sheer brilliance


Good day to you, my fine reader.

Time to take a break from the chaos and stupidity sweeping the globe. (But then again, when hasn’t there been stupidity and chaos sweeping the globe?)

As William Shatner said, “Live life like you’re gonna die – coz your gonna.” I try to remind myself every day that there’s still room in the darkness for truth and beauty.

They’ve been replaying “The World At War” on the History Channel here in Japan to coincide with the anniversary of the end of World War 2. That was 66 years ago. I am continually impressed by the scope of that documentary series, as well as its timeliness. It was released in 1974, so it includes a lot of eyewitness accounts and interviews with some of the protagonists. For historians, you always try to find primary sources, and this series is chock full of them. As the generation that experienced that war is passing away, it makes it all the more poignant. A lot of the remaining survivors of Hiroshima were infants at the time. Watching the episode on how Russia endured invasion by the Nazis and eventually turned them back, losing 20 million people in the process (basically the entire population of Australia killed in two years), I was amazed at how the Russians kept their spirit and determination alive through all that suffering.

There also lighter amusements keeping my interest in good things alive and well.

“You Are Not A Photographer” highlights the worst of so-called ‘professional’ photography done by spare-room hacks with a digital camera and free software. It’s hard to believe people get paid for churning out this stuff. I really like the use of their terms, “fauxtographer” and “fauxtography”. May it inspire us all to better and brighter things.

Some 153 photos of teeny tiny things. Gizmodo often has neat photo compilations.

Sand magnified to 250 times normal size looks cool. So do air bubbles frozen in ice.

There’s tilt shift photography, and then there’s tilt shift photography. I might have to go into making giant mockups of small things for fun and profit.

The cast of The Big Lebowski got together at Lebowskifest. How I wish…

Australia will soon have a boneyard of its very own. Time to rent a helicopter and a super 70mm camera and make my own version of Baraka…

Some very cool time lapse video.

The history of villains in American films makes for some interesting reading.

Japan hasn’t run out of cute girls, but the handlers of AKB48 decided to use computers to piece together bits of their stable to make a new one.

Faking it is huge in fashion photography, but I never realized how much models contorted and abused their bodies until I read this article.

Astronomers have found another moon around Pluto. That’s four, if you’re counting. 

A whole bunch of man-made passages have been found in Bavaria.

Somehow I keep alternating between Middle School and College.

Home made cola. I wouldn’t mind trying this out sometime. Just dump half the sugar and the colouring and I’ll be there.

Imagine batteries that last forever. Not oo far away, hopefully.

The key to longer life might lie inside cancer. What? Yes, cancer. There’s a mutation in the genes of pancreatic cancer that can lengthen the telomeres on the ends of DNA, thought to control when cells die.  

So, we can’t currently actually travel to another universe. However we could perhaps detect evidence of the multiverse in the Cosmic Background Radiation.

Closer to home, the recent discovery of fossilized life from 3.4 billion years ago that lived by metabolizing sulphur gives hope to finding evidence of life on Mars.

On a personal note, I would really appreciate a new spine.

 

Time to go through some things lurking in open tabs that I found interesting / cool / funny / neat, etc. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was which.

I visited Uno earlier this year to visit Naoshima with my mum and her friend. We stayed at an excellent guesthouse called Uno Slope House. The proprieter is a Japanese fellow named Max, who has opened up his parents’ house for visitors, as well as trying to open up the area around Uno to more tourism. The Uno/ Naoshima area is trying to reinvent itself as an destination for artists. The museums and installations on Naoshima are certainly well worth a visit. As for Max, he’s a filmmaker, and is also one of the main organisers of a film festival that takes place in August every year in Uno. This year’s is going to be held over the first two weekends, so if you’re keen, try to head down there and enjoy some real Japanese hospitality along with the art. They’re also trying to raise funds to run the event, so if you’re feeling generous, there are some goodies in it for you as well. I might see you there!

This photo tour of an abandoned amusement park in the USA caught my eye. I could add it to the list of ghost towns I want to see. If I had the time and money, I would love to get more into astrophotography. I spent a short while up the top of Norway last Christmas and saw the aurora, which was phenomenal, but these pictures from Australia were also amazing. This photoset captures in great detail the stark reality of North Korea – a sterile showcase of perfection that somehow has stripped almost all vestige of humanity away from its citizenry. I’ve never seen such emptiness. (I still want to go there by the way…)

If you can force your way through it, you should try to read Umberto Eco’s Travels In Hyperreality. In particular the section on post-modernism and The Last Supper. It’s true, there are bizarre versions of it everywhere! The internet is also a great place to see the collective creative genius at work.

I’m glad to say that I’ve seen quite a few of these great films that have no plot.

I’m getting more and more into whisky, particularly 10 year-old single malts, but also the Irish varieties have caught my eye – as well as tastebuds. I have also recently been spending some time with some very naughty beers from Belgium and Germany. These are the sorts of beers that I wouldn’t mind taking on a dirty weekend somewhere….

I’ve tried a couple of these coffee hacks, such as buying a French press and adding a pinch of salt to the brew. Yummo.

I wouldn’t mind opening a tea house though.

Love Hotels are not just for Japan any more. Auckland says hello to its first.

I have enjoyed Sean Bean’s work for quite a while. He has the ability to play the kind of character who can be a badass but also be frail at the same time. Think of his roles in Lord of the Rings and Ronin. Last week they played Patriot Games on satellite TV and his character was just a one-way ticket to Hell and he didn’t care who he took along for the ride. Awesome. Now you’d think such a man might be a bit of a douche/chav in real life, but not if you’re a lady. He went out for a few drinks with an Italian Playboy model one night (as you do) and some punter started to insult her honour. He took the fella aside to have a quiet word. Later, when Sean went outside to have a cigarette, he got stabbed in the arm with some broken glass for his trouble. Did Sean Bean go to the hospital? NO. He walked back inside and ordered another drink. All hail!

You think your TVs big? Try this one on for size! You could try to get it in see-though format as well. That window/TV is not too far away.

The Swedes are funny. Really.

There has often been a lament about the lack of women in science and engineering. Some women have made an enormous difference to our understanding of our world and the universe. Dads, if you have daughters, I’d recommend you buy a microscope to go along with those toys. A great example in point is of Amelia Fraser-McKelvie. She was on a six-week internship at Monash University when she solved part of the riddle of the missing mass of the universe.

The story behind one of the greatest images of the Civil Rights movement.

Another perspective on the recent goings on between the USA, South Korea and North Korea, with a good summary of the past fifteen years or so in diplomacy between these countries.

Japan’s looking at introducing an environment tax, because generating revenue will save the world. Yeah, that’ll sell… One of Japan’s most respected business leaders has put an ‘X’ on the spot of the problem with this once great country – weak leadership.

Australian households have reduced their water usage by 16% over the past five years, but are paying up to 95% more for it.

Leslie Nielsen passed away recently. Flying High (Airplane) is very likely in my all-time top ten. It certainly is one of the most quotable movies of all time.

Cancer isn’t slowing Christopher Hitchens down.

The newest touchscreens are looking even cooler than the ‘old’ ones.

The guy who invented Netscape is back with a new internet browser. I think I might give it a try…

Boeing are able to mass-produce solar cells with an efficiency of 39.2% (That’s VERY good, by the way)

New broadband technologies are looking interesting.

New drone and surveillance technologies are not.

Not to worry, since the planet is doomed anyway.

Louisiana gives a middle finger to meddling Creationists.

How books are made.

How students pass university by never writing papers or essays.

A good idea for creating good future citizens.

McDonalds and PespiCo are helping to write UK health policy. Giving arsonists the keys to the fire brigade? Smart move!

Silvio Berlusconi’s defense against having an affair with an underage pole dancer? “At least I’m not gay. Oh, and the Mafia is out to get me.” Yeah, that’ll work.

Enjoy that chocolate (fatty) since cocoa may become a rare extravagance within the next few years.

Not to worry, since maid trains are now available in Japan, and the bras are very welcoming to visitors too. There are still some good reasons to live here though, although anime is on the decline.

Giant sushi is making appearances at an airport carousel near you… well… near me, actually.

That Siberian methane is bubbling away, and looking to create a desert. The coal miners are looking to do the same thing, in their own way.

Australian cities are threatening to destroy themselves, by spreading themselves too thin.

Beer helped make civilization.

The oldest ground-edge stone tool in the world has been found in Arnhem Land, at the north end of Australia.

The greatest mural ever. I want one.

And my upcoming trip to Scandinavia promises to be cold – as in I’ll likely be getting that White Christmas experience I’ve always wanted.

So why should my summer reading be all doom and gloom? I do enjoy things that entertain me as well. I guess it all depends on your definition of entertainment… Here are some things that got my brain a-flutter over the past couple of months before they’re consigned to the memory hole.

Weird Japanese inventions.

Japanese schoolgirls masturbate – a lot! (YAY!)

Try some Japanese futurism.

Hashima Island – again. I just love the idea of this place.

Some movies to watch if you didn’t find Inception that confusing. (I didn’t)

Inception may have been stolen from a Scrooge McDuck comic from 2002 anyway…

The changing world of fast food.

Positive thinking sucks.

A study suggests that children with lesbian parents have fewer behavioural problems.

At least there is a funny side to the failing stimulus spending in the USA. Cocaine monkeys indeed!

I will not be buying a 3D TV or going to see a movie in 3D – ever.

A collection of under-rated fight scenes.

The Cracked website is always full of trivia. Try this on for size, then this, and this. Clickety click!

See Venice before it is gone forever.

It’s sad to say that I want to visit some of these craptastic tourist traps.

The Muppets used to work for IBM.

Imagine. Beer with 50% alcohol.

Here’s some great pencil art.

What would you do if you were a world famous photographer entrusted with the last ever roll of Kodachrome film?

