Tag Archives: surreal

Artist Spotlight: Boomslank/P-shinobi

Website: Boomslank.com

So, I know artist spotlights aren’t something I usually post, but . . . this past weekend while I was (having a blast) at Ichibancon, I got to meet an intriguing original artist. Going by P-shinobi under the label Boomslank, this artist has a fascinating, beautiful style that pulls strongly from anime-style influences. His work is a neat blend of conceptual stuff, odd perspectives, and surrealism that, while clearly influenced by greats like Hayao Miyazaki, is also refreshingly original. The content is everything from mecha to slice-of-life to some really amazing surreal stuff like fish in the sky (which looks waaay cooler than it sounds). Plus, I love the color schemes used in these prints, especially the use of lots of neutral colors combined with splashes of brighter ones for contrast and accent. So yeah, if you like anime-style art and are interested in some more original stuff, you should check out Boomslank’s offerings.

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Sherlock (TV series)

BBCSherlock

My rating: 5 of 5

Dr. John Watson has come home from Afghanistan due to a war injury, and he’s having trouble adapting to civilian life . . . financially and psychologically. So when an old friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes–a most interesting and unusual man who is willing to share the rent for a flat–John finds himself rapidly accepting the offer. Life with the self-proclaimed “consulting detective” soon draws Dr. Watson into a whirlwind, solving crimes and assisting Holmes in whatever capacity he can–certainly in a medical one. Perhaps even as a friend, whatever the sociopathic  Holmes may say.

Why do I love this series so much?! I’m a huge fan of Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories–I grew up reading them. As such, I usually hate movie/TV versions of the stories since they almost always get important stuff wrong. Sherlock gets it right. Rather than trying to re-create a Victorian setting and Victorian characters while still making it interesting for a modern audience, the creators immediately scrap all that and go for a modern London setting. Instead of trying to pull details from the classic stories, they pull feelings, ideas, and inspiration. So it feels right–but also fresh and exciting. The plots are intriguing, and I really love they use of hour-and-a-half episodes to allow a full development of individual plots within the episode. Steven Moffat’s touch on the show is pretty evident, which I (as a big Doctor Who fan) really love–you’ve almost got a Doctor-Companion dynamic going between Sherlock and John, and it works beautifully. The characters and the character dynamics are spot-on perfect–very, very fun to watch. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But I really think Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is the heart of the show, the one who makes you really care. And the interactions between the two . . . priceless. The other characters/cast members are brilliant as well, from those who show in nearly every episode (like Mrs. Hudson & DI Greg Lestrade) to Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty to those who only show up briefly in one episode. I loved the camera angles, the production, and the creative use of screen text to show Sherlock’s though processes. All around, Sherlock is just brilliant–highly recommended!

Created by  Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat/Written by  Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, & Stephen Thompson/Starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman/Based on the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note: Currently this series is ongoing, with three (3-episode) seasons and one special currently available.

Update 02/12/2017: I just finished watching the fourth season (which brings the series up to a whole 13 episodes. Yay! I definitely enjoyed this season and found it to be in keeping with the previous seasons in most regards. There were definitely some surprises though, and I found the almost surreal quality of the episodes to be unique and intriguing–difficult to follow sometimes though. I’ll be interested to see if a fifth season comes to be; the end of this season almost felt like a good-bye, but I haven’t heard an official announcement that the series is completed. We’ll see, I guess.

 

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Challenger Deep

Author: Neal Shustermanchallenger deep

My rating: 5 of 5

“Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn.” (I’m using the Goodreads summary here, because it’s perfect and I don’t want to change anything.)

I was absolutely blown away by Challenger Deep. I mean, I always enjoy Neal Shusterman’s writing, but this particular volume is something special even for him. It clearly comes from a very personal place, as he mentions in the afterword that a lot of the ideas come from his son’s own experiences with mental illness. And that personal connection really shows, inviting the reader into the world as it appears to someone struggling with a brain chemistry that isn’t working normally. I still can’t say I understand . . . I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually lived there can really understand. But I can definitely be more accepting and willing to try to understand for having read this book (which is really helpful since I’m dealing with mental illness of a different sort with my Grandfather who has Alzheimer’s). I loved the was Shusterman wove together Caden’s “real world” experiences with life on the “ship” on its way to Challenger Deep. As you go, it becomes more and more clear that the “ship” is just another way in which he sees the world, you begin to see parallels between actually people, events, and choices. But because it’s presented in that way, you get this additional, interesting story that not only increases the reader’s understanding but is also really engaging in its own surreal sort of way. The writing, in Caden’s first-person view, is brilliant and easy to read in a strange, surreal way, even though the events are constantly flipping between “realities” sometimes even within the chapter. A nice plus also is that the chapters are really short, so it feels like a quicker read–and it’s easy to read a chapter or two between other things, even if you don’t have much time. I think I would highly recommend Challenger Deep to anyone, and particularly to anyone who has someone in their life who is dealing with mental illness.

