Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Strange High House in the Mist

Driving up and down the country for the festive season has once again allowed me time to listen to audio readings of HP Lovecraft's work. I really do like his The Strange High House in the Mist - one of his more weird tales and rather less connected to the mythos that is Lovecraft's most famous creation. After (re)discovering a story I like to listen to the excellent banter-laden discussions of it on HPPodcraft.com. Alas, it seems I am rather alone in thinking Mist is a good story - most tend to find it rather turgid and badly written.

In brief, the tale is about the conversion of a skeptic - a philosopher in this case. Thomas Olney ignores the warngings of his neighbours in his new home of Kingsport and decided to visit a strange house perched precariously on a clifftop. He encounters the denizen of the decrepit abode and lots more besides. The story is replete with visions of the old sea gods, their strange aquatic minions and hints at the eon-spanning history of the ocean. I love the descriptions of the weird, old house and the hints of how magical Kingsport is, with inhabitants like the Terrible Old Man and Granny Orne.

The HP Podcraft show linked to a web comic for Mist by artist Jason Thompson. I really like Thompson's vision of Kingsport. He's managed to imbue the town with a lot of well-observed little touches, like the odd statues in the Terrible Old Man's garden, and the plethora of flora which coats many of the town's buildings. The house on the cliff is great too, with an amazing panel showing Olney entering a weird, nautical-themed Elizabethan interior. I do like his panel layout as well, with the constant raking angles hinting at the pitching of a ship, or perhaps the skewing of reality.

You can read the full text of Mist here, listen to the HP Podcraft discussion here, and see Jason Thompson's excellent web comic here.




Friday, 27 December 2013

The unquestionable genius of Kung Fury

Kung Fury is a Kickstarter project which must be funded for the good of mankind. It's a movie homage to that well known 80s cinema genre of action/cop/time-travel/viking/kung-fu/dinosaur flicks. Yes, that genre.

There's a definite hint of Kavinsky in the treatment of the logo and the soundtrack, and I love the use of shitty 80s computers for the time travel sequence.

"I'll hack you back in time... just like a time machine."

UPDATE: Laser Unicorns, the outfit who are behind this production, have just announced that the Kickstarter reached its target in less than 24 hours!  Clearly everyone hates kung-fu Nazi leaders...





Monday, 23 December 2013

Attenborough's Jurassic Park

Today it was announced the Sir David Attenborough is backing a British project dubbed "Jurassic Park". Because there are no negative connotations with that name. Whatsoever.

The naturalist's brother, actor Richard Attenborough, played the eccentric millionaire Hammond in Spielberg's movie, so David's involvement will bring even more weight. Actually it doesn't sound as dangerous as the concept for the fictional park. It seems the tourist attraction, based in what has been dubbed the Jurassic Coastline because of the plethora of specimens which have been found there, will feature fossils and possibly animatronic dinosaurs. Like a kind of Cretacious West World. Oh, wait a minute...

Joking aside, it would be great to celebrate Britain's contribution to paleontology and I'd love to see a well-though-out visitor centre. I've spent a lot of time in Lyme Regis (home to Mary Anning, who found a famous ichthyosaur specimen in the nineteenth century) and some of the museums look increasingly dated by today's standards. Also, Renzo Piano, designer of the London Shard building, is on the project to and is already concepting a glass domed edifice, which sounds pretty cool.


A photo I took a few years ago of the 'Jurassic Coastline' near to the proposed site of the visitor centre. The constant erosion of the land means new fossil-rich rocks are being constantly exposed, revealing specimens.

One of Lyme Regis' dinosaur museums. Check out the mural on the back wall - it's almost photo-realistic.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Signalman

I am discovering the joys of living in a Victorian terrace house in winter. It's freezing and I spend a lot of time under several blankets watching DVDs and exploring occult film and TV from the 70s. This led me to the excellent 1976 BBC adaption of Dickens' The Signalman.

