Tuesday, September 30, 2008

world's fastest cyclist

the world of recumbent bicycles has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few years as technology, design, and most especially need have driven individuals and manufacturers to improve drivetrains, materials, and considerations relevant to the comfort of the cyclist.

sam whittingham hails from british columbia on the west coast of canada where he is the owner of high-end bike manufacturer naked bicycles (don't panic it's just a name!) sam has been setting speed records for the past handful of years, continuing a tradition of record breaking that is documented here in a list that chronicles those who cracked the fifty mile per hour barrier. fifty miles per hour on anything with thin tires is an experience i can only begin to imagine but which must leave the participant(s) wavering between sheer excitement and terror!

interestingly, the fifty mile per hour barrier was first cracked by a tandem.

whittingham's latest record saw him attain an astonishing speed of over eighty miles per hour. speed junkies might like to watch this brief but amazing clip of sam blowing by at top speed . . . to read more about this achievement, race over here. here's a pic of sam whittingham hoovering down some much-needed oxygen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

dear mr. harper - an open letter from an artsie

this would be the first overtly political posting in the history of the golden fish. non-canadians might be surprised to learn that there is an election happening here. we are too! it's our third election in four years. aside from the hard-to-fathom waste of money going on around this whole matter of finding someone to lead the country, there's so many other pieces like - the choices for leader of this country are all like stale cookies - you know they'll taste bad (the cookies i mean) but if it's all that's in the cupboard, well sure you'll eat'em but with mucho resentment and lots of spoken-out loud earnest promises to never treat yourself so badly in future and to get yourself something fresh and tasty asap. politics isn't as simple as making cookies though is it.

anyhow, this is a letter dropped on a knitter's blog that has the absolutely spectacular and splendiferous moniker yarn harlot! the letter written by stephanie pearl-mcphee says it exactly as it is and in a manner that made me laugh and think and remember the good old days and how these are "the good old days" for some poor performance artists, visual artists, writers, musicians, and creators out there who are getting shafted by narrow-minded politicians . . . . . again!!

september 28, 2008

Dear Mr. Harper
I am pretty sure that I am an ordinary Canadian. I've checked the Stats Can website, and other than the fact that Joe and I earn a little less than the national average and seem to have picked up an extra kid along the way, we're really, really ordinary.

This is why Sir, I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn that you had made a statement that the arts "don't resonate" with "ordinary Canadians". I had suspected, after your 45 million dollars in cuts to the arts, that they didn't resonate with you... but all ordinary Canadians? I listened as you lashed out at artists, claiming that we stand around at "rich galas" complaining that our subsidies aren't big enough, and I could hardly speak. Although Joe and I both work in the arts, we've never been to a gala (though I hear that your wife is honorary chair of the National Arts Centre Gala) and although we both pay taxes, we've never received a subsidy or a grant... so I'm really not quite sure what you're talking about.

Joe and I added up the number of people we know working in the arts. It was virtually everyone we know (with the exception of our friends who work in Health Care, but that's a debate for another day) and not a single one of them are as wealthy as you, although most of them pay more taxes. Sorry. That was cheap. I'm still mad about your tax breaks for the richest Canadians. I'll try to get a hold of myself and stick to the facts.

The fact is that last year your government invested 3.3 billion dollars in the arts, which would be shocking except for the fact that (as reported by ACTRA's national president Richard Hardacre) the arts returned the favour by providing 1.1 million jobs within cultural industries and contributed $86 billion to the GDP. To put that in context, Margaret Atwood noted that the arts industry employs roughly the same number of Canadians as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities - combined. I see you Sir, day after day after day, talking quite rightly about jobs lost in manufacturing and the industries named above and how our country needs to make financial investments in their businesses to create as many jobs as we can, and dude... you're absolutely right. Job loss in Canada is a huge thing and boy, should the leader of this country ever be trying to prevent any further loss any way he can... and Mr. Harper... that's what makes your cuts and your statements so darned confusing to me.

I've thought and thought about it, and I've come up with some possibilities for why you're doing what you're doing.

1. You are trying to lose the election, and throwing away the votes of 1.1 million "ordinary" taxpaying Canadians by trashing them, their integrity and their industry in public is just the beginning of your master plan. (In which case Sir, I can only say "AWESOME START.")

2. You had no idea that the Arts industry was an actual industry (I mean, not like cars or oil) or that it employed that many Canadians, and when you walked off stage after making your statement, you had to ask someone why your entire campaign staff was lying on the floor seizing in a pool of their own cold sweat.

3. You're still sort of scarred about that day in kindergarten when the teacher said that Bobby's fingerpainting was nice and didn't say anything about yours, and then on top of it he got the be the carrot in the school play when the teacher knew you wanted to be the carrot and would make a way better carrot than him and ever since then you just haven't been able to see what the big deal is with the whole art thing.

4. Maybe Gordon Pinsent has always sort of annoyed you and this is a revenge thing.

5. You made a strategic decision to say that. You sat down and decided that there were an awful lot of Canadians (a lot more than 1.1 million) who would really, really want to stick it to artists. You figured that there must be an awful lot of voters who don't read books, don't go to the movies, don't listen to CD's, don't dance or watch dance, don't read magazines or newspapers, don't listen to the radio and wouldn't touch the TV with a ten foot pole and therefore don't have the arts "resonate" in their lives.
(Well. That or you were hoping that there were a whole lot of Canadians who didn't know about the 1.1 million jobs/ $85 billion dollar industry thing or were hoping they were stupid enough to be tricked. Good luck with that.)

