Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wormhole


My 4 year old son Isaac and I drew this wormhole together. We each drew a black hole and then connected them via an Einstein-Rosen bridge.

UPDATE:I just realized that I taught my kid general relativity before the alphabet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leave It Alone or You'll Get Scars

I'm not going to turn into Tom Cruise about this, but I tend to think that psychiatry/counseling has more in common with picking scabs than it does with practicing medicine.


Ask the people around Cary Grant.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Looking Back at Tomorrow



EPCOT Center is corporate-sponsored retro-futuristic Utopian propaganda.

On ExxonMobile's Universe of Energy, you can observe a robotic recreation of the dinosaurs last days in the primordial swamp. Learn about how continuing to harness their petroleum remains will guide us to a technological paradise.


Join a virtual reality expedition to Mars in Hewlett Packard's Mission: Space and experience the future while walking through elaborate late seventies architecture.
In Spaceship Earth (The 18 story Buckminster Fuller Disco Ball that looms above the park), AT&T brings you an animatronic lesson on the history of human communication from cave paintings all the way to the invention of floppy drives!
EPCOT used to have a ride devoted to past visions of the future. Horizons showed us Jules Verne's hopeful Victorian visions of the world of tomorrow, and culminated in modernist 1960's dioramas of Jetsons-esque mechanized maids and flying rocket cars that fly themselves. Horizons closed in 1999 when General Electric removed it's support for the ride and, as the rest of the park had aged, it could no longer be concealed that the whole park had become a monument to retro-futurism.

EPCOT Center is also totally awesome. We need to be reminded of a time just 30 years ago when there actually was a collective vision of the future. Michael Chabon laments this lack of a future in his essay, "Omega Glory" which begins talking about the Clock of the Long Now.

I don’t know what happened to the Future. It’s as if we lost our ability, or our will, to
envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the
fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too distant date. Or maybe we stopped talking about the Future around the time that,
with its microchips and its twenty-four-hour news cycles, it arrived. Some days when
you pick up the newspaper it seems to have been co-written by J. G. Ballard, Isaac
Asimov, and Philip K. Dick.
Under the gleaming chrome and neon of Disney's Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow, we can take a step backward to a time when technology was less entwined with our every movements, and was more of an ideal to be dreamed about. And this distance allows us to be hopeful again. Just as Disney's Magic Kingdom serves to remind adults of the lost impossible fantasies of their childhood, EPCOT serves to remind us of the lost fantasies that we once believed were possible.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hysteresis

Wikipedia describes hysteresis as "systems which have memory; the effects of the current input (or stimulus) to the system are not all felt at the same instant." This happens in some electrical or magnetic systems where if force or current is applied, the resulting effects won't be observed until after a certain lag time. After the system has reached a breaking point, the final push will have a result that is cumulative of all the previous inputs.

Sometimes, since I don't see the effects day to day, I fear that Climate change will result in this kind of disaster. Like we will go about our lives perfectly fine in breathable crisp air until one final hydrocarbon molecule escapes the tailpipe of my Oldsmobile. Suddenly that one microscopic particle of pollution will spread like a virus, filling our entire atmosphere with black carbon monoxide smoke. We'll all pass out instantly as all heat is completely blocked inside our atmosphere and our flesh sizzles as we fall unconscious to scalding sidewalks.

cute version:




A friend recently pointed out to me that most relationships end in hysteresis. Things seem fine until little complaints have added to the point that the whole thing is instantly irreparable.

In my mind Al Gore is as proactive about prolonging his marriage as he is about saving the environment. He presents his wife with quarterly line graph evaluations of the exponential rise in the atmospheric toxins due to bickering. "Tipper, if we don't act now, our marriage could reach the point of no return by next August." Every time he leaves his socks littered on the floor instead of placing them in the hamper he places a dollar in the jar labelled, "zero hostility footprint tax" Every time she nags him about it she puts in a buck. At the end of the month they spill the resulting cash into their pockets and share sundaes at Baskin Robbins.




Replacing Our Ruins With Legos

German artist Jan Vormann travels the world repairing crumbling monuments with Legos. I wonder if he has a son.

Since my son was born almost 5 years ago, my most reliable outlet for visual creativity has been in lego collaboration. It is a pure artistic pursuit. You don't build to sell, or for fame, or even to hang over your mantle for compliments at family gatherings. You build, destroy, build, and destroy. and the only motivating factor is the pleasure of the process of creation.



Even though I went to art school, the closest thing I can recall resembling the artist/apprentice relationship was when I was five making legos structures with my dad. I would like to imagine Vormann with a son at his heels as together they change the world into a more colorful place one tiny brick at a time.

Last weekend, I took Isaac to the Lego Store in Bellevue Square. They have what they call the Pick-A-Brick wall. From wall to wall, floor to ceiling round transparent drawers hold collections of segregated lego blocks. For 15 bucks you get to fill your own Big Gulp container with as many peices of your own choosing as you can jam into it. It was a fun challenge for the frugal part of me to try to get my money's worth, filling in ever empty crevice with single bricks or wheels. I let Isaac pick his favorites, so we now have enough checkered flag Legos to scale a racing dragon. When we got there they were just cleaning up after an AFOL (Adult Fans Of Legos) meeting. There is a great short documentary on AFOL here.

The Lego store is the only reason I can think of to recommend going to Bellevue, but I do recommend that you go. And, if you are feeling charitable after your visit to the Pick-A-Brick wall, you could repair buildings in your own neighborhood and email the photos to Dispatchwork. They are encouraging that everyone carry on Vormann's work worldwide.

Replace a pothole, repair a broken park bench, fill a cracked post office pillar. If this movement gains in popularity as the centuries wear our buildings to dust we may one day find ourselves in a completely user-designed, morphing, interchangeable world of primary colors.

Flash Mobs

Flash mobs are mass for agnostic prank-church



Everyone's irregular attendance coincides.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Hear logarithmic music based on the DNA of vampire bats here.
Listening closely will help you navigate while blindfolded. Also in bat news, please read my favorite bat story here via the greatest institution on earth, the Museum of Jurassic Technology.




Igor Stravinsky, Erykah Badu, Mugshots, and Strange Loops

Igor Stravinsky was arrested by Boston police in 1940 for his unconventional inclusion of a major seventh chord in his arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner. Here is the recording:


Here Stravinsky makes use of his signature discordant Major 7th chord, the one that legend says caused riots and insanity when first heard repeated throughout the composer's Rites of Spring. An excellent RadioLab episode speculates that the brains of the music-goers at the time had not acclimated to these new sounds yet and that, with no context for them, it didn't sound like music. It was a literal maddening cacophony. Our ears have had a century to get used to it and it no longer drives listeners to violence, but even to today's ears these notes sound unsettling, and intentionally inharmonious.

The detail that interests me is that in his version of the Star Spangled Banner he waits until the end to be discordant. Ninety percent of the performance sounded as patriotic and boastful as our national anthem always sounds, up until he reaches the end (the 1:15 minute mark on this recording). The jarring chords are only used during the line "...the land of the free".

Which seems to be making a cynical comment on the very overreaction that the line caused: locking him up for creative expression. Could he have predicted the overreaction and intended the whole act, including being arrested, as one conceptual collaboration with the corrupt authorities?

That may be wishful thinking on my part. But regardless of the artist's intention, the result is a self aware event that comments on itself. It's what Douglas Hofstadter might call a strange loop.

There was another musical strange loop circling around the media a few weeks ago: Erykah Badu's infamous video for her song, Window Seat. In the video, which was shot illegally in front of shocked passersby and without permits, she walks down the Dallas street gradually undressing until she arrives completely nude at the Dealey Plaza where JFK was assassinated, at which point a shot is heard, she drops to the ground and the words "Group Think" ooze from her skull in blue gel.

You can watch the video here.

Unlike Stravisnky, she wasn't arrested. This time it was the group thought of public perception that overreacted and condemned the musician. Instantly, media outlets began reporting on the popularity of twitter feeds calling the video, "The height of bad taste" and exclaiming things like, "This is a public place. You oughta be ashamed". Even Alice Cooper, a man who regularly killed chickens and used a guillotine in his live act, came down on the video, calling public nudity "an easy way to shock." To some degree, the video has derailed her public image even while it put her name in headlines across the nation.

This is where the second strange loop comes in. Erykah Badu garnered real world publicity from self-assassination of her public image via self-inflicted images associated with assassination.

To some, Window Seat is as viscerally repulsive (or uncomfortably tacky) as a discordant National Anthem must have sounded a hundred years ago. Also like Stravinsky's Star Spangled Banner, it abused untouchable American iconography in order to pre-emptively comment on very outrage the act later caused. For both of these cases, the piece and the reaction to it are inseparable halves in a self-perpetuating cycle that is given life by it's ability to be self-aware and comment on itself.

Occultation



Occultation is when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Seed Cathedral







This is Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral, commissioned by the British government for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. It is made of 60,000 fiber optic rods that illuminate the inner chamber. At the end of each of these luminous wands is sealed a seed from the Millennium Seed Bank.

It's absolutely beautiful, but I also find it ominous. The recent concentration on the importance of seed banks seems like we are suddenly aware of nature's mortality. Apparently, we now feel that apocalyptic war or genetic tampering, or environmental catastrophe, etc...one of these will eventually wipe us and all of natural life off the planet.

It is hard not to imagine the Seed Cathedral standing in a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland as a monument to the earth that was. I picture it as a utilitarian Stonehenge sparkling like a jewel, waiting for whatever life adapts to take our place long after we are gone.

Are we squirrels storing our nuts for the coming nuclear winter?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

SimulTube: Dark Side of NintendOZ

Play the following two Videos simultaneously. You may want to mute the second one.


My apologies to Brad Smith for pairing his amazing 8 Bit Dark side of the Moon with the worst video game ever.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dan Aykroyd, Crystal Skulls and Antihistamines

Last September UFO nut/paranormal activity enthusiast/ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd came to Washington State Liquor Store #101 to promote his new brand of celebrity vodka.

By the time I arrived there was a line of aging super-fan-ish SNL fans stretching circles around the block, apparently unaware that the man had given up his comedic past to dedicate the remainder of his terrestrial existence to lobbying for a seat on the departing Mothership.

When you get some free time, watch his self-produced documentary Dan Aykroyd:Unplugged for more details straight from the man himself.

Dan was dressed conspicuously incognito at his own event: navy blue windbreaker and matching nylon pants, large aviator sunglasses, and a low mesh ball cap.

It could have taken hours to wait through the line just for a handshake and an autograph, so I gave up on my hopes of getting him drunk and probing him for galactic secrets of the little grey men. I just bought his booze and went home.

Using ancient forgotten technologies, the silica molecules of the sparkling, skull-shaped Crystal Head bottle are all mystically aligned with the mysteries of the unknown. When Mr. Aykroyd stands upon the peak of the pyramid of Giza and sings a precise frequency, all of our bottles will vibrate, the skies will divide, and our pan-dimensional overlords will guide us toward our new found path of enlightenment

I refilled mine with DayQuil.


Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Construct a Time Machine

Thoughts of Time Travel have possessed my mind since early childhood when my Matchbox cars lived out epic battles to straighten out the space-time continuum. The Ferrari was the villain, the Datsun always saved the universe.

Upon reading an essay of the same name by my favorite 'pataphysician, Alfred Jarry, I willfully misinterpreted some of his absurd concepts and blended the with my own take on the nature of time and related these ideas to memories of brief romantic encounters.


(Lyrics)
I said to you and the dust
I'd like to be followed by my own horns
You said to yourself and the sand
You'd like to be lead by a cloud of freshly blown bubbles

But Sequence is a device
A time machine/space machine
A collision of altering accounts
As our bodies float downstream

tastebuds trace breasts like needle to an album
Skip back/ Skip forward/ Skip Forward
Tone arm grazes etched memories
Play me out of sequence. Play me.

Peel it back taste your lips taste our tats
We'll rotate as we laugh
At how space is bound down around us
We're independent variables at last

Our geometry is distinct in the front seat
Duration is an Oldsmobile stolen from another age
For joyride escape
I remember: a kiss, a lick, the inside of your wrists

To be locked in a box with inertia and explore her every avenue
Concurrently, a reciprocity, a temporal event
Our instant stretched into:
The traversed, the proper and to come

Untied from time with you
We're the same nature in different states
Alternate modes of motion with their denim causing friction
Charging membranes to collide
Causing causation, causing sensation and condensation, cause causality to unwind

And it's a forbidden simultanaeity
'Cause I'm there and I'm here
And you're still whispering in my ear
"Nibble, bite, lick me skinless"
Tug at her lips, I remember tugging at her lips
Concentrate.
Taffy-pull the moment into three dimensions
A panoramic illusion of voyages and landscapes lost
To transform together into an unchangeable object
Like the memory.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tetris Amnesia

Human Tetris 1


From wikipedia:

A recent Oxford study (2009) suggests Tetris-like video games may help prevent the development of traumatic memories. If the video game treatment is played soon after the traumatic event, the preoccupation with Tetris shapes is enough to prevent the mental recitation of traumatic images, thereby decreasing the accuracy, intensity, and frequency of traumatic reminders. "We suggest it specifically interferes with the way sensory memories are laid down in the period after trauma and thus reduces the number of flashbacks that are experienced afterwards.", summarizes Dr. Emily Holmes, who led the study.

Human Tetris 2


Some studies have asked soldiers based in Iraq to play Tetris in the next day after a violent encounter as therapy to replace images of violence and death with rotating colored tetrominoes.

Laser Skateboard Tetris


Kubrick's version of the Roman Army as seen in Spartacus went beyond this by actually having the army descend down the hill in tetris-like geometric shapes...very humane of them to wipe their victim's memory as they attack.

Kubrick Gladiator Tetris


Likewise, I recommend that you periodically watch one of the many variations of You Tube "Human Tetris" clips to tidy up the film that the internet leaves on the inside of your mind. I'ts like alternating shampoos to remove waxy build-up. One live tetrad per day will erase harmful youtube memories of bedroom acoustic covers and cute bulldog activities.