Enormous, Disgusting, A-Hundred-Maws and Barking

Dear Patrons (current, future, and not-on-your-life), we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes on our next big project. Sure, we like pretending we’re two wags who couldn’t give a hoot about our responsibilities, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, we’ve been sweating over a few things, and are determined to please you with at least three new books this year!

(Yes, we’re hopeless optimists who cannot accurately count the number of hours in a day. Sometimes it’s twenty-six, and sometimes it’s only nineteen. Anyway, we won’t give up. Tick tock tick tock…)

Today, we want to show you a cover idea that we had for our first project which will be a new poetry collection. We were all fired up over this idea, but when Tony put it together, we quickly realised that it wouldn’t be a good fit and discarded it unanimously.

However, you needn’t think that the image itself was pure crap. (Of course, we wouldn’t be offended if you did.) Take a look over at our Patreon page. Form your own opinion. And don’t worry, entry is free and the exit is too. If you’re curious to see what the cover for our new poetry collection WON’T be, then scratch that itch!

(Yup, this is another pathetic attempt to lure you to our Patreon page and panhandle for more pelf.)

PS: Please feel free to blame the title on Tati. She tried to explain to Tony about Чудище обло, озорно, огромно, стозевно и лаяй but he was way too busy to listen to her. (Actually, he was just being a little dense, but let’s not tell anyone about that!)

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

GUEST POST // The Well-Red Mage Interviews Tony

WELL-RED MAGE: Let’s get this party started! First question: Do you consider yourself to be a gamer and how long have you been one?

TONY: I’ve thought about this a lot. What does it mean to be a gamer? Is it dependent on skill level or the number of hours played? Or something else? I don’t know. I do overthink these things. It’s why I often have trouble with labels. So, to kind of answer your question: I do play video games a lot but I’ll never beat Dark Souls.

As to how long I’ve been playing video games, I came to this rather late in life. I was nudging thirty by the time I got my first console. It was an N64, and I loved it! I’ve been gaming ever since. Probably about fifteen years or so.

WELL-RED MAGE: Ah well overthinking things is what we do ’round these here parts! Let’s break down ‘gamer’ even more and define our terms. Ultimately, of course the label itself is meaningless and one can call themselves a gamer at any level of skill or exposure to games. You consider yourself a gamer, since you play video games a lot, but you say you’re maybe not a gamer-gamer since you’ll never beat Dark Souls. We can make the question harder. What kind of gamer would you consider yourself? For example, I prefer the categorization ‘classics gamer’ since I love that which is retro, vintage, classic.

TONY: That label definitely suits you. And can I just say that I think your reviews are amazing? They’re meticulously put together, and they’re full of many little details about an era of gaming that has somehow managed to pass me by. (And as a long time appreciator of Miyazaki’s oeuvre, I thought your Studio Ghibli pieces were sublime too.)

As for what kind of gamer I might be, I’m still unsure. Truth be told, I tend to prefer games with 3D graphics as this is what I was introduced to. My formative experiences were The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 after all. And what a wonderful place to start! These two games began my love affair with ‘play for play’s sake’ (and it’s an art that sadly many adults have forgotten). So, whatever that kind of gamer’s called is what I am, I guess. I just want to play, and hopefully I’ll be proficient enough to complete the game I’m currently playing.

WELL-RED MAGE: Oh you flatterer! I knew I’d enjoy this conversation but not merely because it’s inflating my already morbidly obese ego, hahaha! You’re bringing up so many great subjects to chew on. What a wonderful place to start indeed with Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, two of the most rightfully venerated entries in two of the biggest video game franchises in history. We’ll call you a fun-factor gamer? Haha I don’t know.

So going back to those years when you got your gaming start with the N64, I’ve a couple questions for you: Did you specifically wait to start gaming with the 64? I mean were you just not interested in consoles before then? Why did you pick the 64 and not say the PlayStation coming out around the same time?

TONY: Fun factor gamer! Now that is a label I can get behind. Let’s call me that! And I think this is all I’ve ever wanted from gaming really—just something that’s immersive, fun and stirs the emotions.

I remember back when I was covetously eyeing off a friend’s Atari. I asked my parents about it but they wisely chose not to get me one. I think I would have been addicted to the point of dropping out of life and failing school if they had. Still, you can imagine how console hungry I was by the time I hit adulthood! And I didn’t really choose the N64. Not really. It chose me.

