Category Archives: Nifty

More Game of Thrones Goes Postal — Giants and Direwolves and Dragons, Oh My

The British Royal Mail isn’t ignoring the non-human players of the Game of Thrones. In addition to the 10 contestants in the set of postage stamps that I wrote about yesterday, the Royal Mail is also issuing a sheet of stamps featuring some of the less hominoid characters in the Game.

There are direwolves, who are friends of the good guys…

…giants and dragons, who play both sides of the field…


…and, of course, the Big Bad himself, the Night King.


At the center of it all, the Iron Throne.

The stamps will be sold at UK Post Office branches starting on 23 January 2018, and are already available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

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Game of Thrones Goes Postal

Imagine this: There’s been an incident in King’s Landing. Two or three royals die of festering paper cuts, a deranged pig farmer blows up the national cathedral, the Queen announces that she’s pregnant by her six-years-dead husband, flying monkeys attack the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, whatever. Just another day in Westeros, really, but you feel an urgent need to get word of the event to the Watchers at the Wall.

You go to your aviary, only to discover that your fastest, most reliable raven is lying motionless at the bottom of his cage, little claws in the air, pining for the fjords. What to do?

British Royal Mail to the rescue!

On 23 January 2018, UK Post Office branches will begin selling stamps celebrating characters from the world’s most popular TV show, Game of Thrones. Even better, the stamps are available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

The stamps depict 10 characters, eight of whom are played by British actors.  Here’s are close-ups of the individual stamps:

Beautifully done, aren’t they?

“Kingdom of Colors” — The View from the Floor

Here’s some video I shot during a daytime visit to ARTECHOUSE’s “Kingdom of Colors” installation, which I wrote about yesterday.

Because it was shot in a darkened room, the video quality is poor, and the sharp and saturated colours of the projection are blurred and murky, but this should give you some idea of how it felt to experience the show. Watch it on full screen for best results.

What an intoxicating afternoon I had!


2018 New Year’s Resolution Number 1

Since I’m going to post videos, I’ll spend a couple of days learning about video editing and use of editing features. Simply slapping together random strings of raw footage might be good enough for Michael Bay and Uwe Boll, but my viewers deserve better.

“Kingdom of Colors” — Psychedelia at My New Favourite DC Art Space

For maximum effect, enbiggen the video to full screen. Then imagine it covering 270° of the walls in a darkened room three or four stories high.

That’s what you experience at “Kingdom of Colors”, the current art installation at ARTECHOUSE in Washington. It’s the creation of French filmmaker Thomas Blanchard—who was on site when I visited—and artist Oilhack, with a soundtrack by Lyon-based composer Leonardo Villiger.

It’s like being surrounded by a high-tech, high-def, 21st-century version of a classic psychedelic light show.

And it’s absolutely phenomenal!*

ARTECHOUSE–that’s “ART-TECH-HOUSE”—opened in Washington a few months ago. As the name implies, it’s a space that showcases the spectacular possibilities of combining art and technology. “Kingdom of Colors” is ARTECHOUSE’s the third immersive experience. I missed the first one, but posted an item about the second, “Spirit of Autumn”, earlier this month.

“Spirit of Autumn” was highly interactive, with the mobile imagery on the walls and floors responding to the movements and sounds of the visitors. “Kingdom of Colors” is a more passive experience. Large cushions invite viewers to sit or lie on the floor and let the trance-like music and the awesome visuals carry them away.


Just Go with the Flow….

“Kingdom of Colors” is open to anyone over six years old during the day, and lots of children and parents show up. Evenings, when the bar offers wine and mixed drinks, are for people over 21. No smoking of any kind is allowed.

Guests are admitted in small groups, on the hour. There’s no limit on how long you can stay, and for this show, it is very easy to, uh, space out and lose track of time.

“Kingdom of Colors” is only here for a short time. It opened on 10 November 2017 and runs through 26 November 2017. Reservations are absolutely essential. Many of the remaining shows have already sold out.

Highest recommendation.


*It brought back memories of a time long ago, when a friend and I spent most of one summer researching the contrasting perceptual effects of watching the light show from 2001 under the influence of a wide range of pharmaceuticals and herbs.

For Science.

Dancing with the Leaves at ARTECHOUSE

ARTECHOUSE is a newish interactive art space a few blocks south of the National Mall in Washington, DC. Since I’m an easy mark for anything advertised as an “immersive, sensory art experience”,* I headed down to check out the current installation, “Spirit of Autumn”. It didn’t disappoint.

Here’s how it works: “Spirit of Autumn” is open in the evening for people over 21, and during the day for anyone over six years old. In the evening, the bar offers wine and mixed drinks, and the walls change to a darker, bluer colour scheme.

Guests are admitted in small groups, on the hour. There’s no limit to how long you can stay, but people generally spend about 45 minutes on site. You can reserve a slot online, and many of the more desirable times sell out early.

Most of the action interaction takes place in the large room you see in the above pictures. (The one at the top of the column is from ARTECHOUSE; the others are mine.) The images on the walls are in constant motion, with leaves seemingly blown by the wind. If you approach a wall, the leaves coalesce, and echo your form and movements.

Other parts of the wall turn your silhouette into a ghost-like image.


There’s more. In small spaces off the main room, you can toy with other interactive experiences. The video at the end of this item has examples.

And at the end of the line, there’s a workroom where you can design and colour your own leaves, some of which will be incorporated into the show.


“Spirit of Autumn” in Motion

What you’re seeing, once you get past the poor quality of the video:

The leaves respond to a child’s movement. The image collapses when he gets too close, and reconstitutes when he moves away.

When you walk down a dark hall, leaves on the floor rush to follow you.

The walls react to the movement and sound of the visitors. In some places, they create ghost-like reflections. Clapping in certain parts of the room brings about rain and lightning.

Blobs of colour track your footsteps.

The lady with the dancing leaves.


*God, do I miss laser shows! I wonder if they’ll make a comeback, now that marijuana is legal in the Blue States.

“Murder Is Her Hobby” — Deadly Dioramas at the Renwick Gallery

It was a beautiful day in Washington, so I took a leisurely 20-minute walk to the Renwick Gallery, which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art.

An exhibition of the works of Frances Glessner Lee opened at the Renwick over the weekend. You’ve probably never heard of her; I certainly hadn’t.

Lee was the first female police captain in the U.S. She’s known, by people who know that sort of thing, as “mother of forensic science,” for helping to found the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard. And beginning in the 1940s, she created the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”.

The Nutshell Studies are intricately-detailed miniature dioramas of crime scenes, used to train police how to find and evaluate evidence, and to determine what took place at the scene of the crime. The 19 surviving dioramas, of the original 20, are still in use at the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore. They’ll be on display at the Renwick through 28 January 2018, and they’re quite wonderful.

Next to each miniature model is a summary of the basic facts of the case: Who found the body, the known history of the victim, etc. The viewer is invited to examine the diorama and attempt to determine what happened. Murder, suicide, or accident?

So whodunit? The Renwick provides no solutions to the cases, since Lee’s models are still used to test trainees. Except for this exhibition, in fact, the dioramas are not available for public viewing.

Frances Glessner Lee died in 1962, but her influence lives on. During her lifetime, Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason novels, dedicated several of the books to Lee. Much more recently, the television series CSI and The Father Brown Mysteries have featured episodes that involved Lee-inspired crime dioramas.

It was a pleasant if ever-so-slightly morbid way to spend an afternoon.


Here’s the Renwick’s exhibition video:


All images came from the Renwick.