The Art of Darkness

Silly Web Thing: Draggable Ghosts

February 25th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Draggable Ghost

Wanna see a trick? Click your mouse on that heart up above, keep holding the button, and drag. Presto! A ghostly axe-wielding bride who takes the “’til death do us part” thing seriously.

(If you don’t see the ghost, you may be using an older browser which doesn’t support HTML5. Sorry about that.)

This type of draggable image takes advantage of HTML5’s native drag-and-drop capabilities, which create a semi-transparent copy of an element when you grab it and drag it around. The images are particularly popular on Tumblr, where they’re used to display hidden messages or other now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t effects. The ghost above was created by octibbles; there’s another cute example here, made by a blogger who seems to specialize in these effects.

The images are fairly easy to create with your favorite graphics editor, since they really only require two things: A transparent background and a drawing or message which matches the background color of the page you’ll be displaying it on. When the image is dragged, the browser will “ghost” all of the non-transparent areas, turning the background-matching color a light grey and making it suddenly visible. (This assumes that your background color isn’t identical to the browser-ghost-grey. If it is, well…don’t do that.)

There are lots of tutorials for creating this kind of image; WikiHow and musings & sketchy lines have easy ones, but a quick search will turn up plenty more. For more advanced effects, check out this neat custom ghost image tutorial.

It’s a neat Easter-eggy thing to add to a site which doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Fun!

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Haggis Pops

February 11th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Haggis PopsOnce in a while, in my webby wanderings, I encounter an idea that just completely smacks my gob. This Instructable for making haggis “lollipops” is such an idea. It is just marvelously out there in left field.

Haggis, um, connoisseur PenfoldPlant walks you through each step of making the wee haggises (haggi?), from cleaning the sheep stomach to preparing the offal, with plenty of wry commentary and suggestions for extracurricular activities like using a drinking straw to inflate the lungs (fun!).

He brilliantly uses a ping-pong ball as a pattern for cutting out bite-size bits of stomach to wrap the pops; the honeycomb texture of the finished lollies makes them look like pretty little mushrooms.

If you can’t find sheep bits or don’t feel like making your own haggis from scratch, similar savory pops could be made using cow stomach (which seems to be more widely available in supermarkets) and the sausage mixture of your choice.

It’s too late for Burns Night this year, but this is worth saving for next year.

Be sure to check out some of PenfoldPlant’s other Instructables, like Frankenstein’s Meatballs and–just in time for Valentine’s Day–Candy Hearts (made with real heart). I like this guy. He’s twisty.

(Hat tip to Kitten Herder)

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Addams Family View-Master Slides

February 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Addams Family View-MasterHey, do you guys remember View-Master stereoscopes? If not, you can read the following in Peter Falk’s “When I was your age, television was called books” voice from The Princess Bride: They were a toy that looked like binoculars, into which you slid a paper disc containing color transparency film cels. When viewed through the lenses, the images appeared to be three-dimensional. They were originally intended to be an alternative to scenic postcards, and the first discs featured natural wonders like the Grand Canyon.

Eventually they expanded into other subject material, and in the 60s and 70s they were immensely popular as supplementary marketing media for cartoons, TV shows, and movies. The discs were usually accompanied by a booklet which explained the contents of each slide, so you’d view an image and then read its description in the booklet. (Yes, we were lame.)

Anyway.

Over in the Facebook Elders of Goth group, “Roman Gheesling” recently shared a link to a View-Master set featuring The Addams Family.

He noted:

“Portrait of Gomez” is the fourth episode of season 3 of The Addams Family. This rare View-Master packet recreating the episode was part of merchandising for the show. Sawyer’s, the makers of View-Master, always sent their own photographers to set when creating licensed View-Master packets of TV shows and always shot their slides on Kodachrome color film.

Thus, this images in this View-Master packet are the *only* color images in sequence depicting an actual Addams Family episode. In short, it’s the only color “episode” of the original TV series.