I’m having hours of fun with Tilt Shift Maker.

There’s some cool tilt shift stuff out there too.

How the world of independent cinema is changing.

An excellent review of that second Sex And The City movie. Bile and vitriol with brains.

But at least there is still some interesting sci-fi being made.

Some Japanese actresses aren’t just brainless models who can’t act seeking attention and cash before marrying some rich bint looking for a trophy wife…

Hours of trivia…

Share And Enjoy!

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking

Everybody knows that the captain lied

Everybody got this broken feeling

Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets

Everybody wants a box of chocolates

And a long stem rose

Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby

Everybody knows that you really do

Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful

Ah, give or take a night or two

Everybody knows you’ve been discreet

But there were so many people you just had to meet

Without your clothes

And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it’s now or never

Everybody knows that it’s me or you

And everybody knows that you live forever

Ah, when you’ve done a line or two

Everybody knows the deal is rotten

Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton

For your ribbons and bows

And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming

Everybody knows that it’s moving fast

Everybody knows that the naked man and woman

Are just a shining artifact of the past

Everybody knows the scene is dead

But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed

That will disclose

What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble

Everybody knows what you’ve been through

From the bloody cross on top of Calvary

To the beach of Malibu

Everybody knows it’s coming apart

Take one last look at this Sacred Heart

Before it blows

And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

– Leonard Cohen

…else!

There is certainly a lot of interesting, beautiful, wonderful and ridiculous things out there to entertain us as we slowly edge our way towards destruction or oblivion.

For a start there’s listening to Something For Kate’s “Max Planck”.

I was reminded of this thanks to a friend who posted a line from Kirkegaard on her Facebook page which went something like this:

“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder then that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.”

And we humans have done a very good job of entertaining the gods – quite often in ways we don’t understand at the time, right Mr. Woods?

I might spend some time in the Baltic states before too long. One reason is to reconnect with my ancient heritage, my great-grandfather being Latvian. Another reason could well be because the women are hot and not only easy on the eyes. Viva countries with more women then men!

Other ideas for places to go next year include Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Syria! (not (just) for the women though…)

There’s always my ‘great disasters grand tour’ idea that occupies and not-so-small place in the back of my mind. Just getting my mind around something like Chernobyl is a challenge sometimes, especially when confronted by images like this to go along with it.

There’s also architecture. The BBC World channel ran an advertising piece disguised as a moments-in-great-design segment about a hotel in London, which I swear was the most god-awful monstrosity from the cheese-grater facade outside to the purple velvet bar to the menu which the ‘expert’ gushed was ‘like a Rubik’s Cube’. Sorry, when I’m hungry I want to eat, not have to potentially sit for hours to figure out what I can consume. I wish I could remember the name of the place…

There were these staircases though. This website is also a great distraction for hours and hours and hours…

Then there’s what to do with bare walls. I think this idea is excellent – green them! The insulative properties must be wonderful. They probably soak up a little carbon – if you’re into that sort of thing. And they just look good! Japan could certainly use some help… Green roofs also meet with my approval. Mowing them could be fun too, but growing more than just grass is a great idea.

Maybe this is how the China Olympics should have looked, instead of having all the ethnic groups represented by Han Chinese dressed up different costumes! Beautiful. Magical.

With so much content online being clamped down upon by ‘the powers that be’ (annoying swine) it’s good to know that something good is available for free, like these political documentaries. It’s FREE! Learn something – think a little…

How garlic could make and break the Chinese economy.

Movies sometimes don’t quite mean what they say they mean. Take these ‘chick flicks’ for example.

I know Sarah Palin is (thankfully) old news, but she is a constant source of entertainment. Unfortunately she won’t be going away.

Best office fridge ever!

One man in Japan has taken the next step by marrying a character from a game. I kinda surprised this hasn’t happened sooner actually. One of these days Japan will wake up but in the meantime it will continue to supply over 80% of the world’s supply of WEEEIIIIRRRRRD!

Why I will let my kids (if I have any) play in the dirt.

Earth really is a beautiful place. See? SEE??

If anyone is feeling generous for Christmas, I would love – LOVE – one of these. OK, at least one!

It’s not all hand-wringing and fantasizing about the end of the world on this blog.

It’s like a million dorks just jizzed in their pants all over the world, as Spock and Kirk (Nimoy and Shatner) reunite at some conference thingy.

Some things should have been left in the 80s and DO NOT deserve to be revived… unless they’re mullets.

In America, children have to be taught how to play. Read that sentence again and realise just how much childhood has been killed.

If you have some time on your hands then here’s some scientific mysteries to wrap your intellect around.

Here are some colour photographs from pre-revolutionary Russia.

Oh, and this is what a trillion dollars would look like.

Japan files:

Standing only bars, or tachinomi, are enjoying a renaissance thanks to the recent belt tightening going on in Japan. Those belts must be so tight by now, they must be threatening to cut off circulation to the lower half of the body. I guess that’s another reason for the falling birth rate….

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