Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jane 1-11 by Harold Budd

Avant-garde, ambient, minimalist, modern composer and pianist Harold Budd's latest solo work is Jane 1-11. The album title may be interpreted literally because the album consists of 11 tracks titled Jane 1 through Jane 11, each of which is to have corresponding visuals by Jane Maru.

Each track on Jane 1-11 exhibits a marvelous and delicate tension between the heard and the unseen.  This tension is not negative in the sense of something missing, but a positive sense of anticipating something that can be felt but neither heard nor seen.

Hear are some nearly stream of consciousness impressions from my most recent listen.
  1. Jane 1's spiraling keyboards compete for control with a mechanistic background effect.
  2. Jane 2 features rounded tones tumbling over each other like pebbles in a sun dappled stream.
  3. Jane 3 starts like traditional Budd but his surging keyboard lines echo as in a vast cave.
  4. Jane 4 starts with a longing, irregular line that sounds like a harp and then out of nowhere comes the keyboards.
  5. Jane 5 is quite different with a low pulsing tone and keyboards that sound crackling and distorted with an alarm-like stridency. But when the pulse dies away the keyboard becomes almost plaintive.
  6. Jane 6 is almost childlike and very confined and claustrophobic.
  7. Jane 7 has bells and chimes riding over electronic effects and a periodic low rumbling tone.
  8. Jane 8 returns to traditional Budd, richly layered and melodic.
  9. Jane 9 has a sparkling effect, like an overexposed photograph.
  10. Jane 10 reminded me of a musical dialog with keyboard parts that were almost verbal and questioning.
  11. Jane 11 seemed to be the answer to Jane 10's question.
Here are two of Jane Maru's visuals for Jane 8 and Jane 9 so you can hear for yourself what I'm trying to describe.

Budd himself calls Jane-11 "a triangle of risk, improvisation and joy" with several of the pieces going from start to finish in one day.To be able to produce music like this seemingly spontaneously is Budd's gift and I'm glad he shared it with us.

Jane-11 is available from the Darla Records website.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Depression is rage...

Mike Oldfield (he of Tubular Bells fame and Exorcist soundtrack fame) is interviewed on Innerviews.
The sun as viewed at different wavelengths. source
News flash: the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue on Sunset Blvd. has been removed for restoration.

You used it before so now use it again for the first time. The Restricted Data blog (about nuclear secrecy) brings us NUKEMAP2 and NUKEMAP3D. A sample of what you can get from NUKEMAP2 is shown below. NUKEMAP3D requires Google Earth which I don't have.

NUKEMAP2 simulation of a Russian SS-25 800 kt airburst over Fort Worth showing blast and fallout effects. Estimated casualties are 80,000 killed and 150,000 injured.
The chances of moving up to the next tax bracket seem to depend on where you live.

More C code than you can shake a stick at - source code from the book Programming Challenges.

The world's worst saddest sorry ass rave party ever. I laughed too much at this.
What is the oldest webcam in existence? It's the FishCam, formerly at Netscape, since 1994.

You can never have too many websites for tracking the location of the International Space Station. And while you watch it circumnavigate the globe, marvel at the contents of one of its toolboxes.

What does the earth look like from nearly 900 million miles away? But that's just a raw image. The one below is much cooler.

Earth is photobombing Saturn and its rings.
Presenting Your Video Interlude

  • Around Saturn is a video montage of still shots and video footage of Saturn as taken by Cassini.
  • Continuing the recent trend of craftmanship pr0n, here's how a Steinway piano is made.
  • I.F. Sentinel is the movie site for Ender's Game.
  • Monolith is a brief tribute to Stanley Kubrick.
  • The ACT Collaboration consists of music by the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne and animation by Ba Hons CG Arts and Animation.
  • I'm not certain how Peter Gabriel is involved but a chimpanzee plays keyboards.
  • Chemistry releases the freakin' Kraken by burning ammonium chromate and mercury thiocianate.

El Fin

And now, nothing but pictures.

At first you think this is something cops use for gun shot wounds. Then you say it's crap. Why don't the calibers line up? Why all the drama on the exit wounds around the edges? Wouldn't you just need a circle of representative size. There's no scale for inches/centimeters. Why two graphics, why not one graphic with two rows? And I suspect an .45 caliber exit wound would be larger than what's depicted.

Make diagrams by typing simple sentences using Diagrammr.

Sculpt clay online using SculptGL.

I link to this news story for the sole reason that it includes the phrase "malicious fecal distribution."

