A Portrait of the Artist as a Hero Drinking Coffee

Link Drinking CoffeeLook at that picture. Look at it. I wish I could draw pictures like that.

While I fool around on this blog, my younger brother sketches fantastic pictures in pencil and posts them on his deviantART page. Seriously, I don’t know how he produces drawings like these. I’m guessing pencils and paper are involved somehow; the rest is a glorious mystery.

The image above is my brother’s profile picture: Link, the protagonist of the Legend of Zelda games, drinking coffee and drawing… himself. (If his coffee cup is to be believed, Link is also the World’s Best Hero.) As a Zelda fan, I find my bro’s profile picture clever and hilarious.

I strongly recommend taking a look around my brother’s deviantART profile. Seriously, it’s cool. Check it out!

The Slenderman

Thank you, alex663 from deviantART, for making sure I never sleep again.

For as long as there have been people, there have been spooky stories. Our distant ancestors handed down frightful tales of witches, werewolves, goblins, vampires (the non-sparkly variety) and the undead. What of our time? What creepy creatures will we bequeath to generations not yet born?

Meet the Slenderman.

This photo actually looks pretty norm—HEAVEN HELP US WHAT IS THAT?!

The Slenderman (or Slender Man) first appeared on some Internet forum, eventually becoming the silent, sinister villain of a simple-yet-terrifying indie video game called Slender: The Eight Pages. Slendy’s fame spread. I even mentioned him in what I consider probably the best post on this blog.

The Slenderman is an unnaturally tall, thin man with a black suit and no face. He has shown up in many media, including an ongoing YouTube series called Marble Hornets, in which he has developed a few consistent characteristics.

Besides having some fashion sense, the Slenderman stalks people, drives them insane and occasionally murders them. Cameras and recording equipment glitch whenever the Slenderman is near. His victims experience an ailment dubbed “Slender sickness,” whose symptoms are amnesia, paranoia, aggression and a tendency to wear creepy masks.

Why is Slendy so scary? I think it has something to do with his blank face, spectral appearance and unnatural proportions. He looks almost, but not quite, human. There’s also something creepy in how he silently toys with his victims instead of killing them outright. Is he a man? A spirit? A hallucination?

One thing he is, and that’s creepy.

That said, here are some tips from a player of Slender: The Eight Pages on how to make Slendy not scary.

Adventure? Take This with You!

Dangerous to Go Alone

Picture from Spader7 on deviantART.

“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”

These are the famous opening words of The Legend of Zelda, and an age-old motif in mythology, legend, folklore and fantasy. “Going on an adventure? Here, take _____ with you!”

Luke Skywalker got a lightsaber at the start of his journey. Frodo Baggins received a magic ring. The Pevensies (sans Edmund) accepted useful gifts from Father Christmas, and Captain Jack Sparrow was granted a pistol and one shot. Heck, even Perseus got a bunch of neat stuff for his quest from the gods in the old Greek myths.

The hero often seems to get something—a sword, an amulet, a keepsake—at the start of his or her adventure, and whatever it is always turns out to be really useful. A pointless knick-knack is later revealed to be the all-important Map or Key or Talisman of Plot Advancement.

So take my advice. If someone gives you something at the beginning of an adventure, hold on to the darn thing. You’ll be needing it.

198. The Art of TMTF

Today’s post highlights some of the great artwork this blog has been privileged to share. Prepare to be dazzled!

A Reasonably Accurate Depiction of the Typewriter Monkey Task Force

This is my blog’s header, the picture that started it all, generously provided by my old man at my request (read: nagging insistence). I recommend opening this image in a new tab or window in order to bask in its full majesty.

A Wes Molebash original!

Wes Molebash, web cartoonist extraordinaire, has generously allowed me to feature some of his comics and artwork (such as this impressive picture of Link) on my blog. Wes even wrote a guest post about creativity and Legend of Zelda games!

There ought to be a law against selling pyrotechnics to monkeys.

Monkeys and pyrotechnics are a bad combination.

Wait, which way to the future?

As I considered changes to my blog, my old man provided yet another lovely sketch.

Not many people know this, but I'm actually a pony.

This is a picture of me working on this blog, except that I’m a cartoon pony. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one.

Besides being brave and noble, Link has a great fashion sense.

Little known fact: My blog attracts cool pictures of Link from the Legend of Zelda games. This one’s from my younger bro, whose deviantART page is awesome.

“I don’t always write posts for other blogs, but when I do I write them for Typewriter Monkey Task Force.”

This image, a close-up from my blog’s header, might be my favorite picture from the entire blog.

155. Caution: Monkeys at Work

Have you ever seen those signs that announce how many days have passed since the last workplace accident? TMTF has one of those signs, but but we go by minutes instead of days.

Even so, we hardly ever break double digits.

Yes, caution is necessary whenever my typewriter monkeys are at work. We’ve been working behind the scenes for a couple of days, and I’ve been very cautious. I’m alive and injuries have been minimal, so I think we’re doing well.

