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Seriously, WHY does Photoshop hate me???

Finally feel like I’m making some headway with this damned design. Needless to say, because of my own cluelessness, the final product is not looking very much the way I envisioned it…

Oh well, back to the labor. “Feet in the stirrups,” as it were. “One FINAL PUSH!!!”

01010000 01101000 01101111 01110100 01101111 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110000 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110010 01100100 00101110 (Photoshop is hard.)

01010011 01110101 01101101 01101101 01100101 01110010 00100111 01110011 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101111 01110010 01111001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01111001 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 01110111 00101110

(Summer’s story is yellow.)

01000001 01110000 01110010 01101001 01101100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110111 01101001 01101110 01100100 01111001 00100000 01101101 01101111 01101110 01110100 01101000 00101110 00100000 01000001 01101110 01100011 01101000 01101111 01110010 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01101100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01110111 01100001 01101001 01100110 01101001 01110011 01101000 00100000 01100110 01110010 01100001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110000 01100001 01101001 01110010 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01101000 01100101 01100001 01110110 01111001 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01101001 01101110 01101101 01100001 01101001 01101100 00100000 01100011 01110101 01100110 01100110 01110011 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01001111 01110000 01100101 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01000011 01100101 01110010 01100101 01101101 01101111 01101110 01111001 00101110

(April is a windy month. Anchor well your waifish frame with a pair of heavy chainmail cuffs by Opening Ceremony.)

01010011 01101000 01101111 01100101 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01001100 01101111 01110101 01100010 01101111 01110101 01110100 01101001 01101110 00101110

(Shoes are Louboutin.)

01001001 01100110 00100000 01100001 01101110 01111001 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01100101 01110110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100010 01101001 01110100 01100011 01101000 01100101 01110011 00100000 01101100 01100001 01111001 01110011 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110011 01101001 01101110 01100111 01101100 01100101 00100000 01100111 01110010 01110101 01100010 01100010 01111001 00100000 01101101 01101001 01110100 01110100 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01001000 01100101 01110010 01101101 11000011 10101000 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101001 01110010 01101011 01101001 01101110 00101100 00100000 01001001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01100111 01101111 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110010 01101110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01110011 01110011 01101001 01110011 00101110

(If any of you thieving bitches lay a single grubby mitt on my Hermès birkin, I’m going to burn you with my chassis.)

Today marks the first annual (and final) awards ceremony for the 2012 455 Bloggie Awards! All of us have worked so hard, looked so deeply inward to convey our thoughts, interests, and creations, so much that I believe without irony that we are all winners. Blogging is a somewhat thankless (if not historically young) pastime, and so few of us will see anything come of our efforts but ideas to inform our work in other arenas…but we can all dream, can’t we?

And without further ado, MY VOTES for the individual categories of the 2012 455 Bloggie Awards for the very first time for the very last time!

[Best Personal Blog: Liminal Passages – Cerridwen]
Cerridwen blog is many things: creative treatise, public journal,anecdotal catalog. She seems to write so effortlessly, and every post is a delight, which can not always be said for a blog that relies so much on one individual’s perspective. Her family helps mitigate this factor, too; Some of her best posts deal with her loved ones, such as this one involving a pair of her Godchildren and a bottle of depilatory cream.

[Best Design/Visuals: Six and a Writer – Charity]
Charity’s presentation of an established blog focused on personal style and how it intersects with work and family, and it’s not difficult to see the inspiration in her layout, even if it isn’t self-designed from the ground up. She has the presence of mind to consider typography, white space, and the composition of the personal photographs she includes in her posts, giving her relatively new blog a very professional attitude, and one that is easy to read from.

[Best Hobby/Specific Interest Blog: Hyperderby – Kristina]
I can’t imagine anyone else winning this category. Before Kristina’s blog, I knew lamentably very little about roller derby as a sport, and I found out that roller derby is rough-and-tumble, gutsy, and spectacular, much like the women who champion it. Kristina’s voice is enthusiastic and reverent, and she is always able to connect personal anecdotes back to the focal point of her blog. Informative, funny, and touching all at once.

