The Art of Darkness

Steampunk Inspiration

June 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Map RoomJen of EPBOT is renovating one of the rooms in her house into an amazing steampunk rumpus room, and has a fantastic series of posts on her build progress. It’s a trove of great DIY tutorials, with build notes on DIY window cornices, stereo speakers, and TV cabinets.

One of her recent entries was a Bioshock-inspired picture frame, in which she mentioned in passing that she’d found some design ideas from this Flickr set of an area in Tokyo DisneySea. A little sleuthing suggests that it’s specifically the Mysterious Island portion of the park, which is all themed around the works of Jules Verne.

Having worked for the Mouse for several years I never thought I’d want to set foot in a Disney property ever again, but suddenly I really want to go to Tokyo.

Having worked for the Mouse for several years I can also say that the Imagineers who design the look-and-feel of the Disney properties don’t miss a trick. There are all kinds of fantastic ideas for decorating in the High Steampunk style. (The photos aren’t labeled as to exactly where in the park they were taken, but from the nautical details I’m going to guess that it’s probably the queue area of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction.)

There’s a Tokyo Disney fan site with some more good photos of the Mysterious Island area of the park, and Dejiki has several others.

If you’ve been thinking about adding some steampunk elements to your decor, EPBOT’s design series and the Mysterious Island theming would be an excellent jumping-off point.

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Dark Lord Funk

June 15th, 2015 by Cobwebs

YouTube channel KFaceTV is dedicated to “Nerd-centric” parodies and comical shorts, with videos like Talk Nerdy to Me and a Hunger Games parody of Ariana Grande’s “Problem.” In their latest release they apparently managed to dig up every Harry Potter geek in Utah (and a python named Snape) to show how Voldemort parties before attacking Hogwarts.

There’s a Behind the Scenes video as well.

(Hat tip to xJane)

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Finian’s Link Dump

June 12th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Miss Fiendish – Etsy shop specializing in gothy platform heels. (Hat tip to Jes)

Keyboard Mash – On the internet, nobody knows you’re….

Everyday Sigils – A collection of magickal sigils devoted to things like remembering to take out the trash. (Hat tip to Bruno)

Snail Painting – Filth Wizardy shows you how to use garden snails and food coloring to create “art.”

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs – YA novel about, to quote submitterator Cookie, “two lovely children who keep their taxidermied mother in the basement.” Like you do.

William Basso – Wonderfully creepy art. He has a sale on certain prints going on at the moment.

Dripping Blood Necklace – Choker beaded to resemble blood leaking from a cut throat. I like the use of transparent thread to help the illusion. (Hat tip to xJane)

Snarlbear – Webcomic about Daisy, a young girl from our world who is transported to the Rainbow Dimension and encounters elves and unicorns. Only way, way darker than that description would suggest.

Loved to Death – All kinds of neat Victorian-ish decor and jewelry. (Hat tip to Fiend4Halloween)

Vampires are Pretty Well-Groomed – …considering they did it all without a mirror. A discussion thread on Reddit.

Posted in Link Dump | 4 Comments »

Shower Thoughts

June 11th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Reddit has a category called Shower Thoughts, where people share the random minor epiphanies that often seem to hit when one is standing in the shower. A Tumblr called Just Shower Thoughts collects some of the best of them. Some are amusing–I think my favorite is, “I wonder what my dog named me”–but a lot of them are nicely macabre. Here’s a sampling:

Tomorrow I graduate. In all likelihood at least one picture taken will be used at my funeral to remember me. Tomorrow I pose for my funeral.

Most people are buried in suits and stuff so a zombie apocalypse would be a formal event

Eating a potato is pretty Irish, but so is not eating a potato.

When there’s an earthquake, coffins become huge underground maracas.

A good tattoo parlor would be one that keeps a couple dictionaries in the waiting room.

Candles are how we keep fires as pets

I wonder if I’ve already bought the clothes I’m going to die in.

Ice cubes float around in pools of their own blood…

Whenever I kill a bug, I wonder how many zillions of years back we shared a common ancestor. Aeons ago, a clutch of eggs hatched; some young wriggled this way, others that way; the lineages diverged…and now these two descendants have met in this fatal way.

“Show them what we’re made of” is a terrible battle cry when fighting with swords.

The swimming pool in the Titanic is still full.

I just realized that “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side” is a joke about suicide

If the first person Arnold had encountered had been a drag queen on a motor scooter, The Terminator would have been quite a different movie.

