Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

In time for spooooky Halloween I found some creepy doll pictures.

What is it about dolls that give us such a creep factor? I own dolls, I appreciate them as art pieces and I wholly admit that sometimes in the night I wonder if they are inching their way towards me with a butchers knife.

I suppose it comes down to psychology; perhaps what they represent to our stubborn unconscious brains is that of a dead body - tiny, still, pale, unnatural, creepy. Although to be fair this particular example is actually an ivory carved antique medical example of a woman giving birth so creepy AND educational.

There is actually a place in Mexico which some of you may recognize from an episode of Destination Truth called the Island of the Dolls. Best. Episode. Ever. And so appropriate for today.

They should make a movie out of that place. Once upon a time a little girl drowned in the nearby water and took to haunting the island. To placate the child ghost caretakers of the island began to buy dolls and hang them from the trees. Over the years the dolls have eroded and supposedly have picked up the wrathful energy of the tormented spirit.

The eyes follow you and if you are quick enough you can see a head swivel to look at you. SPOOOOKYYY!!!

finding the episode for free online is pretty hard; once it was on youtube.com but I think it's been taken down. Hulu has it but you have to pay to see it. If you want to cough up the money you can just go and buy the third season of Destination truth.

I think I'll let Josh Gates sum up the whole creepy doll thing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Book Review?

(Oh God, watch out internet! Woman with an opinion, coming through! You may be relieved I really don’t intend to make a habit of this – writing reviews for books. But, occasionally, I will pick up a book and feel the need to talk about it and since this is MY platform, MY little tiny corner in the world, why not?

This is just my thoughts and disagreement about one book that is popular. Just one opinion that doesn’t change or weigh in on anything. Laugh at it, scoff, hate it – that’s all just fine. If you love the Hunger Games, that’s equally fine. One thing people need to be really clear on is that it’s okay to like problematic things and that most things are problematic, depending on who you talk to.

Don’t get crazy on me internet, one opinion on The Hunger Games isn’t going to bring the world crashing down.)

I always find trends curious; books, movies, politics – it all says something about our culture. This is me focusing on book trends, more specifically The Hunger Games. I am in a grey area in regards to the book. I would say on the flat surface it works well as a short piece of entertainment. It’s quick to read, easy to read and doesn’t require a lot of mental investment.

But (oh you knew there was a but coming) it’s as though it was halfway written. It starts out with a promising tale; a dystopian world where humanity has become so depraved they have children kill children for the entertainment of the upper class. Government is corrupt, people are starving and the gap between rich and poor is astronomical.

Come ON -fantastic premise for a book! and perhaps there begins the problem. This has been done before, successfully;

Lord of the Flies

1984

Battle Royale

The Lottery

All books (er, manga?) that deliver a powerful message through the use of horror and graphic violence. See, there is a rule with regards to writing fiction (especially sci-fi and fantasy): if you are going to include graphic, lovingly described violence, mutilation and rape you better damned well be certain is has something to do with the plot and that it exists to move the plot in some way. Otherwise it’s just a cheap trick for shock value and becomes hackneyed and offensive if overused (I’m looking at you GRRM).

The plot threads begin to fray as soon as Katniss enters the Arena. Let’s divide up the problems:

Romance

Some day, I pray, I BEG, fervently there will be a day when an author writes a fantasy/sci-fi novel, with a female character, that does not include banal romantic plots (or rape. God on High I am sick of female characters existing for the sole purpose of being raped). It’s like a bad stereotype that a woman can’t and won’t pick up a book unless there is ROH-mance because our lady brains are filled with pink hearts and fluffy cotton balls.

The whole ‘romance’ between Pita- er, whoops PEETA sorry and Katniss is just…awkward. Clumsy. Annoying. The angle that would have been interesting is in regards to Katniss’ survival; she could have used Peeta and the audience’s interest in romance in a deliberate and cold blooded way to survive. She has so much riding on survival – her family, the downtrodden people of District 12, the continuation of her life at District 12, her friend Gale. Wouldn’t it be logical to use whatever leverage you have to win? Mind, body, soul anything and everything to claw your way to victory? Instead we have a murky in-between romance where Katniss is coerced/bullied into snuggling and kissing with Peeta and eventually is uncertain herself whether or not she has romantic emotions towards him.

