Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Favorite Music of 2013

I was fortunate to hear a lot of good music during 2013. Here are my favorites.

The Raven That Refused to Sing by Steven Wilson: This album is a gem, and example of progressive rock at its finest, composed by a man at the top of his game, performed by musicians of the highest caliber.

I'm really not certain what else to say.

Among Wilson's other projects are his remastering of classic progressive rock albums. This year I also had the pleasure of adding his 40th anniversary edition of King Crimson's Larks Tongues in Aspic to my collection.

Wilson's website is

InterStatic by InterStatic: I had purchased two other jazz CDs by new-ish (to me) groups but as soon as I put InterStatic on for the first time the other two immediately went on the shelf.

InterStatic is actually the second album from the Norway-based trio of Jacob Young (guitar), Roy Powell (keyboards) and Jarle Vespestad (drums). Their jazzy ambience is velvety and smokey, quirky and melodic, rich and light. Stunning. I love it and can't get enough.

I'm told to expect InterStatic's third album in early 2014.

InterStatic's website is

Boing We'll Do It Live by the Aristocrats: This album surprised me - a dark horse candidate if you will. Guitarist Govan and drummer Minnemann appeared on Wilson's Raven (see above). Here they are joined by bassist Beller. After having listened briefly to a YouTube video of their work as a trio I purchased this 2 CD live album. And. Was. Blown. Away.

Their individual playing is technically brilliant. Their ensemble playing is tight. Their sound touches on everything from blues, rock, country, metal, jazz and everything else for that matter. And even when kicking ass these guys really seem to be having fun playing.

Which is probably why I'm listening to their studio album, Culture Clash, as I write this.

The Aristocrats website is

Honorable Mention: Rare Noise Records has delivered so much good music this year (and the preceding) that I can't wait to see what they have in store for 2014. Their artists whose music I have purchased include Animation, Bernocchi Budd Guthrie (whose Winter Garden may be the most beautiful music I've ever heard), Berserk! (uncategorizable), InterStatic, Lorenzo Feliciati, Metallic Taste of Blood, Mumpbeak, Mole, and Naked Truth (simply awesome). Plus a new dual-bassist album from Colin Edwin and Lorenzo Feliciati is forthcoming.

"My God, it's full of stars."

My Favorite Books of 2013

Just like everyone else, I too will make you suffer through a year's end top/best/favorite list. So here are my favorite books from those I read in 2013.

The Passage by Justin Cronin: Cronin's The Passage is the first in a trilogy that I read out of order, having begun with the second installment, The Twelve, at the end of 2012. The post-apocalytpic tale involves accidental release of a military biological experiment that triggers disturbing changes in upwards of 90% of the world population, societal collapse, and a return to an agrarian existence for the unaffected 10%.

Unlike World War Z which somehow got turned into a film, Cronin's stories actually make sense and, more importantly, make you care. But the good news is that Ridley Scott's production company has reportedly acquired the rights to The Passage although there's no word on when that film might be released.

The final act of the trilogy, The City of Mirrors, is supposed to be published in 2014.

I highly recommend that you read Cronin's The Passage and The Twelve so you're ready for the final act when it comes out next year.

The website for Cronin's trilogy is

The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen: Clayton's The Innovator's Dilemma offers an astonishingly simple premise: innovation sews the seeds of its own failure. As a product or business grows it necessarily becomes more complex as it evolves to meet the needs of an ever expanding audience. This leaves it vulnerable to disruptions from new market entrants at the low (i.e. simpler) end of the market. This trek to failure is compounded by the fact that the mature organization lacks the systems, processes or people - or even desire - to disrupt its own market.

As an example of a disruption consider music on mp3 versus CD.  CDs offer better audio quality, nice packaging, and booklets with lyrics and performance credits. An mp3 is a single song, of lower quality, and comes with no extras. And we all know how that's working out. Think also about Kodak and digital photography.

The trick for advice from any business book is to figure out how to put it into practice yourself.  Yet example after example show why this this theory is valid and should be ignored at your own peril. Christensen has gone on to write a series of books including the very personal How Will You Measure Your Life?

Christensen's website is

Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade, 1940-1950: This book is the exhibit guide to the same-named traveling exhibit of Rothko's work from the 1940s during which his painting style evolved from mythical figuration to abstract rectangular forms.

To read about, see examples of, and gain insight into the process by which an artist moves to pure abstraction helped me better appreciate something I guiltily enjoy without understanding.

This book is also what motivated me to reread Rothko's own The Artist's Reality to see in his own words what he was trying to achieve.

Suffice it to say that the book influenced me to schedule a trip to Little Rock to see the exhibit at its closest approach to DFW. The Arkanasas Art Center's website for the exhibit is

Honorable Mention: The world lost two great authors from the military/espionage thriller genre this year: Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. They will be missed.

You can see all the books I finished in 2013 here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

For last year's words belong to last year's language...