My wife had a work colleague who wanted to sell his N64 to buy a Dreamcast, so she snaffled it up for me. I received a bunch of games with it: Mission: ImpossibleGoldenEye 007, and Turok: Dinosaur HunterMission: Impossible was truly awful, and it nearly put me off trying the others, but when I popped in the excellent GoldenEye 007, I soon realised that I could afford to pick and choose my gaming experiences. It’s a weird thing to realise, I suppose, but there you go. It wasn’t long before I began to seek out other titles, and so I moved on to the aforementioned The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. I became so obsessed with these last two games that I don’t think I really took in the fact that PlayStation was a thing.

WELL-RED MAGE: Your parents were very wise to make you miss out on an Atari, especially since you were able to get your start with Nintendo instead. That’s definitely fun-factor foresight. Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 are officially legends but what struck a chord and resonated with you about those games in particular?

TONY: Super Mario 64 was like pure imagination on acid! From Cool, Cool Mountain to Whomp’s Fortress and Jolly Roger Bay, I was unapologetically hooked. There were so many secrets to unlock, and so many environments and scenarios to check out! And I loved the conceit that all of this could be accessed via a portly little plumber traversing the ‘hub’ of Princess Peach’s castle. I felt like a little kid again, like I could just walk down into my own basement to find something magical and a little bit dangerous that I’d previously overlooked—all I’d need do was cock my head and take a slightly different view. (That sense of wonder is such a precious commodity as an adult. We need more of it!) Also, the controls just work. They’re as smooth as butter. The graphics may have dated somewhat but not the gameplay and sense of fun—those will always remain timeless.

And speaking of timeless… Holy cow, Ocarina of Time or what?! It ended up being my favouritest ever game until Wind Waker came along! I remember playing through the Great Deku Tree at the beginning with an assumption that the game would end soon. It was only as the story started to build on itself, slowly revealing more and more of Hyrule as I went along, that the scope of it began to dawn on me. A light switched on behind my eyes, and so I became quite invested in how this tale would play out. I remember having a lump in my throat when Saria awakened as the Forest Sage, knowing that things would never again be the same between her and Link. That she had been waiting all these years just to part ways with him… well, it broke my heart. I thought of my wife who’d bought this game as a gift to me, and knew then that Zelda would become a permanent fixture in my life.

WELL-RED MAGE: I couldn’t agree more about the impact of those two games. I shared the same experiences with them, virtually. So the Zelda franchise… I was just talking with someone today about how the series hasn’t changed much over the years, how the recent Breath of the Wild didn’t do much to surprise or shock us narratively speaking. I don’t know how much of that assertion I agree with, so let me ask someone who really loves Zelda: What do you think is the consistent and lasting appeal of the Legend of Zelda? Why has it remained popular after all this time?

TONY: I feel this assertion that Zelda’s narrative hasn’t changed much is only partially true. If you look at the individual stories of each game, then certainly, the same tropes crop up again and again. Rescue the princess. Kill Ganon. Save Hyrule. Cut lots and lots of grass. We’ve gone through all of that before. But let’s be real here—this recycling of narrative is present in almost any video game series one cares to name. You don’t have to look very hard.

Isn’t there a maxim that there are only seven stories in fiction? I feel like that’s true. And I think it’s all in how you tell it. It’s all in the little details that get peppered throughout the narrative. It’s all in how you bend that narrative ever so slightly each time. Perhaps it’s this mix of the familiar and something new that’s given the Zelda series such longevity. Wind Waker was set at sea. Spirit Tracks was on rails. Link’s Awakening was just a dream. These are all simply remixes of the same song, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.

WELL-RED MAGE: I’d have to agree with you. Certainly archetypes and kinds of stories are limited and have been repeated since the dawn of man. I’d add that I think the Legend of Zelda series is so successful because of the way it retells these stories in its own archetypal and legendary fashion, like real world myth. A lot of them play like Greco-Roman myths where the details are less important than the heroism and magic. You mentioned already that Wind Waker is your favorite of all time, and of course Ocarina is high on your list. Have you played all of the Zelda games? Which are the worst, if such a thing could even be said?

TONY: I have played them all except for the first two ZeldasTri Force HeroesFour Swords Adventures, and the Japan-only Ancient Stone Tablets. And my top three favourites would have to be Wind Waker, Breath of the Wild, and Majora’s Mask, but I do rate the others I’ve played quite highly too. I think the only ones in the series that I would not play again are Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. These two aren’t awful by any means—far from it—but I simply did not enjoy them as much as I was hoping to. I have to admire Nintendo for trying out a different control scheme though. That was a small stroke of genius! (Pathetic pun intended.)

WELL-RED MAGE: That Japan-only title is a new one on me! See? It’s true what they say, you learn something new every day. So no CD-i Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon Zeldas for you, my boi? And, my friend, have you not had a chance to play the original Legend of Zelda yet?

TONY: I found out about that Japan-only one literally a day ago, so I’ve learned something new too! As for Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, all I can say is I’d rather lay eyes on Cthulhu’s horrifying visage than play those games! I’ve read that they are truly, utterly awful, so I’m willing to trust that assessment and play more Breath of the Wild instead. And while I did download the first Zelda to my 3DS a few years back, I found that I just wasn’t into it. Now, I’ve never considered myself a graphics snob, but I think to some extent I must be—I just couldn’t get past those graphics! Perhaps if Nintendo was to release a remake with updated graphics then I might be persuaded to revisit it. I know, I know… what I’m saying is heresy. I have no defence!

WELL-RED MAGE: I’ll quash my inner inquisitor for the moment, sir. Just kidding! I’m trying not to be a snob, period, nor a retro elitist and say, “You can’t call yourself a real fan for [insert standard here].” These are games, after all. I do have something I’ve been ruminating on of late and that is where do you think Nintendo can take the Zelda franchise after the sprawling, gorgeous, highly successful Breath of the Wild? And why do you think it was so good anyway? Never mind the adjectives I just heaped upon it.

TONY: Thanks for putting your pitchfork away, good sir. It looked entirely too pointy and jabby! But seriously, I can fully appreciate if anybody reading this gets quite upset at my rather superficial assessment of the first Zelda. After all, that’s where the whole thing began—without that Zelda we wouldn’t have Breath of the Wild today. Believe me, no one wants to be the heretic in the room! But, as you rightly say, these are games after all. We should each enjoy what we enjoy and enuff said.

And as to where Nintendo could possibly take the series after the superlative Breath of the Wild, I’ve literally no idea. Conventional thinking would have it that they’ll all be open world Zeldas from now on, but I’ve found that Nintendo has a bloody-minded tendency to foil people’s expectations—it’s what I love about them! In all the years I’ve been gaming, they continue to present me with fun, compelling experiences that I never even knew I wanted in the first place. So, I’ve had to learn to trust their judgement a little bit. Who knows? The next Zelda could be set entirely in one room. I was uncertain that they’d make an open world version work as beautifully as they have, and look how wrong I was there. So… perhaps they could pull off a contained Zelda too.

WELL-RED MAGE: Exactly! Down with elitism and snobbery of all forms. We are of course entitled to our opinions but we’re not entitled to everyone agreeing with our opinions, or even buying into them in the slightest.

I’d be excited to play a minimalist Zelda set in a single room! Heck, at this point just give us more new Zelda, Nintendo!

So am I correct in assessing that Nintendo sits at the top of your console and developer favorites list? How do they rank alongside the giants Sony and Microsoft, and what makes them different? Sometimes, I wonder how they even stay in business! Of course, this is coming from someone with an NES themed blog, so rest assured I’m a Nintendo fan.

TONY: Yes, more Zelda please! One can never have too much Zelda! It’s franchises like that which keep me coming back to Nintendo time and time again, so you are correct in assuming that they sit atop my developer favourites list. They also have Mario, Metroid Prime, and Pikmin, so what’s not to love?

Nevertheless, I have branched out in the last few years, and now own a PS3 alongside my Switch and 3DS. For me, it’s all about the games, so I find that Sony is comparable to Nintendo in terms of the variety on offer. I’ve played Journey on Sony’s console, as well as Limbo, the rebooted Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, and Skyrim. Good lord, have I played the ever-loving stuffing out of that last one or what?! Yup, I’m a bit obsessed with Skyrim at the moment, and it’s convinced me to sample Bethesda’s Fallout 3 too. So, I guess that would mean that I rate Sony pretty highly. Microsoft? Not so much. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with Microsoft’s family of consoles—I just don’t find their exclusives to be all that enticing. I could happily live without an Xbox, but I’m glad I now have a PS3.

WELL-RED MAGE: Yep, you and I see eye to eye on this, as I suspected. I love Sony for the variety of the PlayStation library and I very much consider them to be on top of the industry. Nintendo, on the other hand, is the underdog in a lot of ways and while I don’t think they want to play catch-up per se and be the kind of giant Sony is, they need to retain their character and characteristics while giving gamers the kind of Nintendo experiences they want. So far, it’s been great with the Switch and I’m looking forward to what they’ll have to show the world at E3. As for Micro$oft… well… So beyond the realm of the Legend of Zelda, what are some of your other favorite games? Do you maybe have a top five?