Also, the author could have used Peeta in a way that shows Katniss’s hunter savvy instead of as an equal which he really isn’t; he is, admittedly, a rather bumbling, doughy, more or less useless character who spends most of the book being a lodestone around her neck. Dangerous when you are hard pressed in keeping your own hide intact.

On the note of Peeta being her touchstone, her point of sanity and warmth in a terrifying ordeal was it really even necessary? There might have been a great opening for the exploration of a powerful friendship between Rue and Katniss that could have filled the need for warmth and love. Rue, I felt, was killed off way too quickly and a bit over dramatically. Holding her tiny hand while the tears ran down Katniss’s cheek and giving the gesture of respect and farewell would have gotten the point across emotionally. Singing and drowning Rue in flowers was over the top and almost satirical.

The Cost of Violence

Arrrrgghh. This could have been such a good book for discussing the cost of violence and the traumatic effects of being forced to kill to survive. Ms. Collins missed the boat on this one. If you are going to have a free-for-all, Roman Coliseum style battle-to-the-death plot that is graphically described (using children no less!) you better be damned sure to include the psychological repercussions of murdering another human being and the terror of looming certain death. It’s kind of a big thing. Which is only halfway touched upon by Katniss or any other of the child murderers.

She could have described the Career Tributes further as not only being trained for the Hunger Games but being a product of a morally corrupt society. They should have been described as killing machines; without emotion, without humaneness, living solely for the glory of blood and victory. You could have done a lot with Roman soldier allusions and a antagonistic character who lives for glory at the cost his or her humanity. Never really got that from the description. They could have been described as a pack of predators that move silently and as lethally as wolves on the hunt and we could have had an underdog angle with Katniss outsmarting, outliving them all. Nope, didn’t really get that either.

There was a fantastic opening for Katniss to explore the moral dilemma of killing with a consciousness. Of having been raised to respect life (even those of the animals she killed for survival – other cultures devoutly pray and thank the animal they have killed because it means survival for them even at the cost of life) and only to kill when absolutely necessary. Don’t really see that either. If memory serves she kills two people; the attacker of Rue (in which she doesn’t even really give a thought about) and the mercy killing of Cato which, again, there is no emotional reaction. Just sort of, meh, he’s dead, I WIN!!!

(And can we discuss, for a moment, the weird hybrid zombie wolf things made from the dead bodies of the Tributes? What the bleeding hell was that all about!?! That was the most random, most bizarre, most ridiculous cop out of a monster antagonist I’ve ever seen!! Aaand they disappear back into the earth, never to be seen again. And are never really explained; er, is this a recent thing or have all the dead Tributes of the past been turned into genetic experimentations? What about the families of those tributes? Wouldn’t they be kind of, well, pissed off? Wouldn’t you think Katniss would be pissed that they used sweet little Rue in something so horrible? Wouldn’t that give her ammunition to fuel a revolt? Is this ever resolved or are the zombie Tributes just sort of…forgotten, doomed to run wild in the underground labyrinth of…where ever it was they came from? I mean, just, bwuh? Completely random.)

The final showdown felt like something that was pulled out of the author’s ass. It could have been a glorious show of Katniss’s resolve, guts and strategic ability to lure the last of the inhuman Career Tributes into a trap of death but no. We get the random zombie Tributes (see above) who finish the job for her without her really doing anything.

