Mark Ryden – Master of Meat and Madness

The Ringmaster.

It is an undeniable fact, that human beings are drawn to the strange, the bizarre, the macabre and so forth, just look at newspapers or news websites, no one cares for good news as for the most part, it’s just plain boring.  No, people want to read about tragedies, disasters, the weird and wonderful, these are the things that hold our interest.  Mark Ryden meets the aforementioned criteria, in that his work is disturbingly bizarre and deliciously creepy.

Ryden’s fascination with the macabre has been with him since childhood, and during his youth, his teachers would be puzzled as to why his drawings of dogs would be depicted as having their intestines showing…

Pine tree nymph.

Raised in Southern California, Ryden studied illustration and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1987 and made his breakthrough debut in 1998 with The Meat Show, an extensive list of his work can be viewed here.  A modern-day surrealist savant, using oil paint to bring his creations to life, his subject matter of choice includes, monsters, religious icons, animals, medical implements, movie stars and more, but his style is perhaps best recognized for the excessive use of engorged heads, large eyes and porcelain doll-type features in his work, oh, and not forgetting the inclusion of meat…lots of it.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a distinct lack of information on Ryden as apart from his home page, and a Wikipedia entry, there isn’t a hell of a lot about him, which is weird because he has a rather extensive repertoire including album cover design for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Scarling and Jack Off Jill (sadly, defunct), as well as book covers for Stephen King’s novels –  Desperation and The Regulators and painted portraits of well-known celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Christina Ricci (Ryden’s style compliments the latter’s Gothic features wonderfully).

Mark Ryden is an avid collector of many things, and hoards items of interest which he incorporates into his work, and likes to frequent the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles for inspiration and possibly more collectibles;

I do seem to gravitate to old toys, religious items, medical items, old children’s books, and strange characters in the form of an old decrepit stuffed animal or other toy.  I like toys that are supposed to be cute but actually look a bit strange or scary, it is interesting how, from the endless sea of stuff out there, certain things jump out – cited from Bizarre Magazine, March 2006.

I can only imagine the amount of depth and hidden meanings in a picture like this, riddled with so many symbols and oddities...

Ryden does his work at night (not too hard to imagine) and on one such evening he remarks;

The distinct smell of walnuts in the air broke my concentration.  It was very quiet.  A strange breeze gently blew through my studio.  I suddenly became aware of something on my shoulder.  Surprisingly, I was not startled to find a wee Abraham Lincoln sitting right there on my shoulder.  We looked at each other for just a moment.  Then he very softly whispered in my ear, ‘Paint Meat…’  – cited from Bizarre Magazine, March 2006.

Well, seems legit, after-all, it certainly explains the weird subject matter and his affinity for bovine products and Abe Lincoln.   I shall definitely be keeping a close eye on any future releases that Ryden may have, and I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of the merchandise available, though, expectantly, a lot of it isn’t easy on the wallet with items such as The Snow Yak Show Print Portfolio fetching for $4750.00 USD, ouch.

This time-lapse video, shows Ryden at work painting Incarnation.  Its mesmerizing to watch him paint especially considering that he starts with the background, carving out a silhouette for the central figure to be painted in last, amazing.  If you like your weirdness with a slice (or two) of meat and madness, Mark Ryden is the perfect inspiration for aspiring artists fascinated by the surreal and the creepy.  Think it’s about time I dust off the old pencil myself and see what I can come up with.

2010 IN REVIEW

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 93,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 4 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 37 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 116 posts. There were 154 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 38mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 8th with 655 views. The most popular post that day was H.R. Giger.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were google.co.za, facebook.com, heyruno.wordpress.com, search.aol.com, and bonafidereviews.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for giger, hr giger, h.r. giger, h r giger, and invaders must die.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

H.R. Giger April 2009
11 comments

2

The Art of Giger – Part IV June 2009
1 comment

3

The Art of Giger – Part I June 2009

4

Samsung G3 Station External Hard Drive 1TB July 2010
27 comments

5

The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die February 2009
3 comments

Holiday Wishes

Merry Christmas to all my readers, have a wonderful festive season and a prosperous new year 🙂

Regular updates will resume from January 2011.

The Land of the Rising Sun; Is it really all cupcakes and rainbows?

A lovely view of Kyoto.

When you think of Japan, the words; politeness and friendliness seem to be synonymous with the country but is that really the case?  Is Japan really all about sunshine and cupcakes?

Well perhaps if you yourself are Japanese, then the day-to-day living of your life will seem normal or uneventful, yet here in the West, Japan is still looked upon as a land of mystery and technological brilliance.  For many Western otaku, Japan may appear to be the Holy Grail of their lifestyle, whereby the source of their obsessions flow like water.  Yes, many Western otaku (though generally we’re refered to as ‘geeks’) wish to either visit Japan or even emigrate there in order to ‘live the dream’.  Unfortunately, ‘the dream’ seldom lives up to reality as many foreigners will tell you.

