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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Commuting illustrator draws his fellow riders, publishes a newspaper for them containing his sketches

Commuting illustrator draws his fellow riders, publishes a newspaper for them containing his sketches:

Newspaper Club is a service in London that lets people publish super-limited-edition newspapers. They're always finding surprising and sweet niches for newspapers. One recent example is Steve Wilkin, an illustrator who rides the 7:38 train from Hebden Bridge to the University of Central Lancashire, where he teaches illustration. For ten years, he's been sketching the regulars on his train. Now, he's put out his own micro-newspaper, 738, containing a selection of those sketches, intended for the commuters he rides with every day.

For the past ten years he has been drawing people on his daily commute. A free newspaper gave him the inspiration to publish his sketchbooks in newspaper format. With funding from the contemporary arts development group (CADG) at the University of Central Lancashire he published 500 x 16-page traditionally-printed newspapers to give out to his fellow travellers.
738 – a journey in newsprint
(via Beyond the Beyond)

Art That Goes Bang: Cai Guo-Qiang's Gunpowder Paintings

Art That Goes Bang: Cai Guo-Qiang's Gunpowder Paintings:

Cai Guo-Qiang is making some of the most interesting and beautiful art of our time. He’s been a prominent artist around the world for twenty years or so. I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew nothing about him until just last year when a friend posted photos of his installation at Deustche Guggenheim in Berlin from 2006 on Facebook. The piece that struck me is called Head On and it fills a large room with a pack of 99 life-size wolf replicas leaping into a plate glass panel. It’s incredibly moving and gorgeous.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Head On (2006). Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Hiro Ihara and Mathias Schormann
So, I jumped at the chance when MOCA announced that Cai Guo-Qiang would be doing a series of paintings with imagery produced by exploding gunpowder here in LA and that the museum needed volunteers to assist on the project. I’m not sure why they accepted my application - I know they had far more interest than available slots, and most of my fellow volunteers were artists or art students. But I got lucky. Here’s what happened.

MOCA staff ushers 100 volunteers into bleachers in a large studio space within The Geffen Contemporary. Representatives from Cai Guo-Qiang’s studio let us know that Cai does not speak English and they will be guiding us through the process. Cai will be on hand to give us direction and feedback via the studio team. They also let us know that a documentary crew will be shooting the entire process and we should not wear skimpy clothing or items that could become revealing when we are hunched or stooped over. I hear this as “please nix the low-rise jeans that expose your ass crack when you bend down.”  We learn that pyrotechnics are a big part of making these artworks, and that this will be loud and smoky and that we should not participate in the process if this bothers us. I’m so in.

Cai Guo-Qiang and Kelly from Cai Studio organize the volunteers. photo by Russell Bates
DAY TWO - PREP (SUNDAY 10am-8pm)  
We are assisting on a 11x35 foot work entitled Chaos in Nature that will be detonated tomorrow. The painting depicts natural disruptions like volcanoes, tornadoes and tsunamis that are interwoven on seven panels.   Our tasks for the morning:
Plot out seven perfect adjoining areas on the floor that the canvas will lie on. This should be a team-building exercise for executives. Have you ever tried to draw a perfectly straight 35 foot line on the ground with a team of strangers? It’s not so easy. It takes  us several tries and there is a small Lord of the Flies-style power play to determine who will be the the line-drawer. I stay out of it and operate the tape measure.
Properly place specially-made canvas stretchers on the floor that prevent air from accumulating under the canvas. This is important because normal canvasses have an empty space underneath that would give the explosion too much air when the gunpowder explodes. The pyromaniac in me (ok, the pyromaniac that is me) craves the bigger boom, but we must stay on goal.
Perfectly tape together large sheets of cardboard without any gaps or overlap (that air/smoke/fire thing again) to be used as a giant stencil for the piece. This sounds easier than it is - lots of people start taping together cardboard before we determine how many sheets we need and how they should line up. There is a bit of chaos and then it all comes together.  
Cai Guo-Qiang walks over with a Sharpie mounted on a 4-foot stick and begins sketching. He is looking at photographs of natural phenomena and glancing at the images to help him understand the flow and motion of the natural events. He also has a sketch he made earlier to reference. He uses his entire arm when drawing to make sure that his motions mirror the flow of what he is depicting. This is the point where I realize that I am in the presence of a genius.