Besides reworking TMTF’s tags and tagging old posts, we’ve standardized formatting, replaced broken links, made revisions, fixed errors and generally done our best to make this blog beautiful.

TMTF now boasts a Tags feature! Tags classify posts more specifically than categories. Scroll to the bottom of TMTF’s homepage or any post and you’ll find a handy list of tags; clicking one will take you to the posts marked by that tag. It’s a convenient way to navigate this blog’s posts without plodding through the Archive.

We also held board meetings to discuss things like marketing, budgeting and future plans. Since I detest wearing formal clothes and sitting through tedious discussions, these meetings were pretty awful. (I can’t believe I had to dress nicely when my typewriter monkeys didn’t wear anything.) It took many hours and quite a lot of coffee, but we reached some important decisions.

Trying to cope

This photo, snapped during one of our board meetings, sums up my feelings about business stuff.

Last year, TMTF shared a crazy idea called Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day. The idea was, well, to be nice to someone on the Internet: to leave a sincere, encouraging comment or compliment on someone’s Facebook profile, blog page, YouTube channel, deviantART account, Twitter profile or Tumblr account.

I think it was a great idea, but I was too hasty in springing it on my readers. I’d like to do it properly this year: spreading the word and getting other bloggers involved. Although last year’s Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day took place in August, we’ve decided to celebrate it on March 4 this year.

Moving on: my younger bro, whose fantastic artwork has previously been featured on TMTF, now has a deviantART page! An online art community, deviantART exhibits work from millions of artists—including my bro, whose beautiful pencil-and-paper reproductions of art and photographs are now on display.

Check out his deviantART page and be amazed!

What are you waiting for? Go check out that deviantART page!

“What are you waiting for? Go check out that deviantART page!”

Well, I suppose I’d better get back to work… cautiously, of course. It’s been twenty-two minutes since our last accident, and I’m expecting another at any moment.

151. Bronies

As much as I like cartoons, I never expected to become a fan of a show about magical rainbow ponies. It’s strange that I did, I suppose, but something far stranger happened.

I became a fan of its fans.

The community inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, though often regarded with suspicion or loathing, is the most creative, quirky, compassionate group of fans I’ve ever seen. Combining bro and ponies in a portmanteau word, these weird, wonderful people are known as bronies.

There is a ridiculous number of artists in the brony community. Besides creating art inspired by the show, they sometimes reimagine real or fictional peopleincluding bloggersas ponies.

Not many people know this, but I'm actually a pony.

Not many people know this, but I’m actually a pony.

The artwork produced by bronies takes innumerable forms: comics, sketches, paintings, woodcuts, stained glass and more. Name any kind of visual art, and bronies are guaranteed to have used it.

I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to buy a fedora. And to grow a mustache.

I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to buy a fedora. And to grow a mustache.

There are nearly as many musicians in the brony community as there are artists, and their music is no less diverse. Besides remixing music from the show, bronies have produced a staggering number of original songs in every style imaginable. Classical? Electronic? Classical remixed as electronic? Progressive bluegrass? Symphonic rock? Bronies have them all covered.

Brony musicians even cover music by other bronies. “Discord,” a catchy Eurobeat song about a villain from the show, has been arranged for orchestra, jazz, electronic and other genres.

I won’t even begin to cover the animations and video games created by bronies. While some are amateur efforts, others are literally of professional quality.

Even my typewriter monkeys (Thanks again to # of deviantArt!)

The Typewriter Monkey Task Force can’t handle the incredible creativity of bronies.
(Special thanks to Derpy Hooves for making a guest appearance!)

The creativity of the brony community seems to know no end, but the thing that impresses me most about bronies is their compassion.

Through fundraisers, auctions and special events, a charity called Bronies for Good recently paid for the construction of an orphanage in Uganda. Bronies for Good is currently funding clean water projects in Uganda and Tanzania. Another charity, the Brony Thank You Fund, is working to endow a scholarshiptentatively titled the Derpy Hooves Scholarship in Animationto the California Institute of the Arts. (Tim Burton, John Lasseter and many notable animators graduated from CalArts, which was founded by Walt Disney.) Various brony initiatives have raised many thousands of dollars for Kiki Havivy, a little girl diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The list of charitable projects goes on and on. It’s ridiculous.

Nothing is perfect, of course. The brony community has its share of conflicts, problems, crude artwork and tasteless fan fiction. In the end, though, it remains the most amazing group of fans I’ve ever seen.

I am, I admit, slightly embarrassed to be a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. It’s a cartoon for little girls, after all.

I am not, however, embarrassed to be a brony.

120. TMTF’s Future Is Yours to Shape!

Wait, which way to the future?

Stale is a nasty word. It makes me think of television shows or book series that have gone on too long, or even—oh, the horror!—packets of cheese crackers that have been opened and then forgotten in some obscure corner of the snack cupboard.

This blog has been up and running for more than a year, and I don’t want it ever to become stale. My typewriter monkeys and I are considering making some changes in direction for TMTF, and today’s post is to give you—yes, dear reader, you—an opportunity to shape this blog’s future!

