Whimsy: December 2005 Archives

Motley and crew


I was thinking of all that we need to get done in the next week or so, and the phrase "miles to go before I sleep," from Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. That took me down some mental pathways I haven't traveled in a while.

That phrase reminded me of a comic strip that ran in the early 1980s called Miles to Go, about a dog named Miles who worked in a used pet store. I remember clipping a Christmastime strip where Miles reviews the gifts he received from the other pets -- the payoff panel has him making a face over Mrs. Rabbit's raisin bread.

A Google search turns up the artist's name -- Phil Frank. Frank has another strip called Farley which has been running for 30 years; for the last 20 years exclusively in the San Francisco Chronicle. Somewhere in my Googling I read that Miles has made some appearances in Farley since the end of his own strip.

The Tulsa Tribune carried Miles to Go, and they also carried a strip called Wright Angles, which wasn't an animal strip, but the breakout character was a cat named Motley. Motley really captured the essence of finicky, self-centered cat-ness, and his attitude and appearance reminded me of our family's beloved cat, Flakey. The artist, Larry Wright, retired the strip sometime around 1990, but it's being serialized on United Media's website, retitled in honor of the cat.

Both strips ended before the advent of the World Wide Web, which would explain why neither has much of a presence on the 'net. (Yes, the old Wright Angles strips are on United Media's site under the name Motley, you won't find many references beyond that. And I haven't found anything that says that Motley is a repeat of Wright Angles, as obvious as that is.)

I am pleased to see classic comic strips running alongside new strips -- online at least. There are networks dedicated to classic TV shows, radio stations that play classic rock and classic country, so why not rerun the best cartoons?

My friend Daaaaaave Russ wrote from Florida to tip me off about a nifty electronics project that was done right here in Tulsa by one Josh McCormick -- modifying a $50 singing/dancing Wal-Mart Santa to produce different sounds and movements:

I've had a Parallax BASIC Stamp for some time. The nice BS2P40 model. For those not familiar with the BASIC Stamp, it is a computer chip that you can program in a simple language that can monitor and control things. It is nowhere near as complex as a full-blown computer, but it requires just a minimum of wiring and electronics to run. It just takes some good programming and some very basic electronics....

The problem is that I hadn't been able to find many interesting things to do with it. I created a little display toy (persistence of vision) with some full color (RGB) LEDs. That was about it. But last month, an interesting announcement hit my mailbox. It was a call for entries [Word Document] for a local non-conformist art show in Tulsa!

I've got to do something. But what can I do? LEDs? No, too boring. So I went browsing the isles of Wal*Mart and see if there were any good hackable items to be had there. Sure enough, there were a few candidates. But one item out of the entire store screamed "hack me" more than anything else. The $49.84 animatronic Santa Claus.

Sadly, the non-conformist art show folks didn't appreciate his efforts:

Two days later, the judging came, and I got a phone call from the art gallery. They said they had a lot of entries this year, and they apologize that the judging was "rather ruthless". My entry did not qualify for the exhibit. I was slightly disappointed, but I was a little confused. From what I was told, the judges leaned more towards mainsteam art. You know... sculpture, painting, etc. No big deal, I really didn't put my self worth on the line with this one. But they wanted it out of their gallery by the end of the day.

I arrive at the art gallery and checked out the remaing artworks. Most of them seem sexual in nature. You know. George Bush with an erection, that sort of thing. Were these the winners, or other losers like myself?

Click through for videos of Hacked Santa in action, plus all the gory technical details. If you can handle dark humor, don't miss the list of candidate phrases for Hacked Santa to say: "I can give you free stuff because I skimp on Elf health care! HO HO HO!!"

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from December 2005.

Whimsy: November 2005 is the previous archive.

Whimsy: February 2006 is the next archive.

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