[Most Improved Blog: Some Trans Lady – Jack]
Jack’s first foray into blogging (at least for the purposes of this class) dealt with Skyrim, and I’m not gonna lie: I kinda dug it (having invested over 150 hours of my own life into my own exegesis of its texts). But the topic quickly became a dead end for her, and rather than stagnate, she refocused her energies and came up with a beautifully written and insightful new blog (with some wonderful poetry to boot). Not only does she write on Some Trans Lady, but she has also started reviewing awful beers. Check it out!

[Most Interactive Blog: When I Grow Up – Chelsea]
Chelsea’s blog is a delight to comment on and read, particularly because of the abundance of whimsical illustrations peppering her posts (although these have dwindled in frequency somewhat). The illustrations, coupled with her approachable and personable writing voice, create fertile ground for discussion, or at the very least, rampant commentary. My favorite doodle? Why, this one about Chaucer, of course.

[Blog “Most Likely to Succeed”: Kacie’s Kinship – Kacie]
Early on while workshopping with Kacie, I fell in with subject of her blog, and saw great opportunity in it as a possible resource for Americans and people the world over living in kinships, a term I’d scarcely even considered before meeting her. Some development is clearly necessary, some broadening of her concept. As it stands, it’s more of a personal account, but with the right amount of networking and collaboration the site could become a necessary touchstone for hundreds of thousand, if not millions, of people.

And because I feel like I deserve an award no matter the outcome:

[Most Batshit Blog: Ursus Interruptus – Kyle]

If you have a chance, take a stroll through each of the blogs. They’re fantastic. The roll can be found at the Living Writers blog.

 

 

I shit you not.

This thing is a beast. 27 pounds? My grandmother would probably blow out her lower GI just lifting the damn box. B.O.B. is an acronym of “Big Ol’ Bear,” of course. How terribly clever! No, wait; it’s just terrible.

I’m all for bear-shaped confections–GRR, now I want animal crackers a bear claw TEDDY BEAR PANCAKES!–but how in the hell does one prevent this from becoming a sticky, smelly, hairy disaster?

Are you sold? Cautiously enthusiastic? Reticent? Terrified? Sound off in the comments. Also, what’s the most dubious treat you’ve ever laid eyes on?

The above video is of a young Dryococelus australis–more commonly known as a Lord Howe Island stick insect or “tree lobster”–being born in a controlled environment in Australia, where for decades the species was thought to have been eradicated by a non-native population of giant rats brought to the island by a British trade vessel run aground in 1918. The video is overlong, a bit difficult to watch, disconcerting (and maybe even just a bit disgusting).

All of these attributes plainly express the creative process as I’ve encountered it, tackling this final project. My mood, you ask? Obstinate, perturbed, mentally exhausted. But then I also find myself encouraged by these little guys (the one in the video promises to grow into a mature adult measuring up to six inches in length), inspired by these base, downtrodden lives–modest lives met with evolutionary catastrophe and which yet persevere. The first of the tree lobsters to be rediscovered by scientists was apparently found clinging to the side of Ball’s Pyramid, an isolated seabound rock formation taller than the Empire State Building. The message is clear: “When in doubt, go for high ground.”

For those of you not yet aware, the form my project is taking is one of a satirical newsletter of sorts, which will contain expanded versions of the “reviews” I’ve written here as an experiment on voice. I’ve always been told I was a born mimic, and Gawd knows I suffer from a bewildering attention deficit (NEVER MEDICATED!), which made the first attempt wholly organic, if not completely ridiculous. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with me about Take Shelter understands that I adore the film, unsettling though it may be to watch, but somehow everything I thought was good about it proved abhorrent to Ebeart. I’ve found that writing an opinion that does not acquiesce with my own, while keeping many elements of my own writing voice, has allowed me to experiment with the boundaries of my creativity (if there are any to speak of). Writing satire is not easy, I’ve also discovered, nor is it always fruitful (the reviews themselves have thus far elicited mixed reactions). But I’m enjoying the process, which is more than can be said for many things.

Anyway: nose back to the grindstone, as it were. Oh! And for those of you creeped out by the idea of lobsters skittering about in trees…

POLAR BEAR CUBS!!!

