The Good Stuff: Cool Dragon Art From Smaugust 2021

Like Inktober in October, Smaugust is a month-long community event in August for artists where everyone creates art on the same theme. That theme, if you couldn’t tell from the name Smaug, is dragons, so obviously I love it. I have the tag saved on Instagram and scrolled through often to see all the hella cool art made by some wildly talented artists.

Since Smaugust is over now, I thought I’d share some of my favourites that I found throughout the month. Everyone’s Instagram handles are linked below the slideshow, so if you want to see more of their art, click away!

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Follow these artists here:

 

I am in awe of the talent these people have! Such good work! And I hope you enjoyed looking at this sample of art as much as I did!

That’s all for now!

 

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A Rant About Redbubble And Similar Sites’ Inconsistency

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good ranty post, I think. Buckle up.

Are you ready gif.

For those who may not know, Redbubble is a website where people upload art and others can buy that art on products like shirts, bags, pillows, laptop cases, a so much more. This service is called Print On Demand because the items are only made and shipped by Redbubble when they’re ordered, so it’s not up to the artist to manage stock. Society6 and TeePublic are similar sites, as is TeeSpring, but TeeSpring doesn’t have a public-facing marketplace anymore like the others do.

The sites take a huge cut, but there are a lot of artists who still make good money selling their designs. Especially because these sites are popular for fanart. If you like Lord Of The Rings, for example, you can easily search for that and find hundreds of designs. And this is where I come in. I’ve mentioned it a few times on my blog before, but last June, a friend and I started running a virtual quidditch game of sorts for friends. It’s been so fun and our friends love it. Recently, someone suggested we make merch. My very talented friend made amazing team logos just for fun and did a bunch of art for game assets, and people have been playing as these teams for over a year now. So we looked into it, uploaded all the images, and now we have merch! I’m wearing a sweater right now and I adore it.

This is all context though. Here’s the real problem and the reason for this post: our merch is on three different sites because things kept getting taken down from them. Because the team logos and assets are related to Harry Potter and quidditch, they’re getting flagged right away. And that’s understandable. I do understand the basics of copyright laws. But I also understand the rules of parody! All our logos and names are jokes. They’re mostly dumb puns that serve as a mildly threatening team name (Ravenclobber, Dumblescore, Knight Busters, Ministry Of Savage…). The art is all original, and nothing is trying to seem like real Harry Potter merch. On the basis of parody, almost all of it should all be fine.

Some of our team logos.

But what angers me even more is that our stuff is getting taken down, but if you search ‘Harry Potter’ on these sites, you’ll find hundreds of designs that are blatantly there. Direct quotes, pictures of characters, and clear imagery that is in no way a parody the way our stuff very much is. How is that allowed up still? If all Harry Potter art was being taken down, then fine, we’d accept the ruling. But it seems to be a genuine coin toss as to if you slip it through or not. And submitting an appeal isn’t helping either, because we tried, and basically got “sucks to suck” in reply.

We made the merch for fun, so our takedowns aren’t the end of the world, but I feel bad for the people who are trying to make a living off of their art. Knowing that you may get the short end of the stick for no good reason sucks and is so angering when you can’t do anything about it. I saw one girl on YouTube say her popular art got taken down eight months after she uploaded it and sold stuff, and it wasn’t even Harry Potter merch, so this is happening in probably all fandoms. Redbubble has a partner program where they allow certain fanart, but it’s limited. Harry Potter is not on the list, but as I said, there is no shortage of very clearly Harry Potter art on their site. It’s frustrating.

Frustrated Reaction GIFs.
Me every time we got another takedown

To Redbubble and other print on demand sites, you suck and need to do better to ensure that all artists are treated fairly. Get better bots or hire people to manually do it, because it’s honestly annoying to know that honest people are at the whim of such loose and inconsistent rules.

And to everyone else reading this, if you’re looking for some fun Harry Potter adjacent parody merch, check out what we’ve got on TeeSpring, Redbubble, and TeePublic. No pressure, but I love all the art my friend made, and you may too.

Rant over. That’s all for now.

