Creating something from something

Let’s try that phrase ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ in reverse.

Generating images from an internet grab bagAI Weirdness
Here’s “a toaster”

The toaster is partially made of toast so I tried to get it to generate a toaster made of chrome instead. Turns out I don’t think I can get it to do a toaster made of chrome without in some way incorporating the logo of Google Chrome. General internet training seems to poison certain keywords.

Ok, never mind all that.

“Bound Species” by Photographer Jennifer LatourBooooooom
The first lock down in 2020 gave Vancouver photographer Jennifer Latour a chance to develop a beautiful new body of work, and the inspiration actually came from her work as an FX makeup artist. “It was only when I started visualizing the plants and flowers as an extension of my work in special effect makeup that it all started coming together and the splicing began. I now see each piece as kind of Frankenstein of sorts with so many fun variation to come!”

Just floating by

First, something almost invisible drifting through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

A rare sighting of a glass octopus reveals its nearly transparent membrane in extraordinary detailColossal
With a speckled, iridescent membrane, the aquatic animal is almost entirely transparent—only its optic nerve, eyes, and digestive tract are visible to humans—and sightings like these are so infrequent that scientists previously resorted to studying the species only after pulling it from the stomachs of its predators.

And then, floating over over a park in Japan, an image seemingly straight out of the pages of a Junji Ito horror story.

A giant head hot air balloon floats over a Tokyo parkLaughing Squid
Japanese photographer Disc Yuri On used a Panasonic video camera from 1999 to capture the rather startling sight of a giant hot air balloon in the shape of a head that was trying to float high above Yoyogi Park in Tokyo but was hampered by the wind. When a siren sounded, however, the balloon spun around and faced the camera directly. The stuff of nightmares.

Think again

I still can’t get my head around Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, no matter how many explanatory videos I watch. Perhaps I need to move on to a different time-bending movie, like this one from Johan Grimonprez.

Double TakeThe Guardian
No better way to mark the 50th anniversary of Psycho … than with this bizarre and distinctly inspired mash-up by writer Tom McCarthy and film-maker Johan Grimonprez. Their ever so slightly mad cine-essay, based on a Borgès short story, and perhaps influenced by British film-maker Chris Petit, is a delirious bad trip, imagining that Alfred Hitchcock, working on the set of The Birds in 1962, is visited by his own double: the near-dead Hitchcock from 1980, who enigmatically hints at how cold war history may or may not turn out. (The older Hitchcock double is of course only slightly better informed on this subject than the younger.)

Double Take by Johan GrimonprezVimeo
Acclaimed director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a double take on the cold war period. The master says all the wrong things at all the wrong times while politicians on both sides desperately clamor to say the right things, live on TV.

Double Take targets the global rise of ‘fear-as-a-commodity’, in a tale of odd couples and hilarious double deals. As television hijacks cinema, and the Khrushchev and Nixon kitchen debate rattles on, sexual politics quietly take off and Alfred himself emerges in a dandy new role on the TV, blackmailing housewives with brands they can’t refuse.

Whensday

I see another Monday had rolled around (‘Freedom day’, no less, hashtag eyeroll). But is Monday your Monday? Or do you have your Monday on another day, Thursday for instance?

The best day to go into the office is…WIRED UK
Many companies seem to be following the idea that people are most productive at the start of the week, and therefore should be in the office on those days. […] A scientific study of workplaces and behaviour in them found that people are least civil with colleagues at the start of the week. They gradually become more friendly and engaging with their peers as the week goes on, though become slightly less civil on Fridays than they were on Thursday.

What really happened in Iceland’s four-day week trialWIRED UK
[T]here are a few caveats to note about this research before everyone stops coming into work on Fridays. First, despite the headlines – including the one on this newsletter – Iceland didn’t trial a four-day work week. Instead, the two trials reduced hours from 40 each week to 35 or 36.

See also:

Neckties are the new bow tiesThe Atlantic
As America struggled to recover from a global pandemic, a shattered economy, and record unemployment levels, headlines despaired: “neckties doomed.” Men were “slashing their clothing bills” to retailers’ chagrin, the Associated Press reported. Those who continued to wear ties were downgrading from colorful, expensive silk to plain, cheap cotton. The year was 1921, and reports of the tie’s death were premature, to say the least.

