The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Where I Get My Ideas From’

Away, Away, Away

Posted by Matt on September 5, 2011


(Fuck you, I don’t have a camera and my parents have a less-than-fancy one)

This was taken during my trip to Toronto, which I blathered on about rather boringly here. I have since grown very interested in the whole Toronto Island set-up. Something about a smaller community surrounded by water and just a skip from a modern metropolis, being able to see it right across the pond, has caught my imagination. Read the same shit I did about it here!

Places inspire me more than anything else. I look at a building, a park, a shopping mall, a street, an old hockey arena, and I start thinking about what could happen there, and how it could be used as a setting. If there was a martian battle there, what would it be like? I think locations have provided me with a basis for my most solid story concepts, because it anchors them to something real. It great being able to do whatever I feel like, but it often feels that with no foundation, nothing I can look at and feel like there’s a physical thing to base them off of, they can become a vaporous entity. Something that just drifts away, pointless and meaningless. I can think of a million silly things, but I just can’t seem to care about them without that connection to earth.

It often seems that this ideology I’ve developed has driven me to base most of my ideas on one or more of three things: character/personality, nature, and of course, places. All real things, things I can experience (in various ways and in varying doses). But location holds a special place for me, especially in the last few years, as it is something I’ve had the most experience dealing with. I don’t meet as many real characters I can turn into fake ones as I do step into buildings I can set a story in.

It’s one of reasons I enjoy just going somewhere else, not even having a real purpose for the journey (although when I do, there’s usually another story in that). While a lot of people I know have become jaded when it comes to vacationing, only feeling the need to go to places that live up to their high standards. Not me; anywhere I go, I can generally find something worth thinking about. Even in the dingy little villages that dot the provinces, only half-integrated with the modern world, usually home to an auto shop, a family restaurant, and a droning sense of monotony. There’s stories to be told about them, too.

At the same time, it also makes me appreciate where I come from, even when I want to escape. Familiarity breeds contempt, but familiarity also gives me the opportunity to employ nuance I just can’t with the big cities that leave me awe-struck, as an easily-impressed city slicker from the middle of the flatlands. I always pretend I want to escape, but what would I do without the schoolyards I know like the back of my hand, the hotel lobbies I once traversed and still associate with New Years Eve and lungs full of chlorine, or the city’s centerpiece, the hockey area where I once had to find my own fun while my siblings actually competed in sports. I’m quite curious to observe my own reaction if and when I finally leave this town for greener pastures.

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Posted by Matt on April 4, 2010

Not seeing Clash of the Titans in theaters due to disappointing reviews and tacked-on 3D. Oh well, maybe I’ll wait and see Iron Man 2 as the first movie I see this year.

However, Clash’ release this weekend has put me in Greek mythology and monster mood. So I will now talk about one my favourite parts of the whole crazy enterprise that is Hellenistic myth: the monsters, and the crazy little things about them.

The people who say that superhero comics and classic Greek stories are pretty identical are right. But you already knew that, I’m sure. But even when you get right down to minutia like continuity they are the same, with a general timeline existing, some consistent character traits, and a whole lot of stuff that changes from author to author, even when they create inconsistencies. If we’re comparing them to modern superhero comics, there’s also a lot of moping and rape, although in the case of the myths, they didn’t need Watchmen to decide that was the proper thing to do.

Then there are the monsters. We all know the monsters. Monster Manuals and Final Fantasys the world over would have some gaping holes in them without all those Greek monsters. Some of them go on to become cultural icons, who doesn’t know what a gorgon or a cyclops is these days?, and some of them are left in obscurity, like Python and the fox that can’t be caught and was ultimately destroyed when a guy sent a dog that always catches its game, and Zeus just can’t take the paradox.

One detail about many of the most famous Greek monsters that I’ve always liked is the fact that they were related. And that includes some of the big ones, too, like the Hydra, and Cerberus, and the Sphinx. Yes, despite not looking the least bit similar, they all have the same ma & pa. The father, Typhon, was a giant horrible fire-breathing demon who tried to destroy Zeus because he locked away all his giant horrible siblings. Zeus then threw a volcano on him. This is a long line of awesome, as you can see.

For reference, here’s the family roll call:

-Nemean Lion (One of the Hercules’ twelve tasks involved killing this thing, despite it being nearly invulnerable)

-Ladon, the dragon guarding the golden apples. Hercules had to kill this thing too. See the pattern yet?

