Dec 30, 2013

Felix the Christmas Shark Presents: Top Picks 2013

How does one introduce Felix, the Christmas Shark? Well, he's a shark. He's fuzzy and blue.

AND I REND YOU LIMB FROM LIMB

And he holds himself in very high regard -- for a shark his size. Snout to caudal fin, he comes in at four inches. Four inches.

FOUR INCHES OF PURE CARNAGE

Anyhow, Felix swam up to me yesterday, holding his smartphone between clenched jaws, and mumbled something about a list of top things and people that he noticed in 2013. And what do you know, it was good. I don't claim to know how Felix uses a smartphone but hey, stranger things have happened.

So, grab your taser/shotgun/baseball bat, sit back and let Felix the Christmas Shark walk you through the best of 2013. -- John Magnet Bell

AWESOME BLOGNESS 2013

BEST CAREER DEVELOPMENT POST

My Overlooked Skills I Wish People Would Endorse on LinkedIn
by Jill Zero

Sample the Goodness:
"For instance, I’m fucking awesome at: (...)
11. Rearranging cube decorations to accommodate the maximum number of important documents (also known as pictures of hot celebrities)
12. Staring at PowerPoint presentations in the perfect spot to make it seem like I’m actually paying attention"

This is so perfect and shark-like. Jill knows where to focus.

BEST BLOG POST ABOUT BLOGGING

Why Rule-Breaking Is So Important
by Craig McBreen

Feel the Passion:
"What irrational, unreasonable, off the wall idea is burning away in your cranium? What can you do better than someone else? What do you really want to write about? Well, let it out."

Unless it's seal blubber. You can keep that.

BEST FREE WRITING TOOL ROUNDUP

Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers have put together this great roundup of free writing tools that you should check out. It includes:
  • A character profile questionnaire
  • A weak verb converter
  • A crutch-word "search & destroy" list
Doesn't the "search & destroy" list make your mouth water?

JOHN MAGNET BELL'S
MOST POPULAR POST in 2013

Never Been More Soberer, or, Confessions of a Professional Victim

It's about girls hugging robots and provoking the fears of elderly, uneducated men.



AWESOME RANDOMNESS 2013

BEST ARTISTIC QUASI-NUDE SHARED ON GOOGLE+

Found by Rick Wayne
Unstoppable Megaboss of Dreadful Cafe

The way I see it, the man tried to lose my friends, the road sharks, but couldn't. So the man's truck climbed up the tree and left him behind as a sacrifice. Check him out, acting all tuff like he ain't gonna get eaten alive. Haha. I almost sympathize with that poor deluded human.

BEST WTF TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE YEAR


A few relevant tweets:

12/6 1:59 p.m. A woman grew concerned when a friend started making “funny noises” while on the phone.

12/2 1:40 a.m. A man requested that police talk to him about things in his life that are bothering him.

10/9 6:53 p.m. An attempt to check on a barking dog problem failed because the surrounding traffic was too loud.

What a wide, wonderful world we live in. I like to eat smart... but dumb, easily confused prey is a shark's meat and potatoes, you know what I'm saying?

Actually, skip the potatoes.

BEST INSPIRATIONAL TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE YEAR

It's still @bunnybuddhism.

Each day is an opportunity to learn new ways to hop, tweets the wise bunny. Yes. This is true -- for bunnies. Sharks intuitively recognize the limitations of bunny philosophy: A) bunnies are food and B) food can philosophize all it wants, that won't stop the shark from eating it.

So each day is an opportunity to devour things.

BEST WEBCOMIC OF THE YEAR

by SAFELY ENDANGERED

AWESOME VIDEO THINGIES

BEST YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE YEAR

The Elephant's Garden, by Felix Colgrave. John Magnet Bell turned me on to it, and I like it because it's got plenty of sharp toothy action. Lots of beasties chomping, munching, crunching and horking down other beasties.



BLOOD GUTS BLOOD GAHHHHHH Sorry about that. I have collected myself. Let us proceed.

METAL COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

I like metal. The BEST metal sounds like chubby sea lions beating the crap out of each other -- just imagine, all that animal flesh colliding and shaking and all that warm red blood painting the waves.

John made me post this.
He thinks GIFs are hilarious.