And there is the suicide attempt. AArrrggh. And the whole, ‘can’t be angry with me, I be in LOVE’. I kind of wished Peeta had just bled out and left Katniss to go on to create a glorious revolution to deliver the people from the grasp of the corrupt government and….eh, never mind. Speaking of heroic ladies there is the aspect of:

Heroines

Oh, GOD, Heroines. Someday we’re going to have a proper one. Katniss is… well, halfway done. The introduction of Katniss was well done. She’s tough, she’s a survivor, she’s experienced terrible losses at a young age and has born up well under the pressure to provide for her family

(btw, LOVE the way mental illness is treated in the novel; mother marries, has kiddies, loses husband in a really horrible accident, sinks into dehabilitating depression and Katniss calls her, essentially, a worthless piece of shit. Mother is not seen as other than anything but a wasted shell who is occasionally screamed at by Katniss to be something other than a worthless lump. Yup, if you suffer from dehabilitating mental illness you lose your worth as a human being and your competent offspring must take care of you, forever more, because there is no coming back from it. Can’t really think of many adult characters in the book that are shown in a good light)

She does right by most people (mostly), all ingredients for a strong female character who has the potential to Do Things. And it just sort of peters out from there. We never see her resolve. We never see her look at the horror of what she is facing and have her make the choice of surviving at any and all costs. We never see the seeds of rebellion blossom as I thought it would – if it were me in that Arena I wouldn’t just be thinking about survival I would be thinking that if I survived it I would raze the goddamn government to the ground and stick their heads on poles. I would make damn certain that we would be the last Tributes to enter the Arena. Her time in the Arena could have been spent preparing her for the inevitable rebellion that is brewing in the wings. (the story REALLY could have used more foreshadowing of a brewing rebellion and of how unhappy the downtrodden were)

It could have been spent in sharpening her skills; I kept waiting for her to totally sniper swipe the Career Tributes from 500 yards, from a mother f*&^%ing tree. THAT would have been awesome and would have shown Katniss using her aforementioned bad ass archery skills like I thought she was, otherwise why make such a huge point of Katniss using a bow and arrow? Nnnnnope, didn’t really happen. There was a golden opportunity to show an internal battle between the hunter inside of her and the compassionate human who is sickened at the thought of killing but does it efficiently and without hesitation because she must. There was an opportunity for Katniss to grow into the role of a leader by gathering a small band together and defying the Career Tributes and Government even if it meant tragedy and death.

There was an opportunity for her to be cunning, resourceful, for her to gain strength and tenacity as each one of those children die horribly, for her to be shaped into the role of Rebel which this world so desperately needs. But no. We see that she is, indeed, pretty good at keeping out of trouble and surviving in the Arena but her flaunted skills as an archer aren’t really used to the best of her ability. She isn’t strategic and doesn’t really think ahead. She just sort of scrapes a pass at survival until the zombie Tributes tie up the end of the battles. We get weak, watery romance that probably shouldn’t have been written in the first place. We get the idea that when she goes home she will continue her downtrodden existence without really taking away anything from her horrific experience. We get a half-baked heroine.

Intended Audience

As I closed in on the last few paragraphs of this book my resounding thought that I had was this is a children’s book?

Ain’t no WAY I’d let any kid under the age of sixteen read this nonetheless the age group it’s targeted at; 12 – 16 year olds. Have we become that desensitized that the gruesome murder of children is something we let our own children read? This is not a happy book. This is a very graphic, depressing book that has a lot of heavy subject matter.

Whatever message this book is trying to get across is murky. Girls have to go along with romance to get along even if they don’t feel it or want it? The government is evil? Communities don’t give a shit about you? Adults are unreliable? It’s okay to be strong but not too strong? I don’t even know.

The popularity and circulation of this book is one of those trends of recent years that disturbs me. It makes me curious what the world will think in fifty years when the top of the book lists of now will include things like Twilight, A Song of Fire and Ice and The Hunger Games. Sexy, violent, graphic books without any deepness or thought or literate merit. Fast and entertaining but ultimately empty. It isn’t that bad of a book. It isn’t that great of one either. It’s the equivalent of fast food literature.

As such I don’t feel a driving need to read the rest of the trilogy having made do with a summary and it’s about what I expected. ‘Heroine’ ends up with man, gets married, has kids, the end.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I would be such an awesome detective

MYSTERY CASE FILES: RETURN TO RAVENHEARST MANOR
Under the many genres of 'game' falls the popular hidden object computer game Mystery Case Files (found at Big Fish Games). This is not your stereotypical shoot-em-up, blow-em-up, more or less mindless killing things game that a lot of video games fall into. This harks back onto the early days of computer games (Kings Quest, Monkey Island) when you had to use your brain to figure out puzzles and win.

