Friday, 30 November 2012

Beautiful drawings by Marco Mazzoni

Marco Mazzoni has an eye-wateringly beautiful tumblr of his Moleskine sketches. I love the way the drawings ignore the centre-fold of his notebook and run across the stitches. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Squids are one of my favorite animals. I think it's because they're alien, ridiculous and terrifying in equal measure. For me they embody a lot of primal fears about the ocean. They are so very different from us land mammals with their boneless bodies, ability to change colour, tentacles and beaks (yes, they have BEAKS!). In recent decades the stories of giant monstrosities capable of sinking ships have been proven to be more than tall tails. Architeuthis Dux has been captured on camera and the females of the species can grow up to nearly 50ft. It's bigger brother, the Colossal Squid is fast becoming an accepted scientific reality. How long before evidence of more gargantuan tentacled beasts is found?

It's not surprising that those with a penchant for fantasy have been enamored with our cephalopod comrades. Many an alien has featured tentacles, bulbous eyes and beak-like maw (I am looking at you here, Metaluna Mutant). Lovecraft was writing at a time when technology was first allowing humans to explore the deeps and the fossil record was starting to show that all life came from the sea. His visions of pulpy, amorphous elder gods laid many of the foundations of today's tentacle-horror.

At last weekend's Hoplite Association event, my friend Nikarete whipped up some calamari. She started from scratch with a pile of whole squids. I was fascinated by their layers of transparent flesh and took the snaps below as they were dissected. I was particularly interested in the construction of their beaks, which are formed from two separate boney hooks that mesh together in the muscles where the tentacles converge.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hoplite Association winter Symposium

Last weekend saw the Hoplite Association gather for one of their regular Symposia. These are weekend retreats where we socialise, work on our projects and generally make merry.

Our society reenacts life in and around Ancient Greece in the fifth century BC (known as the "Classical" century). At this time there was no cotton - the Greeks only discovered the plant in the later Hellenistic period. Therefore all clothes would have been linen, wool or possibly silk. Iron was now available and used for weapons but bronze was still used for armour. Because of the restrictions on materials and because there are so few groups focusing on this period, there is little kit available off-the-peg from reenactment traders or craftsmen. We therefore have to make or commission most of what we use. My weekend was spent making a pair of sandals from leather. I am pleased to report this went very well and I'll post about them soon.

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite snaps from the weekend.

Our mascot is Fraser the Hoplite bunny- also known as "Lunch"

Friday, 23 November 2012

Custom vinyl wraps for cars

So, it turns out while I wasn't looking there's now a bunch of folk who are doing awesome custom vinyl wraps for cars. Gone are the days when proud owners would airbrush slightly dodgy portraits of Native Americans onto their bodywork. The new digital techniques mean that high-quality custom graphics can wrap over surfaces seamlessly. Plus the vinyl protects the paintwork and can be peeled off when you're board of that digital portrait of a Native American.

Admittedly many designs are hideous, but I think the scope they allow is fascinating.

Via This Blog Favorite

Thursday, 22 November 2012


A friend was telling me about ARTEMIS, a LAN game simulating starship combat. A group of comrades gather and connect to a LAN. Each takes the helm at a particular station (weapons, engines, science etc) while one acts as the captain. They have to cooperate in order to complete the mission at hand. Of course, this is all blatantly ripped from Star Trek but that doesn't stop the fun.

What's more fun for the rest of us are the videos that are emerging on YouTube of the "crews" playing the game.

Rainbow-vomiting-Polar-Bear (not his real name) made the astute point that it may not be long before we see licensed versions of the game using things like the Battlestar Galactica intellectual property.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Mouse & Cat

The super-talented GMUNK, who did some awesome interfaces for TRON: Legacy, has teamed up with Sony for their Skyfall tie-in ad. GUI heaven!

vis hudsandguis

Sony - Mouse & Cat from Joseph Chan on Vimeo.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

White pens

About a year ago I blogged about using a white pen - a Uni-Ball Signo to be precise. Since then I've used a few white ink gel and paint pens so I thought I'd share my experiences.

