Moriarty Naps

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’23.1 - Whirling in Rags

Minutes before midnight, trekking uphill in a post-sleet crunch, I got home just in time to toast the New Year with my folks. Fare thee well 2022. Hello 2023!

In the past I’ve made multiple daily visual diaries (2017, 2020). Consistently, I fall off that horse around month four or so, but they’ve been fun to look back. This year I’m going to try to do monthly logs, shamelessly inspired by other bloggers.



To get back to DC, I took the long road back from Janesville. The crux of the trip was to hit up the American Sign Museum, a huge collection of signage from over the years.

Orphan spaghetti, Cincinnati Museum Center ceiling, a thrilling window display.

There’s a worksman aspect of signage that should resonate with most cartographers and data viz designers. Ultimately, while it’s an art, it’s a utility foremost. And while we can get giddy over the details and craftsmanship, the audience is there for information. The decoration is more often noticed when it’s noticeably off .

Which is what makes this museum such a delight. It’s a celebration of both technical indulgences and just well-crafted signage.

Signs don’t age well. By nature, they’re out in nature, getting worn down. Businesses fade, technology changes.

The boot in the image below as a prime example of that age. While it had been built in the ‘lightbulb era’, it’s owners had updated it by removing all the bulbs and adding neon tubing to outline it instead. The museum restored the half visible in the photo, and left the other side with the neon.

They also partnered Neonworks of Cincinnati, who have their workshop attached to the museum via a wall of windows where you can see them blowing new glass. Those windows line a faux-storefront on their main street that rivals Streets of Old Milwuakee. Not only does it have a freakin’ huge old McDonalds sign, but also has a rotating globe.

Go! Go to this museum if you’re ever passing through the area.



The Pie Room is a wonderful book. Written by a British pastry chef, Calum Franklin, and his kitchen, I’ve yet to find a dud among the recipes. The lattice below is a tomato, onion, and goat cheese tart that was just splendid.

Also ended up making three wellingtons between this month and Christmas. Two mushroom wellington’s, one to test bake, another for Christmas dinner, and finally a beef wellington for a second Christmas dinner. Will never hold a candle to someone who makes a hundred of these a month, but, can’t say any of them less than delicious.





Disco Elysium is a masterpiece. I’m about two years late to that opinion, and it isn’t a hot one. But it’s hard to overstate how awe-inspiringly cohesive the writing, art, and gameplay are together. Read about it in countless reviews, or better yet go play the game.

Conquest of Revachol. Aleksander Rostov.

The art. The art! I’m a sucker for expressive brush and linework. From an early affection for Brett Helquist (illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events), to JC Leyendecker, confident strokes adds momentum and life.

Reading about how they developed the portrait styles and backgrounds is illuminating. Aleksander Rostov, the lead artist behind the game, casts a wide net of credit – the Post-Soviet Union world they grew up in to abstract painters, to the interface of 1999 Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. But he speaks on Craig Mullens at length in the Disco Elysium art book, describing his work as “painterly anarchy on top of rigid and true fundamentals.”

Work by Craig Mullens. Mind blowing stuff.

There’s an obvious influence of hurried, splashy backgrounds. Even the roughly drawn rotunda courtyard above, the structure is there. It looks so effortless, but enough rules of perspective and light are being followed that it feels like all you have to do is squint and it would come into focus. The lack of details isn’t the painting, you just forgot to wear your glasses today.

Stuff to aspire to.

Archetype portraits of the main protagonist of Disco Elysium. Aleksander Rostov.

With A.I. art increasingly accessible, I imagine we’ll see a lot more of this kind of art. Abstraction is a great way to mask a lack of focus. But that’s not what these are – they ooze intention. A quiet confidence that when it works, works.

Rostov is just one member of ZU/UM, the collective that made Disco. Thanks to the success it was, they put out the aforementioned art book where they detailed it’s creation. There’s a great passion that comes through as they talk about their inspirations and a seeming honesty in the blunt manner they speak to technical and business decisions. There’s a purity in that the game spun out of their teenage dnd homebrew’d world.

It altogether makes it utterly painful to hear that the collective’s leads were all involuntarily kicked of the company built around making a sequel in that world. It always sucks when people responsible for great work have to waste time in litigation vs. making cool shit. I look forward to whatever comes out of em’ wherever they go.

Finishing this game and reading about it’s creation is partly what led to this series. Besides a natural predilection towards being open about how sausage is made, I liked the honesty about their inspirations. I’m not about to become a renaissance painter – unless I’m Groundhog Day’ed – but this inspires the hell out of me. And maybe, in some ways, you’ll see the strokes of that down the road.

Til next month, – D.M.

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