I’m thinking of discontinuing the Turnspike Emails. These posts are TMTF’s version of The Screwtape Letters, a book by C.S. Lewis that explores Christian ideas from a demon’s perspective. I’ve used the Turnspike Emails to reflect upon (and sometimes to vent about) various spiritual issues. However, I’m not satisfied with the Turnspike Emails. I don’t feel like I’m doing C.S. Lewis’s excellent idea justice.

Shall I stop writing the Turnspike Emails?

I’m also considering discontinuing book reviews. While they’re fun to write, I haven’t been consistent enough in posting them to justify their existence as a regular feature of this blog.

Shall I keep the book reviews or stop writing them?

I intend to continue writing several categories of posts. The About Writing posts are here to stay, of course, as well as the That Time I _____ posts in which I share anecdotes of odd adventures I’ve had. (I’m running out of stories, but I still have a few up my sleeve.) I’ll definitely keep my reflections upon the Christian faith, my commentaries upon video games, my posts about random topics and, of course, TMTF’s ever-popular top ten lists.

Depending upon feedback, I may feature some of these categories of posts more or less often.

Which of these categories do you want to see featured more often? Which do you want to see featured less often?

I’m thinking of adding a new feature highlighting authors whom I appreciate. These posts would be titled Why [Insert Author Name] Is Awesome, and would introduce writers, explain what makes their writing significant and recommend one or two books with which a beginning reader can start.

Is this a good idea for a new feature?

I’d also like to feature more creative writing. While I probably won’t feature any more serials like The Infinity Manuscript for a long time, there are some short stories I’d like to share.

If I published creative writing on this blog, it would be on Wednesdays in order not to interrupt the usual Monday and Friday posts. In other words, creative writing pieces would be an addition to regular blog posts, not a replacement for them. Unlike blog posts, which are posted twice weekly, creative writing wouldn’t follow any kind of schedule. Rather, it would be posted only when I had something ready to post—probably once or twice a month.

What are your thoughts? Would the addition of stories make this blog better, or clutter it with unnecessary posts?

The stated purpose of this blog is “to impart hope or understanding or inspiration—or at the very least a healthy laugh—to someone who needs it.” I want this blog to make you think, or to make you smile.

This brings me to my final question.

What more do you want to see from this blog? How can my typewriter monkeys and I serve you?

My monkeys and I want to make this blog the best it can be. We want to brighten the lives of our readers, and we can’t do it alone.

Your suggestions, criticisms and advice are much, much appreciated. Please, comment away!

100. An Important Post

Typewriter Monkey Task Force has featured one hundred regular posts! Today, my friends, is a great and solemn day. At least it would have been if my typewriter monkeys hadn’t gotten their paws on some fireworks.

This milestone post gives me the opportunity to revisit a few important posts and to make some announcements.

Beginning today, my monkeys and I are taking a week off from TMTF. Regular posts will resume next Monday, July ninth. I’m taking a break in order to focus on a bigger project, which brings us to the next announcement.

The Trials of Lance Eliot—my debut novel—comes out today!

Six years ago, I began working on the novel that would grow into The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first volume of a trilogy titled The Eliot Papers. The project has been my greatest passion as a writer, so I’m excited finally to be able to share it!

The novel is available for purchase!

A few months ago, I published The Infinity Manuscript, a fantasy in twelve parts, as a serial on this blog. The Infinity Manuscript isn’t nearly as polished as The Trials of Lance Eliot, but it’s available to read for free!

I also wrote a short but significant series of posts titled Help, I’m a Christian! in which I shared some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about relationships, faith and Christian living.

In addition to TMTF and the blog for my novel, I maintain a blog called Solidarity that shares reports of persecution against Christians. Please feel free to check out Solidarity or my explanation of why it matters.

I’d love to feature more guest posts on TMTF! If you’d like to write a post for this blog, check out these guidelines.

I’ve also been privileged to write a few guest posts for other blogs, including Stuff Christians Like, Social Biblia and Thomas Mark Zuniga’s blog. My typewriter monkeys and I are always delighted to write guest posts, so feel free to contact me if you’re ever in search of a guest blogger!

Finally, I need to thank some people for their assistance, encouragement and support.

Thanks to my typewriter monkeys—Sophia, Socrates, Plato, Hera, Penelope, Aristotle, Apollo, Euripides, Icarus, Athena, Phoebe and Aquila—for their work on the blog. I could never have kept up TMTF without you. Thanks, guys. Don’t ever buy fireworks again, okay?

Thanks to my parents for proofreading many of my posts, and special thanks to my old man for providing TMTF’s artwork. You guys are fabulous.

Thanks to the bloggers who have written guest posts for TMTF, and to my younger bro for allowing me to feature his drawings. I’ve been honored to share your work.

Thanks to God, whose love, grace and kindness are rocking awesome.

Finally, thanks to the readers and followers of this blog! Your likes and comments are so much appreciated. There is no greater honor for a writer than having his work read.

We’ll be back!