Man Made DIY


Jan 23, 2012

Help Me Decide: Should ManMade Grow a Beard?

created at: 01/23/2012

So, I just got back from a week of traveling and learning at the (excellent) Alt Summit, and with airports and hotel rooms and red-eye flights, and (let's be honest) general vacation-brain and laziness, I haven't shaved for a few days.

And...I'm thinking about keeping it, and growing a beard. So, I thought I'd see what you thought, and I hope you'll share your vote.         … read more


Jan 23, 2012

I See Dead People: Famous Album Covers Minus Bygone Band Members

Artists Jean-Marie Delbes Hatim El Hihi have created their latest project: Live! I See Dead People, a collection of album cover photographs with the no-longer-living band members digitially removed.

The technique is outstanding, and the effect quite poignant.

   … read more


Jan 23, 2012

Casualties of War Toy Soliders

created at: 01/22/2012

Casualties of War is a sobering series of plastic toy soldiers by the design collective Dorothy. At first glance, they might seem like ubiquitous green army men, but when you look closer you'll see that they are actually depicting the personal hell that returning soldiers endure after coming back from combat.  

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Jan 23, 2012

Crafting Liberation: Confessions of an Unredeemable Direction-Follower

created at: 01/23/2012

I’m an unredeemable direction-follower.  As a boy, I’d account for the meniscus when measuring water to make Ramen noodles.  As a man, I was relentlessly mocked by my wife for my stove-side devotion to the succinct instructions of Mark Bittman (aside: If you only ever own one cookbook--and you should only ever own one cookbook--it should be Bittman’s entirely accurately titled HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING.  It’s like the universal Chilton Manual for prepared food).  

This, obviously, is the pathology of a man terrified of failure--that I ever wrote anything at all, let alone an entire damn book (let alone several!) is itself a crippled miracle.  While DIY is obviously empowering--My stove was broken, now it’s fixed; I did that!--having instructions in hand can really quickly shackle us, as it’s so easy to mistake a good way of doing X for the only way to do X.

I was a willing slave to the ingredients list and the step-by-step.

I finally confronted this at 28. When my son was born I left my job teaching and administering programs at a small private school to be a full-time father.  It obviously wasn’t sterling economic judgement to add a human to our household while simultaneously cutting our income in half (or halfish--my wife had the better job and healthcare, which is why I’m the one who stopped working outside in the World of Real People).  I was freelance writing and editing (mostly copyediting, really) during that period, but that was only night and nap-time work, and so our budget was tight.  Our mortgage was a fixed cost; gas for my wife to drive to work was a fixed cost; as folks with no AC who never let the boiler get the house much above 60, utilities where a fixed cost.  When we cut all of the fat from our budget, the only flex point left was the grocery budget.  Subsequently, during that first year, I often found myself without an ingredient from the list.  This meant a lot of improvisation, and subsequently a lot of discovery. 

As it turns out, there’s nothing in a cookbook that’s written in stone.  Does it say all-purpose white flour?  I’m gonna tell you, cake flour will probably work.  Whole wheat will probably work if you add a little extra wet stuff.  For something that doesn’t really need to rise--quick bread or cookies, for example--masa harina (a fine cornmeal flour used to make tortillas) will work, as will oats ground up in a food processor.  Beer can replace stock in any recipe, and bonus, cheap beer works better here.  A striped down “French bread” dough (e.g., 3.5 cups flour, a teaspoon of yeast, a teaspoon or two salt, 1.5 cups water; smash together) will serve as pizza crust, fry bread, buns, rolls, artisanal hand-formed round for a dinner party, or utilitarian sandwich bread.  The savvy--and frugal--kitchen technician learns that cookies, scones, and biscuits are all the same thing: sweetened flour-and-water paste with fat added, baked at 375 for 7 to 10 minutes.[1].  

This new-found liberation carried over into faking a lot of things as I built and repaired what we couldn’t buy.  And, when I started writing Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, that same attitude wound up in the projects: How can I make this simpler?  Cheaper to build?  Easier to generalize? And I know I’m not the only DIY writer who takes this attitude.  

