Monday, April 30, 2007

MP3 Owners Group Ride Video

Video of the first meeting of the Three Wheelers Club, a group of Italian MP3 owners, in Rome 04/21/2007.

Some nice footage of Piaggio MP3s being put through the paces on some Italian twisties. If like me, you just can't get enough of these awesome three-wheeled wonders, you should check it out.

via Buchu on Modern Vespa

Robert Williams Interview

All right one more. This is a much more recent and higher quality interview with pioneering "low-brow" artist Robert Williams. Some really good bits here.

Some of Williams paintings can be seen here. (Warning: Adult Content, NSFW)

Robert mentions in the interview that the "low-brow" art magazine he founded, Juxtapoz is now the second biggest selling art magazine on newstands... That's really interesting...

Ed Roth Interviews Von Dutch

Sorry for the long drought of posts. I've been putting in 16 hr shifts in the studio (more on that later) and my web searches have been turning up resources for some longer posts I hope to be publishing soon.

That was at least, until I came across this great video of custom car legend "Big Daddy" Ed Roth interviewing pin-striping legend Von Dutch. Von Dutch comes across as a real character. The video quality is horrendous, but stories and insights that Von Dutch shares are just awesome.

And that, cats and kittens, is your real world applied art history lesson for today.

via USCGBoatie on the Kustom Kulture forum

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kucinich Introduces Articles of Impeachment on Dick Cheney

From the Washington Post:

QUESTION: Just to follow up, when you say the vice president led us into war, wouldn't that be President Bush? Isn't Cheney working for Bush? (inaudible)

KUCINICH: Well, let's go into Article I. "Mr. Cheney: 'We know they have biological and chemical weapons.'" Said this in a press conference on March 17th, 2002. "We know they're pursuing nuclear weapons." He said this in a press briefing on March 19th, 2002. "He is pursuing, activity pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." He said this on "CNN Late Edition," March 24th. "We know he's got chemical and biological, and we know he's working on nuclear."

"Meet the Press," May 19th: "But we know Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons." "There is no doubt he's amassing them against our friends, against our allies and against us." August 26th, 2002.

On and on and on. "He has in fact activity and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." September 8th, 2002, "Meet the Press."

"He has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." March 16th, "Meet the Press."

This vice president was a driving force in trying to create the circumstances to justify the United States's attack against Iran. And he not only deceived the people of the United States, and the Congress of the United States, he deceived the American media.

And so these articles are tightly focused on the conduct of the vice president. And to the extent that they may reflect in some way on the conduct of the president of the United States, is another matter for another day.


KUCINICH: I think the record is very clear, that this vice president used his conduct of office to promote a war and Article I and Article II are very clear that he conducted himself in such a way as to use the power of his office to promote that war.

And so this relates to the vice president. And I think I answered the question earlier about why the vice president and not the president.

The whole transcript is worth reading.
Kucinich has really thought this through. He is introducing the Articles independently, not as a partisan action on the part of the Democrats, whose leadership has said impeachment is off the table. I think Kucinich is right on with this.

Earlier in the transcript :

KUCINICH: It's not appropriate for the government to lie to people. It is wrong for government officials -- you know, the vice president, in this case -- to take this nation into war based on lies.
And so, again, this becomes a question of who we are as a people. And so this resolution 333, articles of impeachment against the vice president, will let future generations know that no one is above the law of this country and that Congresses have the specific responsibility to provide a check to administrative abuse of power. That's the way the framers set this government up.

QUESTION: Congressman, Speaker Pelosi has said on more than one occasion she's not interested in impeachment.
Have you had conversations with her on this, or some exchange, in your mind...

KUCINICH: No, I have not discussed this with Speaker Pelosi.

I want to stress that this is not a partisan action at all. I have not confided in anyone in the leadership of my party, because I take this action beyond partisanship, beyond party, as an obligation and commitment to my nation and my loyalty to America and my willingness to say, "Stop the lies. Stop the lying. Stop the dying that's occurring in Iraq over lies."

It's imperative that America stand for the truth. It said in the Bible, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Well, let then these articles of impeachment help set our nation free from the lies that have enveloped our governmental process, the lies that are trapping us still in a war in Iraq, the lies that could take us into a war against Iran.

This is about the truth.

The actual articles can be viewed here.

Commentary from John Nichols @ The Nation:

Cheney was far more aggressive that President Bush in peddling manipulated -- or, to use a more precise term, "fantastical" -- intelligence before the US invaded Iraq. And, once the war began, Cheney promoted the illusion that a connection had been found between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network so recklessly that Bush, himself, was finally forced to correct his errant vice president. That puts Cheney at odds with the checks and balances requirements of the Constitution, and with the oath he swore to obey that document's demands.

Cheney personally coordinated efforts to attack former Ambassador Joe Wilson, and Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, after the veteran diplomat revealed that the administration had cooked up a "case" for attacking Iraq that was in conflict with information that had been made available to the White House. That is an abuse of Cheney position similar to the ones that the House Judiciary Committee cited when voted overwhelmingly for the third article of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon.

Cheney has been the administration's primary defender of torture, so much so that the consistently cautious Washington Post referred to him in an editorial as the "Vice President for Torture." That creates a conflict not just with the Geneva Conventions but with the 8th amendment to the Constitution's bar on cruel and unusual punishment.

Cheney has for decades argued for an expansion of presidential powers that far exceeds anything intended by the founders of the Republic, and with his calculated moves to disempower Congress, to keep official meetings and documents secret, and to get the president to operate by executive orders and signing statements, he has dramatically and intentionally undermined the rule of law and the Constitution.

I urge you to weigh-in with your legislators on this issue.

Dick Cheney is not Jack Bauer my friends. If there is a Jack Bauer in this narrative, it is Valerie Plame.

Something is rotten in the White House. If these abuses of power are allowed to pass by unchecked, we will be establishing a precedent which renders much of our constitution meaningless, and nurturing the potential of unrestrained and unaccountable despotism in the executive branch.

This is not a partisan issue. Bloated, debt ridden, unaccountable governing used to be what the Conservatives stood against. This has ceased to be a party politics issue, and has become a constitutional issue. Kucinich was just the first on Capitol Hill to recognize it as such.

Interesting Gun Violence Statistics

The New York Times has a fascinating graphic depicting daily firearms fatalities. The picture it paints is probably not what you expect.

I thought Tupac was the posterboy of shootings. Turns out it's Hemingway.

I was thinking that victims would be predominately young black males 17-30. I guess this was wrongly formed by living near gang areas in Little Rock in the 90's. In reality the likelihood of being killed by a gun increases if you are male, if you are white, and it significantly increases with age. Out of an average of 82 gun deaths a day, 45 are suicides. 25 are suicides of white males over forty, the largest single group.

via Neatorama

Steampunk... Hip Hop?

OK, maybe not Steampunk, but Victorian at least.

Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back through a Gilbert and Sullivan lens. Oh, and it has pirates. What more need be said?

Well, I do say, when it comes to the fairer sex, the periodical Cosmopolitan has little to do with my selection...



Monday, April 23, 2007

Get on Your Bikes and Ride!

I'm having an excellent day...
After about a week of feeling uninspired and discouraged with painting, I had a great painting session last night and another this morning. I got a lot accomplished on several pieces and I'm excited about where they are going...
Did a little yard work after that, and then took the bike covers off the scooters.
I'm normally a year round, foul weather rider, but in late November I laid Jes's Sprint over on some black ice. I was going pretty slow so there wasn't much damage, but both right side signals got crunched and the gear selector got misaligned. Just fixed that yesterday, but flooded the scoot when trying to start it.
Today, I swapped the single saddle it came with for a new Corsa that has been waiting to go my P200 while I finish the paint.
I got it started right up and took a couple of short rides around the neighborhood. Great first rides of the year. Being able to stretch out (I'm 6') improved the riding experience significantly. The weather was lovely, and the backroads smelled like Spring. Of course you also have to understand my neighborhood IS backroads, and looks like this:

The road we live on is really just a long drive way shared by six houses. The scene directly above is about two city blocks down the main road from us. One of the most southern tendrils of Puget Sound, the aptly named, Mud Bay.

