Cursed 3D Printed Chachapoyan Fertility Idol Brings Me Great Strength

1About three years ago I digitally sculpted the fertility idol from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Why not! Throw me the idol! Doctah Jones! It was just a fairly simple, familiar, and interesting object for me to create.

There are a number of ways to approach 3D modeling, but starting a model from scratch is usually more akin to drawing architectural plans than getting your fists into a lump of clay. It’s also much easier with traditional 3D modeling software to create hard objects with simple geometric forms (a cube, a cylinder, etc.) than it is to create a believable organic form. But there are some applications that take a completely different approach to 3D modeling. With Sculptris, designing an object is quite literally like manipulating clay. You start with a base shape like a sphere in the simulated 3D space and add and subtract from it, just as you would with a real life malleable medium. (Sculptris is the free, simplified version of Pixologic’s ZBrush, which is their professional-grade offering. No need for ZBrush when I’m a Play-Doh level sculptor.)

CaptureIt goes without saying that I have no actual, real world experience with sculpting. But I do have a pair of eyes that can see what’s right and what’s not, so I just slowly manipulated my imaginary clay to roughly approximate the various reference images I had gather of the Chachapoyan idol. I don’t remember how long that took–quite a few hours of clumsy digital sculpting over multiple days.

indyidol2And then I let it sit on a hard drive for three years.

I thought about ordering a 3D print from Shapeways, but printing a 1-to-1 scale replica was prohibitively expensive. I’d be better off buying an actual lump of clay if I wanted a life-sized version (or I could just get one Amazon, but the idol itself wasn’t the point.) Even half scale was much more money that I would spend on a mere trinket of curiosity.

But it just happened to cross my mind recently. Small objects are quite to cheap to print of Shapeways, and they have more material and color options than ever (including actual gold). So I settled on a little 2 in. figure, in yellow plastic, for $25.

TEMP1Not bad! Quite good! I had ordered “polished” plastic, and it ain’t polished, but I’m guessing that’s because the details were too fine to be polished, and the Shapeways staff were smart enough to know polishing it would reduce my idol to a meaningless peanut. Instead, it has the rough sandy surface that comes as a default to that sort of printing. Plus the yellow–which I think is just on the surface.

temp2So there you have it, a genuine 3D-printed Chachapoyan fertility idol. It belongs in a museum, but I’m keeping this one on my desk.

Cross post from Kinja.

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Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams (Yume) is a collection of short segments, each depicting an individual dream. The first time I watched it, I fell asleep.

It’s a remarkable depiction of what the experience of dreaming is like: slow-burning anxiety-driven plots that lack logic and occasionally escalate into nightmares, punctuated by moments of beauty and tranquility. That’s what dreams are like for me, anyway, and apparently Akira Kurosawa too.

(I like to think that’s what lulled me to sleep–its depiction of dreams was so accurate my brain didn’t know what to do, so it joined in the fun.)

So much of the film is quietly horrific. A child having wronged the mystical foxes of the forest is given a knife and told to commit suicide–unless he journeys into the forest to apologize. Mountaineers caught in a storm are coerced by a demon to lie in the snow. Exploding nuclear plants cause Mount Fuji to glow like hot iron. And more.

I’ve had these dreams, with different backdrops, with characters from my own life. Remarkably similar dreams, which is a testament to Kurosawa’s ability to articulate deeply abstract and distant ideas that lurk so far down in our unconscious psyches.

One night in San Francisco there were fierce, cold winds, and I was living in an old building with original wooden window frames that let the cold air go wherever it damn well pleased. I slept in a sweater under a pile of blankets.

But in a surreal moment of sleep paralysis, I awoke to something holding me down, accompanied by roaring, deafening winds. It was, it seemed, an evil presence in the form of the cold itself, pressing down on my chest–just as Kurosawa showed happening to the mountain climbers. I wonder if he experienced something similar and changed the setting to something logical for the story: a cold night in bed depicted as a blizzard on a mountainside.

I have not dreamt of Fuji and nuclear disaster specifically, and yet, I have dreamt of the same experience: crowds fleeing the chaos of destruction. Oddly, in my experience, these aren’t nightmares, they’re just things that happen (lol). I frequently dream of all kinds of aircraft exploding and falling from the sky, and I say aircraft because they are sometimes planes and sometimes abstract goliath flying machines that you would see in a Marvel movie. I don’t even fear flying! Nonetheless Kurosawa’s nuclear disaster reminded me of my planes. But it is not all doom–

There are also those moments in your dreams that feel full of serenity and tranquility, when you are in a perfect place with perfect people. Perhaps the sun is pouring down, perhaps you are with someone you loved, maybe there’s a breeze and you watch the wild flowers sway back and forth. Kurosawa’s closing segment, a visit to a rustic village full of water wheels, feels like that.

It was years ago that I watched it and fell asleep, but just the other day I awoke and was immediately reminded of the film by something I had dreamt. I can’t remember what it was. And yet–the thing is–I’ll have the same dream again and will revisit this film again, if only as an oddly reassuring reminder of our mutually shared dreams and nightmares.

Cross post from Kinja.

Fitzcardboardaldo

A loving tribute to Fitzcarraldo in cardboard. But wait! There’s more.

A an additional tribute to Les Blank’s documentary, Burden of Dreams, which is essential to the Fitzcarraldo story:

via Laughing Squid.

Of course, I am also planning a Fitzcarraldo tribute in the form of a ship in a bottle, midway up the hill. I’m fairly happy with my ship that I designed in Autodesk 123D Design, but I haven’t considered the disassembly/reassembly aspect of getting in the bottle once printed.

I’m considering making a tiny version in a Bulleit bourbon bottle, which has quite a nice shape (and taste, if you’re into that). Bulleit Fitzcarraldo would just be the miniscule Micro Machine version though, with the ship being maybe 2in long and less than 1in tall.

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Tales of the Gold Monkey is a pulp television series with the sensibility of a Saturday morning cartoon, following a cargo pilot’s adventures set in the 1930s South Pacific. If this sounds like the Disney show TaleSpin, that’s because Gold Monkey was a major influence upon the creator of TaleSpin, Jymn Magon.

There are Nazis! Volcanos! Spies! Samurais! A dog with an eye patch! It must have been an expensive show to produce, and indeed it’s quite striking how much show there is. There are real vintage airplanes, aerial dogfights, large sets, and much of the series appears to be shot in Hawaii. In terms of production scale, this is the Game of Thrones of 1982. The series is the brainchild of Magnum PI creator Donald P. Bellisario.vlcsnap-2013-05-10-20h30m58s209

Many television shows that lasted one season or less have come and gone, but the most similar show that comes to mind is The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Young Indy was undoubtedly better produced, directed, and written, but also ten years later. Contemporaneous to Gold Monkey was Bring ‘Em Back Alive, another WWII-era adventure series set in Singapore. Both were criticized as Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoffs, but it would be more accurate to say that the popularity of Raiders is what allowed Gold Monkey and Bring ‘Em Back Alive to be greenlit during that television season. Bellisario was apparently working on the idea before Raiders was released.

It’s great to see distributors like Netflix giving a second life to the many brief but wonderful television series that have hooked our sense of romance and adventure over the years. If you can still maintain your childlike sense of wonder, you’ll probably enjoy Tales of the Gold Monkey. It’s only available by disc over Netflix, or you can just buy whole the 21-episode run on Amazon for thirty bucks.