The Art of Darkness

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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New Music for the Discerning Goth

July 23rd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Friend of the blog Burning Prairie fills her Facebook feed with interesting music. Since she spends so much time ferreting out new artists, I asked her if she’d be willing to share some of her finds with us. Here’s the first in what I hope will be a series of her suggestions.

Not to take away from the venerable Goth bands of our youth, but there are a lot of really good artists out there right now. While these newer artists are not tagging themselves as Goth or even darkwave, their music still fits within the Goth aesthetic.

One of my current darlings is Chelsea Wolfe. The bio on her website says that her records “transcend time, avoid pigeonholing, and most importantly, allow a glimpse into the soul of a true visionary.” I would agree with this description.

“Feral Love,” the first track on her Pain is Beauty album was recently featured in Game of Thrones season 4 trailers. Her original video for this song is as visionary and surreal as the music it accompanies.

(Thanks, Burnine Prairie!)

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Origami Bat

July 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Origami BatFabulous commenter Pixel Pixie pointed me to these instructions for making a very cool origami bat. (I commented that I wondered if the folds would be suitable for a fancy dinner napkin and she replied, “One way to find out: vampire dinner party. BOOM.” I like the way she thinks.)

This particular fold is a little bit fiddly, but it’s fairly realistic as origami goes; many of the simpler designs are sort of, “It’s a bat! Or maybe a crane! Would you believe a pigeon?” However, it’s not so complicated as to be completely beyond the amateur origami-ist, so with a little practice you should be able to turn out flappy paper bats on demand. A miniature one would make a cute brooch.

Upon closer examination I’d say it’s definitely too detailed for a napkin fold, but fortunately googling “origami bat” turns up loads of easier designs: This one is nice (although the napkin would have to be pretty stiffly starched), and these look especially straightforward. A couple of others worth noting (probably a tad too complicated for napkins) are the flapping patty bat and this compact design.

The same search also turned up this list of Halloween-themed origami, so you can expand into folded ghosts, witches, spiders, and even tombstones. Some of these would make really interesting placecards or gift toppers, and since all you need is a piece of paper you can practice your craft nearly anywhere.

(Thanks, Pixel Pixie!)

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Seven Deadly Sins Mosaic

June 26th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Notre Dame Mosaic

If you’ve been looking for a new cross-stitch or similar artwork idea, check these out. The fogbound site recently posted this set of images taken at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France. They’re mosaics representing the seven deadly sins, plus an additional reptilian critter with the legend Vade Retro Satana (“Get thee behind me, Satan”).

There’s a set of photos of the same mosaics (minus the Satan one) on Wikimedia Commons; the resolution is a little higher on those, but the colors seem a bit washed out.

These would be splendid patterns for cross-stitch, beading, or (if you’re particularly ambitious) quilting. There are several online converters which will translate photographs into patterns: MyPhotoStitch, Pic 2 Pat, PictureCraftwork, and Stitchboard will all allow you to upload a photo for conversion, either for free or (if the stitch count is above a certain size) for a small fee. You can google “cross stitch pattern converter” for others.

A set of cross-stitched sins would look great on framed a wall or even used to decorate throw pillows. You could also choose your favorite sin to decorate everything from book covers to pocket patches.

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Dark Side University

June 17th, 2014 by Cobwebs

DraculaIf you have any free time and value its continued existence, you’d probably better skip this post.

Venerable goth internet fixture Dark Side of the Net has recently branched out into a goth-centric online university which teaches free classes with titles like, “History 103: The Life and Work of Edward Gorey,” “Horticulture 101: Gothic Gardening,” and “Mythology 102: Dark Goddesses.”

Dark Side University is a goth community offering free classes on gothic, horror, vampiric, and Halloween topics. You don’t get credit or a grade, just the fun of learning new things and discussing dark topics alongside other cool people from the subculture.

Our instructors are knowledgeable, passionate people who donate their time to share information with students.

The site is a trove of resources and fascinating subject matter, and provides several avenues for interacting with like-minded people. Particularly nice, of course, is that geographic boundaries are no limitation for this type of study.

If you have passion for some particular aspect of goth culture and want to share your knowledge, the university is also looking for instructors. The position is unpaid, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with others who share your interests and value your contributions. You can view information about that here (requires registration/login). They’re particularly looking for “practical” instruction with real-life applications: Goth-oriented sewing or baking tips, how to get one’s horror stories published, and ways to promote and manage a festival or other event.