Sketch of Chaos in Nature, pencil on paper, 2012, courtesy Cai Studio
Cai comes back to the cardboard with a paint brush attached to another stick and begins fleshing out the image in black ink. Have I mentioned that this thing is huge? The brush strokes are like large-scale calligraphy.  
In the afternoon we cut out stencils of the art that Cai has painted. Our fancy tools: box cutters. Cutting nuanced brush strokes out of thick cardboard this way is difficult. By the way, it’s about 100 degrees in the workspace, and we’re wearing long-sleeved non-ventilating polymer volunteer t-shirts that we’re supposed to wear the entire time we are there. We are hot and sweaty. We are all on our knees on the concrete floor carving up the painting. There are many, many pieces. Cai wanders among us shyly. He sometimes stops and comments on work via a translator. He is clearly in control here and has a vision that we cannot see.
We also need to cut stencils for Friday’s super-huge painting entitled Childhood Spaceship. There are all sorts of printed-out images of everything from Albert Einstein to galaxies to hieroglyphics. I realize that Cai has given the volunteers some serious artistic license: there are lot of decisions to make when you’re cutting a stencil out of a photograph. I cut out aliens and spacemen and The Griffith Observatory with a ladder from the sky descending into it. The artist comes over and praises my work at one point and I am ridiculously buoyed.  

There are the aliens I cut out, post detonation! Detail from Cai Guo-Qiang, Childhood Spaceship, 2012, gunpowder on paper, 400 x 3300 cm (157 1/2 x 1299 3/16 in.), commissioned by The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, photo by Russell Bates
My knees, hands and back are all extremely sore from working on a concrete floor all day.  
Reps from a pyrotechnics company give us a safety talk. We are issued ventilation masks, goggles, rubber gloves and booties and told to wear them every time we are near gunpowder. We soon realize that we are going to be around gunpowder for the rest of the day and that none of us want to suffocate in all that gear. The booties stay on and we bail on the rest.  
30 of us move the giant stencil for Chaos in Nature on top of the canvas. The stencil is very delicate in places and we sometimes need to use poles to keep parts of it from dragging and ripping. Everything needs to be perfectly lined up on those lines we drew on the floor yesterday. There is some stress involved here.
Cai begins applying gunpowder to the stencil. He mostly tosses it onto the canvas in graceful, measured movements. He picks different colors and textures for different areas - some are powders and some look like small rocks. He is paying special attention to the volcano in the piece. We learn that he is getting a bit worried about the large amount of gunpowder he has put on the volcano area and that it might burn through the canvas.  

Cai Guo-Qiang sprinkling gunpowder onto canvas to create Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
We now need to carefully remove the stencil. This is a gigantic piece of cardboard and we need to lift it in one slow motion so as not to disturb the gunpowder on the canvas beneath. We also really, really can’t have scraps dragging on the canvas and wrecking the drawing. The good thing is that we’re all meshing as a team and are finally understanding our roles.  

Shadows created by stencil for Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Cai then begins painting more gunpowder onto the canvas around where the stencil was. He sometimes uses the powder and sometimes uses a brush on a stick doused with a gunpowder solution. This guy seriously likes gunpowder.
Now we need to find all of the scraps we cut out from the stencil and place them atop the canvas from the exact place they belong. I love this part - it’s like a huge and delicate jigsaw puzzle. This takes a couple of hours since there are so many cardboard scraps. This is another time where we SHOULD NOT DISTURB THE GUNPOWDER.
Cai lays several pieces of glassine on top of different parts of the original stencil and begins to draw more detail of the natural phenomena on them. We then cut all of these out and place these stencils precisely on the canvas where they get the gunpowder-painting treatment. Cai adds other painted details at this stage as well. I think the volcano may really erupt when this thing is detonated.

Cai Studio assistant with volunteers cutting glassine paper to create Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum patrons begin to arrive for the detonation and we’re not nearly ready. It’s weird to be observed while we scuttle about our tasks. Stress is building...
We make a cardboard blanket to go on top of the stencils. This needs to be the same size as the stencil and have no gaps in it for air or fire to get through. We are all trying to show off and get things done quickly and efficiently now that we have an audience.
The pyro guys begin placing fuses throughout the painting and around the perimeter. They talk to us again about the detonation process. We get giant cotton pompoms that we will use to extinguish embers and flames and remind us that we REALLY need to put on the masks, goggles and gloves now.  The cardboard blanket goes atop the canvas, stencils and fuses so that the explosion won’t get too much air when it goes off. We place bricks and stones atop the especially gunpowder-heavy areas, especially the volcano. We’re ready.
Cai talks to the audience through a translator. He morphs from this quiet, almost shy man to someone who loves the spotlight. He tells jokes. He talks about the process. He worries aloud about the volcano getting out of control. He praises the volunteers and we cheer.  
We’ve been waiting for Cai to light the fuse for three days, but it still seems sudden when he does. The explosion is extremely loud and the room fills with smoke. We scurry about, pom-pomming out small fires. Many of the volunteers move away from the fires, I am drawn to them. We extinguish all of the mini-fires quite quickly. Then we carefully lift all of the layers off, one by one. Some parts are burned through. The painting looks to be covered in dirt. We mill about and clean up all of the blown-up pieces.  

