Bill Corbett and Len Peralta’s “Super Powered Revenge Christmas”

A scanned panel from the book.

“Like a bowl full of gelignite,” perhaps?

The premise of this Kickstarted graphic novel is, by itself, is hilarious. As far as I know, the comic book superhero take on The Modern American Xmas is largely untrodden cultural ground (cue: Comic Book Guy voice, elucidating every red-suited winter solstice hero in the Marvel and DC Canons; I seem to remember at least one such musclebound goon hoisting a mailbag on the letters page of one of my Green Lantern books ca. 1982). But even if the basic idea is not totally new under the sun, Mssrs. Corbett and Peralta’s “brooding” take on it likely is. This is not Golden Age Superman in a red suit with an elf hat—more like The Punisher meets Kris Kringle.

I think these kinds of experiments are worth doing almost for their own sake. Even if it were just a gimmmick, it’d be an entertaining one, and it’s pulled off with great skill. I’ve been a devotee of MST3K, and since then RiffTrax, since well before Mr. Corbett was involved (though I love the direction he took the show). Fans like me will recognize Bill’s comedic style here, and the comic book form shows it off well—the layout of a page in a graphic novel does things for timing that are much more difficult in straight prose, and Bill’s instincts for witty asides and sotto voce gags are of course thoroughly well honed. They shine.

As for deeper meaning and/or “significance,” well, I would first offer the “Sullivan’s Travels” defense: In a world with more than enough misery to go around, making people laugh is enough. And then I would go on to say that there really is a morsel of substance about this story, and that the comparison to Sullivan’s Travels is fair. If it must have a deeper interpretation, this is a piece of metafiction about the proper role of festival, fiction, and faith in our lives, and its message—that cynicism by itself leaves us with hollow experiences—is certainly welcome in my own. Well done, guys.

Super Powered Revenge Christmas — Amazon

That which grows in the garden

I got this fortune from a cookie in 2010. It struck me as completely hilarious, and I briefly toyed with the idea of launching a Twitter feed called “Ominous Fortune Cookie” comprised solely of, not so much depressing, as darkly foreboding aphorisms inspired by this one incredibly creepy saying. I gave up on that plan, eventually, in part because crafting good ones turns out to be rather a challenge, and there was no way I could keep up the pace.

So, I’ve had this thing on my refrigerator, in one home or another, for almost five years now, and only last month, when I looked at it, did it occur to me that there is, in fact, a glass-half-full interpretation: character, I suppose, might grow in the garden. Spiritual insight. Peace. A sense of connection to the natural world and to all living things, everywhere, throughout time and the boundless reaches of the universe, forever and ever amen. Shantih shantih shantih, yada yada yada.

So now I’m curious if the evolution of my understanding of this fortune cookie provides some kind of unique Rorshach-blot-type insight into my mind. For me, this arrangement of these dozen words tends to evoke thoughts, first and foremost, of weeds, grubs, and other pests, and that’s just at the most superficial, literal level of interpretation. This is a fortune cookie, after all, and the language of prophecy is always richly metaphorical, and among metaphors, The Garden is an especially rich one. If things are growing in the garden besides that which was planted there, surely it must be bad sign, no? Or is it just me?

Wire coil bulb vase

I have written several times before about this old trick of using a hollowed-out incandescent light bulb as a bud vase. Hollowing out the bulb is easy enough; the challenge is to make it stand upright. A rubber or brass O-ring works but can get lost. Specialized self-supporting bulb shapes are easiest but largely defeat the purpose of creative reuse (what if the one you have to recycle isn’t one of the unusual self-supporting types?). Rearview mirror cement offers some interesting options but the vases I made this way did eventually fail, perhaps due to thermal stress on the metal/glass unions.


Here’s another method that occurred to me recently, which I rather like. It just takes some copper wire and a soldering iron. The coil is soldered to the bulb’s screw base at one end and to itself, in one place, to make the bottom ring. I used 22 gauge bare copper wire here, which is what I had on hand, but a slightly heavier gauge would probably work better.


It’s easy to do, cheap, looks good, requires no especially unusual materials, and results in a one-piece construction with nothing to get separated and lost.

Improved mounting for Glass Bead Projection Screen


Moving into the new place gave me a chance to update the half-assed method I’d used to hang my original Glass Bead Projection Screen per a comment from a reader that went up on the original link shortly after the project first published back in 2011. That link’s long dead and unfortunately the comments didn’t survive the transition to the new link on MAKE’s WordPress platform, so I can’t give credit where credit is due. If you were the commenter in question, please do drop me a line and I will update this page accordingly.