I found seeing the Addams Family in vibrant high-chroma Kodachrome color quite weird. Even the in-color Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston film had a muted color palette to stay in harmony with the original ink wash illustrations of Chas Addams.

He’s quite right; the colors are rather jarring. Here’s the first slide, along with its accompanying booklet description:

Moonbathing

A full moon shed its eerie light over the front yard of a gloomy Victorian mansion on the outskirts of town. Reveling in the silvery brightness, a strange-looking family moonbathed in the yard.

Morticia Addams, wearing dark moonglasses, sat under a tree, affectionately watching her children, Wednesday and Pugsley. With little buckets and pails, they were busily building up an oddly human-shaped pile of sand. Her husband Gomez, in a gaudy 1910-style bathing suit, peered at the moon through a telescope, while bald, beady-eyed Uncle Fester sprawled in a beach chair.

Morticia looked at the pile of sand. “Are you all right, Mama?” she asked it. “Getting enough air?”

“Fine—fine,” came a muffled voice. “I took a real deep breath before they covered me up.”

(Told you we were lame.)

The site–it makes me oddly happy that there’s a site devoted to nothing but View-Master reels–has some other color episodes of black-and-white TV, such as Dark Shadows and The Munsters. If nothing else, they’re a rich source of avatar thumbnails.

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This Would be an Awesome Hobby

February 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Werewolf Lecture

Self-described (at least according to Google Translate) showman Camille Renversade has a marvelous routine where he dresses in Victorian-esque garb and gives lectures about the anatomy and habits of supernatural creatures. Last September he gave a presentation on “la malédiction des loups” at the Lyon Museum of Natural History.

From his site, it looks like he does this sort of thing fairly often: He’s got lecture material and props covering mermaids, dragons, and what may be my favorite version of Nessie ever. Even if you don’t want to bother with running everything through Translate, his site is definitely worth browsing just for his photos: His presentations involve a whole collection of photos, illustrations, notes, and other supporting documentation.

If you feel like you need an excuse to dress up as a steampunk adventurer and/or create more props for your cabinet of curiosities, this would be a lot of fun. Give lectures at museums or libraries, or make it part of your persona for cosplay.

(via Propnomicon)

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Epic Harry Potter LARP

January 21st, 2015 by Cobwebs

Unlike tabletop role-playing games where the players roll dice and move miniatures, the players in LARPs act out their characters’ moves. Last month, 180 LARPers gathered at a 13th-Century castle in Poland to spend a weekend as students at Hogwarts. The College of Wizardry LARP was an “unofficial” big-budget adventure organized by RollespilsFabrikken and Liveform, assisted by local Polish players.

Earlier this month, 180 players from 12 countries (including the United States) came to Czocha Castle to enter the world of Harry Potter. Armed with wands and wizarding robes, textbooks and potion bottles, these live action role-players came to Czocha to live out their dream of entering the wizarding world and experiencing, if only for one weekend, what would have happened if that owl had shown up to whisk them away from the muggle world forever.

Here’s a promo for the game:

There’s also a longer followup documentary here, and Kill Screen wrote about the experience.

The game was supposed to be a one-shot event, but response was so enthusiastic that they’ve got two additional ones planned for April 2015: One a sequel for participants of the first game and the other for new participants.

The sites for the LARP teams involved, RollespilsFabrikken (all Danish) and LiveForm (which has an English version of the site) both have loads of other interesting-looking past games which might serve as resources for homebrew events.

(via Super Punch)

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Kingdom of Loathing

December 31st, 2014 by Cobwebs

KOL LogoIn all the time I’ve been running this silly blog, how have I never written about the Kingdom of Loathing?

A place where your character classes include options like “Seal Clubber,” “Disco Bandit,” and “Sauceror.”

A place where your familiars can include a Levitating Potato, a Sabre-Toothed Lime, a Ninja Snowflake, and a Cheshire Bat.

