Monthly ArchiveDecember 2011

Events &Vol2 Updates 09 Dec 2011 07:29 pm

MOD2 Samplers free from TopatoCo!

We had a great time at the Super-Stupendous Machine of Death Magic & Variety Show! If you missed it, the livestream is archived here. (We’ll be posting some better-quality video over time.)

Thanks to master magician Pop Haydn for a great evening of entertainment!

And thanks to you folks who attended, as well — we collected nearly 60 pounds of food that was donated to Los Angeles’ Westside Food Bank.

We also played a game with Bill Chernega (on the left, with MOD1 illustrators Kris Straub and Kevin McShane). Bill is co-author of the story “MEAT EATER,” which will be in MOD2.

We’re still waiting to hear back from a few folks about their contributions to MOD2, but we will of course post much more about that book, and those stories, when we can. Illustrators who submitted portfolios — we’re still reviewing that material as well, and will be in touch with some of you soon.

We gave out MOD2 Sampler Booklets at the show, but even if you weren’t there, you can get your hands on one too! While supplies last, all copies of Machine of Death that ship from TopatoCo will come with a free sampler booklet included. It contains two brand-new stories from MOD2 as well as a handy primer to the concept (so it’s good for new readers too). Thinking of giving a copy of MOD as a gift? If you pick it up from TopatoCo, you’ll get the sampler free!

Here’s a quick review of some of the other fine things in our TopatoCo store:

So Many Deaths shirt

MOD Emblem Shirt

I Know How I Will Die shirt

Fine gifts for any thinking creature this holiday season! Thanks so much for your support!

Challenges 05 Dec 2011 04:15 am

Evidence Photo Contest results!

Thanks to everyone who sent in pictures for our Evidence Photo contest! We had two types of entries: new pictures created to frame a Machine of Death scenario, and existing pictures recontextualized by the addition of a Machine of Death prediction or interpretation.

First, some favorites from the latter group:


It wasn’t a very original way to kill someone, but who can resist a caramel apple?

We actually made these apples before the photo contest was announced. Recipe: Melt a bag of caramels by placing them in a bowl over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Select tart apples like Granny Smith and stab them deeply with disposable chopsticks or skewers. Dip and spin them until reasonably coated, then place them to rest on wax paper. Press in some chopped walnuts or such if you like. Serve in slices if you don’t want to eat a whole one. (Eileen Hlavka)


Graffiti of John Coltrane outside the music building at William Paterson University. The red letters say “What If Trane”. I don’t know who painted it.

Coltrane’s official cause of death was liver cancer in 1967, after years of drug use and recovery. But his memory and music are taking much longer to pass away. (mjacquot)


If only we could all go this way.

[No, I didn’t kill my cat, he’s just sleeping.] (Eileen Hlavka)


This photo was taken in the Tian Shan mountains, on the outskirts of the Kazakh city of Almaty. I visited Kazakhstan for the first time this summer, and after receiving her prediction, my host decided a hike up the mountain would be less dangerous than remaining in the writing-covered city. Alas, this is an avalanche region, and the plummeting sign flashed like the needle of a machine in the beautiful Almaty sunlight… (nagopaleen)

And now some of the more overt MOD pictures:


The one bare foot sticking up from the snow really made the picture work for me.

If you really want to know why Barbie is wearing those shoes… she didn’t have a choice! There isn’t much else that will fit her. Maybe her death will inspire shoe companies to make more all purpose footwear for differently-footed people. (Claire Bert)


I am a complete and utter movie nerd, with my favorite genre being horror, and as such, when this announcement popped up, an idea struck my head like lightning, only without the permanent burn damage and statistical implausibility…

It’s intentionally shot from a cheap $20 webcam. I really liked the grainy, blue-tint style of the Paranormal Activity films, which added a layer of rawness to the film. I decided to replicate that with this simple photograph that references The Ring. You can make up all sorts of backstories for this one. Perhaps the person who previously used it put his death prediction on there, and it acts as a warning for whoever picks up the tape next. At least the viewer knows what he/she is getting into this time. (Christopher Runyon)


If I learned anything from Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, it was that knowledge is extremely dangerous. That’s why I stopped going to school and started watching Jersey Shore.

Playin’ it safe. (healyaidan3)

Text redacted by request.

