Mary Bigham: Hardest-Working Blogger in West Chester

I’ve been having a great time bragging on West Chester since I stopped commuting to NYC in January. West Chester is filled with smart people who are really good at what they do. Yesterday, I bragged on Harold Ross. Today, I (almost literally) ran into another local luminary in the Pantheon of West Chester’s Awesomeness, so I’m gonna take a moment to brag on her and her blog project.

maryb_remote.jpgI was riding my sidecar rig to Starbucks this morning to get some coffee for Kate and me*, and Mary Bigham of the West Chester Dish restaurant blog flagged me down. She was doing a radio remote for local AM-talk station WCOJ, and she had me answer a few questions about breakfast on air.If JT in the studio (and on the phone) guessed what my answer was going to be correctly three out of five times, I’d win circus tickets.

Tip: if you want a radio DJ to guess what you’re gonna answer correctly, don’t claim your favorite breakfast drink is “Tang” because of the astronaut connotations.

Anyhow, in my career as Internet Court Magician to big companies, they’ve often wanted to know what the New Generation of Bloggers will do with the Internet. “How will the Internet Natives use blogs for business?” ask a hundred hand-wringing Forrester reports.

The answer is “Very well, thank you!” Mary’s food blog at looks great, is updated frequently, and has a friendly, clear, and enthusiastic editorial voice. It’s done on a shoestring, mostly by Mary and her designer/programmer Jason Tremblay. That gives it a “let’s put on a show in the barn!” vibe that makes established multinational interactive shops quake in their boots: “Wait, we just did a food site for a million dollars, and it doesn’t have THAT. Or THAT…” For my developer friends, it’s a highly-tweaked instance of WordPress, with clever mapping of tags to cuisines. It’s a great use of the blog model as a content-management framework, pushing it past just “sequenced updates published in a stack.”

Mary works her cross-channel marketing, too: she writes a column for the local paper, has a weekly radio show, and generally hustles like the scrappy newsboy from a Horatio Alger book. She just won “Business Woman of the Year” from the Women’s Referral Network of Chester County. Besides being great news for her, it’s a sign that new media has arrived. Now it’s simply “media”, and it’s a normal part of the local business ecosystem. THIS is what the internet natives are doing; the same community stuff that folks have been doing all along. They’re working hard, and making stuff that reeks of WIN.

Fortunately, I managed to win the circus tickets with the calculatedly-populist answers “Cold Pizza”, “Brinner“, and “I skipped it this morning”. Phew! Mary then moved on to the next fellow walking down the street. Good luck winning circus tickets, friend! Don’t answer “Tang!”


* Believe me, I know that driving a sidecar rig to Starbucks is a white-person train wreck. In 2002, while commuting daily to DC for work, I called in to a Baltimore hip-hop radio station for Wednesday morning “White People Check-in”, but the call screener (the “Black Pather Princess”) refused to believe that I was actually white. I sounded whiter, she said, than any white person actually sounds. Than it is POSSIBLE to sound. “Work on your imitation!” she said, and hung up.

UPDATE: In March 2009, Mary launched a bi-weekly supplement in the Daily Local News called “CC:”, which is all about local restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. You can check it out at Mary has crossed the line from blogging into print, which is a tough trick — but if anyone can pull it off, she can!

Mary Bigham: Hardest-Working Blogger in West Chester

Harold’s Hagley pictures

My friend and neighbor Harold Ross, who took the Guerilla Drive-In photos last Saturday, as well as the hyper-real picture of the MacGuffin and the awesome long exposure in the Northbrook Canoe Barn, just went to Hagley and took some long-exposure pictures, leaving the shutter open and “painting” the beautiful, massive, and WORKING machinery with an LED flashlight:


Now, I don’t know much, but I do know how to get the Internet to look at pictures of machinery from the days when lathe operators wore leather trenchcoats, brass goggles, and fought magical Confederate golems by gaslight.

I submitted the story to uber-blog BoingBoing under the heading “STEAMPUNK! STEAMPUNK!! STEAMPUNK!!!” (I’m not kidding), and god bless Cory Doctorow‘s fondness for brass gears, they ran with it. And then awesome-design-bricollage blog picked it up. So I’m very glad that these photos are getting some of the attention they deserve.

Hagley is a REALLY cool place, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos that bring out the… the… BRASS BADASS-I-TUDE of these leather-strap-and-pulley machines before.

Harold’s Hagley pictures

MOL Alligator Needlepoint Pattern

A week or two ago, I blogged breathlessly about seeing and LOVING the MOL "alligator carrying a shipping container" logo in the Port Elizabeth Intermodal Depot.

I CONTINUE to think this alligator is fantastic, so I made a needlepoint pattern from it in Pixen, which is a pixel-art editor for OS X that I totally recommend. Here’s a low-res version (the 3600px original is available on Flickr):

Mitsui OSK Lines Logo Needlepoint Pattern

The darker-value pixels make a 10×10 grid. When transferring the design to the canvas, I first marked every 10th thread intersection with a small blue dot, and then worked one grid "box" at a time, marking each thread intersection with a fine-point pigma pen.