TONY: I’ve gotta say I’m loving the Switch as well. It’s great having the option to play a full-blown home console experience on the go. How cool is that? And Breath of the Wild has been the perfect game to showcase this. I’ll be sad when I finally finish it, although it’ll be nice to have some other games to look forward to—Skyrim for one. I love the Switch so much that I’m eager to shell out a second time to see how Skyrim translates to the little console that could. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be an instant buy as I adored the first two instalments, the premise of Super Mario Odyssey intrigues me, and I’m crossing my fingers for Monster Hunter to crash the party as well. E3 this year should be quite interesting!

As for what my top five is, some titles I’ve already mentioned make it to the list. Number one is Wind Waker. I grew up watching lots of cartoons and reading lots of comics, so this style of imagery is very much in my blood. However, it’s far more than just a nostalgia hit to me as it’s also a gorgeous looking game with a distinctive soundtrack, an unbridled sense of optimism, and some genuinely heart tugging moments!

Number two on the list is without a doubt Skyrim, something I thought I’d never ever say. My first experience with it was not so positive as I hadn’t played many open world games by that point. I really didn’t understand what I was supposed to do, that I could make what in essence would become my very own Choose Your Adventure story. I’d spent hours wandering about, wondering why everyone was bleating ‘game of the century’, before trading it towards another game. It would be a couple of years before I worked up the courage to try it again, and it’s only then that I finally managed to click with its shtick (and that’s also thanks in part to another game on this list).

Number three is Monster Hunter, and you can pretty much insert any instalment here as I’ve loved them all (the Nintendo ones anyway). The idea of defeating monsters in order to make gear to defeat bigger, badder monsters is a simple one done very very well. The combat in these games forces you to be strategic, and to be quite methodical too (I hate the mindless button mashing of other titles in this genre).

Number four has to be Xenoblade Chronicles as this is what really opened my eyes to the whole point of open world games: the freedom to explore and create your own narratives. Sure, it has last gen graphics but it’s still a visual and aural triumph with its vast landscapes and compelling soundtrack. I was really heartbroken when I finally completed this one!

And number five is Journey which is by far the shortest on my list. You can play it through in a couple of hours, but oh my stars, what an amazing couple of hours! It has one of the most moving video game endings I’ve ever played. Seriously, I don’t want to say too much about it. Journey is one of those experiences that you need to enter into with as little prior knowledge as possible. Before Skyrim came along, this title alone was worth owning a PS3 for. That’s how highly I think of it.

Some honourable mentions would be Metroid Prime, The Last of Us, and Pikmin 3. I would have included Dark Souls somewhere but that’s way beyond my abilities as a gamer, and so I eventually had to trade it in. It’s frustrating to me because the gameplay itself was sublime.  I’m sure I’ve left something out.

WELL-RED MAGE: The Switch is awesome, just like that list of favorites! Who wouldn’t love Wind Waker, Monster Hunter (I played Tri on the Wii), and of course Journey, which is also in my top five where it is likely to stay. I am glad you gave such thorough reasoning for why these select few rank so high on your favoritometer.

As for the other games you mentioned, I haven’t played all of them. Yet! I will need to go back for Xenoblade Chronicles before the new one comes out! As for leaving some out, that’s the way it is. I didn’t have the heart to ask you for a top 100 list.

So besides for being a verbose human being and a gamer with taste, I know from our conversations earlier that you’re also like me in terms of loving Ghibli. A bit of self-appreciating humor, there. Excuse me. Some questions along these lines: You like Ghibli for what reason? What makes them special? Do you like anime in general or only a few movies and series? And who is your waifu?

TONY: I like me a bit of self-appreciating humour. Ha ha! And I love your last question! I do have an odd answer to this though. My waifu is whatever female character I’m currently playing as, especially one I’ve made for, say, Skyrim or Monster Hunter or something like that. Don’t ask me why but I simply prefer playing as a woman, not a man. Is it a particularly disturbing fetish that I need to seek out professional counselling for? I hope not! All I do know is that I would’ve loved to have had the option to play as Zelda in Breath of the Wild. She’s hot! Oh well, maybe next time, Nintendo.

As for Studio Ghibli, I was introduced to their oeuvre via a screening of Laputa: Castle in the Sky back in my art college days. This film completely blew my mind, and it made me excited about the kinds of stories that could be told in animation. I especially came to appreciate Hayao Miyazaki’s even handed approach to the portrayal of characters in all of his stories. There were no simplistic delineations of good and evil to be found—just people being… well, people. Sometimes they did a bad thing, sometimes they didn’t, but they were always deeply human no matter what. I found this take to be very true to life, and so it became easier to emotionally invest myself in Miyazaki-san’s wondrous works.

