For the past two months, my daughter's and my main bedtime reading has been The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a modern folktale written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess, a power duo if ever there was one. This is a story set on an American prairie farm sometime in the 20th century, about Lillian, a kind-hearted girl who sets out saucers of milk for the wild cats, scatters grain for the songbirds, and leaves a biscuit by the oldest, most gnarled apple tree in the orchard for the Apple Tree Man. And it's because of her good heart and her wild spirit that the cats of Tanglewood Forest defy the king of cats, and work cat-magic to rescue her when she is bitten by a snake and brought near to death. Now she has been reborn as a kitten, and she must find out how she can once again become a girl.
The book is lavishly illustrated with Charlie Vess's amazing art nouveau paintings (you may recognize these from his frequent collaborations with Neil Gaiman, such as the beautiful picture book Blueberry Girl). The paintings -- which appear as full pages, but are also worked into the margins, endpapers, and jacket -- are a wonderful and gripping accompaniment to the story. Although this story is too sophisticated for my six-year-old to have read to herself, the combination of the illustrations and my reading it aloud made it absolutely accessible to her. And these paintings are so gorgeous that she was more than happy to sit and thumb through the book, enjoying them on their own.
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A new Snowden leak details an NSA operation called SHOTGIANT through which the US spies infiltrated Chinese electronics giant Huawei -- ironically, because Huawei is a company often accused of being a front for the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army and an arm of the Chinese intelligence apparatus. The NSA completely took over Huawei's internal network, gaining access to the company's phone and computer networks and setting itself up to conduct "cyberwar" attacks on Huawei's systems.
The program apparently reached no conclusion about whether Huawei was involved in espionage. However, the NSA did identify many espionage opportunities in compromising Huawei, including surveillance of an undersea fiber optic cable that Huawei is involved with.
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Werkhaus: flat-pack housewares and accessories skinned with photos of scuffed, worn-in real-world stuff
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I was in Berlin for the day yesterday to speak at a World Consumer Rights Day, and before I headed back to the airport, I dropped in at Werkhaus, a retail outlet that sells innovative, made-in-Germany flat-pack housewares that are skinned with beautiful photos of decayed, wabi-sabi surfaces from street furniture, antiques, and industrial apparatus. I bought one of their "Telefonstation" shelving units, designed to hold and charge your phones and mobile devices while disguising the charge-cables; the one I bought is skinned with the exterior of a scuffed and beaten Soviet pay-phone, with stenciled Cyrillic lettering.
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Carol writes, "After a much-needed break, this week Phil & Kaja Foglio started up a new story arc on their multiple-Hugo-award-winning 'Girl Genius' comic series. This new story arc is a good place for new readers to jump in, as Agatha Heterodyne sets out on a new adventure. 'Girl Genius' is a long-form series, with three new full-color comic pages posted on the site each week. Updates appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 'Girl Genius' has been running since 2001, following the gaslamp fantasy adventures of Agatha, the titular girl genius mad scientist."
I love this stuff. Here's my review of the novel version of the story.
Suddenly I want to buy a newspaper. Everybody crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed urchin.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
As you may have noticed, I think Litographs are really cool: the company turns the text of various books into a piece of appropriately themed text-art and makes lithographs, tees and tote-bags out of it.
Josip Saric from Croatian national television is in a Kiev hotel near Maidan, and has kindly provided us with some snapshots of the surreal and troubling scenes, which range from bodies under shrouds in the lobby to impenetrable smoke outside the windows and bullet-holes in the walls.
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Aled Lewis's "The Coruscant Tapestry" is a 30 foot long, 13" high tapestry depicting the tale of Star Wars in cross-stitch. In the manner of the Bayeux Tapestry, its borders are embellished with writing -- quotes in Aurebesh from the films. It's for sale for $20,000 at Los Angeles's Gallery 1988.
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Dan Goldman's Red Light Properties is a serial webcomic about a Florida real-estate brokerage that specializes in exorcising haunted houses and then listing them for cheap. Goldman (who created the fantastic 08 graphic novel) takes a somewhat lighthearted premise and uses it as contrast to make the fundamental spookiness of his stories stand out in stark relief. Goldman's ghost stories made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle, while the bawdy slapstick interludes served only to lure me into dropping my guard for the next scare. Highly recommended.
