Monday, 27 August 2012

Bonnie Scotland and the Strobridge Litho Co.

A slight departure post this time. Some of you may or may not know that I do a bit of graphic design work, this mainly consists of creating designs that go on POD (Print on Demand) products like t-shirts, mousemats, etc. There are various links to my stores for such on the blog sidebar here, as well as on my website. Feel free to have a look if you have a bit of time.

Recently though, I've been concentrating on more arty digital work and launched a new online store selling large sized quality prints and canvases, again, link on sidebar if interested. Most of this work is based on digital imagery of buildings or landmarks that interest me, or just something that catches my eye. There is a wealth of imagery and photography out there, in the public domain, and some of the images are as professional as can be, though some, especially older examples, do need a bit of work.

Which brings me to today's topic. I discovered these old theatre advertising posters by the Strobridge Litho Company in the USA, the headings of 'Bonnie Scotland' caught my eye. Due to their age though (circa 1895), they are not of the greatest quality now. I've noticed they are offered for sale on a number of websites and POD stores on the internet, but of the stores I've glanced at, no one has taken any effort to enhance and brighten the images up, though I will say my research is in no way extensive, so I may have missed some. Anyway, I thought I would have a go myself. Obviously, below, the original image is on the left, my reworking on the right!

'Here's to the King of Glen and Crag.' and 'Arrival of the Regiments.'

I haven't discovered a great deal of information of the Strobridge Litho Company, or who actually created the original works, though at one time, the company was one of America's most important lithography firms. Its signature products were circus, theater, and movie posters. The firm was founded by Elijah Middleton, and by 1854, he had taken on as partners a lithographer, W.R. Wallace, and local bookseller Hines Strobridge. (More Here)

The artist and cartoonist, Matthew Somerville Morgan, also joined the company of Strobridge in 1880, so perhaps he may have had a hand in the originals, when I have some spare time I may spend a bit researching more information.(More Here)

'At Paldy's Fair.' and 'Come Under My Plaidie.'

My own efforts are by no means exhaustive, and obviously the more time one spends on such a venture, and the more care one takes, the better the results will be. I am fairly happy with my own results to date, and the full sized images I have completed are sized at 20x30 or 30x40 inches. Most of the work was done using Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is a fantastic application, all the more so because it is free.(Info Here)

'Humphrey Accuses Buchanan.' and 'Jean MacFarlane Stays Her Brother's Hand.'

I may or may not offer the full sized enhanced images for sale, the above examples are greatly reduced to speed page loading time and save on file size. I would like to experiment a bit more with these images, and others, and glean more experience. Any constructive feedback is always welcome.

More Links:
One source of the original images above is in the American Library of Congress
More images from the Strobridge Lithographing Co.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

SILHOUETTES - Fifth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Fifth instalment - Chapters ten and eleven.
For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.


    Dave touched his chip, searching for an answer, the barmaid put a drink in front of him and asked for money. The stranger flickered in front of him, looking slightly alarmed, and impatient, his aura fiery red and glowing, and finally recognition came and the scenario from last night came into focus. He fingered the chip off.

    'Ben, is it?' he said. He was in control again. Ben and the blonde, Debbie, the one he'd seen at the park this morning, arguing over his state of inebriation. It was in the Scotia Bar last night.

    'Yeah, that's right,' Ben also, it seemed, began to remember the scene. 'You said you were going to fry my brain. You said you were an alien and you had the technology!'

    'Hmm, forget that,' said Dave, 'I was a bit pissed myself,' he lied. He should really stop with the alien crap, it wasn't fun anymore. His body had fucked him over again. In reality, his mind was in a maze, with the chip his body was given limited focus and manipulation while it had control, to mask his communications to Homeland. When it wasn't in control, it was passive, but still active in the background, it made him seem absent minded, or distracted, at times, forgetful of people or places at other times. At least now he could stop phoning home, though the chip was there for life. Hopefully they would sort out the bugs and improve it as time went by. 'Let me buy you a drink,' he said, 'as an apology.'

    Ben accepted the drink, and they both returned to Dave's table at the window. The Herald was lying open at the crossword, half done.

    'Bit heavy, that rag,' said Ben, 'full of big words where little words would do.'

    'That's my link to home,' said Dave, he realised he could tell Ben anything, thinking fun time again. He would either accept what he said, or think he was nuts, and it didn't really matter what.

    'Your old man the editor, or something?'

    'Look here,' said Dave, and opened the paper at page four. He squared four columns with a pen, a piece about the missing student in the news. He circled one word on each line, seemingly at random, then passed the page in Ben's direction. 'Read from bottom to top, right to left,' he instructed.

    'Police, be, insisted, university, weeks, crime, insider, blonde, link,' Ben read the words aloud. 'Doesn't appear to make much sense!'

