Audio history of Outsider Art

"In the Realms of the Unreal [Henry Darger], 1998" by Joe Coleman

"Outsider art" is generally defined as work created by untrained, self-taught, or "naïve" artists who aren't connected to or influenced by the traditional art world. Like most art labels, it's murky. But if anyone can help follow its historical threads, that person would be gallerist Andrew Edlin, owner of the influential Outsider Art Fair happening right now in New York City. In the below new episode of Juxtapoz Radio, Edlin looks at the history and present of the genre and its place in the art establishment:

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Robot bird with real pigeon feathers to improve agility

PigeonBot is a robotic bird outfitted with real pigeon feathers that move to reshape its wings like an actual bird. Developed by researchers in Stanford's LentinkLab, the remote-controlled PigeonBot demonstrates how morphing wings improves flying agility. (Video below.) Their resulting technical paper is the cover story in the current issue of the journal Science Robotics. From Science News:

Birds can modify the shape of their wings by fanning out their feathers or shuffling them closer together. Those adjustments allow birds to cut through the sky more nimbly than rigid drones....

Researchers bent and extended the wings of dead pigeons to investigate how the birds control their wing shape. Those experiments revealed that the angles of two wing joints, the wrist and the finger, most affect the alignment of a wing’s flight feathers. The orientations of those long, stiff feathers, which support the bird in flight, help determine the wing’s shape. Based on those findings, the team built a robot with real pigeon feathers, whose faux wrists and fingers can morph its wing shape as seen in the pigeon cadavers.

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New biography of electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos

From her groundbreaking first album Switched-On Bach (1968) to the unforgettable soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Tron (1982), Wendy Carlos is a living legend of electronic music. In March, Oxford University Press will publish Wendy Carlos: A Biography, written by musicologist Amanda Sewel, musical director of Interlochen Public Radio. From the book description:

With her debut album Switched-On Bach, composer and electronic musician Wendy Carlos (b. 1939) brought the sound of the Moog synthesizer to a generation of listeners, helping to effect arguably one of the most substantial changes in popular music's sound since musicians began using amplifiers. Her story is not only one of a person who blazed new trails in electronic music for decades but is also the story of a person who intersected in many ways with American popular culture, medicine, and social trends during the second half of the 20th century and well into the 21st. There is much to tell about her life and about the ways in which her life reflects many dimensions of American culture.

Carlos's identity as a transgender woman has shaped many aspects of her life, her career, how she relates to the public, and how the public has received her and her music. Cultural factors surrounding the treatment of transgender people affected many of the decisions that Carlos has made over the decades. Additionally, cultural reception and perception of transgender people has colored how journalists, scholars, and fans have written about Carlos and her music for decades.

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Florida man wearing "hover shoes" brazenly rolls out of Walmart with cart of stolen goods

In Winter Haven, Florida, this gentleman rolled right into a Walmart, loaded up his cart with a TV, flowers, and other goods, and glided right out the door without paying.

"Back to the Future’s McFly he’s not! But his Hover Shoes, Voyagers, Moto Kicks, Space Shoes or whatever you want to call them makes him our first futuristic thief!” the Winter Haven Police Department police posted on Facebook.

(<a href="https://www.wfla.com/news/polk-county/police-futuristic-thief-steals-television-flowers-from-winter-haven-walmart/">WFLA, thanks UPSO!)

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Tourists deported for crapping in Macchu Picchu and damaging the stonework

Peruvian police are deporting five tourists from Chile, Brazil, France and Argentina for allegedly sneaking into the Macchu Picchu citadel, defacating among the Incan ruins and breaking the stonework inside the Temple of the Sun. Read the rest

Be sure to celebrate National Nothing Day today by not celebrating it

In the United States, January 16 is National Nothing Day. San Francisco Examiner columnist Harold Pullman Coffin created the holiday in 1973 "to provide Americans with one national holiday when they can just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything." From Checkiday.com:

It is ironic that it was created "to protest the proliferation of special days," as another holiday was started by its creation. Although it is meant to be a day when people do nothing, there are various other holidays that are observed on January 16 which undermine its message. Additionally, new holidays continue to be added on any given day of the year. Coffin also created the National Nothing Foundation, although it appears this no longer exists. Coffin himself passed away in 1981, but his holiday of nothing has continued to be celebrated—we think. It's a little hard to measure the popularity of a holiday where you do nothing.

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Our olfactory heritage: researcher preserves scents before they're lost forever

Smell is perhaps more closely intertwined with memory than sight, sound, or any other of our senses. Indeed, scents are an incredibly important part of history and culture. That's why Cecilia Bembibre and her colleagues at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage are working to preserve certain smells for the ages. After all, smells are "the olfactory heritage of humanity," she says. ”From the BBC:

But how do you capture something as intangible as a historical scent? One method involves exposing a polymer fibre to the odour, so that the smell-causing chemical compounds in the air can stick to it. Then Bembibre analyses the sample in the laboratory, dissolving the compounds stuck to the fibre, separating them and identifying them. The resulting list of chemicals is effectively a recipe for the scent.

Another method separates and identifies the compounds directly from the gas sample – an approach commonly used in the perfume, food and beverages industry, as it allows volatile odour-active compounds to be identified. A third way is to use the nose itself, either by asking panels of people to describe certain smells, or by asking expert “noses”, who may be perfumers or scent designers.

“We characterise the smell from the human point of view,” adds Bembibre. “This is important because if we want to preserve it for the future, it depends on many factors. Not only the chemical composition but also our experience.”

Bembibre has chemically extracted the smells of old leather gloves, ancient books and mould Bembibre has chemically extracted the smells of old leather gloves, ancient books and mould, among other things.

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Augmented reality contact lenses get real

Back in the early Wired magazine days, we used to joke about technology that seemed to be perpetually "just around the corner" -- like storing the entire Library of Congress in a sugar cube-sized device, nanobots, and contact lens computer displays. Looks like the latter is almost ready for prime time! Just this week, startup Mojo Vision has demonstrated augmented reality in a contact lens. They've integrated a 14K pixels-per-inch display, wireless, and image and motion sensors into a wirelessly-powered device that sits in your eye. “When you close your eyes, you still see the content displayed,” Mojo Vision's Steve Sinclair says. Tekla Perry wrote about the technology, called Invisible Computing, in IEEE Spectrum:

The first application, says Steve Sinclair, senior vice president of product and marketing, will likely be for people with low vision—providing real-time edge detection and dropping crisp lines around objects. In a demonstration last week at CES 2020, I used a working prototype (albeit by squinting through the lens rather than putting it into my eyes), and the device highlighted shapes in bright green as I looked around a dimly lit room....

I also saw a demonstration of text displayed using the prototype; it was easy to read. Potential future applications, beyond those intended for people with low vision, include translating languages in real time, tagging faces, and providing emotional cues....

The path ahead is not a short one; contact lenses are considered medical devices and therefore need U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But the Mojo Lens has been designated as an FDA Breakthrough Device which will speed things up a little.

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The lost Apple Store design of the 1990s

In the 1990s, Marc Newsom designed the Apple retail store concept as imagined in this presentation video by Me Company. Read the rest

Rush's Neil Peart talks Tom Sawyer, with vintage studio footage

From the 2010 Rush documentary "Beyond the Lighted Stage," Neil Peart, who died last week, talks about the power of Tom Sawyer. What you say about his company is what you say about society. Read the rest

Woman used badly photoshopped image to convince boss she had a flat tire

Twitter user @sydneywhitson reported that "her coworker called in (yet again) and said she had a nail on her tire that caused her to have a flat" and reportedly sent in the above photo as evidence. Zoomed version below. Of course, Twitter delighted in the stupidity.

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Company sells square tip knives to help reduce knife violence

In 2019, knife crime in England and Wales hit record highs with police counting 44,000 offenses over a year span, half of which were stabbings. In an effort to help (and also probably to, ahem, get some press), UK cutlery brand Viners is now selling a line of knives with squared-off tips. From Insider:

Due to be released later this week, (a Viners press release states that the line) has been "repeatedly tested to ensure the tip does not pierce skin intentionally or otherwise."

"With knife-related crime incidents at a record high and a reported 285 fatalities in the last 12 months alone, the UK government has taken the decision to reclassify kitchen knives as an offensive weapon with the new Offensive Weapons Act 2019, leading some retailers to remove single knives from sale in retail stores," a press release for the knife collection stated.

"The new Assure collection from Viners has been created in response to this new legislation, with the team extensively testing a new shape knife that is highly functional for the modern cook but shaped to reduce and prevent injuries, accidents and fatalities."

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Florida woman arrested for attempting to make a bomb inside Walmart using items from the store shelves

In Tampa, Florida, Emily Stallard, 37, was arrested for attempting to make a bomb inside a Walmart using materials she grabbed from the store shelves. From CNN:

"A security guard with Walmart noticed the woman ... roaming the aisles of the store and opening unpaid items. The items included flammable materials, projectiles and matches," the sheriff's office said...

"This woman had all the supplies she needed to cause mass destruction at her disposal," Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

"Had it not been for an alert off-duty law enforcement officer and a watchful security staff at Walmart, she may have followed through with her plans to cause an explosion inside the store..."

Stallard had a child with her at the time of the incident, authorities said. She was arrested on charges of attempted arson of a structure, fire bombing, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child abuse and battery on a law enforcement officer. Deputies said she spit on them while she was being arrested.

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Magical prank: little girl instantly becomes big girl

I'm all for anything that makes shopping more entertaining. Read the rest

Solved: mystery of random cash rolls appearing on sidewalks in UK village

In November, we posted that mysterious rolls of cash were showing up on sidewalks in the small English village of Blackhall Colliery, on the North Sea coast of County Durham. In the last 5 years, around US$30,000 had been found in twelve rolls. Now, the mystery has been solved. Two anonymous individuals have been placing the bundles on the sidewalk as random acts of kindness. From CNN:

The generous pair voluntarily came forward to the police after residents were left puzzled by the regular appearance of cash bundles, which have been found 12 times in Blackhall Colliery since 2014.

The couple, who have asked to remain anonymous, received unexpected windfalls and wanted to leave the money to help people, Durham Constabulary said in a statement.

They chose Blackhall Colliery as they had an "emotional connection" to the village after being helped by a resident, police added.

The pair would often stay to make sure the cash had been picked up, police said.

It is not clear whether the pair will continue to leave cash, but police said that any money handed in will be returned to the finder.

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Secret history of the screwdriver

From old-school bOING bOING editor Gareth Branwyn's must-read e-newsletter "Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales":

I love The History Guy on YouTube. In this episode, he examines the history of the screwdriver and how world events shaped the development of the Phillips head and Robertson head drivers and screws. Even if you know something about the history of this ancient technology, you will likely learn some cool things from this video.

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The beauty of sewers before the first flush

Our cities' sewers are some of the most incredible structures in the built environment. In a new book, "An Underground Guide to Sewers: or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c." historian Stephen Halliday explores the systems (and people) that deal with our shit so we don't have to. From the book description:

Halliday begins with sanitation in the ancient cities of Mesopotamia, Greece, and Imperial Rome, and continues with medieval waterways (also known as “sewage in the street”); the civil engineers and urban planners of the industrial age, as seen in Liverpool, Boston, Paris, London, and Hamburg; and, finally, the biochemical transformations of the modern city. The narrative is illustrated generously with photographs, both old and new, and by archival plans, blueprints, and color maps tracing the development of complex sewage systems in twenty cities. The photographs document construction feats, various heroics and disasters, and ingenious innovations; new photography from an urban exploration collective offers edgy takes on subterranean networks in cities including Montreal, Paris, London, Berlin, and Prague.

"An Underground Guide to Sewers: or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c." (Amazon)

More images at Smithsonian: "These Photos Capture the World’s Sewer Systems When They Were Brand New"

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