Some time ago, when I made a political comment in this space, someone said to me that if I were going to state my political position publicly - even if I did so without condemning the views of others, that I should expect to lose the support of people who didn't agree with me. They felt that if I said I wasn't a conservative (or a whatever), that I should expect to lose the readership of conservatives (or whatevers). This person maintained that simply not being on the same page politically was enough to justify not continuing to support me professionally. This is a position I was absolutely stunned to read and still don't understand. I feel that politics belong in public. That ones political positions are a reflection of ones moral and ethical concerns, and that as long as no-one is condemned for their views or insulted for their beliefs, that everyone wins when politics are discussed in the pubs, kitchens and blogs of the nation.

That's something I've kept in mind as I listened to your speeches throughout this campaign. I reflected on how your political positions were reflecting your ethics, and kept a clear head - listening to your positions and promises. I stuck to my position, which is that it is possible to disagree on matters of personal choice while still liking, respecting and enjoying the people with whom you debate or disagree, and I believe that it is unchecked politics, unexamined policy and an unconcerned nation that let politicians run amok and invites corruption of all forms. In short, Mr. Harper... I think that the cornerstone of all good politics is respect. Respect for positions that run counter to yours, respect for jobs that are not like yours, and in this case, respect for all Canadians.... especially as you ask for our votes.

I would submit, Mr. Harper, that suggesting to all of Canada that a particular 1.1 million Canadians who have helped to pay your salary for the last several years and whose money you would like the privilege of continuing to spend, are not "ordinary Canadians" is the absolute definition of disrespect.

Further to that, claiming that you represent "ordinary Canadians" (we'll overlook the number of galas you're at in a year) while the 1.1 million of us who are working in film, music, writing, dance... are not only excluded from your definition of "ordinary Canadians", but according to you "don't resonate" with the people who are.... Well. I think it was rude. Darned rude. The Canada that I thought I lived in doesn't have some Canadians who are worth the efforts of the Prime Minister, and some Canadians who are not. The sort of Canada I want to live in has always had a society based on respect, the respect we are supposed to show each other and the respect that leaders are especially expected - or maybe owed to give their constituents was entirely absent in your statement, and a leader who is that rude to his fellow Canadians, boldly and in public - isn't observing the cornerstone of civil and progressive politics... respect.

In light of that, and remembering that ones politics are a reflection of ones morals and ethics - I'm afraid that not only have you lost my vote (Oh, fine. You didn't have it anyway) but greater than that and with every cell that I posess... I humbly withdraw my respect for you as a leader, and submit that there's just got to be a lot of "ordinary Canadians" who feel the same way.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee


(PS. I am going to consider it seriously hypocritical if you keep playing music at your events, hiring writers for your speeches and getting graphic designers to make those pamphlets that keep landing in my mailbox. If art doesn't resonate... they why are you using so much of it? Just saying.)

(PPS - For the Non-Canadians who are thinking "huh?", Mr. Stephen Harper is our Prime Minister, and the leader of the Conservative Party in Canada. During our last election he formed a minority government, winning 124 of 308 seats, and 36% of the popular vote, which means that roughly 2/3 of voting Canadians didn't vote for him or his party, and chose an option to the left. (There are no options to the right of Mr. Harper.) This is possible because we have a multi-party system. Mr. Harper and the other party Leaders, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois (a federal party that only runs in the enormous province of Quebec), Stéphane Dion of the Liberal Party, Jack Layton of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party (I'm leaving out others, but they don't hold seats in parliament) have been campaigning since The Prime Minister asked the Governor General to prorogued Parliament earlier this month (that's sort of like dissolving the current session so they can start fresh with a new government after the election) and calling an election for the 14th of October. (We do it fast.) In Canada, we don't have set dates for an election. We hold them whenever the party in power thinks it would be a good time or they run out of time (at least every five years) or whenever a government loses a confidence vote (which is essentially like getting fired.) We have no term limits - you can be Prime Minister for as long (William Lyon MacKenzie King served a total of 21 years as Prime Minister) or as little (Sir Charles Tupper was Prime Minister for 68 days) as the Canadian people allow you to serve.

james joyce - simples

life begins so simply - in an instant - a person begins. from this singular moment unfolds a second moment detailed to the second order and a third moment detailed to the third order and so on.
life unfolds, with each instant a myriad fractals of choices, reflections, convergence, divergence, possibilities known and unknown, felt and dealt with, followed, ignored and then in a moment not entirely dissimilar to the first moment from which all this emerged - it ends as we know it. echoes of the presence of the person are felt as memory, and in the legacy of a world forever changed by the choices and actions of that person. change that is perhaps not easily identified or isolated, but change that is there all the same.
somewhere along the arc of that journey from singularity to singularity comes a moment or moments in which a pronounced awareness of the moment - a letting go of the attachment to the surface of things - becomes either an extraordinary event or a feature of daily experience. this sensitivity to the allness of everything as contained inside a single moment can be arrived at through all sorts of means including simple good fortune or grace - its essence is a heightening of availability to what is.
james joyce described such a moment inside his poem “simples”. a moment - long and eternal - caught in words that extend fractally into whatever constitutes eternity for words.


