Happy Holidays!

+
"x"
"XXX"
"XXXXX"
"GOD JUL"
"BUON ANNO"
"FELIZ NATAL"
"JOYEUX NOEL"
"VESELE VANOCE"
"MELE KALIKIMAKA"
"NODLAG SONA DHUIT"
"BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA"
"""""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
"FELIZ NAVIDAD"
"MERRY CHRISTMAS"
"KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"VROLIJK KERSTFEEST"
"FROHES WEIHNACHTSFEST"
"BUON NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
"HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH"
"WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC"
"MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU"
"HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK"
"""""""'N PRETTIG KERSTMIS"""""""
"GESE A BMDE KERSGEES"
"ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA"
"Z ROZHDESTYOM KHRYSTOVYM"
"NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR"
"FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON"
"S NOVYM GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO"
"GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM"
"EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC"
"KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU"
"""""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON ANNO"""""""
"ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI"
"BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE VIANOCE "
"MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR"
"ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN"
"FELICES PASUAS - GLUECKLICHES NEUES JAHR"
"PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS SARBATORI VESLLE"
"BONNE ANNEBLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ NATAL"
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXX

This is a polyglot Yuletide greeting formerly posted annually to library forums by the late J. McRee (Mac) Elrod of Special Libraries Cataloguing. Whatever you celebrate or don’t, however you do it, I hope you have the company of friends and family in these dark times.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 8:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Canton cannon!

Last month I spent some time visiting a veteran’s memorial in Canton, Ohio. It was a weekday and the place was pretty empty — no doubt fact that the memorial is right off an interstate highway, and not really in a residential area, I suppose.

Anyway apart from a pleasant gazebo to sit in, and a path around a small pond, the things that really caught my eye were a couple of pieces of 18th century artillery that were mounted there on stone pedestals. Both were looted late in the 19th century from the Philippines and eventually found their way to Canton, Ohio. The amazing thing about them is that although they are utilitarian military weapons, they are also intricately sculpted and decorated. They were made at a time when everything was basically made by hand and decorated because why the fuck wouldn’t you make anything you are making beautiful as well as functional.

Here are some pictures, taken with my primitive flip-phone. Both are obviously bronze.

First up, a cannon.

cannon-0

Looking at it from the end the crew would see, there is a face — perhaps a ‘green man’ — sculpted onto the butt.

cannon-1

He’s a little cross-eyed.

cannon-2

The whole barrel of the thing is covered with reliefs and inscriptions. The touch-hole (where you’d insert a fuse to set it off) has a fire-burst decoration.

cannon-3

Futher along the barrel is a nice sun face.

cannon-4

Happily there is also a plaque explaining the Latin inscriptions;

cannon-6

Next up, a mortar.

mortar-0

I like the face on this one even more.

mortar-1

There is a set of loops that I think were used to adjust the mortar’s elevation. I guess you’d have chains or ropes threaded through them. They are sculpted into stylized “dolphins” typical of the sort you see in Renaissance art.

mortar-2

There is a plaque for this too.

mortar-3

This is just displaying my ignorance now, but back when I first saw the art in various Warhammer Fantasy Battle books (and the corresponding Citadel figures) of artillery with faces and other grotesquery on them, I assumed it was the drug-fueled visions of John Blanche, Ian Miller, and the other Games Workshop staff artists. I didn’t realize they were just depicting how old artillery really looked.

 

Published in: on October 17, 2015 at 12:41 am  Comments (3)  
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Behold the elephant harpy!

As I often mention here, my day job is as a librarian, and I get to see a fair amount of interesting stuff because my library is a large public research library (i.e. we get specialist academic stuff and popular stuff).  So recently The world’s best loved art treasures  (ISBN 9780867198089, have your friendly local book store order it for you) crossed my desk and let me say it is a hoot. The artist (Click Mort, link goes to his web site) basically does what modeling & miniatures enthusiasts would call “conversions,” but instead of working with scale models, he “recapitates” ceramic figurines.  These examples probably explain what is going better than I can.

Elephant harpy : http://clickmort.com/available/elephant.html Image (c) Click Mort, used with permission.

