Hanging the MAD Mobile

I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To)
Part 2: Hanging the Mobile, Taking Photos, and Final Thoughts
Part 1 is here; and fancy gifs are here.
NOTE: Click thumbnail for a small version of photo. Click again for full size.


Wow! After about two hours of work, the mobile is completely assembled. Thing is, it’s horizontal so technically not yet a mobile. Where to hang this thing? It is about three feet long and two feet wide. Hanging off a wall won’t work. I found a spare shower curtain hook, taped it to the floor light I was using, and put the top string’s tied-off loop onto the hook.

Picking the mobile up, I realized that it is very light. I feels delicate, and all the straws are drooping (i.e., leaning vertical)! Clarke’s brilliant note about “sliding the straw back and forth to balance” the parts did the trick. It took a tiny adjustment here, a little nudge there, and some more sliding over there to get the straws to start balancing and hanging horizontal. Interestingly the bottom parts started taking shape first, so I worked down to up to get the mobile to hang properly. I worried that the top straw wasn’t going to balance properly, so put some tape on what I thought was the lighter end to get it to balance. Not sure if I needed to do this. I kept moving the center threads in very small amounts. Suddenly, it all worked: a balanced, hanging MAD mobile!

Being a kinesthetic object, the mobile has depth and movement. It constantly looks different, which is very cool. At first, I was anxious walking past it too fast, fearing that it would fall apart. But Clarke’s design skills must have included the fact that the mobile should take breezy walk-bys. I was also afraid to take it off the hook, so left it on the lamp over night.

The next day, it was still hanging and moving fine. My Sweetie gave it a few puffs of air to see it move. It is tougher than it appears (and weighs. It probably only weighs an ounce at the most). I had joked that there was no way a child could hold the mobile like Alfred was doing on the MAD Follies cover, but I was proven wrong. I set up a hook on a hanging ceiling light and had no problem moving the mobile to its new spot. I did go slow, but it kept its shape as I held it and walked the three feet to a more permanent hanging spot.

I really do not have a place to display the mobile, so I do not know how long it will hang. One thing to think about while it hangs is how gravity will pull the threads from the paper parts, especially with Alfred’s head. Alfred E. Neuman holds all the mobile’s weight, so I wonder if the old, dry paper can keep the thread from working through and falling apart.

The main reason I assembled the mobile – and the zeppelin – is because there are no photos or recorded/written documents of how and what these MAD inserts were like to assemble. Taking a photo of a moving object proved tricky. It kind of has a front, which is constantly changing. I spent a good deal of time following Alfred’s face and waiting for the two Spys to align. I pulled out a white sheet and had my Sweetie stand behind the mobile so I could get the objects to “pop” and not get lost in the background. She eventually took better photos while I held the sheet.

One VERY FUN thing is creating gif loops with close ups from the iPhone’s live function. I made a few videos too, which were fun, but the mobile gets lost with anything behind it. In general, the depth of Clarke’s mobile makes it a more enjoyable in-person experience. And it is also fun to see how he got creative with the two-sided aspect of the parts. For example, “ECCH” has the E and the H spaced in a way that it reads correctly both ways. And Clarke put different gags on the panel that the Don Martin figure is painting as well as the egg and Arthur parts.

After almost two years, the zeppelin is still on display and still staying together. The mast still proves to be the weak spot due to using plain photocopy paper, but the vessel is still ship shape. After a few months, the mobile is still hanging fine on the ceiling light. We frequently adjust the tied middle threads to make it balance better, and the paper shows no stress at the tied threads. It still isn’t an ideal location, but is good enough for now.

I am glad that Gaines and Feldstein let Clarke create these two mid-1960s inserts. Unlike all the other special bonuses, these took craftiness, skill, patience, and creativity to design and assemble. Clarke pulled off designing both of these objects with great thought and care. Even tough the mobile instructions end stating that “everything falls apart, you tear your hair out, and you swear never to buy MAD again,” there is room for getting it right. And we have Bob Clarke to thank for knowing that his designs would work.

More MAD Mobile pages: Part 1 is here; and fancy gifs are here.

Making the MAD Magazine Mobile

I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To)
Part 1: Preparations, Cutting, and Threading
Part 2 is here; and fancy gifs are here.
NOTE: Click thumbnail for a small version of photo. Click again for full size.

