Friday, August 31, 2012

Art from the Black Velvet Abyss

WARNING:  Really hideous "art" ahead!  Please vote for your favorites in the comments section (if you get that far without clawing your eyes out).
The rodeo clown, after the show.
It's no secret that I frequent places that harbor typewriters, bits of old technology, interesting books and other cultural breccia.  Bad black velvet art fits the latter category.  As strange as it may seem, my heart goes "pitter-pat" when I find a particularly grotesque piece in an antique mall or thrift store.  These are few from the last year or so.

I'll start with one of the classic themes: the Bullfighter.  Once upon a time in America, people had Mediterranean inspired furniture and art in their living and family rooms - kind of like a really old Mexican restaurant.

The Bullfight is by far the most common black velvet theme I run across.  Some of it is quite expressive.  I just can't quite imagine it on a modern living room wall except as an intentional bit of irony.

The majesty, I tell you.

Sadly, at some point the bull must be dispatched.  I'll move on to other sporting events.  Horses-in-motion is another recurring theme.  This one also happens to be the ever popular Romanticized Native American genre.

 The Romans really knew how to throw a party!

Ripping off famous cartoon characters is also good sport.  Some prefer track and field events.

For some strange reason, I've run across three slight variations of Snoopy playing baseball.  Those eyes... they haunt me.

Elvis is the most famous black velvet portrait cliche.  I've only seen a few, but for now I'll share a kinda scary rendition of The Duke as Rooster Cogburn.

Yeah, I think black velvet portraits will need their own post.  That would be good for mid-winter when cabin fever is setting in.

If you made it this far, count me as very impressed!  You have amazing intestinal fortitude and impressive intelligence as evidenced by the fact that you can still read after losing many IQ points.  Maybe you should relax and have a drink.  Just so you know, even black velvet creatures get tired and need a rest!

Really, someone actually painted that bunny creature and someone presumably hung it on a wall. Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Senator Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, from the comic strip "Prickly City".  Maybe he spent an evening with Hunter S. Thompson.

I wish I could say something profound about the redemptive and emotionally powerful nature of velvet art.  But the world doesn't always work that way.  Sometime bad art needs to be enjoyed for the kitsch relic that it is.  Rest assured, I cannot avert my gaze from the velveteen beauties and will share more in the future.  Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your snarky comments.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong: Farewell to a Hero 08/25/2012

Footprints on the Moon.  What a legacy!  From National Geographic; December, 1969
My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Armstrong's family and friends.

Neil Armstrong photographing his shadow on the Moon.  From National Geographic; December, 1969
Life is full of ironies large and small.  Here is a tiny, little irony.  I fondly recall this issue of the National Geographic.  As a kid, I played the flexible record inside until it fell apart.  Yesterday, on my way to grab some lunch, I stopped by an estate sale.  It had every National Geographic from 1964 through 1998.  This is the first issue I looked for. 

Yes, the images in this post are freshly scanned from a magazine I bought for $0.25 just the day before Neil Armstrong's passing..  In the scope of the Universe and geologic time, this coincidence is beyond trivial.  To a space and technology nerd such as myself, it is priceless. peace for all mankind.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Voyager 2: Thirty-Five Years in Space

Honestly, after all of the excitement surrounding the arrival of Curiosity on Mars I had not intended to write another space related blog entry for awhile.  But Voyager 2 is pretty amazing and I need to recognize this day.

Thirty-five years ago, NASA launched the second of two deep space probes.  As of August 6, Voyager 2 was located on the fringes of the Heliosphere over 99 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth.  An AU is the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun.  Yeah, pretty much meaningless.  Let's put that in miles since that is a distance we can grasp.

9,222,142,686 Miles from Home
Space is a lonely place for a little probe.
 To put this in perspective, it would take roughly 15,000 years for this 1977 classic to drive to the edge of our solar system at an optimistic 70 MPH average speed.

This one might get there a little bit faster.

