Let’s Talk Books – Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Stories

It’s been a while since I’ve read some short stories. Hell, it’s been a while since I’ve actually finished writing a short story. I’ve become so used to reading novel-length fiction lately that I feel like I’ve lost touch with something important. Luckily, Chuck Palahniuk’s been promoting a collection of short stories he helped edit for a while, and last month it finally came out. I picked up a copy after work, rushed home… and put it on my book shelf, as I finished up other books I felt entitled to complete first.

But my eyes kept drifting towards it. It’s sexy spine kept tempting me to cheat on the books I was currently reading. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, and I wanted to give it my undivided attention. Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve dived into reading short stories. I wanted to reconnect.

Well I finally read it, and truth be told, this book is going to be a little hard to talk about. It’s good. Really good, actually. Granted, not all of the stories are as great as others, but it’s still a solid collection worth checking out.

The problem is, this book isn’t for everyone. I don’t want to build anyone’s expectations up, but there are some fucked up stories in Burnt Tongues. Like… really fucked up. I actually had to pace myself while reading this. I could usually only get through 1-3 stories a day; just when I thought I could keep reading, one story would either make me feel too uncomfortable or a little sick and I had to stop. I don’t want to spoil what any of these stories are, but let’s just say I had to tell my cat and dog I loved them after reading a couple. (My dog was confused. My cat was indifferent. Still love them, though.)

I know that may disappoint some of you who want to know just what they’re getting into. But I honestly feel like approaching this book, only armed with the knowledge that it’s messed up but not knowing in what way, is the best way to read it for the first time. I will say there’s a large variety of stories; each one felt unique and separate from every other one. Even though there were a couple that I personally didn’t care for, I could tell careful consideration went into selecting these stories. The variety makes me want to say there’s something in here for everyone, but like I said, Burnt Tongues isn’t for everyone.

Geez, how many times can I say “it’s not for everyone?” Who the hell is it for then? Well like the subtitle says, these are transgressive stories. If you can appreciate looking at the ugly areas of reality, the courage to actually write about them, and the coping methods people use when faced with that ugly reality (whether they’re healthy or not), then I would suggest giving this book a read. If, however, you’re not satisfied with unhappy endings, if you don’t like graphic descriptions, if you’re easily grossed out, or if you don’t like when stories don’t explain every detail to you (these are short stories, after all), then you’re probably not ready for this book.

I think it’s something all avid readers should try out, however. There’s most likely something in here you can appreciate. Same thing goes for writers; considering these are all stories that have been workshopped by other writers, coupled with the fact these stories are good examples of showing how to talk about uncomfortable subjects, I feel like there’s a lot in here writers will be able to appreciate (although if you’re a writer, you should already be an avid reader 🙂 ).

I know there’s only so much I can say without actually mentioning any of the stories, but I really believe you should go into this one blind. At the end of the day, you may just have to end up reading it to know whether or not it’s for you. Everyone’s tastes and weak points are different, but if you’re curious, read the first story the next time you’re in the book store. It’s one of the strongest and sets the perfect tone and expectation of what you can expect from the rest of the book. And everyone, everyone who appreciates any kind of art should read the introduction by Chuck Palahniuk. One of the best introductions I’ve ever read. It’s not very long and it’s pretty powerful.

As a final thought, this isn’t something I can see myself picking up again anytime soon, and I in no way mean that in a bad way. This isn’t the kind of book you can read again and again. It’s powerful, but it’s the kind of book that provides the best experience when you need it. You know what I’m talking about. We all have certain books or movies or games that we love, but we don’t abuse them. We need the feeling they provide us at specific times, and when we really need them, we take them out and lose ourselves in them. We learn from them. We relearn from them. We grow up a little. We face truths with them. We come out a little differently. And then we store them back on our shelves until we really need them again.

Info for my edition of Burnt Tongues:

  • Published 2014 by Medallion Press
  • Paperback, 329 pages
  • ISBN 978-160542734-8

New Perler Bead Art!

This week I put together some Pokemon Red/Blue characters. Check it out!

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The main character, in both his overworld sprite and title screen pose.

