Commando Nerds in Action

At 5:49 AM this morning, p8tch collaborator Kenn Munk sent the following message to me:

“Here are a couple of shots taken after having done a small run handing out flyers, not as heroic as they could have been, but I had no photographer handy. The second one is a more action-y stmbling shot…
Hope you can make some use of them, feel free to crop and chop.
Running this afternoon with a group, turns out someone has built a tunnel-like structure on my route, not sure I’ll fit with the sashimono… Also scared of hitting people. All these considerations you probably didn’t have charging across a field, attacking other samurai…”


This is absolutely just the height of epitome. “Sweaty Sightseeing” is a guided running tour of Arhus. It’s a really fine-looking sashimono, too; I’m trying to get a glimpse of the shoulder bracket that Kenn has made (update: here’s a picture of the construction), and it looks really good:

stumbly action shot of the sashimono

In other Commando Nerd news, Michele Melcher sent a scan of the finished art for my “Fisher-Price Adventure Nerd”. I’m really, REALLY happy with him. You can click on him and see more details on the Flickr photo page. Now all he needs is a name and a backstory!

It’s like the Professor from Gilligan’s Island was hit with the Hirsute Ray!

Commando Nerd
Commando Nerds in Action

Announcing “National ‘Is This Your Card?’ Day”

One of the bread-and-butter moves of any magician is called “forcing a choice.” Basically, it means that when I ask you to “pick a card, any card”, I get to decide what card you get. For instance, you’re gonna get the Seven of Hearts.
This can be done a number of ways, from the inelegant (I have a gaffed deck consisting ENTIRELY of the Seven of Hearts-es), to the subtle (I say your name at EXACTLY the right time), to the in-between (Google “Hindu Shuffle“)
So by the time you’ve actually picked your card, the hard part of the trick is over, and the fun part is left: the “reveal”. After you replace the card in the deck, I could do any of the following:

Standard card-trick reveals:

  • Hold the deck up to my forehead and carefully detect the psychic emanations;
  • Carefully “levitate” the card out of the deck using a concealed pinky finger;
  • Point upwards, revealing that your card is STUCK TO THE ceiling (now we’re getting somewhere);
  • Ask you to take your iPhone and scan the QRCode P8tch on my jacket, at which point YOUR OWN MOM appears on the screen:

Penn and Teller’s 1987 videotape Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends had a particularly great reveal: on the tape was a 30-second snippet of generic news broadcast. Then the newscaster stopped for a moment, listening to their headset. “One moment, this just in… ..IS THIS YOUR CARD?” they asked, holding a giant card up to the screen. The idea is that you’d flub the trick, then say “ah screw it, let’s watch some television.” You put in the tape, instead of actual television. AND THE AWESOMENESS IS REVEALED.
Ladies and gentlemen, can you imagine the amazing reveals that we can come up with if we all POOL OUR TALENTS? Consider the following:

Amazing reveals possible if we pool our talents

You ask your mark to pick a card, any card. They replace the card in the deck, and you fumble hesitating-ly. “Uh… is your card the, uh… ACE OF SPADES?” you ask, hesitatingly, the flop-sweat standing out on your brow. “NO, you loser! Ha ha ha!” says your friend…
…until they see you staring upwards, into the sky. They follow your gaze, to see a small plane towing a banner behind it. The banner reads:
Can you imagine the possibilities, here? That one example already would easily be the best card trick I’ve ever done. And it can be done by anyone. Why, a hundred of us in the West Chester area could easily chip in five bucks each and hire a banner plane (I checked.)
In order to get this off the ground, we’d need to pick a day, call it “NATIONAL IS THIS YOUR CARD” day, and agree on what to do, collaboratively. For instance:

  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, everyone who is in the know must wear a red scarf. Or a blue carnation. Something TBD. That way, we’ll all know who’s in the know, and will depend on each other as a SECRET NETWORK OF SHILLS.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, if anyone wearing a red scarf asks you what time it is, you must respond by saying “Why, yes, it’s one second until… THE SEVEN OF HEARTS!” and produce a card from your shirt pocket.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, in-the-know restaurant servers will hide a seven of hearts under the lasagna if you give them the SECRET SIGN while ordering.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, everyone whose license plate ends in “9” will duct-tape a seven of hearts to their bumper. You must then ask your mark to “pick a card, any card” before they leave for work.
  • On “National Pick a Card Day”, a nationwide network of banner planes will fan out with the “YOUR CARD IS THE SEVEN OF HEARTS, SUCKER” message at precisely 5:30 PM.