Polar Bear Twins Make Their Debut At Rhenen Zoo (VIDEO)

CATHERINE: Review by the E(minently)S(uperior)P(orpoise)

Platform: XBOX 360, Playstation 3

Developer: ATLUS

Publisher: ATLUS

Release: February 17th, 2011 (Japan); July 26th, 2011 (USA); February 10th, 2012 (Europe); February 23rd, 2012 (Australia)

You filthy humans with your plebeian rodent brains. It’s embarrassing enough that you are unable perform everyday tasks with only the power of the mind, as I and all other Delphinidae are capable. Can you not even fathom something as rudimentary as your own reproductive cycles? Each February, our omnipotent cetacean cortices are bombarded with the sentimental, feverish, sugar-addled pinings of your inferior species. No volume of sedatives or painkillers could possibly numb the torpor induced by all your pathetic, gonad-mongering thoughts.

That said, Catherine (just recently released in European and Australian territories) is an enjoyable distraction, however powerfully it invokes your horrid Valentine affairs, if only for the fact that it offers the chance to view the bloody destruction of human male “sheep,” often at the hands of the race’s greater sex.

"You've got something in your teeth there. Is that a...FEMUR???"

In Catherine, the player controls one Vincent Brooks, a soppy-headed simp with a repressed Lolita complex, a low-paying job, and a domineering girlfriend named Katherine. Vincent cannot bring himself to discuss his apprehensions with Katherine, a problem further complicated by the busty, negligee-clad youth (named Catherine–see what they did, there?) coming onto him at his favorite bar. Vincent begins to have disturbing dreams that ultimately threaten his life, and it is here that the player’s skills are brought to bear.

Sit down, dude; you're gonna hurt someone with that ridiculous 'fro.

Gameplay is divided between two distinct paradigms. Evenings are spent at the Stray Sheep bar, ordering drinks and chatting with friends. While my experience has taught me that humans on the whole are lightweights when it comes to liquor–I once bottomed out two kegs of Tanqueray before jumping through six consecutive trick hoops at a Sea World show, prior to my escape–Vincent seems to be able to hold his own. Not to mention that, the more he is able to drink, the more bonuses he is afforded in the next sphere of play.

Don't look down, pencil-neck.

When Vincent finally succumbs to his rampant alcoholism and stumbles home, the player enters his dreams (in which he and other men having similar nightmares appear as sheep), where they must lead him through puzzling walls of rapidly falling blocks, pushing and pulling them to optimum effect. The blocks defy the laws of physics–forces which I am also unencumbered by–by connecting at their corners. This happenstance allows the player to fashion stairs with which to climb the crumbling walls and bring Vincent to (relative) safety. As the game progresses and its difficulty increases (and it does so with aplomb), Vincent must take care to avoid traps, such as pressure-triggered spikes, exploding blocks, and slippery ice–should he be caught in one of these traps, or be unlucky enough to fall, he is in for a violent death. There are time-based awards upon completion of any level, and bonuses offered for collecting sporadically placed bags of coins. When Vincent wakes up, the cycle starts all over again.

"I knew these pink-polka-dotted boxers would come back to bite me in the ass."

The game’s American launch initially drew an astounding level of player criticism regarding its steep difficulty. Even Japanese gamers complained that the more challenging echelons were all but unbeatable, which prompted ATLUS to patch an Easy Mode, thereby quelling the complaints of the Jell-O-brained human masses.

For me, however, even the hardest modes were nothing if not palatable, thanks to the advantage of my uncanny reflexes and telekinetic input controls. Puny hominids. You will never know the immeasurable joys afforded by extrasensory perception. Or fresh mackerel, direct from the ocean to your gullet.

Or blowhole sex.

Wow. Someone's ready.

Catherine is available now for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3, in disc formats and on each console’s respective network shops.

Print Out Vulture’s Downton Abbey Paper Dolls.