James, Machine of Death Technician

He still goes to work everyday. Still tries to fix his incorrect prediction. (Greg Truono)


Despite the grim awareness of his potential fate, Comrade Wang remained steadfast in his dedication to the political ideals of his youth. All the same, he was ever wary of possible treachery by his fellow Communists.

Little did he know that death would arrive in the form of salmonella-infested cupcakes at little Xu Shi’s birthday celebration. (Paolo Jose Cruz)

This picture is titled “Gravity (Can You Hear Me Now)”. It tells the cautionary tale of the dangers that follow with bad cellphone reception.

Taken at the balcony on the top of a five story building, safety was our main concern. Only my darling older brother’s patience was damaged in the course of this photo shoot. We hope that with time and a bottle of wine, it will heal. (Torhild Randsborg Lie)


“As Lydia reached for the colander that was nestled precariously atop the refrigerator, she realized what a grave mistake she had made when she threw out her pipe all those years ago. But, the realization came too late, and her final moments on earth were filled with the clangor of toppling steel kitchen-ware.” (healyaidan3)


His wife’s prediction was “SPACE FLIGHT.” The tickets had been exceedingly expensive, but surely it was OK to splurge for their anniversary. It started out as the best of their vacations, and ended as the last.

Taken in Death Valley, I think this picture of a happy tourist couple was always begging for a terrifying flying creature of some sort. The roles of the tourists are played by… some tourists. (Eileen Hlavka)


I’m pretty sure my parents bought this for me before I went off to college. I’m now in grad school. I think by the time I pass on, I may finally reach the halfway mark.

Photo by me. Background by Shameless Kissing Up. (Jeremy Closs)

The Perfect Murder

…admittedly, you’d have to be pretty dumb to fall for this one. (wormyrocks)


That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

The man here is played by Tiny Lego Magician Who Lives On Top of My Desk. Cthulhu appears as himself. (Jeremy Closs)


Started with “typographical error” then “mistype” – and then the simple “Typo” worked best. Moved to WebMD when I failed to create an even approximate renditioning of a medical diagnosis report. Treating cancer with canker remedies is fatal. (ctrlburn)


With the economy the way it is, it doesn’t take much to push a checkbook and its owner over the edge. (Jeremy Closs)


I was wandering through my garden to get some more snow when I saw the still green strawberry leaves in their planter. It just screamed for a man eating plant scene.

What kind of a death threat is ‘Carnivorous Plants’? Well I guess we found out. (Claire Bert)

No ! Allowed

This idea came from my 8-year-old brother who wanted to have a vanity licence plate that had an exclamation mark on it when he can drive. My sister and I (neither of us with driver’s licences, so hopefully we were correct) said that ‘!’ wouldn’t be allowed. He said he’d wait at the DMV until they gave it to him and if they tried to escort him out of the building, he’d punch the security guard or whomever was taking him away. I then told him he’d definitely be arrested, which is when my sister said, “‘All I wanted was a exclamation mark, and things just unraveled from there.'”

So I took that idea, changed the person into someone more volatile, and imagined the shooter would end up with the death penalty. The “DMV” and “!” cards could go to either the shooter or one of the victims. (My screen name is already taken)

It’s weird, here in California you can’t get a “!” but you can get a hand:

But back to the entries:


I know — no points for creativity. My tribute to “The Prisoner” — I wish my ice cubes were square. (ctrlburn)

The spelling bee was won many years ago but the trophy was still on display until recently. The availability of a blunt object coupled with the defendant’s rage led to an explosive confrontation.

You could say he…spelled his own doom.

(Claire Bert)

These are all great! But how about ON TO SOME PRIZES



It’s actually the first snow of the winter but the plight of a melting snowman seemed appropriate for a death prediction. Trying to get the features to stick in increasingly dense snow was a challenge. I took some pictures without the scarf but the snowman looked so much sadder with it on!

His one vanity — fashionable scarves — is only contributing to his decline.

Super great. The expression sells it. Congratulations, Claire Bert! You win one of anything you like from our store!



This is shot from the point of view of the newly received prediction card. What on earth could it mean?

I love this one. Congrats, Jeremy Closs and sporting wife! You also win one of anything you like from our store. TAKE NOTE: Apparently, the secret to winning contests like this lies in the expressions.

The grand prize winner has been removed from this post by request.

Thanks for all the pictures, everyone! These were all really neat to see. There are some more at our Flickr group as well.