Saturday, October 30, 2010

At the changing of the season...

People joke about the uni-season in LA, but in fact, on or around November 1st, there's a moment where the nights become noticeably chilly (even though the days are still 80 and sunny). Today, I happened to be ideally situated for the arrival of this moment.

Tired of noodling around the house this afternoon, I lunged myself up Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. At the top it was cooler, maybe 65 or 70. Perfect given how overheated I was from the hike. I was greeted by the spectacular, sprawling, smog-free view of mountains and sea and deep blue sky you see above. It is mesmerizingly stunning in person, so you gawk.

After some sublime timelessness, and literally out of the blue, I was stabbed right through my wet shirt deep into the meat of my back by an icicle of freezing wind. I thought I'd been shot. I turned around and where there had been sunshine and blue sky was a dark wall of dense fog coming straight at me (see it here). Before I could make sense of it, I was enveloped. The sea was gone, the mountains were gone, the sun was gone and the temperature dropped 20 degrees. The wind picked up. The golden California cliché become the bleak howling moors of Wuthering Heights. It was exhilarating and terrifying and chilling to the bone.

Returning to sea level after sunset, the temperatures stayed strangely low. The moment had arrived.

(photo and film clip, taken moments apart, by Pablo Gazpachot)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thank you Mr. Eggleston...

In contemplating the dreamy notion of building a "dream house" my first thought: Why can't architecture be more like William Eggleston's photography? It never sets out to be epic. He's effortlessly attuned to something sublime in every mundane moment. His work is graphic, imperfect, and uplifting.

Today's sleek, self-conscious, ready-to-be-photographed-and-shown-in-a-magazine style arcitecture is a bore. Almost every new building I see reeks of anal mind and desperate modernity.

Process by beauty. Beauty by instinct. Instinct by hand. Hand by eye. Eye by truth. Truth by calling. Calling by...?

(photo by William Eggleston)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Kuleshov Effect...

As a deep believer in so-called "cinema pur" I am also fascinated by the Kuleshov effect, an intrinsic aspect of film editing that the earliest filmakers were quick to observe. And because I'm very tired this evening, I'll let Wikipedia do the driving:

Lev Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl, a little girl's coffin). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mozzhukhin's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire or grief respectively. Actually the footage of Mozzhukhin was the same shot repeated over and over again. Audiences raved about the acting.... the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and noted the lust with which he observed the woman. But in all three cases the face was exactly the same.

It's a profound testament to the power of faces. To which I'll add, I've noticed the Kuleshov effect in life too. I've projected great sensitivity and wisdom on to the mugs of everyone from my president to my cat when they're really just sitting there doing nothing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Super-K and other beautiful neutrino detectors...

A team of Japanese scientists have been looking for some of the lightest subatomic particles in the known universe inside what is best described as a giant underground disco ball. These objects of desire, neutrinos, are so small that they pass through solid matter like a comet passing between solar systems. 100 Trillion of them pass through your body just under the speed of light every second before continuing straight through 8,000 miles of planet, rarely nicking so much as another atom. On top of that they have no electric charge thus rendering other subatomic detection devices useless. Recapping: Very small. Very Fast. Very hard to find .

3,300 feet underground in an old zinc mine in Hida, Gifu prefect Japan, the Super-Kamiokande Neutrino and Nucleon Decay Observatory (Super-K for short) has been counting rare clumsy Neutrinos that do bump into things one by one since 1996. The lab has to be underground since unlike neutrinos most subatomic particles cannot pass through the Earth. That's right, the Earth is a coffee filter and this disco ball holds the coffee. Weak coffee - the domed tank holds 50,000 tons of water and only a few spastic neutrinos ever bump into hydrogen atoms in the water molecules thus creating a detectable electron. Those 13,000 silver balls are light sensors that cost over $3000 a pop (and pop they do - over 6500 of them imploded in a freak chain reaction back in 2001).

These sensors are capable of registering the faint blue flash that occurs when a neutrino collides with a hydrogen atom. This flash registers as a streak, like a tiny comet trail. Since neutrinos travel in perfectly straight lines, this tiny streak can be traced out into space infinitely. Several neutrinos were determined to have originated from a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Let me tell you, without fail, neutrino trapping devices are always crazy and always beautiful contraptions.


