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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stone tools with plastic handles

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Stone tools with plastic handles

Israeli designers Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow presented their modern stone and flint tools at the Budapest Design Week. The pair combined hand-chipped blades and axes with modern high-impact plastic handles, to make tools that are beautiful and functional. I'd love to have one of those knives around the office. Designboom has more pics, and commentary:

the set is a result of an experimental exploration of the realm of tool making. where stone and flint tools have been the means of
our ancestors' survival for over a million years, they magnify our bodily (teeth, fingernails, fists etc.) capabilities of cutting and chopping,
sawing and pounding. through a method of three-dimensionally scanning and printing, the ancient artifacts are digitally outfitted with
custom-designed handles, encapsulating the rugged forms in a perfectly enclosed case. by juxtaposing the polarities of the
manufacturing processes in computer generated forms, an intersection of material technologies and functionality coincide on a tangible scale.

modern stone + flint tools by ami drach + dov ganchrow

(via Neatorama)

Junkbot bug assemblage sculptures: The Litter bug

Junkbot bug assemblage sculptures: The Litter bug:

Mark Oliver's Litter Bug series is a collection of assemble-sculpture insects made from urban found objects and laser-cut metal and wood. They're extraordinarily beautiful -- right up my street. They don't appear to be for sale, and more's the pity.

Arthropod sub-species of the Insecta class.
A creature whose instinctual and physical qualities have adapted so uniquely to the modern urban environment that it has rendered itself, by nature of camouflage, virtually invisible in it’s normal habitat.

When seen in isolation ‘Litter Bugs’ appear to be composed of everyday ‘found’ objects.

The Litter bug

(via Neatorama)

Frank Rich on Right-Wing Media -- New York Magazine

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Was Right to Laugh | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

Hauntologists mine the past for music's future

[Nice little video-ridden exploration of hauntology. -egg]

Hauntologists mine the past for music's future:


You may argue that pop culture has always drawn heavily on nostalgia, and you’d be right, but things have changed. What was once a dim memory, a wobbly VHS tape, a slice of warped vinyl, or a bootleg DVD or CD trading hands amongst enthusiasts has become a towering digital midden so huge that it threatens to impede our view of the future. The growth of online media channels means that the near-entirety of our cultures’ pasts have been excavated and placed on display for anyone to watch, hear, or read in an instant. Hence, hauntology.

At the heart of the musical micro-genre of hauntology is the sense of atemporality that underpins our present culture. Whether it’s musicians pastiching multiple past styles and genres in a single track, the endless cycle of remakes and sequels in cinema, or historical genre mashups in pop literature, our future is looking increasingly like our past, which now looks like the future, which looks increasingly like the past, and so on.

Back in 2006 Mark Fisher (author of the essential Capitalist Realism and the K-Punk blog first applied the name “hauntology” to an emerging field of music that he identified with the crackle-steeped, dubstep dérives of South London’s Burial and the music of the Ghost Box label. That label’s founders Jim Jupp and Julian House fused pop concrète, soundtrack and library music with sharp design and a swarm of esoteric pop-cultural references to create a parallel reality built upon memories of a very British past.

The term “hauntology” itself had first been discussed by the post-structuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida, as a play both on Karl Marx's introduction to the Communist Manifesto, “a spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”, and on the word 'ontology' (say it with a French accent). Derrida outlines the opaque art and science of ghosts in Ken McMullen's 1983 film Ghost Dance.

Most hauntological music has taken a playful approach to the past. Ghost Box’s nostalgic avant-electronica has appealed to more esoteric and largely British tastes, but Burial, Broadcast and The Focus Group’s Witch Cults Of The Radio Age (2009) and, more recently, Demdike Stare’s pulp-horror beats and library loops, have opened the pool of references and aesthetics out to a wider audience.

Hauntology may a thing of the past, but this of course means that it will always be with us. Time’s arrow is now a circle; how do you measure where a circle begins, or ends?
Well, I’m going to have a go. In a bid to map at least a fragment of its vast territory to those of you unfamiliar with it, I present a brief, personal survey of Britain’s haunted cultural landscape. Our ride on the ghost train will be all too brief, but these few stations will provide enough launching points for you to explore on your own.

We are, and always have been, a nation of ghosts. Few understood this fact better than a triumvirate of Victorian and Edwardian authors, who between them formed the basis for so much of the horror that was to follow.