I’ve mentioned it a number of times before, but I was a big Pokemon fan when I was a kid. Pokemon was, without a doubt, one of the biggest influences in my life. I’m honestly surprised it took me this long to start making Perler bead art from these games; Pokemon is easily in the top 5 nostalgic things in my life. I could go on all day about my Pokemon memories, but I won’t bore you with that here. Maybe in a separate post.

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The rival character, in both his overworld and one of his Pokemon battle sprites.

This was my first time making sprites from Game Boy games, and I have to admit I’m surprised how big these turned out. The larger pieces in these pictures are all my second biggest so far! This kind of surprised me, I thought Game Boy games would be less detailed than NES or SNES games. But in reality, these are probably the most detailed sprites I’ve worked from. Sorry if I’m nerding out, but there are only four colors here: black, white, and two shades of gray. I don’t know who made the sprite art in these games, but I’m impressed he or she made such detailed characters with such a limited pallet. Seriously, I’m really impressed. When I was going over the sprite sheets to make these, I was surprised to find how well shading was achieved.

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And finally, Professor Oak, in his overworld and game introduction sprite.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the way the overworld sprite pieces came out. They’re much smaller and simpler, like I expected from a Game Boy game. But for whatever reason, the colors used in the original game sprites just didn’t look right when I put the matching beads down on the pegboard. I ended up using the clear-colored beads a lot in the smaller pieces, as well as changing the different shades of gray. It looked better, but… I dunno, something still seems a little off. I don’t hate them, but I think I could have made them better. Oh well.

I love making these, but I’m getting to the point where I’m not sure what to do with them. Admittedly, this was always a problem I faced when making art that wasn’t drawn on paper. I get really into making a type of art, I want to keep doing it, but I realistically don’t know what to do with it, and I end up with a bunch of stuff taking up space in my room. The first few I made just sat up against the bottom of my TV. Then a few more leaned against things on one of my shelves. Now I’ve started tacking them up to an empty space on my wall, which was honestly something I didn’t want to start doing. I’ve seen loads of pictures online of people who have done it, and it looks good, but I’m not a fan of cluttering my walls with stuff. Especially small stuff. I like bigger posters and wall art, but that’s about it. I start to feel overwhelmed if too much stuff is on my walls. Maybe when I have my own place, and I have some kind of experimental room dedicated to making art or something like that, I would pin them up. But right now, when I only have influence over one room, I don’t want so much stuff cluttering up my space. The next Perler bead projects I’m going to make are actually gifts, so I guess I have some time to figure out what to do.

Hope everyone’s having a great week! 🙂

Dealing With House Guests When You Don’t Want Visitors

This weekend, my grandparents came to stay with us for four days. I love them. I really do.

But my god, how I hate having people stay over.

I’ve come to value and appreciate silence and space over the years, and whether someone’s coming to visit for a day, staying overnight, or staying for a week, these two things tend to become disrupted when you have visitors. Under normal circumstances, I might be able to handle myself a little more maturely than I did this weekend, but due to the frustration of dealing with many personal issues lately, having company over for an extended period of time wasn’t something I particularly wanted to add to my plate.

I told myself I was really going to try to be a good sport about the situation, too. When they visited last year, I was dealing with the tail end of a frustrating depression and didn’t present myself very warmly. And when most of my family went out of state to attend my cousin’s wedding a few months ago, I stayed behind, which nobody was happy with. I know I haven’t left a great impression with them, even if I am genuinely nice towards them when we talk on the phone, and I wanted this visit to go differently. I really did. I put on my A-game and was so nice welcoming them in, helping them bring in luggage, making small talk, making them tea, etc.

That lasted two hours. Max.

My grandmother is a chatty woman. A very, very chatty woman. Unfortunately, she’s the kind of person that talks a lot without ever having much to say (sorry Granny, I really do love you ❤ ). And after a couple of hours of being bombarded with conversation that, sadly, I honestly had little to nothing to contribute towards, I was exhausted. I was getting a little agitated. My mother was supposed to be home shortly after they arrived, and she was showing no sign of pulling up the driveway anytime soon. I was praying she would walk through the door at any moment to take some of the attention off me. Negative thoughts about my personal shit kept bubbling up inside my head, and I wanted to get out of the house and breathe.

And then my grandmother hit one of my sensitive spots: how’s the job hunt going? I could feel myself tense up as soon as she began the question. I knew it would be coming eventually, but I was hoping to be in a better frame of mind when it happened.

For those that don’t know, I graduated two years ago with a B.A. in literature, with a focus in creative writing. My long term goal is to get published; what comes in between then and now, I don’t know. I’ve looked into several areas of interest where I felt I wanted to be, but regardless, I still only have my part-time retail job. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I particularly like talking about, especially now when I’m honestly not sure I want to do what I thought I did anymore. I’m lost, to be honest. And it’s very frustrating to be lost and have people try to force advice on you when they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

I’ll leave it to your imagination on what happened next.

My grandmother can come off a little critical, as well. I know she doesn’t mean it; I know she doesn’t have a filter when she speaks, and she says the first thing that comes to her mind. But I criticize myself on this matter enough as it is. I really don’t need to have another person do it for me. And sure enough, this turned into an extensive, criticizing conversation. At some point, I knew I lost my ability to fake smiles and be polite. I knew I lost whatever mental energy I’d saved up to enjoy their visit. I knew this visit was going to suck. And now all I wanted was for them to leave so I could have some fucking peace and quiet and space again.

I really do love them. I really do. But I can’t handle house guests. I really can’t.

Well, good luck within bad luck, I got sick the day after they arrived and remained that way until today (still kind of sick actually, but at least now I can function). I had an excuse to stay up in my room for most of their visit, and an excuse to not be particularly outgoing. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but with the way I am right now, I needed a legitimate excuse to keep some distance.

But maybe you don’t have an excuse and need to deal with house guests. How do you deal with them when you don’t really want to? Well, even though I completely failed to do most of these, here are some things that have worked for me in the past when I’ve had stressful visits.

Don’t feel solely responsible for entertaining them. If someone’s visiting for a day, this may not apply as well. But if you have guests staying for a couple of days or a week, don’t make it your sole responsibility to spend every minute of the day trying to entertain them. You have your own life to live, and while you need to make time for your guests, you can’t stop your life to please theirs. For example, you all don’t have to go to bed at the same time. Say you’re going to bed a little early and let them watch TV or whatever. After you’re done with work, take a little time to do some grocery shopping or errand running to give yourself a little room to breathe. Try designating a specific time you’ll spend time with your guests so you don’t feel like you’re ignoring them.

Don’t take things personally. I know. I’ve got some balls to be telling you this. This, coming from the guy that recently found a hand-written note taped on his mailbox that said “Smile You Are Healthy 🙂 ❤ ” and immediately texted his friend, asking her if she thought this was a random act of kindness by some kid or the universe mocking me (yes, this is a thing that actually happened).

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She convinced me it was a random act of kindness, and now it’s taped above my desk :3

My grandmother didn’t mean to hit a nerve with me. I know that. I knew that when it happened. I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. Be patient with your guests. Unless they’re people you talk and actively open up to on a common basis, they probably don’t know everything that’s going on with you. Your guests may be people that honestly don’t know you nearly as well as they once did, especially if a lot of time has passed between visits. People change, and sometimes others may not notice. If your guests are saying or doing something that’s starting to offend you, try to remember they’re most likely not doing it on purpose. (Unless they are. There are some genuinely rude guests that live to get a rise out of people. But you can usually tell the difference between these people and the ones that don’t mean any harm.) And if they keep doing it, try gently letting them know what they’re doing.

The visit isn’t going to last forever. Sometimes it seems like it is, but try to keep things in perspective. They’re not going to be living with you, even if they’re setting up their own station in the bathroom and you suddenly need to share counter and shower space. They are going to leave, and you’ll have your space back soon enough. Remember all those times when you found a day or week to pass by very quickly? Try thinking in those terms. The visit will be over soon, and the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can deal with your guests a little better.