 

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Cool Cat

cool catAuthor/Illustrator: Nonny Hogrogian

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Cool Cat wanders into a dreary land, armed with nothing but a suitcase full of paints and brushes. Around him, the land is brown, full of litter, and utterly unappealing. But rather than just move on, Cool Cat decides to do something about the problem. He pulls out his paints and begins to transform his surroundings, bit by bit. And as he works, the other creatures living nearby catch on and start helping to make their home somewhere they’d want to live, somewhere beautiful.

Cool Cat is certainly a proactive and positive picture book. I think it would be a great discussion starter, something to encourage kids to take their own action to make the world a better place. I also think it’s wonderful that there’s this large-scale teamwork going on with all the animals taking their own parts to help out. Plus, the transformation from flat browns to brilliant colors is quite striking. So yes, on the whole, this is an excellent book. I guess I just find it a little challenging to my adult-logic: the cat’s painting this whole new world . . . on what exactly? It’s a little surreal, but in a way that’s just hard for me to accept. That, and some of the animal shapes are a little weird at times. Generally though, the art is quite nice–a combination of pencils and watercolors that’s somewhat sketch-like and unassuming, but pleasantly so. I think Cool Cat would be a great read-aloud  and talk about book for children in the 3-5 age range who are just learning how to help and work together.

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A Bird Story

Created by Freebird Games

One day on the way home from school, a boy finds an injured bird in the woods being chased by a badger. He chases the badger off and, on the way home, finds he has a hitchhiker in his backpack–the bird! Trouble is, animals aren’t allowed in his apartment building, so he’s got to be careful bringing it home. The boy gets the bird settled in on his balcony, and the two begin to strike up quite a unique friendship while the bird recovers from his injury–a relationship that will take them places neither of them could have previously imagined!

I’d never heard of A Bird Story until I happened to stumble upon it, and honestly wasn’t expecting much, although it had received very positive reviews on Steam. . . . When I actually played it, I was utterly blown away. This is an incredible, genre-defying short (1 hour or a bit more; I didn’t time myself). It’s technically an RPG-style game as far as the game engine is concerned, but the feel is much more that of a visual novel. A lot of the time, you’re just watching the action unfold, and when you do need to do something, it’s pretty clear and simple. Plus, it’s completely wordless; the creators use ambient noises, music, gesture, and facial expression to move the story along entirely sans dialogue. Really, it’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t expect much from, but the story’s sweet, expressive, whimsical, and kind of surreal in a way that’s really appealing. Combine that with some breathtaking scenery and a gorgeous soundtrack, and you end up with a game that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t think A Bird Story is for everyone–if you like to always be doing something when you’re playing a game, or if everything must make perfect sense, you’ll probably hate it. But if you like a unique short story with a great atmosphere, I think this would be an enjoyable choice–I certainly enjoyed it greatly myself!

Note: Personally, I’d recommend playing A Bird Story in one sitting if possible. It’s short enough that you can, and I think it’s easier to follow that way.

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The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher

Author/Illustrator: Molly Bang

The Grey Lady is happily bringing a basket of strawberries home to her family. But she’s not the only one interested in her strawberries. A strawberry snatcher lurks behind her then leaps out to snatch her strawberries. . . . Only to find her taking off and leading the snatcher on a merry chase through the city and out into the woods beyond. If the snatcher wants her strawberries, he’ll not only have to grab them–he’ll have to find her first!

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher was a very unexpected sort of picture book, but I’m very glad I read it. It is completely wordless, yet communicates a mischievous, surreal,  and suspenseful tale quite clearly. The art is this surprising blend of parts that are left with just the plain, textured paper and parts that are painted in brilliant color and glorious detail. The unpainted parts add a really unique hide-and-seek element that is a lot of fun. Bang’s time spent living outside the U. S. is reflected in her art in all sorts of intriguing ways as well. All in all, I’d say that The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher is a great picture book for all ages,  especially for imaginative children who enjoy more visually-intense stories.

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