My favourite film of all time is actually Howl’s Moving Castle; every single character is pitch perfect in that, and hugely relatable as a result. I like anime a lot. It’s probably my favourite style of animation if I’m honest, although I can and do enjoy animation no matter what part of the world it’s from. I love the classics like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies, Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, Cowboy BebopKum-Kum, Astro Boy and Spirited Away, of course, but I also love more recent fare such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The Wind RisesAldnoah.ZeroKill la KillBirdy the Mighty: Decode and the Evangelion rebuilds.

Outside of anime, I’ve enjoyed such fare as Adventure Time, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Futurama, The Legend of Korra, Brave, The Lego Movie and Zootopia. I’m still sure I’ve left something out.

WELL-RED MAGE: Interesting answer and no I don’t think you’re a psychotic. At least not by that admission. The best explanation I’ve heard on that is when some dude said, and I quote: If I’m going to be playing a game for hundreds of hours then I’d rather look at a chick’s body than another man’s. So there you go. Playing as Zelda in a future game seems like an inevitable move at this point from Nintendo.

So as anyone can tell, you’re an artist. More on that later. Does or did your love for anime fuel or inspire your craft?

TONY: I love that question because few people would know to ask me it these days, and with good reason. I used to be very heavily influenced by the Japanese animation that I watched as a child. How could I not be when my favourite shows were the aforementioned Kum Kum and Astro Boy, as well as others such as Robotech, Ulysses 31, Mysterious Cities of Gold and Sherlock Hound? I would try to mimic that general style and then wonder why I was never able to get any good at it. It was only after I started art college that I began to move away from this and find my own visual language instead. And it’s continued to evolve since that point, but even now I can look back and recognise how anime still subtly informs what I draw.

For instance, anime taught me that eyes are critical in conveying a character’s emotional state. It’s so important to see that spark there in order to be invested in what’s happening to the protagonist—whether it be funny or serious. I also learned the value of a carefully planned colour design. The best anime often has beautiful, lush looking images because of a deliberate and judicious use of colour. This helps to pull all the disparate elements within a composition together so that it all feels ‘of a piece’. In essence, I learned this and more by osmosis, so… yeah, anime has been (and continues to be) a huge inspiration for my craft.

WELL-RED MAGE: I wouldn’t have known to ask unless we’d talked about anime first but in retrospect, your art has a distinctive personality to it, especially in your characters’ faces, which evokes the expressiveness of Japanese animation. You’ve clearly moved beyond imitation, though, and found your own style, with a distinct color palette that sets it apart from other online art I’ve seen. What led you to pursue art in the first place and why do you continue to pursue it? What are your goals?

TONY: Thank you for your kind words, sir! I do love what I do, so it’s most gratifying when others love it as well. I’ve never not been an artist really as I’ve drawn all kinds of stuff since I could hold my first crayon. With this and growing up on a steady diet of cartoons and comics, there was just no way I was going to avoid the artist’s life; being something else makes absolutely no sense to me.

As for my goals, I hope to continue what I’m doing until the day I die, and to make a living from it. This is the one and only thing I kind of do well, so I’d like to stick with it. I’m also looking forward to writing and drawing my first graphic novel within the next couple of years. That’d be an achievement worth striving for!

WELL-RED MAGE: Wow! Having your own graphic novel under your belt would be quite the achievement! You should get it published by DC. DC fan here… What are some other inspirations and influences we should be aware of? And then maybe you can segue into the content and direction of your art? I’m familiar with your work on your blog Crumble Cult, which is where I primarily know you from.

TONY: Alas, I don’t think DC or even Marvel would be interested in the kinds of comics I produce. Mine are far too navel-gazing and existential and waffley and… well, not very ‘superheroey’. I guess they could be categorised as slice-of-life, semi-autobiographical comics with a magical realist bent. Mind you, I have nothing against superhero comics. They just weren’t the kind of thing I gravitated to when I was growing up. I was more interested in different genres, artists and titles—oh, and giant, transforming robots (I’ve always had a weak spot for those). I can, however, appreciate why superheroes resonate with so many people. They’re the mythology of modern times really, and so in that sense they’re as relevant as any tale from antiquity.

As for other influences, I’d have to mention music here. That’s a huge deal for me. I don’t play an instrument or even sing, but I do listen to a lot of music covering a number of different genres. I’m especially drawn to lyrics that have a strong storytelling component, as well as more abstract ones that allow me to create a narrative of my own.

WELL-RED MAGE: So where can we expect to see you in the coming years? Where do you want to take your art, including the graphic novel? What would be the equivalent of achieving your dream?

