(Roughly) Daily

“I’ll reshoot a corridor 13 different ways, and you’ll never recognize them”*…

 

… one of hundreds of stills of dark passages available at the Sci-Fi Corridor Archive.

* Ridley Scott (from whose Alien [1979] the above example is taken)

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As we watch our steps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Kurt Neumann‘s cinematic tale of technologically-enabled metamorphosis, The Fly, premiered. With a screenplay by James Clavell (his first), it spawned two sequels and a remake (by David Cronenberg).  The original has a “95% fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Written by LW

August 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“We face neither East nor West; we face forward”*…

 

To the Western mind, “African Electronics,” the theme of this year’s annual Chale Wote street art festival in Ghana’s capital, might conjure up images of social media revolutions, telecommunications giants, farmers using smartphones, or other “tech solutions” to development. Not for artist Serge Attukwei Clottey.

Serge, like most artists participating at Chale Wote, views African Electronics as a call for African empowerment, and celebration of the innovation and energy which has been flowing through the continent for centuries. This was ever present throughout a festival that saw examples of both traditional and contemporary art forms: from colorful wall murals to performance art, interactive installations to stand alone sculptures, traditional drummers to electronic music DJs…

More at “‘African Electronics’ Takes a Spiritual Approach to Individual Power.” (Serge Attukwei Clottey will exhibit his performance installation, The Displaced, at Feuer Mesler gallery in Manhattan in October 2015.)

* Kwame Nkrumah

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As we agree with Jaron Lanier that “You Are Not A Gadget,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Granville Tailer Woods– the first African-American electrical engineer working n the U.S. after the Civil War, whose many inventions (and 50 patents) earned him the moniker “the Black Edison”– patented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between train stations and moving trains, thus assuring a safer, better public transportation system.

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Written by LW

August 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You cannot NOT have a user experience”*…

 

Q: I’ve heard people use UI and UX interchangeably. I thought I knew the difference, but now I’m confused. Can you please clarify this once and for all? 

Of course I can. And I can do it using the Presto Hot Dogger. Obviously.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I talked my mom into buying us a hot dog cooking machine. Don’t laugh. This was the 70s, when instant coffee was considered a miracle. The way the Hot Dogger worked was simple. There was a tray with two rows of spikes on either side that slid into a heating element. You impaled the hot dog into the corresponding spike on each side, completing the electrical circuit, and this “cooked” the hot dog. Cooking is a strong word here, as the hot dogs were actually being electrocuted. (Hot dogs contain an insane amount of metal, by the way.) We were thrilled to make our hot dogs this way.

So, what I just described — the spikes, the heating element, the electrocuting — that’s the user interface. Or UI, for short. And I’m sure that the good folks at Presto tested that user interface many times over until they had it just right. I’m sure they tested the proper width of the tray to fit the majority of hot dogs and wieners being made in the USA at the time. I’m sure they tested the force needed to close the tray, maybe even with a robot arm! They probably even tested the visibility of the smoky transparent plastic that allowed you to see your hot dogs being electrocuted, and how much of it you’d want to see.

Now here’s the thing. When you give three boys an appliance that electrocutes meat in an era before their boredom could be diffused with video games and cable, it immediately becomes the most interesting thing in the house. And they start wanting to have experiences. The hunger to electrocute things far outlasted the hunger for hot dogs. And it wasn’t long before we started looking for other things that fit in the Hot Dogger™.

Here’s an incomplete list of items we tried:

  • bananas (not enough metal)
  • chicken drumsticks (worked, albeit slowly)
  • Steak-umm (turned to liquid)
  • forks (sparks, small fire)
  • a condom we found on the street (the smell lasted for weeks)
  • aluminum foil (yep. Aluminum bridges solved our Steak-umm problem. )

We were having user experiences…

Learn more (including why trash bins are exactly 25 feet from hot dog stands at Disneyland) from Mike Monteiro, Design Director at Mule Design, in “How 70s appliances can explain the difference between UX and UI.”

* Lou Carbone

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As we put our appliances through their paces, we might spare a thought for an inventor and designer of an earlier period, Garrett Morgan; he died on this date in 1963.  He was the first person to patent a traffic signal (which he sold to GE for commercial exploitation).  He also developed (among many other inventions) the gas mask, which he used to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine in 1914– though soon after, he was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.  It was based in part on his 1912 creation, a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters.

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Written by LW

August 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment / You own it, you better never let it go”*…

 

From the good folks at Polygraph, Spotify playcounts analyzed to understand how generations remember music, over time: “The most timeless songs of all time.”

