Sunday, January 31, 2010

Steampunk iPhone Wallpaper

I don't know that you can call my first effort at making iPhone wallpaper steampunk with 100 percent accuracy, but I had the spirit of steampunk in mind as I crafted it for the SidiPhone with the help of a few tutorials and Photoshop accessories.

I'm not sure why I felt a desire to trick out my new phone with steampunk touches. Maybe it was the new Sherlock Holmes movie, which felt a little steampunky and drove me back to the Sherlock canon for a December/January binge, or maybe it's just that turbulent times always make us look in different directions, namely backward.

There's a poem called 221B Baker Street, written in the '40s after the 20th century had been shaken by two wars. It celebrates the simpler time and world of the canon, a time where it's "always eighteen ninety-five" and where Holmes can always tie up things in tidy fashion.

Perhaps the constant improvement of technology and it's encroachment on our lives fuels--if you will--some of steampunk's current popularity.

At any rate, it resonates with me a bit at the moment. My effort above is ready for right-clicking if you're inclined to use it. Or if you want to make your own here's roughly how I got there, though this is by no means a step by step tutorial.

A tutorial from Abduzeedo on creating a vintage travel diary was my starting point and has links to stock art and many of the great Photoshop brushes that made it an easy job. The background is done with a brush from this Waterlogged Map collection.

Some of the gears and tools are from a couple of sets of steampunk Photoshop brushes found here and here. A few I didn't use are here. Maybe for Steampunkwallpaper 2.

I really just added a few bevels, texture touches and drop shadows to make the tools and gears look more real.

More steampunk fun
I ran across quite a few bits of steampunkery as I researched resources. Here are a few more links for browsing enjoyment.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Four On The Floor

So we’ve got the “Big Bang Theory” paused on the DVR while taking care of a couple of things around the house when the sound of thumping begins...

This was one night last week. You may have read my Twitter posts about it. Thought they might be my last words if not just a chance to get more handy with Twitterific.

“The weather’s really getting bad,” Christine said from across the room.

I was thinking I must be hearing pine needles hurled at the house like darts. My brain didn’t process hail as a possibility for a few more seconds.

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” I agreed.

Then the sirens started.

The next voice you hear
This burg’s early alert system looks like alien technology atop strategically placed poles. One stands about 30 feet from our back door. When they test it, it sounds like the voice of God booming through the evergreens.

I didn’t hear any spoken word messages. The howling winds must’ve drowned them out.

Please stand by
We flipped back over to broadcast TV to see if there were any reports, but the howling winds were interrupting the satellite signal.

Generally I feel invincible where weather is concerned, but things started to seem a little hairy. Christine, who is likewise not particularly skittish, said: “Maybe we should go a central location.”

I shrugged and followed her to the hallway. Something had to be making the sirens go off, right? Sitting on the floor, we called the cats to join us. You may recall from previous posts there are four of them. They sauntered in as if to ask: “Why are you sitting on the floor?” Then they sauntered back out.

“Maybe we should get in the bedroom closet,” Christine said.

“I’m getting the laptop,” I said, thinking wireless might work even if nothing else did. I’d already checked the weather on my iPhone, but the outlook for Cupertino was fine.

So we took the laptop with a streaming report from a local TV station to the closet, and I started catching cats one at a time.

The phone rang as I cornered the last feline.

“Let it go,” Christine said, thinking it was probably her father who lives one state over. He calls about the weather. He called once to see if we had snow seconds before I started seeing flurries outside. I’ve never figured out how he managed that.

Actually we learned later that omniscient early alert service telephones you to tell you you're doomed, just in case howling winds are drowning out the outside audio message. I’m kind of glad I didn’t answer. That might have made things seem serious.

So we found ourselves sitting on the floor watching the weather man report circular swirling motions detected on radar about five miles south of where we were sitting.

The cats didn’t like the sound of hail on the roof and wondered why we’d imprisoned them in the closet, but otherwise they seemed calm. Ash was particularly happy to have Christine’s polar fleece robe spread out for him.

That'd be, you know...
I looked toward the ceiling where boxes of comic books were arranged on a top shelf. The Joker’s face from the back of The Killing Joke grinned through the hand-hold of one carton.

How ironic it would be, I thought, if my comic book collection fell and crushed me to death.

Otherwise nothing really profound flashed through my brain, no PowerPoint show of my life, no real panic. Guess I wasn’t really convinced by the Sturm und Drang usually reserved for a night Lost is new.

The web stream continued to work through the whole period we sat there on the closet floor. I guess it was about 45 minutes.

In the old days—early 2008—we would’ve just had to sit in the closet until we stopped hearing sirens. Instead, we watched the orange and green Rorschach pattern gradually move East on th Doppler radar.

Happily I don’t think anyone was seriously hurt, though some surrounding areas experienced property damage. Eventually we crawled out of the closet and set the cats free and went on with the evening routine.

We finished The Big Bang theory the next night when things were quiet. By then, we could laugh.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kersh Without Covers

Besides a couple of 19th century horror novels, one of the first books I nabbed for my iPod's e-reader was Men Without Bones by Gerald Kersh, Harlan Ellison's favorite writer.

My Kersh is a little lacking.

Bones is proving to be an excellent way to catch up. The collection came out in the fifties and many of the stories appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. They have the feel of other short stories of that era.

They remind me a little of the slightly skewed weirdness of Shirley Jackson, meaning they're chilling in very subtle ways.

The title story is science fiction horror with a twist, recounted by a narrator who has just encountered a man from a lost expedition. The man details encounters with the men without bones, leading up to startling and eerie revelations.

My favorite story so far is one called "The Shady Life of Annibal," another as-told-to-story in which a scandal sheet journalist interviews a famous actress. She reveals secrets of her parents and her slightly askew early life.

It's a really nice find for the new year, and I'm looking forward to turning a few more of the e-pages.

Further reading
Get more details on the featured stories here.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The SidiPhone

I used to say, in those ancient days of 2005, it would certainly be nice to have my iPod and my cell phone wed.

Around that time Christine crunched some numbers and determined we'd come off well going to pre-paid cell phones.

They announced the iPhone, right after we bought these really nice LG phones that looked like racing cars. Alltel apparently sponsored a NASCAR driver. Who knew?

Anyway, with new phones and an insanely cheap payment plan, let's just say we weren't going to be moving to mechanized looms very quickly in our household.

Flashforward. I've finally worn Christine down. I got an iPhone for Christmas, so 2010 will be my 2007.

I promptly seized the 21st century technology and downloaded a couple of 19th century novels via an app called Stanza, though I got an app called Epi from shortly afterwards.

That puts recipes and beer ads at your fingertips, so if you find great mahi mahi at the grocer--no more regretting you didn't look up a mahi mahi recipe before you left the house.

I'm hopeful that Christine will see the value in that just like The Bob Newhart Show reruns on Hulu helped her understand the virtue of an HDMI cable stretched across the living room from computer to TV.

I don't know if it will radically revolutionize my life otherwise, but utilizing the Twitterrific may soon improve my ability to type with my thumbs.
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