This is a log of the conversion of an old cigarette machine to The Fortune Teller Boof. If you just want to see the pics of it at Burning Man, click here.


8/16/06 (Tuesday):

New cigarette machine! Well, new to me anyway. I answered a craigslist ad that read: "Old Cigarette Machine, 1950's? Old stand-up, aprox. 4 ft. tall cigarete vending machine, great garage piece. First $100 cash takes it." Not sure what a garage piece is, but my $80 took it, not including Barbie head:


The plan is to convert it to a fortunate teller machine. So people pull a lever, get a little fortune packet, untie the twine and read their fortune. Set it up within sight of my van at Burning Man and watch people being insulted by their fortunes as I laze around during the hot part of the day. And plus I get to type more obnoxious fortunes on site. What a plan!


I havn't decided how much to gussy it up yet. On the one hand it's beautiful as it is, and I could probably get away with just a sign or two telling people to pull a lever and have their fortune read:


But on the other hand it'd be nice to evil it up a bit, red LED accent lighting and things like that. I'm totally not married to that Barbie by the way, but I think some headpiece is called for:


Unfortunately it didn't come with a key, but drilling out the lock was surprisingly easy. And that empty pack of modern Marlboros that I stuck in there hardly fits, makes me think that at some point cigarette packs changed size?


A crooked picture of the "mechanisms must be level" sign:


I figured out how to put it into free mode, but I can't figure out how to get the ancient coin mechanism to work. No matter how many quarters you put in, no joy. That's not important for Burning Man, obviously it'll be free there, but it'd be nice to make it cost a quarter so I could conceivably install it around town or at events and stuff like that. And plus riddles like this must be solved.


A closer look at the ancient coin mechanism. Actually it's in better shape than everything else, almost definitely isn't original, but much more complicated than modern videogame coin mechs.


Domino couldn't fix it either.


So now comes the gussying. I'm thinking evil, especially since everything at Burning Man tends to be so damn happy. Maybe get two car batteries to power the lights, one inside at a time while the other charges. And maybe bring a dolly so I can move it to random places for awhile. Hmm.


8/17/06 (Wednesday morning):

Got the fortune delivery mechanism working....


That fortune is rubber banded to a wood block about the size of a cigarette pack. Actually I'll probably wrap the fortunes with twine to give them that old timey look. And I suppose I need to wrap them with the fortunes on the wood side of the paper, otherwise people will take the whole wood block. So the idea is you get your fortune, unwrap it, read it, get miffed, then drop the wood block in the bucket.


And I guess I could also screw little prizes into some of the wood blocks. And fill old cigarette packs with things. And I was thinking about trying to find some raisin packs that would fit, and maybe fill some of them with plastic cockroaches. That sort of thing. Couple more pics, in the morning light and without that damn Barbie head. Gametone pointed out that it looks like it was installed in a seedy bar's men's room next to the urinal...


Now off to the hardware store to get lots of sand paper, lube, paint, and maybe some urinal cookies.





8/17/06 (Wednesday night late):



LEDs of course. This should be able to go for days if not the whole week off one car battery, but obviously I'm bringing a charger just in case.


With the flash on you can see the ring of LEDs isn't done yet. And I need to get more colors, I was thinking some red for angry overtones.


I went the wuss route and used my favorite LED strips from


An action shot of the LEDs, such a nice blue:


Also, we've secretly replaced all the cigarette brands from the front of the fortune boof...


With pictures of folks from the R. Hallelujia, we have a tie in with the Photoboof, since I can swap these out with good pics from the photoboof any time. These aren't reprints, they're straight from the Photoboof and they fit perfectly.


I really like the pictures, and I'll put more in those holes above the pics. Or I was thinking maybe put goofy descriptions of each fortune teller there. Hmm again.


Not sure what to put where the cigarette packs are now. It's a shame to remove them, they look so great. But I guess that's where the "Fortune Boof" logo stuff will go.


Also, this is kind of cool: I took an old thriftshop flash and connected it to a lever switch, so whenever someone gets a fortune the flash goes off menacingly right as the fortune drops. I'll probably gel it so it's red.


Here's how the flash itself is currently mounted, and if you look at the lower left you can barely see the lever switch zip tied on. What's really nice about it is now I have an electrical switch that's triggered when people get a fortune, and it can conceivably do lots of other things too: maybe activate some angry vibrating object that makes noise for a few seconds, or some other sound, or whatever. Hmm.