After constructing the MAD zeppelin, designed by Bob Clarke for the 1965 “The Worst From MAD,” almost two years ago, I had already decided that I was going to build Clarke’s 1966 MAD mobile next. I bought a copy of the MAD Follies Number 4 right after buying the Worst From and made the mobile’s color photocopies at the same time I copied the zeppelin insert. The zeppelin proved to be a fun and moderately difficult project, with the major flaw being the thin paper stock I used. The most difficult step was the threading/rigging of the two main parts.

With copies in hand, I sat on the assembly for months, mostly fretting over the situation with the paper. Unlike the zeppelin, the mobile is two sided, and Clarke had only put the “cut here” hashed line on one side of the insert. Cutting two parts of each piece, gluing them together, and then threading them on the straws just didn’t sit well with me. After the delay, I finally bought a low-grade copy of the MAD Follies that still had an intact mobile. I had decided to cut out the original inserts in this yellowing, well-read and folded-in copy and make the mobile with old paper, not my color copies.

One interesting pre-step of the mobile assembly was that I needed to find straws. I didn’t want to buy them since I don’t need more than the six that Clarke’s instructions call for. Freely available everywhere, they were not hard to find (even in the oceans). After my first run to Popeyes down the street, I realized that Clarke’s design called for “king size” 10-inch straws. The Popeye’s straws were compostable, and only 8 inches long. Luckily, I found 10-inch straws at a Starbucks. That was easy!

OK. Time to make this classic MAD special.

I’m a bullet point guy, so Clarke’s instructions – laid out in one long paragraph – didn’t work for me. I wrote numbers for the steps, underlined what supplies I needed, and made a few interesting discoveries. First, I am much better at cutting with a blade, so I opted for an X-Acto knife instead of a big pair of scissors. I did need small scissors later in order to cut the threads. Using a blade also meant that I would need a cutting mat. (See photos in album below.)

If you look at the design that Clarke’s supplies, you will see that the straws and threads are all measured. Somehow Clarke left out the fact that a ruler was needed to assemble this mobile. I have a metal one I use all the time, so finding one wasn’t a problem. Since all the instructions point the young 1960s MAD reader to his mother’s sewing kit, I guess a tape measure would work just as good.

Second, there are two very important tips in the instructions: do not puncture the tied off parts in the middle of the straws, and – this one needed a magnifying glass to read – the punctured ends of the straw are 1/8 an inch from the edge. That’s all you need to know to get started.

I tried to tear out the first inserted page and the 50+ year old paper was dry and tore in a way that could have destroyed the mobile parts. I used a blade to cut the rest. Clarke’s hashed lines made the cutting easy. Cutting the straws was easy, but my compostable straws didn’t cut as well as the plastic. These steps were all quite easy compared to the zeppelin assembly.

Then, I followed the instructions and measured out the straws and parts while they were laid flat on a table. I used Clarke’s illustration to place the parts flat on my table, much like the mobile on the MAD Follies cover.

Next step(s): time to thread it. Other than measurements and Clarke’s “thread either free or punctured” rule, there are ZERO instructions about how to tie off the parts. Like stringing his zeppelin, this proved to be the hardest part.

First, what kind of thread should I use? I had single-strand and a thicker type from my sewing basket. I was lucky to have a needle with a large eye, so I choose the thicker thread. It caused some problems with making the knots, but was easy to wet the ends and thread it through the needle.

As for threading method, I ended up pulling a long piece of thread through the mobile part and tying the very end of the thread to the part while keeping the needle in the other end. Then I stuck the needle through the straw and pulled the string through. This method worked for most of the pieces, but the “middle” parts (Alfred’s head, the MAD logo, below the zeppelin) as well as the thread in the middle of the straws didn’t work this way.

I made a list of steps for what I think is the best way to thread (most of the time): 1) thread needle; 2) put through mobile piece; 3) pull through and tie off bottom end; 4) measure from straw; 5) hold with fingers, use needle to tie off; and 6) trim ends.

Threading the mobile was easy, except for getting the measurements to be exact. It was very hard to tie off a piece at exactly one inch. Or six inches. I had to re-do a few parts after the final measure came up too long or short. This took some patience, which made me wonder if the children in 1966 actually had the patience to get it all right. In the end, I will say that the measures were very close to what Clarke wanted. Fingers crossed that the mobile will still balance.

Part 2 is here; and fancy gifs are here.

TEASER: Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile

I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To)
This Post: Gifs to Amuse Your Soul.
Part 1 of assembly is here; Part 2 is here.

