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  Brattleboro Museum 2009

Domino Toppling 2: Brattleboogaloo

Steve and I apparently made a good impression on the folks at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center because they invited us back to Vermont the following year on February 27, 2009. We learned a few lessons from last year's show, and had some objectives laid out beforehand:

1. No obstructed views. The domino course would be a simple rectangle with viewers stationed all around the perimeter.

2. Preplanning. We diagrammed the layout with all the stunts we were planning to use to limit unexpected problems.

3. Bigger and better! We spent the year between each show cutting and painting thousands more dominoes as well as some other, shall we say, BIG surprises...

...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's see some pretty pictures first!

Aforementioned Pretty Pictures

We spent twenty hours over three days setting up 14,488 dominoes, more than twice as many as before. The dominoes were painted in twenty different colors which allowed us to create more mosaics. We had also tested some new stunts and felt they were ready for primetime. You'll be introduced to them as you're guided through the course.

We positioned our two motorized stunts close together near the border so they would be easy to switch on. The Hypnodisk makes its return, but this time an audience member gets to drop the ball into the center. After circling around the entire course, the brand new Conveyer Belt is put to use. A big block is pushed onto the track and carried over to a new trail.

Our biggest mosaic to date is next, consisting of 1,476 dominoes. It's our way of thanking the state for its hospitality. Fun fact: The pale green ones actually glow in the dark, but no one saw that because the museum couldn't turn off all the lights at the same time. Oh well.

Two famous paintings representing two vastly different artistic movements are reproduced. First is Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa", painted in a realistic manner that coincided with the Italian Renaissance. This is followed by Piet Mondrian's "Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow", an example of an abstract style called De Stijl. See, dominoes can be educational!

An old friend of mine named Tom Fulp was the most creative kid I knew in elementary school, and still is as an adult. A post he made on his website Newgrounds.com got noticed by a newspaper reporter, whose article got noticed by a TV reporter who put us on the local news. I figured I'd give him some publicity as well by redrawing Alien Hominid, a video game character he created, and his website's logo in dominoes.

The trail spirals in and out of the In and Out Spiral. Growing up with Nintendo in the '80s and '90s has left me with a deep appreciation of The Legend of Zelda games that continues to this day. Homage is paid in the form of the Hylian hero himself, Link, seen here in cel-shaded Wind Waker form, alongside two other series staples...

The Xylophone Staircase uses a descending marble to play the notes you hear when Link discovers a secret, albeit off-key. We'd need to bust up a better musical instrument than a kiddy toy to hit those sharps and flats. Then, much like what happens when the evil Ganondorf lays his hands on the Triforce, the sacred relic breaks apart.

Steve felt that last year's Cymbal Crashers section was a bit disappointing, so he tried a new layout and nailed it. Since we are in Vermont, we needed an appearance from Chester A. Arthur, a former President from the great state. Trivia question: Who was the other U.S. President born in Vermont? Highlight here --> Calvin Coolidge <--- for the answer.

Each popsicle stick is supported by the one before it, so when the first stick goes, they all go. I learned this trick from fellow kinetic artist Tim Fort, so be to check out his stuff which is way better. An oversized tennis ball reenacts a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and a Kool-Aid commercial at the same time.

The omnipresent Smiley Drop rears its happy face again. As the domino course winds to an end, it's time for The Final Countdown. And I'm not referring to Europe.

The BMAC logo is set up on something called a Fall Wall, which doesn't sound good for the logo. Dominoes slide down the steps like an avalanche. Finally, we have ginormous dominoes that might even impress Claes Oldenburg. They range from one to five feet tall, and even though the larger ones are hollow, the biggest weighs in at about fifty pounds.

It's an Event! R, S, T, L, N, E.

The BMAC staff really went all out for this year's show. They hired videographer Tim Wessel from Vermont Digital Productions to record the action. His footage was fed into two projectors so that people on either side of the domino course could watch the far end toppling on the wall.

All of the hoopla kind of took us by surprise, but we had planned a little something special as well. The person whose guessed closest to the number of dominoes in the course would not only get to start it, but win a fabulous prize as well.

It was a one of a kind, jumbo sized, cobalt blue domino. To the right is Steve doing his best Statue of Liberty impersonation as he presents it the winner, local Vermontian artist Tim Allen (no, not THAT Tim Allen).

We also set up a poster asking for donations. It detailed how we arrived at both Vermont and 16,000 dominoes. Even though the BMAC kindly picked up our travel, lodging and food expenses, the cost of making your own dominoes adds up when you're buying a lot of wood, paint, and plastic boxes. Our thanks go out to the patrons who gave us a total of $43.15! You can donate as well by clicking that orange button on the sidebar (just sayin', no pressure).

How'd It Go?

Things couldn't have gone much better. So many unexpected problems can cause a domino course to stop dead in its tracks, but not this time. Everything worked. Four minutes of uninterrupted spiffiness. We're not too accustomed to that happening.

Well, I think that's enough text. Let's wrap things up with the video and call it a night.

Okay, I lied. There's one more video for you. We recorded time lapse footage of us setting everything up using software from Volunteer Lab Rat. What follows is the first fifteen hours condensed into one minute.