Ignition of Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Art handlers come in to lift the canvases off the frame and lean them against the wall. The excess gunpowder falls off. And oh my god, the painting is stunningly beautiful. The whole time we were building it, I wondered if all of the elements would work together to make a cohesive piece of art. I also had a some doubt as to whether the detonation process was a viable art form vs. a gimmick. The whole thing succeeds beyond what I’d imagined.  

Cai Guo-Qiag, Chaos in Nature, 2012, gunpowder on canvas, mounted on wood as eight-panel screen, 340.36 x 1066.8 cm (134 x 420 in.), commissioned by The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, photo by Joshua White, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angele
Prior to the detonation, Cai had spoken about working with large groups of volunteers and how it’s a lot like painting with gunpowder - you can’t completely control what happens. I love how comfortable he is with leaving parts of the process to chance. In previous works he’s released a live pigeon to track paint around a canvas and used electric fans to paint cyclones.
Cai Guo-Qiang’s exhibition is called Sky Ladder and includes three gunpowder paintings, a crop circle installation hanging from the ceiling, and videos of his previous work around the world. It’s his first west coast solo exhibition and opens at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles on April 8. There is also a Public Outdoor Explosion Event called Mystery Circle for MOCA members on April 7 that opens the show. There will be flying saucers and rockets and aliens. I’ll be there, and you should be too if you can. It’s a fascinating look at one man’s vision expressed through the hands of many workers.
Thanks to MOCA for photos and access, to Vanishing Angle Films for video and Russell Bates for additional photos.

Monstrous, grotesque and awesome sculptures of Thomas Kuebler

Monstrous, grotesque and awesome sculptures of Thomas Kuebler:

Thomas Kuebler's sculptures are a little bit Bosch, a little bit Jaffee, a little bit Wolverton, and a little bit EC Comics -- and a whole lot of awesome.
After two and a half decades of working in the corporate world of toy design prototypes and bringing robots to life in the animatronics field, Thomas Kuebler opted to explore his full creative potential as a freelance artist. Armed with the tools of his trade, a supportive wife, and the odd inhabitants of his own personal fiction, he set forth on a new mission to bring the world inside his head to life. His award-winning silicone character sculptures range in venue from museums to private collections to the offices of DC Comics and have been featured in publications such as Spectrum and Rue Morgue. Kuebler and his wife currently reside in North Carolina.
(via Neatorama)

Gross and tantalizing menu from the Explorer's Club dinner

Gross and tantalizing menu from the Explorer's Club dinner:
Last week's 108th annual Explorer's Club dinner at NYC's Waldorf-Astoria featured the customary assortment of weird, gross and tantalizing food, starting with cow eyeball martinis (see Paul Adams's photo, below, of the eyeballs). Popular Science has the whole menu. Here's what the canapes were like:

Pineapple towers with scorpion, pea pods, strawberry slices, melon balls and green grapes
Sweet cherry peppers, cucumber flowerets and cherry tomatoes filled with assorted creamed fillings: durian paste, herbed and spiced cream cheeses, and garnished with crickets, mealworms and scorpions
Two varieties of seaweed with mild spices and olive oil
Sautéed and deep-fried earthworms
Orchids (edible) with a honey-sweetened creamed dipping sauce
Chon and Kopi Luwak coffees, made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of small mammals
A Taste of Exotic Meats at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner
(via JWZ)


[Charlie Stross sees the future. I for one welcome our filesharing ratbot overlords. -Egg]
Pirate LOSS? An alternative ...:
I'm going to assume that you know who and what The Pirate Bay are.

The Pirate Bay just announced a nifty but somewhat questionable application for the Raspberry Pi low-cost Linux computer:
With the development of GPS controlled drones, far-reaching cheap radio equipment and tiny new computers like the Raspberry Pi, we're going to experiment with sending out some small drones that will float some kilometers up in the air. This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.