Try to include other people. I went out to dinner with my grandparents and parents on Saturday night. We invited my sister, who doesn’t live with us anymore, and her boyfriend. During previous visits, we’ve also invited my other grandmother (who is unfortunately no longer alive) and my cousins. Your guests may be visiting you, but chances are there are some other people you all mutually know and they want to see as well. Try to get them in on the visit for part of the time. It will help break up the repetitive nature of taking care of your guests and alleviate some of the unwanted attention on yourself.

Try to appreciate visits while they can still happen. Some visits will be one-time only situations, or just plain unwanted, whether or not you actually like the people that visit. But if you do like the people and you don’t get to see them often, even if you’re not up for it, try to enjoy the company while you can. I live in New Jersey. My grandparents live in Florida. We keep in touch regularly, but we don’t get many opportunities to see each other. And while they do make the drive back up here to visit their kids every year or so, the truth is my grandparents are getting up there in age. My mother has been saying “this might be their last drive up here” for years, and perhaps because they keep doing it I take for granted that they’ll always end up visiting. But realistically, I never know how many more visits they’ll make. They’re getting old; they may not have it in them to drive up and down the coast within the next few years. Even though I really haven’t enjoyed myself during the past couple of visits, I hope that they’ll come back again when I’m in a better frame of mind and can appreciate the company. You don’t want to come off like you don’t want your guests to visit when you still want to see them. You might make them feel unwanted and they may never want to visit again.

It’s not just family, either. As you’re getting older, chances are you’ll have more friends that live far away. They may need to crash at your place for a night if you want to see each other. If you make their time with you feel awkward, they may not want to make the drive to see you. It’s hard enough to keep up with friends that moved; you don’t need to make it harder.

Don’t forget about the bathroom. I’m sure different people from different ages and situations will read this, but if there’s one piece of universal advice I can give about dealing with house guests, it’s to use the bathroom! When you need a break, when you need to breathe, when you need everyone to shut up for five minutes, go to the bathroom. Keep a book or mp3 player hidden somewhere in it. Take your iPhone in and check a news feed from a social media site. Just sit on the toilet, turn the fan on if you have one, and breathe. The bathroom is, like, the one place you should be able to go and not be interrupted.

Should be. Life ain’t perfect. But take advantage of the bathroom. Trust me. It’s a lifesaver.

Hope this helps. Have a good week, and happy first day of fall! 🙂

New Perler Bead Art!

I finished making some new Perler bead art yesterday. The first one’s Darkwing Duck:

DSCN1067I loved Darkwing Duck as a kid. Or so I’m told. Actually, I don’t remember a lot about the show at all. I remember most of the characters and one of the TV specials that I had on VHS, but there’s not a lot of the show that I remember, despite having toys and books (and dressing like him for Halloween one year). I do remember the NES game, though. Still one of my favorite NES games, despite becoming a little too easy as an adult.

DSCN1068Next up is Scrooge McDuck from Ducktales. This is another show I remember liking but not having many memories with. I had a Ducktales poster in my room as a kid (I still have it rolled up somewhere in my closet), and a puzzle, but that’s about it. I rented the NES game a lot as a kid, and one of the best memories I have about my mother is her helping me when I was stuck when I played it.

DSCN1069And since I was on a Disney/NES game roll, I made Launchpad, too. Launchpad was in both shows (and games), which I always thought was pretty cool. I loved crossover stuff like that back then. This one was actually pretty hard to finish; the beads kept popping out and disconnecting when I tried to iron it. Finally got it to work, though.

Hope everyone’s having a good week! 🙂

Don’t Be Afraid of Happiness When You’re Depressed

Sometimes people are afraid to let themselves be happy when they’re depressed. Like many aspects of depression, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But that’s the thing about depression- things don’t have to make sense.

It’s not always easy to admit to yourself that you’re depressed, let alone to other people. And sometimes you might feel you’re… hmm. What’s the right word, here… obligated? Maybe? Sometimes you might feel you’re obligated to act sad once you’ve admitted you’re depressed. You might think, “Well I just made a whole big fucking deal about being depressed. I’d better look like it or else people might think I’m just overreacting.”

