December 9, 2018

The Discipline of Do Easy — William S. Burroughs and Gus Van Sant

Van Sant's film, illustrating an easier and calmer approach to things than is usually the case, was made in 1978, when he was 26 years old.

From Motherboard:


Van Sant began working on the 16mm film while he was still in film school at the Rhode Island School of Design, and when he moved to Los Angeles, it became one of the first of his non-school-related projects.

To get permission to use the short story on which it is based, he found Burroughs in the New York City telephone book, rang him up, and and asked if he could come over. It was easy.

Said Van Sant, "One of the things Burroughs said during our visit (not in the film or story) was, 'Of course, when anyone knocks something over, or trips over something or breaks anything, they are at that moment thinking of someone they don't like.'

"Every time I knocked something over or tripped over anything, I stopped to think, and I was always thinking of someone or something I didn't like. This was illuminating.

"Time and again, when I fumbled and broke something, there it was, I was thinking about some unfortunate incident in my past where I had been misjudged, ridiculed, or been caught red-handed by someone; when I stubbed my toe, I realized that I was thinking of a meeting in the future with someone about something that I didn't want anything to do with.

"So, the answer was possibly to not do too much moving around when things appear in your mind that could lead to someone or something that you don't like. I haven't mastered this one, however."


Go ahead and watch, nine more minutes wasted won't matter much.

December 9, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Roz Chast riffs on the Spam Museum

Chast 1

December 9, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mercury train in Chicago, 1936


Back story here.


[via imgur]

December 9, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Light-Up Hat


Beanie with removable 120-lumen USB-rechargeable LED light.

Four hours of continuous light from full charge.


Lightweight washable acrylic polyester.


Designed in 2014 by Sverre Steensen.


Remove light to wash [doh!].

Four illumination settings.

Gray or Black.



December 9, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 8, 2018

Working Time Machine


"Unknown Civil War faces are being identified through a facial recognition app."

From Vintage News:


The Civil War Photo Sleuth (CWPS) website was launched in August of this year by Kurt Luther and his students at Virginia Tech; Ron Coddington, an editor for Military Images; and Paul Quigley, head of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.

Since then they have identified around 75 photographed individuals and have many more eligible for comparison.


The people behind this webpage are striving to create the world’s most comprehensive database of Civil War photographs that would include not only soldiers and sailors but also civilians.

The page is in the process of connecting with the Digital Public Library of America and a host of different museum, library, and cultural institution archives around the globe.

CWPS users have complete control over how they want to display the photographs they submit and can also post anonymously.

They can share their photos only with specific people, or make them public for all group members.

The identification process runs through a detailed and elaborate facial recognition software. Luther writes for Military Images: "Face recognition software measures the ratios between landmarks detected on an unidentified face and finds the most similar ratios in a database of identified faces. The technology works on both modern photos and historical ones, like those pictured here."

To augment the precision of the whole process, users can tag the photos with different clues, such as insignia and inscription. This allows for a precise elimination process when identifying the photographs.

To minimize machine-made errors, humans and their skills are added to the mixture. Through crowdsourcing, the developers include different people who complete a variety of "micro-tasks" additionally adding to the accuracy of the results.

There are many more plans for the future of CWPS, as Luther reveals: "For instance, we're excited about the potential for capturing photographer data, something historically hard to find, and using it to triangulate the identification of the photo's subjects."

"We envision automatically grouping photos with the same painted backdrop, or identifying regiments associated with certain photographers and date ranges."

CWPS is open and accessible for all enthusiasts. It is free to use and can be accessed through an existing Facebook account.

December 8, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Easy-peasy Weather Station







Wait a sec — what's that music I'm hearing?

December 8, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Null Stern: Swiss hotel room with no walls, ceilings, or doors


Null Stern is an open air hotel in the Swiss Alps consisting of one room.


It costs $210/night.


Queen bed, fresh linens.


Room service is available.


A public bathroom is a five minute walk away.



December 8, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Avocado Hugger


From the website:


A sliver on a taco, a spoonful in a smoothie, or a spread on toast: A little avocado goes a long way.

Keep its other half fresh and intact with this form-fitting silicone cup.

These huggers ensure that you're prepared to preserve your favorite fresh fruit, and the convenient pit pocket can be pushed in or out for the tightest possible seal.

Made of BPA- and phthalate-free silicone in China.


Rachel Whiteread, please call your studio: your order is in.


Set of two: $7.95 (avocados not included except for orders from the southern suburbs of Atlanta).