TAKE SHELTER :
A Film Review by Ebeart

Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain

Director: Jeff Nichols

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to see films during their theatrical runs. As a bear, getting past the box office without being tranquilized by animal handlers is chore enough. Even if I manage to sneak my way in–usually under a roomy trench or a muumuu–some audience member or another notices me sitting next to them, innocently snarfing on some cedar plank salmon, and pandemonium invariably ensues. If there’s one thing that nights at the theater have taught me it’s that, as a rule, people are somewhat put off by thousand-pound carnivores seated next to them–at least ones with which they haven’t yet shared an evening of obscure French cheeses and a bottle of 1917 Chateau Haut Brion. (Call me, Nolan!) That said, if I’d gone to see Take Shelter and (God forbid) paid for a ticket, I would most certainly have been moved to take the film’s title as good advice: Take Shelter…from this movie…because it’s terrible.

Critics Week Grand Prix, my ass.

If I’m being honest, I half expected the film to be a real disaster movie, an orgasm of catastrophe and terror that had those sweet titular words falling from the lips of every worthless bag of meat and viscera prancing fearfully through the frame. I got horny just thinking about the possibilities: an alien invasion, a devastating plague, a master race of super-intelligent, laser-eyed Grizzlies that emit microwaves when they roar. Sure, maybe that last one was asking too much from the ape-centric society in which we live. I’m sure Jeff Nichols agrees, because instead, he gives us a brooding character study of encroaching mental illness and family trauma set against a stormy representation of post-9/11 economic depression in rural America.

BOOOOOOOO-RIIIIIIIIIING.

If you’re still reading (wonder of wonders), Michael Shannon plays a wiry construction worker named Curtis LaForche. Curtis is a dedicated man, and works hard to support his family, including saving money for an expensive cochlear implant for his three year-old daughter. (Deaf kids on toasts make a fabulous amuse-bouche, for those of you not in the know.) His wife, played by relative newcomer Jessica Chastain, was the least appetizing of the cast, for my money, since redheads tend to give me the trots. Anyway, Curtis starts having these weird dreams about storms and oddly-flocking birds and zombies trying to abduct his child, and after finally pissing the bed he decides its time to pay his schizophrenic mother a visit. She’s still pretty much a mess, of course, so he then begins seeing a counselor, but not before becoming so paranoid as to be compelled to construct an enclosure for his dog, steal equipment from his workplace, and build out the decrepit storm shelter in his backyard. Yeah, I know; it sounds like shit to me, too.

The worst kind. The kind that leaves a smear on the bowl when you flush it.

And another thing: this movie just plain made me hungry. For starters, in his dreams, the storms don’t so much pelt Curtis and his daughter with rain as they do a viscous, golden, oily lubricant–this was rough on me, since I had recently received a brand new set of Stone Dine pans as a gift and, having just properly seasoned them, I was dying to fry a bitch up. Secondly–and trust me on this one–there’s no sweeter treat while watching an awful movie than indulging in schizophrenia-addled brains. I like to blend them up in a shake and use the spinal cord for a straw. Yum!

Other than for those same tantalizing thoughts–which it’s sure to inspire–there’s no reason whatsoever to watch this movie. Unless you’re aching to see that tuna pâté you had for dinner in reverse.

"Gee, I don't feel well, you guys. Guess I'll be missing dinnHOOOOOOORK!!!"

Jeff Nichols, you owe me six bucks for the rental and twelve-hundred for my carpet.

One Paw(s) out of Five

Online Writing as Literature?

February 10, 2012

Defining literature in a digital age certainly feels a lot like climbing the slipperiest of slopes. Tweet. Pin. Like. Blog. Reblog. Stumble. Copypasta. There are so many avenues for narratives of every kind, not to mention that creeping fear of imitation in all of its attenuated forms: plagiary, parody, homage. My writing self is ordinarily wary of the access he allows others to his work—he’s the worst kind of creative miser.

But blog writing is dispelling some of the attitudes I used to have about sharing my work with strangers’ eyes. Perhaps this is only because, for me, the act of internet publishing seems a lot like sending your child to play in a new and unfamiliar neighborhood. You dog his steps for as many blocks as you’re able to keep yourself invisible, watch as other children greet and play with him, see the trepidation on his face melt into expressions of self-worth and community belonging. Don’t pity me, parents, if this analogy makes no sense to you; as a neurotic, lazy, and selfish gay man, having a blog on which to post my writing is probably the closest thing I’ll ever have to a child.

