The Art of Darkness

Gravity’s Link Dump

February 5th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Fairy Tree – Redditor radamshome built a “fairy tree” in his daughter’s bedroom, and posted photos and build notes. The original reddit discussion thread is here.

Fatally Yours – Collection of vegan chocolates shaped like skulls, coffins, and other spooky things which comes in a ouija-themed box. (Hat tip to Empress Pam)

@WhoresofYore – Twitter account run by a post-doc researcher of historical sex work. There’s an article which discusses it further here.

Chippy Ruxpin – Instructions for hacking a Teddy Ruxpin to make it say any text you type or tweet. The core idea would be fairly awesome as a “demonic teddy bear” Halloween prop. (via Jan)

Blood Bath – Shower Gel that looks like a bag of blood.

/r/DeathPositive – The Order of the Good Death has launched a subreddit “Death Bunker.”

10 Haunting Documentaries That Are Stranger Than Fiction – A roundup of documentaries with creepy, disturbing subject matter. There’s a followup list as well.

The Illegitimacy of Aragorn’s Claim to the Throne – “…while ‘commands a terrifying ghost army’ is a fantastic qualification for fronting a Norwegian black metal band or a community Halloween parade, it’s less than ideal for ruling a vast and diverse country of the living.” (via Bill)

Roger’s Gardens – This landscaping company’s Halloween boutique has some great decorating ideas, like massed creepy photos and (ambitious, but awesome) a suit of armor sprawled in a glass case. (via Shellhawk)

Plots Among the Plots – The author of the OTIS blog lists graveyards featured in various horror movies which he’s visited. This would be a neat road trip idea. (via Spooky Moon)

Posted in Link Dump | No Comments »

Homemade Shaving Cream

February 4th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Shaving CreamOne of my favorite quick gift ideas is homemade bath products, because people are so often under the impression that they can’t be made at home and you wind up looking like some kind of miracle worker.*

Shaving cream is particularly nice to make yourself; it doesn’t dry the skin like most commercial products, and you can personalize the fragrance as desired. The ingredients are easy to find, either at health food stores or online.

Ingredients
1/3 C virgin coconut oil
1/3 C shea butter
4 Tbsp sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, or olive oil, OR 2 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp liquid castile soap
10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil*
2 tsp baking soda (optional)
3-4 drops Vitamin E oil (optional)

Directions
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir the shea butter and coconut oil until just melted. Remove from heat, transfer to a heatproof bowl, and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Stir until thoroughly blended, then place in the refrigerator until the mixture solidifies.

Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer (or to a medium bowl if you’re using an electric hand mixer). Whip until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the cream looks like you could ice a cupcake with it.

Spoon into a jar or tin and keep covered in a cool, dry place. Makes about 8 oz.

*Be sure that the oils you use are skin-safe; some varieties can be irritating. Some nice fragrance blends are 10 drops rosemary/3 drops peppermint, 10 drops lavender/5 drops peppermint, or 5 drops lime/5 drops bergamot.

Note: The baking soda acts as a mild exfoliant, and also makes it a little easier for the razor to cut cleanly. The Vitamin E oil acts as a natural preservative, but the cream will last several months without it. The amount you need for one batch of shaving cream is more or less equal to the amount in a Vitamin E oil capsule.

*I once gave a bar of homemade soap to an acquaintance and she was astonished. She babbled something about, “I thought soap was made of…soap.” Apparently she thought it was quarried out of soap mines or something.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

Disturbed: The Sound Of Silence

February 3rd, 2016 by Cobwebs

Simon and Garfunkel songs seem to lend themselves particularly well to covers, with the cover frequently outshining the original (The Bangles’ version of “A Hazy Shade of Winter” is far superior to S&G’s version and I’ll fight you over it). This heavy-metal cover of “Sounds of Silence” by Disturbed has a raw, nightmarish feel to it that pairs well with the lyrics.

Posted in Whatever | 3 Comments »