MR James, whose shade celebrated its 150th birthday earlier this year, is still regarded by many as the finest ever writer of ghost stories in the English language. A professional historian, James was acutely aware that the shadows of the past could prey heavily upon the present.
Several of his tales were adapted for television in the 1970s, to be screened at Christmas, as if it wasn't grueling enough for most families already. This is perhaps the most disturbing of all the MR James TV adaptations: Lost Hearts (1973)

Welshman Arthur Machen maintained a career as a pragmatic Fleet Street journalist while dreaming up unsettling, timeless, and elegantly-crafted supernatural tales.
Like James, Machen drew attention to a past in danger of being buried by modernity, but his focus was on the landscape that he feared would soon disappear beneath bricks and mortar, and on the ancient others who, largely unseen, share that landscape with us. Once these Others were known as the Good Folk, or the Little People, and were treated with the utmost respect, until the Victorians tried to tame and belittle them as faeries. Machen knew better than that and presented them in their true guise: often beautiful, often terrifying and sometimes very hostile. The Shining Pyramid is one of the most explicit and bizarre expressions of this conflict between ancient and modern:

"Haunted, you said?"

"Yes, haunted. Don't you remember, when I saw you three years ago, you told me about your place in the west with the ancient woods hanging all about it, and the wild, domed hills, and the ragged land? It has always remained a sort of enchanted picture in my mind as I sit at my desk and hear the traffic rattling in the street in the midst of whirling London.

Machen’s spirit lives on in the work of contemporary artist Tessa Farmer, whose narrative sculptures centre around a species of hostile faeries. Some years after she had begun working on her sculptures, Tessa discovered that she was Machen’s great-granddaughter. The faeries live on, in her blood.
James and Machen’s contemporary Algernon Blackwood also shared a fascination with haunted landscapes, especially the great wildernesses of Europe and the Americas, which he deployed to chilling effect in The Willows (1907):

After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Budapesth, the Danube enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy blue, growing fainter in colour as it leaves the banks, and across it may be seen in large straggling letters the word Sumpfe, meaning marshes.

Incidentally, The Willows by Belbury Poly was the third release on the Ghost Box label.
As the Situationists were conducting their first psychogeographical explorations of urban environments in the 1950s and 1960s, Englishman Tom 'TC' Lethbridge was devising his own, simultaneously more mystical, more scientific and more Surreal, experiments with contacting the genius loci, the spirit of place, using pendulums, dowsing rods and other means of unconscious operation.

Lethbridge also originated the notion of the 'residual haunting', outlined in his 1961 book Ghost and Ghoul. This is the idea is that, under the right conditions, a powerful event – perhaps a death or an accident – can somehow be imprinted into a building or a landscape, leading to a haunting. This manifests as a kind of replay of the event, such as in the famous case of the Roman legionnaires marching, from the knees up, through a pub basement in York.

This concept would form the basis for a key hauntological text, Nigel Kneale's 1972 television play, The Stone Tape.

Here, as in many of Kneale's works, science and the supernatural collide as parapsychologists investigate a haunted mansion. State-of-the-art 1970s technologies – oscilloscopes, oscillators and tape recorders, also the tools of contemporary electronic musicians – are used to capture the tragic memories that haunt the building.

In the mystic haze of late '60s Britain, TC Lethbridge's ideas would converge with the ley line theories of Alfred Watkins, giving birth to the ‘Earth Mysteries’ movement (, and feeding the minds of New Wave psychogeographers Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd (Hawksmoor), Alan Moore (From Hell), and others whose ideas subsequently flowed into the hauntological timestream:

Another of Nigel Kneale's classic TV plays, Quatermass and the Pit (1955), about the excavation of a Martian spacecraft beneath Hobs Lane tube station in London, was a key reference point for Mount Vernon Arts Lab, whose 2001 album The Seance at Hobs Lane was a sonic touchstone for Ghost Box, who reissued it in 2006:

First releasing 7 inches in the mid-1990s, MVAL founder Drew Mulholland was heavily inspired by the far out electronic sounds created for the film and TV of his childhood (including Tristram Cary's music concrete atmospheres for the 1967 Hammer film adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit), and particularly the BBC’s legendary Radiophonic Workshop:

Another key player in MVAL’s haunted pantheon was the brilliant pop producer Joe Meek. Obsessed with flying saucers, spiritualism and the occult, during the 1960s Meek pumped dozens of exuberant-yet-melancholy pop tunes out of his cramped apartment on London's Holloway Road.

Despite scoring some major chart successes – most famously Telstar – Meek's burning ambition was routinely thwarted by the politics of the music business, while his own erratic personality, exacerbated by a serious drug habit and his homosexuality (still illegal at the time), drove him to a tragic end, shooting his landlady, and himself, at the age of 37.

For his album Seance at Hobs Lane, MVAL's early ditty Scooby Don't, was transformed into a synthesised funereal march, Hobgoblins, by another key hauntological progenitor, Coil. Here's the before and after.