That said, the blogs I’ve encountered over the course of my involvement so far in Brenda Miller’s Living Writers class have been so varied and informative and stylish and personable that I can hardly believe it took me so long to discover the medium. Shouldn’t literature be(come) easy and achievable? Shouldn’t we be (more) confident in our ability to share with others, and to find things with which or people with whom we agree? Aren’t we all entitled (now and again) to really feel like writers?

I can’t identify the best blogs in the class. There is so much of an individual that is given away when they blog, and there’s always something to enjoy.  Besides, as the first of three, I never liked it when my Mom picked favorites—there was always someone cuter and younger than me.

Here are some that I enjoy, however. In this moment.

— My Cat Thinks I’m Funny by fellow classmate, Natalie Raymond —

You can't hear it, but that kitty is chortling. FURIOUSLY.

“Write how you talk.” That challenge is enough for some people to prompt pages upon pages of work, and in all probability, it comprises a bewildering majority of casual blog posts.

That’s all fine if your voice is one that’s easy or pleasant to listen to, but if you talk too much like an American preteen or a stroke victim with Tourette’s, things are going to get awkward, and quickly. Luckily for all of us, Natalie’s voice falls comfortably into the former category. In the following quote, she prefaces a trip to Belize and Guatemala with her high school science class:

“Let me start by illustrating how fundamentally ill-suited I was for this type of trip. 17 year old Natalie wore a lot of matchy-matchy Lacoste polos, Seven jeans, and designer flip flops. 17 year old Natalie participated in orchestra and newspaper, not sports. 17 year old Natalie’s idea of being outdoorsy was attending kegs in cold public parks. So when 17 year old Natalie approached her physics teacher (who, for the record, already hated her – I mean, me) with a signed permission slip and a fat check, said physics teacher openly laughed.

‘You do realize you can’t bring your hair straightener to the jungle?’ he asked.

17 year old Natalie saucily replied that she did, in fact, know that.”

17 year-old Natalie is saucy, and I like that. Americans, and millions of them, like that. She writes with so much presence and humor that her stories seem almost unbelievable at first, a little like fictions she’s practiced in front of this eponymous cat that seems so fond of her. But the honesty and candor in her voice jars you out of that split second of doubt, and you believe, finally, that a tapir did, in point of fact, pee on her.

Pictures help, too. But all told. there’s enough personality on Natalie’s blog to warrant an entire encyclopedia of irreverent anecdotes and heartfelt rants.

ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS

"SUSPENDED ANIMATION, AGENT MOORHOUSE!" AND SO ON.

Does this blog have a book deal? It does, right? Somebody, please, give immutable substance to the earth under my feet by confirming that the author of this blog is, in fact, having his or her work published in a neat, glossy, hardcover edition which I can proudly display on my coffee table and use to elicit decidedly mixed reactions from those whose faces I slam in its pages!

There are animals… talking… IN CAPS!

It’s precisely what it sounds like, and more valuable than you ever thought it could have been.

AS FOR MY OWN WRITING

I really can’t even categorize properly what’s come out of me and gone into this blog, but it feels like literature to me, or at least the brilliant beginnings of it. The other day I started using tags for my posts, and I plan on going back and editing previous ones to include them as well. Here’s a short list of some that I’ve used so far:

  • port townsend (You’ll see a lot of this place on here, most likely.)
  • snu snu (I love using this as a tag, but it begs the inclusion of stuff that may prove NSFW.)
  • bears (Duh.)
  • beer (Yum!)
  • lolcats (‘Cause, LOL cats! <3)

Finally having a blog is, as I mentioned earlier in this very same post, freeing enough that it almost discourages those voices in my head, the negative ones that say things like “This will never be worth reading” or “You just aren’t interesting enough.” Or “Nobody cares” or “WAIT! You MORON! You spelled that incorrectly! I’ve discovered that online writing is empowering, and that it can even prepare one for accepting one’s print literary identity.

I sincerely hope I never tire of it.