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
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
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 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
If this retro, psychedelic D&D/Masters of the Universe animation meets a crank-boosted acid trip doesn't blow your neck bolts, I don't know what will. This animated short film/music video for Oakland doomy metal legends, High on Fire, was put together by "psychedelic nightmare" painter, Skinner (also from Oakland) and New York design and animation house, Hey Beautiful Jerk.
For best results: View in the dark, on the widest possible screen, with the volume cranked up loud enough to rattle your neighbor's windows. Read the rest
In the March 21st, Entertainment Weekly ran an article called In Search of Pop Culture’s Holy Grails, listing, “some hallowed projects (that) evade(d) our grasp. A guide to our great white whales.” Over two dozen, “lost” projects are listed. But in the FOG! world of pop culture, not everything is lost. So, in the coming weeks, we’re going to uncover a number of those projects, including our first, Jack Kirby’s The Prisoner, which EW describes as, “a comic based on the gonzo sci-fi show. Kirby never finished issue No. 1.”
Read the rest of the issue here. And, as FOG points out, it appears that the issue was actually complete, except for some final lettering and inking by Mike Royer.
[H/t Chris Burke] Read the rest
Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City by Joseph A. McCullough (author) and Dmitry Burmak (illustrator) Osprey Publishing 2015, 136 pages, 7.7 x 9.9 x 0.6 inches (hardback) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon
With the great success of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the popularity of shows like Stranger Things riding a growing 80s nostalgia wave, and the success of game-based YouTube channels like Tabletop and Critical Role, there’s no doubt that we are in a tabletop/RPG gaming renaissance.
Two of the hallmarks of modern fantasy, sci-fi, and horror games are faster game play and more streamlined rules. The skirmish game, played with small numbers of miniatures, and the hybrid board game, combining miniatures and a game board, are all the rage these days. Into this moment of 80s D&D nostalgia and newfound enthusiasm for tabletop gaming comes a game that seems designed to hit all of the sweet spots: Osprey Publishing’s Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City.
Everything about Frostgrave is about economy. The book itself, gorgeously and profusely illustrated by Russian artist Dmitry Burmak, is compact, under 8 x 10, and only 136 pages. The backstory is simple, but highly evocative, the rules are basic and concise, trading off realism for fun. To play, you need only this inexpensive rulebook, around ten miniatures for your warband (taken from any 28mm fantasy range), and whatever terrain and random monsters you might encounter during the game. And some 20-sided dice and a tape measure. Read the rest
We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan (author), Steve Skroce (artist) and Matt Hollingsworth (artist) Image Comics 2016, 160 pages, 7.3 x 11.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon
You know those cheeky jokes about the United States invading Canada? No one is laughing in Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand on Guard, an extremely tense, often brutal, military sci-fi thriller with an obvious political point to make.
Some 100 years in the future, an allegedly Canadian drone strike on the White House destroys it, killing the president. The US responds with everything it’s got while Canada screams false flag attack, an excuse for the US to come after Canada’s precious water resources (which, surprise, the US is plumb out of). The US deploys its immense drone arsenals, including giant, stompy mecha robots, and “hoser ships,” aerial tankers that fly over Canada sucking up all of her water. The story in the book revolves around a group of Canadian guerilla fighters trying to repel the US occupation.
While the subject matter is intense and the pacing of the book rarely lets you catch your breath, there is levity, too. There are plenty of insider Canadian jokes, a character from Quebec whose French dialog is never translated, and an ongoing bit about Superman having Canadian roots (he was co-created by Canadian artist Joseph Shuster). And while there is plenty of action, with everything from skirmish combat to giant, all-out battlefield hellfire, this is a very dialog-driven book and a book that is chalk full of interesting speculative tech and a believable near-future world. Read the rest
I love this new video from Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, from an album I love even more, La Araña es La Vida. I got a chance to see Kid in DC while he was on tour this year and it was one of my favorite shows of the year. The man knows how to bring himself fully to a show.
You may know Kid Congo Power's work with the legendary Gun Club, Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and I would hazard to say, his grossly underappreciated solo career, with albums like 2009's Dracula Boots and 2013's Haunted Head. La Araña es La Vida is Kid's 5th solo record.
The video for La Araña was directed by Alex Terrazas (aka Alex von Alex) and features an awesome Southern California backyard Chicano house party, complete with a visit from La Araña, the Teotihuacan spider goddess (of Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan civilization). A protector of the underworld, she is said to sprout hallucinogenic morning glory vines from her head. Here Kid explains why he chose to thematically invoke this bit of Mexican folklore on the record:
She sprouts hallucinogenic morning glories and protects the underworld. I thought that is very much like our duty as a band, to have the most open mind to vivid psychedelic dreams to create and protect the world of underground music, the music of the soul.
Morning glories, you say?
BTW, if you missed Kid's appearance on Amoeba Record's wonderful What's in my Bag? Read the rest
And you thought that second glass of wine before assembling your Scandinavian stick furniture might have been ill advised. In "Giancarlo and Nicole + LSD," a young couple drops tabs of acid, and 45 minutes later, attempts to assemble the rather complicated NORDLI cabinet from Ikea. Hilarity ensues.
This video, currently blazing its way through social media, is the brainchild of two creatives, Hunter Fine and Alex Taylor. It is the first in a series of videos they've dubbed Hikea.
In a second video posted to their site, test subject Keith chows down on a bag of 'shrooms and then gets to work on the MICKE desk. After over 5 1/2 hours, a pile of "extra" parts, and 12 skipped steps, he has something he can at least sit at. He didn't do much worse than when I try and build these pieces straight.
Taylor and Fine have plans for additional Hikea episodes. Catch them while you can, before Ikea's IP police sober them up. Read the rest
I love fairy doors as much as the next hopeless geek romantic. I even had a fairy post office made as an illustration for my last book. But why let the hippie fairies have all of the pixie-perfect fun? Goth fairies need self-expression, too. And what better way to share a little whimsical gloom than with a wee fairy graveyard in the woods?
For $60, a terrarium company called Jpants sells a 25-tombstone miniature graveyard kit. The polymer resin tombstones average about 2" in height. The "Spooky-Ass Mini Graveyard Kit" is sold as a terrarium accessory, but we think it'd look equally at home behind the tree in the park with the fairy door. Circle o' life. [Via Dirge] Read the rest
We've previously written about "Primitive Technology," the amazing YouTube channel chronicling a guy (who never identifies himself) navigating the wilds of Far North Queensland, Australia with nothing more than what he fashions with his own hands. Those hands seem to have nearly magical powers as he confidently conjures what he needs to survive from the very elements around him (while capturing it all on a future phone). As part of my work, I spend a big chunk of my day watching DIY videos of every kind of "It" you can imagine. This YouTube channel is one where I anxiously await new content.
In this latest video, the mystery man that some have dubbed "Prim" builds himself a bow-drill blower and clay forge near the entrance to his tiled-roof mud hut. With his blower and forge in working order, he then collects orange iron bacteria (iron oxide) from the creek (that baby shit-brown substance at 3:14), mixes it with powdered charcoal (carbon for reducing oxide to metal), and wood ash (flux to lower meting point). He forms all of this into a cylindrical brick and fires it in a charcoal oven. The result is a melted iron ore slag with tiny, 1mm-sized specs of iron in it.
Congratulations, Prim! You just entered the Iron Age! On his blog, he explains that wasn't really his intent:
My intent was not so much to make iron but to show that the furnace can reach a fairly high temperature using this blower. A taller furnace called a bloomery was generally used in ancient times to produce usable quantities of iron and consumed more charcoal, ore and labour.Read the rest
In 1958 and '59, an unprecedented study was conducted by the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley. The idea was to apply the latest psychological tests on the world’s most famous and accomplished architects to try and determine what makes them so creative and successful. In studying them, could some magical key to creativity be discovered?
Astoundingly, some 40 major architects volunteered, including Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Louis Kahn, and A. Quincy Jones. The group spent three days being subjected to a battery of tests, sitting for interviews, even evaluating the creative and design prowess of each other. While the idea was to publish the results of the tests at the time, besides some news and fluff pieces about the study, and some superficial conclusions about the nature of the creative impulse that drove these design superstars, the full results of the study have remained unpublished until this impressive new release from Monacelli Press.
The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study is a lovely and thought-provoking time-capsule of a book. Through its numerous black and white photos and reprints of the research materials, correspondences between the subjects of the study and the psychologists, and news clippings of the day, the book paints a surprisingly evocative picture of this unique study and the era in which it was conducted. Reading the test results, in the architects’ own hands, and the evaluations of the researchers, is fascinating. Read the rest
Osprey Publishing, the UK-based military history publisher beloved by wargamers and toy soldier nerds for their amazing Men at Arms series (which lovingly details the uniforms and accoutrements of war), has been expanding into gaming in a big way recently. They've been responsible for the increasingly popular skirmish-level dungeon-delving miniatures game, Frostgrave, the hugely popular Bolt Action (which they distribute through a publishing partnership with Warlord Games), and a growing number of excellent miniature rules sets covering everything from historicals to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.
Another notable thing they've been doing is re-vamping existing games that had a lot of promise but had some rules problems, or component issues, or some other crippling flaw that limited their appeal on their first release. They've been re-doing these games in gorgeous new editions. One such game is Odin's Ravens, which I previously reviewed here. They also recently released a lovely, revamped edition of the very trippy The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a Japanese cooperative card game where players enter the mind of a character and try and repair her memories and guide her to safety before she goes insane with ravens eating her mind. Another notable example of this revitalizing of a promising title is their recent "Ultimate Edition" of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a card-based hidden movement, hidden identity game of deception and bluffing. Read the rest
What is a Witch by Pamela Grossman (author) and Tin Can Forest (artists) Tin Can Forest 2016, 36 pages, 9.0 x 11.75 x 0.25 inches From $20 Buy a copy here
There are few ideas and words in the popular zeitgeist more mercurial than “witch.” Whether coming from the world’s mythologies, religions, folk tales, the realms of fiction, or from those who embrace it as a real-world religious identity, witch can mean myriad things. There are probably few archetypes more simultaneously romanticized and demonized.
This dizzying dream of character and identity is uniquely and creatively expressed in What is a Witch, a sort of comic book grimoire on the subject by witch and author Pamela Grossman and Canadian’s comic-art occultists, Tin Can Forest. In just under 40 pages of lush, saturated black art and text, What is a Witch serves as something of a witch’s manifesto. The dreamy, free-form text, interwoven amongst equally dreamy art, attempts to cast a spell over the reader, to bring this complex character more vividly to life. In doing so, it doesn’t really answer the question (note that it’s not posed as one) of what a witch is, but instead, plays with her mercurial identity, dipping in and out of fictional and real-world conceptions and how witches are experienced and self-identified. The art and production are really lovely and work to deepen the spell that the book is attempting to cast. The effect of Grossman’s free, often trance-like prose reminded me somewhat of Jack Parson’s famous “We are the Witchcraft” manifesto, another attempt at a poetic conjuring on the identity of the witch. Read the rest