Marking canvases is HARD WORK, man. Stitching is nothing but fun after that. Well, picking the colors is tricky; two skeins will look totally different in the hand, but then on the canvases they’ll turn out to have totally the same value, and you can’t tell them apart. Kate, with her practiced eye for color, has been really helpful. Lydia, on the other hand, wants me to do it in purple. And pink. And instead of an alligator, have a flower and a butterfly.

You’ll notice that the alligator has an anchor tattoo, which is what made me want to include the sailor’s anchor tat in the booth last weekend.

MOL Alligator Needlepoint Pattern

Guerilla Drive-In Saturday night: “Caddyshack” at Tee it Up Golf!

AFTER we packed up the tattoo booth on Saturday, I rode home and switched the sidecar’s Tattoo Booth Module for the Film Projector Module. There was a brief montage involving loud music, showers of sparks, and steaming volcanos, and then I drove the rig out to Tee it Up Golf on 202 to show Caddyshack for the West Chester Guerilla Drive-In.

Guerilla Drive-In: "Caddyshack" at Tee it Up Golf

The movie’s title and location had been a secret; only those who had previously found the AM transmitter hidden somewhere in West Chester knew what and where the movie was going to be. Fortunately, finding the MacGuffin is fun and easy. When you find it and get your Permanent and Sequential Guerilla Drive-In Member Number, a disembodied voice booms from the sky “LEVEL UP!” and glowing plus signs float all around your body. So, you know, you should do it! It’s a PIPIN’ HOT GOOD TIME.

We had about 35 people out to see Spaulding shout “Double Turds!”, and I had a great time. Whe showed the un-edited version, which is NOT the one you see on TV; I’d forgotten how much screen time Lacy Underall DOESN’T usually get!

I gave a can of soup as the prize for best (worst) golf outfit, and that prize was claimed by dashing clothes-horse Jerzy W., pictured here. In addition to this outfit’s many other fine qualities, he’s actually wearing a wooly tam-‘o-shanter with a pom-pom on top. WINNER:

Jerzy W.: Dashing Clothes Horse and Fearless Ball-Cart Daredevil

As an additional prize, Jerzy (and several others) each got to DRIVE THE ARMORED BALL CART out on the range while moviegoers hit balls at them. Jerzy had nerves of steel: he drove along at low, low speed, only twenty feet from the hitting decks. It was like watching some weird analogue of a pirate movie, where the privateer cruises slowly past the man-o-war, defiantly taking fire from each gunport in turn. “Fire as yer (PING!) guns bear, boys! (CLANG!) Scupper this (BANG!) furry-footed turf dog!”

Each ball-cart driver had their own style: GDI member number 003 Nicole V. drove slow figure-eights, talking trash, while her husband, GDI#004 Dave R. fired off humming drives that went RIGHT over the roof. GDI#033 Sallie R. actually paused to TAKE PICTURES from inside the cart, the flash from the cage punctuating our shame as we sliced the balls wide.

The photo of Jerzy was taken under very difficult lighting conditions by GDI#006 Harold Ross, who used a long exposure and a flashlight(!) to make it look like the Weirdest Ever Catalog Shot. Harold also took the picture of the MacGuffin that’s on the GDI Updates page, as well as the photo of Meatballs in the Northbrook Canoe barn. You can see more of Harold’s stuff on his new Flickr photostream.

Guerilla Drive-In Saturday night: “Caddyshack” at Tee it Up Golf!

Tattoo Booth Report: Everybody Loves the Magical Unicorn

I stayed out late in the garage Friday night, fabricating a one-legged, coffin-shaped counter that integrates with the sidecar, using the lower half of the Guerilla Drive-In projector mount.

It POURED rain on Saturday morning and early afternoon. But, you know, if you wanna be a carnie, you can’t let some rain stop you. You just have to shrug, spit your chaw, and say something like “I ain’t made ‘a sugar, I ain’t gonna melt.” So Matt and I got the tattoo booth set up under a tent. And we pretty much had the whole block to ourselves: it was just us, the inflatable moon bounce about twenty feed away, and a couple of neighborhood kids. In other words, it was PERFECT for practicing on them and each other.

We had a great time tattooing the neighborhood kids. I learned that it’s fairly hard to get both the ink mixture and the pressure on the airbrush right. We’re using self-adhesive stencils, which are more forgiving than the kind you just hold up, but even so I’m having some problems with the ink dripping. Hopefully, all that’s needed is practice, though. Luckily, all the ones we did on the kids seemed to turn out pretty well, my mistakes were mostly confined to Matt’s neck.

Here’s Matt during a break in the rain, making a carnie face:
"Make a face like a carnie, Matt!"

Here are some assorted pictures of the tattoos we did, both airbrush and glitter. The second from the right is my favorite, it’s Kate’s new glittery anchor peeking out from under her polo shirt. YES, is all I can say about that triple-threat combination of tough stevedore, carnival glitter, and the Official Preppy Handbook. HELL, YES.

Click each photo to see it on Flickr, or you can see the whole set!

Magical Unicorn: Red 
Red and Gold Glitter Anchor 
Sailor's Anchor: Finished Product 
Kate's Anchor 

After we packed the booth up, I switched the sidecar’s tattoo module for the 16MM projector module, and we had a Guerilla Drive-In Showing of Caddyshack at Tee it Up Golf on 202. More on that later!

Tattoo Booth Report: Everybody Loves the Magical Unicorn