Summer Project: Octopus floor

I’ve been working on a home project this spring / summer — replacing the tile in our front hall. The original tile was a dark brown ceramic that really soaked up the light and looked pretty vile in my opinion — plus they were stuck down with some kind of brown glue/grout that was crumbling and another couple tiles would pop out and have to be glued back in every couple of weeks…
The above design was inspired by some Roman floors in the ruins of Herculaneum… and is only about 1/2 of the way done. Most of the tile was salvaged — the yellow tile is a thick Italian clay tile and the off-white tile is a thick white/natural marble. Most of the off white marble tiles were just fragments, so I smashed them up into irregular bits with a hammer and then fit them together like a jig saw puzzle. The blue and brown squares are a cheap glass mosaic tile I bought at Home Depot — 9.99 a square foot. It’s only been mortared — I’m going to grout it when I finish the whole thing.
The octopus is going to be filled in with various shades of blue ceramic tile (I think — I am still working on the color scheme). The brown you see in the picture is actually a thin layer of masonite I had to affix to the floor. Cutting the ‘octopus’ shape out of masonite and fastening it down was the hardest part of the project so far. The rest was just work intensive — finding little irregular bits that would fit together and then cementing them into place. Because the tile I will be using for the octopus is half as thick as the marble and the yellow ceramic tile, I had to underlay the design in masonite so that the whole would be level when I am done.
Hopefully later this summer I’ll post a pic of the finished product.

Some old artwork

I was looking through an old hard drive a few days ago when I came across a lot of B&W (and even some color) illustrations that I did some time ago, some of which have been published. Since I enjoyed this stroll down a visual memory lane, I thought some others might too. I’ve added whatever I can recall about the illustrations in case anyone is interested.

Click on the image for a closer look.

I can’t remember the year — 2001? 2002? The above illustration is from the roleplaying game, “Spaceship Zero” published by Green Ronin and written by Toren Atkinson (who also illustrated much of the book). The above image is of the ‘Spaceship Zero’ being battered by meteorites.

I did a lot of work for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics over they years — I can’t remember the title of this one but it involved a quest across the desert. One of the ‘events’ in the adventure describes the players (who are pictured here atop a sand dune) being attacked by desert bandits… and the desert bandits are driven off by a swarm of locusts. As usual, I drew with pen, brush and ink on paper. This is one of the few drawings where I added a ‘zipatone’ style texture (tone) to the sand.
I can tell this one is from 2001 because I helpfully thought to write ‘2001’ down in the corner next to the guy’s foot. As I recall, someone contacted me and asked me to do some gratis illustrations for their (wait for it) super hero RPG set in the Renaissance. And they wanted me to include all of the characters they had been playing over the years. And I was doing all this for free. I didn’t really like the idea of the game that much, but was trying to “break in” to RPG illustration… so I agreed.
Initially I was enthusiastic, but every time I emailed the guy a drawing, he would first say, “Looks great!” and then later email me back with a laundry list of things that the rest of his group had decided needed changing. After they rejected this drawing because they thought the soles of this guys shoes looked too modern, I decided that the advice I had been given before by another artist (“work that people don’t pay for is usually not regarded as valuable”) was good advice and bowed out of the project. I don’t do ‘freebies’ anymore.

This is another Goodman drawing… of some kind of demon idol. There was another drawing of the same statue with a special arrangement of the hands of the idol, and the players were supposed to re-arrange the fingers of the idol to get past a trap or something — but I don’t remember what that was. I have copies of all of the modules I worked on for Goodman and should look it up.

Another Goodman illustration — this of a party of hapless adventurers dying in the desert.

There are a few color illustrations from this time, including this one from the back cover of the Goodman adventure entitled, “Dreaming Caverns of the Duergar” I think. Here we see two duergar armed with flails charging forward to defend a statue of a dragon.

I (heart) the Snail Flail

Some of the monsters of AD&D are so silly that I can’t help but love them. Number one on my list is probably the ‘Flail Snail.’ Imagine a snail, about the size of a pony cart… buy where the head should be are a bunch of tentacles, each of which ends in a spiky ball that the snail can wave around and smash things with. I’m guessing that, being a snail, it’s slow moving — so running away from the snail should present no problem… except the flail snail has a shell of dazzling, iridescent colors that glows, hypnotizing anyone who gazes upon it. So instead of running, you will just stand there, slack jawed, staring at the shell while the goddamn snail pounds you into a jelly with his tentacles. Like the runt of the litter, a creature that has been the subject of so many cries of, “How stupid!” or “That’s lame!” just makes me want to love it more.

