Saturday, March 29, 2014

Please Stop Loving Me by Nicholas Szczepanik

A whole world of sound
hides deep inside each moment
if you pause to hear.

Wow pretty much sums it up. A friend recommended Please Stop Loving Me (thanks, Walker) and it did not disappoint. Granted, drone isn't for everyone. But a while back I tweeted that listening to this album is like examining a single moment in time through an aural microscope.

I wonder whether Szczepanik's title in any way refers to lyrics from the Cure's song End, "please stop loving me / i am none of these things."

For more information about Nicholas:

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Knowing your own darkness...

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969
  1. Craft pr0n: violin making.
  2. Calculate your sleep. To get up at 5:00 a.m. go to sleep at 9:15 p.m.
  3. Truly gag inducing. "Folk was one of the key drivers of a broad cultural shift that saw us re-embrace our pastoral past." This comes from an article about how progressive rock might be the new folk. If anything's more self-indulgent and narcissistic than prog it's folk. (This from someone who's a prog fan.) No one likes an unwashed folk hipster recycling Joan Baez on acoustic guitar. No one.
  4. GIFs, animated GIFs. Artistic. Lots of them.
  5. Space shuttle tagged
  6. Something else to debate: the 10 best sentences of literature.
  7. I've tried to convince my friends of this. World War Z the book (not very good) has virtually nothing in common with the movie.
  8. Graph the IMDB rating of your favorite TV show.
  9. Cartoons and beer.
  10. Klingon and beer.
  11. Antique whiskey bottle hall of fame.
  12. Shhh. The luxurification of silence.
  13. You've got ring around the asteroid.
  14. Always. Be. Knolling.
  15. Cosmos on TV. Historians are dubious of its effect. (I enjoy watching it.)
  16. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter. Umami?
  17. I haven't seen Prometheus, the Alien prequel, and they're already talking about Prometheus 2.
  18. 2048 is the best web-based game I've seen in a long time.
  19. Explore Patatap. the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. ~Carl Jung

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jackson Pollock's Mural: The Transitional Moment

In Pollock's painting
do you see the draftsmanship
or only spilled paint?

Are transitional moments an in thing for art books? First it was Rothko's transitional decade and now Pollock's transitional painting, Mural, 1943. Called the most important American painting ever made, Mural not only prefaced Pollock's own signature drip style but its enormous size (20 x 8 feet) set the stage for all of abstract expressionism.

Mural recently completed two years of much needed restoration at LA's Getty Museum and is now on display until June 1 when it's due to return to its home, the University of Iowa. The Transitional Moment is about the painting's history and restoration, the latter consisting of hard core, almost forensic, science about the materials used down to the microscopic cross sectional detail.

If you just want to see the painting's amazing transformation, check out the before-after animation on Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes blog.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Existence is a series of footnotes...

Why is it that we'll listen to our favorite songs repeatedly over decades yet the idea of re-reading a book, even a good one, is met with skeptical glances? Why does an abstract painting baffle, yet music - the most abstract or less tangible of the arts - is unquestionably embraced? Why is painting taken way too seriously where preferences or the lack thereof almost have to be stated apologetically ("I wish I liked it.") while music preferences are tossed around cavalierly with no social repercussion ("I hate country/rap/Rush.")?  I have no idea. But here's an article that may provide a bit of neurological insight by revealing how repetition makes us like music even more. By extension, being exposed to the same painting, for example, can make you more comfortable with it. It's just another way that the human brain loves patterns.

Tyranosaurus Pygmaeo?

At first glance this might not look like much. But the curling patterns shown above were found in the cosmic microwave background and are signs of gravitational waves from the early big bang. Some implications are a non-collapsing universe and the possibility of a multiverse.
If you could visit only one museum in each state, what would it be? In this list of top museums there are some hits (Clyfford Still Museum in Colorado) and misses (why not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio?).

Best downtown in the country: Fort Worth.

Do you remember your first tweet? It's easy to find.
Geeky food. Kitchen Overlord.

Formula 1 seems like something I should like. I've heard engineers lament that more engineers should like it since it's a sport designed - pun intended - almost perfectly for them. Part of the problem for me is that it's so damn hard to find the races on TV. Regardless, here's a video explaining the F-1 rule changes for 2014.

Longish article on Pixar's Ed Catmull's secrets of success. My takeaway? Candor. Frank discussion that takes their movies from suck (all their movies suck in the early versions) to not-suck.

Turn any word into ASCII art.

The most popular emoji: pile of poo. a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece. ~Vladimir Nabokov

P.S. I am simultaneously ashamed of and relieved by this post's paucity.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The key in his fist,
and his fist in his pocket,
she behind the door.

Simply put, Lolita is a comic, tragic love story of epic proportions that belongs with the great love stories - all of them a forbidden love - of literary history including Romeo & Juliet, the story of Oedipus, Anna Karenina, and Wuthering Heights. Humbert Humbert, a 40 something man, falls in love with a 12 year old girl, Dolores Haze - Lolita.

Lolita is masterfully and precisely penned with a wit that belies the tragic subject. You will not often chuckle while reading a pedophilic tale.

Humbert truly loves Lolita. As Nabokov writes, he'll love her forever but tragically she won't be Lolita forever. She will love him never. Humbert's love for Lolita is so pure that he murders the man who steals her (Clare Quilty) for his own impure purposes.

In this doomed couple, he's truly the child, anchored by the part of him that ceased to grow after the loss of a childhood love. She's truly the adult, mature beyond her years, strong, manipulative, old before her time, the aggressor in their first tryst. Her tomboyish masculinity contrasts with his effete, old-European sensibility.

Lolita is neither a sex tale nor a crime drama. Lolita is literature at its finest.

This review is for the audio book performed beautifully by Jeremy Irons. Coincidentally, Irons is also the star of the 1997 film version of Lolita ( Unfortunately, the film does not fare as well as the book. Without Nabokov's exacting prose, the film is somewhat neutered and has to rely on narration at certain points. I felt the male full-frontal nudity of Clare Quilty in the movie's climax was unnecessary. I suppose the idea was to hold Humbert up to a mirror, so to speak, so he may see the true, dark, ugly nature of his crime. But still, it almost spoiled the entire film for me. Plus, if you took that out and one F-bomb dropped by Lolita in the early part of the movie you could probably get the rating down from R to PG-13.

This review was extensively rewritten the morning after I originally posted it. Never blog with a headache and blurry vision caused by the onset of sleep.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Not until we are lost...

Combine weather reporting with typography and you get TypoWeather, a text-based weather website. Who needs all those fancy maps and graphics anyway?

I hate to say "I told you so" but entitlement among millennials is overblown.

Remember the Mars Climate Orbiter that crashed due to an error converting metric to British units? As often is the case, it's really not that simple. "A critical flaw was a program management grown too confident and too careless, even to the point of missing opportunities to avoid the disaster."

If the moon was only 1 pixel the solar system might look like this webpage with virtually infinite horizontal scrolling.

Beer Viz says it can help me discover new beers based on my preferences. Perhaps, but I don't recommend trying to interpret their diagrams after you've had a couple of pints. The room's spinning and I'm sober. If you like your beers two at a time you'll appreciate the Dual Beer Glass on sale at Etsy.

Teleporter: I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. GeoGuessr: uninspiring map-based guessing game.

Jackson Pollock's Mural recently emerged from a 1-year conservation effort, the before-after comparison of which can be seen in the image above (from the Modern Art Notes blog). Listen to the MAN podcast as the lead conservator describes what was done to the painting.

Edward Tufte, guru of data presentation, has a new thing: ImageQuilts. Based on his technique of small multiples, the idea is to display 100-150 images on a single topic on the screen at once. There's an Android app and a magazine article.

The list of the worst named tech products includes The GIMP, an image processing tool that I actually use. My personal pet peeve is any software product that includes "soft" in its name. Yes, I am probably too hung up on phallic imagery.

Proving that they don't really know me, the BBC thinks I've only read 6 out of the 100 books on their list. I've actually read 28.

Sweet Jesus, it's hamburger porn -

For Trekkies who read, use this chart of figure out the proper reading order for all the Star Trek books.

An ImageQuilt of Josef Albers
Speaking of Tufte, hater of PowerPoint, is PowerPoint a tool for innovation as evidenced by the work of David Byrne and others or is it the work of the devil especially in the hands of professors? For me it's the same as "guns don't kill people, people kill people." I get the impression that Tufte hears the word "PowerPoint" and completely shuts down. I understand his point - if people blindly use PowerPoint's built-in templates to create presentations they are often not "good." He's a fan of paper for its data density and proposes use of handouts in conjunction with a presentation of visuals. Which is where I step in and say that someone can use Tufte's principles to craft a decent presentation using PowerPoint. Oh, and then there's this book called Slidedocs written entirely in PowerPoint.

Warren Buffet's annual letter to shareholders is online for your perusal.

Watch the trailer for the movie Particle Fever, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson.

If you like smart and beautiful women you'll be intrigued to know that Betabrand's spring collection is modeled by women with PhDs.

For the loved one in your life, how about a Disney princess inspired engagement ring.

On the nuclear secrecy blog you'll now find an interactive map comparing the firebombing of Japan during WWII with U.S. cities of equivalent size.

Animation the hard way - drawing it by hand on a gallery wall. The resulting video is Plumb.

The United Steaks of America. If each state was represented by one meat, Texas would be brisket, Ohio would be Kielbasa, and California would be Tofu (ha!).
Someone is selling superhero poop on Etsy.

World leaders as drag queens?

Almost unbelievably I can tie together those last two links (one with Putin, one with poop) with this one: a 3D printed Vladimir Putin butt plug.

Only in San Fran-fucking-cisco - stunt nudity experts.

This is a motherfucking website.

This makes less sense than a lot of the crap I post here but Old Spice has a website where you can request that a hairpiece play your favorite Huey Lewis song - That's the Power of Hair.

And now, Bouncy Balls - real time, interactive, ball bouncing with your computer's microphone. we begin to understand ourselves. ~Henry David Thoreau

P.S. The final proofreading revealed this post to have a decidedly nasty tinge to it. No explanation, just observation.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Perhaps by Harold Budd

Call Harold Budd an
avant-garde sensualist.
But never new age.

Harold Budd's Perhaps, 75 minutes of live solo piano improvisation recorded in 2006 as part of a tribute to James Tenney and recently re-released by Root Strata, is an absolutely wonderful piece of music. It crystallizes a singular moment in time with a performance remarkable not only for its portrayal of the bare essence that makes Budd's work so great but also for its tiny quirks and oddities, the imperfections that make a recording like this vibrantly personal and virtually tangible. The experience is one of alternating anticipation and discovery, seemingly simultaneous for the listener and the performer. The title itself leaves you on the edge of decision.

You can get a taste of the performance on YouTube with the track Quandari.

Harold Budd's website is

I received no compensation of any kinds for this review. 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson

It's not often you
read about kidnap victims
you don't care about.

Alex Berenson's The Night Ranger is the seventh in his series of books centered on the character John Wells, an undercover CIA operative. In this installment we find John coaxed out of retirement to investigate the kidnapping of four aid workers in Kenya.

Let me state for the record that I have enjoyed Berenson's other books because Wells is an interesting character. He exhibits many fewer Superman-esque physical characteristics than your typical fictional espionage/military hero and much more mental strength and an "I'll wait you out" kind of attitude.

But for me, The Night Ranger suffered because I couldn't care less about the kidnapping victims none of whom are portrayed in a likable manner. Perhaps that was Berenson's intent. In particular one of the victims is described over and over as the ultimate hot piece of ass - blonde, blue eyes, killer bod - with a willingness to use those attributes as best suits her needs. Except that those attributes are completely irrelevant to the plot. She could've been a troll and it wouldn't have changed a bit. The character who was a bit of a troll didn't benefit from being a troll at all. And the other three kidnap victims - thin, thin, and thinner. I really couldn't work up the emotional engagement to care whether they lived or died.

Another off-putting aspect of the writing is letting the plot play out and then backing up in time to retell the same time period from another character's viewpoint. Each occurrence of this, especially the ones early in the book, were so jarring that it disrupted the entire flow of the book for me.

Finally, the plot crescendos to an ultimate conflict and then an epilogue is used to quickly wrap up loose ends by having various characters saying what they're going to do about this, that and the other thing (some major elements, some minor). I often find myself thinking that these issues of plot wrap-up really need to be explored more fully because they would round out some of the character development. It's like a novelized form of "they all lived happily ever after, the end."

I'm not going to stop reading Berenson's books, but this one won't make my favorites list.

This review refers to the audiobook version. I received no compensation of any kind for this review. 


Secrecy is the element of all goodness...

In this interview with composer and pianist Harold Budd we learn many things including his contempt for being categorized as "New Age" ("That one frosted my balls so much.") and the fact that he's working on a new collaboration with Jane Maru tentatively titled Jane 12-21. I am listening to his Perhaps CD as I write this and his performance on it may be one of my favorites. You can get a little taste here.

You may have heard that Brian Eno has a new album coming out with Karl Hyde called Someday World. One track, The Satellites, is now available on YouTube.

From new music to old. Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway turns 40 this year and it has been called "the Ulysses of concept albums." (To kids these days who only buy or illegally download singles, an album is a collection of songs delivered in a single package. A concept album has a unifying theme to the songs and usually requires them to be listened to in a certain sequence.) While the article is a nice dissection of the album for the uninitiated it might be a bit too Peter Gabriel biased. Certainly, he deserves a lot of credit for both is work in Genesis and his solo work. But his unilateral control over the lyrics got to be quite divisive. Guitarist Steve Hackett felt like the band had recorded music that they liked, was solid, and complete and then the next day Gabriel word record vocals over that music in a way that felt like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. I suspect Hackett's experience on The Lamb led to his leaving the group shortly thereafter. Also, it was funny to read about Phil Collins comparing the tour to This is Spinal Tap because...

Here are 15 things you may not know about This is Spinal Tap. #9 Most of the dialogue was ad-libbed. (Blues jazz festival.)

Robert Motherwell, Stephen's Iron Crown, 1981. This 10 foot by 7 foot painting greets you as you enter the first floor gallery of The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and has been in that same spot for as long as I can remember. It's a great gate keeper.
Audioklassiks is a photo blog of vintage hifi equipment from the 1960 and 1970s. I recognize a lot of this stuff. Also, I have no idea why anyone would use speakers with horn tweeters indoors. But that's just me.

The Mini Museum project on Kickstarter really doesn't need your help (over $1 million pledged versus the original goal of $38,000 with 12 days to go). It's a cool idea and I'd love to have one. But to ensure you get one the remaining pledge levels are $250, $480, and $500.

In retrospect, this doesn't seem too surprising: jazz improvisation engages the brain's language centers.

Fort Worth is the top city in the country for finding a job. Arlington, Dallas, Houston, and Austin are also in the top 10.

How much solar time differs from standard time.
Did you know you can get a backup of all your Google, Facebook, and Twitter data? Thanks to this article from the Smashing Newsletter, now you can.

Remember the computer system in Jurassic Park? ("This is a Unix system. I know this.") It was actually loosely based on SGI. Anyway, you can run it in your browser.

If you watched the TV game show Treasure Hunt like I did as a kid, join me in wishing R.I.P. to host Geoff Edwards.

If you're a parent, stay away from New York where the state legislature is considering requiring parents to attend "parent support programs" in order for their student children to advance to the seventh grade. This is about as ludicrous the war on large soft drinks. Talk about a nanny state. When the local school district here required that I take an on-line drug awareness exam before my sons could participate in extracurricular activities you better believe that everyone from the superintendent on down heard from me about how they had overstepped their mandate.

Bad idea #1: Snowden to speak at SXSW.  I guess Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen were busy.

When you next climb Mt. Everest be prepared to pay for the privilege by bringing down off the mountain about 20 pounds worth of the copious turd pyramids that dot the landscape. Why did you shit on Mt. Everest? Because I was there.

What your poo poo and pee pee tell about what's going on inside your body.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy The Tumbler.

...even virtue, even beauty is mysterious. ~Thomas Carlyle

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Power Play by Stick Men

Resonant, buzzing,
geometric and abstract,
Stick Men perform live.

Power Play is the first official live recording by Stick Men (Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, and Markus Reuter) and brings together mostly tunes from their latest studio album, Deep, with a scattering of tracks from other sources as noted below.
  1. Nude Ascending Staircase
  2. On/Off
  3. Crack in the Sky
  4. Breathless (ala Robert Fripp)
  5. Cusp
  6. Van Dyke Improv (unknown to me)
  7. Horatio
  8. Whale Watch
  9. Hide the Trees
  10. Open, Part III (Open)
  11. Firebird Suite (Soup, ala Stravinsky)
Believe it or not, the first adjective that comes to mind when describing this performance is restraint. Instead of a lot of progressive bombast you get a very refined, well-shaped performance of the band as a whole. On/Off is a perfect example of this balance where Reuter's Touch Guitar bubbles mathematically over waves of Levin's Chapman stick punctuated by Mastelotto's drumming. This transitions nicely into the moody Crack in the Sky with its long legato phrases while Mastelotto plays with such a light touch, like rain falling.

The video below shows the band performing Breathless and gives you an idea of how they're able to combine masterful technique with incredible musicality all while having a good time.

You can learn more about Stick Men at their website, Power Play is available from iapetus media.

Update 01 Mar 2014: My one quibble is that I prefer my live albums with a bit more banter to give it the recording a sense of a specific location and time.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

A friend to all...

Brian Eno and Karl Hyde announced their upcoming album, Someday World, due out 05 May. Unfortunately, no audio samples yet. For music you can listen to right now, try Harold Budd's Perhaps. And, wajobu shares his thoughts on Nicholas Szczepanik's Not Knowing.

Things that make noise: A Beyonce soundboard and a Theremin.

Laura Watt, Untitled Circle Form 2, 2007. I have begun seeking out paintings that share attributes with my work. I call it mesh generation, artists call it reticulation.
You've all no doubt already seen this but here it is again. A California couple found 19th century gold coins buried on their property worth an estimated $10 million. Of course, our good friends at the IRS want half.

Speaking of treasures, did you know the U.S. Army has a collection of arms, uniforms, art and more at the Center of Military History?

Do you consider yourself an art expert? Can you tell the artist (choice of 2) from a swatch of painting? I got 12 of 15 right.

Let the Google Art Project take you inside the Clyfford Still Museum.

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Before Sunrise, 1894-95. A lot of people don't get abstract painting. I offer this work as an example of the blurred line between figuration and abstraction. Dewing captures a moment in time - light, action, position, feeling - by revealing almost the minimal set of elements that stages this scene. It just takes squinting your eyes to remove figure leaving only form and color.
The science of art restoration is anything but low tech. Combine it with works by Mark Rothko and a reference to C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures and you have a nice read.

It's  been a while since I posted any craft pr0n but here's a nice video about urishi, Japanese lacquerware.

And lest we start taking ourselves too seriously, have a look at We Go To The Gallery, a faux-children's book that satirizes the hell out of modern art.
A tiny zircon crystal has been found to be the oldest piece of the Earth with an age of 4.4 billion years. Keep in mind that the earth was a molten ball of goo only 4.5 billion years ago.

Did you miss it too? On 11 Sep 2013 at 20:07 GMT a boulder-sized meteor impacted the moon creating the brightest lunar explosion ever recorded (it would have been visible to the naked eye).

I want someone to buy a Muwi lawnmower and invite me over to watch it work.

This photo of a Lockheed P-3 Orion deserves to win some sort of award.
Color film of the WWII air war.

Someone wants to split California into six states.

Politicians are a despicable breed and, unfortunately, Fort Worth's own congressman, Joe Barton, seems to be right up there with the best of them. According to Time magazine Barton said that wind energy wasn't a good idea because wind is a finite resource and using it to generate power would cause temperatures to rise (because the earth's overall wind flow would slow down). I'm beginning to think members of congress should have to pass an exam (i.e. be licensed) before they can serve regardless of votes. Or maybe they have to pass a test (and publish their score) in order to get on the ballot.

Want to fund Big Ass Rainbow, a Kickstarter-based art book about butts?

Thank God the eyeball is the only part of the chicken we don't eat. (Unless you're in China, then all bets are off.) Scientists discovered disordered hyperuniformity, a new state of matter found only (so far) in chicken eyes.

How do you make food healthier? Shit in it, of course. Scientists make yummy sausage using baby poo. Equally odd and coincidentally timed is BiteLabs and their celebrity meats. a friend to none. ~Aristotle (Arresting in its simplicity and implication.)