The rest of these are about 3/4 of a mile from that first photo, at another finger of Mud Bay.

The stretch of road North-West from my house (the opposite direction from the areas in the photos... but whacha gonna do? They're all from last Summer too, but you get the idea,) is full of nice twisties and rolling hills, as well as scenic shore line. So those little "runs around the Block" while testing out tuning are generally a blast.

It looks like Crystal over at Girlbike was in a similar position today. After her first ride of the season, she posted some tips on Spring riding and things to keep an eye out for. Worth checking out whether you've been stuck in a cage since November like yours truly, or scootin' it hardcore all winter long.

Shadows - I rode through some beautiful back roads that are normally stress-free, but this time of year, on a sunny day, when the trees don’t have their leaves yet, it looked like the road was covered in zebra stripes. This was pretty disconcerting since it made it difficult to focus on the road or see hazards like sticks or rocks.

I experienced the same thing on my backroad ride. I also went through a few patches of road dust with petals which were hard to distinguish from gravel. Also if your bike has been stored for a month or two, be sure to check your tires for wear and proper pressure.

But most of all have fun.

I'll see you out there.

heads up on the Girlbike story from 2StrokeBuzz

Open Call for Scooter Artists

I was scouring the scooterbbs today, searching for the answers to some dilemmas I'll get into in another post. Anyway I came across this announcement from April 19th:

As many of yous know, every year, there is a BIG scooter rally here in the good ole US of A.

It is called AmeriVespa.

This year, it is happening in Seattle Washington..

As it happens, there are a few venues that everyone is going to hangout at and it was decided that it would be sweet if we had some art to hang on the walls for the scooterists to admire.

So here are some of the details:

No larger than 30" X 30"
2 or 3D; sculpture, photos, paintings or video art. We will make acceptions for size in some cases.
YOU are responsible for postage BOTH ways (if you want the piece back).
The promoters of Amerivespa split the sale 60/40 with you getting 60 percent of the sale.

Please e-mail me, Kurt, at for details of how to submit your entries.

We've gotten a few really good submissions so far without even trying, so I know that there is some fantastic work out there ready to be seen!


Cafe Racer--Seattle's Best Scooter Bar

I'll be emailing Kurt soon to find out about deadlines and the like, and will keep y'all updated.

Hmm... now to paint some scooter art...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Blackheart Gang: The Tale of How

Cabinet of Wonders has a post up on the Blackheart Gang's The Tale of How, probably the freshest piece of web-released animation I've ever come across. Very difficult to describe this gem, much less classify it. Here is part of Heather from Cabinet of Wonders attempt:

This thing is wonderful, a sort of opera, with animation that looks as though it was printed on damask silk. I detect the influences of Chinese paintings, Indian miniatures, frescos, and some of the beautiful and funky creatures and machines I've been seeing in the past few years in some of the more obscure 3-D games.
Personally I see it as part Hokusai, part Doctor Seuss, part clock punk, and part Lovecraft, with a healthy dash of Terry Gilliam's old-school Monty Python animation.
All of that is besides the point. You simply must watch this lovely fairy-tale for grown ups. It's a 70mb Quicktime file, though, so give it a chance to load. It's wonderfully enchanting.

4096 Color Wheel

This is a great little web app.

A color wheel that, as you mouse over it displays the hexadecimal code for the color, it's closest websafe corollary, and the closest websmart color, as well as showing you those colors. That in and of itself makes it a powerful visualization tool and resource.
But if you click on a spot on the wheel, you not only get the above codes, you get a a value scale of the color, and the color gets saved in a sidebar with the websafe and websmart codes. Click on more colors and they stack in that sidebar, so you can build a color scheme.


Once, long ago, monitors could display only a restricted number of colors without dithering or other color discrepancies. The traditional solution to this problem was to use a restricted color palette known as the Netscape 216 colors, browser-safe colors or the web-safe colors. In hexadecimal form, the web-safe colors are composed of three pairs of identical hexadecimal digits selected from 00, 33, 66, 99, cc, and ff; for example, #000000 is black, and #cc0000 is red.

Time passed, as it so frequently does, and new hardware supported thousands or millions of colors. People grew tired of the old 216 colors. They wanted more earth tones, more variety. The web-smart colors are those 4096 colors composed of any three pairs of identical hexadeximal digits (0-9 and a-f), such as #dd1188.

The unsafe colors are the full set of 16,777,216 hexadecimal colors, featuring any color between #000000 and #ffffff, such as #5a832d.

via Reddit

File Under: Kids, Don't try this at Home

Q: What happens when skater punks get too old?

A: They trade their Vision decks for Vespas.

via Scooter Dave

Saturday, April 21, 2007

DIY Brass Goggles

It doesn't get much more steampunk than brass goggles... (or Brass Goggles heh, heh, heh...)

Here's a Flickr photoset on the construction of a beautiful set of brass and leather goggles, perfect for your next scooter ride, or airship voyage.

via Street Tech

Bling Yer Vespa: Spinners!

John over at Who Rides a Vespa? has post up on his recent acquisition of spinnin' rims for his Vespa.

I feel it does look nice on the scoot. The first time a few people saw it, I wasn’t so sure if they honestly liked it since the compliments never came with a straight face. It’s always with a grin or even a laugh! I’m now kinda use to it actually. I now know its an automatic reaction for such a contraption, especially on a scooter. It’s not even an accessory anymore, IT’S A BLING-BLING! hahaha!

The gent he bought these from was selling them on Ebay, but doesn't currently have any listed. It sounds like he makes them for the modern automatic Vespas, but can customize them for vintage manual scoots.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Most Expensive Bicycle in Portland...

set Intel consultant and sometime Libertarian candidate Mitch Shults back a cool $13k. Somehow I think this might be a case of penny-foolish and pound-wise, though. With an electric assist motor and aerodynamic fairing, this baby will do 35mph on a flat, 25mph uphill on a 7% grade, and has regenerative braking.
I really think this is (one of) the wave(s) of the future...

"What I think I'm demonstrating here," he says, "is that the notion of a human-electric hybrid vehicle is really a practical alternative to an automobile for most of what I need to do in an urban setting."
So, is he doing it to save the earth?
"If this were to become widespread, it would go a long way toward addressing our global-warming issues, gasoline prices, and most importantly, healthcare issues, because people would have to get some exercise in order to get around."
The same person who designed the Smart Car designed Mitch's bike, but he says the similarities end there. "A Smart Car really isn't that smart in the sense that it still burns gas," he says. "I'm burning bacon and eggs, croissants...and a few electrons...and getting some exercise in the process."

Mitch's bike is a Velomobile.

Steampunk Digital Camera

bOINGbOING just posted this "locket camera" with the critique that it is Flava Flav big. Yeah, it sure is, but this photo from designer Lindsey Pickett's portfolio site, shows how the design can be quite practical.
Granted the 1881 concept design is shown in other pictures on her site as a pendant style locket, and it does seem a tad unwieldy for that use. Though it is cool, that it opens up locket style to reveal the lcd screen(s). This is the part of a digital camera I am always most worried about damaging, and the chain would prevent loss, which can be real downside to the convenience of a pocketable camera.
Now if this thing would actually get produced...