The short story concerns a nascent friendship between a traveller and a railway signalman in Victorian England. After a chance meeting the traveler learns that his new companion has a profound dread of an impending but ill-defined catastrophe. The film is a masterful example of how to build tension. Lighting, sound and excellent dialogue all augment the wonderful pacing which leads to a terrifying climax.

This television play is a stark reminder of how reliant modern film makers seem to be on effects in order to instill horror. The availability of good quality CGI and prosthetics has led to a decline in atmospheric and implied horror and the rise of the ultra-visceral. It seems that producers fear that, unless it's all on the screen, audiences simply won't be satisfied. Nowhere is this more evident than in the BBC's latest cash-cow - Doctor Who. I love the 'old' stories for their weirdness and the inventive ways they managed to layer science fiction elements on to rather mundane locations. The new episodes are crammed with effects, extraterrestrial locations and aliens and it seems every story is about saving the universe. As a result I find them rather flat and devoid of the quirkiness of their predecessors.

Check out the full version of The Signalman below. If you like it, do watch the utterly terrifying Whistle and I'll Come to You, another landmark in BBC ghost stories.






Monday, 9 December 2013

Kilian Eng does Stargate

I blogged some years ago about the talented illustrator Kilian Eng. I've been following his work over the years and he's just knocked it out of the park with his latest effort - a poster for my beloved Stargate.

The image will apparently be on offer as a print from Evil Tender.

Eng also did an amazing poster for the recently released documentary on Jodorowsky's Dune, which is equally stunning.




Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sad Stonewash

Sad Stonewash is a video project by Luke Wyatt which explores the dirty underbelly of VHS-to-VHS copying. Wyatt uses obsolete analogue technology to force corruption into VHS footage, which he then further manipulates and cuts to music.

“I select video to appropriate based on its mood resonance or compositional zing. My VCR gets beat up with a size 13 docksider until it makes errors and the VHS tape spits up on itself. While digitizing the video I induce the computer to make mistakes by not telling it the truth about the data it is ingesting. I isolate the mistakes I like best, outline them, and send them back to my VCR, resuming the docksider attack, repeating this process until things attain an anti-sheen, losing any crisp edge, as if they had always belonged together. I then arrange the images in an order that must appear equally inevitable.” 

I love the way his process is both manual, and metaphysical. He is searching for hidden meaning buried in old data using brutal techniques which, by the sounds of things, test his equipment to the point of destruction. I suspect the results he attains as the decks spit out their last, artifact-clogged images are the most pure and truthful and are ejaculated in a Ballard-ian act of violent forced-obsolescence.

 Via Sci-fi-o-Rama

Monday, 18 November 2013

Usborne Puzzle Adventures

With my recent house move I've discovered the collection of Puzzle Adventure books published by Usborne which my sister and I adored as children. I was reminded just how good the illustrations were and the quirky ingenuity of their plots.

In the 80s Usborne was the publisher of high-quality children's picture books. Their titles were populated by vibrant, humorous pen-and-ink pictures and often had a 'scrap book' feel with newspaper-style layouts. Amongst their series were the Puzzle Adventures. These described short, fantastical stories, invariably with children as protagonists. Every spread advanced the plot, but ended with a puzzle which often relied on careful examination of the illustration(s) to solve. Thus the drawings were key to both the riddles and the series' success.

These illustrations are still marvellous today. They are invariably brightly coloured, full of humorous detail and incidental jokes. The large, double page spread ones are quite stunning and the artists clearly went to town. They evoke often very British fantasy worlds full of crumbling castles, weird antiques shops or pirate hideouts.

Usborne is still publishing today, but some time in tbe 90s lost its preeminent position to Dorling Kindersley. DK were, I seem to recall, early adopters of the digital clipped-photograph approach to non-fiction children's books, which the public was eager to adopt. Today, the vintage Usborne books feel rather dated and a product of an analogue era. Their hand-made quality, however, ensures they have a magic that makes the DK approach seem rather sterile to my mind. The slightly bonkers environments the characters found in their pages fired my imagination and made me ready to embrace another company's analogue fantasy output: Games Workshop.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Nikon Df

For a long time I've thought to myself, "I'd really love a Nikon which looks like an Old Skool film SLR but is actually digital". Clearly someone at Nikon HQ heard me, and has released the (as-ever catchily-named) "Df". However, that person, it transpires, is also a total git, because the Df weighs in at, like, £2,700.