Spiders are the classic everyday vigilante. They are generally misunderstood, everyone hates them, and yet, they protect us from having to deal with all of the shitty bugs we would otherwise encounter in their absence.

There are songs you’ve already heard for the last time.

There’s also a Twitter feed run by the moderators which features additional gems.

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 2 Comments »

Mysteries by Mail

June 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Mysterious Package“It began one evening with a strange letter from a law firm I’d never heard of. Inside, I was informed of the passing of my Great Aunt Hanna – I didn’t even know I had a Great Aunt Hanna – and she had left a note for me. It was handwritten, and contained within a frail, ancient envelope. It was written in longhand, a warning about ghosts, and some coordinates that seem to be from a small island in the South Pacific. There was a map fragment of the island as well, but none of this makes any sense.”

The Mysterious Package Company is a members-only service that allows you to arrange “unannounced deliveries of a strange and otherworldly nature” that will draw the recipient into a quaint and curious story which might involve anything from crossword ciphers to medallions with cryptic symbols. With the slogan, “We tell stories you can touch,” here’s the company description from their Facebook page:

The Mysterious Package Company provides unique and custom-made gifts delivered by mail, and wrapped in a hand-crafted experience unlike any other. Custom made crates, letters and telegrams from long-lost relatives, and seemingly innocuous newspaper clippings add a richness to the curious goods contained within. Each experience is uniquely tailored to each person.

We are a members-only service. Membership is free, but you must fill in our application form in order to be considered as a member. We are more than simply a way to send packages, we are a community of like-minded people who believe that life needs to be less mundane.

An application does not guarantee membership.

It is the policy of The Mysterious Package Company to neither confirm nor deny our involvement with any specific packages. That would be telling.

This sounds really, really awesome.

There are some glowing reviews of the service: The Nerdery Public bought a package for himself so he knew the origin of the mysterious mailings, but he was still enthralled by the details and had a great time “solving” the puzzle. Mark Ramsden started receiving items when a friend arranged a package for him, so he had no idea where these things were coming from and was completely flummoxed. He detailed the whole thing in a series of blog posts titled, On Being Haunted, and it’s fun to read his accounts as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Strange Girl in a Little House got a different storyline, and there are several photos of the various package contents.

Having to apply for membership before seeing what the company offers is a little dismaying, but “The Curator’s” explanation in this article about the company makes a lot of sense:

membership is a layer of protection between the person sending the gift and the person receiving the gift. If one were to receive something unusual in the mail and do a web search for it and find out that, yes, it’s from The Mysterious Package Company, and it cost such and such, with a big buy now button, that would destroy the mystery. With membership, even if they discover that it’s from us, it’s a gift that you are unable to buy for yourself. This makes the experience priceless, something that we think our members appreciate.

If you need a gift for “someone who has everything,” this would be a very cool option.

Posted in Needful Things | 10 Comments »

Problem Glyphs

June 9th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Problem GlyphA sigil is a symbolic illustration used in magic, representing a desired outcome. Artist Eliza Gauger has a project called Problem Glyphs in which she draws sigils which represent the solution to problems sent in by her audience.

A lament of, “i do not belong anywhere” results in a pair of badass snails and the motto, “Build your home and carry it.” An astronomer who “chose science over faith” and was rejected by their religious fundamentalist family is comforted with “You are welcome amongst the stars.”

Most “traditional” sigils tend to be a spare set of lines, but Gauger’s drawings are bursting with movement and detail. She takes requests (although her request form notes that there are about 600 of ’em in the queue right now so it might be a while before she gets to yours) and doesn’t ask for payment, although she accepts donations through PayPal or Patreon. She also sells stickers of some of her glyphs in her Etsy shop.

Other artists have been inspired by her work to try their own glyphs, and she frequently features them on the site as well. If you’re facing a tough problem, have a look through her archives for something suitable.

(Hat tip to Bruno)

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The Grand Overlook Hotel

June 8th, 2015 by Cobwebs

I’m a sucker for a good film trailer mashup. When filmmaker Steve Ramsden noticed that Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick frame their shots in a similar way, the only logical thing was to create “Wes Anderson’s The Shining.”

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 3 Comments »

DuBarry Was a Link Dump

June 5th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Black Ghost Playing Cards – Attractive deck of black Bicycle cards. There’s a neat Sideshow Freaks design, too.

Mad Max: Protector – Wonderful parody ad in which Imperator Furiosa is a spokeswoman for tampons. It is deeply splendid.