Went over to Dave's shop to cut some wood for the dummy cigarette packs and Erika, Paul and Angela were working on the Confessional. It's coming along gorgeously:


I bought two of these bundles of wood with me:


And chopped them into a shitload of little bricks. I feel kind of bad for buying the wood, I realized right afterwards that many pallettes use the same size wood. Oh well.


Some fartsy shots:


Love the blue. Can't wait to see some red in there though.


Nitey nite.



8/19/06 (Friday morn):

Thinking about mounting a camera where the key mechanism used to be:


Note the lens at top center. This could make little movies every time someone gets a fortune... The only problem is the laptop connected to it would suck power, so maybe just have it as an option that i use sometimes?


Another thing I'd like is a rubber stamp, since once people pull their fortunes off the wood block there's a bunch of extra space. Hmm yet again:


For the stamp I was thinking something like this shape, frame this angle, the way the shape seems to flare a bit from bottom to top (obviously exagerate that), and exagerate that one lever that's pulled at the bottom left. Then surrounding it would be a POW type effect, like that cartoon explosion. Hmms all over the place.



8/20/06 (Sunday night):

Video! The camera is now fully functional. Some features of my snazzbo little program:

- it saves a jpeg as often as I tell it to. For example, every .1 seconds

- when someone pulls the lever, it starts the timer, which expires X seconds after the lever was pulled, currently 15 seconds. If someone pulls the lever again during that time, the timer extended another 15 seconds.

- when the end of the timer is reached, it'll take all the pictures taken while the timer was running and also X seconds before the lever was pulled (currently 5 seconds) and make a DivX movie out of it at whatever framerate (currently 15 fps).

- all the movies are saved, but the old jpegs are deleted whenever the pics directory reaches 3 gigs.

- all the above is really easily configurable in a variables section of the program.

Here's what the first movie looks like. I'll get the roomies more later, and with better lighting. But this is shot in super dim light and still looks decent. I also may play with the above parameters, maybe recording longer and with a bigger buffer.

Here's the DivX movie, and here's my attempt at embedded flash video but it's not working and it's late and I don't care that much right now, but if you reload the page it should play:

Also a goofy new logo I'm working on. It'll probably be the splash page for this when it eventually has it's own website, since every antique cigarette machine needs it's own website, obviously.

I'm trying to adapt this logo for a rubber stamp to put on the fortunes, I'd like to make smoke rising out of a greyscale version without the color outline, but man smoke is hard to make.


9-12-06 (Post Burning Man Report)

The Fortune Teller Boof came, saw, got really dusty, and dispensed a lot of goofy fortunes. Unfortunately I was much more busy with the Confessional and The Photoboof than I expected, so I didn't get a chance to install the computer inside the Fortune Teller Boof to make some videos, but oh well, it was a hoot anyway.


The completed front panel, I like the way this came out. I scanned in each of the cigarette packs that came with the machine and modified their logos:


The bottom section of the front panel. I swapped out the pics with pics from The Photoboof during the event, but not as much as I meant to. I think in general the rule is if there's any work you're planning on doing out there, there's like a 10% chance it'll actually get done.


I the Fortune Teller Boof on the outskirts of our camp, along the road, so while lounging on the couches we could watch people getting their goofy fortunes. It was surprisingly popular, some people would come over once or twice every day to get their updated fortune. It was hard to keep the thing stocked.


Typing the fortunes is good entertainment during the hot part of the day:


Some of the fortunes:


Here's what the fortunes look like all wrapped up in their wood blocks with a crushed can of Pabst for, um, perspective. I also had about a hundred empty cigarette packs, so I'd stuff whatever odd little things people would leave in The Photoboof into those. My favorite one: someone left an employment application to In n Out Burger. So someone pulled a lever that said "Gaze Into The Future" and got an employment form for a fast food joint, ouch.


Below you can see both The Photoboof and The Fortune Teller Boof. Sometimes I like having people move from one to the next.


The main problem I'd have is people are surprisingly clueless about how a cigarette machine works, and they'd pull the lever like 5 times without looking at what dropped. So I'd have to go clean it up every now and again. But in general it worked well, especially as a place to lean your bike.


Maybe I'll install it at Burning Man Decompression. I dunno. I'm not quite done with the thing yet...