Category Archives: Uncategorized

The internet of everything will turn us into gibbering micro-payment addicts

 

With the announcement of Nest’s acquisition by Google for $3.2 billion last week, the entire technology industry was thrown into hypergear deliberating why there was such a high price placed on something that appeared to be so simple.

 

It’s only a thermostat after all, right? Wrong.

 

Nest helps consumers control the most energy-guzzling aspects of your home – heating and air conditioning – which accounts for 56 percent of the average home’s energy consumption. What made the Nest acquisition so appealing was its ties to this mandatory service. It provides a product that is so closely embedded into the consumer’s life that it was an appealing acquisition for any mega corporation that wants to take advantage of the thing that powers everything – electricity.

 

Now add $1.99 per month subscription to connect Nest to Google services, and you’ve opened a lot more consumers to replacing their “ugly” thermostat, rather than paying the upfront $249 Nest one-off purchase cost. Which could allow Nest to work its way into millions of homes; this means that 56% of all electricity used, the monthly service that we all are forced to pay, will largely be monitored and controlled by one of the most powerful companies in the world: Google.

 

Google has done extensively well to take expensive products and turning them into a service, often for free. For example, Google’s acquisition of analytics company Urchin Software Corporation in 2005 turned a very high-dollar offering to a free service for website owners. Google is transforming an industry formerly dominated by Microsoft with the launch of Google Drive, free for most and  offered at a low monthly fee for businesses, replaces the need for Word, Excel and the rest of the antiquated one-off software offerings.

 

This is indicative of a shift from one-off product sales to services that will become essential to our everyday lives, things that we will pay for over and over again. In an age when consumers would balk at being forced to pay $120 for a year’s worth of music streaming, they are happy to have their money taken away dollar-by-dollar at a $10 a month clip. Whether it’s more than $1,200 a year on an iPhone plan or a monthly subscription for home delivered products and services, it’s time for Silicon Valley to realize we have reached the age of leasing, not buying things.

 

Welcome to the age of services. With every new app and product that debuts, entrepreneurs now more than ever need to take into consideration the value proposition of getting consumers quickly on the “titty” (as a great quote from the TV series “House of Cards” so bluntly put it).

 

This means instead of selling a one-off item a monthly or yearly subscription model needs to be baked into even the simplest of concepts. Subscription-based services have taken over, letting consumers subscribe to everything from kids’ craft supplies for around $20 a month to licenses for software priograms, which can run around $75 per month. From digital children’s books, to even gadget-driven offerings, the world has shifted to deferred payments for ultimate consumer satisfaction. Big-ticket items are going to the way-side in lieu of purchases.

 

Much of this shift has to do with up-and-coming generations that have a bent for instant gratification at a bargain price (or even free). They want the $1.99 a month subscription for music, with on-demand video for $9.99. The Internet has made it possible to lease rather than buy, which large companies have done for decades to better balance their books. Depreciation on large equipment (cars, planes, buildings, etc.) is better if you can match it with consumption. Now technology has made it feasible for the average Joe to do the same.

 

This generation may never really own a thing in their life. Long gone are days of saving up to buy something when you have credit cards and layaway plans await. Instant consumerism is the driving force, and subscription services lead the way.

Via Pando – click here to read the full article.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of Terry Gilliam’s new film…

The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam’s latest, didn’t go down well with The Guardian’s Xan Brooks, who called it “a sagging bag of half-cooked ideas, a dystopian thriller with runaway dysentery, a film that wears its metaphorical trousers around its metaphorical ankles”.

I still want to watch it though. Even if it is a bit half-baked, it’s not as if there’s zero precedent for genius coming out of chaos. Gilliam is ace and I generally find his films improve with time. Interesting cast, too.

“Man was created strong” – a guide to making love

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From “How to Make Love: A 1936 Guide to the Art of Wooing“, which offers:

The restrictions that bound us in the past, in the matter of social etiquette, have all been washed away by the cleansing waters of time. Not many years ago, our girls were warned to keep their young men from placing their arms around the seat of the buggy when riding or else suffer the ignominy of being classed as fallen women. Nowadays, we look upon such things more calmly. With the change in social customs there has been a need for a book which dealt with the art of love. This book is intended to aid you in your love-making.

