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‘Where the City Can’t See’: Creepy, dystopic movie shot entirely using laser scanner technology
11.03.2016
12:36 pm

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Movies
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Director Liam Young has dropped the trailer for “the first narrative fiction film shot entirely with laser scanners.” The movie, which is not feature-length, is some kind of a dystopic vision of the near future.

When you see the word scanners you might think of your supermarket’s checkout line but that’s not the most helpful example. If you have seen a blockbuster film in the past several years, then you have seen a movie that used laser scanners to create the effects. The technology, which commonly goes by the acronym LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), is in many ways analogous to radar; it is a remote sensing method that uses a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances). It is one of the building blocks of visual effects production.

Set in the Chinese-owned and -controlled “Detroit Economic Zone,” Where the City Can’t See is about an assembly-line worker who hacks a driverless taxi to find a place that’s not shown on its map. The evocative score for the clip comes from “Deep Breathing” by Shigeto.

Where the City Can’t See is set to premiere at Heart of Glass on November 12, where it will be played before a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Korg’s new synthesizer comes with presets by Aphex Twin
11.01.2016
10:29 am

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Music
Science/Tech

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The renowned Japanese company Korg has announced a new analog synthesizer called the Monologue that features presets designed by Richard D. James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin.

Korg has described the model as a “next-generation” monophonic synthesizer that “shares the spirit” of the similarly named and pricier Minilogue model, which was released in January.

As well as being available in five colors, the Monologue features a built-in step sequencer that allows users to record up to four knob movements for creating “motion sequences.” The item can run on six AA batteries, which Billy Steele of Engadget interpreted as a shout-out to a prior era when DJs cut their teeth on equipment from Radio Shack. Engadget has reported that the Monologue costs a mere $300, but you’ll have to wait until January 2017 to buy it.
 

 
The Monologue also supports microtuning, which means that users can generate their own tuning outside of standard scales. To assist owners in understanding the system, Korg has hired Aphex Twin as an advisor on the feature; additionally, he has created preset scales, sounds, and sequences.

The Monologue comes with an OLED oscilloscope so that DJs can visualize their beats, as well as filter, modulation, drive, and LFO controls capable of generating “powerful basses and sharp leads” and 100 preset locations.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Solar system string lights
10.25.2016
11:18 am

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Science/Tech

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I’m always looking for cool indoor string lights and I think I’ve found them. These awesome solar system string lights are by ThinkGeek. There are 10 glowing glass orbs which includes the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Again, the orbs are glass, so if you accidentally break one (apparently they’re somewhat fragile) you can purchase replacements. I’ve included images of them lit and not lit. Obviously they don’t look as nifty without the power, but it gives you an idea of what they look like closer up and the quality of the craftsmanship.

A string of solar system lights will cost you $29.99. If you want replacement bulbs too, that’s another $19.99. These are indoor only.


 

 

 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Aliens Among Us: Almost psychedelic microscopic photography of beetles, mites, spiders and moths
10.21.2016
10:45 am

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Animals
Art
Science/Tech

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001igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider (Phidippus otiosus).
 
Igor Siwanowicz’s interest in the natural world came from poring over brightly colored photographs and illustrations in biology and zoology textbooks as a child. Born in Krakow, Poland in 1976, Siwanowicz is the son of two biologists who he claims reinforced and rewarded his early interest in biology.

Certain amount of the fascination in natural sciences might be encoded in the genes, and that was definitely passed on me from my parents, along with some artistic skills that just pop up in my family generation after generation.

Siwanowicz studied for a Masters in biotechnology at Krakow and then Aarhus, Denmark, before going on to complete a PhD in structural biochemistry in Germany.

His artistic talents came to the fore during a hiatus from post-doctoral studies when Siwanowicz traveled the world as a freelance nature photographer. He “conned some people into organizing” exhibitions of his work which led to the publication of two books of his photographs.

He then returned to his career in science as a “lowly technical assistant in behavioural genetics at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Munich.” Today, Siwanowicz works as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia.

Siwanowicz believes his photographic work keeps him “(relatively) sane.”

...it’s a sort of occupational therapy, a way to cope with the blues. I think I am slightly bipolar (as in manic-depressive), far from raving mad but still having those seasonal swings of mood and warped self-perception. Taking photos, among other things, gives me satisfaction and keeps my mind off of obsessing too much. I use my accomplishments to re-build my self-esteem and move a small step towards self-actualisation.

Siwanowicz’s photographic work includes beautiful macro “mug shots” of insects:

They are foreign, otherworldly looking creatures – the closer you get to them, the stronger the effect. See, insects have those totally alien, Gigeresque forms that I find somehow fascinating.

His incredibly trippy psychedelic extreme close-up photographs of insects—beetles, spiders, moths, mites—are made with a confocal laser-scanning microscope, which captures these beautiful creatures in greater clarity and detail than other lens-based imaging.

See more of Igor Siwanowicz’s glorious microscopy.
 
002igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider.
 
005igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider eyes.
 
More of these stunning photographs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
France Gall Sings About ‘Computer Dating’ In 1968
10.18.2016
09:12 am

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Amusing
Music
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Der Computer Nr.3 45 on Decca Records
 
In 1968, Serge Gainsbourg protégé France Gall participated in the televised song contest Deutscher Schlager-Wettbewerb (“The German Schlager Competition”) where hundreds of composers and lyricists from all over Europe were called upon to write a brand new hit song. A total of 495 titles were submitted, and only twelve songs were selected for the finals which were broadcast live on channel ZDF. Although she was French-born and famously known as a yé-yé singer, Gall did enjoy a successful career in Germany in the late ‘60s. With a little help from Werner Müller and Giorgio Moroder, she published 42 songs in German language between 1966 and 1972.

On July 4th, 1968, 21-year-old France Gall took the stage at the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall and performed a song titled “Der Computer Nr.3” live with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra leaving 300 people and a panel of judges dramatically baffled over what in the world she was singing about: “Computer #3 searches the right boy for me. The computer knows the perfect woman for every man and happiness is drawn instantly from its files.” The song then suddenly takes an unexpected turn when it switches over to a vocoder German computer voice which pre-dates the formation of Kraftwerk “22 Jahre, schwarze Haare, von Beruf Vertreter, Kennzeichen: Geld wie Heu” (Age: 22 years, black hair, professional representative, features: money galore)

The song (credited to the biggest hit-making duo in Germany at the time: music producer Christian Bruhn and lyricist Georg Buschor) then takes yet another completely unexpected turn as it dips into a Beatles cover for a brief moment before diving right back into the subject matter at hand. “Lange war ich einsam, heut’ bin ich verliebt, und nur darum ist das so, weil es die Technik und die Wissenschaft und Elektronengehirne gibbet.” Translated into English, France Gall is singing perfectly to the “Eight Days A Week” melody “Ohh I need your love babe, yes you know it’s true, that’s only because the technology and science and electrons are there.”

Cut to the audience to see hundreds of upper-class post-war Germans staring blankly, emotionless, and reactionless at the very first song ever written about computer dating. While personal computers and the internet were still years away, computer dating was an actual trend in the late ‘60s being targeted to lonely hearts all over the world by way of magazine advertorials. Participants would submit their vital stats, a punchcard-plotted questionnaire, and a personal check in the amount of $3-5 in an old-fashioned stamp-licked envelope. Then they waited patiently (usually several weeks or months) while an IBM mainframe the size of an entire room crunched the numbers on their personalities, intelligence, and preferences (no photos were involved).

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
DEVO shills for Pioneer’s futuristic new LaserDisc format, 1984
10.10.2016
02:16 pm

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Advertising
Music
Science/Tech
Television

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The early 1980s were such a heady time for personal entertainment technology. The Sony Walkman was introduced in the U.S. in 1980, the same time that VHS and Betamax found themselves embroiled in the canonical “format war” to determine control of the videotape market. Meanwhile, CDs were giving a geneation of Boomers a reason to buy Electric Ladyland a second time, and laserdiscs represented that slightly unwieldy and expensive format that was a “cut above” to signal the affluence and distinction of the serious cinephile.

Pioneer Electronics, having purchased a majority stake in the format, had ample reason to push the devices as well as the brand name LaserDisc. To that end, in 1984 Pioneer hired Ohio’s staunchest believers in “devolution,” known to all of course as DEVO, to appear in a 12-minute in-store demo disc touting the innumerable advantages of the laserdisc format.

