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Arts and Letters

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Microscopic Monets.

“Each ovary of the female fruit fly houses multiple ovarioles or ‘assembly lines’ in which individual egg chambers develop into fully formed fly eggs…In this picture, cross-sections of ten ovarioles from different female fruit flies are arranged with stem cells and early stage egg chambers at the center, and the more mature chambers at the periphery. The nucleus of each cell is stained yellow/orange. The cell membranes are stained blue.”

As written up by Aatish Bhatia at Wired, the winners of Princeton’s annual Art of Science competition are announced. “Among the entries are some wonderful ‘oops’ moments, where an experiment goes beautifully wrong, revealing art where you might not have expected to see it…But most of these submissions aren’t accidents. Many of these pieces reveal form, structure, and beauty hidden at a scale that our eyes can’t perceive.”

The Monuments Met.

By way of Open Culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has put nearly 400,000 works of art online as of last Friday, free to use. Above is Edward Hopper’s “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” (1929), and there’s 398,240 more to peruse when the feeling strikes.

Birth of Diana.

“Worth1000 hosts a variety of photo-editing and illustrative contests. One of their contest series, Superhero ModRen, challenges users to incorporate superheroes into fine art pieces. It’s fun to see the contrast of modern characters we know and love placed in classic painting styles and poses.”

Superheroes added to classic art — click through for many more.

Gashlygame Over.

“Video game characters are always getting stabbed, burned, blasted, electrocuted, and crushed — when they aren’t falling to their dooms. So they’re perfect for this macabre poem in the style of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.” (Via io9).

Wounded Giselle.

“[T]he fundamental key to embodying Giselle is to radiate purity and sensitivity. In the first act, she glows with an inner joy and with her love for dance and for Albrecht. She is so honest, and her feelings for Albrecht so wholehearted, that she cannot reconcile his betrayal with her soulful belief in the goodness of the world.”

In Pointe Magazine, my sister Gill explains her process for embodying (and mastering) the psychology of Giselle. (Hint: Dancing well helps too.) “[E]ven death pales in the face of her eternal compassion…Her inner joy is now a quiet sadness, but more than ever she exudes love.”

Backstream Color.

“Typically one might think of a ‘colorized photo’ as being kind of garish and tasteless, with broad one-color strokes with no regard to detail or any attempt at subtlety or nuance…But a newer generation of colorizers, such as the community of artists at r/ColorizedHistory, approach colorizing with a real reverence towards history, using their skills to eliminate the distraction of the “colorization,” ultimately bringing these scenes to life with a natural realism that hopefully connects the viewer to the past in a new way.”

A follow-up to this post: Paleofuture‘s Matt Novak discusses the art and craft of colorizing historical photos with colorizer Dana Keller. “If done well, the addition of color can help “connect” people to history. It can bridge the gap from a seemingly distant event and make it more immediate and relevant.”

Conjurer of Nightmares.

“A thread running through Mr. Giger’s work was the uneasy meshing of machines and biology, in a highly idiosyncratic blend of science fiction and surrealism…He kept a notepad next to his bed so he could sketch the terrors that rocked his uneasy sleep — nightmarish forms that could as easily have lumbered from prehistory as arrived from Mars.”

R.I.P. Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, best known as the creator of the Lovecraftian Xenomorph from Alien (which, along with The Shining twins, Freddy Krueger, and the final shot from Carrie, is responsible for a goodly percentage of my nightmares over the years), 1940-2014. “My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy. A good many people think as I do. If they like my work they are creative…or they are crazy.”

Gone with the Whiskey.

“The memo..[is] candid in its assessment of the writers’ strengths and weakness. Of William Faulkner, who had written a few screenplays in the early 1930s, the anonymous memo author notes that he was now living in Mississippi but ‘can fly anywhere in his own plane.’ On the downside, Faulkner was ‘not very reliable in his plane nor his habits.’”

But has he taken a stab at the rasslin’ form? Rebecca Onion of Slate birddogs this memo to David O. Selznick on possible Gone with the Wind screenwriters. The quip above reminded me of Mencken’s review of Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, from the dissertation: As good as Babbitexcept the last 30,000 words, which you wrote in a state of liquor.”

