December 2012 Archives

Borowitz: Al Qaeda Disbands; Says Job of Destroying U.S. Economy Now in Congress's Hands

The Borowitz Report at the New Yorker:

In an official statement published on the group’s website, the current leader of Al Qaeda said that Congress’s conduct during the so-called “fiscal-cliff” showdown convinced the terrorists that they had been outdone.

“We’ve been working overtime trying to come up with ways to terrorize the American people and wreck their economy,” said the statement from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. “But even we couldn’t come up with something like this.”

Mr. al-Zawhiri said that the idea of holding the entire nation hostage with a clock ticking down to the end of the year “is completely insane and worthy of a Bond villain.”

“As terrorists, every now and then you have to step back and admire when someone else has beaten you at your own game,” he said. “This is one of those times.”

Merry Merry and Happy Holidays

One of my favorite Christmas stories from David Sedaris:

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and watch out for the Bishop of Turkey.

The Bakken Oil Shale Field

Nice, keen catch from Dr. Drang:

Look north and slightly east of Denver. See that big, somewhat diffuse patch of light? Here’s a zoomed-in view of that area with a few cities labeled to help you get your bearings.

Even if you didn’t know that this lit-up patch was in a generally empty area, covering western North Dakota and parts of eastern Montana and southern Saskatchewan, you could guess that it’s not a population center; despite its size, there’s no bright center to it.

The lights are from the oil shale fields spread out over the Williston Basin. It’s one thing to read about the boom in oil shale, it’s quite another to see such graphic evidence.

As a point of reference, here’s EIA map of 2011 oil shale plays in N. America.

The Imported Landscapes of Petur Thomsen

Petur Thomsen, an Icelandic photographer, has been documenting “man’s attempts to dominate nature” and “man’s transformation of nature into environment.”

One set of photographs - his “Imported Landscape” series — is particularly striking. It examines the impact of the Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Project in eastern Iceland.

The project consists of three dams, one of them being the highest in Europe, and a hydroelectric power plant. The dams block among others the big glacial river Jokula a Dal, creating the 57km2 artificial lake Halslon.

The power plant is primarily being constructed to supply electricity to a new Aluminum smelter built by Alcoa of USA in the fjord of Reyoarfjorour on the east coast of Iceland.

The artificial lake and the constructions have spoiled the biggest wild nature in Europe. Making the Karahnjukar project, not only the biggest project in Icelandic history, but also the most controversial one. There have been a lot of debates about this project. Environmentalists are fighting for the preservation of the wild nature while those supporting the project talk about the need to use the energy the nature has to offer.

The best way for me to participate in the debate was to follow the land in its transformation.

Environmental degradation in the name of energy production — even ‘clean’ energy production — is nothing new. Thomsen’s take starkly frames the respective powers of man and nature as antagonists. For me, he conveys perfectly our conflicting senses of nostalgia/loss and awe/control. His photos embody contrasting, awkward meanings of power — electricity, energy, dominion, destruction, beauty.

Via The Fox is Black.

It's been 27 years...

We’ve made massive progress since these days. Phones fit in a pocket, the internet connects billions of people, and shoulder pads are history. Isn’t it finally time to change the course of our climate, too?

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a NOAA report that it had been 333 months with an above-average global temperature. Looks like that report stirred up some interested and advocacy. 27 years:

“27 years” is a creative project that illustrates the warming of the planet. It is inspired by NOAA’s State of the Climate Global Analysis, released in December 2012.

The analysis shows that November marked the 333rd consecutive month with an above-average global temperature. That means the world has not experienced a cooler-than-average or average temperature month in 27 years. In other words, it’s a clear sign that the world is quickly warming up.

Neat stuff — funny, hip, and pointed.

No words.

Dave Pell, writing in NextDraft:

There will be a brief debate about whether this is too soon to bring up the issue of gun control and gun violence in America. At the first press briefing following the shooting, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “today is not the day” to debate gun policy. Every day is the day. Someone needs to lead. We’ll never be able to fully understand or control the madness in a mind that could conceive and execute an act like this. But we can at least enact policies that will slow down the rate at which killers can carry our their deranged plots and increase, if only slightly, the barrier between their tortured minds and our “beautiful little kids.”

