Dec 03

November 2017 – Quote of the Month

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”

~ Voltaire

Nov 26

Staring at the Sun

Congratulations to the Staring at the Sun team that wrote, directed, acted, produced and worked on the movie for winning Best Feature Film at the Big Apple Film Festival.

As IMDB says about this humanist movie, “Two teenage Brooklyn Hasidic schoolgirls, unable to live under the strict rules of their community take the family car and run away across America to find what they assume will be the life of total freedom that lies beyond their insular world. They discover that a world where they don’t understand the game is more dangerous than a world with too many rules, and they try to make their way in a new context, under new identities, and within an entirely new lifestyle.”

BAFF's 2017 Best Feature Film Winner, November 07, 2017 at the Tribeca Cinemas with winner Writer / Director Harry Greenberger accepting the award.

BAFF’s 2017 Best Feature Film Winner, November 07, 2017 at the Tribeca Cinemas with winner Writer / Director Harry Greenberger accepting the award.

I’m looking forward to the next movie by from the same directing, writing, producer team.

Nov 13

October 2017 – Quote of the Month

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

~ Albert Einstein

Oct 19

The Guts to Corpse a Skeleton

Corpsing a Skeleton

“Corpsing” is the Haunters’ verb for taking a skeleton and turning it into a corpse – something with a little skin on the bones. (And while we’re handing out definitions, “Haunters” is the name given to those of us who have a fixation with Halloween – specifically with the creation of haunted houses, fiendish home decorations and costumes.)

Even though I’m not having a Halloween party this year, I’m already planning for one next year. So, with many stores displaying their Halloween goods, I’m compulsively buying decorations. This means, for example, that every time I find myself at Home Depot these last couple of months, I’ve purchased a skeleton or two.  (Home Depot and Walmart have the best prices. Sadly: Spirit Halloween is almost twice the price of those stores.)

Corpsing a skeleton > Home Depot Shopping Cart

Two Home Depot skeletons in cart, on route for a very dark fate.

Once I got my latest skeleton home, I laid it our on a work table and surrounded it with paints, sprays, stains, plastic sheeting, plasters and all manner of chemicals.

My goal for this project was to experiment with different methods to create a ‘juicy’ corpse with many organs still in tact.

Corpsing a skeleton > Supplies

The operating table and supplies.

I wanted to create a simple set of organs: faux lungs, tracheal tube, intestines, liver and heart.

Corpsing a skeleton > Craft Wrap Plaster Cloth Bandage

Plaster craft cloth, bucket and two air packing bags that were transformed into the Skeleton’s lungs.

I used plaster cloth bandages that I purchased from Amazon to wrap some packing bubble bags as a form for the lungs. For other organs, I used roughly formed tin-foil bases. I kept the organs simple and undetailed because much of their presence is buried under layers of plastic ‘skin’.

Corpsing a skeleton > Plaster casting lungs

Plaster wrapped packing airbags for lungs and a tin foil air pipe ready for plaster wrapping.

I’d thought to use some ping pong balls for eyes, but the ones I bought were too big for this particular skeleton. Besides, this model had glowing red L.E.D. lights and the addition of eyeballs may not have obscured those lights too much.

Corpsing a skeleton > Plaster cast organs

Lungs, air pi[es and heart, ready for paint.

As I formed the plaster coated organs, I tested them within the chest cavity to ensure that they’d fit.

Corpsing a skeleton > Organs in rib cage

Testing placement of organs into the chest cavity.

In order to give the corpse some more form, I also experimented by adding some plaster cast to the hands. In the end, that probably wasn’t required and could have been just as well executed with built up, melted plastic wrap.

The plaster cloth is great for creating sturdy structures, but the results look very much like pock-filled cloth. I mitigated this with heavy does of glue, plastic, paint and glossy paints to give a more organic material feel.

Corpsing a skeleton > Craft wrapped hand

Adding a plaster base for creating a more fleshy hand.

I painted the organs with a combination of fluorescent and standard paint. Throughout the project, I tried to walk a line between realistic colors and fluorescent that would at least partially glow in black-light.

