Saturday, June 29, 2013

Any mental activity is easy...

Today's soundtrack is the new album Veil by Michael Bernier. Stream it online or buy a digital download for only $10. It's worth it.

How is 3D animation done? Let Despicable Me 2's Steve Carell explain it to you.

And here's the trailer for the animated Free Birds coming this November about two turkeys who go back in time to get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu. (I know a guy who's a technical director - meaning he writes a lot of their software tools - on this film.)

Did you know that Jimmy Choo (Sex in the City - look it up) makes men's sneakers? They're comfortably priced from $525 to $995. I found this based on a WSJ article about wearing sneakers in the office.

While I never was a huge fan of the Muppets, here for your pleasure is the periodic table of the Muppets.
Sure, why not. Learn math the horse lover's way.

Vince Flynn, author of the Mitch Rapp series of counterespionage novels, has died from cancer. After being introduced to his work by a friend (thanks Nick) he became one of my favorites of that genre and not just because his main character, Rapp, is a Syracuse University alum.

The Fort Worth PD maintains a web page for mapping crime throughout the city.

Have you ever wondered why flash photography isn't allowed in a museum? [When photography is prohibited altogether it has more to do with who owns the works and their copyrights which is something totally different.] Effects of Light on Materials in Collections is a 212 page technical paper that delves deeply into the subject. It was difficult to draw any conclusions based on the information in this survey of prior work except for a statement that the guidelines are order of magnitude only. Of course, the problems are highlighted in the discussion in chapter 4 and mainly involve the wide range of materials used in artworks (and their varying sensitivity to light) and the wide range of light sources used for photography.

An interactive map of 500 years of meteor impacts.

The online survey How Millennial Are You? scores me at 41/100 which qualifies me for GenX status (33 pts required, supposedly born in 1965 or later) but way less than millennial status (73 pts required). As you know, I believe generational categorization like this is meaningless. What is the significance of the number of text messages I sent within the last 24 hours or whether I read a newspaper? That's just a reflection of the tools used, not anything about me.

Read it and weep. This maps pronunciation of the word aunt as "ant" (red) or "auhnt" (blue). This is where someone in my household says that just because everyone does it doesn't make it right. From a huge collection of dialect survey maps at NC State University.

This is a very interesting list of interview questions. I like #6: What book do you think everyone on our team should read?

Too small for proper viewing (probably as an incentive to buy the poster) here are cheese varieties charted on a wheel.

Hot continental pr0n! See Antarctica stripped naked! NASA video shows the topography of the bedrock beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like. A fart photographed in infrared. source
The only mockup of the A-12 Avenger was moved from Lockheed Martin to the B-36 Peacemaker Museum in Fort Worth this week.

This collection of typography made from urban photos of the sky reminded me of Franz Kline's paintings.
Pulling Strings is an interesting music video from Roger Eno / Plumbline (yes, that's Brian Eno's brother).

Where is the sheep? It's right here. Maybe it should be in a cargo container at Containerization. Which is not to be confused with essayification, whereby the essay (and perhaps, without stretching things too much, the blog) counter today's rigid dogmatic thinking and writing.

Using a quantum microscope, scientists were able to make the first image of a hydrogen atom's orbital structure.
Typography has jumped the shark - here's Animography, animated typography.

What's the purpose of a college education? While I don't disagree with the sentiment, perhaps the form of the actual answer indicates deeper issues. "Should students study HTML code or Shakespeare? Most of the 32 respondents (they asked 255 college or university presidents) answered yes"

If it makes you feel any better, there are more public libraries in the USA than McDonalds.
How common is your birth date? Use this interactive chart of birth date frequencies to find out. Mine is ranked 257th out of 365. One of my sons is ranked 5th.

So now that the AMA says obesity is a disease, one third of all American adults have a condition requiring medical treatment. Hope Obamacare pays for gastric bypass.

The ABCs of Heavy Metal - source
Learn to program Ruby. Get started with jQuery. Follow these commandments for C. This looks like everything you need to create a website. Why pair programming?

Man has 100 pound testicle surgically removed.

How fast can you scroll 100 meters? 1:09:88 for me putting me in 32,197th place.

Now that Adrian Belew isn't going to tour with Nine Inch Nails, the guitarist is going back to work on his FLUX project - an album of music that's never played the same way twice.

Oy, what is it with all the maps? Here's America's daily vegetable eating.