My point: Every parts list is really a set of suggestions.  If there is no danger in making a replacement (i.e., you’re not working with high voltage, high speeds, or high toxicity), then swap in what you’ve got for what you need.  Three-quarters of the time it works well enough, and surprisingly often you wind up with something both surprising and awesome.

The rule then, for any project, is this: Do what you can with what you’ve got.[2]



[1] FYI, the formula for cookies|scones|biscuits is 1:2:3, which is the ratio of sweet-stuff to fat-stuff to flour-stuff (by volume).  So, for a lil batch of cookies, you can do 1/3 cup sweet-stuff (sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, cane syrup, or any combination there-of), 2/3 cup fat-stuff (butter or shortening for cookies), and 1 cup flour-stuff.  If you use butter, this “cookie” comes out like a shortbread/sugar cookie.  Replace butter with eggs and cut back on the sugar, you’ll get biscuits.  Use a little egg and a little butter and either more or less sugar?  You’ve got scones.  Throw in raisins or chocolate chips, charge a couple bucks each, serve it with a cup of burned coffee, and you’re Starbucks.

[2] I was later informed that this is essentially Roosevelt’s Law of Task Planning, whose canonical formulation is: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

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Jan 20, 2012

Sandwiches Inspired by Noteworthy Artists

created at: 01/19/2012

Two of my great loves in life have finally been united: art and sandwiches. Brittany Powell created a whole series of sandwiches inspired by the works of famous artists. The Piet Mondrian piece (above) is definitely my favorite, but the rest are all really cool too.  

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Jan 19, 2012

Colorized Iconic Black and White Photographs

created at: 01/18/2012

When I was a little kid, I assumed that in the past, the world was in black and white and then later on everything became color. A bit silly, but I was basing it off of all the the old photographs I'd see at my grandparents' house, which were black and white. When I discovered that the world has, in fact, always been in color, I began wondering what the colors in those photographs really were. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences.

Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway reimagines classic black and white photos from the past in vibrants and amazingly realistic hues. I've seen colorized photos many times before, but these are by far the best.   … read more


Jan 18, 2012

Oil Paintings by Matthew Davis

created at: 01/17/2012

I'm really impressed by these incredible oil paintings by German artist Matthew Davis. They remind me of a cross between Monet's impressionist works and some of Chuck Close's pointillism-like portraits.  

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Jan 17, 2012

The Red Ball Project

Chicago-based artist Kurt Perschke has been working for years on "The Red Ball Project," a global photography adventure featuring some of the world's greatest cities and a 15-foot inflatable red sphere.

The ball becomes a temporary installation, but also engages the population in a unique way. Perschke says,  

Through the RedBall Project, I utilize my opportunity as an artist to be a catalyst for new encounters within the everyday. Through the magnetic, playful, and charismatic nature of the RedBall the work is able to access the imagination embedded in all of us.… read more


Jan 17, 2012

Nailing It: Portraits in Hardware by Marcus Levine

created at: 12/01/2010

created at: 01/17/2012

While a design student at Cornwall College of Art and Design, Marcus Levine began to play with the idea of creating human forms with nails. He explains, "the interplay between the rigid, angular nails and the soft curves of the human torso, would be more striking".

Years later, Marcus has perfected the technique, and he's nailing it.

   … read more


Jan 17, 2012

How to: Make a Sock Squid (and Cthulu!)

Sock squid basic

I'm warning you: the sock squid is a gateway fiber project. Today you're thinking "I'm just gonna sew this one little fella to give to my buddy, sort of almost as a gag gift," and before you know it you'll be lining laptop sleeves in microfiber and crocheting iPhone jackets.  It is a sickness, and it starts be snipping slits in socks and learning a couple simple hand stitches.

The sock squid was my first sock animal experiment:… read more


Jan 17, 2012

Pizza Boomerang: A Bizarrely Awesome Video

created at: 01/16/2012

Ok. Where do I begin? Pizza Boomerang, a video created by Barcelona-based Sofa Experience Communications, is without doubt the strangest video I've ever seen. After I watched it for the first time, I was confused...I couldn't decide if I was elated by how amazing it was or deeply disturbed by how, well, disturbing it was. There's really not much else I can say about this. Words can't quite describe what it's like to watch PIzza Boomerang, so I'll leave it at that.

created at: 01/16/2012

One thing I should mention, however, is that it's NSFW...or at least one particular scene is. So if you're feeling adventurous, and the kiddies aren't watching (seriously, I wouldn't want to have to explain the plot to a child), then sit back and enjoy the show.   … read more


Jan 16, 2012

How It Was Made: Paper Torso with Removable Organs

You may have seen this incredible paper human torso with removable organs about the internet last week. It was featured on a few art blogs you may have heard of, like...all of them. See: BoingBoingJuxtapozDesignBoomNotCotComplex, and Colossal.