The band appears wearing tuxedos in a variety of colors and matching fright wigs, each creatively adorned with a single large googly eye and painted eyebrows guaranteeing a quizzical expression. (Surely DEVO is in the Fright Wig Hall of Fame by now?) After introducing themselves, DEVO quickly cedes the floor to Ray Charles, who testifies that the format certainly sounds good and (so he is assured) looks good as well. Blind pianist George Shearing joins him to double down on the gag.
 

Ray Charles, video entertainment expert
 
It’s a little depressing to hear, after Ray Charles delivers his spiel, Mark Mothersbaugh (of all people) intone the following copy: “Was that just advertising hype? Listen a minute, and let your own ears decide.” Sigh. Let’s hope they were all paid well for this.

The rest of the video consists mainly of clips pimping Pioneer’s laserdisc catalogue of that moment, including WarGames, Tootsie, Flashdance, Sophie’s Choice, The Wiz, Carlin at Carnegie, and so forth. Pioneer was proud of laserdisc’s improved audio playback, so popular music artists were a big part of the pitch—it’s a little funny to hear DEVO touting the virtues of Duran Duran and Sheena Easton, but am I imagining it or does Mothersbaugh give the phrase “the heat of Fleetwood Mac” extra ironic oomph?

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A bucket of replica shit
10.06.2016
10:22 am

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Animals
Environment
Science/Tech

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Well here’s something I didn’t know existed: A bucket filled with replica animal shit! Admittedly I laughed at first (because I’m juvenile) but I didn’t necessarily understand why someone would want to own a bucket filled with plastic animal shit, although several things rather unavoidably came to mind. I’m not proud of my imagination sometimes.

Truth be told, it’s actually quite useful! The “life form replica” Bucket of Scat is made by Nasco and it’s used for “nature studies and animal identification projects.” You can use it independently “or with animal tracks to better identify wildlife signs in nature.”

Each replica is a scat of a common North American animal. Includes 13 replica turds that kids can match with dookies found in the woods behind their homes. Collect ‘em all! Trade with your friends! Will not promote “pink eye.”

If you wanna a own a bucket of plastic animal scat—not judging—you can get it here for $49.53. Hand sanitizer sold separately.

via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Of Skittles and Skypes: Shocking codewords ‘Racist Trump Twitter’ uses to avoid account suspension
10.03.2016
09:01 am

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Current Events
Politics
Race
Science/Tech

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This fucking election. I’ve heard that exact phrase so much more this year than I ever have before. The rise of Trump’s racist, sexist, illiberal id within the Republican Party has been depressing to watch. We’re all holding our breath to see where all of that unruly anger goes after (please God) Trump loses the election on November 8. 

In the meantime, the mainstreaming of Trump (our own American Mussolini®) and his politics of racial resentment, the KKK’s David Duke (whose name I’ve heard more in the last week than in the previous 20 years combined), and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon has also meant an inevitable education in the loathsome habits of the overtly and proudly racist part of America that is normally kept under wraps. I don’t want to know this stuff, but have learned about it via a sort of toxic, brain-damaged cultural osmosis.

So here’s something I learned this year. In white supremacist quarters the number “88” has special significance, because “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet and so it can be taken to mean “HH” = “Heil Hitler” (also “8” kind of looks like an “H” if you think about it). It took the political rise of Trump to bring that to my attention. Fun stuff!

If you see the number 88 being thrown around by people who probably hate blacks and Latinos, it’s not an accident, it’s a dog whistle to the people who (wink) think of themselves as understanding the “true America” in which immigrants and blacks always win and white people and Christians never get an even break.

You may have seen the triple parentheses, also called “echoes,” around people’s names, which look like this: (((Martin Schneider))). That’s white supremacist code for “Jewish.” (Fortunately, Twitter users are now adopting the practice voluntarily in order to defuse it of its meaning.)

And the innocuous word Skittles is a racist dog whistle because that’s what Trayvon Martin had on his person when George Zimmerman shot and killed him for no good reason.

