Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Christmas Thing Has Come & Gone

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The children were rewarded with several things that they had declared that they could not live without and yet somehow, they manage to survive despite the fact that all such wishes were not granted. However the day that Science actually manages to clone “Real, live My Little Ponies®” we’ll be in trouble. Many Swedish Meatballs were consumed, and a good time was had by all. Hopefully this was true over at your end as well.

Like everyone (I assume), we have several family holiday traditions unique to our household (there has to be a squirrel in the Christmas tree), and we managed to touch base on all of them, so it “felt like Christmas”. You would imagine that it actually being Christmas would be enough, but no, not really. No matter what your philosophical leanings and considered opinion about the way the universe works, it’s been shown that people need a bit of ritual in their lives, and the more bizarre and theatrical it is, the better. Around here? Not a problem.

The big news is that we have come to the end of Girl Genius Volume 13- Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City. What makes this different, is that we are now going to take some time off. This is something we have not done since we started posting Girl Genius online, which you old–timers will recall was back in the spring of 2005. In all that time we have never missed an update, despite hospitalizations, business trips and the occasional computer meltdown. Well, rest assured that we’re not doing it now, either. While Kaja and I are recharging, we will be presenting one of the Girl Genius Radio Plays in comic form, and this will be illustrated by fellow webcomic impressario Mr. Christopher Baldwin. The savvy webcomics reader will be quite familiar with Chris’ work, as he’s been slapping photons onto computer screens since 1996. He’s the creator of Little Dee, and recently, he just finished up his wonderful science fiction epic; Spacetrawler (http://spacetrawler.com/). Like us, collections of Chris’ webcomics can be purchased in well–printed book form from TopatoCo (http://topatoco.com/), and now that the Christmas rush is over, they’re all just standing around waiting for something to do, so if you wanted to click on over there and spend some of that holiday money you got from grandma, you’d be performing a public service.

We will be resuming the Main Story on March 3rd of 2014.

It Is Christmas Eve

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In our house, we stretch Christmas out for as long as possible. We have family over for Christmas Eve dinner, which typically consists of Swedish Meatballs and strong ginger-beer, and then afterwards, we do our inter-family gift giving. On Christmas Day, we open the gifts from Santa, as well as gifts from family and friends who are located elsewhere in the world. Then we clean everything up as best we can, and that evening, we have a open house/potluck for our local friends who have also spent a significant amount of time with their family and now have an overwhelming urge to go somewhere where they can drink strong eggnog and vent. The day after that, we sleep in and walk around in our pajamas all day. Livin’ Large.

This year, as part of our party invites, we encouraged our friends to each bring a favorite eggnog recipe, and we will let them duke it out. My entry comes via a delightful little book that Kaja found for me known as The Gentleman’s Companion (an Exotic Drinking Book) by Charles H. Baker, Jr., which was published in the late 30’s. Apparently Chuck was a rich layabout who avoided Prohibition by traveling the world through the 20’s and 30’s while drinking like a fish. Each of the recipes contains a fascinating little snippet about when and where he collected it, and they provide a delightful glimpse at a long gone world. This is a book you can just crack open and start reading and find solid entertainment, as well as a desire to drink copiously. Charles’ recipe for eggnog is different from the usual run, in that it does not use cream, and thus: “…is more refreshing and not so likely to be gastrically disastrous as the over-rich customary formulae we have consumed on certain festive occasions.”

The whole book reads like that. Interestingly, there is a companion volume dedicated to cooking, which is notably less rhapsodic in its writing. I think it’s pretty obvious that there was much testing going on while the book was being written. Anyway, here is the recipe. Because Chuck lived for this stuff, he gives the measurements in ‘ponies’. A pony is 1 fluid ounce (or 29.57 mL);

THE CLAN McGREGOR EGG NOGG
1/2 pony of good cognac
2 ponies of good Spanish dry sherry
1/4 pony of Carta de Oro Bacardi
1 tsp of sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup chilled, whole milk

Beat egg yolk and sugar together.
Add spirits and 4 cubes of ice.
Stir or shake briskly, strain into goblet, add cold milk and dust with both nutmeg & cinnamon on top.

If you try it, let us know if you liked it, and if you didn’t- happy holidays anyway!

