• My Dinner with Kanye

    Actor and comedian Jason Kravits mixed a scene from Louis Malle's 1981 film, My Dinner with Andre, with recent wackadoodle and anti-Semitic comments made by Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, to get My Dinner with Kanye.

    [H/t Craig Baldwin]

  • Pioneering sci-fi and fantasy author C.L. Moore reads her 1933 story "Shambleau"

    One of the most arresting short stories in Peter Berbergal's Appendix N sword & sorcery anthology was C.L. Moore's trippy, fantasy horror story "Black God's Kiss." The appearance of that story in the book inspired a roleplaying game adventure setting and I'm sure introduced a lot of people to the work of Ms. Moore.

    I am one of those people. I'd heard the name C.L. Moore, but was unfamiliar with the work and had no idea the author was a woman writing fantasy, horror, and sci-fi in the 1930s and 40s. After Appendix N, I marched right out and picked up a C.L. Moore anthology.

    Having now read all of the Jirel of Joiry sword & sorcery stories, I was just about to start in on Moore's novella, "Shambleau," when I saw someone post this link on social media. It's Ms. Moore herself reading the piece, which first appeared in Weird Tales in 1933.

  • The Cramps haunting the charts thanks to Tim Burton's Wednesday series

    The moment they played the The Cramps' 1981 cover of "Goo Goo Muck" on the hit Netflix series, Wednesday, one had to wonder if this would do for them what "Running Up That Hill" on Stranger Things had done for Kate Bush. According to Rolling Stone, it just might.

    Much like various and sundry characters from The Addams Family, the Cramps rose from the grave this week and onto the charts. After an episode of Netflix's Wednesday featured the band's 1981 version of the 1962 Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads single "Goo Goo Muck," Billboard reports that by this past Monday, the song was up to 134,000 daily streams.

    The Tim Burton show — which has been a smash hit since premiering on Nov. 23 — follows the titular Addams daughter (played by Jenna Ortega) as she leaves home to attend the Hogwarts-esque Nevermore Academy, where she runs into any number of foes. Although the school is populated by what the townies called "outcasts," Wednesday is somehow the biggest outlier of all, which she displays to great effect during a school dance when she dominates the dance floor to the Cramps. "Thanks to Siouxsie Sioux, Bob Fosse's Rich Man's Frug, Lisa Loring, Lene Lovich, Denis Lavant, and archival footage of goths dancing in clubs in the '80s. Helped me out on this one," Ortega recently tweeted of the now-iconic scene.

    Read the rest here.

  • The beauty of Shelter with maker Lloyd Kahn

    When I was a teen, I carried a copy of the Whole Earth Catalog around like it was The Good Book, because, for me, it was. Feeling like I lived in a world I didn't like, didn't understand, and had no control over, here was a world where you could re-think and re-do everything, literally from the ground up, from building you own home, growing your own food, generating your own energy, governing your own community. These DIY ideas became my lifeline, my way out of small (Southern) town USA.

    One of the stars in the Whole Earth sky was builder Lloyd Khan. I devoured his Shelter series of books, done in the same basic style and format as the Catalogs. They still live on my bookshelf today, next to my collection of Whole Earth Catalogs.

    Via Lloyd's Instagram account, I learned this morning of a 7-minute mini-doc that was done about him in 2009. It's a nice encapsulation of the Whole Earth mindset and Lloyd's contribution to it. In it, he disparages that doing things yourself has fallen out of favor. This was more so the case in 2009, I think. Thanks to the maker movement, Make: magazine, Maker Faire, etc., that has changed, at least somewhat.

    [On a person note: I was a contributor to the Millenium Whole Earth Catalog in 1994. I did the Robotics and Street Tech sections. I cannot describe how this felt. It's sort of how I imagine musicians feel who grow up idolizing bands like The Beatles and then find themselves, later in life, working with one of them.]

  • My favorite maker tips for 2022

    I edit a weekly newsletter of DIY/maker tips. Every year, I go through it and pull out the entries I think are the best of the year. Here are some of this year's favorites.

    ***

    Can You Really Revive Felt Tip Markers with Isopropyl Alcohol?