Trivia Tuesday

February 2nd, 2016 by Cobwebs

  1. Pottsylvanian spies Boris and Natasha are Rocky and Bullwinkle’s perennial arch-enemies. What are their last names?
  2. What’s the animal symbol of Ravenclaw?
    A) Crow
    B) Dragon
    C) Lion
    D) Eagle
    E) Badger
  3. One of the denizens of Corpse Bride‘s cheerful Land of the Dead is Bonejangles, a one-eyed, singing skeleton. What musician performs his voice?
  4. The golem is a creature from Jewish folklore, an anthropomorphic being magically created from inanimate matter. The most famous golem story involves the rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel creating one to protect this European city.
    A) Vienna
    B) Warsaw
    C) Kiev
    D) Budapest
    E) Prague
  5. Arguably the most famous Dungeons & Dragons monster, this creature appears as a floating sphere of flesh with a large mouth, single central eye, and many smaller eyestalks (each of which have a different magical ability).
  6. This classic Western stars Clint Eastwood as an enigmatic revenant, returned to mete out justice to the corrupt townspeople who murdered him.
    A) A Fistful of Dollars
    B) Unforgiven
    C) High Plains Drifter
    D) Pale Rider
    E) Hang ‘Em High
  7. In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods the protagonist takes a job as a bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, who is actually an incarnation of what god?
  8. Where was the eventually murderous HAL 9000 computer built, according to 2001: A Space Odyssey?
    A) Urbana, Illinois
    B) Berkeley, California
    C) Riverside, Iowa
    D) Cambridge, Massachusetts
    E) Steve Jobs’ garage
  9. One of the classic sequences in Disney’s Fantasia is the “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria” segment, which features this giant demon looming above a mountain and summoning his evil minions.
  10. Before she became the vengeance demon Anyanka, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Anya was a 9th-century Scandinavian named what?
    A) Alida
    B) Anke
    C) Agneta
    D) Aud
    E) Astrid

(Answers below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Trivia | 7 Comments »

Thoughts on Castelobruxo

February 1st, 2016 by Cobwebs

The upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which takes place in the Harry Potter universe, involves a Hogwarts-like wizarding school in the U.S. Ahead of the film’s release J.K. Rowling has revealed that there are 11 “prestigious” magic schools around the world, and last week she named a few of them. One, Castelobruxo, is a “golden temple-like school” located in the Brazilian rainforest.

Intrepid commenter Bruno is Brazilian, and he had some Strong Opinions on the school as described by Rowling. I thought they were really interesting, and he’s kindly allowed me to re-post them here.

A few things stand out.

The placement of those schools only makes sense after European colonization. Disconsidering the current borders, Brazil and the USA are 2 of the unlikeliest places to have “traditional” wizarding schools in the Americas — much less likely than Mayan–Aztec Mexico and Inca Chile.

This matters a bit because we got *castles*. Correct me if I’m wrong, but castles are not a staple of US architecture. Nor are they common in Brazil, or in any of the Americas: we have pyramids, palaces and even some rather complex sites (Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza come to mind — again, Chile and Mexico made more sense for traditional wizarding communities from the get go). Even worse, the castle looks like ruins to muggle passers-by: there are no ruins in the Amazon region. Exactly two civilizations have claimed the Amazon historically: the current one, and one which didn’t leave ruins. A ruin in the Amazon would stand the hell out.

The whole thing sounds a bit too colonized and gimmicky: “Castelobruxo students wear bright green robes” — IN THE AMAZON? The Amazon is so hot the first time I went there I spent an entire week in bed because my blood pressure dropped and wouldn’t go up.

Jo certainly did her work studying the Brazilian folk and occult to write the piece on Castelobruxo, and she nailed our sense of humour alright too. But the place sounds more like something her Ron Weasley would come up with if pressed to imagine a Brazilian wizarding school than with what an actual school would look like.

So clearly this can be fixed. It won’t because the word is out, but rather than leaving this post on a negative note, here are some thoughts on what *could* have been better:

– If we’re talking traditional or at least historical wizarding schools/communities in the Americas, I guess Mexico and Chile would be the best places. I’ll leave to actual Mexicans and Chileans to imagine what they’d look like.

– If we’re going for more modern (post-colonial) schools, then we have the benefit of choosing known and well-established time periods for their foundation, and in turn choosing a place that makes sense. The Amazon makes no sense whatsoever, but the states of Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais have plenty of places I would place a large wizarding school that both fits our history and makes sense for the Potter universe.

– Brazil isn’t described as a culture melting pot for no reason. Our culture, language, religion, cuisines and much more were built upon many cultures: Portuguese, African (from many great cultures), Native (up until the early 20th century, more than half the territory spoke a Tupi-based language as its first or only language), and more recently Italian, German, Polish, Japanese and Arabic. Syncretism is at our core and the basis of our magic would be at least as African as it is European.

– As a territory, Brazil is very large (about as large as Europe) but the population is mostly concentrated around the shore-and-mines region, so it doesn’t make sense to have a single big school without research sites. At the very least, the Amazon and Pantanal would have such sites. Whichever state you pick from the list above, the other two and then some more in the Northeast would have them too. That’s how our actual academic grid is structured.