I am a totally unapologetic fanboy for the amazing Opportunity Mars rover because of its extreme durability.  But Opportunity is just a toddler compared to Voyager 2.  This probe is still transmitting useful data today from the inky, black vacuum of space where it is nearly impossible to tell a particle ejected from our Sun from background material. 

To add even more perspective, let's consider what 1977 looked like.  I was in eighth grade.  Had I lived in New York City, I might have seen these bands...

And the technology... it was amazing!  This what the state of the art in office computing looked like this...

And the diehard home hobbyist might have owned one of these...

Um, you might have had an Apple II, not the guy who co-founded Apple.
1977 was also the year that an iconic space opera came to the big screen...

Voyager 2 has seen some amazing things and sent back some stunning photos.

Up until this image came back, we had no idea that anyplace in our solar system could have liquid oceans under ice.
Once again, thanks to NASA for being an extraordinarily competent government agency.  According to NASA's mission timeline, the nuclear power source is good to around 2025 with sequential powering down of various instruments.  Sometime in 2015, Voyager 2 will cross the theoretical heliopause, a point at which the solar wind can no longer push back steller winds from other stars.  More good science is yet to come from our deep traveler.

Nerd moment coming on... Maybe someone will find the golden record and bring it back to Earth!

Total Nerd moment:  Spock mind melding with V Ger.  Yes, this was a totally forgettable movie, but it's Star Trek and may eventually be forgiven.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One Year Anniversary: Picture Heavy!

Today marks the first anniversary of Vintage Technology Obsessions.  Before I go any further, I want to thank all of you who regularly visit this blog.  I'd like to think that I would keep going without page views, but the truth is I like to see the number go up and the comments and conversations are greatly appreciated.

In the spirit of this blog and the Typosphere, this is a hybrid post.  I think I will use a few different typewriters.  Do you recognize the machines from their typefaces?

Yeah, typewriters are real; typographical errors and all.  The machines:  Underwood Deluxe Quiet Tab, Royal Signet, Olympia SM-7, Remington Mark II (a plastic Torpedo) and a 1932 Royal known as Keylime.  I lust after a machine with German blackletter or an Olivetti Graphika.

I've been surprised at some of the posts that have picked up the most hits; mostly from Google searches.  I'm glad that I diversified content from the beginning.  I blog because I love learning about many obscure subjects that have nothing to do with my professional life.  I also love photography and this is a fun avenue for me to share images.

Here are some of my favorite images from the last year:

This little guy was a graduation gift for a friend of the family.

Svetlana Optima is our mysterious Cold War throwback.  She was manufactured in East Germany in the early '50s and has some pretty serious trust issues.  This comes from her new ribbon day.
And now for some statistics.  Thanks to readers such as yourself, this blog passed the 16,000 pageview mark on August 11.  The top ten posts by pageview, paraphrased and in descending order, are:

ITAM Special Report: The Eight Millionth Remington
Remembering Ralph McQuarrie
Zeiss Ikon/ICA Folding Camera
Juvenile Cold War Space Fiction
Happy Typewriter Day from Keylime
The Birthday Blog Post from Space
Royal Typewriter Rescue(feature Old Red, a Royal with the Vogue typeface rescued from choppers)
A Tale of Two Cameras (the modern Sony NEX3 coupled with Olympus PEN F lenses)
Mousiest Royal Futura (a not all that fun to type on Royal with an awesome cursive typeface)
B-36 Restricted Report (Features an SM-9 keeping track of the dreaded Svetlana Optima)

And here is the subject of the top post, Remington number 8,000,000.

Just full of awesome and kind of OK to type on.  This machine receives plenty of Google search hits.

If only I could keep the bench this tidy.
Being an Art Deco icon, this machine starred in its own movie "Last Stand at the Remington".
This is an outtake from the hit movie "Last Stand at the Remington".

