Life on a Mote of Dust

June 18, 2008

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

That was Carl Sagan.  This is me.  Sorry I been gone so long.  Forgive me.

Phoenix Rising

May 27, 2008

I feel bad. Really, I do. You’re out there — the huddled, blog-reading masses — waiting with baited breath for yet another FANTASMAGORIC entry from yours truly. And yet, nothing. Though I promise you, I have my reasons — namely, school and work. Y’know, real life stuff. You’re right, it sucks. Yet here I am. Why? Well, because the picture above was just too badass to avoid. It’s an image taken over the weekend by the Mars Orbiter which shows the Phoenix lander descending to the polar surface of the Red Planet. The Phoenix is on Mars to investigate the (currently) hypothetical existence of liquid water at (or near) the surface. The discovery of liquid water could lead to the discovery of simple life. And, quite frankly, there’s nothing more awesome than ETs, even if they are of the non-moving, petry dish variety.

That being said, I’m back to the grind. I’ll do my best to update this thing more frequently, but I can make no promises. You know me, straight hustlin’ hustlin’.

“Dirty Thunderstorm” is My New Nom de Plume

May 7, 2008

The above picture is of Chaitén, a Chilean volcano that erupted last week for the first time in over 9,000 years.  It began to spew lava and ash toward the empyrean, 12 miles up, which in turn commingled with approaching clouds, creating a little-understood phenomenon called a “dirty thunderstorm,” wherein it is believed that rock fragments and ash from the volcano collide within the thunderheads, creating static charges that produce lightning.  Seriously, how fucking rad is that?

How’s That For a Slice of Fried Gold?

May 7, 2008

Spaced is probably my favorite sitcom of all time.  It’s better than Seinfeld, it’s better than Arrested Development, it’s better than the Simpsons.  And it’s finally, FINALLY going to be available to American audiences.  Created by the same team that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Spaced has been held up in production limbo for years due to music-rights issues (fans of the State, I feel you), but things have FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY been sorted out, and the Region 1 discs will be out in July.  Truth be told, I already own the Region 2 Complete Series, which I bought while I was in school in Scotland, and actually purchased a region-free DVD player in order to watch the series again here in the states, only to be thwarted by the fact that it was not, in fact, a region-free DVD player.  Balls, huh?  Oh well, I’ll get my chance come July, and don’t be surprised if I try to harangue some of you into watching the entire thing, marathon style.  I’m proselytizing this shit from the mountaintop, y’all.

FPS – First-Person Soccer

May 1, 2008

Nike’s advertising department does it yet again.  I don’t know how these guys continue to make such original,  effective spots year after year, but I’m not complaining.  Hell, it almost makes me forget about their abysmal human rights record.

Dinosaurs!

April 29, 2008

We’re at semester’s end ’round these parts, which means I’m swamped with work all week, hence the lack of posts.  My bad, guys.  However, to prove that I haven’t been wasting my time, I present the above image, which I finished this afternoon.  My last few projects have been a little heavy, what with the zombies and shredded flesh and Wallace Stevens poetry, so I decided this project should be a complete 180.  And really, if there’s anything better than zombies, it’s dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs!  And on top of that, I decided to print it as big as I could, so I am now in possession of a 36″x48″ dino-poster.  AWESOME SAUCE.

Now back to the Final Exam grind.  UGH SAUCE.

I Am Evolving Laser Eyes

April 23, 2008

That little guy is an Italian wall lizard that was introduced to a small island off the coast of Croatia in the early ’70s. Since then, he and his wall lizard brethren have undergone “rapid physical changes that would normally take millions of years,” including new digestive structures and a stronger bite, thanks to a larger, elongated head. Duncan Irschick, a scientist studying the lizards, compared their evolution to “humans evolving and growing a new appendix in several hundred years.”

Which leads me to my point — this study is merely the latest in a long, long line of evolutionary proofs, and yet we’re still arguing for the inclusion of evolution in our science curriculum. We have people like Ben Stein, who is using his position of celebrity to actively attack the scientific community, with his only intention being to further muddle the public’s understanding of the difference between fact and fiction. To put it bluntly, this shit is fucked up. The fact that the education of America’s youth is being decided by people who don’t understand the definition of a scientific theory is nauseating. It’s akin to someone denying earth’s spherical nature because they themselves haven’t viewed it from space. Direct observation simply isn’t an available method for long-term theories, such as evolution. Why don’t we throw out plate tectonics, relativity, and dinosaurs while we’re at it?

I’m sorry, I didn’t really intend to rant when I began this post, but I am constantly confused and saddened by the bullheadedness demonstrated by certain sects of America. Growing up in Arkansas, I’m probably exposed to their idiocy more often than my coast-dwelling counterparts, and as a result I have long since given up debating the topic. It’s not worth the headache. Anyway, lizards are bad-ass, huh? (lizard via National Geographic.)

Like a Young Marvin in His Hey

April 21, 2008

Saw this video on the Fader last week, and figured it was awesome enough for me to post, too.  Go on, Barry, brush ya’ shoulders off.

Thematic Variations

April 15, 2008

All the tubes of the internets are clogged today by the glut of people posting this video of the Super Mario Bros theme as performed by an RC car/row-of-bottles combo. Pretty cool, sure, but there are literally a hundred-million-trillion covers of the Mario theme song on YouTube. So I figured there was no better time than the present to collect all of my favorite Mario theme renditions. Join me after the cut for videos of people with far too much time on their hands. (Real Mario via  Pixeloo.) Read the rest of this entry »

Primer

April 10, 2008

I consider myself a reasonably bright guy. I’m no scientist, but I’ve read a few pop-sci books (A Brief History of Time, The Elegant Universe) and I feel like I understand the concepts well enough. Not only that, I’m a pretty big sci-fi nerd, and have loved the concept of time-travel since I was a little kid. That being said, the first time I watched the movie Primer it made my brain go “ow.” The plot follows the exploits of two Dallas-area engineers named Abe and Aaron, who stumble upon the ability to travel backward into time by accident while attempting to construct a gravity-degrading superconductor in their garage. They become aware of the enormous space/time implications as they become more brazen in their use of the machine, which causes some serious time-fuckery. I really thought I was following everything just fine for the first 2/3rds, but by the last half hour I was wallowing in a puddle of my own mind-goo. Abe and Aaron travel backward in time again and again, creating duplicates of duplicates as the plot’s comprehensibility (and the quality of their penmanship) disintegrates. As the movie wore on, it became increasingly unclear which timeline I was watching, and which copy of the characters were acting out the increasingly byzantine script.

And I loved every second of it. I watched it again shortly thereafter, and understood a bit more. A few months ago, I watched it for a third time, and just recently for a fourth — enough to think that I have a pretty decent grasp of the film’s machinations. It really is a sneaky little fucker, but there is a lot of pleasure to be had in unraveling its structure. Which makes this temporal map of the movie’s time-lines such a great resource. Taken by itself it’s nearly as confusing as the movie, but used in conjunction it can be an invaluable, ah, Primer primer.

Also worth checking out is this A.V. Club article about Primer and the “New Cult Canon.” It has a few clips from the movie and provides a more thorough explanation of the film’s creation and plot.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ (Design) Problems

April 7, 2008

I finally got my hands on one of the redesigned five-dollar bills this afternoon (while buying tacos!) and man, what a mess. I understand that the Federal Reserve isn’t really in the business of design, and that their chief priority is to discourage counterfeiting, but they couldn’t have made an uglier bill if they had tried. The insanely out of place purple “5” is probably the most egregious misstep, as the Fed somehow tried to shoehorn Helvetica into a bill that is otherwise serif’d-to-the-max. Not to mention the cloud of yellow “05”s that dot the front and back of the bill, which appear to have been added by a retarded, blind child. All of our new currency has been laughable, but this just about takes the cake (previous cake-taker: Alabama’s Helen Keller Quarter.)

And at the other end of the currency-design spectrum, we have this redesign of Britain’s coinage:

Now THAT is awesome money. By modernizing the Shield of the Royal Arms, which has then been segmented among six denominations, the Royal Mint has developed a thoroughly contemporary design that is as artistically successful as it is utilitarian. No purple, no Helvetica, no blind-idiots running amok. Bravo, Brits.

Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase

April 2, 2008
While putting together a speech concerning the development of 20th Century Art, I was reminded of the above short film, Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase. Created entirely in clay (!!!) by Joan Gratz, it morphs dozens of iconic paintings together, producing a liquid time-line of the development of art (specifically portraiture.) I find it particularly interesting to watch the early, representative faces melt into abstraction. You can really get a sense of the figure in some of the cubist pieces via their juxtaposition to the more realistic paintings. Seeing Picasso’s early self-portrait fracture into Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is surprisingly revealing and inarguably AWESOME.

Audrey Kawasaki

March 28, 2008
She Who Dares

Beautiful new work by the always awe-inspiring Audrey Kawasaki.  I really like the darker, slightly sinister feel present in her recent work. Check out her website, or visit her blog.

FedExcellent

March 24, 2008
FedEx Logo

With the NCAA Tournament on hiatus until Thursday night (and let it be noted that last week I was RIGHT ON THE FUCKING MONEY when I predicted Davidson would end up in the Sweet 16. Go Team Brock!) I thought it would be a good idea to discuss something completely unrelated to collegiate athletics. Ergo, logos. Specifically, the FexEd logo, pictured above. It’s almost certainly my favorite corporate logotype. While I appreciate the simple san-serif type, a mash-up of classic modernist typefaces Futura and Univers, the logo’s true brilliance is in its use of negative space. Take another glance at the image above, this time focusing on the white spaces between the letters. Notice anything interesting? Yep, an arrow, plain as day, nestled between the “E” and “x.” And it’s no accident. The logo’s creater, Lindon Leader, has this to say:

“The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a ‘hidden bonus.’ It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don’t. Importantly, not ‘getting the punch line’ by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication.”

And it is the arrow’s incredible subtlety that really makes the logo work so well. In an age where consumers are constantly bludgeoned by heavy-handed attempts at branding, the FedEx logo is a breath of fresh air, a logotype that actually respects our intelligence. Infinitely superior to that goofball with the awful haircut and dry-erase marker that’s currently pimping UPS. (interview with Lindon Leader at the Sneeze.)

March Madness Gladness

March 18, 2008
Hog Wild

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is nearly upon us, and that means that I will be getting little to no work done for the remainder of March.  My school, the Arkansas Razorbacks, have yet again backed into the Tourney, and they are as frustratingly inconsistent as ever. I imagine we’ll be looking at another first round exit, this time at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers.  That’s not stopping me from filling out multiple brackets, which will allow me to cheer for schools that I would otherwise look upon with complete disdain (yeah, I’m talking about you, Texas.)  Bracket building is a laborious process, one fraught with SERIOUS peril.  This is life and death, people.  Sure, all of the top seeds seem nearly unbeatable, but some (or all) of them will certainly fall well before Final Four weekend.  And there will surely be some unheralded group of scrappy, short, mostly-white kids who somehow eek out a run to the Sweet 16.  But whom?  Right now I’m leaning toward Davidson, but if previous years are any indication, I’m wayyyyy the fuck off.  Only time will tell, I guess.

Oh, and tangentially related:  the Razorbacks were defeated in last Sunday’s SEC Championship game by a team coached by Sam the Eagle:

Dennis Felton Sam the Eagle

Ouch

March 13, 2008
Ouch

This is a small sample of a two-page narrative I’m currently working on.  It was a lot of fun to draw.  My art sure has taken a turn for the gruesome lately.  What’s up with that?

Brawl Stars

March 12, 2008
SSBB

I’m afraid I have to apologize for the lack of updates this week.  My temporary hiatus can be attributed to one thing:  Super Smash Bros Brawl.  This game is digital crack.  Purchased Sunday, I have already invested 10+ hours of gameplay, and yet I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of what the game has to offer.  It’s just inexorably AWESOME.

On that note, if you have the game and would like to play online, please comment with your Friend Code, and we’ll get our Brawl on.

Choose Your Own Adventure (After Weighing All Possible Outcomes!)

March 8, 2008
CYOA

Created by Sean Ragan, the above graph illustrates the structure of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. As a child who was completely enamored by books which encouraged participation (here’s lookin’ at you, Encyclopedia Brown), I was pretty excited to see one of the CYOA books from an analytical perspective. Turns out, it was far less complex than my 10-year-old self might have imagined. Still pretty awesome, however. (Link, via BoingBoing)

I Dream In Search Engines

March 7, 2008
Dreamlines

The above image was captured using Dreamlines, a program that aggregates Google Images based on a keyword (e.g. “grass”) and then uses the images’ pixel values to create a constantly changing, strangely impressionistic, dreamlike picture. Very curious.

Sam Weber

March 4, 2008
Carried Away
The Tempest

Sam Weber is one of my all time favorite illustrators.  This guy’s skillz are robust, people!  And he’s been published everywhere:  The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Playboy, DC/Vertigo Comics, Random House, The L.A. Times, ESPN Magazine, Wired Magazine, Penguin, SPIN, Paste, and on andonandonandon.  Just supremely talented.  Bottled awesome, really.


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