The Day Late and a Dollar Short Movie Review: Wild Hogs

Jes and I recently caught a showing of Wild Hogs, influenced somewhat by Roadbum's recent review.
Really, the "dinner and a movie" classic date was our highest priority, trying to distract my sweetie from the anniversary of a family tragedy. Somehow we got our movie-times confused, and opted for Pathfinder instead... left after the first ten minutes of this flick, which is sort of like the old Kirk Douglas Vikings meets Dances with Wolves, do to the gratuitous violence. The gentleman at the service counter was extremely helpful, gave us tickets for a later showing of Wild Hogs, and saved our pop corn bag, and soda cup for us, telling us we could get them refilled when we returned. Jes and I were both pleasantly stunned by the actual polite "service" we recieved, so kudos go out to Keith at the Regal 16 in Lacey.

Anyway, Wild Hogs is a fun little flick. Sure, it won't be winning any Oscars, but it has a great cast, and you get the feeling like they had fun making this film. There is a real mellow, good natured chemistry between the actors that is palpable, and makes the movie a fun ride. It's a guys buddy comedy, so there is a lot of locker-room humor, and mildly homophobic humor, but even Jes, who is pretty sensitive to that, enjoyed the movie.
The main conflict is between the yuppie "weekend warriors" and a gang of old-school desert bikers. Predictable, sure, but the old school versus new school conflict pops up a lot both in motorcycle culture and scooter culture, so for me, at least it worked. I don't think you have to be a biker (or a scooterist) to enjoy Wild Hogs, though you probably would be better off waiting to rent it. Bikers who are looking for something light hearted, that jokes and plays with the standard biker stereotypes, should get enough chuckles, snorts, and genuine belly laughs, to make it worth theater (or second run theater) prices. There is, of course, a cameo by Peter Fonda at the end, with a feel-good message reminding the viewer what two-wheeling is all about.

Peter Fonda really seems to have built a small career on these types of cameos. (I haven't caught his turn at Mephistopheles in Ghost Rider, yet.) I'm not complaining, his surfer in Escape from LA is one of the best things in that movie. That being said, he can be a damn fine actor, check out Ulee's Gold, a great performance which netted him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Four Twenty!

That's right kids, it's April twentieth, commonly called "Four Twenty" here in the states, and you all know what that means right?

That's right, it's Peter S. Beagle's birthday! Author of the retro-scooterist classic, I See By My Outfit, the orginal tale of cross-country scootering.

So to celebrate, go fill your yard with lovely smelling smoke... two-stroke smoke, that is.

Gee, what did you guys think I was talking about? Hitler's Birthday? The Last Unicorn? Beltane Fires? Let's stick with the program shall we?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nice Illustrator Tutorial

Mainly posting this for personal reference... A good Adobe Illustrator tutorial for creating comic-style, pen and ink looking art.

I can do some serious mojo in Photoshop, but just never had the need to learn Illustrator. My spidey-sense (or would that be Dragon-sense?) is tingling that I may need to master this tool soon, though. If you are in the same, or a similar boat check out this link.

This tutorial will cover:
1. Sketching - How detailed to get in your sketch?

2. Scanning your sketch.
3. How to set up your Illustrator file.
4. Tips and Techniques to digitally inking your sketch using vector lines.
5. Tips and Techniques to coloring your vector illustration.
6. Polishing it all off!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kevlar Hoodies

One mark of scooter culture is that scooterists rarely want to wear traditional Motorcycle gear. While we may be adverse to roadrash, scooter forums are frequently peppered with newbies asking for sources of protective gear which won't make them look like "a power-ranger or a Hell's Angel."
Well here's a new answer to that inquiry. Bladerunner Kevlar hoodies from the UK. The Hoodie cost 65 British lbs. Couldn't find any info on their site about the possibility of having them shipped across the pond. They also have some nice kevlar gloves, which look very suitable for scootering.

SCTRCST, a PodCast for Scooterists

I just discovered Dave M.'s SCTRCST (that's Scootercast without the vowels) via a linkback.
Listened to Episode 6 part 1, which features a great interview with Steve Williams of Scooter in the Sticks, and have subscribed to it through iTunes, and I highly recommend you do the same. SCTRCST has been podcasting since January of this year, and I'm a little embarrassed I hadn't discovered it until now.
Dave gives the Dragon some props for uncovering the Scooter Nation trailer, so if you are just discovering this blog via SCTRCST, Welcome!

More on Combat Art

Larger version of this photo here.

I was cruising Reddit, just a bit ago, and I ran across a link to Eisenhower's oft quoted "Chance for Peace" speech, which features this quote, you've probably seen on bumberstickers:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Since this speech happened to be published on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Page, I thought I'd look around. My mother is an archivist with NARA, and happens to work at the Eisenhower Library, so I felt some familial obligation to do so.

Anyway, browsing the site, I found this page about Ike's painting. I found it pretty interesting, and rather than paraphrasing, will quote it at length:

Eisenhower was proud to have a hobby in common with Churchill. In 1958, Ike helped arrange for an American tour of the paintings of Sir Winston, who wrote that he would never have done it without the encouragement tendered him by his friend, Ike. It was the first time that a large exhibition of Churchill's paintings had ever taken place. Almost ten years later, in June 1967, Ike had his own exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in New York City. He consented to this because it served as a fundraiser for Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, New York, which opened in 1968. Most of the paintings were borrowed from those to whom he had made gifts. Upon seeing the exhibition, in his usual display of modesty, Ike said, "There are a half a dozen here that I would like to burn right now." He commented that if friends hadn't asked for them as memorabilia, most of the paintings would have ended up in the furnace. The paintings subsequently appeared on calendars and in print portfolios and in a large format book called The Eisenhower College Collection: The Paintings of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"Whether you feel that your soul is pleased by the conception or contemplation of harmonies or that your mind is stimulated by the aspect of magnificent problems or whether you are content to have fun in trying to observe and depict the jolly things you see, the vistas of possiblity are limited only by the shortness of life. Every day you may make progress; every day you may be fruitful, yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb." Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime

Eisenhower quoted these words from his statesman friend, because he felt they so "matchlessly described" his feeling about the "exhilarating moments of creating a picture" and the corresponding battle for proportion and harmony. He left in his art a unique visual record of people, places and things that mattered to him. His paintings depict the character of people, the history, and heritage of architecture, the beauty of landscape and his love of color. Painting was important to him, because he gave it his time, and time to him was "Frequently...a more valuable coin than money."
Eisenhower Paintings

It got me thinking about my recent post on Combat Artist Micheal Fay, and the strange things that come up when you start mixing the martial spirit with aesthetics. Immediately Miyamoto Musashi springs to mind when contemplating these issues. Generally considered the greatest swordsman in feudal Japan, his true martial legacy is as one of the greatest strategists of all time, on par with Hannibal, Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz. Musashi was also a highly accomplished artist. Is this an anomoly? Was he possessed of a personal philosophy or disposition which facilitated his accomplishments in these (to us) seemingly disparate fields? Were there cultural influences at work in his development of skills and talents? Our modern view of military and creative endeavors as being antithetical is certainly not something which has always existed, and the cultural values of feudal Japan bear this out. There is a difference between a warrior and a soldier, and Bushido at it's best is a warrior's code more than a soldier's ethic.

"When I apply the principle of strategy to the ways of different arts and crafts, I no longer have need for a teacher in any domain." - Miyamoto Musashi

All this contemplation, made me go back to Fire and Ice, SSgt Fay's blog, and start digging through his archive. Serendipitously, I came across his artist statement for a show he had a few years back with the same title as his blog.

