The Art of Darkness

“Bow Street Runner” Game

February 29th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Screen CapThe UK’s Channel 4 has a series entitled “City of Vice,” which is essentially a cop drama set in Georgian London. Their Website features a Flash-based game called “Bow Street Runner” which asks you to join the squad and solve crimes in grimy, squicky, 1750s Covent Garden.

The game is episodic; you can ask to be alerted by e-mail when the next episode is available. It also warns that it is “designed to be historically accurate and therefore the game’s content and its setting may not be suitable for younger players.”

This looks like a game that would be interesting to play, give you a taste of London in the period 50 years before Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and make you insanely grateful for indoor plumbing.

Link (via BoingBoing)

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Son of Link Dump

February 28th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Did I say I have a lot of drafts? I have a lot of drafts.

Garage of Evil – This is a resource site designed for “home haunters,” but it’s got a number of gothy project tutorials, including how to cast skulls from plaster and how to make your own toe-pincher coffin.

Three Fates T-shirts – The Anticraft’s collection of T-shirts includes a sly nod to the Greek Fates’ obvious hobby: Sewing! I want the Atropos/She Who Cuts shirt.

Creepy Yarn Sculpture – I don’t know what the hell this is, but it wigs me right out.

Gorgeous Light Fixture – I admit it: If I had the money, I’d be living in a big Dracula-esque castle (only with central heating). And I would decorate exclusively with stuff like this.

Hair Bow Tutorial – Marie has posted a nice guide for making professional-looking hair bows. These would be cute made with novelty Halloween ribbon or decorated with little skull beads instead of plain buttons. (She’s oddly sensitive about the popularity of this tutorial, so if you go visit pretend you’re looking for something else instead.)

Halloween Carnival – Craft Critique did a two-day roundup of spooky projects, including votive covers, pillow boxes, and lots of other neat ideas that could be used for year-round decoration.

The Explorers – Artist Jennifer Zwick does amazing “Constructed Narrative” photographs of children in surreal settings. I love this one and the adventure it implies.

My new favorite tutorial title: How to Make an Axolotl Cake. So many questions!

999 Crafty Haunts – DIY Life has an awesome article about the Haunted Mansions at various Disney parks, along with lots of photos and decorating ideas.

Costco Coffins – Yeah, I didn’t know they did this either.

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Link Dump

February 27th, 2008 by Cobwebs

When your Drafts list gets over six pages long, it’s time to do some dumpin’.

Three Stencil Projects – Easy instructions for etching a stencil on glass, making some neat “splatter shoes,” and stenciling a pumpkin.

Hand Me Up – Nice tutorial for enlarging a child’s favorite shirt after it’s outgrown. This same technique could also be used for adult clothes to, say, give a favorite black shirt hot-pink sleeves.

Lacy Skull Tablecloth – Sadly, there are no instructions. Just a picture. But if you know how to crochet and are feeling ambitious, this would be gorgeous as a tablecloth, smaller doily, or even a shawl.

Two coffee table books – The Mütter Museum is a Victorian-era medical museum of unique anatomical and pathological specimens, instruments, and models. It also has an historic archive of medical photos, most of which have never been displayed publicly. The Mütter Museum covers the displays, and Mütter Museum Historic Medical Photographs is a collection of the photographs. The Mütter is a fascinating and creepy place, and these books should be equally interesting and unsettling.

New and Improved Stereotypes – Maori Tribesmen have an innate sense of insurance law, the Irish can’t see hypercolors, and other improved stereotypes.

Laboratory-Style Light Switch – If you’re not afraid of things that go “zap!” here’s a video tutorial for installing a “Frankenstein”-type knife switch to control some 12-Volt lights. Great for giving a room that Cyberpunk look.

Joy of Socks – Novelty socks and tights, including several with skulls, spiders, and other gloomy necessities.

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Atmospheric Wine Bottles

February 26th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Skull Wine LabelI ran across these “decorative wine bottles” at the Z Gallerie site the other day, and was somewhat astonished to see that they were $33 a pop. Egad. For $33 you can buy a very decent bottle of wine and make your own decorations when it’s empty.