-Cerberus, the guardian of entrance to the Underworld and one of the few survivors of the the Herculean labours, only being inconvenienced. This is possibly because he was the only real non-jerk among the monsters.

-Orthus, a two-headed dog that was also a victim of Hercules’ anti-monster killing spree. In true Greek fashion, some sources claim he is in fact the real father of some of the other monsters.

-Lernaean Hydra, who famously had infinitely regenerating heads and poisonous breath. She (yes, she) also had a crab sidekick, sent by Hera to annoy Hercules while he killed the Hydra.

-Theban Sphinx, who guarded the entrance to the city of Thebes by asking riddles. When our future no-eyed hero Oedipus figures out her riddle, she jumped off a cliff, despite having wings. Well, at least she wasn’t killed by Hercules.

-The Lycian Chimaera, who was the youngest and maybe the scariest. She was killed by Bellophron and Pegasus.

Giving all the major antagonistic monsters a single origin certainly makes sense. If there’s one thing older human thinking promotes, its things have a very simple, understandable beginning, even if the rest of it doesn’t make any sense (see also: every other religion ever). The fact that the monster family is completely random doesn’t mean a thing as long as where the monsters came from isn’t.

It’s pretty easy to understand why I like this detail. One, it involves monsters. Two, there’s just something cool and cute about a family of monsters. Three, there’s a interesting dynamic created when most of the monsters are sent out to fuck people up by the same group of Gods who thought it proper to bury their dad under a volcano. Also, the children of the God who buried dear old dad under a volcano have a tendency to kill them. I think I could do something with this.

This has been my profoundly silly post of the month.

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The Return of Animals!

Posted by Matt on March 14, 2010

This list of weird animals, while containing many old favourites, also has many new entries into the strange and amazing creature pantheon. Aren’t Seapigs, Glass Frogs, Geoducks, and Eagle Owls so delightful? And let’s not forget our old friends, the horrible cancer worm colonies!

But it also reminds me of one thing: MOTHERFUCKING PANGOLINS.

FUCK YEAH PANGOLIN

Who does not like this thing? Tell me who you are so I can kill you.

Armadillos have always been my second favourite animal (after the otter), because they are pretty cute and they also have armor and curl into a ball. Pangolins are like armadillos with pine cone armor, and they can climb trees, giving them another advantage. Yes, pangolins are pretty great, for all those reasons and probably more.

On that not, when you think about it, the concept of having a ‘favourite’ animal is odd. I mean, I have generally approached it in the same way I approach favourite designs in fiction…but I’m applying it to real, living things. That’s a tad fucked up.

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Posted by Matt on February 25, 2010

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but Tim Burton’s Alice in Tim Burton Land looks really annoying. Like, I can’t even stand looking at any of the marketing because it looks so awfully Tim Burton that it just bugs the hell out of me.

Remember when a Tim Burton movie was something quirky and different? That was back when it was (a) new, and (b) usually attached to something other than ‘TIM BURTON MAKES A TIM BURTON MOVIE’. Did one of his movies bomb so bad he went into shellshock or something? Is he afraid of branching out? Or does he just love money?

It really doesn’t matter what the answer is. We’ve lost another talent to the abyss, and that’s what hurts the most.

********************

Speaking of similar things, my latest big Internet ‘research’ voyage was into the realm of Frank Baum’s Oz series. They seem like my kind of thing, filled with high-concepts that put my own attempts to shame. The Wizard of Oz is only the beginning: read up on this stuff yourself and have your mind BLOWN.

Also, look at this.

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Posted by Matt on February 9, 2010

Via this via this.

This.

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Posted by Matt on January 7, 2010

School is underway, but for now nothing is particularly intense. So, I think it’s time to have some fun again.

After discovering this video, I became enamored with some of the characters of the Kinnikuman franchise (which I was aware of, but not particularly knowledgeable about). I mean, this is a franchise that has weird, cartoony characters as wrestlers, with delightfully simple concepts. In particular, the villains are hilariously insane.

Yes, these are the are the terrifying forces of darkness that plagued the superheroes of the Kinnikuman universe, often proving more than a match for any of them, with the standard last minute trickery or surge of power used to finally stop them. But as silly as they appear, you have to remember that the character design in the series seems to consist of taking any household object and turning it into a wrestler (which, really, when you’re writing something as goofy as this, seems to be an entirely practical way to approach this), so it could be entirely feasible that out of the object-people, these ones ended up being super-powered by Satan (that’s the actual backstory for them, by the way).