From Animation Scoop's best and worst of animation in 2013 comes two films I'd like to see: Disney's short Get a Horse (preview), shown in theaters prior to Frozen; and Hiyao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises (preview), a fictionalized bio of the designer of the WWII Japanese Zero aircraft.

You can learn about Bezier curves through these interactive animations.
With shades of Mondrian comes Taschen's reprint of the classic Euclid's Elements by Oliver Byrne. Read about it on Brain Pickings. Buy it on Amazon .
If I had been thinking yesterday when I wrote about nuclear explosions and art I would've tossed this into the mix: a trailer from the animated film Gloria Victoria. Canadian filmmaker Theodore Ushev has made what appears to be a beautiful film about war and given that he's originally from Bulgaria I could've used that to somehow tie him and the USSR to nukes. Regardless, watch the trailer.

And let's put this to bed with a photo tour of the Museum of Nuclear Weapons in Sarov City, Russia.

What's coming in social media marketing in 2014? It seems Google+ is on its way up and mobile will continue to pose a challenge. Read 6 more trends at the link.

Wow. Interactive and animated earth wind map.
Got a Raspberry Pi? Get Wolfram Language and Mathematica free.

Do you even program? Find out the difference between college and professional programming. Learn Haskell with this short and dense tutorial.

Design, Design, Design

Josef Albers' classic book Interaction of Color has been turned into an award-winning iPad app.

And now I'll ask you to spend 40 minutes watching this Edward Tufte produced video of Inge Druckrey's work called Teaching to See, a great insight into design.

Even NASA weighs in on design issues with this 6-part series on Subtleties of Color.

Moving On

Using WebMD's Cold & Flu Map you can see the frequency of cold and flu reports in your area. Texas isn't looking so good. Should I finally get my first flu shot ever?
Find out what new words were coined in your birth year using the Oxford English Dictionary's birthday word generator. For me, it was blag. For my sons it was emoticon and Dadrock.

The Cubeli - you gotta see this. A cube that can walk and balance itself.

Just a collection of WWII photos I hadn't seen before. 

Video of water-bombing a truck fire in the Canadian wilderness.

It's like, how much more round could an electron be? And the answer is none. None more round.

What's the number 1 food doctors won't eat? Ice cream. (The article from which I found that list placed a death sentence on me when a doctor was quoted as saying the things killing this country are sleep, stress, and sugar. It's a medical miracle that I wake up each morning.)

The iconic earthrise photograph taken by Apollo 8 almost didn't happen.
Although it's tarnished by the statement "Science mattered more than ever in 2013." (science always matters), Nat Geo shares the year's biggest scientific discoveries. Of the ones they cite, the entry into interstellar space of Voyager I seems pretty damn significant.

Don't look at these animated background images if you suffer from motion sickness.

...and next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot

Bonus Section

The top 4 posts on this blog of all time.
  1. How do you know when you're finished painting? 03 Oct 2009
  2. Black Paintings by Stephanie Rosenthal 11 Apr 2010
  3. Those who realize their folly... 19 Oct 2013
  4. A man growing old... 14 Apr 2012

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Arts of The Sciences

"Are nuclear explosions art?"

OK, you've piqued my curiosity.

Photograph of the Castle Bravo nuclear test in 1954 of the United States' first hydrogen bomb. Image from Wikipedia.
Alex Wellerstein (@wellerstein) asked this question at the beginning of his article Art, Destruction, Entropy on the Restricted Data blog about nuclear secrecy.

On its surface the question seems patently ludicrous. A nuclear detonation brings to mind heat, fire, blast, radiation, fallout, war, conflict, apocalypse, destruction, and death. Anything but art.

Chopping up a piano with an ax isn't art either.

Or is it?

Art, Exhibits, and Museums

Let me back up. Wellerstein's inspiration was an exhibit at Washington's Hirshhorn Museum that he saw called Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950 that features both film footage of nuclear test detonations and Raphael Montanez Ortiz' piano destruction (among many other pieces by many other artists). Ortiz is not new to this, having been involved as far back as 1966 in the Destruction in Art Symposium, a reaction to the human race's "will to kill" and a recognition that death itself, not life, needed a sense of the transcendental.

Wellerstein, a historian at the American Institute of Physics, seems to take the position that the exhibition's inclusion of wall-sized looping footage of U.S. above-ground nuclear tests from the 1950s is art only because it is being shown in an art gallery and because of the innate aesthetics of the images. According to him, this focus on the aesthetics distracts the viewer from the larger context of these events such as their intended cataclysmic use, the effect of fallout on innocent bystanders, and the societal cost of the Manahattan project and subsequent decades of nuclear weapons development. He asks whether this particular presentation of nuclear force robs it of something, specifically its larger global context.

Screen shot of the Hirshhorn's webpage for the Damage Control exhibition.
I seems to me that this decontextualization, to use his word, is precisely what contributes to the film's artistic value. Or maybe, more accurately, it's the recontextualization of the work when juxtaposed with Ortiz' and others. To rely solely on aesthetics as a barometer of art misses the point. Certainly the original purpose of the detonation films was one of scientific and historic record and their aesthetic value is merely coincidental.

But those two purposes aren't necessarily at odds either. I am reminded of something William Deresiewicz wrote in The American Scholar: "We ask of a scientific proposition, “Is it true?” But of a proposition in the humanities we ask, “Is it true for me?” So while the nuclear scientists could use the films to learn scientific truth, their inclusion in the exhibit allows the public to assess their implications in a more personal light. In other words, by placing works of scientific origin within the context of Ortiz' work and the works of other artists it humanizes what might otherwise be too incalculably vast to be comprehended.

Are Squares Art?

Let's look at this from a slightly different perspective. You might just as easily ask whether squares are art. This would be coincidental because also on the Hirshhorn's website is a section dedicated to an exhibit on Josef Albers: Innovation and Inspiration. Albers is probably best known for a series of paintings called Homage to the Square that he used to explore the interaction of colors through the form of inset squares. Through the interaction of form and hue Albers was able to achieve sensation of depth through the picture plane and a shimmering vibration within the plane itself.

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square, 1966. Image from the Josef & Anni Albers Foundation website. (I chose this painting in particular because it has a certain abstract similarity, in my opinion, to the Castle Bravo photo above.)
Albers was also a great color theorist and author of Interaction of Color, a pivotal work on color. (See also the app.) In the preface of this important work Albers wrote "Just as knowledge of acoustics does not make one musical... so no color system by itself can develop one's sensitivity for color." "What counts here - first and last - is not so-called knowledge of so-called facts, but vision - seeing."

Note that it is the act of seeing - by the observer - from which value is derived. The intent of the producer may have been something totally different.

It is the relative interaction of various colors and forms - i.e. their context - that change a color into something else. Two different colors appear to be the same, the same color appears differently due to interaction with a third, two colors in proximity create a third in their midst. Many monochromatic painters achieve effects on the entire gallery in which their works are placed. 

Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. (Highly recommended but not an easy read.)
So questioning whether squares are art is similarly off target as questioning whether film footage of nuclear detonations are art. Albers' forms interact with each other through their placement and relative color allowing you to see more than shapes and hues. The detonation film puts Ortiz' piano destruction in its own new light and vice versa, allowing us to perceive each in a new way.

Multiples and MIRVs

Wellerstein also raises the issue of producer's intent, questioning whether something made specifically for one purpose can be regarded in another. From the art world, he cites work by Andy Warhol (included in the Damage Control exhibit) and exemplified by the image below.
Andy Warhol, Red Atom Bomb, 1963. Image from the C4 Contemporary Gallery. (Note: I don't know whether this work was included in Damage Control. Its inclusion here is simply for illustrative purposes.)
Wellerstein compares Warhol's work with the photographic series of the Trinity explosion taken by lead photographer Berlyn Brixner (see below).

Berlyn Brixner, TR-NN-11, 1945. Image from the Restricted Data blog. (I tried to find an independent source of this image but failed.)
Clearly, Brixner's purpose was scientific while Warhol's was artistic. A cursory interpretation of Warhol's work is that it makes  a statement on the commoditization of destruction. I would argue that his colorization - and admittedly I'm not a huge Warhol fan - draws something from Albers, if not in this particular work then in his others.

The question remains whether there is any artistic value in the Brixner photographs. Again,  I would argue that there is - or can be - depending on context. I'd make my argument by introducing the work of Edward Tufte, author of the seminal and beautifully produced text, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. As the name of the book implies, Tufte is a master of making dense data understandable through visualization. One of his techniques is the method of small multiples.

The essence of Tufte's concept of small multiples is to contextualize data by answering the question "compared to what?" (Chess players can see a good example of small multiples on Tufte's website for Magic Knight's Tour.) As opposed to a single photograph of the Trinity explosion, Brixner's photograph above compares the fireball are various times. A single photo almost begs the question "So what?" while the array of photographs reveals details about the evolution of the explosion. And here I would make the argument that it's done in a highly visually appealing manner.

To complete the tie-in, I'll mention that it was via Tufte's recommendation, after attending his seminars in Dallas, that I purchased and read Albers' book.

So What?

So what exactly is my point? First, I have kept to this blog's intent to be a rambling stream of consciousness. Second, as frequent readers know, I have this fetish for instances where my various interests are juxtaposed. In this case we have Cold War and nuclear history crossing with modern art and data visualization.

But that's what's in it for me. What about you?

Are nuclear explosions art? The answer, like most things in life, is "it depends." They can be simple scientific and military tools to the extent they impart understanding and support national objectives. And they can be art in how they make each of us think and feel about life and death.

Like the old - really old - SNL skit said, "Sometimes a banana is just a banana." And sometimes a square is just a square. But through contextualization of a square's color and form it can become a striking work of art.

And just because science and math are quantitative, it doesn't mean their execution and explanation and insight can't also be executed beautifully.

Frederich Nietzsche is credited with saying something that seems quite apropos for the subject at hand: "We have our arts so we won't die of truth."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mumpbeak by Roy Powell

Mumpbeak. If you think
the name is a riddle, just
wait for the music.

As inscrutable as its name, Mumpbeak is the latest solo effort from Roy Powell, keyboardist extraordinaire. I may be wrong in calling it a solo effort because everywhere else the album is presented as the self-titled debut of the group Mumpbeak. But I really see this as Powell's vehicle. Riding with him are Pat Mastelotto on drums and a bevy of bassists: Tony Levin, Lorenzo Feliciati, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, and Bill Laswell who also produced the album. (Obviously, not every bassist played on each track.)

Mumpbeak consists of seven tracks: Biscuit, Forelock, Monocle, Nork, Oak, Chain, and Piehole. On each track Powell's Hohner Clavinet (think Stevie Wonder or checkout this brief video) is front and center but only after application of effects that let it fill the lead guitar role but with a sound that's anything but usual. And this is where the commonality of the seven tracks ends.

The trip Powell takes us on is one of experimental progressive rock. The experiment centers on the clavinet+fx. Progressive because some of the tunes (Forelock, for example) could've come directly from a Stick Men album. Others (Chain especially) echo late 1960s psychedelia. And others like Monocle have a decidedly jazz fusion feel.

Here: listen to Biscuit for yourself.

Combine Mumpbeak with Powell's other recent work with InterStatic and Naked Truth and he's got my attention. If you enjoy music that pushes the boundaries of a genre and a musician with an impressive versatility, Roy Powell's Mumpbeak is for you.

The album's website is and Roy Powell's YouTube channel is Mumpbeak is available from Rare Noise Records.

The websites of other contributors to Mumpbeak are:
P.S. I'm pretty good with the Google and could find no clue as to the origin of the word mumpbeak.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review. Rare Noise records shared one track from the album with me prior to the album's release. This is review is based on the CD that I purchased.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Painting is silent poetry...

Thanks to the musical archeology of a friend (Walker) I can share this 1982 live performance by Harold Budd of Children on the Hill.

Mumpbeak - Roy Powell makes a Hohner Clavinet make sounds not thought possible. And this video of the Berserk! movie will make you appreciate that band's name.

I had never heard of Temari Spheres but these embroidered creations are pretty cool.
Fort Worth magazine compiled their list of the 25 best new restaurants in Fort Worth and their list raised some red flags for me. I know a lot of people love Rodeo Goat but their burgers just don't do it for me. The other at which I've eaten, Torchy's, was a mixed bag. One time I really didn't enjoy my taco at all, but admittedly I ordered one of the more non-traditional varities. During my second visit I kept to the traditional taco path and found it quite good. They include Il Cane Rosso even though it hasn't opened yet. And one joint on the list - to remain unnamed - pissed me off when they simply stopped responding to my emails regarding a possible catering deal.

But if you want good Tex-Mex in Fort Worth, go to Benito's.

How to reinvent yourself after 50. (Being active on social media is no longer optional.)

This video of Budapest's book fountain has been making the rounds.

I discovered a new art blog: Abstract Critical.

Pablo Picasso, L'Homme au Gibus (Man with Opera Hat), 1914
Did you see they were raffling off a Picasso worth $1 million for €100 a ticket? I thought for more than a few minutes about whether to buy the ticket but couldn't pull the trigger. A man in Pennsylvania won.

Science works in mysterious ways. What's the first thing you think of when you consider emotional over-eating? The breasts, of course. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to create a smart bra that detects emotional overeating. Next they will invent sock garters that detect sexual arousal.

NASA's Juno spacecraft got some nice photos of the earth and moon during a flyby and those photos have been compiled into a cool video.

And Cassini spies Saturn's mysterious Peggy. Not a euphemism.

Know yer TIE Fighters.
 I'm not very British. How about you?

There's a guy at work who finds every typo I make in our work blog (after publishing, of course). I bet he wishes I'd read these proofreading tips.

This investment advice for 2014 is all over the place. Which is kinda what you'd expect.

It seems I'll be seeing Disney's Mr. Banks next week so this list of things you may not know about Mary Poppins is timely. #6 Julie Andrews got the part of Mary Poppins after she was rejected for the lead in My Fair Lady.

Speaking of tips, will these help me get to 200,000 Twitter followers? (One more and I'll get to 300!)

I was skeptical of what I'd find in this list of football facts but was surprised to learn that all NFL footballs are made in Ada, Ohio.

This takes Dan Flavin to a new level. Yochai Matos installs fluorescent lights in unusual places.
Just say "no" to drum pants.

...and poetry is painting that speaks. ~Plutarch

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our faith comes in moments...

This real life thing keeps getting in the way.