Brain Specimen Coasters – Set of stackable glass coasters, each with a different cross-section of brain printed on it.

There’s a Special Kind of Wolf Spider That “Purrs” – Not really, since it doesn’t make the sound itself (it generates the buzz by vibrating leaves), but now all I can think of is how awesome a cat-sized spider that purrs would be.

Squishable Mothman – This is clearly a very snuggly cryptid. The same company has a squishable Cerberus, Yeti, Werewolf, and several others.

Bag of Defective Unicorns (Still Magical) – Give the gift of defective unicorns!

Tiny Hamster is a Giant Monster – Amusing video featuring Hamzilla. There is, somewhat astonishingly, a related book.

Click-clack the Rattlebag – New “exclusive online” short story by Neil Gaiman.

Murder as a Fine Art – Victorian-era thriller featuring Thomas de Quincey as an amateur detective. There’s also a sequel, Inspector of the Dead. BoingBoing has a short review of the latter here.

Skull Fury Ankle Boots – Cute boots with silver skull buckles.

Posted in Link Dump | 4 Comments »

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as Pets

June 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Hissing CockroachWe here at Shadow Manor are a pet-friendly group, and in the past I’ve mentioned critters like bearded dragons and rats as being excellent pets which are relatively low-maintenance, don’t require a lot of space, and are rather gothy to boot. We’ve recently, rather by accident, expanded into the invertebrate category, and I am here to tell you about the awesomeness that is Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

You may have encountered these guys before; they’re hardy and very easy to care for, making them popular insect exhibits at zoos, museums, and the little invertebrate sideshows that a lot of pesticide companies seem to sponsor. They’re also often raised as food for insect-eating pets such as lizards and birds, which is what I originally bought mine for: I was mail-ordering mealworms for my lizard and noticed that the same company sold roaches, so I ordered a few for him to try. When they arrived I decided that they were: a) Probably a bit too big for the lizard to eat, and b) Really fricking cool, so I decided to keep them as pets instead.*

They have a lot to recommend them: Unlike common household roaches, these guys are clean, gentle forest dwellers. They don’t bite or sting, and they’re wingless. They don’t stink up their enclosure the way some insects (like crickets) do, and they’re ridiculously low-maintenance. They’re quiet and require very little space. They’re an attractive bug, with a carapace that resembles polished mahogany (when they molt, they’re briefly a lovely, creamy ivory with shockingly-noticeable black eyespots). They’re also really big, which makes them fun to watch and is also handy for education: I plan to use mine to help some local Boy Scouts earn their “insect” merit badge. Also, since they live peaceably in a large colony, you can easily breed them for lizard food.

Their hissing, incidentally, is very cool. When the adults are disturbed they hiss like a teakettle, and it’s a little startling until you get used to it. One of mine likes to hang on the roof of the cage, and any nearby movement will make him give a warning hiss. I rather like the experience of walking past an aquarium and having something hiss at me from the shadows. Makes me feel like Morticia Addams.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Start a Gothic Book Club

June 3rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

The Graveyard BookOoh, here’s a lovely idea to help while away the time until Halloween: Start a book club oriented around gothic books.

A club can consist of local people who periodically meet to discuss a book, an online forum where members can post discussion and comments, or some combination of the two. A local group has the advantage of real-time conversation (which, for a small number of people, could also be done online with Skype), more incentive to actually read the latest book, a convivial atmosphere (with snacks!), and an excuse to get out of the house occasionally. An online club is great for geographically-diverse groups or for people with busy schedules who may not be able to carve out time to meet on a regular basis.

Real Simple and LitLovers have some useful tips for organizing a book club in meatspace, and many of the suggestions (such as choosing a theme) are applicable for virtual clubs as well. For an online club, you’ll need a discussion tool: A blog (free at hosts like WordPress), a forum (like ProBoards), or a group (such as Yahoo Groups, Google Hangouts, or Facebook). Goodreads has a group feature that’s oriented toward book discussion, and there’s a site called BooksterClub which seems to specialize in online book clubs.

Once you’ve organized the club, it’s time to select books. You can either focus on a specific subgenre–for instance, Goth Shopaholic has 12 months’ worth of suggestions for “Goth, Horror and Dark” biographies–or consider a theme like “Gothic” (vintage or modern), Classic Horror, or the works of a particular author.

If you’ve regretted not setting aside more time for reading, joining a book club is great motivation. If it’s a gothic book club, well, so much the better.

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