It is also my hope that my work, though grounded in realism, is more poetry than prose, and more art than journalism. I do not want my presence in these pieces to be distilled away. I was there, in the heat, watchful and tense at the beginning of a dawn raid, surrounded by children at the edge of a soccer field littered with live mortar rounds, and bouncing down an Afghan highway pocked with shell holes and bordered by minefields. I have looked into the weary campfire lit faces of my fellow Marines in unnamed places and felt time suspend itself, and in that moment found myself wondering who's faces are these; Union soldiers before Fredericksburg? Roman legionnaires during the 4th watch of the night? Or, Greek hoplites facing Troy?

It has often been my field experience, while doing a sketch or a watercolor amid my fellow Marines, that my mere presence doing art has a positive impact, even during the most trying circumstances. This consequence was something I simple had never anticipated, and it has made me acutely aware of the humanizing effect doing art can have in the midst of war, one of the most de-humanizing of experiences.

Perhaps, the phenomena of the warrior artist stems from something as simple as the fact that war is conflict, and conflict is a crucible which reveals much of the human spirit and character which is obscured in day-to-day life. And it is exactly these kinds of revelations which fascinate many artists, and have fueled some of the greatest art.

One of my favorite comics artists, Joe Sacco, though not a member of the military, seems to be fast becoming a combat artist. His comic following a group of US Marines in Iraq can be seen here. (Warning: It's a 37mb PDF, so it may take some time to load.) This comic was published online by the Guardian UK, and is also featured in The Best American Comics 2006 Anthology. He has a new comic about training the Iraqi military in this month's Harper's but you have to be a subscriber to view it. In an interview in Mother Jones magazine a couple years back he had this to say about his realtionship to conflict:

MJ: Is becoming a conflict junkie an occupational hazard?
JS: I think it’s inevitable with anyone who’s covering these kinds of things—it’s interesting and on some level it’s just an adrenaline rush. Of course, I’m drawn to a place like Iraq because it’s the biggest story of our generation.

I'll end this ramble on the Art of War, a little closer to home, with Olympia native Jeff DeLaCruz. Jeff was activated and deployed to Iraq during his senior year of college. He was granted permission to photograph his experiences there, and upon returning home began showing his photographs under the collective title, A Soldier's View.

On November 27th 2004, only 2 months after returning to the United States, the photographer received news that two Iraqi interpreters, whom he had become extremely closes to, were driving home, stopped in Al Hilla and beheaded in an alley. One of the interpreters left behind a widow and 8 daughters.

The photographer was devastated by the news and decided it was time for a change. He started getting professional help and found it difficult but began to review his images finally. A benefit fund was started by another team member to bring the daughters over to the United States to go to school to honor their fallen friend. Displaying the images was a way to raise money for the family and another cathartic way to heal the wounds the war had left him with.

The realities that exist in war transcend politics and emotional simplicity. Just by looking at the show you'll see things that both conflict and support both pro and antiwar arguments. The extreme emotional and situational complexity of the war in Iraq cannot be surmised in a single phrase and therefore a simple, "I support or don't support the war" is not sufficient. This is why it's important that this show be seen, because finally there is a face people can relate to, something dynamic people can hold on to and a complexity that emotes a true rounded emotion that accompanies every tragedy we as humans experiences.

If you think this post has a hidden political agenda, you're wrong. Read that last paragraph again.

A previous meditation on the evocative powers of realistic art.

Scooter Nation update

Scooterist bon vivant PJ Chmiel has commented on the Scooter Nation trailer.

Wow, funny that I have to learn about this trailer fourth-hand on Stellaspeed! Yes, I took some documentary footage of my trip (mostly the first half, lost interest toward the second half) for a documentary filmmaker who is a friend of a friend, he provided me with the camera and tapes. I haven't even seen the footage, I just mailed him the tapes every few weeks. Wow, it kind of gives me chills to see that. I can't wait to see what they put together from the dozen hours or so of footage I sent them. I'm supposed to maybe go out to LA in a few weeks to do some narration and maybe packaging for this, but I have no idea what the finished product will be, how much of it will be of my trip and how much will be general scooter stuff. I interviewed a number of scooterists and shop owners along the way. Cool, thanks for sharing...reminds me, I need to get back to writing about the trip, I'm still in Louisiana on my website! Look for some kind of a self-published book about it in the future. Thanks for your interest and support.


He also pointed out regarding the post about his Flickr photo set of his Ramble:

Flickr screwed up my initial RAMBLE photoset (the one you linked to) so I deleted it and made a more concise, best-of set here.

Bad links are known to be the Devil's Workshop. Thanks!

Indeed they are, PJ, indeed they are. I'll get right on that.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great List of Photoshop Tips and Shortcuts

This is a great list of little timesavers for photoshop. Some of these I knew, some I'd forgotten, but there were a lot I'd never of heard of. I'm printing this and Commonly Used Photoshop Shortcut Keys out and taping them up near both of our computers.

26. Hold Shift and press “+” or “-” it will switch between the layer mode:
N = Normal

I = Dissolve
M = Multiply
S = Screen
O = Overlay
F = Soft Light
H = Hard Light
D = Color Dodge
B = Color Burn
K = Darken
G = Lighten
E = Difference
X = Exclusion
U = Hue
T = Saturation
C = Color
Y = Luminosity
Q = Behind 1
L = Threshold 2
R = Clear 3
W = Shadow 4
V = Midtones 4
Z = Highlights 4
***The shortcut works even for following situation:
***Alpha turned off, Indexed Mode, Line tool, Bucket Tools, Dodge and Burn Tools
27. While using Brush or any other tools, change the opacity by typing the number.
*** type one number for % of it’s ten times [4=40%]
***type two number for exact % [press 7 then 2 will get 72%]
28. Hold Alt while clicking on the eye icon beside the layer, it will hide all other layers.

via ABlogYouCanUse

Scooternation Trailer

I just found this trailer on YouTube. I guess PJ Chmiel's East Coast Ramble is now going to be a movie? A cursory web search didn't turn up anything about the project, but I'll keep you updated, if I find anything. Still, this looks pretty cool.

Revenge on a Scooter

Remember kiddies, customizing your Lambretta: Good.

Customizing your best mate's shoes on his wedding day: Not so good.

Still that pretty little scoot never hurt anyone, now did it?

Macho, Macho Man...

Not sure how I missed this...
In a recent post on the changes to the Suzuki Burgman line on The Scooter Scoop, Steve Guzman soundly deflects a comment on how scooters might reflect badly on his manliness:

Wow..that's nice.
Does it come with a matching purse? Perhaps a lovely brouch to hide the key in?
How any self respecting man can ride one of these things is beyond me.
I know when my real bike was getting serviced, I had to use the wife's Honda Scooter to get to work...I kinda felt like I was wearing ladies underwear...on the outside of my clothes.
No one said anything...but man I sure felt like they were going to.

And FTW, Steve's reply:

Well... I'm sorry that your masculinity is so fragile that a simple scooter ride might shatter it into a billion glittery, rainbow shards. I hope, for testosterones sake, that your real bike never has to get serviced again.

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times:
While some dudes feel the need to overcompensate for some perceived lack of manhood through their vehicle choice... Scooterists are so studly, they have no fears about downplaying it.

The Few, The Proud... The Artists?

The BBC has a nice slideshow up on Marine SSgt. Michael Fay, who is a an official US war artist.

Adrian Jones lost both his legs in Iraq. SSgt Fay says he does not shy away from such images: "If something I do is controversial, then the reality is controversial."

