R.I.P ART BELL

art-bellIt was a really sad revelation to hear that Art Bell had passed into the great beyond. I don’t usually get too upset about celebrities passing on; after all, I don’t actually know them. Yet, when I heard about Bell passing on, I had that same sad feeling I had when Tom Petty slipped away. In the case of Petty, it was announced online that he’d died, then we found out that that news wasn’t entirely accurate and that he wasn’t dead “yet” but was close to death, and it was at that point I had really hoped he’d pull through.

With the internet as it is, and the amount of hoaxes and fake death stories (Sylvester Stallone comes to mind, and I remember Frank Stallone tweeting about how these stories upset their mother) hearing that Art Bell had passed had me hoping it was just another fake story. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Art-Bell-TarotWhen we began creating a lot more of our Tarot decks, in particular the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot and Twisted Tarot Tales, we used to listen to Coast to Coast reruns at night along with Midnight In The Desert.  Art Bell was such a big influence to us, that we even immortalized him into one of our UFO themed cards in the Twisted Tarot Tales. In the 8 of Wands card, Art steps out of a small trailer for a smoke in Pahrump, Nevada.

Thanks for reading!

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Fear The Walking Dead Crossover

fear-the-walking-dead-morgan-1099726-640x320POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT

Being a big fan of both “The Walking Dead” and “Fear The Walking Dead” TV series, I was really impressed with the seamless crossover of Morgan, a character who went off to be by himself at the end of season 8, and finally traveled out west, eventually crossing paths with Nick and Alisia Clark, two of the main characters from Fear The Walking Dead at the end of the first episode. Also along for the ride are the characters Strand and Luciana (thought admittedly it had been awhile since I’d watched “Fear”, and didn’t really recognize the latter two at first) and two new characters that are tagging along with Morgan; Al, a female journalist with an awesome armored truck, and John Dorie, a cowboy type, who hasn’t spoken to another single person in over a year. (and so appears to have become a bit mad on first meeting)

I felt that the show’s opening was well executed, because it follows on straight after the strange fate of Negan (who was almost condemned to death, but later saved by Rick “my mercy prevails over my wrath” Grimes, main protagonist of the main zombie TV show). At the beginning of “Fear”, Morgan initially seems to resign himself to being a hermit in the trash camp once occupied by the Scavengers, but one by one, Rick, Carol and “Jesus” visit Morgan in the hopes of convincing him to come back to their camp. The beginning sequence is virtually an extension of The Walking Dead, tacked onto Fear The Walking Dead. Each character tries to convince him to come back to their camp, deciding that it would be better for him to not be alone.

walking-deadFor those unfamiliar with the show up to this point, while battling zombie hordes is both commonplace (as you might imagine) and gory, there has been a steady increase of enemies of the “living” variety. i.e regular humans. There is a marauding group known as the saviors causing havoc throughout the wastelands, and Rick and his group have clashed with them on quite a few occasions right up to the very end of season 8 of The Walking Dead.

Morgan has been continually struggling with the idea of killing humans ever since meeting a “cheese-maker” (a man named Eastman) who taught him the martial art Aikido. This martial art comes with its own philosophies and as Eastman teaches Morgan about the beliefs found within Aikido, Morgan, who before had killed whoever had posed a threat to him in the past, starts to believe that “all life is precious”. After Eastman is bitten, and passes on, Morgan walks away with a new perspective on life.

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Morgan meets Eastman, who teaches him Aikido and stick fighting

This belief that “all life is precious” does not make things easy for someone living in post apocalyptic America. Morgan has time after time found himself in situations that put a strain on his beliefs, but if memory serves me, he has always managed to disarm or knock out opponents with his trusty wooden staff. In other words, he finds that generally speaking he can protect himself with a staff, but when others rely on him for life or death situations, then that’s a whole other level of difficulty.

Morgan soon realizes that his beliefs have consequences. He spares the life of an attacker, who, it is later revealed, is the “alpha wolf” of a destructive gang known as The Wolves. These Wolves later go on to cause havoc and death over at Rick’s group camp; Alexandria. Realizing that sparing the “alpha wolf” in the woods led to the attack, Morgan starts to think that maybe his “all life is precious” stance is really not worth holding, or at the very least, not compatible. Morgan goes on to kill his first human after his vow to not take another life when he saves Carol’s life after she is attacked by one of the saviors. Breaking his vow sends Morgan down the long journey of conflicting thoughts and feelings and it’s not long before Morgan is killing left and right, all the while suffering, more or less, in silence.