Again with the maps? Here are all the rivers in the USA.
If you play your cards right, some day your poo may be in a museum. Lest you think this only applies to T-Rex, scientists are also interested from a castle's commode that still holds crusader doodie from 800 years ago. And only in Japan could they invent a poo-powered motorcycle.

The problem with doctors finding a new human body part is now they have an excuse to charge you for having it removed.

God giveth and God taketh away - how the chicken lost its penis. (Only 3% of birds have penises.)

Like you've never seen them before - photos of aircraft from below.

 photo Milky-cow_zps92759393.gif
I always wondered what they looked like on the inside. source

Why is the brain programmed for humor? tl;dr

Behind the scenes photos at Disney's Haunted Mansion.

Getting up in years? Looking for a place to get away to? College Station, Texas - home of Texas A&M - is the 4th best unknown retirement destination in the USA.

She just looks like a great chef, don't you think?

Even though it takes 84 slides to illustrate 11 reasons why you won't get hired, it's worthwhile reading for all college students. Did you see that? ALL COLLEGE STUDENTS.

My god, I'm really starting to repeat myself. ABC again. Christ, I gotta get out of the house. This is a rut. This is the alphabet of modern artists.
Who's the 6th fastest growing city since the recession? Fort Worth, thank you very much. And Allen, Texas is in the top-10 towns for families.

If you have time for a billion pixels, here's a photo of Mars courtesy of the Curiosity rover.

What are people searching for on Google right now?

The Internet Trends slides are always worth looking at.  Slide 27: Surprised Google+ is 4th in top social media platforms. Slide 32: Mobile is 15% of all internet traffic and growing. Slide 52: Wearable computers are a way to better handle the 150 times per day people handle their smartphones.

This guy says you use his images for anything other than strictly private viewing. Normally I'd ignore him. But he does have a cool photo of the Chinese space station transiting across the face of the sun.

Stop it. No more maps. I mean it. This is absolutely the last one. States by the brands for which they're famous.
Yet another Lorem Ipsum generator.

While not a periodic table per se, twelve elements names can be spelled using only the symbols of other elements on the table. For example, XeNoN.

Ze Frank is back with another episode of True Facts, this time about the Mantis Shrimp.

You don't like the maps? OK, how about this! A coat made entirely of male chest hair.
That's it. I'm not writing another thing. Good, everyone's tired of your crap anyway.

...if it need not take reality into account. ~Marcel Proust

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The young know the rules...

Due to events in meat space, this portion of cyber space will be dormant this weekend and next.

...but the old know the exceptions. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950

This is one of those good books you just stumble on by chance. More specifically, a friend alerted me a review in the WSJ of an exhibition currently at the Columbus Museum of Art, Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950. (Thanks Rick!)  After reading the WSJ's review I knew that I wanted to read the exhibit catalog. And boy was it worth it.

The Decisive Decade features essays by Todd Herman, Christopher Rothko (the artist's son), David Anfam, Ruth Fine, and Harry Cooper. The essence of the book is how and why, during the course of a single decade, did Marcus Rothkowitz, painter of the figurative work below...

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Man and Two Women in a Pastoral Setting), 1940 - source
...become Mark Rothko, painter of the sublime abstract work below.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1950 - source
This exhibition is not to be taken lightly if you believe the artist's son. Christopher Rothko writes "within the realm of Rothko's oeuvre, the works in this exhibition are the keys to everything. Everything."

Setting up the so-called decisive decade, Rothko was influenced by modernist painters Max Weber and Milton Avery who directed him down a path away from realism. Through them and his like-minded contemporaries Rothko developed the techniques to express perspective through patterns, depth via color, emotions via distortion - all within a figurative style.

At the beginning of the 1940s, Rothko took a year off from painting to study philosophy and to write his essay The Artist's Reality: Philosophy of Art. In it he makes the case that art must capture the essence of what it means to be human. Very much influenced by Nietzsche and his Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, Rothko strives to find an ability to express in painting something equivalent to Greek tragedy and to raise painting to the level of music for pathos.

Not surprisingly then, Rothko begins the decade painting in a Surreliast, myth-based style. He was strongly influenced by Jung and the ability to express emotion through common, subconscious archetypes. Omen of the Eagle, 1942 (below) draws from the tale of Agamemnon with all its elements distilled into a single image.

Mark Rothko, Omen of the Eagle, 1942 - source
What's ironic is that these early figurative works did not resonate with the audience - their message and purpose was unclear. (In other words, his more representational work left people unimpressed while his mature abstract format leaves them in tears.) Their evolution, while still Surrealist, moved toward the more abstract as exemplified by Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, 1944 (see below). Line work is subsumed by color and there is a noticeable stratification of the background that can be interpreted as a primordial sky-sea-land (although Rothko vehemently denied painting landscapes).

Mark Rothko, Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, 1944 - source
It's at this stage that the so-called multiforms appear in which swarms of soft colorful shapes truly dominate (for example, Untitled, 1947 below). Rothko was notably influenced by Clyfford Still at this stage in his development and called these color forms "organic entities" that were simply a clearer version of the symbology he was trying to develop. Extending the sky-land-sea motif, the multiforms introduce a wateriness and a sense of primitive, organic life.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1947 - source
Finally, the wateriness evaporates into clouds that veil any figuration while also serving as a substitute for it (see Untitled, 1949 below). Vertical and human-sized, the canvases become a mirror or doorway for the viewer to enter. Layers of undulating color, meticulously applied, provide depth, motion, and warmth.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1949 - source
At least that's my reader's digest distillation of the book. Don't take too narrow a view of the sky-land-sea/water/evaporate ideas above. That was just my vast oversimplification of what's really a fascinating series of essays. I found the idea of clouds or veils in his mature work to be really interesting. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has in its collection a Rothko titled Light Cloud, Dark Cloud, 1957 that I've always liked. (I like the implied humor in the name because there are three rectangular forms or clouds in the painting not just two. But I'm not certain anyone would call Rothko a funny man.)

Any fan of Rothko will want to read the Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950 - it's that interesting and insightful. Of course, the trick will be to get to a gallery and see the exhibit. In the meantime, I suppose I'll have to get out my copy of The Artist's Reality and read it again.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Every man makes a god of...

Today's soundtrack is A Massive Glowing Three-Axis Cross from the album Digitalis by Markus Reuter. And for fans of free music, here's a link to Brass Tactics by David Byrne and St. Vincent. (Full disclosure: I have not yet listened to Brass Tactics.)

Take that, journalists. The Restricted Data blog (about nuclear secrecy) gives you an easy way to convert any energetic event to Hiroshima Equivalents. I'll repeat the instructions because they're priceless:
"Whenever there is a natural disaster, explosion, or, really, anything relating to energy that just doesn’t have enough pathos, tragedy, or excitement for your average reader, call up a scientist at a university somewhere, ask them to calculate how much energy was released in the event in question. He or she will probably give you some nonsense about “Joules” or “Kilowatt hours” or “Calories.” Take those meaningless numbers, paste them into the right places on the calculator, and you’ll instantly know how many Hiroshima-equivalents you are talking about! You simply can’t go wrong."
Along those same lines, please enjoy Stupid Calculations - a blog about oddball ways to represent and visualize things. Like how many boxes of Jello would you need to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool with dessert? (7.9 million). The blog also has several ways to slice and dice the $43.8 million paid for Barnett Newman's Onement VI, which leads to my next topics.

Richard Serra, Shift, 1970-72. Is this really one of the "most significant sculptures of the last half-century?"
Painter Sean Scully shares some insight into abstraction. It's the desire to show everything, all at once - an out-of-context moment of thought - as opposed to representational art in which is limited to the painting's subject.

And everyone's favorite artist to hate, Dan Flavin, is the subject of this video on how to go about making a posthumous installation of his work in a gallery he never saw.

The art of physics? While interesting, this page gives me a headache.

I do not understand why everyone's got their panties in a wad about NSA's PRISM being an example of illegal search while at the same time being ho-hum about TSA's daily and invasive searches (which I believe truly are an example of an unwarranted search).

Nice map-based visualization from 1921 of electricity usage by state. This was obviously done before air conditioning hit Texas.
The conclusion that the saddest tweeters live in Texas is completely unsupported by the map showing states' moods. Sorry, Louisiana.

Freedom of religion doesn't mean you are protected from criticism or being confronted by alternate or even contrary beliefs.

Scientists capture images of a chemical reaction in progress at the atomic scale. Truly, this is chemistry pr0n. Hot atom on atom action. Bonding like you've never seen it before.

Programmer's quick reference for C++. Starting from 1945's ENIAC, here is the computer family tree. And from Assembly to Ruby, the evolution of programming languages.

Read like you mean it. Learn the difference between a novel and literature, between craft and art.

