Posts Tagged ‘Last Week Tonight’

Hello, Followers of Fear. There are sixty days till Halloween. What have you done to prepare?

Artwork produced by artificial intelligence, or AI art, has become kind of a thing as the technology has advanced. In fact, some months back, there was an app that became a fad for horror writers to generate images and even book covers. And earlier this week, John Oliver featured it on his TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Here’s the video, if you’re interested. It’s hysterical.

John Oliver’s wife and children must have such a blast telling people who don’t know who he is what he does for a living. “Oh, my husband/dad? He sexually harasses Adam Driver and marries cabbages on TV once a week.”

Anyway, it got me interested enough to want to play around with AI art, so I made an account with one of the recommended companies, Midjourney, and went to work. The results were not only fascinating, but gave me some thoughts on the nascent AI art industry.

First, here are some of my successes. As it turns out, Midjourney’s AI program does very well with Lovecraftian/cosmic horror entities. For example, here’s Cthulhu destroying Las Vegas because I’m not a big Vegas fan (though under the right circumstances I’d visit again).

Then, in order, we have Yog-Sothoth, Shub-niggurath, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, two pictures of the Deep Ones, the Color from Outer Space, and the King in Yellow.

And portraits of famous people tended to go well with the program. Here are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and HP Lovecraft, three of my biggest influences as a writer, as well as one of Lizzie Borden with an axe. Because why not?

And because I love ballet and try to put dancers in my stories when I can, I made a series of ballet posts, with their titles in the captions.

Dancer and Wolf on the lake
The Little Ballerina Ghost
Dancer in the Egyptian Temple
Dancers on a Moonlit Beach
Little Dancers Running from Lava
Little Dancer and Anubis

Pretty cool, right? Most of them look really good. However, those were success stories, like I said. Here’s what happened when I tried to create Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films.

Yeah, I know. None of those come close to looking like Jason! He’s arguably more famous than Cthulhu, but these were the results. And then there was my attempt at Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Oy freaking vey!

Yeah, who is that? Not Freddy Kreuger, who is definitely more famous than Cthulhu! Honestly, it looks more like my conception of Leland Gaunt, the antagonist from Needful Things by Stephen King. How could the AI get our favorite subconscious serial killer so wrong?

And those are just a few examples. I went through several failures trying to get anywhere close to a specific idea or image, only to give up when I realized the program just couldn’t create it. I couldn’t even create a decent Sailor Moon or an accurate tiger image, and both those prompts have enough references out there that they should have been easy to create something accurate.

Even some of the successes took a lot of work and experimentation, such as The King in Yellow or Little Dancer and Anubis. I won’t even go into detail about how hard it was to get a good Alice in Wonderland pic that wasn’t too trippy. I mean, I know the source material is plenty weird, but not all art based on it has to be super-surreal!

And while I call some of them successes, they aren’t perfect. You can especially see it in the ballerina series, where features like the head and limbs look odd or bent in ways you wouldn’t see on a normal dancer or a Degas painting. Only the tutus and bodices come out well. The rest of their bodies can be a mixed bag.

It kind of reminds me of that scene in 1986’s The Fly, where Jeff Goldblum puts steak through the teleporter and it comes out tasting weird. He figures out that the computer hasn’t learned how to move organic materials, and is instead creating an interpretation or bad imitation of what it thinks steak is. That’s what we have here: the AI has learned how to mimic and create, but it’s still leagues away from making certain things.

And honestly, I’m glad. Art is art because there’s someone behind it with a vision or a passion. You can program a computer to recreate famous art pieces or original pieces, including Batman comics and scripts or horror screenplays. And the computer might even do a good job at times. But there won’t be any passion or soul behind it. Art is art because we’re putting our love and soul into our creations.

And getting to work with a creator? That’s even more special. Believe me, I’ve done it before, and it’s amazing to see your vision come to life with their help. Especially when working on art pieces like book covers. That truly is something special.

That being said, I can see AI-generated art being used for cheap book covers as the technology improves, and the services of artists becoming more expensive. This could especially apply for small presses or independent publishers who need to lower costs while maximizing profits. The only time publishers may use a real artist is if the author is big enough to warrant it.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, because it would mean we wouldn’t get to see some really amazing collaborations. So, for the meantime, I’ll stop with the AI art (I’ve scratched that itch and I don’t want to pay a subscription for Midjourney, anyway), and continue supporting the artists who create amazing art. Especially horror art.

And now, here are some more pieces I created. Except for a few I’m waiting to reveal till the time is right, here are my other successes. You can ask what was going through my mind when I created these in the comments below. Enjoy, and until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Vampire Mothers and Child
Jump Rope with a Ghost
Jack the Ripper in an Alley
Flaming Giraffe #1
Flaming Giraffe #2
The Necronomicon
Bunny Girl and Hammer
Spooky Alice in Wonderland
Stock image of a house. Definitely not my condo! Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

As many of you know from reading in this blog, I recently bought and moved into a condo after six years in an apartment complex. And while at first it was a lot of stress, I’ve been enjoying my new home while at the same time updating it, repairing certain things, and thinking of more changes to make (I’m thinking of painting my bedroom green, and my office will definitely be black and white).