Centaur as Envisioned by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass : http://clickmort.com/available/rankin.html ; image (c) Click Mort, used with permission.

 

There are more at his site, and the book has even more. It kind of makes me want to stop in more junk stores hunting for cheap ceramic figurines to create my own chimeras.

Anyway you’ll obviously need to use these in your next D&D game.

Elephant Harpy

HD 5 ; AC as Mail ; Mv. walk 12″/fly 24″ ; Attacks: 3 or 1 ; Dmg. d4/d4/d6 + special or d12

The elephant harpy is every bit as filthy and harridine* as a regular harpy, but with their vast shared memories they also hold eternal grudges. In fact, anyone who harms an elephant harpy will henceforth be the target of vengeance from all other elephant harpies. They attack by dropping objects on their victims for d12 damage (rocks if you’re lucky) or in close combat will rake with their two claws and grapple with the trunk. Anyone grappled will be carried aloft and dropped from some height. Elephant harpies will not go near rodents, for fear that rodents will climb into their trunks.

Rankin-Bass Centaurs

HD 2 ; AC as leather ; Mv. 18″ ; Attacks 1 ; dmg. d6

Said to be the result of the unnatural coupling of deer and hill giants, Rankin-Bass centaurs are the size of deer, but have humanoid heads that would better fit on a giant’s shoulders. Despite their apparent awkwardness, they are quite fleet and agile, and can leap great distances like an ordinary deer as well as move with stealth similar to a deer (surprise on a 1-4). They avoid combat when possible but can kick for d6. They can speak the local human languages as well as several woodland tongues (centaur, brownie, and dryad). They naturally attract normal deer and often herd with them. Rankin-Bass centaurs crave nothing so much as acceptance from humans and humanoids, but their disturbing visages, and horrid stench, make most civilized folk shun them. Some Rankin-Bass centaurs are accomplished druids and can cast with 7th level proficiency; these can be distinguished by their caps. A Rankin-Bass centaur may offer to accompany a party of adventurers in woodland adventures, but usually wear out their welcome by making annoying efforts to solicit compliments and praise. A scorned Rankin-Bass centaur may follow and harass adventurers with their spells (if a druid) or by simply alerting other woodland creatures and monsters to the party’s presence.

*********

*Bonus neologism: harridine = being harridan-like.

Published in: on June 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

Paper Dragon

ROOOOOOAAAAHHRRR!

ROOOOOOAAAAHHRRR!

Here’s a paper dragon I made a couple of years ago for my kid’s Halloween festival — one of the stations along the “pumpkin walk” was to be a Chinese pagoda. We made a couple of pagoda silhouettes out of cardboard, and the teacher wore a nifty traditional Chinese costume. (Cue asshole parent council member repeatedly referring to the costume as a “geisha” and questioning why we wanted dress a teacher as a prostitute. No, really. Sigh.)

Anyway the dragon was made out of triangles of paper cut by my wife from her stock of scrapbooking paper and glued in place on a piece of cardboard. Overall, the dragon is maybe eight feet long and 1.5 feet tall. It came out looking pretty cool, I thought, and I didn’t have the heart to throw the thing into the recycle bin until last weekend, but at least I captured a few photos of it in case I ever need to make another.

dragon1

Published in: on April 30, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  
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The Mattress Factory

I took a short trip to Pittsburgh and had an incredible time — great company, good food, new music, plenty of beer — and the next day the wife and I visited a museum we’d been to about 10 years ago: The Mattress Factory. This post will just focus on the museum, because I have some photos and because the museum is more germane to swords & dorkery.