    In the first volume of my Tips and Tales from the Workshop, I included a tip on reviving felt alcohol-based ink markers. The tip claimed that the alcohol frequently evaporates before the ink is exhausted. By "adding a few drops of isopropyl alcohol," you can bring the pen back to life. In response to the book, several people questioned whether this actually worked. I tried it, and yes, it works.

    I have a lovely Greg's Garage modified Sharpie that had dried out. At first, I tried "a few drops" of IPA. The next day, I marked a sheet of paper with lines. The pen only worked for about a half a page of mark-making. The next day, I poured some IPA over the felt cartridge and redid the test. This time, I got two days of ink out of it (covering a full 8-½ x 11 piece of paper each day). Next, I placed the cartridge in a small jar of IPA for an hour to thoroughly soak the felt. I've now been drawing lines with it each day (a page per day) for 5 days. Above is the 5th day. It's started to dim a little, but the point is, you can bring a felt tip pen back from the dead and get a few more days/weeks/months out of it (depending on how frequently you use it). But, you want to soak the felt, not just use a few drops.

    Finding the Perfect Pair of Scissors

    In this video, Todd at Project Farm puts 15 models of scissors through their paces. He tests scissors by KAI, Gingher, Heritage, Klein Tools, Henckels, Fiskars, Bianco, Ultima Classic, Westscott, Livingo, KitchenAid, Singer, Scotch, and Stanley. The scissors were tested for sharpness and durability after cutting through 1,000 feet of paper, 20 passes through cardboard, 10 passes through aluminum sheeting. In the end, the expensive KAI scissors (at $78) performed best overall, but the Fiskars ($26) and Klein Tools ($24) models did amazingly well, too. I have the Fiskars and love them.

    Rule of Thumb for Buying Tools

    In a fascinating video from Adam Savage (where he has an "epiphany" on the science of precise measurement) he also shares a great tip on purchasing tools: "Buy the cheapest tool you can if it's a tool you don't know how to use, learn how to use it, and see if it integrates into your process and into your shop, and then go and buy the best tool that you can afford. Frequently, that one will last you for the rest of your life."

    Using Bits of Left Over Molding Rubber to Volumize New Molds

    Anyone who's ever done any molding and casting knows how expensive molding rubber is and how aggravating it can be to be pouring a mold and come up short with your mold mix (an all-too-frequent occurrence). In this Robert Tolene video, he offers a tip for saving on molding materials. He calls it "dunkin' chunkies" — he cuts old mold pieces into small chunks and adds them into a new mold pour (in the areas where they won't interfere with the object being molded).

    Changing the Output Volume of a Pump Bottle with a 3D Printed Collar

    This clever idea was posted on the Tableft Workshop's Instagram account. This can obviously be applied to any pump-bottle liquid:

    "Coleys class was apparently going through the hand sanitizer really fast so i made the school these little collars to limit how much can be dispensed at a time, works like a charm and is still more than enough for adult hands let alone a 7-year-old. Printed 50 of them which should cover the school for awhile with plenty extras."

    Using a Shop Towel to Constrain Snipped Bits

    In this crazy Pask Makes video, where he painstakingly makes a Japanese Kumiko-style panel out of welded nails, he shares a simple but smart idea. When cutting/nipping bits of metal or other material that might fly away, line up your cut and then cover the workpiece with a towel before doing the cutting. This will prevent the waste pieces from flying all over your work area.

    Adding "Mouse Ears" to Your 3D Print to Avoid Warping and Popping Off the Build Plate

    On Make:, Caleb Kraft shares a simple and fast trick for when you have adhesion problems with some areas of a 3D print. Add little "mouse ears" to the print which will increase the surface area for better bed adhesion. These thin little disks of plastic can then be snapped off when you're done.

    A Web App for Creating Project Boxes

    Via Bob Clagett's I Like to Make Stuff comes this handy resource. MakerCase is a free web app that allows you to design boxes and project cases that can then be laser- or CNC cut. You enter your desired box dimensions and material thickness, and MakerCase automatically generates a three-dimensional model of the box that can be freely rotated. Once you're satisfied with your design, MakerCase turns the model into an SVG or DXF file that can be sent to a laser cutter or CNC router.