The first two are ball-point pens, while the second two are paint pens. I've rated these according to how well they meet my desire to have a fine but opaque white line for use over ink-washed paper surfaces.

1. Uni-Ball Signo (6/10) c.£3.00
This was my first foray into white-pen territory and I was pretty satisfied. This is the pen Ben Templesmith mentioned using in a profile I read about his work. It's a roll-ball which has some drawbacks - you need a surface which offers a good purchase in order to get the action started. Sometimes I try and draw onto a surface over which I have washed inks. If the inks aren't totally dry the pen tip will 'skid' across the surface and the tiny ball bearing won't roll (and so no ink comes out). This is not a huge problem with this Signo, just an occasional niggle. What's a bit more annoying is that the pen will start to run out even when I can still see ink in the barrel. These things really have to be stored tip-down in the last months of life or the white ink (which needs to be thick in order to make it opaque) won't flow to the tip. I got the fine-tipped version and the line weight is second only to the next entry on this list.

2.  Uni-Ball??? (3/10) c.2.70
This was my second pen. It's another roller ball from Uni-Ball and I think it's also called a Signo (possibly a Signo Pastel). The reason I am slightly hazy on this is because I threw the damned thing away. It's a smaller nib-size than the Signo mentioned above, and the ball bearing refuses to roll waaaaay too frequently. It also suffers from the same ink-flow problem. That said, when it works it does produce a nice line which is the finest of all those I've tested. This model is the one I see more frequently in shops in the UK.

3. On The Run 165 (5/10) c.3.50
My third pen is a paint stick bought from a rather funky graffiti shop (such places are, I suspect, the preserve of middle-class white folk with Mockney accents who are the only ones who can afford the price charged for Montata spray... much like myself). The shop patron boasted about its ability to write on any surface. While this might be true, I have found the ink rather transparent. Furthermore, the solvents used sometimes pick up the colour of whatever's being scrawled onto. It works by a pump method, where one shakes the barrel then pumps the tip to charge it. This avoids the 'slipping' problem of ball-points as the ink will flow even onto the most glassy surface. In this case, the tip seems to be stiff fibres which allow the paint to run through them. Although I bought the variety with the smallest tip, it produces the thickest line of all those pens I've tried. This is a pain for me, but might not be a huge worry for someone else.

4. Uni Paint Marker (7/10) c.£3.00
Another pump-pen this time from UNI. I got this baby yesterday and I have to say I'm pretty impressed. It's a pump model so there's no slipping, the ink is really opaque and flows well. It's line is finer than the On The Run, but worse than either of the two ball-points. The tip looks like its solid, in contrast to the On The Run model which might explain why the line is narrower.

None of those I've tried are perfect but so far, it's number four that's my weapon of choice. The Signo Paint Marker would rank higher if its tip was thinner. I really like the reliability of the pump pens as the skidding and ink problems of the ball-points just annoys the hell out of me. Something that worries me is whether their stiff tips will ever wear with use and so increase the line weight. I have not used one for long enough to find out.

[edit March 2013 - I've now used the Uni Paint Marker (number 4 in the list) and it's actually pretty bad on absorbent surfaces including most papers. The ink seems to seep into the paper fibers readily and it's only good for harder surfaces, or those which have been thoroughly coated beforehand. I've gone back to the Uni-Ball Signo (number 1) but getting them seems to be harder these days]

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology

This is a shameless re-post of an excellent set of links recently uploaded by { feuilleton } (AKA the very talented illustrator and designer, John Coulthart). Mr C compiled a set of extended mixes from sound artists who have sampled occult themed 70s films and TV shows. The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw, Children of the Stones and The Stones Tape are the order of the day.

I particularly like The Ephemeral Man's Samhain Science.

Click here for { feuilleton }'s full list.

