June 24, 2012

The origami artist vs. the painter

Photo of Sarah Morris paintings

So often copyright cases are easy… an underdog citizen on one side, a huge corporation and evil unfair current copyright law on the other. But here's a copyright dispute where it's possible to be sympathetic to both sides.

Robert Lang is perhaps the greatest living origami artist. He's pushed the bounds of this ancient art and is the creator of numerous works that will make you say "I can't BELIEVE that's a single piece of folded paper!" (See for yourself).

Lang begins many of his projects by creating a crease pattern…a diagram showing how to fold a piece of paper to achieve the desired end product. (Here's a sample of some of Lang's crease patterns). The patterns themselves are attractive works of art -- intricate grids of lines dividing and re-dividing the paper into smaller and smaller regions.

Enter painter Sarah Morris. She saw Lang's crease patterns and used them as the basis for a series of large brightly-colored abstract paintings.

Lang says Sarah Morris ripped off his work. Morris says nonsense, that while she used the crease patterns as a jumping off point her finished paintings are unique independent works. In the words of copyright law, Morris maintains that her canvases are "transformative" works and therefore she did not infringe on the copyright Lang holds on his crease patterns.

Lang disagrees, and is suing Morris.

What do YOU think?

(via Make magazine and kpcc.org).

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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June 15, 2012

Zach Lieberman's poem to the endless frustration and reward of interactive art

photo from Zach Lieberman and Golan Levin's REFACE project. Photo lifted from http://thesystemis.com/projects/reface/

At the just-concluded eyeo festival in Minnesota, renowned interactive artist Zach Lieberman gave a moving poetic address to all those flailing in the vaguely defined constantly changing world of interactive art. A world rife with "memory leaks, compiler error, uninitialized variable, lighting, bad lighting, someone trips on a cable, plugged into the wrong socket, don't have the right adapters, projector is broken, missing flights, getting lost, loosing stuff, batteries run out, logic errors and syntax errors."

He did a great job inspiring everyone in the room. Read the whole thing, and be re-inspired too. Here's an excerpt…

this is a love letter to those who are on the frontlines, and if you are not on the frontlines, an invitation to join us. What I say to students is the world is hungry for ideas. We need you.

This is A love letter to those who are conquering quaternions, who are mastering matricies, who are decoupling and recoupling, who are soldering with their right hand, eating a sandwich with their left hand, on hold with digikey, to those who are writing code in taxis, who are pulling from git in the airport, whose hotel rooms and office rooms and bedrooms look like warzones, to those who are in the zone, out of the zone, trying to find the zone - to the countless hours of determination, will power, and ingenuity that go into working with this medium.

and so I say: go.

press play.


turn on the power, turn off the lights, turn on the lights, open the curtain, open the doors, start the show, invite people, post the video, send the link, push the code to git, hit save, hit run, run with it.

go with it.


what is the worst that can happen?

Zach's posted the full thing on github (which BTW may be a first, using github as a repository for an inspirational address).

If you want to learn more about the great work of Zach Lieberman and his collaborators, check out his site at thesystemis.com.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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July 17, 2011

Can this monkey copyright his self portrait?

monkey self portrait

There's a wonderful kerfuffle going on right now around this photo. It's a self portrait, taken by a macaque monkey in Indonesia, shortly after the monkey nipped the camera of nature photographer David Slater (evidently the monkey accidentally snapped the shots while looking at its reflection in the lens). By itself the pictures are charming, but then the question arose, who owns the copyright to the photos?

The company that distributes Slater's work, Cater News Agency, wasted no time in claiming the copyright. But not so fast! The website TechDirt posted an essay pointing out that by default the photographer of a picture holds the original copy. Which in this case would be the monkey. But in many nation's copyright laws (including the US) it specifically that copyright applies only to works made by humans. So maybe no one holds the copyright.

Of course, Cater News Agency is adamantly against that point of view, photo agency's business model being based on strong copyright enforcement.

Art Info has all of the details.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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April 19, 2011

Creating TRON:LEGACY's computer displays

Image from TRON: Legacy

If you're making a move that takes place entirely inside of a computer, the computer displays better kick all kinds of ass. For TRON: Legacy digital designer Joshua Nimoy got the call to come up with everything from hacker computer screens to world maps to 3-D virtual hearts.

Nimoy's written a great blog post detailing some of the techniques he used. Among other things he recorded himself using emacs, and built software tools that would let the movie's visual artists generate custom shaped fireworks.

DISCLOSURE: I work at the Walt Disney Company, the company that made TRON:Legacy (but I work in the division that does internet stuff and games, not the part that does movies or videos).

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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April 17, 2011

Katharina Grosse

screen capture from Katharina Grosse's website

I was going to write about German artist Katharina Grosse's huge dazzling works of bright vibrant color created via her tool of choice... the industrial paint sprayer.

But then I visited her website, www.katharinagrosse.com. At first I was a bit annoyed at the interface, but after a few minutes I've come to really like it. No display of her art whatsoever on the home page, just an endless procession of lowercase text that are all hyperlinks. You are forced to click and explore. Which you are happy to do, since each link brings up another technicolor(*) work. Now I'm starting to wonder why don't more artists do their websites like this?

If you really just want to see a bunch of her pieces at once, use this Google image search.

If you want to see her work in person, road-trip your ass to MASS MoCA in north western Massachusetts where she has an installation on exhibit through the end of October, 2011.

(*)Yes, I know that Technicolor is the trademarked term for several types of color motion picture processes. But I was having trouble coming up with other adjectives for really bright vibrant colors.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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April 03, 2011

Houdini's prop list

screen shot of part of Houdini's prop list

If you're the world's greatest magician it takes a lot to put on a show. Back in the day, before Harry Houdini hit the stage he needed (among other things) 100 gallons of boiling water, a fire hose, four gold chairs, and a 3 foot 6 inch step ladder (mahogany colored if possible).

See the full list here.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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March 31, 2011

Was The Shining made to be watched backwards?

images from The Shining played backwards and forwards

It's beyond question that Stanley Kubrick was a great film-maker. And you can make a very strong argument that he was one of the great artists of the 20th century. But some take it further, claiming that Kubrick was nothing short of a bona fide genius.

I just came across an argument in support of that last point, courtesy of Joanne McNeil's Tomorrow Museum. An article there delves into the uncanny symmetries that are revealed when you watch Kubrick's 1980 horror film The Shining forwards and backwards, at the same time.

According to the article, scenes match up too often to be just coincidence, and suspiciously often characters and objects are in what appear to be carefully designed juxtaposition. If this is true...that Kubrick thought this all out and pulled it off during the shooting and editing of the film...well then words just fail me.

If you want to take the forward and backwards plunge into The Shining (or for that matter any film) yourself, David Wolf has created a Mac App that will play any video file backwards and forwards at the same time.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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March 07, 2010

Godzilla haiku

sample image from http://godzillahaiku.tumblr.com/

Sure, Godzilla is the oldest and most bad-ass of all kaiju, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soul.

The best website I've found in months is devoted to the big guy's inner turmoil. It's called "Godzilla Haiku". I don't know anything about the person or persons behind it, but I know a work of genius when I see one.

So far Godzilla's only laid down a few haiku. Here's hoping for many more!

Comments to "comments at spurgeonworld dot com"

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March 02, 2010

TV Show Posters

TV posters

Combining his loves of television and modernist posters, Austrian designer Albert Exergian has created a series of posters for some of TV's most memorable shows. (Pictured above, "MacGyver" and "True Blood"). They're available for purchase on the Blanka web site.


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August 21, 2009

Join Or Die

image from Justine Lai's Join or Die

OK, no middle of the road on this one, you're either gonna love it or you're gonna hate it.

San Francisco artist Justine Lai is in the midst of creating a series of oil paintings called "Join or Die". The series consists of self-portraits of Lai imagining herself having sex with each of the US Presidents, in chronological order. (Pictured above is Lai's tryst with the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams).

Lai says she hopes the paintings will help humanize the presidency, and that the images will be seen as "playful and tender and maybe a little ambiguous".

You can judge for yourself on her website, where her first 18 paintings (Washington to Grant) are on view. (NOTE: Many of the images are not safe for work).

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August 20, 2009

The micro sculptures of Willard Wigan

David by Willard Wigan

Here's a tiny bit of astonishing beauty to get you to the weekend. British sculpture Willard Wigan has creates of works of art that are so astonishingly small that they defy belief. To Wigan, the head of a pin is a full-sized pediment, and one of his works has not one, but nine, meticulously crafted camels passing through the eye of a needle.

Wigan works with tiny hand made knives, fly hair paint brushes, and microscopes for his tools, and pieces of fluff plucked out of the air, tiny shards of glass and plastic, and spiders webbing for his materials. He typically spends weeks...sometimes months...crafting each piece, working in the space between heartbeats when his hand is steadier, and holding his breath lest he accidentally inhale one of his creations.

In a surprisingly moving talk at a TED conference this summer, Wigan recounts the difficulties he had in school, how he began spending his time making tiny houses for the ants in his yard, and how that led him to a realization of the infinite possibility of the infinitesimally small. Here's a video of his TED talk.

There's almost certainly no way you could afford one of Wigan's sculptures (he can only make a few a year, and the waiting list is a mile long) but his website does offer beautiful prints of his works for sale, such as the statue of David perched on a pin (with an aphid fly for scale).

Comment welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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August 13, 2009

3.16 Billion Cycles

photo of Che-Wei Wang's 3.16 billion cycles clock

My obsession with clockwork movements shows no sign of abating. The latest to catch my eye is artist Che-Wei Wang's 3.16 Billion Cycles. It's a clock movement driven by a motor that rotates once a second. The following pulley rotates once every 5 seconds (1:5 ratio). The next rotates once every 60 seconds or 1 minute. Then 5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, and 1 decade. The decade wheel carries the load of the large arc. The large arc rotates once every century. The final ratio between the 60 rpm motor and the large arc is approximately 1:31.6 billion.

Of course, there's every possibility that Che-Wei is a few months away from getting a practical lesson in power train torque and that the motor may not be able to send enough power to move the outer arc. (And of course simple problems like that are NOTHING compared to what the Clock of the Long Now team is up against) but it's still a fascinating piece, one that gets better over time.

Comments? Email me at comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

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February 24, 2009

Give me Freehand, or give me death

Excerpt of Design Republic's save Freehand poster

If you're a digital graphic designer, the odds are overwhelming that you use two tools to create your images... Photoshop and Illustrator, both made by Adobe.

But, according to an article on Creative Review, there's a tiny dedicated minority out there who pledge their allegiance... and their clients' artwork... to a obsolete and discontinued program called Freehand.

Freehand was originally made by a company called Aldus. Aldus got bought by a company called Macromedia, and then a few years ago Macromedia got bought by Adobe.

Since Adobe already made -- and heavily promoted -- two graphics programs of their own, it came as no suprise when they announced back in 2007 that there would be no further Freehand updates. Since then Freehand disciples have lovingly guarded their aging software (for instance some designers make sure to never update any software on the machine holding their precious Freehand, just in case some random new printer driver or security patch could be Freehand-incompatible).

There's more than just stubbornness or technophobia going on here. An artist's tools are an extension of their mind and soul, and you trifle with them at your peril. I'm usually all about change, but if I had a design gig to farm out and had to choose between a designer who creams over the latest features in Illustrator and one who has a solid decade with Freehand, and can make it do exactly what they want it to do without hesitation, I may just have to go with the Freehand guy.

