who fall all over New Age art hacks whose artwork is little more than paint smeared on a canvas or a lump of formless rock, devoid of any mastery of craft, aesthetic sensibility, or discernible subject matter, because they read secret meaning into everything they see. The twistyness of the rock says a lot about the chaos of the world and how we all must keep our eyes focused to choose the right path. Or it could be the artist was really fond of pretzels.
I suppose art is there to be reacted to, and if someone takes away a different message from your picture than what you originally created it to say, there’s nothing one can really do about it, but that doesn’t stop it from bugging the shit out of me.
Whenever I do get asked what the deep underlying meaning of my pictures is (and I have been asked that since I had an art teacher once who had a mad on for this kind of sanguine, feel good, vomit inducing soul searching stuff) I always have to make something up because the truth is that there isn’t a deeper meaning. The characters or monsters look like they do and do the things they do because I told them to. That’s not to say there couldn’t be a cool story behind what’s happening or a universe to be delved into at some point, but what’s on the paper is exactly what it is, no commentary on the soul, no subtle glimpse into my views of the world, no hidden symbolism. You want to know why the dragon is breathing fire? I’ll let the scientist explain.
Because it’s fucking awesome. That’s really all there is.
Addendum: Comic courtesy of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
It took me awhile to remember I hadn’t yet drawn the last Horseman of the Apocalypse. So during exam week and art class today, I got busy on that.
I wasn’t really sure at first how to draw Famine, since I can’t really show that it’s Famine by making the rider bone thin because…well…it’s already a skeleton. In most artist’s depictions, only Death was a skeleton and all the other riders were human, but it’s too late to rescind on that now that its an establish thing with the other three riders. Obviously the horse has to be starved looking (and I had a lot of fun with that), but as for the rider, I ended up trying to make it look like a scarecrow. I thought of maybe adding locusts or crows in the background, but I was a bit too lazy for that.
Famine is the only rider I’ve done without a weapon. It was Topp Hatt’s idea to have the skeleton rider carry a sack with salt in it and have it spreading it around over a field, sowing the land with salt, in other words.
With this I’ve finally done the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Now I’ll need to find some other mythical or biblical horror to preoccupy myself with. Someone at school suggested Cerberus, but most likely there’ll be another dragon painting before that.
Sometimes I wonder if I indulge in drawing skeletons too much. It’s one of those things people are starting to recognize me for, even if I barely know them. If I were a few years younger the school system would probably have my ass in counseling by now.
Well that’s all for now. Here’s all four of the boneheads lined up together.
Today marked the end of exam week at my school. I know it sounds weird to end something on a Monday, but for whatever reason the exam schedule got changed so that the days we tested were Thursday, Friday, Monday, instead of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Simple logic would dictate that the hardest tests of the semester should end on a Friday so that our little brains have time to recover, but then again the educational systems I’ve been incarcerated in for the past 12 years have done very little to evidence that they’re capable of simple logic, so there you have it.
The tests themselves, at least for my classes, weren’t actually that hard. I spent more time reading my book , The Bright of the Sky, than testing. It’s funny though. For a book I rather enjoyed with vivid scenery, involving characters, and tense plot, I lost count of the number of times it gave me this look on my face like I’d been smacked in the head with a trout.
I mainly bought Bright of the Sky on impulse while looking for some new reading material. The book is a science fiction about a man and his family who fall through into a parallel universe its denizens have dubbed “The Entire.” After spending 10 years trapped there the main character Titus Quinn finds his way back to our world, losing his memories of the Entire, but still retaining some brief flashes. Enough to know that he went there, and more, that his wife and daughter are still there (I’m glad Topp Hatt isn’t reading this, else he’d be raving right now about plot convenient amnesia). Years later, Quinn is given the opportunity by a greedy multi-million dollar company to go back. He’s forced to disguise himself and relearn the mannerisms, language, and politics so he can travel in this world whose oppressive leaders want him dead, and still remember him very well.
The book actually doesn’t have a lot of action in it until towards the end, but I don’t hold this against it since it does create some great suspenseful moments based around how well the main character and those supporting him can maintain their facades in the faces of their greatest enemies, and even just common folk, as anyone anywhere can potentially betray them. There’s also a heavy emphasis on world building, but in some cases all the scientific minutia left me a little lost and confused as to what the author wanted me to be seeing.There was one thing beyond that though that continually bugged me while reading.