Time is a dimension just like space and we must let go of human-centric notions of it. The interesting aspects are a) why can we only move forward and backward in the other three dimensions but not time and b) what's going on with the other dimensions (what is the current theorized total? 11) and why haven't they "unfurled" in our universe? tl;dr

For film junkies, here's a scan of the complete out-of-print book about Stanley Kubrick's 2001. Everything you'd ever want to know is in here.

You can't swing a dead cat this time of year without hitting a recent graduate. So with apologies, here's yet another list of rules for new (college) graduates. #5 Do what's required, from the menial to the extraordinary, to get the job done.

For the friend whose wife has warned against yet another beer glass, here's the Spiegelau IPA glass, designed in collaboration with Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Brewing. But to hell with the wife - get this arcade-style video game that dispenses beer.

Why just fly a jet when you can fly a military-style personal jet from Saker Aircraft.

They say the ability to draw hands well is essential to being a good animator. Here's a page full of hands.

Speaking of body parts, how does the ear work? Enjoy this interactive guide.

Git yer debate on. The Writers Guild of America listed the 100 best written TV shows of all time. Mad Men is #7. Seinfeld is not #1.

The Dollar Shave Club (mail order razor blades for a $1) has introduced a new product. One Wipe Charlies are flushable, scented, "butt wipes for men." Before you scoff, let me ask you two questions. What part of your body wouldn't you wash with soap and water if poop got on it? And after dinner, do you just wipe off the plates with a dry paper towel and put them back in the cupboard?

The edible anus. The Belgian chocolate that made Britain great.

Maybe you prefer your poo-themed candy to come from the good ol' U.S.of.A.
...his own desire. ~Virgil

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson's The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) showcases an artist at the peak of his craft. From composition to lyrics to performance to recording, Wilson has created an album that's everything progressive or alternative rock should be - and none of what it shouldn't. You should buy it right now and not read any further.

Wilson, front man of prog rock band Porcupine Tree, has assembled a top-notch group of musicians for Raven, his third solo album consisting of six songs that each tell a story with a supernatural twist (see this Wikipedia page for the details).
  1. Raven kicks off with the up-tempo, 12 minute Luminol. Part rocker and part swelling orchestration, it captures the title's implication of searching for signs of life, even past life. "To come so far but end up returning to dust."
  2. The album's second track (and perhaps my favorite which is odd for a ballad), Drive Home, hauntingly tells of a man's inability to deal with the loss of his wife in a car crash. The guitar solo is fantastically expressive. "While the darkness always ends / You're still alone / So drive home."
  3. The Holy Drinker - which seems to be about the self-rightous and substance abuse - takes a darker turn that's highlighted by great sax, flute, and keyboard work. "The coffin was made from a tree / Please hammer a nail in for me.
  4. The Pin Drop takes the cake for lament and lost opportunities. There's a constant struggle between the lyrical and musical phrasing that drives the point home. "I have not lived and loved enough / Things are left unsaid, undone."
  5. That theme of lost time, lost love and maybe misdirected priority is carried forward in The Watchmaker in which the title character belatedly realizes he misses his departed wife. This track sounds to me a lot like Hackett-era Genesis. "Each hour becomes another empty space to fill."
  6. The album ends with the title track and tells the story of a bitter old man desperate for the love of his younger sister who died when they were children. He tries to recapture her by making a raven sing for him. It's best if you watch the YouTube video for this track. "Just because I'm weak / you can steal my dreams."
Musicians on Raven include Nick Beggs (bass, stick), Guthrie Govan (guitar), Adam Holzman (keys), Marco Minnemann (drums), Theo Travis (woodwinds), and Jakko Jakszyk (backing vox). Alan Parsons was the associate producer and recording engineer. These names alone should give you an idea of the high quality of this production. Of course, what a lot of us prog fans like to do is find sonic references to our favorite bands (King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Tull, etc.). You can find them if you want but whether or not it's intentional is unclear.

In organizing my thoughts (and I use that term loosely when describing how I write about music) to write about Raven it became clear that what resonates for me are the stories Wilson is telling, almost more than the music. That's not to detract from the music because it's absolutely vital to the telling of these tales. And perhaps it's the almost magically beautiful coupling of lyrics and music that really makes Raven shine. (Despite the fact that on their surface the songs are depressing as hell.)
Only time will tell if Raven will become a classic. (I'm not a believer in "instant classic" as that's an oxymoron.) But without doubt The Raven That Refused to Sing will be on my "best of" list for 2013. It is truly great music.

