A collaboration with McSweeney's, "Song Reader," is the new Beck album. It comes as an illustrated folio of sheet-music:
In the wake of Modern Guilt and The Information, Beck’s latest album comes in an almost-forgotten form—twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. Complete with full-color, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, when necessary, ukelele notation), Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012—an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together. The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear “Do We? We Do,” or “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.
I'm a little unclear on how "Interlude," the early-1980s pornographic video game advertised here, did its thing. Was it just dirty stories? Were there computer-generated pornographic animations? Jaggedy low-rez scans?
This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark
I’ve been a pretty serious Dick-head ever since a roommate gave me a copy of A Scanner Darkly 20 years ago. The drugs and dystopian SF hooked me. But it wasn’t until a few years later, in college at the University of Hawaii, that I discovered Philip K. Dick’s literary merit, a discovery that forever altered the course of my life.
I was buying books for an American Lit class: Frederick Douglass, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, nothing I was particularly excited about reading, but then, in the next shelf over, with the books for another section of the very same class, I see Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- as assigned reading. You know, the book Blade Runner is based on?
Like the movie, the novel features Rick Deckard (ever notice how his name sounds like the philosopher Rene Descartes?) who’s been recruited to ‘retire’ six androids in a single day. Spurred on by a nagging wife and a ‘mood organ’ that keeps him in his business-like manner, Deckard hits the mean, post-apocalyptic streets of San Francisco in search of some of the most dangerous machines ever conceived of by man.
I dropped the boring section of the class the next day. Little did I know, my new professor, Robert Onopa, would connect Dick’s novel to some of the most influential American literature of the 20th century including T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and, in the process, save me from an existential crisis that threatened to swallow me whole.
I am rooting for the folks behind Narratively, a digital publication about "New York's untold stories."
Narratively slows down the news cycle. Each week, we’ll explore a different theme about New York and publish a series of connected stories -- just one a day -- told in the most appropriate medium for each piece. We might feature a longform article with portrait photos on a Monday, followed by an animated documentary on Tuesday, then a photo essay, an audio piece or a short documentary film. Every story gets the space and time it needs to have an impact. We’ll bring you weeks devoted to New York’s waterways, hustlers, sexual subcultures, obscure pastimes and countless other themes. We’ll even get you involved in theme and story selection.
Lizz Winstead is raising money to make a PSA about reproductive rights. She's a writer, comedian, asskicker and one of the creators of The Daily show. I believe her that she will get this thing made and then get it seen.
By helping me create this campaign we will be reminding America just how much erosion we are seeing in the area of reproductiove rights and we all know that humor poking at the underbelly of dipshittery makes a HUGE impact.
"Hobo nickels" are made from US Buffalo nickels. They are made by carving a new face from the Native American face. During the depression, artists would carve these nickels and sell them for a profit (hence the name "hobo nickel.") Neatorama offered up this example of a more recent hobo nickel, which resembles a science fiction interplanetary humanoid. See more alien head nickels here.
If you've never used IFTTT before, give it a try. There are currently 50 "channels" on IFTTT, with everything from Twitter and Facebook to ESPN and weather. You create "recipes" that perform a certain action if a specific trigger is met. For example, I use a recipe that tweets the URL of every post that I write on TUAW from my Twitter account.
What does this have to do with WeMo? Well, there are IFTTT channels for the WeMo motion detector and switch. This opens up all sorts of possibilities. Say you want to receive a text message whenever your cat uses the litter pan. You set up a motion detector next to the litter pan, and every time el gato feels the need to go, you get tweeted.
There are even wilder things you can set up. Plug a fan into a WeMo switch, then set up an IFTTT recipe to turn the fan on if the local outside temperature goes above 85° F (I tried this -- it works). Have IFTTT call you whenever someone enters the house (it works). And if you want to shut that fan off, you can either write another recipe or just use the WeMo app to shut it off remotely.
Gareth Branwyn of MAKE says: "Francesca Pitcher from North Star Cakes in the UK created this amazingly realistic Burmese python cake for her daughter’s birthday. She posted it on her Facebook page and it’s gone viral from there. Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes even tweeted about it."
Sound it Out # 32: Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Windshield Smasher”
There’s a guy in Pittsburgh who calls himself Tobacco. He's been making music as Black Moth Super Rainbow since 2003. His sound has transitioned from disjointed psychedelia to more guitar-heavy dance music, though all of it has a trippy element to it. It shouldn’t surprise you that people enjoy doing drugs and going to see Black Moth Super Rainbow play.
Black Moth Super Rainbow just finished a very successful (and entertaining to read) Kickstarter campaign, raising over $125,000 to release the new album Cobra Juicy. Premiums included a haunted house tour, a roller skating party and hand-painted, glow-in-the-dark masks with a USB stick jammed into the mouth like a tooth. Eric Wareheim starred in one pitch video for the campaign.
“Windshield Smasher” is the new song from Cobra Juicy. It's sort of like a malevolent stadium anthem that gets progressively weirder. Listen and download below.
Core77's hipstomp looks at the arcane world of survivalist bag reviewers. These brave souls (who both fear the end of the world and prepare for it) are experts at cramming a metric asston of stuff into webbed ripstop nylon enclosures, and represent a kind of connoisseur Ur-audience for anything meant to hold a lot of things. Some of these individuals are quite skilled at solving the literal knapsack problem, coming up with unexpected and ingenious configurations of odd-shaped gear that minimize wasted space. The video above shows one such gent, reviewing the Maxpedition FR-1 pouch:
Here's why: They are completely obsessed with both gear and the idea of self-sufficiency. They prize durability and functionality in a product because their fervency makes them believe their lives will depend on it. They build backups and redundancy into their carry systems to compensate for product failure or unforeseen problems.
More importantly, unlike a soldier who is assigned a standardized piece of kit, survivalists scour the product landscape for the best, and can freely hack the gear to suit their needs. Soldiers must rely on the design talents harnessed at Natick (click here for our entry on a recent first-aid kit re-design), but the survivalist and his or her discretionary income have companies actively courting them.
One such company is "hard use gear" manufacturer Maxpedition, whom we last looked in on in 2010. Through customer feedback, they realized that their FR-1 pouch, which they had designed as a medical kit, was being subverted by users into a "survival pouch." The company must consider it a godsend of free advertising, because here you have survivalists making their own videos to explain to other survivalists what they like about the bag and how they pack it.
Over at Discovery News, Emily Sohn asks the question I've been wondering for the last two weeks. Why are Olympians today better at their sports than Olympians of the past? Why do speed records keep getting broken? Why can gymnasts do more elaborate routines?
I mean, I have plenty of reasonable, speculative answers for those questions. But I hadn't seen them addressed in a factual way. This is great. And fascinating.
The answer, experts say, involves a combination of incremental technological improvements, as well as a growing population of people attempting a larger variety of sports that they start earlier and stick with longer. The mind plays a big role, too, especially when it comes to toppling seemingly insurmountable barriers, like the four-minute mile of the past or the two-hour marathon of the future.
"There is almost certainly a species limit in terms of physical capabilities, and I suspect we might be in the range of that," said Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse. "But every time scientists say humans are not going to go any faster, they've been shown to be wrong. You can take that one to the bank."
Through calculations of maximum power output, oxygen use, heart function and other factors, some researchers have attempted to predict what the absolute limits of human ability will be. Much-debated estimates include 1:58 for the marathon (a five-minute improvement over the current men's record of 2:03.38), and 9.48 for the men's 100m.
I was on Minnesota Public Radio's morning show The Daily Circuit today—along with Ivan Semeniuk, chief of correspondents for the journal Nature—talking about the Curiosity rover, human evolution, and dealing with the big unknowns in science. You can listen to that segment online.
But right at the end of my bit, as I was packing up my stuff to leave the studio, I heard the next segment on the show, and it was AWESOME. Ask a Neuroscientist is, precisely, reader questions answered by a neuroscientist. But you have to read the transcript for today's first question, where a 5-year-old exchanged ideas with Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist David Eagleman.
Madeline, 5 years old: How does a brain think?
David Eagleman: We don't know. Part of modern neuroscience's quest is to answer that. One theory goes that, in the same way brains control muscle movement, your brain controls your arms and legs and mouth and so on. Thought might be, essentially, covert muscle movement. In other words, it's going through the same routine that says 'bend this, flex that, extend that' - except that it's not controling a muscle. Instead, it's controling something conceptual.
Meet Richard Nolan: quartermaster of the Whydah, captain of the Anne, former coworker of Blackbeard—in general, pirate. He is also—at least through Labor Day—my friend Butch Roy.
Butch is an actor, a founder of the Twin Cities Improv Festival, and the executive director of Huge Theater here in Minneapolis. This summer, he took on a new role, playing pirate Richard Nolan in the Science Museum of Minnesota's Real Pirates exhibit.
When I first heard about Real Pirates I wasn't terribly excited. It sounded like the sort of kiddie-friendly, fact-lite thing that I tend to avoid on museum trips. I mean, for god's sake, there were actors running around going, "Arrgh," at people. But then I got a chance to talk to Butch about what, exactly, he was doing in the exhibit—and what it took to prepare for the role.
Butch and his cohorts aren't just playing pirates—they're playing real, documented people. What's more, all the actors had to build their characters from the ground up, using original historical sources and doing a lot of extra research on their own. They had to learn the skills of a pirate and the skills associated with their specific role on the ship. Butch, at least in theory, now knows how to load and fire an 18th century cannon. His fellow actor Michael Ritchie, who plays ship's surgeon James Ferguson, is up-to-date on all the latest medical research and techniques, circa 1717. The sheer volume of historical information Butch has picked up is absolutely fascinating.
I have no idea whether or not the actual exhibit, Real Pirates, is worthwhile as an educational tool. But you should DEFINITELY find one of the pretend pirates and take them out for a beer.
I got a kick out of Reggie Watts at PopTech 2011 taking the piss out of the cliches so frequently heard at conferences dedicated to big ideas, innovation, deep thinking, the future(s), the long view, sea changes, transformations, disruptions, etc. (Thanks, Jake Dunagan!)