Years after Michael Fay posted a picture of Nick Ciccone on his blog, he heard from Ciccone's stepbrother the marine had killed himself. But the picture "made him alive for them". "The art had given him back to them," Michael Fay says. "It took on this whole life of its own. You never know what art is going to do."
Fay's Blog is here, and though I must say I find myself much more in accord with his aesthetics than with his politics, I think it's worth a look. There are some interesting bits there on the history of combat artists, and though I don't really agree with his politics, he's an intelligent well-spoken man, with a boots-on-the-ground perspective of the Iraq conflict.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weirdness, Geekiness are Genetic

The bad thing about having cool, weird parents, there is very little room for innovation or rebellion.
What I'm getting to is, my Mom blogs, and actually has been doing it for a few years longer than me. While she is far more infrequent in her posts than I, she definitely has the edge on writing quality, if not quantity.
That being said, her topics are generally not relevant to the over-arching creative vision of the Dragon (whatever the heck that might be.) Still I have to share her latest, wonderfully Fortean post with you:

Just one of those horror movie moments

I had to do a double take - I'd come home from work, checked the mail, read the afternoon paper and went up to the study to check my email. A quick stop at the upstairs bathroom halted me in my tracks.

There was a dead bird in the toilet.

I stared at it for a minute or two. Surely this couldn't be. How the hell did it get there. I looked around for some sign of how it might have gotten into the house, into the plumbing. No clue. I went back in the bathroom and, yep, it was still there. Still dead. After taking a moment to figure out how to get the poor thing out without actually touching I pulled it out stuffed it in the trash and took the trash out to the curb.

Thinking that I surely couldn't be the only victim of toilet-drowned birds I decided to google. Amazing how many hits the words 'dead bird in toilet' gets. The explanation was simple and logical. Critters get into the vent stack pipe on the roof of the house and sometimes can't get back out. They clog things up a bit, causing a kind of suction and, voila, the clog pops out at the closest opening, which just happens to be my upstairs toilet.

The guys at work got a chuckle out of it then one of them mentioned that he hadn't had a bird, but he did get a squirrel jammed in the vent stack. Twice. Definitely too big to pop out in the toilet he had to get a plumber to get the things out of the pipe.

This weekend I am definitely getting some screen to cover that vent.

Ghostface Killah

The Dragon has never been into Wutang, really, (when it comes to offensive high testosterone rap, I prefer something along the lines of Immortal Technique, I mean if you're gonna tick people off with your music, you should give 'em some truth to chew on, too ) but I got a commission to do three of these shirts. I tell you letting Jes wear an airbrushed shirt to work is the best promotional tool, ever. (Though I suspect Jes may be talking up my skills as well...) The first night she did this, she came home with five orders.
Anyway, so this subject matter is a little different than what I would choose, Ghostface is just a little too pretty, I like painting faces that are more craggy and leathery. That being said, I actually had a lot of fun doing this shirt... I'm just hoping I'm not sick of it by the time I get to the third one.

On sidenote, somehow I ended up with Ghostface's album on my computer, I guess from when it lived in the back of the bookstore. Since I like to listen to music by the pop star I'm painting, I gave it a whirl. Most of it wasn't really up my alley... but I really dug the song Momma, a little more soulful than the average hip-hop, worth a listen if you get a chance.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Zimmers, "My Generation"

This is so great! Respect for and valuing of our elders is sadly fading in our society, which is doubly sad because they are one natural resource which is expanding. Perhaps this project can help combat the horrors (and I do mean horrors, my friends, many folks treat their pets better than their elderly family members) of ageism.

The Zimmers are a band of elders who have just made my day. They have a CD due to be released in May, which was recorded in reknowned Abbey Road Studios. Other songs to be featured on their forthcoming release include 'Firestarter' by The Prodigy, and 'When I'm (one hundred and)64' by The Beatles.

Neatorama says:

The average age of The Zimmers is 78. Lead singer Alf Carretta is 90 years old! Other band members are 99 and 100 years old. The single will be released on May 14th, with proceeds going to Age Concern, an advocacy organization in England.

The Zimmers' MySpace blog

If you look closely as the camera pans through the group, you will notice Peter Oakley AKA YouTube star Geriatic1927, AKA The Internet Granddad, is part of the group. Peter's internet stardom itself is a great example of how technology can enable elders to connect to us whippersnappers, sharing their wisdom, and archiving much oral history which otherwise might be lost. His video blog about the project is also worth checking out, as is his website.

I'll leave you with this musical thought from John Prine:

Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day...

WTF/THE Mac Store Seattle

Flickr user Jeff Carlson has posted this photo:

Running "The" along the side isn't bad typography, but the lack of a visual break between the T and H makes me say, "WTF?"
Located in the University district of Seattle.(I should mention that the people at the Mac Store were great sports about my photo and asked for permission to put it on their home page, though it looks like it's no longer there.)
Updated: Since this pic has been dugg and is getting lots of traffic, please allow a quick plug for a new venture I've started up: Never Enough Coffee. Thanks!

Hey, no prob, Jeff, though you may want to know that the Mac Store is still using the photo, only now they are using it on their "About Us" page, which covers all their locations in the Pacific North West, not just the Seattle location home page you linked to.

I had a summer job at this store a few years back, when they were called “The Computer Store.” They’ve been around forever (in computer years), since the early 80’s, I believe. Of course there are a lot of really tech savvy folks there, which makes me wonder if the ambigous the/wtf is intentional…

via Neatorama

Lost Robert Anton Wilson Book Online

Klintron has posted this info on Technoccult, and not much else... but it's worth noting.
As a PDF.
As a text file.

Take me back to the days of the foreign telegram...

That last post got me to thinking about how I initially heard Cowboy Junkies. Synchronistically, the old friend who turned me onto them, just contacted me the other day, after years of missed connections. Now the Dragon, when faced with Synchronicities generally chooses to embrace them, so...
Really I guess I have to credit Finn with turning me onto Alterna-Country. I mean, I grew up on Willie Nelson, and loved "Cowpunk" (now there's a term that will date me!), but the more folky roots oriented late 80's bands who paved the way for Lucinda Williams and the like, most of those bands I first heard on trips to Finn's families' cabin up in the Ozarks. The Cowboy Junkies, Lyle Lovett, and Michelle Shocked. OK, maybe I'm playing fast and loose with genres here, but you get the point.
Funny thing is, this reconnection reminds me a lot of Shocked's Anchorage. Synchronicity, again.
Cement Lament
Come A Long Way "A series of moving postcards using the Michelle Shocked song, "'Come A Long Way". Shot on Kodachrome Super 8mm footage in Los Angeles in 2005. A film by Randy Caspersen."
Memories of East Texas Another fan video.
How You Play the Game, a newer political song.

Hey Finn, we were wild then...

Life's Good, But Not Fair At All

cowboy junkies - sweet jane
Uploaded by aquarius3

It's been awhile since I posted a bunch of cool music videos, and watching this great Cowboy Junkies song, really got me on a binge. I'm posting this, partly because for me at least, the song has become almost irrevocably associated with Natural Born Killers. Now that's a topic for another time, but Margo Timmins' voice... dude, that's a thing which everyone should learn to appreciate on it's own merits. Smoky and rich, like a peaty single malt scotch, it only requires the addition of simple subtle accompaniment to bring out the full depth of it's flavors. Maybe it ain't for everyone, but like that scotch, if you are one of the few who "get-it," well, you realize good taste is it's own reward.

Check out the Cowboy Junkies website. They've gone independant, and are no longer tied to a record company. Nice interview with Margo Timmins, talking with a lot of quiet wisdom about the recording industry, the difference between making a killing and earning a living, and artistic growth.