Corpsing a skeleton > Painted organs

The first layers of paint on the internal organs.

Before I started to layer in the organs and skin, I gave select portions of the skeleton’s torso a red and black spray-paint job to emphasize its depth.

I covered the eye’s LED lights with electrical tape before spray painting the sockets, thinking that I’d later remove the tape. In the end, I kept the tape in place after a test revealed that the red light behind them gave an eerier glow.

Corpsing a skeleton > bloody spine

Red paint on the inner skeleton.

Once I had a base level of bloody color on the skeleton itself, I laid down cut painters plastic tarp within the chest of the skeleton. I pulled portions of this up through the neck hole so that it would appear as remnants of tendons, sinew and veins once melted.

Corpsing a skeleton > Blackened bones

Lining the skeleton with Home Depot painter’s drop cloth (.7mm).

Organs were laid in next before they were in turned covered around with plastic.

Corpsing a skeleton > Guts go in

The organs being placed onto the plastic within the torso cavity.

Once all of the organs were wrapped, I melted them selectively with a heat gun.

– Note: This task (and others) were done outside in an attempt to offset inhalation of noxious vapors.

Corpsing a skeleton > Plastic wrapped organs

Organs sealed into the plastic wrap, ready for the heat gun.

The whole project involved may layers of plastic and paint, as I felt my way to a look that satisfied me.  But quickly, with even minimal layers, the organs were quickly buried under paint and melted plastic.

Corpsing a skeleton > Painted gut organs

Layers of grisly paint being added to the offal.

The paints looked best when they were fresh and wet. I used reds, blues, purples and pinks. The reds and purples looked best, but I was glad to have hints of other colors.

Corpsing a skeleton > Drying guts

Drying over night.

On my initial pass, the intestines appeared insufficiently connected to the rest of the body, so I added more layers of plastic across the torso, trying to get a cohesive look.

Corpsing a skeleton > Plastic wrapped torso

Adding more layers of plastic skin, prepped for the heat gun.

I love the organic holes that form when the plastic melts: creating the look of body fibers disintegrating.

Corpsing a skeleton > Partially melted skin

Melted plastic skin, sans paint.

It’s hard for me to muck-up the skull. I love their ‘unskinned’ look. Nonetheless, in order to obtain the look of a fresher corpse,  I added plastic wrap which I melted with the heat gun.

Corpsing a skeleton > Skull plastic preparation

Skull wrapped in plastic.

I added a lot of melted glue to simulate layers of sinew and veins. (Again: bulk glue sticks bought from Amazon). On top of all of this, I used stain from Home Depot to paint the melted plastic ‘flesh’.

Corpsing a skeleton > Skinning progress

Staining the newly melted plastic skin.

I was actually happy with this version of the corpse, but it was too similar to another one I’ve done, and I felt that much of the blue, purple veins and organ details were lost.

Corpsing a skeleton > Painted skin layer

Stained corpse. I actually liked the skeleton a lot at this stage and could have stopped, but I wanted something more ‘meaty’ and asymmetrical: as if parts of the body weren’t as decomposed.

I also found this version too symmetrical, and at the prompting of friends, I added more layers of plastic muscles to the left arm to imply a corpse that was decomposing asymmetrically.

Corpsing a skeleton > Building bicep

Building up the left arm, with additional plastic wrap to help create a less symmetrical corpse.

All of the glue and plastic had buried the teeth, making the skull look too much like a blob, so I took a Dremel to the teeth and did some creative dentistry.

Corpsing a skeleton > Dremel distressed teeth

The teeth had been covered by too much pseudo-gore, so I took a Dremel to expose the teeth and make them appear more generally abused.

I revisited the skull throughout the project, and added some more character with subsequent layers of paint and plastic. The glowing L.E.D. eyes had a surprisingly good effect as they glowed behind the layers of glue and paint. (Not shown illuminated here.)

Corpsing a skeleton > Skull closeup progress

Post dental cleaning skull closeup.

I dribbled layers of blue and red veins and arteries across the body. I’d tried painting them on with a brush, but the texture was too rough and failed to provide the organic look that I could achieve with the less work intensive effort of pouring paint right onto the body.

