For its first five years, Make: magazine ran a column called "MakeShift," edited by Lee D. Zlotoff, creator of the TV show MacGyver. The idea was to present Make: readers with a MacGyver-esque challenge in each issue, collect all of the submitted solutions, and then publish an analysis, along with all of the top submitters' notes and sketches, on the Make: website. The "MakeShift" challenge asked readers to ponder such conundrums as how to contain a viral outbreak on a plane, how to charge your phone with nothing but camping gear and a propane torch, how to fend off a zombie attack, and how to get help after a very bad fall.
The reader-responses were impressive. People really put a lot of thought into their solutions, sending copious notes and drawings. And in fully explaining the challenges and ranking the solutions in the follow-up website articles, Lee and Make: editor Bill Lidwell shared a lot of great MacGyvering tips and nutshell science and engineering.
Sadly, years ago, the "MakeShift" columns disappeared when a dedicated magazine area of the Make: site was discontinued. So, a few weeks ago, Make: decided to bring back "MakeShift," now publishing re-constituted columns every Wednesday. Here are the first three posted.
Dead Car Battery
You're 50 miles into mountainous woods, your battery is dead, and there's a big snowstorm bearing down. How can you revive your dead battery
? On, and it's a automatic transmission.
You're in a village in East Asia and the water has become dangerously contaminated. Read the rest
Last year, I had the pleasure of exploring “the Frozen City” of Felstad, aka Frostgrave, the ridiculously fun, retro-reminiscent fantasy miniatures game from Osprey. Designer Joseph McCullogh and Osprey have followed up the highly-successful Frostgrave book with a series of excellent supplements. The latest of these is Forgotten Pacts.
Frostgrave is a very psycho-geographical game, where the ancient, ruined, and magic-saturated city of Felstad is really a central character in the game. One of the things each follow-up book does is shine a light into some new corner of that dark and ruined world. And with that light is also illuminated new stories of the city’s past, new wizard and warband types, new magic, treasures to unearth, and new monstrous adversaries.
Forgotten Pacts accomplishes two goals in advancing the game and the setting of Frostgrave. It introduces a new region, the northern reaches of Felstad, and the barbarian tribesmen who have come down from the hills to plunder and explore there. The book also introduces a new magical discipline for courageous wizards to attempt: demonic summoning using pacts. Demon summoning was de rigor in this region of the city during its heyday and the barbarians have re-rediscovered the lost art of it among the temple ruins and incorporated the practice into their way of life. Venturing into this region, players’ wizards get the opportunity to find a demon’s True Name (basically an unpronounceable name rendered as a sigil) among the ruins, and with that name, attempt to conjure and forge a pact with a demon. Read the rest
Yesterday saw the release of Canadian artist, graphic novelist, and scratch DJ Kid Koala's latest record, his fifth, Music to Draw To: Satellite. An ambient concept record, Music to Draw To: Satellite is about a pair of lovers separated by a one-way trip to Mars. Each track is like a sonic love letter, an expression of the loneliness of extended isolation, the wondrous, terrifying void of space, and missing those left behind. Seven of the tracks on the record feature vocals by Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini (known for, beyond her critically-acclaimed solo career, recording with Thievery Corporation, and singing "Gollum's Song" in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).
I have been soothing my restless psyche for the past few days with heavy-rotation listening to "Collapser," one of the first tracks released. This lost in space lullaby features the most wistful and dreamy vocals from Torrini on the record. For the video, Kid Koala teamed up with "chemical puppeteer" Karina Blea whose work is described as "an ultraviolet study of chemical theatrics under a microscope." The slowly changing, minimalist liquid world of colored drips, languid swirls, and chemical reactions is a perfect complement to the insistent rhythms of the music and Torrini's melancholy vocals sweetly swimming over the top.
Kid Koala says that he was inspired to do this project by the go-to records he listens to whenever he's drawing and working on his art. He wanted to create such a piece himself. He and his record company, Arts & Crafts Records, have even gone so far as to release a deluxe version of the CD which comes in an 80-page sketchbook so that you too can draw along to the music. Read the rest
Adam Savage visited Weta Workshop in New Zealand last year and has posted videos of him touring various studios within the well-known movie effects and prop studio. In this video, he sits down (on the floor) with Peter Jackson to get a tour of Jackson's collection of John Chambers' makeup kits and latex appliances. Chambers is perhaps best known for being the makeup artist who created Spock's ears and for his work on the Planet of the Apes films.
What most people don't know is that Chambers also worked with the CIA to create special agent disguise kits at the height of the cold war. Adam and Peter look at Chambers' movie makeup kits and some of his molds and appliance from Planet of the Apes, but they spend most of the time going through and discussing the CIA disguise kit. As Adam says, it's the closest we probably get to verification that Mission Impossible was at least based on some type of reality. It's insane to imagine someone actually using a kit like this in a real life-or-death getaway.
