Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

When I look back at my 2016 reading and remove the business and art books, several noteworthy fiction novels remain. In retrospect, it's clear that I got back into Tom Clancy big-time, both re-reading his older works and some of the new ones where his name is in the title. He created characters that still interest me.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews was a really good spy thriller involving our Russian friends. The second novel in this series (Palace of Treason) is on my to-read list and the third (The Kremlin's Candidate) is already being teased. Highly recommend. Here's what I wrote about Red Sparrow shortly after finishing it.

I've said this before, but I probably don't read enough science fiction. Neal Stephenson's Seveneves proved that yet again. He presents a fresh but plausible apocalyptic scenario and plays it out in detail to the fullest (how else to explain a plot line that spans millennia). Satisfaction comes from "being in" the plot as I found myself agreeing with how things were progressing while also having my curiosity piqued by wondering if some of the future scenarios might play out like they did. Highly recommend. Here's his website.

What I didn't read is almost as interesting as what I did. City of Mirrors, the 3rd novel in Justin Cronin's Passage trilogy was published but still hasn't found its way onto my to-read list. Loved the first two novels in this post-apocalyptic series so I must finish it. Here's Cronin's website for the trilogy.

But before I start adding to my to-read list, I really need to finish the books I already have.


My Favorite Music of 2016

When I look back at 2016's new (to me) music, I see a lot of ambient soundscapes. I can't say whether that correlates to anything going on in real life (did I really need that much relaxation?). But I can say that a few of those albums resonated with me more than the others. Keeping in mind that this is not a "best of" list, my favorite music of 2016 in no particular order is:

The Beauty of Disaster by J. Peter Schwalm

The year started out on a musical high point for me with J. Peter Schwalm's The Beauty of Disaster.  At the time, I wrote about the music's balance of tension and hope. Musically subtle, emotionally rich, Disaster continues to reveal new depth with each listen. More of my thoughts on then album can be read here.


The Beauty of Disaster is available from Rare Noise Records. Schwalm can be found on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook.

In Praise of Shadows by Eraldo Bernocchi and Shinkiro

Bernocchi wrote online "I have found so much beauty in the dark, as I have found a lot of horrors in the light." Rather than shining a musical light on a sense of place, Bernocchi and collaborator Shinkiro turn down the lights with In Praise of Shadows. The resulting dark ambiance is exquisitely beautiful. More of my thoughts on Shadows are here.


Bernocchi can be found online on Twitter, and at his website where the album can be ordered.

ZWAR (Live in Europe 2005) by TUNER

Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter record together under the name TUNER and their album ZWAR (Live in Europe 2005) is worth it just to hear their version of King Crimson's Industry. This duo packs progressive rock into performances that are part intricacy, part amazement, and part joy.

You can stream some ZWAR tracks and learn more about TUNER on Bandcamp.

Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind by King Crimson

When the latest incarnation of King Crimson started touring, I prayed a live album would result. 2015's Live at the Orpheum didn't fully answer my prayers. This year's 3-CD, protractedly-titled Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind hit the sweet spot. This is everything I want from a King Crimson live album: impeccable performances, rarely heard tunes, and broad coverage of studio albums.


You can order Radical Action from Burning Shed and read more about King Crimson at DGM Live.

Emergent by Burnt Belief

Burnt Belief is the duo of Colin Edwin (bass) and Jon Durant (guitar) and Emergent is their second album together. To my ear, everything here is just below the surface where Edwin's and Durant's performances percolate just below Latin-tinged progressive jazz melody.


You can learn more about Emergent at Alchemy Records. Edwin may be found at his blog and Twitter. Durant is online at his website.

Special Mention: Gaudi's EP

If the EP is a worthy barometer, Gaudi's forthcoming album, Magnetic, will be tremendous. He's plundering bits from Rare Noise's entire multi-genre catalog and blending them into something new.

The EP is and the album will be available from Rare Noise Records. Gaudi is on Twitter.


And on to 2017

I listened to a lot of ambient in 2016 and 2017 will start the same way. I've already pre-ordered and am awaiting delivery of Brian Eno's latest ambient work, Reflection.

"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the way it sounds."



If you asked me for my new year resolution...

Today's soundtrack begins with Space is the Place, a live recording by Markus Reuter and Tim Motzer.

The annual list of banished words from Lake Superior State University includes "on fleek" and I have no problem with that. Or how about the word warrior's list of words that should be brought back into popular use such as "rumpus."