Corpsing a skeleton > Progress on guts

Painting in arteries and veins.

The paint looked too bright and 2-D for my tastes and the body was still looking too symmetrical so I added another layer of 3-D sinews but this time rolling the plastic into long tubes before hitting them with the heat gun.

Corpsing a skeleton > Laying in layers of arteries and vein details

Adding 3-D veins and sinew.

I was also not satisfied with the default flat hand pose, so I bent back select fingers and blasted them with heat and held them in place with tape while they re-hardened, giving them more of a sinister pointing look. For my next corpse, I’ll do this process before the body is covered in goo.

Corpsing a skeleton > Bent fingers

I don’t like the standard, flat hand pose of the skeleton, so I took a heat gun to the fingers, bent them back and held them with tape so that they’d freeze into more of a sinister pointing gesture.

Still, I found the body too symmetrical and too much of the organ details were getting lost, so I ripped back the plastic skin on the right side of the torso and even went so far as to cutting a couple of ribs, bending them outwards under heat, simulating some unfortunate trauma.

Corpsing a skeleton > Final rib cage closeup

I broke a few ribs and tore back layers of plastic skin on the body’s right side since much of the organ details had been lost, buried under layers of flesh.

The final corpse had the majority of the rot on the body’s right side.

Corpsing a skeleton > Closeup final head and torso

Torso of the nearly finished product. (The only addition was to hit the organs with high-gloss clear enamel to maintain a wet look.)

I finished it up with high gloss clear enamel, concentrating on the goriest bits for that fresh, moist look. I think that, when actually staged for Halloween, a good touch would be the inclusion of crows, rats or bugs.

Corpsing a skeleton > Finished corpse

The whole figure, hung to dry from a tree.

For my next body, I may try a dusty, ancient partially mummified corpse for one body or perhaps a burned body. Alternately, I may build up more of the face and body with plaster cloth before corpsing the body.

The funny thing is, there is an aspect of this that isn’t easy for me. Ever since I was a kid, I kept my toys fairly pristine. – For example, I was never one to put stickers on something I owned. Even now, I like the look of the untarnished original skeletons. But clearly, I’ve not left this compulsion hold me back.

As I gleefully work on these projects, I’m left to wonder why I get some fiendish enjoyment from creating Halloween spooks. But truly, one of my ideas for fun in distressing and gorifying the pile of prop bones and skeletons that I have piled in my house in the hopes that I can scare the bejeezus out of someone.

Oct 12

September 2017 – Quote of the Month

“This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.”

~ Mary Hunter Austin

Sep 28

Seasonal Candy

Halloween candy spotted in a store.

So what? – it’s September 28th! ‘Tis the season!“, you say.

The photo was taken on July 31st. (I kid you not.)

On second thought, maybe it was just very late candy from last year…

Halloween Candy in July

Sep 13

August 2017 – Quote of the Month

“I think some of the funniest and most artistic people I know are the ones who had a hard time at school. They often have humility and artistry. So, as much as I feel bad for kids who have to go through a rough childhood, I believe that if they can turn it around, it’s going to make them better people later on.”

~ Drew Barrymore

Aug 18

Monumental Mistakes

Since Dear Leader Trump’s recent comments regarding the Charlottesville demonstrations and related violence, I’ve seen many people on my social media channels offering a defense of the Confederate monuments. (Supplemented with bogus stories about the Confederate flag.)

First, an overview of where I stand on some related matters:

  • I’m heartfelt advocate of freedom of speech, and that means unpopular speech, even speech that qualifies as ‘hate’ speech. Now, there are nuances to be explored here, such as: speech that incites violence and concerns about censorship from public media companies such as Google and Facebook that would be worth a post by themselves. It isn’t popular speech that needs protecting, it’s unpopular speech that needs the protection. But in short: I support the right of the KKK and similar hate filled groups to peacefully protest, write and speak and the best way to eliminate this speech is by the propagation of better ideas.
  • I’m against the mob actions where confederate statues are pulled down and destroyed, in ignorance or willful disregard of the civilized processes of a democracy You may be right, that a statue is offense, or you may be the taliban. – Be cautious in forcing your ideas onto others: you might be right today but you might be wrong tomorrow and then your mistakes are doubled.