After assembling Bob Clarke’s MAD zeppelin (LINK), I had already turned my attention to Clarke’s 1966 mobile MAD Follies no. 4 insert. I had bought a very nice copy of the Follies and I had already made color copies of the mobile pages.

Unlike the zeppelin, Clarke’s mobile was two-sided. He designed the pieces to only have the hash line on one side, so I was instantly unsure how to cut two sides out in a way that looked good glued together and didn’t cause any kind of balancing problems. So I sat on the assembly project for months until I decided to buy a lesser-grade copy of the Follies that still had the insert. Not only did the copy I bought have that pulpy/musty smell, yellow – almost crisp – pages, and serious foxing, the guy that sold it to me shipped it rolled in a tube! For the first time in decades, I was ready to destroy a copy of MAD magazine… (to be continued. See links above to keep reading).

As a teaser post, I created two gifs from the assembled mobile. It is a dynamic, no-sided object, so I still don’t think I took a perfect photo of it hanging complete. The gifs show its kinetic properties quite nicely.

MAD mobile 01


MAD mobile 02

Part 1 of assembly is here; Part 2 is here.

The Clipboard (for Bill Graham)

The Clipboard (for Bill Graham, at the Trips Festival)

The Astronaut plugs his cord
into the huge speaker console.
The striped-clad dandy
turns the switch to on.
That was when gravity got turned off.

Amidst the feedback
and strobed landing lights,
feeling light-weight,
I decided to be The Clipboard.

It anchors me
as the scene floats away.

The Clipboard says “This needs doing,”
even though fixing a broken guitar
has no bullet point.

“Protect the doors!”
The Clipboard yells.

The Astronaut has another idea,
and leaves the doors wide open.

The Clipboard pushes back
in order to feel the ground,
while ravers bounce and glow
like waves of light piercing space’s darkness.

Just outside the Hall
The Clipboard has no sway
and the Astronaut is oblivious

As a seagull dozes on a pier,
lulled by a fog horn out in the Bay.

Back inside the Hall
as madness rules this crazy scene,
The Clipboard declares
“This wildness can be controlled
(and still be fun).”

MAD Zeppelin: The Final Steps

Bob Clarke’s 1965 MAD Zeppelin: The Final Steps
Adding the Final Touches, and Hanging It Up (Figures 8-9)

At this point, the only steps left are installing the Mainsail and Forward and After Sails. Oh, and the stringing of the two main parts. I chose to make black and white copies of the sails. Clarke’s original inserts are black and white and one-sided (probably to save money in printing and design costs).

Not sure why Clarke drew the FIGURE 8 illustration for the Small Sails. Their installation is straightforward. As for the Mainsail, the lack of structure for the mast caused the Yardarm and Mainsail to keep falling apart. This assembly needed patience and delicate finger work. As I tried to make this assembly, other parts of the MAD Zeppelin kept falling off.

TIP: Be resigned in the fact that you’ll have to adjust parts after stringing the parts up (see below).

Continue reading “MAD Zeppelin: The Final Steps”

MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Continues

Bob Clarke’s 1965 MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Continues
Putting the Ship Together (Figures 4-7)


Looking at the Deck and Hull Units, one can easily see that the outer edges of each part are mostly tabs and slots. Clarke chose not to include an illustrative figure to show these two parts connecting. We will never know why he thought the super-easy Figure 3 needed to be illustrated when I had major struggles putting the Deck Unit into and on the assembled Hull.

I think one difficulty for me was the fact that I made the color copies of the MAD Zeppelin with basic 20lb copy paper. TIP: At this point, I realized that I should have used a heavier stock of paper that was similar in weight to the paper stock of the original insert.

My copy Zeppelin felt very fragile at this stage of assembly, and it got more delicate and precarious for the final bits of assembly. TIP: I had to make the cuts on the tabs (Tabs P and Q) of the Hull and Deck deeper in order to make these pieces insert in a way that didn’t keep the deck from popping up and out. TIP: As you can see from my photos, I put small pieces of tape over the middle connections of these two parts. They kept popping out as I tried to work the end tabs. Not pretty, but it keeps things together.

Continue reading “MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Continues”

MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Begins

Bob Clarke’s MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Begins
Putting the Balloon and Hull Units Together (Figures 1-3)

When the 1965 Worst From MAD No. 8 copy arrived in the mail, I went over to the copier machine at work to make copies of Bob Clarke’s MAD Zeppelin insert. I didn’t put much thought into how to make copies. Fortunately, Clarke made all the parts one-sided with perforations that could be folded over to make a second side. I quickly realized that I would have to push the spine of the MAD down a bit to get the parts closest to the gutter to lie flat for the copy.