A place where almost every combat encounter includes sly pop-culture references, whether you’re fighting the enslaved spirit of a jellyfish that didn’t quite make it to Jellyfish Heaven (where jellyfish go, to get away from Mormons and drunk Eskimos), The Big Wisniewski (“Hey, I’m not Mr. Wisniewski, man,” he says. “Just call me ‘This Guy.’ That’s me.”), or a Cloaca-Cola Soldier (who’s stuck in a time warp, still striving against the Dyspepsi-Cola forces in a Cola War that never ends).

It is a very silly game.

Originally launched in 2003, KOL is notable for its simple stick-figure graphics and its weird humor.

From Wikipedia:

In KoL, a player’s character fights monsters for experience, meat (the game’s currency), and items, through a turn-based system. Players may also interact with each other through player versus player competition, participate in the in-game economy by trading goods and services, organize their characters into clans, work together to complete clan dungeons, and speak to each other in many different chat channels.

You start the game as a novice, tasked to save the Kingdom from the influence of the Naughty Sorceress and restore King Ralph to the throne. You undertake various quests along the way, gaining knowledge, unlocking skills, and gathering pet familiars. After your final showdown with the Naughty Sorceress you can choose to “ascend,” taking on a new character class and running the whole game over again.

Unlike many other “free-to-play” games, KOL really is entirely free: You can get through the entire game without spending a penny. However, the game is maintained entirely through donations, so there are lots of extras available if you want to spend money. Each $10 donation to the game will gain you a “Mr. Accessory” token, which can be equipped as-is to boost stats or used as currency at the game’s Mr. Store to unlock exclusive content and items. (There is, incidentally, a way to get the extra stuff for free if you’re diligent. Many users buy Mr. Accessory tokens with real money and then re-sell them in the Mall for Meat [the in-game currency]. If you work hard and earn lots of Meat, you can buy the tokens and then exchange them at Mr. Store.)

An invaluable resource for the game is Coldfront, a sort of catchall discussion site, and particularly the site’s wiki. The KOL community will help you navigate quests, unravel obscure references, and choose the best equipment and buffs for a particular task.

If you decide to give the game a try (or if you’re already a player) and want a hand, look me up: I’m Cobwebs in the game, and will be happy to welcome you into the Shadow Manor clan.

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Kindertrauma

November 26th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Kindertrauma ClownGot several hours to kill and a desire to dredge up long-suppressed childhood fears? Check out Kindertrauma. With the slogan, “Your happy childhood ends here,”

KINDERTRAUMA is about the movies, books, and toys that scared you when you were a kid. It’s also about kids in scary movies, both as heroes and villains. And everything else that’s traumatic to a tyke!

Through reviews, stories, artwork, and testimonials, we mean to remind you of all the things you once tried so hard to forget…

The site is a trove of childhood horror, from ostensible “children’s movies” that are awfully dark for kids (I’m looking at you, Watership Down), to glimpses of grown-up TV shows, to the gory comic books published in the heady days before the CCA. Site hosts Unkle Lancifer and Aunt John publish their own writeups of kid-scarring media, but users are encouraged to submit their own Traumafessions. There’s also a helpful “Name That Trauma” feature: If you can’t remember the title of a book or movie that scared you as a kid, you can describe whatever details you recall and crowdsource an answer.

The hosts conduct occasional interviews with horror bloggers and other notables in the industry (my favorite line so far: “I don’t know what dark entities Sid & Marty Krofft spent time in the thrall of, but everything they made to entertain kids is tinged with this unearthly, utterly alien sensibility”), and there’s a “Name That Traumatot” picture-identification game.

After you’ve worked your way through the site archives, be sure to check out their fantastically lengthy blogroll of other horror-friendly sites.

I’m somewhat miffed that my own childhood-warping movie, The Beast with Five Fingers, doesn’t seem to be included in their archives. I may have to submit a Traumafession of my very own.

