“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.”
“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.
“[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.”
“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.”
“‘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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.)
“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.
“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.
[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.’”
“The idea was to mix two sports and redesign their logos. Being a fan of both football (or soccer) and basketball, I decided to redesign NBA logos and make them look like football logos. Every logo you see is color correct and matches the idea of the original logo.” Making the rounds of late: NBA logos, football-style.
Thus far, Levitt’s only signed on as a producer, though he’s not a terrible choice for the title role. Benedict Cumberbatch is getting close to over-exposed these days, but his aloof otherworldliness is a pretty perfect match for Morpheus.
“Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. And who doesn’t want to be decent? The snarkers don’t, it seems. Or at least they (let’s be honest: we) don’t want to be decent on those terms. Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself…Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.”
Ably channeling the spirit of Mencken, Gawker’s Tom Scocca writes in defense of Snark, and skewers the evil that produced it, Smarm. “We have popular names now for the rhetorical tools these flacks are deploying: the straw-man attack, the fake umbrage, the concern-trolling. Why are those tools so familiar? It is because they are essential parts of the smarmer’s tool kit, the grease gun and the rag and the spatula.” If you judge a man by his enemies, Scocca picks a lot of the right ones here.
“The National Reconnaissance Office, tasked with watching the earth through largely classified satellite programs, recently launched a new rocket into space. That rocket’s classified contents were marked with an incredibly subtle image: an octopus spreading its tentacles across the globe, over the words “nothing is beyond our reach.” Charming!”
“Tuschman began by building the dioramas. Apart from an occasional prop taken from a dollhouse or toy train set, Tuschman builds everything to a scale about big enough for his cat, Smithers, to fit inside. He then photographed his models (he used two women and cast himself for the male character) on gray, using Photoshop to create the final image.”
“I knew that Handford had placed Waldo in each of these illustrations, and in my experience, all people—even people who make a living hiding cartoon men in cartoon landscapes — have tendencies, be they conscious and unconscious. True randomness is very difficult to achieve, even if you want to, and according to Handford he does not necessarily aim for unpredictability…Knowing this, is it possible, I wondered, to master Where’s Waldo by mapping Handford’s patterns?”
In Slate, Ben Blatt uses pattern mapping to pre-determine Waldo’s whereabouts. But don’t think all the conundrums are solved just yet. “[This] leaves a more intriguing question left unanswered: Why is Waldo there? Why, Waldo? Why are you so likely to hide in these two narrow bands? Why are you rarely at the edges of the page? Why are you rarely in the middle of the page? Why, Waldo?”
“Artist Jeff Bennett has invaded the cloying world of Thomas Kinkade with the full might of the Galactic Empire. In a series Bennett is calling Wars on Kinkade, the Painter of Light’s ethereally bland landscapes come under the iron fist of Star Wars storm troopers, Imperial Star Destroyers and Hoth-crushing AT-ATs.” General Veers, prepare your men for a surface attack: The Empire Strikes Kinkade.
“The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.”
In Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore argue that, as a result of whistleblowing, the US is “no longer able to rely on easy hypocrisy“ in our foreign policy. “Secrecy can be defended as a policy in a democracy. Blatant hypocrisy is a tougher sell. Voters accept that they cannot know everything that their government does, but they do not like being lied to.”