Few paintings have impacted me as much as Mondrian's Composition in Black and Gray 1919 and the description of it that I read in the WSJ on Christmas morning which is no coincidence considering that the artist himself said it has a Christmas mood "if one understands the Christmas idea in a really abstract way... the predominance of the spiritual." This painting exemplifies how something that on its surface is geometrically abstract can can convey the sublime. source (login required). If you just want to see another image of this painting, go here to the Philly Museum of Art.
What makes an abstract expressionist painting good? You do, to a large degree.

Actually, it's not all of you: just your brain. We can easily decide whether a painting was skillfully executed and beautiful. But abstraction requires us to think really hard about the third prerequisite: is it interesting? A Nobel-winning expert on human memory explains why abstract art gives us a good kind of brain ache.

Mark Rothko is not an action painter.

Geometric Watercolors by Jacob Van Loon.
NASA technology spun off a high-precision coffee brewer.

When the aural becomes visual: a musical score as geometric abstraction.

Maybe there are only 4 personality types: Envious (gotta be better than everyone else), Optimists (you and a partner will always make the best choice), Pessimists (make choices as the lesser of two evils), and the Trusting (will always cooperate regardless of win or lose).

Diffusion Choir is a kinetic sculpture that simulates bird flocking behavior. video
Vintage photos of B-17s in flight.

Science solves a mystery: the weird sound deep in the Mariana's Trench is a new type of baleen whale.

Light Masonry by Jason Bruges
Science proved that "empty space really isn't empty" and polarizes light traveling through a vacuum, something called vacuum birefringence (i.e. light is interacting with a vacuum).

And now science has measured how antimatter absorbs light.

Blade Runner 2049 teaser vid.

A live ghost shark was filmed for the first time. article and video 
Keep up with which animated film wins which award using Cartoon Brew's award tracker. Kubo and the Two Strings and Zootopia appear to be doing well.

I'm lovin' Aviation Week's annual photo contest winners.

If nature is more your thing, here are National Geographics' photo contest winners. I personally like most the 1st place winner for landscape.

Why Chattanooga converted first floors into basements by raising street level.

Naughty duck. Too bad Xmas has already passed. source
Know yer droppings.

A flight from NY to Paris had to make a pit stop in Ireland cuz passengers had to go. Bad.

And now, in beautiful 4K and 2 hours in duration, enjoy The Fireplace by PES.
...it would be to find out who I am. ~Cyril Cusack

Saturday, December 17, 2016

To show resentment at a reproach...

Steve Hackett's next album, The Night Siren, is due for release in March 2017.

If Gaudi's EP (available from Rare Noise Records) of next year's Magnetic is an accurate preview, it's gonna be a tremendous album.

I am only beginning to learn about Richard Pousette-Dart but this painting (Untitled, 1950) caught my eye because it strongly reminded me of Mary Blair's artwork for Disney.
Science giveth and science taketh away. The observation of gravity waves from the collision of two black holes may also show where relativity doesn't apply.

Pantone's color of the year for 2017 is greenery, "a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew."

Take an hour and listen to Edward Tufte's thoughts on data, analysis, and truth. From a talk at Microsoft earlier in 2016.

Not just any periodic table: a 3D periodic table.
The U.S. Air Force is restoring the famous B-17, Memphis Belle.

There are 27 entries for the best animated feature Oscar with Zootopia the favorite.

A museum of hammers.

Social media and content marketing predictions for 2017: live video, mobile, the fall of Twitter (?), augmented reality, and more. Or you can look back at lessons learned in social media usage from 2016: customer experience has passed brand health as the top goal.

This brief video illustrating the history of Disney animation shows me there's a visual richness to hand drawn and hand painted animation that you can't quite get yet with computer animation.

My name in gum. Now go get your name in gum.
...is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it. ~Tacitus

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Anticipate the difficult...

Sadly, it was only upon her passing that I learned of Pauline Oliveros and her music. Give a deep listen to Deep Listening.

Brand X has reunited and is touring. You should try to see them when they come to your town. Here's a taste of what you'll see and hear: Nuclear Burn.

David Burdeny's photographs evoke comparisons to abstract painting but that shouldn't be surprising (see some of the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn).
Edward Tufte is looking for and examining "sentences off the grid."