    Using UV Resin for Water Effects

    UV resin has become a popular bit of kit within the tabletop game modeling and diorama communities. Using it, you can easily to duplicate parts, create window glass, and other cool and realistic tabletop effects by simply depositing the resin and hitting it with a UV light for instant curing. In this Tabletop Time video, they explore the idea of using UV resin to create water bases and drips for sea-based miniatures.

    Life Hack: Pirate Sight

    Recently, after watching the pirate black comedy series, Our Flag Means Death, I went down a rabbit hole researching the real-life pirates fictionalized in the show. During that search, I happened upon a commonly-held idea of why pirates wore eye patches. There was nothing wrong with their eyes. The patch was a sort of night-vision tech. During their daily ship duties, a pirate would be frequently going from the bright sunlight of the deck to the relative darkness inside the ship. A patch over one eye acted as a darkness adapter. If you went below deck, you simply moved the patch over your sun-acclimated eye and you could immediately see with the dark-adapted eye. I mentioned this to my son, Blake, and he said he'd read the same thing and begun closing one eye when going to the bathroom at night so that eye could safely lead him back to bed in the dark. I tried this and it works! Not sure if the pirate story is apocryphal or not, but the concept seems sound. Argh!

    Handy Chart for Volume Conversions

    From the highly-recommend Reddit sub, CoolGuides.

    Put Screws Back When Disassembling

    In this Tested video, in which Adam Savage is making a replica of the movement tracker from the movie Aliens, he does something worth pointing out: In disassembling parts he'll be reassembling, rather than storing the hardware somewhere and then trying to remember where it all goes back, he temporary hand-screws it into the threaded part of the piece for safe keeping. If that's unclear, see 7:11 in the video.

    Making Clay Out of Common Soil

    I had no idea that you could derive clay, suitable for making pottery, from common soil. I thought you had to find a vein of red clay and harvest that. Sure, such clay is obviously preferred, but you can also render out clay using reddish soil (which has high clay content) or really any type of soil. All you need to do is suspend the soil in water and filter out the heavy materials. After straining through a cloth, you are left with clay.

    Animations of 75 Different Knots

    Via the Tools for Possibilities newsletter comes this amazingly useful resource. Knot-tying is a fundamental maker skill. But learning to tie them from a text, or looking at still images, can make them seem unnecessarily confusing and complicated. I don't know about you, but seeing these knot animations immediately makes me want to grab a rope and go to lashing school.

    ***

    Here are my tips round-ups for 2021 and 2020 (part 1 & 2).

  • The history of the 8-Track tape format

    Today, people may snicker at the 8-track tape format, seeing it as some kind of sonic dodo bird, a kitschy artifact of the 1970s (if they know about it at all), but as The History Guy points out, it was revolutionary for its time.

    The 8-track cartridge allowed consumers to bring their own music into the car, giving them choice over set radio programming, and it was a robust, portable audio format that brought music to soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam.

  • Are expensive blenders better than cheaper ones?

    Tis the season for blending. So, Todd at Project Farm put 10 different blenders to the test, from one costing $25 to one selling for $630. The brands he compared were Vitamix, Nutribullet, Ninja, Syvio, WantJoin, BioChef, Yabano, Cuisinart, Brentwood, and Hamilton Beach.

    Todd tested the blenders on crushing ice, making smoothies, breaking down seeds, and making peanut butter.

    In the end, the expensive Vitamix ($630 at time of testing, now $509) did perform the best. But the Nutribullet ($105 at time of testing, now $120) and the Syvio ($60) also performed well and sure beat a $500-600 pricetag.

  • In search of a more "Bible accurate" Christmas

    If you (like me) are fascinated by the pagan origins of Christmas traditions and the clear falsehoods of modern depictions of the blessed event, you've likely heard many of the things presented in this video (the Roman census actually took place 6 years before the allegedly nativity story (and Herod had died 4 years before that), "inn" is a mistranslation of the Greek "guest room," and the born-in-a-manger story does not appear in the Bible).

