The Art of Darkness

Family Drama

November 30th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Y’know, it’s a good thing Isaac Newton never had children, because if he’d had a toddler he would have had too many experiences with antigravity to ever come up with his theory.

Allow me to set the stage: I have a slight cold which manifests itself primarily as a rasping cough whenever I lie down. I have thus been taking Nyquil for several nights running in an effort to prevent Shadow Jack from moving to a different continent. Whenever I take anything that includes a soporific, it messes with my REM sleep and I don’t dream. My subconscious mind–which is quite the prankster–hoards these dreams, and after a few nights I wind up with nightmares when asleep and a bad case of the fantods when awake.* Under normal circumstances, for example, I’ll attribute a sudden thump in the basement to the water filter kicking in. If I’ve been taking soporifics for a few nights, it’s an axe murderer, guaranteed.

So, around 2:30 this morning I’m awakened from unsettling and murky dreams by a dog who has to potty.** It’s not only pitchy black outside, it’s foggy and raining. Beyond the halo of porch light, the bare trees raise distorted limbs menacingly skyward. The dog hears something in the woods.*** her eyes narrow and her hackles rise. Expecting a nightmare made flesh to rush from the darkness, I tell her that if she doesn’t finish Right Now, I will pick her up and wring her like a dishrag. She looks affronted and squats. I breathe a sigh of relief as I hurry inside and close the front door, certain that we’ve narrowly missed some hideous doom. I go back upstairs and turn off the light. As I make my way across the dark, silent bedroom, snippets of ghost stories and more horrible things flash through my mind. I reach the bed, expecting a cold, necrotic hand to clasp my ankle. And just as I pull back the covers…Shadowboy shrieks like a banshee from the next room.

He does this in his sleep sometimes: One blood-curdling screech, then silence.

I will leave my reaction as an exercise for the reader.

*Even though I know, intellectually, that there’s nothing to fear, the Stephen King Lobe of my brain gives me a constant feed of, “What if [fill in the blank]?” What if ghosts existed, and they weren’t just harmless apparitions, they were the bloody, fanged ghosts you see in Japanese horror movies? What if the institute for the criminally insane that I’m sure exists around here somewhere has misplaced three or four of its psychos? What if there’s somethingcreepingupbehindmerightnowaiyeee? So you see.

**On the one hand, I could just beat her when she does this. On the other hand, I, personally, have a bladder the size of a lentil, so I can sympathize with her plight. What I need is a dog with opposable thumbs that can let herself out.

*** The dog always hears something in the woods. She’s not exactly a pillar of courage herself.

Posted in Whatever | 4 Comments »

My Vampire Cheerleader

November 29th, 2008 by Cobwebs

WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention, is kind of a big deal for the Shadow Family. Not just because we’re big fans of the genre (Shadow Jack and I met in an internet chat room devoted to SF), but because it’s held in a different location every year and it gives us an excuse to travel a bit. It’s also a big deal for me because I am in love with the Masquerade.

Masquerade one of the big events at every WorldCon. It’s primarily a costume contest, but most entrants also perform a skit of some sort. The workmanship on many of the costumes is astonishing, particularly in the Master category (this site displays some of the costumes from the last several conventions, although the photos aren’t large enough to show some of the more intricate details).

When we attended the 2005 convention in Glasgow, Shadaughter and I decided to participate in the Masquerade. This worked out well for us because I like to make costumes and she’s a big ol’ ham. She was a cheerleader in high school at the time,* and she was also a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,** so she requested a Vampire Cheerleader costume.

We won in the Best Presentation category, and to our delight her performance turned up on YouTube a few months after the convention. So if you’ve ever wondered what a vampire would cheer about, here you go:

(The sound isn’t precisely synched with her movements, which I guess is an artifact of the video transfer.)

There are a couple of still photos of her outfit in the gallery here. Remind me to tell you some time about frenziedly trying to dye her hair black with Manic Panic in a backstage restroom five minutes before she was due to go on. Next time we enter, I’m bringing Valium.

*Yeah. She’s a cheerleader and pink is her favorite color. The apple couldn’t have fallen any further from the tree if it was rocket-propelled.