Also here's a video for Sun Comes Up

Now if you're wanting something a little more rollickin', check out this rare footage of Lou Reed performing Sweet Jane Live in Paris in 1974. It starts with a crazy 70's, coke-fueled, porn-star mustached back up band, and you can't even recognize the tune until about a quarter of the way through when the organ kicks in. But then Lou steps out, looking like Ziggy Stardust, like a Rock God, like well, like a Cowboy Junky, and well... well you should just see for yourself.

Also you can watch videos for these excellent later Lou Reed solo works:
Busload of Faith
What's Good?

There are even some evil mothers who will tell you, life is just pain and dirt...

Ain't it the truth, Lou?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ya Say It's Yer Birthday... Da Na Na Na Na Na Na

image via Scooter Swag

Yikes, I've been spending so much time in the studio, I missed The Scooter Scoop's second birthday announcement a couple of days ago.
Like many two year-olds, The Scoop is getting quite chatty (hopefully the "No!" phase will be skipped.)

Steve Guzman has been ranting "like a five year old boy talking about dinosaurs" the last couple days about crazy custom scooters. If that sounds snarky, it's not meant, because of course, The Dragon loves me some custom scoots.

Check out:
Lambretta with a VW Micro-Micro Bus Sidecar
The Vespadillo
Edward ScissorHands' Vespa
And last, but certainly not least,
The Big Daddy Ed Roth Kustom Kulture Kommerative Vespa

And if those jewels are not enough to prove to you the sheer awesomeness that is The Scooter Scoop, you should check out the world's only Scooter TV show:

The Scooter Scoop TV Episode 1
The Scooter Scoop TV Episode 2

Steve, congratulations, keep up the good work, and watch out for those nanobots!

Trash = Plastic = Fuel

From yesterday's New York Times:

WASHINGTON, April 8 — Scientists worldwide are struggling to make motor fuel from waste, but Richard Gross has taken an unusual approach: making a “fuel-latent plastic,” designed for conversion. It can be used like ordinary plastic, for packaging or other purposes, but when it is waste, can easily be turned into a substitute diesel fuel.
The process does not yet work well enough to be commercial, but the Pentagon was impressed enough to give $2.34 million for more research. The technique could reduce the amount of material that the military has to ship to soldiers at remote bases, because the plastic would do double duty, first as packaging and then as fuel. It would also reduce trash disposal problems, according to the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, known as Darpa.
Dr. Gross, a professor of chemistry at Polytechnic University, in Brooklyn, is turning plant oils, of the kind already used to make biodiesel, into “bioplastic.” The plastics can be films or rigid, as are commonly found in food packaging. Then he uses a naturally occurring enzyme to break down the plastic into fuel.
“It works in very mild conditions, lukewarm tap water,” he said. The enzyme, cutinase, is present in nature, made by parasites to eat through the shiny surfaces of tree leaves, so the parasite can suck nutrients out of the inner parts.



via Wired who have this comment on the story:

You see, military bases today produce an enormous amount of trash -- more than 7 pounds per day, per soldier. A big stinkin' pile of "personnel, fuel, and critical transport equipment are needed to support the removal and disposal" of that waste, Darpa notes. What's more, making those transportation runs is ridiculously expensive; the Office of Naval Research figures fuel on the battlefield costs up to $400 per gallon.

Strange mix of elements in this story, Alternative Fuels, Genetic Engineering, and Scientific Advances through Military Budgeting... I've heard rumors that the modern militaries reliance on digital gadgets was going to lead to massive breakthroughs in battery technology, but if this takes off... well then I guess we'll only have to kill each other over theological disputes instead of oil supplies... (I'm only half kidding, here.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Steampunk Anti-Art Class

I've been writing a post in my head for some time about the state of Art Education in 21st Century America for sometime. This post will be a brilliant rant, something akin to Daniel Clowes' Art School Confidential... or so I tell myself...

Well, until that time comes, I'll let you revel in the subversive creative joy that is Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Dr. Sketchy's is life-drawing for hipsters. Burlesque dancers as models, drinks are served, heck, drinking contests are held. The atmosphere sounds like a far cry from your Drawing 101 Life Study sessions, and that is intentional.

Their website's answer to the question, "What is Dr. Sketchy's?"

Dr. Sketchy's is what happens when cabaret meets art school.
Dr. Sketchy's is the little Brooklyn event that became a movement. Founded in 2005 by artist Molly Crabapple, Dr. Sketchy's asked a simple question. Why can't drawing naked people be sexy?
Here's our attempt at an answer.
We combed New York to find the most beautiful burlesque dancers, the most bizarre circus freaks, and the most rippling hunks of man. Then, every other Saturday, we let you draw them for three hours. Interspersed with posing are ridiculous drawing contests (best left handed drawing? Best incorporation of a woodland animal?) where you can win booze or prizes.
We hauled the lights, sent out thousands of listings, and wheatpasted posters during snowstorms. We also insisted on our models making the highest wages in the city.

From Dr. Sketchy's FAQ:

How is Dr. Sketchy's different from a normal life drawing class?
In normal life classes, silent students sit in a silent room and draw a bored, oft-uninteresting model. In Dr. Sketchy's we've got bodacious burlesque queens as models. We've got ridiculous art contests (best incorporation of a woodland animal? Best imagined costume?), good music and flashy prizes. We've got a selection of posh beverages- alcoholic and not- available to buy.
At Dr. Sketchy's, we don't care if you picked up a pad yesterday or 50 years ago. Come to drink or to draw. We're happy to have you.

How Awesome!

Dr. Sketchy's started in NYC, but they welcome the formation of chapters in other locales.

While it sounds like this at best relaxed, at worst boisterously decadent setting, wouldn't be conducive to creative endeavors, I must respectfully disagree. Some of the best life studies I've ever done, came from painting parties organized by artist Kevin Kresse, in Little Rock. Loosely organized parties designed to generate works for charity auctions without depriving artists of works they may have invested months of work on, these affairs were a real blast. This was particularly true later in the night, when only a few hardcore artists remained clustered around a model, passing a bottle of tequila, swaying and fencing with brushes to the blasting beats of Count Bassie.
Good times, and inspiring, too.

Also checkout Dr. Sketchy's Blog
(Warning, lots of pictures of sexy models, scantily clad in period gear, and in provocative poses. No nudity, so I suppose it's work safe, sorta... though it may be a little embarassing if your boss or grandma catches you browsing it.)


United States Founded as a Christian Nation?

Apparently the 4th US Congress didn't think so, and stated as much in this 1796 treaty with Tripoli.

Comment on the Treaty from Stephen Jay Gould's site:

Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

And Article 11 from that treaty:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

No to Theocracy. No to Christian Fascisim. And no to a "Holy War" under the guise of a "War on Terror." Sounds Damn Conservative to this observer.

via Reddit

The Coolest Thang EVAH on Ebay

There are times I am grateful that I am not rich. This is one of those times. I don't even want to contemplate the trouble I would get myself into with one of these. From the auction description:

Giant Megavolt Tesla Coil for Special effects
HUGE 300 foot Lightning bolts come out of this device

Do not turn on near airports or other sensitive installations. Generates Giant Lightning bolts from 80 to 300 feet tall going straight up. Uses 220 volts single phase at 30 amps. Noise will wake the dead. Might bring them back to life to, dont know for sure but dont try it to be sure.. I will not help you re-bury anyone you re-animate. This is not a toy. Buyer will be responsible for pickup and transportation. This was custom made for my boss by the same guy who builds them for Hollywood Special effects people in the 80's. Built into Mahogony wood furniture, control will support remote activation ( while under cover ). Comes with various books, papers, letters and a hard back rare collectable Tesla book too. This is not somthing you will see again in your lifetime. No its not UL approved. Resulting display can give goosebumps, make women flee and children to become incontinent. Use proper discretion when activating, recomend out someplace away from everything important. Does set off EMP detectors at the Feds Nuclear Monitoring stations, it looks like a 10-15 ton nuke going off on the detector. Have fun.