(triggered by and heavily cribbed from this month's Smithsonian Magazine)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stirring the anthill...

The thing that's interesting about this clip goes way beyond the Beatles' performance. It's the B-Roll. It's the dreary people on the streets of London. Look at how consistently miserable they are! How glued to their personas of respectability they remain. It was the order of the day. Look at the older gent climbing the ladder with his pipe. His inner-Curious-George can't resist his ears, and as long as the hat and pipe and trench coat are in place, he thinks he can pull it off! You can see the people scurrying about, confused, sensing a major disturbance to the anthill.

This is one nice thing the Spirit of the 60's did for us - that defiant spirit poured color all over our black and white world. It wore a shiny red raincoat on a rainy gray day in January. It injected emotion into our chilly, stoic ways. And for better or worse, it publicized our private conditions. As a result of that, If something like this happened in London or Tokyo or just about anywhere today, there'd be smiling and dancing and a non-taboo appreciation of joyful absurdity... Actually, I take it back, if this happened today it would likely be Bon Jovi blaring commercial drivel into the streets as part of an over-planned marketing campaign, and sensible people would be running back to their offices for shelter.

You can open a door, but not without opening a can of worms it seems...
Enjoy the clip.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oversees Overseas Happenings...

Ultimate job title. How might this go... Hmm... Picture the description...

Has strong background in art, music, film, events, writing, publishing, and media. Visionary conceptualizer - original, game changing ideas a must. The ideal candidate will be an exceptional writer and media-maker, enthusiastic traveler, competent photographer, seasoned reporter, and creative problem solver. Great with people, sensitive to other cultures, able to lead creative teams, develop ideas, self-directed, adaptable, responsible, and energetic. Our organization creates one-of-a-kind media and events that offer audacious creativity and unconventional presentation in service of forward-looking ideas and endeavors.

Well I've just convinced myself of my own fantasy. Anyone hiring on the other side of my skull? Seems like a logical adjunct to launching my own projects, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The big ending...

Some Sundays you just need to lie in bed and watch Lillian Gish die in bed in all day long...

(from Broken Blossoms)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Which one doesn't bite?

Creativity is just one of those mixed-up things. On the one hand, it wants to live in the world, and on the other, the world takes a Benihana approach to most creative expressions. Watching one's creativity chopped into digestible content, or worse, ignored, one can easily fall into a draining cycle of protecting and rejecting creative designs with the all confused care of a mother panda fretting over her wailing whelp. Meanwhile, another part of your psyche is busy sifting time and space for like minds, for adventurous and receptive souls with whom you might be able to collaborate and create in peace. But soon you come to feel that you're looking to sow seeds in a field peppered with hissing snake pits, into which you lower yourself, one by one, smiling, because you have to. Hope's life-long gamble shelters many dreamers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Aid Kit...

A duo of Swedish sisters singing sweetly in and around Belleville, Paris including the Fleche d'Or where Edith Piaf got her start and Sarah and I spent a funny night this summer. Goodness all around. Happy monday!

"They don’t say much, these girls. Really, they barely speak to us at all, chatting with each other in Swedish, agreeing on a song, preparing themselves, then singing. For any external relations, they rely on their father, a calm, bearded man who never lets them out of his sight, handles the business of everything other than the music. He explains to us that his daughters are still studying, that he organizes their tours during their school breaks."

(One of many soul-stirring performances over at Blogotheque)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Hives not hegemony...

I'm in favor of the idea of the US breaking up into several smaller countries. I'm disheartened by the manufactured stalemate of red and blue states, as opposed to the clear differences that actually define our nation's people.

If and when it comes to drawing lines and slicing up the country, I wonder if it can be done with a scalpel rather than an extra wide Sharpie... Seems that many urban centers share one set of values while the outlying areas subscribe to another. Can borders be drawn on psychological lines rather than geographical ones? What might those maps look like?

(Chair installation by the great Tadashi Kawamata)