Friday, April 29, 2011


Just a pretty little film to share on a Friday afternoon, created by the filmmakers at Everynone to accompany a recent episode of the public radio show Radiolab. A simple and well-made split-screen take on our need for balance. More films from Everynone here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Euthanasia Coaster

The “Euthanasia Coaster” is a hypothetical euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster engineered to humanely and elegantly take the life of a human being. Riding the coaster’s track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death. This ‘kinetic sculpture’ is in fact the ultimate roller coaster: John Allen, the former president of the famed roller coaster builders Philadelphia Toboggan Company, once said that “the ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out twenty-four people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know." From Design Interactions Research. More here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nests and the Birds That Built Them

Photographer Sharon Beals recently published Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them, a book of 50 exquisitely observed nests built by different species of birds. The photos are remarkable, revealing a wide range of techniques and materials including from mud, branches, and sticks to spiderwebs, moss, saliva, fur and bones. Above, a housewren's nest. Below, a Spotted Nightingale Thrush. More here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

St. Jordi's Day

Today Catalunya celebrates Sant Jordi's Day, among my favorite of all holidays. It is the feast day of the dragon slayer Saint George, and also the birthday of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. In Catalunya it is known as "El dia del llibre" or "The Day of the Book," during which all women receive roses and all men receive books, although it has become ever more common to give books to everybody. In honor of the beloved book makers of that region, an image from Galeria d'Imatges, a Catalan group blog which consists of book hounds Galderich of Piscolabis Librorum, Carlos Hernandez of El Gabinet Negre, Leblansky of Enceneu els Llums, and others.

Found at the redoubtable 50 Watts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Billy Bang

Quite sad to learn that violinist Billy Bang died yesterday, April 11. Bang was a remarkable musician and a unique person. He studied violin as a child and was granted a scholarship to study music at a performing arts high school in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, but was drafted into the U.S. Army before receiving his high school diploma. Bang arrived at Vietnam during the onset of the Tet Offensive and did a tour of duty there.

Back at home, Bang struggled to find his place in society. He turned to drugs and got caught up in a group of militants, where he put his knowledge of weapons to work helping to buy guns. It was supposedly during a gun-buying trip, in a Baltimore pawnshop, that he heard a sound calling him to a back room. "I don't know if it was on the radio or in my head, but I heard it. I walked back there and there were these old, used violins hanging up on a rope." Bang bought a $25 violin and began playing seriously again. He studied with jazz violist Leroy Jenkins, joined Sun Ra’s Arkestra, and worked with avant garde luminaries Don Cherry, William Parker, David Murray, and many others. In 1977 he formed the remarkable String Trio of New York which he led until leaving the group in the late 1980's.

In the early 2000's, Bang decided that it was time to confront his personal demons head-on and recorded two astonishing albums about his experience in Vietnam, Vietnam: The Aftermath in 2001 and Vietnam: Reflections in 2004. These records are both absolutely beautiful - simultaneously melancholy and angry, melodic and dissonant, and are often considered the crowning achievements of his career. His final record was the haunting Prayer for Peace, release in July 2010.

Bang died of lung cancer at the age of 63.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bikes at War

Rather than display her considerable ignorance, Gurldoggie stays clear of anything resembling contemporary politics. That being said, it's hard to resist this image of the rebellion in Libya, courtesy of Photo District News. Do I think good things are happening in Libya? Do I support one side or another? Is military action ever justified? By anyone? Hell if I know. But I will always support the creative use of bicycles. And this guy is welcome on my Critical Mass ride. Ka-Boom.

Thanks to The Corey for the photo tip.