Heraldic Needlepoint, Strike Two: DEATH METAL BEER STEIN

I blogged recently about taking my friend Kenn Munk‘s whimsical “Barcode Griffins” design, and turning it into something that looks like it would be on the cover of the condom packets sold in the men’s room of a Lederhosen factory. I mean, it was a pretty powerful effect, and not ineffective… but not really something, you know, that I was necessarily going for.

While browsing Kenn’s store, I suddenly realized that the barcode griffins were not a one-off, but just one permutation of a WHOLE ENTIRE FONT SYSTEM for making little tiny heraldic designs. The font is called Wappenbee, and you can check it out on MyFonts. Vowels make the mythical shield-holding beasts (upper- and lower-case for right- and left-facing), consonants for the shields, and numbers for the shield crests. It is an AWESOME font.

Lydia and I played around with it, and Lydia picked out Pegasi (“O o”), a hamster (“h”), and the bone (9). Here’s “Oh9o” in Wappanbee font, which Lydia was very happy with:


I decided to stitch it up as another needlepoint two-inch-tall “twinchy”, and at first, as you can see on TwitPic, it started out very nice.

But then I decided that the hamster looked an awful lot like Tikaro (Tikaro himself; the red stuffed pig that my aunt Sylvia made for me when I was a baby), and I decided to stitch in the hamster in red. And then I thought I’d outline the design in the same red, to separate it from the background:

Wappanbee "Hamster and Bone" Motorcycle Helmet Crest in progress

It turns out that heraldic needlepoint is pretty strong stuff. And heraldic needlepoint when combined with shiny, flame-red pearl cotton? Pretty much looks like a Death Metal Beer Stein.

Once again; I’m not really saying it looks BAD; I’m pretty sure that you could cut this canvas out, attach it to one of those blue denim three-ring notebooks from junior high, and make the METALLEST TRAPPER-KEEPER EVER out of it. There are worse things than that.

But It’s not what I was shooting for. Kenn, I’m sorry; I am cooking with powerful, powerful ingredients here, and I keep making strong, strong dishes. Maybe the third try will be the charm.

Meanwhile, Lydia is perfectly content with it. Maybe I will buy her a little denim jacket and sew this onto the back?

Heraldic Needlepoint, Strike Two: DEATH METAL BEER STEIN

Three biggest features of “The Thing”: cold, colld, and col-l-l-l-d!

About twenty-five people had a great time watching “The Thing” next to the frozen Brandywine river on Saturday night. For a screen, we ended up stretching a 4’x15′ tarp across two six-foot pieces of angle iron, bolted together to make one span, then clamped to some tent poles (thanks, Chris!)

"The Thing" on the Brandywine

The whole range of human emotions was represented, including “being very cold”, and “being worried that everyone would have to go home early” when the speaker fuse blew. But we were able to fix it using card parts that my neighbor Sam brought. Thanks, Sam! And thanks to Harold, Eric, and Wayne, who actually fixed the projector. I mostly just kind of stood there, got in the way, and poked at the wrong end of things.

Mary Bigham from WC Dish came, lit a fire, and cooked hot dogs, which is JUST what you’re hungry for when you’re watching a slavering pile of alien tentacles getting incinerated by a flamethrower. No, I’m serious: thanks, Mary! Also, Mary brought her dogs, which added immensely to the scariness of the early Norwegians-shooting-at-a-preternaturally-intense-Husky scenes.

Did I mention being really cold? I had a LOT of fun, but I think we’re definitely going to wait for warm weather before showing another film.

Three biggest features of “The Thing”: cold, colld, and col-l-l-l-d!

Your suggestions for rigging a sidecar-portable 4’x11′ projection screen?

This Friday night, we’re going to be showing John Carpenter’s “The Thing” out in the snow, which of course is the best place to see a movie about a horrific alien shapeshifter trying to outwit and absorb a team of antarctic scientists (scientists with flamethrowers, naturally — “The Thing” is one of the canonical “kill it with fire” trope movies.

I’m pretty sure that I can get the Commando Projector started: after about 18 hours on a 2-amp charge, I figured out the sweet spot on the choke, and I got it up and running. Here’s a picture of the rig (this will be relevant further down):

GDI rig

We’re going to be down on the banks of the Brandywine. There’ll be power, a fire pit, and even a bathroom, so we’ll be as comfortable as you possibly can be when sitting still for ninety minutes watching scientists deal with sled dogs that… no, I won’t describe it here. It’s TOO DAMN SCARY. If you really want to know, you can go over to the Guerilla Drive-In site and read all about it.