In any case: The suggestion was to hang the screen using a french cleat (Wikipedia), which proved to be a great idea. I ripped the cleat myself on our table saw, and opted for a 30 degree cleat angle. Attaching the cleat to the back of the screen was a bit tricky because of the vertical support members in the screen frame, but I figured out a way to do it by splitting the cleat into three parts. These were first glued to the back of the hardboard screen itself using carpenters glue, then secured with short wood screws that penetrate into the screen but not all the way through. These had to be installed in pre-drilled holes to keep from causing bumps to rise on the screen surface, and the drilling depth had to be carefully controlled to keep from penetrating all the way through. Finally, the cleats were secured to the adjacent vertical frame members, at their upper corners, using short steep corner brackets and their bundled screws.


Curb Score of the Year – 2012

This DeWalt DW911 jobsite radio was out by the trash bins on bulk pick-up day in my folks’ wealthy Austin suburb a couple months back. It’s got a nice AM/FM stereo receiver with an AUX input, decent speakers, and a port in the back to charge a DeWalt or DeWalt-compatible tool battery pack. If it’s not plugged into the wall, it can run off the battery pack instead of charging it. All that, plus DeWalt yellow. For which I am a complete sucker.

Anyway. Somebody threw it out, and I grabbed it. These cost like $100, new, and I’ve been eyeing them in the big orange store for years but could never really justify the expense. Unsurprisingly, this one didn’t work at all when I plugged it in. Getting the case open was a bit of a trick; it turned out to be glued shut along the seam. I took all the obvious screws out and would’ve wasted a lot more time and done a lot more damage looking for the “hidden” screws if some thoughtful soul hadn’t figured out the glue thing and taken the time to share their discovery on FixYa. Thanks, man! A few strategic whacks with a rubber mallet opened it right up.

Anyway, once I got it open, it turned out to be a fuse. I love it when that happens. And I even had the right spare on hand in my parts box. Happy.

The Thingiverse “Heart Gears” Phenomenon – A Physible Family Tree

Last September, I wrote over at MAKE about the Thingiverse “Cube Gears” phenomenon, briefly tracing the origin of user emmett’s Screwless Cube Gears through its evolution from Haruki Nakamura’s papercraft geared heart sculpture via user GregFrost’s printable Broken Heart thing. At the time, I really wanted to exhaust the graph of the cube gears / heart gears phenomenon, but didn’t have the available free time. I’ve had some good publishing experiences using Graphviz to generate directed graphs, before, and kept dreaming about using it to show the family tree of Thingiverse physibles descended from Broken Heart. Well, I finally got around to doing it. These data were mostly gathered manually, but Thingiverse is already tracking derivation information for things, and it would not be a great coding challenge to automate the generation of these types of graphs using Graphviz, which is free software. The SVG version, above, should be fully clickable so you can navigate to the various things as you please. If you can’t see it, for whatever reasons, there is a standalone SVG version here, and a large (non clickable) image here.

Here’s the Graphviz source:

digraph tverse_heart_gears {
graph [fontname="Helvetica",  fontsize=12, fontcolor=lightgray, bgcolor=white, tooltip="REMOVE THIS PHRASE"]; 

/* SVG tooltips are a PITA and require post-processing the SVG output to eliminate tooltips where you don't want them, e.g. over the whole background of the graph.  "REMOVE THIS PHRASE" just makes it easier to find manually. */

edge [penwidth=0.7, color="#1989FF", arrowsize=0.5];
node [shape=box, margin="0,0", penwidth=1, color="gray", label="", fontname="Helvetica", fontsize=8, fontcolor="#1989FF"];