Director Brad Bird shares some of his insight on animated films. First, animation isn't a genre. Second, animation is about how things feel not how things are. (Sound familiar? Think abstract art; how does it make you feel, not what is it.)

Yes, this is a thing - the online encyclopedia of integer sequences. For example, cubes whose largest decimal digit is 3.

Lots of maps today. Purely coincidence. Starting with this map of migrations.

Every country's tourism slogan. Canada's "keep exploring" might be sending the message it thinks it is.
Promising research on Type 1 diabetes results in pancreatic islet cells that can be transplanted into the patient's liver (or other organ) resulting in no further need for insulin injections.

The case for nuclear power.

Vintage American images.

This past week was the anniversary of painter Clyfford Still's birth in 1904. One of his ten quotes published by his namesake museum in celebration of the anniversary is "space and figure in my canvases had been resolved into a total psychic entity."

This animated map of population density shows the history of migration and settlement in the U.S. 
The CIA recently declassified a large number of historic maps.

It's a map and it's science. Take 8 minutes for this video presentation of the Map of Physics.

How to spot the International Space Station.

If you only listen to one mashup all year, make it this one: DJ Earworm's United State of Pop 2016.

You should buy this if only for the name, but cheese is a bonus: the Fondoodler, a hot glue gun filled with cheese.

...by managing the easy. ~Lao Tzu

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Try not to become a person of success...

Post-truth. It's the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year. Which is really all you need to know.

I don't even recall how I found it, but I'm now streaming Crone's ambient album Endless Midnight to decide whether to order the CD.

Markus Reuter is sharing his Live in Pomona 2016 album with us all for free.

Maybe my favorite music discovery this week was Arvo Part's Fur Alina.

And certainly you've heard that Brian Eno's next ambient album, Reflection, is due out on 01 January.

Google Maps Streetview Player does pretty much what it sounds like it'll do - given two addresses it will use street view images to show you what you'd see as you travelled the route between the two places.

More Google fun you ask? Play Quick, Draw! to see if Google can guess what you're sketching.

Srsly. Google PhotoScan. Use your smart phone to "scan" old photos in a high quality way so they can be archived and backed up. And enjoyed online. I just installed the app and scanned my first photo and it really really works.

A huge concrete shield is now being moved into place over the remnants of the reactor at Chernobyl.

You can paint with a brush or a knife or by dripping, pouring, or splashing. So why can't a robot paint with an artist? source
The Aberdeen Bestiary, now online in colorful glory.

Public art - what are you getting for your tax dollars? Sometimes alot, sometimes a little.

Do you need a new snowboard? I know a guy. Check out Totem Snowboards.

Fort Worth friends, take a moment to mourn the passing of Charley Bell of Charley's Hamburgers on Old Granbury Road, my favorite burger in DFW.

The 10 "semi-finalists" for the Oscar for animated short subject include two that are notable. Pixar's Piper has a soundtrack by guitarist Adrian Belew. And you know how much I love a good black and white line drawn animation so here's Once Upon a Line. I see a bit of The Dot and The Line in there.

Time's 100 most influential photos of all time includes many you'll agree with, some you'll question, and a little bit of fluid science: this milk drop coronet photo of 1957.
Now keep in mind this is from Good Housekeeping. There are five types of butts in the world. Can you name them? The first two are Square and V-Shape.

Remember the hilarious video advertising the Squatty Potty? They're back with a new product, a spray to take care of odors. Equally hilarious: Unicorn Gold.

I'm not the only one interested in poop. Here's the (legitimate) Space Poop Challenge - a design competition for a space suit component that will collect poops for up to 144 hours and dispose of them without people having to use their hands. You'll literally have to engineer the shit out of this.

Cow farts account for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions so when a farmer reduced his herd's output to nearly zero by changing what they eat, that's a big deal.

Generate your own Metallica logo here.
Marconi Union's song Weightless has been called "the most relaxing music ever" so here's a 10-hour loop of it. Unfortunately, it's not one of the tracks on the Marconi Union album I have.

Want something even more minimal? How about 10 hours of black screen in 4k?

...but rather try to become a person of value. ~Albert Einstein

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Music is the arithmetic of sounds...

Time to release a dangerous backlog of links. (That no one will read.) Don't worry; I'm not posting them all. Some I'm just reading and archiving. Others are getting the "why did I bookmark this?" treatment. This is pretty much presented in the order I encountered them in my bookmark list.