    'It's a warning from home, they are subliminally broadcast, and subsequently, and unwittingly, printed, to remind us not to get complacent on a tour of duty.'

    Hmm, thought, Ben, this guy is nuts, for real. He accepted the wind up though, for a laugh.

    'I know it doesn't make much sense to you, obviously you're not one of us. In my own tongue it makes sense, without translation it is meaningless.'

    'So,' Ben was beginning to wish he had drank up and left, 'what does it say when translated?'

    'In my own tongue, it means, “Beware of strangers bearing gifts.”'

    'And in what language would that be?' asked Ben.


    The flat was ground floor, so Simon always had to beware of either casual passers-by gazing in, or worse, the enemy's subtle surveillance. The curtains were almost always kept closed except in the living room which he rarely used. The two bedrooms had Venetian blinds always shut, and heavy curtains closed over them. In the spare bedroom, Suzi lay naked on the bed. It had taken a full day to drain her, gut her and cleanse her inside and out with the embalming fluids he'd stolen from the undertaker's office in Springburn. The insides had been carefully cut into little pieces, blended, bit by bit, and poured into large empty coffee tins he'd been buying and storing for precisely this purpose. He'd already dumped five in the river, at different locations, seven more to do, and he noticed, as he inspected Suzi, pale now, almost a translucent white, though he was pleased with his work, she was still oozing fluids at places, and the smell was still quite noticeable in here. He lifted the body, now so light and fragile, out of rigor, it seemed, and mopped these wet patches from the incontinence sheet she was lying on. Good buy, that, he thought, remembering the price.

    When the body was clean again, he selected the Stanley knife and carefully make a cut just below the throat, placed the electronics for the doll's speaker under the opened flesh and positioned it as he could. There was no bleeding now, the blood had congealed in the flesh, and the flesh was like cutting leather. He removed it again, made a few corrections to the cut, replaced the circuitry, including the battery box, and happy with the result, he fed the wires up the inside of the throat, with difficulty and precision, to the mouth.

    The speaker wasn't great, he would replace it, he thought, but it would do for now, Suzi was research and development, a prototype, his first real experiment. Suzi Two would come before long. He pried the mouth open, pulled the two speakers wires from the throat into view and slid the connections on the ends onto the spade connectors on the speaker. He tucked it into the mouth out of sight, and happy with the result, he found the doll's box and re-read the instructions for use. If his calculations were correct, he should be able to press the throat and get sound. He did so.

    'Baby wants to play,' came a metallic gurgle from Suzi's mouth. 'Baby wants to play.'

    Simon smiled, it was a whiny thin voice, but it worked. He reached for a threaded needle to stitch up the gash in the throat.

Next instalment coming soon...

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Stevie Mach Art

I've now launched my new art store, Stevie Mach Art, specialising in large high quality digital posters and canvases. Sizes and frames can all be customised to suit. Click here, or have a look at the panel below to see some examples. The store will be updated frequently, so please check back again from time to time if you have an interest. Thank you.

See other gifts available on Zazzle.

SILHOUETTES - Fourth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Fourth instalment - Chapters eight and nine.
For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.


The smell was gone for good, thought Simon, as he entered, sniffing vigorously, not a scent of anything but lemon and that was alright. He checked around the outside face of the two Yale locks for scratches before he closed the door. They were unmarked, he locked the door behind him and went through his entry routine, the hall thread, pinned from skirting to skirting was intact, and each interior door off the hall was ajar at the exact measurement they'd been left at – it had taken ages to get the doors to sit comfortably and stay at that exact ten centimetres, which was the length of his forefinger from tip to knuckle. When he was content no one had surreptitiously been in his home he began to relax and went to the kitchen to read the mail and continue the process of taking one of the dolls apart. The expected letter from the Department of Work and Pensions was there, he opened that and was dismayed to find that they did, indeed, want him to come in for a medical. It was an inconvenience, though he realised his employers had to keep up the pretence and he had to appear to be treated as everyone else. Cover was cover, and the reasons were plain to see.

The next two letters were from car insurance companies offering him discounts on his next policy if he cared to reply. One had a free-phone number to reply to, he binned that, the other had a reply-paid envelope and a short form to be filled out. This was for his report which he would write today. Reports had to be punctual, sent the same day as notification was received. He had to admire the intricacy of the subterfuge his employers would create to ensure the secrecy of a Government organisation. It could be a pain at times to keep up, but he realised it was all for his own, and the country's, benefit and protection. The last letter was from a firm of solicitors, something to do with a woman and child, and money owed. He binned all but the insurance reply envelope.