Skipping to the good bits, Maria Popova summarises the following on Brainpickings.org, where in a section titled “How to Approach a Girl,” the author presents a guide to that coveted first kiss:

In kissing a girl whose experience with osculation is limited, it is a good thing to work up to the kissing of the lips. Only an arrant fool seizes hold of such a girl when they are comfortably seated on a sofa, and suddenly shoves his face into hers and smacks her lips. Naturally, the first thing he should do is to arrange it so that the girl is seated against the arm of the sofa while he is at her side. In this way, she cannot edge away from him when he becomes serous in his attentions. This done, on some pretext or other, such as a gallant attempt to adjust the cushions behind her (tenderness, you see) he manages to insinuate his arm, first around the back of the sofa and then, gradually, around her shoulders.

If you suspect this might be getting dangerously close to date-rape territory, hold the premature evaluation — we’re getting there:

If she flinches, don’t worry. If she flinches and makes an outcry, don’t worry. If she flinches, makes an outcry and tries to get up from the sofa, don’t worry. Hold her, gently but firmly, and allay her fears with kind, reassuring words. … However, if she flinches, makes an outcry, a loud stentorian outcry, mind you, and starts to scratch your face, then start to worry or start to get yourself out of a bad situation. Such girls are not to be trifled with … or kissed.

Provided no face-scratching has taken place, this is what you should do:

Tell her she is beautiful. Then take a deep sniff of the perfume in her hair and comment on it. Tell her that the odor is like “heady wine.” Tell her that her hair smells like a garden of roses. Tell her anything, but be sure to tell her something complimentary. This done, it is only a natural thing for you to desire to sink your nose deeper into her hair so that you can get the full benefit of its bouquet.

Then, time for “The Technique of Kissing”:

Now is your chance! The moment you feel the tip of your nose touch her scalp, purse your lips and kiss her, the while you inhale a deep breath of air that is redolent with the exquisite odor of her hair. It is then but a few inches to her ear. Touch the rim of her ear with your lips in a sort of brushing motion. Breathe gently into the delicate shell. Some women react passionately to this subtle act. Brush past her here in this way again and note her reaction. If she draws her head away, return to the hair and sniff luxuriously of it. Then settle back to her ear, the while you murmur “sweet, airy nothings” into it. From the ear to her neck is but another few inches. Let your lips traverse this distance quickly and then dart into the nape of the neck and, with your lips well pursed, nip the skin there, using the same gentleness as would a cat lifting her precious kittens.

Then, with a series of little nips, bring your lips around-from the nape of her neck to the curving, swerve of her jaw, close to the ear. Gently kiss the lobe of her ear. But be sure to return to the tender softness of her jaw. From then on, the way should be clear to you. Nuzzle your lips along the soft, downy expanse until you reach the corner of her lips. You will know when this happens, because, suddenly, you will feel a strange stiffening of her shoulders under your arm. The reason for this is that the lips constitute one of the main erogenous zones of the body.

All right. You have subtly kissed the corner of her mouth. Don’t hesitate. Push on further to more pleasurable spots. Ahead of you lies that which had been promised in your dreams, the tender, luscious lips of the girl you love. But don’t sit idly by and watch them quivering…

Propriety prevents me from indulging further, but if you read the original article, you’ll get the thrilling denouement all to yourself.

The Guy Quote – Alan Watts

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Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker. Best known for making Eastern philosophy digestible to Western minds, his radio broadcasts, books and talks turned people on to new ways of thinking. He introduced the youth culture to The Way of Zen, he put forward the idea that Buddhism could be seen as a form of psychotherapy rather than a religion, he engaged with and explored ideas of human consciousness as well as man’s relationship with nature…to me at least he embodies the world-thinker, astride cultures, taking what is relevant or useful and leaving the dogma. He died in 1973 at the age of 58, at his cabin on Mount Tamalpais. Recently though, people have been setting extracts from his lectures to animations and montages, uploading them to YouTube where his words are enjoying a renaissance.

He was bright, exploring various types of meditation as a teen – he even met D.T. Suzuki – and then moved to America in 1938, just before war broke out. He became an Anglican priest, his thesis at the seminary attempting to blend contemporary Christian worship, mystical Christianity and Asian philosophy. Leaving the ministry after an affair, he went back to academics, teaching at the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco, and bouncing around various other places in following years as he toured the lecture circuit, travelled in Europe, had a TV show and wrote more books.