The lords of the world called the Tarig, appear able to influence and control practically every aspect of the world. They gave the Chalin people the forms of the people of Earth as a gift of gratitude, they can bind inter dimensional beings into usable forms to create airships, and have needle mechanisms to shape and change adobe into buildings and tunnels and can carve near invisible triggers and controls into it. The world is shaped by their bending both organic and inorganic matter to their will, but how exactly they do this is never adequately explained. In a pure fantasy story with magic and gods, that would probably swing for me, but this is a science fiction book and it is made clear that the Tarig are not gods, so why have such a meta-physical concept in a story that is supposed to be based around science? It makes the existence of this world difficult to swallow. It’s hinted at that the source of the Tarig’s power lies in some scientific understanding that is beyond our mortal ken, and maybe it’s covered in the future books, but it was a little much either way and it was somewhat immersion breaking. I was very much engaged in the characters, plot, and settings, but whenever the book took time away to dwell on the physics of this world, it took me out of the experience.
I had a similar problem with James Cameron’s Avatar. The world of Pandora was ridiculously difficult to believe for a lot of reasons, but one of them was the fact that so many things in this allegedly scientific movie taking place in our universe and with our laws of physics were so needlessly meta-physical, such as the Tree of Souls and the bond the Na’vi can make with animals. It is implied there is a biological reason, but it is never explained and the movie just sort of gives up on it.
I might be willing to give the Entire a pass since it is a parallel universe to our own, and the Tarig themselves come from a completely separate parallel universe (it’s implied there are others) so whose to say what the laws of physics are where they come from, but the fact that so many of our own universe’s concepts are so key to explaining the Entire’s existence, it starts becoming difficult to accept that some things play by our rules and other things don’t. I know quantum mechanics are weird and difficult to understand, but I’m pretty sure they don’t work this way.
I asked my dad (while writing this in fact), how it was that science fiction classics like Star Wars and Star Trek get away with it. He said that we have no trouble going along with the world in Star Wars because it acts like a lot of the things that seem physically impossible such as light speed travel, interstellar wars, and blasters, are completely normal. In a way, simply having these things in your world but treating them with no special regard, just something else that exists, allows an audience to get lost more easily. The only thing that attention was really drawn to was the Force, and even that was left in a shroud of mystery (notice when they tried to attach science to the Force in Phantom Menace, it was one of the most horseshit explanations ever come up with for anything). In a world based around what we know to be impossible (or at least currently unobtainable), the last thing you want to do is draw attention to it.
Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I still enjoyed Bright of the Sky despite this one niggling doubt, and will probably read through the rest of the books as well. But I think this is a good example of why I rarely imbibe in science fiction, it makes my brain hurt and produces 1000 + word posts that drive people insane.
No new picture yet, but I have one that’s very close to being done.
In a conversation I had with my mom during a particularly long wait at a restaurant on Friday, she suggested that I start posting more often, once a day even about other stuff that interests me, news, videos, whatever. So I’ve decided that’s what I’ll do, if for no other reason than it keeps me entertained.
I suppose I’ll start off this new trend of getting majorly off topic with what’s been at the forefront of my mind this morning: video games. Specifically one video game. I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts my love of the games Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and the post apocalyptic twin sister of these two games Fallout 3. Anyway, its been a given for awhile now that a new Elder Scrolls game was in development, but the developers at Bethesda were continuously playing coy until very recently. A new game is coming, taking place in the winter wonderland of Skyrim, land of Nords, mead, and dragons.
Now as ramped up as I am for this game, there is always, unfortunately, a bit of downtime between a game being announced and a game sliding into my Xbox or PC so I can marinate myself in flickering light and virtual gore. That wait is scheduled to come to an end in 11/11/11 (ha ha ha i c wut u did thar), but until then people like me are left to subsist on little crumbs thrown to us on what the game will be like and how it will play. In my case, there’s no succulent morsels I enjoy more than pieces of concept art.
It was originally drooling over video game concept art that made me want to start drawing in the first place. Recently a speed art video (where you watch someone draw something, but its sped up real fast), for Skyrim was released and posted on Gameinformer. Pictured at the right is the finished result. As a fan of the game, it gets me all pumped up (and a few other emotions I’d rather not describe) for the game, and as an artist, it gets me all intrigued and introspective over the pieces and the importance of concept art in general, which is why I felt compelled to talk about it in the first place.