A century later, as Americans begin to emerge from another financially devastating pandemic, another rash of headlines is predicting the tie’s imminent demise.

Fake views for real crowds

I thought these two recent, very visual articles from The New York Times went together well.

At this Instagram hot spot, all the world’s a stage (and the buffalo’s a prop)The New York Times
With that, the visitors called it a wrap, satisfied they had gotten the perfect photographs of the bucolic scene. Later, the images would pop up across the Chinese internet, with captions like, “Going to work in the morning light.” A few, however, were more honest in their tags: #fakeactionshot. For the farmer (and the buffalo) had only been performing for the tourists and their cameras.

Such staged photo shoots have become the specialty of Xiapu County, a peninsula of fishing villages, beaches and lush hills known as one of China’s top viral check-in points. It is a rural Epcot on the East China Sea, a visual factory where amateur photographers churn out photogenic evidence of an experience that they never had — and that their subjects aren’t having either.

That’s a great line. I mean, look at this.

These crowds of happy snapping tourists reminded me of those others on that beach, as well as the thousands in the Louvre. Oh, to get away from it all.

How crowded are America’s national parks? See for yourself.The New York Times
Americans are flocking to national parks in record numbers, in many cases leading to long lines and overcrowded facilities. Here’s what four parks looked like over the holiday weekend.

I love the video clip they choose to head up that article — a tired, bored toddler not wanting to cooperate with the obligatory selfie, whilst others hang around, waiting their turn to take the same photo.

Big cats in Japan

A hyperrealistic giant meowing 3D calico cat on a billboard towers over Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku StationLaughing Squid
This giant feline wakes up at 7 AM and interacts with the public until 1 AM. This includes meowing, stretching and moving toward the edge of the billboard in between other visual advertisements on the giant screen. This ad was created for Cross Shinjuku Vision, in partnership with MicroAd and Unica.

A digital cat is melting hearts (and napping a lot) in JapanThe New York Times
“There are many reasons we decided to display the cat, but one of the big reasons is that with corona, the world became very dark,” Mr. Ohkawa added, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “Through the cat display, we wanted to revive Shinjuku and make it brighter.”

You can see what it’s up to yourself, on the advertising unit’s own YouTube channel. It was dozing off, the last time I checked.

Watch out, Mario!

Nintendo is teaming up with Tag Heuer on a Mario-themed watchThe Verge
The site doesn’t list any details on pricing, but from what I can tell, most Tag Heuer watches cost at least a grand, so it seems likely that this Super Mario watch won’t be cheap. And I have to say that the collaboration isn’t one I’d expect to see from Nintendo, which I wouldn’t consider a luxury brand. But I’m definitely curious as to what this watch might look like, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the official reveal next week.

Are watches too expensive? Revolution
Through the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who dreamt ten years ago that they’d save up for a Rolex, it all seems a bit bleak. And it would be, were it not for brands like Hamilton, Longines and Maurice Lacroix. With over three-and-a-half centuries of experience between them, they’ve got what it takes to right the balance and rewind time on watch prices.

Version numbers and default fonts

Can’t really get excited about a new version of Windows, no matter how much the Google News algorithm thing wants to push it at me.

Microsoft looks ready to launch Windows 11The Verge
It’s not long until we find out whether Microsoft is ready to dial the version number of Windows up to 11. The Windows elevent (as I’m now calling it) will start at 11AM ET on June 24th, and The Verge will be covering all the news live as it happens.

Windows 11 is already full of bugs, but you shouldn’t worry about itTechRadar
Microsoft has released an early version of Windows 11 for members of its Windows Insider Program, and users are already encountering issues and bugs with the new operating system. That’s kind of the point of course, as this developer build is being used as a kind of pre-release beta for the full version that’s expected to launch in “Holiday 2021”, and people who are using it are encouraged to spot and report any bugs and issues.

Why Windows 11 going with Amazon for its Android apps, and not Google, is a masterstrokeTechRadar
It’s an ingenious move when you think about it. It enables more apps on the new Microsoft Store with minimal effort from Microsoft, and helps it become a substantial rival to Apple’s Mac App Store, with iOS apps now available on M1 Macs.

Windows 11 looks a little different. Here’s what’s changingCNET
Windows 11 features a streamlined new design, with pastel-like colors and rounded corners, and overall a more Mac-like look. The Windows Start menu has moved from the bottom left of the screen to the middle, with app icons arranged in the center next to it.

For years, Apple sold itself as the anti-Microsoft. Now Windows 11 is the anti-AppleCNET
But the Microsoft of old didn’t entirely go away. Analysts believe Nadella’s broadsides against Apple during his Windows 11 launch speech weren’t just about knocking Microsoft’s biggest frenemy. His tone wasn’t jovial, nor was he dismissive like former CEO Steve Ballmer when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs first showed off the iPhone in 2007. Nadella was serious.

This caught my eye, however.

Beyond Calibri: Finding Microsoft’s next default fontMicrosoft Design
Default fonts are perhaps most notable in the absence of the impression they make. … Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft 365 since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman across Microsoft Office. It has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve. To help us set a new direction, we’ve commissioned five original, custom fonts to eventually replace Calibri as the default.

So, farewell then, Calibri and hello either Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford or Grandview.

Who comes up with these names, I wonder.

Microsoft is rolling out a new default font to 1.2 billion Office users after 14 years — and the designer of the old one is surprisedCNBC
As de Groot put it in an email, “I had proposed Clas, a Scandinavian first name and associated with ‘class,’ but then the Greek advisor said it meant ‘to fart’ in Greek. Then I proposed Curva or Curvae, which I still like, but then the Cyrillic advisor said it meant ‘prostitute’ in Russian, it is indeed used as a very common curse word.”

I’m not sure how the title of that article squares with the title of this one.

Even the Calibri font’s creator is glad that Microsoft is moving onWIRED
It’s the end of an era, but Calibri’s designer, Lucas de Groot, has no qualms about letting his typeface rest for a bit. “It’s a relief,” he says. De Groot created Calibri in the early 2000s, as part of a collection of fonts for enhanced screen reading. “I designed it in quite a hurry,” he says. “I had some sketches already, so I adapted those and added these rounded corners to get some design feeling in it.”

Do you have a favourite?

Microsoft’s new default font options, ratedTechCrunch
Bierstadt is my pick and what I think Microsoft will pick. First because it has a differentiated lowercase l, which I think is important. Second, it doesn’t try anything cute with its terminals. The t ends without curling up, and there’s no distracting tail on the a, among other things — sadly the most common letter, lowercase e, is ugly, like a chipped theta. Someone fix it. It’s practical, clear and doesn’t give you a reason to pick a different font.

Regardless, there’s certainly a bewildering number of typefaces out there. Too many?

All you need is 5 fontsBetter Web Type
I came to the same conclusion as Massimo and many other designers—I don’t need a huge range of fonts of questionable quality to choose from, I only need a few high quality ones. So I created my own list of 5 fonts that I use most often.

But how about a little background on a very different Microsoft font.

The origin story of the Wingdings fontUX Collective
Wingdings was never intended to be typed. Contrary to what happens today, when we can just select one picture from many available online, and copy and paste it on a document; in the ’90s was not easy to find pictures that could be used in an uncomplicated way with the text. In addition, image files were too large for the simple HDs of computers at the time. Therefore, Wingdings offered an alternative for anyone who wanted to use icons in high resolution and that could be resized, but without taking up a lot of space on the machines.

This way, the font can be considered the offline predecessor of the emoji, an alphabet that is now an integral part of modern communication.

Why the Wingdings font existsVox
“We were influenced by images from similar historical and modern sources,” Bigelow says. The Lucida Icons spanned many eras. “Pointing fingers and hands go back to medieval manuscripts and, before that, to ancient Roman gestures; airplanes are 20th-century inventions; and keyboards, computers, computer mice, and printers, included in the Lucida Icons fonts, were part of office life in 1990 when we drew the images.”

Not selling the web, ok?

Tim’s in the news again, in another ridiculous NTF story.

Tim Berners-Lee’s NFT of world wide web source code sold for $5.4mThe Guardian
The NFT sold on Wednesday was created by the English scientist Berners-Lee in 2021 and represents ownership of various digital items from when he invented the world wide web in 1989. The sale effectively comprises a blockchain-based record of ownership of files containing the original source code for the world wide web. The final price was $5,434,500 and half of the bidders were new to Sotheby’s.

A tidy sum.

Tim Berners-Lee defends auction of NFT representing web’s source codeThe Guardian
“This is totally aligned with the values of the web,” Berners-Lee told the Guardian. “The questions I’ve got, they said: ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound like the free and open web.’ Well, wait a minute, the web is just as free and just as open as it always was. The core codes and protocols on the web are royalty free, just as they always have been. I’m not selling the web – you won’t have to start paying money to follow links. “I’m not even selling the source code. I’m selling a picture that I made, with a Python programme that I wrote myself, of what the source code would look like if it was stuck on the wall and signed by me.

That ‘not selling the source code’ doesn’t quite square with how this was being reported earlier, but whatever.

World Wide Web code that changed the world up for auction as NFTReuters
The original source code for the World Wide Web that was written by its inventor Tim Berners-Lee is up for sale at Sotheby’s as part of a non-fungible token, with bids starting at just $1,000. […] The digitally signed Ethereum blockchain non-fungible token (NFT), a one-of-a-kind digital asset which records ownership, includes the original source code, an animated visualization, a letter written by Berners-Lee and a digital poster of the full code from the original files.

But think of the trees

I’m a big fan of the photographer/designer/writer/walker Craig Mod, so it was great to read an interview with him in a recent Why Is This Interesting newsletter.

The [Tuesday] media diet with Craig ModWhy is this interesting?
Describe your media diet. Internet goes off before bed. No internet until afternoon. Mornings are for reading books and writing. I try to limit news to smart speaker updates — “Hey Googs, what’s the latest NPR news?” — since there is a natural backstop (the update ends) and it’s impossible to get sucked into hours of news gaping this way. Books, I read 50/50 on a Kindle/paper. Kindle is usefully quick and dirty although I despise the ecosystem. Any book I love enough to finish on Kindle I immediately buy the paper version for my library. Longform articles usually get sent to my Kindle or printed out for reading later since I find focusing on a long-form essay in a browser is akin to self-waterboarding. Mediums definitely matter! And if someone spent a great deal of time on a 5,000-word essay for NYT Magazine or The Atlantic, I want to make sure I’m fully there (full attention, full focus) for the ride.

Whilst I love his writing on reading and book design, I’m not sure about that “Any book I love enough to finish on Kindle I immediately buy the paper version for my library” line. I have so many great books on my Kindle that I’ve really enjoyed, and I would struggle to justify buying hundreds of paperbacks just to see them lined up on my bookcase.

Who am I kidding I’d love to do that.

Watch the numbers

For things that can cost so much money, you wouldn’t think anyone would want to cut corners…

The case for better watch typographyHODINKEE
[O]nly a small and decreasing number of watchmakers go to the trouble of creating custom lettering for their dials. More often, watch brands use off-the-rack fonts that are squished and squeezed onto the dial’s limited real estate. Patek Philippe, for example, has used ITC American Typewriter and Arial on its high-end watches. French brand Bell & Ross deploys the playful 1980 typeface Isonorm for the numerals on many of its timepieces. Rolex uses a slightly modified version of Garamond for its logo. And Audemars Piguet has replaced the custom lettering on its watches with a stretched version of Times Roman.

That watchmakers use typefaces originally created for word processing, signage, and newspapers highlights a central paradox of watch design: These tiny machines hide their most elegant solutions under layers of complexity, while one of the most visible components – typography – is often an afterthought.

Of course, it’s not all like that.