– We’re assuming the wizarding community followed the muggle civilization more or less neatly, but both Brazil and the US could (1) have had fascinating civil wars between its many nations and cultures of wizards, (2) don’t necessarily have a historical reason to fall neatly in modern republic in terms of territory and language. So maybe we should be looking at small and fractured wizarding communities supported by one or two big cities. That changes the whole landscape and how those schools would work.

– Just like the European witch folk-lore is based upon a few actual cultures and religions, Brazilian “magic” folk-lore is based upon a number of actual Native, African and European cultures and practices, and none more so than the religion umbanda, which mixes all three, has a self-experimental spiritual development path much like the European occult tradition, and is often perceived by christian prudes as devil worship and ill-intentioned magic. If I were to choose a single model for culture, clothing, imagery and structure, it would definitely have a lot of things in common with the umbanda culture.

Which…dang. He put a lot of thought into that, and he makes some really good points. It seems that Rowling’s vision of the school is very much the sort of thing that might be dreamt up by someone who’d read about Brazil but had no first-hand knowledge (which makes sense, considering who wrote it). Bruno’s dissection makes me wonder how the descriptions of the schools in Japan and Africa (which is…kind of a big place) would sound to anyone actually familiar with those areas.

Thanks, Bruno!

Posted in Whatever | 1 Comment »

The Link Dumps in the Walls

January 29th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Graveyards and cemetery’s [sic] – Fun Pinterest board of unusual gravestones, many with commentary. (If Pinterest nags you to register, use a throwaway account from Bugmenot.)

Southern Gothic – Spotify playlist described as “Roots rock, folk, and americana–with a Gothic soul.” (Hat tip to Bruno)

Kittens Recreate Horror Movies – If you’re easily spooked, allow these soothing kittens to act out scenes from The Shining, Carrie, and other classics.

Raxfox Design – German woodworker who makes gorgeous Burton-esque furniture. (Hat tip to Fiend4Halloween)

We’re Wolves – The splendid vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows will get a sequel, focusing on werewolves.

Nightmerriment – Etsy shop full of original monster sculptures and plush toys, each with their own backstory. (Toasted Marshmallow monsters tend to be extremely fluffy and love doing math problems. They also love belly scratches.)

Ashes to Ashes – A timeline which explores David Bowie’s influence on goth.

@BatLabels – Oddly compelling Twitter feed which catalogues the explanatory labels from the 60s Batman TV series. “Anti-Lethal Fog Batspray” is…strangely specific.

The Killing Jar – Short story which follows a day in the life of the intern to a “public service” serial killer. “The last troubled, hard-drinking detective with unorthodox methods who Tony managed to hook into a daring cat-and-mouse game ended up in rehab for alcohol abuse, thus wasting months of painstaking antagonism.”

Dark Side Leia – A gothy take on Star Wars cosplay.

Posted in Link Dump | 1 Comment »

Mourning Handkerchiefs

January 28th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Mourning HandkerchiefYou gotta give it to the Victorians: When it came to death, they did not believe in half measures. There were strict rules about proper mourning attire, and one essential accessory was the mourning handkerchief.

The handkerchiefs were traditionally white, trimmed with a black border; the border width varied depending upon how long one had been in mourning. (There were rules about that, too. The customary mourning period of a widow for her husband, for instance, was a total of 2 1/2 years: First Mourning, 1 year and 1 day in bombazine and heavy crape; Second Mourning, 9 months with less crape; Ordinary Mourning, 3 months in black silk; and Half Mourning, a minimum of 6 months where “half mourning colors” like grey and purple were allowed, and a greater variety of fabric and trim was permitted.) A proper handkerchief would sport a heavy black band during First Mourning, after which narrower bands could be used.

As with most customs, eventually there were embellishments. The handkerchiefs might be made of delicate lace or feature embroidery and fancy fabric.

These are a perfect small craft project, whether or not you have any actual funerals to attend. (Although if you do, a pretty hanky decorated in a motif that was meaningful to the deceased would be a thoughtful gift; either for for a mourning loved one or as a keepsake for yourself.)

Handkerchiefs are easy to make–there are good instructions here and here–but you can also start with a premade handkerchief and add lace, ribbon, or embroidery. Tutorials for all of these techniques are just a quick google away.

It’s always a good idea to have a hanky on hand, and one with gothy overtones is even better.