KOA Brandywine

The part that I’m scratching my head about right now is how to get a screen the right shape for the image thrown by the anamorphic “scope” lens. 16MM “scope” is the widest ratio, says the Internet: the image is 2.74 times as wide as it is tall. That means that if the image is four feet tall, it’s going to be just shy of eleven feet wide. I diagrammed it in OmniGraffle:


I’ve been thinking: the polyester curtain we used for Meatballs? Probably not wide enough. The awesome aluminum-framed screen that Tom L. brought for Cannonball Run II? That’s six feet wide, which means the image would be only two feet tall. I don’t like inflatable movie screens — they seem like they’d be both fragile and noisy.

I figure that I can carry a stack of quarter-inch plywood pieces on the sidecar — maybe I could bring six pieces each 22″ wide by 48″ tall, and then assemble them into a pretty sizeable widescreen. As an added bonus, I could use only three sections for a “regular” movie, which would be 66″ wide.


The problem I’m struggling with is how to hang them all in a straight row. A few months ago, Kate took me to an outdoor quilt show where I saw a really ingenious system to hang the quilts — they were using standard sawhorse brackets with long 2x4s to make, essentially, eight-foot tall, twelve-foot-wide sawhorses. They disassembled down to not much more than the lumber and a couple of brackets. But I can’t carry 2x4s over six feet long on the sidecar. Rabbeted 2x4s and wingnuts? Seems wobbly, especialy since eleven feet of quarter-inch plywood will get pretty heavy.

Right now, I’m wondering if maybe instead of using quarter-inch plywood, I could use quarter-inch insulation board, held together with lightweight plastic channel. That way, the whole thing would be light enough to rig easily, but stiff enough not to flap in the breeze like fabric would.

Any suggestions, O Internet? It seems a shame to waste the bright, w-i-i-i-ide image we’re going to get from the scope lens this Friday. I’d welcome your suggestions! How could we do this without 200 pounds of steel and carriage bolts?

PS. I figured we’d paint the screen just good ol’ white to begin with, and then if it seems worth it, get a gallon of that glass-bead paint on eBay or something.

PPS. Full directions to Friday’s showing are at the Guerilla Drive-In site. See you there!

Your suggestions for rigging a sidecar-portable 4’x11′ projection screen?

Green2Steam: Like a tea party. With fire. For MANS.

I keep writing and rewriting this blog post about how Eric Lewis, Harold Ross, Randy Schmidt and I met at Harold’s studio last weekend to see what coffee tastes like when you start with green beans, roast the beans, grind the beans, then brew them up in a fire-powered siphon brewer. All outdoors, because coffee-roasting makes a lot of smoke.

No matter how many times I rewrite the blog post — talking about how we want to have a full-stack “green2steam” coffee operation mounted on my sidecar — somehow this picture that Harold took of me and Randy, gawping at coffee master Eric roasting the beans in a hacked popcorn popper, says much more than I could:

Eric Wows the Yokels

There are plenty of pictures at the “Green2Steam” photoset on Flickr. Harold took almost all the photos. Most surprising to me was the way the hull chaff from the expanding beans covered the table. And MAN, does just-roasted coffee smell good.

Randy’s job was to stir the coffee, using a bamboo stirrer never before touched by human hands. Japanese siphon-bar attendants carve the bamboo stirrer to fit their palm, and stir exactly four times, without touching the sides of the pot. No pressure!

Click any of the photos to go to the photoset on Flickr:

The Green Coffee Beans 
Beans Mid-Roast 
Roasted Beans 
Watching the Temperature 
Getting his Stirrer Wet 
Kickdown Beginning

I think the next time we do the full-stack coffee-preparation exercise will be for the 2009 Polar Plunge, February 7th at Brandywine Picnic Park. We’ll have to roast the beans using propane, since there won’t be any electricity. Hey ho, more FIRE! Is anyone interested in coming out to help make the most complicated cup of coffee possible?

Green2Steam: Like a tea party. With fire. For MANS.

Spiritual Ancestors of Sir Mix-A-Lot

Anamorphic Lens
Kate went to a kniting party yesterday afternoon, and Lydia and I headed into the basement to screw the new anamorphic lens onto the Commando Projector. I had gone to eBay to buy the cheapest piece of “scope”-print film I could find, to test with. That turned out to be an eight-minute dance scene cut from a (deservedly) forgotten 1965 rock-and-roll flick: “Every Day is a Holiday.”

Anamorphic test (in the basement)
If you squint at the picture on the right — or if you click through to Flickr — you can see the tape marks on the wall showing how much wider the scope lens is than “vanilla” 16MM. Put simply: IT IS FANTASTIC, and it made me feel for the first time that using a 16MM projector for the Guerilla Drive-In is more than just a kooky Luddite stunt. The image is bright and colorful and w-i-i-i-i-de.