Yikes! This pushing caused some of the die-cut parts to partially come unattached. There goes a possible grade-reducing defect. Even with moderate pushing, the color copies had a perspective “smear” near the gutter at the magazine’s spine. This can easily be seen in the photo showing most of the Zeppelin’s Balloon Unit (Clarke chose to capitalize the word Zeppelin and its smaller parts throughout his instructions). Look at both parts labelled Tab A and you can see the difference.

I wondered if this would cause the MAD Zeppelin assembly to be a bit off. Since the Balloon was Figure 1 of Clarke’s instructions, I hoped it wouldn’t come out too bad. As we shall see, another part caused the biggest headache, and it wasn’t smeared in the gutter.

Continue reading “MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Begins”

Prelude to a MAD Zeppelin [u]

Prelude to a MAD Zeppelin
I assembled Bob Clarke’s 1965 MAD Zeppelin (so you don’t have to).

Here are the complete assembly instructions: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Thus brewed a perfect storm for a geek collector. First, I went online to see if anyone had posted scans of the parts. I also searched for modern photographs of Clarke’s Zeppelin totally strung and assembled. I couldn’t find anything online, but did discover a world of paper object and model making. Cool, but, wow, the Internet had zero MAD Zeppelin images or how-tos. Guess that means I’m buying an expensive intact copy of the ’65 Worst From special and making color copies.

Continue reading “Prelude to a MAD Zeppelin [u]”

CELLspace Metal Mural Gets Rehomed

Metal Mural Gets Relocated from Mission Local on Vimeo.

As the fate of CELLspace became more clear in early 2014, I knew that I’d have to deal with the murals I’d been facilitating on the building’s facade. The masonite and wood panels were easy enough to take down and store. I had worked directly with the artists so had been in contact with most of them about the fate of their art. One mural went to the Bike Kitchen (they funded its creation). Jet Martinez didn’t want his and didn’t want it to be saved. Many of the artists were OK possibly selling the panels, with some funds going to my Stencil Archive project. Swoon had no desire to save her art and was sad to know the art space was going away.

While in process, the Bryant St. panels came down a bit too early after a tagger painted throw-ups on about three of the panels in July of 2014. I found out later (one of the tagged artists knew the guy) that this person was shit-faced drunk and didn’t even remember destroying three murals. Two of the murals were significant pieces, one being SPIE’s “All our Relations” from 1996.

Alarmed at the vandalism, I got volunteers to quickly take down the panels I had spent months trying to save and rehome. I caught flack from the folks still in the building and had a very terse conversation with the management there about making the space vulnerable and unattractive. Well, it is a warehouse and you can easily redo the windows with your own plywood. As the months advanced, Vau de Vere had many other issues to deal with in the space, and eventually were asked to leave by the developers who planned to build the largest condo building in the Mission.

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7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style

Howdy! I’m Russell and I’m a South Carolina native. My roots are all over the Palmetto State, but I’ve called San Francisco home since 1997. After I moved here, I created this very site, which I called a fake travel agency, as a way to entice my Carolina friends and cousins to come out and see me.

If you’re from South or North Carolina, and were lucky enough to get a rare ticket to the Super Bowl, welcome to San Francisco. I don’t think this city compares to any city back home, and you will certainly see more protesting (and here) than you ever have (we aren’t that happy with our mayor, SFPD chief, and all the apparent corruption that helped build these new, shiny skyscrapers). Once you’ve been to Super Bowl City – which is NOT local SF – I thought I’d give you all a list of San Franciscan-related Carolina tourist sites to visit during all that other time you have on your hands. They’re mostly connected to South Carolina. I’m sorry to say that North Carolina gets the short end of the stick here in the City by the Bay.

First, let me go ahead and warn you that most Californians have NO IDEA that there are even TWO Carolinas. And you’ll have to tell folks you’re from the Southeast, because coming from the South in Northern California means you live in Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. And don’t expect to find any decent sweet iced tea here either. A few places get close, but I make my own if I want the real, teeth-aching deal.

OK. Let’s get to some fun, quirky, out-of-the Super Bowl City/Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf, Carolina-related places for you to drag your lazy ass around to if you’re here for the Super Bowl:

Continue reading “7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style”