Urk. Pressure…

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So here we have a nice young lady who got this lovely Girl Genius themed sleeve tattooed upon her body for all time. Owch. I’ve always been confused by the science of tattoos, because I take it as gospel that every cell in your body is replaced every seven years (which naturally leads to the realization that the person you’re living with is technically not the person you married, which is one of those concepts that keeps things interesting, at least around here), and yet tattoos last for decades. Is the ink deposited between the cells? Or is it passed down within cellular generations? This would make it the poster-child for the Lamarckian revival that is sort of creeping back into our beautiful Darwinian world view (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism). I find this entertaining, as I find anything entertaining that makes established scientists use the phrase, “That’s odd…”, whenever you hear that in the lab, that’s when you get something interesting. Anyway, it’s peculiar, because it’s been something I’ve wondered about for awhile now, but never enough to actually bother to check and see if someone’s satisfactorily explained it. It’s important to keep some mystery in one’s life.

The aforementioned pressure comes from the knowledge that someone loves our stuff enough that they have made it a permanent part of who and what they are (at least in warm weather), and thus we feel that we have an obligation to keep it from sucking. The last thing we want is a note explaining that after the last couple of pages, she’s taken a potato peeler to her arm and has to support herself doing modeling work for Gray’s Anatomy (sigh, the book, not the TV show). I thank my artistic soul I never got that intimately placed light saber tattoo back in ’78.

Went to see The Hobbit (Part 2; The Hobbiting). The evening got off to a bad start, as we wound up in the second row, and thus I can tell you that Sir Ian is apparently quite meticulous when it comes to trimming his nose hair, and thank goodness for that. So I was grumpy, and a misery to all around me as the movie started. I will say that after the first five minutes, I was enjoying myself so much that I no longer cared. I liked it a lot more than Part 1 (I Am Curious, Hobbit). Possibly because we didn’t see it in 3-D. Possibly because there was absolutely nothing about The Power of Friendship, and probably because I simply Did Not Care.

I didn’t care that it wasn’t a transcription of the book. I didn’t care that the female characters and the implied hot elf/dwarf action was shoe-horned in out of nowhere, I didn’t care that I could spot set-ups for the next move (Part 3; Mr. Oakenshield Builds His Dream House)… I just let this all glide over me and tried to watch it as its own thing, and that thing was good. I have heard that some people were complaining about the quality of some of the CGI. That’s possible, but I couldn’t really tell, from where I was sitting. But then every moment we weren’t staring up someone’s tunic was considered a win. Great dragon, I will say.

The Girl Genius Shopping Guide!

I should have done this months, if not years ago, but as most of you know, I’m kind of slow. I have gathered links to all the merchandise we currently offer, plus all the officially licensed things that are out there. Of course, it’s probably far too late to order custom work in time for Christmas, and Hanukkah is already over, but if you get spending money, there’s always the traditional New Year’s gift to one’s self. Also: Valentine’s Day. So I present to you, the list of official Girl Genius stuff! Whee! (Caveat: It’s not all available at the same store.) –Kaja

It’s Not Just You

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Everybody I know is wandering around flabbergasted at the fact that it’s December, and the various ‘Festival of Lights’ celebrations are just around the corner. “Where did the year go?” we cry. Personally, I’ve been banking all my excess time so I have enough with which to enjoy my vacation.

Here at Studio Foglio, we subscribe to the festival of wretched excess known as Christmas. We just got our tree up last night, and the house is redolent with the smell of dying pine tree. As regular readers of these screes are marginally aware, we have two new(ish) kitten/cats hanging around the house. Thus, we have decorated the tree with what we call the ‘Expendable Ornaments’. These are the ones made out of metal, or wood or plastic, and thus will survive if some damn cat tries to climb the tree and sends it crashing to the floor. This is rather annoying, as we’d just started putting the ‘Snazzy Ornaments’ out again, after hiding them away for a decade or so out of fear of one of the Experiments trying to climb the tree. Surprisingly, this never actually happened, and perhaps the cats will resist the temptation as well.

I hope so, as many of the stowed ornaments are ones that Kaja and I have collected over the years as part of our never-ending quest to find bizarre Christmas ornaments that really have no possible connection to Christmas, or any other holiday, really. It is in this box that you will find cookie–eating dinosaurs, manta rays in bow ties, scantily clad witches, princesses riding giant snails, articulated carp, and assorted chthonic entities looking jolly. Weird is good.

Speaking of outré holiday decoration; Last year I mentioned that one of the houses in our neighborhood had a light display celebrating the existence of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. I was rather unprepared for the bite–back, as numerous readers demanded photographic proof, declaring “If there’s no photos, it didn’t happen.” To this I’d like to say; Bite me. I’m not claiming I saw a UFO or something. If I’m going to cook up a holiday falsehood, I’m going to come up with something a hell of a lot more fantastic than that. Give me some credit. I make stuff up for a living. I was even more annoyed because by the time I got back to that particular house, they’d taken the damn thing down. Well it’s back up now, so gaze in wonder, chumps.