TONY: Honestly, I’ve no idea where I’ll be tomorrow. All I do know is that writing and drawing are the only things that make sense to me. In fact, they’re the only things I’m even halfway good at. I’m really pretty hopeless at anything else. I think I’d like to do graphic novels and somehow make a crust from that. And write a novel. I have some dreams swirling about in my head; I just need to continue doing what I’m doing and never give up. Can I ask you about your dreams, my friend? What would be your definition of ‘success’? It seems to me that you pour everything you have into your blog, and I find that inspiring.

WELL-RED MAGE: Hopeless at anything else? I’ve never met you but I’m sure you’re being much too modest. Never giving up is brilliant wisdom. Thanks for being so conversational and turning my question back at me. And thank you for the kind words. I went through several ‘dreams’ when I was a child: palaeontologist thanks to Jurassic Park, a game designer, a conceptual artist or animator, which was something a lot of friends and family pushed for me since I could draw little cartoony things now and then. I ended up not pursuing the visual route. Sorry this is turning into a cheaply-made biopic.

I eventually fell in love with reading in my preteens and when I was 16 I was already writing a novel I never finished. I furnished its realm with made up languages I kept journals for. I drew up maps of its lands. I sketched all of the main characters. It took me so long working on it that the project kept changing. It was a novel called Lies of the Machine that has now been a dormant epic for years. Maybe someday I can finish it. Currently, my only fiction projects I’ve ever finished are two short stories called I laid a stone to reason and the Bamboo Man, and a novella called the Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose. The last fiction project I was working on was based on ancient folklore from around the world and would’ve followed a female knight being impregnated with what was believed to be a descendant of Christ and subsequently pursued by the church and by the barbarians.

Anyhow, all that to say my dream job would be to write for a living, mostly I’ve dreamed about being a novelist. I think I’d personally define success as being able to support my family doing what I love to do, in this case writing, and still having a little extra disposable income on the side. I’m actually not that driven of a person in most other areas of life, but writing is one thing that I’ve really been able to enjoy. It’s helped influence other opportunities in my life such as teaching and preaching. When I found that I couldn’t finish large fiction projects, I decided I’d try blogging to lend myself manageable bits that I could definitely finish, as well as more experience in writing as a craft. Since we’re both aspiring novelists, what are some of the ideas you’d put forth into a novel?

TONY: I have to say that I’d definitely read something called Lies of the Machine, and your other titles pique my interest! I hope you’ll keep up with the writing because I think your site is a terrific testament to your love of the craft.

I also appreciate your definition of success as that’s something that should really only be defined by the individual and what they choose their priorities in life to be. Having your first novel become a number one bestseller might be considered success, but success could also be something that’s usually seen as more ordinary. I’m someone who has suffered depression in adolescence and adulthood, so sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning has been a kind of success.

I guess when all’s said and done, ‘success’ is maybe little more than a glorified social construct. When you put it to one side, perhaps what you’re left with is the mundane, day-to-day business of making choices. It’s not as glamorous and sexy as success, I suppose, but perhaps it’s more concrete and real. And I think this is exactly the kind of thing I would want to write about in a novel because I don’t think it gets talked about enough. Of course, anything I write would have to have a magical realist bent and feature unicorns. Oh, hang on, that’s Crumble Cult.

Okay. I’ve always wanted to write a novel that features some kind of giant mythology. And by that, I don’t mean a mythology that’s larger than life, I mean a mythology about giants. Ha ha! Hm. Yeah. I think I got a bit carried away there…

WELL-RED MAGE: Success can be measured in so many different ways, and there are big and small goals one can set for oneself. You’ve already shared quite a sizable portion of wisdom but in conclusion: What would you like to say to an entire universe of writers and bloggers by way of wise encouragement and inspiration? No pressure, haha!

TONY: I struggle with giving advice. I’m just not the right guy to come to for that. What works for me wouldn’t necessarily work for others, and vice versa. And, who knows, perhaps I’m doing everything the wrong way? Me giving advice would be like the blind giving directions to the sighted.

And, at the end of the day, others would do well to listen less to me and do more of what they, in their heart of hearts, know they really want to do. Oh, there you go. A bit of inadvertent advice there, I suppose? Follow your heart. It may sometimes lead you astray but at least it’s more honest than cold, unfeeling, bloody-minded intellect. And on that flat note, thanks for chatting with me, sir. It’s been an honour and a privilege!

WELL-RED MAGE: Squeezed out that inadvertent advice anyways! In talking with you I can assure you that one of the things I really like about you is your humility. Thank you so much for taking the time to craft such thoughtful answers. I really appreciated our discussion! An honor and a privilege indeed! End transmission.