Dr. Zibbs, I’m quite sure you can think of at least ten examples of fantastic reveals better than anything I’ve come up with. I’m asking you — will you co-sponsor this national day? Who’s with me?

Announcing “National ‘Is This Your Card?’ Day”

Beach report: Matt’s MC5 Needlepoint

Here’s my update from the beach! Kate, Lydia, Barb, Matt and I are all in Avalon, NJ right now, and we’re all working on our projects.

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint

Matt was interested in my MOL Alligator project. Suddenly, he decided that he should needlepoint a 1960s Gary Grimshaw flyer for proto-punk band MC5 (he came across the flyer in the book he’s been reading at the beach.)

He spent the next 48 hours — almost nonstop — doing art, first in Photoshop and then in Pixen, then he made a trip to Scrim Discovery Needle Work in Ocean City to get some 18-count canvas, a frame, yarn, and a bunch of Sharpies. And he’s been carefully transferring the design from his computer screen to the canvas, using the “make a reference dot every 10 threads” method that I came up with for the MOL gator.

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint
Matt’s plan is to stitch up the pattern, then sew it to the back of a Jeans jacket. I think it’s going to be incredibly great. You can see Matt’s pattern on the left (I’ve hidden the grid-lines and the reference dots that he used.)

Matt walked into Scrim Discovery in a pair of white jeans and a captain’s hat from Hoy’s. He reports that the real-estate agent next door rushed out and tried to head him off before he walked in the store: “Can I *HELP* you, sir!?” No, he said, he was there for the needlepoint, and the agent looked perplexed.

I went in today wearing my pith helmet (and we planned to send Jonathan in tomorrow with a lampshade on his head), so the real-estate agent would think that, uh… I’m not sure what they would think: needlepoint was suddenly becoming popular with seventies adventure-sitcom characters? But the store took it 110% in stride, and I have a new favorite needlepoint store. They were really great, and really helpful.

if you are planning on doing your own beach needlepoint project involving psychedelic federal eagle/television/Illuminati Eyeball combinations, all festooned with jagged crepuscular rays and lightning bolts, and you are wearing a crusader helmet, a fez, or viking horns, I absolutely recommend Scrim Discovery as your shop of choice!

Matt's MC5 Needlepoint
Beach report: Matt’s MC5 Needlepoint

Iceberg in Dunfield Harbor

Iceberg in Dunfield Harbor

Here’s a picture and an excerpt from a letter Lydia got in the mail the other day from my dad, who is up in Newfoundland (I’m putting it here with permission from all parties.) It makes me feel like they’re living in a Robert McCloskey book!

“Dear Lydia,

This picture that Nan took is of an iceberg that floated into the harbor of Dunfield, near our house here in Newfoundland. Icebergs are floating islands of ice that break off of glaciers up in the Arctic (where the North Pole is) and float down the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland until they either melt at sea or get stuck in some harbor, as this one did. Visitors come from all over to see icebergs like this one. Some people get into boats so they can get closer to the iceberg and maybe collect some of the ice to take home for souvenirs [and maybe get themselves abruptly killed –John]. Our friend Alma has given out many plastic bags to tourists so they can carry away their ice. Dunfield does not often get many visitors, so people like Alma, who is very kind anyway, do not mind helping out.

“On the day Nan took this picture there were whales feeding in the water around the iceberg. On other days we have seen otters, eagles, moose, caribou and loons. ALso kingfishers, seagulls and terns. I especially like the loons, which look like submarines with periscopes up, and the terns, which are very graceful flyers and can even hover in the air like a helicopter.”

Iceberg in Dunfield Harbor

The National Association for INFORMATION DESTRUCTION(!!!)

Kate and I walked past a mobile shredding truck this morning. It had great graphics on it — a smiling tiger drawing big, sharp claws right past the little glass window where you can see into the truck and view the shredded paper. the tiger looked happy, too: “RAWR I hate documents!” “RAWR I love shredding them with my big sharp tiger claws!”

I noticed a certification badge on the truck that stopped me in my tracks, too: a badge for the National Association for Information Destruction. Let me say that again: the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR INFORMATION DESTRUCTION.

Oh, this is marketing GOLD. If you check their website, you’ll see that this is very much a certification for companies that destroy paper and hard drives — in other words, things. But can you imagine a certification for how you handle sensitive electronic customer data, all through the “cloud” that comprises an operating web system?