We're just starting so we haven't figured everything out yet. But we can't limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. For the proxy system we're building, that's more than enough.I applaud their ingenuity, but I think this can be improved upon.

The LOSS concept has several drawbacks. First among these is power consumption and payload weight constraints. The Raspberry Pi is a low power device, but still draws juice via micro-USB, at up to five watts. On top of which, TPB propose to broadcast a wifi signal from their LOSS drones. To blanket an area of a square kilometre with a strong enough signal to sustain a high data rate (they say around 100mbps) is going to take both a decent antenna and a fair amount of electricity. All of which is going to drive up the weight, complexity, and cost of the LOSS.

LOSS needs to either be self-sustaining (which implies solar propulsion, along the lines of ELHASPA or NASA's Pathfinder aircraft) or it's going to have to land regularly to take on fuel. (I am ruling out nuclear propulsion because I assume The Pirate Bay do not have access to a supply of fissionable materials. Otherwise, it's Game Over for the MPAA.) This means that a cat-and-mouse game can be easily won by the authorities; there's no need to deploy air-to-air missiles over built-up areas when you can just have the Police keep an eye out for pirates refuelling their drones after midnight.

The sad truth is, quadrotors and small UAVs have lamentably poor airborn endurance, with flight durations measured in double or triple digit seconds rather than minutes, let alone hours. And baloon-type UAVs have the slight problem of being at the mercy of the winds, or requiring an anchor cable (which again makes them trivially easy for the Police to take down).

Rather than looking up at the stars, I believe the Pirate Bay should be looking down at the sewers. Their robot minions would be better modelled on the humble sewer rat than on the soaring seagull.

In the city, you are never more than three metres away from a rat. They're spectacularly successful. We've built them a wonderful habitat replete with high-speed autoroutes — storm drains and sewers — and convenience stores to snack from in the shape of dumpsters and trash. And ground level is where most of us wifi users happen to be, most of the time.

Small ground-traversing robots would not be subject to the same weight penalties as airborn drones. The wifi range would be shorter, but their power consumption would be lower and they'd be far more concealable — it's quite easy to imagine a ratbot that is, literally, no larger than a real rat.

Powering ratbot would be easier, too. In suitably hospitable environments Pirate Bay operatives could lay down inconspicuous inductive charging mats plumbed into power outlets. Alternatively, SlugBot shows the way towards a truly autonomous ground-dwelling robot—one that hunts for biological prey, digests it, and uses an on-board microbial fuel cell to provide electricity. In an urban environment ratbot need not hunt and kill moluscs to survive; instead, it could subsist on pizza rinds and the dregs from Mountain Dew cans, which would doubtless be easier to stalk and kill. Indeed, the rich pickings behind any fast food outlet would attract ratbots to the very same location where bittorrent users might congregate to furtively use their provided bandwidth.

Finally, if ratbot detects the presence of Police ferretbots in the neighbourhood, it can make its escape in a number of ways — climbing a nearby wall, clinging to the underside of an automobile (an especially efficient way of spreading the mesh network to other cities), diving into a storm drain (better hope the waterproof seals hold!), or asking a friendly Pirate Bay user for a ride.

So tell me, what are your ideas for cool uses for RaspberryPi?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

[Wow. This seems like something *everyone* ought to have, at least the free PDF. -egg]
Where There Is No Doctor:
This is the only book in the world that will really help you be your own doctor. It tells you how to suture a wound, heal burns, make your own contraception, diagnose tropical skin diseases, and thousands of other do-it-yourself medical procedures you won't find elsewhere. Originally written (in Spanish) for para-medicals in the developing world, the medical instructions are clear, methodical, reliable, and helpful. Not all the content is emergency care; a lot is basic hygiene and preventative care.

This book is crammed with essential, life-saving knowledge for anyone living or traveling for long periods in undeveloped areas without doctors close by. It can be found in the packs of transcontinental bicyclists, arctic explorers, missionaries and Peace Corp folks. The book is too heavy to lug around in a tourist backpack, but it is also available as a free PDF. But even with access to modern medical facilities, I've found this book gives me an abbreviated medical school education. It offers very realistic first aid treatments (more than just bandages), and very easy-to-understand explanations of what doctors see in injuries. It can help you talk to doctors. Finally, when you are done traveling, leave this book behind with someone who can use it.

There is also a companion book, Where There Is No Dentist, equally good.