By the way, the image illustrating this post is from a limited-run poster called "I Would Save Freehand" by the influential British design firm The Designers Republic.


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February 16, 2009

Data + Art

still image from Radiohead's House of Cards video

If, like me, your favorite thing in life is the beautiful display of complex data, you gotta make it to Pasadena, California, for the best art exhibit of the year.

Data + Art: Art and Science in the Age of Information at the Pasadena Museum of California Art has brought together some of the most notable recent infoporn works, as well as some timeless classics.

There's a working installation of the laser ranging system that Aaron Koblin used to create Radiohead's mind-blowing "House of Cards" music video, as well as a couple other of Koblin's best-known works, the time-lapse display of air traffic, and the hundred dollar bill drawn by 10,000 anonymous online workers.

There's an adorable pair of tiny solar powered robots who draw patterns in response to light in the gallery, amazing MRI videos looking inside an egg at the bird developing inside, an actual copy of the Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Disc, and a wall-size homage to perhaps the greatest data chart ever created, Charles Minard's graph of the destruction of Napolean's army in Russia.

The show runs through April 12. As an added bonus, there's a couple of really great mini-exhibits running simultaneously at PCMA: 3-D stereo murals of Mars from JPL, and stunning electron microscope images by David Scharf.

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February 15, 2009

We're All Gonna Die

image from We're All Gonna Die

A little bit of beauty at the end of your weekend... as veryshortlist.com tells it, Danish photographer Simon Hoegsberg spent nearly three weeks photographing pedestrians as they walked across a bridge in Berlin. Hoegsberg then montaged the portraits into a 100 meter long uber-mural.

Scroll through the online version of the mural, and see if you get the same slightly surreal feeling that I did.

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February 03, 2009

The Impossible Project

photo of Polaroid film machine

One of my most prized possessions is an original Polaroid SX-70 camera, IMO one of the greatest technical achievements of the 20th century. But alas, even brilliant design objects like the SX-70 eventually lose their sheen, and decline in popularity. Polaroid stopped making SX-70s in the late 1970s.

Happily however, Polaroid kept making SX-70 film (which also worked in later model Polaroid cameras) for another 30 years, finally ceasing film production in last June.

You would think that would be that...Polaroid aficionados would use up their remaining film stock, and then move on to other things. But you underestimate just HOW SERIOUS a Polaroid obsession can be.

Case in point...a group of Polaroid users has leased a closed SX-70 film manufacturing plant in the Netherlands, hired a team of film chemistry experts from around the world, and set themselves the task of reverse engineering Polaroid film packs and then manufacturing new batches of SX-70 compatible film that matches, or even exceeds, the specs of the original. They are aiming to have the first film packs roll off their assembly line in 2010.

This is such a crazily complex mix of chemistry, mechanical engineering, electronics, assembly and testing that the folks behind the idea chose the most obvious name for their dream, The Impossible Project.

I'll be watching their progress (they have a mailing list), hoping they can do the impossible, and let my beloved SX-70 live again!

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December 09, 2008

Mona Lisa created via genetic programming

Computer generated Mona Lisa images

If you wrote a computer program that threw pixels on the screen in the hopes that it would create something that looked liked the Mona Lisa you'd have to wait for... well, forever.

But if you added a bit of natural selection to that process... take a bunch of copies of the program, compare their output to the real Mona Lisa, keep the ones that match the best, tweak 'em, check their output again, repeat about a million times, and voila!...the Mona Lisa, generated via genetic programming.

Swedish programmer Roger Alsing did just that, knocking out a program in C# that uses genetic programming to get closer and closer to an exact copy of DiVinci's masterpiece.

Interested? Check out the details of Alsing's project.

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December 04, 2008

DIY Lenticular Printing

screenshot from snapily.com
Lenticular priniting is an odd little backwater of the graphics world. That technique that combines multiple images with a plastic lens overlay that makes the image appear to change as you move it has long been used primarily for cheezy stuff(*) like Cracker Jack prizes and creepy Catholic art of the Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

But not any more! Now anyone can make their own lenticular images. An online service called Snapily lets you upload your own images and have them turned into lenticular business cards, notecards, notebook covers, etc. (A typical price is about eight bucks for a pack of 20 business cards). In the near future they plan to add the ability to take a short video clip, strip out the frames and make a multi-image lenticular "movie" card.

(*)A big exception are the Panamaps by Urban Mapping. They use lenticular technology to combine transit, street, and neighborhood views of Manhattan and Chicago into the same map. My vote for the cleverest piece of cartography of the last decade.

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August 03, 2008

The Toaster

photo of The Toaster

A friend pointed me to this great art exhibit from a few years ago called The Toaster. It's a giant (3 yard wide) mural of a piece of toast, made from 2,500 pieces of actual toast.

It took days for artists Ingrid Falk and Gustavo Aguerre to crank out the pieces of toast in every shade from off-white to charcoal black.

The self-referential concept of an image made out of the thing being represented (that is, a picture of toast being made out of toast) really appeals to me. I can't think of another example of this anywhere in art. That surely can't be right, can it? If you can think of one, post a comment, or just shoot me an email at chris-at-spurgeonworld-dot-com.


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June 12, 2008

7 in Seven

clam gum image from 7 in seven

New York University's Interactive Telecommunication Program (NYU ITP for short) has always sounded like one of the coolest grad programs around, with students coming up with all sorts of mind-bending projects that blur the line between art and technology.

This year a group of ITP students are doing a fun project... each day for seven days each student has to execute a new creative project. The project runs the gamut from videos to strangely modified clothing to my favorite... hand made clam-flavored gum.

The 7 in Seven Project is still underway. Check back and see what they come up with today!


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June 10, 2008

Photos recreated in Legos

lego photo by Balakov. Available under CC license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/balakov/2377782949/in/set-72157602602191858/

It's a basic truth... everything looks better interpreted through Legos. Photographer Mike Stimpson obviously agrees. He re-stages history's most famous photographs using Lego blocks and tiny Lego people, and then photographs his recreations.

They run the gamut from funny, to cute and innocent, to disturbing (whether or not the photo of a Vietnamese monk burning himself to death should be Legofied is left as an exercise for the reader). Check out his flickr.com page for the full Lego gallery. Stimpson also offers some of the images for sale as large prints.


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May 09, 2008

Green porno

Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno

For the last few months The Sundance Channel has been showing a odd and wonderful series of short films called "Green Porno". The shorts star actress Isabella Rossellini portraying a wide variety of invertebrates in the act of reproduction. The films have this great low-budget feel to them, with no special effects other than Rossellini's school play looking costumes. And the mating habits of these creatures are truly bizarre and eye-opening. So if you're interested in invertibrate behavior, or watching Isabella Rossellini mate, or both, Green Porno is worth checking out.


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March 16, 2008

Still Alive

screen shot from Portal

For a little while now one of the songs in heaviest rotation in my personal music universe has been a soft, haunting ballad sung by a computer program. It's a tune called "Still Alive" from the video game Portal. As I understand it(*), in the game you take the role of test subjects, trying out a hyper-advanced new gun that blasts holes through the space-time continuum. As you move through progressively more hairy test courses you receive instructions, snide comments and encouragement ("If you live, there will be cake") from an artificial intelligence robot with a flat synthesized female voice. (Here's a trailer of the game). Make it all the way to the end, and the AI bot serenades you with "Still Alive" as the closing credits roll.

The song was composed by Jonathan Coulton, who's picked up a bit of minor cult fame for it, including performing it last week for a crowd at SXSW. The song is also going to be included as a number in the popular video game Rock Band.

Meanwhile, I find myself charmed by the song's mix of melancholy and optimism. Now, it times of struggle, I say to myself, "You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake."

Listen to "Still Alive"

(*) Disclaimer: I've never actually played Portal since I don't have a high end game console or a PC. Lame, but then you don't have a working SX-70 and Apple Newton.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2008

Best band logos of all time

Beatles logo

It doesn't matter how hard your band rocks, you could still benefit from a kick-ass logo. Just ask Aerosmith, or the Ramones, or Korn, or Phish. (The Grateful Dead took this to the extreme, having a visual iconography as large and varied as Tibetan Buddhism).

Spinner.com lists their picks for the 25 best band logos of all time. See if their faves match yours.

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February 07, 2008

Oh Noes! No more Polaroid film!

photo of an SX-70 camera

Maybe I'm just getting old, but these days it just seems like the the end of one era after another. The latest change to cut me to the quick is Polaroid's announcement that they're going to stop making instant film. Once upon a time, Polaroid camera were THE BOMB. "You mean you can see the picture right away, without having to have the film developed? It's a miracle!"

And then, in the early 1970s when the SX-70 camera came out, it was hailed as a stunning technical achievement. But the rise of digital photography has made instant developing chemical-based film an anachronism. Nothing lasts forever I guess. Meanwhile, I'll be scrambling to buy up a bunch of film for my vintage SX-70.

By the way, all of this is a perfect excuse to watch this mashed up SX-70 video. It's from a demo film of the camera made in the early 70s by the great design team of Charles and Ray Eames. But here the original soundtrack has been stripped out and replaced by the punk band The Cramps performing "Garbageman". Why? I have no idea. But it works.

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November 21, 2007

Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible

illustration of Leviticus 13:43 from the Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible Project

A friend just turned me on to an oddly charming bit of religious devotion, The Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible Project. The group's idea is to acquire an illustration to accompany every single verse of the Bible. Given that there's more than 36,000 Bible verses, it's an extremely ambitious project. And since they're just under 10% of the way there, which means there's plenty of room for you!

Don't worry, you don't have to be a DiVinci to take part. They happily accept art work from people of all skill levels and age levels. For instance, the image above is someone's interpretation of Leviticus, Chapter 13, Verse 43(*)...

Then the priest shall look upon it: and, behold, if the rising of the sore be white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the leprosy appeareth in the skin of the flesh.

Not religious? Me neither. But no matter, just pick a verse, let your imagination go, and see what you can come up with.

(*)Chapters 13 through 15 of Leviticus are the Bible's answer to Rook's Textbook of Dermatology, laying down how Biblical-era priests should deal with a gnarly assortment of skin rashes and genital discharges.


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October 29, 2007

Helvetica movie out on DVD

poster for Helvetica movie

Just a heads up that next week Gary Hustwit's great documentary Helvetica comes out on DVD. It's avaible for pre-order right now on the Helvetica website for only $20. A steal! It's a must-own for any fan of design, graphics, or how we're all shaped by popular culture.

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September 28, 2007

The sand art of Andres Amador

image of a sand pattern by Andres Amador

Kevin Kelly directed me to the art of Andres Amador. Armed with a rake, some rope, and a deep knowledge of sacred geometry, Amador creates intricate patterns in the sand near his home in San Francisco. (You might also have seen his work on the playa at Burning Man).

Amador's website has a gallery of his sand art, as well as a mailing list sign up, so you can find out when and where he'll next be turning the beach into art.

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August 22, 2007

Keepon rocks the house

still image from Keepon's video with Spoon

Back in March I wrote about the tiny robot Keepon as a harbinger of the next generation of robots...ones that are friendly, empathetic, and generally a pleasure to be around.

Now it turns out that Keepon isn't just adorable, he's a rock star! Check him out co-starring with the rock band Spoon in the music video of their song "Don't You Evah". Check it out on beatbots.org.