Mark Bradford, Father, You Have Murdered Me
...our vice is habitual. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

Ten years deep inside
Al-Qaeda. Still not trusted
by the CIA.

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson tells the first tale in the saga of John Wells, a CIA deep cover field operative who infiltrated Al-Qaeda years before 9-11. But now that the terrorists have deadly plans for the continental United States his bosses at the CIA aren't sure he hasn't gone native or been doubled.

Where's the faith? His conversion to Islam hasn't helped his case although he himself struggles with its meaning. Even Wells' Al-Qaeda boss isn't 100% convinced of his loyalty. Only one person is on his side - his handler. And she's gonna get a lot closer to the action than her desk.

This is the second of Berenson's Wells novels that I've read and he's a solid addition to my cadre of military-espionage thrillers.

Alex Berenson's website is

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Those who are too smart to engage in politics...

Where else would you locate a plumbing museum except Watertown. Read about it in the WSJ (Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet? Wha..?) Follow their blog, The Water Closet.

One of three designs submitted for toilet of the future. Looks good for #2, not so good for #1.
It's the time of year for "best of lists." Inventing Abstraction is already on my wish list at Amazon so it's nice to see that it's also included in Modern Art Notes' best books of 2013.

And it's the time of year for this too. If you listen to only mashup each year (and that's probably true for a lot of you) make it this one: DJ Earworm's United State of Pop 2013. If you want to listen to a second, check out Pop Danthology 2013 from Daniel Kim.

This review makes the recent Berserk! and InterStatic show in London sound like a really good time.

Chat Noir's next album is due out in 2014 from Rare Noise Records so I'm trying to learn more about this jazz trio from Italy. Here's their SoundCloud page.

Also out next year on Rare Noise (a label I'm really starting to love) is Plymouth, "A deep, entrancing cavalcade into nether realms of psychedelia, avant jazz and rock."

Partitura is a programming language for visualizing music developed by musician Quayola. (Video - must watch.) (Story in Wired - maybe read.)

Barnett Newman, Be I (Second Version), 1970 - The Menil Collection will host an exhibit on Newman's late work during 2014.
Speaking of programming: programming cheat sheets, and a tutorial for learning Haskell.

What does a million lines of code look like?

Do software developers need a standardized code of ethics? Short answer, No. 

Klein's quartic curve. This started to make my brain hurt so tl;dr.

Learn how to make a Gantt chart from a spreadsheet in Google Docs.

Disney's Frozen has gotten some good reviews but this guy really likes the short that proceeds it, Get A Horse!

Amazing. Go inside the U.S. Navy's first Zumwalt-class destroyer courtesy of Popular Science.
Someone shared their photos from the National Air and Space Museum in a Flickr set.

Your guide to military slang including "self licking ice cream cone."

First stupid web page trick. Second stupid web page trick. Third stupid web page trick. (Fractal morphing if you can believe it.)

A toy. Speaking of toys, how about this parent's annotated version of his kid's insane Xmas list?

From the National Geographic Photo Contest 2013. I'm not a huge fan of photography but this photo is breathtaking. See also Part 2.
Sign a petition at to keep people off their cellphones during airline flights.

The average individual debt excluding mortgages in Dallas/Fort Worth is $30,022. See this and more on a map of individual debt by state.

Got no time for reading? Try these 40 short novels. How about the top 30 new movies of 2014 (including Dumb and Dumber To).

For an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 you can have Han Solo's DL-44 blaster from the Star Wars movies.

Saturn Hexagon photo saturn-hexagon_zpsd939fdd2.gif
A hexagon rotates around Saturn's north pole.

I will blame it on my upbringing. Even though Texas is one of the five states in which people are less likely to curse when talking to a service rep on the phone, Ohio is numero freakin' uno.

And draw your own conclusions from this list of states sorted by average penis size.

For the ladies, the periodic table of periods. (I suppose it had to be done if for no other reason than the word play.)

Be afraid. Very afraid. The earth is running out of chocolate, bacon and 5 other things.

Uh oh. Sexual frustration decreases life span.

...are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato

Friday, December 6, 2013

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham

A trilogy ends
without revealing how the
whole thing got started.

I do like me some post apocalytic fiction but John Birmingham's Angels of Vengeance, the third in a trilogy that began with Without Warning (2008) and After America (2010), would've satisfied me more if it revealed even just a glimmer of the source of the apocalypse itself.

However, as a plot device to setup the trilogy (and the online stories that are said to be following) The Wave served its purpose. Imagine that on the eve of the Gulf War an energy field of unknown origin settled over virtually all of the continental United States. Every human (or was it mammal?) within the field is immediately killed while property is untouched. (Kinda like a huge neutron bomb of plot setups.) After a while it goes away leaving just a sliver of the Pacific northwest intact.

In the first book, things worldwide go to shit in a hurry without the USA around. But after that, how does that power void get filled?

So The Wave was a nice plot device to setup that entertaining thought experiment. But I really would've liked some story about figuring out what the thing was and whether it might happen again.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction with strong female lead characters and plenty of intrigue and gunplay you'll enjoy John Birmingham's trilogy Without Warning, After America, and Angels of Vengeance.

John Birmingham's blog is Cheeseburger Gothic.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I am accustomed to sleep and in my dreams...

This music video pushes a lot of the right buttons for me: black and white animation, mesh graphics, and a Steve Reich inspired remix of David Bowie's Love is Lost. (Oh, and the kissy kissy.) Plus, Trey Gunn's Security Project performs Peter Gabriel's music.

Just One Book - great people choose one book for you to read.

Know Thyself

Interactive state to state migration
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Map the U.S. by income down to the zip code.
Virtual drum set.

Let's Take a Tour

The winners of the 2013 Information is Beautiful Awards have been announced and there's plenty of good stuff to lose yourself in. This graphic in particular showing found meteorites I thought was particularly attractive.
Da Gubmint
  • Just say HELL NO to cell phone calls on airplanes. I once had to listen to a young woman talk on her phone from landing to the gate and I felt like Robert Hays' seatmates from Airplane! (watch beginning at 0:38).
  • Daylight savings time needs to end. Now.
  • A Texas A&M law professor wants to repeal the 2nd amendment and leave gun control up to the states. First, it's surprising to hear this from TAMU faculty. Second, if we're really interested in saving lives and overall societal cost we should repeal the 21st amendment (look it up). Third, I wonder what other pesky constitutional rights need to be gerrymandered into submission?
Monty Python to reunite for a stage show?

A whole bunch of maps. You don't know Africa. (And neither do I. 20 countries found in slightly under 4 minutes.)

Better late than never: take this WKRP Thanksgiving quiz.

Nice photo of downtown Fort Worth by Greg Brown.
It's programming time!

The bourbon family tree
Moving Pictures

  • Take time for this 5-minute interview with Benoit Mandelbrot, filmed 19 days before his death.
  • Some sort of video magic was used to created this stabilized, panoramic, HD, multi-input version of  the Zapruder film.
  • Nearly 13,000 hand-painted aquarelles make up this 35 minute fan tribute to Blade Runner.
How many originals of the Gettysburg Address still exist? Five.

Engineering schools fail to teach empathy? That's because they're too busy teaching ethics. Both of which are things the students should've learned at home before their parents shipped them off to become everyone else's problem.
Extruding "paste" for toilet testing.
Sometimes this is the only good thing that happens all day.

What has science been up to lately?
What has art been up to? Not much.
Set phasers to stunning. I LOLd way too long over this.
This is why I'm confused: imagine the same things that lunatics imagine when awake. ~Rene Descartes

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Never Go Back by Lee Child

When Reacher's in jail
it's best if you are not the
man who put him there.

Although I largely avoid crime novels, Jack Reacher is an intriguing enough character that I'll go back again and again, especially for the audio books when Dick Hill is the voice actor. (For those of you who've only seen the movie starring Tom Cruise, his portrayal was adequate but of a completely different Reacher.) 

Never Go Back, the latest (Sept. 2013) book in Lee Childs' Jack Reacher series, is 416 pages. Audio book of 13 CDs read excellently by Dick Hill.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

There are three things extremely hard:

Today through Tuesday is all about physics, not blogging. (Hint #1)

Hint #2: Andy Warhol, Statue of Liberty, 1962

...steel, a diamond and to know one's self. ~Benjamin Franklin (Hint #3)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The only true wisdom...

Today's soundtrack is an hour-long concert by Naked Truth recorded in July 2011. 

Destined to become an astronomical classic: Saturn backlit by the Sun including the Earth as photographed by Cassini.
Next time you're in Groton you'll be able to see a submarine with wheels for driving on the ocean floor. News reports indicate that "pieces" of the Navy's NR-1 submarine will be on display at an unnamed submarine museum, presumably this one.

And at some future time you'll be able to browse online the scanned document archive from Bletchley Park, the great code-breakers of WWII.

You can either treat Myers Briggs personality types seriously (where ESTJ is "the supervisor... ESTJs like to get things done, and tend to go about projects in a systematic, methodical way.") or not so much (ESTJ is "the bureaucrat... who thrives in occupations which best utilize their organizational skills, such as driver's license bureau worker, junior bank teller, postal employee, COBOL programmer, or any other profession which involves long periods of mind-crushing tedium").

Read all about the history of the B-2 in the freely downloadable ebook from Northrop Grumman, B-2: The Spirit of Innovation.

Lest you think a recently discovered fallout shelter from 1961 in Austin, Texas is just quaint, watch this 1960 civil defense video Target... Austin, Texas.

Cornell hosts videos of a quantum theory lecture by Hans Bethe, head of the theoretical group at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. The videos are not highly technical and should appeal to people with a wide range of backgrounds.