In searching the interwebs for pictures of flails, snails and flail snails, I was interested to discover on a medieval history blog that there is a history of knights confronting snails illustrations in the margins of various medieval books. According to the author of aforementioned blog, illustrations of knights fighting or about to fight snails occur too often to be accounted for as the obsession of one or two insane illuminators — apparently this was some sort of inside joke or medieval psalter meme that has been lost in the mists of time.

Update: Looking at the blog roll, I see that Vaults of Nagoh has updated his blog with a link to the snail vs. knight motif in medieval arts: The Witless Warrior. Chris even posted this brilliant example:

Frontiers (Movie: 2007)

Frontiers is a 2007 French horror movie directed by someone named Xavier Gens and starring a bunch of people we don’t know in the US because the only French actor Americans have heard of is Gerard Depardieu and he is not in this. I heard someone call it “The French Deliverance” — but its not at all like Deliverance. There are no hillbillies who rape canoeists, but there are neo-nazi cannibals. There is no river but there are some creepy mines, a pig farm, a shoot out with automatic weapons and a weird hotel. There is a lot of blood and corpses and other stuff. At one point one of the evil people turns on a table saw… and as soon as the saw blade starts to spin you just know someone is going to get ripped apart on it… and in this way the director does not disappoint. In fact, you get to see people get shot, stabbed, broiled, beaten, etc., throughout the film. If you like violent slasher films with high production values, this is the film for you (providing you speak French or can read subtitles). It is like Deliverance in one respect: at the end of the film, everyone is either emotionally destroyed or dead.

The movie starts with some disillusioned young men (and one woman) who have taken advantage of the confusion from a riot in Paris to pull some sort of heist — what sort of heist is not explained, but they have a bag full of money. The cops are after them so they decide to get out of Paris while they can and end up at a Hotel which is obviously not listed in the Michelin guide. Here, after a strange sexual encounter the creepy occupants of the hotel and our erstwhile heroes come into extremely bloody conflict — the gore in this film goes from wince-worthy guy getting shot in the hand to ridiculous who-turned-on-the-firehose jets of blood. There were a few horrific scenes that really had me wincing (including one where a poor guy is suspended upside-down by means of hooks right through his feet — ouch! — and a really mean old nazi does something particularly horrible with a pair of pincers).

I think the movie is not particularly well known in the US, I guess because a) most people in the US who are willing to see a movie in which meat hooks and table saws figure prominently don’t want to have to read subtitles to find out what is happening, and, b) the film got an NC-17 rating which is apparently the kiss of death for theater distribution.

Not for the squeamish or faint of heart… but I’d recommend it.

Exquisite Corpses reviewed

Nice review here from Mike Monaco where his 5 year old daughter apparently got some enjoyment out of ‘Exquisite Corpses:”

As always I’m still flogging Exquisite Corpses:

Exquisite Corpses reviewed

Nice review here from Mike Monaco where his 5 year old daughter apparently got some enjoyment out of ‘Exquisite Corpses:”

As always I’m still flogging Exquisite Corpses:


It is my birthday!

Bestiary Entries (3)

Here are three unusual creatures which may be of interest to the traveler or fantasy naturalist.

Arrowsnake: The arrowsnake is an unusual snake that has a sharply pointed diamond-shaped head and two small feathery wanes on the tail that resemble the fletching on an arrow.

This unusual snake can be found lurking alongside trails and paths and attacks it’s prey in the most unusual of manners. If a flexible sapling and thicker tree are availible perpendicular to a well traveled portion of the pathway, the arrow snake will hook it’s neck around the sapling and then use it’s tail to hook around the tree and, using the natural springiness of the sapling, draw the sapling back. It can hold this pose for hours or even days. When suitable prey passes along the path, the snake releases hold on the tree and straightens its body, using the sapling as a catapult to hurl itself forward like an arrow, and, if it’s aim is true, piercing the target. The arrowsnake has also been known to select a pliable branch, grip that in it’s teeth, prop the branch between two trees and use a third tree and it’s tail to draw back the branch like a bow; when prey passes it’s hiding place, the arrowsnake releases it’s hold on the rearmost tree and pierces it’s pray with the considerable forward momentum obtained in this manner.

Unlucky or nearsighted arrowsnakes who miss their targets have been known to embed their own heads in trees where they can easily be dispatched or left to starve. In any case, the canny or ethically challenged traveler will often insist that a companion proceed them on the woodland trail if arrowsnakes are suspected.