You can go to the museum’s web site to get the fuller story and much better photos, but the tl;dr version is: The Mattress Factory was an actual factory, but made into a museum in the 1970s and it mostly houses “installation” art: whole rooms are taken over by a single piece of art or series of pieces, and some are interactive. It is actually two buildings now; the factory and residential unit. The factory has art in the basement and floors 2-4 (the first floor now being the lobby, gift shop, and cafe). Some rooms are permanent installations and some are temporary. The exhibits on the second floor are rooms that use darkness and light in fairly amazing ways, and have been there for some time. But two of my favorite exhibits were new. The first a temporary exhibit of the work of one of the artists-in-residence. It is basically a miniature world. mf-diaspora-1 It’s called “Diaspora,” and depicts a city floating on a planetoid, with dozens of individual buildings floating around it, and as you can barely see in the picture above, space stations reminiscent of the film 2001.

mf-diaspora-6

The city is a mix of modern and futuristic buildings, and it is ringed with a highway that is heavily trafficked.

mf-diaspora-12

The cars are something like half an inch long, and while they may look like small-scale architectural models or railroad models, in fact they all made from scraps of cardboard and other materials the artist collected from street trash and garbage bins.

mf-diaspora-5Apart from the plaster or whatever makes up the land, and the model railroad foliage and flocking that makes up the grass and bushes, everything was made or repurposed by the artist.

mf-diaspora-10The windows were all cut by hand (presumably with an xacto knife); the details all cobbled from scraps of debris; many of the sci-fi touches are clearly auto parts or plastic parts spray-painted to resemble giant machines.

mf-diaspora-11

mf-diaspora-9The planetoid is apparently in some peril; here there is a crack in the ground that goes straight through to the void,

mf-diaspora-3

here there’s a pretty big pile-up;

mf-diaspora-2here the highway abruptly ends. So you can see why those who can afford it are living off-planet.

mf-diaspora-7Off in one corner of the room, by the fuse-box, there is an Asian building of some sort.

mf-diaspora-8

This next photo is terribly blurry, but there is a series of apartment buildings further out, moving toward the space stations.

mf-diaspora-13If we go further into a darkened room, presumably representing outer space, we find a number of space stations, mostly formed in wheel shapes.

mf-diaspora-14This is a shot showing one of the last apartment buildings, then a ring-shaped space station, and the other space stations beyond it.

mf-diaspora-15

mf-diaspora-16

mf-diaspora-17

This last one looks a little like the USS Enterprise trapped in a gyroscope.

And here is one last detail of a space station, showing some of the construction materials.

mf-diaspora-18Lastly, a plaque on the wall gives a bit more information:

mf-diaspora-0Many more photos, taken by professions, of this and other works by Ryder Henry are at the museum website linked above.

It’s less clear to me if the second building will be a permanent exhibit. I took a few photos of it, but they did not really turn out well. The gist of it is this: A three story apartment building was aquired by the museum, and it was a decrepit state. An artist touring it was fascinated by the stories implied by the layers of wallpaper, paint, etc. exposed on the walls, and the few remaining artifacts left behind by the previous residents. So she decided to “trap” the memories in the place by creating a sort of spiderweb of yarn, covering almost all the walls. Walking through the three stories of this building was a little creepy, as it seemed like the lair of some giant wolf spiders or something. There is an extensive gallery of photos here. If you can see this in person it’s pretty amazing.

 

Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Merry Everything!

+
"x"
"XXX"
"XXXXX"
"GOD JUL"
"BUON ANNO"
"FELIZ NATAL"
"JOYEUX NOEL"
"VESELE VANOCE"
"MELE KALIKIMAKA"
"NODLAG SONA DHUIT"
"BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA"
"""""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
"FELIZ NAVIDAD"
"MERRY CHRISTMAS"
"KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"VROLIJK KERSTFEEST"
"FROHES WEIHNACHTSFEST"
"BUON NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
"HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH"
"WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC"
"MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU"
"HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK"
"""""""'N PRETTIG KERSTMIS"""""""
"GESE A BMDE KERSGEES"
"ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA"
"Z ROZHDESTYOM KHRYSTOVYM"
"NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR"
"FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON"
"S NOVYM GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO"
"GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM"
"EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC"
"KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
"SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU"
"""""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON ANNO"""""""
"ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI"
"BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE VIANOCE "
"MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR"
"ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN"
"FELICES PASUAS - GLUECKLICHES NEUES JAHR"
"PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS SARBATORI VESLLE"
"BONNE ANNEBLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ NATAL"
"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Enjoy your winter solstice celebration of choice! The above ASCII art is a polyglot Yuletide greeting posted annually to library forums by J. McRee (Mac) Elrod of Special Libraries Cataloguing

Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 10:49 am  Comments (1)  
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Will McLean

The 1e Dungeon Masters Guide is still one of my favorite RPG books — maybe because when I began playing it was off-limits to players. You can supplement all the older versions of D&D with it pretty decently, and it fills in the gaps for retro-clones have too. Anyway one of the many things that were unique to it were the cartoons by Will McLean (not to be confused with the folk song writer). They weren’t all great but mostly they hold up. (I always thought there should be more cartoons in the Players Handbook, too.)

On a lark I looked him up online and I see he’s involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism, big surprise. He also wrote a book on England in Chaucer’s time, and was involved with various SCA publications.

Mr. McLean has a Deviant Art gallery here, which is worth checking out, though it does not have his old DMG and Dragon Magazine toons.

Published in: on December 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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The book of miracles

I get marketing email from some publishers and mostly ignore it but once in a while something pretty amazing comes up.  Taschen — a publisher of art books — recently put out a facsimile of a 1550 book describing  and depicting wonders and visions, simply called “The book of miracles.”

The illustrations in the book are pretty awesome.  (The link above leads to their catalog page with a dozen more images.)

The Book of Miracles

Published in: on May 22, 2014 at 9:21 am  Comments (2)  
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St. Pancratius of Wil, death knight

St. Pancratius of Wil, death knight.  Click to embiggen!

St. Pancratius of Wil. Click to embiggen!

I just picked up a copy of Heavenly Bodies: cult treasures & spectacular saints from the catacombs.  It’s a book with tons of photos of bejeweled and bedazzled relics from across Europe.  Some are reclining or posed like St. Pancratius above (& he’s pretty conservative, just being in fancy armor); others are just lying in jumbled ruins but heaped with gems and gold.   A lot of them have rather disturbing facial features added to the skulls in wax, as well as life-like glass eyes, and others are veiled in gauze, giving them a doll-like aspect.

This St. Pancratius was, apparently, originally buried in Roman legionary armor, but when his relics were translated (moved from a tomb or crypt to a shrine or altar), he was decked out in the latest parade armor.  I couldn’t easily find any more on him — there are two other early martyrs but neither is in Switzerland, as this one is.  More on the book here ; even more photos here.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 9:47 pm  Comments (3)  
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Yes I have been drinking, but I think this needs saying

The death of David A. Trampier, a wonderful illustrator of D&D and some other games from the mid-70s to 1988, has been reported.  A lot of blogs started posting brief RIPs and a few pictures as tributes, which is fitting.  Now I am noticing that there is some kind of race to report more details as quickly as possible, be the first kid in your webring to post the news, and other star-effing.  One blogger who is probably well-intentioned has started digging into the details of Trampier’s funeral arrangements and encouraging gamers to crash what has already been communicated to him to be a private event.  What.The.Fuck?

For whatever reason — and now is not really the time to get to the bottom of it — Trampier wanted out of the “gaming community” and politely refused requests for interviews etc. for the last decade.  Apparently his mounting medical bills did convince him to consider publishing and/or making appearances shortly before his death.  Still, I think the gaming community needs to back the fuck off.

If you did not know the man personally, you don’t need to be crashing this funeral.  You can sign the online guestbook if you need to let his family know how much you loved his art.  Hordes of strangers (especially the unwashed masses of gamers) showing up at a private funeral for a man who wanted no attention (or anything at all to do with the general public gamers really) —  hordes of gamers showing up at his funeral would be in incredibly bad taste.  The cynic in me suspects all the gushing about going to the funeral is just online braggadocio and trying to be grognarder-than-thou.  I will try to be more charitable and assume it is just talk coming from a real sense of vicarious loss.  Yes, all of us who loved D&D in the 70s and 80s, or appreciate the classics now, can feel a sense of loss at his passing, and as humans of course we can feel sorry for the family’s loss.  But imposing ourselves on DAT’s grieving family & friends does not honor him nor respect his or their wishes for privacy.

Published in: on March 29, 2014 at 1:46 am  Comments (9)  
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