Bid is currently at $3,150.00.
Buy it now price is $14,850.00.

Supervilliany, and Steampunk Mad Scientist cred at a bargain price.

via Herr SkyMarshall on The Steampunk Forum

Monday, April 09, 2007

Honky-Tonk Heroes: Part 2

Here's my latest airbrushed t-shirt.
Mark Twain portrait. Not sure what else to post on this topic... but I know my artwork has a handful of fans so I thought I'd share.

Some original designs should be forthcoming, as well as the possibility of some more personally exciting news on the airbrushing front.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The best thing you'll read today.

I kid you not, this is the best piece of non-fiction writing I've read, so far this year. It's a little long, but it is riveting and rewarding.
I hestitate to say too much about it, because I'd hate to spoil it... perhaps I'll post more of my opinion on the article in the comments to this post.

Pearls Before Breakfast - From the Washington Post Magazine, April 08, 2007

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.


Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?


Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Fire Next Time: the Gilera Fuoco 500ie

Sweet Tangerine Dreaming Diaper of Buddha! The rumors are true, and this baby is gorgeous!

If a 500cc scoot based on the Piaggio MP3's technology doesn't melt your everlovin' mind, wrap your grey matter around this pic:

Oh yeah, baby, come to papa!
That's right a 500cc, onroad/offroad scooter.
Excuse me a moment, whilst I wipe the drool off of my keyboard...
Oh wait, look at the black one:

A very brief review of a test ride in Berlin is available here.

From the Gilera Fuoco site:

The steel tube frame conceals the powerful, reliable new Master 500ie double ignition engine, a 4 valve, 4 stroke unit with electronic injection and liquid cooling. The capacity of the new Master engine has been upped to 492 cc to obtain maximum power of 40 hp at 7,250 rpm and maximum torque of over 42 Nm at 5,500 rpm. The introduction of the twin spark system has also made it possible to optimise combustion inside the cylinder, with a reduction in noise and gas emissions. The result is a smooth, high-performance engine, very torquey at low and medium range rpm, that takes the Gilera Fuoco 500ie to a top speed of nearly 145 km/h while fully respecting Euro 3 norms thanks to the advanced closed loop injection circuit with a Lambda sensor and three-way catalytic converter in the exhaust pipe. The engine’s exuberance is skilfully managed by the sophisticated running gear. The innovative parallelogram front suspension’s tilt mechanism is composed of four cast aluminium arms, with four hinges fixed to the central tube and two guide tubes on either side of the parallelogram, connected to the arms via suspension pins and ball bearings. This means that the Gilera Fuoco 500ie is as easy to ride as a traditional scooter, while its incredible stability, especially when cornering and braking, comes from its two front wheels. Standard equipment includes an electro-hydraulic front suspension locking system that keeps the Fuoco 500ie upright without a central stand. This makes it extremely easy to park anywhere. What’s more, there’s no need to put your feet on the ground to keep your balance when stopped at a traffic light. Optimal rear end stability is guaranteed by a 14” rear wheel with a generous 140/70 tyre, while three 240mm disk brakes with dual-piston calipers ensure fast, efficient braking.

Fuoco is, of course, Italian for "fire". Which makes the Dragon contemplate how many "real fire" paint jobs he'd have to do on Harley tanks to earn the $9 -10k USD this puppy will probably cost, if Gilera (which is owned by Piaggio) has the sense to bring this to the US.

Come on Piaggio, this baby could really break the American scooter market wide open, especially if you can bring that price down some.

via Modern Vespa

I Wish I Had a Government

When I bemoan the state of the modern funny pages... Farside: gone, Berke Breathed: sporadic, Calvin and Hobbes: gone, Boondocks: moved on to greener pastures, and so on... I always forget about Dilbert. Pretty consisently funny. If you've ever worked in the corporate technosphere, though, sometimes its satire is so scathingly dead-on, even when it's at its most over the top, that it is scary. And when Scott Adams turns his wit from the corporate world to politics, watch out!
Take for instance today's post on his blog, "I Wish I Had a Government":

I’m so jealous of countries that have governments. How cool would that be?
Recently our so-called Speaker of the House was meeting with the Syrian government while our so-called Vice President was on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show reminding the world that the so-called Speaker of the House doesn’t speak for the United States in foreign policy. Foreign policy is the job of the so-called President who doesn’t speak to governments that don’t already agree with him.
Today I read that the Defense Department is releasing a report that there was no link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, at the same time that so-called Vice President Cheney was repeating his mantra that there was indeed a link. My tax dollars paid for all of that. I don’t think I got my money’s worth.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are poised for a big win during the next election based on their excellent track record of doing nothing for years. Doing nothing might not sound like a good strategy to you, but if you compare it to what happens when the government actually does something, you can make an argument.

Really, it's worth clicking the title link to read the whole thing.

Steampunk Vespa

A poor soul going by the handle Digit, recently asked for advice about modding a Vespa to be Steampunk, on the Steampunk Forum. They received, of course plenty of stellar advice, and was also subjected to my verbose musings on the topic. In fact, these musings were so verbose, and I spent so much time preparing them, that I figured I would share them here.

I've been thinking about this for about nine months, now... so I'll throw some ideas out, and address some of the other ideas that folks have tossed around.

Wood and woodgrain-- replacing those floor rails can be a big headache, depending on how extensive a shop you have, and how much time you want to devote to the project. Some discussion here. Learning riveting could be seen as pretty steampunk, so maybe you wanna go that way... I'm sure you could find them in brass or copper... Some folks use small nuts and bolts. Not as "pure" from a restoration point of view, but much easier. Another thing to consider about floorboards, is that this is where frame rust usually begins, so you want take into account preventing moisture buildup here. Also because this is a horizontal surface where moisture collects, you will want to seriously protect any wood you use (coat with urethane or epoxy, etc.) My solution to this is going to be to just paint woodgrain (not on the floorboards, though). Another option I've considered was applying a veneer and then coating it with a clear urethane. For my floorboards, I very carefully masked off the the floor rails, did some indepth treatments to the surface rust, and gave it a few coats of that rubberized truck bedliner stuff. I'm also going to coat the underside of the frame with this, to protect against road debris, and the inside of the glovebox and cowls, to cut down on vibration/rattle.

Painting-- some general "cheap painting" tips.

If you don't have access to professional auto-body facilities/equipment I'd just use "rattlecans" (spraypaint.) Sounds like you want flat black, so just get some inexpensive (not cheap, if you see the difference) flat black primer. The advantages of this are many... it's easy and cheap to repair future dings and scratches, and if you ever decide to restore the scoot, or really turn it into a "show" custom, you don't have to strip it down. The main thing to keep in mind with painting, is the prep. Really take your time masking EVERYTHING. And you don't need to strip the factory paint off, just deal with any areas that are chipped, scratched, or flaking. You'll want to sand or scotchbrite every surface that will be painted to improve the mechanical bond of the paint. And please, be careful about those fumes.

Here's a photoset of my painting progress.

I used Rustoleum antique brass and black night metallics.

Another fairly simple custom paint effect you might consider, besides cogs, would be painting it to look like panels riveted together.If you are going to get very intricate with stenciling I'd recommend a roll of either "sticky Mickey's" or Automask, available here.

Also, depending on how intricate you wish to get, you might want to look into airbrushing... that's whole other can of worms, but I'd be happy to post on it later, if you like. If you don't want to invest that much time and money into gathering equipment and skills, but still want to do some painting check out Montana spray paints. They make paint for graffitti artists, it's supposed to be really high quality and is available in a lot of colors.

