Mindell Dubansky, preservation librarian at the Thomas J. Watson Library in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a passion for books that aren’t books — they’re objects shaped like books, which she describes as “blooks.” She’s been collecting these faux tomes for the past twenty years, and was recently featured in the New York Times for her collection in the article Collecting Books that are Just Covers. Her interests range from blooks that are perfume containers, flasks, guns, and radios in disguise, to patents and photos of book-shaped billboards and buildings. Check out her intriguing Blook Blog here.
August 2, 2014
April 16, 2014
Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford’s School of Medicine, along with his colleagues, has designed what they are calling a “foldscope” or origami paper microscope. The foldscope is printed onto a sheet of card stock with an optical lense, LED light, and watch battery embedded in the layout. Produced for about fifty cents each, the flat printed sheet easily folds into a working three-dimensional microscope with up to 2000 times magnification. This could be a real game-changer in developing countries trying to improve health by identifying disease pathogens. The paper microsope is lightweight and very durable–perfect under harsh field conditions. To learn more, watch Mr. Prakash’s TED talk. Thank you to Leslie Wright and Paulette Rosen for bringing this to our attention!
April 15, 2014
Paper has been in the news lately with the announcement of the Pritzker Prize for architecture going to Shigeru Ban, noted for his emergency shelters and buildings made of paper tubes. The 56-year-old Japanese architect has designed temporary paper shelters for refugees and victims of disasters in areas such as Rwanda, Kobe (Japan), Turkey, India and New Zealand. The tubes are a perfect building material because they’re inexpensive, readily available in various diameters and quite strong. They also can be bent and weatherized. Ban’s “Paper Log House,” shown here, is an example of these emergency shelters. The tubes are secured in sand-filled beer cases and the house is covered with canvas tenting for its roof.
Ban has also used tubes in constructing a school in China, a church in New Zealand, a gallery in Japan and a bridge, shown here, in France. To learn more of his work and philosophy of socially conscious architecture, check out these web sites:
December 16, 2013
A recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art introduced us to the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. Ballen combines rendered line drawings and black-and-white photography into visual still lives which often surprise and shock. One series titled “The Asylum” features collages of strange figures, snakes, skins, and wire hangers that present awkward relationships and absurd complexities .
The exhibit ends with a showing of the video I Fink U Freeky, a 2012 collaboration between Ballen and the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer.” ) It brings to mind the work of Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin, and John Waters in its unabashed appropriation of trashy and bizarre images to question social and political mores and taboos. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is something haunting and strangely beautiful in Die Antwoord’s dance moves and raw lyrics. We commend the museum for showing this uncensored piece which some visitors will find offensive, but that will introduce others to a vigorous counterculture movement in a country with one of Africa’s most complex histories. Here’s the video link.
December 9, 2013
Yesterday was the annual Parade of Lights on the water in the Alexandria harbor. Each year, boat owners decorate their vessels with holiday lights and glide up and down the Potomac River, vying for cash prizes. We were lucky enough to be on the jurors’ vessel, the Miss Mallory, which is owned by our neighbors in Glen Echo. The fun began around 5:30 just as it was getting dark. A train of lights appeared from the north, and each passing craft slowly navigated past us, hoping for a positive reaction from the jurors. Many crew members were in seasonal outfits — one boat was entirely manned by Santas.
As we drank wine and munched on pop-corn, the news crew on the upper deck caught the festivities on film for those not able to attend. Here are more photos of the boats.
December 1, 2013
Although this video was made as an ad for a Japanese smartphone, the creativity and craftsmanship required in the setup and filming is masterful. A single ball rolling down a handcrafted xylophone in a wooded area of Kyushu, Japan, brings us a new rendition of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Watch the video here. Then watch the fascinating follow-up on how it was made. Thanks to Susan Welchman for forwarding it to us.
November 3, 2013
This morning we went back to listen to one of our favorite Radio Lab segments, New Normal, and realized it was the perfect follow-up to our previous two posts. The radio piece features baboons and foxes, cross-dressing, and the subject of change versus intractability. It will require an investment of your time to listen to the hour-long radio segment, but it includes such fascinating stories and such an intriguing premise that we wanted to offer it as a thought-provoking encore to our camp Halloween posts. Here’s the link
October 31, 2013
We know a lot of you have caught this video already, but it’s such a great Halloween piece we thought we’d do a send-out for any of you that may have missed it (or who want to see it again). Norwegian brothers Vegard and Bard Ylvisaker, members of the comedy group Ylvis, created this edgy music video to promote their television talk show Tonight with Ylvis. (Warning: once you’ve heard it, you can’t get it out of your head.) What Does the Fox Say? was mentioned on yesterday’s NPR All Things Considered program, where it was noted that, as a result of the video’s popularity, fox costumes have been flying off the shelves for October Halloween festivities. So all you foxes out there, get ready to dance!
October 29, 2013
If you think Washington, D.C. is just a city full of stuffy lawyers and intractable politicians, think again. There are plenty of people who actually call the city home (even though they don’t have a voting congressperson), and it’s an interesting and very diverse crowd. Witness the annual Halloween High Heel Race in Dupont Circle, which we think is the best event all year.
Our guys dressed in drag flaunt their stuff down 17th Street, vamping and posing for the crowd. Always held on the Tuesday night before Halloween, this year’s race was the 27th in the event’s history, and the show was bigger and better than ever. Even Mayor Vincent Gray showed up, as did several of the candidates running against him in the next election. The evening ends with a two-block race to the finish as many participants show off their running prowess in 5-inch stilettos.
October 11, 2013
Each year a Mathematical Art Exhibition is held in conjunction with the Joint Mathematics Meeting, the largest mathematics meeting in the world. Artworks are judged on the sophistication of the mathematical concepts presented, and on their originality, aesthetic appeal and craftsmanship. This year’s show included several pieces made of paper, based on such mathematical constructs as fractals and spacial geometries. To see the entire exhibition, visit the Mathematical Association of America web site. For anyone interested in entering or visiting the show, the 2014 meeting will be held in Baltimore, Maryland, January 15-18.