This year I felt absolutely thrilled when one of my favorite bands, CARCASS (best band name in the history of forever) dropped a new studio album.



CAAAAAARCASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR

Yup.

BEST VINTAGE PICTURE OF THE YEAR

Double yup.

ORIGAMI ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Joel Cooper. Hell yeah. I wish he'd do shark faces, though. We sharks are brilliant and sharp and sleek and awesome. We do not bother with human traits like modesty because we have no reason to. And it is so because all the modest, non-brilliant, no-sharp, non-sleek sharks are dead. We ate them.

More fascinating origami art at Cooper's website.
His method involves no cutting whatsoever. You should look at some of his WIPs.

Finally, John Magnet Bell would like to personally thank all the people who made his life more beautiful / interesting this year:

Her Strawberryness, Tall Calvin, Lord English, Ari, David Magee, Alexandre Fernandes, Antonio Macedo, Dan Swensen, Ruth Long, everyone at the Shutterworks blog, Thiago Cunha, Bill Dorman, Mario Malheiro, H.N. JamesStan Faryna, Hajra Khatoon, Eurico Taxa, Angela Ackerman, Terre Britton, Helia Saraiva, David AmerlandMandy Kilinskis, Carolyn Nicander-Mohr, Susan Utley, Jan Marshall and A.E. Tyree. Last but not least, Gimbal & Quango, the finest woggies on five continents.

HAPPY NEW YEAR
SEE YOU IN 2014


Diagonal Rainbow
by John Magnet Bell

Dec 27, 2013

A Nose that Lost His Dog, plus Bonus Rigmarole

I hope you had a nice Christmas. Felix and I drove east to check out some waterfalls, at the sight of which he commented on the stellar lack of intelligence displayed by salmon, a most brainless fish that does not readily swim into Felix’s mouth, as Nature intended, preferring to swim up waterfalls to breed and die.

Anyway, on the drive back Felix made me promise to let him write the story prompt today, claiming he had an excellent idea for a children’s story. So I thought I would give him a chance to express himself, as I believe everyone is fundamentally good, even sharks. For which reason my fuzzy shark cannot be a total psycho – he just wants people to love him, is all.

NO
I DON'T
I'M A SHARK

Fine, Felix. Just get on with it.

BEHOLD
MY GLORIOUS WAY WITH WORDS

Once was a dog without a nose because I ate it. THE END

Felix, that was crap.

FINE
HERE'S ANOTHER ONE

This had better be good, Felix.

Vincent the Nose traveled the boundless hollow of space in her purple spaceship, blasting every Kodiak smuggler on sight AND THEN I ATE EVERYTHING. THE END

What the hell do you call that, Felix?

SCIENCE FICTION

No, that’s just you being lazy.

IF LAZY MEANS HUNGRY
THEN YES

You're ruining my blog.

YOU MADE ME WATCH FAUST

What's wrong with Murnau's Faust? It's a masterpiece of film-making.

NO SHARKS IN IT

Felix. Just go back in your kennel or fish tank or whatever.

CAN I PICK THE MUSIC TODAY THEN
... Fine. Go ahead.


Dec 20, 2013

Parable of the Hungry Dark

Waw an Namus, in Lybia: An oasis inside a volcanic crater. Photo by George Steinmetz.

Not knowing the fear that would descend with the closing of his eyes, Louvrigan sat down for his first night of meditation.

In the black between one dream and the next, a door waited for him. Feeling Louvrigan’s touch, the Devourer of Images stirred in its bodyless den.

illustration by Swaroop

Let me tell you what I had in mind for Louvrigan as I wrote this story prompt. I pictured a post-human shaman or technomancer in the distant future, living on Earth - perhaps - but a changed Earth, necessarily. I'm thinking of a future where technology is well on its way toward integration with the human mind and, in the process, opens dangerous windows of opportunity.

Spy rocks. The aptly and eerily-named Gorgon Stare. Technology versus the solitary mind.

So I asked myself: What if a human mind in technology-assisted meditation could alert a godlike, insatiable entity to our existence? One whose actions would wipe sight from the world, turning every living creature blind? 

Further reading: The poem that dragged us out of the Dark Ages. I thought I'd tell you about this, because that's where my phrase, "the black between one dream and the next," ultimately takes root.

YOU ARE SO FULL OF--
 
Seriously, Felix. Shut up. Go listen to Quantum Mystic by Yob. It might do you some good.

Dec 18, 2013

Have You Hugged a Moray Eel Today?

via

Jasmine couldn’t wait to get in the tank with all the viscous, slithery animals.

The eels looked at her.

She looked at the eels.

If eels had eyelids, they would have blinked.

*

Jasmine is based on SM, the woman who does not feel fear. An excerpt from the article I linked to:

In a similar trip to an exotic pet store, her levels of fear never climbed over a score of 2 out of 10. Even though she claimed to “hate” snakes and spiders, she was drawn to the snake enclosure, was excited about holding a serpent (“This is so cool!”) and had to be told not to touch or poke the bigger, more dangerous snakes (and a nearby tarantula). Why? She was overcome with “curiosity”.


Dec 13, 2013

Conference of the Elements, or, The Un-Time Before Creation

A long time before the universe was, and a long time before time itself, the mothers and fathers of the atoms sat in their invisible castles and brooded.

Until Fire rose from his couch and got on the phone – I mean, what passed for a phone in the proto-Universe.

New World Hypostasis: Four
by John Magnet Bell

By "mothers and fathers of the atoms" I mean the classical four elements of the Greeks: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. The Fifth Element, they referred to as "aether" -- which scientists tried to revive as a factor in explaining light and gravity.

Segment of the macrocosm showing the elemental spheres of terra (earth),
aqua (water), aer (air), and ignis (fire). 
Robert Fludd. 1617. - via Wikipedia
 
Hypermandala
by John Magnet Bell

Dec 11, 2013

A Dire Warning from Christmas to Come

First in the order or business: Permit me to introduce Felix Thibodaux, the Christmas Shark. He will run this blog until New Year's Eve. Don't worry, Start Your Novel is in good hands. I mean, fins. Yeah.

I LIKE YOU
LET ME EAT YOUR FACE

Felix takes this blogging deal very seriously and he's promised to keep his carnivorous urges in check in order to manage the blog and write prompts for me while I take a vacation. Isn't that so, Felix?

FEED ME
FEED ME NOW

See? That's commitment for you. And now, Felix's first creative effort -- which I had to rewrite completely, because it was all about devouring people and sea lions and boats and even buildings, for crying out loud.

I ONLY WRITE ABOUT IMPORTANT THINGS
NOW KINDLY JUMP INTO MY MOUTH

Shut up, Felix. Let's get on with the story prompt already.



It’s the year 2027 at lunchtime. Centenarian hippies have taken over the world and banned Christmas. People must offer ‘season’s greetings’ so as not to offend the Liberal College of Wise Personfolk.

We hear whispers of a legend. Of one man who ain’t gonna take it lying down. SANTA CLAUS.

DO YOU KNOW WHO ELSE
AIN'T GONNA TAKE IT LYING DOWN

Seriously, fish. I wasted thousands of dollars on that obedience school, didn't I? 

Dec 6, 2013

On a Pixelated Summer, The Protagonist Rewrote Herself

Plaidwerk downloaded her personality patch and pretended to install it. The Repository wouldn’t erase Jimmydew from her memory – Jimmydew belonged to her. He was her brother in code. She triple-checked her encryptors and waited for the Repository to ping approval on the install. A new day began.

The Spirit II
by Laure B.

"Plaidwerk" is a portmanteau of Plaid and Kraftwerk, two influential, sophisticated players in the electronic music scene. "Jimmydew" just sounds sweet to me, whereas "Plaidwerk" sounds strong and determined. And quirky. That's important too. Quirks make a person unique.

With a name like that, it made sense to put Plaidwerk in the role of heroine for this story prompt. The capitalized "Repository" sounds impersonal at best. I wanted to hint at a remote, sinister entity governing the lives of post-human citizens, informing their personality from afar, delivering data packets they must accept in order to remain functional. The potential for breakdown and dramatic storytelling is immense.

Tribute
by Annemarie Rysz

At one point I considered turning the heroine's name into an allusion to Skinny Puppy (Canada's gift to electronica). So here's some Skinny Puppy for you, after the jump. Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

Dec 4, 2013

3 Superheroes You Want on Your Side: Cross-Dressing Puritan, Super Mongol, and the Human Robot

Cross-Dressing Puritan

Cross-Dressing Puritan defends the rights of LGBT people everywhere. She champions the bearded and unbearded alike.