Go ahead and empty a bottle of wine. I’ll wait.

Now, soak the bottle in warm water to remove the existing label. You may need to scrape it with a razor blade and/or clean off any remaining gummy stuff with a product like Goo Gone. Make sure you wash and dry thoroughly afterwards.

If you want a drippy-wax look on the neck, do it before adding your new label. For a real wax seal, use wax designed for this purpose–you can get it at most homebrew suppliers–and melt it in a double boiler. Dip the top of the bottle in the wax and rotate it slowly for 10-15 seconds to get a nice smooth covering. Pull straight up, let any excess wax drip off, then set right-side up to cool. You can also fake the effect by carefully dripping hot glue around the neck. There are many different colors of hot glue available, so you don’t have to settle for that weird translucent dun color.

Design your label using your favorite graphics software. The print dimensions should be somewhere in the 3″ wide x 5″ high range, but anything that’ll fit on the bottle should be fine. Give your “product” an evocative name like Skeleton Cellars or Witch River Winery, and find an appropriate graphic. By way of example I created a couple using illustrations by Gustav Doré. (Feel free to pilfer them if you like.)

Ghost Moon
Dark Harvest

Print and affix to bottle. You can purchase blank labels that are specifically meant for wine bottles, but unless you plan to mass-produce these things that’s probably overkill. It’s likely easier and cheaper to print on full-page labels (or just use heavy-duty paper and spray adhesive) and trim to fit. If printing on an ink-jet printer, don’t forget to seal the label to keep the ink from running.

All done! Display them with pride.

Incidentally, personalized wine bottles also make a nice wedding favor if you don’t mind doing a lot of scraping and gluing. Obviously, if you’re presenting full bottles, use real wax on the seal rather than hot glue. (I mean, I think it’s obvious, but I don’t want to be eaten by a ravening pack of personal-injury lawyers.)

Posted in Doom It Yourself, Terror in the Aisle | 2 Comments »

Gradient Tights

February 25th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Gradient TightsJeanine at The Coveted has posted easy instructions for making your own graduated-color pantyhose. (Essentially, dip the bottom half in the dye and then let gravity take care of the rest.) These will likely fade after a couple of washings (and potentially leave you with slightly-dyed calves), but since her version costs about $5 for the materials and commercial tights can cost as much as $90 I’d say it’s worth the purple legs.

Link (via CRAFT)

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Hope it Comes to Cable

February 22nd, 2008 by Cobwebs

Big Dumb Object mentions an interesting TV pilot that just aired in the UK on BBC3. Entitled “Being Human,” here’s the official synopsis:

Contemporary supernatural drama about George and Mitchell, a pair of perennial outsiders. Working in the anonymous drudgery of the local hospital, they live lives of quiet desperation – because Mitchell is a vampire and George is a werewolf. Deciding to turn over a new leaf, they move into a house together, only to find that it is haunted by Annie, the ghost of a woman killed in mysterious circumstances. As a threesome, they deal with the challenges of being supernatural creatures, bonded by their desire to adopt the lifestyle of their neighbours – humanity.

If you’re in the UK, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer. If you aren’t, you get a “Sorry, this video is only available in the UK” message. Poop.

Sounds fun. Maybe it’ll show up on BBCAmerica one of these days. (And I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if there was a torrent of the pilot available somewhere for the UK-challenged.)

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Gloom: No Fun for the Whole Family

February 21st, 2008 by Cobwebs

GloomGloom is an entertaining (so to speak) card game whose object is to kill off the family in your care by heaping misfortunes upon them.

You’ll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents’ characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.

There are “Unhappy Homes” and “Unwelcome Guests” expansion packs available, too. I suppose you could view the game as an exercise in altruism: After all, you’re not hindering your opponents’ families, you’re helping them. By, um, destroying your own family first. Um.

Extra points for the Goreyesque artwork.

