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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

I think I have rooster problems

Behold, the Dorking Cockerel. Yes, there really is a place in Surrey called Dorking and it is known for a fine breed of domestic chicken, called the Dorking. They were brought to Britain by the Romans and – unusually for a chicken – often have five toes.

This big metal bird was erected in the middle of a traffic circle in 2007. Locally popular, he is occasionally subject to fond guerilla knitting campaigns.

I have not seen this fine bit of civic sculpture. A visitor from Surrey told me about it and I thought I would share.

January 19, 2023 — 8:30 pm
Comments: 5

Spider dress, spider dress

Yeah, those legs move. It attacks you if you come too close (not kidding: that’s how she describes it in her bio).

It’s the work of Dutch fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht. She builds (looks liked 3D prints) these little machines into her dresses. Some respond to stimuli. It’s very clever.

One is even controlled by the brainwaves of the wearer – the video (first link) shows them pasting electrodes on a bald woman’s head.

Probably too delicate for practicality, but I can absolutely see some of these things turning up at a few celebrity do’s – before ending up in the movies.

Spider dress is just creepy, though.

January 12, 2023 — 7:54 pm
Comments: 5

Adventures in Ebay

Always on the lookout for a nice statue of Bast, I was trawling Ebay and…yikes! What is this? Here it is in full color.

Is that supposed to be a dead cat? It’s not. It’s, like, squirrel colored. And it looks like its front legs are missing. And the tips of its ears. Is it a taxidermy? Is it supposed to be a mummy? Did he wrestle this desert squirrel for the little Bast statue?

Here’s a video where he seems to be pretending to find it in the sand next to the unfortunate beast. He’s wearing dish gloves.

Here’s the description:

You Are Bidding on Rare Antique Ancient Egyptian Statue God Cat Bastet since God Bastet Was Strongest God for protection for person also protection for his familey , home land since they worshipped God Cat to protect them while down you can see Goddess Isis Standing as women while goddess Isis was goddess of Good Health cure medicine while over her their is Winged Scarab which was Symbol of Good Luck Happy Life Wealth since these is very Rare Statue For God Cat ( Goddess Bastet) shown as cat which was made for king to worship her since they Have mAde Such Statue for God Cat to protect king also to protect his familey , castle also land of egypt since they saw cat was always protecting homes from mice Rats snakes scropions so they too her as goddess of Protection while you can find down goddess Isis shown as women as they put her to bring for king hood health cure medecine while up their is scarab which was used to bring good luck happy life wealth such statue was made during king life he wirshipped it also was taken to Grave After Death.

I think we’ll take our chances with scropions.

December 15, 2022 — 7:53 pm
Comments: 6

Doesn’t exactly strike terror

Armet with Mask Visor in the Form of a Rooster
ca. 1530
German, probably Augsburg
metmuseum collection

I mean, it’s a miracle of steel sculpture – and far be it from me to impugn the courage of roosters – but it’s hard to see this as anything other than a helmet with a lil’ chicken face.

They also have one with a lil’ people face, that’s apparently more common. It has a kind of Simpsons look about it, don’t it?

Our router has been flaking out on the regular today, so I’d better hit ‘publish’ before it goes again.

December 13, 2022 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 7