Arkham Aquarium.

“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night…I shall become a shark.” Iconic Batman villains reconceived as cartoon sharks, by artist Jeff Victor. Mr. Freeze’s goldfish is a nice touch.

Mr. Toad’s Cantankerous Contraption.

“For her Steam in the Willows illustrations, Brennan takes as her inspiration the industrial era in which Grahame was writing, but chooses to celebrate artisanal technology in lieu of mass production.”

Lauren Davis of io9 offers some glimpses of artist Krista Brennan’s forthcoming steampunk rendering of The Wind in the Willows. Makes sense. Mr. Toad is as steampunk as it gets this side of Jules Verne.

Not in Houston Anymore.

“The artist Scott Listfield has a fixation for astronauts, painting them over 130 times since the early 90s. You’ll typically find them gazing in blank-eyed wonder at pop icons like Optimus Prime, Mario’s coins twinkling behind a cloud, and the Queen in Aliens…Perhaps there’s a statement in this, something about the decline of the Space Age and the cult of culture. Maybe he just likes painting astronauts.”

I feel like I may have blogged this at some point in the past, but couldn’t readily find it. At any rate, and Killscreen points the way to Scott Listfield’s AstronautDinosaur, where NASA’s finest find themselves on all manner of adventures.

My God It’s Full of Stars.

“I’ve seen the Big Dipper thousands of times, perused it by eye, with binoculars, and through a telescope. And yet, even in a wide-field picture like this, there are still treasures to be found there. Just because something is familiar doesn’t necessarily mean you truly know it.”

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait offers up a very high-resolution image of the Big Dipper by astrophotographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo. (Best to see it enlarged.) “Andreo’s photo shows remarkable detail. Of course there are thousands of stars, but I was able to see dozens of galaxies as well. A few of them are quite famous, like the huge and beautiful M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.”

Hues of History.

/r/ColorizedHistory is dedicated to high quality colorizations of historical black and white images, and discussions of a historical nature.” Reddit’s endlessly browsable History in Color, with some choice selections collected here.

“In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images.” Along related lines, and making the rounds again because of the Ukraine situation, “real” color photos of Russia from 1909 to 1912.

Rdng is Fndmtl.



“[W]hat Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading. The ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters. The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen. In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.”

Whoa…I’ve read about kung-fu. An intriguing new app aims to turn everyone into speed readers. “Spritz is about to go public with Samsung’s new line of wearable technology.”

The Bayou of Madness, Pt. II.

“Much has been made of the connections between True Detective and the cosmic-horror tradition…and rightly so. But what’s largely been missed is that the cosmic-horror genre — rooted, as it is, in humankind’s subprime position in the pecking order of the universe — is deeply entwined with the character of Louisiana’s physical and cultural landscape.”

In Slate, Adrian Van Young delineates True Detective — and Lovecraft’s — debt to Louisiana, one of the cultural crossroads and borderlands where shadows linger and tricksters thrive. “Lost cities, liminal realms, and cosmic fear come more or less naturally to Louisiana…The chief-most horrors of the show are not voodoo curses or tentacled monsters or consciousness-destroying plays, but environmental slippage, religious perversion, badly mangled family trees. True Detective wears the cosmic-horror genre and its lineage, in other words, not unlike the Mardi Gras masks being worn today all over its native state. The mask is scary, sure enough, but what’s underneath can be even more frightening: one place in the U.S. where anything, it seems, can happen.’”

Also, for a more prosaic take on HBO’s current hit, see the credits for Law & Order: True Detective, below.

Constructing the Shot.

“‘I love to document everyday things and build them into mini-series,’ Whyte says…As soon as my kids discovered the camera accessory at the Lego store, which fits in the hand of a mini-figure, I worked out a way to start placing the character in my day-to-day shots and he became a cohesive element.’”

Fast Company‘s Joe Berkowitz and photographer Andrew Whyte chronicle the adventures of an intrepid Lego photojournalist. “Despite his diminutive size, this little guy seems to have had some big adventures. He scales buildings, he’s chased by a hermit crab, and slips on a giant (to him) banana peel.”

Across the Face of Arda.

“After taking 150,000 photos over the course of three months, photographer Shawn Reeder ultimately whittled the number down to 8,640 in order to complete this incredible visual expedition.” Via The Atlantic and “timelapse cinematographer” Shawn Reeder, a lusciously-shot time-lapse journey through New Zealand.

Brevity Ate the Soul of Wit.

“My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.”

By way of sententiae et clamores, some terrifying tales for the time-deprived: twenty two-sentence horror stories. “I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and it’s so dark all the time. If I knew it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.”

Kiev is Burning.

“Anti-government protests in Ukraine reached their most violent point on Tuesday as at least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured amid violent clashes between police and citizens. The protests have evolved into a full-blown crisis on the ground. What happens now is critical to the geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West.”

As the situation in Ukraine degenerateshere’s a decent primer — Paul Szoldra and Michael Kelly offer up stunning photos from the heart of the protests. “From riot police using ancient military tactics to defend against attacks to streets engulfed in flames, the photos coming for the heart of the standoff are incredible.”

But It’s Better Than the Alternative.

“I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse…The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.”

Well, my friends are gone and my hair is gray. I ache in the places where I used to play, and I’m crazy for love, but I’m not coming on: Also in The New Yorker, Roger Angell files a dispatch from the far side of ninety. “Here in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already.”

At the Bayou of Madness.

“For many fans of weird fiction, the surprising appearance of this madness-inducing play into what ostensibly appeared to be just another police procedural was a bolt of lightning. Suddenly, the tone of the show changed completely, signaling the descent into a particular brand of horror rarely (if ever) seen on television.”

In io9, Michael Hughes explores True Detective‘s many references to The King in Yellow, an 1895 collection of short stories by Robert Chambers, and a “fictional play…that brings despair, depravity, and insanity to anyone who reads it or sees it performed.”

As Molly Lambert of Grantland pointed out of HBO’s dark and addictive mini-series, “True Detective’s closest relative is Twin Peaks, which mined similarly nocturnal depths. Both shows espouse mythologies that feel extremely personal to the creators but also eerily universal, tapping into the same brain waves as paradoxical sleep.”

For his part, show creator Nic Pizzolatto recently talked about his debt to another Weird Fiction author, Thomas Ligotti. “I first heard of Ligotti maybe six years ago, when Laird Barron’s first collection alerted me to this whole world of new weird fiction that I hadn’t known existed. I started looking around for the best contemporary stuff to read, and in any discussion of that kind, the name ‘Ligotti’ comes up first…[H]is nightmare lyricism was enthralling and visionary.

On top of everything else, True Detective also has one of the more captivating credit sequences in recent years, as per below. (It apparently owes a heavy debt to the work of artist/photographer Dan Mountford.)

Room in DC.

“Emblematic examples of his work, the two paintings…capture the strong sense of atmosphere and light as well as the empty stillness that characterize much of Hopper’s imagery. They also demonstrate Hopper’s fascination with the various forms of this country’s vernacular architecture — a subject he would return to again and again, resulting in some of the most enduring images of American art.”

By way of a friend, the Oval Office gets some Hoppers on loan (apparently to replace a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, which needs to get out of the light for awhile.) “Cobb’s Barns, South Truro, and Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro — oil on canvas works painted in 1930-33 on Cape Cod — have been lent by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the world’s largest repository of Hopper’s works.”

The Shadow from Ekkaia.

“Outerra…is a ’3D planetary engine’ that purports to be able to render a world in full detail, from space all the way down to pebbles on the surface. Meanwhile, Steve Edwards and Carl Lingard created the ME-DEM (Middle-earth Digital Elevation Model) Project in 2006, with the ultimate goal of rendering the entirety of Middle-earth in open-source data. Last year, they exported their data into the Outerra engine.”

Also in world-building news from Wired, Middle Earth as seen from space. As another Wired writer aptly noted on Twitter, Mordor looks like it was probably an impact crater.