 

by WELL-RED MAGE
© All rights reserved 2017

BUT IS IT ART? // Unsung Beauty

 

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This was supposed to be another But is it Art?’, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

As always, Tati came to the party in a pugnacious mood, ready to smash Tony with her witty questions. And, boy, did she ever! They discussed women’s bodies and women’s rights. They even discussed Greek mythology and Tony’s childhood. (One could almost say that these sound pretty similar, at least whenever Tony talks about his childhood.)

During the discussion Tati called Tony ‘a misogynist creep’ and Tony called Tati ‘a good egg’. They used the word fuck one time, and the word ‘breast’ three times. Tati even taught Tony a new word. Yep. ‘Litotes’.

Well, anyway…

The post was ninety percent ready, but then suddenly this pain in the ass that is called ‘Tati’ declared that everything discussed so far was bullshit. She claimed that actually there was nothing to discuss and that they were wasting their time. Tony nearly broke down crying. (Okay, he actually did.)

So, what did Tati then do? She scribbled a short poem and ran away. When Tony finished blubbering and dried his manly tears, he read the poem…

…then cried some more. Such beautiful sentiments! Tati did have a warm, beating heart full of emotions after all! Aw! Tony decided to run this on the blog anyway. (And began to plot his revenge for the next But is it Poetry?’ discussion.)

 

ВензельMedusa (asps lick her tears away)

a comb has lost its cuspids
a myth has lost its essence
a maiden is stuck between
youth and senescence
Вензель_нижний

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

THE ABCs OF A PECULIAR LIFE // D is for Dugongs & Decidophobia

Little Dugong was very talented. He actually was, and not only because his Mommy Dugong thought so. (Every mom thinks their baby is the best. I once even heard a holbrookia boasting that her daughter had an exquisite ear for music, but I preferred to break no squares with another quixotic mommy.) Anyway, let’s return to our muttons… or, rather, dugongs.

Yes, Little Dugong was very talented. He painted with watercolors in the Biedermeier style. He painted an ocean, ships, topless sea-maids and sunken treasures. His forelimb was free and easy, his eye was sharp, and his imagination went above and beyond. Little Dugong would have a great future as an artist.

This year Mommy Dugong decided to prepare something really special for Little Dugong’s birthday. She woke up very early, quickly supped up morning kissel, put on her best tilt-bonnet, gave a peck on Little Dugong’s nose, and went to the city. In a few hours she was back with a big package; it was gift wrapped with starfish and chamomiles. Little Dugong was bursting with curiosity as to what this could be, but he knew he would have to wait until the festive dinner.

Finally, that long-awaited moment was upon him. Little Dugong impatiently droned, “Many happy returns!” then snuffed out the candles and with bated breath unfolded his precious gift. Holy mackerel! It was a drawing book!

It was covered with smooth emerald-green leather and had acid-free cold-pressed pages with a pleasant ivory hue. There was even a wide elastic band to keep the book securely closed to the nosy beaks of curious gulls and the beady eyes of elephant fish! It was the best drawing book in the whole world!

Happy Little Dugong fussed over the drawing book for the entire evening. He was opening and closing it, caressing its flawless sheets, sniffing its sweet-smelling leather. He even licked it once or twice while Mommy Dugong was busy with the dirty dishes. When Little Dugong got between the blankets later that night, the drawing book rested cozily beneath his pillow.

As soon as the next day broke, Little Dugong hurried to the shoals, climbed onto a big stone, and opened his treasure. He imagined all the beautiful things that he would paint, and this sent his heart fluttering with delight and joy. Little Dugong decided to start with a charming mermaid that he had met a day or two ago near some random rock.

However, once he raised his limb to a pristine sheet, a wormling of doubt started to gnaw inside his mind. After all, the mermaid wasn’t so youthful; her breasts were a bit faded and the pearls in her hair were kind of wishy washy. No! She wasn’t worthy to be in these pages! Little Dugong decided to paint something else.

An ocean! He would paint the illimitable ocean. It was deep, green, and full of mysteries and lost ships. Then Little Dugong dropped his eyes and saw a white plastic bag swaying on the waves. Yuck! No, he couldn’t spoil his flawless drawing book with such an imperfect thing as an ocean! He simply had to pick something else, something ultimate and picture-perfect.

The time ticked by… Little Dugong was still sitting on his stone with his untouched drawing book. He didn’t hear his Mommy Dugong calling him for midday meal, he ignored his friends who ran off to play hurlbat, and even disregarded a youthful sea cow who gave him a playful wink. Of course, he hadn’t even noticed a sea gull who sat not too far away and was looking at Little Dugong with malevolent curiosity.