**Okay, maybe it didn’t fall that far.

Posted in Whatever | 3 Comments »

Awesome Applique Dresses

November 28th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Scapular DressEtsy seller Toolgrrl specializes in amazingly detailed appliqued dresses, many of them featuring internal anatomy. The one shown here is Scapular.

Her works tend toward the surreal and creepy, such as her Blood Countess dress, based on the story of Elizabeth Bathory and featuring countless gloves which represent the skin of her victims.

The dresses–as are to be expected–aren’t cheap, but they’re gorgeous and are a marvelous source of inspiration. She also offers other items, such as appliqued T-shirts that are much less expensive.

Pretty stuff!

(via BoingBoing)

Posted in Doom It Yourself, Paint It Black | No Comments »

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Cow and Boy
(Click to see larger – from Cow and Boy)

Pumpkin Pie Shooters
1/2 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur
1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish cream
1/4 oz cinnamon schnapps

Serve in a shotglass with whipped cream on top. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

And for tomorrow, let me point you to my favorite turkey enchilada recipe over at Epicurious. I make the following changes:

  • Add the tomatoes to the onions and stir them to soften for about five minutes before adding the enchilada sauce.
  • Add an additional 14-oz can of enchilada sauce. I like these better when they’re thoroughly sauced.
  • I also omit the cilantro and cut back on the chipotles, but that’s due to my family’s preferences. Adjust at your pleasure.

These are worth making throughout the year, using shredded chicken instead of turkey. They’re yummy.

That is all. Return to your food comas.

Posted in Whatever | No Comments »

“Natural” Jewelry

November 26th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Bone JewelryYou know what we don’t have enough of around here? Jewelry made from animal parts. Fortunately, that’s easily correctible.

Etsy shop Beloved & Co. sells all kinds of interesting vintage accoutrements, including many that involve animal bits. I’m particularly taken with this antique Raven Beak Pendant. This seller also runs the Cabinet of Curiosities blog.

Another Etsy seller, Abysmal, mixes delicate little animal bones with beads and other pretty things to make lovely items like the Cry of the Butterfly choker, shown above. Her items are surprisingly inexpensive, and she donates a portion of the sale to the wild bird center that supplies many of her bones.

For something a little more “in your face” dead animal-wise, Custom Creature Taxidermy offers items like muskrat foot earrings and pendants made of vials containing pickled baby mice.

I’ve also run across several mentions of work by The Squirrel Hole, but there’s currently a “Customer Has Exceeded Bandwidth” notice at the site. Hopefully it’ll be back up soon and we can check out the squirrel bits.

And, of course, there’s always the old standard grouse claw, a popular Victorian accessory. It’s also a traditional Scottish ornament, and can often be found at suppliers of Scottish dance attire.

Jewelry made of bones is an interesting and subtle way to add a bit of spookiness to your everyday garb. (It’s also an excellent icebreaker at parties.) Add a few vertebrae to your life today!

Posted in Needful Things | 1 Comment »

Vampires After Twilight

November 25th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Goth or not, I have to admit that I share Big Daddy Drew’s opinion of Twilight:

Ooooh, a girl falls in love with a vampire! How new and unheard of! IT’S FORBIDDEN LOVE! Jesus. I liked this story much better the first time I heard it, when it was called “Every stupid fucking vampire story you’ve ever heard.”

Yeah, I know this is not a popular opinion, feel free to burn me in effigy.

If you’ve whipped through all of the books and are searching for something to fill the gap (or if you have paid no attention to the books and just like vampires), io9 has published a handy list of other vampire novels.

Their suggestions appear to be a good mix of straight-up fantasy and SF/F, so there ought to be something there that appeals to everybody. A couple that aren’t on the list that I might recommend are Dan Simmons’ Children of the Night and Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard. Good stuff.

Feel free to recommend your favorite vampire novels in the comments.

Posted in Whatever | 6 Comments »

Custom Fabric Printing

November 24th, 2008 by Cobwebs

Beetle FabricHere’s a site I wish I didn’t know about. I already have a bad habit of buying fabric that catches my eye, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Then along comes a company that will custom-print fabric in any design I want. Ai yi yi.

