The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

Strolling through my Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across a graphic novel called “The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.” How could I resist? Not only was it a beard. But it was an evil beard to boot.

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The graphic novel, but Stephen Collins, is a tranquil journey through a surreal word. I want to liken it to  Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton, but the experience isn’t that overt or obvious. The book’s tag line perhaps says it best — The job of skin is to keep it all in. Here, the skin means the skin of the world. Normalcy. The job of normalcy is to keep all the weird and frightening stuff in, so you don’t have to experience it. In this sense, the book take on a bit of the Cthulhu mythology. Only instead of a tentacled cephalopod, we get a massive black beard (which is evil, don’t forget).

Collins does a wonderful job of setting up the back story. Our protagonist, Dave, is totally bald and hairless, except for a single hair. This makes his eventual bearddom even more of a 180. This would be wonderful foreshadowing if the book title and image didn’t already let you know that the beard is, in fact, coming.

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Even so, I like how the Collins explains his world and gives its limitations, letting the reader know what’s at stake. For example, everyone in this graphic novel lives in a place called Here. It’s very similar to where you live, in fact. Only Here is an island surrounded by There. There is the unknown. The chaotic. The untidy.

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The image of Here versus There brings to mind the Greek idea of the beginning of the world.

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Tidiness seems to be a prevalent theme in the book. many pages and images are devoted to the tidying of the streets and the people. Gradually, as the evil beard makes its presence known, untidiness happens.

Dave’s only source of joy is sitting by his window and sketching the passersby (all while listening to the Bangles “Eternal Flame” on repeat). After he grows his beard, he notices how similar all the people are, and by contrast, how different he’s become.

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But this difference was there all along. Hidden beneath the skin of his dreams. He’s always heard the voices of There, hissing into his brain, bringing untidy thoughts.

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Of course, along with the brilliant story, we have Collins’s astounding artwork. His visuals aptly capture the serene creepiness of chaos leaking into the world.

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I highly recommend this book. Buy it and give it a good read through. You won’t regret it. Even if you are clean shaven.

Tim Kane

Surreal Lightbulbs and the Multiple Moons of Earth

Surreal Lightbulbs

Lightbulbs. Everybody has them. They serve a utilitarian purpose to illuminate. Yet one artist considers them as more than glass and filament. Pieke Bergmans has elevated the simple lightbulb into an art form.

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The young Dutch designer imagines that her lightbulbs have been infected with the dreaded “Design Virus.” She says, “It is a light bulb that has gone way out of line. Infected by the dreaded Design Virus, these Blubs have taken on all kinds of forms and sizes you wouldn’t expect from such well behaving and reliable little products.”

Bergmans calls her light sculptures “unlimited edition,” becauset each unique piece is made using an industrial process she developed that can be repeated until the end of time.

The Turnip Princess Fairy Tales

Do you remember reading Grimm’s fairytales? I sure do. What if there were hundreds more you never heard of? The Brother’s Grimm weren’t the only folks wandering around the European countryside collecting tales. Around 1850, Bavarian lawyer Franz Xaver Von Schönwerth traveled collected popular stories and folklore, writing them down. The Grimm stories survived, Schönwerth’s didn’t. Until now.

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The Schönwerth collection of 500 fairytales was discovered in a local German archive by Erika Eichenseer. Now these tales have been translated into English by Maria Tatar, chair of Harvard University’s folklore department. The collection is called The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairytales.

You can read one of the best stories for free. Click the link to see The Enchanted Quill, a tale about a magical crow.

A Webcomic That Goes On Forever

Most comics restrain themselves to tiny rectangular frames. Each frame tells a story and the reader moves from frame to frame. But what if the comic illustration never stopped. It simply rolled on the way a long tale might.

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Enter the Frostblight Saga, a tale about a fox, a bear, and what happens to the humans who invade their woods. Most webcomics are simply a digital version of their printed counterparts. But the story created  by Michael Doig and India Swift can only exist on the web.

It does feel like it has distinct pages, but the vertical format is one long illustration, effectively conveying the power of the winter setting to the reader. As I read it, I get a distinctive Game of Thrones beyond the wall feel. Check it out, why don’t you?

 Earth Has More Than One Moon

Forget the controversy over whether Pluto is a planet or not. Everyone knows that Earth has only one moon, right? We don’t even give it a specific name. It’s just, The Moon. The only natural satellite that orbits our home planet.

Starting in 1997, astronomers discovered another natural satellite, 3753 Cruithne. Now this is hardly moon-sized and it’s orbit isn’t strictly around Earth. Cruithne loops around the inner solar system in what’s called a “horseshoe” orbit.

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But it don’ts stop with Cruithne. Apparently Earth plays den mother to several other wayward lumps of rock. Our tenure as a single moon planet has ended. Long live the multiple moon Earth.

Check out more about this story here.

I hope this has fully sated your yearning for the weird and fantastical. Until next time.

Stay strange.

Tim Kane

Photographs of Reveal Victorian Monsters

I am secretly in love with all things Victorian. Old locks, vintage recipes, tea cups, and yes, photographs. Then I stumbled onto the art of  Colin Batty. He takes old photos and tintypes and paints on the actual print to create a new, surreal, scene. Yes, you heard me right, no photoshop in sight. This is a time honored technique done by the Victorians themselves.

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Since the first daguerreotypes hit the world in 1839, people have painted on the photos. To a modern person, this seems bizarre, but to a Victorian, a photograph is nothing different than a canvas where the lines have already been drawn. Originally, people wanted to make the image realistic, and that meant color. They used watercolors, oils, crayons or pastels. To learn more about painting on photos, visit Janine Kilroe’s site.

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Color and realism are not the aim of artist Colin Batty. He took up his brush to transform estate sale photos into creepy images that scare and excite the viewer. Batty hails from Manchester, England and has worked on films like Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks as well as the Oscar-nominated short The Sandman.

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Seeing Batty’s work, I can’t help but think of the Peculiar Children series written by Ransom Riggs. Riggs also digs up estate photos from years ago. Although these photos are unaltered (at least by him) and serve as inspiration for his story.

Addison, a peculiar dog

Addison, a peculiar dog

One other artist springs to mind when you look at Batty’s surreal Victorian images, and that’s Travis Louie. He hand paints each figure to resemble the old daguerreotypes prints. He does this to have full control of the image, whereas Batty simply modifies the image.

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I swear, you get the three of these guys together, and they could outfit an entire gallery.

Happy viewing,

Tim Kane

Moonrise Over Junk Food (Your Monthly Ticket to Weirdness)

For this month we explore landscapes created with junk food, insane Steampunk calculators, and a vampire hunting kit.

Blue Dye #1 Precipice from the series Processed Views 2014

Blue Dye #1 Precipice from the series Processed Views 2014

 

Junk Food Landscapes

Always on the look out for the latest and most surreal items this world has to offer, I was stunned by how  artists Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman used junk food to recreate classic photographs by Carleton Watkins. Look at how the food artists recreated a 1869 photograph of the Farallon Islands photographs.

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And now the Ciurej/Lochman version, titled Cola Sea (from the series Processed Views 2013).

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The artists use processed food to point out just how far our food has diverged from nature. They state: “As we move further away from the sources of our food, we head into uncharted territory replete with unintended consequences for the environment and for our health.”

Stempunk Calculators

Most of use think of calculators are objects from the computer age. Who can blame us when adding apps are available on smartphones or even Google.

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Check out these truly gorgeous beauties from an age where objects were crafted by hand. The calculator, built by Johann Helfrich Müller in 1784, evokes stempunk passion with it’s brass knobs and dials. Check out this close up the workings:

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To view more of these marvelous mechanical wonders, visit this site.

A Love Story Through Coffee

Although this short film features a food product, and thus might fall under the category of propaganda, it’s so charming that it captures my heart. The characters, a boy and a girl, are dusted onto the tops of 1000 cups of cappuccino. The story shows their courtship, love, and family. The commercial is for Ajinomoto General Foods’ Maxim Stick drink flavoring. Watch and enjoy.

Tim Kane

Do You Want Your Fashion to Interact with the World?

Imagine a dress that would react to people around you. Lash out if you felt threatened. Light up if you were happy? Sound like something from Bladerunner? Think again. These dresses have become reality, thanks to Dutch fashiontech designer Anouk Wipprecht.