Want.

Will likely never have.

Oh well.

It's got a full frame chip, yada, yada, yada... But what's actually pretty cool is that Nikon is once again making a camera which will mount and use old, manual lenses. Part of Nikon's draw right up until about 2005 was that pretty much every SLR they released could use old glass. However, they've abandoned this of late in favor of their smaller-form-factor bodies only mounting new lenses. It's therefore nice to see the old USP returning. Even if the chances of me owning one are rather slim.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive trailer

The trailer for Jim Jarmush's new vampire flick has hit the interwebs and it looks like an awesome take on the genre. It seems we can expect more of the languid city crawling shots that made Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai so badass.

Plus it's got Tilda in it, who is hands-down awesome.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Day of the Dead-ator!

Long-time readers will know of my love for Day of the Dead makeup. So it was with great gusto that I prepared for a Dias de los Muertos party this weekend just gone at Nottingham's excellent Contemporary gallery.

However, I subscribe to Marty Neumeier's motto that when everyone zigs, you zag. With all the city's arty types painting their face my humble efforts would likely go unnoticed. But after a bit of a think and a cry of 'Get to the chopper!' I decided to tart up an old Predator mask I had lying around.

I am pretty pleased with the result. It's really nothing special - just white acrylic paint over a black base, with a coat of gloss varnish sprayed over the top. The design was first sketched in white pencil then hand-painted. Up close you can still see the brushstrokes, which I quite like as it retains an honesty about the manufacturing process.

Remember; if it bleeds, we can kill it!


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Inside Guillermo Del Toro’s sketchbooks

A quick post at the end of the weekend which has seen me create my latest character - The Day of the Deadator (more on that soon...)

Via The Guardian: A new book by the Pan's Labyrinth and Pacific Rim director reveals how some of his most memorable monsters came to life.

Want.


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Paper Fashions with Patssi Valdez

Last week I saw the American artist Patssi Valdez speak at the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery about her 'papers fashion' project. The evening culminated in a short fashion show featuring four quite amazing outfits, predominantly made from paper.

Valdez was part of Asco, a Chicano art collective in LA which was active in the 70s and 80s. Their work was primarily performance-based and was underpinned by the racial politics facing the Mexican community in the USA. In her time with the group Valdez fabricated increasingly complex and exuberant outfits as a reaction to the 'Vogue' high-end fashion culture unattainable to poor immigrants. She and her companions performed in public and staged site-specific works which challenged the social and racial structures into which their community had settled.

Valdez' outfits exhibit the cheerful colours of Central American pop art and, like the religious art of the region, re-appropriate cheap ephemera into playful decoration. For the Contemporary exhibition Valdez has created a selection of new costumes. They have an incredible graphic quality, with their hard lines and rigid structures. The photos below show the models against a projected cyclorama (itself a design rendered in India ink).

While the conversation with the artist provided a window into Veldez' emotional and social approach to her art, her political motivations were less evident. A question which might be interesting to pose is the connection between Asco's works and the Vogueing dance style which evolved in the Black and immigrant community in Harlem in the 80s. Both groups of people faced broadly similar challenges and, in the face of exclusion from high-end culture, reappropriated facets of it using cheap materials.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Virtual photography in GTA V

Last month Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian about the phenomena of GTA V players taking photos in-game and then uploading them to flickr. He notes that these virtual photographers are, more often than not, taking shots of the sublime landscapes and vistas the game offers, rather than the violent spectacles one might have anticipated. However, he goes on to assert that these virtual-landscape photographs are nothing more than reflections of the images the game designers wanted us to see and spent so much time constructing and composing. Thus the praise should be lorded onto the coders and artists, and not the snap-happy players.

I can't help thinking that Jones is doing the phenomena of in-game photography a disservice and is neglecting the value of re-appropriation. I don't deny the skill and intent of the game's designers for one moment, but by re-contextualising these images on a platform as established as flickr I think the photographers are giving rise to a valuable cultural asset. The fact that a pool has been created, Landscape Photographers of Los Santos and Blaine County, is another sign of an emerging cultural phenomena of some worth.

While coders might be responsible for the hues of the skies, shapes of terrain and deliberate 'eyecandy' spots facing particularly pleasing vistas, perhaps it's the gamers who will be responsible for the minutia of exactly when to click the 'shutter'. They will therefore choose, on a micro scale, exactly what's in shot. It is they who will be logging their collections and legitimising the worldbuilding that Rockstar's artists who have put so much work into.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

NSFW The varied life of Carlo Mollino

The randomiser that is tumblr recently put me onto the work of Carlo Mollino, the 20th century Italian architect and designer. It took me a moment or two to work out that he was also in his later life, the pornographic equivalent of a Sunday Painter.

Mollino was a flamboyant designer who had many interests ranging from race cars to skiing to the occult. He is often quoted as saying, "Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic." and this sentiment sums up much of his professional work. His furniture has a whimsical quality and nowhere is this more apparent than with his tables. They often utilise glass tops which negate the functional surface and reveal the flowing lines of his beautifully organic supporting structures. These table legs remind me of the delicate, elongated bones of birds, or the slightly more sprawling legs of stick insects. They all possess an overt femininity with their sweeping curves, or hourglass shapes. This leads us to his photography...

Mollino kept an appartment in Turin dubbed the ‘warrior’s house of rest’. He reputedly never spent a night there, but with the aid of a housekeeper kept it in immaculate condition. Purportedly the space was for him a kind of tomb inspired by the funerary culture of the ancient Egyptians. It was into this beautiful 'mausoleum' that he invited models and later prostitutes to pose for photographs. He initially shot them on Leica cameras, but later moved to Polaroid and after he died in 1973 over a thousand Polaroids were discovered in the flat. These erotically charged images show his models in poses ranging from the Classical to the mundane to the pornographic. He claimed that the contents of his apartment, including his boat-shaped bed and his Polaroids, were intended to accompany him after death into the afterlife, much in the way that an Egyptian pharaoh or Chinese Emperor would enjoy his material wealth if he were buried with it.

Disignboom has an excellent set of images featuring Mollino's Polaroids and images of his exquisite flat.

Dennis Cooper has more fantastic photos of Mollino's apartment and more Polaroids.









Monday, 23 September 2013

Back from the dead: exciting news!!!

The radio silence on this blog has been due to a rather exciting event. I now own a house. Yay! Due to Britain's completely grotesque mess of a housing market it's been a difficult, long-winded process. However, it's now done and dusted and I am ensconced in the new Tears of Envy secret bunker. There's weeks of unpacking ahead, but that's the fun part.

There's going to be a whole new category of posts on this blog about interior design. "Egad! I check your blog for esoteric, gaming and aesthetic ramblings, not bleedin' Laura Ashley advice!" I hear you utter. Fear not - this is going to be interior design ToE style-y. Think Lovecraftian garrets and nitre-encrusted catacombs.

Stay tuned, and stay away from chintz.




Thursday, 29 August 2013

Linkage

Here is some stuff which has been entertaining me of late:

IGN profiles the Mad Max game that never was.

MELT has a collection of the awesome retro sci-fi art of Tristram Lansdowne.

Mecha Guy has photos of the new Valrave VI Hiyu. I am not sure if it's an unpainted preproduction model or if its actually got transparent bits. Either way its pretty badass.

Back in February MDOAR Productions posted HDR footage of New York set to Moby's Flower. I've only just seen it but it's quite beautiful - a worthy successor to the venerable discipline of street photogrphy.

Jade Beall has an amazing collection of feminist photography posing important questions about how we view the female body (NSFW).

Feuilleton explores a 1981 flyer-booklet given away by the band Cabaret Voltaire. The innocuous cover hid the enclosed 'zine examining gay male culture in Liverpool.

I've found this interesting history of Macross model kits over at CollectionDX.

Tides of War has constructed a completely bat-shit-mental an utterly epic wargaming table of the city of Minas Tirith.

I found more photos of one of the Horus helmet props from the original Stargate movie.

"This Armored Lady Won The Longsword Competition At a World Invitational Tournament"

I hate to think what I'd do if I was confronted with a screaming velociraptor. Luckily it's never happened but the reaction of this poor bastard makes me think it wouldn't be a happy experience.

Random Ghost (an excellent tumblr that I watch) asks, "Who should I follow?" I heartily recommend some of the ensuing links.

The recently deceased Jesse Marcel Jr was a boy of 10 when his army intelligence father brought home some random junk in the middle of the night. That was in 1947 and his dad had just got home from Roswell. You can guess the rest...

Genesis P-Orridge gives an interview and remembers when she was forced to ask, "Where's the fucking dog?"


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Damage Barton standing stones

I went away last weekend to the Wollecombe area of North Devon. I have taken to looking-up any travel destination on the Megalithic Portal to see if there are menhirs nearby. As luck would have it, two were listed as lying close to the camp site where we were pitched. Early on Sunday morning I struck out down the lush lanes for the site. A helpful local, accompanied by a slightly confused dog, pointed the way and we crashed through the rich vegetation to reach the field.

I only saw one of the stones, but it had an excellent aspect across the landscape. To the West was the valley containing the camp site, while to the South East rose the hills which crept inland. Although the exact reason why these stones were erected will likely never be known, it is no surprise that the location was chosen. Although I don't subscribe to the notion that there are mysterious lines of power running through the land, I do wholeheartedly agree that psychogeographic nexuses surround us. It is these I feel most strongly at such megalithic sites.

Bereft of my guide and his canine, I came back at a more leisurely pace. As I ducked through the mossey trees and nettles I came across the ruins of what might have been a house. The walls were made of the same stacked shale which is used in place of stones or bricks in the region. Trees had erupted amidst the broken piles of rock, creating a fusion of creepers, roots and sharp angled habitation. Moving on, I passed along a track which ran down a tunnel of overhanging trees. Images of Tolkien came to mind and the vulnerability our ancestors would have felt when bandits, bears and wolves roamed the land.





Thursday, 15 August 2013

1/100 Unicorn Gundam 03 Phenex - Custom Build

Gundam Guy has just posted an amazing set of images of this quite beautiful "Phenex" suit. It even comes with a 'full psycho frame'... whatever that is. Gilding on this scale is really touch-and-go. Things can look awesome or utterly abysmal, but in this case the modeler TORI has landed the right side of the divide.




Wednesday, 14 August 2013

MEMORIES OF RETROCITY

I have just watched the trailer for MEMORIES OF RETROCITY - an animated project by ace digital illustrator Bastien Lecouffe Deharme. I have absolutely no idea what is going on, but it looks pretty cool. I am always interested when people take still images and animate them to imply motion. Such techniques can work well for short-form projects, like adverts and trailers. Of course, fellow Frenchman Chris Marker's La Jetée arguably made the most seminal still-movie ever, and his work is devoid of animation altogether.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Mass linkage

I haven't posted a link roundup for a while so here's some interesting stuff which I've been buried in...

Simoneau Guillaume's touching photographic portraits documenting his relationship with a female American soldier (click on the Love and War project).

Close-ups of the mindblowing embroidery work which went into the Game of Thrones costumes.

...and on that note George R. R. Martin reveals what the aforementioned throne looks like in his head, and believe you me, it's altogether more badass than the HBO version.

There is a retrospective of Miroslav Tich's clandestine photographic portraits (NSFW).

Mr. YN & Mr. YG illustrations and other assorted work are quite extraordinary.

Brande in the 80s does a weirdly Bladerunner-esque stills trawl of the kids' bedrooms in Adventures in Babysitting.

Beginning in 1974 the improbably named Nicholas Nixon photographed four sisters together every year. The resulting time lapse sequence provides a wonderful window into fashion, family and the human condition.

Helen Musselwhite does some amazing fine art papercraft.

Abigail Goldman’s small diorama displays of death and tourture.



Have a great weekend! I am off to paint some ninja space elves...

ToE.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Crystal Palace might rise from the ashes

The Crystal Palace was a milestone in architectural history but the Victorian original perished in a conflagration in 1936. It now seems that it might be recreated thanks to Chinese investment.

Designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition by Joseph Paxton the glass-and-steel original was located in London's Hyde Park. Its lofty, transparent halls hosted the many wonders that were brought from far and wide for what was arguably the event of the century. Even to the untrained eye, the building was a remarkable structure with its almost transparent walls and rooves. The science behind the engineering was equally innovative, for Crystal Palace employed modular design on a scale not previously seen. This step-and-repeat process, combined with new techniques of steel manufacture, was the thing which allowed the structure to be both so impressive and affordable.

It was always understood that the building would have to be moved once the Great Exhibition had closed its doors, and after some negotiation it was re-constructed at a location in South London (the area is now known simply as 'Crystal Palace' accordingly). The Palace proved lacking in its new home and failed to earn its keep as the years went by. Fire destroyed the structure in 1936 and the glow from the conflagration could be viewed from as many as eight neighboring counties. Since the ruins were demolished the site has had a troubled economic history, but the famous concrete dinosaurs (by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkings) which survived the fire still draw tourists and retro-paleontologists alike.

Today The Guardian newspaper has reported that Shanghai-based company wishes to create an exact replica of the Palace. However, it seems the project is in its early stages and the UK's notoriously strict planning laws (and all the associated local politics) might mean its years before the plans are approved. By then, the human race might have perished and concrete dinosaurs once again rule the earth.

Previous mention of the Palace in association with terrifying pterodactyls can be found here.


The Palace as it appeared in the Great Exhibition in 1851 at its original home in Hyde Park.


The same view of the Palace during the fire of 1936 in South London.



A photo I took in 2006 of some of the aquatic dinosaurs sculpted by Waterhouse Hawkins.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Mildly NSFW: Kenneth Anger's 'Lucifer Rising'

An interview with the underground author and filmmaker Kenneth Anger has just been published in The Guardian. In the piece he expresses frank views about some of those he collaborated with during the making of his film Lucifer Rising. Clearly it was not an easy shoot, plagued as it was with drug abuse and artistic fallings-out.

The film is a languid montage of Thelemite symbolism and features some amazing location footage. It has been interpreted as a prophesy of the death of the old Hebrew religions as humanity enters a new era of nihilistic worship of Lucifer.  For me the draw of the film is not simply its imagery of ancient locations and occult sets, but the equally strange set of real-world stories surrounding the production.  Most famously the actor and musician Bobby Beausoleil was fired from the film (allegedly for drug abuse) and thereafter fell in with Charles Manson. He was later convicted of one of the Manson Family killings and is still incarcerated. He and Anger repaired their relationship and Beausoleil later wrote the score for Lucifer from his prison cell.

Below is the full film, but I also urge you to listen to Beausoleil's soundtrack which is available on Spotify.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Amazing Aliens art

Some time ago I downloaded a massive package of material to do with Giger and the Alien franchise. Amongst the vast number of images were the gems below. I thought I'd share them with you as they're too good to be kept under wraps.

I have blogged before about my fascination with the way the Giger's Alien has become embedded in our culture as a modern day boogie man and replacement antichrist. These works of staggering genius serve to show that the xenomorph continues to inspire talented artists from across the globe.

These images are, I am sure you'll agree, quite terrifying.