And catch Keepon and Spoon performing live in LA on September 10th, as part of the Wired NextFest.

Tags: Keepon  robots

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August 08, 2007

Lunch in a Box

photo of Bento box from lunchinabox.net

There is a special place in my heart for those who take mundane tasks and imbue them with art...Gap workers who turn folding T-shirts into intricate choreography...auto body workers who using only Bondo and belt sanders create precise and complex shapes...janitors who guide a 200-pound floor polisher down a hallway like Astaire guiding Rogers.

Add to that list Biggie, the creator of the website Lunch In A Box, a website devoted to one woman's exploration of the Bento Box, those Japanese-based meals consisting of several small items artistically arranged in an easy-to-carry container.

Flip through several days worth of the site's entries (complete with yummy pictures) and see if you don't start yearning for more than your regular PB&J in a paper bag.

Tags: food  bento

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July 26, 2007

Pimp my rice paddy

photo of rice paddy from Pink Tentacle
Kudos to both Pink Tentacle and Salon's How The World Works for calling attention to the amazing rice fields of Inakadate, Japan. Each years farmers there mix three different varieties of rice plants together in their fields. Since the plants have different colored leaves the rice paddies turn into beautiful, intricate images that can be seen only from the air.

Farming of any variety is such a hard business, ya gotta love it when farmers take a little extra time and make some art in the process. Pink Tentacle has some additional photos of past years efforts.

To see the other end of farm crop related craziness (making art from the harvested product), hop in your car, drive to Mitchell, South Dakota, and be amazed by the Mitchell Corn Palace.

Tags: rice  farming

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July 03, 2007

2001 poster

image of Brendan Dawes 2001 poster

Take a copy of Stanley Kubrick's film masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. Capture a single frame of the movie every second. Average out the color of every pixel of the frame and draw a tiny square of that average color. Repeat that process for all 9,000 or so seconds of the film and then stick all of those tiny squares in order. Print the finished product as a high quality poster.

That's just what UK designer Brendan Dawes did. He calls the result a kind of a visual fingerprint of the film. The design firm Coudal Partners is offering the posters for sale. They ain't cheap... $300... but there's only a limited run of 50, they're signed by the artist, they're ready for high-quality framing, and they sure are cool.

(P.S. In case you're wondering, Dawes used Processing to pull this off.)

Tags: posters  2001

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June 30, 2007

Grenada's underwater sculpture garden

photo of the underwater sculpture garden

Here's a little bit of beauty for your weekend. Sculptor Jason Taylor has created a sculpture garden in Grenada, entirely under water. Taylor's works sit in about 20 feet of water, where they are slowly... slowly... being changed by the sea. Taylor's website has photos and videos of the sculpture, as well as the precise location in case you want to visit.

(Thanks pixelsumo)

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June 24, 2007

Floating light bulb

photo of Jeff Lieberman's floating light bulb

Looking for a art installation that is both elegant and possessed of a metaphor that even the most literally-minded art newbie can latch onto? Check out Jeff Lieberman's Lightbulb. Lieberman has created an incandescent lightbulb that floats...fully lit...in mid-air. It looks like magic, but it's actually clever electronics. (Though, come to think of it, if electronics isn't magic, then I don't know what is). The bulb is filled with LEDs that get power via induction, and the bulb itself floats via a combination of electromagnetism and Hall effect feedback.

Want to make your own? Lieberman has full technical details.

Tags: art  electronics

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May 06, 2007

The Origami Butterfly by Jonathan McCabe

image from Origami Butterfly by Jonathan McCabe

A little bit of beauty for your weekend... assuming you have a decent bandwith connection or a lot of patience. Australian artist Jonathan McCabe makes still image and motion art that uses a variety of generative processes. In his new work, The Origami Butterfly, McCabe uses a computer to simulate a piece of paper with a dot placed on it at a random point. Then the computer imagines the paper being folded many and the location of the dot within the folds determining the color of that point.

Bored and confused by that description? Don't worry about it. There's really only two thing you need to know. One: this process is very similar to the biological method that drives the coloration of some butterfly wings; and Two: McCabe has tossed up a simple web page where you can download still images...and better yet, videos... of some of the works he's made with this process. The videos are particularly great. They have a great multi-color moving flowing feel to them...kinda like slo-mo kaleidoscope images. I recommend downloading one of the larger videos, put your Quicktime player into fullscreen mode, toss some old Pink Floyd on the stereo, and dive in.

(Thanks the teeming void)

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April 22, 2007

Gail Barlow's paper sculptures

image of one of Gail Barlow's sliceform paper sculpture

I've recently developed an interest in sliceforms, a type of paper sculpture related to origami.(*) Poking around to find some current practitioners of the art, I came across the work of English artist Gail Barlow.

Barlow has crafted a number of lovely and intricate sliceform sculptures. Check out her site's gallery.

(*) Origami is based on precisely creasing and folding sheets of paper. Sliceforms are based on precisely cutting sheets of paper and interleaving them into three dimensional shapes.

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April 12, 2007

Deconstructing An Inconvenient Truth

chart from Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'

What's the one image you remember from Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth? I bet it's that one chart... the one that shows carbon dioxide levels over the last several hundred thousand years.

It's a powerful image, but exactly why is it so powerful? What makes it work? David Womack of Adobe's Think Tank website deconstructs some of the images used in the global warming debate, analyzing how to hit the right balance between data and art.

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April 10, 2007

Revenge of the peeps

Peeps diorama

This is a few days late, but I just discovered the Washington Post's wonderful Peep Show contest. The Post asked readers to create dioramas using Peeps, those marshmallow animals that show up every year around Easter. Some of the entries are truly amazing. I'm particularly fond of the one pictured above... the final scene of the movie Reservoir Dogs, staged with blood-soaked peeps. Check out the slide show of the winning entries.

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April 06, 2007


foldschool photo

If you're a fan of both math and art (and you know who you are) then by definition you're also a fan of origami. If you're looking for a king sized origami project this weekend, check out Foldschool. It's a series of kids furniture make out of corrugated cardboard. Download the free patterns, trace them onto some cardboard sheets, and then cut and fold away.

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April 05, 2007

Ideas in motion

Ideas in Motion photo

Dance is perhaps the oldest art form there is. But that doesn't mean it couldn't benefit from a little technological help. Ideas in Motion (a part of the annual Boston Cyberarts Festival) brings together dancers, choreographers, and new media geeks for two weeks of performance, discussion and collaboration. If you think dance is limited to stick-figure waifs in tutus, head up to Boston later this month and catch one of the events.

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March 16, 2007

Wichita Lineman

Wichita Lineman photo

This is certainly one of the more unusual data visualization projects I've come across. UK artist Calum Stirling took the 70s song Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell and passed it through digital audio analyzers. Plotting time, volume, and frequency on the three axes he discovered that the song produces a shape remarkably like the Scottish highlands.

Check out some photos
of Campbell's 3-D model of the song's data.

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March 08, 2007

Helvetica screening schedule

Helvetica movie poster

Forget Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. For me, the big movie event of the year is the release of Helvetica, Gary Hustwit's feature-length documentary about the ubiquitous Helvetica typeface, and how it's helped shape global visual culture. The film premieres next week at the SXSW conference in Austin, and then plays at design-geek friendly venues throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. Visit the Helvetica web site for the full screening schedule.

Here in Los Angeles, the first screening is April 27th at USC. Want to join me?

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March 04, 2007


image from Justine Cooper's Havidol ad

Nice bit o' culture jamming from artist Justine Cooper. She's created a full ad campaign for a drug called Havidol, the first drug designed to combat Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder. It's a completely made up condition of course... a commentary on our modern "want it all" culture.

(Thanks Wired's Table of Malcontents)

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February 25, 2007

Retro-future visions of space stations

artist rendering of a space colony

Here's a quick bit of beauty for your weekend. Back in the 70s, NASA commissioned paintings of what future space colonies might look like. Now they've released more than a dozen of these gorgeous paintings into the public domain. While it looks like it's going to be quite a while before we're all living in giant spinning rings gently circling the globe (hell, we still can barely get humans into low earth orbit) but when we *do* get there, it's going to look amazing.

P.S. If you like these images, you may enjoy these images I found from the dawn of the Apollo program.

(Thanks Paleo-future).

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February 21, 2007

Recording the Beatles

Recording the Beatles book

If you are a hard core...and I mean HARD CORE...Beatles fan, then start saving up your dimes. There's a new, $100, book about how the Beatles went about recording and mixing all off their tunes. It's called...cleverly..."Recording the Beatles" and it looks drop-dead gorgeous. It's also chocked full with audio geeky goodness, things like which microphone Paul McCartney used to record &Blackbird" and how they got that cool jangley piano sound in "Rocky Raccoon".

It's not available in stores, but it is for sale online from Curvebender Publishing.

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February 15, 2007

Kamon Design

Image by Keiichi Tanaami from Kamon Design

A thousand years ago Japanese families began adorning their kimonos with stylized geometric shapes called Kamon. These stylized family crests have a timeless beauty...perfect...no need to ever change them in any way.

Well, too bad bucko. Kamon have been ripped into the 21st Century in a new exhibit called Kamon Design. Five contemporary artists have re-imagined Kamon as dazzling, psychedelic super-flat displays. They kind of remind me of the great cartoons of animator Sally Cruikshank.

Kamon Design is currently on display at the CIRCLE culture GALLERY in Berlin.


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Graffitti for blind people

graffiti for the blind by SpY

Ever since I wrote an article on braille, I've been discovering all sorts of weird and interesting applications of braille text. Case in point...this work by the Spanish artist known as SpY. Using a braille label maker, SpY creates messages and leaves them in places that you can't see, but that blind people can feel. He has a number of interesting art works that play with the bounds of urban graffiti on his website.


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February 12, 2007

Have a slogan!

still from haveaslogan.com

Someone (I don't know who, or anything more about this) has created a widget that you can add to any webpage. Click on it, and the cheery 50s-era ad man combines a random nasty word or phrase ("poop", "Malaria", "Dingle Berries") with a random vintage advertising slogan. Check it out at haveaslogan.com

(Thanks notcot!)

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February 09, 2007

James Joyce and Samuel Beckett go golfing

still image from Pitch 'n' Putt with Joyce 'n' Beckett

Thanks to the Boston Globe's Brainiac blog for pointing out this great short film from Ireland, imagining what might happen if writers James Joyce and Samuel Beckett decided to go golfing together. Hilarious in a kind of literary-geek sort of a way.

Here's a link to the short film on YouTube.

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Forget the film, watch the titles

still image from the opening credits of Moog

I've always thought that often the most visually arresting, most memorable part of a movie is the opening title sequence. It looks like I'm not the only one who feels that way...the Dutch film/video/art site submarine channel has just started an online title repository, called Forget the film, watch the titles!.

Right now the collection only has a dozen or so entries, but they're really nice. For instance, check out the Fizzy Eye/Nexus Production title sequence for the documentary film Moog (Pictured above). You can sign up for their mailing list and receive notification whenever a new title is added.

By the way, Submarine Channel doesn't yet have any titles by the brilliant graphic designer Saul Bass, who created the titles for Veritgo, The Godfather, North by Northwest, and many more. But if you're in the Los Angeles area, you're in luck! There's an exhibit of Bass' movie titles at the Skirball Cultural Center until April 1st.