Goldman's earlier work includes 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail, a gorgeous and engrossing history of the 2008 elections, and Shooting War, a trenchant commentary on war photography in the Internet age. As with Red Light Properties, both books blend photography, xerography, computer graphics and illustration in a style that's reminiscent of Dave Gibbons and Cameron Stewart and really jumps off the page.
Goldman is touring with Red Light Properties, and we have his tour schedule (which finishes with a stop at Mumbai Comic-Con!) as well as the first 28 pages of the new book after the jump.
An amazing post on Livejournal from Ilya "Zyalt" Varlamov gives a glimpse of life behind the barricades at the #Euromaidan uprising in Kiev, Ukraine. Zyalt's photos and text convey the diversity of the rebel lines -- "from students to pensioners" -- and the ingenuity they display in everything from homebrewed catapaults to morale-boosting drumming ("When casual stone- and grenade-throwing takes place, the knock is monotonous, in order to set rhythm and keep the morale. When Berkut attacks, drumming becomes louder and everyone hears that – for some it is a signal to run away, for some, on the opposite – defend the barricades.") At the end, we see the moment when the smoke clears and the truce begins. This is nailbiting, engrossing, terrifying stuff.
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Since last Hallowe'en, a woman in Oregon has been circulating a letter she found in a box of decorative tombstones she bought at Kmart. The letter was written by a prisoner in a forced labor camp in China's Masanjia camp; he was imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong, a banned religion whose members have long been targetted for brutal suppression by the Chinese state. CNN located the ex-prisoner and interviewed him as he narrated a story of "inhumane torture" at the camp.
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This autumn, Drawn and Quarterly released Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, a retrospective of the work of Pulitizer-winning comics creator Art "Maus" Spiegelman.
On November 8, New York's Jewish Museum will debut a show based on the book, featuring many of the original pieces collected in its pages. The show will run until March 23, and Spiegelman will give a presentation at the museum on December 5.
The nice folks at Drawn and Quartlerly have supplied us with some of J Hoberman's fascinating critical essay on Spiegelman, which is part of the show and the book; as well as material on Spiegelman's work for Topps (Garbage Pail Kids, etc), and his work on breakdowns. You can see it all after the jump.
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David Miranda has retained Bindmans LLP, an intimidating firm of UK lawyers, to send a letter to the British government regarding his nine-hour detention in Heathrow and the confiscation of his electronics and data, apparently in a misguided attempt to intimidate the journalist Glenn Greenwald. It's quite a remarkable letter, demanding the return of Miranda's goods, a full accounting as to what has happened to his data, and a declaration that his search was unlawful.
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Kill City Blues is the latest in Richard Kadrey's amazing hard-boiled supernatural thriller series Sandman Slim. I've been a Kadrey fan since his landmark debut novel Metrophage, and have read and enjoyed all his work since, but Sandman Slim are the novels Kadrey was born to write.
Sandman Slim is a "Sub Rosa," part of the hidden world of magical people and beings who live beneath our noses. A precocious and gifted magician, he inspired jealousy in his coven, who conspired to send him to Hell while he was still alive. He was a novelty in the Underworld, and was sent to fight in a gladitorial pit, and eventually trained to be an assassin. After a daring escape from Hell, he returned to Los Angeles to reap a horrific revenge on the former friends who'd doomed him.
That was several books ago. Now, in book five, Sandman Slim has been around the block a few times, experienced several dramatic turns in his life, fought off zombies and vampires and creatures from beyond the universe, discovered the true identity of God and Lucifer, and stumbled upon the universe's impending unwinding.
Kill City Blues is the story of that impending universal destruction, and it revolves around the hunt for an artifact that may be our plane's only defense against the elder gods who are seeking to break in and reclaim the reality that was stolen from them. And of course, Sandman Slim isn't the only one hunting for it. His quest leads him -- and his competitors -- to Kill City, a dead Santa Monica megamall where the roof caved in and killed hundreds. Now it is haunted, and squatted by feral sub-rosa and "lurkers" and worse things. The quest through Kill City's demon-haunted, blood-drenched halls and towers and deeps is one of the great horror setups of all time, and delves into situations that would turn Clive Barker's stomach, the likes of which haven't been seen since the heyday of splatterpunk.
If there's one thing Kill City Blues demonstrates, it's that Kadrey's still got a ton of material for Sandman Slim. I can't wait to read it all.