December 8, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 7, 2018

Oldest known realistic depiction of a human face


Pictured above and below, the Venus of Brassempouy.

From Atlas Obscura:



This beautiful and haunting sculpture of a woman's head was carved from mammoth ivory during the Ice Age.

At over 25,000 years old, the figurine is the oldest known realistic depiction of a human face.

The Venus of Brassempouy (also called the Lady of Brassempouy or "La Dame de Brassempouy") was carved from a fragment of mammoth tusk and is estimated to have been made during the Upper Paleolithic period.

It was interpreted as a woman based on the feminine shape of the chin and apparent hair or headdress.


Nothing is known about the creator, and the meaning of this effigy remains a beguiling mystery lost in the eons of time that have passed.

Indeed, the only thing that can be inferred is what the landscape in which her creator lived and died would have looked like.

The European continent was in the grip of the last glacial period of the Ice Age at the time, and thus the landscape would have been covered in sheets of ice for as far as the eye could see.

The climate would have been brutally cold for the sparse human populations which clung on to survival in the refuge of caves, swaddled in the fur skins of animals and huddled around campfires to keep warm.

But not even in the caves were people truly safe, and they would have had to contend and compete with large and ferocious predatory species such as the cave bear, cave hyena, and cave lion, which would have looked on humans as easy prey.

Meanwhile, the search for food likely meant hunting formidable beasts capable of causing fatal injuries, such as the woolly mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, bison, or the equally dangerous strategy of scaring off cave lions or wolves from their kills to scavenge on leftovers.

It's a wonder such a beautiful figurine was sculpted amid these living conditions, and all the more remarkable that it's been preserved over the millennia.

The figurine was discovered in a cave known as la Grotte du Pape in the village of Brassempouy in 1894.

It is now housed at the Musée des Antiquités Nationales (National Archaeological Museum) in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside of Paris.

December 7, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

What happens when materials take tiny hits?


Above, the moment of impact as a 10 micrometer particle impacts a metal surface.

From Extreme Tech:


MIT studies micro-impacts at 100 million frames per second

Engineers know that tiny, super-fast objects can cause damage to spacecraft, but it's been difficult to understand exactly how the damage happens because the moment of impact is incredibly brief.

A new study from MIT seeks to reveal the processes at work that produce microscopic craters and holes in materials.

The hope is that by understanding how the impacts work, we might be able to more durable materials.

Accidental space impacts aren't the only place these mechanisms come into play.

There are also industrial applications on Earth like applying coatings, strengthening metallic surfaces, and cutting materials.

A better understanding of micro-impacts could also make these processes more efficient.

Observing such impacts was not easy, though.

For the experiments, the MIT team used tin particles about 10 micrometers in diameter accelerated to 1 kilometer per second.

They used a laser system to launch the projectile that instantly evaporates a surface material and ejects the particles, ensuring consistent timing.

That's important because the high-speed camera pointed at the test surface (also tin) needed specific lighting conditions.

At the appointed time, a second laser illuminated the particle allowing the camera to follow the impact at up to 100 million frames per second.

In previous studies of micro-impacts, researchers had to rely entirely on "post-mortem" analysis of the impact damage.

Watching it unfold in real-time and comparing that to the final product revealed several important factors.

At speeds above a certain threshold, the team discovered a pivotal period of melting when the particle hits the surface.

That plays a crucial role in eroding the material.

Using the high-speed camera data, the team developed a model that can predict how a particle will interact with the surface.

It might bounce away, stick, or knock material loose and leave a crater that weakens the surface.

This is important especially in industrial applications because the conventional wisdom has long been that higher velocities are more effective.

We now know that is not always the case.

The research so far has focused on pure metals, but most industrial and space applications rely on alloys.

Expanding the test to more materials is next on the agenda.

Likewise, the researchers plan to fire particles at surfaces from varying angles — these initial tests were straight-down impacts only.


Below, the abstract of the paper, which appeared November 29 in Nature.


Melt-driven erosion in microparticle impact

Impact-induced erosion is the ablation of matter caused by being physically struck by another object. While this phenomenon is known, it is empirically challenging to study mechanistically because of the short timescales and small length scales involved. Here, we resolve supersonic impact erosion in situ with micrometer- and nanosecond-level spatiotemporal resolution. We show, in real time, how metallic microparticles (~10-μm) cross from the regimes of rebound and bonding to the more extreme regime that involves erosion. We find that erosion in normal impact of ductile metallic materials is melt-driven, and establish a mechanistic framework to predict the erosion velocity.

December 7, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best book cover (and title) of the year


Get yours here.

December 7, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mercedes-Maybach G650 Laundalet


Limited edition of 99.


Twin-turbo 621hp V-12 engine; portal axles (axle tube above wheel hub centers for better ground clearance); electric fabric top.




Apply within.

December 7, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 6, 2018

Spirale della storia della Terra (Spiral of history)


Wall mural by Blu,


considered by many


to be one of the


top ten street artists


in the world.


Located at Casal de' Pazzi, Ponte Mammolo, Rome, Italy.

[via Reality Carnival]

December 6, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Circle of dots


Each dot moves in a straight line.

[via imgur]

December 6, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

We get email: from Jim Courter, author of "Rhymes With Fool"


His new mystery (above and below) is set in Milwaukee.


Long story short: the email alluded to in the headline up top is below.*

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 1.14.14 PM

Back story: I originally crossed paths with Jim back in 2012 when I featured his wonderful Wall Street Journal essay, "Teaching Taco Bell's Canon," in bookofjoe.

FunFact: after he saw my post and the pic (below) I used with it, he emailed me back "Love the photo!"


Excerpts from his 2012 WSJ piece follow.


Teaching "Taco Bell's Canon"

Is it true that college students today are unprepared and unmotivated? That generalization does injustice to the numerous bright exceptions I saw in my 25 years of teaching composition to university freshmen. But in other cases the characterization is all too accurate.

One big problem is that so few students are readers. As an unfortunate result, they have erroneous, and sometimes hilarious, notions of how the written language represents what they hear. What emerged in their papers and emails was a sort of literary subgenre that I've come to think of as stream of unconsciousness.

Some of their most creative thinking was devoted to fashioning excuses for tardiness, skipping class entirely, and failure to complete assignments. One guy admitted that he had trouble getting into "the proper frame of mime" for an 8 a.m. class.

Then there were the two young men who missed class for having gotten on the wrong side of the law. They both emailed me, one to say that he had been charged with a "mister meaner," the other with a "misdeminor."

Another student blamed "inclimate weather" for his failure to come to class, admitting that it was a "poultry excuse." A male student who habitually came late and couldn't punctuate correctly had a double-duty excuse: "I don't worry about my punctual errors."

To their credit, students are often frank when it comes to admitting their shortcomings and attitude problems. Like the guy who owned up to doing "halfhazard work." Or the one who admitted that he wasn't smart enough to go to an "Ivory League school." Another lamented not being astute enough to follow the lecture on "Taco Bell's Canon" in music-appreciation class.

Many students have difficulty adjusting to life in dormitories. One complained that his roommate was "from another dementian." Another was irritated by a roommate's habit of using his "toilet trees" without asking. A female student, in describing an argument over her roommate's smelling up their room with cheap perfume, referred to getting in her "two scents' worth."

Some find you can't go home again. After several weeks at school, one coed returned to her childhood house only to find life there "homedrum."

To be fair, many of the young men and women I encountered over the years are capable of serious thinking on social issues and international affairs. The Iraq War, in what one student called "nomad's land," was very much on their minds. Some were for it, some against it. The most ardent supporter was the guy who described his attitude as "gun-ho." One student lamented that we're becoming a society that "creates its individuals in a lavatory." Another worried that education reform might result in school being in "secession" year round.

When it comes to relationships, it is, in the words of more than one undergraduate, "a doggy-dog world." But I'm sure most of us could sympathize with the girl who said she resented being "taken for granite" by her boyfriend. Some learn the price of intimacy the hard way, like the coed who referred to becoming pregnant on "that fetal night." She might have been better off with the young gentleman who spoke of his policy of keeping relationships "strictly plutonic."

One struggling freshman summed it up for all of us when he wrote, "Life has too much realism." Maybe so, but I don't recommend coping like the guy who referred to getting away from it all by spending the day "sitting on a peer."

Among students' biggest complaints is that they have to write so much in college. In his end-of-semester evaluation, one honest soul complained that "writhing gives me fits." Sad to say, it's not uncommon to hear students remark on how much they look forward to being done with English.

Who knows what language they'll use then?


FunFact: although I doubt Jim knew that I was born and grew up in Milwaukee, he set "Rhymes With Fool" there, reason enough for me to buy a copy.

You can too!

*I ❤️ Dark Mode

December 6, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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