Cautious travelers will wear a rather bizarre looking (but effective) protection in the form of a large ‘sandwich board’ costume.

Closet Sloth: The closet sloth is a temperamental and anti-social creature about which very little is known. How it ends up in closets among the seldom worn garments is not understood, but if disturbed it reacts with violence. These creatures may hang for weeks or even months in the backs of seldom visited closets and will normally be content to remain hanging, attempting to be mistaken for a moth eaten fur coat of obsolete style and low quality.
They enjoy the smell of mothballs and prefer darkness.
If a shabby fur coat should suddenly appear in your closet, best to just leave it alone. This writer would suggest you simply avoid the closet altogether and purchase a new coat or jacket which you can store by hanging over the back of a chair or banister until you are certain that the closet sloth has moved on.

Peccadillo: The peccadillo is an armadillo/chicken hybrid which will roll itself into an armored ball if offended. Although repulsive in appearance, the peccadillo is not particularly aggressive or dangerous.

Albert Fish (2007): Film by John Borowski

I watched “Albert Fish,” a film by John Borowski about the American cannibal and serial killer (upon whom characters like Hannibal Lecter of “Silence of the Lambs” are supposedly based).

Albert Fish (1870-1936) was a traveling house painter who claimed to have killed and/or molested children in every US state after he was caught. He was sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair for the murder of a young girl, Grace Budd, in 1928. The exact extent of his crimes are not known.

The film uses documentary film clips (many of which, based on my observation of the vehicles, are actually from the 1940s and 1950s rather than Fish’s era), photographs, interviews and re-enactments of portions of Fish’s crimes as well as dramatizations of visions that Fish claims to have (or might have had). Since Fish was into some pretty sick stuff (coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia and masochism), these clips are thankfully less than explicit, but the production value of the film is on the low end. Other than some scenes like closeups of a whip hitting a boy’s buttocks, some fake blood and the actor who portrayed Fish drinking blood and eating a piece of what looks like raw flesh from the arm of an actor portraying Jesus Christ (a dramatization of the theme of one of Fish’s religious fascinations that may have led to his cannibalism), the visual content of the film is not overly strong, but the storys told and the letters from Fish, in which he describes his crimes are pretty gruesome.

The film features some interviews with Katherine Ramsland who speaks at some length as to what she thinks might have motivated Albert Fish to commit these crimes. Ramsland is apparently a ‘true crime’ author and a writer of books and articles on the supernatural. I found it humorous that as she was interviewed, I could see a shelf of books over her shoulder upon which, prominently displayed, was “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Criminal Investigation.” Seeing that book did not make me find her arguements more persuasive.

Moloch: Now thats what I am talking about!

The above is a still image from Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian sci-fi film, Metropolis. Freder, hero of the film (and son of Master of the city) has a vision in which the machine that the workers tend become an idol to which the workers are sacrificed.

Moloch is (or was) a god who was worshipped by the ancient Hebrews (among others) and apparently demanded costly sacrifices. Apparently there are references in the Bible that suggest that children were sacrificed to Moloch by burning them. Moloch is sometimes described as a metal idol in the form of a man with a bull’s head which doubles as a furnace.

It’s been decades since I have sat down to watch Metropolis. Although the actors performances are pretty weird by today’s standards (there is a lot of over-the-top grimacing and pointing and gesturing and everyone wears makeup, including some pretty outrageous eyebrows as I recall), the sets and special effects really are like expressionist paintings come to life… and I remember one somewhat (unintentionally) comical scene in which an engineer who tends the machines beneath the city attempts to ward off a mob by swinging an obviously rubber wrench (it flops and bends like a massive rubber dildo). Great inspiration for settings and images, though — the picture above needs to be the setting for some sort of dero sacrificial rite…

It’s probably difficult for us to understand how radical the film might have been — in the 1920s in both the US and Germany, striking workers could count on being sent back to work by force and their strike leaders killed or arrested. Many were in virtual debt slavery while a tiny minority of the extremely wealthy lived lives of unbelievable decadence (the Weimar era parties in Berlin were famous for fountains that flowed champagne, orgies, sexual slavery, all-you-can-snort cocaine buffets and other examples of ‘off the hook’ conspicuous consumption that apparently make Dennis Kozlowski look like an amateur). All this while the working class were struggling to keep living at a level just above starvation. One of the consequences, unfortunately, is that when the socialists and police began battling in the streets for control, the fearful populace sprang right into the arms of the Fascists… but that’s a story for another time.