Jackson Pollock, Number 11, 1949. From the collection of the Indiana Univ. Art Museum. You can only imagine the conversation this painting sparked at work this week.
The 10 best U.S. airports for art does not include DFW.

Only pilots will like this video of landing a Super Cub on a mountain top in like 0 feet.

When you're stuck for content and don't want to resort to Lorem Ipsum try Content Snippets.

You may not be boring, but I bore even myself. This article tells us why the internet is a megaphone of boring because most of what's posted is the equivalent of "flashing a Prius-shaped gang sign to your pals."

While we're on the topic of insight, here are the hallmarks of great bosses: listen, fight constructively, adopt a "small win" strategy, don't be too sensitive, and nip disrespect in the bud.

Have you heard about olloclip, the clip-on camera lenses for iPhones? I take such crappy snapshots that maybe these lenses would upgrade them to photographs.

This periodic table of swearing must've been written by a soccer hooligan with ADHD after one too many pints of Watney's.
And if that periodic table wasn't bad enough, take a look at these American football team logos re-imagined in soccer style - i.e. they look like seals and crests from private boarding schools.

What Ph.D. students write the longest dissertations? It's not aerospace engineers who rank near the bottom at around 120 pages. Who do you think tops the list at nearly 300 pages?

Array indexing, 0, and 1. An article only programmers will find interesting. tl;dr

Learning modern 3D graphics programming.

I was not aware of any mystery surrounding King Tut's death. But recent work indicates he was killed in a chariot accident and later spontaneously combusted. Yes, you read that correctly.

In the 11 socio-politically homogeneous, nation-states I live in Greater Appalachia ("value individual liberty").

The 100 best novels. From 1898.

Science solves the great problems of our day, like how to keep from getting splashed when peeing in a urinal. in knowing you know nothing. ~Socrates

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    Boing, We'll Do It Live! by The Aristocrats

    These three prog rockers
    give an awesome performance
    with a grin and wink.

    Boing is everything a live album should be: spontaneous, genuine, masterful, and fun.

    The Aristocrats are Guthrie Govan (guitar), Marco Minnemann (drums), and Bryan Beller (bass).

    Boing, We'll Do It Live was recorded in 2012 in San Pedro at the Alvas Showroom. The 2-CD album has 15 tracks.

    Disc 1: Bad Asteroid, Greasy Wheel, Boing!... I'm In The Back, Flatlands, I Want A Parrot, Blues Fuckers, Waves

    Disc 2: Get It Like That, Furtive Jack, Train Trax, Cave Dweller, Mr. Kempinski, Dance Of The Aristocrats, A Very Metal Introduction, Sweaty Knockers

    You can get a taste of their work by watching them perform at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival in 2012 in the video below. (Elsewhere the band has commented that they think it's funny they're sometimes categorized as a jazz band.)

    Here's where you can find the band online.

    Art cannot result from...

    Later this month, Rare Noise Records will release the self-titled debut album from MUMPBEAK featuring keyboardist Roy Powell, four bassists (Levin, Feliciati, Blumenkranz, and Laswell) all backed up by Pat Mastelotto on drums. Preview three tracks here.

    If you prefer something a bit more laid back, stream Markus Reuter's Live in Bethlehem 2013 and if you like it the download is free.

    Paul Emile Borduas, Reception Automnale, 1953. Gorgeous. From the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
    A magic card trick with a story by James Galea. Quite impressive, but I guess that's why they call it magic.

    Do you know why infographics suck? Because the facts, when they aren't contrived, are usually wrong. Here's a map-based infographic with state by state alcohol facts. It claims that Virginia is the only state where beer isn't the preferred drink but also that in Texas more people like Margaritas than any other drink. I suppose the folks at College Humor were probably toasted when they created it. That's the last time I go to them for hard-hitting news.

    Ranking of various countries based on their proficiency in English. From a WSJ article about how learning English is becoming less popular and/or necessary in China.
    Ten animated short films are up for consideration for an Oscar. Judge for yourself: Feral, Get a Horse!, Gloria Victoria, Hollow Land, The Missing Scarf, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Requiem for Romance, Room on the Broom, and Subconscious Password.

    Take a couple of minutes to watch this video montage of 243 titles from animated films.

    OK, so maybe animation isn't your cup of tea. The AFI has a musical montage of 100 movie quotes that you might like better.

    You know a technology has reached some level of maturity when their are websites devoted to its failures. Check out this Flickr photo pool of 3D print failures.

    accidental aRt (I have no idea why the R is upper case) is what you get when data visualization goes wrong.

    And if you watch this compilation of infomercial fails, you'd think no one anywhere ever has a good day.

    A page from the world's least erotic sex manual. When the man is loading the dishwasher and the woman must come over, because he is loading it wrong, it is called the "dishwasher position."
    Solving the greatest conundrums of our time, science shows that women are two percentage points more attractive when seen in a group as opposed to by themselves. The cheerleader effect has been validated!

