Friday, May 30, 2008

The Road to Gambier

Off to my college reunion this weekend, driving a cherry red Mustang convertable in the first bloom of summer. Does life get any better?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

James Madison's Pistols

This pair of pistols were a gift to President Madison, supposedly forged from iron from a fallen metorite at Campo del Cielo, and chased with Argentine silver. Results from a recent detailed analysis contradict this story on several important points.

(via Grinding)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tarsem's The Fall

This is either going to be brilliant or an appalling disaster. Possibly both.

A story improvised by a five year old Romanian actress, based on photographs taken over a fourteen year period, featuring an actor who pretended to be a paraplegic throughout much of the film's production.

It will be many things. It will not, however, be mediocre.

Slideshow of related images: here.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Profile of industrial designer John Gaughan, one of the world's top manufacturers of effects for magicians, including some nice pictures of his collection of 18th and 19th century stage magic props.

House Porn 2

Alberto Manguel's 30,000 volume library, collected over six decades, gathered in a 15th century French country house.

In at least one instance, his absence saved the books:

I left my books behind when I set off for Europe in 1969, some time before the military dictatorship. I was 21 years old and wanted to see the world I had read about, the London of Dickens, the Paris of Marcel Aymé. My books, I thought, would faithfully wait in my parents’ house for me to come back one day. I could not have imagined that, had I stayed, like so many of my friends, I would have had to destroy my library for fear of the police, since in those terrible days one could be accused of subversion merely for being seen with a book that looked suspicious (someone I knew was arrested as a communist for carrying with him “The Red and the Black.”) Argentine plumbers found an unprecedented call for their services, since many readers tried to burn their books in their toilet bowls, causing the porcelain to crack.

House Porn

New York magazine's issue on home design includes a set of six amazingly constructed houses. The amazing part comes in part from the heavy DIY component, where palatial interiors have been constructed with glue guns, plywood and secondhand furniture.

Kohle Yohannon refurbished an 18 room Yonkers mansion "single-handedly", and now rents it out as a site for films.

(photos: Jason Schmidt)
I'm particularly fond of the Observatory Room, "like something out of Around the World in 80 Days" with walls covered in mica, copper and Moroccan rivets, and featuring church furniture and scientific apparatus.

Update: from an earlier interview with Kohle Yohannon

Mr. Yohannan is no less colorful. He tools around Yonkers on a Ducati motorcycle or in a secondhand Bentley. Born in San Francisco to parents of Iranian and French extraction, he grew up in a rambling Beaux-Arts house that his family had restored on a shoestring budget. "My dad was a mechanic, but my mom had really great taste," he said. "Our neighbors were doctors and lawyers who drove Mercedes, and we were the grease monkeys who fixed their cars."

At 16 he abandoned a fledgling career cleaning spark plugs for 25 cents apiece to become a fashion model, strutting his stuff down the catwalks of Barcelona and New York, where he also enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology and learned to make dresses. When he was 22 — during his sophomore year at Columbia University — he became the fourth husband of Mary McFadden, the fashion designer, who was 51; the relationship ended 22 months later in well-publicized recriminations. (In court papers, Mr. Yohannan described Ms. McFadden as an "older, selfish, willful" woman who demanded "rough sexual treatment" and "group sex sessions." She called him a "toy boy" and a "flake." He left the marriage with a settlement of $110,000 and the couple's pet cockatoo, Socrates Zinzar Big Bux.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Soy Bomb

Whatever happened to Soy Bomb? He's running a salon in Brooklyn, creating imaginary betting tables & such.

"God is Coming, Msabu"

Low energy lightning surrounds the ash cloud from volcanic Mt. Chaiten. A large photo series by Carlos Gutierrez for UPI.


Friday, May 09, 2008


While sipping lychee tea at the eminently steampunk Pause coffeehouse

I read the raft of widely blogged articles on the steampunk aesthetic, including the New York Times article and Richard Morgan's original article on the subject. Of course, the subculture has been knocking around for a while now; the fact that the NYT is in on the game means that it's starting to go mainstream, or reach a tipping point, or be passe (or demode, as very steampunkish Karl Lagerfeld might say).

What's steampunk all about? Bespoke technology, the visual/tactile pleasure of brass fitted scientific instruments, waistcoats and petticoats and fitted leather, dandyism, being gothic without wearing black, zeppelins, anti-minimalism without rococo, and science fiction dialed back into history.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

NIN: the slip

Nine Inch Nails releases their latest album for free download under a share alike license. Ghosts I-IV made $1.6M, proving the value of direct release for established bands like NIN.

"(thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me)"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Eccentric roundup

23 of New York's finest eccentrics. Some of whom appear to have been profiled in the New York Magazine article on people who wear a single color of clothes.


The 99

Christopher Dickey on the use of comics to oppose the appeal of terror:

Scott Atran is an anthropologist who studies the kids who keep Al Qaeda and its spinoffs going. They're young people like the ones who grew up to blow up trains in Madrid in 2004, carried out the slaughter on the London underground in 2005 and hoped to blast airliners out of the sky en route to the United States in 2006.

Atran has looked at whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them and what drives them. And he's reached an unconventional but, to me, convincing conclusion: what has inspired the "new wave" terrorists since 2001 is not so much the Qur'an as what Atran calls "jihadi cool." If you can discredit these kids' idols (most notably Osama bin Laden), give them new ones and reframe the way their families and friends see the United States and its allies, then you've got a good shot at killing the fad for terror and stopping the jihad altogether.

For Atran, a senior fellow at the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, this is pretty much Public Diplomacy 101. But he's found that the battle of ideas is not just hard to win in the field, it's a very tough slog at home. In Washington last year he was briefing White House staffers on his findings when a young woman who worked for Vice President Dick Cheney said in the sternest tough-guy voice she could muster, "Don't these young people realize that the decisions they make are their responsibility, and that if they choose violence against us, we're going to bomb them?"

Atran was dumbfounded. "Bomb them?" he asked. "In Madrid? In London?"

So when Atran went back to Washington to brief National Security Council and Homeland Security staff in January this year, he went armed—with comic books. He wanted to show that nothing cooked up by the Bush administration's warmongers and spinmeisters comes close to delivering the kind of positive messages you can find in a commercial action adventure series called "The 99."

(via Cabinet of Wonders)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Link roundup

Sportsmanlike conduct:

Umpires confirmed that the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky at first base with a pinch runner and have the hit recorded as a two-run single instead of a three-run home run. Any assistance from coaches or trainers while she was an active runner would result in an out. So without any choice, Knox prepared to make the substitution, taking both the run and the memory from Tucholsky.

"And right then," Knox said, "I heard, 'Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'"

The voice belonged to Holtman, a four-year starter who owns just about every major offensive record there is to claim in Central Washington's record book. She also is staring down a pair of knee surgeries as soon as the season ends. Her knees ache after every game, but having already used a redshirt season earlier in her career, and ready to move on to graduate school and coaching at Central, she put the operations on hold so as to avoid missing any of her final season. Now, with her own
opportunity for a first postseason appearance very much hinging on the outcome
of the game -- her final game at home -- she stepped up to help a player she
knew only as an opponent for four years.

Saluting Generation X:

[Jeff] Gordinier, an editor at Details magazine, makes a convincing case that despite finding themselves ground between the two huge demographic boulders of the boomers and the boomers' kids, as well as being on the wrong side of nearly every economic trend, the wary, self-effacing members of Gen X have at least as much to be proud of as those bumptious generations for whom boastfulness comes more easily."

The Freedom of Movement

" I'm happy to see that the parkour generation is ever growing and my father would be proud of you. He lit the fire within me to illuminate my own path. Now you are the founders for what will follow. Be free and no matter what you do with parkour, do it well. Goodbye and good training to all of you."

-David Belle

" Je suis heureux de voir que la generation du parkour grandit toujours et mon pere serait fier de vous aussi. Il a allume mon flambeau pour eclairer ma route. Maintenant c'est vous les batisseurs pour la suite. Soyez libres et peu importe ce que vous ferez du parkour, mais faites le bien. Aurevoir et bon entrainement a tous!"

-David Belle