    But it's still interesting to imagine what things would've looked like based on the Biblical and historical source material, with hundreds of terrifying, thousand-eyed angels chanting in the sky and a group of three Zoroastrian sorcerers (the Magi) bringing the gift of myrrh (used to embalm the dead) to an alleged virgin birth. Sounds like a bad trip.

    And then there's the part about Jesus' foreskin.

    Correction: The video incorrectly states (and I parroted) that the manger story does not actually appear in the Bible. It, in fact, does appear: "And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:4-7.

  • Why it's completely OK to be into tabletop gaming and not play very often, if at all

    I love this video and the sentiment expressed in it. I wish more people would say this out loud. The dirty secret, admitted here, is that many hobbyists who are heavily into tabletop gaming don't actually get to play all that often (for a number of reasons that the video's host, Ignatius, mentions). But that doesn't mean that these enthusiasts don't collect and voraciously read rulebooks, buy and paint miniatures, build terrain, watch online battle reports, and read the game fiction.

    People are drawn to gaming for different reasons. Some hobbyists are more interested in swimming around in the game's universe, and in bringing that world physically to life, than in the gameplay itself. I have a feeling that the hobbyists that this applies to are more numerous than the community imagines. And many, or all, of these people feel a certain amount of shame for not playing more. Ignatius' message is "stop that." You have every right to enjoy whatever aspects of the hobby you wish.

  • Seditious conspirator Stewart Rhodes' wife and eldest son on how they went about escaping him

    This 16-minute BBC video, about the wife and son of Oathkeeper Stewart Rhodes and what life was like living with him (and escaping his clutches), sounds like breaking from of a cult.

    Living off of survival rations of oatmeal and apple chips and in daily fear for their lives, they spent two years planning the family's eventual getaway. Then, in their new hideout, they took turns 24/7 standing guard in case he tracked them down. Heartbreaking stuff.

  • Why the discovery of sulfur dioxide and photochemistry on an exoplanet is a big deal

    YouTube's friendly neighborhood astrophysicist, Dr. Becky (joined by Dr. Jake Taylor), discusses the recent findings of the presence of sulfur-dioxide (only possible through photochemistry) on WASP-39b, a planet in the constellation Virgo.

    Dr. Becky explains why WASP-39b was chosen for early exoplanet exploration using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and why the ability to detect photochemistry is so important.

    While WASP-39b is a gaseous hellscape, at 1500-degrees F, the discovery of sulfur-dioxide in the planet's atmosphere means that photochemistry is at work and confirms that the JWST is able to detect it. This means that the JWST will also be able to detect ozone (also produced through photochemistry) in the atmospheres of more Earth-like planets. Atmospheric ozone is critical in shielding UV radiation here on Earth and would likely function similarly on any planets that may harbor organic life.

  • An architect breaks down the architecture and design of 5 sci-fi films

    Dami Lee might be an architect, but she's also an astute student of film. In this video, she combines these interests as she looks at the buildings and other design elements in 5 pieces of sci-fi media and discusses how these design choices contribute to what their creators were trying to say. She looks at Ex Machina, Downsizing, BLAME!, Elysium, and Inception.

    She labels the video 5 sci-fi movies, but it's really 4 films and a manga comic. She wasn't happy with the physical depictions of BLAME! in the Netflix version, so she covers the original manga source material (which was created by an architect).

  • Why dust might make or break future human presence on the Moon

    Of all the things that might endanger astronauts and their life-sustaining equipment on the Moon, the biggest threat might surprise you: dust. Lunar dust gets into everything, and during the Apollo missions, it turned out to be incredibly destructive. If humans are going to have an up-close and personal relationship with Luna going forward, we're going to have to go to war with regolithic dust.

    In this Real Engineering video, Brian McManus looks at the dust of the Moon, how it's formed, distributed, why it can be so destructive, and what engineers are doing to repel this "life-limiting threat" for future missions.

  • E-ink playing cards prototype is really cool

    Years ago, artist John Bergin and I pitched Black Library (the novel, audio, and art books division of Games Workshop) on an idea for an Emperor's Tarot. In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, there's a deck of cards, called the Emperor's Tarot, that is sometimes mentioned in the rulebooks and the plentiful fiction.