Link (Hat tip to Haunted Wolf)

Posted in Funny Peculiar, Needful Things | No Comments »


February 20th, 2008 by Cobwebs

FidoLast night Shadow Jack brought home a film that simply must be shared. I don’t recall ever seeing a trailer for this when it was in theaters, but it stars some reasonably well-known actors (Carrie-Anne Moss and Billy Connolly), so it’s not a complete indie effort.

This is a touching boy-and-his dog story, with the dog being replaced by a zombie. Fido takes place in a picture-perfect 1950s milieu, where everyone is living in the aftermath of a zombie invasion: “Space dust” reanimated the dead several years ago, and there’s enough residual dust hanging around that anyone who dies and isn’t given a decapitation-funeral is guaranteed to come back as the living dead. Fortunately, technology has been perfected which allows them to be tamed and used as domestic labor. The Robinson family finally gets a zombie of their own, he sort of accidentally eats one of the neighbors, and hijinks ensue.

I suspect that this draws some inspiration from the ending of Shaun of the Dead (where the leftover dead are gainfully employed as menials), but if you set aside the obvious implausibility of the central theme the story actually has a certain internal consistency. Thirty years after all the dead were reanimated, everybody would have gotten used to them. If it were possible to tame them, they would be used for manual labor. And P.E. classes would include lessons in shooting zombies right in the head, just in case they got uppity.

The juxtaposition of the sunny and optimistic Hollywood-50s world with shambling zombies is hilarious, and there’s even a happy ending. (Depending upon your definition of “happy,” of course.) It’s rated R, but it could easily have had a PG-13 rating; the gore is minimal and campy, there’s all the nudity you’d expect in a reality where married couples sleep in twin beds, and I don’t think there’s even any harsh language. It’s sweet and funny and involves zombies.

I give it two severed thumbs up.

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“Retrofuture” Artwork

February 19th, 2008 by Cobwebs

ReliquaryArtist AlexCF describes himself as a “retrofuture cryptozoological assemblage artist and illustrator.”

i like to create items and objects from a past that wasnt quite; to fashion the things you wish existed in forgotten attics or secret rooms, dust covered relics of a time when the world was the same – but not quite, an age of wonder and intrigue. What you see here is the tip of a rather large iceberg, and over time i will reveal a plethora of oddities for you to enjoy, or buy.

His work is incredibly detailed and awesomely Victorian, including items like the Werewolf Anatomical Research Box, the Mountains of Madness Expedition Case, and this Vampire Research Reliquary, collected by an “unnamed cleric” who had sworn to protect humanity from the vampiric scourge. Each item includes a short “in character” backstory about its creation and use.

He also does creepy opium-dream illustrations of scenes from Alice in Wonderland and a lost retrofuture society.

Gorgeous stuff. Go look!

Link (via Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily)

Posted in Needful Things, Paint It Black | No Comments »

Quilting: Crazy Quilts

February 18th, 2008 by Cobwebs

VestHaving tackled patchwork, we can move on to crazy quilting. This allows you to be a little more adventuresome with your fabric choices, because everything is sewn to a base and you don’t have to worry about their stability. I’d probably recommend against mixing, say, heavy denim and chiffon, but all kinds of luxe fabrics like velvet and brocade are just fine.

Crazy quilts became popular in the late 1800s and were a way for ladies to show off their embroidery skills as well as their sewing abilities; most crazy quilts were embellished with a fair sprinkling of decorative hand-stitching. They’re a lot of fun to make, and I like them because they use up scrap fabric. (I just can’t bear to throw fabric remnants away, and eventually they pile up and threaten to squish me. Then I make a quilt, and the cycle begins anew.) They’re also a nice ego booster because they look much harder than they actually are.

The basic technique couldn’t be simpler: Take a plain fabric base and sew scraps to the top. Embellish (or not) as desired. I’ve put together a tutorial for making a crazy-quilt vest, but the same methods apply to any kind of project.

So gather those pretty fabric bits that you were wondering what to do with, or dig through the remnants bin at your local sewing store. Use lots of different colors of velvet for a luxurious throw, or piece together brocades for a wall hanging. Embroider thorns and spiders liberally. Then be coy when asked how much time and effort it took. Everybody wins!

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