My Top 5 on Patreon: Atheism, Art, and Education

There are a lot of great creative projects on Patreon worth supporting, but since I’ve just joined (support me here), I thought I’d highlight the ones that I’ve supported because of their awesomeness.

1. Crash Course — Education

841c3008787cb51670f5daa13546caeeCrash Course is one of my favorite things in the universe. Before they were on Patreon, I supported them on Subbable, and before they were on Subbable I supported them by watching everything they produced on YouTube and evangelizing to my friends.  It is run by John and Hank Green, the Vlogbrothers, and my personal heroes.  I highly, highly recommend their history courses.

We create free, high-quality educational videos used by teachers and learners of all kinds. That’s all we want to do. After 200,000,000 views, it turns out people like this. And our videos aren’t just for schools; the majority of our viewers, around 60% – 70%, watch Crash Course without being currently enrolled in an associated class.

So far, we’ve taught Chemistry, World History, Biology, Ecology, US History, Psychology, Big History, Literature, and we’re in the middle of Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, US Government, and World History (again.)


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Prettying up the place

As you may have noticed, I’ve got a fancy new banner.  Several of them, in fact, thanks to the work of Alex Gabriel.

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He also made me some business card style square designs.

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I know y’all are just impressed as all get out.  I am pleased, it’s much better than my previous logo.  I am especially pleased because it’s all based on my art — it’s a really lovely marriage of my maths brain and my arts brain.  I think he will give a better break down of the design process but these are the paintings I sent him from which he designed these.


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There’s also a shiny new headshot with my old bio that I may get around to updating.  I’ve also got a fancy new donate button, because it was requested of me by a reader, Deepak Shetty, who was kind enough to actually give before I figured out how to set it up.  I’ve also got an Amazon carousel thing because I signed up for this Amazon thing and they yelled at me that they were shutting me down if no one bought anything from my linking to them, which is fair, as I’ve never linked through them.

In all cases, don’t feel obligated to donate or buy anything, I just put the donate button up because I was asked to, and I am deeply flattered, and the Amazon thing is really an experiment.  You can’t see it if you’ve got AdBlock anyway.  It’s mostly there to show you what ukulele I bought, what gender text book I’m in, and that I eat too many Rowntree’s.  Did my taxes today… my average monthly payment from FtB in 2014 was, you know, $14.13, so, you know.

Anyway, as you may or may not know, I was diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency last week.  I’ve been sick since last July, and it didn’t occur to anyone to test for that because, as the Slymepit noted, I’m extremely pale and it takes very little sunlight for someone of my skin tone to make adequate Vitamin D. On top of that, I live in South Carolina, not the Arctic Circle, so someone like me developing a Vitamin D deficiency is approximately like someone on an orange farm developing scurvy, it just didn’t occur to anyone.  My deficiency is likely due to the fact that I work from home, am also writing a dissertation (theoretically), am allergic to most of the things that grow outside, and avoid sunlight because I burn so easily.  Then it became a bit of a runaway problem because Vitamin D deficiency makes you more susceptible to catching viruses, which meant that despite my pneumococcal and flu vaccines and being well out of age range, I got pneumonia in the summer, then the flu, and then, for Christmas, mono, all of which lasted a very long time and kept me indoors even more than normal.

I have only lately been gaining my energy back from the mono and am now being treated for the deficiency so I have some hope that the massive cloud of fatigue and never ending stream of illnesses I’ve been battling since last summer might finally lift in the next month or two, which is apparently how long it takes for supplements to kick in.

5 beautiful things from today

mehI’m trying to force myself to be more engaged with the world, which can be difficult to do when you’ve got the imaginary pressure of “must write something brilliant” when really you just aren’t feeling brilliant at all.  Instead, see all of these other brilliant things.

1. Modern Art in Cake

Caitlin Freeman makes awesome cakes inspired by modern art.

 

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2. Lenticular Rabbits

Street art by Roa, making use of the nature of the available canvas.

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3. 21 tips for depressos

17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only.  Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.

I take this advice very seriously in my life.

4. 2D/3D Goldfish paintings

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5. The Astronomical Kid raps

Music video for Astro aka The Astronomical Kid performing “He Fell Off”, the first video off of his mixtape “Deadbeats and Lazy Lyrics”. © 2013 Grade A Tribe (h/t Emmett)
https://twitter.com/astronomicalKid

John Paul Miller: ATTN: Pharynguloids

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art over the weekend — it was really fantastic, I highly recommend it.  There were a lot of cool things on display, but one thing really caught my eye and made me think of PZ Myers.  There was a special display about a jewelry artist named John Paul Miller (no relation).  I had originally just skipped it because I don’t have any particular interest in jewelry, but my mother went to look and it was actually pretty cool.  There were lots of Cephalopods!

I’ve always cultivated a special love for tentacled beings since seeing The Little Mermaid, and as a regular Pharyngula reader I was super excited to see little jewelry cephalopods because I figured PZ would also think they were pretty cool.

John Paul Miller basically rediscovered a technology of jewelry making that was invented by the Etruscans and had been lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.  He was basically a nerdy historian and an artist:

He began a search for information about this ancient art and found that granulation reached its apex in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. Over the intervening years, however, the technique was virtually lost.

Miller found little else written about granulation. When he asked goldsmiths about it, only one or two even knew the rudiments.

He researched archeological journals and finally discovered one devoted to granulation. The author speculated that certain alloys could form a eutectic bond (at the lowest possible temperature of solidification) when heated in a reducing atmosphere. This would permit the precision fusion of tiny spheres of metal on to a surface just like Miller had seen. Ordinarily, when solder is used, it tends to fill in corners and blend the shapes. However, in the fusion process, the granules are attached at only very small contact points, giving them the effect of floating above the surface like balloons on a quiet lake.

