Inside XTC's "Complicated Game"

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

Gamer gifts ultimate homemade Dungeon Master screen

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 pop artist Junko Mizuno goes pop-up in this gorgeous piece of book art

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.

TRIAD by Junko Mizuno Poposition Press 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 Hadens' stunning a capella cover of the Blade Runner theme

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

Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler wage occult war in Doug Rushkoff’s latest

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

Long lost Robert Anton Wilson book, Starseed Signals, to be published

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

Learn tools as you put them to use in projects from Make's new tool book

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

Master prop fanatic Shawn Thorsson shares his shop secrets

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

Stay abreast of all things DIY with the weekly Maker Update show

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

A Walk in Eden – Anders Nilsen's surrealist paradise is a haunting adult coloring book

In previous books, like the strange and cinematic Big Questions, Anders Nilsen has used his gorgeous pen and ink, stipple, and hatch technique, amidst generous white space, to create surprisingly dense and dreamy worlds. In A Walk in Eden, he builds a wonderful narrative backdrop, an abandoned Eden, and invites us in to finish it with “magic markers” and our undivided attention. But this isn’t any Eden you’ve imagined or heard of, this is a tripped-out surrealist dream-Eden if drawn by Dali, Ernst Haeckel, and kiddie-show cartoonists (maybe after a little bump of ether). Over the pages, the scale of what you’re looking at, from the seemingly diatomic to full-size flora and fauna, changes until you feel as though you’re really examining this world in a unique and thorough way. The book is really engaging and wants to tell you its stories, as-is, but I can only image how much richer it becomes after coloring it in yourself.

The adult coloring book is all of the rage these days and I, for one, am a fan of this perhaps shortlived, gimmicky genre. A Walk in Eden takes the genre for a stroll in a very fun and promising direction. And like any coloring book worth its bold outlines, it was hard to get through this without wanting to grab my Crayolas, stick my tongue out like a five year old, and start coloring.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

A Walk in Eden: A Coloring Book by Anders Nilsen by Anders Nilsen Drawn and Quarterly 9.8 x 9.9 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Help re-illustrate Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising" book

Hilaritas Press, the publishing company started by Illuminatus! co-author (and Boing Boing Patron Saint) Robert Anton Wilson's daughter Christina and Bob's friend Rasa, have been doing a wonderful job re-releasing much of Wilson's back catalog under the new imprint. But they've hit a snag. New Falcon Publications, RAW's previous publisher, claims to own the Israel Regardie intro and the comic illustrations in Bob's popular title Prometheus Rising and they're apparently not interested in negotiating with Hilaritas on a license to use them. So, Christina and Rasa are turning to RAW's fanbase and the online art community in search of worthy new illustrations to replace the existing ones. Rasa writes:

I have mixed feelings about this whole endeavor. I’ve always loved the cartoons in Prometheus Rising, and I really hate to see them go, but the previous publisher’s poor printing in subsequent editions of Prometheus Rising left a lot of the images in a very poor state – something we lamented in putting together our new edition. However, Bob was an optimist, and in that same spirit, both Christina and I are looking forward to this opportunity to update this amazingly relevant book for the delight of both new and old readers.

They only have until November 15th to replace the art (37 pieces!) and the introduction. A tall order. I would love to see a pie in the face of this flapdoodled foolishness and see RAW's optimism properly served with a new introduction by someone equally as iconic as Israel Regardie and a new set of incredible cartoons. Read the rest

Cheap Novelties – RAW's Julius Knipl, real estate photographer, finally finds a suitable home

Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay by Ben Katchor Drawn and Quarterly 2016, 112 pages, 8.8 x 10.9 x 0.7 inches (hardcover) $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

Like a lot of bourgeois bohemians in the 1990s, I was a huge fan of the RAW comics anthologies which, among other incredible discoveries, introduced me to the work of Ben Katchor. One might not think that a comic strip about urban architecture, culture, city development and decay, real estate photography, memory, and loss would make very compelling comics, but then you probably haven’t met Katchor’s beloved comic strip character, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer.

Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay, a collection of Katchor’s Knipl strips, was originally published in 1991 by RAW/Penguin as a cheap paperback. Twenty-five years later and Drawn & Quarterly finally gives Katchor and Knipl their due in a lovely hardbound, landscape edition of the original RAW strips.

If you’ve ever stared in wonder at the decades-old, sun-bleached product boxes inside of the display window of the only original hardware store left in town, or smelled an old typewriter repair shop, or purused gag gifts and tricks in a magic shop that’s been in the same city location for generations, then you’ll understand some of the lost urban culture that Cheap Novelties so deftly and melancholically evokes. As Julius Knipl is called out on building photography assignements, we see these vanishing haunts through his lens, momenents before they leave the city landscape forever, and we hear Knipl’s thoughts on the loss, reflections on his own rather homely life, and urban trivia – all rendered in a very confident and characterful hand in ink-and-gray marker washes. Read the rest

Stranger Things gets badass Buffy-style intro credits

Nerdist found this wonderful fan-edit mashing up scenes from Stranger Things in a style of the opening credits from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Read the rest

George Pendle on the death of space art

The always-engaging George Pendle (Strange Angel, The Remarkable Millard Fillmore) has a fascinating piece on Atlas Obscura on the history of space art and NASA's (and the government's at large) current awkward relationship with the art world.