But today, original story breakers My Modern Met have even more to offer: an interview with the artist and photos that show the whole thing being designed and built.   … read more


Jan 16, 2012

Test Your Movie Knowledge with Film Alphabet Posters

British designer and artist Stephen Wildish has created these great and challenging movie alphabets, organized by decade. You'll certainly recognize some, but the task is surprisingly hard.

How many can you guess?

My scores:      … read more


Jan 16, 2012

The Craft and Commerce of Writing

I never set out to write a craft book--or, for that matter, to write business columns, or reference materials, or textbooks on teen sex and Chernobyl, or basically anything that's paid the bills over the last five years.  I'd written for years, but it had been an after-hours art:  Essays about technology and sexuality and Detroit's decay; stories about clockwork robots, haunted dogs, monster wives, and giant squid--the kind of stuff you gut out after dark; the kind of stuff you write for the consuming love of finding how to say it.  The kind of stuff that's hard to sell.

I've always been a crackerjack essayist (honest; I won… read more


Jan 16, 2012

A Table Made of Secret Compartments

created at: 01/15/2012

What could possibly be cooler than secret compartments? Ok, maybe secret passageways, but we'll have to save those for another post. The Kai Table, designed by Naoki Hirakoso and Takmitsu Kitahara, is an incredible object constructed almost entirely of secret compartments.  

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Jan 13, 2012

10 Men's Style Mistakes to Avoid

Gin A. Ando, in the always thoughtful and reliable Primer magazine, offers, in his voice, "ten style mistakes I wish I'd learned a long time ago. He says, "Being virile young men, we are somewhat expected to be reckless in our nature. Perhaps we don’t think everything through before we do it. Or maybe we do things in excess. But if there’s something a well-dressed young man who … read more


Jan 13, 2012

SNL's Stefon Now Doing Reviews on Yelp

created at: 01/13/2012Stefon Zolesky is easily Saturday Night Live's best recurring character since Mary Katherine Gallagher. (Save for perhaps Tina Tina Chaneuse, who is no more.) As Weekend Update's "city coorespondant," Stefon is regularly invited to share tourism tips for families and holiday visitors, but his references quickly devolve into absurd parties and under-under-underground nightclubs, with characters as DJ Baby Bok Choy, a "giant 300 pound Chinese baby, who wears tinted aviator glasses and he spins records with his little ravioli hands”.

So, good news people - Stefon is now doing Yelp reviews… read more


Jan 13, 2012

Swissted: Punk Rock Music + Swiss Modernism

created at: 01/13/2012

"Swissted" is NY-based designer's Mike Joyce ode to two of his most beloved passions: punk rock and Swiss modernism, two movements, he notes, "that have absolutely nothing to do with one another."

Mike redesigned vintage flyers from actual punk rock, hardco

re, and indie rock concerts… read more


Jan 13, 2012

"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" Inspired Oil Painting & the Adult Swim Art Show

created at: 01/12/2012

This oil painting by Audrey Pongracz, inspired by the TV show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, is awesome. What made me even more excited, was finding out that this piece is part of an entire Adult Swim themed art show.   … read more


Jan 12, 2012

Bar Basics: The 12 Bottles Any Home Bar Should Have

High-end, underlit, swanky joints and well-worn, leathery pubs alike have it in common: a lot of bottles of spirits. On first glance, even the smallest restaurant with a liquor license will seem to have just a few selections, but start counting, and you'll realize that most bartended spots have, on average, around 35-40 bottles, with many going up to into the hundreds.

For the home mixmaster, that can be intimidating. You're interested in creating classic and contemporary cocktails alike, but have neither the budget, the space, nor the use for even an average restaurant-style selection.… read more

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