Damn good days, those were. Wish there were more games like that.

Anyhoo, I did post on this some years back but I'll do it again because it's that good and fits with the Halloween season.

Step up, step right in to Ravenhearst Manor! You are the detective in this game and its up to you to figure out what happened at the ghostly, haunted Mansion on the hill. This game is kind a mix. Ever hear of Where's Waldo? or I Spy? It's a little like that. You will get some screens where you have to find certain objects to progress foward. In the case of Return to Ravenhearst Manor you get to have beautiful, gloomy, gothic scenery all the while listening to haunting, quietly played background music. The rain drips steadily, the crows cry out in the distant. Thunder rumbles as you search the grounds of the mysterious manor for a way to get inside.

and then there are the puzzles. Take a little bit of Gothic macabre, mix in antiques, steampunk and a little bit of rust along with a wallop of tough brain teasers and you have the puzzles of Ravenhearst. Some are simple to figure out, some are very difficult and you should feel no shame in googling the answer (in fact, you may have to if you wish to progress in the game).

Getting in the house is only the very tip of the ice berg. This is actually the second game of a series - Ravenhearst Manor is the first and it is absolutely different from this one. Return to Ravenhearst Manor is, I think, the best of the three. They managed to fit in everything that makes Mystery Case Files so wonderful; hidden object screens, beautiful and fascinating scenery, puzzles, atmosphere, music, sound, short video clips (mostly of the ghosts begging for help) wacky inventions and overall intrigue.

Some of the few minor flaws may be the amount of time spent in beating Ravenhearst Manor; it is, admittedly, a very long game with many parts to it. There is some big frustration with some of the puzzles as well. Some you can't skip and if you don't figure them out you are quite literally stuck. (*cough*google*cough)

Overall this has remained one of my favorite computer games to play. For anyone who has ever wanted to explore an abandoned, haunted mansion and longed for the romance of a haunted house, mystery novel and decayed but beautiful scenery this is your game. Since this is an older game I'm not sure if you can buy it at Wal-Mart any longer (which is where I got it for ten dollars). You can try the Big Fish Games site, or amazon.com

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Manga you probably haven't heard of

Black Lagoon

It's an interesting thing; this is not normally the type of manga/anime I get into but Black Lagoon manages to be interesting, gritty, bloody, humorous and entertaining all at the same time.

Let me make it really, really clear that this is NOT for children. In fact, I would smack an '18 or older' sticker on it.

Welcome to the city of Roanpur - home of murderers, thieves, mafia, drug addicts and general lowest of the low. Having your baggage stolen and being beaten in the process is a happy walk in the park compared to some of the goings-ons in this pirate port.

The story revolves around 'Rock' - a Japanese office worker who accidently fell into this underground world and decided to stick around while working for the transport company the Black Lagoon. Most of the group manage to walk the murky line of good and evil; the leader Dutch is an ex-vietnam vet who is cool, smart and runs a tight ship. Computer expert Benny manages the tech side of things and while does not carry a gun or kill people he is still on the run from the FBI. He's one of the more decent characters but is still morally grey. Then there is Levy, the brawn and bullets of the operation. Ah - Levy, on one side of the coin she's fiesty, funny, surprisingly loyal (once you get past the homicidal edge of her short temper) and undoubtedly one of the most terrifying women in the universe of Black Lagoon.

Which brings me to one of the reasons why I like this series so much. It's a bit of a surprise but most of the hardcore, sociopathic, vicious, powerful characters of the story are female.

Balalaika - head of the Russian branch of the Mafia. Ex-military, trained in preparation for WW3 with nowhere to go to exercise her expertise but Roanpur. Effing terrifying woman. Likes war games and killing things.

Roberta. Maid of wealthy family, gets her own storyline called 'Robertas blood trail' when head of beloved family is killed in terrorist bombing and promptly goes a little crazy exacting revenge. Also known as 'RoboMaid' for her Terminator fighting style.

