Thursday, October 28, 2010

CNET article on Etsy + IP

IP, Fan Art, & Etsy. An interesting read, especially for anyone who makes and sells fan art on Etsy. Bonus points for:

"[Trademark litigation and fan art] is something that I feel like is building towards a crescendo, and I think, believe it or not, large entertainment industries are going to have to come to terms with it, not the fans."

—David Foox, former IP lawyer turned artist

Monday, October 25, 2010

WIP: Halloween Costume

This is a year where I pay a fair amount of attention to detail.

Athena, my go-to deity out of pretty much any pantheon (though props also go to Freya!), is, of course, Greek. Therefore an Athena costume is a Greek costume.

Step 1: Not Being Naked

Most of the time, when masquerading as something Greco-Roman, people throw a bedsheet around themselves and hope for the best. I decided to be a little more anal retentive and do some research into Greek dress.

Togas are more or less a Roman thing. For Greek women, you had either the chiton, peplos, or himation. All three are variations on a theme of "attach a piece (or two) of large cloth together such that your naughty bits are (mostly) concealed." The chiton is the simplest of all of them, so I decided on that one.

You can either use a super-long piece of fabric folded in half to create a tube (like in the above image), or two not-so-long pieces of fabric pinned together at the shoulders.

Or, a third option for those of you who don't want one half of your posterior flapping out in the breeze, is to use a piece of fabric already sewn up as a tube. Fortunately, I already owned such a thing!

I went to Indonesia in May of 2009, and couldn't leave without buying some beautiful batik fabric. My host—college friend and math enthusiast Bov—recommended I get it stitched up properly (and on the cheap) while we caroused about Jogajakarta. Bingo! Sarong.

Now, while your typical mental image of the Ancient Greeks may be of austere old men in white and ivory dress, the reality is a little more...tacky. Greek statues, in their day, were not the dignified understated eggshell color of marble, but rather an eye-searing rainbow of rich primary hues. Exhibit A:

Consider also that the Greeks certainly were capable of dying thread and cloth. That their clothing would have been brightly-colored and fancy (at least for those in the higher classes) is not too much of a stretch. So my opting for the sumptuous batik sarong is probably closer to the mark than an old white bedsheet.

Close-up on the batik, there are no words for how much I love it.

Fabric in hand, it's a simple matter of pinning together the sleeves and belting the waist. Real Greeks would have used a leather belt or strip of cloth for that; I'm making do with a curtain pull I got at Jo-Ann's for 50% off. It doesn't really seem too entirely off the mark, based on assorted images on the internet.

Step 2: Staying Not Naked

Chitons and all other garments were pinned to stay in place, either with plain long metal needles (like hatpins) or with fancier brooches. I made two of my own, using carnelian (a stone that would have been available to the Greeks—yes, I did get that anal retentive). Though I'm well aware the pin mechanism in my setting is far more complicated than what would have been used back in the day.

kokoba carnelian

Bonus points: the warm orange carnelian goes well with the colors in the sarong/chiton.

Step 3: Finishing Touches

Athena was in charge of a lot of things for the Greeks, most of which could be grouped under the heading "Wisdom." Hence why the owl, her favored animal, is associated with wisdom.

kokoba owl

And while Athena's wisdom presided over pretty much everything near and dear to the Greeks (philosophy, math, the invention of weaving, the flute, and the plow), the most notable one—the imagery with which she's most often paired—is battle strategy and cunning. (Ares was more interested in violence and bloodlust; Athena was the one in charge of tactics and planning.) Along with an owl, Athena is often portrayed with the aegis (Zeus' shield) or a spear—or both—and a helmet.

That means a trip to the Halloween store is in order; hopefully I can find something sufficiently Greco-looking without having to buy some kind of Roman legionnaire / 300 costume. Bonus points for tie-up sandals, though since I hate wearing shoes in any capacity I'll probably go barefoot. That's probably just as historically accurate!

Friday, October 22, 2010

RIP, Benoit Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away last week. Even people outside of the mathematical sphere are familiar with the words "fractal" and "Mandelbrot set," such was the influence of his work.

fractal scarf
3D Fractal Silk Scarf by LOOMLAB

This is one of the best explanations of the Mandelbrot set that I've ever found. The Mandelbrot Set explanation on Wolfram is also nice and straightforward.

Thanks for the gift of beauty in number, M Mandelbrot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Geo-Shopping: Amethyst

Amethyst is a rock that I just seem to constantly have in my bead box. It's durable, it comes in a variety of shades, and I just plain like purple. (Being a tomboy growing up, it takes a lot for me to admit to liking such a girly color!)

I recently got an order via Facebook for an order in purple, so I went out in search of a little variety to add to the 10 mm round I had in my stash. I ended up with some very pale nuggets and slightly less pale 6mm round beads, in addition to very dark 4mm round beads.