Let’s take my p8tch website as an example. I offer a proxy-url service; the patch is like a tinyURL you can wear. You enter the password for the p8tch, then you get to enter the URL where the p8tch goes. In the course of doing this, a lot of data about what you did gets created and stored in various logfiles:

  • When you enter the target URL, it is stored in the database (so that the redirect will work)
  • Every night, the database is backed up, which means that that URL is now captured in a backup file.
  • That backup file is copied to several locations and included in various uber-backups. For instance, if I verify a backup, I copy it to my local MacBook Pro, and now the file might be included in Time Machine backups too.
  • When the p8tch is scanned, the date and time of the scan, plus the IP address of the scanner and the destination returned, are saved to the normal website logfile.
  • Just like backup files, logfiles proliferate all around.
  • All that info is supoena-able. Five years from now, unless I’m explicitly going around nuking old data, it’s probably find-able in SOME form or other.

So the p8tch website, without explicitly collecting any data in a “marketing-y” kind of way, still generates a lot of long-lived data. People who do the Web for a living accept this as a fact of life. Of course, when you use a service like GMail, much much MUCH more data is collected, stored, and cross-referenced to plenty of other places.

The purpose of an electronic National Association for Information Destruction certification would be to offer assurances that your data-retention policy actually works. For instance, I might promise on the p8tch site that all data is kept for only 30 days, and then it’s destroyed so it can never be subpoena-ed. But it’s the certification that gives some assurance that not only am I, you know, dropping rows from my database, but I’m also doing due diligence to properly scrub logfiles, destroy old backup archives, and properly degauss hard drives when they’re rotated out of service. In each context, the word “destroy” would have an explicit meaning: “when we destroy a backup file, we write garbage data over the sector where it used to live…”, etc. “When we destroy a hard drive, we take off and nuke the site from orbit.”

I think a logo would be fun to come up with, too. You know, like a hard-drive platter getting de-rezzed, basically. I contacted NAID asking if they’d be interested in coming up with a certification program. I know that reputable IT departments already DO this stuff, but from a marketer’s perspective I’m in love with the idea of a National Association for Smashing the Very Electrons that Make Up Your Private Data. Let’s see if they get back to me!

The National Association for INFORMATION DESTRUCTION(!!!)

Commando Nerd mascot for the p8tch Project: your thoughts?

The p8tch project has been taking off, with mentions from BoingBoing, Notcot, and Gizmodo. I’ve been working quickly to fulfill the orders (here’s what 75 yards of Velcro looks like, in case you were wondering.)

The site is up, but it’s really basic, and very stark black-and-white. Which is great (one commenter said that it has a good Dharma Initiative look), but I really want a shot of vibrant color and hand-drawn lines to contrast. So I commissioned the awesome Michele Melcher to do a “hero” illustration of the
Commando Nerd. I gave her the three most powerful COMMANDO NERD ingredients that I could think of:

  1. The Ghostbusters,
  2. Badical Nintendo Power-Glove Guy, and
  3. John Young, Australian adventurer and badass wildlife consultant

Commando Nerd (Detail I)
As you can see in the following first-round sketch at right, John Young, Australian Wildlife Cinematographer, is deploying enormous amounts of influence. I mean, how could he not? Have you SEEN the mutton chops in his photo?

Personally, I absolutely LOVE this guy, because he looks like a combination of 60s cigarette ad, Harry Flashman, and my own junior-high fantasies of what grown-up life was going to be like. Just check out the POCKET he has on his zip-up paratrooper boots:

Commando Nerd (Detail II)

His soft bucket hat probably tips him from “Commando badass” over into “Fishing trip”, and he definitely is more commando than nerd right now. So I stopped by Dudas Diving Duds and asked Mike Dudas if he had any Commando Nerd gear sitting around that I could use for inspiration. Boy, did he ever come through. CHeck out the thumbnails: waterproof, hand-mounted ALIENS-style LED lights! Powder-coated camera enclosures! Bomb-shaped underwater scooters!

Handheld LED light   343 Guilty Spark, except real   Dive Scooter BADASS THIGH BAG

So anyhow, what do YOU think the primary ingredients of a Commando Nerd are? I was thinking about giving him a pair of binoculars with, you know, an ANTENNA mounted on them, all Hoth-style. Will Ronco says he needs a whip, a lasso, or a coil of rope.

What do you say, O Internet? More mutton chops (towards Badass Seventies Adventurer), or less chop (towards Badass Cigarette Ad Adventurer?) Cleaner hair? Birth-control glasses?

Commando Nerd mascot for the p8tch Project: your thoughts?