915 [tooltip="Companion Cube by Gianteye", image="915.png", URL=""];
1614 [tooltip="Weighted Storage Cube (from Portal) by cyrozap", image="1614.png", URL=""];
3219 [tooltip="Stellated octahedron by Wootfish", image="3219.png", URL=""];
3575 [tooltip="Parametric Involute Bevel and Spur Gears by GregFrost", image="3575.png",  URL=""];
4683 [tooltip="Broken Heart by GregFrost", image="4683.png",  URL=""];
6073 [tooltip="Cube Gears by emmett", image="6073.png", URL=""];
6190 [tooltip="Exploitable Heart by emmett", image="6190.png", URL=""];
6291 [tooltip="Heart Gears by emmett", image="6291.png", URL=""];
6336 [tooltip="Heart Gears on a Plate by JadeKnight", image="6336.png", URL=""];
6375 [tooltip="Weighted Storage Cube Gears by whosawhatsis", image="6375.png", URL=""];
6499 [tooltip="Eccentric Sphere Gears by whosawhatsis", image="6499.png", URL=""]; 
6533 [tooltip="Gear gears by whosawhatsis", image="6533.png", URL=""];
8581 [tooltip="Portal Companion Cube by grimm", image="8581.png", URL=""];
9104 [tooltip="The head of Stephen Colbert by Colbert", image="9104.png", URL=""];
9148 [tooltip="Colbert Head Gears by emmett", image="9148.png", URL=""];
9194 [tooltip="Sun Gears by 67restomodder", image="9194.png", URL=""];
10288 [tooltip="Pin Connectors by tbuser", image="10288.png", URL=""];
10483 [tooltip="Screwless Cube Gears by emmett", image="10483.png",  URL=""];
10493 [tooltip="Portal Companion Cube w/hearts by CarryTheWhat", image="10493.png", URL=""];
10541 [tooltip="Pin Connectors V2 by tbuser", image="10541.png", URL=""];
11253 [tooltip="Motorized Cube Gears by dougc314",  image="11253.png", URL=""];
11660 [tooltip="Two Color World by m6mafia", image="11660.png", URL=""];
12208 [tooltip="Screwless Heart Gears by emmett", image="12208.png", URL=""];
14070 [tooltip="Earth Shot by WilliamAAdams", image="14070.png", URL=""];
16442 [tooltip="MOTORIZED screwless heart gears! by Zh4x0r", image="16442.png", URL=""];
16893 [tooltip="Keychain Screwless Heart Gears by Zh4x0r", image="16893.png", URL=""];
16909 [tooltip="Big Love <3 - Heart Gears by faberdasher",  image="16909.png", URL=""];
17336 [tooltip="Textured Earth by bld", image="17336.png", URL=""];
17713 [tooltip="Earth Gears by bld", image="17713.png", URL=""];
18061 [tooltip="Stellated Octahedron Gears by Lemon_Major", image="18061.png", URL=""];
18134 [tooltip="Screwless Heart Gear Replicator Plates by IWorkInPixels", image="18134.png", URL=""];
18144 [tooltip="Screwless Heart Gears - Plated by toybuilder",  image="18144.png", URL=""];
22069 [tooltip="Gear Heart with Handle by catzpaw164",  image="22069.png", URL=""];
23237 [tooltip="Screwless Companion Cube Gears by LocheMage", image="23237.png", URL=""];

subgraph cluster_gregfrost {
	3575 -> 4683;

subgraph cluster_bld {
	17336 -> 17713;

subgraph cluster_tbuser {
	10288 -> 10541;

subgraph cluster_Zh4x0r {

subgraph cluster_emmett {
	6073 -> 10483;
	6073 -> 6291 ;
	6190 -> 6291;
	6291 -> 12208;
	6291 -> 9148;

subgraph cluster_whosawhatsis {
	6375 -> 6499 -> 6533;

8581 -> 10493;
10493 -> 23237;
915 -> 1614;
4683 -> 6073;
4683 -> 6190;
/* 3575 -> 6073;  redundant derivations pruned */
6073 -> 6375;
/* 6073 -> 6499; redundant derivations pruned */
1614 -> 6375;
/* 10288 -> 10483; redundant derivations pruned */
10541 -> 10483;
10483 -> 11253;
10483 -> 12208;
6291 -> 9194;
6533 -> 9194;
9104 -> 9148;
6291 -> 6336;
12208 -> 22069;
12208 -> 18144;
12208 -> 18134;
12208 -> 18061;
12208 -> 17713;
14070 -> 17336;
11660 -> 17336;
12208 -> 16909;
12208 -> 16893;
12208 -> 16442;
12208 -> 23237;
3219 -> 18061;

These data were gathered on 2012-06-06 and are already obsolete, I should note. The graph has new nodes since then.

Auspicious timing

Eric Darton’s Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York’s World Trade Center was published in January of 2001, just eight months before 9/11 would deeply brand the image of the twin towers with exactly the opposite sentiment. ┬áTo right, a sparkly Dufex foil print I bought in early 2002 that recalls the mood. The reverse is marked “Dufex Prints / Printed in England / Pictures Colour Library / Reference Number 409359.”

Darton’s book is fairly well-reviewed on Amazon. There’s a new self-aware edition as of August 2011.