Watching “The Thing” out in the snow is going to be fantastic.

Kate and I were curious about the band that does such a terrible job of dancing in the “Crazy High Noon” saloon scene, so I looked up Freddie and the Dreamers. And I found this on YouTube. Holy cow, I know every generation thinks it invented sex, but the combination of black suits with rump-shakin’ go-go dancers in fuzzy sweaters, fringe miniskirts, and some kind of stripey sixties fishnets? Maybe every generation thinks it invented the “booty and car wax” video, too. But this is clear proof to the contrary:

Spiritual Ancestors of Sir Mix-A-Lot

The first batch of Nerd Merit Badges arrived!

The first batch of Nerd Merit Badges arrived! The little inch-and-a-half embroidered patches are backed with “hook-side” velcro. They came from the embroiderer in a small plastic tube, the patches back to back, like a little stick of candy. Here they are, decanted into Ikea bins:

Open Source "Octocat" Nerd Merit BadgeThe little Tikaro gearxels aren’t merit badges; I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, but I couldn’t resist having them made. If I ever have a squad of turtlenecked heavies, I suppose the pattches will go on their berets.

Our first Nerd Merit Badge is pictured at the right, it’s the logo for GitHub, one of the newest and shiniest hosts of open-source software. There are lot of important, thriving, and storied open-source hosts out there, but Simon Oxley‘s Octocat is our very favorite OSS-associated logo.

Randy and I printed up a bunch of cards, then put velcro dots on the cards. The result actually looks like a, you know, product!

First batch of Nerd Merit Badges!

Randy twittering the Nerd Merit Badges
Randy and I ran down to the West Chester Post Office and put a few of the first badges into the mail for the folks at GitHub. That’s Randy on the right, taking a picture of the first batch going out. He microblogged the picture, and now of course I’m blogging that microblogging.

Which is appropriate, since the next badge we’re working on is the all-important Regular Expressions merit badge. There’s nothing closer to a geek’s heart than regular expressions. When I met Kate, she was doing regular expressions to clean up museum’s collection listings. That is such an awesome nerd job that it doesn’t seem real; like maybe the heroine’s job in a romantic movie. Oh, Regular Expressions, you make everything good better, and you make everything wonderful EVEN MORE AWESOME.

Right now, we can’t decide whether we want to use a superhero-type shield on it with the motto similar to “s//*/g (substitute nothing with everything!)” or a mailed fist clutching the symbols to build the Regular Expression THAT ENDS THE WORLD: “s/*//g (substitute everything with nothing!)”

Or Will suggested the uber-regular-expression’s uber-regular-expression: “s/s/*//g/s//*/g/g “Substitute (substitute everything with nothing, globally) with (substitute nothing with everything, globally), globally”

How do you fit both CREATION and DESTRUCTION onto 1.5″ of embroidered cotton twill? I’m not sure, but I think it will involve some Perl.

You can follow our progress at nerdmeritbadges.com!

The first batch of Nerd Merit Badges arrived!

When bad things happen to your friends’ perfectly good art

I was really happy with how the PodPost Patch came out. A design at that small size was easy and fast to stitch, a nice break from stitching endless background on the boxcar alligator. And it was fun to send as a present!

So I thought I’d stitch up Kenn Munk’s “Two griffins, rampant, with a barcode” design, that you can see in the header of his blog. This one started out promising, as you can see from the pattern:

…but then things started going badly. I stitched the banner above the barcode too wide, and had to rip out lots of stitches. Then I ran out of pearl cotton, only to discover that size three pearl cotton is hard to find. So I started over again on a fresh canvas, this time with wool. The griffins stitched up really fast, and I decided to try a checkerboard background, to avoid flat-background boredom.

Unfortunately, I think the background was a big mistake:

The end result is… eye-catching. And it has a certain something that I can’t quite define. Well, actually, yes I can define it. It looks like an industrial explosion in a lederhosen factory. Or if an energy-drink manufacturer gave their package designer a creative brief consisting only only of a sheaf of barley, a tour guide of Transylvania, and a massive ceramic beer stein. Maybe the name would be in a heavy Fraktur font, with extra diareses: “Get your umlaut on with SCHLÄMMIN’ SCHNÄPPS!”

I’m sorry for this, Kenn. I kind of feel like the scene in the book where the messenger boy gets mistaken for the absent barber, and the customer falls asleep in the barber’s chair, and the messenger keeps botching the job, getting progressively worse and worse, until the customer wakes up to find that half of his head is completely shaved bald. Except in this case the customer in the chair is Kenn’s art, which is perfectly good art and did not deserve to have its head shaved like this. I think I’ll wait until its hair grows out, and then try again.

When bad things happen to your friends’ perfectly good art