Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Color Me Awkward

 This week I've been thinking a lot about coloring books (for no particular reason, because I was definitely not at WalMart shopping for a coloring book for myself at any time this week. At all. Shut up.) Anyway, one thing I realized in the midst of my deep philosophical ponderings is that coloring books are really really awkward.

You see, when someone sets out to create a coloring book, they are faced with a problem of how to fill it. The first part is easy: choosing a topic or character, but then, after that, everything completely crumbles to pieces (which, all things considered, is probably an accurate metaphor for your life if you make coloring books for a living.) So you have a character... Now you have to make them do something interesting for thirty pages or so.  They've got to be doing something that kids are going to be able to color, and, unfortunately (unless it's a princess themed coloring book,) not every page is allowed to be a picture of the character in the same pose with alternating backgrounds of flowers, hearts, and sparkles. This usually results in the characters just doing... stuff... for the duration of the coloring book. Not really anything consequential, just stuff.
Everything from mundane daily activities

to bizarre, and occasionally nightmare-inducing randomness

 And heaven help you if the coloring book is based on a concept rather than a character. There are always the attempts to illustrate nebulous concepts like safety or brushing your teeth. The results are usually as follows:

I think some of the finer examples of awkward come from coloring books based on characters that already exist in their own cartoon or movie. In this case the character already has a context in which they exist which the individual making the book has to convey. This is where the captions usually come in to explain what is going on in the scene, and somehow manage to drain the scene of any dramatic tension it may have had.

 Somehow the caption magically makes these events seem very... nonchalant...

Another approach is to have the caption narrate what the character is saying. What the character is saying, incidentally, is usually completely inane.

Even without the captions, the pages still always seem to be drained of anything exciting or meaningful by depicting events that take place directly after something exciting has obviously happened

My favorite variation of this whole concept is the coloring books based on live-action movies, or actual people. See, with cartoons it's easy enough to render it on a page and keep pretty true to how it looks on screen. However, there is a special kind of awkward that can only come from trying to transfer something real onto a coloring book. Rather than clumsily trying to explain this, I am just going to show you examples from the gloriously terrible coloring book based on The Beatles that I stumbled upon whilst Google searching.
Here we have examples of everything I talked about:

Mundane daily activities

As well as bizarre randomness

 And don't forget the quotes that seem to contribute precisely nothing to what is going on
In fact, this one in particular seems to combine elements both from coloring books with a previously existing context, and those without. It's a perfect storm of nonsense. There are many more examples of this outside of the Beatles coloring book, but this one makes my point so beautifully that I saw no need to show any others.

This kind of awkward is simply inspirational to me. There's just something beautiful about the subtle discomfort that seems to weave its way through the pages of these coloring books. I only wish I knew how to capture this magic for myself. How do they do it? What intricate methods do they employ to make these pieces so outstandingly uncomfortable? There is a delicate art to it, I think, and I aim to study it and find out what it is. Only then will I be able to completely understand the true soul of the coloring book. Only then will I be a true artist.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Irrelevant Debate

Alright. I know I'm going to get burned at the stake for this one, but I'm going to put it out there anyway....

Lately I've been hearing a lot of the infamous Mac vs. PC debate. This debate has been going on practically since the beginning of time (or the invention of the computer, which, all things considered, IS the beginning of time for some people,) but, since I work in a computer lab that uses both systems, I've been hearing a lot more about it lately.

Here's the thing:

You can't debate Mac vs. PC. There's no real way to compare them. I'd say it was like comparing apples and oranges, but in this case I suppose it's more like comparing apples and windows (haaah, puns...) They're both computers, they're both functional. The difference between them is that they are programmed for different types of brains. If you spend a decent amount of time in the real world away from your computer (which may be asking a lot, considering I barely qualify and I'm not even one of the bigger computer addicts in the world,) you'll notice that some people's brains run on Mac, and some run on Windows. There are likely those whose brains run on Linux as well, and some who run on Playstation, and perhaps some who run on a hamster wheel, but that's irrelevant. People who run on Mac will always have trouble using a PC, and PCs will always struggle to use Macs, and when humans get frustrated with something that doesn't match their pattern of thinking, they like to blame it on the machine rather than their personal incompatibility with it. Nobody likes to admit that they're not very good at doing something, so instead they form a wall of defensive hatred against that thing and insist to everyone who will listen that the thing is stupid and terrible. Calm down, bros, it's okay if you're not good at everything, I promise.

Me? I'm a Mac, but that doesn't mean I hate PC. I fully realize that PC is better for a lot of things -- gaming, for instance, which is why I have a Windows partition on my Macbook -- but for general purposes Mac just works better for me. I'm not very good with a PC, but that doesn't mean we can't leave each other alone and still live in harmony.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I'd really like to quit hearing all the whining from both sides of this debate about why either system is the devil's OS, because there shouldn't even be a debate. Just stop getting defensive and let the other side do as they will; it's not like it's hurting you. I don't want another person parachuting in with a long diatribe about how Mac sucks when I'm trying to explain to a lab user how a program works. And don't think I'm picking on PC; while PC users seem to be more childish about it, Mac users love to be smug and insufferable, which is just as bad. Why don't both of you just leave each other alone? Keep your hands on your side, quit poking each other, and get your own work done. We'll all be a lot happier that way.
Seriously, guys, you're starting to scare me. Calm down. It'll be okay. I promise.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Irrational Dinosaurs

I'm not afraid of very many things. Mostly just drowning, falling, and sticking my hand into dark holes in rock faces. Of course, I'm also terrified to death of animatronic animals (dinosaurs in particular.)

It happened a little something like this:
My family and I stopped off in Vegas on our way to Disneyland when I was five. At the time, the Circus Circus hotel had some animatronic dinosaur-based attraction that was supposed to be pretty cool, so we went to check it out...

 And that's how my life was ruined. Further exacerbated by this:
when we went to Universal Studios a few days later.... Which is why, when I went to Disneyland with my friends on my high school choir tour eleven years later, I spent the entirety of the Jungle Cruise boat ride trembling in my seat and trying very hard not to weep
 Sweet mercy, noooo!

Now, whenever I tell people that I'm terrified of animatronic dinosaurs/animals, they always laugh at me. For years I thought there was something wrong with me and I was just being silly about the whole thing, but in more recent years I've been thinking about it, and I've begun to wonder...
How on Earth is this NOT a rational fear?

 In what way are robots made to look and act like vicious wild animals or bloodthirsty giant lizards NOT terrifying??* I cannot think of a single thing that is okay about this! Sure, mom and dad assure me that they're "not real" but the fact that they are robots does NOT make it better. It makes it worse.

Laugh at me all you want, but when those things go rogue and start terrorizing cities across the globe, you'll have nobody but yourselves to blame for trusting them.

* "In the earliest days of man, nature instilled in our primitive ancestors an instinctive fear of dinosaurs. And robots."
-Probably Darwin