The Onion:

Following the fatal shooting this morning at a Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 small children, sources across the nation shook their heads, stifled a sob in their voices, and reported fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.

All of it, sources added.

“I’m sorry, but fuck it, I can’t handle this-I just can’t handle it anymore,” said Deborah McEllis, who added that “no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t happening, this can’t be real.” “Seriously, what the hell is this? What’s even going on anymore? Why do things like this keep happening?”

Kottke has the best and most thoughtful coverage on this tragedy.

Excellent Dweebery: What your favorite classic NES video game says about you.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

Metroid: You have killed a mosquito with hairspray.

The Legend of Zelda: You have carried a piece of string cheese behind your ear for a whole day.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: You have used an oversized licorice whip as a jumprope.

Castlevania: You have killed a fly with an algebra test.

Super Mario Bros.: You have hit a wiffle ball with a skateboard deck.

Super Mario Bros. 2: You have hit a moth with a tennis racquet.

Super Mario Bros. 3: You have attempted to carbonate milk.

Tecmo Bowl: You have attempted to skateboard while wearing roller skates.

Duck Hunt: You have injured yourself trying to drink out of a sprinkler.

Via kottke.org

Ravi Shankar, supreme master of the sitar, dies at 92

Shankar at Monterey Pop

From the NYT Obituary:

“If I’ve accomplished anything in these past 30 years,” Mr. Shankar said in the 1985 interview, “it’s that I have been able to open the door to our music in the West. I enjoy seeing other Indian musicians — old and young — coming to Europe and America and having some success. I’m happy to have contributed to that.

“Of course now there is a whole new generation out there, so we have to start all over again. To a degree their interest in India has been kindled by ‘Gandhi,’ ‘Passage to India’ and ‘The Jewel in the Crown.’ What we have to do now is convey to them an awareness of the richness and diversity of our culture.”

Memories for the Future: Documenting what was lost during the Tohoku quake & tsunami

Really cool - and thoughtful - use of internet tech from Google. The before and after photos, in particular, are striking and overwhelming. I like this kind of thing — it imagines the internet and social networks out of the doldrums of daily life and highlights the power of these kinds of technologies; it remembers the old promises of what these technologies could do for us.

On March 11, 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan, causing unimaginable damage. Many people lost their lives, their homes, and all their precious memories collected over generations. Among the things lost were precious photos and videos — cherished images of family, friends, pets and once-in-a-lifetime events — buried in rubble or washed to sea.

To help people in Japan share their photographs and videos that did survive, Google created a website, “Mirai e no kioku” (text is in Japanese only), which means “Memories for the Future”. Through this site, people have been able to rediscover lost memories of their homes and towns.

Google is now also providing thousands of miles of Street View imagery in the affected areas that were collected before and after the disaster. Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.

Click the “Before” or “After” links at the top of this page and use the Google Maps display to see the areas where we have Street View coverage. Find an image in Street View by dragging the yellow “Pegman” icon onto the map where you see a blue overlay. Then click between the “Before” and “After” links to see how the earthquake and tsunami impacted that area.

Erik B. Krenz's Scrumptiously Crunchable Hobbit Art

Erik Krenz, an illustrator from Minneapolis, made some drawings of Tolkien characters in the run up to the release of the Hobbit (fellow nerds and geeks rejoice). They’re fun and capture the spirit of Tolkien - and Peter Jackson’s play on his books -¬†really well.

Via thefoxisblack.

Pioneering Jazz Musician Dave Brubeck Dies at 91

Brubeck died Wednesday morning of heart failure after being stricken while on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, said his manager Russell Gloyd. Brubeck would have turned 92 on Thursday.

Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine — on Nov. 8, 1954 — and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and ’60s club jazz.

The seminal album “Time Out,” released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It opens with “Blue Rondo a la Turk” in 9/8 time — nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats.

A piano-and-saxophone whirlwind based loosely on a Mozart piece, “Blue Rondo” eventually intercuts between Brubeck’s piano and a more traditional 4/4 jazz rhythm.

The album also features “Take Five” — in 5/4 time — which became the Quartet’s signature theme and even made the Billboard singles chart in 1961. It was composed by Brubeck’s longtime saxophonist, Paul Desmond.

“When you start out with goals — mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically — you never exhaust that,” Brubeck told The Associated Press in 1995. “I started doing that in the 1940s. It’s still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements.”

Jackals!

Five hours of landing planes... in 30 seconds

From the Cy Kuckenbaker, the creator, at petapixel:

The concept is simple: shoot the individual planes flying across a pure blue sky, then chroma key the blue out as if it’s a green or blue screen leaving only the plane behind. Then put them all together on a video timeline. I did some tests and discovered that it didn’t work well if there were trees in the edges of the frame so scouting good locations took the most time. I watched the weather for a cloudless day then sat in a park and shot every plane that flew over. I locked the camera (Canon 7D with a EF-S 17-55 f/2.8) on a tripod and shot the planes with 1080p video at 24fps with an exposure I’d tested the day before (50/s, f/13, ISO 100) that would keep the sky deep blue with no blowout for a good chroma key.

To give the video a sense of temporal change as the planes fly by I did an 8 hour time-lapse under a bridge nearby shot at the same angle and composited it over the planes. Without it there’s no sense of time passing. I used an intervalometer to shoot about 800 images with the same exposure as the video. Once I had it posted as a regular video clip, I keyed the sky out of it as well. I put everything together in Adobe Premiere, which challenged my system since I needed 40 video tracks to stack all the airplane clips together. The last piece was to put a new sky back in — a still image with depth and clouds that’s panned using key frames in Premiere.

Via Colossal

Thanksgiving 2012 Menu

Our families descended on the Bay Area last week for Thanksgiving. It was fun madness; our parents meeting for the first time, we coordinated turkey-day logistics, and cooked up a gluten-free storm. The meal itself went well, though, per the norm, we had far too much food.

Click here to see the full menu.

Bill Murray on Gilda Radner

Via kottke.org, Bill Murray discussing Gilda Ratner:

Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.

So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”

We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know.

And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.

It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.

There’s a great consistency in the way Murray describes little life vignettes. A nice and subtle combination of melancholy and honesty permeates his public story-telling.

Welcome to the new UC (brand)

The University of California system undertook a substantial rebranding effort, highlighted in the video above. It is a dramatic shift - and without a doubt feels more modern. The impetus for the change as described by Vanessa Kanan Correa follows:

Previously, the UC system only used its seal as its primary visual identifier, where it was abused with impunity. We feel it is an important component of the university’s visual ecosystem. But it is a non-distinctive symbol which serves an important bureaucratic function. Now we limit its use to formal systemwide communications, diplomas, official regental and presidential communications, and other official documents. Many of our campuses, and other universities across the country have limited use of their official seals in similar ways.

From this perspective, this is less of a rebranding exercise, but instead the creation of a coherent, consistent, and relevant brand identity where before there was none.

Jury’s out on whether that’s a good thing or not — or how much it will actually impact design choices at each of the separate UC campuses. Probably minimally, at least initially.

The typographic choices are pretty safe — modern, but not too showy or strong. The designers chose Kievet, a sans-serif humanist typeface in the vein of Source Sans or Droid Sans. Kievet has a number of weights and a corresponding web font.

The initial work on FF Kievit began in 1995, as part of a school project. The concept was finished several years later for a corporate client of Method Inc., a design firm in San Francisco. The openness of the characters and their proportions makes it an ideal typeface for use in small print. The clarity of classic sans serif faces (Frutiger and Univers) and the humanistic characteristics of old styles (Garamond and Granjon) were the inspiration for this contemporary design that is equally at home in a headline or a body of text.

The new UC badge itself I’m not particularly fond of. It took me five or ten looks to realize they’re trying to make the background approximate a U through use of negative space. And that C is really, really round. I’ll grant that it looks really modern and catchy — as does the rebrand of the University’s “let there be light” tagline. The problem - and my fear - is that you want to go for a timeless design for properties like this and not capitulate to what’s trendy now. The whole thing looks hip and cool — and could feel dated in six wee little months. We’ll see what happens.

all rights reserved
snarglr is written & maintained by ajay pillarisetti