Have you heard of MasterClass? You can take online classes from masters for what seems to be a decent price. For example, James Patterson teaches writing in 22 video lessons and Dustin Hoffman teaches acting in 5 hours of video. Each is $90.

The story of Victor Belenko's defection to the West with a MiG-25 in 1976.

Stanford's 100 year study on artificial intelligence. Sounded interesting, but apparently not interesting enough for me to read.

MusicBrainz is an "open music encyclopedia that collects music metadata and makes it available to the public."

King Crimon's latest live album, Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, is everything I want from a live KC album - breadth of material, superb performances, and quality recording. This excellent review from All About Jazz goes into a wee bit more detail and is definitely worth reading.

I'm a fan of Red Bull Air Races so I loved this video showing pilot Kirby Chambliss up against Indy driver Alex Rossi at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think Kirby's just showing off by flying inverted.
Dragonfly 44 is the same mass as the Milky Way but may be 99% dark matter, something never seen before. Considering that I recently read that some scientists think that dark matter may not actually exist...

The Air Force has begun a competition, Ground Based Strategic Deterrence (GBSD), to replace the Minuteman III missiles by 2029 at an estimate total cost of $62 billion (yes, billion) through 2044.

Published before the election, Aviation Week's list of the next president's tech agenda includes some very cool stuff. #7 directed energy weapons.

You too can get your own facehugger GIF (pronounced jiff) to celebrate ALIENS' 30th anniversary at www.aliensfacehugger.com.
The (untrue) story of how Pollock's (gorgeous) Mural was painted for Peggy Guggenheim under commission.

Syracuse is ranked #60 in U.S. News and World Report's 2017 best college rankings. Where's your alma mater?

Just a tad late on the fall foliage map - everywhere's past peak.

Smelly poo - is there any other kind? - forced a British Airways flight to Dubai to return to Heathrow after only 30 minutes in the air.

One of those crossovers I enjoy: musician extraordinaire Tony Levin visited CERN and photoblogged his tour of the facility.

Neil Blomkamp's Alien 5 is still underway according to Sigourney Weaver. If I remember correctly, it's going to be inserted into the franchise after Aliens.

In another crossover (kind of) the Presentation Zen blog shares tips from legendary film director Akira Kurosawa that while overtly about film, can be applied to any creative endeavor (delivering a presentation, writing software). Most importantly, "have the forbearance to face the dull task of writing one word at a time."

I absolutely adore the ambient album Winter Garden but I'm not certain what to think about this version played 800% slower.

America's next bomber - the B-21 Raider from Northrop Grumman. 
MoMA has put their exhibition catalogs from 1929 to the present online. I couldn't help but be drawn to Jackson Pollock from 1956. See image below. Be careful - you can spend hours exploring this archive.

Jackson Pollock, Shimmering Substance, 1946
Map of the most lewd sounding town names in the U.S. I think Ohio wins with Pee Pee Township.
I encourage my friends in the UK to go see Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy. Not all reviews, however, have been as positive as this one from The Telegraph. But I liked what I saw when I skimmed the exhibit catalog when it arrived earlier this week.

The Modern in Fort Worth has a large number of Sean Scully's paintings in their permanent collection and I had the chance to hear him speak at the museum recently. I love his work, the iconic motif of his stripe paintings, and his painting Light in August that's a direct reference to Faulkner's novel. In fact, there's a quote (I think in that novel) that says "the supreme rectangle of the open door," and he admits that doors and windows are part of his motif. In this recent interview with Studio International he talks about a lot and says this: "Abstraction is free. It is always concerned with thinking, and it is concerned with acting free of context. Also, it is always reaching outwards.

Are you interested in the future of sex? Honestly, I'm more interested in sex in the present. Yet this article and accompanying infographic blazes forward. For example, by the year 2045, 10% of young adults will have had sex with a humanoid robot. (Ewww. Hopefully not the same one.)

Rare Noise is one of my favorite record labels and consistently releases music that I very much enjoy. Learn more about them in this interview.

North Korea has a tiny internet. Tee hee.

What do I like? Black and white animation. See Halved feat chip king (the body). Feel free to mute the video.

For $42.5 million I'd probably change my name too. Buffalo's Albright-Knox art museum (a must-see if you're in the area) will now be called the Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Museum.

I have a hard time taking a men's underwear brand called Saxx seriously.