...spread thin. ~George Santayana

Sunday, July 21, 2013

From the Shadows by Robert M. Gates

Any Cold War buff, from the academic to the hobbyist, should enjoy From the Shadows by Robert M. Gates. The subtitle, The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, should be taken quite literally. Gates served under five presidents, both in the CIA and the NSC. Through that lens he shares his views on the last half of the Cold War with the USSR leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

As a Cold War hobbyist, what I found most illuminating were Gates' views on Mikhail Gorbachev. This dedicated communist tried to repair the USSR's economy through perestroika but instead kicked the legs out from under it. At the same time his policy of glasnost revealed to those under Soviet rule just how derelict the system was. Contrary to some popular beliefs, he wasn't a reformer bringing free markets and freedom to Soviet citizens. Instead, he fully intended to continue the onward march of communism but his naive repairs actually had the opposite effect - they destroyed the system he intended to maintain.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review. The book was a gift of a friend (thanks, Nick).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

If you are the smartest person in the room...

Everything you know about the tongue - yours, mine, everyone's - is WRONG. Stick that where the sun don't shine. (The facts, not the tongue.) Thank science the next time you taste something.

If you don't like 80s music read no further but here's a (supposedly) rare video version of Art of Noise's Moments in Love. (I'm a big fan of AoN and thought their 1999 album The Seduction of Claude Debussy was, at the time, the best thing I'd heard in the previous decade.)

I'd pay cash money for a shirt with this embroidered on the left breast.
Fort Worthians and meat lovers, you must follow the Star-Telegram's Burger Battle DFW (and vote for Charlie's in the reader's poll).

Some of these high-speed, low-altitude passes are insane. And this flight display by the Su-35 at the Paris Air Show is just plain unbelievable.

Having seen an exhibit of Arabic scripts at the local art museum I can tell you they can be quite beautiful.

The periodic table of typefaces.
Wall-E is for realz - students build robot that demolishes buildings.

There seem to be a lot of videos showing the work of master craftsmen. Here's Hakase, a Japanese master of fountain pen craftsmanship.

Whether or not these facts are truly the most interesting "ever" is up to you. Here's a sample: The Spanish national anthem has no words.
The periodic table of Game of Thrones. (I don't even watch that show.)
I had heard that Coke mixed with wine was big in some parts of Germany but now the French are taking it to a whole new level by bottling a Coke flavored wine called Rouge Sucette.

They call them 99 unusual and cool toilets. They forgot to add "disgusting." And then there are these behind the scenes photos from TV shows that I'd call only mildly interesting. However, this list of little-known facts about 2001: A Space Odyssey had one that caught my eye: Pink Floyd was approached about contributing to the soundtrack but couldn't due to prior commitments.

See science history being made as another drop falls from the pitch drop experiment.

What's worse than needing an exorcism? Having your exorcism fail and leave you with flatulent demons.

How many times will it take you to triumph in the one-second stopwatch game? (It took me 37 attempts.) are in the wrong room. ~attributed to many
(I must always be in the very very right room.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Ever since learning that Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness I've wanted to read the latter. Somehow I got through my school years without having done so. And when I got the audiobook home from the library I mistook it for an abridged version because it was only 4 CDs. Nary a novel - nay, a novella. Quite a contrast to the 55 CDs of Atlas Shrugged.

Heart of Darkness is the tale of a 19th century steamship captain, Charles Marlow, hired to sail deep into the African continent to locate and return an ivory trader named Mr. Kurtz who's apparently having some trouble. Other than that, the plot involves the juxtaposition of officious white Europeans in Africa among Africans. It was impossible for me to listen to it without thinking of Apocalypse Now.

Because it's a classic that most everyone (except me apparently) has read, I'll forgo the literary criticism. You can look that up on the internet. But my reactions are these. First, Conrad's writing is as rich, lush, dense, and vibrant as the jungle into which Marlow descends. Second, the dark heart to which the title refers must be Kurtz's as he attempts, and ultimately fails, to reconcile civilization with incivility. It reminds me of Faulkner's assertion that all good fiction involves the human heart in conflict with itself.

Now I want to watch Apocalypse Now again.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

The only true wisdom...

Stay with me on this one. Start with a silent film by Hans Richter from Germany in 1927 called Ghosts Before Breakfast. Know that the film's original soundtrack by Paul Hindemith was destroyed by the Nazis. Now ask Steve Roden to create a new soundtrack and let the Los Angeles County Museum of Art host Roden's work-in-progress. Now listen and watch.

Lovers of transcendental numbers will love these visualizations of pi and more.
For Disney fans, here's a video, compiled of snippets culled from the best home movies they could find, of Disneyland in 1955 during its first year of operation. (Turn off the volume because the soundtrack was annoying, IMO.)

Read this. Learn. How clothes should fit.

An interesting list of 100 life tips supposedly from someone's high school teacher. It ranges from the very practical (#45 Invest in great luggage.) to the philosophical (#90 Make the little things count).