(Hat tip to xJane)

Posted in Paint It Black | 3 Comments »

Seen Online

January 27th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Gryffindor: Do what is right
Ravenclaw: Do what is wise
Hufflepuff: Do what is kind
Slytherin: PUT A FUCKING BASILISK IN THE CASTLE
HogwartsLogic

I feel like people in horror movies live in an alternate universe where there are no horror movies.
BizzieLaehr

on earth: a magician puts his hand in his hat
in the rabbit realm: The Hand emerges. it is time. the rabbit council must chose a sacrifice
jonnysun

Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. It’s always the same angel. It’s covered in wings now and wants to die but can’t
iscoff

Winter is like the Earth’s period. No one likes it, but we get worried when it’s late
Shower Thoughts

“A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.” No. The prettiest thing you can wear is the flayed skin of a stranger telling you to smile.
missokistic

I love how whenever ghosts or spirits are incorporated into television or film they’re always like 19th century British children or present-day deceased loved ones. Over 100 billion people have lived and are dead now. Do you know what percentage of 100 billion are from Victorian-era England or people you actually knew? Like negative zero percent is how many. And yet I haven’t seen a single movie where the ghost is some really confused guy from the Mesolithic period.
outofcharacterquilts

In the dog world, humans are elves that routinely live to be 500+ years old.
hypermog

“There’s a monster under my bed!”
“Yes. He watches over you at night and chases away your nightmares.”

“There’s a monster in my closet!”
“Yes. She loves the smell of the laundry detergent I use, and she’s busy trying to organize your shoes.”

“There’s a monster under the stairs!”
“Yes. She collects spiders and he makes sure you don’t trip while going to get water.”

“There’s a monster right outside my window!”
“Yes. He’s pulling weeds from the garden and protecting us from burglars.”

“There’s a monster behind the couch!”
“Yes. He’s eating all the crumbs you left behind and hiding pennies in the cushions.”

“Oh. Then good night.”
“Good night, Dear.”

markvincentofdesertbluffs

if i was a ghost i would do useful things like let the cat out or take flammable things off the stove and sing to small children when they can’t sleep and terrify the fuck out of assholes hell yeah bitches. what was that? did I hear you make a derogatory remark about women? bam, your lamp is now on the floor what cha going to do punk? are you abusing that child? wambo, your walls are now bleeding motherfucker
no-need-4-hats-thx

I’m eating your food and your Netflix suggestions are gonna be fucked up.
“Why the fuck would I be watching Supernatural?”
“Ooooooo don’t take that off your queue oooooo.”
— Tyree

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 3 Comments »

Flaming Spellbook Prop

January 26th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Burning BookYou guys, have I ever mentioned how very, very stabby Pinterest and similar aggregators make me? This damn photo is everywhere, but I can’t find an original source or any other information about it. It’s a pretty neat-looking prop that would be great for a “witch’s kitchen,” but would also be attractive just displayed on a shelf. (It’d also be an awesome library display piece for Banned Book Month.)

I found a somewhat similar book that was previously available on Etsy from which it’s possible to glean a little more of the general construction.

Here’s my best guess on making a similar prop:

  1. Get a large hardback book from a thrift store; if it’s a little battered-looking, so much the better.
  2. If you intend to display the book opened flat or with the cover only slightly visible, just spray-paint the cover black (cover the edges of the pages with masking tape if you’re concerned about overspray). If the cover is going to be visible, you may want to decorate it further.
  3. Open the book to the middle, place it at the angle it’s going to be displayed at, and liberally paint white glue or Mod Podge around the edges of the pages to stick them all in place. (If desired, before this step you can spray all of the edges with water and let them dry so they’re a little more crinkly and old-looking.) There’s a good step-by-step tutorial for making an open-book spellbook here, to give you a general idea of what you’re shooting for.
  4. Distress the edges of the pages and add fake text to the visible top pages, if desired. This site has good instructions for doing that.
  5. Use an X-Acto knife to cut a hole in the center of the pages, large enough to accommodate a flickering LED tea light.
  6. Cut scraps of paper and glue them around the edges of the hole; stiffen them with a little Mod Podge if necessary. Build them up and out so they’ll hide the tea light, but don’t make them so dense that they hide the flicker. You could use paper with text for the outer edges and thin tissue paper for the inner stuff. You might also try tucking in a bit of red or orange cellophane to suggest flames.
  7. Make a few twists of black wire and attach tufts of scrap paper to one end of each. Hot-glue the other ends amongst the bits of scrap paper around the edge of the hole.
  8. Nestle the tea light inside and you’re good to go.

It’s a reasonably straightforward project; the hardest part would be making the central combusty bit look right. It might be worth doing a couple of test runs of just that part on other thrifted books before committing to the full paint job.

Posted in Paint It Black | 2 Comments »

David Bowie & Nine Inch Nails Live

January 25th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Pixel Pixie alerted me to this awesome live performance from the 1995 Dissonance tour. If you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go kick myself for missing it in 1995.

Posted in Whatever | 1 Comment »

« Previous Entries