He expanded his studies into cybernetics, Vedanta and more; experimented with psychedelics in the early 1960s; and for several years was a Fellow at Harvard. He was enjoyed by intellectuals, but had a harder time with academics. Perhaps because – as Watts said himself – he was more “philosophical entertainer” than academic philosopher.

The excellent Wikipedia entry on him, which includes tonnes of links as well as the following:

Watts did not hide his dislike for religious outlooks that he decided were dour, guilt-ridden, or militantly proselytising — no matter if they were found within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism….he has been criticised by Buddhists such as Philip Kapleau and D. T. Suzuki for allegedly misinterpreting several key Zen Buddhist concepts. In particular, he drew criticism from those who believe that zazen can only be achieved by a strict and specific means of sitting, as opposed to a cultivated state of mind available at any moment in any situation. In his talks, Watts addressed the issue of defining zazen practice when he said, “A cat sits until it is tired of sitting, then gets up, stretches, and walks away.” [he also said about experimenting with drugs: "if you get the message, hang up the phone".]

Though known for his Zen teachings, he was equally if not more influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine Reality Man that Man misses, how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution, how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego, how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles. His books frequently include discussions reflecting his keen interest in patterns that occur in nature and which are repeated in various ways and at a wide range of scales – including the patterns to be discerned in the history of civilizations.

And so on with the quotes…

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“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”

“Playing a violin is, after all, only scraping a cat’s entrails with horsehair.”

“You will never get to the irreducible definition of anything because you will never be able to explain why you want to explain, and so on. The system will gobble itself up.”

“We therefore work, not for the work’s sake, but for money—and money is supposed to get us what we really want in our hours of leisure and play. In the United States even poor people have lots of money compared with the wretched and skinny millions of India, Africa, and China, while our middle and upper classes (or should we say “income groups”) are as prosperous as princes. Yet, by and large, they have but slight taste for pleasure. Money alone cannot buy pleasure, though it can help. For enjoyment is an art and a skill for which we have little talent or energy.”

“What we see as death, empty space, or nothingness is only the trough between the crests of this endlessly waving ocean. It is all part of the illusion that there should seem to be something to be gained in the future, and that there is an urgent necessity to go on and on until we get it. Yet just as there is no time but the present, and no one except the all-and-everything, there is never anything to be gained—though the zest of the game is to pretend that there is.”

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate from “I.”

“I owe my solitude to other people.”

“Like too much alcohol, self-consciousness makes us see ourselves double, and we make the double image for two selves – mental and material, controlling and controlled, reflective and spontaneous. Thus instead of suffering we suffer about suffering, and suffer about suffering about suffering.”

“To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

“The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.”

“Naturally, for a person who finds his identity in something other than his full organism is less than half a man. He is cut off from complete participation in nature. Instead of being a body, he ‘has’ a body. Instead of living and loving he ‘has’ instincts for survival and copulation.”

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”

“If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”

“Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal saviour.”

“And people get all fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as if it were words… As if you had a meaning, as if you were a mere word, as if you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. You are meaning.”

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

“Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”

“Zen is a liberation from time. For if we open our eyes and see clearly, it becomes obvious that there is no other time than this instant, and that the past and the future are abstractions without any concrete reality.”

“Hospitals should be arranged in such a way as to make being sick an interesting experience. One learns a great deal sometimes from being sick. ”

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”

“It is interesting that Hindus, when they speak of the creation of the universe do not call it the work of God, they call it the play of God, the Vishnu lila, lila meaning play. And they look upon the whole manifestation of all the universes as a play, as a sport, as a kind of dance — lila perhaps being somewhat related to our word lilt”

“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things.”

“I am what happens between the maternity ward and the Crematorium”

“A successful college president once complained to me, I’m so busy that I’m going to have to get a helicopter! Well, I answered, you’ll be ahead so long as you’re the only president who has one. But don’t get it. Everyone will expect more out of you.”

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.”

“The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.”

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

“For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.”