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February 03, 2007

Berdovsky and Stevens: radicals or posers?

photo of Stevens and Berdovsky

Taking in the gallons of ink and hours of airtime devoted to this week's Boston's Aqua Teen debacle, I note that there was endless discussion of the cultural divide between paranoid straight people who saw a circuit board covered in lights and saw a terrorist device and hip po-mo 20-somethings who immediately recognized the signs as a clever bit of viral marketing, but very little discussion of a more subtle and interesting difference of opinion.

This debate is between those who think the ATHF signs are a great bit of sticking it to the Man, and the sub-sulture of REAL guerilla and illegal artists, who have been risking arrest for years and think the whole ATHF sign-placing prank is just another example of corporate advertising perpetrated by a couple of wanna-be posers.

Props to a couple of sites who have been looking into that side of things...

BoingBoing, who brought that up in their very first post about the signs.

Weekend America's(*) web producer Neille Ilel, who discusses the illegal art vs. poser debate on Weekend America's website.

(*)Full disclosure: I work for American Public Media, which makes Weekend America.

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screenshot of Typetalk by  Amy Papaelias

Typetalk by Amy Papaelias explores the relationship between speech, handwriting, vocabulary, and meaning. It's also a great way to kill some time at your computer when you're supposed to be doing real work.

Type a phrase into Typetalk and, depending on your settings, your text is transformed into the writing style and vocabulary of a slacker teen, a nine year old girl, a snobbish Francophile (I know, that's redundant) or a cranky kid with a crayon.

(Thanks notcot, thanks Communication Arts)


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February 02, 2007

Peace on Earth

In 1939, as the world was about to descend into war, animator Hugh Harman crafted a masterpiece. Harman's cartoon "Peace on Earth" tells the story of mankind's last war, seen through the eyes of cute forest animals. The film earned an Oscar nomination for the best animated short of the year. It also -- astonishingly -- was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Animator Fred Cline has an appreciation of the film and Hugh Harman's obit on his blog.

You can watch "Peace on Earth" on dailymotion.com.


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February 01, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Aqua Teen Hunger Force sign

It's official, the terrorists have already won.

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January 30, 2007

The history of photography, in Legos

legoized photo of Death of a loyalist soldier by Robert Capa

If there is a God of Art, she must surely smile down upon the innocent fanatics who recreate great works of art entirely out of Legos. Case in point...the photographic recreations of Marcos Vilarino.

Vilarino has restaged some of the most famous works from the history of photography, entirely in Lego blocks. The example above is, of course, the Lego version of Robert Capa's famous photograph of a soldier dying during the Spanish Civil War. Compare Vilarino's Lego version with Capa's original.

(Thanks greg.org)

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January 26, 2007

Nicholas Feltron: A Life

image from Feltron 2006 annual report

Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates doesn't need to worry about Nicholas Feltron. Feltron is a New York-based graphic designer who documents his life in austere diagrammatic "annual reports". Feltron's 2006 Annual Report is now on-line, and it's filled with piles of info-porn...percentage breakdowns of types of alcohol consumed, number of e-mails sent and received, most consecutive days spent entirely on the island of Manhattan, all sorts of cool and quirky stuff.

(Thanks Subtraction)

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January 20, 2007

Le Grand Content

still from Le Grand Content

Here's a little bit of beauty for your weekend. Animator and motion graphic designer Clemens Kogler has created a funny (and a little bit poignant) movie titled Le Grand Content that shows the graphical interconnectedness of a girl named Mary, hamsters, the Pope, spam and teenage poetry. Why can't all business presentations be like this?

Here's a link to Le Grand Content on Kogler's website. There's also a lesser-quality version of it on YouTube.

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January 18, 2007

The Echo Navigo

photo of the Echo Navigo

So, you say you're in Manhattan and you have the urge to see some animals? Well, you could go to the American Museum of Natural History or the Central Park Zoo, but may I suggest you swing by the bitforms gallery instead? They've captured an Echo Navigo!

The Echo Navigo (scientific name Anmorome Istiophorus platypterus Uram) is a complex and beautiful robotic creation of Korean artist U-Ram Choe. Choe's even created a natural history for his creation:

The Echo Navigo lives near (a) huge antenna in the city, and eats a variety of electric waves.

Therefore, these electronic-beings have fins enabling them to fly through the flow of electric waves. During the daytime they can make their body transparent, and become nearly invisible.

These creatures were first found by a telephone engineer, who was trying to find the reason for the echo caused by the creature's fast flight around radio antennae. The larvae of Echo Navigo were found nearby.

Want to see the Navigo before it's released back into the wild? Swing by the bitforms gallery. It's at 529 West 20th Street in New York City. And check out their website for photos and a video of the Navigo in action.

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January 12, 2007

Flatland: The opera

Cover of Flatland

You may be familiar with Flatland, Edwin Abbott's 1884 fantasy novel about life among 2-dimensional geometric shapes. But are you ready for an operatic interpretation of Flatland? In miniature? Staged in a tea room, around a table-top?

Leave it to the indescribably unique Museum of Jurassic Technology to stage such a thing. They'll be hosting performances of Flatland throughout the weekend of January 26th-28th.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is located in the Culver City section of Los Angeles. Here's a map.

Here's the email describing the event

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information is
pleased to announce:


FLATLAND: A Romance of Many Dimensions
A Miniature Opera by Randall Wong
Performed by Dina Emerson and Randall Wong

Adapted from Edwin Abbott's celebrated 1884 geometric
novel, FLATLAND is a miniature opera about the
multiplicity of dimensions and the discovery of what
exists beyond the seen. Flatland is a two dimensional
world peopled by geometric shapes -- points, lines,
squares, and circles -- who learn that the universe
consists of more than their single plane. In the
tradition of the Victorian Toy Theater, the opera is
staged upon a large tabletop, giving the effect of a
performance viewed through the wrong end of a
telescope. FLATLAND, composed and co-performed by
esteemed male soprano Randall Wong, juxtaposes the
grand and the microscopically absurd, and collides
Victorian stagecraft and illusion with modern toys and

Friday, January 26th: 8 p.m.
Saturday, January 27th: 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Sunday, January 28th: 3 p.m. & 7 p.m.

Nota Bene: FLATLAND will be staged in the Tula
Tearoom. Due to the unique restrictions of the space,
we shall not be able to seat latecomers once the
performances have started.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232

$15 General admission
$10 Museum members, students, seniors, active service

Please address queries & reservation requests to

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January 08, 2007

Ami Sioux photography

Ami Sioux photo

Photographer Ami Sioux came up with a clever idea for her new book of travel photos... she had friends in Reykjavik, Iceland draw her maps of their favorite places around town. Sioux then set off to find the locations and photograph them.

The maps and accompanying photos are paired in Sioux's new book, REYKJAVIK 64°08N 21°54W. It's available via Scintilla Ltd. publishers.

(Thanks Cool Hunting).

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January 07, 2007

ZIP Scribble Map

Robert Kosara's ZIP Scribble Map

My friend Michael Fry reminded me of this clever and surprisingly serendipitous bit of data visualization, Robert Kosara's ZIP Scribble Map.

Kosara took a list of all of the ZIP codes, along with the longitude and latitude corresponding to each ZIP. He then drew a line connecting the location of every ZIP code, in ascending numerical order. The resulting graph turns out to have a surprising amount of order. Notice particularly how gaps naturally occur along the state borders (in the image above the adjoining states have been differently colored to make them stand out, but the gaps were not added).

I love how the location of state borders is hidden within the jumbled list of latitudes and longitudes, and they emerge only when graphed in this particular way. It reminds me of the types of hidden complexity Stephen Wolfram is always looking for.

The EagerEyes.org website has a full description of the project, as well as several larger format images of the Map.

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January 06, 2007

Sigurd Bronger

Balloon ring by Sigurd Bronger

Now that is what I call an engagement ring! It's the work of Swedish artist Sigurd Bronger, who makes whimsical pneumatic and mechanical based jewelry and other objects d'art. Check out her range of creations at www.sigurdbronger.no.

(Thanks notcot)

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December 31, 2006

Activist artist Natalie Jeremijenko

still image of Natalie Jeremijenko from seedmagazine.com

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with the projects of Natalie Jeremijenko. On the one hand, I think she does brilliant stuff focusing her expertise in guerrilla robotics and use of online tools on issues of pollution, loss of privacy, and globalization.

On the other hand, some of her misconceptions about animal behavior (elk migration is linked to PCB levels. Will pigeons like to live in nests that are shaped like eggs because of an innate desire to return to the shell?) are somewhere between whifty and just ridiculously wrong.

But love it or hate it, her stuff is always worth checking out, as are her talks. This month Seed magazine posted a couple of videos of her on their website.

In this video Jeremijenko gives a nice overview of how and why average citizens should get more involved in science.

Meanwhile, in this second video, she gives an overview of her latest project, OOZ (that's "zoo" backwards), a rooftop installation exploring human interaction with the natural world.

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Leo Palmer photography

image from Leo Palmer photography

A little bit of beauty for your weekend. The above image, of the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, is by photographer Leo Palmer. Check out his online gallery at at www.leopalmerphotography.co.uk.

(Thanks notcot.org)

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December 27, 2006

Pantone pool

Pantone pool photo

If you have anything to do with graphic design, sooner or later you're gonna have to turn toward Carlstadt, New Jersey, and kow tow. Cause it's there that The Pantone Company is located, the company that has cornered the market on color. Well, not color itself... not yet... but for decades now the Pantone Color Matching System has been the universal language for matching and describing exact shades of color. Printers use it, so do painters, manufacturers, fabricators, scientists and on-told millions of artists and designers. Hell, even the red in the flag of Canada is officially designated via its Pantone number. It seems that anything can be described in terms of Pantone colors.

Which leads us to this wonderful photo group on Flickr, the Pantone Pool...everyday objects photographed next to the closest matching Pantone color sample.


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December 26, 2006

Stellar Axis

Image from Lita Albequerque's Stellar Axis

As the human presence on Antarctica continues to grow, so does the number and type of human artifacts. For instance, there's now a highway on the Antarctica.

And there's a growing amount of art. The latest work is L.A. artist Lita Albuquerque's installation "Stellar Axis". Albuquerque placed 99 blue spheres on the ice sheet at McMurdo Station, in a pattern mirroring the arrangement of stars overhead at the moment of the solstice.

For a full set of photos of the project, and a great diary on what a royal pain in the arse it is to try to do large-scale art on Antarctica, check out Albuquerque's blog.

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December 25, 2006

James Brown 1933-2006

photo of James Brown

Please please please please
(please please, oh oh)
please, please, please
(please, please, oh oh)
darlin please do oh
oh yeah, I love you so
(please, please, oh oh) . . .
Please, please, please, please,
please, please, please, please,
please, please,
Darlin please
Oh oh
Oh yeah, I love you so.
I just wanna hear ya say:
I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I
Darlin please, doh –oh
Oh yeah, I love you so . . .

Goodbye James, and thanks.

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December 17, 2006

History shots

thumbnail of Civil War history shot

Nothing says "Season's Greetings" like a nice big bit o' infoporn. History Shots specializes in intricate three-foot info graphics displaying topics. They've got charts showing changes in the Union Army, the race to the Moon, the year to year variation in the number of people who attempt to climb Mount Everest and the evolution of rock and roll.