The sea gull got off the ground and made a slow circle. Then another one… and another one… then it hovered right above Little Dugong… and shat all over the drawing book with much relish.

What happened next? Of course, Little Dugong howled like a jackal and ran to his Mommy Dugong. He was just a child after all (though he weighed more than a metric centner). The spoiled drawing book stayed on the stone and its smooth emerald-green leather gently shimmered in the late afternoon sunlight.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

BUT IS IT ART? // Medicate (Be Happy or Else)

 

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TATI: Tony, Tony… they say that female’s logic cannot be explained. But now can you explain to me your bloody male logic?

TONY: Okay, what have I done wrong this time?

TATI: Mascara Baby. Some pink-yellow mess with a vague hint of a vagina. NSFW. Chelonian Devil. A cute blood-stained tortoise with pretty questionable aggression. NSFW.

TONY: Aw, come on now! They’re nice, wholesome images, don’t you think?

TATI: Medicate (be Happy or Else). A frank picture of a woman’s genitals which do what they are supposed to do. And… antidepressants, art, depression, disappointment, failed expectations, hard choices, lemons, low self esteem, medicating, sexuality, shame… blah-blah-blah. Everything except your beloved ‘NSFW’. What happened? Did you think this bare ass IS really safe for work?

TONY: Well, I suppose it’s a little bit confronting…

TATI: Do ya?

TONY: Okay, it is, but I had a point to make. And I think I made it quite well!

TATI: Yes, Tony. You made a pretty bum point.

TONY: Wow. You should be a stand-up comedian. I’m laughing so goddam hard right now. Someone get me a roll of gaffer tape. I need to stop my sides from splitting.

TATI: Oh… that’s the most strange compliment that I’ve ever gotten. But I love it.

TONY:  It’s not a compliment.

TATI: I wonder if a girl is told she could be a stand-up comedian, can it be considered a compliment?

TONY: I was being sarcastic.

TATI: Okay. So, you pictured the birth process of the most perfect, happiest being? A lemon?

TONY: No, it’s my take on the whole “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” thing. It’s an expression that I don’t think much of.

TATI: And now you sound like a christian anarchist, Tony.

TONY: Christian anarchist?

TATI: “All good men are Anarchists.” Do you agree, Tony? Can you call yourself an anarchist?

TONY: Hm. I think I’m much too conservative to be an anarchist. And what do you mean by christian? I’ve not been one of those for quite some time.

TATI: Tony, when you quote someone, you should be aware of whom you quoted at least. One beautiful day you may find yourself quoting Hitler or SpongeBob SquarePants. Quoting is a tricky thing, you know.

TONY: Oh! Is it L. Ron Hubbard? He was the one who wrote about life, lemons, and fizzy drinks, yes?

TATI: It’s Elbert Hubbard!

TONY: Well, one of them isn’t a scientologist. I know that much.

TATI: Let’s get back to bare asses.

TONY: I didn’t draw a bear’s arse.

TATI: Tony, you’re not only deaf. You’re blind. I wrote bare. Not bear.

TONY: Are you sure you didn’t mean bair?

TATI: No, and I didn’t mean briar either!

TONY: Ouch.

TATI: Yes. Especially for bare asses.

TONY: Okay. Fine. Seeing as you’re so fixated on arses, what do you want to know?

TATI: Well, why didn’t you draw a picture of a funnel?

TONY: A funnel? How would that have gotten my point across?

TATI: I think this fair lady dispenses her fine urine a bit carelessly. A funnel would be more effective.

TONY: Less messy, you mean?

TATI: Yes. Have you tried to piss into a glass, Tony?

TONY: No. Have you?

TATI: Only when I underwent medical tests. I had to prove that I wasn’t drunk or stoned.

TONY: Oh, so this was in doubt at some point in your life?

TATI: Tony, don’t try to one up me. We’re discussing your freaking art, not the details of my private life!

TONY: So, your objection to this piece of art is not the subject matter or its themes, but to the fact that her urine isn’t being collected using the most optimal means available?

TATI: Tony, please, can you sum up the ultimate goal of this picture? What did you want to declare with this?

TONY: I think it’s the depression sufferer’s way of saying, “You want me to put on a false smile and make lemonade? Here’s your goddam lemonade!” It’s a reflection on how exasperating society’s unhelpful just-get-over-it response to mental health issues can be.

TATI: Oh. Fuck me twice on a Sunday. I give up! Yes, Tony, it IS art. Amen.

TONY: Oh my. Does this mean I win our little word joust this time? I can’t believe it. Fuck me twice on Sunday too!

TATI: Shut up. I’m googling ‘exasperating’ now…

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017