Yeah, totally growing up would be pretty boring.
This is the first typecast with our Senatorial Olympia SM-9.  Racoons had recently dug a hole through our roof.
This man of mystery was a hit at the 2011 Kansas City Maker Faire.

The dreaded Dollar Store "Spacebot" testing out that old saw about the pen being mightier than the sword.  However, Bill has some muscle in the form of a junk part R2-C4 unit.

I'm still bitter about losing a whole summer worth of B-grade movie reruns to the Watergate hearings.

You don't want to know.

Here's our family mascot, Trollie!  Isn't that the most creative name you've ever heard?

Gotta love southern Florida.  There was a guy shooting a monster handgun towards a 40 foot fiberglass panther on the other side of the parking lot.  Ah, the memories Trollie and I have together.

Two extremely shiny typewriters.  They don't get used nearly enough what with my weird typeface fetish.  The gold Royal goes by the name of Margo.

Thank goodness we have a good copy editor in the house!  What fate awaits this tough Royal?

Like a candle in the Windy City.  Poor Marilyn is about to lose her head.

Keylime and Old Red, the Vogue typeface Royals.  The one on the right is named Keylime.  That was redundant, but I am too lazy to reconfigure the link.

Such a happy couple.  Too bad they are about to be mauled by zombies!

"Do you hear moaning?  I swear I hear moaning."

Imaging the Transit of Venus with a pair of binoculars.

Shopping for the perfect violin for Hannah.  It was a great experience.  The bow cost more than my first car.  Sure, the car was a beater, but you get the idea.

In the violin finish lair.  This strings shop is a great maker space.

My portable typecasting machine for our summer vacation.  We came back to a very long stretch of hot and a drought that came out of nowhere.

Something shiny from the Art of the Car Concours.

This is a nice rat rod from the Kansas City Good Guys show.  The Duesenberg at the Concours was worth more than a Belgian dressage horse.  The rat rod?  Not so much, but it is awesome!

3-D printing pretty much rocks.  This is from the 2012 Kansas City Maker Faire.

Souped up kiddie cars in the Power Wheels racing series.
This is Super Awesome Sylvia and her dad, the Tech Ninja doing some live science at the 2011 Kansas City Maker Faire.

This is precisely why we need maker culture.  We are so proud of Curiosity's team!  I still have a rendering of the skycrane lowering Curiosity set as my wallpaper.  We haven't forgotten Opportunity, either.

The team, as seen on my LCD during the live streaming of the landing.  Dang, where is that sexy Mohawk Guy?

Ahhhh!!!! Not only is he adorable, the Christmas Squirrel will bring your family socks and undies.  Part 1 on "The Origins of the Christmas Squirrel" is found here.  Yes, there is a Part 2 and the story involves Nikola Tesla, Erwin Schrodinger and a certain Mr. Edison.  It was cold outside and I was on vacation.

Claire's most awesome repurposed Christmas present to me.
This is one of Claire's friends.  She is a convert to the ways of the typewriter.  We gave her an Olympia SM-9 with the Senatorial (robot) typeface.  She is a total typeface junkie and can tell you about the history and design of many typefaces.  That may be atypical for the average eleven-year-old.

Claire (aka: gingercat) and the Six Fingered Man's twin brother at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Thanks again to all of you that follow or have happened upon this crazy, mixed up blog of mine!  It's gotten a little serious in the last couple of months.  Me thinks it is time to break out some Hong Kong knock-off robots and a jumbo Machinder.  Yes, that would do nicely!

Copyright:  The Copyright is a noble beast that I, the owner of the blog known as Vintage Technology Obsessions, claims for my own.  With the exception of the images of the amazing Curiosity, all images and text are mine and are copyright 2011 and 2012.  Regular readers would not need to be reminded that, in addition to legal recourse, if someone were to pilfer my images for use without attribution or for commercial use of any form they would likely be awakened in the middle of the night by the buzz and hiss of a flying, steam powered Oliver Number 99 hovering over their bed.  Thieves, you have been suitably warned.