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The very first Mickey – the Steamboat Willie one – passed into the public domain yesterday. This follows a series of emergency copyright continuances beginning in 1955(!).

People have been celebrating by using the image above to post memes, but I’m pretty sure you could have done that any time you wanted. People make memes from aggressively copyrighted images all the time and ‘fair use’ has covered it.

Someone is also working on a game in the Steamboat Willie style – which looks pretty cool, but it’s a first person shooter. Which means you never actually see Willie. Which means you could have made this game any time, too.

So really the only real change – unless you want to master a whole-ass cartoon using the character – is you can play the original cartoon for free. Disney released it for free on the web, so even that isn’t a big deal.

No, the real result is it pisses Disney off. After the thoroughly rotten 2023 Disney had, the very first thing they got in 2024 was a kick up the ass. Sweet.

January 2, 2024 — 6:45 pm
Comments: 4

Whatever it was

Whenever I mention of St Leonard’s (the painting in yesterday’s post was sold out of a charity shop there), I think of this guy: the St Leonard’s Dragon.

Someone published a pamphlet in England in 1614 describing a nine-foot-long four-legged serpent with lumps on its back that left a stinky slime trail and could spit poison in a 64-foot stream. It lived in the forest and killed two people and two dogs.

God knows what it was – no other accounts appear anywhere and it’s never mentioned again – but I love this woodcut from the pamphlet. The mild look on the faces of the two corpses, and did you notice the dog’s shadow is pasted on backwards? The Seventeenth C was a funny time for art.

When I reread the article, though, it said this was near Horsham. St Leonards is nowhere near Horsham.

Sure enough, St Leonard’s Forest is a totally different place. According the article, it always had a reputation as a bad spot for serpents, ending with the 1614 account. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, 770AD, says “Monstrous serpents were seen in the country of the Southern Angles that is called Sussex” and St Leonard was a dragon slayer.

It’s still a forest. Huh.

November 22, 2023 — 7:06 pm
Comments: 5

Cursed. CURSED!

This painting was recently sold for £20 at a junk shop near me. Then it was brought back. Then it was sold again. Then brought back. Then sold for £25.

Having acquired a reputation as accursed, it sold on Ebay to an attraction in London for £1,600. Yes, it’s a Hallowe’en story – I missed it at the time.

The article describes all the ill luck that supposedly has followed it, including to people at its final home.

Personally, I think it’s simply unnerving because her left eye is about twice the size of her right eye. It’s otherwise reasonably well painted, which somehow makes it worse.

People will only accept so much facial asymmetry.

RFK jr’s face gives me the willies. It’s like his left eye is trying to slide off his face, just like this guy (name that film!).

November 21, 2023 — 8:06 pm
Comments: 4


Welcome to the Big Book of Torcs – which is not a book at all, but an interactive website (meaning, they’d welcome feedback) about British Iron Age torcs.

Tessa Matchling is secretary of the Prehistoric Society and Roland Williamson is a craftsman of museum-quality replicas. They got talking about how these things were made, and this website grew out of it.

It’s an interesting topic. Torcs come in all shapes and methods of manufacture. They were a high status item, sometimes maybe a sign of office or rank. Men, women and (maybe children) wore them. Some were a simple twist of metal and some were amazingly elaborate.

After the Romans beat the Celts in one battle in 191 BC, they looted 1,500 torcs (officers?).

They were sometimes buried with the owner, sometimes deliberately broken and put into graves and sometimes buried together in groups. Sometimes when they are buried together, they are interlocked. Sometimes wear patterns show they were worn for a long time, by more than one person.

So, status symbol, portable wealth, mark of rank, personal branding and probably something…eh…spiritual? Archeologists are too quick to put spiritual significance on ancient objects, but it’s clear torcs were significant things.

October 4, 2023 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 10

There are a surprising number of ducks in Anglo Saxon art

I went to a talk on Anglo Saxon manuscripts today. According to the lecturer, when you find a duck in a document, it means you should pay attention to the text (and not stand around quacking).

I don’t know. I looked at a lot of ducks in manuscripts and it seems to me the common theme is “mmmm…duck!”

I also learned that any figure with three rays coming out of his head is always Jesus.

And Anglo Saxon women were allowed to take any job but priest or mayor. A woman was allowed to divorce, and she got half his stuff and the children – but if she decided later she didn’t want the children, she could send them back. (A lot of this feminist stuff disappeared after the Conquest, not to return for 600 years).

And finally, Harald Bluetooth was a 10th C king of Norway and Denmark. In 1997, a team member who’d been reading a historical novel about Vikings chose it as a temporary name for a short-range wireless project. It stuck. The Bluetooth logo is Harald’s initials in Viking runes.

July 25, 2023 — 7:39 pm
Comments: 2

Nice one!