    Making a tarot deck is one thing, and Bergin had the art and design chops, and I the knowledge of the tarot and 40K universe, to pull it off. But, in the fiction, the Emperor's Tarot is made out of something called psycho-reactive crystal and the images on the cards change to reflect shifting influences and circumstances (powered by the dark and mysterious energies of "The Warp"). We thought of every gimmick imaginable to emulate this (square cards divided into a 4-image "X," cards with image leaking off the edges to create multiple meta images when placed next to each other, etc).

    In the end, Black Library said they liked our proposal, but passed on it, saying it would be too difficult and expensive to produce. I jokingly said that we'd just have to wait until psycho-reactive crystal was a real thing.

    Maybe not. E-ink might be close enough, if this prototype of Jonah Stiennon's Wyldcards is any indication. And dig the groovy Tree of Life circuitry underneath the cards!

    [H/t Clive Thompson]

  • Anyone want to buy a full-size Star Wars X-Wing?

    Akaki Lekiachvili is a doctor living in Atlanta, GA. Six years ago, he embarked on a project to build a life-size X-Wing fighter. Raised in the country of Georgia under the Soviet Union, Akaki knows Russian oppression firsthand. So, when Putin invaded Ukraine, he decided to use the public draw of his X-Wing to raise money for the embattled country.

    To get further attention for this effort, he made this amazing music video. He's now showing the ship at various public events and using it as an opportunity to raise money for the Ukrainian war effort.

    As Akaki has said in interviews, he cannot imagine a better example of a rebel alliance fighting an evil empire than Ukraine fending off Russia.

  • Making sci-fi set pieces for low-budget film making

    Many years ago, I got to visit the set of a low-budget sci-fi film. Inside of a warehouse, the crew had built a spaceship interior and part of a building that looked out onto an alien landscape. I was immediately struck by two things: how cleverly it had all been put together and how ridiculously cheesy it all looked close up. Everything was home store basics: plywood, 2x4s, conduit, decorative tiles, plastic plumbing fixtures, etc. And lots of pointless toggle switches, gem lights, square colored buttons, and a few PCs embedded in the plywood control consoles.

    When I finally saw the finished film, I was struck by something else: With the right kind of filming, lighting, some atmospheric smoke, and composited after effects, it all looked way higher budget and convincingly real.

    On the YouTube channel, CreateSciFi, Anthony Ferraro builds sets and props for the low-budget sci-fi films that he also posts to his channel.

    In the above video, using a few home store parts, some resin cast doodads, and some LED light strips, he creates a cool retro-looking computer station for a scene for his current film (see trailer below).

    Here is another of his set projects:

    And here is a trailer to the film he needed the computer console for:

  • Trailer for film version of Don DeLillo's quintessential post-modern novel, White Noise

    The first time I saw the trailer for White Noise, I was so stunned, I couldn't even take in what I was seeing. The idea that Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Marriage Story), of all people, had adapted the seemingly unadaptable great post-modern novel, Don DeLillo's White Noise, made my brain go gaga.

    As the title of the surprisingly slim 1985 novel implies, White Noise is a dizzying montage of media spew, cultural anxiety, consumer overload, the challenges of blended families, pop academic nonsense, conspiracy theories, black humor, and a meditation on the fear of death. And like all DeLillo novels, the characters all talk, well… like Don DeLillo.

    So, can you make a movie out of such a post-modern gumbo? I'm anxious to find out. A number of the post-Venice Film Festival reviews have been WTF? negative, but none of the reviewers have read the book, and perhaps therefore don't appreciate the fragmented structure, cold, unnatural dialog, absurd situations, and the bleak, twisted humor, all true to the source material.

    After watching the trailer several more times, I think Baumbach has done an admirable job of capturing at least some of the glorious din of White Noise. Even the color palette used in the film feels fake, plastic, and tacky in a way that perfectly fits the aesthetic of the novel.

    White Noise is in theaters now and on Netflix, December 30th.