But enough of all that, pictures:

 

Those are mine.  These are other ones from around the web:

 

He did things that were less tentacled as well

 

Video Games as Art

Poor Roger Ebert has created some sort of Internet Firestorm by claiming that Video Games aren’t art.  Everyone is pissed off at him, which is really quite silly.  But it’s interesting.  PZ Myers posted in agreement with Ebert, and now there’s extreme craziness over there as well.  Seriously, 3000 Comments at Ebert’s page and over 500 at Pharyngula.

It all seems a bit ridiculous to me because obviously art is a subjective experience.  One man’s art is another man’s urinal.  This hits home with me because I think comedy is an art form but it generally isn’t treated as one.  If it makes you cry, it’s art, if it makes you laugh, it’s just entertainment.  Video games straddle this line between entertainment and art, much like film does, and it’s why people act as though some films are art and some aren’t.  Rather than accepting that some films are just really shitty art made by committee.  As though calling something “art” automatically makes it good, worthwhile or insightful.  Have you ever been to DeviantArt?

Someone mentioned this in the comments over on Ebert’s page, but it seems like it’s the difference between a chess board and playing chess.  A chess board can be a work of art, but a game of chess is a game.  The act of playing a video game isn’t artistic, but the game itself is some combination of puzzle and art.  Although, playing a game for other people might be considered some kind of performance art…

I think the lines are a bit blurred, because storytelling is generally considered art, though it is also entertainment.  Video Games, particularly RPGs, follow specific story lines and develop characters, you can genuinely become emotionally involved with them.  This is why the people defending the video games are so defensive, to them the games have real emotional depth and feeling and Ebert and PZ are saying that that isn’t a valid reaction.

I don’t think it makes you old-fashioned not to think of video games as art anymore than it makes someone old-fashioned to think TV or bad films aren’t art.  It’s a very difficult line to draw between entertainment and art.  Is Blazing Saddles art?  Is Die Hard?  Is Eddie Izzard?

It’s a subjective question.  Some people might say that Uwe Boll is art, and I’m not sure I could disagree with them.  Now, if they claimed it was worthwhile, I’d have to laugh derisively in their face.  Personally, I think the in-depth narratives, stunning graphics, and emotional investment that a lot of video games provide do make them art.  I’d argue for Kingdom Hearts, Prince of Persia, Ocarina of Time or even Katamari Damacy — they present unique visions of the world and stories that have stuck in my mind as much as any film.

But, I think the entire discussion is best encapsulated by a comment by Brownian over at Pharyngula:

Oh, goody.

You know what this society sorely lacks? More pretentious conversations asking What Is Art? (and then answering with something along the lines of “Whatever it is, kids today aren’t doing it.”)

I look forward to Ebert’s next essay: “Why Lawns Are Important And Why The Kids Should Get The Fuck Off Mine.”

If you want to see something really boring, watch someone else playing a video game.

Complete bullshit. Boring for you maybe, but I spent a great part of my childhood and teenage years watching other people play video games, and found it to be as full of opportunities for socialisation and entertainment as many other activities.

How I feel today

Reminds me of the first time I saw Star Wars, which was when it was re-released in theaters.  I went home and cried afterwards because I was overwhelmed with how awesome it was as a film and how tragic and awful it would be to be any of the characters.  It was that movie, and my emotional response to it that first really got me interested in film.

I don’t know that many people have found A New Hope to be a heartwrenching experience, but I really did.  I guess a lot of things are profound when you’re 13, but as much as I’ve managed to block from my teenage years, that inconsolable sadness is something I think I’ll never shake.

Maleficent

It seems that Tim has a hankering for SLEEPING BEAUTY… but not really… You see, he’s going to tell the story from Maleficent’s point of view. In fact, it’ll be called MALEFICENT.  She was always the most interesting character in that story, but we never knew why she hated those three little fairy wenches… or what indignity she suffered at the hands of Aurora’s parents. Yeah, I’m on board… if only it ends with Maleficent with a sword in her heart in dragon form. Cuz that’ll rule. Think about how long this plotline was carried out over. She has quite a tale to tell. – Ain’t it cool

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s POV as told by Tim Burton.  I would just like to say “DISNEY!!  I have already written this and it is amaaaaaaazing!!!!”  I even have pictures!!!!!!!!!!  //end freak out (but not really)

I would show you pictures but apparently all my shit from Geocities got erased without anyone telling me that that was going to happen.  I think I have a back up somewhere, but DeviantArt isn’t working, so all I can show you is a tiny thumbnail.  ARGH, now I’m angry.

Maleficent

<3

Photoshop Liquify Tool: Makes everything better

Seriously.  I could stare at this for hours.  I mean, I have to actually use the knowledge to fix my painting, but you know, it’s kind of cool that I can just fix it on the computer instead.  And make an awesome annoying animated gif, 1998 style.

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Because When People Steal it Pisses Me Off

I’m re-posting this here because I think it deserves a wide circulation.  I’m really anti-stealing, but to steal a piece of art that someone has spent hours and hours creating is maybe the worst thing you can do.

Artist brute_force; had the following steampunk monocle stolen from him at Dragon*Con. It’s a one of a kind piece, so if you see it, that’s the one. There’s not another one like it.

He is offering a $200 reward for its safe return, no questions asked. He’s offering a $500 reward if it leads to the arrest of the person who stole it.

And, the kicker: if you get the thief arrested, he will make you one of these pieces. Value: a cool $1500.

Please crosspost and repost this, especially if you know lots of SCA, renfaire, gamer, anime, goth, costuming, and steampunk fans. Someone suggested covering furry and filk, too. Not a bad idea. Art theft like this really, really pisses me off. If the bastard won’t send it back, he should at least be afraid to wear it in public.