* Eminem, “Lose Yourself”

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As we ponder our playlists, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that “The Loco-Motion” hit #1 on the pop charts in the U.S.  Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the tune for Dee Dee Sharp (who then had a monster hit with “Mashed Potatoes”), but Sharp demurred.  Goffin and King then turned to their babysitter, Eva Boyd, who took the stage name “Little Eva.”

The song appeared in the American Top 5 three times – each time in a different decade, performed by artists from three different cultures: originally African American pop singer Little Eva in 1962 (U.S. No. 1); then American band Grand Funk Railroad in 1974 (U.S. No. 1); and finally Australian singer Kylie Minogue in 1988 (U.S. No. 3). It was the second song to reach No. 1 by two different musical acts; the first, “Go Away Little Girl,” was also written by Goffin and King.

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Written by LW

August 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Do you know what I miss most about baseball? The pine tar, the resin, the grass, the dirt — and that’s just in the hot dogs”*…

 

When Tamar Adler decided to hand-make hot dogs for a summer wedding party, she had no idea what she was getting herself into…

The extraordinary tale in its entirety at “How the Sausage Is Made: A Look Inside the World of Bespoke Hot Dogs.”

* David Letterman (during the baseball strike)

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As we relish relish, we might recall that it was on this date in 1810 that Peter Durand was granted a patent (No. 3372) by King George for the preservation of food in metal (and glass and pottery) containers– the tin can.  Durand was acting as an agent for his friend, the French inventor Nicolas Appert, who had won 12,000 francs from the French military for devising a method of storing food.  Sometimes called “the father of canning,” Appert actually used sealed glass jars to preserve food.  Durand switched to metal.

One of Durand’s first cans

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Written by LW

August 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way”*…

 

A few times each decade, the number of acceptable Scrabble words grows. Some sixty-five hundred new words—“lolz,” “shizzle,” and “blech” among them—will officially enter one of the two major competitive Scrabble lexicons on September 1st of this year. The grumbling that results when a word list lengthens is not so much about the inclusion of obscene or offensive words—though a cleaned-up list was controversially published in 1996, after someone protested the inclusion of “jew” as a verb. Instead, it is more about the growing divide between two Scrabble communities: North America and everywhere else…

The history of everyone’s favorite word game– and an explanation of the controversy roiling it today– at “The battle over Scrabble’s dictionaries.”

* Steve Martin

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As we reach for a triple-letter double-word combo, we might recall that, while February 23rd, 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, the first evidence-based date is this date in 1456: the copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France contains a note from the binder establishing the time of its publication.

(The Jikji— the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377.  Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)

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Written by LW

August 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable”*…

 

Everything looks cooler when you blast it with X-rays. The photography of Roy Livingston makes electromagnetic radiation his muse; in his colorful series, X-Ray Visions, the skins of alarm clocks, toy robots, old Crosley radios, and more bubble away to reveal their candy-colored X-Ray cross-sections.

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Livingston… didn’t always take such colorful X-ray photographs, but after experimenting with digitally adding color to his work as part of a study called “36 Robots,” “the flood gates opened.” Each of his photos begins on the analogue side by taking an X-ray and developing it. He then scans it into his computer in ultra high-resolution, manually cleaning the image as he goes. After cleaning, he creates hundreds of color variations in Photoshop—”I learned about saving large documents in Photoshop the hard way,” Livingston notes—then, after giving the project a few weeks to simmer, goes back to figure out which color paths he likes best.

When it comes to deciding what to X-ray, Livingston says its all about design. “I’m a big fan of all kinds of industrial design whether it’s new or old,” Livingston tells me. “It’s incredible when you see the thinking, craftsmanship and machining that goes into creating some of these objects. They are works of art by themselves.” If there’s anything he’s trying to get across with his work, Livingston says, “it’s that the simplest things can be beautiful.”…

More at “Colorful X-Ray Photos Illuminate The Beauty Of Vintage Industrial Design.”

[Special summertime bonus:  The Best Water Guns of All Time and The History of the Squirt Gun…]

* Buckminster Fuller (the inspiration for the title of Roman Mars’ wonderful design podcast, 99% Invisible)

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As we delight in design, we might recall that it was on this date in 1617 that the first one-way streets were established in London. An Act of Common Council was passed to regulate the “disorder and rude behaviour of Carmen, Draymen and others using Cartes,” specifying seventeen narrow and congested lanes running into Thames Street, including Pudding Lane (where the Great Fire of London began in 1667).

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Written by LW

August 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

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