My single quibble about the setup, and it’s a relatively minor one, is that everything beyond the front page requires registration. (Additionally, the registration has to be approved by a human being so signup is not instantaneous.) I can understand things like the forums and classroom areas not being open to the public, but I would expect the FAQs and possibly the base course descriptions to be more accessible. Since the university is hosted on Ning, I’m going to assume that’s a limitation of the platform itself.

The university also has a Facebook presence which posts news about upcoming classes and shares interesting gothy tidbits.

(via Cat)

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Martha Stewart Looking for “Monster-Makers and Fairy-Fabricators”

June 4th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Martha StewartMartha Stewart is looking for students and/or recent grads for “a special opportunity to help create Martha’s 2014 Halloween costume.”

Do you love Halloween? Do you have the creative vision, design, and production skills to make a costume for Martha to rival her best? If you’re a current student or recent graduate in art, costume design, fashion design, or a related field, and you think you’ve got what it takes, we want to hear from you.

There really aren’t any details beyond that blurb, and there’s a catch in the fine print at the bottom: “If you are selected, you must be willing to travel to New York City for several days (which may be nonconsecutive) in the months of July and/or August (as scheduled by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), at your own expense.”

However, if travel to New York isn’t a problem–you could work it into a vacation, if you’re from out of town–this could be a really interesting opportunity. It would certainly look good on a resume.

The sign-up form is here. To give you an idea of what she’s looking for, a gallery of costumes she’s showcased in the past is here. In general she features costumes made with materials that aren’t difficult or expensive to acquire, and which don’t require advanced skills to put together; they are, after all, intended to be DIY-able by her audience.

If you meet the criteria and can conjure a costume from common materials, this is definitely worth checking out. There’s no deadline listed on the form, but from the legal wording it looks like things will kick off on July 18, so presumably they’ll cut off registration at least a couple of weeks before that date to decide on a winner. Best to sign up ASAP.

(via Cult of the Great Pumpkin)

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Paper and Salt

February 25th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Shelley and KaleWhat a neat idea to hang a site on: Paper and Salt seeks to re-create (and sometimes reinterpret) “dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries and fiction.” Nicole, the site’s author, describes it as, “part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirl-ing.”

It’s a fascinating look at authors, the edibles with which they were familiar, and their eating habits. A recent post about Mary Shelley, for instance, points out that Modern Superfood kale used to be a common comfort food. The entry includes a yummy-sounding kale-and-egg tartine which would be a lovely breakfast dish.

The site’s archives are broken out by both recipe category and time period, so you can browse the 18th Century and find a molten chocolate cake inspired by the Marquis de Sade or look through Drinks for Edgar Allan Poe’s eggnog.

Some of the relationships between author and recipe seem rather thin (“Jane Austen once mentioned cheesecake, so here’s a custard tart“), but the mini-history lessons more than make up for it.

There are the makings of an interesting themed dinner party here as well: A meal with each course inspired by a different author. It’d be fun to start with a soup mentioned by Bram Stoker and end with a Stephen King-inspired dessert.

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Semi Sweet Designs

February 20th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Skull CookiesClear your schedule before clicking any of these links, because you’re going to be browsing for a while.

I discovered Semi Sweet Designs a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, when ThinkGeek pointed to these awesome Star Trek Valentine Cookies. It turns out that those were just the tip of the frosting-covered iceberg.

The site is the brainchild of Mike, an aerospace engineer who discovered cookie art a couple of years ago when he was looking for a unique gift idea for a friend. He notes that he is, “constantly imaging ways to turn my love of TV, Sci-Fi movies, and pop culture into cookie form,” and from the stuff he’s created I’d say he’s succeeding admirably: When he isn’t making Game of Thrones-inspired dragon eggs, he’s ringing in the new year with steampunk gauges.

There are loads of Halloweeny projects, from elegant fall leaf cupcake toppers to spooky skulls-with-candles sugar cookies. He includes plenty of recipes and step-by-step instructions, plus great tips like adding ghosts to any cookie.

Some of the designs are (obviously) detailed and time-consuming, which makes me wonder about the possibility of making them from polymer clay and turning them into pendants, brooches, or even Christmas tree ornaments. Faux sugar cookies seem to be a fairly widespread thing, and there are plenty of tutorials which provide tips on materials and techniques.

Do check out the site; his enthusiasm is infectious, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by sugar cookies in the near future.

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