And okay, that sounds a little bad. It’s not like we’re trying to put on a show for people. But it’s not unusual to have some kind of thought process that might convince you that you need to be sad while you’re depressed.

What a lot of people, including depressed people, often don’t understand is that depression doesn’t always mean you have to be sad 100% of the time. Depression includes a lot of emotions- anger, confusion, fear, and desperation, for example. Happiness, strangely enough, is also one of these emotions.

Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be happy. As much as it doesn’t feel like it, not every day is going to be spent isolated under the covers. You’re going to be depressed, but some days are going to be better than others. And if you allow it, you might even have a good day. You’re allowed to have good days when you’re depressed. You’re allowed to wake up and be in a good mood. Just as you can become depressed for no reason, you can also be happy for no reason. It’s not a crime, it’s just how things go.

Sometimes when I’m depressed, it’s because I lost something important. Or because it felt like I was making progress in one area of life, and I was so happy about it, only to have all that progress reversed in some way. Sometimes I feel like after spending so much time mourning over whatever happened, it would belittle the situation to allow myself to be happy when I’m feeling better. Something I’m still trying to teach myself is that being happy is part of the healing process. There are different phases in depression, and you’re more than allowed to explore them without feeling like you’re failing at being depressed. You’re allowed to have days when you cry in bed and only leave your room for food and the bathroom. You’re allowed to have days when you finally drag yourself out of bed and watch funny videos all day. You’re even allowed to laugh. You’re allowed to leave the house and go to school or work, and ease yourself into your normal life again.

And you’re allowed to relapse.

Like I said, depression doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’ve got to spend time with it if you’re going to learn how to deal with it, and if that means being sad one day and happy the next, you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re doing something wrong. You’re dealing with it. And that’s good.

And if someone ever makes you feel like you need to constantly be crying or hiding in your room because you’re depressed, and that’s what they think depression means, then that person needs to learn more about depression. Depression is such a mental war with yourself, and you’re usually a one-man army. You can have your victories and you can have your losses, but that doesn’t mean you’re not fighting one way or the other. Let yourself smile and laugh when you feel like it. It’s okay. You’re allowed to. You can still be depressed and let yourself get better.

That being said, it can also be easy to convince yourself to stay depressed. When you’re feeling like this long enough, it’s easy to believe that you’re going to stay depressed forever. This is why it’s so important to let yourself be happy when you’re like this. It’s easy to think that allowing yourself to be happy is only going to bring you disappointment, but you shouldn’t. You want to be happy, right? You’re not going to get better if you let those good days slip on by because you’re afraid something worse is going to happen. Take the good days. The more you can enjoy the good days, the more often you can have them. And the more often you can have them, the more progress you’re going to make in moving past your depression. That can be kind of scary, because even though you want to get better, you might have been depressed so long that you can’t imagine life any other way. Doing new things is scary, especially when you’re depressed. But you’re going to stay that way unless something changes. And a lot of times you can’t make those kinds of changes when you’re depressed, and that’s fine. That’s normal. But if you can, and you’re feeling like you’re getting better, and you want to enjoy that feeling, do it. It’s okay.

How To Make Perler Bead Art

 

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Last year, one of my favorite YouTubers started making video game sprites from Perler beads. My first question was, “what the hell is a Perler bead?” My second question was, “how can I do this?”

Perler beads are fusible beads from my childhood, apparently. You arrange a picture or pattern on a pegboard and iron them together to create art. I certainly don’t remember them. Most of my art projects involved Crayola brand stuff. I didn’t usually go for the projects that required outside assistance, like the use of irons.

But after seeing video game sprites from Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy games made out of Perler beads, I’m pretty ashamed I never tried this sooner. ESPECIALLY as a kid. I’ve always loved game sprites. I’d even go so far as to say they fascinated me. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because I was a super organized kid, and seeing pixels so perfectly arranged was appealing to me. Maybe it was because sprites were essentially the same as flip books, and if you put them all together they made a moving picture. Maybe it was because I was weird.

Even though I’m not really interested in modern video games, the old stuff still holds a special place in my heart. And after wanting to try making pixel art for a year, I finally bought some Perler beads and a pegboard. So naturally, after a few weeks of making stuff, I feel entitled to provide a tutorial to anyone willing to listen. Lucky you.

First, go get some Perler beads. I got mine at Michael’s. I’d assume any arts and crafts store would have them, but if they don’t, you can also go their website. I got a large pegboard for $15, and a container of 11,000 beads of various colors for another $15. They also sell smaller, interlocking pegboards for cheaper (the large pegboard doesn’t connect to other pegboards, so if I wanted to make something bigger, I’d have to buy a bunch of small ones to snap together), as well as packets of 1,000 beads of individual colors (pick up a packet of black beads if you want to make video game sprites). Also, if it doesn’t come with your pegboard or container, buy some ironing paper (it’s reusable, so you don’t need to buy a lot).

At first I started small, and sifting through the container of unsorted beads wasn’t a big deal. If you’re just trying this out with no goal in mind, this will be okay, but eventually it’s going to get really annoying to look through every bead for a certain color. It’s going to take a while, but if you don’t mind, buy some containers to organize your beads and separate all of them. It’ll really help out in the long run.

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11,000 beads are a lot of beads. This isn’t even half of them.

Next, figure out what you want to make. A lot of people recreate sprites from video games. You don’t have to, though. Go through Google image search and type in something you think you’d want to make in Perler bead form. You’ll probably be able to find something you can copy directly. You can try to find sprite sheets, too. Open them in a program that allows you to zoom in and see if you can eyeball what colors you need to place where. You can also look for different websites that pixelize or place a grid on an existing picture.

After that, just start placing beads down. Depending on what you’re working with, it may be easier to start from the top or side of the picture and work your way over. Sometimes it’s better to make an outline and fill in as you go. Other times, you may just want to work on one section and work your way out. Play around with it and see what works best for you.

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I started making the outline on this one first, mostly because I wasn’t sure if my pegboard was going to be big enough. I wanted to make sure there was enough room to work with.

Be careful not to bump whatever surface you’re working on. Try to work on a flat surface, too. You don’t want your beads popping up and scattering. You can place beads with your fingers, but since you’re working with something so small, you might want to use a pair of tweezers (or nail clippers in my case, because god forbid I can find the tweezers in my house when I actually need them). They also sell this tool for the sole purpose of picking up and moving Perler beads, so you might want to look into that, too.

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I started filling in the rest color by color. If I ever run out, I can make a note of which color to pick up the next time I’m at Michael’s.

Sometimes you might question whether or not your project is working out. I’ve always had this problem with art of any kind. Sometimes I think the head’s too big, or the hands, or whatever else I’m working on. Keep working on it. Sometimes you need to see the whole picture before smaller parts of it start to look right. If you’re really hating it, you can always start over.

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Finally done with Mega Man X! Hard to believe this SNES sprite had four shades of blue in it. You never know how detailed these things are until you look at them up close!

Now it’s time to iron. Ironing can be tricky. This is definitely the one aspect of making Perler bead art that requires the most trial and error. First, heat up your iron to a medium setting. Don’t put water in it. You don’t want steam. We’re just dry ironing here.

Position your ironing paper over your work. One sheet should do, but if you’re working on something really big, you might need more.

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Some people use alternatives to ironing paper, for whatever reason. I’m not sure how well they work out, but ironing paper has always worked fine for me.

Once the iron’s heated up (please don’t put your hand on the iron side to test this; you should be able to feel the heat coming off if your hand’s sort of near it), it’s time to start ironing. Small projects should be easy. Iron in a circular motion over the project for 10-20 seconds and wait for it to cool a little. Bigger ones might need a little more practice. Individual beads tend to stick to the paper more often and come out of the pegboard when you move over to iron another area.

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Ironing’s easier when you’re not holding a camera in one hand. Also, I have no idea why my hand looks so wrinkled here.

Also, put something heavy on top while it’s cooling. These things have the tendency to warp if they don’t remain flat.

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I hope three encyclopedias from the 1960s will be enough.

How long should you wait? It depends on how big your project is. 5-10 minutes usually works for me. The directions that come with the Perler beads don’t mention anything about ironing again, but you might want to go over it another time or two. Sometimes the beads don’t fuse all the way…

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… and then this happens.

You don’t want to have come all this way to find clumps of beads still stuck to the ironing paper when you finally peel it off. If this happens, put your beads back where they’re supposed to be and keep ironing. When you think you’re ready to iron the other side, slowly and carefully peel the ironing paper off. You might want to hold some of the art down while doing this.

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It’s like opening up a treasure chest! So excited! ❤

Okay, the next part’s a little weird. You’re going to want to iron the other side so the beads fuse evenly and prevent any more warping. If you’re working on something small, you can usually flip the art over and fit it back onto the pegboard. The pegboard is great because the beads don’t move. However, I haven’t had any luck getting bigger projects back onto the pegboard. So you’re going to have to put it on the table as is and iron without having both the art and paper sliding around.

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Also, use caution when removing bigger projects from the pegboard. With only one side ironed, they’re still a little flimsy. I feel like they’re ready to fall apart if I’m not careful.

Same procedure for the other side. Iron in circular motions, put something heavy on it to prevent warping, wait for it to cool, repeat until satisfied. If you can’t get it back on the pegboard, the big problem here is keeping everything still. The ironing paper slides around more than you’d think. I tried taping it down, but that didn’t work well. You can try weighing it down with something on the edges. This worked fairly well for me, but I’m still looking for a better way to keep everything still. Don’t get frustrated, keep trying until you finish!

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If I made these when I was a kid, I would literally make every single character from everything and play with them nonstop.

It might take some getting used to, but this is really, really fun. I just put on a movie or some YouTube videos and lose myself all day in making stuff like this. It’s really great if you’re either looking for something to do for a day or wanting to try making more complicated pieces of art out of this unlikely medium. It’s also great for distracting yourself if you’re depressed or anxious and need something to do to take your mind off things.

Here are the other projects I’ve done so far:

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The 1-Up Mushroom from Super Mario World. This was the first one I made. Pretty easy, only needed three colors.

 

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The Fire Flower from the same game. This one’s cool because it looks like it has a shading effect.

 

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One of the Metroids from… Metroid. You can’t tell from the picture, but there was a lot of warping with this one. It’s stuck in this raised state and feels like it’ll break if I bend it. This was before I started putting books down between ironing.

 

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Samus from Super Metroid. This is arguably the most complex one I’ve done so far. There are a lot of different colors, and this is the only piece I’ve done without a black outline.

 

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The ? block from Super Mario World. I made this to warm up before starting the Mega Man X piece.

 

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Link obtaining the Master Sword from it’s pedestal from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While I used just one picture from Google image search to make the previous projects, I used a few different ones for this. Link’s color scheme differed from image to image, so I mixed and matched until I was satisfied. Also, I don’t think the hilt is this detailed in the actual game. Someone got pretty cool and creative when they originally made this.

 

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My smaller projects, placed next to a CD case for size comparison.

 

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My larger projects, for the same purpose.

So obviously, I didn’t make these from my imagination. For now I’m just recreating game sprites from pictures I find online, put eventually I want to make more complicated pieces. I’d like to make the cover from one of my favorite books (A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore), as well as the hand holding up the soap from the DVD cover of Fight Club.

As to what you can do with these? I’ve seen some people turn these into magnets or keychains. Some other people decorate their walls with them. I don’t know if I want to put everything onto my wall, but we’ll see. Some people got really creative with decorating rooms. Check out Google image search for some ideas. They’re really fun to make, and honestly, that’s the most important thing to me right now. I’m sure I’ll want to find something to do with them once I have a box full of them, though. 🙂

Audience Interpretation vs. Creator’s Intention

So recently, we’ve been told that Hello Kitty has been fooling us all for 40 years. Despite the cat ears, the white fur, the paws, the cat nose, and the whiskers, she is, in fact, a little girl.

Or something like that. I’m kind of late to the party and now people are saying different things. Apparently, someone from Sanrio (the company that made Hello Kitty) insisted that Hello Kitty wasn’t a cat, but a little girl. Her name is Kitty White, and she lives in London, and she has a pet cat, but she herself is not a cat.

Despite, you know… obviously being a cat. The main argument this representative seems to have is that Hello Kitty doesn’t walk on all fours like a cat, so therefore, she is not a cat. The effects of being a cartoon character don’t seem to apply, I guess.

But now someone else from Sanrio is saying that she’s the personification of a cat. Which, I’m only assuming in this context, means that she’s a little girl, but in the form of a cat character. Like how Spongebob is a little boy/manchild in the form of an undersea sponge. Or basically anything else. Because she’s a cartoon character. As someone that grew up almost exclusively on cartoons, I can confidently say this follows fairly common cartoon rules. I think anyone could look at Hello Kitty and see that she’s supposed to be a little girl, but… you know. A little girl cat.

I don’t know. I feel like something was lost in translation here. Doesn’t matter. Let’s talk about audience interpretation vs. creator’s intention.

So I don’t know about you, but sometimes I come across a book, or a movie, or a TV show, or a whatever form of storytelling, and there’s enough room for me to make my own interpretation. And sometimes people have these big discussions about all of their different interpretations, and it’s great because this something is influencing a bunch of people to think. And it doesn’t matter if there’s a definite answer or canon to go along with these particular stories, because the audience is smart enough to come up with their own explanation, and despite arguments about which interpretation is “correct,” it doesn’t matter. It’s a personal belief, and that’s all that should really count.

And then sometime later, maybe during an interview or Q&A panel, the creator will reveal his or her intentions while creating said work. And sometimes it answers questions. And sometimes it creates controversy. Everyone who had been spending so much time finely crafting theories and interpretations are now outraged that the creator, who should know all of the “real” answers, decided to lay out the “facts” long after the original work had been published.

But here’s the thing: even if an author, or director, or musician, or any type of artist decides to tell the public what he or she intended their creation to mean… it doesn’t always matter. Your audience may see things the way you wanted them to, or they may not. And yes, at times it can be very frustrating. But it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes your audience can open you up to possibilities that make your work better.

For example, I wrote this 28-page short story for my advanced fiction workshop in college. I worked so hard on it, slaving away during all of my spring break, hoping to move my classmates and professor with this amazing story of a young boy’s personal realization and growth as he decided to start thinking and acting for himself. Through a series of interactions with the same, familiar people he’d dealt with every day of his life, he made a decision to leave home and see the world for himself. I thought it was perfect.

It was easily the worst story I’d produced in all of my college career (of the ones I’d grown attached to, anyway). At the time, I didn’t see it. I was just mad people weren’t seeing it the way I was. Maybe it was because I’d been going through a personal change at the time and wanted to communicate my feelings on it through the story. Maybe it was because I’d worked longer on it than most of my other stories, and I was frustrated it turned out to be so terrible. But people didn’t get what I was going for. They started making up their own theories about what the story was about (or rather, should have been). One of the motifs I used in the story was the woods (exploring the unknown; I know, so original) and various people warning the main character not to go in them. My professor had the idea to turn this “deep,” “symbolic” part of the story into a gateway that led somewhere entirely different. He had the idea of turning the story into a type of Truman Show piece. My main character should have went into the woods, only to find the same life he was so tired of was actually staged. Looking back on it, this would have been a great way to excuse the awful blandness of all the characters. Too bad I was too stubborn to take his suggestions to heart. He even E-mailed me later that day, apologizing if I took his criticisms too close to heart (I was usually fairly good at taking in negative feedback; I guess I couldn’t hide it that day).

What was my point again? Oh yeah. Just because I intended the story to be some amazing, coming of age masterpiece doesn’t mean that’s how my audience perceived it. And that’s okay, because honestly, I think my professor’s reimagining of the assignment would have been a much better short story. Sometimes, and obviously not all the time, but certainly sometimes, an individual’s own interpretation of a particular work may have more weight and meaning than the creator’s. To the individual, anyway. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters.

Or something like that. I know a lot of ideas were thrown around here today. I may not have had as much of a point as I thought I did. Oh well. Food for thought, anyway. Something to keep in mind the next time you want to disagree with what someone says about a book or movie or whatever, despite what the creator said.