Tuesday 30 August 2022

A Wise Shepherd

As the legendary Bob Ross would say, this was a happy accident :-) My journey with Midjourney is on  a bumpy patch at the moment. It can create some truly amazing pictures, and I can prompt something suitable as a general illustration, but I'm finding trying to construct a scene with detailed specifics challenging.

And sometimes it just throws up something unexpected like this lone German Shepherd sat in a hazy poppy field. I have no idea why he's wearing a shirt. It's the expression and the eyes that captivated me - this dog has seen things. Things far beyond our merely human comprehension.

Thursday 25 August 2022

Illustrated Drabbles - Face in the Mirror

 Face in the Mirror

I stare at my face in the mirror and I can’t be sure that it’s really me. My eyes are hunted and bruised from nights of disturbed sleep. A dread has stalked my dreams, twisting them into nightmares that linger even in dawn’s embrace.

In the mirror I glimpse a malformed shadow lurking behind me, its touch is cold upon my skin and fills me with terror. My will fails and I fall into the mirror, my final scream frozen in glass.

I gaze at my reflection and admire my new face, I think I’ll wear it for a while.

My old drabbles are providing a useful target for my experiments with Midjouney - an AI tool for generating images based upon image and text prompts. There's an art in its own right to creating the prompts - one that I haven't mastered yet, although I have managed some interesting pictures.

For this one I tried a simple experiment - what would the results be if I fed it just the drabble? I wasn't allowed to modify the prompt, all I could do is create variations based on what it generated. To be clear, it's not the optimal approach, mostly because of how it parses the text. It doesn't read the story, and draw all of the elements together. The most obvious example is the classic twist in the tail in the last line. If planning the illustration I would have wanted to capture the moment before the final transformation, but somehow convey its inevitability.

To be fair though I didn't provide direction (if needed) to it as I would a human artist, or if I was using the prompts to guide towards my design. That wasn't the purpose of the experiment, and I have to say that I was impressed by the variety and how well it captured some of the key concepts. It seemed obvious to me that it should be able to do so in a relatively literal fashion, and to an extent it did do so. However it did focus on different aspects and so created some variety, or even concepts that I wouldn't have necessarily thought of myself.

In the end the variation settled into a few suitable concepts and over many iterations I chose the above image. It wasn't the most faithful interpretation, but the facial expression, and slight disjointed appearance to the face, as if it didn't fit correctly sold it to me.

There were other close runners, which I've included below. Which one would you have picked?

Monday 22 August 2022

My Second Favorite Fans

I stopped writing during 2017 - maybe shaving my hair and beard off for charity not only took away my Samsom like powers ⾽ The blog has recently been resurrected with a slightly different focus. So I gave the old place a bit of a spruce - I hope you like. As I cleaned up various parts that were out of date I took a look at the stats and discovered that I'd still been visited fairly often, and that 'd well passed the million hits mark.

It didn't take much investigation to see why, and so I'd like to thank the various bot nets and spammers for keeping the place warm while I was away. I like to think that you look like the attached image. Clearing up the comments took some doing, so much so that I've enabled comment moderation for the time being. But I'm not angry, they were all polite, but they're not welcome to comment anymore. 

They can still visit though, after all bots deserve some amusement too 🤖

Saturday 20 August 2022

Jesus the Rebel

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

I think this post is mostly an excuse to include this magnificent painting - Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali. It's probably my favourite rendition of the crucifixion for a variety of reasons, mainly because in almost every aspect it sets itself apart from the typical representations I've encountered. 

The perspective across the world conveys in a single glance the core purpose for becoming human, and that his ministry is all encompassing. His task to save all of humankind.

Please note that for the most part in this post. I'll reference the gospels as literal truths. Also note that that this isn't meant to be a deep and meaningful theological insight - there was an amusing thought  I posted elsewhere and just wanted to develop it a little and post it here as well. Posting Dali's painting sent me off on a a tangent. I will get to my slightly irreverent point shortly, but I hope you'll indulge me for a little while longer. 😎

Naturally it being a Dali work there's a surreal component, nothing too obvious or distracting, but certainly adding an otherworldly, or even divine element, without resorting to overwhelming light.

Another key difference, and perhaps the most interesting, is the lack of suffering portrayed beyond that intrinsic to the pose itself. Typically you stare up at the cross, Jesus' head is bowed and his body contorted from the pain of the inflicted wounds from pre-match build up. The manner of execution adds it's own weight to his suffering. He thus appears a living creature of the world,  like the rest of us, weak in our flesh, exposed to the vagaries of what the world inflicts upon us. This exposed weakness is absent in Dali's painting.

I find the traditional form at the very least disappointing,  but also a tad hypocritical. especially when considering who he was supposed to be. Perhaps the transformation from the divine to the mundane loses something from him? This would appear unlikely considering the miracles he performed. Or maybe the divine are just more sensitive to the rigors of the physical world

On the face of it you'd expect a better showing - especially from the Son of God, and  one third of the Holy Trinity. It seems odd that some mere mortals have faced their end with more grace, and without the absolute certainty that:

  • There is a Heaven
  • What form it will take
  • And that he's definitely going there

Anyone who's experienced different types of pain, know that the reality is that everyone handles its different forms in different ways. Perhaps I judge too harshly. It could also be that the church feel that this representation suits their purposes better, that the symbol is somehow stronger because of it.

Returning to the painting, we probably shouldn't draw too much of a conclusion from the fact that his back is turned against Heaven. You can see his gaze completely focused away (and indeed trapped) from the ephemeral, and towards the mundane.

And does this possibly reveal something of his true nature? Maybe not the Son of God, but just a demigod, a union of godhood and human - that depends on the method by which Jesus was actually conceived. Did Mary provide the egg and it was subsequently fertilized? Or was he placed in the womb as an already viable fetus? Not surprisingly the New Testament does not provide these details.;

I stated earlier that for this post we'll assume the literal truth of the text, and assume Jesus to be the Son of God. John Milton (yes I know that Paradise Lost isn't considered canonical work, but his concepts work for my purpose here well enough) uses the two terms with separate contexts. The Son  of God dwelt  in Heaven from the moment of creation, until he was born on Earth as Jesus. And now he must grow like the humans around him and yet containing this divine aspect.

Being human changed him. His eternal aspect had gazed down throughout history and seen how these humans lived, and progressed over time, but also how his Father had treated them. There was no pity or mercy in his Father, the genocide of peoples, the constant judgements, an eternal grudge against the descendants of Adam and Eve for a single offense. The Son of God would have known all of this, but from a purely intellectual, couldn't comprehend the reality of dwelling in a world under constant torment by its creator. On one such fit of temper he almost scoured the entire world of life, realised that he might have gone a bit too far, and so made a pretty rainbow and promised he wouldn't go to global extinction level of angry next time - although John the Revelator would likely express a differing opinion.

And so Jesus was indeed changed, tainted the the murky reality of a world grossly imperfect compared to Heaven. The concept of Jesus as a rebel is far from new, although it's usually against the Romans, but he had discovered a sense of empathy. As he aged he grew to understand the constant oppression and dread humans lived under. So he tried to teach them the ways that would stay God's hand.

As most of us know - empathy and understanding can often be double edged. The excesses of his Father's 'intervention' were clearly disproportionate, but having lived amongst them, he knew us in a visceral way that God never could. The cosmological scale of his Father's pettiness now meant little to the doomed denizens of our world. But made in his image, we too were capable of such rages, although limited by our miniscule power. Unable to challenge the one that had cast us from our original home - at that time at least - they turned on each other.

By the time the Roman soldiers crucified him, Jesus felt sick of the world, or more accurately the people within it. He would not return. and there would be no Second Coming, or Salvation. They would have fix the sins that locked them in their dreadful lives for themselves. 

Thursday 18 August 2022

Drabbles Illustrated: The Dreams of the Dead

Image created using Mindjourney

The Dreams of the Dead

I dream the dreams of the dead. The constant hunger for the luminous vibrancy of life burns and subsumes all capacity for reason or feeling. We exist alongside the living world, but it’s shadowed by the veil of our passing.

Our grey existence is eternal, and our hope is singular.

An explosion of light shatters the gloom. A rainbow in human form cast into a glowing shockwave passes through those nearby. For that moment, we glory in the life of the newly departed. All too soon the sensation fades, and our existence is grey once more.

And it sustains me.

Eager for more? Then you can read some of my other drabbles here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/100-word-stories.html