Bluing-- When I sold art supplies, I had a customer, this wild old mountainman/hippy/hillbilly, who used Prussian Blue oil paint for gun bluing. I'm pretty sure it was oil paint, though I'm positive it was Prussian Blue (Pigment Blue 27, ferric-ferrocyanide). He had some esoteric process he used, which I can't remember, and haven't been able find online. (If you try searching for this beware, there is a Aryan hate-band named Prussian Blue.) But I think if you stripped your parts down to base metal, coated them with Prussian Blue oil paint thinned with an alkyd medium for greater transparency and faster drying, and then clearcoated this, you'd have a pretty nice blued surface that should be pretty durable... Anybody else heard of this? Ferric ferrocyanide is pretty interesting chemically, but unfortunately my chemistry knowledge is limited to art supplies...

instrument panel-- Some good suggestions here already... what I'm going to do, and what you might consider is installing a glove box on the inside of the legshield. This gives you a great surface for installing gauges, switches and such (or just painting them on which is what I'm going to do.)

seat-- While HAC is right that the solo seats look more "vintage," I've got long legs, and find that the solo seats force me into a riding posture that is uncomfortable for extended riding. I like the longer seats where I can stretch out more, creating a comfortable ride which is one of the great appeals of scootering over other forms of two-wheeled transportation. Your mileage may vary.
Headlamp-- I'm not sure about this, but I think it could be a real PITA. You should be able to find a wire grill to go over it though,(the black rat-Vespa in Hac's post has one) and that could probably be plated or painted to copper or brass. What model do you have? Does it have a battery? You can find all kinds of interesting aftermarket turnsignals and taillights for Vespas, and a lot of motorcycle ones will work as well. If your scoot does have a battery, I'd lay dollars to donuts it's 6 volt, so keep that in mind. Of course, it may have been upgraded to 12 volt, or you may want to do that yourself.

other mods-- crashbars are your friends! If you know resources for scooter parts, then I'm sure you've seen 'em. Mostly just available in chrome or powder coated black. I'd go with the powder coated, because it would be easier to treat/paint to look brass or copper. There are a variety of ways to go about this. You could just paint them to look like patinaed brass/copper. Or you could paint them with a "bronzing" paint which actually uses ground up metal as a pigment, then expose it to vinegar, and get honest to goodness patina.
You can also find thin sheets of brass with an adhesive on them at craft stores, that can be easily embossed and cut with tin-snips or a jewelry saw... this opens up all kinds of possibilities for cog and scrollwork embellishments without requiring much expense, equipment, or technical know-how. Another option for graphics is adhesive reflective vinyl film, like is used on highway signs. I'm using this to add some cogs to my scoot, it's available in lots of colors, and will dramatically increase your visibility to the "cagers" which is always a plus.
You might also want to watch ebay. I'm not sure where you are located, but I've seen some really cool aftermarket stuff from the UK there, which you just can't find on this side of the pond. Cool badges and fender crests.
a cool Vespa badge I found while digging around for this reply.

Anyway, Digit, good luck! And keep us up to date on your project... sounds like fun!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dedicated to everyone who comes from the boonies

A lot of kids I went to college with were really into French hip-hop. I liked it alright, but it never really hooked me, Until...

I just came across Kamini, a french rapper who the rest of the internet discovered like the end of last year. I'm posting him anyway, goldurnit! Because he has infectious beats, flow and a sense of humor that transcends the language barrier.

Seriously, watch the video before reading the loose translation below.
Still, he has become my current number one reason to learn French.

Dedicated to everyone who comes from the boonies
From some little one-horse town
You don't see no one there rappin aroun'
Not even a riff
A little hayseed town
Life goes on, they don't know you exist
Nobody knows your little one-horse town.
Not even that Osgood.stiff.

Kamini's my name,
From the hood--I ain't
Come from a place called Marly-Gomont
So, get with the beat, the beat, the beat that goes rum tum tum

You know in Marly-Gomont the roads ain't paved,
Average age 'round here 's about 68,
We got tennis, basketball, and that's about all,
but with just 3 guys in the village it ain't enough to play ball,
I come from the sticks, you can't get here by bus
There's 'bout 95% cows, and 5% us.

There's only one family with African roots there,
Hadda go and be mine, what a fuckin' nightmare,
Told my dad, "Might as well move to Alaska, dontcha think?"
Coulda gotten used to the cold and the folks up there.
And he said, "What the hell, you joshin' me boy? 'S gonna be all right."

Yeah right. First day at school when I was six
Bawling my eyes out, cuz o' those little pricks
You know what they called me?
Yo Africoon, yo banjo lips.
Yo, little Sambo--Outta the mouths of those kids came their parents' licks.

[Refrain x 2]
I ain't from the hood, but the beat's my own,
From the big city neither but from Marly-Gomont
The place ain't paved, the pastures are green
But you wouldn't believe the trash I've seen.

In Marly-Gomont there's no ghetto-talkin' stuff,
A little twang like this, that's good enough
Sometimes they like you,
"I don't like the Arabs, don't like no black.
but I like you fine, even though you're black."

Once in a while, they talk politics, you see
and maybe also philosophy
Anyway, what I say is, they're a rotten bunch
In their little one-horse towns, better not get sick
Or else you'll be in real deep shit, gotta go 20 towns away
30 miles or more, to find a hospital or any dman thing
Out there there's nothing but grazing fields.

Sometimes, on Sundays it's our soccer day
The stadium's a field so that's where we play
with lines scratched out, they set up goals and nets
On the local team, there's always some guy
Named Bubba: go Bubba, go", so they cry.

An' if no Bubba, then on the opposing team,
There's always some guy named Billy-Joe.
Go Billy-Joe, go, go, go!

A typical day out here: the mailman, a tractor, the mailman again, that's it.
Maybe one in a while, a cow goes by.

[Refrain x 2]
I ain't from the hood, but the beat's my own
,From the big city neither but from Marly-Gomont
The place ain't paved, the pastures are green
But you wouldn't believe the trash I've seen.

And in nursery school, I was the only black
and in primary school, was the only black
and in middle school I was the only black
From pre-school to junior high, they were on the attack
I got beat outside or in 'most every day,
but Dad always said, "Son: no fighting, okay?".

You know I wanted to rebel, torch something to settle some scores,
But we've got one bus for school, same for the center outdoors,
No point burning your neighbor's car
They don't even have one, they all got motorized bikes
And you know, the bakery, it's 5 miles away
5 miles? Every morning? On the motorized bike? [x2]

Hey do you know where Vincent's gone?
Did he sneak off somewhere without telling anyone?
Naah, we got nothin like that 'round here, eh,
He's just off somewhere on the motorized bike, hey
Motorized bikes are the backwoods subway car
So, get with the beat, the beat that goes rum tum tum

Dedicated to everyone who comes from the boonies
From some little one-horse town
You don't see no one there rappin aroun'Not even a riff
A little hayseed town
Life goes on, they don't know you exist
Nobody knows your little one-horse town.
Not even that Osgood.stiff.

[Refrain]I ain't from the hood, but the beat's my own,
From the big city neither but from Marly-Gomont
The place ain't paved, the pastures are green
But you wouldn't believe the trash I've seen.

(translation via Peter on Tim Worstall's blog)

The Honky-Tonk Dragon can relate, my friend.

Kamini's website
Wikipedia entry
A different translation and more info from the forum on Saul Williams' site.
A recreation of the video done in World of Warcraft.

thanks to Neatorama for the hookup, yo.