Galactus, AKA Edward, competes with street preacher Ruben Israel for the love and forebearance of mankind at San Diego Comic Con. Read the rest
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Genius is a new graphic novel written by Steven T Seagle and drawn by Teddy Kristiansen and it's not really like any other graphic novels I've read. In a very good way.
Ted Marx is a physicist, and he's a genius. That's what he's been told all his life, ever since he started skipping grades in elementary school. It's only natural that he'd be recruited directly out of grad school and into a world-famous physics institute, but once he reaches it, he flames out. Ted Marx appears to have had all his significant physics insights while he was still an adolescent, and whatever well he visited for those insights has run dry. He's terrified of losing his job. He needs the money to shelter and feed his two adolescent children, his dying and terminally grumpy father-in-law, and his wife, whose persistent headaches are about to take a turn for the worse.
Ted worships Einstein, and frequently holds imaginary conversations with him, so imagine his surprise when he learns that his hateful, spiteful, senile father-in-law was once military guard to Einstein, part spy, part confessor. And what's more, the old man says that Einstein entrusted him with an idea that he never told anyone else, an idea that he's kept secret, true to his oath, for all these years. And if there's one thing that Ted really needs, it's an idea.
Genius is a remarkable book about some very difficult-to-illustrate subjects: creativity, inspiration, and yes, genius. Kristiansen's moody, impressionistic watercolor illustrations -- not usually my kind of thing -- perfect for the material. There's a full-blown, multi-page spread of pure abstraction that is so right and fitting that it made me wonder why we bother with words at all.
I'm not familiar with either of these creators' work (though apparently Seagle co-founded the studio that created the kids' megafranchise Ben-10). But based on this, I'm adding them to my "buy-everything-they-do" list.
Don't take my word for it -- click through below for the prolog and first couple pages of chapter one, courtesy of our pals at FirstSecond.
"Quaestus" is the latest assemblage from sculptor Jud Turner. He sez,
“Quaestus” is a latin word meaning “gain or profit extracted from work”, a concept darkly represented in my latest sculpture: 5 tiny employees are trapped in an endless task inside a gigantic machine, toiling to keep up with the conveyor belts they are walking on. Each work station has a 2 digit counter which seems to be keeping some kind of score. If the employees don't keep up with the machine, they will fall off the ends of their conveyor belts and be fed to the machine.. The employees actually power this machine, but are unaware and unable to stop moving forward for fear of falling behind.
It's an amazing piece. Click through for hi-rez and details.
Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon have a new picture-book/kids' comic out from FirstSecond today called Odd Duck, and it's a delight (no surprise there, I never met a Cecil Castellucci project I didn't like).
Odd Duck is the story of Theodora, "a perfectly normal duck" who likes her routine -- swimming, stretching, taking books out of the library, buying duck kibble, doing craft projects (with duck burlap, naturally) and star-gazing. When Chad moves in next door, Theodora can tell she's not going to get along with him. He makes weird abstract sculptures, dyes his feathers funny colors, and talks a mile a minute.
When both of them are stuck together overwinter (Theodora never manages to migrate, and Chad breaks his wing making abstract sculpture) they discover a shared love of the stars, and become best friends. But when they overhear a mean duck in town say, "Look at that odd duck!" they both assume she's talking about the other one, and that kicks off a rotten fight, and a lot of soul-searching.
This is a beautiful parable about eccentricity, friendship, self-awareness, the majesty of the night sky, and the benefits of balancing a cup of tea on your head (for posture!). The artwork is gorgeous (thanks to FirstSecond for supplying the first chapter excerpt below), and the writing is absolutely charming. When I got my advance copy, my five-year old demanded nightly readings of this one for a solid week.
Annalee Newitz, founding editor of IO9 and former EFF staffer, has a new book out today called Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, and it's terrific.
Scatter's premise is that the human race will face extinction-grade crises in the future, and that we can learn how to survive them by examining the strategies of species that successfully weathered previous extinction events, and cultures and tribes of humans that have managed to survive their own near-annihilation.
What follows from this is a whirlwind tour of geology, evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology and human history, as Newitz catalogs the terrifying disasters, catastrophes and genocides of geology and antiquity. From there, the book transitions into a sprightly whistle-stop tour of sustainable cities, synthetic biology, computer science, geoengineering, climate science, new materials science, urban theory, genomics, geopolitics, everything up to and including the Singularity, as Newitz lays out the technologies in our arsenal for adapting ourselves to upcoming disasters, and adapting our planet (and ultimately our solar system) to our long-term survival.
This has both the grand sweep and the fast pace of a classic OMNI theme issue, but one that's far more thoroughly grounded in real science, caveated where necessary. It's a refreshingly grand sweep for a popular science book, and if it only skims over some of its subjects, that's OK, because in the age of the Net, one need only signpost the subjects the reader might dive into on her own once she realizes their awesome potential.
This is a delight of a book, balanced on the knife-edge of disaster and delirious hope. It neither predicts our species' apotheosis nor its doom, but suggests paths to reach the former while avoiding the latter.
Sean Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus is a rockin' comic about the Second Coming. It opens with a psychotically ruthless show-runner arranging to clone Jesus from DNA salvaged from the Shroud of Turin, implanting a foetus in the womb of a teenaged virgin, all for a reality TV show that starts with auditions for the part of Christ's mother. Gwen, the desperate teen who gets the part, is only one of the many memorable characters who make up the resulting set piece: there's Dr Sarah Epstein, a brilliant geneticist who's been promised funding for a carbon-fixing superalgae if she helps create the clonal Christ; there's Thomas McKael, an IRA soldier turned supergrass turned super-security director, and several others who come to prominence as the story unfolds (including Cola, a genetically engineered tame polar bear).
The story perks along for the first third, as the dismal life of Chris -- as the clone is called -- is run out on the screens of America, and in the high-security compound on an offshore island under constant siege from militant Christian fundamentalists who are torn on the question of whether Chris is the second coming or a mocker. Then there's a turning point where Chris becomes and adolescent and discovers some of the seedier truths about his life and the miserable existence his mother has been forced into all through it.
That's when Punk Rock Jesus is born. To a thudding soundtrack of vintage punk smuggled in on vinyl (CDs would set off the metal detector) Chris gives himself a mohawk, tears his clothes to rags, and surprises his minders by stepping out on stage and declaring himself to be an atheist. In the ensuing chaos, Chris escapes from the network and its evil representatives and makes his way to the drowned TAZ of lower Manhattan where he becomes the front-man for a "the last punk band in the world," the Flak Jackets.
And that's when the story really roars to life, becoming at once sillier and more serious, but avoiding some of the ponderousness of the setup. Serious questions of religion's role in society are raised; rock is bepunkéd; dressing rooms are trashed; the media is expertly dissected. It's a near-perfect rocket-ship ride through some of the best material from comics like DMZ and Transmetropolitan, with a healthy dose of radical atheism and geopolitics thrown in.
It's got pathos, laughs, rage and comeuppances, and awesome punk rock not-giving-a-fuck. What more could you ask for?
Baker Anna at Eat Your Heart Out Bakers made this astounding skull wedding-cake.
Food artist Annabel de Vetten, also known as Conjurer’s Kitchen, created this incredible skull wedding cake for the Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza in Birmingham this weekend. Her theme being ” ‘Til Death Do Us Part”.
It features solid chocolate skulls of 16 carrion crows, 12 domestic kittens, 3 Vervet monkeys, and 4 barn owls, all of which the artist sculpted by hand. Made from White Chocolate Mudcake, the cake took her over 100 hours to complete in total. There are two options of toppers: a chocolate conjoined kitten skull, or dried flowers from an actual wedding bouquet (ones shown here from her own).
The Ultimate Skull Wedding Cake (Thanks, Emma!)
Bruce D. Mitchell is an amazing sculptor who works in the film industry; his "Conceptual Executioner" site showcases a series of gorgeous masks and helmets from 2010. He implies that they have been offered for sale at some point, though no prices are given, leading me to believe that it's one of those, "If you have you ask, you probably can't afford," deals. At least we get to look.
I Have been working in the FX industry since 1992. I have contributed to the creation of various creatures, costumes, miniatures, set pieces and props. I have met and worked with some awesome talent and learned something from each of them. I will be showing my own work on this page. These are the pieces I have been making and showing in Gallery's and special venues. The Masks and Helmets are all wearable and incorporate some function. All pieces were created in my home studio. One thing I would like to say to any producers. Please do not look at this as a menu but rather what I have conceptually achieved so far. . . Thanks for viewing.