I’ve thought of what it might take to become a concept artist myself and the conclusions I’ve arrived at appear daunting. I’d obviously need far more computer skills than what I currently possess, a sense of professional standards, communication skills, respect for deadlines, and a whole bunch of other things I’m certainly missing. And honestly, the odds of one finding their dream job is stacked against them when there’s other things in the world constantly encroaching on that dream such as the need to eat. One may be better off sloughing away at something they don’t like to survive than hold out in hopes of getting their dream career. But the way I see it, even if you don’t get what you want you might find something else. In the meantime the dream is something to work towards, even if you don’t make it, it’s served its purpose by moving you forward.
So even if I could never hope to do more that gawp at concept art and wonder at how its done, I don’t know that yet, so it’s still something to work towards. And even if I decide it isn’t possible, or that I never wanted it in the first place, wherever I’ve ended up when I make that decision will likely be farther and more fulfilling than where I am now.
So, that’s the basic tour into my mental state at current. Not bad for my first tangent. I’ll probably have something new to bang on about tomorrow, or if I don’t I’ll go find something. After all, this is the internet, and it wouldn’t stay aloft if there weren’t people around shedding their loose thoughts into the air. I’m just doing my part.
Go on. Guess.
Contrary to how things may have seemed for the past couple of weeks, I am in fact alive. And better still, FREE AT LAST! That monkey of the culminating project is finally off my back and I can go back to thinking about things that actually matter. While I can’t say I got nothing out of doing the project, (I got a blog out of it after all) I still hold to my original opinion that the push behind it and the overall handling of the project is still complete and utter bureaucratic bullshit. But that’s all water under the bridge and what not. I will not speak of this again.
As for what happens now that this site is no longer a school project, as I said in my previous post before I vanished for a couple weeks, I still intend to keep this site even though there’s now no one hanging my graduation chances over my head in order to make me keep maintaining it. In fact now that my project is done, there might be a few little changes here and there since I can do what I want now. I’ve considered maybe having either Topp Hatt or myself take up an additional writing column (still in the sci-fi/fantasy mold), and we’re still not entirely put off of the idea of a collaborative writing and drawing project, though what form that will take and when that will happen it still being debated (by debated, I mean largely ignored until one of us feels like talking about it), and there will probably be a slight increase in profanity now that the school can’t tell me what I can or can’t say on here any longer. The point I’m making is that there’s more room to grow now.
I actually intended to get an update up much sooner than this, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead I spent most of my valuable three day weekend knocking around Spokane up in Western Washington with my brother and dad, then the moment I returned, I took off to a friend’s house and partied until midnight. So I ended up getting stuck with one day left on the clock and two very chickenshit school assignments in math and English due the following day that wouldn’t magically disappear no matter how many goats I sacrificed. That, combined with the fact that this picture itself took longer than normal to complete. But enough about that. I will not speak of it again.
More on the art. This piece I’m very impressed with, especially since I was pretty iffy on the overall concept when I first sketched it out. I’m not entirely sure where the idea originally came from. I think maybe I was just thinking one day what might happen if my house just lifted up because there was a giant creature sleeping underneath that humanity had just built on top of, completely unaware of its existence until now? This is also one of the most detailed paintings I’ve done thus far. It took hours of tedium and many breaks for me to paint on every scale and brick on the castle and walls, but the picture really wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t. This is also the first picture I’ve done on one of the mini canvases I was given for my birthday.
So that’s all for now. A bit of a lengthy post, but then hey, I’ve been gone for a while. I’m going to get back to working and repressing my memories. Bye for now.
Evening, and its been far to long.
Long ago (middle of December) I started up a project that ran into writers block in under 300 words. Since it was Christmas, I simply shelved it and went on a Steam Christmas sale buying spree. The new year rolled around and I resolved to keep a better writing schedule – and promptly started slipping when the current project stretched a good 1000 words longer than originally intended (it’s probably my longest work yet).
As for the story itself? The idea for this one from Ubisoft’s triple A title Assassins Creed 2; specifically, my sister was raiding the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore for a tomb somehow located in the dome at the top (see here). Unlike the rest of the game, where you can climb over just about everything, segments like the tomb in the Duomo (Italian word for a cathedral) contain more traditional, linear based platforming where strategically placed scaffolding, decorative carvings, and decay come together to form only one route. This begged the question - how would the heroes of platforming games get around if people took care not to leave scaffolding and holes in the walls for Ninja’s to use. This led to a number of jokes between us about “Ninja proofing” and that pre-industrial societies hadn’t “invented it” yet. And thus, a premise was born – although I found it wasn’t enough to carry an entire story (and thus, the significantly longer length than originally intended).
Enough banter. Ninja Architect, by Topp Hatt