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An early meeting with The Saviors

Morgan is probably one of the more interesting characters because he has very obvious problems going on. Most of the characters do not seem too affected (at least from a moralistic standpoint) by the prospect of killing for the sake of survival, and are able to justify it because groups like the Wolves and the Saviors are the obvious aggressors. Morgan represents the afflicted man and woman who struggles morally to take a life, even if one is provoked and is, by all accounts, “justified” to do so. He suffers PTSD. He needs to find himself after the loss of his son,  (which happened in an earlier season, but wasn’t shown.)

Carol-Walking-Dead-Season-3.jpgCarol is another character that eventually struggles with the constant loss of life and the taking of life, but when she is needed the most, she is there to pretty much save the day. In fact, I think Carol is probably the strongest character of the whole show in terms of where she began and how far she has come. (Carol started out as a timid, abused housewife, but became a strong warrior woman who almost single-handedly took down a cannibal community at “The Terminal”, saving her old group, and then came full circle, actually threatening a wife beater in the community of Alexandria). Carol is a true survivalist, to the point where some aren’t happy with her tough decisions.

Back to The Walking Dead / Fear the Walking Dead crossover…

I was rather impressed with how seamless the process was in having one character transition over into a “sister” show. It never occurred to me that The Walking Dead’s season finale would be aired on the same night that season 4 of Fear The Walking Dead premiered, but of course that’s what you’d ideally want to happen, to help with the transition of a character from one show to the other.

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Could Madison Clark eventually make an appearance in The Walking Dead?

I don’t really read the comics that the TV show is based on, nor do I read any spoilers or theory websites, so I may be completely out of the loop, but I am guessing that Morgan’s crossover from The Walking Dead to Fear The Walking Dead is a hint at the two shows eventually merging ( assuming of course that such a merger has more financial benefits from having one perfect show, rather than, let’s say, two great shows).

Another explanation might be, and it’s possibly a more realistic explanation, is that it’s a great marketing idea to convince Walking Dead fans to give “Fear” a try, and vice versa, if they watch one show, but not the other. Perhaps we might even see Madison Clark guest star alongside Rick and co in season 9 of The Walking Dead, though that’s a little harder to envision since “Fear” takes place on the West Coast, and The Walking Dead takes place around Georgia.

Thanks for reading

J

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The Lovers in Tarot

Originally written in 2017

lovers-tarot-king-journeyI originally intended to send out this newsletter a few days before Valentine’s day, but a combination of sickness and working on freelance projects delayed its being sent it. I wasn’t kidding when I said I am a one man crew on almost everything i’m involved with.

After creating a few decks over the years, we’ve created quite a few “Lovers” cards of varying themes and looks.

Our first was when I co created a King’s Journey Tarot. This was quite an unusual looking Lovers card in that it was more battle themed rather than a traditional depiction of love.

King’s Journey is a unique deck where we follow one character throughout the entire deck of cards. (With a Spirit suit and two additional Majors the total number of cards are 94 instead of the regular 78). From the Fool, considered our first card, to the World card, considered our last, coming after the minor suits, the Fool character changes in appearance the whole way through (with the exception of his clothing, which was kept very similar in theme and color to be easily identifiable)

In King’s Journey the Lovers card features the young fool character doing battle with his inner demon. Having defeated his “darkness” he has been granted the right to court the Emperor’s daughter (The Emperor appears in the background with his daughter. Similarly in the Emperor card all three appear too)

While it’s certainly a different view of love, it deals with a common theme that is sometimes crucial to confront if a relationship is going to work. Sacrificing or overcoming a part of yourself that brings negativity to the relationship.

A few years later we created a more traditional version of the King’s Journey Lovers and occasionally this has been included as a bonus card.

simply-deep-tarot-loversNext up is our Simply Deep Lovers card. This has more of a Victorian feel to it and is in a picnic setting. It was designed to be a little bit flirty but not overtly so.

Of all of the lovers cards, it’s probably the closest we’ve come to a more romantic feel to the card.