Levy (short version of Rebecca) Chinese-American ex-New York street terror who now works for the Black Lagoon. Also likes killing things (people, mostly). Has absolutely no problem putting a bullet through your skull.

Black Lagoon is like a gritty detective novel, Tarantino movie, kung-fu action flick and western all tied into one. There isn't much of a plot, more like a series of events that happens in and around Rock as he lives in this crazy, bloody lawless city. The manga is only 81 chapters in so it seems as though it could still go for a while. I'm curious to see how Rock will change (or will be eventually corrupted?) as he lives there. No one, it seems, has a very long lifespan in such a place. Rock is the only person who hangs onto compassion and it gets him into trouble.

Though he doesn't have a gun he does just fine with wits and intelligence alone; enough to catch the eye of the two top mafia leaders of the city. Interested to find out if he will lose his wings and end up working for, or with, Chang or Balalaika and become a mafia something-or-rather himself.

So! Black Lagoon can be found at Manga Inn and can be watched in original Japanese langauge format over at Hulu.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When Halloween lost its meaning

Somewhere along the way from childhood days spent in anxious anticipation for that one night of the year when you could gorge yourself on sugar and puke to your hearts content it stopped being about creativity and magic and becoming something else. it became what is now known as 'sexy *insert costume here*'. Sexy 'costumes' are positively crammed down our throats.

(and yea, if Sexy whatever is your thing- awesome for you but when it's the ONLY option available at stores it becomes a problem on many levels and that is what I'm addressing)

So I bring the ladies Take Back Halloween Giving you ideas for historical and mythological figures for Halloween.

I am SO dressing as Athena - look at the awesome helmet! Now that's a warrior goddess done right.

On a more humorous note is the %#^%# No Sexist Halloween movement you can find Here

It's hard to choose the most offensive costume and you often wonder what the hell was the thinking behind the creation of these 'costumes'? Do we really need a sexy crayon? and a banana?

Bring back creativity in Halloween!!!

I was kind of surprised that my monster plush didn't sell at the con but there you go; he's up on Etsy. He's SUPER huggable and hairy! And big - about 12 inches high.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yay for collage

I have been playing with paper and bits and things. You probably can't tell too well by the photograph but there are a bunch of metal bits all throughout the picture.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

plant I was rewatching 'old' movies that suited Halloween this week and came across the 1986 Little Shop of Horrors with Rick Moranis and was struck with a wave of nostalgia. God, the 80's rocked. It's weird that as a five or six year old my parents let me watch this movie but they did. Stranger still that it left a huge impression on me. This song especially - For whatever reason it struck an emotional chord within my itty bitty five year old mind. The desperate yearning of Semour to get out of Skid Row made me cry (go figure, I was an emotional kid) Watching it now I find it a campy, wonderfully hilarious musical. I kinda wish I had a little Audrey plushie or something. Singing (evil) plants, S & M Dentists and murder! It's a wonder I didn't grow up more strange than I have.

if I were the 1%

Ha, this is one of those 'if I were rich' daydreams. For Halloween I would buy out the Pottery Barn's Halloween section and go crazy with it at my turn of the century, arts and crafts, home- er, mansion. Yes, mansion (with a studio and a library and a study...). Stuff like this:
My favorite, FAVORITE thing that I wish I could buy? Are these flying bat lights
*sigh* must be nice to have money to burn.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gah, my eyes - yet I can't look away

Ahh, Japanese animation - you remain golden in my heart. Ready for your eyes to bleed as you marvel at the animation? Ready, GO! Totally yoinked from The Mary Sue .

Saturday, October 13, 2012

XBOX 360 Fallout fans pay attention

I am promoting the hell out of this. I am a huge fan of small production companies like the Guild and Journey Quest (which will get their own posts in the future) so I was so very pleased (so pleased, I let out a fangirl squeal I am ashamed to say) when I found by complete accident a fan made video of the Fallout universe.

Fallout is a game by the Bethesda sofworks which allows the player to run around in post apocalyptic America, scrambling for survival in a harsh land where giant roaches are the least of your worries. There is something mesmerizing about the game; it's just you and your trusty weapon against all the crazy out to eat you/kill you/sell you into slavery. Vast stretches of waste, distant reminders of a flourishing culture long gone to dust and advanced technology combined with almost primitive conditions make for a fascinating game play.

and then someone ( Wayside Creations) had to go and made a professional, wonderful, hilarious short film about it. Without further ado: Fallout: Nuka Break.

Ah, but it doesn't end there! So great was the response that they continued on to make an entire season! Episode One of Fallout: Nuka Break

And currently in production for a second season. I am so utterly impressed with the production of Fallout: Nuka Break. They have the universe down to a T. Clothing, terminology, props, weapons, vast wastelands (where was this filmed?) ghost towns and spot on CG. The makeup of Ben the Ghoul would have Glenn Hetrick's approval, the acting is smooth, the lines aren't clunky and or stuttery, everyone on the cast has great interaction with one another (the various bounty hunters/Raiders are HILARIOUS).

Twig is adorable and wonderful as the comic foil, Scar(lett) is bad ass and sexy (though you'd think she'd sunburn with all that lovely white skin exposed in the harsh waste!) and Ben is wonderful as the subtle brains-behind-the-operation, jerk with a (sort of) heart of gold character (is it wrong I have a slight crush on him?).

All I can say is ROCK ON Wayside Creations. Rock the freak on. And hey, people reading this, if you are a fan, spread the word. That's how artists get by and get known.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

well, it's five in the morning and I can't sleep because of congestion in my sinuses so HERE! have some pretty artwork:

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Manga you may not have heard of

You get a 2-fer for this manga post. Long, long ago in the days of (my)youth when anime and manga were unknown but to the most geekiest there was an exciting anime called Legend of Basara that had but 13 episodes and was yanked from the air, never to be seen again. Unless you read the manga. Which you should. Yumi Tamura is the creator of this series and has a love of destruction. Far in the future the world as we know it has been completely annihilated. From the rubble humanity arose anew but was set back to hacking at each other with swords and riding horses instead of humvees. Thus! in the midst of tyranny and kings and oppression there rose a prophecy of the child who will deliver the people out of blood and misery! But woe! TWINS are born; which is the chosen child!? Sasara (the girl) is raised in the shadow of Tatara (her brother) who is believed to be the chosen one until he gets his head hacked off. Yup, that's just the first volume of this epic 26 volume series. Love! Betrayal! Vengeance! Lots of blood! Everything that makes manga entertaining along with a huge colorful cast of characters, dramatic and involved storyline and plenty of ladies who kick all kinds of ass. Along those lines:
Yumi Tamura's most recent work; 7 Seeds. Following along the same lines of life in a apocalyptic world we follow a group of ragtag survivors who have been 'chosen' to survive the destruction of humanity and repopulate the world. Over a 100 chapters in and we still don't know the fundamentals like how the world fell apart, how far in the future have they been sent, how many people have survived (so far only the few groups of '7 seeds' located in Japan and if they will survive long enough to establish a shelter or town. I'd take 7 Seeds over Lost any day and it's barely begun it's storyline. Sadly, you'll have trouble finding Legend of Basara anywhere - I haven't found a site that hosts the manga and it's been out of print for a long time. 7 Seeds can be found on Manga Fox or Manga Reader.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The results of todays garage selling/ flea marketing. Silk fabric for future projects, vintage silk flowers, glass bottle with topper and (ha ha, my favorite) metal lobster tail helmet which will be worn in conjuction with Steampunk outfit in the future. I love me some vintage.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

See, I said I'd do more plush dolls. For anime lovers - Stein from Soul Eater. I was going to sell him at the comic con but nobody bought him! I'm working on getting my Etsy site up and running again and he will be for sell there along with a lot of other new items.
Back in the saddle. God, I'm bad at blogging. Went to the Virginia City Steampunk Ball and this was my hat! and sold at a comic convention AND am doing art so I have things to update with. So bad at blogging.