Let’s take a closer look at some of my favorites:

Maybe one of the lesser designs in terms of overall silliness, Sneagator still stands out for the bizarre combination of things he is. Not simply an alligator who wears sneakers, which is pretty neat, he is in fact an alligator wearing sneakers who is also a giant sneaker (thus, the laces). Aside from being an alligator and thus having all that entails, he also has the power to transform into anything that matches his leathery hide, primarily a giant dinosaur claw. There’s far more going on with this character than meets the eye!

Planetman is a man…made from planets. It’s sublime, don’t you think? He doesn’t have much in the way of extra fun details, except that he wears a mask, and that his head is really the mysterious planet Vulcan. He doesn’t really need that many extra things, though, because he is just a simple, fun concept. I mean, fuck, he’s made of planets!

This, my friends, is SteCasseKing, the warrior walkman. Like Planetman, his concept and design are just simple and fun, although SteCasseKing also has a classical toy robot aesthetic that gets him bonus points as well. For fighting techniques, his gimmick was that he had tapes that he could insert into himself to give him the signature moves of other wrestlers, being the requisite copycat. Using his headphone feet, he can also jump on opponents’ heads and pump loud music into their heads, making him even more deadly.

You don’t get much simpler than Springman, folks. He is a spring, and that’s that. But like Planetman and SteCasseKing, the simplicity works for him. The fact that he is also deadly, as can be seen in the picture, works for him to. Name me one other piece of fiction where a spring with arms and legs was a major antagonist? I don’t think you can. Probably for a reason, but Kinnikuman gets away with it.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find a picture of The Mountain or Junkman on a quick GIS, and I am not putting any more effort into this than I have to. But they are notable, so I’m going to talk about them anyway. So the next part will be sans images, but I’ll point out who they are in the group shot (if you can’t figure that out yourself).

The Mountain doesn’t even need ‘-man’ as a suffix, that’s how awesome he is. He is a literally a mountain, and is wearing a karate gi. Again, it’s such a simple idea, but it works incredibly well. Even compared to some of the other brilliant designs, he just might be my favorite, because he is A MOUNTAIN IN A KARATE GI WHO IS A WRESTLER. A wrestling mountain is something me and my ilk are not ingenious enough to design (the fact that many of these characters were often designed by children and sent to the comic’s author just shames us further.)

Junkman is simple, but simple than a different way than someone like Springman or The Mountain. His gimmick is that he has spiked blocks for hands, which defines his fighting style very clearly (hint: it involves the spiked blocks he has for hands). But you’re making up enemies for your character, that’s a reasonable goal for a design: Junkman looks deadly enough for the single battle he likely appeared in. His special power (aside from the obvious), apparently, is that he has a face on the back of his head. Details like that add to the overall quality.

There are other villainous characters worth note. I do like Sunshine (the big blocky guy, who is made of gold and is therefor malleable and can transform into landmarks to stomp on opponents; I like the Moai Head quality he has, too) and Ashuraman (the blue guy). But these ones stray a little bit further from the point I was trying to make with my favorites, in that I have a childish inclination towards the simple and silly. I spent most of my childhood, and now most of my adulthood, making up silly characters, and these are the kinds of examples of that type of idea that I look towards.

I’ve wasted plenty of time in a thorough manner, I would say.

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Posted by Matt on November 30, 2009

It’s a busy time for busy people like me.

Dumb idiocy: I have recently learned that Cicero’s name should be pronounced ‘Kickero’. I love that pronunciation so much that I have stolen it and will use it elsewhere.
THIS IS HOW MY PROCESS WORKS.

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A Delirious Post

Posted by Matt on October 28, 2009

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here or not (too lazy to look it up), but I have a strange fascination with malls. Especially really large ones, like the West Edmonton Mall. I mean, I guess I find the sense of a capitalistic community, an indoors city of sorts, to be rather fascinating. And WEM exemplifies that. It has themed quarters, a water park, an amusement park, sea lions & other animals that don’t belong in fucking Alberta, a pirate ship…lots and lots of things. Apparently, it’s next expansion will add apartments. APARTMENTS. It’s like my story idea of the mall eventually becoming a self-sustaining community is coming true!

But I digress. The reason why I’m posting this now is because of the upcoming new entrant in the giant mall mythology, brought to you by one of the mad geniuses behind the WEM: Meadowlands Xanadu in scenic New Jersey. It might not have a pirate ship, but it has lots of other shit. And nothing says ‘gargantuan eyesore’ like a 200-foot-tall Pepsi logo.

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