Since being published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, we’ve also released a borderless version of the deck which is available on our site  along with a Simply Deep mini deck, for those that like to collect miniature versions of their favorite decks.

Our next Lovers card was the military uniformed couple in the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot, seen below, who are depicted celebrating a marriage.

It’s a very different Lovers card than is traditionally depicted because they are in uniform. It’s more formal and less romantic. Above the couple can be seen spiritual beings, the Phoenix and Chinese Dragon inside a heart.chinese-tarot-lovers-asian

About a year after starting on the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot, we created our “green mutant” lover in what would become The Twisted Tarot Tales deck. This is probably one of my favourite Lovers cards that I’ve drawn because it is much more wacky and the colors pop making it very comic bookish.

I wrote a few pages about the message behind this peculiar version of the Lovers card in the Twisted Tarot Tales companion book and the fact that looks can be deceiving in the imagery.

horror-tarot-loversI originally illustrated another card for the lovers depicting a wolf type being in love with a woman. It never made the cut even though I personally liked it but maybe one day it will make a return.

horror-lovers-tarot-2One of the great things about depicting a universal concept like love is that there are many ways it can be depicted and they can all be true. The Lovers in the King’s Journey recognizes that relationships can be hard and often need something of a sacrifice to make them work. Sometimes that sacrifice might be our inner demon. The Simply Deep Lovers depicts a secret get away between two romantic partners; that much needed intimate time. The Chinese Propaganda version depicts marriage, I suppose I would say, in a more rigid practical way, a “uniform” way, and the Twisted Tarot Tale green mutant card represents, in my view, the truest form of love; protecting a loved one.

I think for me that aspect of love is worth more because anyone can say they love you, but without any action, without any outward sincere show of affection, especially in the hardest parts of life, then what is there to believe in? How can we be sure that the love is as real as the hallmark cards say it is! lol

tarot-horror-comicsUpon final completion, Christine wanted to depict two crash test dummies in love. To me, this image reminds one of a bit of a reckless relationship. It’s still a relationship. Not perfect, and the couple are, at least symbolically, depicted as being damaged (or about to be damaged). It could be argued that this particular couple are built for it, that’s their purpose, but in a human sense that hurt can still be difficult (forgive me if I am rambling. I have been unwell for the past week and may be making less sense than I imagine).

No doubt about it, this crash dummies card is creepy. It depicts a car crash, and even if it is in a test zone, we are all far too familiar with life and its tragedies. Some people were not too thrilled about this deck for that reason alone; it does not shy away from the horror in life, but for me personally it is more honest that way. I value honestly, and I try to be honest, most importantly to myself and the Lord. If I can’t be honest with myself, how can I be honest with you?

tarot-lovers-chinese-propaganda-artThat goes for readings too. I would only want a reading from an honest person who is able to come to terms with the fact that life has tragedies. Read more about that in my article from last edition called “Foresight” . Again, sorry for my rambling. I have spent the past few days visiting deceased loved ones, looking into NDE and feeling genuinely under the weather but I shall bounce back very soon!

The next Lovers card we created was the Winter Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot (Aka our “Year of the Rooster” version). I see this card as a card where we see the idea of love through the eyes of a child. He’s created an ice/snow creation of two adult lovers. Maybe they are entirely figments of his imagination or maybe they are a depiction of his parents.

It’s been about 6 or 7 years since I illustrated my first Tarot card and since then I’ve drawn about 8 Lovers cards through the various decks and bonus cards. In my own life I like to think I’ve learned a little about love too!

Animal Totems Part 2 ; The Insects

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*TRIGGER WARNING*

Ah, normally I do not buy into the whole trigger warning thing but I recognize that many have a fear of insects; in particular spiders. Why upset my readers if I can avoid it? Yet, for those not offended by our smaller inhabitants of earth, I share with you some which I have encountered over the years, mainly in Ireland, but further afield too!

The first totem post focused more on animals. This time around I wanted to focus more on insects.

tarot-totems-animals-meanings Featured here are photographs that I took, mostly about ten years ago, of the insects that exist in Northern Ireland.

I openly state that I do not know of their true names, but only that they wander about amidst the wild flowers and trees outside my home.

In the Twisted Tarot Tales we feature mostly animals, but insects also play a big part too. The spider, the bee and the ant play the role of attacker in some of these cards.