Yeah, I’m lucky to have this place.

I know a lot of other people in my age bracket aren’t as lucky.

Let’s face it, housing in the United States is in a crisis right now. There are a whole lot of reasons why that is: fewer affordable apartment buildings available or being built; fewer single-family or “starter” homes available or being built; Baby Boomers and Gen Xers downsizing and taking all the homes that are available because they have more financial resources; wages having not increased for years while the cost of living having grown steadily at the same time; local ordinances making it more profitable to build multi-family homes and homes for higher-earning families; and so much more.

I won’t go more into it because I’m not a subject matter expert, but these videos do a great job explaining the problem:

This one is from The Daily Show showing how desperate things have become and the factors millennials face.

This one from Vox shows how making affordable homes in the US faces more obstacles than just profits.

And Last Week Tonight with John Oliver shows the many problems that folks in many of America’s cities are facing just trying to keep a roof over their head. It’s as funny as it is troubling.

Like I said, I’m lucky. I have a good job and my paycheck has grown with every passing year. Rent in my city has, until recently anyway, been quite affordable and never got too expensive at my place. My student loans were paid off years ahead of schedule thanks to my paternal grandfather of blessed memory, and what was left of what he left me allowed me to really build my savings account. They were further built by putting away the stimulus payments the government gave out in 2020 and 2021. I didn’t have to put those payments towards necessities because my workplace had been doing work-from-home for years, so the switch wasn’t too hard on me and my employer. And I got my mortgage before the interest rate was hiked, so I don’t have to pay extra like a bunch of other people who will be borrowing money in the near future.

Again, I’m lucky.

But even with all that luck, I still had a lot of trouble finding a new home. In the six months I searched for a new home, I heard about high wait lists for apartments in the complexes I applied to. Especially the nice ones that were affordable, and those were few and far between. Most of the ones that didn’t look like they were dens of iniquity or poorly maintained charged well over a thousand dollars per month for one-bedroom apartments. And that was just looking for a place to rent! (I tried to keep my options open.) Of the seven houses and condos for sale I visited, I bid on five. And I was outbid on the first four, sometimes by several thousand dollars.

Getting this place, especially right as I was getting close to my move-out date, was a Godsend.

And I know plenty of my generation are struggling, and will continue to struggle, just to stay in a home. And for many, even a crappy apartment might be too expensive. As in the Daily Show video, plenty of millennials are buying fixer-uppers together, but for many even that is too hard.

And I just hope that, by talking about it, maybe something will change. Not on its own, obviously. What do I look like, the Pope? But maybe, if I join my voice to the chorus advocating for change, then maybe change will come. It’ll be slow, but I hope it happens. And if nothing else, maybe it’ll remind us how lucky we are to be in homes at all. And that nothing in life is guaranteed.

Well, that was a dark note to finish on. How about some photos of my new place?

My bedroom. I’m thinking of painting it green.
Jonesy hanging out on the wall near the kitchen window.
No surprise, my masks make this place so much creepier.
My first Shabbos celebration in the new place. Took a lot of unpacking before I could do this.
You like my new rug? Bought it with a gift card a friend gave me as a housewarming gift.
My new writing space. What do you think?
Finally, my new lamp. I like the meeting of vintage and industrial here.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If there are any more updates on my home life that I feel like sharing, I will. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

My latest article from Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors has just gone live. This post talks about a serious issue that has been plaguing the writing community, particularly online. Many writers have become the target of bullying and public shaming online from their genre’s community, leading to them withdrawing their novels from publication and being publicly shunned. Often the reasons that start these attacks are taken out of context, and the “punishment” is too harsh or goes on for too long, leaving those at the receiving end psychologically scarred and unable to move forward.

That, plus a recent segment from comedian John Oliver’s TV show Last Week Tonight on public shaming, motivated me to write about the subject. Thus my latest article, Public Shaming in the Writing Community. And I hope it leads to some positive discussion and maybe some positive change in the writing community.

If you have a moment, please check it out. I did a lot of thinking before posting this, and I don’t normally talk about controversial topics on this blog unless I think I really need to. That’s how important this topic is to me.

And I realize by writing about this subject, I may be painting a target on my back. Well, as I noted in the article, I’m a Jewish, bisexual man with disabilities and eccentricities. My very existence and interests probably offends someone for dumb reasons. Plus writing horror probably offends someone who thinks all horror does is create and satiate depraved individuals. That’s never stopped me before, and this won’t either.

Besides, I BITE.

Anyway, while you’re there, please feel free to check out the other articles on the site. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great site for advice on writing, editing, publishing and marketing efficiently. No matter your background or experience, there’s something here that can help you. Believe me on that. I’m not just a contributor, I’m also a beneficiary of the articles.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Unless the horde of online trolls shows up at my doors, I’ll likely see you next on Saturday with a review of Jordan Peele’s new film, Us. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!