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You know, I don’t think my patented Weasel Brand Snark ™ would add much to this story, so I’m’onna recommend you go read the original. It’s oddly worth your time.

Meanwhile, the drain thingie on the fridge is clogged with chunks of eel and lamb spleen, or whatever’s in those pasties we eat. I have to go pick it out and mop the kitchen floor.

February 29, 2012 — 11:50 pm
Comments: 17

That’s my stat camera!

As I’ve mentioned before, I started my career in commercial art a handful of years before computers began making in-roads into graphics. That means I had to learn to do everything one way, and watch as, bit by bit, computers swept away most of the jobs I had just learned to do.

It was awesome.

If the bomb ever strikes, we will never go back to doing things the old way again. Pre-digital printing technology was as complex and far more time-consuming and expensive as anything you can do with a computer. It was all photographic materials and layers and fiddly alignment tools and calculation charts and masking. In a lot of ways, it was fun — sort of a cross between flower arranging and carpentry — but it was a whooooole lot of work.

Anyhow, someone on an art forum posted a link to the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. If you’ve ever taken so much as a mechanical drawing class in High School, you will recognize and (I hope) enjoy paddling around in this collection. The sheer amount of junk we need to do our jobs was staggering.

So many old friends <sniff>

February 28, 2012 — 11:39 pm
Comments: 27

Play pinball, live to a hundred

Steve Kordek, widely credited as the Godfather of Pinball, died last week, aged 100. He didn’t invent the pinball machine, but he came up with many of the innovations that make the modern pinball machine familiar.

Dual flippers. Multiple balls. Pop-up targets. He designed hundreds of the things.

But not the one in the picture, Jungle Queen. That was my machine.

I mean, I played it a whole bunch. The four or five months between the time I turned 18 (and thus could legally go into bars) and the time I went away to college, that was my passion: a brandy alexander, a roll of quarters and Jungle Queen. With bonus games, that could last me a whole evening (or until the third brandy, which stole my superpowers).

See those triangular things near the top? Those are two rows of five drop-targets with monkeys on them. If you caught the ball on the flipper and held it to a standstill, then slowly let it fall and popped the flipper at JUST the right picosecond, you could sling the ball down a whole row of monkeys and take them all out in one move, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

God, I loved those monkeys.

The last time I saw Jungle Queen — actually the two-player variant, Jungle Princess — was in a fairground in Rhode Island. It was like bumping into my best friend from High School (what the hell – Jungle Queen was my best friend from High School). I had spent a quarter and won a free ball on the first go and I was feeling fine, when a young man with Down’s Syndrome pushed me away and started playing. My bonus round.

I stood there a moment calculating how bad it would look if I got interrupted in a shoving match with a handicapped person, and then I walked sadly away.

February 27, 2012 — 11:11 pm
Comments: 19

Four things I did not know about Edweard Muybridge

Y’all know Edweard Muybridge, right? He settled a very old argument and kind of fathered the moving picture in the process.

Horsey folk had argued for ages whether a running horse ever had all four hooves off the ground at once. Muybridge was a well-known photographer in California when Leland Stanford (former governor, race horse owner and founder of Stanford University) hired him to answer the question. Took him years to work it out, but Muybridge eventually wired a bunch of cameras along a track with tripwires, ran a horse down it and got the answer.

Which was: everybody was wrong. People in the NO camp believed a horse always had at least one hoof on the ground. People in the YES camp thought they were all four off the ground, with the front legs aiming frontwards and the back legs aiming backwards. Like a rocking horse. Whee! Turns out…well, look at the picture.

Muybridge went on to take upwards of 100,000 photos of people and animals in motion. Which is, to this day, a cherished reference for animators and illustrators. Lumme some Muybridge!

So anyhow, I was looking up the date of that first definitive horse series (1877) and I discovered four things about him I did not know before.

He was English. Born in Southwest London in 1830. He moved to the States in his mid-twenties. He was born Edward Muggeridge, but apparently decided his name needed a little weirding up. Which explains why you’ve never heard of an Edweard or a Muybridge before (unless you have, in which case — do tell!). He got some nasty head injuries in stagecoach accident in San Fran, which may have left him a little…cracked.

Also, he killed a guy and got away with it. He discovered his wife had taken a lover — a certain Major Larkyns — tracked him down, said “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife” — whipped out a gun and BANG. Shot him dead.

His insanity plea (on account of his brain damage) was rejected, but it was ruled a justifiable homicide anyway. On account of, diddling other men’s wives was considered really unacceptable then.

Oh, a fifth and final thing — he then dropped his son off at an orphanage, assuming him to be Larkyn’s boy. Poor bastard grew up to look just like Muybridge.

Good weekend, folks!

February 24, 2012 — 11:14 pm
Comments: 27

Screw poetry — I want to shoot something

And now to the third and final game I got for Christmas — Deus Ex: Human Revolution. So far, I don’t think the facial/figure modeling is really up to the current standard, but the gameplay is supposed to be awesome. So here I go.

Beats the hell out of limping around a deserted Hebridian island pissing and moaning about my dead wife.