Up for auction, an especially fine Sussex pig. I’ve always wanted one.

This is a (traditionally brown glazed) pottery pig with a detachable head. It is believed (by whom? I don’t remember) that a rogue would bet a drinking companion that he (the rogue) could drink a hogshead (66 imperial gallons) of wine, and then he’d whip the head off a Sussex pig and pour himself a good swig.

Ha ha. Good way to get a poke in the snoot, if you ask me.

I won’t bid on this one, though – handsome though it be. For one thing, it’s had a repair to the head. I ordinarily wouldn’t care about such a thing, but if I’m going to pay £120 for a practical joke, I want it to be pristine.

And they usually have Wunt Be Druv incised along the neck. I can guess why it’s missing on this one: this pig is described as early 19th Century, and Wunt Be Druv didn’t appear in print until 1875 (though surely it was in use before then).

Big fan of Wunt Be Druv. I should make a t-shirt.

Today’s Tucker:
Episode 9 July 11 Topic: The Andrew Tate interview

Two and half hours long. I ain’t got time for that.

July 13, 2023 — 7:29 pm
Comments: 5


Someone in my circle has recently gone into a care home. Her brain still works, but she is no longer up to running her own affairs. She’s 91 or 92, I think.

She is a well-known local illustrator, widely published. I was asked to come look at her art supplies today to see if anything is worth saving. She would be happier if her stuff went to an artist.

Oof. Half empty bottles of ink and a curious little box with two nibs in it. Several drafting sets, nothing special. Some paper.

Made sadder because I will leave behind precisely the same sad pile of half-consumed pencils and curious little boxes and drawing pads. Only, I have a lot more of it. Yay me.

I’ll probably go heap it all in a box and carry it away because I can’t bear for it to be thrown out. Very bad juju.

The picture is what happens when you give craiyon.com the prompt “half empty bottles of ink and old art supplies.” Delighted to see AI struggles to get ellipses right, too.

April 6, 2023 — 7:35 pm
Comments: 9

Trap streets, easter eggs and Mountweazels

Speaking of maps without copyright, when I were a young corporate art drudge, it was beaten into me that I must never, ever steal art. Not for any moral principle, you understand, but because I worked for a big company with a lot of money and my boss would nail my ass to the wall if I got sued for copyright infringement.

To this day, I experience whole-body cringe when someone hands me a book and says, “here, you can use this picture.” Which has happened to me, I swear, hundreds of times.

Maps were always a particular problem, because we always needed good maps and who the hell can develop a map from scratch? Oh, the lengths I went to to steal maps without stealing maps.

I was schooled in the fear of trap streets. They’re fake roads put on maps so the copyright holder can spot when someone has traced their map. Here’s an article about trap streets in London. I pinched the picture at the top from that article, because I thought that would be meta.

Sometimes, the solution would be to put trap streets and easter eggs into a bit of traced topography. Or remove bits. Or stretch or shrink it along an axis. The point being, when one bit of art is overlaid on another, they shouldn’t match.

I have written about trap streets before. See also Mountweazel.

March 15, 2023 — 8:03 pm
Comments: 1

Oh no! It’s retarded!

People have started using AI for clip art, because (as of this writing, anyway) nobody can copyright the stuff AIs generate. You can often tell when this has been done (count the fingers), but it does a pretty passable job at generic illustration.

Well, I need a map of the South coast of England with no copyright. I thought this would be *perfect* for AI. In theory, if I tell it specifically I want a map of Kent, it out to assemble a map out of nothing but other maps of Kent and come up with a generic map of Kent.

In theory.

In practice, this is the best I’ve gotten so far. I mean, it looks more like Kent than it looks like Rhode Island, but that ain’t saying much.

I’m willing to believe that it’s a weakness in the free online tools I’m using. Surely a more sophisticated AI, you could tell it to limit its input to other maps of Kent and not get this output.

I love the fact maps have text on them, so AI has drawn random gibberish squiggles all over it.

March 14, 2023 — 8:26 pm
Comments: 8

How many fingers am I holding up?

The is AI, naturally. I don’t know why, but it really cannot work out fingers, teeth and how many legs a cat has got. (Pinched from Reddit, where I believe the key phrase was “The correct number of fingers”).

I spent an enjoyable hour browsing this Twitter account for funny AI generated images. It’s amazing what it can do, and what it can’t.

Then I spent another happy hour playing with the AI programs themselves. That is, until I uploaded a picture of myself. I AM NOT THAT OLD AND WRINKLY – thank you! – stupid computer program.

You can try it yourself on Craiyon or DeepAI or DreamAI. I’m sure there are many others. Just…be careful uploading a selfie.

February 8, 2023 — 8:28 pm
Comments: 5