Coil's music was always steeped with references, both explicit and hidden, to books, films, people and ideas that drew on similar pools of spectral pop culture.

Perhaps none better encapsulates this than ‘Going Up’ from their final album The Ape of Naples, finished after the death in 2004 of the group's founder, John Balance. The song transforms the opening title theme of a wildly popular, camp 1970s British department store comedy, Are You Being Served, into a transcendent, ascendant afterlife hymn for elegantly-attired spirits everywhere.

Who knows where our pasts will lead us next? Some fear that the sheer weight of available archive material is so overwhelming, and so alluring, that new generations of artists and musicians will be unable to escape from their retrospective orbits. This may be true for a while, but the future will find a way to leak through and catch up with us. And, rather than an all-consuming black hole, the vast weight of the past will slingshot us into a new, weird, and always-haunted future.

Dedicated to new ghosts: John Balance (2004), Peter Christopherson (2010), and Trish Keenan (2011)

Marshmallow Study and class

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Marshmallow Study and class

You've no doubt heard of Walter Mischel's Marshmallow Test and its followup study, which examined the relationship between delayed gratification (the ability to resist the temptation to eat a marshmallow right away with the promise of more if you succeed) and overall life success. Celeste Kidd, a U Rochester doctoral candidate, has published a paper in Cognition challenging Mischel's findings, arguing that children from more unpredicatable circumstances may choose the single marshmallow because they have a rational basis for suspecting that the experimenter is lying to them about the additional marshmallows that await them if they follow instructions.

The Marshmallow Test is sometimes used to suggest that people are poor because they have low self-control; Kidd's paper implies that poor people behave wisely when they grab opportunities as they present themselves, because they are often lied to when it comes to promises of greater rewards down the road.

Celeste Kidd adds:

The video discusses a study we recently did at the University of Rochester that revisits the original 'marshmallow task' experiments from Stanford in the 1960's. Our results suggest children's waiting during the marshmallow task might actually result from a rational decision-making process--not just a deficiency in self-control.

In the Stanford experiments, most children--75% of 3- to 5-year-olds in one study--appeared unable to resist the temptation of an immediate low-value reward (one marshmallow now) over a future high-value one (two marshmallows after 15 minutes). There's a popular misconception about these studies, though, which is that waiting for the second marshmallow is always the right thing to do. In fact, there are a lot of situations in which waiting is a bad idea. If you're skeptical that a second marshmallow will ever become available--or you believe there's a risk that your first marshmallow might be taken away--you should enjoy the smaller reward right away.

In our study, we preceded marshmallow-task testing with evidence that the experimenter running the study was either reliable or unreliable. Children who believed the experimenter was reliable then waited about four times longer before eating the marshmallow than those who thought she was unreliable (12 minutes vs. 3 minutes). These results suggest that children engage in very sensible decision-making that considers environmental reliability. They may also provide an alternative explanation for why marshmallow wait-times correlate with later life success--successful people grow up in reliable situations. Broadly, the study illustrates that children build a model of the reliability of others' behavior--and use this model to inform their decisions.

photojojo:We just had to show you these photos from the...


We just had to show you these photos from the...

We just had to show you these photos from the Thai Yi Peng celebration! The lanterns are made of a type of rice paper, and then a tiny candle is balanced in the middle.
Paper Lantern Constellation Marks the Yi Peng Celebration in Thailand
via DemilkedTaradol Chitmanchaitham

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kid Koala CD comes with a build-your-own-turntable kit and a flexidisc

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Kid Koala CD comes with a build-your-own-turntable kit and a flexidisc

A Canadian musician called DJ Kid Koala has released a new album called 12-Bit Blues that comes with a kit for building your own miniature cardboard turntable, and a bonus two-track flexidisc to play on it. You spin the disc by hand, choosing the tempo that feels best to you. Here's a description from Springwise:

Although the record is being released on CD and LP – as well as digitally – those purchasing a limited edition physical copy will also get a flatpack kit that will enable them to construct a miniature working turntable and speaker resembling a gramaphone. The device is made of only cardboard and a sewing pin that acts as the needle. The package also includes a flexidisc containing three bonus tracks, which can be played on the turntable by rotating the disc by hand. The album itself is a nostalgic take on blues and hip-hop and the turntable addition is designed to invoke the old-time aspect of blues music and toy-building activities reminiscent of childhood, as well as forcing the listener to put in some work and attention in order to hear the music.

