Monday, July 27, 2009

He was 94

Otto Heino, the Ojai-based master potter, educator and symbol of the midcentury California studio crafts movement who along with his late wife, Vivika, reformulated a lost-to-the-ages Chinese glaze that made him a multimillionaire, has died. He was 94.
Heino died Thursday of acute renal failure at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, said George Gemmingen, a friend.
The Finnish American Heino, who worked in collaboration with his wife until her death in 1995, earned an international reputation for robust yet beautiful wheel-thrown stoneware with artistically applied glazes that included glossy cobalt blues, silky reds and raspy earth tones.(read more..)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pitharia in Thrapsana

Crete has a rich heritage in the art of ceramics, dating back some 12,000 years and passing from generation to generation up to present day.
Four Cretan villages are famous for pottery and ceramics: Kentri, Thrapsano, Margarites and Nochia. Thrapsano, 25 km South East of Heraklion has around 1,000 inhabitants of whom approximately 26 are potters today, although over half of the population there has some links to the art.
Thrapsano is located at an altitude of 340 m in the province of Pediada in the Heraklion prefecture, some 30 km south-east of Heraklion. Thrapsano is identified with its pottery and particularly with the crafting of large-sized ceramic storage jars called pitharia, a basic storage facility in Crete from the Minoan era to this very day. The name Thrapsano also relates to pottery and derives most probably from the verbs "thravo" (break) and "psino" (bake), since many vessels broke during the baking process.The name Thrapsana comes from ‘thrapsala,’ which translates as potsherds. Today the village is synonymous with pottery, particularly very large pots or urns called pitharia and it is here that Cretan Terracotta sources most of its products.
Thrapsano potters follow in the footsteps of their Minoan ancestors, observing traditional materials, forms and manufacturing techniques.
Earth and water are mixed until the mud becomes workable as a clay. Slowly, pots and urns are shaped and left to dry before being baked in traditional kilns for at least 14 hours at high temperatures and then cooled for a further 14 hours. Items are then filled with water and left for at least 24 hours as part of a manufacturing process that ensures excellence resistance to high and low temperatures.(read more...)

Phoney Chargers Unplug

MacKay doesn’t like big numbers, he likes small ones that we can get our heads round. “Simplification”, he says, “is a key to understanding.” If you’re concerned about your personal finances, or energy security or climate change, and you want to cut down on your use of fossil fuels, “Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air” explains which actions make a significant difference and which make very little. The Economist described the book as “exemplary” and the place to start “for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the real problems involved”.MacKay doesn’t consider changes in attitude, only in energy sources. He crunches the numbers on wind, solar heating, solar photovoltaics, biomass, hydro, tide, waves and geothermal and shows how massive each would need to be if, added together, they were to meet current demand. He factors in public consultation (our national tendency to say no) and decides about a seventh of our needs could be met through renewables. We can’t do it alone. “Europe needs nuclear power, or solar power in other people’s deserts, or both.” For Britain, that area in someone else’s desert would have to be the size of Wales.(read more..)

The Suburban Zoo

If the Neanderthals were here today, they would certainly be different from us. Would we experience racism against Neanderthals much worse than the racism we experience today amongst ourselves? What if they were only a bit different from us, but similar in many ways in terms of language, technology, social groups? Would we still have this enormous division that we make today between humans and non-humans? Between animals and ourselves? Would we still have distanced ourselves from animals and made this dichotomy that is so strong in our thinking today? These things we will never know, right? But they are fascinating things to thnk about.
We are now in the process of analyzing the Neanderthal genome, putting together all the little DNA pieces we have extracted from the sequence of this fossil and starting to compare it to humans and chimps. One question that we are struggling with and thinking about is, What is the relationship of the Neanderthals to us?
We try to address that in different ways. One thing that we're beginning to see is that we are extremely closely related to the Neanderthals. They're our relatives. In a way, they're like a human ancestor 300,000 years ago. Which is something that leads you to think: what about the Neanderthals? What if they had survived a little longer and were with us today? After all, they disappeared only around 30,000 years ago, or, 2,000 generations ago. Had they survived, where would they be today? Would they be in a zoo? Or would they live in suburbia? These are the questions I like to think about.(Read more in Edge)
SVANTE PÄÄBO, the founder of the field of ancient DNA, is Director, Department of Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. In 2007 Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
(more on the blog)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No Problem

Craig Welch was born in 1948 in Windsor, Ontario. He originally studied graphic design at the Centre for Creative Studies in Detroit. After a brief foray into the world of design, he got fed up. Instead, he opened a bookstore and ran it for eight years.
In 1984, Craig enrolled in the animation program at Sheridan College in Ontario. There he created his acclaimed film Disconnected, about the consequences of living a routine life. Although he has had exhibitions of drawings and paintings in Toronto galleries, Craig now considers animation to be the perfect medium for self-expression. In addition to commercial animation work, he assisted on the NFB production Peep and the Big Wide World (1988), before directing his first animated film for the NFB, No Problem (1992). The film uses humour in an emotionally provocative way to reach an adult audience.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rigmarole of Slimy Hermaphrodites

The giant Ghana snail, Achatina achatina, also known as the giant tiger land snail, is a species of snail native to the forests of Ghana, Africa. They are prized for their large size, distinct markings, and lack of availability. They also are hermaphrodites, having male and female sex organs.

So the final and most important question is, how did it taste? Well it didn't, exactly. Like whelks, boulets, garden snails and pretty much the rest of the edible gastropodia, there's not a chance that any evanescent snailish essence could survive the rigmarole of desliming and rendering edible - but that's not the point. The remaining texture was utterly unlike anything else I've ever put in my mouth. Abi's hot pepper sauce was a gently brewed assault of flavours that would have converted a well-worn espadrille into a worthwhile meal. In fact I'll go on record saying that I'm prepared to eat a McDonald's hashbrown thingy if Abi's sauce is to hand, but the snail's foot adds a textural matrix somewhere between an undercooked artichoke heart and the cartilage from a premiership footballer's knee - with just a tad more disquieting crunch.
Did I enjoy it? Hell yes. It's rare to find a totally new combination of flavour and texture and it was privilege to be shown how to prepare it properly. Will I be knocking up land snail at my next dinner party? I'm ashamed to say, no. I'm not sure I could find anyone to share it, but do try Abi's sauce with a less challenging protein - I did chicken thighs last night - and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Tim Hayward and Shehani Fernando

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ripples (no nipples)

Washboard road is familiar to drivers of back country roads the world over but also appears in some other surprising places in nature and technology. Just about any time a malleable surface is acted upon by a sideways force, you will get ripples. Washboard road is analogous to the little ripples that form on wind- or water-driven sand at the beach, and to the moguls which develop on ski hills. Motocross bikes and snowmobiles also make ripples. Washboard can also cause tiny bumps on steel railway tracks and even the read head in a hard disk can sometimes hop along the surface of the disk to make a washboard pattern.
A team of physicists from Canada, France and the United Kingdom have recreated this "washboard" phenomenon in the lab with surprising results: ripples appear even when the springy suspension of the car and the rolling shape of the wheel are eliminated. The discovery may smooth the way to designing improved suspension systems that eliminate the bumpy ride.(read more...)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Hey, what about yesterday
(What about us)
What about the seas
(What about us)
The heavens are falling down
(What about us)
I can't even breathe
(What about us)
What about the bleeding Earth
(What about us)
Can't we feel its wounds
(What about us)
What about nature's worth
It's our planet's womb
(What about us)
What about animals
(What about it)
We've turned kingdoms to dust
(What about us)
What about elephants
(What about us)
Have we lost their trust
(What about us)
What about crying whales
(What about us)
We're ravaging the seas
(What about us)
What about forest trails
(ooo, ooo)
Burnt despite our pleas
(What about us)
What about the holy land
(What about it)
Torn apart by creed
(What about us)
What about the common man
(What about us)
Can't we set him free
(What about us)
What about children dying
(What about us)
Can't you hear them cry
(What about us)
Where did we go wrong
(ooo, ooo)
Someone tell me why
(What about us)
What about babies
(What about it)
What about the days
(What about us)
What about all their joy
(What about us)
What about the man
(What about us)
What about the crying man
(What about us)
What about Abraham
(What was us)
What about death again
(ooo, ooo)
Do we give a damn

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is a comedy act that began in the UK in 2005 and has performed nationally and internationally since. They first appeared as part of The Sitcom Trials. They appeared in the Gilded Balloon at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2007 and 2008 and are set to return in 2009. The act toured internationally in 2008 and 2009 including Holland and the Channel Isles. They have appeared on BBC TV's Comedy Shuffle, Culture Show, Points West and Upstaged, MTV's Best Show Ever, Current TV and Channel 4's Big Brother's Little Brother.
Their show was nominated Best Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival Awards in March 2009.
They have a large popular following through YouTube and published their first comicbook Socks in 2008.
Their show is written and performed by comedian and comic book creator Kev F. Sutherland, author of Bash Street Zombies and creator of The Sitcom Trials.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Not Suitable for Use on Nursing Bitches

Scientists in New Jersey are describing discovery and successful tests of the first once-a-month pill for controlling both fleas and ticks in domestic dogs and cats.
Although many powders, sprays and other topical agents are on the market, many pet owners prefer the convenience of pills. Products given orally can reach more parts of an animal's body, do not wash off in rain or bath water, and don't transfer from pets to people. At least one existing pill fights fleas in pets, but does not appear effective for ticks.
In tests on fleas and ticks in dogs and cats, a single dose of the new pill was 100 percent effective in protecting against both fleas and ticks for a month. There were no signs of toxic effects on the animals. Scientists obtained the flea and tick fighter from a substance first found in a fungus that "has the potential to usher in a new era in the treatment of ecoparasitic [ticks and fleas, for instance] infestations in companion animals." (read more...)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July : Keep Your Mouth Open

Mouth Music is a short documentary that can be seen as a research into the a cappella singing tradition in the American South. With various styles like Hollerin', the Nonsense Song, boot-camp songs and jumprope songs you get a pretty clear view of what the title is all about. On the other hand, covering all these different styles in half an hour gives the documentary a bit of a fragmented feel.
But there is much to enjoy. Especially the authentic Hollers are a pleasure to watch and listen to. The Hollerin' can be seen as a means of communication in the middle of the swamps, but with traffic noise coming closer it is almost impossible for the men to communicate this way anymore.
This makes it a sort of a time stamp, and quite important for those who are interested.(more...)

Polyphony and Polyrhythm

After narrowly escaping deportation in 1942 as a refugee in France, Arom grew up in Israel, where he studied music. In 1954, he returned to France to obtain a diploma as a French horn soloist at the Paris Conservatory. For five years, he dutifully played the horn in the Kol Israel Orchestra, a radio ensemble that was formed in the 1940s and eventually became the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. In 1963, feeling that he was in a rut, Arom was entranced when Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited him, as part of a cultural exchange program, to travel to the Central African Republic and put together and train a new local brass ensemble or “fanfare” — referenced in the memoir’s title — in the capital city of Bangui. Instead, Arom was immediately distracted when he heard Pygmy musicians singing outside his hotel window in Bangui. Arom writes:

I felt that their music came from the back of time, but also, to a certain extent, from my own depths. Yet I could never have known it, never having heard anything like it before. It was insane. How did the musicians achieve this? I was dumbfounded.

Comparing this music to a “Jungian archetype,” Arom was astounded to see how the Pygmies managed to sing complex call-and-response music with a dense musical structure, yet with total liberty and assurance and without a conductor’s help. He describes the sound as an “intricate abundance” nonetheless marked by “rigorous rhythmic and melodic organization”; he titled a later article “Everything Is Measured, but Nobody Counts.” This acutely paradoxical achievement occurs despite the difficult conditions in which its creators survive. The Pygmies, a minority population, are permanent quasi-refugees who are sometimes obliged to flee their enemies by escaping into the rain forest.(read more...)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Between Modernity and Tradition

A note from Mohsen Namjoo:
It's difficult to talk about oneself especially when it is easy to be misinterpreted and the misinterpretation can be widely spread through contemporary communication tools. In fact it seems that there is no one who wants to listen to you talking about yourself. We have also learned that the interpretations of the audience about one’s art work are not less valuable as than the intention of the author him/herself.
So, I make it short. I was born in year 1976 in Torbate-Jam and started to study Iranian classical traditional singing with Nassrollah Nasseh- Pour at the age of 12 and this process continued until I was 18.
Just like every musician, my dream was to find a place in the professional field of music. Finally and after years of catastrophe, it’s only been for a few years that music has become my ONLY profession. My works (over 100 pieces) are the result of nearly 18 years of engagement with music. The source of this music and poems is the immense Iranian culture and history. These pieces of music and lyrics refer to, and find their meanings from Iranian culture which consists of four hundred years of battle between modernity and tradition.
Whenever I've wanted to laugh at the contradictions in my society I use the laughter and playfulness of the blues scale and its singing style. I blend it with the Iranian scale and singing style. Then whenever I’ve wanted to cry and express my sadness I direct the Iranian singing style towards blues or find refuge in reciting poems. ( more of Mohsen Namjoo on einhod blog...)