I didn’t mean to make another lame computer game post this week, but I was out for most of this evening. Taking notes at a Church council meeting.

I swear to god, the first one of you laughs, gets a slug in the face.

February 23, 2012 — 11:08 pm
Comments: 21

A good idea

Hm. So. I bought Dear Esther last night, which is an Indie game.

Actually, I would dispute calling it a game. You don’t really interact with stuff. You wander around a surreal landscape at will while a narrator (who is presumably you) randomly declaims fragments of a story. That’s potentially a cool ride, but it’s not a game.

I “finished” it tonight — that is, I reached the end scenario, though I haven’t seen all the content. If you watch the trailer at the link, you’ll pretty much have the whole experience, right there.

Dear Esther started life in 2007 at the University of Portsmouth as a free mod, using the Source game engine (Half Life 2). They decided to develop a commercial version, which was released on February 14 of this year. They cleverly charged a pittance (well, £7), and — much to their surprise — made their investment back in six hours.

So. Well. It was kind of like watching many indie films (something I did a lot of in my yoot). It was pretty to look at. Evocative. But after a while, you figured out that nothing was going to happen, nothing was going to be resolved, and they weren’t really ever going to tell you anything. If you like that kind of movie, you’ll love this.

Anyhow, I do hope they keep developing off-beat stuff like this. I think it could be a spectacular experience, with a bit less hippie and a bit more…meat.

February 22, 2012 — 10:57 pm
Comments: 11

Great news!

This hideous piece of shit is for sale. They think it’ll make $80 mil, easy.

Actually — I did not know this — there are four versions of The Scream. So somehow, inexplicably, this is exactly what Munch wanted this image to look like.

Three are in the National Gallery of Norway. Only this one was in private hands. This one, in pastels.

Yeah, eighty bazillions for a work on paper. In chalk. Nobody sneeze!

February 21, 2012 — 10:07 pm
Comments: 38


This picture tickles me.

So Grant Wood saw this neat old Gothic farmhouse in Cowtitty, Iowa and thought it looked cool. He imagined what sort of people would live there and made up this little story in his head about a bank manager or store owner and his grownup spinster daughter.

The woman is the artist’s sister. The man is the artist’s dentist. I’m not sure they ever stood next to each other before this picture was taken, but they certain never stood next to each other in front of this house. All three — woman, man and house — were painted separately.

And then, bullshit happened. It’s been described as a satire on wicked nasty puritanical rural Midwesterners. Or, alternatively, a noble portrayal of the indomitable American spirit (it was the Great Depression after all). Or…whatever. Pick your flavor. Whatever it is, it’s nothing to do with Grant Wood.

Take any great painting. I will guarantee you, the artist’s main thought process was, “whoa, that looks cool!”

February 20, 2012 — 11:25 pm
Comments: 25

One of my great heroes

Winsor “Silas” McCay (1869 –1934) was a cartoonist for the Hearst papers. Dude was enormously prolific and incredibly innovative — his surreal comic strips still stand as some of the best sequential art, ever.

Why is it that the first guys in any new medium are often unsurpassed by the people who follow?

If he’s remembered much at all today, it’s usually for creating some of the very first moving cartoons. Which he did all by himself. By inking, like, ten thousand key frames by hand.

The most famous is Gertie the Dinosaur, which he took on the road as a Vaudeville act. Where you see the speech panels in this YouTube version is where McCay would stand on stage talking and appearing to interact with Gertie on-screen. It must have been a corker of an experience for people who had never seen a cartoon before!

Hearst didn’t like McCay to be on the Vaudeville circuit, though, so he pulled strings to choke off his stage career. Which suits me — so many more McCay comic strips!

The most beautiful is the Little Nemo in Slumberland series, but my favorite will always be Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend.

It depicts the terrible dreams people have after eating toasted cheese just before bed. Sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, often spectacularly drawn and always trippy, this has been one of my favorite bedside books for decades. My copy has damn near fallen to bits.

So you can imagine my squee when I discovered there were 190 large-format Saturday strips I’d never seen before. Found the book by accident and ordered it straight away.

It’s funny. I can’t really find one good “representative strip” that gives a full idea of McCay’s talent. I think you have to see dozens in aggregate to see what a flipping genius the man was. But click here to see the full panel this one goes with.

Then imagine, like, 500 hundred more.

February 18, 2012 — 12:18 am
Comments: 8

Hang on, it’s coming!


Fully two weeks earlier than last year.

Lucia, of course. Good old Lucia, Boss Chicken. She’d laid 132 eggs when I stopped counting last year (once the little girls started, it was harder to tell who laid what).

Mapp, by contrast, has laid 13 eggs in her whole stupid life — she didn’t start laying in the Fall when Lucia did, and she spent the entire Summer broody, trying to hatch rocks and straw and bits of junk. In any other household, she’d for the pot, but she’d probably poison us. Crazy chicken.

It felt like Spring today, too. If we can just hang on a little longer…

February 16, 2012 — 11:15 pm
Comments: 25