Remastered Ghosts of the Past

Those points made, these monuments that celebrate the Confederacy and those who lead the rebellion need to be removed or at least recontextualized from their places of commemoration.

History cannot be erased, only our memory of it and it’s very fair to be concerned when we look to modify or update markers of the past. But similarly, we must evaluate if those markers are accurate, or just. Such is the case with the heroic depictions of Confederacy.

There were certainly brave people within the Confederacy. And there were no doubt many who fought from a sense of family and a type of tribalism. But the enterprise of the Confederacy as a whole was evil: it existed with the goal of continuing some 245 years of slavery in North America and any attempt at beatification of this monstrous, generational crime is the real attempt to whitewash history.

Jefferson Slaves

At Trump’s press conference he rhetorically asked: “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself: ‘Where does it stop?‘”

Jefferson (one of my favorite founders, I’ll note) was a slave owner. So, how do I square that with memorial’s to Jefferson? (Or Washington, etc.)

The difference being: there aren’t memorial’s celebrating Jefferson as a slave owner. In fact, if you visit Monticello you’ll find lessons acknowledging this fact and this miscarriage of his ideals.

Jefferson failed on the question of slavery when peers of his time did not, (including one of my other favorites, Thomas Paine).

But we don’t celebrate Jefferson for owning slaves. We celebrate Jefferson for the formulation of ideas that were better than the individual. – We don’t rebuke history, we look at it with a steady eye and honest heart: the good and the bad, so that we can learn from both.

History Lesson

At the end of World War II, the Germans took down the memorials of the 3rd Reich, placing them in museums and providing education around others.

We can learn from this. – Take the most noteworthy pieces, and place them in museums or grounds that provide context. Explain the history of the Confederacy, their leaders and the root cause: Slavery. (Those that aren’t of note can be stored for future consideration.)

The German’s don’t have Hitler Highschool, and neither should we.

Still disagree? What about this Kentucky memorial to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan. – It’s a nice looking piece of sculpture: cutting a nobel figure, complete with a plaque  giving the visitor a synopsis of his history. What else would want to know? Why be such sensitive snowflakes about this harmless statue?

The John Hunt Morgan statue on the lawn of the old Fayette Co. Courthouse on West Main Street in Lexington, Kentucky.How about the fact that the statue stands on one of the largest slave markets in the South? – How many people were torn from their homes, their loved ones, shackled and held as lifelong forced labor prisoners who’d committed no crime on this very ground? And what do we see? – A handsome depiction of a nobel Confederate General on his mighty steed – an enforcer for slave masters. Imagine if your grandparents, and their parents and their parents had been slaves and you had to walk past a statue celebrating their captors on the very grounds where they’re lives had been sold. Many of our fellow American’s don’t have to imagine.

Don’t kid yourselves, these statues tell lies but it’s not too late to set the record straight.

Aug 09

July 2017 – Quote of the Month

“The crucial test of ethical values is whether they apply to strangers, and those afar, not just in our midst.”

~ Bernard Crick, Essays on Citizenship, 2000

Jul 27

iPod Sunset

In 2014 Apple announced that it would stop supporting its professional photo management software ‘Aperture‘. Since then, I’ve been in the slow (and painful) process of migrating my photos to Adobe’s Lightroom. As such, today, I finally got around to importing a batch of old photos from October 2005 and came across this picture.

In 2005, I’d taken this photo of my, then new iPod (3rd Gen, I believe) and all of the CDs I’d ripped to it. It was a marvel.

Completing the circle of obsolescence, today, Apple announced the discontinuation of the iPod. And like the loss of Aperture, I find this regrettable since I’m partial to creating highly tailored, custom playlists as opposed to streaming mixes formulated by some unknown DJ or cold calculation.