 

 

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Different Storytelling In Music

I recently spent five straight hours listening to ‘Downeaster Alexa’ by Billy Joel on repeat. I just really got into the song and found it so interesting and so catchy. It’s a bop and a half.

And it got me thinking about storytelling in music. Obviously, I expect storytelling in showtunes as there’s a plot and all that, but I think it’s kind of interesting when a regular singer just tells a story in their music that’s not about them and not relatable, and they do it just because it’s fun and different. Love songs are cool and it’s nice that there are songs about mental health and all that now, but sometimes, I just want to hear a banging song about something random. Like the life of a fisher on a downeaster. I learned more from that three minute song than I ever knew about the topic.

I'm Learning GIF.

Similarly, I think the best songs on Taylor Swift’s two most recent albums Folklore and Evermore are ‘Betty, ‘Last Great American Dynasty’, and ‘No Body No Crime’. What do these songs all have in common? They’re not about Taylor; they’re just little stories involving characters (though Rebekah was a real person). As a listener, I don’t have to relate or find meaning, I just get to enjoy the story set to good music.

Good Stuff GIFs | Tenor

Of course, Taylor Swift and Billy Joel aren’t the only ones to do this, but I do wish there was more of it in music. I think it’s really a mark of good songwriting if you can have a song that’s not just about your feelings. In both ‘Downeaster Alexa’ and ‘Betty’, the singers are inserted into the song by playing a character, and I think that was very interesting. Like I genuinely went and looked up if Billy Joel was a fisherman before getting into music. (He was not).

Music is supposed to transport us, and I’d like to be transported to a story more often than I am.  ‘Copacabana’ by Barry Manilow, ‘Livin On A Prayer’ by Bon Jovi, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’ by Billy Joel, ‘Daniel’ by Elton John, ‘I Ain’t Going Down’ by Shania Twain and ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’ by Aerosmith are a few other story-heavy songs that I enjoy and can think of off the top of my head.

Best Trump Youre Welcome GIFs | Gfycat

Anyway, that’s my random thought for the week. At the very least, I’ve linked you to some good music. But if you know of other particularly interesting story songs, let me know!

 

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Separating Art And The Artist

If you’re a consumer of any media and someone who thinks even a little bit critically, then the task of separating the art and the artist is one you’ve probably you’ve encountered at least once.

For everyone it’s a different process, and I wanted to kind of explain how I personally do it, though even I go back and forth a lot and there is no one right or wrong way.

Its Complicated gif.

I guess to start, it depends on what Bad thing the artist did. Some things are unforgivable in a way and can’t be passed off as uneducated/jokes. Some things are also more offensive to certain people, which is valid. It’s up to you to decide where the line is for you, but you also need to understand that others may have different feelings. I think in general, society is pretty good at ‘cancelling’ the predators or at least not letting them off the hook so quickly. For me, the people who caused actual harm to another person knowingly is usually something I can’t forgive. However, there is a point where if it happened like two decades ago or something, sometimes I can see the growth or sometimes I can feel less bothered because it was so long ago. I’m not saying this is right, but in the case of, like, Rob Lowe’s sex tape with a minor, I wasn’t even born then, this scandal isn’t really something big and hanging over his acting still, so I feel like I can enjoy his work for the most part. Similarly, I can usually get past a rude Twitter joke (eg. James Gunn) or a genuine misunderstanding/unknowing (eg. Lady Antebellum‘s name) or somewhat unharmful problematic things (eg. Tom Cruise being a Scientologist but overall being a fairly unproblematic celebrity).

Another thing I consider when separating art and artist is their involvement and how personal it feels, and this is something that can vary for everyone. After Chris Brown beat up Rihanna, I had and still do have issues listening to his music (not that I was ever a huge fan). It’s his voice you hear, sometimes his brain behind the lyrics or beats, and it’s too personal, whereas in the case of JK Rowling and Harry Potter, I don’t think of her or her TERF views when I read the books. For things like books or movies where I don’t literally see the director/writer/producer, usually I’m able to get lost in it all and focus on everything else so I don’t really think about the creator at all even if it is their words or ideas. I still try and not watch movies by problematic people (eg. Woody Allen), but I find it easier to separate on that basis.