Yet when the NASA scientists asked the attendant artists to refrain from posting pictures of the meeting on social media, it seemed to sum up both a generational and a temperamental mismatch. (In an email, a NASA spokesperson said that "participating artists are free to discuss their attendance.")

From a NASA perspective, the secrecy was a budgetary imperative. In 2003, the renowned performance artist Laurie Anderson was appointed NASA’s first “artist-in-residence” with the remit of creating art about the agency’s exploration of space. Republican congressmen quickly seized on the move as a sign of wanton profligacy. “Mr. Chairman,” sputtered Representative Chris Chocola of Indiana on the floor of Congress, “nowhere in NASA's mission does it say anything about advancing fine arts or hiring a performance artist.” There has been no artist-in-residence since and the reverberations were no doubt part of the reason why NASA’s workshop at Grace Farms seemed tentative and vague.

In the not-so-distant past, though, space and art intermingled happily. Artists were crucial to NASA’s development, at times outpacing the science of space travel itself. What happened?

The above illustration is NASA concept art of a moon landing, from 1959. Read the rest

More seafaring, suicidal bird boozing as Drinky Crow Drinks Again

Drinky Crow Drinks Again by Tony Millionaire Fantagraphics 2016, 128 pages, 10.8 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches (hardcover) $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

Captain Maak (captain of the ship), Uncle Gabby (the Irish monkey), Gunslinger Jesus, Phoebe Bird, and everyone’s favorite violent, binge-drinking, suicidal avian anti-hero, Drinky Crow, are all back and more beautifully bizarre than ever in Maakies: Drinky Crow Drinks Again. From the confident, well informed, but often fevered hand of well-known American weekly comic strip artist Tony Millionaire, comes this new Fantagraphics landscape hardback collecting recent syndicated strips (along with some additional material). The book is as handsome as you’d expect, coming from this artist and this publisher (even if it’s the first Maakies collection not designed by Chip Kidd).

You never know what you’re going to get from Tony Millionaire, but you know it will never be boring and it will always be beautifully rendered. Even more so than most, Millionaire’s comic strips feel like you’re mainlining the author’s own insane membrane, watching him think out loud and exorcising his demons with pen and ink on paper.

The incredibly meticulous old-school draftsmanship, the many allusions to old comic strips and classic art, lots of clever twists and brilliant pay-offs, strips that dead end, and ones that go completely off the rails, often ending in violence or suicide – it’s not always the smoothest ride, but it’s one you’re compelled to take, even if just for the gorgeous scenery. Luckily, Tony Millionaire, Maakies, and Drinky Crow have far more riches to offer than that. Read the rest

The hidden lever to raise aisle seat armrests on commercial planes

My friend, the brilliant Pam Grossman (What is a Witch, Phantasmaphile), posted the following discovery on her Facebook page. You are undoubtedly already familiar with the fact that the armrests on plane seats can be raised and lowered, all expect for the aisle rest. Turns out, that one can also be raised, if you can find the lever. It's under the armrest (if it exists on your model aircraft) and probably looks something like the one above. Pam describes her squee in finding it to be a for-real feature:
I have been taking a lot of flights of late, and so I have garnered a few tips to offer re: how to make things *slightly* less horrid when doing so. But holy horses, this one changed my life on this last go-round. When I tried it - and it worked! - it was all I could do to keep from leaping to my feet and crowing about it to my fellow passengers like some sort of zealous banshee.
In the responses on her FB page, someone asked about the other "few tips" she alluded to. I asked Pam's permission to include her reply here. There may be a few useful ideas in here for you. I have recently become a convert of 1 & 2:
Oh, not secrets. Just silly little tips. Here are a few more: 1. TSA Pre-Check is highly worth it and makes everything so much better. 2. Buying a carry-on wheelie bag with 4 wheels that go in all directions is worth it 3.
Read the rest

Dear Data – Two women explore their friendship through data analysis and mail art

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec Princeton Architectural Press 2016, 288 pages, 8.4 x 11.2 x 1 inches (softcover) $32 Buy a copy on Amazon

I have always had a deep fascination with the graphical representation of data. Being mildly dyslexic, numbers make my head hurt. Being extremely visual, numbers only come alive for me when they take color, shape, or are otherwise rendered in some visual way. Show me numbers and they will have little impact. Show me a beautiful graphical representation of those numbers and I will remember them forever. Dear Data is a rich and inspiring teasure-trove of creatively rendereded data, giving visual shape to the more mundane aspects of the two authors’ lives.

Dear Data is the result of a year-long project that two designer friends undertook. For one year, Giorgia Lupi, an Italian living in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, an American in London, gathered data around a theme each week, things like the number of times they said “Thank you,” the numbers of people they met (and how they connected), the numbers (and types) of doorways they walked through, the number of times they each looked at a clock, etc. With this data in hand, they would render a postcard with an artful, graphical presentation of their week and send it to the other. This book collects all 52 weeks, along with lots of additional art, insight, and asides.

The result is a very lovely book and a very unique way of exploring a friendship while more deeply exploring oneself in the process. Read the rest

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