I, myself wish to go to Japan, but only to visit.  If you stay in the country for a few days, or a couple of weeks, you will probably enjoy your stay. I would probably check out Tokyo first to get a taste of the high-tech (albeit overcrowded) capital, visit the various famous districts like Akihabara, and then check out some of the more traditional towns like Osaka or Kyoto, all the while taking thousands of photographs to reminisce over later when I’m back home.  However, if you stay for a year or longer (the easiest way is probably to become an English teacher), you will begin to see past the ‘happiness & tranquilty’ as the true cracks of society begin to show.

The fact of the matter is, that the Japanese people, mainly the older generation, are extremely xenophobic.  The younger generation embrace change and will generally accept foreigners, but it’s the elders who are pretty much stuck in their ways, I guess having two H-Bombs dropped on your country will result in deep-seed disdain for foreigners .  Even if you are fluent in Japanese, If you have not completed a level one proficiency test and you’re trying to apply for a job, the odds of you being employed are next to zero.  The Japanese will simply ignore the fact that you are fluent in the language because you do not have a piece of paper telling them so.  Basically you will be treated as a child.

A level 3 certificate, presented after completing the test.

Use of the word gaijin is also quite prevalent, it is a derogatory term for foreigners meaning ‘outsider’ and is used when referring to a non-Japanese person.  If you do intend on moving to or visiting the country, ensure that you arrange to stay with a family (check the internet, you should be able to find various advertisements of families willing to offer you food and board at a reduced rate) as hotels are extremely expensive and the last thing you want to end up in is a gaijin house.  A gaijin house is basically a derelict old house, older than ten years that is kept aside for foreigners.  These houses are generally unsafe and are horribly overpriced.

The other thing to bear in mind is that food is also pretty expensive, especially meat, which is why a lot of rice and noodles are consumed.  While you and your friends may sit down in a ’sushi bar’ at home, you need to realize that the average Japanese native doesn’t eat sushi as it is a delicacy and thus expensive.  You are able to purchase ‘ready-made’ sushi in plastic containers though I’d strongly advise against that.  The best shot you will probably have at becoming a permanent resident is to get your level one proficiency certificate and teach English, an acquaintance of mine has chosen to go that route and I’m interested to see how it all works out.  He’s one of these deluded weeaboos who thinks that living in Japan will be exactly the same as the anime and manga stories that he reads.

The Japanese police force are also notoriously racist and harsh towards foreigners, including incidents where people are arrested for no reason other than sitting on a park bench and then detained for months on end while being denied access to a phone.  That’s pretty scary if you think about it, I mean you go to Japan for a holiday and end up behind bars with no way to contact your loved ones, or a lawyer for that matter.  And this is a big problem for the country as many foreigners will think twice about visiting and Japan relies on exports and foreign currency to remain afloat.  Not too long ago a massive (costly) campaign was launched in order to revitalize Japan’s tourist industry and for their sake I hope it works.

I’m not trying to dissuade people from going to Japan, I just want them to realize (and this is mainly for the otaku’s benefit) that the idea that they have of the country isn’t the same as reality.  Reality seldom lives up to one’s fantasies and Japan isn’t an exception.  Like any other country, Japan has its fair share of problems; natural disasters, racism, sporadic economy and so on, and it’s the otaku sub-culture who need to realize this.  I love anime, manga and video-games (PS3 ftw) but I’m not in denial, I realize that Japan isn’t perfect and am not a mindless Japanaphile who will argue to the bitter end that paradise does in fact lie in the East.  If you intend on using anime and manga as a reference of life in Japan, you will be sorely disappointed.

Even though I have not yet visited the country myself and have yet to experience these things first-hand, I do however have plenty of knowledge on the subject through years of research and first-hand accounts by friends and fellow bloggers alike, check out this site for an idea of what you’d be in for.

Anime and manga; not exactly an accurate depiction of Japanese people...

Hopefully this article will provide you with a bit of insight into the truths of Japanese society, if you can come to terms with the fact that there will more than likely be a difference between your idealized version of Japan and the actualized version of the country then you will probably enjoy your stay there much more.  As I said before, Japan has its problems but if you embrace the truth you will uncover a wonderfully unique and quirky country, specially if you’re an otaku.

Otaku Life

Collectibles play a large role for many otaku.

What do you find yourself talking about when in the presence of friends or family? If the subject is usually games, film, anime or manga you may indeed be an otaku.  A common criticism of the otaku is that they spend vast amounts of time and energy immersing themselves in a world of fictional characters that have no real bearing on the ‘real’ world, but is that true?