-- KK

Where There Is No Doctor

David Werner, Jane Maxwell, Carol Thuman

1992, 446 pages


Free PDF

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Giardia is a tiny parasite that lives in the gut and is a common cause of diarrhea, especially in children.


A lot of gas. This causes a swollen, uncomfortable belly, cramps, nausea, and a lot of farts and burps. The burps have a bad taste, like sulfur or rotten eggs.

Bad-smelling, yellow, and frothy (full of bubbles) diarrhea, without blood or mucus.

There is usually no fever.

It can last for weeks, causing weight loss and weakness.

A mild giardia infection is uncomfortable, but will usually get better on its own within about 6 weeks. Good nutrition helps. A long-lasting case, especially in a child, is best treated with metronidazole. Quinacrine is cheaper and often works well, but causes worse side effects.


where there is no doc.jpeg


where there is no doc1.jpg


where there is no doc 3.jpeg

THREE PANELS OPEN: Alessandro Romio

THREE PANELS OPEN: Alessandro Romio:

(Alessandro Romio)

Wooden skyscrapers: efficient, fire-safe, environmentally friendly(ier)

Wooden skyscrapers: efficient, fire-safe, environmentally friendly(ier):
An architect named Michael Green believes he can make wooden skyscrapers that stand 100 storeys tall, and he's prototyping the idea with a 30-storey wooden building in Vancouver. More wooden high-rises are planned in Austria and Norway. Green uses laminated strand lumber, a glue/wood composite, and has char buffers to give it good safety in fires. He claims that his buildings can be cheaper than comparable structures made from traditional steel and concrete, and will have a smaller carbon footprint.

Wood buildings lock in carbon dioxide for the life cycle of a structure, while the manufacture of steel and concrete produces large amounts of CO2 -- the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that for every 10 kilos of cement created, six to nine kilos of CO2 are produced.

Green's "Tallwood" structure is designed with large panels of laminated strand lumber -- a composite made of strands of wood glued together. Other mass timber products use layers of wood fused together at right angels that making they immensely strong and able to be used as lode bearing infrastructure, walls and floors.

Despite being made of wood any worries about towering infernos should be banished, says Green, as large timber performs well in fires with a layer of char insulating the structural wood beneath.

"It may sound counter-intuitive, but performing well in a fire is something inherent in large piece of wood, that's why in forest fires the trees that survive are the largest ones," he says.
Can wooden skyscrapers transform concrete jungles?(via Dvice)

In economically devastated Greece, internet-enabled barter economy rises

In economically devastated Greece, internet-enabled barter economy rises:

An interesting piece in the Guardian this week about cashless commerce in Greece, where the currency crisis has prompted citizens to take unusual measures to obtain essential goods. One exchange website in particular is cited, and a unit of barter known as "tems." The network has been online for about a year and a half. Snip from a portion of Jon Henley's report about the open-air markets where tems are exchanged for daily neccessities:
“They’re quite joyous occasions,” she said. “It’s very liberating, not using money.” At one market, she said, she approached a woman who had come along with three large trays of homemade cakes and was selling them for a unit a cake. “I asked her: ‘Do you think that’s enough? After all, you had the cost of the ingredients, the electricity to cook …’
“She replied: ‘Wait until the market is over’, and at the end she had three different kinds of fruit, two one-litre bottles of olive oil, soaps, beans, a dozen eggs and a whole lot of yoghurt. ‘If I had bought all this at the supermarket,’ she said, ‘it would have cost me a great deal more than what it cost to make these cakes.’”
What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software. No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.” And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something.

Read the rest here. (via Clayton Cubitt, photo: Lambros Kazan/Shutterstock)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trompe l'oeil graffiti vanishes Egyptian military barrier

Trompe l'oeil graffiti vanishes Egyptian military barrier:

Noordijk sez, "Egyptian graffiti artists make this military street barrier 'disappear.'"
Sheikh Rihan mural

3D-printed adapter bricks allow interconnection between ten kids' construction toys

[Sweet. -egg]
3D-printed adapter bricks allow interconnection between ten kids' construction toys:
Golan sez, "The Free Universal Construction Kit is a collection of adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems—enabling the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet, or unmeetable, by corporate interests."
F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab are pleased to present the Free Universal Construction Kit: a matrix of nearly 80 adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten* popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems—enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests.
The Free Universal Construction Kit offers adapters between Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob. Our adapters can be downloaded from and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models in .STL format, suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices like the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer).
OK, that's pretty badass right there.
The Free Universal Construction Kit