He carefully cut the clothes from the doll, it stood naked around twelve inches. The speaker was in the body of the doll, and he assumed the circuitry for the voice box was somewhere behind in the interior of the trunk. With a large pair of pliers he removed the arms and legs, they came apart easily enough to confirm his view on the shoddiness of modern manufacturing processes. With care, he removed the battery box cover, the screws recessed beneath held the front and back of the doll's body together. He selected the proper screwdriver from the plethora of tools lined neatly on the table and loosened the screws and pried the body apart. The electronics within were pretty basic, a small printed circuit board, some wiring from the battery box to the board, and some wiring from the board to the little speaker. It looked like he could give the other doll away as it would be unnecessary.


The lecturer droned on and on, sociological crap about seven types of lesbian in today's society. She was unsure if this meant that in some subconscious way she was attracted to other women, or should be, or was it allegorical in fashion? Jo, next to her in the auditorium, was quite attractive, beautiful in fact, but she didn't think she'd like to sleep with her, or any other woman, for that matter. Maybe there was something wrong with her, or her parents had brought her up with a fractured moral code. Fucksake, maybe she was just a normal healthy heterosexual girl. Despite him being an ignorant and drunken bastard, she preferred Ben, at least compared to women. He was hastily slipping down the league table of preferred guys though. Last night was a disaster, and the text he'd just sent was insult to injury. Every bit of commonsense she had told her to dump him, but there was something about him that kept her hanging on.

Finally Professor Bore-Everyone-to-Death, concluded. There was a half-hearted attempt at some applause from some acolytes of her study group, or perhaps the true-lesbian brigade, but Debbie left quickly and quietly. Jo was right behind her and grabbed her arm as she left the building.

'Coffee, strong, and chocolate cake!' she cried, 'lots of chocolate cake!'

Debbie offered no resistance as she was pulled in the direction of 'Candy's Cafe'.

'Seems we're lesbo,' continued Jo, 'let's celebrate shaking off the shackles of dominion by men and embrace our new found freedom!'

'Did you believe any of that?' asked Debbie.

'Oh sure, and I think that from Friday, the men in this town will be thankful I will forever more be leaving them alone to their own devices.'

'Hmm, what type of the seven are you then? Myself, I can't seem to think of myself in any of those terms.'

'The butchest type,' laughed Jo, 'and you're my new bitch!'

The cafe was quiet, a few builders were in from the site across the road, some students typing notes on laptops, and some suits going through some discreet and informal brain-storming session about increasing fire-extinguisher sales. Their preferred table next to the window was taken so they sat at a booth along the back. Debbie sensed them both being undressed by one of the builders staring over. He was pretty fit, and cute, and she noticed Jo smiling back at him.

'Don't encourage him,' said Debbie.

'Why not let him think he's in with a chance,' said Jo, 'besides, disappointing men seems to be my chief aim in life, I gave Bert the boot last night, if you'll forgive the alliteration!'

'But why?' asked Debbie, 'I thought Robert was the one?'

'He cried,' said Jo, 'sobbed like a baby. I felt really bad, but it's for the best, better for him, and me. Besides, he's too environmental, he even stated once that my tampons were ruining the planet! Said they should be recycled, can you imagine?'

Jo was fingering her hair as she spoke, and was occasionally glancing in the direction of the builders, Debbie noticed. The young one was watching them, or at least watching Jo, and Debbie was sure Jo had pulled her t-shirt tighter to enhance her nipples through the thin fabric, Jo rarely wore a bra and wasn't today so the effect was visible over a distance.

'I thought it was Robert's environmental stance that you admired about him, more than anything else?'

'I did, at least for a while, but hearing him drone on and on about the imminent demise of the planet got weary. He's constantly working out the carbon footprint of everything – apparently making a stick of lipstick requires a few hundred watt-hours-over-something, and kills babies in the third world. He's got recycle bags for everything at his flat, takes up half the room. I was really embarrassed one day I went to Oxfam with him to hand in a bag of clothes. He didn't bother laundering them as he thought they did that, “no use increasing the carbon footprint of recycled clothes if one does not have to,”' Jo mimicked. 'What I didn't realise was that he had a load of pants in the bag, yes, unwashed, yes, skid-marks, etc. The poor Oxfam lady went into a convulsive fit and nearly collapsed. I had to sit her down and make her a cup of tea till she calmed down.'

The waitress, who'd been distracted by the builders, finally came over and asked what they wanted. Debbie ordered two cappuccinos and chocolate muffins. The waitress placed a piece of paper in front of Jo.

'The fit one, with the red t-shirt, said to give you that,' she said to Jo, nodding back at the builder, and made to go.

'Wait,' said Jo, halting her. 'Pen?' she asked.

The waitress handed over a pen, Jo scribbled something, showed it to Debbie, then instructed the waitress to hand it back to red t-shirt.

Oh my God, thought Debbie, and she knew she was openly blushing.

Next instalment coming soon...

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved