Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Album Cover Challenge

Jim threw down the gauntlet and I accepted it - The Album Cover Challenge. What is it?
  1. Go to Wikipedia‘s random topic selection – The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. 
  2. Go to “Random quotations” – The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.    
  3. On flickr, click on “explore the last seven days”  - Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
Then you post it to Facebook as a note. Or in a blog.

So here's mine: the new album Hand in Hand by King Corn. (I did crop the image a bit. Artistic license. And I only used 3 words of the quote. Sue me.)

And the details:

The greatest weariness...

Tell a group of ambient/electronic musicians to transform the Brandenburg Concerto into something abstract in honor of painter Clyfford Still and the results will be multiple versions of the Still Concerto.

Too arty-farty for you? How about this real or fake, leaked or released version of Get Lucky from Daft Punk's upcoming new album? If you'd like to read more about Random Access Memories, check out this interview in Rolling Stone where they reveal the limited use of sampling and drum machines.

As I've said before, I love it when two of my interests intersect in unexpected ways. Here's a wonderful intersection. According to an article in The Independent, the CIA covertly funded and used abstract expressionism - the art movement dominated by Pollock, Rothko, Still, and others - as a weapon in the Cold War.

It seems the Soviets like to decorate public spaces using their old jet aircraft. Click through to the photo essay and see where and how old MiGs and other jets are displayed.
If you've never seen a so-called pencil test of an animation I recommend watching this 1-minute sequence from Jungle Book. Maybe you'd also like to see superimposed images of Disney animation with the live actor test of the same shot.

The sun: 3 years in 3 minutes. Fabulous video.

All 7 billion of the world's population - each one of us, represented individually - on one web page.

Ranger's pitcher Yu Darvish has a remarkably consistent throwing motion for all his pitches. Don't believe me? Check out this composite animated GIF.

All your internet memes in one place.
Five unusual beers that - get this - don't involve elephant poop! Chipotle ale anyone?

What are the best and worst jobs of 2013? Third best = software engineer. Eighth worst = mail carrier.

I don't know whether to feel enlightened or scared after reading this list of secrets your HR professional won't tell you. Or maybe HR professional should be added to the list of worst jobs.

My son thought I'd like Better Book Titles' take on Faulkner's Light in August, a novel also loved by painter Sean Scully who takes inspiration from doors, maybe "...the open door's serene rectangle..." from Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

See this and other beautiful landscape paintings by classic Disney artist Eyvind Earle.
The periodic table of Google Analytics. On the plus side, it is a periodic table. On the minus side, it's also an infographic that isn't interactive and the subject matter is a little narrow. Also, non-interactive here's an illustrated version of the real periodic table of the elements.

From the Things I Didn't Think You Could Hear department: Alexander Graham Bell's voice.

Storm Thorgerson passed away recently. You know his work on classic album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Peter Gabriel. At the link you'll find a video of Storm describing his work on Peter Gabriel's first three albums: Car, Scratch, and Melt.
This interactive accordion is genius and I'll let you try to figure out how to make it play.

How about a cheat sheet for typing special characters. Or a guide to identifying the type of file.

Tired of optical illusions as just images? Try the video Illusions.

Do you know your 8 types of shovels? Post hole diggers are one type. You can read about the rest.

This golden jewel may be the most beautiful poop I've ever seen. source
With Porn MD you can interactively search the USA state by state and other parts of the world for the most frequently used search terms on porn sites. (People in France are freaky.) Regardless of your sick tastes, I do not recommend putting an eel up your butt. 

Joke of the day: What do you call a woman with no asshole? (Divorced) Highlight the text between the parentheses for the punchline. source

...comes from work not done. ~Eric Hoffer

P.S. I've been listening to Steven Wilson's The Raven That Refused to Sing while I write this and you should expect a review of this glorious album soon.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Equal parts Jack Kerouac, Hercule Poirot, and Chuck Norris, retired military police officer Jack Reacher travels across the U.S. and fortunately (for us readers) finds himself in the midst of intrigue on a regular basis.

And by "in the middle" I mean that literally. In Lee Child's A Wanted Man, Reacher is hitchhiking through Nebraska and gets a ride from from three corporate types driving home from a team building exercise. Or so they say. For what seems like the first third of the novel, Reacher is inside this car while back in Nebraska the FBI is investigating a brutal knife murder committed by two men who have since vanished.

How Reacher gets out of that car, why the State Dept. and CIA start sniffing around, and how Reacher catches back up to the car's occupants make up the rest of the story. In the end Reacher does one of the things he does best - he takes up arms and becomes a one man wrecking crew.

Lee Child has achieved what a good author strives for. He created a character in Jack Reacher who's believable (despite being fictional), likable (despite being mysterious), and flawed (despite being unstoppable). And Dick Hill's voice acting, as it has been on every Jack Reacher audiobook I've heard, is absolutely fantastic. In this case doubly so because Reacher's broken nose required Hill to read all of  Reacher's lines - for the entire novel - in a nasal voice.

And if for no other reason, you should read A Wanted Man to find out how to speak for one minute without using the letter A.

For more information see Lee Child's website at and Dick Hill's website at

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Things are not bad in themselves...

I would agree with Tony Levin's assessment: the day on which he met both Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp was a the best day he ever had.

A triumverate of Harold Budd:
  1. His new album Jane 1-11 is available for pre-order (June release) from Darla Records. Audio samples are available on the site.
  2. A performance of his works by various artists (including himself) from 2004.
  3. An interview and live performance with Budd from 2003 around the time of the release of La Bella Vista.

Wassily Kandinsky, Picture with a Circle, 1911 - Is this really the world's first abstract painting? He said it was.
Take 7 minutes for this video about Clyfford Still.

What are the seven virtues of the samurai Bushido code?
  1. Do the right thing.
  2. Be courageous.
  3. Be benevolent.
  4. Be polite.
  5. Be true in word and action.
  6. Be honorable.
  7. Act faithfully.
"...a secular state need not demand of the religious that they put their most cherished beliefs to one side when they enter public debate; only that they shouldn’t expect those beliefs to be accepted without scepticism [sic]." If that makes you slightly curious here's a tl;dr article on what atheists can learn from believers.

Change of pace - true facts about the sea pig.

If human eyes have 3 color-receptors and mantis shrimp eyes have 16, what the hell can they actually see?

Know yer college sports team names by their classification (people, animals, insects, professions, etc.)

NASA and Lockheed Martin teamed up on this "supersonic green machine" and it's just one of many futuristic aircraft concepts you can browse. (But do we have to slap "green" on everything for a feel good buzz?)
Watch as the Antares rocket is moved to the launch pad.

Just for the programmers: pictures from a programmer's life. Can you tell a programmer by their keyboard? (A Python programmer's tab key is worn out.)

I never claimed to be all that bright but I'm just not getting MIT's Self-Assembly Lab.

Ever wonder what happens to a package you send through the mail? The video From A to B shows you through the wonder of a camera inside a package.

You have four minutes to name as many of Shakespeare's plays as you can. (I scored below average.)

When Pink Floyd meets Shakespeare the result is David Gilmour singing Sonnet 18.

When Kermit the Frog meets Miles Davis it's, well... interesting.

We're missing this right now. The Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference at Dartmouth.

How much more magical could a unicorn font be?
Need some head? Check out this ultrasonic beer frother.

You've heard about coffee made from a bean that's eaten by a bird and then pooped out? Why should the caffeine junkies have all the fun? How about beer pooped by an elephant.

I know one fellow blogger who might be interested in whiskey cologne.

Where blogs go to die: Zombie Dead Blog is a blog of long-dead blogs.

Speaking of science, have we humans evolved to be nice or nasty? Yes.

What did we think life on other planets was like back in the 50s? We were off by just a tiny bit.

Do your glasses define you? (Mine all too accurately, apparently.)

Thanks for nothing, Science. Men have trouble reading women's emotions.

Must-see video of the week: Blue Angels cockpit footage shot with a handheld Flip camera.

You've heard of the Pantone color system, right? Here's Choctone.

Only true militaria afficianados will want to read even parts of General Hap Arnold's Third Report of the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces to the Secretary of War from November 1945. But it is an interesting time capsule that gives an overview of WWII and a look to the then future including atomic weapons. Or you could just read an article Life magazine (also Nov '45) about surviving a future 36 hour war.

When one thinks of books on war two come to mind immediately: Sun Tzu's Art of War and von Clausewitz' On War.  Lesser known is Keegan's The Face of Battle. Now we're asked to include a fourth: Emile Simpson's War from the Ground Up.

And only a true Cold War junkie would read Hans Bethe's 1952 memo Memorandum on the History of the Thermonuclear Program (slightly redacted).

What about art during the Cold War?

"You don’t read great novels once. You read them, in a sense, all the time throughout your life." So concludes an article about Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

The proton is shrinking. Its diameter is down 4% to 0.84087 femtometers (a millionth of a billionth of a meter). 

Everything Below Here Is Just Plain Wrong

Dogs. Wearing. Pantyhose. Hey China, you're doing it wrong.
For any other article of this length I'd tl;dr it but is it ever possible that an article on farts could be too long? Passing Gas: A Modern Scientific History

Three words I never thought I'd see together in one sentence: duck, penis, controversy. As in why NSF-funded basic research is good. (Videos probably make it NSFW. If you're a duck.)

I couldn't remember why I bookmarked this until I got to this sentence: Tetrahymena thermophila is a single-celled organism with seven sexes.

There are many adjectives I'd use to describe the vagina but strong is not one of them. Until now because this Russian gymnast has the world's strongest vagina.

Not to be outdone, enjoy the Metropolitan Museum of Butts.

...but cowardice makes them so. ~Michel de Montaigne

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Clyfford Still: The Artist's Museum by Dean Sobel

If there was a Mt. Rushmore for 20th century American artists it should probably include Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still. (I'm hoping to ameliorate my biased choices by leaving the fourth spot open for your choice.) Besides noticing my bias, your second reaction was probably to wonder exactly who Still is. I'd call him the best American artist you don't know about.

Consider this. Jackson Pollock - "Jack the Dripper," perhaps the most revolutionary painter of the 20th century - said "Still makes the rest of us look academic."

Fortunately, there's now the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, a seemingly fabulous venue for the near entirety of Still's work. The first part of Clyfford Still: The Artist's Museum is Dean Sobel's recounting of how the museum came to be. You must understand that while many 20th century abstract painters tried to exert more and more control over how and where their work was displayed, Still has been the only one to have his wish granted in the extreme. As per the terms of his will, all of the works in his estate would be given to the American city that would build and maintain in perpetuity a museum dedicated solely to his work. We all owe the city of Denver a great deal of thanks (as well as a visit) because now that the overwhelming majority of Still's work is available for viewing and study we're starting to learn (and unlearn) more about him.

And that's the second part of The Artist's Museum: David Anfam's insightful essay on Still's career. His early years in Alberta, Canada and the American Northwest were dominated by his father's fateful farming experience which likely drilled into Still the struggle between man and machine and nature. The first painting that hints at his mature style is PH-77 from 1936. In it you can see the strength of his brushwork, the elongation of the human forms, the intertwining of earth and person.

Clyfford Still, PH-77, 1936 source
Within a year Still's work began the trend toward abstraction. In PH-343 from 1937 we see a flattening into the picture plane of the forms of man and machine and a gravitation from form to color.

Clyfford Still, PH-343, 1937 source
By the 1940s, Still's work seriously began its transformation to pure abstraction. I find this intermediate period similar to Rothko's from which the "multiform" works arose. It has been called Still's desire to blend man and the earth into a single union. PH-313 from 1942 is a great example.

Clyfford Still, PH-313, 1942. source
In the 1950s Still's mature style reached full stride. The book includes 78 plates, several of which fold out into two-page spreads, and show Still's mature style in detail.

Clyfford Still, PH-605, 1950, pp. 186-187
The Still to which I have easiest access is 1956 J No. 1 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. I think it exemplifies what is great in Still's work - color, balance, energy, depth, motion, intellect.

Clyfford Still, 1956 J No. 1, 1956
Still described his paintings simply. "They are life and death merging in fearful union."

Anfam is more eloquent. "Effects of concealment and a menacing, lugubrious otherness repeatedly meet an eye-opening onslaught of tactile immediacy and sheer chroma."

I just say Still's paintings are some of the most powerful, riveting, and engaging that I've ever seen.

To respond to life as though it were perfect...

About Berserk!, Jazz World calls it "a variety of hypnotic grooves, clever coordination of instrumentation and provocative eruptions of metal-based sonic chaos." I'm listening to it now and those words point us in the right direction but don't get us all the way there.

If that ain't your thing, perhaps an entire album of improvisational Chapman stick, touch guitar, and drums: OPEN by Stick Men.

"Perhaps, then, King Crimson's greatest accomplish has been to promote and encourage a bold vision of artistic egalitarianism not previously seen in rock music." This and more from a master's thesis on New Concepts of Form in the Improvisations and Compositions of King Crimson.

Or maybe just ask Tony Levin what music is - non-verbal communication from one's inner self to another's inner self. On a related note, check out Three Pieces.

Aerial photo of Boston from October 1860 and a height of 2,000 feet. This is the oldest surviving aerial photo because the ones taken in 1858 of Paris have been lost to time.
Deep breath. Hold it. Release it slowly. The speed of light may not be a constant.

There are a lot of videos this week but you shouldn't miss this one: watch magnetic putty swallow a rare earth magnet.

I use this cutting board periodically.
J.T. O'Donnell does 10 things every workday. I read the list and think, sure that's reasonable, sounds like good stuff. Then I wonder when she gets real work done. #3 Send two emails to old colleagues just to keep in touch. #6 Have a short non-work related convo with every [emphasis mine] employee. #9 Make five valuable posts on each social media account. [It's odd that the items I cited are 3, 6, 9 - multiples of 3.

This is one of those obscure references that will come in handy some day: 156 useful Run commands for Windows.

I was a big fan of Ze Frank's The Show years ago and was really excited when he recently returned to online video with A Show but frankly was disappointed. However, now I've discovered his True Facts series of videos and am back on the happy train. Here are True Facts about the Dung Beetle, the Hedgehog, the Naked Mole Rat,  the Fruit Bat, and many more. And Morgan Freeman.

Other people can smell your emotions. (I wonder what bat shit crazy smells like?)

The Long Now Foundation is hooking up sci-fi authors and engineers for their Hieroglyph project to illustrate when "Big Stuff Got Done."

A 2011 entry from Princeton's annual Art of Science competition showing the interaction between two swimming fish. The entry deadline for 2013 has already passed. I encourage more universities to do this.
Video, abstract, animation, Japanese, music, linguistics, almost white on black, almost black on white. All describe Kou Kou.

Video, abstract, animation, chemical, white on black. All describe All Along the Skeletal Chemical.

I haven't golfed in decades but a hovercraft golf cart could get me back on the course. (The video was published on April 2nd so it's serious, right?)

Would college English be better or worse if the professor was Nabokov?

Speaking of good reading, the NSA has declassified and made available online their in-house newsletter Cryptolog, from1974 to 1997.

Topless beer can.

Yes, there is a photo blog devoted to actresses without teeth.

Russians? Check. Drunk? Check. Fight over a woman? Check. Kill someone by shoving your foot up their ass? Wha...?

That's OK, I never wanted to visit Sri Lanka anyway. Venomous, tree-dwelling, face-sized spiders discovered in Sri Lanka. (How are we only discovering that thing now? How did we miss it up to this point?)

Airplane toilets, aka "the lav." Have you ever wondered what happens after you press Flush?

Seal flipper pie. It's what's for dinner.
Goat mixes. So yesterday. Relive the best 23 goat remixes teh interwebs has to offer.

Huzzah! We're #3. Fort Worth is the third least sexy city in the USA, that is.

What? It's art. He's making a statement.
And this is commerce. the path to happiness. ~Agnes Martin (paraphrased)