Friday, 16 November 2012

World's most awesome DVD case

I visited some friends recently and was enthralled by the full-sized sarcophagus they had in their living room. It transpired to be what, I am sure you will agree, is a contender for The World's Most Awesome DVD case!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Music: Techno city by Cybotron

Awesome 1984 track which would be perfect as the background to a vintage cyberpunk game.

Via the awesome { feuilleton }

Friday, 9 November 2012

Tewkesbury Abbey

Last month, on the way back from a wedding in Bristol, I stopped at Tewkesbury Abbey to break the journey north. I had vaguely heard of it during my Gothic architecture lectures at university, but I don't think we ever covered it in any detail. I was pleasantly surprised as the structure and the town that surrounds it are well-kept with a good deal of history preserved.

The Abbey sits beside the River Severn (indeed, it was flooded in 2007). Although a cell was present from the 7th century it was formally consecrated as a Benedictine monastery in 1121. It's notable for being built with stone imported from Caen in Normandy. It didn't fare well in the 15th and 16th centuries, being the site of massacre of the War of the Roses and then Henry VIII stripped the lead off the roof for resale during the Dissolution.

Most abbeys were built on the same basic plan and were home to many generations of monks over the course of centuries. When I walk about such places and drift into the twee gift shops smelling of lavender and electric heaters, I can't help imagining how they have changed. How different they must have been! Men would have lived most of their lives there, prayed, worked, slept, argued and (possibly) loved there before dying within the walls. They would have been the world to some, who would barely remember their lives prior to joining their brotherhood. I love looking into all the nooks and crannies (of which there always seem so many) and wondering what might have occurred there in the distant past and why they might be special.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Nigel Kneale in NY

The Radionic Workshop is holding is holding an edition of their Cathode Ray Seance in NY later this month on Nigel Kneale. The Haunted Worlds of Nigel Kneale is a day-long extravaganza of his work. It ends with a musical performance of The Road - the utterly terrifying television play, now lost and for which we only have the scrip.

It's 2012 - where's my flying car dammit!

Via the excellent { feuilleton }

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

2012 deathshead

Last week I rocked-up to a Staff gaming night in full deathshead regalia. I was chuffed to be deemed to have the best costume (well, in truth I was the only one in costume). I was duly awarded The Spirit of Halloween award. This was nice, because I proceeded to loose two and draw one game of 40K. Ah well...

This latest iteration of my deathshead look was executed (sorry) using black oil-based face paint and eye liner. There is no white. Key to the process is having wet-wipes, moisturiser and earbuds at hand to correct little mistakes and 'rub out' those small areas which have to remain light in otherwise dark areas (like the teeth).

At about 10:30pm I drove a friend home and then went to the supermarket. The staff were remarkably good about the whole thing.

Thanks to Supreme Photographer Glenn Moore for this awesome snap.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Nastassja Kinski - voodoo meme

Last week I went to an excellent lecture given by the UK photographer and film maker Leah Gordon at the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery. She spoke eloquently about her experiences during her many trips to Haiti to study and document the voodoo practices of the island's inhabitants.

Her talk was illustrated by a great collection of photographs she had taken over the years. There was one image of a voodoo shrine which showed, amongst the clutter, a poster-print of a woman lying on her side entwined with a snake. This poster, it transpires, has become a meme in Haiti. Copies are often found in shrines dedicated to the 'loa' Aido Quedo, who is associated with serpents (and is sometimes called 'The Rainbow Serpent').

The poster is, in fact, a photograph taken in 1981 of the actress Nastassja Kinski (Klaus' daughter) by the late Richard Avedon. The image was popular in the 80s (and may have been used as a film poster at some point, but I can't find any evidence of this). Copies are not uncommon and there is a lot on the Christies action site for an original print which sold for $74,500.

I am enthralled by the way the image has become a meme and now has associations quite divorced from its original intention. It came to prominence through modern marketing and as a consequence of its successful distribution it has now been appropriated by a radically different audience for private veneration. Avedon was exploring the associations of the serpent in Western culture as the entity that corrupts Eve, but his image has been re-appropriated by another religion to mean something entirely different.

William Gibson would be proud.