Comrade, enjoy these pages from a 3rd grade English textbook from Soviet Russia in 1953.
Physics and poetry. Both can be easy, both can be hard. But what does it mean exactly for a poem to be hard? (This reminds me of a recent conversation with a friend about a novel that's quite difficult. The statement "living uncomfortably in the midst of a poem you don't understand." applies in this instance as it does for physics as well. How many times did I read something in a technical text only to think WTF?)

Speaking of physics, know yer forces.

How old is the average country? Guess first before clicking through to see the map. Two hints: Japan is the oldest at 2,673 years and South Sudan is the youngest at 2.

World map of day/night usage of teh interwebs.

How healthy is your county? Check for yourself on this map. (Tarrant county is ranked 37th in Texas.)

If you enjoy this video about the sounds of coffee you have a serious coffee problem and should seek help.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosts the Rauschenberg Research Project with more info about the artist and his works than you can shake a stick at. (For one particular friend I offer this essay on his Untitled [glossy black painting].)

You may scoff, but there's something about Ellsworth Kelly's installations that are quite wonderful. (I know a wall that's ready-made for one.) If you're in NYC, be sure to check out Ellsworth Kelly at Ninety.
Take a little advice from Thelonius Monk. In his handwritten notes for a gig he writes "What you don't play can be more important than what you do play."

Odd food combinations. Bananas and mayo sandwich? Ewww. Bad ideas for automobiles. Pop-up headlights? C'mon man.

Beer geeks: What happens when you try to brew a 5,000 year old beer recipe? Nothing, cuz it sucks. But maybe you could swim in it.

Science is paving the way to the future. With pig poo. Or as they call it, PiGrid, a "durable construction adhesive" for road construction that's made from swine manure. Watch the video.

See how much of a pest Shamu can be. in knowing you know nothing. ~Socrates

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

It takes many weeks of daily commutes to consume the 55 hours of Kate Reading's audiobook performance of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. But now that my listening is complete, it's time to jot down a few thoughts excesses and shortcomings.

In case you're not familiar with Atlas Shrugged, it's the tale of a dystopian future America where innovation, business, and capitalism are increasingly and then thoroughly squelched by the federal government. Mysteriously, all the leading industrialists begin to disappear while at the same time the economy goes down the tubes as the government meddles more and more in business. Railroad (yes, railroad) tycoon Dagny Taggart finds herself the last man standing but at the same time she's trying to hold her business and the economy together she's also trying to unravel the mystery of who is John Galt.

Rand, a Russian immigrant to the United States, wrote Atlas Shrugged in 1957 and considered it the pinnacle of her writing career. Atlas and another novel of hers, The Fountainhead, form the written fictional portrayals of Rand's philosophy of objectivisim. To quote Rand from Atlas, objectivism embodies the ideals of "man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Atlas is one of those books you first discover in high school English class and then, in my case at least, hear talked about from time to time in various contexts. The problem was, I never read Atlas. Until now.

From a literary standpoint, it was difficult for me to read Atlas as a novel rather than a philosophical or idealogical treatise. The book is way too long with the same ground (the oppression and pillage of the inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, capitalist) being repeated over and over again in slightly different contexts.  I was reminded of James Cameron's quote about the director's cut of the movie Aliens: it's like 40 miles of bad road. The length might be excused except for the lack of subtlety. The language is often awkwardly quaint, like outtakes from an episode of Father Knows Best. The language might be excused except for the excessive repetition - which is exacerbated by the length. The famous John Galt speech clocks in at approximately two hours but does nothing except summarize statements and themes from elsewhere in the novel. At certain times I thought to myself "get on with it."

From a ideological perspective, it's hard to disagree with the core premise of the envisioned meritocracy, where what matters is achievement and the fair, capitalistic exchange of value for value. But objectivism as portrayed in Atlas lacks sufficient scope to be considered a true philosophy. Of course, the plot is fictional so the protagonists act ethically and the antagonists are caricatures of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. Don't get me wrong - let me do my thing and get the government out of my way and I'll be happy. None of this "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" business.

I guess what I'm saying is that while there's a lot to like in Atlas it wasn't a life changing experience. (Maybe that means I'm already living that life to some degree?) Also, it's not clear based on my experience with Atlas Shrugged whether I'll read The Fountainhead anytime soon. I don't regret reading it because now I have a little more exposure to objectivism and can understand certain references when they arise in real life.

Apparently someone has turned Atlas into a movie and you can read about it at and see the trailers on YouTube. According to IMDB, Part 1 seems to have broken even financially, Part 2 ended up well in the red, and Part 3 is scheduled for 2014. John Galt would probably tell them to not bother.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Success is how high...

Texas folks: enter NASA's Name the Shuttle contest for a chance to win valuable prizes.