Plain charts are about $30, they also offer a wide variety of framing options.

(Thanks Visual Complexity)


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December 16, 2006

Warning signs from the future

active nanodevices warning

I'm a long time fan of the art of warning signs(*), so was delighted to discover this series of warning signs from the future. They've got you covered for just about any eventuality... self-evolving system proximity, cognitive hazards, slippery synthetic diamond surface ahead... you name it. You can see the full set on Flickr.

Thanks to the Fallon planning blog for the pointer.

(*)I have an article in the Boston Globe this Sunday on how having too many traffic warning signs can actually make highways more dangerous.

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December 15, 2006

Hit the road, see some art

photo of Stonehenge

Jonathan Jones, who writes and blogs about art and architecture for the Guardian newspaper in the U.K., has been soliciting suggestions for his list of 50 works of art you must see before you die. Here's his final list. I'm delighted to see that Stonehenge makes the list. It's further proof of my long-held theory:

scientific artifact + long period of time = art


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December 11, 2006

Nietzsche Family Circus

Nietzsche Family Circus sample drawing

The Nietzsche Family Circus takes the chronically unfunny and sanctimonious Family Circus comic, strips off the caption, and replaces it with a random quote from 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Brilliant!

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December 09, 2006

Share 2007 with Jonas Mekas

photo of Jonas Mekas

I have made my first New Year's resolution of 2007. I resolve to, every day, watch a new film by Jonas Mekas.

Mekas is a legendary avant-garde filmmaker, who's been at it for six decades years now. He hung with...and made films about...Andy Warhol, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Allen Ginsberg, and Salvador Dali. Oh, he also started Film Culture magazine and has been a film reviewer for the Village Voice for 48 years.

For 2007, Mekas is going to make a three to seven minute video every day. They'll be posted on his website, and available via iTunes.

I'm looking forward to looking.


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December 05, 2006

Show the world your DNA

DNA portrait

Want the world to see the real you? Want to show off what you're really made of? Got some disposable cash? Then you may be a perfect candidate for a DNA portrait from dna 11. For as little as $390, dna 11 will turn a sample of your genetic material into a custom work of art. Here's how it works...

Using the kit that dna 11 sends you, you swab the inside of your cheek, gathering a few epithelial cells. You then send the swab back to dna 11, which sends it to a genetics lab, which creates a gel spread of your chromosomes, which is then photographed and printed on canvas and then shipped back to you.

The company offers a variety of canvas sizes and print colors. They'll also combine two or more DNA samples into a split image, which would be about a zillion times cooler than one of those family portraits from Sears.


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December 04, 2006

Living on flickr time

flickrtime screenshot

The great thing about opening up your website via APIs is that you never know what kind of weird and wonderful thing someone will make out of your site's data.

Flickr has one of the most complete sets of APIs around, and there are all sorts of personal web experiments that have been built using them. The latest... flicker time, a clock that uses random images from flickr to spell out the numbers of the current time. Clever, and completely hypnotic to watch.


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December 03, 2006

An excellent stop motion animation

still from Minilogue animation

A bit of beauty for your weekend. Watch this great stop-motion video made by Ljudbilden & Piloten for the band Minilogue. Kind of like Jim Woodring meets Ryan Larkin.

(Found via Bob Breidholt, an artist with a penchant for Moleskine notebooks who lives in Reykjavik.)

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November 30, 2006

Sculptor Stacy Levy

image from Stacy Levy's Blue Lake

I'm delighted to discover that my dear friend Stacy Levy has made the cover of Sculpture magazine! This is some well-deserved acknowledgment for a superbly talented artist.

Levy's work explores the natural world, taking phenomena that that are normally invisible to we humans and showing them to us with scientific clarity and artistic beauty...not surprising for someone who studied both art and forestry in college and then went on to run her own environmental restoration business.

Sculpture Magazine has the first couple of paragraphs of their cover article on their website, but you'll have to spring for the magazine for the full thing. You can see many photos of Levy's work on her website, stacylevy.com.

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November 26, 2006

Daily monster

still image from Stefan Bucher's Daily Monster series

There are lots of daily online video obsessives out there...people who can't survive a day without a dose of ZeFrank or Rocketboom.

Me, I'm obsessed with Daily Monster. Each day L.A. based graphic designer Stefan G. Bucher films himself drawing a pen and ink monster, and posts a time-lapse video of the process.

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November 25, 2006

Dekotora my ride

dekotora image

Forget West Coast Customs and Pimp My Ride, the most tricked out vehicles on earth are the Japanese trucks known as dekotora ("decoration trucks"). These things have more lights and colors than a pachinko machine in the middle of the Ginza...they have to be seen to be believed.

The Pink Tentacle blog has just posted links to several on-line Dekotora photo galleries. (Some of the links are in Japanese, but hey, that's part of the fun!)


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November 24, 2006

Bert Simons' head

Bert Simons self-portrait in paper

Dutch artist Bert Simons decided to do a self-portrait. So he covered his face with reference dots, photographed his face from various angles, did a lot of headache-inducing calculations, created more than 100 images of various facets of his face, printed them out, and finally glued them all together to come up with the bust you see above. See his website for the full process.

If you want your own Bert Simons head, he's created this pdf of all the parts. Print it out, then grab your scissors and glue and get to work.

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November 17, 2006

The amazinng multi-colored solar system

planetary image from USGS

A little bit of beauty for your weekend. This image looks like an abstract mosaic, maybe a Peter Max print, but it's actually a serious bit of science. It's a geologic map of the Southern hemisphere of Mars, with the different colors representing the different rock types.

This image is just one of a series of renderings of the planets by the USGS Astrogeology Research Program. Their website has high resolution images of several planets and satellites. They are drop-dead gorgeous, with dazzling colors and amazing patterns.

Don't want to download the large-format inches right away? The Pruned blog has a collection of the images online.

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November 15, 2006

Animals on the Underground

image from animals on the underground

Since its creation by Harry Beck in 1933, the London Underground map has become an icon of graphic design, and an invaluable aide to millions of London commuters. But who knew it also contained hidden symbols? Paul Middlewick knew.

Seventeen years ago, he spotted the outline of a cartoon elephant amid the lines of the Underground Map. Several more animals have been found since, and they're all collected on a sweet little website called Animals on the Underground.

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November 08, 2006

The Complaint Choir of Helsinki

The Complaints Choir of Helsinki

This is one performance I would definitely pay to see. Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen asked residents of Helsinki for their pet peeves (everything from annoying ring tones to people on the bus who smell). The work was then performed by the aptly named Complaint Choir of Helsinki. Check them out on this YouTube video.

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October 29, 2006

The Bomb Project

still image of A-bomb test

Looking for that perfect image of a nuclear bomb to accompany your latest bit of apocalyptic art? Look no further than The Bomb Project, your one-stop shop for all things related to the nuclear arms race.

The Bomb Project was created as a resource for artists who use nuclear-related resources in their work. The site has photos, video clips, and tons of documents and declassified files.

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Every polar bear in Great Britan

photo of a polar bear in Liverpool

People love to complete self-appointed sequential tasks...like visiting every Vermeer in New York, or reading every Lemony Snicket book, or seeing a big-league baseball game in every stadium, all in one season. (I once interviewed a guy who's spent years eating at every restaurant in Toronto. In alphabetical order.)

Add to that list the work of Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, who set out to find and photograph every stuffed polar bear in the British Isles. It took the pair four years to track them all down, some in museums, others in the castle manor houses of rich British nobility.

Snæbjörnsdóttir and Wilson's quest seems at first to be...well...kind of silly, but it calls into thought centuries worth of cultural interaction between civilization and the wild, of European's relationship with the arctic, of Victorian views of the conquest of nature, of the British view of their colonial Empire.

It's also led to a beautiful book of photographs, Nanoq: Flat Out and Bluesome: a Cultural Life of Polar Bears

You can also see many of the photographs on the www.snaebjornsdottirwilson.com website.

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October 28, 2006

Make your own snowflakes

sample of kapitza snowflake shapes

Ever since the astonishing early 20th Century photographs of Wilson "snowflake" Bentley(*), we've loved the intricate geometrical beauty of snowflakes.

If you're inspired to knock out some snowflake-based art, there's a great resource available. The British design house Kapitza has created EPS vector art of 30 different snowflake shapes. The flakes can be combined, colored, stretched, whatever. They're charging £18 U.K. for the set... order here.

Are you making some snowflake-based art? Leave a comment and let me know about it!

(*)There's a wonderful, award-winning, children's book about Snowflake Bentley, truly one of the all-time great amateur scientists. Perfect for kids of all ages!

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October 27, 2006

Clark Sorenson's flower urinals

flower urinal

Need to trick out that spare bathroom? May we suggestone of these beautifully crafted urinals? These custom fixtures are the work of Utah-based ceramics artist Clark Sorenson. Sorenson has created a variety of urinal designs based on different orchids, lilies, tulips and other flowers. There's also a couple of designs based on Nautilus shells. Prices run between $6,000 and $10,000 dollars. Check out the full line at clarkmade.com.


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October 24, 2006

Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition

image from Norman McLaren's Pax de Deux

Norman McLaren was a genius. That's not just my opinion, Picasso thought so too, as did Francois Truffaut. McLaren was an animator and experimental film maker who created works that destroyed the limits of what was thought possible through the medium of film. He would create animations by scratching shapes directly into the film emulsion, or use live models as stop-motion animation props, or create multiple exposures that used dozens of interlocking images.

McLaren was the founding director of the National Film Board of Canada's animation division (a post he held for more than 40 years) and under his tutelage the NFB became the place for cutting-edge animation. Along the way hewon an Oscar, a Palm d'Or, and a zillion film festival awards.

The National Film Board has just released a stunning, seven-DVD set of McLaren's work, titled Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition. It's my vote for the best DVD release of the year, well worth the $90 price tag (buy it on Amazon).

The NFB has also created a mini-site about the life and work of McLaren, and put some of his films online.

(P.S. The public radio program Off-Ramp recently aired a nice appreciation of McLaren).

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October 17, 2006

"No Time For Nuts" short online

still image from the No Time For Nuts short

For me (and lots of other cartoon fans) the best part of the Ice Age movies were the occasional appearances by Scrat, the crazed saber-toothed squirrel who's obsessed with finding the perfect place to bury his acorn. Blue Sky Studios, the animation house responsible for the Ice Age films, has created a new Scrat short titled No Time for Nuts and it's hilarious... Scrat comes across a time machine frozen in a glacier and, as they say, hilarity ensues.

No Time For Nuts will be included in the DVD release of Ice Age 2: The Meltdown on November 21st. But if you don't want to wait that long, the video has been posted to YouTube. Check it out!


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October 10, 2006

Happy Powers of Ten Day!

still image from The Powers of Ten film

Today, the tenth day of the tenth month, holds special importance for both fans of science and of the brilliant 20th century designers Charles and Ray Eames (I fall into both categories). It's Powers of Ten Day, a holiday inspired by The Eames' mind-blowing 1977 short film of the same name.

The film starts with a couple enjoying a picnic in a Chicago park. The camera, looking down from above, begins pulling out and up until it reaches the edge of the visible universe. Then is zooms back in until the view ends up inside the nucleus of a single atom in the hand of one of the picnickers.

In addition to being the single greatest tracking shot in the history of cinema, the film gives you a wonderfully clear insight into the vast size of the cosmos. I don't know a single scientist or artist who hasn't been inspired and/or stunned by this film.