Spoonflower was founded by a coalition of crafters and geeks (one of whom used to run Lulu, a print-on-demand book publisher) and is housed in an old sock mill in North Carolina. They will let you upload a file containing any pattern your little black heart desires and they will print it on high-quality cotton fabric for $18/yard (or $5 for a swatch). There is no minimum order, which is particularly awesome.

They launched as a “closed beta” in May 2008, and as of October there were over 10,000 users registered for their service. They’ve got a nice little community of crafters built up, many of whom share their patterns and the resulting creations on the site. (Your uploaded patterns, incidentally, remain private unless you choose to make them public.) They also note that they plan to eventually let pattern designers sell their custom fabrics through the site, which would be a great boon to the Etsy crowd.

This would be the perfect resource for creating truly unique and original fabrics for apparel or crafts. There have been many times that I’ve searched in vain for the right fabric; now I can design the right fabric.

If you’re an artist, you could have your work printed on fabric for one-of-a-kind wearable art. You could also turn your childrens’ artwork into something unique; it’d be fun to do a quilt made of custom swatches featuring a collection of scribbles. I know my mom would melt.

Thanks, Spoonflower. I’ll name you in the eventual bankruptcy paperwork.

(via MAKE)

Posted in Resources | No Comments »


November 23rd, 2008 by Cobwebs


ConceptArt member chewie doodles adorable little monsters on curbs and storm drains. They fit surprisingly well into their urban surroundings.

He’s posted a number of them on the forum, and also has a Website in the works (although it’s been “under construction” for almost a year now).

I like seeing how he fits his subject material to the “canvas,” with chipped yellow paint standing in for flames and water in a gutter suggesting a seashore.

I want some of these guys on a T-shirt.

(via Neatorama)

Posted in Whatever | 2 Comments »

Pareidolia. Probably.

November 22nd, 2008 by Cobwebs

Wem Hall

On November 19, 1995, a resident of the town of Wem in England took some photos of the old town hall. One image shows a little girl gazing placidly out through an open door.

This isn’t at all frightening until you learn that the photos were taken while the building was burning to the ground.

The Wem Hall Ghost is one of the more convincing “ghost photos” ever taken, not only because the face looks so clearly human but because the fire would have prevented a real person from wandering into the picture. It even comes ready-made with a likely suspect for the ghost: A girl named Jane Churm who was responsible for a fire in the town in 1677.

Others just see a really stunning example of pareidolia, humans’ tendency to see faces in completely natural formations (which also explains various holy figures’ habit of appearing in mildew stains and potato chips). A couple of skeptics weigh in here and here.

Even though the face in this photo really really looks like a face, the closeup puts me in mind more than a little of the Face on Mars. It looks human because our brains are wired to interpret it that way. (There’s also the “monkeys and typewriters” issue: Given the sheer number of photos taken around the world every day, there are bound to be a few that catch mundane items at unusual angles.)

So what do you think is the more likely explanation? Falling debris caught at just the right moment, or a glimpse of The Other Side?

Either way, I think it’s a heck of a creepy photograph.

Posted in Whatever | 4 Comments »

Creepy Doll Roundup

November 21st, 2008 by Cobwebs

Headless HistoricalsMental Floss recently posted an article on several “offbeat” dolls, including the Headless Historicals shown here. That reminded me to dig up a couple of other doll-related links that have been mouldering in my Drafts folder.

Marina Bychkova’s The Enchanted Doll features her astonishingly detailed porcelain dolls (borderline NSFW, depending upon your company’s policy regarding ceramic boobies) with astonishing lifelike features. Several of her works involve alternative views of well-known literary characters; her Bride of Frankenstein, for instance, is blonde “to contrast the iconic image of the movie’s version, and also to play on the idea of the body’s low Melanin levels. I imagine that when she was alive she was bright and vibrant with dark eyes and raven hair, but the postmortem trauma to her body and the mechanical process of reanimating her corpse had changed its molecular composition.”

For the serious crafter, there are also Artmaze’s Elfdolls. They’re extraordinarily detailed “blanks” that you can customize to your heart’s content. See this article for a look at some doll-modding possibilities. They ain’t cheap–they start at around $500–but they definitely qualify as artworks instead of toys.

Finally, check out The Dollings, morose little dolls with tragic backstories. And some of them have two heads. How could you not be charmed?

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

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