Craft of Cthulhu.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Via Liam at sententiae et clamores, Douglas Wynne ranks H.P. Lovecraft’s top ten opening lines. “He may have meandered a bit after getting your attention (and I’d argue that’s part of his charm), but in his pulp fiction heart Lovecraft understood the importance of grabbing you right away to earn your patience, and his stories consistently showcase his mastery of the intriguing opening.”

The painting above, by the way, was Jon Foster‘s contribution to a 2010 exhibit of Lovecraftian-themed art. His gallery is definitely worth a look-thru.

Ten Forward Couture.

“And then the Enterprise also travels to the planet where everybody dresses like David Byrne in Stop Making Sense.” From successful sci-fi costuming to something of the more hit-and-miss variety, io9 takes a gander at the costumes of the first three Star Trek: The Next Generation seasons. Points for creativity, I suppose.

The Good Doctor Prescribes.

“There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong. This is a dangerous notion, and very few professional journalists will endorse it — calling it ‘vengeful’ and ‘primitive’ and ‘perverse’ regardless of how often they might do the same thing themselves. ‘That kind of stuff is opinion,’ they say, ‘and the reader is cheated if it’s not labeled as opinion.’

“Well, maybe so. Maybe Tom Paine cheated his readers and Mark Twain was a devious fraud with no morals at all who used journalism for his own foul ends. And maybe H. L. Mencken should have been locked up for trying to pass off his opinions on gullible readers and normal ‘objective journalism.’ Mencken understood that politics – as used in journalism – was the art of controlling his environment, and he made no apologies for it.”

Via Brain Pickings, the late and missed Hunter S. Thompson (RIP) makes the case for advocacy journalism. “With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” (HST pic via here.)

Let’s Put On a Show!


Cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine. Mental health break: An intricate supercut of famous dance scenes from the movies. But no Center Stage? C’mon now.

This is Your Film on Drugs.

“What do those substances, when they’re not altering minds, actually look like? To find out…Schoenfeld turned to a logical source: photographs. She converted her photo studio into a lab, then set to work exposing drugs (legal and illegal) to film negatives. She took the images that emerged from the reactions and magnified them—to gorgeous, and sometimes fairly creepy, results.” The Atlantic‘s Megan Garber points the way to All You Can Feel, an often-beautiful gallery of drugs on film on drugs.

[YOU] have joined the call.

“The dialogue is randomized so that you never listen to exactly the same meeting twice; this effect also adds to the feeling of disconnection between the participants but somehow still feels entirely believable. Sometimes — particularly if you’re listening at work — it can feel eerily realistic. As Scott tells me via email, ‘It always makes me laugh when the first randomly selected audio clip that plays is “Did someone just join the call?” because it makes the website visitor feel like they’re being addressed directly.’”

Venture, if you dare, into the terrifying existential corporate-bureaucratic hellscape that is ConferenceCall.biz, written up last week by Slate‘s Joshua Keating. “[I]t’s accompanied by an eerie electronic soundtrack and washed-out office imagery that another blog has described as ‘what would happen if David Lynch directed a re-make of Office Space.’”

It’s funny because it’s true — What a gloriously awful and useless form of communication. They invariably end up being one person reading an agenda to everyone else that could have just been distributed and absorbed by all in one-tenth the time — but, of course, you already knew that.

The Last Days of Orwell.

[B]eset by poor health in various manifestations, he had to finish off the novel’s manuscript, which he had then tentatively titled The Last Man in Europe, before his conditions finished him off. ‘I am not pleased with the book but I am not absolutely dissatisfied,’ he wrote his agent of the rough draft. ‘I think it is a good idea but the execution would have been better if I had not written it under the influence of TB.’”

In The Guardian, Robert McCrum tells of a desperately sick George Orwell’s race against time to finish 1984. “In late October 1947, oppressed with ‘wretched health’, Orwell recognised that his novel was still ‘a most dreadful mess and about two-thirds of it will have to be retyped entirely’.” Orwell died in January 1950. (As seen as OpenCulture, who also point the way to these jpgs of Orwell’s original manuscript.)

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