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This is Anouk’s Spider Dress 2.0. The spider leg epaulettes on each shoulder are actually tiny robots. They link to proximity sensors and a respiration sensor. This means that if someone moves aggressively towards you, and you don’t like it, your increase in respiration will trigger the mechanical legs to move up and into an attack position. Additionally the black LED shells stationed along the garment, meant to  resemble spider eyes, automatically flash in warning when someone gets near you.

Robotic Spider Dress [Intel Edison based] // 2015 teaser from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

Anouk’s original Spider Dress (designed in collaboration with engineer Daniel Schatzmayr) shows the sinister robotic spider legs. These legs also extend, but won’t react to the proximity of others. It was simply meant as a performance art piece about personal space.

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Although the Spider Dress is Anouk’s most recent project, he has experimented with interactive clothing for a while. Take the Smoke Dress, which covers the wearer with fog as soon as people approach. The Smoke Dress functions as a protective shield, the designer says, “just like an octopus in self-defense” envelops itself in clouds of ink.”

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Interactive Smoke Dress @ AUTODESK Gallery pop up Paris from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

Anouk also created her Synapse Dress which reads the wear’s thoughts. When the person is excited about something, this triggers the LED lights in the dress to glow. It creates a sense of vulnerability because everyone around you will know what you are thinking.

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Much of the interactivity in Anouk’s fashion are thanks to an Intel chip called Edison. Watch the micro-documentary about how the chip helps the clothes sense the users thoughts.

Interactive Intel-Edison based Synapse dress by Dutch fashion-tech designer reveals wearers metal states from Anouk Wipprecht on Vimeo.

One of Anouk’s earliest fashion and tech mashups looks like it came straight out of a Steampunk novel. The Faraday Dress lights up when exposed to the power of high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency, alternating-current electricity. That forking lightning you see in the picture is real. 94 metal panels comprised the outfit, cut out of a sheet of metal using the water jet.

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In this making of video you can see a hesitant model wearing the dress as the faraday device launches arcs of electricity at the dress.

Anouk Wipprecht lives and works in San Francisco. She strives to create fashion that will connect the body and the clothing. She began combining fashion and technology three years ago. A one year sting to Sweden offered her a chance to study “body, fashion & technology” at the Malmo university. There she worked on Arduino-based application possibilities and smart fabric concepting.

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Tim Kane

Disney Tarot and Insects Breathing (December’s Weird Roundup)

For this month’s edition of the Weird Roundup, I have some treats for you. These nuggets of strangeness will keep you warm in the coming months.

Disney Princess Tarot

Just when you thought every tarot art concept had been thoroughly explored, here comes one that is so beautiful, it should be made (lawsuits be darned). Imagine each of the major aracana depicted as a Disney princess (or prince).

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These aren’t the creepy Tim Burton cards from A Nightmare Before Christmass (though I love those too). These were created by Suisei-Ojii-Sama (Julian Rivera) over at Deviant art.

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Obviously I have more than a passing interest in Tarot (I wrote a book about it). Plus I love Disney. I live close enough to visit Disneyland at least once a month. So yeah, a Disney themed tarot deck would be right up my alley.

Visualize Insects Breathing

In school, I was the science geek who holed up in the physics lab to avoid pep rallies. Yup, one time we even got to split open a bowling ball with a sledgehammer to see if the density accounted for the holes. So anytime I run across something sciency that piques my interest, I like to pass it along.

Designer Eleanor Lutz simply wants to show people how to make an animated GIF. But here subject matter is mesmerizing. She completely understands what makes a good short animation. The breathing cycle of grasshoppers is very short and lends itself well to the micro animation of GIFS.

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Visit her site to also see a person and a chicken breathing. But insects are the most interesting because they don’t have lungs. Instead they have ten holes along their abdomen called spiracles. Air goes in through the front spiracles and out the back. The grasshopper moves its abdomen to pump the air.

Krampus Night

And you thought all the scaring was done and over with after Halloween. How wrong you were.

Merry-Krampus

This Friday marks Krampus Night (or Krampusnaught). It’s the day that the demonic associate of Santa (and sometimes and Angel) comes to visit and see if you’re good. Only instead of coal for being naughty, you get a trip down below.

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Read my full article on this lovely fellow here.

Enjoy the holidays.

Tim Kane