of cool sweet dew and radiance mild
the moon a web of silence weaves
in the still garden where a child
gathers the simple salad leaves.

a moondew stars her hanging hair
and moonlight kisses her young brow
and, gathering, she sings an air:
fair as the wave is, fair, art thou!

be mine, i pray, a waxen ear
to shield me from her childish croon
and mine a shielded heart for her
who gathers simples of the moon.

james joyce

Sunday, September 28, 2008

david sylvian - steel cathedrals

as a child growing up in and near manchester in england, i was surrounded by architecture that spanned hundreds of years. strangely, the works that echo over the span of the fourty plus years since i lived there are not the most stunning or historical but are the more massive structures like the viaducts and gasometers that somehow stand out not only for their scale but also for their melding of the functional with the aesthetic, albeit in an industrial frame of mind.

here’s an image of stockport viaduct (thanks to gordon gandy for the pic). a more romantic view of the viaduct can be seen here
thanks to manky max black’s flickr page. the extraordinary northern english artist l.s. lowry was also affected by these massive structures . . .
and here are two images of gasometers in manchester . . .

poet dirk bogarde (yes that dirk bogarde) wrote about a familiar iteration of the steel cathedral when he compiled this sensorial listing of a set of experiences, and memories that will be familiar to millions.

steel cathedrals
dirk bogarde
it seems to me, i spend my life in stations.
going, coming, standing, waiting.
paddington, darlington, shrewsbury, york.
i know them all most bitterly.
dawn stations, with a steel light, and waxen figures.
dust, stone, and clanking sounds, hiss of weary steam.
night stations, shaded light, fading pools of colour.
shadows and the shuffling of a million feet.
khaki, blue, and bulky kitbags, rifles gleaming dull.
metal sound of army boots, and smoker's coughs.
titter of harlots in their silver foxes.
cases, casks, and coffins, clanging of the trolleys.
tea ums tarnished, and the greasy white of cups.
dry buns, woodbines, picture post and penguins;
and the blaze of magazines.
grinding sound of trains, and rattle of the platform gates.
running feet and sudden shouts,
clink of glasses from the buffet.
smell of drains, tar, fish and chips and sweaty scent,
honk of taxis; and the gleam of cigarettes.
iron pillars, cupolas of glass, girders messed by pigeons;
the lazy singing of a drunk.
sailors going to chatham, soldiers going to crewe.
aching bulk of kit and packs, tin hats swinging.
the station clock with staggering hands and callous face,
says twenty-five-to-nine.
a cigarette, a cup of tea, a bun,
and my train goes at ten.
if david sylvian and yasayuki yamaguchi’s audio-visual work “steel cathedrals” has any connection to my memories, then it is through their elevation of the functional into the memorable by drawing the viewer into a sense of structures as more than machines or containers, focussing instead on the detail and relationships within their design, the sometimes wavering images compel the viewer to soften their connection to these “hard” objects.

filmed around tokyo in 1984, the music accompanying these images carries much of sylvian’s work with ambient soundscapes along with the voice-over of jean cocteau and sylvian himself.

sylvian’s great skill is the assembling of talented and unique individuals and then creating a sonic collage in which their most fruitful statements are seamlessly blended together. the musicians on steel cathedrals include:
electronics [dictaphone] - holger czukay
flugelhorn - kenny wheeler
guitar [abstractions] - masami tsuchiya
guitar, electronics [frippertronics] - robert fripp
keyboards, tape, percussion [digital] - david sylvian
percussion - steve jansen
piano, strings - ryuichi sakamoto

part one of steel cathedrals . . .

part two of steel cathedrals . . .

if the music cries out for a spot on your ipod, then nip over to amazon where you can buy it as a digital download for $2.90!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ugo conti's spider boat

it’s a wonderful time for design as more and more designers recognize the intrinsic time-tested elegance of solutions developed in nature and adapt them to the needs of human beings. not surprisingly, the designs are ergonomically and functionally superior to the designs currently in use that tend to fight against the water, air, or earth they are passing through or over, rather than work with it.

san francisco designer dr. ugo conti knew that travelling on water was something he loved. unfortunately he also discovered that he experienced sea-sickness due to the motion of the boat as it reacted to the waves it passed through. so he sought a solution to this age-old problem. he studied the shape and design features of insects that traversed the water . . .
here’s video of water striders . . . . and from this experience he developed the wave adaptive modular vessel or wam-v.

the wam-v applies some of the features of these water walkers and adapts them to human needs through the incorporation of “a superstructure (that) is flexibly connected to specially designed pontoons by several components that actually move in relation to one another. a wam-v™ has springs, shock absorbers and ball joints to articulate the vessel and mitigate stresses to structure, payload and crew. two engine pods, containing the propulsion and ancillary systems, are fastened to the hulls with special hinges that keep the propellers in the water at all times.”

the wam-v has made many public appearances and has been involved in a mission to visit italian marine protected areas and underwater counterparts in the united states, known as national marine sanctuaries. an excellent and comprehensive article on this project can be read here.

a comprehensive look at the design process and the finished wam-v in action can be seen in this excellent documentary from kqed

if you would like to learn more about this innovative design then you should visit the wam-v’s homepage.