Dear iPod, your click-wheel may be lost, but it’s not forgotten. Play on!

iPod and CDs, October 2008

iPod and imported CDs, circa October 2008

 

Jul 27

Lettuce Spellcheck

I’ve never been a great speller, but c’mon!  – Eat ‘n Park missed the pun, “Salad Bar, Can’t be Beet! Let-Us Eat”!

Eat 'n Park Signage Misspelling

Jul 17

June 2017 – Quote of the Month

“Broken by it, I, too, may be; bow to it I never will. The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

Jun 27

This is in My Basement

Skeleton corpse with babydoll homemade Halloween prop

Everyone has to have a hobby.

Jun 21

May 2017 – Quote of the Month

“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”

~ George Orwell

May 30

Fluffy Pillow or ET Arms

Shopping at a local Sears Outlet, my eye was caught by a comfy looking pillow.

contour-pillow

Looking closer, I see that the manufacturer was kind enough to provide an illustrated guide on how to use the pillow.

contour-pillow-use-illustrations

Looking closer yet, I noticed the girl with the E.T. Arms.

contour-pillow-close-up

Ouuuuch…

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Fingers Touching

(PS. * Yes: I know, the pillow is supposed to be just that fluffy…Still, it’s disturbing.)

May 01

April 2017 – Quote of the Month

“Belief can be manipulated. Only knowledge is dangerous.”

~ Frank Herbert

Apr 07

Who Needs a Donation When You Can Like, Share and Pray?

Because I have brain cancer nobody wants to pray for me

I spotted this on a Facebook “wall” and found it nauseating. It made me angry. The post is exploitative and cynical on such a scale that it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t purposefully, carefully, engineered to be as misanthropic as possible.

I did a little searching to see if I could uncover the story behind this particular image. – So many posts like this are old and / or have aren’t even remotely accurate (in terms of what is actually depicted or their source).

I didn’t happen across the backstory (it appears to be a new meme). But I did come across this excellent article.

The essay makes several points:

When it comes to posts like this, one share does NOT equal one prayer. One like does NOT mean you think the baby with a physical disability or difference is “still cute.” One comment does NOT mean the sick child or abused puppy “will be saved.”

Here’s what you’re actually doing when you type Amen or share the photo on your wall:

  1. You’re exploiting what is most likely a stolen image of a child whose family has no idea it is being used.
  2. You’re making the owners of the page that posted it or the twisted people who stole the photo and created the post a whole lot of money.

Don’t get me wrong: I think there is value in sharing articles and raising awareness on issues. But the vast majority of these memes are bogus (and/or painfully out of date.) Even if this case of Bella with brain cancer is real, sharing it isn’t akin to raising awareness of a cause that gets little attention. “News flash: Cancer = Bad”.

And in what alternate world is a child with a brain tumor not receiving prayers? (The efficacy of prayer aside.) “Sorry kid. You know how it is. A brain tumor is a sign that god has marked you for damnation. I just can’t be seen praying for you. It wouldn’t go over well with the big guy.” Come on people! Do you really think a kid with cancer had to mock-up a graphic for facebook to get somebody to pray for them?! YOU ARE BEING PLAYED FOR FREE ADVERTISEMENT!

I’m confident that those who click, “Like” or share are people of goodwill, but besides the dubious source and quality of these memes, there is something of a cynical escape clause in every click.

It’s easy to hit the little thumb icon and feel good about oneself, but if you want to help a cause, REALLY help – consider a donation of your time and your money. – Don’t “Like” don’t share – you’re just chumming the waters for the cynical sharks of fake news and lining the pockets of the unscrupulous.

Care to help somebody suffering from cancer? Want to share something? Start here.

Apr 07

March 2017 – Quote of the Month

“Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…”

~ Jonathan Swift

Mar 31

Google Home-Freshner

I noticed this sitting window sill at the office.

Air Freshener on WIndow Sill

Google Home

 

Don’t let anyone kid you. The Google Home isn’t nearly as good as the Amazon Echo.

I must have asked it 20 questions and it didn’t answer me once. I do have to give it credit though: the office never smelled fresher.

Mar 09

High Security

As posted via the Twitter feed of Deadville and spotted on a locker in a public gym.

Combination lock with security code sticker still on the back

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