on this date in history, and the greatest novelty song ever

On this date in 1922, Howard Carter, leading an expedition funded by Lorn Carnarvon, opened the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, familiarly known to those who love his pop culture story as “King Tut”.  There’s a  truly great novelty song with that title and if you are a certain age you are singing it to yourself right now.  Entertaining, isn’t it?  If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here and here.  Yes, both.  First one first. You will be glad you did.

(I saw the first clip live, in real time, and distinctly remember laughing so hard I almost fell of the couch. When Blue Lou Marini comes out of the sarcophagus …part of the essential soundtrack of my youth, and still the first thing I think of when someone talks about King Tut.  I should regret this, somehow, and yet I do not.)

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endpaper martens

seton endpapersThe goldenrod endpapers of Wild Animals at Home by Ernest Thompson Seton. 1913.  Via tumblr

Seton was an extremely popular and successful wildlife artist and woodcraft writer in his day, and one of the founders of the Boy Scout movement.  He is out of favor today, primarily due to his connection with what is now seen as cultural appropriation.  But he could really, really draw.  Roger Tory Peterson, the great ornithologist and bird painter was said to have been inspired to create his field guides by a little 1903 drawing of Seton’s identifying different kinds of river ducks.River_ducks_Seton

Regardless of Seton’s dubious legacy, I would still buy this book for its wonderful endpapers of what I am pretty sure are martens of some kind.  Martens are large arboreal weasels who hunt birds and squirrels in the branches of trees; they are intelligent, shy and beautiful, and obviously pretty awesome to draw.  And a marten would be a great animal form for a shape changing character like a were or a skinwalker.  You could go anywhere, and you’d pack a wallop for something your size.

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“everybody but mike”

ultimate photo shootToday’s guest co-blogger is Wolfie, who not only submitted the image but also suggested the title of the post.  (Hey, I am as lazy as the next person.)  But it really is a wonderful picture, and an absolutely mind bending idea.  Every other human being that ever lived is in this photograph (in some form).  Everybody but Mike.  I don’t know whether I hope he was thinking about that when he took the picture or not.  That would have been a difficult thought to have when you were alone in a profoundly dangerous place.

My own file name for this image is “ultimatephotoshoot”, because that’s a whole lot of subjects in one frame.    Photographic gearheads can read about the camera Collins used here.  It was a Hasselblad EL, and he had two pretty nice bits of glass to put on it, a Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 normal lens and a Zeiss Sonnar 250mm f/5.6 telephoto.  I honestly have no idea which he was using here, but my guess is it was the tele.

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tumblr sunday: balthus

tumblr_nfids9CBJZ1qhgogbo1_500In this latest addition to my tumblr collection of black and white photographs of famous artists, we discover that Balthus, that master of enigmatic and sexually charged figure drawing, was kind of hot himself.  In 1948.  Through the lens of Irving Penn.

Read about Balthus here, but be aware that the first paragraph of his entry ends with this:

Throughout his career, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the art world. He insisted that his paintings should be seen and not read about, and he resisted any attempts made to build a biographical profile. A telegram sent to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for its 1968 retrospective of his works read: “NO BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS. BEGIN: BALTHUS IS A PAINTER OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US LOOK AT THE PICTURES. REGARDS. B.”

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best of the drawing of the day, week 134: two shady guys

drawingoftheday-week134-shadyguysOr rather, two shaded guys.  Hand shaded guys, that is.  Freehand toning like this, with a very small pen like the Rotring Art Pen with the EF sketch nib* (aka the scritchy-scratchy pen) is about the most fun you can have in a sketchbook.  It’s utterly mesmerizing.  And it is actually good practice, so you don’t have to feel guilty about spending an hour or two on a silly drawing like this.  And there is nothing you can do with mechanical or computer shading that compares to the texture of a hand built black like the ones you see here.  Click for a closeup to see more about how it works, and how the phantom lines are set up.

As for the subject matter, here we have a chimera in a turtleneck being photobombed by a Horrible Creature.  That long necked guy is always sticking his pointy nose into things.

*Now available from JetPens!

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at the movies: big hero 6

Had a great time today at my free private showing of the new (and rather brilliant) animated superhero flick Big Hero 6.  Private, because there didn’t happen to be anyone else who wanted to see a kids’ movie at quarter to one on a Friday afternoon except me and my usual moviegoing companion, and free because the projector failed spectacularly during the previews.  “Number eight?”  said the manager.  “It does that.” And waiting six or seven minutes while they rebooted the system earned us a couple of guest passes to another show.  Not that the wait was that big a deal.

Is Big Hero 6 a kids’ movie?  Well, it’s a fairly lighthearted superhero story with a youthful but not juvenile cast (the hero is a 14 year old genius,; the other members of the team are his college-age classmates and a robot), and it’s animated, which to some people means it has to be intended primarily for children. But it’s really an all ages entertainment, of particular interest to anyone who is interested in superheroes (it’s full of superhero meta) or in worldbuilding.

Because the world is the real star here.  Big Hero 6 is set in the most impeccably designed and rendered alternate San Francisco: a spirited, optimistic, brightly colored Northern California-Blade Runner of a San Francisco, one that is mixed delightfully with a comic book Japan.   The characters (half manga, half modern Disney-Pixar) live there so believably that the illusion of reality is almost perfect, avoiding the uncanny valley by being just cartoonish enough.  It’s a beautiful movie to look at in the highest sense of the word beautiful.

The plot is a plot, thin but serviceable, plenty good enough to justify a visit to the setting.  The characters are better, appealing enough to make you care about the plot and the standard lessons of love, loyalty, hard work, and standing up for your beliefs.  The boy protagonist and the robot clearly received most of the effort, and the robot is is truly  remarkable.  His design is genuinely creative and his personality flows from it in a delightful organic way.  His name is Baymax, and you believe in him.  The rest of the characters are less well defined but skillfully outlined, and the superhero stuff is fresh and even enlightening.  Pay particular attention to Fred and Honey.  All the tropes of the modern superhero movie are here too, down to the standard advice to sit tight through the credits.  (And you should go early, too.)

I went to see this movie primarily to see the world in which it is set, but ended up watching it, and enjoying it, as a film.  Big Hero 6 was a very pleasant surprise, and let’s hope it’s a sign that this year’s big holiday flicks are going to be good ones.  We’ll be going to the movies at least once more before the year ends.freepasses-crop-blog

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is there any other kind?

Eagle eyed reader Meg sends this photograph of a classic toy for sale at a local emporium.  Funny, but I always thought the name of the thing was enough of a hint …MG_5391~2New vehicle prices have sure gone up, but at least the bell is included.

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to a cyclist on a winter evening

Hey, you, / you riding a bicycle in the dark and cold/ with a little yellow light on your helmet and a white one and a red one/ on your handlebars and the back of your seat respectively/ that alternately dim and flash as you pedal./  Yeah, you./

You are three floating lights, silent except for tire hiss on the wet sidewalk./  It’s really sort of creepy.

Be aware of this as you come up behind someone/ who is listening to “Welcome to Night Vale*” on headphones.

You should get a bell or something.

(*”The Shape in Grove Park.”)

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super flemish!

16thcenturywolvieNow that I have your attention, have you ever wondered how famous characters from popular culture would look if they had “lived”  in the 16th Century and posed for their portraits in Flemish costume?  It’s sort of an odd question, but this wonderful cosplay from Paris answers it beautifully.  The costumes, the makeup, the colors, the poses: the Flemish portrait illusion is complete and captivating.   I’ve been saying for a while that we are currently living in a golden age of cosplay as an art form, and this show and its accompanying photographs by Sacha Goldberger take the medium further than I have ever seen it go.

Had a hard time picking a cover image for this post, but since I am on a bit of a Wolverine kick recently, have brooding Flemish Wolvie on the house.  See all the rest of the photographs, and they are truly wonderful photographs, in the Super Flemish portfolio on Sacha Goldberger’s website here.

(image by Sacha Goldberger, from sachabada.com.)

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asking for some smartphone advice, android experts

A break from the usual to ask anyone out there who knows a bit about Android smartphones for some advice.  I have a Nexus 5, which I love, and now I bet you know what I am going to ask.

I just went to pull said Nexus 5 off the charger, and I saw an unfamiliar icon where I normally find my notifications.  I pulled it down and …yes, that’s right: the long anticipated/dreaded Lollipop* upgrade awaits me.  I can have the new OS whenever I want it. I’ve been reading about it on the tech sites and I know that in addition to making boring but useful improvements in background functions, it is going to change a lot about the way my phone looks and feels and what I can do with it.  I’m especially excited about all the camera upgrades that are included– I’m going to be able to learn to process RAW files in my phone and it is going to be awesome.  Or so I hope.

I’ve known for a week or so that the rollout was actually starting, and having a Nexus phone that runs pure Android I was going to be near the front of the line for it.  But now that it’s actually here, I am feeling more than a little trepidation.  In my mental landscape it was something that was just going to happen–I’d wake up one morning, or hear a weird sound in the middle of the afternoon and my phone would suddenly be … different.  I didn’t realize I was going to have to pull the trigger myself.

So what do you think?  Have you upgraded to Lollipop?  How long did it take to download?  How much did you have to do to get the phone up and running again?  Are you happy or sad that you did it?  How much does it actually change about how you accomplish your day to day tasks?  Bonus points for anyone who knows how long you have to make up your mind before the Google pushes the upgrade on you whether you want it or not, as I’m sure it will do eventually.  Being the Google.

I’m waiting ’till my husband gets home from work, that’s for darn sure.  I am not doing this by myself.  In fact, he has a Nexus 5 himself.  He’s the IT guy.  He can go first.

(*For all you iPhone folks,  the Google names the various versions of the Android phone OS after sweet treats and desserts.  The present version is KitKat, the new one, version 5.0, is Lollipop.  Don’t ask me.)

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