The fictional characters and worlds are created by real people and as such, both the characters and the fantasy locations occupy reality as they are present in everyday life.  Does one have to talk about the weather, stock market or sports?  I fail to see the difference, sports are played by people and anime/manga is created by people and both are aimed to entertain so what’s the difference between cheering for David Beckham during a soccer match, or for L in Deathnote?

Both David Beckham and L can be seen as role models, role models are there to inspire people so it shouldn’t make a difference that one occupies a field while the other is in the pages of a book.  The same can be said for hentai, people may mock someone for finding a drawing arousing but a pornographic photo and an erotic piece of artwork are both designed to stimulate the viewer, what is the difference exactly?  Otaku are seen as introverted, anti-social people who generally confine themselves in their rooms or houses spending all their time watching TV or playing video-games.  Sometimes that is the case, such with hikikomori who usually consist of people who seldom venture from the confines of their houses (save for food) and when they do it’s often at night.  Many otaku (myself included) have like-minded friends and as a result there will be social gatherings, just like any other group.  There are many conventions around the world that facilitate the needs of the otaku and they are places where like-minded people can meet and greet.  Be it the Tokyo Game Show or various Comic Cons (I assure you there are a myriad) strewn throughout the world.

The other thing that many people fail to understand is that the world of otaku/geeks is invariably connected via cyberspace.  The internet is literally bringing people closer together as more and more people are becoming involved in MMO games, forums, blogs and social networking sites and these number in the millions.

I don’t think the word ‘geek’ can be seen as a derogatory term anymore, the word ‘nerd’ was popular in the ’80s and was a term used by dumb people to describe smart people and in modern times geek is just another ‘character class’ like jock.  I think people fall into different social groups for different reasons and that if something does interest you then you should pursue it.  Besides, otaku have the most fun IMO, I mean; cartoons, cosplay, comics, and movies, what’s not to like? The aforementioned are designed to allow one to escape reality, real life can be pretty mundane so why not create something superior?

An enthusiastic cosplayer. Sure, dressing up as your favourite footballer may be fun, but dressing up as a character from a video-game is far more interesting.

The realm of fiction is all about immersion, I don’t limit myself to fictional stories, though oftentimes they are far more entertaining than their non-fiction counterparts.  I choose to live my life the way I do.  A life of fiction is a fantastic and unpredictable one as the possibilities of what the human mind can come up with are endless.  There’s a finite amount of things one can do in ‘the real world’, but in the realm of fiction and cyberspace, the possibilities are limitless.

Neotel – Unlimited Fail

Neotel is the lead competitor (and new kid on the block) to South Africa’s largest telecommunications company; Telkom, who up until a couple years ago, had monopolized the telecoms market.  Competition is generally perceived as a good thing, providing the consumer with an alternative and as a result I decided to give Neotel the benefit-of-the-doubt and see if they could deliver.  As a result, my Neotel experience lasted under 24 hours…

Internet in South Africa is extremely expensive and most ISPs (like Telkom) in the country offer capped packages (1GB, 5GB, 10GB and so forth), so you can imagine the attraction to a company that is offering uncapped internet that undercuts their competition.  Neotel currently offers two uncapped packages for home users; NeoConnect Lite 469 @ R469 p/m ($62.74) and NeoConnect Prime Unlimited (high-speed) @ R999 p/m ($133.65).  The Neotel website has a coverage checker in order to see whether or not your area is covered by their network.  Unfortunately, my area doesn’t support high-speed internet so I had to opt for the NeoConnect Lite 469 package and at R469 per month for uncapped internet it sounded like a damn good deal.  Sadly, I was mistaken.

When I first expressed interest in Neotel, there were a number of questions that I needed to be answered and after browsing several forums things like; “By default, Neotel blocks all ports for security reasons and you need to request which ports you wish to be opened” began to pop up.  So I decided to email Neotel and to their credit they did actually respond the first time however when I had other questions I was simply ignored, but no matter I reasoned, they’re a large company and probably receive plenty of mail on a daily basis.  ‘Luckily’ there were Neotel promoters in my local mall and I took the opportunity to approach them and ask my questions.

I initially spoke to two guys who seemed to be quite knowledgeable but in actuality they were bullshit artists who didn’t have any technical knowledge to speak of and were just desperately trying to sign people up.  The one thing that isn’t really advertised on the Neotel site is the connection speeds of their packages, now I’m currently on a 384kbps wireless package which gives me a transfer speed of 48KB/sec (painfully slow by international standards but at least it’s uncapped) so I made it very clear to these two cock stains that I needed a faster connection speed and thus a faster transfer speed than my current solution.  The first thing they told me was that my area was in fact covered for high-speed internet which I found strange since Neotel hadn’t been in my area ripping up pavement to lay down fiber-optic cable like in other areas and especially since I had done a recent coverage check that stated that my house/area wasn’t covered.

Apparently, completing a task as simple as a coverage check is too much to handle for Neotel staff, what part of ‘Not Covered’ don’t they understand?

Well, after countless reassurances, I decided to sign up with Neotel after they told me that the package would be much faster than my current solution, with transfer speeds peaking at 156KB/sec placing the connection at just over 1Mbps.  However, the two cunt-rags either didn’t know the difference between line speed and transfer rate, or opted to lie in order to secure a customer.  However, the bullshit didn’t end there, after repeating myself countless times during the sign up phase (in order to ensure that all my personal information was correct) they still managed to completely fuck up almost all of my information.  When I received the FWT (Fixed Wireless Terminal) almost a week later, the welcome note and the ‘customer application form’ had gotten the following information wrong;

  • My surname was misspelled
  • My marital status was listed as ‘Married (Community of Property), oh really? Well that’s news to me, does Neotel supply single customers with spouses along with their shitty service?
  • My residential/delivery address was incorrect, and in fact I still got a call a day after signing up from a cheerful-sounding woman who read out the wrong address over the phone, after I corrected her I asked her to do a coverage check and wouldn’t you know it, MY AREA WASN”T COVERED FOR HIGH-SPEED INTERNET AFTERALL, it took her one minute to tell me that.  So to the guy who did the initial coverage check, I will punch you in the fucking dick if I ever see your face again.
  • The employer’s name of my work, as well as my monthly gross income, and period at current employer were all incorrect to boot.
  • And finally, the real kicker, they managed to get my email address wrong, I opted to receive the monthly bill via email, how in the fuck did they intend on billing me?! I probably would have received a phone call from one of their admin monkeys stating that I missed the monthly payment due.

Unbeknown to me at the time, I set up the  FWT which ironically needs to be plugged into your PC via USB and proceeded to set up the device on my computer which is running Windows 7 Ultimate Edition, but wouldn’t you know it, the FWT would not initialize the setup software so that you can actually USE THE FUCKING INTERNET.  So after literally spending several hours on the phone with the god-forsaken technical support (and I was disconnected twice initially mid-conversation, forcing me to start from the beginning each time), one guy suggested that I downgrade to Windows XP (an eight year old platform!) because and I quote; “Neotel uses new software/hardware that has been known to give problems on Vista and Win 7.”

 

One person I spoke to repeatedly asked whether or not I had received a black USB cable with the FWT as it is the Windows 7 compatible cable (wtf?) and I was asked repeatedly if my operating system was in fact the 32-bit version as apparently 64-bit platforms have compatibility issues too.  At this point I was rather fed up and asked if they could send a technical guy to my house to sort out the problem to which they replied; “I spoke to the technical guys and they said they definitely can’t, as the problem is clearly with your version of Windows 7.”  My version…THE FUCKING RETAIL VERSION OF WINDOWS 7 ULTIMATE EDITION!! Eventually after uninstalling Win 7 and reinstalling my copy of Vista Ultimate I managed to get the FWT working and I was connected to the net.  My single driving force for going through all that shit was that I’d have fast, uncapped internet until I saw that I was getting an average download speed of 49kbps (6.1KB/sec transfer speed).  That’s right, the Neoconnect Lite Unlimited package has a peak download speed of 156kbps and not the promised 156KB per second transfer rate.  No wonder the package is uncapped, at an average transfer rate at around 6KB/sec and peak speeds of around 16KB/s you’d be hard-pressed to use 10GB of bandwidth, in fact it was so bad that I had to run Gmail in basic HTML in order to get it to load and even then it was struggling.

The very next day at around 07:00 am, I phoned Neotel and terminated my service.  Neotel is a poorly managed, misleading service with inept staff who should be taken behind a chemical shed and shot through the back of the skull with hollow points.  I will never do business with that company ever after that experience and I warn every person who is interested in the service to steer clear and rather stick with Telkom or an independent wireless ISP.

I’LL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT IS ONE YEAR OLD!!

That’s right, on this very day during 2009 I created I’ll be the Judge of That, my very own slice of the web and on that same day I made my first post which can be seen here.  It’s quite hard for me to believe that it has already been one year.  I’m very pleased with how far my humble blog has come; with 78, 839 hits (at the time of posting), I’m glad that so many people have found something of interest to them and I hope that the regulars will continue to visit for years to come.  It’ll be interesting to see what changes have been made by February 2011 with I’ll be the Judge of That.

So once again, I thank all the readers, as well as giving a special thanks to those who contributed by leaving a comment or two.

– Judge Pow3rs.