As one person on the YouTube page commented about this video:
I love that this totally feels like just two nerds doing "show and tell," but it's actually Adam Savage and Peter-fucking-Jackson!
But isn't that one of the things that we love about nerds? Read the rest
Comic artist R. Sikoryak, known for his Masterpiece Comics
and his graphic novel version of the iTunes user agreement
, is now creating faux comic book covers using tweets and speech excerpts from our High School Bully-Elect. Sikoryak is known for doing his art in the style of other artists and here he pays homage to the likes of Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead
), Jack Kirby, Bob Montana, Chris Houghton (Adventure Time
), and others. Here are a few of his covers.
See all of the covers to date on his Tumblr blog
. Read the rest
When I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to try marijuana. It took me a while, but I eventually scored some from a high schooler and went to a friend’s house to smoke it. His brother was away at college and allegedly had rolling papers in his room. We needed something to clean the pot on, too, and his brother conveniently had a large book, a floppy, unwieldy beast called The Last Whole Earth Catalog. As I hunched over this mysterious artifact, picking out seeds and stems while scanning the oversized pages, for the first time, I encountered names like Buckminster Fuller, Gregory Bateson, Stewart Brand, and concepts like systems thinking, nomadics, geodesic domes, and countless domains of DIY. I was completely enthralled. We managed to roll a sad-looking, lumpy joint and smoked it, but I was more interested in the book than the dope. When we were done, I asked him if I could trade my nickel bag ($5-worth) for the catalog (which had a big $5 price tag, printed in big Cooper Black type, right on the cover). He said his brother hadn’t seemed tremendously interested and probably wouldn’t miss it. We made the trade. I didn’t know it at the time, but in that transaction, I had just set foot on the path that leads directly to today. My lifelong work in DIY media, tech, and culture (I lived in communes for nearly 20 years) can all be traced directly back to this copy of the catalog and all those that followed. Read the rest
Of all of the accolades that Bowie received after his death last January 10th, there was precious little said about his pioneering work on the Internet and the burgeoning World Wide Web. In 1998, he launched Bowie.net and became the first major artist to create his own internet service, to distribute his songs online, to use the Web to offer things like branded/vanity email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and exclusive backstage access to Bowie.net subscribers (using crappy late-90s streaming technology), and to use the Web to communicate directly and collaborate with fans.
In this video clip from 1999, he talks with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and seems to shock him with what sounds like an alarming prediction about the future of the Internet.
Bowie: I think the potential for what the Internet is going to do for society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we are on the cusp of something both exhilarating and terrifying.
Paxman: It's just a tool, though. Isn't it?
Bowie: No it's not, no. It's an alien life form. [Laughs] Is there life on Mars? YES, and it's just landed here.
[H/t Will Kreth] Read the rest
Last year, a few days after David Bowie died, I posted the following reminiscence/remembrance to my Facebook page. On the anniversary of his death, I thought I might share it here.
It was Friday, November 16, 1973. I was 16 years old. Every Friday night, I would rush home from whatever trouble my friends and I were trying to get into to watch The Midnight Special, hosted by the chronically-howling Wolfman Jack. For a sheltered kid growing up in a small Southern Baptist town outside of Richmond, Virginia, The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert were the critical means for seeing live-performance rock n' roll.
On this night, the show broadcast David Bowie's 1980 Floor Show, a special that had been recorded in October of 1973 at The Marquee Club in London, but not previously aired. Up to that point, I don't know how much Bowie I'd been exposed to, but it wasn't much. I'd certainly heard “Space Oddity” countless times on the radio, and likely a few other tracks, but my exposure was minimal. And I don't think I'd ever laid eyes on the man until this broadcast.
I was so excited as the show began, but that enthusiasm soon turned to confusion, then outright fear. I saw this....creature that I had no frame of reference to understand. I was looking at some strange and incomprehensible being, some OTHER. The freedom I saw, the creativity, the gender fluidity, and the flaunted sexuality, it was both seductive and alarming; this pandrogyny felt fundamentally threatening to whatever male heterosexuality I'd been trying so desperately to understand and to model. Read the rest
It is perhaps very telling that all of the review blurbs on the back cover of Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt's Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC are written by fellow musicians and songwriters. Andy Partridge has always been a musician's musician.
Complicated Game is a series of candid and detailed interviews with Andy Partridge about many of XTC's most well-known songs. Todd Bernhardt, the interviewer, is a fellow musician, XTC mega-fan, and friend of Andy's, so they don't shy away from discussing the nitty-gritty details of chord changes, instruments used, studio hacks, and other compositional and engineering minutia.
