Thursday, February 10, 2011

Further Lego Abominations

Less contentious, but more gory than the Lego concentration camp, we have a site which started out as, changed its name (under legal threat?) to, and ended up redirected to a site called, which appears to be broken - proof of how ephemeral the net is. The images you see here are mostly collected from thescreamonline, one of the few sites left with any pictures of these gruesome but cheerful Lego death scenes.

Why are these so inoffensive, when the concentration camp (see previous post) is such a taboo breaker? A bit of historical distance, and a lack of specificity I suppose. It's a common reaction - everyone agrees Hitler was a monster, but no one gets too worked about Genghis Khan.

It brings to mind an exchange of email I once had with SF writer S.M.Stirling. He'd written a series of books about what were effectively modern day Spartans, and I commented on how bringing them into the modern world removed their historical glamour, and showed them as not very desirable neighbours. His reply was about how one of the major attractions at Disneyland, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' is a G-rated monument to theft, arson, rape and murder. Quite so.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Lego Concentration Camp

An oldie, this one, but I'm not trying to be up to date so much as I'm trying to get all the trivia out of my mind and onto a more world-readable format.

In 1997, Polish artist Zbigniew Libera took some Lego bricks (donated by the Lego company, which was ultimately quite unhappy with the whole affair) and made himself a Nazi concentration camp, complete with barracks, chain link fences, Nazi guards, Jewish prisoners (played by the ever cute Lego skeletons), and most taboo of all, the ovens in which prisoner's remains were incinerated. He then photographed it, and used the photos to make thoroughly professional Lego packaging for a nonexistent line of toys.

The work was part - though certainly the most controversial part - of a project called "Correcting Device" which claimed to be a corrective to the gap between the ideal world marketed to children and the real one created by adults. Other pieces in the series included Barbie dolls with bulging stomachs and dolls with body hair.

I found the thoughts behind this project interesting as - by virtue of having a two year old child - I'm painfully aware of how consistently children's books depict farms of a sort which effectively don't exist any more. Perhaps we need a few Lego battery chicken farms and cattle feedlots?

Obviously, any project which appears to be making light of mass murder - regardless of the artist's intentions - is prone to hostile interpretation. When Libera showed this work to a group that included Jewish Holocaust survivors, he was immediately pelted with a barrage of insults which included "Go back to Warsaw!", "You're an anti-Semite," to "This is not art! On the other hand, the Jewish Museum in New York had the mock Lego sets on display in an exhibition about the Holocaust.

Articles from The Washinton Post and Los Angeles Times
An overview of the Corrective Device project
More pictures
and last, a welcome corrective from Joe Bob Briggs, accusing the whole exhibition of being overhyped and banal.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Copper - how it's made

I forgot to mention, when I was singing the praises of online comic 'Copper', that the site contains a nice article/photo-essay on how an issue of Copper is made, from the first pencil sketches, through to scanning and digital cleaning up.

The article starts at

Saturday, February 05, 2011


One of the few online comics to really win my heart is 'Copper' an intermitently published one-pager about a boy and his dog, and their low key adventures, alternately philosophical and surreal.

Not in graphic style, but somehow in the way the story flows, it's reminiscent of Little Nemo in Slumberland, the great newspaper comic of the early decades of the 20th century - and that's rather high praise.

Copper online:
Little Nemo Online:
About Winsor McCay:

Copper prints: here
Little Nemo Books: expensive, affordable, and a beautiful calendar.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Earth Pig

Which is what 'aardvark' means in Afrikaans. Contrary to appearances, this nocturnal African insectovore is not made of plasticine.

The specimens shown here are from the Henry Doorly zoo in Omaha, USA. For further information go to and search for 'aardvark'. Due to the way their website is structured, I can't give exact links to the aardvark related material, but there are entries from October and December 2005.

It's no surprise to see zoos showing an interest in aardvarks, but I hadn't realised they'd caught the attention of the excellent surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, in this 1997 piece titled 'Aardvark Groomed by Widows".
Net links:
Leonora Carrington: an interview a gallery and a thesis.
Aardvarks: The African Wildlife Foundation

Book links:
Leonora Carrington: Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy And Art and her odd surrealist novel The Hearing Trumpet
Aardvarks: None! Oh sure, a million children's book and a fair bit of information on the F-111 Aardvark Fighter-Bomber, but nothing to be found on Orycteropus afer, only surviving member of the family Orycteropodidae and of the order Tubulidentata.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Joy of Spaceships

When I was a young science fiction geek, before I became the wise old turtle you see at the top of this page, there was nothing more exciting than the illustrations of Chris Foss. He painted space scenes on a tremendous scale, featuring oddly shaped - almost abstract - spaceships, checkered and striped, sprouting stray antennae, almost always on a vast scale. Collosal and impersonal, descendants of the aircraft carrier rather than the fighter jet, they hung against vast nebulae, or wreathed themselves in glowing jets of exhaust.

His works seemed so distinctive that I was quite taken aback to find that his name was intimately associated with something almost as exciting as spaceships - sex. He was, in fact, one of the two illustrators of the original 'The Joy of Sex', that mysterious book of instruction, discreetly removed from many a parental shelf, which showed us all that sex could be not only quite unerotic, but also very, very hairy.

I shouldn't really be amazed that a commercial artist is capable of working in a range of different styles, but what can I say? I am amazed.

For Chris Foss science fiction artwork on the web, try here or here.

For Chris Foss books, try 21st Century Foss, The Chris Foss Portfolio, Diary of a Space Person or Science Fiction Art. And of course, there's always The Joy of Sex (old edition)