Our favourite uses of typography in watchesA Collected Man
Good typography should be almost unnoticeable. Blending seamlessly into the rest of the design, it should tell you everything you need to know, without you being aware of it. Despite the many restrictions that are applied to dial layout, the creativity that can be seen in typography across horology is quite staggering. To put it simply, typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible and appealing when displayed. As the dial is the main point of interaction with a watch, it is arguably one of its most important parts, and certainly one that can produce the most emotion. This is why typeface can play such a vital, yet subtle, role in how we experience and feel about a certain piece.

A rather unexpected instance of a brand using a completely different typeface for just one model is the Patek Philippe 5212A weekly calendar. Perhaps designed to reflect the singularity of the rarely seen complication, this reference was printed with a handwritten typeface that, when studied, almost looks shaky. While this could appear like a mistake at first, it was revealed that the typeface was in fact chosen by their design team to “recall an epoch in the not too distant past when notes were still written by hand in paper diaries.”

Here’s more on that “handwritten” watch.

Complications Ref. 5212A-001 Stainless SteelPatek Philippe
Patek Philippe introduces a new complication to its calendar watches: the weekly calendar, a semi-integrated mechanism displaying the current week number, in addition to the day and date. A particularly useful feature for the modern businessman.

I love that, “the modern businessman” indeed. Like this one, you mean? But anyway, it’s not occurred to me until now that, for these watchmakers, typography is more numerical than alphabetical.

Breguet numeralsBreguet
Some Breguet watches display the distinctive numerals that A.- L. Breguet designed. Although he himself was no calligraphist, Breguet’s Arabic numerals show his flair for combining function with elegance. Still used today, particularly on watches with enamel dials, Breguet numerals first appeared before the French Revolution when they shared the dial with tiny stars to mark the minutes and stylised fleur-de-lys at five-minute intervals. By 1790 they had assumed their definitive form.

You can see these Breguet numerals on the Dubuis watch above, as well as the Patek Philippe in the header image. But manufacturing limitations also play their part in watch typography. Have a look at these 4s.

Decimal fontsFonts by Hoefler&Co.
Watch lettering is printed through tampography, a technique in which ink is transferred first from an engraved plate to a spongy, dumpling-shaped silicone pad, and from there onto the convex dial of a watch. To reproduce clearly, a letterform needs to overcome the natural tendencies of liquid ink or enamel held in suspension: tiny serifs at the ends of strokes can create a larger coastline, to help prevent liquid from withdrawing due to surface tension; wide apexes on characters like 4 and A eliminate the acute angles where liquid tends to pool.

Hence that flat top 4. I hadn’t noticed them before, but they’re everywhere.

Polar certainties

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting to be reading about this week — the search for meteorites at the South Pole.

Polar Light, by Barry LopezHarper’s Magazine
These field quarters are a National Science Foundation (NSF) deep-remote cold camp, in the Transantarctic Mountains, 220 miles from the South Pole. We’re encamped near the base of Graves Nunataks, an isolated set of mountain peaks standing proud of a massive ice sheet. (“Nunatak” is an Iñupiaq word, imported from the Northern Hemisphere, describing rock exposed above an ice sheet.) Except for our cookstoves we have no source of heat, and the four men and two women in our party have been here for nearly two weeks. Our camp is at the edge of the Polar Plateau that forms Antarctica’s vast interior, an ice cap four times the size of Greenland, a region of the world I have been chronicling for the past thirty years. On this frigid summer day in mid-January, 1999, the six of us are many hundreds of miles from any other human, except for those at the South Pole.

Once taken in hand and placed under a microscope each meteorite is revelatory. The overwhelming majority of them come from the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, and are so distinctive, one from the other, that scientists have been able to create a kind of geography of the asteroid belt, a geologic map that allows them to push deeper into our still hazy understanding of how the solar system evolved. In short, every meteorite represents an important contribution to the unraveling of the mystery of Earth’s origin. Therefore, though the six of us will find only 186 meteorites, our weather-compromised effort will still be viewed as successful.

But it was this image from the article that I first saw on the TYWKIWDBI blog that caught my eye, as it reminded me of that looping mathsy animation I found earlier. It’s a multiple-exposure photograph showing the sun orbiting the South Pole one afternoon, through the night and into the next morning — a midnight sun.

Time doesn’t stand still, even at the South Pole. Towards the end of their expidition, the scientists ponder the shift to the more quantative, less hands-on approach they’ve noticed over the years.

Back in ­McMurdo we’ve both witnessed changes as the hallways of the old science building, perennially crowded with camping gear, have given way to the antiseptically tidy and brightly lit hallways of the Crary Science and Engineering Center. The corridors of the building buzz with the ceaseless clicking of keyboards, a kind of white noise, accompanied by the electronic beeps that signal a task has been completed or information is now awaiting retrieval. The numerical results of a theoretical approach, of someone’s plumbing the nimbus of numbers surrounding a little-understood event, are both esoteric and arcane; and the speed with which they’re produced, and the sheer volume of them, is intimidating. The process suggests that knowledge has been obtained, but in fact there is not much more here than staggering specificity and a quantity of numbers significant enough to support statistical probability. Massive data sets, for some, represent irrefutable truth, or insights that transcend previously established boundaries, but the data might be no more than intensely self-referential. Impressive but unconvincing.

The belief that one can reach a state of certainty, about anything, acts as a goad for those who regard the anomalies that inevitably turn up in their data not as a caution but as an inconvenience.

“I had a theology professor once,” I say to John, “who told us that religion was not about being certain but about living with uncertainty. It was about being comfortable with doubt, and maintaining the continuity of one’s reverence for a profound mystery.”

I’m not sure John hears me. He is reclined on his sleeping bag with only his lower legs visible to me past a pile of gear. Perhaps he’s fallen asleep. It’s been a long day.

“We gain deeper knowledge,” he finally responds. “But no guarantee that we’re any closer to wisdom.”

A sentiment still necessary today, as shown by Content Catnip in one of her quotes from Svend Brinkmann’s recent book, Standing Firm: Resisting The Self Improvement Craze.

Comforting thought: Doubt is a virtue, certainty is blinkered tunnel visionContent Catnip
In essence, certainty is dogmatic, whereas doubt has an important ethical value. Certainty’s ‘I know’ can easily lead to blindness. Doubt on the other hand, leads to openness, to other ways of acting and new understandings of the world.

Antarctica is certainly a remarkable place. It’s strange to think that we knew more about the far reaches of the solar system than the bottom of our own planet. Perhaps you fancy a trip there yourself? No problem — if you have a spare $50,000 or so. Best be quick, though.

Miles of ice collapsing into the seaThe New York Times
The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration. Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate.

Happy birthday to us

I didn’t know I shared a birthday with Paddington Bear!

5 facts about Paddington Bear to know before you visitPark Grand
Much like the Queen, Paddington Bear has two birthdays. He celebrates on the 25th December and the 25th June. This is because when Paddington Bear arrived to live with the Brown family, he couldn’t remember his birthday. So, they decided they’d celebrate twice.

Yes the movies were very successful, but my Paddington always wore a black hat, not red.

Technical side of PaddingtonThe World of Animator Ivor Wood
The technique as many will be aware was revolutionary within children’s programmes and commercial animation as a whole. Having 2D paper cut outs for 90% of the show with only Paddington and his personal objects being created as 3D models, the production method was ambitious and risky, having never been attempted within such tight production schedules and budgets. In many ways it was economical in that the sets could be quickly created and changed but aesthetics such as the lighting and the marrying of 2D and 3D was to be a tough technical challenge for all involved.

Happy Amazon Prime Day, Jeff

Hosts of Australia’s Today giggle their way through a segment on Jeff Bezos’ weiner-shaped spacecraftAV Club
Last week, we learned that Dr. Evil cosplayer Jeff Bezos would be leaving for space on a rocket that completes his attempts to fully embody the Austin Powers villain by being shaped like a giant metal penis. The hosts of Australia’s Today morning show were tasked with reporting on this story when it was first announced, and found themselves giggling through the entire segment as images of space dicks were displayed on the green screen behind them.