For more information check out Steven Wilson's website and YouTube channel.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Everything that is beautiful and noble...

From Bruce Mau Design via Chuck Jones' blog (yes, the Bugs Bunny guy) comes the Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. I like the idea in the preamble - one day you're surfing teh interwebs for stories about poo and then you stumble across something truly thought provoking. Some of the more notable ideas include "The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question," "Begin anywhere," and "Laugh."

Also from the advice column, here's the good advice that Wil Wheaton inscribed in a fan's high school yearbook. #4 Work hard.

Speaking of hard, learn to program in C the hard way.

Cornell University has put their entire collection of wildlife sounds online at the Macaulay Library. How about the scaly-breasted wren?

Somewhere around here I still have a PC running Windows 95. But I'm not certain these Windows 95 Tips will be much help.
This past week was the 100th anniversary of the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. In honor of that, Stephen Malinowski created a video visualization of Part 1, The Adoration of the Earth. This has always been one of my favorite classical works (esp. the recording by Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Orchestra) and you should take 15 minutes to enjoy this video.

What color is a Bach concerto?

And what exactly happens in the brain when you perceive art?

How much would you pay for 100 2-inch paper circles cut from a vintage calculus textbook? I can't judge whether $4 is a fair price. But it seems to me that 4-inch circles might be better suited for use as coasters.

Scan of the Do-17 lying on the sea floor awaiting salvage.
The only known surviving (which is a relative term in this case) Dornier Do-17 bomber from WWII is about to be raised from 60 feet deep in the English Channel where it crashed in 1940.

And for more WWII aviation info here's an article about the firebombing of Japan.

A is for Array, a child's introduction to programming. (book website, on Amazon)

E.lements of Star Wars I, II, and III
If you're going to write a book about the history of swearing, take the asterisk out of the title: Holy Sh*t.

I've posted about this before, but I could watch the 1958 Disney video of 4 artists painting a tree every day. And what I wouldn't give to have those 4 paintings.

Craft brewers, what are you doing? Stop. Stahp. STAHP. A brew made from yeast cultivated from the brewmaster's beard?

News flash: email is not dead. One way I like to look at it is this. I email anyone anything and it doesn't matter which email server or client we're both using. Social media (email's supposed replacement) consists of content silos, each requiring a different client: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc.

You've all heard the joke that sincerity is the easiest emotion to fake. But which emotion is hardest to fake?

All that hard study pays off as engineering majors take 7 of the top 10 spots in this list of top paying majors from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. So what were the other 3? Computer science, MIS, and finance.

The fall of the engineer began with the dropping of the H-bomb [sic] at the end of WWII? I'm tempted to drop an f-bomb, not just for confusing atomic and hydrogen bombs but because this premise is totally lame. It is generally acknowledged that the U.S.'s industrial might was a key to victory in WWII and, therefore, should be praised accordingly. (For example, see Freedom's Forge.) Maybe it's just because I'm currently reading Atlas Shrugged but the fall of the engineer began when some of us started letting dolts call the shots. Oh boo hoo, me engineer, me no like talky to people. Me sad. Wah.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Science vs. politics.
24/7 Wall St. brings us this list of brands that will disappear in 2014. For whatever reason, the one that surprised me the most is Volvo (0.3% market share in the U.S.).

Not burgers and fries, not hammer and nails. This Tumblr is Burgers and Nails. (Finger nails, that is.) Makes you wonder what other odd combo photo blogs are out there.

If you like your album covers animated, animated albums is the Tumblr for you. (Old fart alert: I've never heard of 99% of these bands.) If you like your albums melted and warped into a sculpture, check out Jean Shin's Sound Wave 2007.

Wendy, you had me at pretzel. Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger to debut later this year. Repeating: PRETZEL BACON CHEESEBURGER.

Ever want to remove the background from a photograph? Clipping Magic (currently available online in alpha test format for free use) makes it so easy a monkey can do it. On the other hand, I'm not certain what I'd do with a stencil.
I would totally do this: Drive a Tank.

Mapping cities by smell.

Clock fetish: word clock.

What else can be done with Daft Punk's Get Lucky? How about a fun video montage with a twist?

The video game alphabet.
Everyone seemed to like the superimposed animated GIF of Yu Darvish's pitches so here's one showing how Miguel Cabrera can homer regardless of where the pitch is over the plate. And what about Robert Coello's WTF pitch? the product of reason and calculation. ~Charles Baudelaire