Musician offers working DIY cardboard turntable with album

Buy 12-Bit Blues

(via Techdirt)

Game of Life with floating point operations: beautiful Smoothlife

Game of Life with floating point operations: beautiful Smoothlife:

Smoothlife (paper, source code is a floating-point version of the old Game of Life, a classic of evolutionary computing and genetic algorithms. By adding floating point math to the mix, Smoothlife produces an absolutely lovely output:

SmoothLife is a family of rules created by Stephan Rafler. It was designed as a continuous version of Conway's Game of Life - using floating point values instead of integers. This rule is SmoothLifeL which supports many interesting phenomena such as gliders that can travel in any direction, rotating pairs of gliders, wickstretchers and the appearance of elastic tension in the 'cords' that join the blobs.
(via JWZ)

"A single mysterious computer program that placed orders — and then subsequently canceled them — made..."

"A single mysterious computer program that placed orders — and then subsequently canceled them — made...": “A single mysterious computer program that placed orders — and then subsequently canceled them — made up 4 percent of all quote traffic in the U.S. stock market last week, according to the top tracker of high-frequency trading activity. The motive of the algorithm is still unclear.”

Mysterious Algorithm Was 4% of Trading Activity Last Week - - US Business News - CNBC
Also, expect to read sentences like “the motive of the algorithm is still unclear” a lot in the coming years.
(via mwfrost)

Rain room lets you walk between the drops

Rain room lets you walk between the drops:

The Rain Room, an exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, is a room from whose ceiling torrential rain falls. However, a series of 3D cameras are used to track where people in the room are, and it selectively stops the rain such that you effectively walk between the drops.

Random International invites you to experience what it’s like to control the rain. Visitors can choose to simply watch the spectacle or find their way carefully through the rain, putting their trust in the work to the test.

More than the technical virtuosity necessary for its success, the piece relies on a sculptural rigour, with the entire Curve transformed by the monumental proportions of this carefully choreographed downpour and the sound of water.

Random International: Rain Room

(via Kottke)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1820 advice on how to beat the blues

1820 advice on how to beat the blues:
Excellent advice for maintaining a positive outlook. From the wonderful blog, Futility Closet.

A letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth (right), Feb. 16, 1820:

Dear Lady Georgiana, -- Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done -- so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.

2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.

3rd. Amusing books.

4th. Short views of human life -- not further than dinner or tea.

5th. Be as busy as you can.

6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.

7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment.

9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.

10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.

11th. Don’t expect too much from human life -- a sorry business at the best.

12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.

13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.

14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.

16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.

17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th. Keep good blazing fires.

19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana,

Very truly yours,

Sydney Smith

Bacteriogoraphs of famous scientists in petri dishes

Bacteriogoraphs of famous scientists in petri dishes:

Zachary Copfer is a microbiologist and artist who creates portraits of his favorite scientists from living bacterial emulsions in petri dishes. I find what he wrote here to be inspiring:

When I was an undergraduate perusing a degree in Biology, I found myself utterly mesmerized by what I was learning. Each day’s lecture brought to my attention new insights into the complex systems at work in the world around me. The more I learned, the more mystified I became. Science grew into a way for me to revel in the beauty of the universe. I began to better understand and appreciate my place among all of the other particles floating in space. After obtaining my bachelors degree, I began working as a microbiologist in a commercial lab setting. Quickly I began to lose sight of all that I had found romantic about science. Shortly after this disinfatuation of science, I began an adventure into the field of photography. Photography developed into my new method of inquiry. Everything that I had missed about science I rediscovered in photography. For me, the two seemingly disparate fields of study served the same purpose, a way to explore my connection to everything else around me. As a former microbiologist recently turned visual artist, I seek to create work that is less of an intersection of art and science and more of a genuine fusion of the two.

"Bacteria Portraits, Bacteriogoraphy" (via Smithsonian)
Previously: "Photosensitive bacteria art"

Saroo’s Google-Earth Quest: How an Orphaned Boy Found His Way Home as Grown Man | Vanity Fair

[The future is very strange these days. -egg]

Monday, October 8, 2012

Steve Jurvetson, on Rose’s Law for quantum computers

Steve Jurvetson, on Rose’s Law for quantum computers:

If you are a nerd and you're not following Steve Jurvetson on Flickr, you should correct that. Why? Posts like this one, in which the VC and tech-thinker explores interesting things in interesting ways. "Barring a fracture of physics, we may be able to build quantum computers more powerful than the entire universe within 3 years. They harness the refractive echoes of many trillions of parallel universes to perform a computation, unlike anything we have seen before." Check out the full post, with annotations and more thoughts.

The music of the primes

The music of the primes:

Little-scale offers music procedurally-generated from prime numbers. A "full version", available for download, is 26 hours long. [Little-Scale]