In the chapter on "Senses Working Overtime," Andy explains how the whole song came about as he was fooling around on a new Martin guitar and he played a "messed-up E-flat." He thought it sounded very Medieval so he tried to find other chords that went with it (A-flat minor and D-flat). He says the rest of the song sort of composed itself from there. We also learn that "English Settlement" was their "new instruments record." The bandmembers had all just gotten new instruments (Andy, the Martin, Dave Gregory, a 12-string Richenbacker, Colin Moulding, a fretless bass) and they were excited to noodle around on them to see what they could do.
There are many other interesting and fun revelations in the book. "This is Pop," from White Music, was Andy's way of rejecting the pigeonholing of the punk label, making sure that everyone was reminded that this is pop music, plain and simple, and that ain't a dirty word. Read the rest
I posted this on Make: yesterday, but thought it was too good not to share here. A gamer named David Henning is in a gaming group and they exchanged gifts this past Christmas. Dave wanted to do something really special for his recipient, their new Dungeon Master, so he made him this amazing castle-themed DM screen. Not only does it act as a screen to hide the DM's dice rolls and campaign info, but it also includes a built-in dice tower, a lit dice display area, a place to mount quick reference material, a place to store non-playing characters (NPCs), and holders for pencils, erasers, and sharpeners.
The screen was made almost entirely of foamboard (three 2' x 2' pieces) with all of the stonework made by drawing on the bricks and then using a foam cutter to burn in the mortar lines. The bricks were distressed with a ball of aluminum foil and a hobby knife. Popsicle sticks were used to create the wooden doors and hatches. The whole thing was primed black and then painted and drybrushed with lighter hues of gray up to white (with some green wash thrown in to add a hint of organic funk).
More pics and information about the build can be found on Make:. I found out about Dave's project on the highly-recommend Facebook group, DM Scotty's Crafts N' Games (closed group, ask to join), a great place to find D&D-related terrain and accessory builds, miniature painting show n' tell, and gaming-related craft projects. Read the rest
Japanese manga artist Junko Mizuno is known for her dizzying mix of everything from Japanese cute culture to erotic and pin-up art to religious and fairy tale imagery. In TRIAD, an absolutely stunning 16-page book, she brings three of her characters to life in 3D pop-up form — the Nurse, the Witch, and the Wrestler. The trio appears in five pop-up spreads, Ocean, Serpent, Triptych, Mansion, and Tree.
There is no text to the book, and no explicit narrative that I could discern. But there’s so much going on here, so much whimsy and weirdness, and some very clever use of pop-up book technology. This is really a piece of interactive art exploiting the book format. If you’re a fan of Junko Mizuno, Japanese manga and pop art, or of pop-up books in general, you will likely be as blown away by TRIAD as I was.
This little video flick-through by Poposition Press will give you a better idea of the blazing eye-candy to be had in TRIAD.
by Junko Mizuno
2016, 16 pages, 11.5 x 9.0 x 1.5 inches, Hardcover
$50 Buy one at Popsition
See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest
Petra Haden is a talented violinist and singer who has performed with everyone from The Decemberists to Victoria Williams to Sunn O))). On her YouTube channel, she also posts really impressive a capella versions of such movie themes as The Exorcist (Tubular Bells), Star Trek: The Original Series, and the theme to the 60s Batman TV show. She's also done a capella covers of Bowie's Life on Mars, King Crimson's Frame by Frame, the Furs' Ghost in You, and other pop and progressive tunes.
Here, she does a seriously beautiful and haunting rendition of the Vangelis Blade Runner theme, complete with Deckard's voice commands as he navigates an image of the replicant Zhora. Read the rest
Anyone who’s waded any distance into the murky waters of legend surrounding British occultist Aleister Crowley has likely heard the stories about his involvement with British intelligence in WWII. He helped interrogate Rudolf Hess after Hess flew a plane from Germany to Scotland to negotiate peace. He worked closely with Ian Fleming (and Fleming’s Blofeld is based on him). He falsified astrology charts to throw off Hitler’s soothsayers. Or, these are the apocryphal stories, anyway.
In Aleister & Adolf, author, media theorist, and now comic book writer, Doug Rushkoff makes clever use of these and other tales about the self-proclaimed Beast 666 to make a deeper point about the profound manipulating powers of “charged” symbols in our modern world. It’s ultimately a book about how the manipulation of symbols and the effective use of propaganda can have deep consciousness-changing effects on a population, and can lead to fascism. Timely, eh?