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

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“It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually–if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning– you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as –Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so– I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it. ”

[[ps - please check out some of my other quote collections here - The Guy Quote]]

Acoustic levitation: straight-up amazing

This was created by Yoichi Ochiai, Takayuki Hoshi and Jun Rekimoto, who say:

The essence of levitation technology is the countervailing of gravity. It is known that an ultrasound standing wave is capable of suspending small particles at its sound pressure nodes. The acoustic axis of the ultrasound beam in conventional studies was parallel to the gravitational force, and the levitated objects were manipulated along the fixed axis (i.e. one-dimensionally) by controlling the phases or frequencies of bolted Langevin-type transducers. In the present study, we considered extended acoustic manipulation whereby millimetre-sized particles were levitated and moved three-dimensionally by localised ultrasonic standing waves, which were generated by ultrasonic phased arrays. Our manipulation system has two original features. One is the direction of the ultrasound beam, which is arbitrary because the force acting toward its centre is also utilised. The other is the manipulation principle by which a localised standing wave is generated at an arbitrary position and moved three-dimensionally by opposed and ultrasonic phased arrays. We experimentally confirmed that expanded-polystyrene particles of 0.6 mm and 2 mm in diameter could be manipulated by our proposed method.

Got that?

Get their PDF here.

Righteous indignation. “Pay the writer!”

Harlan Ellison. Wrote Star Trek, Man from U.N.C.L.E, I,Robot and so on.

Experiments in speed

A Ford Zephyr with home made spoilers, a home made bike, a two-mile runway and a set of big brass balls. Thomas Donhou might not have had salt flats or enormous support teams, but he has a good imagination and a team of wily tinkerers on-side. Clearly sketchy in places, but exactly what we should all be doing on the weekends.

He says: “Inspired by those great men of the salt flats, those men that in the 60s pushed the Land Speed Record from the 300s up towards the 600mph mark in jet-propelled cars built in their sheds. We decided to do what we do: build a bicycle, but this time, in the spirit of those pioneers of speed, build it to see how fast we could go…”

This is a lovely piece of film making. It was on the Red Bull site, but it doesn’t feel like your common or garden Red Bull video. Sort of gently extreme. Also nice to hear someone using technical terms such as “we reached the ‘fuck it’ point and decided to just go for it”.

donhoubicycles.com
spindleproductions.co.uk

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E X T R A B O N U S F I L M

Three mates rent a Boris bike and try to take it up to the top of Ventoux and back within 24 hours. Ventoux is one of (if not the) toughest stages in the Tour de France. Eddie Mercx needed oxygen at the top, and Lance Armstrong got crushed by it. But can Mayor of London tech get them through?

Richard Feynmann – the pleasure of finding things out

Your search for the perfect Christmas angel ends here!

Magic morphing SuperContainer is the table top (and hospital bed?) of the future

Well, this is just incredible. Translate, tilt, rotate…all sorts of things with an amazing technique.

MIT Media Lab is clever. Read about this technique here (it’s worth a look).

Sign of the Times: Look Out, It’s Instagram Envy

Fascinating article by Sarah Nicole Prickett in The New York Times:

(ps – flânerie is strolling, with all oits accompanying associations of lounging, idly loafing and so on, thankyouwikipedia)

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Instagram has created a new kind of voyeurism — in which you can look into the carefully curated windows of the rich, famous and stylish — and a new kind of lifestyle envy.

“The department store is the last promenade for the flâneur,” wrote Walter Benjamin, the German critic, whose impossible project — “The Arcades Project,” more precisely — documented street life in Paris after the Industrial Revolution. He wrote of gleaming wants, windows gazing back at him, shoppers and wanderers alike becoming reflections of their desires. “The crowd,” he wrote, “is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria — as a landscape, now as a room. Both become elements of the department store, which makes use of flâneurie itself to sell goods.”

This flâneuring took place when Paris was the capital of the 19th century. Its arcades — high iron-and-glass arches sheltering individual blocks lined with shops — numbered over 300 (under 30, now). Manhattan, capital of the 20th, replaced arcades with department stores and made spectator art of window displays. What is the new Paris, the new Manhattan, the arcade in the age of digital reproduction? It is Instagram: the app built to make you covet your neighbor’s life.