Just silly - Rammstein's Du Hast done in a bossa nova style. Very well done live performance with the music overdubbed.

Why did Willie Sutton rob banks? Cuz that's where the money was. Why does Uncle Sam tax the shit out of corporations? Cuz that's where...

Rolling Stone says Mystery Science Theater is the 93rd greatest TV show of all time. Where's your favorite ranked?

Disney geeks, decorate your electronic device with these Disney wallpapers, especially those celebrating the 45th anniversary of Walt Disney World. I put "it's a small world" on my Chromebook.

Speaking of Disney, Ethan Allen introduced a line of Disney furniture.

Who better to advocate for a STEAM education than David Byrne and Neil deGrasse Tyson?

A transcript of conversations between jailed German nuclear physicists in 1945-1946.

Video of Lorenzo Feliciati and his Koi band getting their studio groove on.

Touring Walt Disney's office: part 1 and part 2.

Explore the tree of life, an interactive exploration of evolutionary relationships between living things on this planet.

The periodic table of CNC machining.
Not to be a downer but the longest you can expect to live is 122 years.

Artisinal toilet paper. I applaud Northern for having a (good) sense of humor about their own product.

source
Doughnut kitten.

For travelers, wireless passwords from airports.

An animation showing the normal growth of human teeth.

NASA pr0n.

Cool interactive timeline world map of earthquakes and eruptions.

Does your logo look like genitalia?

Interviews with Eno and Budd about The Pearl, a fantastic ambient album.

Have your wedding at Disney's Magic Kingdom with prices starting at $120,000.

The mystery only makes me love the X-37B all that much more. What exactly has it been doing up there in outer space for over 500 days?

I'm listening to Burnt Belief's new album Emergent right now so here's a link to a music video from that album, Ghosts Aquatic.

Harold Budd's website.

Project 4K77 is converting the original Star Wars movie to 4K. Be sure to watch the teaser.

I'm not paying $400 for Richard Diebenkorn's catalog raissone so I'll have to content myself with this excerpt in which we read that he explored "planarity (flatness) versus illusionistic space; chromatic dissonance versus harmony (always subtly played out); bold, wall-commanding size versus more intimate scale."

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled #15, 1970. See link above.
Also currently listening to Live 1 and Live 2 from The Security Project as they perform the music of Peter Gabriel.
Matisse/Diebenkorn at the Baltimore Museum of Art. You have until 29 January to see this. Don't delay.
Lockheed Martin is proposing the TR-X as a replacement for the U-2.
A rare recording of Harold Budd's Children on the Hill.

Jelly is back.

Craft pr0n: Japanese Hakone Marquetry.

There's a 1-handed keyboard hidden in iOS.

In movie news, JJ Abrams supposedly is working on a 3rd movie in his Cloverfield series called God Particle. However, given what 10 Cloverfield Lane looked like, calling this a series is a stretch.

Rocky and Bullwinkle fans rejoice: a new book, The Art of Jay Ward Productions, is now available.

Patient's fart during surgery causes fire.

The Clyfford Still Museum has published The Works on Paper; it's online and free.

Putin's got himself a new ICBM, the RS-28, that can carry warheads sufficent to wipeout a landmass the size of Texas.

If I said a video of paints being mixed was sensual, you'd say...

Scientists say they've found a way to break the second law of thermodynamics (i.e. entropy decreases with time). Trump won so I guess anything's possible. Read more: H-Theorem in Quantum Physics.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum), 1962. From Dark Palette at the Pace Gallery.
The KC-Z next generation tanker. 
A diver may have found a lost Mark IV nuke from 1950 when a B-36 crashed. (My nuclear expert says not so fast.)

Feces may be the fuel of the future, or so says science. (Bullshit powers Washington so why the hell not?)

Get your annual dose of F-18 pr0n in the 2016 Rhino Ball video.

If this isn't a hoax, this video of a vegetarian eating meat for the first time in 22 years is the best thing I've seen in a long time. Not that I have anything against vegetarians but her reactions to meat are making me ravenous.

Video for Stick Men's new album Prog Noir.

Get facts about your name at NameDat. There are 5 of me in the U.S, most of whom live in New York. The average lifespan of John Chawners is 77.3 years. (Shit, where do I get my 122?)

Just another periodic table of the elements with pictures.

Aviation pr0n: B-17s.

...as optics is the geometry of light. ~Claude Debussy