The book runs with one well-known story from the Crowley apocrypha, that he was responsible for creating the V for victory symbol to be used by Churchill as a counter-sigil (occult symbol) to neutralize the swastika. Rushkoff casts Crowley and Hitler as real-world superhero and supervillain (or maybe, supervillain working for the good guys and straight-up supervillain) in an intense war of symbols and psychic combat. Actually, we don’t see much of Adolf in this book, Aleister & Adolf is mainly about the Crowley side of the magical front lines, as seen through the eyes of a young American army newspaper photographer sent to spy on Crowley and possibly recruit him to work for the U.S. Read the rest
RAWIllumination.net announced yesterday that a manuscript by Robert Anton Wilson has been found and will be published by RVP Publishers in the first half of 2017. The manuscript appears to be substantial, weighing in at 340 pages.
RAW and Discordianism scholar Adam Gorightly rediscovered the book and wrote a forward for it. And although the book was never published, it formed the basis for later work, Gorightly writes in his forward: "Starseed Signals laid the foundation for RAW’s landmark work Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati, so don’t be surprised if some of the passages in this book seem familiar, to be later lifted and inserted into the Cosmic Trigger narrative."
I assume this book chronicles, at least in part, the period in the early 70s when Wilson and Timothy Leary were convinced that they were in communication with beings from the dog star, Sirius. In the end, RAW wrote off much of the episode to drugs, delusion, and wishful thinking -- and found it all a fascinating experiment in extra-human communications.
[Image via Robert Anton Wilson: The Map Is Not The Territory: The Future Is Not The Past] Read the rest
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Charles Platt’s Make: Electronics series (which I instigated as an editor at Make: Books) is his “Learning by Discovery” approach. You learn about electronics by doing the electronics and then learning about the science and engineering behind what you just did. So I was thrilled to see that in Platt’s latest book, Make: Tools, he uses the same project-based learning approach. Here, you do various, mainly wood-based, projects and learn about the tools as they are needed. For instance, in the first project, which is a wooden puzzle, saws are discussed as one is called for, then mitre boxes, clamps, rulers and squares, sanding and finishing tools. In the end, you’ve been introduced to each of the the tools in action and you have a fun puzzle to show for your efforts.
Charles always picks clever projects and Make: Tools is no exception. Projects here include a set of jumbo wooden dice, a pantograph, a Swanee whistle, parquetry, some wooden and plastic boxes, basic bookshelves, and even a few useful shop jigs. Through the course of each chapter, the project reveals the tools needed and explains how they’re used, their features and variations, and any safety precautions. Each chapter is also followed by a fact sheet that delves more deeply into a featured tool or material introduced in the chapter. Charles is known for his intense attention to detail and there’s plenty of evidence of that here. Each of the handsomely-designed pages (photographed and illustrated by Charles and designed by his wife, Erico Platt) has a lot going on and close examination pays off. Read the rest
While at Make: for many years, I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Shawn Thorsson, author of Make: Props and Costume Armor. Shawn was one of the first serious amateur prop builders that we featured. He and one of his Space Marine costumes even made it onto the cover of the magazine. When Shawn launches a project, he’s like a torpedo in the water. You either get out of the way or you prepare for impact. You can feel this passion for what he does (and how he does it), in person, on his project blog, and thankfully, in the pages of this wonderful new book from Make:.
I love the way Make: Props and Costume Armor is organized. There is an amazing set of sci-fi costume armor and a prop gun (from a comic book called The Final Hunt) on the front cover and a Wolf Warrior costume on the back. The bulk of the book is taken up with each chapter detailing one of the elements of each costume. If you make all of the projects from the book, you will end up with these two very different types of weapons and armor, one sci-fi, one fantasy.
Each chapter examines a different prop-making technique, from vaccumforming to 3D modeling using Pepakura software, to working with EVA foam, and finally, finishing, painting, and weathering. While the book is an amazing introduction and beginner’s guide to prop construction, the text is peppered throughout with enough expert tips and tricks to make this relevant to prop makers and cosplayers of any level of expertise. Read the rest
Donald Bell, Make:'s former Projects Editor and now a freelance writer for Autodesk, has recently launched a weekly YouTube show, called Maker Update. Every Wednesday morning, Donald presents a recap of his online explorations in making and the maker movement. He covers promising new tools and technologies, some of his favorite projects from sites like Instructables, Thingiverse, and Make:, and he includes a calendar of upcoming Maker Faires from around the world.
As someone who also covers this same territory, I've been surprised at how many cool things Donald has introduced me to. The shows always have a nice mix, all delivered by a talking head Donald in a very straight-forward, likeable, and lighthearted manner. He's only 8 episodes in, but I've already become a big fan and now count Maker Update as part of my weekly must-see maker TV. Read the rest