When I was younger I used to squash insects but as time passed, I felt bad about it. I try not to do that anymore and instead lift them and set them outside. Generally I look at it that they all have a right to live since God saw fit to put them together with body parts and life.

That being said, even to this day I am guilty of sentencing some of them to death. It tarot-totem-spiritual-interpretationis not maliciousness you understand, but out of fear. I do not like the wasps because i’m always told they have a really bad sting. That and unlike honey bees they can keep stinging without worrying about dying.

On the right we see the paper wasp. In Ireland we do not have those. When I first set foot in America and was in Ohio, I encountered these and I must say to you, they were a bit strange to me. They were a much bigger wasp than I was used to. I didn’t like them all that much. I admit I did kill a few and later found a full nest below the trailer I was staying in. They seemed to be as big as the huge dragonflies of Florida which I encountered four years later. The dragonflies, of course, were not a concern. I just do not like things that sting or bite and will avoid them if I can. In the U.S my favorite insects were the fireflies.

tarot-totems-spiritual-meaningsTo the left we see another photo I took in 2007. Again I do not know their names, but these bugs were found, mating i suppose, amidst the whin bushes ( also known as gorse bushes) which grow around N.Ireland and Scotland, England etc.

Sometimes when I was much younger I would follow some of the insects to their homes. I think what I learned about the insects was more the vastness of what God created. Millions of creatures exist, and many have yet to be discovered in the caves and jungles of the world. We tend to think that everything has been discovered, but news species are still being found today.

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On the left is a strange creature believed to be a nymph. It was discovered after researchers from the University of Harvard trekked for three weeks to explore the untouched rain-forest of southeast Suriname.

While creatures like ants, spiders and bees exist in our Tarot deck, some of these creatures which i speak of, currently, do not. I show them, rather, to share with you a little of my photography but also to share the little world that exists in our own. They exist in a world where many giants roam about. Even a rabbit or fox is giant to them, never mind cattle or humans.

Below right is what I refer to as the C3P0 beetle, only because I do not know its name and it reminds of the Star Wars cyborg. I took this photo out in Belgrade, Serbia when i traveled through there in 2007. Perhaps an Eastern European may have seen this beetle before and be able to identify it.

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I will relay a funny story. I normally am pretty understanding about people being scared of bugs, i mean I mentioned earlier that I do not like wasps. So one day Christine lets out a scream upstairs while I was downstairs. I thought she’d done something drastic, like accidentally cut herself doing whatever, it sounded very serious. So I rush upstairs to see if she’s OK. Turns out there was a little spider in the bath tub. I admit I got a little frustrated and said something a long the lines of “come on, it’s just a spider”…

So the next evening I’m sitting at the computer and above my head I see this big spider, I mean big for the UK / Ireland. It shocked the hell out of me. Normally I lift the spiders in my hand and set them outside but not this one…

tarot-meanings-totemsGod has a sense of humour! Yes, here I was figuring out how the hell I was going to get this spider out of the house. Ok so it’s no Goliath Bird Eating Spider, it’s no tarantula, I get it, but you have to understand that for all I knew it had come in on some foreign imports. Was it poisonous?

I reacted in the same way I would seeing the spiders in the states. In the states a few people would laugh at me for being a bit concerned with spiders etc, but we hear all these horror stories of poisonous spiders dissolving human flesh that I didn’t want to take my chances. In America I was warned about the brown recluse spider, and this spider in my living room, I must admit, looked a little like it

horror-tarot-comics-halloweenSo it turned out that the spider was probably called Giant House Spider, the largest spider in the UK, though it appears they can grow much larger. I learned something in that some spiders in the UK actually do bite. I have only been bitten by spiders in the U.S and Egypt, but not in the UK. And yes, the Giant House Spider does bite but is not poisonous.

Alright so maybe I was exaggerating. In the photo it doesn’t look too big of a deal. It was sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, and that was the end of him…

Until I see him walking past me the very next afternoon. A tough sucker! So I scooped him up and put him outside.

Thanks for reading this Twisted Tarot Tales Insects article 🙂

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(ABOVE: an excerpt from the Twisted Tarot Tales companion book. The rat and seagull are just a few of many of the animals and birds found in the deck)