Friday, September 26, 2008

scarborough clocks

i had the headphones on tonight and cranked up a pile of all sorts on itunes and came across an oldie but goody - even better than goody in fact and i thought i'd share the link here . . .
scarborough clocks by the who boys mashes coldplay's signature piano together with simon and garfunkel's unforgettable song "scarborough fair" to produce something almost ethereal that hovers nicely over top of a synth bass and drum line that carries the whole nicely 'cross the finish line . . .
here y'are.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the lady vanishes (1938)

hey, it's movie day!

"the lady vanishes" is based on a novel entitled "the wheel spins" written by british mystery writer ethel lina white and published just two years prior to the making of the film.
a superb cast, a plot that never quits and all put together by the inimitable alfred hitchcock, "the lady vanishes" combines all the best features of a taut well-crafted hitchcock film with comedy, and of course amazing cinematography! if you'd like to know more about the film then drop by screen online where a nice overview with lots of little insights can be read.
i hope that you enjoy, "the lady vanishes" . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the golden thread

pete seeger was an unknown quantity to me until one day i discovered that songs written by him, and sometimes even sung by him were actually his. songs such as "where have all the flowers gone?", "if i had a hammer (the hammer song)", and "turn, turn, turn!" which i had heard sung by other people, had sung myself in school choirs, hummed along to on the radio and even sung with students i had taught myself, had for some strange reason never been connected by me with a man who i had read about and heard about - a man with a kind of mythical stature connected to the revival of folk and the resurgence of the protest song but which i had for the longest time not actually connected to specific songs.

so today i went wandering across the net to listen to some of pete's music and came across this lovely piece. the accompanying video appears to be the opening song for a special tv show.

oh, had i a golden thread

oh, had i a golden thread

and needle so fine

i'd weave a magic strand

of rainbow design
of rainbow design.

in it i'd weave the bravery 
of women giving birth,

in it i would weave the innocence 
of children over all the earth,

children of all earth.

far over the waters

i'd reach my magic band

through foreign cities,

to every single land,

to every land.

show my brothers and sisters

my rainbow design,

bind up this sorry world

with hand and heart and mind,

hand and heart and mind.

far over the waters

i'd reach my magic band

to every human being

so they would understand,

so they'd understand.

words and music by pete seeger (1958)
(c) 1959 by stormking music inc.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

women over time

the saatchi gallery is hosting an intriguing video comprised of a collection of images of women digitally stitched together. the effect of this is to reveal the metamorphosis of both art and of women’s faces over the centuries.

to have a look visit the saatchi gallery

Monday, September 22, 2008

september winds

september winds come cool and surprising . . . . the leaves on the trees are feeling the wind's first tug on their weakening stems . . . autumn is coming and it will soon be time for them to wither and fall and become food for the tree to which they were attached . . .
the good people at science made simple have prepared a nice series of question and answer type article that explains what happens to leaves in the autumn and winter.

my own experience of the winds is that they become much stronger around the first week of september and are very changeable such that my rides to and from work are both into headwinds. this might sound something like the stories we tell our children about walking uphill both to and from school but it's really true!! my leg muscles ache and burn all the way through september as a result of the simple fact that i am constantly pedalling into the wind.

christina rosetti wrote . . .

who has seen the wind?

who has seen the wind?
neither i nor you:
but when the leaves hang trembling
the wind is passing thro'.
who has seen the wind?
neither you nor i:
but when the trees bow down their heads
the wind is passing by.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

david sylvian - september

when the world was ordered from a roman perspective, september was the seventh month of the year. september marks the beginnings of many things - school in much of the northern hemisphere, the beginning of the ecclesiastical year in the eastern orthodox church, and in the area i live in it marks the beginning of the earliest signs of the more pronounced weather changes that lead into winter.

the autumn has long been my favourite season with its mixed weather tending towards rain, the changing colours of plant life both on the ground and in the trees, not to mention the noticeable flurry of activity among the animals who respond to the cooler nights by stockpiling food and building dens. it has more of an emotional quality about it for me than the other seasons with a deeper memory set and a richer associative feel to it.

september is at once a time of regret for a summer gone and then also a time of apprehension of a sort with the coming of winter.

musician david sylvian captures this magically in his song september. a tone poem that, despite its shortness, nevertheless conveys a sense of the rich but fleeting qualities of the autumn.

the sun shines high above
the sounds of laughter
the birds swoop down upon
the crosses of old grey churches
we say that we’re in love
while secretly wishing for rain
sipping coke and playing games

september’s here again
september’s here again

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"the rainy day" by rabindrath tagore

rain has been a friend to me for as long as i can remember. throughout this blog you'll find entries devoted to or referring to my apreciation of rain - on equal terms with snow and sunshine and freezing rain and whatever else comes along. it's a hard sell with many of my friends and family who find all but the sunniest, warmest days difficult or depressing. i think i am fortunate this way . . . to see the non-negotiable features of nature as acceptable - even beautiful - regardless of how far they fall from the "ideal". here are some images of rain on my driveway . . . .
a gorgeous picture of rain is painted in "the rainy day" by rabindranath tagore

sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the
o child, do not go out!
the palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads
against the dismal sky; the crows with their dragged wings are
silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river
is haunted by a deepening gloom.
our cow is lowing loud, tied at the fence.
oh child, wait here till i bring her into the stall.
men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes
as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rain-water is
running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who
has run away from his mother to tease her.
listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford.
oh child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry
is closed.
the sky seems to ride fast upon the madly rushing rain; the
water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home
early from the ganges with their filled pitchers.
the evening lamps must be made ready.
oh child, do not go out!
the road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. the wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.

it's raining now. a lovely sound like soft rice on a wood floor.

Friday, September 19, 2008

charles bukowski's bluebird

i think that at some point everyone becomes aware of carrying a trapped spirit around inside. while their exterior suggests this spirit is alive and well, they carry the secret knowledge that not all of it is out there where it can live and nurture and grow in fullness. there are many good and valid reasons for this that have as much to do with having tasted the results of allowing their spirit to fly unfettered in a world that is not entirely equipped to manage so much all at once, as it does with protecting what is most valued, most beautiful and most sacred about oneself.

charles bukowski died 14 years ago and yet his words which captured the rich yet grubby confluence of writing, alcohol, relationships, and the drudgery of work in general magically live on. his poem "the bluebird" locks the knowing of the experience of protecting, hiding, encapsulating the inner spirit into a short and powerful piece of writing.

the bluebird

there's a bluebird in my heart
that wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
i say, stay in there,
i'm not going
to let anybody
see you.

there's a bluebird in my heart
 wants to get out

but i pour whiskey on him
and inhale 
cigarette smoke

and the whores and the bartenders

and the grocery clerks

never know
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart
 wants to get out

but i'm too tough for him,

i say,

stay down,
do you want to mess 
me up?

you want to screw up the 

you want to blow my book sales in


there's a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out

but i'm too clever, i only let him out

at night sometimes

when everybody's asleep.

i say, i know that you're there,

so don't be
then i put him back,

but he's singing a little
 in there,
i haven't quite let him

and we sleep together

with our

secret pact

and it's nice enough to

make a man

weep, but i don't 

here's "the bluebird" read by bukowski . . .

and if you head here you’ll get to hear those same words put to the music of muse, delibes’ “flower duet”, and bob dylan’s “man of constant sorrow” in an utterly beautiful mashup crafted by the talented and reclusive phil retrospector whose other tunes can be heard over at phil's myspace site.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

our time is up

the header suggests that maybe this will be a doomsday posting but it isn't. what it is is a very funny short film about a shrink who learns he has six weeks left to live. alright that's not so funny but the story will leave you laughing. nominated for an oscar, the film was written and directed by rob pearlstein.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

brian eno - this

brian eno on the songs inside him . . .

some of the words emerged . . . .

this chord
this water
this son
this daughter
this day
this time
this land
it's all mine

this calling bell
this forge bell
this dark bell
this the knife bell
this calling
this burden
this falling
the world's turning

this what i thought i knew
this what i thought was true
this i understood
this in the deep wood
this ah there i stood a child so fair
this on a certain square
this down the dirty stairs
this to see the table set
this with golden chairs
this ah to follow, follow, follow, follow there

this race
and this world
this feeling
and this girl
this revolver
this fire
this i'll hold it up higher, higher, high

and by removing the foggy filter of personality from the singer’s voice . . .

he created “this” . . .

and “this” . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

jason hawkes' cities from above - london

photographer jason hawkes’ has mastered the craft of aerial photography over the course of his nineteen year career. using helicopters from which he takes pictures with cameras utilizing the latest gyrostabilizing mounts and lenses, hawkes creates stunning images.

hawkes says "i usually have to shoot at at least 1/1000sec of a second to get-around the camera shake caused by the helicopters and it took a lot of trial and error to perfect the technique"

here’s a brief video that gives an overview of his work over the years . . .

what characterizes hawkes’ work and makes it distinct from other aerial photography is his ability to see the confluence of the abstract and the organic in the ebb and flow of human and natural life. that they are often in direct juxtaposition in the same shot is no coincidence and is something that hawkes’ seeks out in his work. here are a few examples of a recent series shot over the skies of london . . .

the full set of images in this set (18 in this release) can be viewed at boston.com’s website.

to see more of jason’s incredible aerial photography you must visit his website.

Monday, September 15, 2008


as a primarily armchair traveller, i often experience wanderlust vicariously. there are journeys that cross my mind, enter my heart and move me to imagine myself on such a trip and then there are some that are simply beyond imagining.

the good folks at good magazine have assembled an interactive map that tracks some of the more famous trips in literary and actual history and it is a trip in and of itself to follow the travels of real and imagined characters across the globe. you’ll likely recognize each of these trips - i knew them all having read the journal or novel from which each is drawn. intrigued? then here you go!

here’s a desert island question. you can pick one of these journeys to undertake on your own. which one would you choose? i’d take the silk road.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

the frozen ark

a long time ago i wrote about the global seed bank on the island of spitsbergen. the idea of the seed vault is to protect farmers - and by extension the human race - from the economic, ecological, and social dilemmas that would accrue due to the loss of seed samples as a result of mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts or natural disasters

the subject of today’s entry is of a similar ilk in that there is now a program called ”the frozen ark” that is devoted to the cause of “saving the dna of endangered species”. if you feel some sort of apocalyptic apprehension about such a place, well if you read the piece about the seed bank then you’ll probably be rushing out after this to lay in stocks of water, hand wound radios, grey water processing systems, candles and goodness knows the list is long!

the mandate of “the frozen ark” is very similar to that of the global seed bank with one additional rider. its purpose is to recognize that global climate change, human urban growth patterns, and the destruction of ecosystems have and will continue to cause entire species to disappear at a rate matched or exceeded on only three previous occasions during the history of our planet. it is understood that over the next thirty years, more than 1,000 species of our mammals, a quarter of the worlds' total, and a similar number of birds, face extinction. it is not known what the effect of this will be on the planet but intuition and scientific knowledge are almost certainly parallel in their sense that regardless of your perspective it cannot be for the better.

the frozen ark dna samples are not stored in a single location but are in fact spread around several institutions who have established as their goal the collection and storage of 16,000 dna samples representing those species that are presently under threat. for more comprehensive information about the frozen ark you might like to read this article.

here is one example of a creature that has been selected for inclusion in this amazing and timely project: the partula snail

polynesian tree snails (partula) include over 100 species that live on volcanic islands in the pacific. they have become endangered as a result of efforts to control the african land snail, introduced in 1967. the government introduced a predatory snail to eat the african land snail, but the predatory snail attacked the partula instead. oops!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

handmade communities

one of the simpler pleasures i take is to peruse beautiful expensive objects that i recognize the value of both aesthetically and from a pecuniary vantage point. this used to be possible by being fortunate enough to acquire a mailing address for a company that would periodically provide me with a catalogue that i would then drool and dream my way through and then begin all over again. often i would get several laps through such a publication before the next one arrived.

i feel certain that i am not alone in this very satisfying if not vain pursuit. finding the perfect item, coupling that with the will and ability to part with a relatively large amount of money and all in the pursuit of possessing something extraordinary is an experience that i have brought together a handful of times in my life.

with the advent of the internet, this pursuit became more immediate and much easier. communities such as etsy which provide access to an incredibly diverse and vast array of handmade items satisfies the craving for something that has been touched by human hands, has that aura of one-of-a-kind about it, and happily isn’t going to cause rifts and schisms in the fabric of my home as the bills come in!

at the other extreme but equally worthy is a community of artisans that is decidedly more high-end and concomitantly more expensive. 66 degrees possesses both the courage and the fortune to present the most extraordinary furniture, artworks, and crafted items.

typically they present a fairly broad spectrum of items which change on a fairly regular basis so you want to get your name on their mailing list which ensures that as each month rolls around you can experience the lovely luxury of looking over the extraordinary and unique selection that they have assembled for your pleasure and which will certainly invoke a craving to possess something of what they offer!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

taking the lap out of laptop

as a laptop user for almost four years, i think i have likely experienced most of the challenges associated with finding a nice work surface other than my lap. concern around the proximity of an electronic device and its associated magnetic and otherwise charged fields near my nether regions has compelled me to search for an alternative. read this if you are curious about that last comment!

the first one i came across is an interesting proposal for a modified chair. from the pencil of robin carpenter comes the “just” chair. it looks very comfortable but i wonder at the slight contortion that i think would be required to sit and turn slightly to the right while typing. hard to say.

no, i’m looking for something that sits on the arms of my chair and somehow surrounds me ever so slightly. it needs to be made of wood and be soft underneath to account for the differing heights of the surfaces it might be resting on. a wide variety of lapdesk solutions can be viewed here. this is my favourite . . . and comes it at under fourty dollars!

but the design that really caught my eye is this lovely idea from the ergostore.
it possesses all of the retro qualities of a tv tray and all of the functional and aesthetic qualities that take it out of my lap and most importantly, don’t compromise the design ethos of the golden fish world headquarters.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the hidden radio

it’s been a while since i’ve plugged a cool design but this one caught my eye and i thought i’d share it here. called intriguingly enough “the hidden radio”, it’s designed in such a way that indeed you can’t actually tell that you are dealing with a radio - because it’s hidden! hurray for the collusion and collision of clever wordsmiths and designers.
the hidden radio is essentially a cylindrical design which houses a radio inside a very plain exterior. twisting the exterior allows the speakers inside to become more visible and audible. designed by san francisco based john van den nieuwenhuizen.

to see more of john’s work and to learn more about his you should visit his homepage. you can make enquiries about the hidden radio here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

large hadron collider

image courtesy fractal world gallery.

today the most powerful physics experiment ever built, the large hadron collider will re-create the conditions (as scientists understand them) just after the big bang in an attempt to answer some long-standing questions about the universe. filling a massive tunnel under switzerland and with a circumference of 26 659 m, the statistics describing the lhc accelerator boggle not only the lay mind but that of even the most high-end out-there quantum physicist.
consider the following incredible factoids:

-there are 9,399 magnets cooling the machine.

-just one-eighth of its cryogenic distribution system would qualify as the world’s largest fridge. all the magnets will be pre‑cooled to minus 193.2°C (80 K) using 10 080 tonnes of liquid nitrogen, before they are filled with nearly 60 tonnes of liquid helium to bring them down to -271.3°C (1.9 K).

-at full power, trillions of protons will race around the lhc accelerator ring 11 245 times a second, travelling at 99.99% the speed of light.

-altogether some 600 million collisions will take place every second.

-to avoid colliding with gas molecules inside the accelerator, the beams of particles travel in an ultra-high vacuum – a cavity as empty as interplanetary space. the internal pressure of the lhc is ten times less than the pressure on the moon!

-when two beams of protons collide, they will generate temperatures more than 100 000 times hotter than the heart of the sun, concentrated within a minuscule space.

-the lhc's detectors have sophisticated electronic trigger systems that precisely measure the passage time of a particle to accuracies in the region of a few billionths of a second. the trigger system also registers the location of the particles to millionths of a metre.

-the data recorded by each of the big experiments at the lhc will fill around 100 000 dual layer dvds every year.
for more detailed stats this should answer any questions you might have!

this incredible project had its beginnings back in the 1980’s when it was first thrown out as an idea at a symposium where “what-ifs” were tossed about and working groups were delegated to determine what could be potentially discovered through the development of such a machine. from that point, theoretical and practical discussions and experiments were conducted to establish and assess the feasibility of some of the technology required. approval of the project as it was initially conceived was arrived at in 1994. to view a more detailed overview of this process, you can see the answers to a few unanswered questions, and for more information regarding the stages of this project chronologically, if you visit here you can see a detailed timeline.

i am not a particle physicist, although i will tell you that the whole world of quantum physics has been of interest to me since reading works some twenty five years ago by david bohm and gary zukav (notably "the dancing wu li masters") both of whom drew heavily on their respective degrees of expertise in this area. the people at c.e.r.n. have posted an excellent and accessible piece into the workings of the lhc here.

now for me this is where the whole thing gets interesting. c.e.r.n. has tucked inside its website a page devoted to what are termed "secret dimensions". this is very appealing of course, because anyone who is at all intrigued by the idea that there are more than the “three dimensions” (there’s "time" for a fourth dimension just to kickstart this puppy! . . .) might enjoy this little tickler for starters: “in everyday life, we inhabit a space of three dimensions – a vast ‘cupboard’ with height, width and depth, well known for centuries. less obviously, we can consider time as an additional, fourth dimension, as einstein famously revealed. but just as we are becoming more used to the idea of four dimensions, some theorists have made predictions wilder than even einstein had imagined.

string theory intriguingly suggests that six more dimensions exist, but are somehow hidden from our senses. they could be all around us, but curled up to be so tiny that we have never realized their existence. some string theorists have taken this idea further to explain a mystery of gravity that has perplexed physicists for some time – why is gravity so much weaker than the other fundamental forces? does its carrier, the graviton, exist and where? the idea is that we do not feel gravity’s full effect in the everyday world. gravity may appear weak only because its force is being shared with other spatial dimensions.”

well yeah, and then some . . . . . you see the universe has lots of secrets, not the least of which is the one relating to the apparent presence of a substantial amount of "stuff" that we can't detect. the lhc will provide some insight into all this " stuff" which scientists lump together under the moniker "dark matter". for the record, as things stand, all we see in the universe – planets, stars, galaxies – accounts for only a tiny 4% of it. it seems like it's time to start digging into "the rest". "the rest" is dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%). physicists think the lhc could provide clues about this mysterious "stuff".

a sidebar to all of this exciting discovery stuff is the understandable anxiety that some people have around the "what-ifs" when this big boy is fired up. all sorts of ideas and theories are circulating around the possibility that the lhc might create miniature black holes, strangelets, magnetic monopoles, and vacuum bubbles. apparently c.e.r.n. is aware of these concerns and so each is addressed in lay terms that both describe the concern and then allays the fears of those who propose the concerns by providing an explanation as to why they should not be considered concerns. feel brave? want to scare yourself a little? then you definitely want to watch this . . .
if you would like to take a look inside the lhc and really appreciate the extraordinary scale and detail that articulates in its extraordinary confluence of technology the point that mankind is at then you should cruise through this powerful flickr set.
to really put all of this together for yourself you need to watch this incredible presentation . . . an excellent overview of the "best and worst case scenarios" with the lhc has been put together by the good folks over at "wired".

what an extraordinary time to be alive!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

shredding metal with a paper guitar

let’s just say that you love guitars - their looks, their sounds - but you can’t afford one, or let’s say that you can afford one but you can’t rationalize the expense, or let’s even say that you can afford one, you can rationalize the expense but you can’t and likely will never learn how to play one as well as your favourite note shredder.

well thanks to the people at paper guitar, you can own not just your number one top of the list dream guitar but a few of the other guitars on your list as well. what’s the catch? well as you might have guessed from the website’s moniker, they’re made out of paper and they’re not quite the same size as the original.

but let’s have some fun with this one all the same. paper guitar has a list that numbers 25 guitars at present including some classics like the les paul custom black, and jimi hendrix’ famous psychedelic flying v.
the guitars are downloaded as pdf files and from there you’re into some careful cutting and pasting. the guitars are pre-”painted” so there’s nothing in the way of finicky detail work for you. a little rack of these on the wall of your daughter’s dollhouse, or stuck in the hands of your favourite ken doll or barbie would do the trick!!! have fun and remember not to press too hard on the strings!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

zoe keating's celloscapes

i’m not sure that i can recall the beginning of my appreciation for the cello and for those who play it but it goes back for as long as i can recall appreciating string music. the cello’s colours tend towards the gold and golden-brown and in its lower registers even dark cocoa. remaining with the food analogy, the cello has flavours approximating honey and the sweetest molasses right through melted dark chocolate.

i love finding artists who bridge the interstice between an acoustic instrument and technology. one such musician is canadian-born cellist zoe keating.
i think that the best way to start to get into zoe’s work is to see her performing a piece that came out of an equipment failure - entitled “don’t worry” this has more of a groove to it than her other work but it gives you a brief sense of her sound and how she achieves it through layering samples . . .

the following video is a much longer piece but contains two absolutely stunning pieces that really open out zoe’s careful crafting of layers and her literal and figurative straddling of the cello seamlessly melding the traditional with the contemporary - compelling its body into bowed arcs and fluttered rhythm layered over undulating sheets and washes of colour.

listening to those pieces makes me wonder if this music couldn’t also incorporate the presence and music of laurie anderson whose use of bowed recording tape and sampling certainly created a lovely precedent for zoe’s work.
to learn more about zoe and her music then you might like to listen to typical mac user’s - podcast.

visitors to zoe’s homepage will find many links to interviews, videos and in the background you get to listen to samples of her music. her latest album entitled "natoma" is available in the all usual locations and was top album in the classical section of itunes a couple of weeks back!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

let forever be ~ the golden path

i remember when the first little tickles of hype around the “dust brothers” first appeared and i was listening to the prodigy at that time and thought- well i’m getting enough out of the prodigy, i’ll not overload the big beat, post punk lyrics and techno mashup by bothering with them. so i didn’t. when the chemical brothers appeared (and i didn’t connect the dust brothers and the chemical brothers until i read somewhere that it was as simple as a legally induced name change - that they were one and the same thing) that i listened to their first album. even then, despite its selling in vast quantities, i didn’t find it especially mind-blowing. but their second album ”dig your own hole” i found more compelling.

one of my favourite chemical brothers songs is let forever be. those of you familiar with the beatles’ ”tomorrow never knows” will hear a sonically strong connection to that piece of music.
here are the lyrics to the beatlesque sounding ”let forever be” . . .

how does it feel like, to wake up in the sun.
how does it feel like, to shine on everyone.
how does it feel like, to let forever be.
how does it feel like, to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter.
scream out sympathy.

how does it feel like, to sail on the breeze.
how does it feel like, to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter.
scream out sympathy.

how does it feel like, to make it happening.
how does it feel like, to breathe with everything.
how does it feel like, to let forever be.
how does it feel like, to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter.
scream out sympathy.

how does it feel like, to be a cristophe
how does it feel like, to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter.
scream out sympathy.

a nice analysis of the video can be read here. let’s watch it . . .
it’s on “the golden path” that the big beat meets psychedelia blend that i like in “let forever be” really finds itself. with the flaming lips alongside the chemical brothers guiding the tune into its spacey otherness, “the golden path” also drives a danceable question/message into the ears of the listener. which path do you honour? the path that compels you to don your corporate hunter-gatherer monkey suit and bring home the bacon, or do you head back to the land in harmony with your inner self?

chemical brothers - the golden path

Saturday, September 6, 2008

thomas hardy - the temporary, the all

thomas hardy would surely qualify as my favourite english author if only because he gave voice to the common person against the background of a landscape so quintessentially english - old southern english to be precise - a landscape which is now largely abandoned, covered over, or fetishized for the pleasure of those who need to experience first hand what can and should only be known in their hearts and minds.

hardy is most widely known for his novels but in his poetry is a brooding, thoughtful voice that captures nuances and details of the human condition and lays bare his own joys, misgivings, and troubles as he passed through his own waxing and waning. his writing is dense and asks of the reader time to savour its flow as much as the colour and intent of the individual words and phrases. i think that you'll find that the effort is worthwhile.

this particular poem is from a collection of poems entitled wessex poems. wessex poems can be read in its entirety online if you go here.
entitled "the temporary, the all", it draws an arc across the whole of a life as characterized by relationships - of all sorts both inner and outer.

the temporary, the all

change and chancefulness in my flowering youthtime,
set me sun by sun near to one unchosen;
wrought us fellow-like, and despite divergence,
friends interlinked us.

"cherish him can i while the true one forthcome -
come the rich fulfiller of my prevision;
life is roomy yet, and the odds unbounded."
so self-communed i.

thwart my wistful way did a damsel saunter,
fair, the while unformed to be all-eclipsing;
"maiden meet," held i, "till arise my forefelt
wonder of women."

long a visioned hermitage deep desiring,
tenements uncouth I was fain to house in;
"let such lodging be for a breath-while," thought i,
"soon a more seemly.

"then, high handiwork will i make my life-deed,
truth and light outshow; but the ripe time pending,
intermissive aim at the thing sufficeth."
thus i . . . but lo, me!

mistress, friend, place, aims to be bettered straightway,
bettered not has fate or my hand's achieving;
sole the showance those of my onward earth-track -
never transcended!