Some of you might recall that Trump’s son Donald Jr. recently unveiled an ugly metaphor having to do with the number of poisonous Skittles could be in a bowl before you’d make a decision to stop eating them, the idea being to communicate the advisability of a zero-tolerance policy on Muslim immigration.

That metaphor has roots in Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher—in more recent years the concept has been used against Muslims and black people using M&Ms as the candy, but the switch to Skittles was surely done as a conscious shout-out to Zimmerman. It’s astonishing how few news reports noticed this aspect of the metaphor, but the governing logic of an effective dog whistle is that most people—non racist people—can’t hear it.

On Saturday Buzzfeed ran an item by Alex Kantrowitz alerting “normals” to some new codewords the white supremacists on Twitter are using to evade detection. I heard about it via this tweet from Alex Goldman, who describes the groups using the terms as “Racist Trump twitter.”
 

 
Here’s the ugly list of words and their “true” meanings among white supremacists. Notice the presence of that loaded word skittles to mean Muslims or Arabs:
 

nigger = google
Jew/Kike = skype
Spic/Mexican = yahoo
Gook/Chink = bing
Muslim/Arab = skittle
gay (men) = butterfly
lesbian = fishbucket
tranny = durdens
liberals/dems = carsalesman
conservatives = reagans
libertiarian = a leppo

 
Here’s Kantrowitz on the reasons for the subterfuge:
 

The code appears to have originated in response to Google’s Jigsaw program, a new AI-powered approach to combating harassment and abuse online. The program seems to have inspired members of the online message board 4chan to start “Operation Google,” using Google as a derogatory term for blacks in an attempt to get Google to filter out its own name. The code developed from there.

 
This is obviously an elaborate game of whack-a-mole, but just because it’s kind of futile in no way diminishes the importance of letting some daylight in on these creeps. If they have to go through a hundred iterations of inventing some whole new elaborate code to enjoy their twisted, simple-minded hate among themselves, then maybe eventually they’ll get the message that society is not going to put up with it.

Here’s an example of the code in use. It don’t get a whole lot clearer than this, does it?

 
Here are a couple of other examples:

 

 
Ugh! This fucking election? How about This fucking country???

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Eating rats with Morgan Spurlock at Fantastic Fest 2016
09.26.2016
02:27 pm

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Movies
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At this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin the movie with the highest gross-out factor wasn’t a horror flick. It was the documentary Rats directed by Morgan Spurlock. As a New Yorker who braved the garbage strikes of the 70s, I know a thing a or two about rats. Rats as big as cats. I don’t like them. Spurlock’s film made me hate them. The disgusting little creatures are taking over the world and Spurlock has shot the film in ways that make the invasion as spooky as an episode of The Walking Dead. Using bursts of sound, night-vision photography, jump cuts, creepy point of view shots, skewed camera angles and Pierre Takal’s subtle but unnerving score, Rats shows us that reality can be far more horrifying than fiction.

I ran a few bars in downtown Manhattan in the 80s/90s. One was right near The Bowery. A giant 9000 sq.foot space. We had a serious rat problem. I came up with a somewhat effective solution. I offered my night clean-up crew $10 bucks for every rat tail they’d bring me. In the mornings when I got to work there would be a plastic bag containing dozens of rat tails in a box near the door to my office. One guy was picking them off with a .22 caliber rifle. No shit.

Some of the best moments in Rats feature battle-hardened exterminator Ed Sheehan who’s been in a Sisyphean war against the rat population in New York City for more than fifty years. He’s a cigar-chomping character right out of central casting. Here’s our next Netflix hero.
 


 
In addition to screening the film, Alamo Drafthouse had a special treat for the people attending Rats. Drafthouse chef Brad Sorenson prepared some delicious (so I’m told) rat curry. Here’s a shot of some stouthearted men (including Drafthouse CEO Tim League) chowing down on vermin vindaloo. Supersizing was not an option. Rats can carry up to 5 million viruses on just one of its tiny little gross rodent hands. So no rat sushi.
 

Photo: Scott Weinberg.
 
As repellent as the idea of eating rats is to westerners, the fact is that rat is a commonplace dish in many parts of Asia. One can see this as nature’s way of dealing with a rodent problem. As a vegetarian, the thought of eating a rat isn’t that much more repulsive to me than eating a chicken or veal calf. And all rats are free range and locavore. Rat is going to be the next foodie trend. Just wait.
 

