Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blowing Bubbles

Detail from the Isabella Breviary, Southern Netherlands (Bruges), late 1480s and before 1497, British Library, Additional 18851, f. 470v

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Children's Games (detail) 1560

Hendrick Goltzius Quis Evadet? 1594

Karel van Sichem: Homo Bulla, around 1617

Attributed to Jaques de Gheyn II (Antwerp 1565-1629) A vanitas allegory: Homo Bulla Est, a boy blowing bubbles while another watches and a young woman holds a skull by candlelight

Bartolomeus van der Helst Homo Bulla: A Boy Blowing Bubbles, c.1665

Here are more.

Making soap bubbles goes back at least as far as the 14th century: it was one of Froissart's boyhood amusemants

Monday, February 11, 2013

WSJ on Gun Control

When some people believe they need to shoot several other people, there is no question that the lack of a magazine holding more than ten rounds would impair them.

When some people believe they need to shoot several other people, the impact of them not having a magazine holding more than ten rounds is questionable. "For a practiced and calm shooter, swapping magazines takes no more than a couple of seconds. And a swap may not even be necessary if the shooter has multiple guns..."

The cognitive dissonance, it burns.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Handel with Zeppelins

Handel is wonderful, but even more awesome WITH ZEPPELINS. Which the Glyndebourne Opera provided in their 2005 performance of Giulio Cesare. Also fezzes, and fezzes are cool. WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED?

Lack of Zeppelins was a missed opportunity for the Branagh Magic Flute, if you ask me.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Space Marines V

Rocket Pack by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

He peered through the grimdark with his IR goggles. Off on their left flank a formation of Elvi had just unleashed one of their traditional choreographed ripplefire volleys, the stocks of their Dallyguns coming to their shoulders in a perfectly synchronized wave. As usual, it looked impressive as hell. Also as usual, it told the enemy exactly when to duck.

Space Marines IV

Friday, February 08, 2013

Space Marines III

Spaceman with Umbilical by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

The Space Marines! The Space Marines!
The wonderful, glorious Space Marines!
When chitinous aliens are seeking your spleens
Who do you call for? The Space Marines!

Space Marines II

Alien by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Sergeant Hardrock of the Space Marines bounded across the barren landscape, his enormous duck-foot sabatons  leaving deep prints in the ash. He understood their necessity: with the powered armor and weapons weighing half a ton, it was the only way to keep ground pressure within reasonable limits. But he hated the way they spoiled the generally intimidating look of the armor. There was a reason that recruiting posters only showed the Space Marines from the knees up.

He paused and triggered the voice activated controls. "Scratch back. Up. Up. Left. More. Stop."

At least they had finally got that right in the Mark VIII hardsuit.

Space Marines

Disintegration Gun by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

"There will come a day" said Commander A'ragorn of the Space Marines as he slung his still smoldering blast rifle and surveyed the charred greenish Orch corpses that surrounded them "when we will meet an alien race that hasn't been ripped off from Tolkien and had the serial numbers filed off. But today is not that day."

He struggled with the sling, silently cursing the grotesquely oversized shoulderpads of his space armor. Not for the first time.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Epic Citadel of the Space Marines

Epic Citadel of the Space Marines by ~WillMcLean on deviantART
This illustration of space marines is available for purchase, as a print or on many fine products. Watch this blog for further products celebrating the venerable SF trope of space marines, that has become a generic commonplace of the genre, yet still finds new value in new forms for many artists.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Games Workshop Claims It Owns the Term "Space Marines"

Space Patrol by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Games Workshop has apparently taken the position that their trademark of "Space Marines" allows them to prevent authors from writing about space marines without their permission, or at least authors unable to afford expensive litigation like M.C.A. Hogarth.

This is a trademark claim, not copyright, so extensive prior use doesn't prevent the claim. What makes it bogus is the long and frequent use in science fiction of space marines as generic description. It's like trying to trademark the use of "chocolate cake". Also, no reasonable person would confuse Hogarth's space marines with GW's hulking brutes in cartoonishly oversized shoulderpads.

If you're a GW customer you may want to tell them, politely but firmly, that this kind of behavior is damaging their brand.

Shame on you, Games Workshop. Shame.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Early 15th c. Recipes for Sealing Wax

[Fol. 173, v.]
For to make reed wex. Take a pound of whight wex, and throwe therinne a quartroun of terbentyne, and melte hem two togidere; and if thou wolt asaye it if it be weel gummed, caste a litil in coold watir, and thanne asaye it if it be tendre, and if it be tendre it is weel gummed. Thanne loke thou have redy oz. 1 of vermyloun, smal grounde, al so smal as ony poudre, and whanne thi wex and thi terbentyne is hoot molten, anoon rijt throwe yn thi poudre of thi vermeloun, and sette it adoun of the fier, and styre it weel, and meynge it weel togidere til it be coold, and thanne thou hast good reed wex y-mad.

For to make grene wex. Take lj. 1 of whight wex, and quart 1. of terbentyne, and medle hem togidere, and asaye if it be weel gummed as thou haddist the rede wex right in the same maner, and thanne take an ounce of vertegrece smal broken, and y-grounden upon a marbil stoon, and throwe it in the matere, and styre it til it be coold, and thanne thu hast good grene wex. 

Quartroun: quarter of a pound

Terbentyne is not spirit of turpentine, but terebinth resin. Dammar resin is used similarly in modern encaustic painting, mixed with beeswax to add gloss, toughness and hardness, and to raise the melting point. 

I have been unable to obtain terebinth resin, but I have experimented with mastic resin. Terebinth is produced by the terebinth tree, Pistacia terebinthus and Pistacia palaestina.  Mastic is produced by the mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus. They are members of the same genus, and so closely related that Pistacia saportae is believed to be a hybrid between P. terebinthus and P. lentiscus.

Mastic and dammar have similar properties when used as a varnish or to temper wax, but less dammar needs to be added to the beeswax for the same hardness, and mastic is much more expensive.

I experimented with a mixture of mastic and beeswax, in the proportion of the above recipe. Mastic has a higher melting point than beeswax, so I melted it first on a pan with a digital thermometer, and then mixed in beeswax. The result, as expected, was harder than untempered beeswax, with a higher melting point. It seemed somewhat softer than a typical recipe for contemporary encaustic medium which uses one part dammar resin to six parts beeswax, but a dammar based recipe could achieve similar hardness by adding more beeswax.

Wax for wax tablets would probably use a higher proportion of beeswax than sealing wax. Artists' encaustic medium would serve well as sealing wax, but I believe from my experiments that three parts beeswax mixed with two parts encaustic medium would serve better for a writing tablet.

Encaustic medium using dammar resin is available, with our without pigment, from any well equipped art supply store.  You can make it yourself, and if you want it in quantity you will spend less on materials. The process is tricky, however, since the temperature at which dammar resin dissolves is awkwardly close to the temperature beeswax starts to smoke. And smoking beeswax is a bad thing.

For small projects, I believe prepared encaustic medium is a better starting point.
British Museum MS. Sloane, No. 73 in British Archaeological Association. 1845. The Journal of the British Archaeological Association: for the encouragement and prosecution of researches into the arts and monuments of the early and middle ages. London: British Archaeological Association. Vol. 1 p. 152