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  Brattleboro Museum 2010

Domino Toppling 3: No Wacky Subtitle

In what has become an annual event, we once again made the trip to Vermont to set up dominoes at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center on March 1st, 2010. This year's theme was "Things We Like". Let's take a look at some of those things.

A big foam finger touches off the domino course. It remains up in the air until the green domino is removed, at which point the finger lowers and tips a tiny seesaw. The person whose guessed closest to the number of dominoes in the course got to pick up and keep the souvenir.

The foam finger is part of a outfit I made for a friend's music video. I show up to the 25th Annual Lemon Eating Contest wearing a matching t-shirt and hat to cheer for the participants. I'm clearly the world's biggest fan of consuming citrus.

All the the pink lemons are painted on with acrylics, so they can never go into a washing machine without ruining the clothes (and probably the washer, too). That raises the issue of... odors. That's why I'm glad I use Dial.

If you want to watch me jump around like a lunatic or my brother Steve and two other brave souls eating lemons (rind included), just click here to see the music video.

It's good ol' Charlie Brown! I have been a fan of Peanuts from a very young age. I've written about creating a Snoopy maze for my junior high school's newspaper, but I also have a drawing of Charlie Brown I made when I was no older than eight.

It's inside a bowl covered with paper-mâché. The tissue paper is falling apart, but much like the comic strip, Charlie Brown is still here.

Charles Schulz was a big influence in my appreciation of art and illustration, as the next domino field will show.

Cool Dude is one of my original characters. His attempts to impress Cool Girl go comically awry. Actually, he's only tried once, seeing as how I've only animated one episode. Maybe he'll get another chance, someday.

This stunt is a bigger version of last year's Smiley Drop. 224 dominoes were set up in concentric circles before. This time, 840 dominoes are knocked down in about one second. Fun fact: Cool Dude was set up twice due to my clumsiness.

The super massive black hole (is there any other kind?) appears earlier in the course, but I'm putting it here for the sake of convenience. It marks the beginning of an outer space theme. We both like all things astrophysical because, well, they're cool!

A spiral four feet in diameter forms planet Earth. It's a bit hard to tell, but North America is on the left edge, South America at the bottom, with Europe and Africa above. A large piece of paper with lines showing the continents and path of the spiral is underneath the dominoes. The guide didn't lay perfectly flat, and ripples in the paper gave Steve headaches.

If you look closely, you'll see a red trail leading to the left. What could that be?

It's a Saturn V rocket, just like the one that lauched Apollo 11 to the moon. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, but let's not forget Michael Collins who orbited in the Command Module. Consider our humble tribute as a small step for dominoes.

The designs for these fish are based on real ones from Steve's aquarium. The color palette was mixed around a little bit, making the fish look kind of funky. The waves and plants complete this watery scene.

The process for making mosaics usually involves shrinking pictures down and converting the palette to only the domino colors you have. Then you can treat each pixel as a domino and start setting them up. This next mosaic was a nice change of pace.

The graphics for the phony video game in our short movie "The Challenge" were already pixel art. Very little had to be done to convert one of the funniest scenes into dominoes.

We made a couple of spiral staircases and tried them out for the first time. If you'd like to make your own, here are the steps we took.

First, we cut pieces of wood that were 3/8" thick, 2" wide, and 8" long. We drilled a hole through the center of each piece. A dowel rod was set perpendicular to a base, after which the first step was pushed to the bottom and nailed into place. Each step was positioned 22.5 degrees ahead of the one before it all the way to the top. When complete, two trails of dominoes could run up the spiral staircase at the same time.

This design did have one problem. Dominoes couldn't go down without hitting the underside of the stairs. We made a second one with 10" long steps and staggered them by 18 degrees, which allowed enough room no matter which direction the dominoes went.

Both spiral staircases still had an issue, and you'll find out what it is soon.

We have a decent dice collection, but none of them are this big. What will this jumbo die land on when it is rolled?

The popsicle sticks return, but this time there's a twist. Two twists, actually.

How high can an oversized domino launch an oversized tennis ball on a catapult? I don't know, and I don't want to be anywhere nearby when it happens!

Enough jibber jabber, where's the video?


Overall, things went pretty well. The biggest mishap happened right away. We accidentally set up the black hole mosaic too close to its branch off trail. Since we couldn't just move the whole thing, we tried to make due with a short run-up, but were only 16.7% successful.

Another nuisance involved dominoes falling off the spiral staircases. Luckily, they made other dominoes fall in the correct direction, but some things were triggered earlier than we wanted. There was also a popsicle stick that got away from us. We were forced to keep filming the final trail, during which the die fell off. It would have been nice to catch that.

Despite a few mistakes, the domino course finished without coming to a complete halt, which is always nice. One last thing I've been neglecting to mention: The BMAC is generous enough to book us rooms at the nearby Latchis Hotel and Theatre during our stay in Brattleboro. I haven't had time to check out the theater, but the rooms are nice, and you have a great view of the museum from your window.