Powers and Abilities:

  • Whirl-Pin! A rolling-pin tornado blinds foes and carries them away to parts unknown.
  • Super-sight! Cross-Dressing Puritan sees right through you.
  • Beardmongering! Foes who would be foisted by a beard automatically grow beards.

Weakness: Intolerance.

Super Mongol

Super Mongol raids the fridges and pantries of evildoers and gives all the food to the poor. He only keeps some of the candy to himself, because this superhero business makes you hungry. Especially for candy.

Powers and Abilities:

  • Mongol Stealth! Super Mongol turns invisible within ten feet of any fridge or vending machine.
  • Battle cry! Stand back in awe as the hero roars and makes buildings collapse, or parts oceans of super-hot lava so he can get to the couch.
  • Speedmunching! Super Mongol eats candy super fast. Faster than any enemy can.

Weakness: Legumes.

Human Robot

Human Robot turns into a robot that turns into a human that turns into a robot. She punches mean asteroids in the face.

Powers and Abilities:

  • Cocoa Breath! Human Robot can bring people (and birds, and also bears) back to life through her automatic essence-of-cocoa directed venting mechanism.
  • Robot Strength! She can lift up to ten thousand tons of kittens. 
  • Origami Smarts! Human Robot can fold ideas inside other ideas and thereby become much, much smarter than anybody else, because she can stack so much more thinkstuff in her robot brain. This enables her to solve problems better and faster than most people – and most robots, obviously. 

Weakness: One Direction.

All together now
illustrations © John Magnet Bell

Nov 27, 2013

Three Unusual Instruments of Horrifying Death

in Reverse Alphabetical Order

by

Strontium Cavalier, M.D.

A WARNING 
to the faint of heart
Ladies of Gentle Disposition
And children under 34

The following narrative contains GRAPHIC VIOLENCE
No nudity, but
Well, at least there’s VIOLENCE
VIOLENCE, do you understand?
LOTS OF IT
Like fisticuffs and garroting and maybe tentacle porn
(Warning: there may be no tentacle porn)

ΨΩΨ

W is for Watermelon

Ms Appalachia Dove, formerly a possum tamer for the Miniature Circus of Beijing in Romania –

Because miniature circuses exist, and this man is the president of them.

Just kidding, that's Harold Tibbals.

mashed her employer to death using a pair of jubilees.*

T is for Toothbrush

Jameson Spenser-Birkenau IV, of Wubbsleigh Drive (corner of St. Pancras and the Oxfam Knitting Emporium), Southern Lancashire, jammed his toothbrush so far up his nose that it did not see the light of day for another 65 years.

When he finally sneezed it out after lunch, nobody took notice; everyone went for naps under the dutiful watch of their kindergarten teacher; Jameson thereafter made several careers for himself as a prominent man of letters, a nasal mucus farmer and an arctic explorer in the Antarctic. He died in his bed, blissfully unaware that he’d been dead for the past century and a half.

F is for Frozen Peas

Harvey Garvey, 24, slipped on frozen peas that had rolled down the grocery aisle from a ruptured bag. Harvey fell and hit his head, sued the store, secured six thousand bucks and a lifetime supply of frozen peas, went home, cooked his dinner, ate his dinner, and never left the table again.

Doesn't it just kill you, not to know what happened? Eh? Doesn't it?

FOOTNOTES & DISCLAIMERS
*Jubilee watermelons may weigh up to 45 pounds when ripe.

This is not a parody of those Final Destination movies. I have seen them all and they are quite excellent, especially the one with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in it. She’s cute.

And by “quite excellent” I mean nothing of the sort.

Nov 22, 2013

The Parson's Salad at the Disco

Quigley had never dreamed of becoming an assassin; not this man who wore earplugs in church and latex gloves to butter his toast.

On the other side of the continent, a woman called Janice put on tarry black lipstick and her cat’s-eye contacts, snarling at the mirror. A messy death awaited.

I pictured Janice looking like this. (Found this picture on Tumblr.)