(Hat tip to cookie)

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Fun Time-Waster

October 28th, 2014 by Cobwebs

NeedlepointI was recently trying to find the original source for this embroidered wall hanging (no luck, sadly), and stumbled upon the Historic Tale Construction Kit. It is kind of awesome.

It’s apparently been around for a while; the original kit was created as a Flash application by German students Björn Karnebogen and Gerd Jungbluth. Programmer Johannes Jander ported it to HTML/Javascript, giving it new life on more platforms. It allows you to drag a selection of images from the Bayeaux Tapestry onto a “linen” background, arrange them as desired, and add text in an appropriate font.

Mental Floss has a roundup of some of the resulting images, and there are plenty more around the web. I was amused by this and this in particular.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, use your custom image as a template for an actual embroidery piece. Otherwise, simply share and enjoy.

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One-Off Costume Idea

October 23rd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Estimable commenter Cookie recently sent me a link to an article about mysterious clowns terrorizing a city in California (where almost every word in the headline should probably be in sarcastic quote marks), which I found interesting mainly because:

  1. The clown uses various social media platforms to raise public awareness of his creepy lurkings.
  2. There have apparently been so many copycat clowns that the original scary clown has had a Twitter account, @RealWascoClown, to make sure that everybody knows he’s the real scary clown.

Well that’s just pathetic. Two things that monsters shouldn’t be are social media-savvy and starved for attention. I don’t know about you guys, but the thought of that creepy kid from The Ring sitting on hold with tech support to reset her Tumblr password or Michael Myers bitching that he was a masked slasher long before that Jason guy sort of removes from the moment for me.

So this scary clown gets a D+. However, Cookie followed up with a rather cool idea:

How about a slight variation on your Tuesday column? One shot suggestions for Halloween. Here’s mine; Dress as a clown BUT instead of handing out balloon animals hand out balloon Ebola viruses. I’ve looked at pictures of it and it seems like an easy thing to twist a balloon into, far easier than a dog or a bunny and lots of fun as people puzzle over what the hell it might be then watching the slow dawning of realization spread over their face. Oh. Be sure to smear on lots of red on your clown lip make up. lots.

I kind of love the idea of a blood-smeared clown handing out balloon Ebola viruses.

I also like the idea of one-shot, topical, Halloween costumes. If you’ve got an idea for a costume that riffs on current events, let us know in the comments!

(Thanks, Cookie!)

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A Plethora of Pumpkin Preparations

September 24th, 2014 by Cobwebs

PumpkinsAutumn is here (“here” being the northern hemisphere), which means an onslaught of Pumpkin Spice everything. Things that have no business being pumpkin-spice are tarted up; if there was a pumpkin spice dog food I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. (Edit: See also this. Jesus wept.)

The noble pumpkin is better than sweet one-note dishes. It’s a nutritious vegetable and is wonderful in all kinds of savory dishes. Here’s a roundup. (Note: Some of the recipes labeled as “vegetarian” call for chicken stock; just substitute vegetable broth. But you knew that.)

Pumpkin is a great addition to chilis and stews; you can add it as a puree to thicken the liquid and add creaminess, or cut it into cubes for texture and flavor.

With meat:
Pork and Pumpkin Chili
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Pumpkin & Beef Autumn Stew
Pork and Pumpkin Stew

Vegetarian:
Pumpkin Chili (The Kitchn)
Pumpkin Chili (Julia’s Album)
Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

Soups are a very popular non-sweet way to use pumpkin.

With meat:
Cheesy Pumpkin Soup with Bacon and Crispy Shallots
Pumpkin and Pancetta Soup
Pumpkin Soup with Sausage
Pumpkin and Lobster Bisque

Vegetarian:
Pumpkin Soup with Ginger Cream
Pumpkin and Yellow Split Pea Soup
Curry Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Kabocha Pumpkin Hot Pot
Pumpkin and Chestnut Soup

Read the rest of this entry »

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