Stunning Martian Landscapes

As you may be able to tell by the dearth of posts here over the past little while, my attention is focused elsewhere. I will soon be able to return to spicing up your lives in a most positive manner. In the meantime, I feel the incontrovertible urge to share this link with you. It will direct you to an article on The Verge titled “Alien frontier: see the haunting, beautiful weirdness of Mars.” They have curated some NASA photographs of martian landscapes that will help fire your imaginations to new levels.

Breathtaking inspiration for any science-fiction novelist. Source: TheVerge.com / NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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Behind the Scenes: Sesame Street in the ’70s

I found a link to the following Tumblr site floating on Twitter today. It shows several candid behind the scenes shots taken from the sets of Sesame Street back in the ’70s. These are probably from some of the episodes that many of us grew up on. They bring back lots of memories, and manage to spark marvel in my heart as they hint at the work and technical expertise needed to pull off what looks like an effortless performance to entertain kids.

As a side note, I hadn’t realized that Ray Kurzweil had a part on the show. I mean, who else could that be with the bow tie and white suspenders?* He must have figured out his life-prolongation bit a while back, because he certainly hasn’t aged since this shot was taken.

Mr. Kurzweil’s homies hangin’ out on da Zezmee Street.

As you can tell from the image below, the resemblance is uncanny. You’ll probably never be able to watch Sesame Street in the same light again. Sorry for ruining your childhood for you.

Mr. Kurzweil, time traveller?

 

* Please note that any resemblance with current Google guru Ray Kurzweil is entirely theoretical and may simply be an indication that he will at some point in time perfect time travel.

Whew! I just uploaded 40 photos to deviantArt.com, and boy is my modem tired. http://maxshields.deviantart.com/

A brave new horizon

I’ve got an unfortunate habit of taking zillions of pictures. This used to cause my parents great consternation, since I got my first camera back in the day of film. With a little hindsight, I now realize that they must have made a few sacrifices to feed my habit. This may explain why I never saw an Aston Martin in the driveway, but rather why they could only afford a beat up Gremlin. Mom, Dad, so sorry. If only I knew.

On the other hand, now that digital has risen to take up an omnipresent place in our lives, knocking the likes of Kodak from their vaunted position on top of the photographic world, I tend to take more pictures than I ever have the ability to go through. I’ve cycled through the photo count on a few of my cameras now, so the file names have stared duplicating on occasion, making the tracking down of images a little more complicated than it should be. If I were properly disciplined, I should erase the bad pictures in camera and only keep the cream of the crop. However, I’ve found that a few of my bad photos serve as good backdrops for other art projects, so I guess I’m still coming up with solid rationalization for my pixel hoarding habit.

A short while after starting this blog, I opened a deviantArt account to store a few pictures that I could link into as needed. I never got around to placing more than a single picture on the site. My wife happened upon it a few days ago and poked fun at me.

Don’t let my brilliance dazzle you.

“You’re wasting space.” She sternly announced. It’s not like the few megabytes that the image takes up on the deviantArt server are taking up much physical space. She just seemed somehow put off by the vacuum I had created in cyberspace by not adding anything more to accompany such a lonely image.

In response, I decided to go through some of the thousands of pictures I’ve taken over the years, and have started the process of uploading them to the site. Thankfully, the process on the server’s side is smooth and relatively painless. Unfortunately, my ancient (well, not so much, but it’s pushing past seven years) iMac is starting to feel the burden of its increasingly-full storage. I’ve taken the precaution of backing up my most precious files on external drives, which also slows things down, since I’m now having to stomp all of that data through these tiny little cables (that’s how it works, doesn’t it?) and then usher it out of my home which is inconveniently located at the very end of a high speed network connection. If the bandwidth reaches too high, my connection is knocked out of action as the pipeline tries to gulp for air. When it’s done catching its breath a few minutes later, the process continues.

All this to say that I’m now sprawling out on the internet. I hope I don’t make it look like an overfull coffee table from which no one wants to pry away a jelly doughnut-stained photo book.

Caution! You may find weird and wonderful things at http://maxshields.deviantart.com/

Keep your eyes peeled, thar blows inspiration!

Fantasy horror toy shop.

Fantasy horror toy shop.

It’s funny how staying aware of the small things can be a boon to inspiration. Forget sweeping story arcs that need to be fed by globetrotting travels of self-discovery, forget life-changing trauma. Those can without a doubt be opportunities to find something to write about, illustrate, or simply share as an anecdote with friends, but they can be few and far between. When you’re in a bind, butting up against a particularly vicious bout of writer’s block, go for a walk. Forget the big things. Keep your eyes open for little things, things that would make a child wonder and giggle in amazement.

I took this particular picture a few years ago while strolling through an arts and crafts shop looking for some good illustration paper. There was a bin full of fantasy toys with an unusual assortment of models in promising positions. A quick shuffle of a dragon over to the princess’ corner and voilà! Ready-made damsel in distress to talk about. My inner child hooted and hollered, slapped his knee and wanted to make loud munching sounds. Since I made it out of the shop without being arrested, I assume I kept the unfolding drama securely under wraps for an external observer.

I keep the picture on my desktop for those moments where I feel like I’m running out of steam. It makes me laugh a bit, and reminds me to take things a little more lightly.