Only now your own personal Joneses are hundreds of miles away in L.A., or on the Greek island of Patmos, or in Milan. Doesn’t matter — all it takes is two clicks for today’s flâneurs, renamed “followers,” to float onto Margherita Missoni’s balcony. That is, a small and square and semipermanent display of Margherita Missoni’s balcony that makes you wonder if an antique rocking horse isn’t the outdoor seating solution you’ve been waiting for, although you do not have a balcony, or even a patio, and cannot in fact remember the last time you were outdoors.

If Twitter is the street, Facebook the suburban-sprawl mall, and Pinterest some kind of mail-order catalog, Instagram is the many-windowed splendor of a younger Bergdorf’s, showing all we possess or wish for, under squares of filtered glass, each photographic pane backlit 24/7. Each pane is, or intimates, an entire landscape or room. Follow enough of the international lifestyle-setters, and you’ll see: women’s fashion, men’s fashion, home or apartment décor, beautiful food, art, color-coordinated books and magazines. Of course, the tags for these old categories are updated: #birthdaylove for a many-braceleted hand holding a pink Nat Sherman; #nodiets for an aerial view of Ibérico ham on a plate.

Clockwise from top left: Instagram images of Claridge’s, London, by Jessica Diehl; a private home in Gloustershire by Amanda Brooks; a Parisian composition by Laura Bailey; a Manhattan self-portrait by Stephanie LaCava; spectators’ shoes at the Giambattista Valli show in Paris by Lisa Marie Fernandez; and a pool in Puglia, Italy, by Rafael de Cárdenas.Clockwise from top left: Instagram images of Claridge’s, London, by Jessica Diehl; a private home in Gloustershire by Amanda Brooks; a Parisian composition by Laura Bailey; a Manhattan self-portrait by Stephanie LaCava; spectators’ shoes at the Giambattista Valli show in Paris by Lisa Marie Fernandez; and a pool in Puglia, Italy, by Rafael de Cárdenas.

All elements must be carefully staged to look happenstance. Only the crassest Instagrammer snaps a new pair of shoes in a box, or plainly on a floor. The cannier, cinematic one will instead make a display of the shoes, arranging her feet on a shabby-chic desk next to a Grolsch bottle of daisies atop a stack of French translations. The writer Stephanie LaCava snaps her snakeskin Pradas opposite Audrey Gelman’s funny bunny slippers at Paris Fashion Week. A few cobblestoned streets away, the swimwear designer Lisa Marie Fernandez shows off her white Manolo Blahniks next to her friend’s yellow pair of Gianvito Rossis. Such Instagrams are mimetic: the contents, the casually rarefied setting, the off-kilter composition. What each says is not “this is a good shoe” or “these shoes look good on me,” but “these shoes look good in my life,” which is what Benjamin meant when he said goods are sold by flâneurie.

What feels new with Instagram is the mode of photography that feels most akin to the window display. Rafael de Cárdenas, the architect, shows off Biarritz by way of melons and Marlboros on a snowy white cloth. Jessica Diehl, Vanity Fair’s style and fashion director, snaps her stay in Claridge’s, the five-star hotel in London. The model-slash-writer Laura Bailey comes home from a trip with — she writes — “Paris in my bag”: a strand of Chanel pearls, a Chanel stylo eyeliner, a black diamanté hairpin and a handwritten note, all displayed too well and too brightly to make anyone believe these items have ever seen the inside of a clutch.

These are technically still lifes, but in spirit they are actually the new self-portraiture. It isn’t strange to say, or to hear, from an acquaintance run into on the street, “I recognized you” — not by your face or your body, but by your “style.” Meaning: a hand with carmine nails holding a copy of Anne Carson’s “Red Doc.” A pair of Illestevas resting on the edge of a Café Gitane plate, beneath it a new issue of The Journal. “The arrangement was the meaning,” Joan Didion writes in “Blue Nights.” The same is as true of objects as of words, and the small compositions of personal belongings so recognizable as “Instagram” are, simply, selfies without a face.

