Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Places Where I Worship You by Caught in the Wake Forever

Forever is held
within a single moment
bounded by vast space.

When my ambient music sensei wajobu tweeted "just buy this" I immediately ordered The Places Where I Worship You by Caught in the Wake Forever (aka Fraser McGowan).

I was not disappointed.

"The six tracks here all consist of environmental recordings taken on [The Island of Arran, Scotland], along with manipulations of an old 78 rpm record bought in a charity shop at the ferry port upon leaving for home."

As with other ambient recordings that have left an impression on me, The Places Where I Worship You evokes a relaxed immediacy of time and place, speaks to mysteries hidden in plain sight, and opens a vast aural landscape with plenty of space to breath. Give it a listen:

  • Stream (and then buy) The Places Where I Worship You on Bandcamp.
  • Listen to it on YouTube.
"I know nothing about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review. 

It is only through fiction that facts...

The most important social network for sales prospecting is... Twitter. (You thought it was LinkedIn, right?)

Restoration of a Spitfire. The story of ILM.

Should you eat the rind on cheese?

What's the sound of one atom pinging? Hear what a single atom sounds like.

You may have heard me struggle to find the appropriate superlatives to describe a dining experience I had in Kyoto several years ago. Well, I'm pretty certain it was Kaiseki, and a very high level version thereof.

Stick Men with David Cross have a pair of live albums coming out: Midori - Live in Tokyo - First Show and Second Show. You can stream a couple tracks online to check them out and then place your pre-order.

ICYMI, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) announced Mark Rothko: A Retrospective opening on 20 Sep 2015 and running through 24 Jan 2016. Definitely worth a road trip.

Mark Rothko, No. 5, 1958
Everyone knows that Snowden gave a TED talk. But do you know the NSA was invited to respond and did? Here's the top civilian at the NSA, Richard Ledgett.

What kinds of things might you learn at Harvard Business School? A student shares one nugget from each course. For example, from Leadership and Organizational Behavior comes this "Know your worst self."

I wonder if HBS teaches this: the desire for perfection is rooted in inadequacy.
The periodic table of the elements illustrated by how the element is used.
Interesting: Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows.

I don't know why I keep pandering to Star Wars geeks but: 100 color behind the scenes photos.

This self-contradicting movie gossip about Prometheus 2 reads like it was generated by a computer algorithm that scanned teh interwebs for rumors and wove them (poorly) into an article.

And as an even more chagrining example "news" writing that sucks ass is Marketwatch's designation of the DFW area as the nation's friendliest area for business. The headline says Dallas but the photo at the top of the page is from Fort Worth. The stated rationale for making the designation is so fuzzy that the same could be said for Omaha or Topeka. And the writer's triumphant declaration is that DFW is the most business-friendly metro area "for 2014." From an article dated 22 May 2015. Whatever. We'll take the recognition. At least we're not LA.

According to Foursquare (is that even still a thing?) Texas craves breakfast tacos and Ohio craves pierogies. See the rest here
But wouldn't you really have a hot dog?

More maps? OK, where were the citizens of each state born?

So Facebook has a "little red book" they give employees with their company story including "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will."

Excited about geometry? Play Euclid: The Game.

I can't figure out what Finding Home is all about.

Best video on teh interwebs this week: Tender.

...can be made instructive or even intelligible. ~George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger...

Green Eggs and Ham is being developed into an animated TV series for Netflix. This feels bad to me.

Underrated Texas wineries. See Hawk's Shadow.

This is one of the best photos of Jackson Pollock's Mural I've seen since it was restored. The painting is on display in Venice. "an explosive work in which you can feel history shifting gears."
After spending a day last week listening to Edward Tufte, I'm wondering what he'd think of Guy Kawasaki's ten tips to rock your pitch, especially these two: 4 bullet points and no more than 25 words per slide. Also, Guy seems to love "the build" where each bullet point is revealed one at a time.

If those sins might piss off Tufte, here are things that will piss off advertising icon David Ogilvy. #3 Write copy that lacks charm.

I am not familiar with writing teaching William Zinsser or why he's legendary. But of his 10 writing tips, I like #4. Write in the first person: “Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”

Minimal maps. Maps of where you can buy a sandwich.

The last image transmitted by NASA's Messenger spacecraft before it crashed into Mercury's surface after orbiting the planet for quite some time. Image is about 1 kilometer across, 2.1 meters/pixel.
More astro geekage you say? Try this: what do the planets sound like?

Hold on to your light sabers you Star Wars geeks: a video compilation of the sounds of Star Wars, the Carbonite Maneuver (a Star Wars/Star Trek crossover), and a spoof of the upcoming 7th film's trailer with your favorite, Jar Jar. And the ILM Story as told in WIRED magazine.

I'm listening to a CD of his as I write this but you can stream Harold Budd's music from Soundcloud.

Fly with the Blue Angels.

The most remarkable dinosaur find in the past two decades: Chilesauros. And it seems like every other day they're finding a new state of matter: Jahn-Teller metals. They're an insulator, a conductor, a metal, a magnet, a floor wax, a dessert topping.

Painting with black. From Fludd (1617) to Carravagio (1606) to Malevich (1915) to Reinhardt (1966), why is a color so achromatic also so rich? See also the reference to Rosenthal's Black Paintings that I wrote about here.

Robert Fludd, Et Sic In Infinitum, 1617
Did you know you can download your Google search history? You'll need a JSON viewer to see the results. And a good sense of "be careful what you ask for." Because back in 2008 I searched for "shoot partridge in eye."

Books that literally all white men own is literally false. (Headline would've been better without "literally.") Of the 79 books listed and taking a very liberal approach (books I either own, have read, or seen the movie) I came up with 19.

The falling waffle may be the best video on teh interwebs but it now has a challenger: Ham Goes Up an Escalator.

More craft pr0n, this time book repair. Not enough? Here's a master woodturner.

Only for hard core Disney people: brief video about penny press machines. (Or as I call them, fifty-ones because they take 51 cents.)

For hybrid Disney/Beer geeks: printable Disney beer labels.

During the Cold War, the first and only Safeguard Complex for ICBM detection was online for only 24 hours before being shutdown.
No shit: this is al Qaeda's job application.

Lots of toys this week.

You fractal lovers will enjoy Web Mandelbrot.

Send (virtually) a loved one a wildflower.

The shit museum.

100,000 stars

Playing the piano has never been easier than with Touch Pianist. How about Type Drummer?

Game time: Kuku Kube. Find the kube with the different color. I scored 28. (This game is a great demonstration of one of Josef Albers' principles of color which is white space activation. See, games can always help you learn something.)

...of taking educated people seriously. ~G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Music Roundup

I've been going through new music lately like Chris Farley going through cheeseburgers and speed. So before the new round arrives let me move the recent stuff out of the way.
  • Live At The Orpheum by King Crimson: One word: MORE. This 2014 single CD, live recording of Robert Fripp's latest incarnation of King Crimson consists of 7 tracks one of which is the band's "walk on" music. I'd love to hear more, to hear an entire concert's worth.
  • The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior by Trey Gunn, Bill Rieflin, and Robert Fripp: Think of it as another fine example of a King Crimson ProjeKct. Sample on YouTube.
  • Heaven & Earth by ProjeKct X (aka Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto): Rare. Worth it. Another KC ProjeKct that is kinda like the orphan of the ConstruKction of Light recording sessions. Sample on YouTube.
  • Octane Twisted by Porcupine Tree: It took this great live recording to get me over my hump with PTree despite the fact that I'm a fan of Steven Wilson's solo work.
  • Hand. Cannot. Erase. by Steven Wilson. Nice follow-on to 2013's The Raven That Refused to Sing. Some very nice keyboard work on here by Adam Holzman.
  • So (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) by Peter Gabriel: I've been a fan of Gabriel since his Genesis days, have several of his solo CDs, and have seen him live 3 or 4 times. Why it took me this long to get this album can't be explained. Great versions of Family Snapshot, Intruder, and Family and the Fishing Net. 
  • Avonmore by Bryan Ferry: Nice, but no Avalon.
  • Totem by Tuner (aka Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto): Good clean fun. Samples at iapetus.
"I don't understand music but I sure like the way it sounds."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Engineers and Abstract Art - Episode 54

Mark Rothko's Untitled (Yellow and Blue) 1954 was sold by Sotheby's at auction for $46.5 million. Here's a link to a Sotheby's video about the painting.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Yellow and Blue), 1954
The news was a great opportunity for me to engage with some fellow engineers in "art appreciation." I'll let you imagine how those conversations went.

Here's what I find curious.

Engineers often love to parrot a quote attributed to Henry Ford: "The most beautiful things in the world are those from which all excess weight has been eliminated."

So if elimination of excess is that highly regarded by engineers in the context of designing a car or a bridge why can't they apply that same principle to painting?

An abstract painting has shed the excess weight of figuration. Despite the lack of traditional symbols, an abstract work still conveys human emotions and perhaps does so in a more archetypal and timeless manner than anything representational.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Addendum: Since writing the bit above, news reports indicated that Piet Mondrian's Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow and Black sold at auction for $50.6 million. Are engineers more comfortable with Mondrian's more regimented style?

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow and Black, 1929

Sunday, May 10, 2015

So Anyway by John Cleese

Cheese shop, pepper pot,
silly walks and dead parrot.
Only the surface.

As a huge Monty Python fan (I have the entire TV series on DVD and have seen all the films multiple times) it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed John Cleese's autobiography, So Anyway. I couldn't help but hear Cleese's voice reading the words in my head. It's no surprise that the book is quite funny.

What might be a surprise is that, except for the last chapter on the live Python reunion, the book ends with the formation of Monty Python. Even Cleese acknowledges that ending the book with his thoughts from the wings while watching the first Python sketch being performed would've been appropriate: "Maybe it's going to be all right." But maybe he thought he'd be lynched if he didn't include some Python insight.

We should all be so lucky to have created an iconic, widely loved and lasting legacy such as the one Cleese and his co-Pythons have. It's important to note also that all the Pythons had notable careers both before and after the TV show, making their accomplishments even more noteworthy.

I highly recommend Cleese's So Anyway for anyone who's a fan of comedy.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad; when it is good, one can only read and be grateful.”

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wagner Transformed by J. Peter Schwalm

His tonality
suits Wagner perfectly for
a modern soundscape.

I know of J. Peter Schwalm from his work with Brian Eno on Drawn From Life, an album I've always wanted to compare and contrast with Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.

I know Richard Wagner from his operas, mostly his Ring Cycle that I've been too cheap to buy because it's over $100 for the box of CDs.

But I don't remember where I first heard about Schwalm's 2013 work, Wagner Transformed, in which he celebrates what would've been Wagner's 200th birthday by re-imagining the composer's work for the modern times. This 13 track album features Wagner's work from Tristan & Isolde, Siegfried, Parsifal and more performed by Schwalm, Eivind Aarset, Christine Schutz, and Brian Eno.

The album exhibits a balanced, tense peacefulness in which piano performances of  (sometimes barely) recognizable traditional Wagner serve as guideposts poking up through electronic soundscapes that are either gentle, drifting snow or violent crashing waves. The effect is quite compelling.  

The only parallel I can draw is what Art of Noise did in 2000's The Seduction of Claude Debussy. In that album - which I absolutely love - they celebrate the musical possibilities of the 21st century by reveling in what Debussy did at the start of the 20th.

"I don't understand music but I sure love the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

There are times when silence...

New band, new music. O.R.k. is Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (vocals, keyboards), Colin Edwin (bass), Pat Mastelotto (percussion), and Carmelo Pipitone (guitar). Their sound is self-described as "playful acoustic psychedelia and precise math rock, but with an added seasoning of intense ambient electronica." Their website,, includes video previews of two tracks from their debut album, Inflamed Rides, that's now available for pre-order.

But wait, there's more. Another new band, KoMaRa, is David Kollar (guitar), Pat Mastelotto (drums), and Paolo Raineri. Their self-titled debut is available for pre-order. Self-described as "Cinematic Industrial Ethno-Rock."

Still more. The second album from Metallic Taste of Blood, Doctoring the Dead, now featuring Eraldo Bernocchi, Colin Edwin, Ted Parsons, and Roy Powell.

Normally I keep my aviation pr0n on Pinterest but this night photo of a C-130J was sufficiently cool to share here (i.e. how the motion of the stars in the background mimics the propeller tips).
How many aeronautical records can a C-5M set on a single flight? How about 45.

Convair B-58 Hustler. Take 28 minutes for this vintage aviation pr0n video.

New solo album from Trey Gunn: The Waters, They Are Rising. I'd like to think the title is a reference to Peter Gabriel's iconic track Here Comes the Flood. There are, in fact, four versions of a song called Flood on this album. (And if I had read Trey's blog post before writing, I would've seen that yes indeed that's what he's doing.)

Lindsey Taylor creates floral arrangements in the style of various paintings and my favorites - no surprise - are the more abstract. Here she pays homage to Gerhard Richter's Bouquet. Flower arranging isn't normally my thing but I really enjoy her creativity.
Got $179 to spare? Wanna buy a 3D printer?

You can stream the soundtrack for the film Ex Machina from Rdio. The film's trailers look interesting.

Vincent Laforet's abstract aerial photographs of trains help make a point about abstract art in general. When does the figurative become abstract? A lot of it is a matter of perspective.
Hear marine biologists and/or oceanographers get all giddy when a sperm whale dances with their ROV.

Abstract art? Check. Animation? Check. What do you get? The international festival on abstract animation.

Speaking of animation, this year's Tex Avery award was presented by Dallas' Reel FX to the writers of the LEGO Movie.

Screen capture from Raven Kwok's film 1194D, based on "recursive triangular subdivision."
Fan of Stanley Kubrick? Got time for 3 hours of videos on his directorial expertise?

And then there's this: The Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre.

Begin Tiny Rant

Idiot America is at war with expertise. In their own words, "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture." Duh. From the article: "There's never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap." Reminds me of the book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

Totally damning is the article Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing-Down of America from Psychology Today. "There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility."

On a related note, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.

End Tiny Rant

Time for a new font: Times New Ramen
I like McSweeney's. I liked this article because my better half does Zumba. I loved this article because of the phrase: "There’s a point at which your body becomes a bruised bag of yams that you haul around, waiting for it to finally rot and return to the miserable earth whence it came..." And what makes this article truly funny is the life/death subtext.

For my friends in Canadia: poutine tornado
Median lifetime earnings by college major. Keep in mind the average across all majors is around $1.2 million. #2 is aerospace engineering at about $2.1 million. Computer science comes in at #10 with $1.7 million.

What teh interwebs is made for: all the world's passports in one place.


And find a point halfway between two locations.

The perfect road trip map of the U.S. In my early teens my family and I went on a 3-week driving road trip of the U.S: Ohio to Texas to Arizona to Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore to Chicago and home. The adjective I'd use to describe that isn't "perfect."
Pantone Minion Yellow

I question whether people are really addicted to my vibe.

The periodic table of Wordpress plugins
Nuke fun that you can play all day: The Critical Assembly Simulator.

MUST WATCH VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Ham Goes Up an Escalator. Best thing in video since Waffle Falling Over.

And now, 11 hours of the soothing sounds of Tibetan bowls. a poem. ~John Fowles

Friday, May 1, 2015

John's 10 Tips for Visiting Disney

I thought I'd share a few tips for visiting Disney World and Disneyland that I've compiled over years and years (decades?) of visits. 

  1. There’s always another bus.
  2. There’s always a child crying.
  3. The rain stops eventually.
  4. So does the child.
  5. You have to wait in line.
  6. Use Fast Pass to make the wait shorter.
  7. You should be nice to Cast Members.
  8. Because they’re always nice to you.
  9. Parades are crowded. Plan ahead.
  10. Water and sunscreen because sun.