Year: 2008

Pin Up

Pinup model Bettie Page died this week. I don’t think I ever posted images of the insane push pin mosaic I made in 2006, but since it used an early photo of her as source material, this seems like an appropriate time to do that.

This is a full size, standard 5 foot by 4 foot cork board, covered entirely by colored pushpins. I did roughly one row of pins every few days during 2006. If I were the type to call things I made ‘Pieces,’ this ‘piece’ would be titled ‘Pinup.’

There’s really not much backstory to this – the concept occurred to me and seemed pretty fun, and I was in the middle of a long period of indulging my tendency to make ridiculous mosaics. Many projects of this nature (ie Large-scale mosaics built from non-traditional art supplies) yield cries of “Too much free time” and the like, but I would submit that in practice the actual assembly is meditative in a weird, procedural, decidedly non-mystical way. The finished mosaic now lives in my Wife’s office.

Below: Pins in bulk, source material, and a peek at the workarea. More angles of this mosaic, and two other ridiculous mosaics can be seen at

Christmas Coding.

I think I’ve finally worked out enough of the bugs to mention without coder shame that Suburban Sprawl Music has launched our 2008 Holiday compilation.

44 artists from Michigan and beyond contributed songs this year. Ironically, I think this is the first time in three years that none of the songs are about unemployment.

This year I decided to update how the holiday page works, dragging it kicking and screaming into the world of 2007 web technologies. You can now play any song in its entirety by clicking on the title / artist, and we’ve cleaned up the downloading interface so everything is (in theory) easier to use. It should be working in all major browsers, but if you find anything weird, let me know. I might cry, but I still want to know.

I couldn’t decide on a song from the Ventures Christmas Album to attack this year, so I made up one of my own – a sort of Ventures Holiday Music Fanfic offering, if you will. As with everything, I put this off until the absolute last second, and ended up learning all the parts, recording them, and throwing together a final mix in the span of about six hours.

My one regret: I was without a drum key, so the snare sounds like balls. I will get over it though. I always do.

You can download the MP3 here, or I’ve embedded it below for easy listenin’.

[audio:Adam Kempa – Jailhouse Angels.mp3]

Post-college, my career trajectory pointed right into the engineering department of some sort of auto supplier, who (statistically speaking) would have already laid me off by now. I'm glad I stubbornly stuck with web stuff, and I was very lucky to have found the job I did.

Halloween Costume 08

Earlier this year, I made the mistake of downloading “Dr. Mario: Online RX” for the Nintendo Wii. I promptly became completely addicted, playing online every night for about a week. At this point, my wife Sarah was moved to give it a shot. Sarah is not a big videogame person, but did get sucked into both Wii Sports and Big Brain Academy in pretty serious fashion. Needless to say, she developed an obsession with Dr. Mario that handily surpassed my own. She challenged all comers: houseguests, strangers on the internet, and most frequently, me. Demands that I report to the livng room for ‘Battles’ became a nightly ritual.

That said, when it came time to come up with Halloween costumes to wear to our friend Asif’s party, it seemed like a no brainer to go as Dr. Mario (Sarah) and one of the viruses from the game (Me) – I chose the red one. For the record, Wikipedia can’t decide if the red virus is officially named ‘Red Virus’ or ‘Fever.’

My first instinct with respect to the oversized pills / capsules was to google around and see if anything usable already existed on the internet. I turned up one other person who created a giant capsule, and a billion of those ‘put your logo on a minimum of one thousand of our crappy promotional items’ sites pushing capsule-shaped “stress balls” to pharmaceutical companies. Neither of these options appealed to me (Though I did try unsuccessfully to get several companies to send me samples of the blank capsule stress balls), so paper mache was nominated the best candidate.

Sarah’s costume was easy: wig + mustache + stethoscope + head mirror = Dr. Mario. I volunteered to create some oversized pills, and I had a couple ideas on how to tackle the Virus mask as well. A few weekends before Halloween, I invaded our local Target to gather two key elements of my planned costume: Balloons, and a Mr. Potato Head.

I ended up creating the form for the pills out of balloons, 8.5 x 11 sheets of cardstock, and masking tape. In retrospect, there are two things I probably would have done differently here – things I will definitely do next time I create five oversized medicine capsules out of paper mache. One: I should have covered the cardstock completely with masking tape, as the wetness of the paper mache process cause it to buckle in, deforming the pills. Two: I should have taped the seams where the cardstock met the balloons, as the lip of the cardstock curled away from the surface of the balloon once it got wet. Take these bits of knowledge, future constructors of Dr. Mario costumes, and use it wisely!

I also paper mached-up a giant balloon to use as a mask in case I didn’t come up with anything better in the meantime (I didn’t). Way to cover your ass, past self!

Once I had spent far too many evenings simultaneously watching election coverage and applying layers of paper mache to my various objects, it was time to paint. I actually used primer this time, which is completely uncharacteristic. I am always impatient when it comes to painting things, so I usually skip this step. I think I have to admit that it helped, though.

Once the priming was complete, I began applying coats of rustoleumcrazygloss spraypaint. Again, I am super impatient with paint, so it was a tortuous week of applying coats of paint at various intervals, all the while completely ignoring the mask.

So about that procrastinating on the mask issue: I probably spent a good 5 days or so liesurely applying the various coats of spraypaint to the giant-size pills. I finally realized I hadn’t started the mask at all with about two days left before halloween, so I immediately began applying a frantic procession of improperly-dried coats of paint to the Balloon. I applied the last coat of yellow (The eyes) before leaving for work on the morning of Halloween.

Finally, on Friday evening after the last of the trick-or-treaters had come by, it was time to apply the finishing touches: Some hands and feet stolen from a Mr. Potato Head, and a pair of Devil horns. All of these were cobbled onto the mask using a Dremel and gobs of Gorilla Tape, which I had never used before, but now heartily recommend.

Below is a photo of how the finished costumes ended up. Immediately after putting it on at the party I realized two things. One: “Oh shit I can barely hear anything AT ALL.” Two: “Oh shit, no one can hear me AT ALL.” Lesson learned.