Similar compositions can also represent others. One of my favorite recent Instagrams, by the Los Angeles artist David Kitz, is of bandages, Motrin and other supplies for an injury from CVS, all heaped together on a plain white bedspread; the tag is #anklesprain, the caption is “Got the best girl in the world,” and the heart melts. This is my kind of lifestyle envy. For the more aspirational, there is Amanda Brooks, the American socialite who now lives in Oxfordshire, England, with two kids and a million horses. In lieu of a family portrait, Brooks will Instagram four pairs of kayaking sandals on a dock. Instead of photographing her scads of friends, she ‘grams a plate heaped high with packets of quince paste, which she has made to give as gifts. In the comments, a stranger asks her for the recipe.

Belongings being so easily conflated with belonging, Instagram induces a longing to be on a scene, the scene, the next one, a better one. Some hours you can scroll without end as a long block of squares lights up in unison, every frame swinging open to a new angle on the same scene: the same Jay Z performance at Pace Gallery in Chelsea, the same Delfina Delettrez presentation in Paris, the same Ken Okiishi paint-balling robots at the Frieze Art Fair in London.

“There it was,” says the kid in the Willa Cather story “Paul’s Case,” looking up at a wonderland of glowing panes, “what he wanted — tangibly before him, like the fairy world of a Christmas pantomime.” Close observers of Instagram may have noticed the recent rise of a conscious-or-not homage to Walter Benjamin, a snap of the modern flâneur: taken alone on the street, while looking through a store window — the most reflexive of surfaces — at oneself.

Hasselhoff Supercut: David sings the theme to ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

Charlie Bayliss, ol’ eagle eyes himself, spotted this on Sploid:

It’s ACE!

Lewandowskis of note: Naked, late and pointless

I wonder if you remember David Lewandowski’s bizarre naked rubber man animation? Fabulously weird and a must-see for anyone with an ounce of internetishness. Well he’s done a sequel.

Late for meeting” tells the story of… is about a… well… maybe just watch it and make your own mind up:

 

Ah! But I promised Lewandowskis plural. Well then you need to visit Josh Lewandowski, who is drawing a pointless diagram for every day of the year. Of his project, he says: “The drawings appear meaningful without actually being helpful. Some might seem to reference real things or show some sort of relationship between things, but this is merely accidental. Enjoy.”

Here’s today’s:

Pointless

 

History doesn’t yet relate whether these Lewandowkis are related, nor indeed if they are related to The Brothers Lewandowski (Bruno, Max and David), who used to sell lingerie to aristocrats, notably Her Majesty Queen Maria Therese of Bavaria, Princess Adalbert of Bavaria, Princess Ludwig Ferdinand and Infanta Eulalia of Spain, but it’s nice to think so.

 

Photomicography – it’s a small world after all. Best viewed large.

Nikon Small World 2013Colonial plankton organism, Chaetoceros debilis (marine diatom), magnified 250x by Wim van Egmond, of the Micropolitan Museum, Berkel en Rodenrijs, Zuid Holland, Netherlands.
 

The Atlantic always finds the best pictures
. Here it shows the winners of the 2013 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. Started back in 1974, the contest invites photographers and scientists to submit images of all things visible under a microscope.

First place this year went to a 250x view of a marine diatom by Wim van Egmond (above), showing the complexity and stunning detail of its fragile helical chain. Other entries included close-up views of ladybug feet, mollusc radula, dinosaur bones, nerve structures in embryos, and much more. Enjoy a journey into mini things by clicking here. Needless to say, best viewed large!

s04_20022382A 4x image of a worker ant, (Aphaenogaster senilis) by Dimitri Seeboruth, from Paris, France.

Vissi d’arte

Vissi d’arte” is a soprano aria from act II of the opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. It is sung by Tosca as she thinks of her fate and how the life of her beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, is at the mercy of Baron Scarpia.

Italian Translation

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,
non feci mai male ad anima viva!
Con man furtiva
quante miserie conobbi aiutai.
Sempre con fè sincera
la mia preghiera
ai santi tabernacoli salì.
Sempre con fè sincera
diedi fiori agli altar.
Nell’ora del dolore
perché, perché, Signore,
perché me ne rimuneri così?
Diedi gioielli della Madonna al manto,
e diedi il canto agli astri, al ciel,
che ne ridean più belli.
Nell’ora del dolore,
perché, perché, Signore,
ah, perché me ne rimuneri così?

I lived for art, I lived for love,
I never harmed a living soul!
With a discreet hand
I relieved all misfortunes I encountered.
Always with sincere faith
my prayer
rose to the holy tabernacles.
Always with sincere faith
I decorated the altars with flowers.
In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
why do you reward me thus?
I donated jewels to the Madonna’s mantle,
and offered songs to the stars and heaven,
which thus shone with more beauty.
In this hour of grief,
why, why, Lord,
ah, why do you reward me thus?

Since EVERYONE seems to either have a cold or be talking about having a cold…

The Land of Counterpane – Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Blade Runner – Film Noir


(well spotted, Bob!)

Excerpts from the Collected Letters of Julian Assange (The New Yorker)

Excerpts from the Collected Letters of Julian Assange, posted on The New Yorker by Celeste Ballard.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media outside Beccles police station in Suffolk

I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about. I believe that it is going to be overwhelmingly negative for me and the people I care about …. It is contrary to my interests, and to those of my organization, and I thank you for your offer, and what I am sure of is your genuine intent, but I must, with inexpressible regret, turn it down.

An excerpt from Julian Assange’s letter to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Assange in the film “The Fifth Estate,” written in reply to Cumberbatch’s request for a meeting.

1

Thank you for the offer of a burrito. My assistants have communicated your offering, and I have given it a lot of thought, and examined memories of previous burritos, which I was fond of, and were of the chicken and beef variety.

I think I would enjoy meeting you and meeting this burrito and shoving it in my mouth. The bond that develops between a political refugee and a burrito is significant. But I must speak directly.

I believe this burrito to be a potentially delicious burrito, but I do not believe that this burrito will sit well in my stomach. I hope you do not take this as an unkindness. It is, rather, a statement of fact. It is for this reason I must regretfully turn down your offer of treating me to lunch at Chipotle.

—Julian Assange

2

I believe you are well intentioned, but surely you can see it is a bad idea for me to get off of this elliptical machine even though I have been on it for more than the allotted thirty minutes.

Consider the consequences of me leaving this machine. My paunch will grow at a rate faster than the greed of your corrupt government. My abs, no longer rock hard, will permit my lily-white stomach to pillow over the waistband of my bluejeans. It is most toxic and I cannot allow it.

I must question the choices and motives behind your desire: the opportunism to weaken a body that has grown strong; the desire to climb hill after hill on a fat-burn setting; the wish to listen to Lady Gaga remixes while softly peddling a machine that is neither bike nor stair.

Equinox is an extremely wealthy organization, with ties to powerful interests in the U.S. government, and a most excellent 7 P.M. Wednesday spin class that pumps me up so I feel like a living god, an albino Sun Ra.

But I cannot heed your claims that I have been on this machine for too long. There is work to be done, and, in the interest of truth, lean muscles, and a tight little butt, I must push forth.

—Julian Assange

3

I cannot accept this T-shirt that has been shot out of a cannon into the stands of a basketball game.

I believe this is a quality shirt, a hundred per cent cotton, the fabric of our lives.

I believe that this shirt would not naturally wish to harm good people who are trying to enjoy the Harlem Globetrotters.

In other circumstances, I may have accepted this shirt, but since it has been shot in my general direction against my will I cannot accept its having landed in my lap. Especially when the woman next to me was waving her arms and screaming like a horrible banshee.

T-shirt guns are the most powerful and insidious shapers of enthusiasm at exhibition basketball games. I merely wish to watch these players complete trick-filled layups and enjoy their good-natured alley-ooping while downing a super-salty pretzel dog.

You are being used as a hired gun to propel cotton projectiles out of cannons not meant to injure but to gift people with apparel. Not because you want to, of course you don’t: I imagine the wages are negligible, the level of enthusiasm you must muster unfathomable, and the synchronized clapping, if I may be frank, disgusts me. You do it because, in the end, you are a jobbing T-shirt gun wielder.

It is contrary to my interests, and I thank you for the offer of this XXXL T-shirt, but I must, with inexpressible regret, turn it down. I will give it to this woman next to me, who has more or less already torn it out of my hands.

—Julian Assange

What fun this must have been to make

I like the credits too. All-in-all a remarkably friendly short. Worth watching b i g

Most insane batshit crazy video I’ve seen ALL DAY!

No out-takes.