Friday, 20 October 2017

Coffin Vampire Hunter Kit

Last year I saw an article about vampire hunter kits in museums and thought they were super cool. Then I read other articles about how they're fake (like this one).

Fake or not, they're still cool, so when I was perusing the dollar store just after Halloween and came across a small wooden coffin, I thought I'd make my own.

I found one again today, so it's still a craft you can put together before Halloween depending on the pieces you use (mine took a while as I bought some items from China to flesh it out).

Now, to save time I decided not to remove the metal clasp and hinges. If I did this again I would definitely remove them as they cause complications when painting, but you can do this the 'lazy' way too.
 Step one is to paint your coffin. I primed mine first with gesso (it's a base for paintings that makes the wood/canvas not soak up as much paint). I then painted the outside and the inner walls with black acrylic paint. Once it was dry, I used a spray on varnish (this protects the paint so it doesn't chip off easily). Make sure not to close the coffin until the varnish is completely dry. I ended up chipping my paint by closing it early and had to do some touch ups.

To line the inside bottom and top of the coffin I cut out red velvet paper and glued it down. Felt or craft foam would work just as well for this.


I wanted a vial of 'holy water' and so took a small glass craft jar and filled it with water. I used regular wax to seal the cork and - because I wanted to be fancy - I tied a piece of cord around the jar and used red sealing wax to hold it in place. I carved a small seal out of stamping material and pressed it into the wax, but that's not really necessary (though it does look cool). If you want to do something similar potatoes make good temporary stamps. I'm sorry about the poor photo quality. The seal has a cross with some letters next to it (it's an old Medieval design I found online). Remember that if you carve something similar, any letters need to be backwards so they'll emboss the right way around.



 For the stake, I took a stick and whittled one end into a point. I sanded it smooth and then blended some black, red, and brown paint (to look like dried blood) and smeared it on the tip.











When my pieces from China arrived, I added a mini Bible and a silver cross to the case.

And here it is, my finished Vampire Hunter Kit, ready for this Halloween.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Shout-Out: The Innocence Treatment by Ari Goelman

You may believe the government protects you, but only one girl knows how they use you.

Lauren has a disorder that makes her believe everything her friends tell her-and she believes everyone is her friend. Her innocence puts her at constant risk, so when she gets the opportunity to have an operation to correct her condition, she seizes it. But after the surgery, Lauren is changed. Is she a paranoid lunatic with violent tendencies? Or a clear-eyed observer of the world who does what needs to be done?

Told in journal entries and therapy session transcripts, Ari Goelman's The Innocence Treatment is a collection of Lauren's papers, annotated by her sister long after the events of the novel. A compelling YA debut thriller that is part speculative fiction and part shocking tell-all of genetic engineering and government secrets, Lauren's story is ultimately an electrifying, propulsive, and spine-tingling read.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Video: Black Panther trailer

I'll admit that most of what I know about the Black Panther comes from the comic's intersection with X-Men 10 or so years ago. But this trailer looks incredible. I can't wait to see this film.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

History Book Review: African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia by Marilyn Heldman

Pros: deals with an under researched topic, lots of high quality images, excellent supporting information for catalogue items

Cons: parts are very dry and academic, a few catalogue items have no images, out of print

The book consists of the following chapters: 1) Introduction, 2) Dreaming of Jerusalem, 3) Ethiopia Revealed: Merchants, Travellers, and Scholars, 4) Church and State: 16th to 18th Centuries, 5) Ethiopic Literature, 6) Ethiopian Manuscripts and Paleography, 7) Linear Decoration in Ethiopian Manuscripts. 
After dealing with the background information, it continues with the Catalogue, consisting of 8) Maryam Seyon: Mary of Zion, 9) Aksumite Coinage, 10) the Heritage of Late Antiquity, 11) the Zagwe Dynasty: 1137-1270, 12) the Early Solomonic Period: 1270-1527, 13) the Late Solomaic Period: 1540-1769.

I found the introduction to be quite dry and academic. While the information was interesting, the delivery was such that I had trouble paying attention. This is followed by a section on Ethiopian contact with the outside world, that is, writings about Ethiopia by outsiders, which was quite interesting and engaging. Then follows several slightly more in depth chapters dealing with the Christian church in Ethiopia through the centuries. These give a bit more grounding in the monarchy and how it used the church to maintain cohesion and power. There’s a tiny bit of information on conflicts with Muslims and contact with Europe (and Jesuits) in later centuries. The chapters on literature and manuscripts were both very interesting. I was amazed by how many Ethiopian manuscripts have been preserved via microfilm and digitization, mainly by the HMML (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library). [If you’d like to see their collection, viewing manuscripts online requires a free account. Your application is reviewed by one of their librarians before being granted.] The final chapter before looking at the manuscripts themselves gives a cursory examination of harag decoration. Similar to Celtic knotwork in appearance, harag are “a type of illumination made of bands of colored lines interlaced in a geometrical pattern and used to frame the pages of Ethiopian manuscripts” (p.63). The artwork changed over the centuries.