Today's tune: Markus Reuter and the IB Big Band perform Mariola live. (Free to download too, if you like it.)

Must-see video of the week (thanks David). Be sure to watch in high-def and fullscreen as SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket takes off, flies straight up, and flies straight down to a gentle landing.

Castle Bravo was the name of the 1954 thermonuclear bomb test that had a yield of 15 MT (3 times greater than predicted) and contaminated the native population of portions of the Marshall Islands and others. The January 2013 report Castle Bravo: Fifty Years of Legend and Lore delves deeply into the issue of fallout.

For a bigger picture (pardon the pun) of the Los Alamos staff who designed atomic weapons during the Manhattan Project take a look at the faces that made the bomb.

Know yer ammo. Sabine Pearlman photography offers great cross sectional views of bullets.
Do you enjoy a good cup of coffee? How about reading about coffee? Check out Bad Bean Coffee.

During my teen years I briefly considered pursuing archeology as a career. I may have thought differently had I read this line: "But archaeologists have long known that if you really want to understand a civilization, to know its people’s passions, weaknesses, and daily rituals, look no further than their garbage." Read a little and see some vintage photos from NYC Sanitation Dept's Anthropologist in Residence. (Do you throw out 7.1 pounds of trash each day?)

Now this is more like it. Archeologists have discovered a royal Wari tomb in Peru that has remained untouched since 700-1000 A.D.

Use Contrailz to visualize flight paths the world over. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex you can see DFW's influence on the flight patterns as well as DAL (Love Field). Lesser known may be Meacham which is the cause of the north-south lines above Ft. Worth and Alliance which is slightly northeast of that. Military flights are not included and that's why you can't see the JRB in west Ft. Worth.
See how mathematics applies to the art of M.C. Escher.

Nanny Bloomberg is way too interested in limiting the size of soda cups considering that NYC is ranked #14 on cities drinking the least amount of soda. On the other hand, Fort Worth is near the bottom at #98! Three of the top four soda drinking towns are in Texas.

This tantalizing photograph captures the essence of the Memory, Myth & Magic exhibition of Clyfford Still's work. I am especially captivated by the largely white painting on the left. You can read more about the exhibit in this interview with the exhibit curator, David Anfam.
Let's assume Still's painting is too abstract for your tastes. What about finding abstraction in everyday objects?

Will your Instragam'd snapshots look as good in 60 years? Check out these vintage color WWII-era photos. Or these long-exposure photos from Vietnam.

For my Syracuse friends, I read about Liehs & Steigerwald and their handmade franks and sausages in the WSJ. However, their website is frustratingly incomplete when it comes to their product line. So someone please go eat there and let me know how it is.

The only full-size mockup (wing tips not shown) of the A-12 Avenger was recently moved from Lockheed Martin to the B-36 Peacemaker Museum in Fort Worth. The A-12 was cancelled in 1991, the year I left what was then General Dynamics. Coincidence?
Bloggers, breathe a sigh of relief. You aren't liable for libel you republish.

Fun with magnets - watch this video of a superconductor racing around a Moebius strip made of magnets.

More science? OK. When you've lost your vision, why not listen to solar flares and x-rays from distant galaxies by converting them to music?

This is the oldest pencil in the world. It's from the 1630s. More pencil factoids can be found here.
If you're the kind of person who'd like to read Star Wars in Shakespearean style, your dreams have been answered. Here is William Shakespeare's Star Wars.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine comes this interactive guide to the Battle of Gettysburg.

True facts about the beard - it fits on your face.

Chuck Jones has an official Tumblr. (I could do without the overly ornate gold picture "frames.")

Know yer states by their patties using the United States of Burgers. No surprise Texas is Whataburger.  A little surprised that Ohio isn't White Castle.

Know yer Micky D's food by its components using this incorrectly named periodic table of McDonalds.
"Look at that, it's exactly three seconds before I honk your nose and pull your underwear over your head. We're going for a ride on the information super highway. Your entrance was good, his was better. Look ma i'm road kill Excuse me, I'd like to ASS you a few questions. Good Morning, oh in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight. Here she comes to wreck the day. Hey, maybe I will give you a call sometime. Your number still 911? Brain freeze. We got no food we got no money and our pets heads are falling off! Haaaaaaarry. I just heard about evans new position,good luck to you evan backstabber, bastard, i mean baxter. Alrighty Then." The preceding paragraph courtesy of Movie Lorem Ipsum where the text comes from your chosen actor (Jim Carrey in this case.)

If you're one of those people who enjoy a good documentary, enjoy Glas about Dutch glass blowing in the 1950s. bounce when you hit bottom. ~George S. Patton

What? Are you disappointed I didn't end with some puerile bodily fluid gag?