I wish I could but I don't want to, gif.

Furthermore, the size of one’s involvement is also something to consider, especially when it comes to financial support. I love the movie Tower Heist but Casey Affleck is a part of the cast, and he had sexual misconduct allegations that he apparently paid off quietly. He’s not a main character in the film, nevertheless it’s certainly something that slightly soured my enjoyment for it. But I’m not going to not watch the quality movie I like because he’s in it for a bit. Everyone else on the cast is, as far as I know, fine and worthy of my respect, so while he is in theory getting a slight bit of residual money from my view, I don’t think it’s the end of the world because a lot of good people are also getting it. It’s easier to financially cut off people like YouTubers who are directly in the spotlight of their content and making the most money by not giving them views/clicks.

It’s unfortunate that we as consumers feel like constantly we’re forced to give up/dislike things that perhaps once brought us joy, but we united hold so much power, and we really can control a lot with our opinions and actions, so ‘cancelling’ problematic people and things can really send a powerful message, though I don’t necessarily agree with complete mob-mentality and hate-spreading. If you can successfully separate art from the artist while still being informed and thoughtful, then I don’t see a reason why you can’t still like things. After all, we’re all human and no piece of media is completely unproblematic, but being able to think critically is important. That being said, there are plenty of comedians and TV shows and actors and whatnot out there, so if you never want to watch a Louis CK special or hear a Lea Michele song again, then that’s fine, and I’m sure you can find similar content from better people.

You have the power.

At the end of the day, as I’ve said before when writing about similar topics, it does come down to you and your own ethics. Though you are only human too, and I do think that in general there should be more room for forgiving and a chance for growth. A friend pointed out recently how some people, often the far left, love to see a fictional character grow into a better person, but they’re often the quickest in real life to end someone’s career with cancel culture over similar things, and I do think I’m guilty of this mindset myself.

In general, I don’t think we should just ignore the artist and their issues; social media, influence, and political positioning is too powerful to just set aside so we can watch a movie. We live in a world where the artists are put on such a pedestal and we can’t let that be abused. It’d be easier, sure, but that’s just not a reality. So we must do our best to separate what we can so we can live while still having a functioning conscious. This is how I go about it, but I’d love to hear how you do it.

 

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The Good Stuff: Lousy Book Covers

We all need some good stuff right now.

I don’t remember how I came across this website, but I’ve been enjoying its content for over a year now. It’s called Lousy Book Covers and its sole purpose is to share really bad book covers. We can debate for days on end if we should judge a book by its cover, but no matter what side of that argument you fall on, you can still enjoy seeing these particularily lousy ones.

Lousy Book Covers’ format is simple. Each post is one cover, and he also provides the link to the book and a funny comment about the cover he’s featuring. Honestly, some of the covers on the site aren’t that bad in my opinion. But some are…yikes. So here are some of those yikes ones, along with the comment from LBC.

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This website has been going for almost a decade, so there’s a lot more content to go through if you want a laugh or to feel better about your art skills.

Most of these covers are from self-published books. Is it mean to make fun of these? Maybe a little. But at the end of the day, they put it out there so we could see it. And perhaps it’s even more important for self-published authors to have an attractive cover because they can’t rely on support/publicity from publishing companies or stores or anything, so we have to judge it on that alone (or the book blurb, which the site will occasionally feature as well if there’s a particularily bad one).

And look, I myself am a self-published author. I spent hours on photoshop, making my book cover look as nice as I could. I could have paid someone to do my cover nicely for me, but I chose not to. I think mine is pretty good, but perhaps others hate it, and that’s just how art is. I made my bed, and now I lie in it, just like the choices made by other small authors sometimes result in their covers ending up on a joke site…and then this blog.

objectively not good.

Anyway, I always get a kick out of seeing Lousy Book Covers’ posts on my Reader, so I wanted to share it with you because it’s always good stuff. I follow them through WordPress’ Reader, but you can also Like their page on Facebook.

That’s all for now!

 

P.S. This post is dedicated to the curling club’s unofficial book club who has allowed me to sit in on their quarantine video meetings even though I rarely read and don’t have much to say. Hi, y’all!

 

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