Today and for the rest of the month, the powersof10.com website has the film available for free on-line viewing(*). By all means take nine minutes out of your day to watch!

If you want more info on the impact of "The Powers of Ten", check out the appreciation of it I did for the public radio arts program Studio360.

(*) Email registration requested.

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October 07, 2006

Battle of the album cover video

still from battle of bands video

Russell Davies pointed me to this crazy anarchic video. It's kind of like an ultra-bloody Kung Fu movie crossed with Terry Gilliam's animation from Monty Python. To top it off, the entire thing takes place within the scenes of album covers from the 70s and 80s. The video was directed by Ugly Pictures and shot/edited by Man Vs. Magnet. You can watch a QuickTime version of it here. There's also a YouTube version.

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October 02, 2006

Lights out in Reykjavik

photo of aurora in Iceland by blue eyes/flickr.com

Reykjavik, Iceland is a city that's got its' priorities straight. Last Thursday night, street lights all over the city were turned off to make it easier for the residents to gaze up at the night sky. The lights out was organized as a way to kick off a big film festival in Reykjavik. Thousands of people went outside to gaze at the heavens, many of them listening to a live narration of the night sky being broadcast on the national radio network. Lisa Simpson would approve.

In case you were wondering, the Reykjavik police report absolutely no problems or crime caused by the outage.

[Photo of an Icelandic aurora by blue eyes/flickr.com]

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September 29, 2006

So, you think you can design a mascot?

call for proposals image

It's still four years away, but the preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are in full-swing. And the 2010 organizing committee has turned its attention to one of the million little details to take care of before the Games begin...coming up with a mascot.

Izzy the mascot from the Atlanta OlympicsA bad mascot can be a disaster. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, that Games' mascot... a weird looking creature named Izzy... was the object of derision and ridicule. And having a stupid mascot wasn't just a matter of embarrassment; it cost the Olympics millions of dollars in lost royalties. The 2010 Olympic organizing committee wants to avoid that fiasco, so they've thrown the mascot process wide open. This week they issued a RFP for the mascot design. It's open to professionals (individuals or companies) in the fields like illustration, animation, graphic design, and fine arts. This first round RFP is to choose the folks who get the actual shot at the mascot design, and the deadline is tight... if you want to apply you have to let the Olympic committee know by Oct. 11, and get all of your application info in by the 1st of November.

The winning mascot design will be revealed to the world during the second half of 2007.


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September 27, 2006

Walk on water

walk on water image

There's an astonishing art installation right now in London, called Bridge. Michael Cross took a former church and flooded it with water. Sunk beneath the water, a series of stepping stones. Stand at the water's edge and the first stone rises up out of the depths. Step on that first stone, and the next stone slowly surfaces, one step ahead. Step forward again, and another stone rises up in front of you, while the stone behind sinks away again. It takes 30 steps to make it out to the middle of the lake within the church, another 30 steps to go back the way you came.

Visitors to Bridge (which is part of the London Design Festival) say that participants have widely varying reactions. Some think it's a wonderful experience, others find the whole thing terrifying. Personally, I don't know if I'd try it. But I sure would love to see it.

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How to draw one second of The Incredibles

sequences of images from The Incredibles

There's a brief moment in The Incredibles where Dash, the little kid brother, does a double-take, his face going from an expression of happiness to one of surprise and fear. That sequence was created by Pixar animator Victor Navone, and on his blog Navone has de-constructed that take frame by frame. Even though it's just a tiny moment in one shot of one scene of the movie (the sequence lasts less than one second) Navone and Incredibles director Brad Bird put an amazing amount of thought into it...

Frame 7 - Pop! The eyelids spring open. They do a fast-out as if they were forcibly yanked up by the brows. The brows continue up slightly, overshooting the "B" pose. The mouth is reversed into a frown but is still closed. It starts to narrow as the jaw stretches, giving it a sense of volume preservation. Note the shrinkage of the pupils AND irises. Real human irises don't shrink, of course, but this is animation and it makes for a clearer, more extreme attitude. Normally this and the following frame would be considered "off-model" for Dash, since it doesn't really look like him any more. I can get away with this because it's happening in a fast action. I would never hold a pose this extreme.

One of the big differences between animation and live action film is that in animation there is nothing accidental on the screen...every background building, every cloud, every leaf, every twitch of every eyebrow...is explicity created, the result of deliberate thought. I think this mini-tutorial is a wonderful view into that thought process. Check out Navone's tutorial here. You may also enjoy Navone's blog.

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September 23, 2006

Small World winners announced

image from Nikon's smallworld competition

A small...I mean really small... bit o'beauty for your weekend. Nikon has announced this year's winners of their Small World photography competition. Nikon (which makes a lot of high end equipment for photomicrography) has held this contest for more than 30 years (see past winners here), and this year's winners are another jaw-dropping collection of the weird, colorful, and beautiful. This year's grand prize winner is a stunning blue photograph of a tiny section of a mouse's colon. (The shot above is the second place winner, of some cyanobacteria and a diatom).

A photo exhibit of the winners will be touring science museums in the U.S. and Canada in the coming year, and Nikon's putting out a calendar of the winners.

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September 16, 2006

Jill Greenberg's Monkey Portraits

Jill Greenberg monkey portrait

Disturbing yet riveting. Dramatic yet funny. Nature, yet high fashion. It took Jill Greenberg five years to make these meticulously crafted photographic portraits of monkeys. See them online at The Paul Kopeikin Gallery website and in her new book, also called Monkey Portraits. Want to see them in person? They'll be on display at the Clampart Gallery in New York beginning October 12.

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September 11, 2006

Thousand of Yankee fans help Rob find his seat

The mysterious group known as Improv Everywhere has done it again. This time, they decided to see what would happen if Rob, the most helplessly lost person in the world, tried to find his seat at Yankee Stadium. Would total strangers...thousands of them... band together to help Rob? Hell yes!

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September 08, 2006

TO DO in L.A. Sunday night: Check out the Menger sponge

Photo of the Menger sponge model at Machine Project

If you're looking for the perfect way to cap off your weekend in L.A., why not pop over to Machine Project and check out the giant Menger sponge made entirely from business cards? I know, that sounds like going to see the world's largest ball of twine or something, but the Menger sponge is one of the easiest to understand...yet most mind-blowing...shapes in all of fractal geometry. As it gets more and more detailed the sponge's volume gets closer and closer to zero while at the same time its surface area approaches infinity.

This sponge isn't infinite, but it sure is a whopper. It took volunteers nine years to build it, out of more than 66,000 business cards, and it weighs 150 pounds. This Sunday night Dr. Jeannine Mosely, the woman who organized the build, talks about the science of the Menger sponge, and about the crazy hobby fanaticism of trying to build one. The talk begins at 8 PM, but you may want to get there early (since a large part of the smallish gallery space is taken up by the Sponge of Honor.

Machine Project is located at:
1200 D North Alvarado Street (by Sunset)
Los Angeles, CA 90026

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September 07, 2006

The Smoke Tree

still image from John Gerrard's smoke tree 3-d display

This past week the happening place to be was Linz, Austria. That's because Linz was ground-zero for the Ars Electronica Festival. It looks like there were all sorts of amazing exhibits and seminars (many podcasts are available) and, of course, some astonishing art.

One of the pieces receiving the most buzz was John Gerrard's Smoke Tree. It's a 3-D display of a single oak tree in an Irish pasture. The scene is strikingly realistic except for the fact that the tree seems to be growing clouds of smoke instead of leaves. The smoke (which represents the carbon the tree would give off if trees didn't convert convert carbon dioxide to oxygen) ever so slowly billows, and the sky changes in real time to match day and night. After 200 years(!) of viewing, the virtual tree will die and fall over.

It sounds like you have to see the actual interactive display to get the full power of the piece, but even the video on John Gerrard's website looks pretty damn cool.

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September 03, 2006

Writing with water

writing with water still image

Earlier this summer, I came across a mechanical device that uses wave interference to form letters on the surface of a pool of water (check out the blog post and cool photo). Today I learned about another great device for writing with water.

By precisely turning on and off streams of falling water, the device creates the effect of sheets of falling letters. Look at the video on this page to see what it in action. I'm amazed by the detail...it's not just rough block letters, you can even be sleective about fonts! Amazing.

[Thanks Wooster Collective]

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September 02, 2006

We Feel Fine

We Feel Fine screenshot

Do you get more empathatic as you get older? I've been wondering about that recently, for a couple of reasons. First, I sure as hell am getting older. Second, a while back I listened to an episode of the public radio program Radio Lab dealing with the biological basis of morality and empathy. This reminded me of earlier work (some of it quoted in Richard Dawkin's classic The Selfish Gene) that looks at the relationship between a species lifespan and their behaviors.

For whatever reason, I find myself surprisingly moved by an online art piece called We Feel Fine. The piece scours blog feeds looking for phrases like "I feel" and "I am feeling". It then encapsulates those statements into swirling dots that fly open when clicked, revealing the person's statement.

We Feel Fine is created in the Processing programming language. I've put a lot of years into doing visual stuff with Flash, but every time I see something like this I start to think I should blow that off and start diving into Processing. Check out the Processing gallery for more amazing stuff.


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August 28, 2006

Monument (If It Bleeds, It Leads)

close-up of monument beads

There's a long history of art being used in novel ways to memorialize the dead (for instance, check out Fallen Astronaut elsewhere on this blog).

One of the more interesting recent memorials is Caleb M. Larsen's installation Monument (If It Bleeds, It Leads). A computer continuously scans 4,500 news sources around the world and every time it detects another person has been killed (whether by war, crime, or accident) a ceiling-mounted mechanical device releases a small yellow BB for every person who's died.

As the death count inexorably rises, more and more of the floor becomes colored with yellow. As a viewer, you're left with a swirl of mixed emotions... you'd love to watch one of the little BBs fall, but that means someone has just died and you don't want that... or do you?

Larsen built Monument with a clever mix of PHP and a Lego Mindstorms kit. There are construction details and videos of the work in action on his website.


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August 27, 2006

The Frog Museum

still from Frog Museum

When visiting lovely Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland, be sure to visit Le Musée Des Grenouilles, or...as it's known in English, The Frog Museum. More than 100 frogs, posed in scenes from 19th century life. What's not to love?

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August 19, 2006

Best title ever for a flickr photo group

evetsggod photo from flickr.com

The best title ever for a flickr photo group? Why it's Pictures with lots of things in them, but in a specific way!

(Photo by evetsggod/flickr.com)

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August 16, 2006

TO DO in L.A. next month: The World 3-D Film Expo

still from House of Wax

For 3-D junkies, it's almost time to get your fix. Next month, The World 3-D Film Expo hits the big screen in L.A. We're talking nine days, nearly 40 films, (plus lots of shorts), all shown with the Polaroid 3-D system... none of that red and blue glasses nonsense.

The films run the gamut from horror classics like Vincent Price's "House of Wax" to the musical "Kiss Me Kate" to the Alfred Hitchcock's suspense classic "Dial M for Murder" to the 70s camp porn classic "The Stewardesses", there's going to be something for everyone.

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August 13, 2006

Disposable cameras part 2: Paris snapshots

france instant camera

Came across this all-to-brief bit on [BB-Blog]... a bunch of artists in France are offering an unusual deal... for $95 bucks you get a disposable camera already pre-loaded with photos of Paris. The shows are taken by one or more young up and coming artist, so each camera is different.


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Disposable cameras part 1: The Elvis Cam

image from the Elvis Camera

Every since Matthew Brady mastered the art 150 years ago, all great photographers have agreed on one thing...any photo is better if Elvis is in it.

Now you too can have a kunka kunka of Elvis in every pic you snap, thanks to the amazing Elvis Camera! It's a disposable camera that already has a shot of Elvis on every frame. Line up your subject correctly in the viewfinder and just like that you're sharing a scene with the King. $18.98 from The Lighter Side.


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August 12, 2006

Penlight animations

penlight animation still image

Another little bit 'o beauty for your weekend, the Japanese art group PikaPika creates charming little animations by drawing on time-lapse film with penlights. Very cool. The website is in Japanese, but just go to this page and start clicking on the pictures. Enjoy!


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August 09, 2006

Fallen Astronaut

photo of Fallen Astronaut

Over at The Kircher Society website I was reminded of one of the less well-known events in the manned space program, the placement of Fallen Astronaut.

In July 1971, the crew of Apollo 15 placed on the surface of the Moon a three inch tall metal sculpture of an astronaut, accompanied by a small aluminum sign bearing the names of the 14 astronauts and cosmonauts who had died up to that point in space or in training for space. (*)

Fallen Astronaut was the work of Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, and it's been labeled as "the only work of art on the Moon". I don't think I buy that, I think the Moon is covered with art... there's the iconic American flag, there's the austere abstract sculptures of the base stages of the lunar modules, hell you could argue that making the first human footprint in the dust of the Moon is one of the greatest works of conceptual art in history.

But Fallen Astronaut may just be the smallest memorial art ever created. I certainly can't think of any other memorial that's only three inches tall. And yet somehow the tiny size strikes me as exactly right. Space is a huge place, and we humans are such a tiny part of it, it seems completely appropriate that this memorial is a tiny thing placed at a tiny spot on a minor planetoid.

You can see a blow-up of the NASA image of Fallen Astronaut here.

(*) The number of astronauts and cosmonauts who have died for the cause of space flight has now risen to 28, due to the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

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August 07, 2006

Pictographs for Beijing Olympics unveiled

olympic archery pictograph

The summer Olympics are still a couple of years away, but when it comes to the graphic design of the Games, today marks one of the big milestones. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (that's quite a mouthful!), the folks in charge of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just released the pictographs they'll use to indicate the various sports.

The creation of these pictographs (you can see them all here) is one of the dream gigs in all of graphic design. This time the pictographs are influenced by inscriptions on bones and bronze objects in ancient China.

It's interesting to see how the pictographs of the various Olympics mirror the changes in graphic design in general. You can compare samples from the last 40 years of Olympics here.

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August 06, 2006

Manhole covers of Japan

Japanese manhole cover

A brief bit o' unexpected beauty for your weekend... check out this photo gallery of Japanese manhole covers.

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August 04, 2006

Ping Pong Pixel

photo of ping pong pixel

The best money I ever spent was the time I got 500 ping pong balls on eBay for ten bucks (there is no better way to entertain a five year old than to pour 500 ping pong balls down a flight of stairs while they are laying at the bottom).

So I was immediately tickled to death when I saw PingPongPixel, an art installation by a couple of students at the University of Leiden. They built this wonderful Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that uses six different colored ping pong balls as pixels to build giant images. As a new row of balls drops in from the top, the row at the bottom falls away, so the image slowly crawls down the display.

[Thanks information aesthetics]

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Imaginary worlds part 2

image from Urville

Urville is the extraordinary creation of Gilles Trehin, a 34 year old French man with autism. For more than 20 years, Trehin has been creating Urville out of his imagination...he's made hundreds of meticulously detailed drawings of the city, and developed a full economic, historical, and geographic profile of it:

URVILLE is located in the southern part of the Phoenician Island (3 022 km2), main island of the Insular Province archipelago, which is also constituted of Sloop Island at the north east (306 km2), and Sarrasin Island at the west (103 km2).

(...) The city of URVILLE is watered by the Sea Horse River which takes it's spring at Vaux des Hippocampes (98W), Ecrantes River which takes it's spring at Saint Philippe des Ecrantes (98E), and Fougueyron River which takes it's spring at Valounet (98E), these 3 rivers and ends at Bacrouge's Harbour.

All of this information (and believe me, there's a lot) can be seen on The Urville website. There are also many, many images. If you want a more lasting record, I suggest you pick up a copy of the Urville book.


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Imaginary worlds part 1

image from Sean Hillen's Irelantis

I've come across a couple of extraordinary imaginary worlds recently. Sean Hillen uses precise (sometimes using scalpel and tweezers) paper collage to mix postcard scenes of Ireland with photographic images of Greek ruins and Venetian canal life to create a fantasy land he calls Irelantis.

You can see many more images from Irelantis at the Irelantis web site.


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August 02, 2006

Online gallery of gamers and their avatars

photo of gamer and his avatar

As far back as the New Yorker's famous "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" cartoon, we've been fascinated by the differences between who we are in real life and who we are on-line (MIT's Sherry Turkle has made a brilliant career out of examining those differences).

A German website has added to this area of interest with a fascinating photo gallery of online gamers and their avatars. Amazing to see how we choose to present ourselves when we can look like anything. (Click on the "zuruck" and "weiter" links in the upper right to advance through the gallery).

Thanks to both we-make-money-not-art and Iain Tait for pointing me at this.


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July 27, 2006

Happy birthday Bugs!

image from A Wild Hare

A big "Happy Birthday" today to Bugs Bunny! It was on this date in 1940 that Warner Brothers released A Wild Hare, the first cartoon starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. The first lines of each character have become timeless...

Elmer Fudd: Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits.
Bugs Bunny: Eh, what's up Doc?

The great Tex Avery directed A Wild Hare, with music by Carl Stalling and the voice of Bugs provided by Mel Blanc. It was an immediate hit, earning an Academy Award nomination.

I wouldn't want to live in a world without Bugs Bunny.

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July 25, 2006

Write your name upon the water

photo of device that can write on water

According to a post on Pink Tentacle, Japanese researchers have prototyped up a device that forms letters on water...

The device, called AMOEBA (Advanced Multiple Organized Experimental Basin), consists of 50 water wave generators encircling a cylindrical tank 1.6 meters in diameter and 30 cm deep (about the size of a backyard kiddie pool). The wave generators move up and down in controlled motions to simultaneously produce a number of cylindrical waves that act as pixels. The pixels, which measure 10 cm in diameter and 4 cm in height, are combined to form lines and shapes. AMOEBA is capable of spelling out the entire roman alphabet, as well as some simple kanji characters. Each letter or picture remains on the water surface only for a moment, but they can be produced in succession on the surface every 3 seconds.

As you might expect, the first application of this technology will be in resorts and amusement parks.

I wonder what would happen if you replaced the water with a very viscous fluid? Would each letter linger longer?


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July 20, 2006

Spore in BusinessWeek

screen shot from Spore

The countdown to Spore, Will Wright's astonishing new video game, is in full swing. The release date may be as much as a full year away (no official release date has been given, but various statements put it anywhere from fall 2006 to June 2007), but whenever it appears, the consensus is that you've never seen anything like it. The current issue of BusinessWeek magazine has an article about the game and what it's like to play it...

In many ways, the next phase – creature design – will be the core element of the game. And we were able to dive into the editor, design a creature, and send it out into the wild. The Creature Editor is astonishingly easy to use and powerful. You start by picking a backbone, which you can stretch by pulling the ends, and deform by grabbing and pulling (Maxis calls it a metaball). It comes with a standard thickness of flesh around it, which again, you can adjust, creating a body which could resemble your favorite animal or something never before seen in nature.

I can't wait.

P.S. Last month Spore creator Will Wright and musician Brian Eno shared a stage for one of the mind-expanding Long Now Seminars. They had a wonderful discussion about the nature and process of creativity. The audio of their discussion is available.

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Bible II: Heretic Boogaloo

bible 2 logo from wulad.blogspot.com

If, in these uncertain and troubled times, you feel a need to Turn To The Bible, may I humbly suggest that you turn to the version now being lovingly crafted on WULAD? It's Bible II: Heretic Boogaloo!!! Our story is currently somewhere in Genesis:

Ah ha! shouteth the Lord, and snapped His fingers (and somewhere, a solar system was destroyed). He reached down into Adam’s torso, pushed aside some partially-digested Bugles, and yanked out a rib, which Adam would later describe as the “worst pain of my life, until I had to pass a kidney stone in under two minutes in the bathroom at LaGuardia so I could catch my flight which proceeded to sit on the freaking tarmac for three hours.” (God would later admit in group therapy that this was in retribution for Adam's calling Him a “c*cks*cker” after a bad day at the track.)

The Lord, meanwhile, using His holy whizbangs, morphed Adam’s gooey, schmutz-dripping rib into a 5’7”, 36-26-36 stack of smokin’ she-goodness, most likely inspired by a certain lingerie catalog He had been stealing from the mailbox and stashing under his bed since the age of 14 (million). God’s eyes--not like the craft project you made in art class with the sticks and yarn--promptly shot clear out of His head, which had temporarily turned into that of a whistling cartoon wolf. (This resulted in the total destruction of several small galaxy clusters.)

I dub thee, sayeth the Lord, EVE.

Now that is The Word. (BTW, the public radio feature The Writers Almanac had an interesting little item on the creation of the King James Bible a while back. I love how they deliberately decided to use "thee" and "thou" because it would make the Bible sound older. Kinda like the bad, overly stilted dialogue that shows up in crappy gladiator movies from the 50s. Or any of the Star Wars sequels.)

P.S. My all time favorite creation myth was written by Paul Rudnick for The New Yorker.


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July 18, 2006

The Sky Orchestra

photo of sky orchestra

When you think about it, the goal of any art is to mess with your mind. By that measure, The Sky Orchestra is art on a grand scale. Seven hot air balloons glide over a city at dawn, each playing parts of a musical score down on the city below. (The project is based in the UK...they last showed up over Stratford-Upon-Avon). If you happen to be awake you'll hear it (there are audio samples here), but the real goal is to hit the townsfolk while they're still asleep. If it works just right, people all over the city will wake up with the images of a half-remembered beautiful dream bouncing around their heads.

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July 17, 2006

You sunk my battleship!

image from Julian Bleeker's battleship game

I've run into Julian Bleeker, the director of the mobile and pervasive lab at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division a few times, and he always seems to be creating some sort of crazy cool game. This time he's using Google Earth to turn the city of Los Angeles into a giant version of Battleship. To make a move, players go to a specific physical location and then enter their location via a GPS equipped cell phone. (Now if only giant red and white pegs would descend from the clouds).

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July 15, 2006

National Film Board of Canada puts 50 classic shorts online

image from The Big Snit

The National Film Board of Canada has put 50 of their brilliant animated short films on line for free viewing. The collection spans 60 years and includes Norman Mclaren's groundbreaking experimental films from the 1950s and some of the most hilarious cartoons ever created (personal favorite, Richard Condie's The Big Snit). The collection includes several Oscar nominated shorts, and it's a good demonstration of why the NFB has a global rep for nurturing brilliant animation.

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July 12, 2006

The Most Creative Program on Television

image from season two of Project Runway

...returns tonight. Project Runway, on Bravo TV, begins its 3rd season this evening with a new group of 15 designers. The show is kind of a shoot out for people who work in the fashion industry... each week the designers are given a specific task (redesign the post office uniforms, create a dress using only materials you can find in a grocery store, design an outfit for an Olympic figure skater) and a limited time in which to execute it.

I'm not particularly interested in fashion per se (my couture consists almost entirely of T-shirts from tech conferences, old chinos and blue-jeans, and ratty shoes with no socks) but what I *am* interested in is watching talented people being creative under extreme deadline and budget pressure. You can watch this show with no knowledge or interest in fashion whatsoever, and still be totally impressed with the skill and ingenuity of the participants. Watch an episode or two and see if you don't agree.

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July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Rube Goldberg!

Rube Goldberg invention

Today isn't just the birthday of America, it's also the birthday of one of the all-time great cartoonists, Rube Goldberg. Goldberg was the creator of those insanely crazy machines designed to perform mundane tasks:

As Tailor (A) fits customer (B) and calls out measurements, college boy (C) mistakes them for football signals and makes a flying tackle at clothing dummy (D). Dummy bumps head against paddle (E) causing it to pull hook (F) and throw bottle (G) on end of folding hat rack (H) which spreads and pushes head of cabbage (I) into net (J). Weight of cabbage pulls cord (K) causing shears (L) to cut string (M). Bag of sand (N) drops on scale (O) and pushes broom (P) against pail of whitewash (Q) which upsets all over you causing you to look like a marble statue and making it impossible for you to be recognized by bill collectors.

Rube Goldberg's machines have inspired countless homages...in the kid's game Mousetrap, in film characters from Wallace and Gromit to Wile E. Coyote to Pee-Wee Herman, in kinetic sculpture races, in the art machines at Burning Man and at Survival Research Labs shows, in Make Magazine, in this amazing TV commercial for Honda.

Take a minute to check out The Official Rube Goldberg Web Site and the Rube Goldberg's entry in wikipedia.

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July 03, 2006


woman riding a train in Switzerland

(Another train-based post). Planning a train trip through Switzerland? Be on the lookout for locosound, an interactive sound experience now under development. No simple audio travel book, locosound will have the ability to mix in narration, music, audio art and drama, you name it, all synchronized to the view out of the train window. Locosound uses GPS to keep the audio lined up with the scenery, passengers listen by tuning a FM radio to the appropriate frequency.

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July 01, 2006

Simon Norfolk's Supercomputer Photos

Simon Norfolk photo

Photographer Simon Norfolk has been traveling throughout the US and Europe photographing some of the world's most powerful supercomputers. These machines are technical marvels, but Norfolk is not at all comfortable with them...

These computers are not amiable assistants they are distant and sinister; cold and inscrutable. In a zero-sum game, it feels like they grow stronger not to help us, but at our expense.

You have to pick your way through Norfolk's flash-driven portfolio site a bit to find the supercomputer photos, but it's worth the extra clicks. For that matter, his other photos are pretty amazing too. (Thanks to BLDGBLOG).

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June 29, 2006

Hacking Ikea

image of some hacked Ikea objects

University of Brighton (UK) student Kieren Jones came up with a brilliant design concept for The British Council’s annual student design competition... a DIY Ikea project called "Flat-pack re-arranged". Using Ikea self-assemble furniture and Jones' instructions, anyone can make objects that Ikea never dreamed of. Pictured above, the parts from Ikea's Bumerang clothes hangers rearranged to create a deer head and crossbow that shoots Ikea pencils.

No word yet if Jones will sell the instruction manuals.

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June 27, 2006

Run Motherfucker Run

image from run motherfucker run

Remember when a trip to an art gallery was a quiet, sedate, contemplative experience? Yeah, well, that was before Run Motherfucker Run, Dutch artist Marnix de Nijs' interactive installation. The viewer (participant? competitor? victim?) stands on a large treadmill before a film and 3-D graphic projection of an dark and spooky industrial landscape. As you begin to run, the film begins to play, your movement on the treadmill directly matching the changes on the screen. To keep things interesting it's not clear what path you must navigate, and if you slow down the image on the screen begins to fade away.

Run Motherfucker Run just ended a... um... run at the Urban Explorers Festival in the Netherlands. There are stills and some large videos on the RMR website.


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June 17, 2006

Michael Jackson's patent

Michael Jackson's patent

Musical innovator? Brilliant dancer? Sexual predator? Victim of multiple personality disorders? All of the above?

Whatever label you apply to Michael Jackson, I bet you it isn't "patent holding inventor". But it turns out Jacko holds U.S. patent 5,255,452, for a shoe system that allows the wearer to lean forward at an impossible angle without falling over.

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June 10, 2006

Eternal sunset

sunset in Antarctica

There's nothing more lovely than a sunset, so why not have sunset all the time? That's the idea behind Eternal Sunset, a website that automatically switches among dozens of webcams scattered around the world, to provide you with a never-ending gallery of images of the setting sun, such as this cool shot of a German communication antenna near the South Pole.


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June 07, 2006

Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net

subway entrance in Kassel

I've just discovered the work of the late German artist Martin Kippenberger. Kippenberger was partway through work on a wonderful, ambitious global art project called Metro-Net. The idea was to scatter all around the world entrances to an imaginary subway system. Only a few were ever built, but some of them, like this one in Kassel, were totally cool looking.

Here's a brief write-up on Kippenberger and Metro-Net.

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May 28, 2006

Spare a moment for gapingvoid

gapingvoid image

gapingvoid features the (approximately) daily drawings of Hugh MacLeod, a web guy who lives near the England/Scotland border. Macleod draws cartoons on the backs of business cards. They're often about the 'net/blogging/web world, but they are also often about life in general or are just random doodlings. They're well worth a few seconds of your time. And if you print one out and put it up in your cubicle, think how much cooler you'll be than all of those Dilbert clippers.


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May 26, 2006

Jim Woodring drawing blog

Jim Woodring painting

I'm a long-time fan of artist Jim Woodring, creator of strange, haunting cartoon images. So I was delighted to discover that Woodring has started an image blog. It's called The Woodring Monitor. Check it out!

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May 25, 2006

How to get 10,000 strangers to draw you a sheep

image from sheepmachine

The Sheep Market is one of the more interesting online art projects of recent months. Strangers were each paid two cents to draw a cartoon of a sheep. It took only 40 days to come up with...wait for it...TEN THOUSAND sheep.

The Sheep Market made use of a fascinating service from Amazon called The Mechanical Turk. It hooks up people who have a lot of tasks that are hard or impossible for computers but really easy for humans (things like "Is there a foreign car in this photo?") with people willing to perform those tasks.

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May 19, 2006

"The Ten Commandments" as a teen comedy

10 Things I Hate About Commandments still image

If you read Boing Boing then you've already seen this, but if not immediately stop whatever you're doing and watch this amazing video mash-up... it started out as the trailer for "The Ten Commandments", but now it's the trailer for the latest teen comedy. Hilarious!


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May 03, 2006

The city of Galvez

image of Galvez

Want to make a fast trip to another world? Check out artist Oscar Guzmán's creation, The City of Galvez. Guzmán has created a hauntingly beautiful cityscape...manipulated photographic images that look beautiful, creepy, realistic and otherworldly, all at once.

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April 29, 2006

Richard Sweeney, origami master

photo of Richard Sweeney sculpture

When it comes to origami-based sculpture, Richard Sweeney owns.

Check out his website at www.richardsweeney.co.uk/ and his photos on Flickr.


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April 26, 2006

Runway for extraterrestrials

photo of UFO landing marker in the Netherlands

Notice a bit of extra traffic on the A27 highway near Houten in the Netherlands? Maybe it's a visiting UFO. Dutch artist Martin Riebeek has turned a Dutch highway roundabout into a landing platform for extraterrestrial spacecraft.


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April 22, 2006

Never say "There's nothing on TV" ever again

photo of groovetube

Groovetube turns your TV into a pulsating disco light. Besides being a riveting visual display, and an interesting conversation piece the blurring of the image can be just the thing to take the edge off of the latest TV news horror show.


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Looking for God radio

god radio photo

Looking for something to do in Milan, Italy? Check out Fernando Orellana's art piece, "Looking for God". As described on We Make Money Not Art...

The mechanism turns the dial of the radio either to the left or right. The microphone then captures a three-second sample of the audio signal. This signal is compared to a signal saved in the microprocessor's memory of the word "god." If the new signal is not equal to the signal in memory, the mechanism turns the dial again and the process is repeated. If the signal captured is equal to the signal in memory, the piece deduces that it has found the word "god". It then triggers an electronic bell and marks one unit on an electronic odometer. In this way, "Looking for God" tries to metaphorically replicate humanity's own pursuit of understanding the world.

For an obsessive station scanner like myself, this seems like the coolest thing ever.

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April 08, 2006

R.I.P. Allan Kaprow

I see from a post over at boingboing that Allan Kaprow, the creator of the genre of performance art known as "happenings" has passed away at age 78.

It's easy to dismiss happenings as just another quirky pop item from the 60s, but that misses the importance of Kaprow's concept of holding art events at unexpected times in unexpected places, while bluring the lines between participant and audience.

Today's flash mobs are direct descendents of Kaprow's happenings.

There's an AP obit of Allan Kaprow here.

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April 01, 2006


photo of hektor in action

Hektor is an amazing robotic graffiti output device. It's driven by a software plugin to Adobe Illustrator, and uses a bunch of cables and pullies to precisely position a spray can. The www.hektor.ch website has a bunch of great videos of Hektor in action.


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March 29, 2006

Treehouse building workshop

Tim writes - 'We will be sponsoring a treehouse building workshop in Santa Cruz, CA (about an hour south of San Francisco) on May 5,6 and 7th. The world famous treehouse builder and innovator Michael Garnier will be teaching the workshop. He owns Treesort treehouse resort in Takilma, OR and has built a treehouse for the Discovery Channel.' - Link.

Pictured here, Shawn's tree house! A big old-growth redwood stump had steps carved into it when we bought the place. Visions of a fabulous tree deck danced in our heads... - Link.


[Read this article]

(Via MAKE Magazine.)

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March 25, 2006

Is there a better way to draw?

IDSA logo

The Industrial Designers Society of America wants you to come up with a better way to teach people to draw. They want to create a course that emphases "visually communicating ideas," rather than simply improving drawing techniques. The IDSA has put out a call for proposals for curricula. Want to design a kick-ass drawing course? Check out the details.


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March 22, 2006

They call me Mister Fly

This isn't a photoshop collage of a fly and a pair of bad-ass shades. It's an actual fly, wearing an actual pair of teeny tiny bad-ass shades:

photo of fly wearing shades

Make Magazine's web site has the photo, along with this translated caption from the Japanese website where they found the image...
"Scientists using special laser technology have crafted a pair of mini-spectacles (2 mm) and placed them on the head of a housefly."


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They call me Mister Fly

This isn't a photoshop collage of a fly and a pair of bad-ass shades. It's an actual fly, wearing an actual pair of teeny tiny bad-ass shades:

photo of fly wearing shades

Make Magazine's web site has the photo, along with this translated caption from the Japanese website where they found the image...
"Scientists using special laser technology have crafted a pair of mini-spectacles (2 mm) and placed them on the head of a housefly."


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