The catalogue begins with a discussion of the importance of Mary, the mother of God, in Ethiopian devotion, and comprises numerous images of her. There are some comparison images that give local context for some of the elements (for example, a photo showing the entrance to a holy sanctuary with a checkered design around it that explains the checkered background for an icon of Mary). 

The second chapter of the catalogue goes over Aksumite coinage. I didn’t expect it to be as interesting as it was. It’s a great example of how historians must glean information from minimal sources. In this case, the Aksumite kingdom has left little trace, so much of what is known about their kings is due to their names on coins. The coins are shown to scale, which makes the images quite small and it’s sometimes hard to see details.

Most of the catalogue images are shown in colour on black backgrounds. The rest are inset with the descriptive text in black and white. In some cases more than one image of an object is used (both sides of a processional cross, several manuscript pages) but not always. With manuscripts, all of the miniatures are mentioned, even if only a few pages are displayed. Similarly, in cases where only one side of a double sided object is shown, the other side is described in the text. I love how some entries have supplementary images to help show how different aspects of art influence each other. Unfortunately, in a few cases images of the catalogue items themselves are omitted.

While there are a few things I disliked about this volume, on the whole it’s an exceptional collection of Ethiopian sacred artworks. It’s a real shame that this book, created for a specific exhibition, is now out of print, because it’s a much needed look at a rarely studied country. Ethiopia doesn’t get much mention in medieval (my focus) or other history textbooks, so this is a brilliant addition for anyone wanting to expand their understanding about the rich history and artistic traditions of this amazing country, if - like me - you can find it used.


Monday, 16 October 2017

2017 Sunburst Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's winners of the Sunburst Awards for excellence in Canadian literature of the fantastic. The winner of each category is in bold, followed by the other nominees. This information comes from their press release.

Adult Fiction Award
Young Adult Fiction Award
Short Story Award
This year's jury consisted of: Nancy Baker, Michel Basilières, Rebecca Bradley, Dominick Grace, and Sean Moreland

Friday, 13 October 2017

Movie Review: Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon)

Directed by Fritz Lang, 1929

Pros: good science fiction

Cons: slow, overly expressive acting

Professor Manfeldt’s theory that mountains on the moon are made of gold prompts a group of powerful businessmen to hijack the moon mission planned by Wolf Helius.

This is a long (two hours and fifty minutes!) and slow moving film. The first hour deals with the theft of Helius’ plans and the insinuation of a new member on the mission. The flight to the moon is interesting, showing the first countdown to launch and a few scenes in zero gravity (while they show the need to hold on and a few people floating around, they didn’t have small items - like items in the mouse cage, aside from the mouse - float), as well as a two stage rocket. The scenes on the moon were entertaining, if in no way scientifically accurate.

The sets were pretty good. And while the rocket ship doesn’t look much like what actually took people to space (inside or outside), it’s a decent attempt at guessing the future.

As a silent film the actors made up for the lack of explanation through dialogue by using overly expressive hand and facial gestures. At times this worked, while at others the actions seemed to contradict the text cards.

The music on the Kino Classics edition was excellent and really heightened tension in some areas of the film.

I wasn’t really sold on the romance. Wolf Helius obviously likes Friede Velten and his jealousy over her choosing Hans Windegger makes him avoid their engagement party. There are hints that Friede likes Wolf more than Hans, though Hans is - at first - more inclined to let her follow her dreams. When Hans later falls apart, I didn’t like him as much, though I’m not sure Wolf fares much better with his stern demeanor.

 Given how little time is spent on the moon compared to the rest of the film, I’m surprised by the title. “Mission Moon” or some such (recognizing it would be in German) would have been more accurate. 


It’s a great film if you’re interested in the history of science fiction or silent films. It’s more involved than I’d expected, and kept my attention despite its length.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Shout-Out: The Last Amazon Kickstarter

I got an email about this kickstarter project for a near future post-apocalyptic photo realistic graphic novel. It's written by Jamison Stone and illustrated by David Granjo.

Synopsis:
In a near future, World War 3 lasted only three minutes. The world was ravaged by the fallout with two major opposing factions rising from the chaos: The Denver Denizens and The Azureus Islands.
Danni Winters was chosen to live on The Azureus Islands, a place advertised as the last oasis on our war torn planet. At first Danni was ecstatic about moving away from the troubles of the world, but she wasn’t selected by chance. Danni soon discovers she has mysterious powers and abilities which can tip the balance of power in this precarious post-apocalyptic world.
After a terrible event, Danni’s new life is destroyed, pushing her to use her newfound strength to face a brutal encounter with the “Amazons,” an army of killer robots created to not only protect Azureus Islands, but become the next generation of military force upon planet Earth. Only through determination, power, and trust in her new abilities will Danni have what it takes to uncover the truth of her past and defeat The Last Amazon.

You don't get the book until the $30 hardcover pledge (and oddly enough there's no PDF only tier).

There's more artwork and a video on the website if you're interested in learning more.