Rat Thai-style goes nicely with red chili sauce.
 
Rats will be screening on the Discovery Channel on October 22.  Tune in. Just don’t watch while eating a TV dinner. Or anything else.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The 13th-century ‘thinking machine’ of Ramón Llull
09.22.2016
09:17 am

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Books
Literature
Occult
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Ramón Llull, via Alchetron. The ribbon in his mouth says Lux mea est ipse dominus, “My light is the Lord himself”
 
There’s an exhibition at Barcelona’s CCCB called “The Thinking Machine: Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria,” up through December 11. Including work by Arnold Schönberg, Athanasius Kircher, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz, Italo Calvino, John Cage, and Salvador Dalí, the show makes its case for the influence of the Catalan philosopher Ramón Llull (1232-1316, sometimes anglicized “Raymond Lully”), who might be credited with inventing the first computer, or its primitive ancestor.
 

via inexhibit.com
 
I first became aware of Llull and his contraption in Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions, which reprints “Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine,” an article Borges wrote for El Hogar Magazine in 1937. Borges gives the most lucid description of the machine I’m aware of, starting with its simplest, two-dimensional form, a circle divided nine times:
 

 

It is a schema or diagram of the attributes of God. The letter A, at the center, signifies the Lord. Along the circumference, the letter B stands for goodness, C for greatness, D for eternity, E for power, F for wisdom, G for volition, H for virtue, I for truth, and K for glory. The nine letters are equidistant from the center, and each is joined to all the others by chords or diagonal lines. The first of these features means that all of these attributes are inherent; the second, that they are systematically interrelated in such a way as to affirm, with impeccable orthodoxy, that glory is eternal or that eternity is glorious; that power is true, glorious, good, great, eternal, powerful, wise, free and virtuous, or benevolently great, greatly eternal, eternally powerful, powerfully wise, wisely free, freely virtuous, virtuously truthful, etc., etc.

I want my readers to grasp the full magnitude of this etcetera. Suffice it to say that it embraces a number of combinations far greater than this page can record. The fact that they are all entirely futile—the fact that, for us, to say that glory is eternal is as rigorously null and void as to say that eternity is glorious—is of only secondary interest. This motionless diagram, with its nine capital letters distributed among nine compartments and linked by a star and some polygons, is already a thinking machine. It was natural for its inventor—a man, we must not forget, of the thirteenth century—to feed it with a subject matter that now strikes us as unrewarding. We now know that the concepts of goodness, greatness, wisdom, power, and glory are incapable of engendering an appreciable revelation. We (who are basically no less naive than Llull) would load the machine differently, no doubt with the words Entropy, Time, Electrons, Potential Energy, Fourth Dimension, Relativity, Protons, Einstein. Or with Surplus Value, Proletariat, Capitalism, Class Struggle, Dialectical Materialism, Engels.

Then, Borges moves on to the more elaborate version of Llull’s thinking machine—the one with three revolving disks, illustrated below: 
 

 

If a mere circle subdivided into nine compartments can give rise to so many combinations, what wonders may we expect from three concentric, manually revolving disks made of wood or metal, each with fifteen or twenty compartments? This thought occurred to the remote Ramón Llull on his red and zenithal island of Mallorca, and he designed his guileless machine. The circumstances and objectives of this machine no longer interest us, but its guiding principle—the methodical application of chance to the resolution of a problem—still does.

[~snip]

Let us select a problem at random: the elucidation of the “true” color of a tiger. I give each of Llull’s letters the value of a color, I spin the disks, and I decipher that the capricious tiger is blue, yellow, black, white, green, purple, orange, and grey, or yellowishly blue, blackly blue, whitely blue, greenly blue, purplishly blue, bluely blue, etc. Adherents of [Llull’s] Ars magna remained undaunted in the face of this torrential ambiguity; they recommended the simultaneous deployment of many combinatory machines, which (according to them) would gradually orient and rectify themselves through “multiplications” and “eliminations.” For a long while, many people believed that the certain revelation of all the world’s enigmas lay in the patient manipulation of these disks.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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