Amethyst is a silicate, like agates. Technically speaking, amethyst is actually quartz. Just that it's purple.

Like agates, amethyst have a long history that dates back to at least the ancient Greeks. The name "amethyst" actually comes from the Greek "amethustos," meaning "not drunk." Amethyst was believed to protect against intoxication; many chalices from Greek and Roman times were actually made out of amethyst for that very reason.

Unsurprisingly, there are a few stories associating amethyst with Dionysus, the Falstaffian alcoholic of the Greek pantheon. In one variation, Artemis protects a young maiden named Amethystos from Dionysus' unwelcome attention (some versions he's after her chastity, other versions he's just irritated at mortals in general and she's in the wrong place at the wrong time) by turning her into stone. Dionysus is then so moved by her beauty/chastity/etc that he weeps (or pours wine) over the stone, dying it purple. In another, the titan Rhea gifted the stone to Dionysus to keep him from losing his mind to wine.

amethyst soap
Amethyst Crystal Soap by amethystsoap

Amethyst was rare in those days, and was also prized as a valuable gem for adornment. Today, you can get amethyst fairly inexpensively, due to rather substantial finds not available to the ancient Greeks. Most of it today comes from Brazil, but you can find it all over. There's even deposits of amethyst fairly close to me in Pennsylvania!

The purple color in amethyst comes from a combination of aluminum and iron. Heat treatment will darken the purple color, or even turn it yellow (at which point it becomes citrine). I've heard that the color will fade if you leave it in sunlight for extended periods of time, but I've never tested that.

More about amethyst:

Amethyst at 3D chem has a neat clickable and dragable molecular model of amethyst (silicon dioxide), as well as some more information.

Amethyst results on Flickr

Amethyst on

Sunday, October 10, 2010

42 Day Road Trip: Centralia

As luck had it, I didn't work on 42 day! Good for me, because otherwise I would have had to drive all the way from Buffalo, NY to Hellertown, PA in basically one straight shot on the day prior. Instead, I got to break up my driving: Buffalo to Ithaca on Saturday, and then Ithaca to Hellertown on Sunday (42 day) via, appropriately, PA route 42.

Probably the most notable spot along route 42 is the ghost town of Centralia. I've wanted to go for years, and now seemed as good a time as any: no pressing plans for the day, the Pennsylvania hillsides tinged with fall colors, someone to keep me company in case law enforcement or one of the remaining locals got up in my stuff.

Centralia is a ghost town due to a devastating underground coal fire that is still burning to this day. Smoke-bellowing crevices dot some of the remaining roads:

It's creepy as anything. While we wandered around the lot where once there was clearly some kind of building (maybe a house?) a pickup truck and a motorcycle drove by. Both drivers pointedly stared at us, and for a moment I thought I would die right then and there, due to shotgun blast to the head. It didn't help that the short fall day was already approaching dusk.

Proof I was there (sort of): my car is the second one parked there. My partner-in-crime didn't manage to snag any pictures of me.

But nothing happened, of course, and we were content to wander around a small plot that had once been something but was no more. Any further and we were afraid of accidentally trespassing on to posted property.


Any remaining signs of human inhabitance was more along the lines of recent merry-making. My personal favorite was the used tampon; Rob (my partner in crime) was drawn towards the evidence of partying: empty 40s and bottles of beer. Those were certainly less gross to pick up.


But ghosts of Centralia's more legitimate past still lingered. At one point, we came across what we assumed to be a live wire (since it was still attached to the power lines at one end). The other end terminated somewhere in the vacant lot, presumably where it had once hooked up to a house. We also found a couple of rugs from something or other that had not yet finished becoming compost.


A lot of Centralia qualifies as new growth forest, and given a couple more years I'm sure the plant life will take back the pavement as well as the houses. The whole town is like a small, contained sample of the vision posited in The World Without Us


After a couple hours of shooting the breeze and taking pictures, we called it quits. Centralia was still a long way from home, and it was getting dark.


I'm sure there's some great philosophical point to be made about the ultimate answer leading to an empty, abandoned town sitting on top of an eternally-burning fire. We're alone in an uncaring universe slowly decaying due to entropy? Perhaps that's a bit too pessimistic a take. =P

Did you do anything for 42 day?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An owl, an owl, my kingdom for an owl!

This little guy is now part of my Athena Halloween costume!


There were SO MANY HITS for any variation on "owl," "stuffed," and "plush," and while there is SO MUCH CUTENESS in Etsy, this guy is exactly what I was looking for. My biggest criterion was a flat-ish bottom so I could pin him to the sleeve of my peplos.

Eddie the Owl is from NotSoSmallThings, who is just getting started but has some super cute stuff. Thank you, NotSoSmallThings, and good luck on Etsy!