To dispel all possible doubt, or at least 99% of it: The title to this prompt wasn't inspired by Panic! at the Disco. I don't even like them very much.

Janice would be attending a Modern Witch show that evening.


While Quigley would sleep all joysome and impluvious, dreaming of caterpillars and toast.

Anybody need a toast timer?

Nov 20, 2013

First Rule of Chess: Count to Ten and Go Ballistic

Seething with anger, Baron Erasmus van Sitztinkler kicked the chessboard. It flew into the air like a square bird made of broken wings.
“Ach,” said the Baron, “five-dimensional chess is a game for barbarians.”
The referee rose from her chair. “Baron,” she said, “you have committed a capital offense.”

sculpture by Johnson Tsang

While I doubt that five-dimensional chess has already come into existence in this particular continuum, you may want to try other exotic varieties of the game:

3-man chess

chess-boxing

running from bears

Now that you're done perusing my photo essay on chess, you can follow Johnson Tsang's wordpress blog, where he posts fascinating pictures of works in progress. Or stay here and read some more. I've written about Mark Rothko and Diane Arbus -- Alvar Aalto and Coco Chanel -- and you know what, my rubber ducky would like you to read about all of them. Will you disappoint my rubber ducky? You'd better not.






Nov 15, 2013

Gnome, Zombie or Half-Eagle Rainbow: Everybody's Welcome

Would you join me for a brief stroll in the woods?

An Impression of Noble Woods at Sunset
by John Magnet Bell

Can you see that hanging on your wall? The promotion at society6 is on until November 17 at midnight, Pacific Time (US West Coast). You can get free shipping on any of my art prints, laptop skins, stationery cards or phone cases.

But wait, there's a lot more to see and do today.
Yours truly has dived deep into the treasure vaults of the internet to bring you other nuggets of inspiration:

Nov 14, 2013

4 Completely Useless Mutant Powers for your "Useless Mutant Power" File

What’s the difference between a skill and a handicap? Duck feet on land are a handicap; on water, the duck is king among paddle-footed waterfowl. Unless you count pelicans as waterfowl. But pelicans are assholes, so let’s not.

Speaking of waterfowl, have you ever taken the time to read J.M. Hurle’s and M. Fernandez Teran’s outstanding scientific paper, “Fine structure of the interdigital membranes during the morphogenesis of the webbed foot of the duck embryo”? That all-time classic from the two most brilliant minds at the University of Santander in Spain? Well, if you have, bully for you, because I haven't.

But gods, what a shitty introduction. I’d best stop rambling and just give you the four useless mutant powers you asked for. And include a few choice words about the poor people afflicted with said powers, of course.

Superhero
by Cheryl Francis


Lucas the Ram-fist

Purely a misnomer. This poor guy has sheep for hands, not rams; in short, he punches evil in the face with fluffy black-faced ewes. As you can imagine, his crime-fighting career is less than stellar.

Jazzalea

She brings dead jazz musicians to life when she sneezes. Her power only works when she’s down with the flu. Most of the time she brings back Coleman Hawkins, and she doesn’t even like tenor saxophone.

Prophet of the Past

Oh, Edward can see into the future, that he can. But! Alas! Zoot! And dang. His future is our past. You see, Edward travels back in time. You think he’s coming, but he’s actually going. As a result, every word comes out of his mouth backwards, tail first.

Pineapple Woman

Everything she touches turns to canned pineapple. She never has to go hungry. On the downside, all her would-be boyfriends now sit in her pantry, changed into inanimate cylinders. The fruity goodness inside provides little consolation.

Postlude
or Coda
or Whatever they call these things that aren't exactly post-scripta

Society6 is running a promotion until November 17, ending at midnight Pacific Time. Click here and you get free shipping on my art prints, postcards, phone cases, laptop skins and t-shirts.

I've been taking pictures and photoshopping like crazy. Here's some of my recent work -- you can wear it on your body, spiffy up your phone, beautify your walls --

Bridges to Portland - St. Johns - on a Warm October Evening
© John Magnet Bell

Cherub Under the Microscope: Two
© John Magnet Bell

New World Hypostasis: One
© John Magnet Bell

Last but not least, I'll sign off with music for people with less-than-convenient mutant powers. (Don't drink and drive, kids. You might wake up with sheep for hands on the following morning.)