Tens of thousands sign petition to stop Jeff Bezos from returning to EarthNPR
On July 20, Amazon’s founder and billionaire magnate Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark will board the New Shepard suborbital rocket system. The Bezos brothers, one auction winner with $28 million to spare, and a fourth person will become the first crew aboard the reusable rocket for its 11-minute voyage to space.

Since Bezos made the announcement about his journey to space this month, tens of thousands of people have come together to petition against his return to the planet.

Orbiting plywood?

We’re used to wooden acting in space, but what about some actual wood?

World’s first wooden satellite aims to prove plywood can survive spaceCNET
The WISA Woodsat is a 4-inch (10-centimeter) square satellite that’s scheduled for a fall launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in New Zealand. Getting to orbit is only part of the adventure. Once it’s there, the team will monitor the little cube to see how its plywood build stands up to cold, heat, radiation and the vacuum of space.

Woodsat is the brainchild of Jari Makinen, co-founder of CubeSat replica kit company Arctic Astronautics. The European Space Agency, or ESA, is providing a suite of sensors to track the satellite’s performance and will also help with pre-flight testing.

I remember reading about something similar last year.

Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junkBBC News
A Japanese company and Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world’s first satellites made out of wood by 2023. … Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere. Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth.

Coverage of “wooden satellites” misses the pointArs Technica
Unfortunately, making satellite housings out of wood won’t help with this, for many, many reasons. To start with, a lot of the junk isn’t ex-satellites; it’s often the boosters and other hardware that got them to orbit in the first place. Housings are also only a fraction of the material in a satellite, leaving lots of additional junk untouched by the change, and any wood that’s robust enough to function as an effective satellite housing will be extremely dangerous if it impacts anything at orbital speeds.

Art bargains

Collecting modern art can be a costly affair. I guess you’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time.

Discovered: American couple buys a picture by Van Gogh’s friend Edmund Brooke for $45 in antiques shopThe Art Newspaper
During the last weeks of Van Gogh’s life he got to know an Australian artist who had spent most of his life in Japan. Until very recently Edmund Walpole Brooke remained an enigmatic figure, but the Japanese Van Gogh specialist Tsukasa Kodera has now tracked down one of his watercolours. It was bought in April for $45 by an American couple.

Fame: Portrait by David Bowie found in a thrift store goes up for auctionThe Globe and Mail
A painting by David Bowie purchased last summer at a donation centre in rural Ontario for $5 is expected to fetch upward of $12,000 at auction this coming week. The semi-abstract portrait by the Changes singer is a small acrylic and computer collage on canvas, dated 1997, with Bowie’s signature on the reverse.

Bowie’s painting is currently at $50,100. The auction’s set to close the day before my birthday — it would make a wonderful birthday present, if anyone reading is looking for ideas!

It’s good to pay attention. Sometimes.

Via It’s Nice That (and slightly reminiscent of Stine Deja’s work), lessons from a world-renowned performance artist on how to develop your powers of attention.

The Abramović MethodWeTransfer’s digital experience
My name is Marina Abramović and I am a performance artist. To be a performance artist, it’s a very difficult task. You need lots of preparation in order to make long durational performance work. So I developed different exercises to help myself for generating big willpower and concentration, crossing physical and mental limits. Later on, I understood these exercises can serve not just me but anybody else in any profession in the world. So I turned these exercises into something I call The Abramović Method.

But then again…

Sometimes, paying attention means we see the world less clearlyPsyche Ideas
Taken as a whole, these results suggest that, sometimes, attention can mislead us about the world. This is not to say that attention always distorts our knowledge of the world, but it does suggest that it might not be the unproblematic guide to knowledge that we originally thought. In order to unravel the complex link between attention and knowledge, we might need to change the way we think about both of these faculties.

Just 15 minutes

Turns out it only takes me a quarter of an hour to go from yeah-it’s-an-ok-painting-I-guess to god-you’re-right-that’s-amazing-I-never-realised.

Great art explainedYouTube
I’m James Payne, a curator, gallerist and a passionate art lover. I am on a mission to demystify the art world and discover the stories behind the world’s greatest paintings and sculptures. Each episode will focus on one piece of art and break it down, using clear and concise language free of ‘art-speak’.