Hummingbirds Do Not Migrate For The Winter

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Kaja says that, in fact, they do, but they just migrate about two blocks south, which allows them to commute. I know this because we recently tore out an old Rowan tree that had died (yes, and immediately were inundated by witches. It’s been that kind of a year) which had a hummingbird nest perched atop it which I could see from my studio window. I was astonished to learn that the call of the hummingbird sounds very much like small, angry, turbo-charged pencil sharpener, and that they call out whenever they are looking for a mate, or are happy, sad, annoyed that their feeders haven’t been refilled, feel threatened, are claiming a particular area, or notice that the moon is orbiting the Earth.
Anyway, we tore the tree out as part of a larger backyard renovation, and I was afraid that the hummingbird would have to find someone else to scream at. But no, It is now hanging around the apple tree in the front yard, no doubt patiently screaming at passers-by until we plant something else.
I find that this pleases me. They are a pleasure to watch, and I’m always amazed at anything that has the chutzpah to stand up to the crows.

The Threnodi Etsy shop is now offering stuffed wasp eater weasels fo sale (https://www.etsy.com/listing/159086800/licenced-girl-genius-wasp-eater-plush?ref=pr_shop), which are guaranteed to send cats into paroxysms of ennui, if ours are any indicator. The Studio Foglio webstore is also now offering embroidered patches. We made these up for the Kickstarter campaign, and had enough left over that we can sell them to the sartorial elite. (http://www.topatoco.com/merchant.mvc Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TO&Category_Code=GEN-PATCHES) Hurrah! Christmas is saved.

Later this week we will be making the pilgrimage to see The Hobbit (Part 2; Oh, This Again). This time, we will not subject ourselves to the 3-D version, which annoyed the socks off us the last time around. Hopefully they won’t witter on about The Power of Friendship or do too much L.O.T.R. foreshadowing this time, though I’m, frankly, pessimistic. However there is a big-ass dragon and Martin Freeman, so they’re going to have to work hard to screw this up.

Steampunk On The Street

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Usually when I think of Steampunk makers, I envision people building things like ornate keyboards, or corsets with light–up buttons, or possibly mechanical claws that dispense exact change. I don’t see a lot of people doing things on an automotive scale, which always surprised me, considering the car culture that pervades much of the United States. Oh, sure, there are a few things, like the Golden Mean (http://formandreform.com/wordpress/?page_id=388) the glorious Snail Art Car, and certainly, one can make an argument that after the Neverwas Haul (http://www.obtainiumworks.net/neverwas-haul/), anything else would be second best.

However I now realize that I was just not looking in the right place. I discovered a periodical, called Rat Rod Magazine (http://ratrodmagazine.com/), which celebrates not just cars, but a particular sub-culture that builds these amazing steampunk looking vehicles that have obviously just smashed their way through a giant robot as they were escaping from some future apocalypse. I’m sure a lot of the folks who build these things would look at me like I was insane if I said their cars were ‘steampunk’, but whether they know it or not, they embrace a lot of what I consider to be the steampunk esthetic. You look at these vehicles, and you can see how they work. How they’re put together. When someone has a clever idea, they don’t hide it behind a firewall, they elevate the thing so it’s sticking up where everyone can see it. They are constantly re-engineering things that you would think people had worked out decades ago, and indeed they had, but these people look at things with a fresh eye and an understanding of new materials and techniques. They are cars built by tinkerers.

They also embrace the idea that a machine that looks like it’s been hard used is more exciting than a machine that looks like it just came out of the box (one of the few things George Lucas got right). Thus, these cars look old. They look like they have been in a fight. They spend time developing patinas and artistically applied rust spots that you’d expect to find in some World War 2 relic that had been discovered in a desert somewhere. These things are works of art. Just google image ‘rat rod’ to see more.

Heard from the jolly folks at TopatoCo, who are handling our Volume 12 Kickstarter fulfillment, that they have over a third of the orders out the door. That’s pretty good work, considering there were close to 4000 backers, plus they’re running an already busy webstore during the Holiday Season. (It is a great place to find something unusual for that odd person you know [http://topatoco.com/])

The weather wizards warn that we might actually have a touch of snow next week, which would be rather jolly (I know that roughly three–quarters of our readers from the U.S. hate me now). We didn’t get any snow at all last year, and The Experiments were forced to try sledding on gravel, which was just pathetic.