    Able-Archer was a NATO exercise in 1983 that the Soviets misinterpreted as a real move toward a first strike and which cause them to put their nuclear forces on alert. Some call it the closest the world came to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. I'm not certain how much of this information is new because I've read about it from various sources. And my recollection, which could very well be wrong, was that Able-Archer was more of a communications exercise and didn't involve actual forces on the NATO side.

    When you have a free hour or two, consider spending it reading about Have Doughnut, a declassified DIA report about evaluation of a MiG 21F.

    What if all the ice melted? Besides warm drinks we'd have different shorelines (and apparently no more Walt Disney World). Explore these maps from National Geographic.
    Rafael Rozendaal (sorry about omitting the umlauts) is an internet artist. You could spend hours looking at all the work on his website.

    You can also spend hours with Multitrack Love where you can take songs apart track by track during playback.

    I give this slightly naughty joke an A for the analogy but a C for execution.

    OMG Laser Guns Pew Pew Pew

    ...sophisticated, frivolous, or superficial effects. ~Hans Hofmann

    Saturday, November 2, 2013

    There is a harmony in autumn...

    The new Twinscapes album from bassists Colin Edwin and Lorenzo Feliciati is due out in February. Here's a teaser. More than just a teaser, Roy Powell posted the track Forelock from the upcoming Mumpbeak release.

    Deadspin ranks each state's signature food. The list is topped by Chicago deep-dish pizza. Texas BBQ  brisket comes in at #20. ("It is very large. The end.") Ranked last at #52 (beat by D.C. at #36 and Being Hit by a Car at #51) is Cincinnati Chili. While I believe this ranking is totally undeserved their write-up is quite funny. ("a way to make the rest of us feel grateful that our shit-eating is mostly figurative.")
    State by state animated maps of the most popular baby names from 1960 to the present: girls and boys. (In my birth year it was Lisa and Michael.)

    Want to visualize in real-time denial of service attacks? See Digital Attack Map.

    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Monticello, 1986 is expected to fetch $1.2 million at auction.
    Beer folks gonna loves these animations of beer labels. My favorite is Stone's Ruination IPA.

    Want to drink your beer and eat it too? How about a beer grain granola bar.

    Why should coffee brewers have all the fun? Brew your beer at the touch of a button with this tabletop brewery.

    As a numismatist I can't condone these interlocking coin sculptures. But yet...
    Despite Francis Ford Coppolla's fears that he was making "a piece of shit," Apocalypse Now is one of those films I will watch over and over again. Here's some original storyboard art and on-scene recollections of the helicopter attack sequence, The Valkyries Ride.

    B-2 and a GBU-57
     How beautiful is mathematics? Just watch and see.

    Just yesterday I was extolling the virtues of The Godfather to someone who claimed to be unable to stay awake through the entire film. So it was nice to browse through this list of things you may not know about The Godfather.

    As a music lover I can't condone these Dremel-cut LPs. But yet...
    Boys, here's some advice on manhood from Kareen Abdul Jabar. #6 Fight your fear of the unknown (physical bravery is easier than intellectual bravery).

    Cold War propaganda posters.  (Do colleges have to hire red professors?)

    A simple but very pleasant video demonstration of hand lettering with a paintbrush.

    If states' boundaries were redrawn so they got water from a single source.
    The 50 greatest breakthroughs since the wheel.
    • #6 paper
    • #12 sanitation
    • #25 alphabetization
    • #37 cement
    • #47 the nail
    What? Another list? OK. How about 101 objects that made America special (from the collection of the Smithsonian). (Psst: don't tell Putin.)
    • Plymouth Rock
    • Barbie
    • Levi's
    • Wonder Woman
    • Stegosaurus
    If you wanna get all medical about poop there's the Bristol Stool Form Scale using which you can identify your poops as one of seven types (Type 2: sausage-shaped but lumpy). But how do you make that less clinical and more useful for pediatrics? You make 3D poop models (i.e. tridimensional stool assessment instruments.) To get engineers interested you'd have to 3D print these faux feces which makes me wonder if there's a scat STL out there somewhere. (And about 20 seconds of Googling later I find the desired result.)

    The things for which each country leads the world. Way to go UK!
    The computer science field guide is an online resource for teaching computer science.

    Lately I've been putting all my aviation pr0n on Pinterest (here) but this bit of news was too delicious to omit. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works revealed to Aviation Week their work on a Mach 6 successor to the SR-71, the so-called SR-72.

    The most decorated combat flight in U.S. history (including 2 Medals of Honor) wasn't even on a combat mission. Read about Old 666.

    Want to know a brand by its color? (Yahoo! purple is #720e9e.)

    Ze Frank gives us more true facts about the frog and cuttlefish.

    Star Trek freaks, Scroll Down To Riker.

    You can have fun for hours playing with Text Particles.
    ...and a luster in its sky. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley