Friday, 25 June 2010

Boardgame envy: Escape from Mystery Island

A wonderful portfolio piece from Joshua Long in the form of a baordgame. See his site here. I haven't played it (I don't think it's available - it is just a concept), but I presume it's based on the Jules Verne novel Mystery Island.

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles re-imagined

There have been two TMNT stories on the net which caught my eye recently. The first was IO9's hilariously scathing review of the horribly misjudged musical version of the mutant quartet's exploits. The other was the tale of the effects student's project which was erroneously cited as evidence that Michael "Transformers" Bay was re-booting the reptiles (see the photo at the foot of this post).

I thought the Turtles were pretty awesome when I was about nine. Their bat-shit-mental genetic mix-up was fresh and spawned a whole slew of imitations, including Biker Mice From Mars and Samurai Pizza Cats. I still appreciate the surreal nature of the universe but the cartoon element rather puts me off. "If only someone could do a more sober and mature version," I thought. And then I discovered Michael Zulli's three-part Souls series.

Zulli's vision is a dark and surreal journey into the minds of deviant outcasts. The heroes' reptile nature means they must hibernate, Splinter is a vicious rodent and Shredder a thoroughly terrifying incarnation of ancient Japanese evil. Some images are below but you can see more here. I managed to pick up a complete set of the three-part run from ebay US and it's one of my favourite things. Mainly because nobody shouts "cowabunga".

Eric Z's Turtle head which sparked the rumor that the series was to be re-booted.
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Monday, 21 June 2010

Photoshoot: Negative selection

I have been meaning to post the second batch of pictures from the photoshoot I did with LaLa for some time. I love these photos for many reasons, not least of which because there are some where it genuinely takes me a moment to work out which one of us is which.


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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Karl Hans Janke

Awesome work from this early 20th Century engineer. His Wiki only available in German so click here for the Google-translated version.

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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wrapped in plastic - Miss Twin Peaks 2010

I was too young to get into Twin Peaks when it was first aired, but saw it in its entirety after I became obsessed with Lynch in my late teens. I loved the retro-styled and surreal nature of Lynch's small-town with its plaid shirts, clunky furniture and nightmares buried below the veneer of respectability. The second series descended into melodrama a little too much, but the ancient horrors hinted at during the closing episodes pulled it back from the brink into the land of legendary TV.

Tomki and I were overjoyed to learn that the Double R Club were holding their Miss Twin Peaks 2010 pageant. On Thursday we trucked off to the mecca of the London burlesque scene that is the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club to find ourselves surrounded by all things Lynch-ian. FBI agents rubbed shoulders with Perdita Durango look-alikes and there was cherry pie and coffee on tap.

The night saw a succession of burlesque acts, competing for the prize of "Miss Twin Peaks 2010". My pal Miss Miranda did awesome things with a cake (and then dropped it - "always a pleasure, always a big fucking mess" noted the compare) but it was my chum Lydia Darling who snatched the prize with her amazing dark-Laura-Palmer fire act.

Remember, the owls are not what they seem.

Miss Twin Peaks 2010 - Lydia Darling

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Lovecraftian randomness

The sort of thing I get up to when I should be doing something else.

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Conrad Veidt - The Man Who Laughs

By a circuitous route involving the Black Dahlia and then "Glasgow" (or "Chelsea") smile I came across The Man Who Laughs - the stunning 1928 film starring Conrad Veidt. The makeup in this film is awesome and Veidt's rictus smile is truly disconcerting. No prizes for guessing Veidt's character was one of the inspirations for The Joker.

Reenactment - the Ancient Greeks go to Cosmeston

A week or so ago I went with the Hoplite Association to South Wales for our second show of this season. Our destination was Cosmeston Medieval Village. Cosmeston is a re-creation of a middle ages settlement which has appeared in various films and television series, including the BBC's recent Merlin. Cosmeston is held in high regard by veteran reenactors as the site is amazing, the staff are lovely and the public always enthusiastic. The village lived up to its reputation and we had a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend. One of its best features is a bar in a long barn. The building has no chimney and so it fills with smoke and swallows nest in the rafters inside. Drinking in there with everyone in costume is an amazing experience.

One of the great things about reeneactment is the ability to "get away from it all". I turned off my mobile phone for three days and completely forgot about the cares of work and London. I had one glorious moment when, sitting in an Ancient Greek command tent, I looked out and could see nothing except period tents and costumes. There were no signs of the twenty-first century visible. I suddenly felt that I was as close to our heritage as it is possible to get.

Thankfully we were not plagued by the cold of Bushey and I was able to don my Athene costume. I did, however, buy a large bolt of black wool which I think I will make into a snug Persian outfit to keep me warm in the evenings.

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The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer

Jonathan Jones wrote an interesting piece for The Guardian last week about The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer (wiki here and high rez Creative Commons version here). Jones asserts that the painting is terrifying because it depicts the horrors of war in a unique manner. Anti-war art usually focuses on the brutality of war by showing the gory details up close. Altdorfer, on the other hand, turns this convention on its head and shows us a god's eye view of the carnage and so reminds us of the scale of the havoc that mass combat wreaks.

What caught my eye about Jones' piece is that he makes the connection between Altdorfer's work and toy soldiers. What Jones is possibly not aware of is that this painting has had an immense effect on the aesthetic of Games Workshop's creations for this very reason. John Blanche, Workshop's Art Director, has said that The Battle of Alexander at Issus has been the direct inspiration for much of his company's output. Most notably it inspired the cover of their Warmaster game (painted by the amazing Geoff Taylor). The depiction of thousands of troops sweeping into combat captures exactly the feel that the games company tries to imbue its products with.

As well as its content, Workshop has also been influenced by the style of Altdorfer's painting. The British company has successfully carved out a place in the entertainment market by rejecting the rather more crisp, clean and idealised visions of fantasy worlds that were coming out of America in the late twentieth century. Instead Workshop opted for a more gritty, decayed and quirky feel to their visuals. These are characteristics of northern European renaissance art, which is typically more concerned with detail and realism. Ian Miller, one of the core artists employed by Workshop in its formative years, makes this very clear in the introduction to his section of the Miller/Blanche monograph Ratspike.

Altdorfer's work, then, lives on in the beautiful, strange and sometimes disturbing miniature worlds created by Games Workshop.

Detail from The Battle of Alexander at Issus

Detail from The Battle of Alexander at Issus

Detail from The Battle of Alexander at Issus

The cover of the Games Workshop game Warmaster

Friday, 4 June 2010

Giovanni Boldini

The utterly amazing work of Boldini. Wiki here.

Boldini's portrait of the awesome (and more than slightly bonkers) Marchesa Casati

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